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Thread: Debate on the Existance of God

  1. #1
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    Debate on the Existance of God

    [sic] Title from 2000 Massassi.

    When approaching this subject, it's important to note that there are many different conceptions of God. Any debate has to acknowledge these differences.

    Any argument for God's existence depends on a notion of God which is so devoid of content to be almost meaningless.

    For instance, consider GŲdel's ontological proof. If you accept the axioms which permit modal logic, then sure, it's possible to prove the existence of God. The same modal logic would imply your waifu exists, if you take modal realism seriously. In case you're looking for an intuitive reason to ignore logicians.

    These proofs, and I suspect the same from Catholic thinkers I haven't read like Anselm or Augustine, would tend to prove that there is essentially a contentless "form" of a God.

    Do I think this notion of God's existence is possible? Sure, why not. The issue for me with these kinds of arguments is not much follows from them. Why does it follow from any of this that I should accept the tenets of, for instance, Christianity? It seems 1000% possible to me that such a God could exist, yet the Christian bible to still be a mistake of mankind's. To get from one of these arguments to belief in Christianity as an absolute guiding doctrine just does not follow.

    So what would the argument be that the God of the Christian bible is real? I genuinely am not sure. In my experience, at this point many people claim it's a matter of faith, or specifically one of "divine inspiration". You either just see it, or you don't. I guess I don't, but objections to this with Christians have gone this way for me before:

    "When a Muslim experiences divine inspiration, what is happening?"

    "They are being deceived (by a demon, etc)."

    "How can you tell the difference between true divine inspiration and trickery?"

    "..."

    Maybe someone could help me out, personally I've never heard a satisfactory answer to this.

    With Nietzsche, we got a person who spent their time questioning what the value of Christian values actually is. Nietzsche offers a pretty solid sociological deconstruction of Christian values in The Genealogy of Morals. The end conclusion is basically that Christianity is a moral poison. Verses like:

    Quote Originally Posted by Matthew 5:5
    Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
    Are very representative of the core of Christianity: it's a passive-aggressive payoff. Verses like these take people who feel repressed, incapable of fighting against who they hate, and tells them to pack that anger in and wait for the eventual brimstone and fire payoff.

    This kind of thinking is actually pretty toxic. It encourages repression of a person's emotions at all costs. Sometimes it's good and healthy to let out aggression. The trick is, expressing your power over another person is also not unconditionally good. You have to figure out when to be angry and when to calm yourself. Any moral system which tends toward an extreme is probably very wrong.

    In any case, yeah I think the passive-aggressive moral payoff of Christianity is pretty toxic and don't recommend anyone take it seriously. Believing some of it is fine, like "do not murder", but it should not be taken as an all-encompassing, total moral system.

  2. #2
    The other day someone was trying to convince me God couldn't exist because if he did, who created the wheat his noodle body is made from? If we are to believe the artistic interpretations of his holiness we also face the dilemma that cows had to be created first and slaughtered to form his meatballs. This argument goes on to exhaustive reasoning. But what my skeptic friend failed to realize is that when you've felt those warm wet noodles touch your heart, you know that somewhere out there is a reason for being that cold biological science cant frame. I say to the artist, or accomplished Italian Chef who accidentally creates an approximation of His likeness in a plate of spaghetti bolognese, your works are merely that of a traditional depiction. To know his grace can only come through subjectively, and with that I solemnly say bon appetit.

    (I would love to give you a response concerning your actual question, Reid, but I honestly have no idea where to even start.)

  3. #3
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    are contents also from 2000 Massassi?

  4. #4
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    brb inviting Sarn_Cadrill

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Reid View Post
    When approaching this subject, it's important to note that there are many different conceptions of God. Any debate has to acknowledge these differences.
    That's just it, the whole of religion is just conceptions.
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    enshu

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steven View Post
    brb inviting Sarn_Cadrill
    Someone know where Mort-Hog and Dogsr00l are? Also on heroin now?
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    enshu

  7. #7
    God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived

    Surely it is better for something to exist both in the mind and in reality than to exist only in the mind

    Since there would be something greater than God if God existed only in the mind but not in reality, and since that is absurd, because God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived, God must exist not only in the mind, but also in reality

    Ok, God exists. Everyone can go home now.
    Last edited by Eversor; 04-12-2019 at 07:28 AM.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Reid View Post
    [
    These proofs, and I suspect the same from Catholic thinkers I haven't read like Anselm or Augustine, would tend to prove that there is essentially a contentless "form" of a God.

    Do I think this notion of God's existence is possible? Sure, why not. The issue for me with these kinds of arguments is not much follows from them. Why does it follow from any of this that I should accept the tenets of, for instance, Christianity? It seems 1000% possible to me that such a God could exist, yet the Christian bible to still be a mistake of mankind's. To get from one of these arguments to belief in Christianity as an absolute guiding doctrine just does not follow.

    So what would the argument be that the God of the Christian bible is real?
    I wrote a whole other thing but it got deleted. Iíll rewrite it later. Big picture, though, is that proofs for the existence of God arenít typically the conclusion of philosophical treatises, but the beginning point. They establish with rational certainty (and no, not a certainty based on faith, or at least not on faith alone) that God exists, as a kind of precursor to a lengthier discussion about God.

    In my original post, I talked about Maimonides, and how the proof of the existence of God (at the end of the first book of the Guide) is necessary because if God does not exist, then miracles are impossible, and if miracles are impossible, then revelation is impossible, which would mean that religious law is impossible too, because religious tradition would not have a transcendent God as its basis.

    Revelation is the important category ďreligionĒ rather than mere theism, at least for the Abrahamic faiths. If God does not enter into history, either through the medium of prophecy or through an incarnate Son, then the cult does not provide the possibility of some type of religious union, akin to the moment of revelation, and the systems which are designed so that human life can exist in conformity with the revelation (namely, religious law) have no authority to say what is sacred (which is just another way of saying what has value in itself), and humans are free to be the author of their own values according to their own pragmatic interests (sound familiar?).
    Last edited by Eversor; 04-12-2019 at 08:03 AM.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Reid View Post
    This kind of thinking is actually pretty toxic. It encourages repression of a person's emotions at all costs. Sometimes it's good and healthy to let out aggression. The trick is, expressing your power over another person is also not unconditionally good. You have to figure out when to be angry and when to calm yourself. Any moral system which tends toward an extreme is probably very wrong.
    Thatís as banal, imo, as saying that socialism does psychological violence to its adherents because it insists that the meek shall inherit the earth is some future socialist utopia. I think we can agree that that would be a gross oversimplification of socialism, and a gross oversimplification of Christianity. I donít know how you could get it more wrong than thinking religious morality is about extremes.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jon`C View Post
    are contents also from 2000 Massassi?
    That's up to you, I suppose.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tenshu View Post
    That's just it, the whole of religion is just conceptions.
    Once we're clear on the conceptions we can discuss content meaningfully!

    Quote Originally Posted by Eversor View Post
    God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived

    Surely it is better for something to exist both in the mind and in reality than to exist only in the mind

    Since there would be something greater than God if God existed only in the mind but not in reality, and since that is absurd, because God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived, God must exist not only in the mind, but also in reality

    Ok, God exists. Everyone can go home now.
    Yeah, IIRC this is about what Godel's ontological proof says in the language of modal logic. It's a fine proof, but what it proves is a completely contentless God. The real issue for me isn't this, but getting from this faith in a particular religion. Belief in the Bible is non sequitur in my view.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eversor View Post
    Revelation is the important category “religion” rather than mere theism, at least for the Abrahamic faiths. If God does not enter into history, either through the medium of prophecy or through an incarnate Son, then the cult does not provide the possibility of some type of religious union, akin to the moment of revelation, and the systems which are designed so that human life can exist in conformity with the revelation (namely, religious law) have no authority to say what is sacred (which is just another way of saying what has value in itself), and humans are free to be the author of their own values according to their own pragmatic interests (sound familiar?).
    Essentially, spooky ghost stories about ancestors or mystical forces work to keep people in line, because without a sense of universal standard people won't obey. Okay, I mean I subscribe to the notion that religion is about social control, but even I'm not that extreme..

    Quote Originally Posted by Eversor View Post
    That’s as banal, imo, as saying that socialism does psychological violence to its adherents because it insists that the meek shall inherit the earth is some future socialist utopia. I think we can agree that that would be a gross oversimplification of socialism, and a gross oversimplification of Christianity. I don’t know how you could get it more wrong than thinking religious morality is about extremes.
    I do fear that about socialism, though. At least the sorts of people who would go full communist and have too strong a leveling impulse, or people who think utopia can be a result of any system. That's a criticism I much try to deal with when formulating my own views.

    In either case, Heaven and the payoff of being part of the "in group" while all evildoers in the "out group" face an intangible punishment is a core tenet of Christianity, and I think you're downplaying what a selling point this is for some (most?) people who follow an Abrahamic religion.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Reid View Post
    Yeah, IIRC this is about what Godel's ontological proof says in the language of modal logic. It's a fine proof, but what it proves is a completely contentless God. The real issue for me isn't this, but getting from this faith in a particular religion. Belief in the Bible is non sequitur in my view.
    Itís Anselmís proof. I donít know about Godel.

    Quote Originally Posted by Reid View Post
    Essentially, spooky ghost stories about ancestors or mystical forces work to keep people in line, because without a sense of universal standard people won't obey. Okay, I mean I subscribe to the notion that religion is about social control, but even I'm not that extreme..



    I do fear that about socialism, though. At least the sorts of people who would go full communist and have too strong a leveling impulse, or people who think utopia can be a result of any system. That's a criticism I much try to deal with when formulating my own views.

    In either case, Heaven and the payoff of being part of the "in group" while all evildoers in the "out group" face an intangible punishment is a core tenet of Christianity, and I think you're downplaying what a selling point this is for some (most?) people who follow an Abrahamic religion.
    I donít think you can get very far understanding the justifications religion gives for itself if you approach religion through 19th/20th century sociological/psychological critiques. From a naturalistic standpoint, revelation is obviously impossible. But Abrahamic religions are not naturalistic. Theyíre supernaturalistic. Thereís no point in trying to understand religion unless you put your supernaturalist hat on. Otherwise your just engaging in Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins-style polemics.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Reid View Post
    Once we're clear on the conceptions we can discuss content meaningfully!
    Why bother? Why bother wasting energy on something the human mind has created?

    Two old ladies go to the same church on Sunday, they sit next to eachother, sing the same hymns, shout "praise the Lord", go into all kinds of emotional states. The two of them have completely different constructions of this so called "god". It's their own mind worshipping itself.

    And anyway, these nice old ladies leave the church and start gossiping and putting their fangs into another woman in the congregation who they think remarried too quickly after her husband died.

    It's all show. It's all self-obsession masquerading as love and goodness. Pure hypocrisy, all of it. Jesus was killed by religious people who were quoting scripture.
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eversor View Post
    It’s Anselm’s proof. I don’t know about Godel.
    IIRC Godel's is heavily inspired by Anselm's. I haven't read Anselm so I'm limited there

    Quote Originally Posted by Eversor View Post
    I don’t think you can get very far understanding the justifications religion gives for itself if you approach religion through 19th/20th century sociological/psychological critiques. From a naturalistic standpoint, revelation is obviously impossible. But Abrahamic religions are not naturalistic. They’re supernaturalistic. There’s no point in trying to understand religion unless you put your supernaturalist hat on. Otherwise your just engaging in Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins-style polemics.
    Okay. Why is a supernatural view the right view to take?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tenshu View Post
    Why bother? Why bother wasting energy on something the human mind has created?

    Two old ladies go to the same church on Sunday, they sit next to eachother, sing the same hymns, shout "praise the Lord", go into all kinds of emotional states. The two of them have completely different constructions of this so called "god". It's their own mind worshipping itself.

    And anyway, these nice old ladies leave the church and start gossiping and putting their fangs into another woman in the congregation who they think remarried too quickly after her husband died.

    It's all show. It's all self-obsession masquerading as love and goodness. Pure hypocrisy, all of it. Jesus was killed by religious people who were quoting scripture.
    I don't know if it's "pure hypocrisy". Saying that seems too harsh. Religion has made many mistakes but to call everything a religious person does hypocrisy.. it's too far.

    Though, you're right about many Christians fronting themselves as "non-sinners" when they're very obviously sinners. Only the zealous Christians ever come to terms with the permanency of their sin. Many seem to just fake it. There is a kind of charade which is rather complicated.
    Last edited by Reid; 04-12-2019 at 10:23 AM.

  14. #14
    Ṱ̷̪̞̯͖̜H͔E̮̠̪R̡̺̲̮̗̞̲E̠̠̙͚͉͎̪ ̤I̳̯̭͟S̮̯ ̠͙N͍͔̪̟͚̭͙O͓̣̪̬̺͜ ̘̮G̪̫̰̝O̟D͚͙̺͕̤̻ ̨̘̟̦̮̺B̖̰̰U̟Ţ̮̘̗̠ ̨̞̦M̶̫̩͔A͈̪̞̲͟ͅǸ͕̻!̫̟͕̣ͅ
    ̭̦͕̞
    ͖̟̭̮̺Ḑ̲̳̬̖͉̱O̮̼͘ ͍̠͇̣̩̩̪W̵̪̱̠̖̬̰H͏̦A͙̰͖̞̺T̘͝ T͚̻̺̻͈̫͈H͚͠O̶͇̱̙̘Ų͍̘͈̝͖͕ ̗͖̯W̠IL͙̫͕͓̯͍͞T̶̯̣ ̨S̟̬͎̗̘͖H̼̯̻̤̼̖̟A̜̙͉̞͈͙͟L͏͙̹̠̣̗ͅL̺̮̮̥͉͈̜ ͇͇̳̭̳͇̦B̼̱͚̼E̳̻̝ ̧̹T̷͇͚͙HE̢̪͖͔͎̲̜ͅ ̪̜W͓̫H̳̬͇͔̗O͕͓̼͔L̨̬̤͙̭͎̣͖E̖̗̖͕̱̟ ͇͔̫͕̠̤̣́O̷͖̩̲̼F ̯̠̺̼͖͟T̳͍̙̥̟̭̘͢HE͍̮̠̝̝ ͎̣̮L̘͙̬͠A̺̩͝W͏. ̸͍L͍͉̮̹̖O̙̳͎̱̜̗V̮͕͍̖E͍͟ͅ I҉͎S̹͔̘͓ Ț̬̣̞̠̹͝H̴͔̱͕̣̖Ḛ͚̥͢ ̺̫͇L̡̯̣AW̻̞̞͕̼͔̻ ̱̝͇͕L̶OV̺͢Ḙ̩ ̙Ṷ͎̟͎̟N̯̖̗̻̥͔D̻̬͉E̺̯R̡͖̺̥̦̯ ̼̜W̠I̫͖̬̣̱͕̰L̠͈̤͎̪L̨̩̥͈̹̜͕̠!͚̯̼̝́

    edit:

    sniff

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Reid View Post
    Okay. Why is a supernatural view the right view to take?
    Iím not saying itís ďthe right view.Ē Iím not sure that Iím either a naturalist or a supernaturalist; Iím not committed one way or the other. Iím just saying, if you want to understand religion, you have to be willing to take seriously religious ideas, and that means entertaining the notion of supernaturalism, or else youíre just engaging in crude polemics.

    In case I wasnít clear before, Iíll restate what I said. Islam, Judaism and Christianity all depend on the assumption that thereís such a thing as revelation, which assumes that a there is a transcendent God who enters into history. Thatís a supernaturalistic belief. If when you think about religion, you are are not willing to entertain a supernatural worldview, and instead apply methods that come from naturalistic social sciences, you canít possibly understand the motives that religious people give for why they are religious ó rather than, say, psychological or sociological explanations, which while they have some explanatory power, assume that religious people arenít motivated by the reasons that they think motivate them. And so you wonít have access to what it is that makes religion compelling to a religious person, so far as the basis of religious commitment has an intellectual foundation (which it does). And so youíll be left trying to describe religion by bringing to it assumptions that are foreign to it, likely approaching it with suspicion, and perhaps even contempt.
    Last edited by Eversor; 04-12-2019 at 02:55 PM.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eversor View Post
    I’m not saying it’s “the right view.” I’m not sure that I’m either a naturalist or a supernaturalist; I’m not committed one way or the other. I’m just saying, if you want to understand religion, you have to be willing to take seriously religious ideas, and that means entertaining the notion of supernaturalism, or else you’re just engaging in crude polemics.
    I'd say I definitely lean naturalist, and tend to view religion through an anthropological lens which comes to us from Hume, Feuerbach and Nietzsche. I appreciate Nietzsche though because he does recognize the value of supernaturalism, even if he comes down on the side of naturalism. I think base materialist views and naive naturalism (a la Dawkins) is not good.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eversor View Post
    In case I wasn’t clear before, I’ll restate what I said. Islam, Judaism and Christianity all depend on the assumption that there’s such a thing as revelation, which assumes that a there is a transcendent God who enters into history.
    I'm going to take this to be something similar to what I meant above by "divine inspiration". I agree that such a thing is philosophically possible. My stance is more one of how to differentiate between revelations. Jewish folk, Muslims and Christians all claim revelation and all claim mutual exclusion of each other's. If there's no criterion to judge whether revelation is true or a mistake, it seems like a hopeless venture to me.

    At least naturalism tends toward a possible way of discourse. It is a serious issue with religion that Islam and Christianity can never "square off", the mutual exclusion of each other's views with no grounds for intermediate discussion is not good. So while I agree revelation is technically possible, the practical realities of it make me want to reject the whole gambit.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eversor View Post
    That’s a supernaturalistic belief. If when you think about religion, you are are not willing to entertain a supernatural worldview, and instead apply methods that come from naturalistic social sciences, you can’t possibly understand the motives that religious people give for why they are religious — rather than, say, psychological or sociological explanations, which while they have some explanatory power, assume that religious people aren’t motivated by the reasons that they think motivate them. And so you won’t have access to what it is that makes religion compelling to a religious person, so far as the basis of religious commitment has an intellectual foundation. And so you’ll be left trying to describe religion by bring to it assumptions that are foreign to it, approaching it with suspicion, and perhaps even contempt.
    You make it sound as though anthropological or sociological views are fundamentally limited in their explanatory power. What if this isn't the case? What if the naturalist assumption is indeed the correct one? This is a frequent issue I have with religious people. I tend to hear lots of sound and fury that people who dismiss supernaturalism are somehow incapable of seeing something, as though it's a weakness or a fault. What if it's actually a more accurate way to view it? In other words, I don't think it just stands that sophisticated naturalism (not the new atheist kind, but one which appreciates the nuances of the world) has an inferiority to it.

    In any case, I tend to think certain ideas are purely supernatural. Mathematics is one I don't think follows from any strict materialist world view. The more I study math, the more I cannot comprehend how such a structure even exists. It almost appears supernatural in nature that 5 is necessarily prime whereas 4 is necessarily not, and any person capable of understanding the definition will agree to that claim. I know that sounds a bit silly but I wouldn't say it's all that weird to call counting almost a "divinely inspired" faculty, something I have a hard time imagining is a purely mechanical effect. It may be, but it's odd that it should be that way.

  17. #17
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    It might be worth reading a few sections from "The Varieties of Religious Experience" to get an idea of how sophisticated anthropological study of religion can be, too. If your experience of naturalism and materialism is just Dawkins, that's too bad, since there are much better people to read on that subject.

  18. #18
    Typing from my phone so limited ability to respond. Not complaining, and Iím not trying to start a fracas, but just for the sake of clarity I do think youíre talking past me, except for in what you wrote here:

    Quote Originally Posted by Reid View Post
    You make it sound as though anthropological or sociological views are fundamentally limited in their explanatory power. What if this isn't the case? What if the naturalist assumption is indeed the correct one? This is a frequent issue I have with religious people. I tend to hear lots of sound and fury that people who dismiss supernaturalism are somehow incapable of seeing something, as though it's a weakness or a fault. What if it's actually a more accurate way to view it? In other words, I don't think it just stands that sophisticated naturalism (not the new atheist kind, but one which appreciates the nuances of the world) has an inferiority to it.
    Sociological, anthropological and psychological approaches to religion are limited to an extent. But that doesnít in any way diminish their standing as sciences, or undermine the value of those sciencesí insights. What Iím suggesting in comparing them has nothing to do with whether naturalism (or supernaturalism, for that matter) is true or false, or whether itís more or less accurate. The naturalistic sciences are merely limited to the extent that they try to understand groups of people by bringing to those people sets of assumptions that differ from the assumptions that those people bring to their understanding of themselves. But that is the sort of limitation that constrains any and every science. It doesnít mean that itís any less valuable than another approach, or that itís claims are any less accurate, but merely that itís limited by its methods, assumptions and content, because by being something definite at all, there are other things that fall outside itís purview. (I posit that, in fact, the naturalistic and theological approaches are in fact complementary.)

    In addition to the methods and assumptions of naturalistic sciences being different from those of theology, and as a corollary, those naturalistic sciences are asking very different questions than the people who are engaging in religious practice. The religious person might ask, ďwhat is the nature of God?Ē and proceed towards an understanding of God. A naturalist might see a religious person posing the question and say, ďwhat about someoneís psychological history, or their communal relations, or power relations, might drive a person to posit such a notion of God, such as the one they imagine?Ē The former, the religious person, approaches the matter assuming that religious categories such as divinity, prophecy, atonement, purification, and so on, are concepts that relate to substantive entities, and tries to arrive at a coherent understanding. In contrast, the naturalist assumes that those concepts are fictive creations of the human mind, and inquires instead into their historical origins, assuming that naturalistic causes, whether social, psychological, or what ever, are sufficient to arrive at such an answer.

    In no way am I suggesting that one approach is better or worse than the other, at least not in absolute terms. Iím saying, in effect, that the reason why you are frustrated with religious people (as you describe it in your post) and why you hear so much ďsound and furyĒ on their end, is because of the gap that exists between your naturalist views and their supernaturalistic ones. As long as you and your religious interlocutors approach the issues coming at them with completely different assumptions, youíll inevitably disagree, and youíll each look silly to each other. Youíll only understand religious conscious from an external perspective, and not from within.
    Last edited by Eversor; 04-12-2019 at 04:17 PM.

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Eversor View Post
    As long as you and your religious interlocutors approach the issues coming at them with completely different assumptions, youíll inevitably disagree, and youíll each look silly to each other. Youíll only understand religious conscious from an external perspective, and not from within.
    And the upshot of this, is this: if youíre going to bother to raise the question of whether God exists, itís only worthwhile to ask the question if youíre willing to entertain, if only hypothetically, a supernatural worldview. Otherwise, where you fall on the position is determined from the outset, and so the conversation will be useless. Youíll just be participating in a conversation thatís exactly like the dispute you describe with your caricature of a Muslim and a Christian who differ over whose revealed truths are superior:

    Quote Originally Posted by Reid View Post
    At least naturalism tends toward a possible way of discourse. It is a serious issue with religion that Islam and Christianity can never "square off", the mutual exclusion of each other's views with no grounds for intermediate discussion is not good. So while I agree revelation is technically possible, the practical realities of it make me want to reject the whole gambit.
    That is, youíre assuming first principles different from those of your interlocutor, from which follow your differing conclusions, and which also ensures that there will never be common ground between you two.
    Last edited by Eversor; 04-12-2019 at 04:11 PM.

  20. #20
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    I'll type up a quicker response later because I'm working right now myself, but just because people approach topics from different perspectives doesn't mean the discussion ends where the axioms begin. It's perfectly reasonable to question the starting point of discourse as well. I feel like trying to stop the discussion there is an artificial roadblock.

    Edit: in Nietzschean terms, this would be something like the "transvaluation of values". It's not enough to say people have different values, but we must also question the very value of our values. So while you say religious people may approach the discussion from a perspective of revelation, it seems to beget discussion of whether revelation is something to take seriously in practice or not. There's never something not up for discussion in this sense.

    Edit 2: also FWIW, I haven't been in any sort of hostile debate with a religious person in probably 3 or 4 years, at least. I just have lingering questions I've never heard a direct answer to, there isn't any immediate debate I've had to spark those points. Just to clarify where I'm coming from.
    Last edited by Reid; 04-12-2019 at 04:24 PM.

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by Reid View Post
    I'm going to take this to be something similar to what I meant above by "divine inspiration".
    Revelation is a broader category than merely divine inspiration, but theyíre related. God could conceivably relate to humans through diverse means: through nature, which could include miracles, which are generally some kind of direct intervention that interrupts the typical course of nature, or inwardly, through our minds (which is probably what you mean by divine inspiration), or in mystical experiences, which entail some kind of unity between God and man, or through mediating religious institutions, and religious traditions. And then there are also extraordinary episodes in history, such as, in Judaism, the revelation at Sinai, or in Christianity, the incarnation, where God Himself enters into creation, and communes with Man; religious traditions and institutions then arise as a way of preserving for posterity through time that initial intervention, in a way that the moment of Godís intervention in history might provide a bridge between Man and God even long after itís passed, and Man might live in such a way as to reflect his being created in Godís image ó which is what Halacha, Sharia, and the Christian Church do in their respective religions.

    What these various things have in common is that they are ways that a God who is defined by His otherness and difference from His creation ó His transcendence, that is ó relates to it and influences it. In other words, theyíre various forms of revelation.

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by Reid View Post
    I'll type up a quicker response later because I'm working right now myself, but just because people approach topics from different perspectives doesn't mean the discussion ends where the axioms begin. It's perfectly reasonable to question the starting point of discourse as well. I feel like trying to stop the discussion there is an artificial roadblock.

    Edit: in Nietzschean terms, this would be something like the "transvaluation of values". It's not enough to say people have different values, but we must also question the very value of our values. So while you say religious people may approach the discussion from a perspective of revelation, it seems to beget discussion of whether revelation is something to take seriously in practice or not. There's never something not up for discussion in this sense.
    I donít disagree with what youíre saying here, at least not in principle. Iíd suggest however that your approach to the discussion so far hasnít done much to promote that type of conversation.

    But on that latter point, the religious personís response to the Nietzchean view is that it contains a category error.

    Values are man made, artificial human constructions made in time, that can come and go with changing fashions in morality and culture, that we are free to choose as we wish, meaning that we can choose to which system of values we wish to adhere. The values we choose determine how we are judged by other humans.

    The religious person says that revelation is different enough from values that itís wrong to use the latter word to describe the former. Revelation isnít made by man, but given to man, and it is eternal. And while we are free to live as we wish, and make whatever choices we wish, with revelation, our actions are judged according to the standpoint of eternity.
    Last edited by Eversor; 04-12-2019 at 05:03 PM.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eversor View Post
    And the upshot of this, is this: if you’re going to bother to raise the question of whether God exists, it’s only worthwhile to ask the question if you’re willing to entertain, if only hypothetically, a supernatural worldview. Otherwise, where you fall on the position is determined from the outset, and so the conversation will be useless. You’ll just be participating in a conversation that’s exactly like the dispute you describe with your caricature of a Muslim and a Christian who differ over whose revealed truths are superior:

    That is, you’re assuming first principles different from those of your interlocutor, from which follow your differing conclusions, and which also ensures that there will never be common ground between you two.
    I was thinking a bit about this. I realized that while, yes, atheists tend not to entertain a supernaturalist world view, I wondered why this is brought up often by religious people. I've seen/heard/read in places before religious people who can act really arrogant in this regard. Some act as though atheists are 'limited' in perspective. This is always phrased as a kind of lacking, that atheists are not 100%, or some other implication without argument. These condemnations usually sound dire.

    The question to ask though is: on principle, is limiting your perspective a bad thing? I think anyone who really considers this question honestly will be forced to answer no. You can find obvious examples: Hitler's construct of Judeo-Bolshevism and associated antisemitism. Just because that perspective exists doesn't mean it's something you're metaphysically required to reconsider when you encounter a Nazi. It's the right thing to do to limit your perspective to not include the Nazi perspective.

    Per your statement: there's a difference between comprehending a perspective and believing it. I think there are many atheist thinkers who do comprehend the supernatural perspective, but they don't entertain it themselves. Similarly, we can argue effectively why the Nazi perspective is awful without having to believe in any of its tenets ourselves. To treat atheists as unable to comprehend the supernatural perspective from a different, detached perspective is false.

    For a bit more on perspective: limiting our perspectives is an inherit property of humans. You can't hold contradictory ideas in your head forever, so some perspectives have to win and some have to lose. Even open-minded people are close minded to close-minded views, so really that term is self contradictory. There are examples of other perspectives we should not entertain: anti-vax, homeopathic perspectives on medicine, hateful perspectives, MLM marketing. So while some religious people do make these claims with fire and fury, I don't think it stands that the supernatural perspective is worth considering per its existence. One has to reason with oneself and determine why this perspective is worth holding over other perspectives. It's not obviously a fault of a person to not buy into a perspective.

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by Reid View Post
    Per your statement: there's a difference between comprehending a perspective and believing it. I think there are many atheist thinkers who do comprehend the supernatural perspective, but they don't entertain it themselves. Similarly, we can argue effectively why the Nazi perspective is awful without having to believe in any of its tenets ourselves. To treat atheists as unable to comprehend the supernatural perspective from a different, detached perspective is false.
    I think returning to this after so much time has passed might've confused your thinking about this, our may have caused you to misunderstand me. Far from saying that non-believers can't understand religion, I was actually encouraging atheists to understand religion, but to understand it on its own terms, rather than from the standpoint of critique. In no way did I suggest that non-believers are constitutionally "incapable" of understanding the religious standpoint.

  25. #25
    I also think social media has killed the practice of using italics to annoyingly and unnecessarily emphasize one's own points

  26. #26
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    Social media has also killed the practice of empathizing with strangers and separating your personal politics from your profession

  27. #27
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    but yeah those italics

  28. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by Eversor View Post
    I think returning to this after so much time has passed might've confused your thinking about this, our may have caused you to misunderstand me. Far from saying that non-believers can't understand religion, I was actually encouraging atheists to understand religion, but to understand it on its own terms, rather than from the standpoint of critique. In no way did I suggest that non-believers are constitutionally "incapable" of understanding the religious standpoint.
    I think the lesson here is that people believe what they want to believe.

  29. #29
    Yeah, but come on. We're better for it. I like my burgers progressive.

  30. #30
    haha, I don't mean that one way or another. I just wanted to link to my favorite mockumentary from days of yore...

  31. #31
    what.. is this??

  32. #32

  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eversor View Post
    I think returning to this after so much time has passed might've confused your thinking about this, our may have caused you to misunderstand me. Far from saying that non-believers can't understand religion, I was actually encouraging atheists to understand religion, but to understand it on its own terms, rather than from the standpoint of critique. In no way did I suggest that non-believers are constitutionally "incapable" of understanding the religious standpoint.
    I wasn't referring to you in particular, it's clear you're arguing from a detached perspective and not from an invested perspective.

    I understand your encouragement. I fail to see the reasons for going along with it. "If you believe in some religious axioms, religion follows" would be a poor argument, so I don't think you want to argue that. So why should people approach religion on it's own terms, and honestly what does that even mean?

    I don't think all atheists approach religion from a standpoint of critique, btw. The "true naturalist" - not the new atheist debate fedoras - already do this.

  34. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by Reid View Post
    I don't think all atheists approach religion from a standpoint of critique, btw. The "true naturalist" - not the new atheist debate fedoras - already do this.
    A good example here is the Q source. Evidence for and against is mostly speculative, but it's an interesting idea. In practice, Christian apologists argue against it from an invested perspective, and atheist debaters argue for it from an invested perspective, and everyone is always putting their finger on the scale to tip the interpretation in their favor.

    I hate this crap. Whether the Q source exists is interesting, plausible to an extent, but like pretty much everything there's nothing to say but a bit of speculation. Maybe the gospels are somewhat truthful retellings, maybe not. I'm more interested in reading the perspectives on this and appreciating the nuance from a standpoint of simply caring about the source of ideas and texts, not to bet on a horse.

    The only people who would seem to be even capable of making these kinds of arguments from a detached perspective are people who's scholarly work is naturalist. Both Christian and secular scholars who do good work here are basically operating from this naturalist perspective. And the only ones who make claims which appreciate the nuance aren't trying to critique Christianity.

    If the Q source is true, it does seem to be damning towards Christian beliefs, though. So you don't have to be trying to criticize religion to still end up at a belief which opposes religious perspectives. To suggest that implies motivations which may not be there.

  35. #35
    Quote Originally Posted by Reid View Post
    I understand your encouragement. I fail to see the reasons for going along with it. "If you believe in some religious axioms, religion follows" would be a poor argument, so I don't think you want to argue that. So why should people approach religion on it's own terms, and honestly what does that even mean?
    Here, I'll do you the courtesy of copying and pasting when I addressed this earlier:

    Quote Originally Posted by Eversor View Post
    Sociological, anthropological and psychological approaches to religion are limited to an extent. But that doesn’t in any way diminish their standing as sciences, or undermine the value of those sciences’ insights. What I’m suggesting in comparing them has nothing to do with whether naturalism (or supernaturalism, for that matter) is true or false, or whether it’s more or less accurate. The naturalistic sciences are merely limited to the extent that they try to understand groups of people by bringing to those people sets of assumptions that differ from the assumptions that those people bring to their understanding of themselves. But that is the sort of limitation that constrains any and every science. It doesn’t mean that it’s any less valuable than another approach, or that it’s claims are any less accurate, but merely that it’s limited by its methods, assumptions and content, because by being something definite at all, there are other things that fall outside it’s purview. (I posit that, in fact, the naturalistic and theological approaches are in fact complementary.)

    In addition to the methods and assumptions of naturalistic sciences being different from those of theology, and as a corollary, those naturalistic sciences are asking very different questions than the people who are engaging in religious practice. The religious person might ask, “what is the nature of God?” and proceed towards an understanding of God. A naturalist might see a religious person posing the question and say, “what about someone’s psychological history, or their communal relations, or power relations, might drive a person to posit such a notion of God, such as the one they imagine?” The former, the religious person, approaches the matter assuming that religious categories such as divinity, prophecy, atonement, purification, and so on, are concepts that relate to substantive entities, and tries to arrive at a coherent understanding. In contrast, the naturalist assumes that those concepts are fictive creations of the human mind, and inquires instead into their historical origins, assuming that naturalistic causes, whether social, psychological, or what ever, are sufficient to arrive at such an answer.

    In no way am I suggesting that one approach is better or worse than the other, at least not in absolute terms. I’m saying, in effect, that the reason why you are frustrated with religious people (as you describe it in your post) and why you hear so much “sound and fury” on their end, is because of the gap that exists between your naturalist views and their supernaturalistic ones. As long as you and your religious interlocutors approach the issues coming at them with completely different assumptions, you’ll inevitably disagree, and you’ll each look silly to each other. You’ll only understand religious conscious from an external perspective, and not from within.
    TL;DR: The difference is between thinking about the theological implications of Christ is the Redeemer and trying to understand why Christians think Christ is the Redeemer.

    Quote Originally Posted by Reid View Post
    I don't think all atheists approach religion from a standpoint of critique, btw. The "true naturalist" - not the new atheist debate fedoras - already do this.
    I'm not crazy about using the word "atheist" here, but non-believers do generally approach religion from the standpoint of critique, if you understand what the word "critique" means in this context (hint: it doesn't mean "suspicion" or "negative judgment") (second hint: anthropology, sociology and some aspects of psychology are critical disciplines).

  36. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eversor View Post
    Here, I'll do you the courtesy of copying and pasting when I addressed this earlier:

    TL;DR: The difference is between thinking about the theological implications of Christ is the Redeemer and trying to understand why Christians think Christ is the Redeemer.
    I think I'm in agreement with what you've said, religious people approach these discussions from different categories. I'm in total agreement.

    The problem is, I don't find a satisfactory answer to my question:

    why should people approach religion on it's own terms?
    in what you've written. Are we saying secular people study theology to be sure of their rejection of religion? In the same vein, should people have to take a course taught by a Marxist before being sure in liberal economics?

    It seems to me that deconverting a religious person would not be possible in theory by using categories like "purification" which are inherently spiritual. It would be in convincing them to devalue spiritual categories and value other naturalistic categories.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eversor View Post
    I'm not crazy about using the word "atheist" here, but non-believers do generally approach religion from the standpoint of critique, if you understand what the word "critique" means in this context (hint: it doesn't mean "suspicion" or "negative judgment") (second hint: anthropology, sociology and some aspects of psychology are critical disciplines).
    I don't think there's a better way to approach it, tbh.

    A good analogy (I'm not trying to make an implication) would be with Herbalife or any other MLM. Any thorough person would do a critique of the business model and decide not to get involved pretty fast, as it's obvious where the profits of Herbalife arise. Essentially what someone could argue is, so long as you're only critiquing Herbalife's business model, you're limiting yourself. If you do what Herbalife followers do and let yourself get wrapped up in the marketing hype, then you'll understand and see Herbalife as a good thing.

    That may be true, but if your objective is to explain your position that you think Herbalife is a mistake, I don't agree that you must see Herbalife's marketing on its own terms to deconvert a follower. Rather, you need to help them see your critique of its marketing and business model.

    So, yeah, you can argue that the critical model is something limited because you won't buy into the marketing hype, but I think it's evident that the critical model is the right choice to make. What I'm saying is, these perspectives are not value-neutral in practice, ultimately some perspectives are just better, and I tend towards thinking the naturalistic perspectives are better.

    BTW, I don't talk about religion in person often, nor debate online, but I do read Christians speak online so I get doses of these views from time to time. That's sort of the genesis of my opinions about religion.
    Last edited by Reid; 05-04-2019 at 05:05 PM.

  37. #37
    Quote Originally Posted by Reid View Post
    I think I'm in agreement with what you've said, religious people approach these discussions from different categories. I'm in total agreement.

    The problem is, I don't find a satisfactory answer to my question:



    in what you've written. Are we saying secular people study theology to be sure of their rejection of religion? In the same vein, should people have to take a course taught by a Marxist before being sure in liberal economics?
    Well, when this question initially came up in the course of the conversation, I was just making a case for how we (as in, you and I) could approach the question of whether God exists in a meaningful way (specifically, I was trying to get us away from polemics). I wasn't talking about a larger question of why people more broadly, or liberals, or non-believers, or whatever, should try to understand religion on its own terms.

    If you were going to ask me to take a stance on that, I'd say that the abrahamic religions are part of our cultural patrimony as human beings, but also more specifically as Westerners and Americans, so that by learning in religious traditions, we can be engaged in an act of self-discovery (just in the same way that we can learn something about ourselves by learning about the western philosophical canon, because the canon shaped the institutions that are the cornerstone of our national traditions). Furthermore, there's wisdom in millenia of religious tradition that makes it worthwhile to learn about for its own sake.

    And of course there's also the classic liberal arts justification, embodied in that quote from the Roman playwright Terence, that "there is nothing human that is foreign to me": by learning about idea systems that at first seem foreign, they cease to be foreign.

  38. #38
    Quote Originally Posted by Reid View Post
    A good analogy (I'm not trying to make an implication) would be with Herbalife or any other MLM. Any thorough person would do a critique of the business model and decide not to get involved pretty fast, as it's obvious where the profits of Herbalife arise. Essentially what someone could argue is, so long as you're only critiquing Herbalife's business model, you're limiting yourself. If you do what Herbalife followers do and let yourself get wrapped up in the marketing hype, then you'll understand and see Herbalife as a good thing.

    That may be true, but if your objective is to explain your position that you think Herbalife is a mistake, I don't agree that you must see Herbalife's marketing on its own terms to deconvert a follower. Rather, you need to help them see your critique of its marketing and business model.

    So, yeah, you can argue that the critical model is something limited because you won't buy into the marketing hype, but I think it's evident that the critical model is the right choice to make. What I'm saying is, these perspectives are not value-neutral in practice, ultimately some perspectives are just better, and I tend towards thinking the naturalistic perspectives are better.

    BTW, I don't talk about religion in person often, nor debate online, but I do read Christians speak online so I get doses of these views from time to time. That's sort of the genesis of my opinions about religion.
    So far you've compared religion to Nazi conspiracies, anti-vaxing, and to a pyramid scheme. Value laden! The implication is that to hold religious views is an unfortunate error (if not a delusion), and that there's no genuine good to be gained by religious belief.
    Last edited by Eversor; 05-04-2019 at 07:11 PM.

  39. #39
    Okay, let me suggest an analogy that I'd use. But first off, I just want to go over something I said quickly, because it was a little too imprecise. So there's this:

    Quote Originally Posted by Eversor View Post
    TL;DR: The difference is between thinking about the theological implications of Christ is the Redeemer and trying to understand why Christians think Christ is the Redeemer.
    That was a little unclear (although it should've made sense in context). I should clarify: the person who's thinking about the theological implications of Christ the Redeemer is still in effect trying to understand why a Christian thinks as a Christian does -- it's just that that person is also a Christian, and so the meaning of the question takes on a different resonance, because they'll bring different categories to bear on the question (namely, religious categories, rather than the critical approaches of secular-naturalistic sciences).

  40. #40
    So having gotten that out of the way, I think a better analogy might be North Korea's foreign policy, or its aspiration to get nuclear weapons. You can analyze it from the standpoint of the US government, and you'd see it as a problem that needs to be addressed, and you'd see their recent provocative confrontations with South Korea and their brinksmanship, and and you'd look at all of the cult-like aspects of the regime, and perhaps you'd believe that there's something deeply irrational about it, and assume that there's something deeply irrational about the regime as a whole, which influences how it makes decisions in foreign policy.

    If your an analyst working for the US government, there may be professional constraints that condition how you think about the topic. You aren't invested in the topic in an impartial way; you care about it because ultimately you're trying to produce for your government a proposal for courses of action your government can take to advance its specific interests. And then beyond that, there's also the fact that the way you approach the topic is socially conditioned. You might have numerous assumptions about the topic that you aren't even aware of, that stem from the fact that day after day you work with people who reinforce each others view of the world.

    But then there's another approach. It's also possible to attain a standpoint where you strive you understand a foreign perspective not from without (that is, as it appears to you as an outsider), but from within, as those who adhere to that perspective see the world. One way to approach the topic is to try to understand North Korea as North Korea understands its own situation. Of course, if you are wiling to entertain the idea that North Korea is in fact acting rationally, the picture might look very different. If you understand how the US' carpet bombing of North Korea is still very much an open wound in the mind's of North Koreans, suddenly their outlandish rhetoric seems a little less paranoid and a little more grounded in reality. Their effort to build out their nuclear program seems justifiable from their own point of view, even if you wish desperately that they'd stop their program, maybe you can comprehend a little bit better why they're doing it, and why, again, from their perspective, its reasonable.

    Ultimately, doing that won't fundamentally change your analysis. At the end of the day, you still have to tell your government what it should do, and you'll likely still advocate for a confrontational posture, because that's still what's most pragmatic from your point of view, and with the goals your committed to. Understanding that your opponent's perspective is reasonable doesn't make you any less committed to your own goals, and understanding the other side doesn't make the hostility go away. It's not as if because you "empathize" with the other side, suddenly your differences dissolve. But your analysis will be richer, and maybe it will even positively influence your policy prescriptions.

    TL; DR: contra your Herbalife example, you can recognize that argument X might be compelling to someone who believes Y, without yourself being persuaded by X or believing in Y. The same applies to religious ideas, as we've already discussed.
    Last edited by Eversor; 05-04-2019 at 06:50 PM.

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