Lucretius, “Of Natural Things”- also Atoms & Atheists

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Rufus F.

Rufus is an American curmudgeon in Canada. He has a PhD in History, sings in a garage rock band, and does a bunch of other stuff.

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  1. Avatar Matty
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    Most of us, atheists or believers, don’t follow Lucretius’s advice to have sex with whoever we can, for example, because we think it’s the “wrong” thing to do.

    I would put it rather differently, most of us see sex as part and only part of the pleasure of a romantic relationship. Because we appear to have an in built tendency to jealousy it is difficult to have sex with lots of people and maintain such a relationship and all the other pleasures involved. We therfore face a choice similar to that between eating a three course meal or filling up on chocolate. That the majority prefer the meal is interesting but hardly evidence that they do so because it is in a list of moral rules.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Matty
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      That’s my sense of it. Even in a world with no religious beliefs whatsoever, we’d act basically the same way. We can argue whether that means that certain behaviors are “innate” or that God’s truths are “written on the heart”. Certainly, I’m in no position to answer that question.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Rufus F.
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        I guess a third option would be that “moral” behaviors are also just healthy (i.e. physically, psychologically, interpersonally) things to do generally. That’s maybe less fun to debate though.Report

      • Avatar Tony Comstock in reply to Rufus F.
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        Just now I remember a story told by a Nazi death camp survivor:

        She said that the first time she and other survivors gathered there was much drinking and (note: edited) fISHing, with wild abandon; reactionary, celebratory, and defiant.

        But as the years wore on the bacchanalia become less and less, until finally the gathering were indistinguishable from any other gathering of middle-age married people.

        It’s such a cliche story it demands a citation. I’ll see if I can find one, but I heard it well before the age of the internet, so don’t hold your breath.Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Tony Comstock
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          Tony, I’m sorry I edited your comment. I just recently said that, if people had a problem with comments that included the f-word, I’d replace it with “fish” because that would make me laugh. So, I changed it in your comment really just because I thought it was funny.Report

          • Avatar RTod in reply to Rufus F.
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            says:

            Well, who died and make you fishing God? 😉Report

          • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Rufus F.
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            Also, I’ll admit, “Fishing with wild abandon” does make me laugh. I’m an appreciative audience for my own jokes.Report

            • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Rufus F.
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              So, regarding this:
              “Because we appear to have an in built tendency to jealousy it is difficult to have sex with lots of people and maintain such a relationship and all the other pleasures involved.”

              In terms of jealously, I have two theories about it. Personally, I don’t experience jealousy. I’ve been told I should at some point, but I feel about the same when my wife is out doing her taxes with someone else as when she’s out fishing with them. She’s the same way about me in terms of not having jealousy and so our marriage works for us.

              Now, my first theory is that we’re both abnormal. I figure that a small percentage of the population is homosexual and we don’t expect them not to have homosexual relationships, so it should be the same for me and her and our statistical abnormality. In other words, I figure that 90-something percent of people experience jealousy over fishing, so they should never go there. It’s innate, etc .etc.

              My second theory, which I hold only about 5% of the time, is that I don’t experience jealousy because jealousy isn’t really about fishing- it’s about lacking something with your partner and wanting that. If my wife and I weren’t fishing, and more specifically, if we didn’t have a crazy, intense, and beautiful love for each other, the fishing might matter to me, but even then, it would be about something else– namely that lack of love between us. What matters to me is our relationship and, so far, it’s pretty great. Sometimes, I think that all relationship problems boil down to needing something from your partner and feeling that you’re not getting it and then having bad feelings that arise from that.

              So, therefore, sometimes I think that, if what they once called the “French marriage” was the social norm (as it once was in France), there wouldn’t be more or less jealousy than there is now because jealousy isn’t really about the partner’s life outside the relationship, but their life within.

              Of course, I almost never say that because I don’t want to sound crazy!

              (Just kidding- it’s because I think it’s obnoxious to tell other people how they should or shouldn’t feel in their relationships. I wish some of them would extend me the same courtesy, but que sera sera.)Report

          • Avatar KenB in reply to Rufus F.
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            So the New Testament reading at church this morning included Jesus’ call to Simon and Andrew in Matthew 4:19 — “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” I thought of this blog and its new euphemism, and I had a hard time keeping myself from laughing in the pew.Report

  2. Avatar Tony Comstock
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    When I find myself uncertain about what I want to do or should do, a mental exercise I find helpful is to try to imagine, with as much vividness and honesty, what I would do if I woke up tomorrow and had come into a great sum of money. Depending on what the source of my confusion is, I’m sometimes find it helpful to adjust this sum up or down; anywhere from Powerball Jackpot to simply enough to “cover my nut”.Report

  3. Avatar Francis
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    A Catholic friend used to say, if he was an atheist, he’d be doing all sorts of sinful things.

    If you need the fear of some god to keep you from engaging in rape, then I guess its a good thing you believe in that god. But the best evidence is that belief is a delusion.

    Some delusions are harmless; many are not. Many religious delusions are profoundly harmful. The Catholic Church, in recent years, has engaged in a multi-year multi-country coverup of adolescent homosexual rape of staggering proportions and promulgated teachings in Africa regarding the use of condoms that has condemned hundreds of thousand to die of AIDS. In the US, believers in some god are some of the leading voices in anti-historical anti-scientific teaching. Evolution just a theory, really?

    More heretical, do atheists have an obligation to libertinage, in order to be logically coherent?

    No. Don’t harm others is a perfectly good morality to live by, even without a god. Who would want to live in a society where rape and robbery are considered morally acceptable? If I lived there, I’d move.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Francis
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      I should note that this Catholic friend was 15 at the time (me too), so partying hearty was probably more tempting.Report

      • Avatar James K in reply to Rufus F.
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        Also, what did he mean by sin? There are a lot of things the Catholic Church considers sinful that I don’t have nay moral qualms about. A lot of sin is malum prohibitum rather than mala in se. After all, I don’t have any trouble believing that most Orthodox Jews would eat bacon, were it not for their faith.Report

  4. Avatar Jaybird
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    if you think there’s no God, why should you restrain from drinking, screwing, and violating social norms?

    So there were these two bulls, right? And they’re looking down at this field full of cows. In this field full of cows, there was an apple tree. The younger bull says “let’s run down there and eat one of those apples!” and the older bull says “let’s walk down there and eat all of them”.

    I think that’s the story.

    Anyway, the point is, a really big night of debauchery will lead to a really big headache in the morning… but a really measured night of debauchery can be experienced, like, all the time. Too much in too little of a period of time will give you a hangover… but you can potentially have infinite if you pace yourself.Report

  5. Avatar RTod
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    Rufus – two quick comments about where I think you’re off; not out of faulty thinking so much as the difficulty in “translating” beliefs from one person to another.

    First point:

    “There is something about most arguments for atheism that has always struck me as strange (in a way I’m not sure I can articulate fully): namely that they tend to try to undermine religious belief by offering alternative explanations for the external world”

    As a nonbeliever, I think this is not quite right. You seem to be saying that atheists look to externally prove there is no God – a common stereotype of atheists, I have found – but that is not my experience. Personally, I can say that observation of the external does inform my belief system – but not in a “chloroform turns leaves green therefore there is no God” way. For me (and most non-believers I know) it’s not that materialism proves the non-existence of God; it’s that after observation religious dogma, history and human nature we conclude that there is no “there” there.

    Point 2: “if we don’t believe in Gods and metaphysics, our adherence to moral rules seems a bit neurotic.”

    Though you don’t go soooo far as others, I think this argument has seeds from two common misunderstanding of atheism: first, that it equates to a lack of morality and second that people who do not believe in God do not believe in anything. Of course, neither is true. And even from your more subtle wording, I think this is not particularly reflective. My understanding of religious history is that even within a common religion, folks are so “neurotic” as to often punish, exile, torture or even kill others over the slightest differences in dogmatic issues. Are two atheists (or agnostics) arguing over the relative Good/Evil of the death penalty based on their observations and reasoning really more neurotic than two Christians arguing the same issue over competing pieces of scripture?Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to RTod
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      Thanks! These are helpful points.
      In terms of 1, I wasn’t trying to say that atheists look to external things to disprove God so much as believers tend to look to internal things to explain why they believe. All the believers I know personally anyway describe how they came to belief in terms of hearing a voice, having an internal conviction, feeling a presence, and so forth. They seem sort of indifferent to materialist versus religious arguments about the external world. Personally, although I’m not a believer, I feel like arguing with people about their internal experiences is a bit like arguing with a mother that she didn’t really feel a bond with her child the first time she held it- after all, how would I know? A psychiatrist might feel differently though.

      In terms of 2, I was really just thinking aloud. I’m sure there are non-believers who have well-articulated moral belief systems with no mention of metaphysics. For me, I just behave in an upright way because it feels like I’m supposed to. Of course, I also think part of that is just hedging my bets in case the theists are right!Report

      • Avatar James K in reply to Rufus F.
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        For me, game theory helps put morality into focus. Human beings have an evolved set of instincts (a small number of sociopaths aside) and there are clear ways that those instincts can lead to better social outcomes than a pure utility maximiser.

        Basically, a society of sociopaths isn’t sustainable. That fact, combined with our natural instincts seems like a good reason to use our own moral sentiments as a guide (if an imperfect one) to how to live your life. And honestly, I don’t thin believers are any different on the big stuff. That why everyone’s perception of their God seems so similar to what they themselves think. There’s no substitute for your won moral judgement.Report

  6. Avatar 4jkb4ia
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    There is a line in what I am going to be obnoxious and call Tehillim: “[G-d] safeguards truth forever”. For a religious person valuing truth is an attribute that helps you to serve G-d. There is no reason that an atheistic person shouldn’t value truth even if they find it in non-metaphysical things. Even if the self/soul isn’t metaphysical the atheistic person could still value integrity. Part of integrity is the bonds formed with other people, which would be a good reason not to sleep with everybody under the sun.Report

    • Avatar Will H. in reply to 4jkb4ia
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      I thought this was one of the more interesting comments.
      My own faith teaches that the purpose of man on earth is to develop those spiritual qualities that will assist in the next stage of development in the other worlds of God.
      It also teaches that truthfulness is the first requirement before any of the other spiritual qualities may be developed.
      And so, a truthful unbeliever could well be more devout an adherent than a devious believer.
      Go figure.Report

  7. Avatar tom van dyke
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    The missing link on why atheists might tend to “behave themselves” is natural law theory. I did an except from Murray Rothbard—atheist, libertarian—that might be of interest.

    http://americancreation.blogspot.com/2009/04/primer-on-natural-law.html

    As for metaphysics, it is alleged, and I think accurately, that many who reject it outright have done so without an adequate understanding of what they’re rejecting.

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/01/brutal-facts-about-keith-parsons.html

    Metaphysics might reasonably begin with the question “why is there something rather than nothing,” and then “why is there order rather than chaos?”

    This may lead to the proposition of a “divinity” [for lack of a better term] that not only created the physical world but sustains it, keeping the atoms coherent and merrily whirring. [The concept of Being.]

    http://www.firstthings.com/article/2010/12/philosophy-lives

    I’m not big on metaphysics, meself. My argument would be that the Aristotelian-Thomist scheme is sufficient and unrefudiated enough that reason may give its assent to faith.

    Religious experience, or the acceptance of “revelation” [scripture] is of course a function of faith, which cannot be justified by reason. Still, if the burden of proof is equally shared, neither can it be successfully refudiated by reason. It seems reasonable to not close the question of God, indeed anti-philosophical to close it.Report

    • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to tom van dyke
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      “It seems reasonable to not close the question of God, indeed anti-philosophical to close it.”
      Yep, at least phenomenologically speaking; ask Husserl, Stein, Heidegger what they think.
      And yep, if intentionality and ‘mystery’ are interpreted as structures of reality as Mr. Aristotle saw it; and revealed in the act of questing, seeking, that is the proper reply to the call/drawing of the Divine.

      “He calls ya, ya can’t refuse…”
      Bob DylanReport

      • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Robert Cheeks
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        Thx, Mr. Cheeks. A variation of Augustine’s “Our hearts were made for thee?”

        Even the materialist Jefferson argued that it appears to be in man’s nature to ask “What is God.” Is this evidence for teleology, a higher purpose for man than mere survival and procreation? What separates him from the mere beasts? His ability, nay imperative [“questing”], to wonder at things?

        Our little branch of this discussion seems to have trailed off. Perhaps the questions on the other branches will find home. There is the modern perception that there are some things new under the sun, and that feeling must be accommodated even if it’s painful to watch the wheel being reinvented yet again.Report

        • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to tom van dyke
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          I do believe you’ve hit an important nail on the head, Tom. The answers to the inquiries of modernity were answered, or at least analyized by the classic Greeks, the Church fathers, the stoics and others including Bergson, while the moderns have not the memory to seek the loving quest of the soul.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to tom van dyke
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      I sort of kept my cards close to my chest in this post, but I tend to see reason and faith as two entirely different worlds and don’t see the point in using one to exclude the other. I have a very close relative who, at the darkest point in her life (the night she was going to kill herself), said she heard a voice in the darkness telling her he had been with her since before her birth, would always be there, and would always love her. If I told her the experience was “untrue” I’d be a jerk, first off, but also it would be ridiculously presumptuous of me. On the other hand, to say that there’s a God and he’s watching over me? Well, I can’t say that with any more certainty.Report

      • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Rufus F.
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        Thx, Rufus. There is a way to deal with quid sit deus at arm’s length, but as with most things, the terms of the discussion are often given over to the extremes, the dogmatic atheists and the dogmatic fideists.

        This is an area of particular interest to me, so I’ve been reading up. It can be said that faith and reason occupy two non-intersecting spheres, but that might not need to be the case.

        Metaphysics has no definitive answers, but it poses some excellent questions, as limned above. And although I doubt that Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics has swung the day for faith for anyone—although you never know—its provisional answers [Being, sustaining, atoms coherent and whirring, matter self-organizing] are sufficient enough for some people that faith need not require the abandonment of reason. This is what Feser meant vs. Parsons that theism is not merely a “brute” assertion of God’s existence.

        And if the A-T answers are not compelling enough for the necessity of God, the excellence of metaphysics’ questions should hold the door open to faith for those who have no experiential reason to have any as of yet, that reason need not reject the possibility of God.

        Indeed, I’d expect the beauty of a sunset to have more effect on the human person’s faith or metaphysics than his intellect. Or a voice in the darkness on a desperate night. She needed to be in such pain to be open to such a great gift. Makes you wonder sometimes.

        And your life isn’t complete yet, Rufus, nor mine, so who knows what awaits? We hope not as much pain. Perhaps the right sunset will do.

        Or perhaps there’s no God, god, gods, or any of that stuff. That’s above the pay grade of a comments section.Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to tom van dyke
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          It’s above my pay grade anyway. Whenever I talk to either believers or non-believers who are…well, insistent, if not necessarily dogmatic, about the rightness of their viewpoint, I tell them the same thing: I’m going to pray every night and ask for a sign from whatever’s out there and, if you’re right, I’ll eventually figure it out. It seems to satisfy both sides of the equation.Report

          • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Rufus F.
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            In the name of God: the tension of human existence is defined by the poles of immanence and transcendence; by reason, grounded on the Divine and faith. This is elemental, fundamental, the order then, of the soul is the loving (LOVING) quest of the soul for BEING; nothing else relieves the madness, the insanity, the anxiety; one turns toward the light and exists in this condition or one dwells Shakespearean world of lustful disorder.
            Man, is made to love God!Report

      • Avatar Will H. in reply to Rufus F.
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        I tend to see reason and faith as two entirely different worlds and don’t see the point in using one to exclude the other.

        Plotinus said the same thing. Science and philosophy are intellectual forms of knowledge, while religion and art are emotional forms of knowledge.
        Disproving religion by science is essentially the same as disproving art.
        Finite of their own kind.Report

  8. Avatar Steve S.
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    “There is something about most arguments for atheism that has always struck me as strange”

    As far as I’m concerned there is no such thing as an argument for atheism. Atheism is a position statement on a proposition.

    “they tend to try to undermine religious belief by offering alternative explanations for the external world; ”

    Well, no, that’s what scientists do, try to explain the external world in its own terms. Atheists are people who don’t believe in deities.

    “believers are using religious terms to explain internal states”

    Fine with me. Atheists are also telling you something about their internal state, namely, they haven’t internalized a deity belief.

    “if we don’t believe in Gods and metaphysics, our adherence to moral rules seems a bit neurotic. Most of us, atheists or believers, don’t follow Lucretius’s advice to have sex with whoever we can, for example, because we think it’s the “wrong” thing to do. But, denial of bodily pleasure, no matter how much sense it might make in practice, doesn’t really seem to have a lot of justification in atheism.”

    Oh, this again. Atheists get their morality from exactly the same place everybody else does; social influence and personal reflection. The only difference is that atheists leave out the Middle Man. Furthermore, I don’t get the sense of the argument, “if there is no God all is permitted.” It would then follow that everything the putative Deity forgot to mention is also permitted.

    “it’s hard not to wonder if most of the things we all do in order to live upstanding lives, in the absence of belief, don’t amount to the neurotic vestiges of faith.”

    Undoubtedly, since atheists get their morality from the same place everybody else does.

    “if you think there’s no God, why should you restrain from drinking, screwing, and violating social norms?”

    For the same reasons everybody else does.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Steve S.
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      I sort of think you’re disagreeing with someone else here.Report

      • Avatar Tony Comstock in reply to Rufus F.
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        Maybe you can get him to agree to disagree with someone else?Report

      • Avatar Steve S. in reply to Rufus F.
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        I am disagreeing with whatever voice is advancing these arguments.Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Steve S.
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          Well, then, I don’t think you understand what I’m saying. Because I don’t think you’re saying anything terribly contradictory to what I wrote, but you’re calling it “disagreeing”.Report

          • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Rufus F.
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            Here’s an example:
            “Oh, this again.”
            Here I’m assuming the prior “this” was someone else’s argument.

            “Atheists get their morality from exactly the same place everybody else does; social influence and personal reflection.”
            Which is my understanding as well.

            “The only difference is that atheists leave out the Middle Man.”
            Well, it’s a big middle man, isn’t it? For the Christians anyway, the middle man is that they really believe that, if they do the “bad” thing, they’ll burn in a lake of fire for all eternity. I mean, it’s not a bad reason not to do something. There is a difference between doing not doing something because society taught you at a young age it was “wrong” and not doing it because of that too, plus you believe doing it will cause you to be burned alive for all eternity.

            “Furthermore, I don’t get the sense of the argument, “if there is no God all is permitted.”
            Me neither. But I didn’t make that argument at all.

            Look, let’s take the basic Freudian argument that we mostly repress our desires, or channel them into a very limited number of appropriate outlets because we have fully internalized societal pressure. Okay? So atheists and religious people would have come to that repression the same way, with the only difference being that religious people give a name to that internalized guilt, shame, and societal pressure and call it God.

            All I’m saying is that the internalized societal pressure and the repression it fosters can often be neurotic. Given that religious people also have the small detail of believing that repression will prevent them from burning alive for all eternity, they have a bit more impetus to repress their urges. But me? Well, some of them are based on empathy- I wouldn’t want to be murdered, so I don’t murder anyone. Others? They’re just societally induced repression about things that, if I think about it rationally, I don’t even believe are wrong. But I still don’t do them. Probably because I was raised by parents with vestigial Catholic guilt who transmitted that guilt and the related neuroses.

            You wrote repeatedly that atheists get their morality from exactly the same place everybody else does- yeah, I think so too. I’m just asking if, without that Middle Man, we can’t start rejecting those aspects of morality that really, if you think about them logically, are just a vestige of faith and, otherwise, make no sense.Report

            • Avatar Steve S. in reply to Rufus F.
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              “Here I’m assuming the prior ‘this’ was someone else’s argument.”

              What was immediately prior was this: “denial of bodily pleasure… doesn’t really seem to have a lot of justification in atheism.” This seems nonsensical, since atheism does not seek to justify behavior. As far as the atheist can tell he or she is developing moral behavior from the same sources as anybody else.

              “Well, it’s a big middle man, isn’t it? For the Christians anyway, the middle man is that they really believe that, if they do the ‘bad’ thing, they’ll burn in a lake of fire for all eternity. I mean, it’s not a bad reason not to do something.”

              I assume you are not arguing that fear of a deity produces superior moral outcomes than anybody else’s reason. If you are not arguing that I see no reason to bring up the supposed atheist “problem” regarding morality.

              “I’m just asking if, without that Middle Man, we can’t start rejecting those aspects of morality that really, if you think about them logically, are just a vestige of faith and, otherwise, make no sense.”

              You can do that with the Middle Man too. Christians waved off the old dietary laws without too much trouble, for instance, if that’s the type of thing you are talking about. I again don’t see a strong distinction between how atheists and believers approach this sort of thing.Report

            • Avatar Francis in reply to Rufus F.
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              Exactly. And this is how we get to gay people getting to marry each other.Report

          • Avatar Steve S. in reply to Rufus F.
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            To restate it as briefly as possible, I disagree with (1) the formulation that there is anything “strange” about “arguments for atheism” because I personally don’t recognize any “argument for atheism” in the first place, (2) that religious belief is distinguished from atheism by its being about an “internal state”, (3) that the existence of morality poses any kind of “problem” for atheists.Report

            • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Steve S.
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              1. Okay, reject the formulation. How about “arguments against theism”? They do exist, yes? At least, I’ve heard people make them. And, what I was saying is that I’ve heard people argue that belief is ‘irrational’, ‘unscientific’ or ‘unneccessay’ given how fully scientists can explain the workings of the universe without resorting to dieties. It seems like an uncontroversial observation.
              2. You can reject the existence of internal states. But what I said was that believers often explain their belief in terms of internal states- an internal “conviction”, a “feeling” of the “presence of God”, the “eyes of the heart” being “opened”. You can reject that those things exist, but it’s not an argument against my observation that religious people make those claims.
              3. I don’t think the existence of morality poses a problem for atheists- I think that societal repression is often a vestigial remnant of older religious-based morality and that, if one doesn’t have that religion, it makes sense to question that repression. Certainly, there are plenty of moral regulations that make perfect sense in terms of the golden rule, without any belief in dieties. I’m saying that the golden rule doesn’t cover all of the things we prevent ourselves from doing out of a vague, socially-conditioned sense that they’re “wrong”.Report

              • Avatar mark boggs in reply to Rufus F.
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                I’m not sure you can even argue that the internal convictions-feelings-emotions things don’t exist. But you can damn well argue that they are not necessarily universal and that they certainly don’t prove the existence of supernatural entities transcendent to the universe.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to mark boggs
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                Mr. Boggs, pls pls do argue that. It’s germane to a parallel discussion elsewhere. Locke had his doubts about the Scottish Common Sense Enlightenment’s [which excludes Hume] belief in an “innate moral sense,” and by extension, a “natural law” that even pagans could discover by reason.

                Locke’s arguments were based on information from The New World, of cannibalism and sacrificing the old and useless, but it turned out these reports were largely false.

                When someone affirms they have never felt a “pull” toward God, as Mr. Cheeks describes it, we are obliged to take them at their word. After all, they are the best judges of themselves and their internal weather.

                On the other hand, perhaps they’re lying not just to us, but to themselves as well. After all, an internal acknowledgement of God, well, let’s turn the floor over to Thomas:

                Reply to Objection 5: Since God’s substance and universal goodness are one and the same, all who behold God’s essence are by the same movement of love moved towards the Divine essence as it is distinct from other things, and according as it is the universal good. And because He is naturally loved by all so far as He is the universal good, it is impossible that whoever sees Him in His essence should not love Him. But such as do not behold His essence, know Him by some particular effects, which are sometimes opposed to their will. So in this way they are said to hate God; yet nevertheless, so far as He is the universal good of all, every thing naturally loves God more than itself.—Summa 1, 60

                Not bad for 1250 CE or so. The question of human “will” is picked up some many centuries later by Nietzsche, and indeed by modernity as we know it, as Thomas anticipates. Man is the measure of all things, and what man wills is the only reality.

                Quid sit deus, what is God? Does man ask this question by accident, or by nature? In other words, why does man ask that question? Why does man ask why?

                Thomas replies that he does ask himself that question, but wills himself not to pursue the possible answer[s], because that might mean there’s a will greater, and more perfect, than man’s own.

                And so, such a person becomes an “enemy of God.” Any such persons come to mind? Hell, the modern world drips with them, Mr. Boggs, which is why arm’s-length discussions on this stuff are largely impossible, if only because the burden of proof is not equally shared.Report

              • Avatar mark boggs in reply to tom van dyke
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                says:

                Gotta admit, Mr. Van Dyke, most of your discourse is beyond my ability to comprehend.

                But as far as “enemies of God”, whereas I’m an agnostic who really doesn’t believe in God but understands that a possibility of one does exist, I’m certainly not an enemy of it as the very statement presumes an existence where I feel there isn’t one.

                And I certainly don’t doubt for one minute that Mr. Cheeks feels the things that he does and ascribes those feelings to a deity. Certainly that is his and every other human’s prerogative. And I hope you weren’t misunderstanding me to say otherwise. I very much can’t doubt that people have those feelings and that they ascribe the existence of a deity as the reason for them. Hell, I have the feeling of deja vu and that’s a weird one. I also have strange coincidences happen. I just don’t posit a God as the reasons they happen.

                As far as why man asks why? We probably don’t know for certain whether some of the other higher functioning animals and mammals don’t do the same thing about their environments and existences. And this leads back to the reasoning in one of my original statements: Just because we are prone to ask why doesn’t necessarily or by necessity lead one to the supernatural. Maybe our questioning our existence is tantamount to a cat who is into everything: just trying to discern the lay of the land and figure out what is what. And maybe nothing more.

                I truly hope you’ve read me right in the previous comment as I’m not sure you’re not engaging a remark that wasn’t actually made in regards to the feelings / emotions that people have.Report

              • Avatar Steve S. in reply to Rufus F.
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                says:

                1. The argument against theism, as far as I am concerned, is “the argument you are presenting for belief in deity X is not convincing.” Yes, there are arguments from rationality and necessity, but they aren’t important to me personally. YMMV. There are also gnostic arguments, but since I don’t consider myself an agnostic they aren’t important to me either. My position is basically, “convince me. If you fail I don’t particularly owe you a lengthy explanation for why you did.” YMMV.

                2. My atheism is an internal state, if I understand the way you are using the term. Specifically, it is that I have not internalized a deity belief.

                3. I don’t really argue with anything you say here, I had a problem with your saying there was a problem. Er, if you know what I mean.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Steve S.
                Ignored
                says:

                Of course, sir. Duh. Skepticism always wins by avoiding all burden of proof.

                My position is basically, “convince me. If you fail I don’t particularly owe you a lengthy explanation for why you did.”

                As Mr. Cheeks alluded to, skepticism does not make anyone happy, indeed it drags him into a pool of despair. If you’re satisfied with fatalism, OK. Life’s a bitch and then you die.

                OK, bye. But you weren’t that much fun even when you were around. You were a drag. You shouldn’t even be dabbling in metaphysics. Buy me a beer and sing me a song. Cheers.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to tom van dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                Actually, I liked the very smart conversation here and while a (deeply flawed) adherent to the Logos, find my atheist/agnostic interlocutors mostly clever lads/lasses who seem to perch ever so percariously on the abyss, smiling while looking over. I admire that kind of incoherence.
                Rufus, you should continue the line of inquiry. Your posts are smart as well and probing the ‘higher’ questions attracts the folks here who, IMO, have a nautural proclivity to examine stuff….after they’re done proclaiming their lack of faith.
                So, I do hope you carry on and I’ll pitch a little Voegelin just to get Chris involved.Report

              • Avatar RTod in reply to tom van dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                Thanks for the heads up. I have been totally screwed up before you pointed this out. Here I thought I was a happy person, full of joy and optimism. Thanks for pointing out that I am really filled with despair. This is one of those great times when your philosophical thinking has really shown my reality a thing or two!Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to RTod
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                says:

                I’m here to hep!Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to RTod
                Ignored
                says:

                Bob, I think RTod gets at where you guys usually lose me. In my experience, skepticism, doubt and confusion usually lead me to a state of aporia (philosophical perplexity) that is pretty much the opposite of despair- it’s quite enjoyable actually to be investigating these things. It makes me feel as if the world still has secrets. I tend to have a lot more dread about what would happen if I ever reached a state of certainty because it feels like it would be the end of inquiry, which is something I dread. Now, I might feel different about all of this at age 60! But, for now, I feel like, when we get into these discussions, I hear more about my despair from the believers than I actually experience it.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to RTod
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                says:

                Yes, Rufus, I trust you’ll take my request to heart.
                RTod’s a clever lad, but the ‘inquiry’ is not a contest or a gotcha moment.
                I really don’t subscribe to the idea of ‘despair’ as it relates to any criticism of atheism. Voegelin declares that the ‘search’ for truth is the ‘essence of humanity.’ The believer might argue that the human inclination to “search, seek, inquire” is a Divine spark; the non-believer might describe it as the ground of a ‘closed’ existence that negates the Divine (Hegel’s thing!).
                Of course, the entire dialectic is open to various and sundry interpretations, not to mention the problems related to the corruption of language so common in modernity. However, that doesn’t mean these, and other, hurdles can not be overcome.
                My point is as a (flawed) follower of the Word, I’m, hopefully, not all that critical with those engaged in the philosophical act of ‘seeking,’ simply because it is more often than not, in those quiet times of reflection that we experience the theophanic event.
                Consequently, the more clever folks such as yourself engage in the inquiry, the more opportunities we have of moving past the material, the immanenist reality.
                One thing I have noticed on this site is that no one declares God “to be dead.”Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to RTod
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                says:

                Is despair a merit or a defect? Purely dialectically it is both. If one were to think of despair only in the abstract, without reference to some particular despairer, one would have to say it is an enormous merit. The possibility of this sickness is man’s advantage over the beast, and it is an advantage which characterizes him quite otherwise than the upright posture, for it bespeaks the infinite erectness or loftiness of his being spirit. The possibility of this sickness is man’s advantage over the beast; to be aware of this sickness is the Christian’s advantage over natural man; to be cured of this sickness is the Christian’s blessedness.

                – Søren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto DeathReport

              • Avatar RTod in reply to RTod
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                says:

                Bob – my comment was directed towards Tom’s assertion that as a skeptic I live in a pool of despair, I think life’s a bitch, etc. Rufus’s subsequent point is on the mark, but I actually think what I’m trying to say can be applied more broadly to the problems with philosophical thinking in general.

                Tom can find all kinds of deep thinkers who have thought very complicated arguments for what non-believers think, and what drives them and why. (And I see he’s already brought Kierkegaard to the party.) And that’s all fine and well as intellectual exercises go, but at the end of the day he might just try to get to know some non-believers and in a non-confrontational way find out more about them. The thought that we agnostics and atheists lead sad, depressive lives and can only just keep from putting the barrel in our mouths is a fine piece of logical thinking – but it’s just not reality. I could easily say that believers believe only because they live in terror of the unknown and have a desire to avoid the responsibilities of thinking for themselves; and on paper I could put together a well reasoned argument for why this was obviously so. But I don’t, because I know lot’s of believers (my wife is on the vestry of our local Episcopal parish) and I know this isn’t true.Report

              • Avatar Steve S. in reply to tom van dyke
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                says:

                “Skepticism always wins by avoiding all burden of proof.”

                Indeed. Life is more livable without needless burdens.

                “skepticism does not make anyone happy, indeed it drags him into a pool of despair.”

                As a result of this bald assertion coupled with snotty condescension I’ve decided to start believing in deities. Congratulations!Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Steve S.
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                says:

                RTod, I believe your right if your saying there are any number of modes/categories/levels of secualrist thought and not all are the result of the analysis of Hegel or Nietzsche-sp, or Marx.
                But, for me and as Chris points out, I’m following Voegelin, the secularist/atheist/agnostic position is essentially a ‘closed’ system, which has to be recognized as an ideological distortion in order that falsely and proudly condemns the Christian philosopher’s “quest as a fides quaerens intellectum.”
                The great error was the effort to separate faith and reason, doctrinally which coupled with the “Gnostic-satanic movements” really, really screwed up, derailed, and nearly destroyed any way in which man could restore the loss of noesis and thus be able to come to terms with the truth of reality, where the “divine mystery” exists in the tension of the Platonic ‘metaxy’ grounded on the Revelation of the Logos.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Steve S.
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                says:

                I’d hoped some might find the Kierkegaard interesting or even useful. Clearly, in context here, the “despair” is an existential one, not a suicidal one.

                And it’s a good thing, for it impels us to keep wondering about the important things.

                The skeptic—and not just in this context—inserts himself into an inquiry as judge, not participant: “I don’t find your arguments convincing.” This isn’t helpful, and is opinion, not argument. It’s completely different from engaging the arguments at hand.

                And yes, folks who get crabby in the presence of theistic arguments do belie a self-designation of “happy-go-lucky.” 😉

                The Aquinas quote is clever there at the end: to love the good is to love God. It is when the good interferes with our will that we may be said [in a certain way] to be “enemies of God.” And indeed, some are quite bold about it these days. Crabby, even.Report

              • Avatar Steve S. in reply to Steve S.
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                says:

                “This isn’t helpful”

                It’s quite helpful to me. As with everyone else my time is limited and I’d prefer to spend it working with propositions that have at least a bit of prima facie evidence behind them. As it is, I see no reason to privilege your pet theory above the FSM, 9/11 Truth, the Bermuda Triangle, or any of the thousands of other propositions that fill the shelves of our bookstores. You of course, privilege your own pet theory and speak with condescension about anybody who doesn’t. Might want to work on those people skills.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Steve S.
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                says:

                Yes, it’s clear you “find the arguments unconvincing,” As previously noted. As also previously noted, there is seldom evidence that the arguments being rejected are fully understood.

                [Passive voice. Is that better? I can learn how to tap dance.]

                [You still sound crabby, though.]Report

              • Avatar RTod in reply to Steve S.
                Ignored
                says:

                “[You still sound crabby, though.]”

                Get off my damn lawn!Report

              • Avatar Heidegger in reply to Steve S.
                Ignored
                says:

                This debate is getting more depressing by the minute. Next thing you militant atheists are going to tell me is there is no scientific evidence to support the existence of Sasquatch. And damnit, that’s where I draw the line.

                Also, there is “Breaking News” coming out of Oregon. Apparently, the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine will be holding a press conference in the next couple of hours to provide conclusive evidence that the concentration of CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere is actually decreasing, at an alarming rate and dangerous rate. Atmospheric scientists are now predicting that if we don’t act immediately, we will enter into another Ice Age within a year that will make the last one resemble Spring Break in Cancun. Obama will issue an executive order immediately banning the use of any and all fluorescent light bulbs. People who do not comply will face heavy fines and possible long-term incarceration.
                This is serious and not at all, a laughing matter. Obama will also issue an order that will make make it mandatory to drive only Hummers/Humvees and buses, regardless of the size of the family—for people who cannot afford such vehicles, he said the government will provide one for them. The Big Three have also jumped in t0 lend their help to rescue Planet Earth, and pledged to produce and manufacture only cars that get no more 2 miles to the gallon. Meanwhile, the Swedes want the Nobel Medal and prize money back from Al Gore who could only say, “you don’t need to get so snippy.” He hopes having his $30,000 monthly electric bill will be sufficient enough reason to show he never believed in that CO2 nonsense to begin with. We’ll see.Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to Steve S.
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                says:

                > Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine

                These guys again?Report

              • Avatar RTod in reply to Steve S.
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                says:

                “> Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine

                These guys again?”

                How can you ever tire of the OISM?Report

  9. Avatar ppnl
    Ignored
    says:

    The way I see it our moral sense is nothing but an experience of ourselves as a biological and cultural animal.

    Gluttony for example may feel good in the immediate but instinctively we know what the result will likely be.

    All our sexual hangups are driven first by evolution driving us to value our own offspring over others and second by a cultural expression of those drives. The institution of marriage is one such cultural expression. It serves to limit and contain sexual aggression and desire in a stable relationship that serves both the individual and society.

    The thing is we reify morality as a thing out there. In the case of the religious it gets reified as an entity. Atheists are no less a product of our biology and culture than anyone else. We just don’t dress it up in supernatural clothing.Report

    • Avatar Will H. in reply to ppnl
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      says:

      This is still a thoroughly materialist view; that morality is produced solely through the effect of one substance on another substance.
      The notion of man as being comprised of something other than entirely substance has yet to develop; as with notions of causation, and sensation.
      The fact of the matter is that it is not known to what degree these substances lie outside of our senses.
      And then we’re back to that thing of causal sense.

      It occurs to me that this is a portion which is totally at odds with the religion of atheism/evolution:
      If this is true then, that a process of selection occurs which is natural, having survival as its primary force, by what manner might we conclude that our five senses necessarily reveal to us the entirety of the information available to us?
      Would these five not also have been selected from among a stream of many others?
      And what lies outside of those five? (Hint: monism)Report

      • Avatar ppnl in reply to Will H.
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        says:

        Well yes atheist is usually materialistic. I can’t say what lies outside our senses. Unless you can show me an experiment or an observation I’m afraid I have little use for it. There will never be a science of the occult because the occult is by definition invisible. If you see it, measure it and experiment on it then it isn’t occult.

        Our five senses certainly do not reveal the entirety of information to us. We see in only a very narrow band. We hear in a limited band. Our nose cannot detect many chemicals that are very toxic. We feel only very dully.

        But anything that is real and can have an effect on the world can be detected through that effect. Thus we can see in a band from waves kilometers long to waves so short they are in danger of decaying into a shower of charged particles. We can hear waves longer than the earth on the surface of the sun no less. We can sniff substances down to parts per trillion levels and we can feel the lumps and bumps of individual atoms.

        It is only the things that have no effect that are invisible. Monism is about the unexpected unity of things. Well first I see nothing unexpected in unity and second you seem to be proposing an unexpected separateness of some occult class of things.Report

        • Avatar Will H. in reply to ppnl
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          says:

          Nothing occult about it.
          What would you think of pulsations of sound waves if no one around you had ears?
          What is the source of this certainty that our five senses contain all of the information at hand? Were not these five culled from many others, exclusively those which deal with the most primitive of survival needs?

          So, you don’t believe in time?
          In what manner might history be replicated so as to prove that it exists?Report

          • Avatar ppnl in reply to Will H.
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            says:

            Occult simply means hidden. If you cannot see it then it is occult. Well there is a great deal that we cannot see directly but anything that has any effect at all can be seen indirectly.

            Again our senses cannot detect everything directly. But everything has an effect. Even if we did not have ears sound could still break glass if loud enough. Even if we did not have ears we could still make a sound activated switch so we could turn on lights by clapping our hands. Sound has an effect in the world such that we cannot understand the world without understanding sound.

            I have no idea what you mean by saying I don’t believe in time. And replicate history? What the hell man?

            In classical mechanics time is the flow of entropy. In special relativity time is another axis in a four dimensional geometry. In general relativity time is, well, complicated. I have both a subjective experience of time and various materialistic models of time. So why you would claim that I don’t believe in time is beyond me.Report

            • Avatar Will H. in reply to ppnl
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              says:

              You’re in luck then, because English is my native language.
              I know that occult has something to do with ouija boards, even if the board is not hidden. So if you mean ‘hidden,’ say ‘hidden’ rather than using loaded language or attempting to backtrack.

              There’s some subtlety of understanding that is missing here.

              It is only the things that have no effect that are invisible.
              Most things which do have an effect are invisible. So what?

              But anything that is real and can have an effect on the world can be detected through that effect.
              You left out the key word: Eventually.

              Sound has an effect in the world such that we cannot understand the world without understanding sound.
              This being true of sound, then what else might it likewise apply to?

              You see, the basic misunderstanding is because too many people like to stand up and proclaim, Science! Science! Science! when they’re nothing but full of crap, because they haven’t the first clue of the role of science.
              On the one hand, the view that Science is something settled and decided, that it is the body of all that is true.
              On the other hand, the view that Science is a process of discovery, that things which are unknown become more familiar.
              The major difference that I see is that the first view fails to take into account that most discoveries that we are to make still await.
              Why is that?
              If you really believe in Science!, then why would you stand it up in a role which it is not prepared for?

              Do CFCs cause ozone depletion? Well, back in the 50’s & 60’s they didn’t. Nobody even considered ozone depletion back then, so it definitely wasn’t science.
              So, is ozone depletion scientific, yes or no?
              Was ozone depletion scientific in the past, yes or no?

              Science is, first of all, an admission that we don’t know everything.

              And as a guy that works extensively with instrumentation, I can tell you from the early days of instrumentation theory that it is an impossibility that a 100% accurate meter for anything would ever exist, other than entirely by accident and only for a split second.Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to Will H.
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                says:

                > Science is, first of all, an admission that we don’t
                > know everything.

                Sure, but that’s not the same as an admission that we cannot know anything.

                > You left out the key word: Eventually.

                This is a valid point, but let’s keep in mind what we’re talking about here.

                There are some actual assumptions to science. One, the Universe exists. Two, it operates by a set of physical laws that cannot be changed. Three, it is possible to expose the effects of those laws to repeatable observation. Four, it is possible to measure those observations within a delta which is itself useful in constructing workable models of those laws.

                None of those assumptions “work” if you’re talking about the existence of a paranormal entity. If we’re all just part of God’s imagination, the Universe may not actually have independent existence. If God (as classically defined) exists, he/she/it possesses (by definition) the capability of ignoring the physical laws of the Universe. If God does something (a miracle), we can’t make repeatable observations about that since miracles are, by definition, not repeatable. Finally, God can monkey with my perceptions such that even if he/she/it couldn’t do the first three things, he/she/it could for all intents and purposes make it impossible for me to know that.

                That doesn’t mean that miracles are impossible or God doesn’t exist. It just means that if those events occur or if God doesn’t exist, we can’t investigate that scientifically.Report

              • Avatar Will H. in reply to Pat Cahalan
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                says:

                Sure, but that’s not the same as an admission that we cannot know anything.
                The greater our enlightenment, the greater the circumference of darkness around us.
                Whatever knowledge science might yield to us, it reveals our ignorance in silhouette.

                None of those assumptions “work” if you’re talking about the existence of a paranormal entity.
                And what if the matter is not one of an entity?
                I don’t believe for one instant that God has the power to ignore the physical laws of the universe. I believe that the physical laws of the universe lend an insight into the character of God.
                And what is science other than the study of the habit and character of God?

                Now, I am aware that whether God exists or not is beyond the scope of enquiry. That’s not at issue.
                To take as scientific the view that God has been disproven or does not exist is false.
                That’s not science.
                That’s psuedo-science wrapping itself up in false belief.
                The atheists look to me more like the Flat Earth Society.
                You don’t train a buffalo to roll over and play dead, or to sit up and beg, or to shake hands. But still the atheists want to hand over the determination of the possibility of whether some form of god might exist or not to science, when that is clearly the wrong tool.
                They love science so much that they want to abuse its purpose at every available opportunity.Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to Will H.
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                says:

                > Whatever knowledge science might yield
                > to us, it reveals our ignorance in silhouette.

                Presumably, it also removes some possibilities at the same time. That is to say, our current understanding of astrophysics clearly allows us to say, “The Earth is not flat”. We might also now know that there are more things we don’t know about stellar bodies than we didn’t know before, granted.

                > I don’t believe for one instant that God has
                > the power to ignore the physical laws of
                > the universe.

                You don’t? That’s remarkable; I don’t generally see theists make this claim. Then either miracles don’t exist and never have, or they can be replicated by non-Godlike means. If they can be replicated by non-Godlike means, then the only difference between humans and God is battery size.

                > To take as scientific the view that God has
                > been disproven or does not exist is false.

                I agree, however…

                > They love science so much that they want
                > to abuse its purpose at every available
                > opportunity.

                … I don’t think that “abuse” is the right word, here. It assumes nefariousness that may not be present.

                Moreover, one can claim (not entirely unreasonably) that everything that *can* exist can be explored scientifically; that there are no unmeasurable or unobservable things. This leads to a number of conclusions (“there is no free will”, for example) that many rational empirical atheists reject, but some rational empirical atheists are in fact consistent on this score.Report

              • Avatar Will H. in reply to Pat Cahalan
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                says:

                It does appear reasonable that it can— eventually. (I’m starting to remind myself of “Castles Made of Sand”– Axis was always my favorite Hendrix)

                But look where we are as a species.
                We can’t even tell how deep the deepest part of the ocean is on our own planet. Do you think we really have enough science behind us to be able to tell whether there’s a god or not?
                We haven’t even made it to the next planet yet. Don’t know how long that’s going to take to happen. Don’t know how long it’s going to take for science to get to the point where it can tell whether there’s a god yet either.
                Not long ago, we found out that Pluto might not really be so much of a planet after all. We can’t even tell for sure how many planets are in our own solar system, even after all this advanced algebra we’ve developed. (We’re now at x-1)
                About the one thing for certain is that our understanding of such things will be much different in another 700 years.Report

              • Avatar ppnl in reply to Pat Cahalan
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                says:

                Will H.

                It may be that in 700 years we will have reason to reexamine the possibility of Russel’s Teapot. That does not change the fact that the idea is currently silly beyond reason.

                Science can disprove specific claims from specific religious traditions. A 6000 year old earth for example. But some kind of nonspecific generalized God? If no specific claims are being made then there is no possibility of science proving or disproving anything. But that’s ok because there is no reason to spend any time thinking about the possibility anyway. Until you can point to some observable consequence of an idea it is pointless. Anyone who nevertheless claims knowledge of that hidden god is dealing in occult knowledge.Report

  10. Avatar Chris
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    says:

    Rufus, I think that if you combine your two theories of jealousy, you’re pretty close to the truth. With one minor disagreement (or at least addition): if you look at the data, people certainly aren’t fishing everyone, but they’re fishing plenty. Infidelity is the rule, not the exception, and jealousy becomes a useful tool for most people because of it.
    There’s a view in psychology, which is gaining wider and wider acceptance, that something like this underlies morality in general. Through whatever means – biology, culture, or both – most of us react in similar ways, emotionally, to the actions of others, and these emotional reactions drive our moral judgments of the actions and the actors. These emotional reactions, which are almost exclusively intuitive, are in turn justified and codified in post hoc reasons and narratives. Under this view (incredibly oversimplified here, I admit), it’s not surprising that cultural narratives justifying the most common of our emotional reactions have built up over the millennia. This is to say nothing of the social and political control that such narratives afford, of course.
    On theism and atheism and all that jazz, these discussions always look funny to me because of people like Tom and Steve S. These are two people who have clearly participated in similar discussions many times; so many times, in fact, that common arguments have become like habit to them. As a result, they read things from those past discussions into what’s being said now because they hear certain keywords or phrases. The result is almost always that they end up talking to people who aren’t here.
    By the way, one of the things that impresses me most about TvD is his ability to say of those with whom he disagrees, “They are biased/committing error X,” and then display remarkably similar biases and errors himself in a completely un-self-conscious way. It’s a gift. But he’s no Cheeks: Like Bob, Tom argues almost exclusively by name-dropping and quoting, to be sure, but Cheeks’ method of name-dropping/phrase-dropping and eliding pretty much everything else, and still sounding like he’s actually saying something, is particularly impressive.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Chris
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      says:

      Ah, now I can’t fault either one of them for that. Let me tell you, when I first started grad school, I remember thinking, “These guys are a bunch of phonies. All they do is quote other people who’re smarter than them, instead of coming up with their own ideas, and say things that are obscure and confusing.” But, after six years of reading books all day, I pretty much do exactly the same thing. If you have a conversation with me, invariably I’ll name-drop three philosophers or half of what I say will be quotes- and the other half will be just as confusing as anything Bob says! So I definitely can’t call the kettle black on that.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Rufus F.
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        says:

        And speaking of name dropping!- there’s a book called “Deeper Than Reason: Emotion and its Role in Literature, Music, and Art”, which looks at what you’re talking about in psychology in terms of philosophy. The writer talks about ‘non-cognitive instinctive appraisals’ and their role in judgment- she also draws on much of the psychological research you’re drawing on. I’d recommend the book (especially if it’s selling at a cheaper price than it was when I bought it!!)

        Of course, religious people would talk about all of this as being “written on the heart”, and I’m not sure that they’re not talking about the same thing as “non-cognitive and intuitive appraisals”. Who can say? I remember an experiment where they scanned nun’s brains to quantify what was happening during mystical or religious experiences. You’d think a religious person might be threatened by science trying to spell these things out, but the nuns were thrilled by the idea- understanding it on a neural/physiological level just added to their experience of it as a mystical experience.

        In terms of jealousy, I do think it’s probably got deep instinctual roots. What bothers me, again, are the extreme opinions: either “everyone gets jealous” or “jealousy is unnatural”. I’ve heard people say that they felt jealous but taught themselves to “overcome” it, and I always think, okay, but aren’t you just talking about repression? I mean, certainly, there are negative emotions worth overcoming, but lots of intuitions are actually telling you something! My sense is definitely that it’s an intuitive response that the majority of people have. But, of course, culture can play a role in determining what stimuli provoke the response. I mentioned the French marriage, because indeed it was once understood by bourgeois married French couples (and other nationalities as well!) that, when you’re young and newly married, “liasons” are essentially harmless and to be expected. And definitely better than divorce. Certainly, there were precautions that were taken to avoid hurt feelings, but expecting your partner never to go fishing with anyone else was not exactly an expectation. All of which leads me to suspect that human behavior is both largely guided by a common human nature and common human responses, and more flexible than we realize.Report

        • Avatar Chris in reply to Rufus F.
          Ignored
          says:

          If I’m not mistaken (and I could be, because I haven’t read the book), Robinson discusses some of the work in psychology that I was thinking of (Damasio, e.g.), though the book came out before the work on moral emotions (by Jonathan Haidt, e.g.) began to get any real empirical backing. This, by the way, is name-dropping of a different sort, and I suspect more of the sort that you’re speaking of. I mention Damasio because, since you’ve read the book, you probably know what I’m talking about so I don’t have to go into more detail, in this case because I’m lazy, and I mention Haidt because, if you’re familiar with Damasio, you can look up Haidt and have a good idea of where his work and the work he’s inspired is coming from. The other sort of name-dropping is largely meant as an appeal to authority, and little more.

          On jealousy, it’s one of the more widely studied emotions in the social and behavioral sciences and, as I’m sure you know, literature. It’s almost certainly a very old, innate emotion, and it probably helps us navigate a world in which a particular form of cheating, infidelity, is extremely common. But its innateness doesn’t mean that everyone’s going to experience it, and there is some literature on individual differences in the experience of jealousy. Also relevant. That said, you’re a freak. 😉Report

    • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Chris
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      says:

      Thanks Chris!Report

  11. Avatar Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    Okay.

    The skepticism thing is bugging me. Mostly because, from my perspective, skepticism is why I don’t want to do X.

    You do X. You enjoy X. You have all of the reasons in the world to continue to do X. Great. Have fun!

    I don’t want to do X. Your arguments in defense of X don’t convince me to start doing X.

    It’s no biggie, of course. If you like X, keep doing it! But I’m not going to be doing X anytime soon.

    I can appreciate the argument that this makes me a bad person on some level. Sure. As arguments in support of X go, this is a fairly subtle one.

    But I still ain’t Xing.Report

    • Avatar RTod in reply to Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      (confused look)

      People who are skeptics bug you? Skepticism as a movement bugs you? Something Rufus said about skepticism bugs you?Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      The skepticism thing is bugging me.

      Are we supposed to believe that?Report

    • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      Depends on what Xing is? Or, does it? I had about three refrigerator moments reading that.

      I think skepticism is part of the search-quest-seeking phenomenon found in people, as such perhaps it’s a requirement in determining order, but screw it up and you find yourself mired in disorder.Report

      • Avatar RTod in reply to Robert Cheeks
        Ignored
        says:

        Bob – what is a refrigerator moment? It’s the second time I’ve seen you use it, and each time I find myself thinking “cool phrase!,” but I can’t go out and use it because I don’t know what it means.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Robert Cheeks
        Ignored
        says:

        You put different things in X and you get a lot of very different responses to the essay, no?

        You don’t even have to make X an act. It can be an internal state.Report

      • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Robert Cheeks
        Ignored
        says:

        Skepticism is not engagement.

        The sky is blue. Or libertarianism is the best way. Whatever. Here’s why, blahblahblah. “Well, I don’t find your arguments convincing.”

        OK, fine. Who are you? Why did you insert yourself into this as judge and jury anyway?

        And so when Mr. Steve S. writes:

        1. The argument against theism, as far as I am concerned, is “the argument you are presenting for belief in deity X is not convincing.” Yes, there are arguments from rationality and necessity, but they aren’t important to me personally.

        OK, fine. Move along. There are plenty of tables in this marketplace of ideas. Feel free to pass. But the arguments for theism have not been engaged, nor is it clear they have even been understood.

        The problem with skepticism is that “nothing” holds the place at the top of the hill over “something,” and declares itself the judge of whether it has been dislodged. [And always judges itself as not-dislodged: “I find your arguments unconvincing.]

        In the end, it’s whoever arrives at the top of the hill first, grabs the higher strategic ground, and puts all burden of proof on the challenger.

        And that’s what I mean by “it always wins.” On topics like these, no amount of proof [or argument] is ever sufficient. Libertarianism is the best way. No, it’s not.

        Both [in unison]: “Your argument hasn’t convinced me!”Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to tom van dyke
          Ignored
          says:

          That’s great.

          If my argument has not convinced you, then don’t change your mind.

          It’s cool.

          I’d appreciate it if you’d extend the same courtesy. Hell, I’ll settle for you not passing laws about it.Report

          • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Jaybird
            Ignored
            says:

            Metaphysics isn’t a priority for me either, personally. The idea was to engage the subject at arm’s length. But as noted earlier, that often quickly becomes impossible, as it gets personal instead.

            There is a way to deal with quid sit deus at arm’s length, but as with most things, the terms of the discussion are often given over to the extremes, the dogmatic atheists and the dogmatic fideists.

            And I anticipate no laws on metaphysics, except to ban it from the public square, the way this modern age is going.Report

            • Avatar RTod in reply to tom van dyke
              Ignored
              says:

              I may just be being crabby, but I don’t think it’s a question of taking things personally. If you are making an argument that has as part of its proof for example: “Jews are an inherently unhappy people because their faith makes them so” and I say “that’s not true, I’ come from a big Jewish family we’re all really happy;” that’s not a personal throw down. That’s just me saying: based on my experience you might want to go back, change your variables an recalculate.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to RTod
                Ignored
                says:

                That would be a proper counterargument, RTod.

                I should have been more precise, in that I’m referring to “skepticism” as a rhetorical or epistemological stance in an inquiry. Playing Immovable Object. Hell, you could write a computer program to do that.

                As to theism, one could admit that the formal metaphysical arguments for God seem valid, but still don’t swing me to believe in him. That’s fine, and swell. At least engage the arguments—the topic is not any one person’s belief. No souls will be saved here today, and I’m definitely not trying. For one thing, if there’s a heaven, I hope everybody’s going.Report

              • Avatar RTod in reply to tom van dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                And, as almost always seems the case after dialogue, it appears we have always been on very similar pages.

                Cheers.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to RTod
                Ignored
                says:

                RTod: We agree to agree if we can find something to agree about, if I understand you correctly here. That’s a beautiful thing, and the proper way to approach a “joint inquiry.” [A discussion is not a debate. One seeks clarity, the other victory.]

                Cheers back atcha.Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to RTod
                Ignored
                says:

                Actually, I’d argue that this is a pretty bad counterargument to a really bad primary argument.

                The first guy is suffering from a bad class construction, which is leading to an unjustifiably broad categorization, and the second guy is providing an anecdote to show that the broad categorization is unjustifiable, but little else.

                But it may very well be the case that “many” or “most” (group) are inherently unhappy, or even just that “some” (group) are unhappy because their (character trait, behavioral pattern, whathaveyou) makes them so, while all the rest of the (group) aren’t unhappy, or they’re happy because their faith makes them so, or they’re happy irregardless of their faith, or they’re all unhappy but deluded.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Pat Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                Mr. Cahalan, your objection per symbolic logic is acknowledged. “Swans are white” is refudiated by pointing out a black swan.

                However, there are many other variables at work here. Surely there are atheists in foxholes, but perhaps it’s because the situation doesn’t quite seem grave enough.

                So too, a Sartre [a non-theist] might argue that all men experience existential angst. He and Kierkegaard might agree that if some people don’t experience “despair”—or “nausea,” if I recall my Sartre— something is wrong with them.

                Because if you can’t lie to yourself, who can you lie to?

                I did want to acknowledge your objection as valid as limned, and it does illustrate the difference between what is valid and what is true. They are not the same thing.Report

              • Avatar Heidegger in reply to tom van dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                Why do you suppose there is such a disproportionate number of libertarians who are atheists? I’m guessing, at least based on this site, that about 90% of you folks are atheists. A poll of scientists, both natural and social, isn’t even close to that–53% believe in God, 47% are agnostic or atheists. So what cosmological tricks, devious slight-of-hand, esoteric hidden knowledge do you possess that explains, with such certainty, that God does not exist? Nothing’s nothing. Or, nothing is not nothing.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Heidegger
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                says:

                Why do you suppose there is such a disproportionate number of libertarians who are atheists?

                I think that this is the wrong question. Why do you suppose that there is such a disproportionate number of atheists who are libertarians?

                This one almost answers itself, doesn’t it?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Heidegger
                Ignored
                says:

                I suppose what strikes me as odd is the sheer number of atheists who *AREN’T* libertarian.

                No gods, no masters… whew! And now we have this list of Commandments you have to follow, and this list of regulations you need to follow, and this other list of obligations you need to pay for, and here’s your bell, book, and candle…Report

              • Avatar ThatPirateGuy in reply to Heidegger
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                says:

                Jaybird,

                In my case it is because I see humans as animals that need each other to survive and thrive.

                On our own we are weak apes. Together we can do almost anything(not always a good thing).Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Heidegger
                Ignored
                says:

                In my case it is because I see humans as animals that need each other to survive and thrive.

                To be sure, the societies that are explicitly atheist from the top down do seem to be disproportionately enamored with philosophies that argue that for socially-centered views of humanity rather than individual-centered ones.

                I’m not going to write this next paragraph. But I really wanted to.Report

              • Avatar ThatPirateGuy in reply to Heidegger
                Ignored
                says:

                You scamp Jay,

                It wouldn’t be the same without you.Report

              • Avatar Francis in reply to Heidegger
                Ignored
                says:

                So what cosmological tricks, devious slight-of-hand, esoteric hidden knowledge do you possess that explains, with such certainty, that God does not exist?

                Common sense. Look at all the steps needed to partake of a particular religion:

                1. God exists.
                2. God has made his will known to one particular group of people.
                3. This group of people are accurately relaying to me what God wants.
                4. God is good / worthy of worship.

                Me personally, I have strong doubts about all four. And anyway, who said anything about certainty?Report

          • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Jaybird
            Ignored
            says:

            …aren’t we being a little melo-dramatic?
            If the Pro-God police come for you we’ll hide you and the wife here in rural Ohio and they’ll never find you.
            It’s more likely that Barry’s medical services will, at some time in your life, declare you ineligible for healthcare and provide you little pills to die ‘comfortably.’
            “…leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms!”Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Robert Cheeks
              Ignored
              says:

              Bob, please understand my perspective.

              My libertarianism is founded on my belief in the primacy of the individual. Not society. Not culture. Not even TIME. It’s all based in the individual himself (or herself, of course).

              When it comes to recent arguments from, for lack of a better term, the “religious right” about major legislation and/or Supreme Court rulings, what do we have?

              Well, for Libertarians, the big cases from the last decade or so are the following:

              Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission
              KELO v. New London
              Gonzalez v. Raich
              And, yes I’m going to bring it up again, Lawrence v. Texas.
              (Hey everybody! Which Libertarian cases have I forgotten? Those four are just off the top of my head… I’m sure I must have forgotten another important one…)

              Out of those, the Progressives and Conservatives and Libertarians each won two and lost two (different ones overlap for each).

              The Progressives won KELO and Lawrence.
              The Conservatives won Raich and Citizens United.
              The Libertarians won Lawrence and Citizens United…

              Out of those four cases, I don’t think we really need to dwell on KELO and I’m pretty sure we don’t need to dwell on Citizens United.

              So let’s look at Raich and Lawrence.

              Would you agree with me when I said that Social Conservativism, historically, has opposed drug use (and supported law enforcement to curtail drug use) and has opposed homosexual sex (and supported law enforcement to curtail homosexual sex)?

              What is the general argument given in support of these policies?

              The usual. Morality. The Greater Good Of Society. The Children.

              Now, between the Conservatives and Progressives, I think I have a better chance of convincing the Conservatives that the government ought to leave people alone… except when such things as homosexuality comes up. At that point, you see flashes indistinguishable from the Progressive impulse to use the force of The Law to make everybody Moral (the only difference is what happens to qualify as “moral” this decade).

              To be honest, I don’t think I’m being that melodramatic when I say that I’d appreciate it if Conservatives didn’t mind if I had different opinions than them bit that I’d settle for not passing laws about it.

              Conservatives don’t exactly have a stellar track record when it comes to leaving other people alone. It’s not melodramatic to point this out.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                I ‘m liberal enough for government work, and I dislike Kelo. I think (based on very limited expertise) that it was decided correctly, but I still dislike it, and support laws to stop that particular behavior. The only one I won is Lawrence.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling
                Ignored
                says:

                When I first wrote the post I said “Liberal” then I went back and changed “Liberal” to “Progressive”. (Did I leave one out?)Report

              • Avatar Simon K in reply to Mike Schilling
                Ignored
                says:

                Yeah, I think there are only five people in the whole country who’d admit to liking Kelo.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Simon K
                Ignored
                says:

                The New York Times was a fan. The Warshington Post was too.

                It’s easy, in retrospect, to look at the empty and abandoned lot where the new buildings never materialized and say “well, bad decision”… but, at the time, I remember arguing against statists who were, once again, rolling their eyes at the crazy shit falling out of my mouth.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                More to the point, the statists I was arguing against at the time were all lefty ones. The Conservatives took their cues from their dark leader Scalia and his minions.Report

              • Avatar Simon K in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Wow. I guess I wasn’t tuned in at the time. I really never, ever heard anyone say anything good about Kelo except Justice Stevens, and all he said was that it was in accordance with precedent.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                But, to be sure, I also had left-leaning (even statist-leaning!) folks arguing along side my position.

                The most common argument was something to the effect of “it’s wrong to take private property from a citizen and give it to a corporation” (when, presumably, it’d be okay to take it and build a school or highway) but there were also those who argued against the taking of houses on the principle of “it’s wrong to take houses from citizens”.

                And I should not imply that *ALL* Progressives liked those cases (and I’m sure we agree that not all Conservatives liked Raich or Citizens United). I’m pretty sure that all Libertarians liked Citizens and Lawrence, though…Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Funny thing. The same same people who tell me how they aren’t really fans of big corporations want to let them buy elections.

                It’s also funny how many of the people who want the government to help stadiums built so their teams won’t leave town (not liberals; we think the fishing owners can build their own fishing stadiums) don’t understand how the land to build them is acquired.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Really? You’d argue from “that project was a disaster” to “It was unconstitutional”?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Really? You’d argue from “that project was a disaster” to “It was unconstitutional”?

                Where did you get the idea that I’d be doing that?

                I was arguing against it *BEFORE* we knew it was a disaster.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                I wish comments nested correctly.

                I started from your
                It’s easy, in retrospect, to look at the empty and abandoned lot where the new buildings never materialized and say “well, bad decision”

                And perhaps was confused whether you meant Kelo or the project was a bad decision.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                JB, sorry I missed this; my land line is really giving me trouble navigating around.
                My reply is that while I appreciate your defense of the ‘rights’ of the individual, and I like to think that I do too, we live in the good old polis.
                Polis’s by definition have ‘laws’ that serve to provide order; if they don’t we have disorder and disorder is really bad, at least I think so.
                I’m to old for that ‘state of nature’ thingy.
                The question is “who’s laws shall prevail?”
                As a Paleocon I have no desire to round up homosexuals and detain them, or deprive them of speech, or work, or where they might live. On the other hand, I’m not likely to attend a ‘Christian’ church that ‘marries’ homosexuals.
                Also, I agree that the ‘War on Drugs’ had the same results as the ‘War on Poverty,’ and has failed as has just about every other librul gummint idea. And, with that said I don’t wanna legalize ‘drugs.’
                Question: Do you want a ‘crack’ house for a neighbor?
                On the other hand I’m certainly no anarchist…there’s people out there that just need a good hangin’ and the other thing is all ‘law’ is about social/community moral standards; yours, mine, someone elses. That’s why we politic and very often get it right (my right or your right) and mostly get it wrong.
                I’d like to see the gummint/police mostly leave people alone but some people can be very nasty dudes.Report

              • Avatar mark boggs in reply to Robert Cheeks
                Ignored
                says:

                Bob,

                I respectfully submit that the reason there are crack houses in the first place has to do with the illegality of the drug and this makes the market for it rather lucrative. Take away the incentive by forcing it into a black market and you might actually see the crack houses disappear.

                To turn it a bit. Guns are mostly legal. And the availability of them has not caused my neighbors to become big ammunition depots as a result.

                I’m sure I’ve oversimplified and will be duly corrected, but that’s my $.02.Report

        • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to tom van dyke
          Ignored
          says:

          > The problem with skepticism is that “nothing” holds the
          > place at the top of the hill over “something,” and
          > declares itself the judge of whether it has been
          > dislodged. [And always judges itself as not-dislodged:
          > “I find your arguments unconvincing.]

          I don’t really find this to be an accurate representation of what most people would call “skepticism”.

          Most people who call themselves skeptics nowadays are not skeptics in the sense that, say, Hume might define skepticism. They believe in a burden of proof, yes. They believe in a particular class of evidence, as well. But they still hold some root principles, such as “The Universe actually exists”. So it’s definitely not true that “nothing” holds the top of the hill over “something”. There’s something up there at the top of that hill, and it ain’t nothing.

          There are plenty of crazy people who call themselves skeptics who don’t hold root principles, or who hold root principles that are observably not mapped to how we understand reality (the violate “The Universe actually exists” premise – i.e., “We’re all living in a simulation” or some other proposition).Report

          • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Pat Cahalan
            Ignored
            says:

            It is remarkable, I think, that we moderns insist on having the same discussions/debates/dialectics that first arose and were happily addressed during the Axial Age.
            Voegelin argues, quite correctly that the “…contemporary disorder will appear in a rahter new light when we leave the “climate of opinion” and, adopting the perspective of the historical sciences, acknowledge the problems of ‘modernity’ to be caused by the predominance of Gnostic, Hernetic, and alchemistic conceits, as well as by the magic of violence as the means of transforming reality.”Report

            • Avatar RTod in reply to Robert Cheeks
              Ignored
              says:

              “It is remarkable, I think, that we moderns insist on having the same discussions/debates/dialectics that first arose and were happily addressed during the Axial Age”

              Boy, ain’t that the truth. And I would do well to remember that more often. I find it somehow comforting.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to RTod
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                says:

                And to RTod and Mr. Cheeks, I share your comfort about the Axial Age having identified the problems. [I had to look up “Axial Age,” which is why I’m drawn to this forum. I always learn something.]

                My own interest is in the American Founding period, and it drew from the English Civil Wars of the 1600s as well as the onset of the Enlightenment.

                As one thinker put it—in opposition to “historicism,” the idea that we have solved and progressed beyond those problems—man’s predicament is permanent, his problems “perennial.”

                On this, Voegelin was quite in agreement with Strauss. They had a fascinating correspondence.

                And no, we have not replaced philosophy with science, especially not “social science.” That you could hook up electrodes to a nun’s head and see something unusual yet measurable is no surprise…Report

            • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to Robert Cheeks
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              says:

              The timeless questions are timeless because if they weren’t, they wouldn’t be timeless.Report

          • Avatar Heidegger in reply to Pat Cahalan
            Ignored
            says:

            Pat, I found this to be very, VERY interesting. For obvious reasons, it seems to be quite relevant to this discussion.

            Oh yeah, the Oregon Institute is at it again. I hope you had the chance to check out their website. At the very least, it should help dispel any ideas and reservations you may have had concerning the legitimacy of this very fine Institute for higher learning.Report

            • Avatar Heidegger in reply to Heidegger
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              says:

              Sorry Pat–forgot to enclose the “thought experiment”.

              Here it is.

              “Neuron Replacement Therapy
              There is a popular thought experiment that goes like this. Suppose that neurologists characterized each neuron’s inputs and outputs exactly, and were able to engineer a functional equivalent. That is, an artificial device whose inner workings may or may not be similar to those of a natural neuron, but whose behavior, seen in terms of its responses to inputs, was identical to that of a neuron. Now suppose that the neurons that comprise your brain were replaced with these artificial neurons, one by one. Once your entire brain was cut over to the artificial neurons, you should have a brain system whose functioning at the neuronal level is identical to that of the brain you were born with, but whose workings are entirely artificial, and as such, able to be characterized with an algorithm of some sort.
              This thought experiment (called Neuron Replacement Therapy, or NRT for short) is intended to put anti-physicalists and anti-functionalists like me in the uncomfortable position of having to say either that the resulting artificial brain is not conscious (and if not, at what point in the gradual neuron replacement does consciousness disappear, and when it does, does it wink out all at once or fade out gradually), or that the artificial brain maintains its consciousness, and therefore full-blown consciousness is realizable by a machine”.Report

              • Avatar ppnl in reply to Heidegger
                Ignored
                says:

                The problem here is that you have simply copy and pasted a lump of someone else’s thoughts without comment.

                What do you think of the argument?Report

              • Avatar Heidegger in reply to ppnl
                Ignored
                says:

                ppnl, this is not plagiarism–I supplied quotes at the beginning and at the end of the article–didn’t see who the author was. In any case, you’re going to believe what you’re going to believe, so any further discussion about this subject is pointless. It certainly is a great thought experiment, though. Such an amazing concept–the human brain composed of 100 billion neurons and one by one removing each neuron–at what point or precise number would consciousness cease to exist? And what type of specific neuronal behavior gives birth to consciousness? I think we’re heading towards quantum craziness again. I miss Newton’s cozy little universe. I just read yesterday that the universe doesn’t have enough matter to slow down the expansion of the universe, and it won’t be too long before we look up into the sky and see nothing. Starlit night skies will be a thing of the past. Sounds ghastly.Report

              • Avatar ppnl in reply to Heidegger
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                says:

                I didn’t accuse you of plagiarism. I just suggest that unless you display an understanding of the conundrum and offer some original thoughts on it you are just letting others do your thinking for you.

                “I just read yesterday that the universe doesn’t have enough matter to slow down the expansion of the universe, and it won’t be too long before we look up into the sky and see nothing. Starlit night skies will be a thing of the past. Sounds ghastly.”

                Yes, for sufficiently large values of “not too long”…Report

              • Avatar Fish in reply to ppnl
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                says:

                Much like the potential “heat death” of the universe or the eventual expansion of Sol into a red giant, this isn’t exactly something to keep one up late at night, sick with worry, eh?Report

              • Avatar Heidegger in reply to ppnl
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                says:

                Well, ppnl, here we go again. A timeless conundrum, to be sure and not one to be answered in the foreseeable future, at least not with a human brain. Of course, artificial intelligence could possibly leap frog over millions of years of necessary human/brain evolution and come up with an answer much sooner–maybe a hundred years? Who knows, maybe even less. Removing all neurons and replacing them with artificial digital neurons that are “functionally equivalent” would seem to suggest that consciousness could be replicated—at least if one leans towards the “functionalist” school of thought which states that as long as there is a complete and functional equivalence between the old and new neurons, the entire mechanism would function the same–this includes thoughts, feelings, all mental states, for that matter. I’m not sure where the “I” is in all this.
                And how about memory? Does functionalism address memory and “I”ness? in nerual replacement therapy? And then there is that Chinese Room puzzle….Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to Heidegger
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                says:

                Why is this position uncomfortable?

                Yes, if the conditions of the thought experiment are true, then your two outcomes are the only two outcomes. That doesn’t mean the conditions of the thought experiment are true. If they’re not true, the outcome has no practical applicability.

                I mean, this statement: “Suppose that neurologists characterized each neuron’s inputs and outputs exactly, and were able to engineer a functional equivalent.”

                That’s a whopper set of assumptions. My rejoinder would be “Why on earth should I entertain something that has engineering difficulties that have no current reasonable expectation of being solved using our understandings of both biology and computational science? Or am I unfairly characterizing the state of biology and computational science? Citations, please?”Report

              • Avatar ppnl in reply to Pat Cahalan
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                says:

                What property of a neuron do you think would be difficult to reproduce?Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to ppnl
                Ignored
                says:

                My wife works for a biomedical research organization that has been working with an electrostimulator device that can provide some of the capabilities of impaired neural functions. It’s really cool.

                They’re rather large, relatively speaking, however. The control mechanism is also independent; they provide one-way stimulation.

                Replicating an individual neuron in such a way that your devices serves precisely and exactly as a replacement is still quite a ways off. Miniaturizing such a device to where you could actually replace an individual neuron in an operable brain is farther off than that.

                Big trump card rendering the thought experiment laughably impractical: the surgical techniques that would enable you to effectively replace each neuron in a brain without killing your patient not only *don’t* exist, they *can’t* exist without several major paradigm shifts in biomedical operations.

                There’s somewhere between 50 and 100 billion of them or so in the human brain (the ambiguity there tells you that a roadmap is already a pretty big impediment)… so not only do you not know how many of them you actually are looking for and where they are, you have to replace between 1 billion and 2 billion of them *per hour* to finish an operation in less than 48 hours.

                I can’t imagine a feasible way to execute this operation without killing your patient or your doctor(s). Admittedly, I’m not a surgeon 🙂

                In any event, the practical engineering is far enough away that, “it may not be possible” (or even “it’s likely impossible”) is actually a reasonable stance.Report

              • Avatar ppnl in reply to Pat Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                Well yes like most thought experiments it is hugely impractical. For example I can contemplate replacing the silicone transistors in the CPU of my computer with more efficient carbon nanotube transistors one by one. The silicone transistors are etched in stone and function in a complex chemical and electrical environment that would be poisonous and poisoned by any attempt to insert nanotube transistors.

                That’s not the point. The point is that there is nothing special about silicone transistors. It is true that they need a special complex environment in order to operate but that special environment is not critical for understanding what they do. You can separate the messy details of how they do stuff from the algorithmic process of what they do.

                That is what the thought experiment is intended to show. Anyway a somewhat more practical approach is here:

                http://www.technologyreview.com/biotech/19767/Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to Pat Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                > It is true that they need a special complex
                > environment in order to operate but that
                > special environment is not critical for
                > understanding what they do.

                Yes and no. There are boundary problems.

                Take, for example, modern cryptography. Theoretically, we can take any number, regardless of size, and exhaustively reduce it to prime factors. You learn this in grade school when you learn to factor numbers.

                Practically, we cannot. You learn this in college, if you study number theory.

                Not only can we not, unless our system dramatically changes, we *never* will be able to do so. We already can generate numbers that we cannot factor by brute force, even if we could build a computer using every atom in the universe. They are simply too big.

                So the fact that we have a theoretical framework for decomposing those numbers is not relevant. We cannot exhaustively try every number smaller than those numbers to reduce the target to its prime factors.

                “Hugely impractical” may not be accurate. It may, in fact, be *impossible*.

                If it is impossible, then we can never validate our theory by direct experimentation. If we cannot validate our theory by direct experimentation, then in fact our theory may be flawed. Maybe we can perfectly replace the human brain with artificial neurons up to N, but we cannot get to N+1, for N between M and 50 billion neurons. If we cannot do this, then we can’t artificially create a human brain. If we can’t create an artificial human brain, then there is in fact “something special” about biological neurons.

                Side note on your linked article: building a model of the human brain that operates arbitrarily close to a human brain for the purposes of a particular modeling scenario is some awesome science. But that’s still bounded 🙂Report

            • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to Heidegger
              Ignored
              says:

              No, it really doesn’t.

              The Oregon Institute is so obviously a whole cloth construction that it renders the well rather significantly poisoned, and not in the logical fallacy sense.

              It’s certainly theoretically possible that they do good science; I myself am not a climatologist so refuting their science is outside of my personal area of expertise. However, simply from an organizational science and audit standpoint (areas with which I’m more than passing familiar) I cannot extend my credulity to the point where I can accept, on face value, that they are capable of good research without crippling confirmation bias. Theoretically possible != marginally plausible.

              Anyone who goes to the trouble to deliberately fabricate an appearance of a legitimate research organization while failing to produce any deliverables that meet the standard of a legitimate research organization (peer reviewed journal publications, for one) is very highly likely to be dishonorable.

              Occam’s Razor.Report

        • Avatar Steve S. in reply to tom van dyke
          Ignored
          says:

          “there is seldom evidence that the arguments being rejected are fully understood.”

          You still haven’t told me why I should privilege your pet theory above all others.

          “But the arguments for theism have not been engaged”

          You still haven’t told me why I should privilege your pet theory above all others.

          “In the end, it’s whoever arrives at the top of the hill first, grabs the higher strategic ground, and puts all burden of proof on the challenger.”

          Casting your pet theory as a game of King of the Hill is certainly not the way to get me to privilege it above all others. If you want me to privilege your pet theory tell me why I should. If you convince me of that much then we can talk about my spending hours of my life pouring over the various arguments.

          I’m being honest. I’ve set the bar pretty high and chances are you won’t clear it. I value my time and as far as I’m concerned your pet deity theory is just another player in the marketplace of ideas vying for my attention. I see no reason to spend more time on your deity than on the !Kung San religious worldview. Should I? Should I spend more time on formal arguments for your deity’s existence than on my favorite football team’s roster moves?

          Note that what we’re talking about here is your contention that arguments for your deity have not been engaged, much less refuted. I have only your word on that. I know that for myself, to the extent I have been exposed to deity arguments, none of them have come close to clearing the bar. Perhaps you think you have an unusually compelling argument. If so you belong to a very large club, hence my insistence that you give me a reason to privilege your theory in the first place.Report

          • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Steve S.
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            says:

            Mr. Steve S.—I’ve acknowledged your objections infra if you read with a bit of care and a bit of charity.

            If you do genuinely value your time, you should already have moved on. Invoking The Flying Spaghetti Monster is not a rebuttal to Aristotle and Aquinas; it confirms that what is being rejected is done so without a proper understanding of what’s being rejected.

            As for arguing on behalf of Deity X, I’ve not done so. I left the “Christian” in the Kierkegaard quote because to cut it off would have distorted it somewhat. I did think long and hard about whether to shave it, and it appears my decision not to clearly poisoned the well in your eyes.

            Sorry about that. Please do reread our discussion—if you have the time—and disregard that part.

            Mostly, I do think crabbiness in the face of arguments for theism protests too much. I think of Billy Ray Thornton’s character in Duvall’s “The Apostle.” Good movie.Report

            • Avatar Francis in reply to tom van dyke
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              says:

              This again? Given a certain set of axioms, I can (ok, I used to be able to [my classes in formal logic were 25 years ago]) prove anything. The problem arises in mapping those axioms onto observable reality. The FSM is not intended to be a rebuttal; it’s intended to be a mockery of those who believe that their axioms do map onto reality.

              Maybe they do; most likely they don’t. For example, just about every factual claim in Genesis is not in accord with consensus science.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to tom van dyke
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              says:

              Here is my problem with this particular argument for theism.

              Any god that eventually gets its nose in the tent is trivially interesting at best. Again: I’m not saying that you need to change!

              I’m just saying that I don’t find the god that you define so loosely as to get me to shrug and say “sure, one of those might exist” one worth expending enough effort on to start the argument in the first place… indeed, the god we agree might exist is always the nose of the camel.

              This is why the FSM has teeth. Not because its a mockery of theism but it is a criticism of it. (When I was growing up, we didn’t use the FSM but Invisible Pink Unicorns (or IPUs)).

              By using your *EXACT* arguments, could I get you to concede that, maybe, there was an FSM?

              If so, I think the problem is with your exact arguments rather than with the example of the FSM.

              But, hey, I’m not telling you to change! Knock yourself out.

              I’m just telling you why I’m not going to change.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Yeah Jay, well put.

                Also this very ethereal and mysterious God, once his nose is in the tent, seems to come with some very material and specific baggage. You prove he exists or at least prove that it can’t be proven that he doesn’t exist and then you open the door to all the therefores.

                God exists therefore:
                You should spend your Sunday (and a portion of your income) in worship.
                You should do what the wrinkly white guy on TV tells you to do.
                You should shove all your sisters, aunts and your Mother into a black sack and beat em if they are ever seen not wearing it.
                You should shun bacon and all the other tasty pig foods.
                You should strap on a bomb vest and blow a pizzeria to kingdom come.
                You should expropriate and bulldoze someone else’s house so you can build a condo for the chosen people to live in this land.
                You should call your Gramma and talk to her at least once a week so she doesn’t get lonely.
                You should be both plague and Pharaoh to people who love other people in ways you don’t approve of.
                Etcetera ad nauseum.

                Which is where my pragmatic agnosticism kicks in, I’m not philosophy or theology student but I’ve read some pretty coherent theist arguments and some good theodicies. They all seem to have this problem in that in bending and twisting God to be rationally undisprovable they disconnect him from any of the dogmas and liturgies. Perhaps there is a God, but how does anyone know their rulebook is the actual correct rulebook? To unpack the cliché; all the religions of the world must know that it’s only really possible for one of them to be correct and that there’s a chilling possibility that they’re all wrong.

                Is there a god? I don’t know and neither do you. But if there is I imagine he’s pissed.Report

              • Avatar mark boggs in reply to North
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                says:

                You summed up my view pretty well, North. Sometimes you’ll hear folks say things like, “Well, but can’t you see God in the order and beauty of nature around you?” To which I reply, “Indeed there seems to be some order and in some respects, natural disasters, disease, etc. exempted, nature does have its moments of beauty, but what does this have to do with a God who commands me to love him above all others and wants me to do all the various things required for me to be a proper believer?”

                It is exactly how you described it. As soon as one acknowledges the possibility of a God, all the extras get brought along which just isn’t what the acknowledgement allows. I call it the Trojan Horse approach.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to mark boggs
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                says:

                For the record, I was discussing neither religion or revelation.

                Things get quite silly, as we have seen here.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to tom van dyke
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                says:

                Theism, atheism and agnosticism are pretty much entwined Tom. Does God exist? To my eye it only matters as a practical question if you have someone on a pulpit, campaign platform, torch bearing mob or street corner claiming to know his will.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to tom van dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                Mr. North, invocations of the FSM and the Inquisition are corollaries of Godwin’s Law. The party’s over, time to go home. I’ve had my say, and thx.Report

              • Avatar mark boggs in reply to tom van dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                And my comment was not directed at you, Tom.Report

              • Avatar mark boggs in reply to tom van dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                What about quoting Marx?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to tom van dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                invocations of the FSM and the Inquisition are corollaries of Godwin’s Law.

                This is *SOOOOO* close.

                We just need a third entry to push them over and then we could honestly say that, when it comes to derailing arguments, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Torquemada, and (entrant) are worse than Hitler.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to tom van dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                Tom I had no idea you were routed so easily, especially as I invoked none of your three verboten subjects. You’re welcome in any case.Report

              • Avatar Bo in reply to tom van dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Torquemada, and (entrant) are worse than Hitler.

                Martin Luther’s seminal work, On The Jews and Their Lies, seems to fit the bill. It ropes in the Protestants who are under-annoyed by the Inquisition.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to tom van dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                You know who else no one expects?Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to North
                Ignored
                says:

                “To unpack the cliché; all the religions of the world must know that it’s only really possible for one of them to be correct and that there’s a chilling possibility that they’re all wrong.”

                I think it’s probably more of a problem for members of the religions than a sort of general rule for everyone. If I was a Christian, I do think I would be haunted by the idea that maybe the Hindus were right all along. But, you know, coming at it from the outside there is still the … maybe the word is ‘theosophical’ argument that the heated debate among the religions amounts to something like: The Germans call it a baum, the English call it a tree, the French call it an arbe, the Spanish call it árbol; and they’re having a heated fight because the Germans insist that calling it a “tree” is a damned lie and the French insist that it could not possibly be a “baum”.

                I’m not trying to make what Jay calls the universal diamond argument- it’s just that, if you’re not a member of any of the faith traditions they don’t seem nearly as far apart as they do if you are. Not to re-open this kettle of fish, but this is why a lot of the claims Jews and Christians make against Islam seem so foolish to me.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Rufus F.
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                says:

                I dunno Rufus, it strikes me as much more significant than using a different name for the same thing. There are rules; big serious ones. It’s like a game show: Pick your God!
                Contestant number one: “Mmm I’ll choose… Hindu!”
                Host: Bzzt “Sorry, you chose incorrectly, to hellfire with you!”
                Contestant number two: “Uh, I’ll choose… Catholic.”
                Host: “Bzzt oh… too bad… you’re going to be reincarnated in the next life as a three toed sloth!”Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to North
                Ignored
                says:

                Mike Shilling, I’ve heard the ‘false prophet’ claim made by Jews about Islam, which is pretty mild I suppose. It strikes me as a bit funny though, since their respective prophets all seem to say the same thnigs.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to North
                Ignored
                says:

                North, I just mean it’s more significant for them than it is for me. Maybe Bob will explain what makes something a ‘gnostic distortion’, but from my distance a lot of the inter-religious debates seem a lot like, “When my guy says X, Y, and Zed it’s the truth! When your guy says X, Y and Zed it’s a lie!”Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to North
                Ignored
                says:

                I’ve heard the ‘false prophet’ claim made by Jews about Islam

                That is pretty silly, since, as you point out, most of what Mohamed taught was an Arabized version of Judaism. But it’s common in religion, I think, to have special disdain for religions that are *almost* right, like first-century Jews for Samaritans, or some Protestants for the RC Church.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Rufus F.
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                says:

                …Islam is a gnostic distortion.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Robert Cheeks
                Ignored
                says:

                How in the hell is that measured, anyway?Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Robert Cheeks
                Ignored
                says:

                Jay; is it identical to Branch of Christianity X (with the value of X varying depending on the individual being asked the question). If yes, then it is not a Gnostic distortion. If no then it is.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Robert Cheeks
                Ignored
                says:

                “Islam is a gnostic distortion…”
                How so?Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Rufus F.
                Ignored
                says:

                What claims to Jews make against Islam (religious ones, I mean, not politics)? It’s much closer to Judaism than Christianity is, being purely monotheistic and all.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Rufus F.
                Ignored
                says:

                Rufus, the Axial Age 800-500 BCE gave rise to what Voegelin and, I think, Spengler referred to as a ‘leap of being.’
                The classical Greeks moved from a compact consciousness to the noetic differentiation of Truth, where the noetic process is that which incorporates a more indepth, inquiring consciousness (which includes the reflective character grounded on the ‘transcendent pole in the tension of inquiry’). During this same, remarkable Age, the Israelites were experiencing Yahweh. I believe Budda and Confuscius were running about at this time as well?

                One other point that may prove of interest in your inquiries is that man, and man alone, is able through his consciousness to experience the symbolizations of divine reality; e.g. these experiences, the metaleptic, human/divine relationship occurs only in the psyche of man, and this ‘psyche’ (Stein argues spirit/soul) is what the beloved Voegelin referred to as the ‘sensorium of transcendence.’

                As a practicing, albiet flawed Christian, I believe that many of these metaleptic occurences have been successfully written down in the Word, in language applicable to convey God’s intent. While the spirit of man can not comphrend in toto the Word/Logos, he is freely welcomed to participate in a pneumatic tension that, given God’s Will, reveal more and more of the Knowledge (Gnosis) of the Spirit.

                On this thread we have seen many of my friends and interlocutors take a position that I might describe as reflecting what Whitehead referred to as ‘the climate of opinion.’ Our current age is one of egophanic rebellion; we are turning away (in the Classical Greek sense) from the Light/God and boldly stand as the Sartean ‘moi.’ It is from this that Tom and others brought up the symbolizations found in the language of skepticism, anxiety, etc. .

                And, while I follow Voegelin in his efforts to not only restore the verities of the Classical Greeks and the philosohy rising out of the Judeo-Christian worldview, I think he was correct in his efforts to champion the effort to return to the ground of that thought and to examine what it means to ‘seek, quest, and search’ the acts of a true philosopher.

                I think my atheist/agnostic friends do not share with me a hope to recover the true meaning of philosophizing. I think they are too intent on being moderns and all that that conveys. And, that’s a disappointment simply because there are a number of brilliant gentlement here.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Robert Cheeks
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                says:

                Bob, I was making fun of you earlier, I admit, but now I want to address you a bit more seriously, if only a bit. Your entire position, which is to say VoegElin’s entire position, hinges not only on inferences (and rather wild and at times uncharitable inferences) about the thought processes of atheists/agnostics/we the thoroughly modern, but also inferences about the motivations behind those thought processes. I can stomach inferences about the thought processes themselves, because there is plenty of data, if not for a given individual, then at least for the history of the ideas. Inferences about the motivations, and in this case, motives that must be unconscious, however, seem to be entirely invented, by Voegelin and you (quoting Voegelin), in order not so much to explain the ideas as to undermine them.

                I probably don’t need to tell you that most Anglo-American-Australian atheists, and perhaps most European atheists as well, get their atheism not through Hegel-Marx-Nietzsche-Freud, but through Kant-Mach-Carnap-Ayers-(maybe a l’il) Quine/Ryle. That is, they come through positivism, with a healthy dose of the (not-necessarily-pejorative version of) positivism, instead of through a suspicious (not my term, as I’m sure you know) approach to spirit (in the broad, not necessarily dualistic philosophical sense). Attributing a single set of motives to those two camps requires some serious psychoanalytical gymnastics, and there is no evidence whatsoever that you’ve even chalked up your hands, much less spun around the pommel horse, or that you even have any conception of what such gymnastics would look like.

                Now, lumping together everyone who thinks differently than you is pretty common when the subject is religion. Granted, even a casual perusal of atheist blogs will show that this sin is not limited to theists. That doesn’t make it right, though, or any less offensive when people do it out of ignorance or worse. It doesn’t make doing so any more conducive to discussion, either, though it’s clear from your choice of language and style that you have no interest whatsoever in actually discussing these things (that’s why I usually choose to just make fun of you instead of engaging you, though perhaps Rufus’ method of just wondering at you is better), so perhaps that’s a criticism that doesn’t apply to you specifically.

                By the way, unlike most of the atheists around here, or at least the ones who talk about it, I am from the Hegel-Marx-Nietzsche-Freud strain of atheism. I’m also, you may be interested to know, a fan of Bergson (I have a copy of Matter and Memory sitting right in front of me). That said, you must be aware by now of the tendency that arose within that strain of atheism, unfortunately after Voegelin so that his analysis will do you know good (and therefore, you’ll be unable to think about it), of a turn against the “impulse to be modern,” or whatever it is you young Voegelineans are calling it these days. I mean, Voegelin probably should have read more of the stuff coming out of Frankfurt back in his day, but he wasn’t really around to read much of what came with and after structuralism, say. You’d probably be surprised how self-consciously Greek, Roman, and even Medieval all that stuff is (it wasn’t Strauss or contemporary Christian philosophers who brought the name Scotus back into the consciousness of young philosophy grad students, for example).Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Robert Cheeks
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                says:

                Chris,
                Thanks for your comments, I find them interesting. At present I’m still doing as you know Voegelin, and I’m venturing into Husserl, Stein and Phenomenology, and Von Schelling and his work on God, Myth, etc.
                What you conveyed I’ve noted.
                I do not agree with this statement of yours:

                ” Your entire position, which is to say VoegElin’s entire position, hinges not only on inferences (and rather wild and at times uncharitable inferences) about the thought processes of atheists/agnostics/we the thoroughly modern, but also inferences about the motivations behind those thought processes.”

                I think that Voegelin’s erudite analysis, following Whitehead/Bergson/the Greeks was/is spot on and a necessary corrective to address the modern, contemporary derailment. It’s nothing personal other than his conclusions that the modern is not quite human, at least in terms of his sucessful recovery/restoration of the Classical Greek and Judeo-Christian philsophy.

                The modern moves to de-humanize man, essentially a demonic-blashemous event by negating the apperceptive experience and living solely in the mundane environment of sensory perception.

                Your right that I haven’t taken to analize each and very form and category of the contemporary derailment. I ain’t headed that way, I’m merely sounding a warning and you are free and welcomed to tell me to you don’t either believe me or like what I say…following Voegelin.

                We can go into ‘positivism’ wheneve you like. Why don’t you write a ‘guest’ blog and we can go from there, I think there’s a significant number of members who happily jump into that fray.

                I appreciate the ‘language’ critique. Voegelin’s sometime strange use of English, his specific definition of words and so forth often throw people off. However, he was in process of clarifying the meaning of symbols that had been damaged and destroyed by modernity (see T.S. Eliot) and he was doing it as a man who wrote, read, and spoke seven languages (I believe?). Voegelin didn’t read a philosopher until he could read him in his native language. There’s a Voegelinian dictionary available on the internet.

                I thought the ‘Frankfurt’ School was communist?

                Yes, I’m not particulary gifted. I have to take one project at a time…philosophical/theological multi-tasking is beyone my ken.

                Chris you may do as you like re: my comments…it’s a blog site, for crying out loud.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Robert Cheeks
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                says:

                Bob, I think modernism was/is dehumanizing as well, and was particularly so when it was at its height. That’s not an uncommon sentiment, even among atheists (like, say, the Frankfurt School… which was composed of Marxists, not communists; most were critical of communism both in practice and in theory). Which gets to my point: in order for your, and Voegelin’s (shall we say outdated, to be kind), view of secularism and atheism require that you attribute motives to secularists/atheists that they are not only unaware of, but that in some cases actually go against the motives that they are consciously aware of. And as I said, that demands some serious work with arguments and evidence that I highly suspect you want no part of. It may not be personal when you parrot it here and wherever else you vomit Voegelin, but when it’s done the way it’s done, which is to say as a bare assertion, it’s still insulting. It’s sort of like me saying that Christians believe in their particular God because they have a death obsession, both personal and sexual. It’s bullshit, but if I put a name behind it, and a few fancy words, why do I need to argue for the position? Isn’t it obvious that it’s true?Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Robert Cheeks
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                says:

                I’ll be looking forward to your erudite analysis in this and future blogs.Report

              • Avatar ThatPirateGuy in reply to North
                Ignored
                says:

                Not to mention that at one time, one very popular deity would have society stone North, Jason, and myself to death.
                Some rape victims too if they didn’t scream while in a city, the countryside ones merely had to marry their rapist who couldn’t divorce them.

                Admittedly the deity is alleged to have chilled out significantly after having a kid as many do. Since I’d rather not see an increase in calls for stoning of gay people and adulterers I’ll accept the chilling out at face value.Report

              • Avatar RTod in reply to ThatPirateGuy
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                says:

                “Admittedly the deity is alleged to have chilled out significantly after having a kid as many do.”

                Awesome.Report

              • Avatar Heidegger in reply to RTod
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                says:

                RTod, you must also admit that Jesus was certainly well-adjusted considering he was an only child.Report

              • Avatar RTod in reply to RTod
                Ignored
                says:

                True, though I imagine the adolescent years were full of some monster “You’re not my real dad!” tiffs with Joseph.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to RTod
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                says:

                What with all the water to wine ability it’s a wonder he made it to adulthood at all. Proof of divinity I say; any mortal human with such powers would have pickled himself by sixteen.Report

              • Avatar Heidegger in reply to RTod
                Ignored
                says:

                Okay, North and RTod, how the hell am I going to get through the rest of the day after those remarks???!!
                “You’re not my real dad!” tiffs with Joseph, and this, “What with all the water to wine ability it’s a wonder he made it to adulthood at all.”
                This has caused convulsive, painful laughter-Thanks!Report

              • Avatar ThatPirateGuy in reply to RTod
                Ignored
                says:

                On a scale of one to ten how much more awkward is the your not my real dad tiff when the kid is his own father?Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to RTod
                Ignored
                says:

                “Your dad is so uptight.”

                “He’s not my dad.”

                “Whatever. Anyway, why is he always so cranky? It’s like he hasn’t been laid in forever. “Report

              • Avatar Heidegger in reply to ThatPirateGuy
                Ignored
                says:

                Pirate writes: “On a scale of one to ten how much more awkward is the your not my real dad tiff when the kid is his own father?”

                Pirate, I’d say extremely more difficult and awkward but then again, I’m not well versed on multiple personality disorders and this is the King of Kings multiple personality disorder. This might be something that Chris would want to comment on. On a one to ten scale, it’s a 10 to the infinite power.Report

              • Avatar ThatPirateGuy in reply to Heidegger
                Ignored
                says:

                so it goes to 12?Report

              • Avatar Heidegger in reply to ThatPirateGuy
                Ignored
                says:

                Chris, can we now, once and and for all, add a “t” to the end of your name, and refer to you as The Anointed One? To think that you would come down from your lofty mountain and bestow such profoundly breathtaking, wisdom to all we woebegone truth-seekers, is a demonstration of such noble humility that your beatification should seriously be considered. Your words bring such deep, spiritual nourishment, that it’s frankly, hard to believe I’m not hearing the genuine voice of God when reading your comments. How humbled Bob must feel that the Anointed One has decided to, even briefly, not make fun of him and address him with a modicum, microscopic amount of respect. Let’s hear it, Aretha, R-E-S-P-E-C-T!!
                Chris(t), this this is transcendent condescension at its finest–BRAVO!! And please, do periodically check in with us, the wandering, wayward masses–even a small snippet of your boundless, immeasurable wisdom is worth all the tea in China! My deepest, sincere, gratitude, H.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Heidegger
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                says:

                Awww… Heidi, I think you have a crush on me.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Not that I really want to be defending Tom, because he goes about his argument in a pretty slimy way, but the FSM, if it can be considered a critique, is more a critique of what we might call “folk intelligent design arguments” than any serious arguments for god. This is so in large part because, pace Hume and the FSM people, most such arguments actually do argue for a god with a particular nature. The FSM really only works against the sort of “we’re not creationists, we swear!” intelligent design theories that you get from the likes of Bill “The Newton of Information Theory” Dembski, because these arguments have no real content, or at least they supply none to their “designer.”Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris
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                says:

                Sadly, the FSM has evolved.

                I’m sure the original designer had a purpose for the FSM in mind when he created Him… but that ain’t how the universe works.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Sadly, the FSM has evolved.

                It’s now composed entirely of vermicelli?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris
                Ignored
                says:

                I said “sadly”.

                That’s, like, orzo.Report

            • Avatar Steve S. in reply to tom van dyke
              Ignored
              says:

              “If you do genuinely value your time, you should already have moved on. ”

              It’s a balancing act, quite frankly, because I also value having my POV accurately and honestly engaged. When it comes up in conversation that you don’t believe in a deity you encounter all sorts of misconceptions and you immediately ask yourself how much effort do I want to put into rebutting them.

              “Invoking The Flying Spaghetti Monster is not a rebuttal to Aristotle and Aquinas”

              Uh, it’s not meant to be.

              “As for arguing on behalf of Deity X, I’ve not done so.”

              You’ve been saying that arguments for a deity ought to be engaged. First, this contains the assumption that I (or whomever) have never engaged deity arguments, or have not engaged them to some sort of standard that you hold. Since you obviously have no way of knowing any such thing we can dismiss this assumption and move on. Second, you still haven’t told me why I should privilege any deity argument, or even deity arguments in general. Are you going to?Report

  12. Avatar Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    As Mr. Cheeks alluded to, skepticism does not make anyone happy, indeed it drags him into a pool of despair. If you’re satisfied with fatalism, OK. Life’s a bitch and then you die.

    This is exceptionally silly.

    I don’t know about other atheists (hey, Fish! Sup!) but, from my perspective, there are a lot of really awesome things about existing that don’t require eternal existence to be awesome in the first place.

    For example: Bambino’s hot pastrami. You wouldn’t believe this sandwich.

    If I were to make an accusation against you, I’d say that you were like a kid at the Midway at the State Fair saying that these rides are all well and good but SOMEDAY YOU’RE GOING TO CEDAR POINT! AND THOSE RIDES ARE GOING TO BE SO AWESOME AND THAT’S GOING TO BE GREAT AND THEY HAVE THIS ROLLER COASTER THAT GOES UPSIDE DOWN AND EVERYTHING.

    Dude. That’s great. Right now, I’m at the State Fair. I’m trying to enjoy the midway.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      First of all, not all atheists are skeptics (and conversely, not all skeptics are atheists). Second, it’s not clear to me that skepticism is supposed to make people happy. However, it’s a pretty strong claim, in need of serious defense, that this life, and this (natural) world, cannot produce happiness without adding something on top of it in the form of the supernatural or a separate life. This is exactly the sort of life-denying position that makes most theism abhorrent to this non-skeptical atheist.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris
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        says:

        Second, it’s not clear to me that skepticism is supposed to make people happy.

        I see it as unhappiness avoidance. It’s not the same thing but it’s the same ballpark.Report

        • Avatar Heidegger in reply to Jaybird
          Ignored
          says:

          Jaybird, where is Karl Marx Stadium located?

          “Religion is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions.”
          Karl Marx

          “Religion is the impotence of the human mind to deal with occurrences it cannot understand”.
          Karl MarxReport

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Heidegger
            Ignored
            says:

            I’m not a fan of Marx, myself.

            But, hey. You be you.Report

          • Avatar mark boggs in reply to Heidegger
            Ignored
            says:

            Torquemada – “God is Great.”

            What is your point Heidegger?Report

            • Avatar Heidegger in reply to mark boggs
              Ignored
              says:

              Mark, “point”? I don’t understand what point or lack thereof you’re referring to.

              For that matter, I’m a Christian Catholic Pantheist and need no religious dogma to shape my beliefs about the origin of our blessed and wondrous universe. I do not exclude a single atom from being a part of this divine comedy—imagine the laughs we give God by being so utterly stumped by this ultimate brainteaser. Such arrogance we humans have by assuming, demanding, that God play by the same rules of logic that we have!Report

              • Avatar mark boggs in reply to Heidegger
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                says:

                You seemed to think that you could critique Jaybird’s view by quoting Marx and his apparent lack of belief. So I countered with the fact that Torquemada certainly believed in God (I know, he wasn’t a “true Christaian” because of his behavior) but I don’t see how either of them have anything to do with the topic at hand. Unless we were playing a guilt by association game.Report

              • Avatar Heidegger in reply to mark boggs
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                says:

                No, no, no, Mark, this is not at all what I meant. Here is the sequence of mental events that led me to quote Marx. Here’s Jaybird: “I see it as unhappiness avoidance. It’s not the same thing but it’s the same ballpark.” Key words, “unhappiness avoidance.” I knew Marx had made many statements about religion and happiness/unhappiness. There was a similar expression of sentiments between Jaybird’s words and Marx regarding religion and unhappiness. I’m hardly calling Jaybird a Marxist–it’s just one of those moments when ideas accidentally attach themselves to one another. And then there was the “ballpark” reference made by Jaybird. So then I’m thinking ballpark, Marx, Karl Marx Stadium, then the quotes. Simple as that. Why you’re obsessing on this, I have no idea.Report

              • Avatar mark boggs in reply to Heidegger
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                says:

                Good enough for me.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Heidegger
                Ignored
                says:

                Well, I’d bust down Marx’s statement like this:

                Opiates, at the time, were used for pain relief and/or recreation. Marx pointing out that religion was an opiate was, if you share his theory on there not being a god, fairly astute.

                I mean, assume no god for a few moments. Dang! Isn’t that pretty spot on?

                It’s when you evolve from “this is an observation about religion” to “this is a criticism of religion” that you start getting into problems. Communism, as practiced, went out of its way to be explicitly atheistic. Religion was even outlawed at the extremes. (There were a lot of other things that happened too.)

                So, to answer your question, I’d say that Marx is a fairly astute observer, a questionable critic, and instituting policies based on his criticisms has resulted in, among other things, piles of bodies… which, as unhappiness avoidance goes, is pretty danged hardcore.

                As I said, I’m not a fan.Report

              • Avatar Heidegger in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Yes Jaybird, you are certainly not a fan of Mr. Marx! Sorry if I ever gave the impression that you were–I was just kidding around with the Karl Marx Stadium silliness. Anyone who has ever read even one of your comments, would know, beyond a shadow of any doubt, that that just could NEVER be the case. Plus, I’m one of your biggest fans–always love reading your oftentimes funny and erudite posts. You most certainly ain’t no commie dem!Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      And that kid who cut in front of you, and when you said something just stared you down, and the next time you saw him was with that really hot chick in line for the tunnel of love? While you’re at Cedar Point, he’s got to go to summer school.Report

    • Avatar Fish in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      I thought I had slipped into despair earlier this morning. Then I realized that all I needed was lunch, and maybe a little caffeine.

      I don’t know that I fully realized how awesome existing was until I acknowledged that I was an atheist. Now I know that every day is gravy.Report

  13. Avatar Rufus F.
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    says:

    Okay, so let me clarify my phrase, “internal states”. All I’m trying to say is that your mental/emotional experiences are not really accessible to other people. They can hear about them, but that’s about it. We can debate about external things- you can say that earthquakes are caused by gods and I can say they’re caused by the shifting of the earth’s plates. But, at some point, it gets a bit ridiculous to argue over what’s going on inside of you. Maybe a good example would be love. I can say that I’ve never been in love and so I don’t know what you’re talking about. (I have, of course) But there’s something pointless about arguing that you are not in love. Sure, I could say that love is really a sentimentalisation of evolutionary sexual drives, talk about serotonin or whatever, and maybe argue that there’s no such thing as a metaphysical bond of love- but, most likely, you won’t care what I say if you feel that you’re in love.

    The problem I have with many of these discussions about religion is that, to my mind, it’s a bit pointless to tell a religious person who says that they found God because they felt an ‘inner pull’ leading them to faith, or they recognized an ‘inner light’ or the ‘eyes of their heart were opened’- “No, you didn’t”. I can say that none of those things have happened to me, but I don’t see the point in debating about someone else’s emotional states and convictions with them, so I don’t.

    Conversely, I see no point in people of faith describing to atheists the despair and chaos of their lives, since they, also, have no access to the inner experience of being that other person. Moreover, it doesn’t ring true to me.

    So, we’re stuck debating about what makes the sun shine. Which is accessible for discussion, but not the real distinction between religious people and irreligious people. At some point, the only real solution is to give each other a lot of leeway in how they understand their experience. It’s also more intellectually humble.Report

    • Avatar mark boggs in reply to Rufus F.
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      says:

      Nicely put, Rufus.Report

    • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Rufus F.
      Ignored
      says:

      Rufus, that’s quite true as far as it goes.

      Jill has had a religious experience; Jack hasn’t. It’s a push.

      Metaphysics is one avenue to try to get around such subjectivity, and my response was in the spirit of your original post that explored various metaphysical schemes. But as you’ve noted, many of the arguments against have been personal. Those that aren’t have been a rejection of metaphysics, often obliged by the writer’s materialism. [A sort of “fideism” itself.]

      That’s fine and swell, but why join a discussion on English if you refuse to speak anything but French?

      The notion of “despair” seems to have upset some people, and indeed, Kierkegaard might say that’s good, because it hit a nerve. Further, the argument here is prior to the question of theism: it’s that man recognizes his existential predicament, whether it be the perennial “man’s search for meaning” or simply his mortality.

      Now, Kierkegaard’s solution is the “leap of faith,” but Sartre deals with the “nausea” by finding [or “creating”] his purpose in humanism. [Ironic, since he also wrote—not inaccurately, that “hell is other people.”

      And for Nietzsche, it’s not becoming a wuss Christian about it, it’s standing up like a man, staring into the abyss, and thumbing your nose at it.

      What they have in common is the recognition of man’s predicament. I do not doubt that some have used a Nietzchean “force of will” to deal with the predicament thusly. If we have free will, it must be indomitable.

      As for others, one can put off the question: another drink, bongload, sexual act, buying a copy of Superman #1, or rooting for the Clippers. [Scratch that last one—it does not put off the problem of despair, it exacerbates it.]

      [I know.]

      To the hypercritical atmosphere, I can only say that this is not science, nor an episode of Law & Order. There is no knowable truth at the end of an adversarial process, even if we proceed in sincerity and good cheer. But discussion is impossible without such a co-operative dynamic, lest we resort to throwing Spaghetti Monsters at the wall to see what sticks.

      As for the allegation of this being yet another rehearsal of a well-worn script, this area is rather new to me, and the colloquies here are not to convince anyone of anything, but to road-test ideas and perhaps leave a small trail of bread crumbs for the interested reader. I thank the blog and those here gathered for the opportunity. I really have had my say and most of what I’ve offered still lies unmolested, and I suppose I’ll still reply to any principled demurrals. If some wish to read this signoff as a “rout,” so be it.

      Again, thx for an illuminating discussion.Report

      • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to tom van dyke
        Ignored
        says:

        > Jill has had a religious experience; Jack hasn’t. It’s a push.

        Not quite a push.

        Jack can, in fact, provide an alternate explanation for Jill’s religious experience. Yes, granted, in may not be correct. But a person’s perception of their own experience can in fact be incorrect. Maybe Jill created this religious experience in her own mind as a self-defense mechanism against suicidal thoughts or something. The human mind is a funny animal. The point is, there exists an option in Jack’s framework that possibly explains Jill’s experience.

        Jill, on the other hand, can’t really explain the *lack* of Jack’s religious experience without an implicit assumption that Jack isn’t worth God’s time. Right? How else can you explain God talking to you leading to your salvation, while He’s not talking to Jack? Obviously Jack needs it just as much as you do.

        Now, maybe Jill is worth saving (to God) and Jack isn’t. But it’s hard to find a justification that doesn’t rely either on ineffability or in another tacit assumption (that Jack is a bastard who can burn in Hell and since God doesn’t care enough about him to save him, we’re probably okay with doing away with him).

        And while I will agree with the theist doctrine that God is unknowable fully, I don’t buy that God is contradictory (although maybe He is, of course). If God isn’t contradictory, then Jill can’t explain Jack’s lack of experience using her framework.

        Jack’s framework is inclusive; it provides explanations for Jill. Jill’s isn’t inclusive.

        Of course, that doesn’t mean a hat full of beans as to which one is *correct*. They both could be correct. But they’re not equivalent.Report

        • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Pat Cahalan
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          says:

          I can buy that, Mr. Cahalan, that Jill’s experience was perhaps inauthentic. [If there is no God, it certainly was inauthentic!]

          As for Jack, we could say he has had a religious experience but explained it away. We can rationalize anything, and apply the force of will to it. Stipulated.

          Perhaps he’ll embrace it at a much later date. Or perhaps he embraces it now—lives it—but just doesn’t say so. That Jesus fellow has a story where one son says he’ll obey his father but doesn’t; the other son says he won’t obey but he does anyway.

          People are funny that way.

          Or we could say that it has not suited God’s will, plan, or purpose to give Jack his experience yet. Perhaps the proper time has not arrived for Jack to understand or appreciate it.

          ” So I jump ship in Hong Kong and I make my way over to Tibet, and I get on as a looper at a course over in the Himalayas…

          A looper, you know, a caddy, a looper, a jock. So, I tell them I’m a pro jock, and who do you think they give me? The Dalai Lama, himself. Twelfth son of the Lama. The flowing robes, the grace, bald… striking. So, I’m on the first tee with him. I give him the driver. He hauls off and whacks one – big hitter, the Lama – long, into a ten-thousand foot crevasse, right at the base of this glacier. Do you know what the Lama says? Gunga galunga… gunga, gunga-lagunga.

          So we finish the eighteenth and he’s gonna stiff me. And I say, “Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know.” And he says, ‘Oh, uh, there won’t be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.’ So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice. “

          —Carl Spackler

          For the record, I’m not arguing religious experience here. But we got the “total consciousness” thing working for us, which is nice.Report

          • Avatar mark boggs in reply to tom van dyke
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            says:

            [If there is no God, it certainly was inauthentic!]

            But was it inauthentic? Are we saying she never felt it? Or are we saying that her attribution of what it came from is misplaced?Report

            • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to mark boggs
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              says:

              Dunno, Mr. Boggs. We say with reasonable certainty that there are no voices in the heads of psychotics, although in some sense they “hear” them. If there is no God, surely “religious experience” is in the same zone, stipulated.

              Even if electrodes and brain imaging equipment can “see” a person have a “religious experience,” we properly question whether the subject herself can properly interpret the phenomenon; I expect the observer to do no better.

              Perhaps it’s a religious experience!

              I must admit my approach is more arm’s-length. Can reason open the door to faith, from “Is there God” to “What is God”? And I must admit I find the “despair” question more intriguing now then when a teacher pumped us full of existentialism in high school. It’s been cool revisiting all that stuff. I have a much better feeling for Nausea now that I’ve been around the block and to blogs like this. [No, you’re not nauseating! That’s not what I mean!]

              This gal writes, in a hybrid of “depth psychology, Hasidic Judaism and Buddhist meditation” that

              ” Surprisingly, when we find the courage to move toward our pain and inhabit it fully, something magical happens. Grief leads us into a state of gratitude. Despair is a doorway to faith.”

              Interesting. We haven’t even touched on “gratitude” vitiating theism, that it doesn’t have to come from metaphysics, religious experience, or even fear of Hell or the oblivion of the Abyss. Again, I was just taking a whack at classical theism via metaphysics, in the spirit of the OP.Report

          • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to tom van dyke
            Ignored
            says:

            > As for Jack, we could say he has had a religious
            > experience but explained it away.

            This is the common explanation. I don’t find it compelling, myself, I find it inherently contradictory.

            People who have had rapture moments or a feeling of divine intervention all use verbiage that indicates that this moment is a uniquely touching moment. The description is that of knowing; “I know this was God speaking to me”.

            In Jack’s framework, Jill’s experience can be explained, because Jack assumes that the human mind is capable of this degree of confirmation bias. But, in Jill’s framework, Jack’s lack of an experience cannot be explained without nefariousness on Jack’s part.

            If Jack was indeed touched by God, Jack *must have recognized this moment as a moment of the divine*, by the descriptors of a touched by God moment. By definition, the touched by God moment cannot be mistaken. The only way that Jack could fail to acknowledge this moment would be if Jack *intentionally rejected* the touch of God.

            This leads us back to the inevitable conclusion “that Jack is a bastard who can burn in Hell and since God doesn’t care enough about him to save him, we’re probably okay with doing away with him”.

            I myself have had moments of wonder, and moments of inexplicable feeling. But I can’t say that I’ve felt the touch of the divine. Note: that doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in it, just that I don’t even have anecdotal evidence of it myself.

            So if I haven’t felt it, either God doesn’t think I’m worth it (which again, is possible, but I’m hard pressed to imagine a just God who would withhold this from some of His creation and not other parts), or I’m doing a decent job of behaving myself and God doesn’t think I need it to be a chap worth keeping around post mortem (which flies in the face of most theological traditions, albeit not all of them), or I’ve had it and rejected it (and buried that from myself), which sort of makes me a profoundly evil person, doesn’t it?

            Or, I suppose, that God doesn’t mess in human affairs, but all the versions of the Almighty that I’ve been introduced to presume an active deity.Report

            • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Pat Cahalan
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              says:

              Mr. Cahalan, your answers are already in your own text.

              The only way that Jack could fail to acknowledge this moment would be if Jack *intentionally rejected* the touch of God.

              We are free to do so. And once we have, we can easily convince ourselves the “touch” never happened. It was an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato.

              I myself have had moments of wonder, and moments of inexplicable feeling. But I can’t say that I’ve felt the touch of the divine.

              For some, this is a sufficient enough seed, the wonder, the inexplicable feeling. Wonder at the feeling. Wonder is the start of it all, I think, and quid sit deus can also be translated “if there is god, what would it be?” [It doesn’t beg the question that way, presupposing that God exists, as in “What is God?”]

              And if there is a God, you’re worth it, Pat, or he wouldn’t have bothered to make you in the first place. Stay tuned.Report

              • Avatar ThatPirateGuy in reply to tom van dyke
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                says:

                Tom, I fail to see how knowing something exists affects someones free will(whatever that means) to love it or not.

                Worse, either free will doesn’t exist in heaven or any creator deity could have easily created an earth that stayed free of sin whilst retaining free will.

                And can anyone tell me how substituionary sacrifice is moral in any sense? If person X deserves hell for whatever reason how is it moral to punish Jesus instead of punishing them? You wouldn’t be ok with letting an axe murderer go free if the judge decided to execute his son instead. Not even if the axe murderer had really changed. Sure someone got punished but that ain’t justice.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to ThatPirateGuy
                Ignored
                says:

                Uhoh Pirate, you just made an appeal for a theodicy in a thread being prowled by philosiphers and theologicians. Run for it!Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to North
                Ignored
                says:

                This uncanny familiarity with what morality must (*MUST*!) consist of is what bugs me the most when it comes to these arguments.

                On top of that, there’s the fact that whenever I get into one of these arguments it’s usually (usually!) with someone who is, at least, a weak cultural relativist.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Of course, on the other side, you’ve got folks with the uncanny familiarity with the Mind of God who, between bites of lobster, can explain that they know that we abandoned only half of the Levitical Laws and kept the other half but cannot explain the mechanisms whereby they know this and such conversations are always indistinguishable from explanations why there were fewer tea parties during Bush years (or why there are fewer anti-war rallies during Obama years).Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to ThatPirateGuy
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                says:

                Mr. Pirate, I find it unproductive if not profane to discuss religion [as opposed to mere theism] in circumstances like these. Matthew 7:6, no offense intended. It’s just wise advice.

                As for “religious experiences,”—discussed at arm’s length—God couldn’t very well knock everybody off their horse with a thunderbolt like he did with that dickhead Saul of Tarsus. It would kill the mystery of the whole thing, and make “faith” unnecessary.

                But of course, God could terrorize us into “faith.” But to what purpose? It would obviate giving us free will in the first place. It would be like building a robot lover.Report

              • Avatar ThatPirateGuy in reply to tom van dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                So faith is so awesome that it is better to send the vast majority of people to hell.

                Certainly seems in character with the temperament of a deity that kills whole cities(according to the stories).

                Now you can see why I think that the literary character we are talking about is a monster.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to ThatPirateGuy
                Ignored
                says:

                Now you can see why I don’t want to have this discussion. I’m all too familiar with this script. A rabbinical scholar could sort out your misapprehensions about the theology, should you actually be interested in understanding it. I would not ask a fundamentalist.Report

              • Avatar ThatPirateGuy in reply to ThatPirateGuy
                Ignored
                says:

                Now you see why I am not impressed by theologians at all.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to ThatPirateGuy
                Ignored
                says:

                Not really. You don’t appear to know anything about it, nor interested in learning, just fighting. I could say I’m not impressed by quantum physicists, but that would say more about me than them.

                Perhaps—and I hope—that I’m wrong about you, or will be at some point in your life to come. Regardless, this is not the time or the place for such things.

                And you’ll have total consciousness on your deathbed, so you have that going for you. Which is nice. 😉Report

              • Avatar ThatPirateGuy in reply to ThatPirateGuy
                Ignored
                says:

                The difference is that quantum mechanics is actually something respectable. Not the study of something never demonstrated.

                Please enjoying your arrogant dismissal of everyone who doesn’t give deference to unproven claims because they are old and popular while the catholic church busily canonizes the man in charge of an organization that colluded with the Irish government to protect child molesters.

                http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110118/ap_on_re_eu/eu_ireland_catholic_abuseReport

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to ThatPirateGuy
                Ignored
                says:

                Pirate, to blame Christianity (or even theism) for the Catholic Church’s scandals is like blaming Islam for suicide bombing.Report

              • Avatar ThatPirateGuy in reply to ThatPirateGuy
                Ignored
                says:

                I only blame the church’s hierarchy. The actual believers are the victims.

                Unlike their church fathers it actually outrages me when they are abused by their church.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to ThatPirateGuy
                Ignored
                says:

                Yeah, well, those unproven claims have a lot more to do with Christianity (and theism in general, for that matter) than they do with the besotted Irish.Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to ThatPirateGuy
                Ignored
                says:

                @Jaybird, might as well go ahead and praise the Catholic Church for giving us genetics then!Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to ThatPirateGuy
                Ignored
                says:

                Celebrating the Catholic Church for genetics is like celebrating Islam for zero.Report

              • Avatar Fish in reply to tom van dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                Why is faith necessary?

                It seems to me that, when dealing with questions of (eternal) life or death, our goal should be to move with as much certainty as possible.

                Why, then, does god insist that we walk the tightrope and not be able to see where we’re putting our feet?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Fish
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                says:

                Certainty? Pah.

                When I was 19, I had certainty about Jenna.

                Lemme tell ya, certainty ain’t no picnic.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Fish
                Ignored
                says:

                Why, then, does god insist that we walk the tightrope and not be able to see where we’re putting our feet?

                I dunno, does he? This goes back to Plato, Aristotle, natural law and “right” reason. Theism optional.Report

              • Avatar Fish in reply to Fish
                Ignored
                says:

                “It would kill the mystery of the whole thing, and make “faith” unnecessary.”

                It seems like it is.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Fish
                Ignored
                says:

                Nothing is necessary but food and drink, eh?

                Someone one said man does not live by bread alone, but clearly he was wrong.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Fish
                Ignored
                says:

                Of *COURSE* he was right!

                Indeed, that is part of the reason I was so certain about Jenna.Report

    • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Rufus F.
      Ignored
      says:

      Well, I dunno Rufus. Men/women have been having this ‘debate’ for a long, long time. If it doesn’t collapse into middle school puerility it can be interesting, informative, and, shall I say it, ‘enlightening.’ Hey, somebody’s right and somebody’s wrong but if you screw this one up …well, there’s Hell to pay!

      The atheist/agnostic can say I’ve never experienced the ‘love of God’ or God, Himself, he can accuse me of being a bit off my rocker or a liar, but late at night when he sneaks to the kitchen to get his peanut butter and jelly sammich, he’ll have the great refrigerator experience (GRE) and ask, “What if…?”Report

      • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to Robert Cheeks
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        says:

        So out of curiosity, Bob, have you had a GRE of doubt?Report

      • Avatar mark boggs in reply to Robert Cheeks
        Ignored
        says:

        Yeah, Bob, what bothers me and Pat has addressed is that somehow those of us who have no deities have never had any doubts about the “What if…” Hell, isn’t that the sum total of this world? Just when you think you got something figured out pretty well, it ups and changes, and when you think you know something for certain, you all of a sudden find yourself wrong.

        I’m perfectly content with the conclusions you’ve arrived at. It’s the seeming presumption that those who haven’t joined you there are still lost in the woods somehow.Report

        • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to mark boggs
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          says:

          Pat: Yes, in high school and college.
          God has been kind to me in many, many ways. When my wife contracted cancer, and I woulda done anything and I mean anything to save her. He saved her.
          I was very impressed with Voegelin’s journey in reason/Nous that recovered not only the wisdom and gnosis of the Greeks but clearly showed that true human existence, that existence we were designed for, is that which exists in concert with a God that created the kosmos and us in freedom and in love. That’s heavy dude.

          Mark: I’m with Jaybird but from a questionably Christian perspective in that it works for me if you freely choose to not believe. If I want to piss off the distaff side I just say, “I don’t think heaven’s gonna be overcrowded.”
          Considering the derailments, and the loss of noesis in civilization it’s pretty much like Paul Simon said, “Hell, it’s a wonder I can think at all…”
          But, I love ya man and I’m here to hep or you can tell me to go f**k myself.
          I enjoy your repartee.Report

          • Avatar mark boggs in reply to Robert Cheeks
            Ignored
            says:

            There will be no calls to go fish yourself. As many others here have noted, it is the dialogue that makes us more human to each other, maybe a bit more understanding of another and not so prone to see people as merely their abhorrent ideas and attack them as such. Although, I admit to falling into that trap more often than I’d like.Report

          • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to Robert Cheeks
            Ignored
            says:

            > Pat: Yes, in high school and college.

            I’m assuming, but to clarify, did you have corresponding GRE’s in favor of the divine as well? How did you decide which one(s) were legitimate?

            I’m asking because the management of doubt among the believers takes different forms, and I find them all pretty interesting…Report

            • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Pat Cahalan
              Ignored
              says:

              Pat,
              Everyone has a ‘different’ exprssion or symbols for the metaleptic experience. As time and blogs develop we’ll discuss this.
              Re: the existence of God, we might look at Psalms where it says “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.” Voegelin tells us that ‘potentially’ (as in actuality and potentiality) man in his foolishness may turn away from the God who seeks him. This devolves into a contempt (look back over this thread, it’s telling), where the contempt grows to a point where our friends here have lost the ability to ‘contact the cosmic-divine reality.’

              In many ways the modern atheist has followed those Classical Greeks who similarly denied the “Gods” for similar reasons but in our case the phenomenon/the hope of the atheist/agnostic is grounded on the Sartean ‘moi’ or some form of similar existential folley….more later.Report

              • Avatar Heidegger in reply to Robert Cheeks
                Ignored
                says:

                Greetings Benevolent Bob! Are you by any chance, a jazz musician? Your words and thoughts have a very nice rhythm to them-a jazz riff, if you will. A most unatheistic ring to them which is always a refreshing change from the stodgy, dour, lifeless musings of atheists. I would bet that if you were to look closely at all the composers, musicians, artists, writers, poets,painters, by a very, very large margin, they would believe that God or that a Creator exists. Now just judging from the comments at this site, it’s not they just don’t believe in God, but they do so with such derision and condescension. Their words just ooze with contempt–and I’m sure their sneering facial expressions must be painful to behold. Sorry atheists, but the Theists have left you way, way back in the dust. And you’ll never, ever catch up. It is amusing to watch you try, though.

                These are words than an atheist could never write nor dream, nor feel. And Beethoven’s Ode to Joy could never have been composed by an atheist. You guys just ain’t got the rhythm of the soul to propel you into felicitous, cosmic ecstasy.

                Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood William Wordsworth

                THERE was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
                The earth, and every common sight,
                To me did seem
                Apparell’d in celestial light,
                The glory and the freshness of a dream.
                It is not now as it hath been of yore;—
                Turn wheresoe’er I may,
                By night or day,
                The things which I have seen I now can see no more.

                The rainbow comes and goes,
                And lovely is the rose;
                The moon doth with delight
                Look round her when the heavens are bare;
                Waters on a starry night
                Are beautiful and fair;
                The sunshine is a glorious birth;
                But yet I know, where’er I go,
                That there hath pass’d away a glory from the earth.

                Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
                The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
                Hath had elsewhere its setting,
                And cometh from afar:
                Not in entire forgetfulness,
                And not in utter nakedness,
                But trailing clouds of glory do we come
                From God, who is our home:
                Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

                What though the radiance which was once so bright
                Be now for ever taken from my sight,
                Though nothing can bring back the hour
                Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
                We will grieve not, rather find
                Strength in what remains behind;
                In the primal sympathy
                Which having been must ever be;
                In the soothing thoughts that spring
                Out of human suffering;

                Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
                Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,
                To me the meanest flower that blows can give
                Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.Report

              • Avatar mark boggs in reply to Heidegger
                Ignored
                says:

                Jesus Christ, Heidegger. That might be the most self-serving, self-fellating (along with a few strokes for Bob), condescending bit of fecal matter I’ve read in a year. But keep selling yourself on all that “Atheists are the real pricks” business. Kind of spoils any attempt at dialogue.Report

              • Avatar Heidegger in reply to mark boggs
                Ignored
                says:

                Lovely words, Mark. Just lovely. And to think I thought of you as a friend…goodness, what could I have been thinking? Do you really need to crawl around the gutter to find words that effectively express yourself? That’s sad. That being said, I still think you’re a pretty good guy but just wish you didn’t feel the need to so frequently kiss up to the some of these guys around this joint. You’re certainly capable of holding your own ground with anyone else around here. And PLEASE tell me you are not an atheist, too!Report

              • Avatar Heidegger in reply to mark boggs
                Ignored
                says:

                Mark, I forgot to add, I have absolutely no idea what you’re words mean. None. Maybe, if you have a few moments of free time, you can tell me. Thanks.Report

              • Avatar Heidegger in reply to Heidegger
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                says:

                Make that, “I have absolutely no idea what your words mean.”Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to mark boggs
                Ignored
                says:

                I understood Mr. Boggs quite well, and he has a point.

                On the other hand so does Mr. H—putting a Dour Meter or a Vitriol Detector on this discussion would validate his argument. [Indeed, Mt 7:6 wisely predicts that it is inevitable, and indeed how the entire discussion played out.]

                Mr. Boggs, this discussion was pretty much over after Rufus acknowledged there were some good points made but he has not as yet been moved by metaphysics or personal experience to theism, although he remains open to the possibility.

                The rest was fairly bloody awful. There is one fellow who reminds me of Billy Bob Thornton in The Apostle, seeming to be begging for a thrashing from Robert Duvall.

                But more and more it looks like a job for Jason Miller and Max von Sydow.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to tom van dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                I wasn’t trying to end the discussion- I hope it didn’t read that way. Just trying to explain why I can’t personally come down too solidly on one side or another. I prefer to leave the door open and see what happens, although I am probably much more open than most to the possibility that there is a Divine that just has no use for me personally.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to tom van dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                Not atall, Rufus. I found your reply entirely satisfactory. Admirable, not closing the “dialogue,” while signing off from it, as you felt you had no more to add.

                I should have followed your wise course. But that’s why I participate at this blog, to live and learn.

                The [Aristotelian] “God of the Philosophers”—that blind watchmaker, etc. who created this mess and then headed for Acapulco—has no use for you, or any of us. If there were to be a Square Two to this discussion—which there will not be, now—it would be to ask quid sit deus, why did you bother?

                Again, why is there something rather than nothing, why is there order instead of chaos, and man, who asks why.

                Your OP was inspiring because it returned not even to Socrates, but to the pre-Socratics. It is always good to start and then re-start from the beginning instead of working backwards from the end because so much was lost along the way. We don’t even know or remember where the beginning was.Report

              • Avatar mark boggs in reply to tom van dyke
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                says:

                No, Mr. Van Dyke, Mr. H’s point is that anyone who doesn’t revere God like he does couldn’t ever do anything worthwhile in this world and that believers are soooo much farther along than those of us with no deity of choice. Well, I’ve got two kids and a mother amongst others who could tell him whether or not I’m more than just an agnostic cosmic dust fart. His MMV. And I’ll tell what I think of his mileage when he gives it.

                I have no problem acknowledging the possibility of the existence of many, many things. One of them is the Christian God of the Old Testament. Another is the Christian God of the New Testament. Another is Hinduism’s polytheistic make-up. Another is Allah. I can imagine and entertain the possibility of all sorts of things. Have I come to the conclusion that these things are provable? No. Which is why I don’t consider myself an atheist because I don’t know for certain that they don’t exist anymore that anyone knows for certain that they do.

                And I can’t imagine it surprises anyone that those of us who do not fall squarely in the theists’ camp take a bit of umbrage by the kind of arrogant attitude that Heidegger displayed in his comments. Is that his Christian humility? I’m guessing theists bristle equally when the militant atheists tell all of them how screwed up they are and how their religions are evil.

                And Heidegger, if I agree with somebody, I agree with them, if I don’t, I don’t. Most everyone on here is twelve times smarter and more knowledgeable than I am so I try for the most part to remain hidden except those places where my sense of humor demands I say something worthless and snarky. But if I ever ask any of the commenters if they ever played third violin with the NY Philharmonic because their words ring of the kind of secular humanism I hear when I listen to the third chair violin in many of the pieces directed by Bernstein, then you’ll know I’m sucking up.

                By the way, I find myself incredibly moved by both “The Little Fugue” and “The Great Fugue” by Bach. There is something in those pieces that sears me at my core and I’m never sure why. But I could listen to them 100 times and everytime, at the exact same parts, the hair on my arms stands up. Is that God? Sure, why not. Does it matter?Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to tom van dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                Ok, Mr. Boggs. The Vitriol Meter is on tilt. Our work is done here. We’ll pick it up next time.Report

              • Avatar Heidegger in reply to mark boggs
                Ignored
                says:

                Yes, Mark–it IS God! The little fugue in g minor and the Great Fugue in g minor–to have such a physical and spiritual reaction is awe inspiring and I’m very happy that music moves you so deeply. It’s great that you play the piano and doubly great that you expose your children to such beautiful music–they’ll be rewarded for a lifetime, thanks to you.

                Be well, MarkReport

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to mark boggs
                Ignored
                says:

                Mark, I love ya dude.
                Take a few breaths, sometimes these ‘arguments’ deteriorate quickly once we recognize that, sadly, many of our atheist/agnostic friends, like commie-Dems, assume a position of ‘contempt,’ which I’ve mentioned above and you’ve expertly illlustrated.
                It’s an interesting phenomenon and I’d love one of our bloggers/interlocutors to analysis that in a blog.

                For me the ‘believer’ is following the U.S. Army adage to ‘be all you can be,’ though I may take issue with certain doctrines and then there’s always the argument over ‘experience.’
                Our athiest/agnostic friends have, for what-ever-reason, embraced a closed system that limits their ability to achieve spiritual fullfilment as a human, e.g. they purposfully truncate the tension of existence and explicate it as an immanentism that is moving toward a salvific parousiasm …what Voegelin saw as modernity’s very special surprise, a parousiastic gnosticism.Report

              • Avatar mark boggs in reply to Robert Cheeks
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                says:

                once we recognize that, sadly, many of our atheist/agnostic friends, like commie-Dems, assume a position of ‘contempt,’ which I’ve mentioned above and you’ve expertly illlustrated.

                Yeah, there was no contempt in Mr. Heidegger’s ledger book comment about how sad and pathetic us loser non-theists are.

                Our athiest/agnostic friends have, for what-ever-reason, embraced a closed system that limits their ability to achieve spiritual fullfilment as a human

                And certainly no arrogance or smugness in that, Bob.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Robert Cheeks
                Ignored
                says:

                Mark, let’s strive to be cheerful and upbeat on the subject no matter how grating it may be.

                Theists, with their rich cultural history regarding the sublime nous are of course going to assume that anyone not participating in it will be benighted and left out.

                Atheists with their clear sighted rationality should accept that people who can easily internalize the concept of Jehovah looking down from the sky and Jesus looking up from a taco/grilled cheese sandwich will have absolutely no difficulty looking at an atheist and hallucinating that they’re miserable and wretched.Report

              • Avatar RTod in reply to Robert Cheeks
                Ignored
                says:

                “sadly, many of our atheist/agnostic friends, like commie-Dems, assume a position of ‘contempt,’

                Bob –

                This is of course correct, but I think you will admit that this is a human issue and not simply a non-believer issue. Wherever there are disagreements on a Big Issue, there are always those on all sides that look on others with contempt. We just tend to notice it more when it’s directed at us. (As an aside, I would caution anyone against extrapolating an entire community’s disposition from what you find in blogging comment sections.)

                I understand that from where you sit, we agnostics/atheists are missing out on something Great, and in some existential way are unhappy and/or unsatisfied. And that’s cool. That we are missing out on something that you see/feel seems self-evident. One of the things I love most about my wife is her faith. But I just don’t share her ability to believe. It might well be that I’m just hardwired differently.

                But I would like to challenge you to try taking we non-believers at our word when we say that some of us are happy and joyful, some are sad and rudderless, and some are not quite either – just like people of faith. I can’t deny that you’re smarter than I am – you certainly know many words that I have to look up – and it also appears you’ve read far more than I have about why people like me believe what we do, and how we feel about things. But with all due respect, I’m going to go with what I know about me as the indicator for how I feel/what I think/how happy I am; brilliant Germans are just going to have to take the back seat in this one instance. If you or Tom or whoever say “you’re unhappy and/or hate life” and I say no I don’t and you point to some philosopher’s writing or Socratic line of reasoning and say “well, this person says you are – and he’s quite smart!” What am I supposed to do with that kind of argument?Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Robert Cheeks
                Ignored
                says:

                Hey, leave me out of this. I don’t do soteriology. I hope all dogs go to heaven, and if there is one, it’s not up to me or any man.

                As for “despair,” it’s simply recognizing man’s existential crisis—meaning, mortality. You can be an atheist like Sartre and still see it. If folks in the prime of life [we assume in reasonably good health] insist they’re happy and bubbly ignoring it, I suppose they are, for now.

                But they sure are crabby in their insistence, which reads more like protesting too much.

                I’m more inclined to believe Nietzsche was happy, who at least stared into the abyss and thumbed his nose at it. [Although Nietzsche was pretty crabby, too.]Report

              • Avatar RTod in reply to Robert Cheeks
                Ignored
                says:

                Tom: “Hey, leave me out of this.”

                Dude, my bad. Apologies.Report

      • Avatar ppnl in reply to Robert Cheeks
        Ignored
        says:

        But peanut butter would be blasphemy. It is only through the consumption of cold meatball sandwiches at midnight that one is touched by His Noodley Appendage. It is really sad how many people can dismiss the experience in the light of day as merely existential angst.Report

  14. Avatar Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    Funny thing. The same same people who tell me how they aren’t really fans of big corporations want to let them buy elections.

    Really?

    I’d think that they’d be more likely to tell you that they don’t want the government censoring political speech. They’d probably even say something like “I wouldn’t want Dubya, Cheney, the Republican Congress, and the Republican Senate picking and choosing who ought to be prevented from buying an ad, printing a book, or showing a movie before an election.”

    They might even point to the Supreme Court transcript where the so-called “Liberal” justices discussed whether it’d be appropriate to ban books before an election.

    Out of curiosity, are *YOU* a fan of the government banning books? Is such a question something that completely misrepresents your position?Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      Citizens United could have (and should have) decided that one without giving corporate management a license to spend other people’s money to buy elections.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        It’s kinda funny how the oral argument focused on the government’s Constitutional power to prevent books from being downloaded to a Kindle as well then, huh?

        Wanna read a quotation from Souter?

        JUSTICE SOUTER: We’re — we’re talking about how far the constitutional ban could go, and we’re talking about books.

        Don’t take it from me! Read it yourself:

        supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/argument_transcripts/08-205.pdf

        Read the whole thing, a lot is said, and there’s a lot of jumping around, walking back, and the part of the decision that you care most about was decided 5-4… but that’s a pretty telling question from Souter, no?

        Playing the game of “well, they could have been more restrictive of speech without being particularly unconstitutional” is not exactly setting my world on fire.

        Because, you may remember, they were talking about banning books.

        Any time such things get brought up in a Supreme Courtroom, I’m pretty glad that the side arguing for censorship gets slapped down.Report

  15. Avatar Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    many of our atheist/agnostic friends, like commie-Dems, assume a position of ‘contempt,’ which I’ve mentioned above and you’ve expertly illlustrated.

    Bob, I’m not going to apologize or excuse this behavior, but I would like to explain it.

    For a handful of reasons, the bliss of heaven and the torment of hellfire come across as threats. I’m sure you don’t intend them as one… but that’s how they come across. In addition to that, a large number of the people who talk about heaven and hell aren’t very subtle or nuanced about it. The way they talk about such things makes it *VERY* easy to come to the conclusion that it’s based on nothing more than group identity. On top of that, any interaction with these people leaves a particularly unpleasant taste in one’s mouth.

    This taste is remembered in future conversations.

    So if one is having a perfectly genial conversation with a theist and says something to the effect of “I am still not convinced” and the theist says something to the effect of “well, now that I’ve done my part, it’s not like *I* will have to face the consequences of your decision” (a perfectly true statement!), this comes across like a slap in the face to the listener.

    Now you have reminded him (or her, I suppose) of the conversation they had with the Clumsy Christian who just yelled about Hell as if he enjoyed the thought of seeing folks who disagreed with him squirming… and now you have the same association in the head of the person you’re arguing with.

    You’re arguing with a person who associates your arguments with being threatened.Report

    • Avatar mark boggs in reply to Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      I’m not even sure how much of that there is for me, Jaybird. I could certainly retort with, “Well, you’re all just gonna end up 6 feet under in a decomposed mess when you die.” But I don’t know that for sure, so I refrain.

      It has more to do with the assumption on their part, as Bob so expertly illustrated, that they’ve got all the knowledge about how unfulfilled and spiritually dysfunctional folks are who haven’t come to the same conclusions as them. But then they get to be all offended when someone points out that they sound rather presumptuous and arrogant about who I am as a sad, lonely, despair-ridden doubter.

      And then I get to be the uncivil one.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to mark boggs
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        says:

        It has more to do with the assumption on their part, as Bob so expertly illustrated, that they’ve got all the knowledge about how unfulfilled and spiritually dysfunctional folks are who haven’t come to the same conclusions as them. But then they get to be all offended when someone points out that they sound rather presumptuous and arrogant about who I am as a sad, lonely, despair-ridden doubter.

        You are surprised that they take this attitude? Offended?Report

        • Avatar mark boggs in reply to Jaybird
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          says:

          No, I guess in my more cynical moments, I’m not surprised. But we spend half the thread trying to discuss the issue with the understanding that we may have, at this time, reached different conclusions about the state of the universe, but we are all still rather perplexed by it, and then somebody comes along and drops the whole, “you atheists are soo far behind us theists and you could never be productive members of society”. It leads me to, well…despair. ; )Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      Where Bob is mistaken is in his belief that it is only the atheists/agnostics who “assume a position of ‘contempt.’” Tom and Bob (to say nothing of Heidegger), our resident defenders of faith, have shown little more than contempt. In fact, Bob’s whole shtick is based on contempt – contempt for the President, contempt for liberals/Democrats, contempt for the secular, contempt for just about anyone who thinks differently than he. It’s not surprising that we’ve all, to some extent, “assume[d] a position of ‘contempt’” in a discussion about something that tends to be as important as religion is in people’s lives (even the lives of many atheists), but Bob is clearly blind to the fact that he is riddled with contempt, and that it oozes from virtually every word he utters on this blog.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Chris
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        says:

        Yes, as an agnostic squish I can see that.
        But at this point I feel like the conversation is devolving into a he said/she said argument mixed in with a debate over wording and tone. I think the theists and atheists have both given as well as they’ve gotten in this thread and it’s been a good discussion (if feelings are running this high then it’s definitely been a good discussion) even if the positions haven’t moved much.

        I am beginning to wonder, though, whether we have now collectively plumed the full extent of the potential productive discourse at least for the current comment threads.Report

      • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Chris
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        says:

        Chris, as I said to JB, ‘contempt’ is my choice of words to symbolize the state of ‘alienation’ you guys choose to exist in. Please feel free to choose another word for me.
        Also, I do believe that you are far and away the finest example of a person we can identify on this site as one captured by the ‘climate of opinion.’ If what you said to me is true, you’ve read deeply in various and sundry philosophies and can iterate clearly whatever argument you chose. Yet, you appear not to understand that you are not engaging in philosophy rather defending the current accepted preachments of derailed thinkers.
        You are not seeking the truth of reality and as such you have allowed your teachers, mentors, and whoever to begin the process of deforming your nature by submersing you in the dominant opinions of the day. Now, among some of our friends here, I can understand the phenomenon being successful, because they are not interested in analyizing fundamental questions of Truth, Reason, Reality but you’ve indicated that you do have an interest in being a philosopher.
        However, as I said to JB, it’s your choice and I really have no problem if you continue to live a purposefully failed existence. But know this, for the rest of your life, my rather blunt analysis of your psyche is going to quietly gnaw at the back of your mind like the earwig in the Twilight Zone story.
        I’m here to hep.Report

        • Avatar RTod in reply to Robert Cheeks
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          says:

          Will there be a time in the future when he finally rids himself of your analysis, and is feeling great, and then is told by his doctor: “We have bad news. Bob’s analysis was female. It laid eggs!”Report

        • Avatar Chris in reply to Robert Cheeks
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          says:

          Bob, I wonder if you could point to which current preachments I’ve defended here. I’ve mentioned stuff I’ve read and liked, none of which are particularly popular these days, at least not among the atheists I know, or even among the people in my field. Or hell, in some cases, much of anyone. Of course, I haven’t even attempted to engage in philosophy here, either, so there’s that. At most, I’ve simply pointed out that you haven’t attempt to engage in any either. You’re simply parroting ideas, without any hint that you might understand how they’re relevant today, much less any argument about why we should take anything you say seriously. You argue by mere assertion, and it’s not clear that your arguments, or assertions, are ever relevant to anything anyone says here. Case in point, what you just said about me.

          I will, however, be interested in learning what you think I think about the world, given that you’re so familiar with these modern ways of thinking, and you know exactly which ones I’m defending.

          I know, of course, that pointing this out and demanding actual evidence or agument won’t affect your behavior in any way. You’ll avoid explanation (as you have on this thread: see, e.g., Gnostic distortion), you’ll throw around concepts it’s not clear you understand or know how we’re supposed to understand your use of them, tell everyone how misguided they are as a result of intellectual and historical forces that only you (or Voegelin) are aware of, use insulting labels for ideas and positions with which you disagree, and pretend that, at the same time you’re posturing yourself as above all of this, you’re really just a humble guy out here trying to learn. Whatever gets you through the day, I guess.Report

          • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Chris
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            says:

            Chris, I love ya dude.
            First, you wanna tell I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, and that I run around mouthing, almost coherently, Voegelinianisms (rather a lout as it were), then you ball up in the fetal position and spew out a story a cynic might argue was little more than a cry for hep! Now, how should I deal with what appears as a true moment of a fellow human seeking, searching, questing?
            And, you want me to prove your ‘modern’ inclinations….as you provide an example of rather typical behavior for an intelligent human psyche surpressed by a excellent example of Hegel’s ‘alienation’ in modernity.
            Consequently, you fascinate me and I do hope, and consider this a request from a hostile interlocutor, that you might put your obvious talents to work in writing a blog concerning any matter you’d care to write on.Report

            • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Robert Cheeks
              Ignored
              says:

              Chris, one more thing: Given your ‘field’ do you know Mr. Sutherland at Imprint Academic. I occasionally review his books for him.Report

            • Avatar Chris in reply to Robert Cheeks
              Ignored
              says:

              Bob, oh, all I’m trying to do with both of those comments is show that you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about: notice how you can’t even provide examples of assertions you’ve made about things I’ve said in this thread; that’s some shit, man, that’s some shit. Second, it wasn’t a cry for help. It was to point out that I’m not exactly a preacher for the fad of the day. In fact, among such preachers I’m a bit of a pariah. But I suppose I shouldn’t expect you to understand the written word any more than you need to understand it to quote it out of context and without attribution.

              Also, while I know Imprint Academic, or at least a couple of their journals (one of which I check with each new issue), the name Sutherland is not familiar.Report

              • Avatar Heidegger in reply to Chris
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                says:

                Chris, what is it that compels you to be such a prick? Are your haughty, narcissistic delusions so grandiose, that you feel it is your duty to let the world know that “I am Chris, the most brilliant freaking guy on this godforsaken planet! and don’t you ever forget it you worthless slime ball imbeciles!”Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Heidegger
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                says:

                Heidegger, I get that this conversation is a bit heated and emotions run high on these topics. But I fail to see how your comment adds anything other than invective to the conversation. Maybe you should let Bob and Chris hash this out between themselves.Report

              • Avatar Heidegger in reply to Rufus F.
                Ignored
                says:

                Agreed, Rufus. And my sincere apologies. I try to keep my comments on the level, and free of personal insults, but my anger got the best of me. Sometimes Chris’s unrelenting surliness just hits a raw nerve. It’s not for a moment that I question his considerable intelligence, it’s just that it’s all too frequently used to ridicule and mock the poor soul who has the temerity to disagree with him. And nothing gets him off more than making someone look stupid. Every other inch of him is a gentleman.

                In the meantime (this won’t be easy), I’ll stay on the sidelines regarding conversations at the LoOG
                Thanks. Das tut mir Leid!Report

        • Avatar Chris in reply to Robert Cheeks
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          says:

          One more thing, Bob. You may find this odd, perhaps surprising, but among atheists, I’m fairly tame when it comes to religion and the religious. I don’t see religion as mere fairy tale, I don’t think believers are just deluded, at least not any more than the rest of us are, and I have a genuine respect for honest belief.

          I used to write a blog of my own, mostly about cognitive science (my field; I suppose it’s a Gnostic distortion of classical Greek and Augustinian psychology to you), but I also delved into issues of religion and atheism now and then. This was partly because I’ve done research in the psychology of religion from a cognitive perspective, and partly because as someone who became an atheist, it’s something that has been a fairly big issue in my life (in dealing with family and friends, dating, etc.). However, as someone who came to atheism not through finally understanding the truth of evolution and general relativity, I’ve tended to be much less enamored with the “New Atheism” that’s arisen in the last 5-10 years. In fact, I find it intellectually, politically, hell even scientifically disturbing on many different levels. It’s a big friggin’ mess, to put it mildly. So from very early on, I publicly argued against their more intemperate claims about religion and the religious. As a result, I became sort of anathema on the very site (ScienceBlogs.com) that I was blogging on, I was frequently compared to a man wildly considered to have let Hitler run amok, I was insulted publicly and privately by fellow atheist bloggers, and had their sycophantic commenting hoards sicked on me on multiple occasions, often simply for saying that things were more complicated than they appeared and that respect was important. I suppose I wasn’t defending the current preachments of derailed thinkers strongly enough, eh?Report

    • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      JB, you make some excellent point about why theists/anti-theists probably shouldn’t engage in the conversation. I believe I said on one of these threads that it wasn’t possible to have a conversation because of the disparate grounds upon which they are established.
      Re: the matter of impolitness you might want to go over the above thread for examples of insulting comments and do a bit of tallying. My current computer problems prohibit me from do so.
      I used the term ‘contempt’ first and for a reason and will not cede it to youns. I have a bad habit of enjoying tweeking the nose of the self-righteous librul, immanenist, secularist ‘free thinkers’ and I probably won’t quite that anytime soon, for better or worse.
      Any argument between a theist/non-theist is by, definition, going to make the non-theist, uncomfortable, at best. It will also make the theist appear self-righteous, if he isn’t already. That’s why I always qualify my remarks with some reference ot my ‘flaws.’ However, one of my ‘flaws’ as a Christian/ a believer in the Logos, is that I don’t think heaven’s going to be over crowed; I don’t think there’s going to be a housing shortage anytime soon and consequently I don’t experience an emotional or spiritual angst when one of my specie disagrees with me. My response is sort of a “Oh, ok.”
      I’ve made my claim, it’s been rejected (oft times vociferously and blasphemously) and I can do no more. It works for me.
      I think it has to do with my opinion of the condition of modernity…it is what it is and that is that philosophy has been obscured by a “dialectics of a self-reflective alienated consciousness.”Report

      • Avatar ThatPirateGuy in reply to Robert Cheeks
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        says:

        shorter bob: I’ll have fun watching you burn in hell sinners.Report

      • Avatar Francis in reply to Robert Cheeks
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        says:

        Any argument between a theist/non-theist is by, definition, going to make the non-theist, uncomfortable, at best.

        No, it doesn’t. If I register any emotion at all in these arguments any more, it’s plain old contempt. If you need a magic sky fairy to get you through the day, that’s a pathetic weakness on your part, and your need to inculcate this weakness in the young is contemptible.Report

        • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Francis
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          says:

          Francis, thank you for this. And, whatever your shortcomings, I admire your consistency and your honesty. It’s refreshing.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Francis
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          says:

          When I read these things, I imagine them said to other religions at the same time.

          Islam, for example. Are the vast majority of Middle-Easterners pathetically weak?

          Shinto has a subset of folks that burn incense for their ancestors. Pathetic? Weak?

          Given that the vast majority of human history has been theistic to some degree (and that there are a huge number of theists among the past, present, and future contributors to this site), are all of these people pathetically weak?

          Because that’s pretty goddamn self-congratulatory right there.

          To the point where I’m wondering what is going on behind the scenes that you would write that unironically.Report

          • Avatar Francis in reply to Jaybird
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            says:

            1. For most of human history, people had no understanding of the universe around them. Not surprising that they invented gods.

            2. Religion, tribalism, custom and politics gets blended together all the time. But I can have fond memories of dead relatives and still believe that they’re just dead at the same time. Is lighting incense remembering them, or is it giving something good to smell? The first is a perfectly normal act; the second ridiculous despite what the OT or any other religious book says.

            3. I keep waiting for theists to explain why religion is more than a belief in a magic sky fairy. As has been pointed out in many places, theists are atheistic about every single god in the history of humankind, except one. Atheists just add the last. What, precisely, do Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and worshippers of the ancient Greek pantheon have in common? (no, don’t tell me that I need to read a bunch of theology. If you can’t explain it, you don’t understand it.)

            So, for people like Bob whose contempt oozes from every pore, I feel contempt in return. I think of the lives ruined by child rape, of lives lost due to false teaching about AIDS, of lives diminished by teachings of women’s inferiority, and I’m just saddened. What an incredible waste of human potential.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Francis
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              says:

              None of those answers are answers to the questions I asked.

              I keep waiting for theists to explain why religion is more than a belief in a magic sky fairy.

              I’m an atheist and I can answer that one.
              Religion is culture, it’s shared history, and it’s a tool for social cohesion. Additionally, religion provides a vocabulary for a great many moral intuitions.

              It’s more than a belief in a magic sky fairy.

              What, precisely, do Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and worshippers of the ancient Greek pantheon have in common?

              All of them are dualists.

              Buddhism and Christianity are fertile ground for a compare/contrast when it comes to their metaphysical takes on existence. But that’s a different essay entirely.

              So, for people like Bob whose contempt oozes from every pore, I feel contempt in return.

              Fair enough. I try to be better than Christians, myself.

              One would think that they’d be distressed by how easy this is.

              I think of the lives ruined by child rape, of lives lost due to false teaching about AIDS, of lives diminished by teachings of women’s inferiority, and I’m just saddened. What an incredible waste of human potential.

              Religion has also been instrumental in such things as child welfare (orphanages, etc), hospital creation, personhood for women, and a handful of other things.

              Again, I’m wondering what is going on behind the scenes that you would write that unironically.Report

            • Avatar mark boggs in reply to Francis
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              says:

              I think of the lives ruined by child rape, of lives lost due to false teaching about AIDS, of lives diminished by teachings of women’s inferiority, and I’m just saddened. What an incredible waste of human potential.

              But doesn’t this conflate God with religion? I’ll agree that man has done some horrific things over the course of history. Some have used religion and a belief that this is what God wants them to do in order to justify doing the things they do. Some people use perceived slights to commit acts of violence and depravity. And some, religious or not, just like to have sex with kids.

              I think hostility towards religion (and more often, the religious) has its place, especially when confronted with the attitude that, to not know or have come to a different conclusion, means all sorts of things about you, e.g., you’re full of despair, you can’t confront your own mortality, you’ll never be as wonderful as Bach, but I think this gets jumbled with a hostility towards the idea of God itself.

              Sure, it doesn’t sound very likely to me that a God (in the way that most major religoins have him figured down to the very jot and tittle of requirements and rules) exists. But I don’t know. None of us do. For sure. No matter how much contempt is displayed.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Robert Cheeks
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        says:

        JB, you make some excellent point about why theists/anti-theists probably shouldn’t engage in the conversation.

        No, I’m not saying that they shouldn’t engage in the conversation. I think it’s important that they do. But I also think that it’s important that you understand why hostility may come up out of what seems to you to be nowhere when, to the other guy, he feels that “you started it”.

        To be sure, there are a lot of post-theists who can’t talk about the god they don’t believe in without sounding like a survivor of a horribly acrimonious divorce. You eventually want to tell these people “if you spend all of your time thinking and talking about her, maybe you should get back together.”

        I believe I said on one of these threads that it wasn’t possible to have a conversation because of the disparate grounds upon which they are established.

        That’s *WHY* it’s important to hammer this stuff out. The ground is more common than you think. One man’s modus tollens is another man’s modus ponens. There is a *LOT* of common ground there!

        Re: the matter of impolitness you might want to go over the above thread for examples of insulting comments and do a bit of tallying. My current computer problems prohibit me from do so

        Bob, I’m not trying to excuse or apologize for anybody’s behavior. I am, however, trying to explain it.

        I used the term ‘contempt’ first and for a reason and will not cede it to youns. I have a bad habit of enjoying tweeking the nose of the self-righteous librul, immanenist, secularist ‘free thinkers’ and I probably won’t quite that anytime soon, for better or worse.

        I’m not asking you to stop. I’m sure you’ve noticed that tweaking noses is also a hobby of mine. I’ve also experienced a delightfully ad hominem rant or two in response to a tweak that I thought was a lot less rage-worthy than it ended up being in practice.

        The one thing I shouldn’t do in those responses is assume that the other person is being way more of a jerk than necessary in response to my tweaking.

        Tweaking is being jerky, you know. You shouldn’t be surprised when people are jerky *BACK*.

        And, when it comes to this particular conversation, there is a *LOT* of buried history for each individual. It ceases to be about the other person as an individual and starts being about how the other person represents every single opponent one has had in this conversation. So the atheist is grouped in with the anti-theist who gets a kick out of telling blasphemous jokes and the theist is grouped in with the uptight Nazarenes, the Southern Babtists, and the besotted Irish idolators.

        And it stops being a conversation between two individuals and it’s two sides all over again and both people cease themselves to be individuals and start playing the same old roles that they always play in this particular conversation.

        Any argument between a theist/non-theist is by, definition, going to make the non-theist, uncomfortable, at best. It will also make the theist appear self-righteous, if he isn’t already. That’s why I always qualify my remarks with some reference ot my ‘flaws.’ However, one of my ‘flaws’ as a Christian/ a believer in the Logos, is that I don’t think heaven’s going to be over crowed; I don’t think there’s going to be a housing shortage anytime soon and consequently I don’t experience an emotional or spiritual angst when one of my specie disagrees with me. My response is sort of a “Oh, ok.”

        That makes sense to me. In my reading of the Gospels and the Pauline letters, I suspect very much that you are right. (Well, assuming your premises to be true, of course.)

        I’ve made my claim, it’s been rejected (oft times vociferously and blasphemously) and I can do no more. It works for me.

        And that’s fine. But I would warn you against seeing yourself as the good son from the Prodigal Son story and, more importantly, acting like him. Assuming your premises, I suspect that there are folks out there who don’t want to come back home… not because they don’t want to see their Father, but because they don’t want to have to deal with their brothers.

        I think it has to do with my opinion of the condition of modernity…it is what it is and that is that philosophy has been obscured by a “dialectics of a self-reflective alienated consciousness.”

        I don’t think it has to be a dialectic, though. A lot of the post-theists out there are post-theist because of the damage that has been done to them. Attempts to nurse would bear a lot more fruit than taking the other side of the dialectic.

        One knows a tree by its fruit, after all.Report

        • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Jaybird
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          says:

          I do apologize for my delay in responding; the commies at AT&T are trying their damnedest to keep me off the internet; I understand Barry has ordered a ‘black bag’ job on my connections; an ugly bidness, indeed. I can not, hardly, navigate this or any other site that I land on, so bad is the problem.

          Thanks JB, as usual an analysis worth studying on. And, I see our ‘separation’ as one of seconds not minutes.
          Let me re-iterate my ‘flawed’ condition and confess that it lies with the second part of the great commandment wherein I admit to equivocating on ‘loving my fellow man.’ And, quite happily admit in that sense you may very well be a better ‘Christian’ than I. However, in another sense I am fascinated with people and their various and sundry pathologies where Chris happily adds another category of what I’ll generously subscribe to the ‘morbi animorum'(diseases of the mind) caused by twisted opinions (pravarum opinionum conturbatio) and you’ll find the above in Cicero’s ‘Tusculan Disputations.’

          This is excellent:
          “And that’s fine. But I would warn you against seeing yourself as the good son from the Prodigal Son story and, more importantly, acting like him. Assuming your premises, I suspect that there are folks out there who don’t want to come back home… not because they don’t want to see their Father, but because they don’t want to have to deal with their brothers.”

          The idea of being the ‘good’ son isn’t in my pneumatic quiver, at least as much as I can understand myself. I’ve seen some really serious drug addicts, in my church and in the past ten years, ‘come to the Lord’ and now hold jobs, work in the church and community and in a number of occasion married and begun to raise children. And, I did what I could, and admittedly I could have done more, to welcome, hep, encourage, and sometimes listen to drug/alcoholic conversations that mirrored the addlepated commentary of Jared Loughner(sp) and Chris.
          No, I don’t see myself as ‘righteous’ rather a sinner, nor the ‘good son,’ rather a weak and callow fellow. Is it that you see me as that pretentious?

          JB, I have no desire to puff you up, no desire at all, but I do consider you one of the sharper knives in this drawer and I read closely you comments and sometimes understand where you’re coming from. Re: this I don’t think you’re right:

          “That’s *WHY* it’s important to hammer this stuff out. The ground is more common than you think. One man’s modus tollens is another man’s modus ponens. There is a *LOT* of common ground there!”

          JB, hold up, Miss Martha has a comment:
          Our common ground is our humanity (fallen seperated from God) Who in His mercy provided for our reconciliation. Sadly you are correct, I think, that many people have a problem with their “brothers”. That still leaves us without excuse. Not only are we (Christians) commanded to love our brothers, we are commanded to love our enemies.

          With that said, don’t you think that both sides theistic/anti-theistic are very familiar with each other positions to the point of redundancy? Or is there some ‘word’ that can be said to convince the Christian that Christ is not the Logos, or conversely that atheism is an unnatural perversion of human nature?
          Interestingly, the wife had another comment for you re: “prevenient” grace though I can’t get her to explain. I think it’s the theological position that God allows sufficient grace for the non-believer to ‘see’ the truth of the Word, though I’m not sure?
          Also, she’s much more sympathetic re: the “damage done to post-theists” than I am (how, for example, is an internet ‘comment’ supposed to address spiritual damage, if the damage isn’t revealed?). And, yes, I may be wrong about that. She says you sound very Orthodox in the sense of ‘reconcilliation’ as oppossed to the Evangelical ‘justification.’

          I’ll try to answer anyone’s comments but I’m really having trouble, so I may be delayed. BTW, it’s the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade: Vote Democrat, butcher 53,000,000 babies!Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Robert Cheeks
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            says:

            You don’t strike me as particularly pretentious at all. The problem comes when you act as if there were no such thing as a Holy Spirit it does a great deal to re-enforce the suspicion that there is no such thing as a Holy Spirit.

            With that said, don’t you think that both sides theistic/anti-theistic are very familiar with each other positions to the point of redundancy?

            No, not really. I think that many theists have no concept of atheism and what it entails (imagine a theist saying “I can’t imagine how or why atheists get out of bed in the morning!” or similar… maybe “I’d be so full of despair!” or something like that).

            Lemme tell ya, despair isn’t necessarily linked with atheism.

            And, sure, atheists (and certainly anti-theists) demonstrate a *LOT* of misunderstanding the theistic position (a reference to “sky fairies” says more about the speaker than about theists).

            This is why it’s important to hammer this stuff out.

            It’s also why I bug Christians to act like Christians.

            Or is there some ‘word’ that can be said to convince the Christian that Christ is not the Logos, or conversely that atheism is an unnatural perversion of human nature?

            From my perspective, these are all matters of taste and disagreements are not of a moral nature until people start getting stabby with each other. The ‘word’ that I’d tell both sides to convince them of the thing that I see as most important is “Peace”. If I were feeling feisty, I may even add a “be still”.

            Interestingly, the wife had another comment for you re: “prevenient” grace though I can’t get her to explain. I think it’s the theological position that God allows sufficient grace for the non-believer to ‘see’ the truth of the Word, though I’m not sure?

            The Methodists, when given the choice between explaining things and not explaining things, tend to choose not explaining them. This is why their sermons are 7 minutes long. I suspect it’s because they want to get to the diner before the Babtists.

            Also, she’s much more sympathetic re: the “damage done to post-theists” than I am (how, for example, is an internet ‘comment’ supposed to address spiritual damage, if the damage isn’t revealed?). And, yes, I may be wrong about that. She says you sound very Orthodox in the sense of ‘reconcilliation’ as oppossed to the Evangelical ‘justification.’

            I get that a lot. I spent a great deal of time in my youth reading the parables (and devoured them… when I first discovered that there was a Gospel of Thomas with a handful of new parables, I crowed). Jesus hammers, over and over again, on the importance of finding what was lost and the joy the God feels when He finds us again. He saves his ire for those who use God’s name in vain. This makes sense to me. I think that more folks should focus on it.

            But, hey, I don’t really dig on telling folks how to live.Report

            • Avatar Heidegger in reply to Jaybird
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              says:

              That was beautiful, Jaybird. Beautiful words, beautiful sentiments. Are you sure you’re an atheist?! (Just teasing)
              Something about this subject just makes me go completely off the rails–I just told Rufus I wouldn’t comment any more and here I am, commenting more! I’d love to know what this “sky fairies” remark was about. Is that what Christianity is now reduced to? Pathetic weakness and sky fairies? I’d suggest this fellow go immediately to the nearest art museum and check out the Flemish art section. And in particular, Flemish art in the 14th and 15th centuries. The heartbreaking depictions of Christ’s Crucifixion. And Rembrandt’s depictions of Christ’s Passion, Crucifixion, and Resurrection. He painted over 300 pieces of art, all inspired from different stories from the Bible, both Old Testament and New Testament. Or check out the gorgeous churches and cathedrals–absolute architectural masterpieces. Or, for that matter, listen to Bach–every piece of music he wrote was inscribed, with, “Soli Deo Gloria”. To God, all the glory! This is pathetic weakness? Sky fairies? It’s this flippant dismissal and mockery of Christianity that is so pathetic, and sad.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Heidegger
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                says:

                Would you like to know how it’s come to this?

                For the most part I’d have to say that everybody knows a tree by its fruit.

                When it comes to marriage and divorce, the numbers for Christians are indistinguishable from the numbers for the unchurched (and, I believe, are growing worse).

                When it comes to “family values” politicians and evangelists, it seems that every month a new one is found to be spectacularly kinky.

                And when it comes to the internet, Christians treat the theism argument like it’s an argument about the Chiefs vs. the Broncos. Or like the argument was a few years back. Back when we had a real quarterback. And a real coach. A real playbook. Anyway.

                If Christians acted like the stuff was real, they wouldn’t be mocked for it being so obviously false. At the very least, there would be a lot fewer folks wounded by Christianity and reacting to it like a hated ex-spouse.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Really, JB, your critique of Christian remarks on the ‘comment’ section of sundry blogs, your efforts at reductionism, sounds very much like an effort to turn away from personal responsibility. As you said, we’re all carrying a little baggage here. Maybe it’s time to take a look. This bit about ‘brothers’ offending the tender sensibilities thereof seems more of a way to avoid personal responsibility/accountability for turning away from God.

                “If Christians acted like the stuff was real, they wouldn’t be mocked for it being so obviously false.”
                Really! And who on this thread would you point at as being a Christian who didn’t believe that Christ was the Son of God? Me, Tom, Heiddegger, RTod…who? Dude, if you’re really into what you’ve written, you are spending a hell of a lot of time judging.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Robert Cheeks
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                says:

                For the record, my personal religious beliefs are not on the table at this blog, and pretty much nowhere else on the internet either. There’s a time and place for everything, and this ain’t it.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to tom van dyke
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                says:

                Tom, I apologize for inferring that you were a Christian.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to tom van dyke
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                says:

                Bob, personalization made it impossible for you to discuss Voegelin, which you clearly wanted to do.

                Some folks are still upset about “despair,” even though Sartre, an atheist, had a similar riff. I say if folks don’t like it, they should write Kierkegaard a letter.

                Me, I’m not the least bit upset by Nietzsche; I get a kick out of him. As I’m fond of saying, he’s always right, which leads us…nowhere.

                You played a little dirty by seeking to oblige this correspondent into affirming or rejecting Christ. What I’m saying is that tactic closes the door to productive discussion, and opens it to all sorts of things that are better addressed by preachers or therapists.

                As we have seen. 😉Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Robert Cheeks
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                says:

                And who on this thread would you point at as being a Christian who didn’t believe that Christ was the Son of God?

                Bob, if people believed that Christ was the Son of God, they would act like Christ was the Son of God.

                I’m sure that you would agree that Knowledge changes a person and once certain things are believed and absorbed, you can’t go back to the way things once were… right?

                My own take is that there probably isn’t a God. I look out there and don’t see anything, more’s the pity. The Christians I know pretty much all act as if religion is a cultural phenomenon that’s very good for social cohesion… but not as if it was something representative of the universe’s true nature.

                I honestly see no reason to come to any conclusion but the one I have.

                But, and let me restate this: I’m not saying that you need to change. I’m just saying why I’m not going to change.Report

              • Avatar Heidegger in reply to Robert Cheeks
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                says:

                Uh-oh Bob. Our quartet has just been cut by a quarter which means we are now a trio on the LoOP. I’m really not sure where RTod stands on the God, Brahma, Krishna, Buddha, Allah, whatever, issue. He may also want to abandon ship, if in fact he was ever on it to begin with. He has great potential though, I think. So does Chris, although he’s one very tough nut to crack. I’m not even sure waterboarding would be effective, but it’s certainly worth a try, assuming he’d be willing to give it whirl. If that particular intervention gives him the willies, there is always electro shock/convulsive therapy which can be extremely effective. We can light him up like Uncle Fester on the Addams Family. The good thing about ECT, as it would relate to Chris, is that under extremely high voltage, it can seriously affect one’s memory to the point that he’ll he’ll simply forget that was an atheist at all–we’d be dealing with a clean slate. Like Sir Issac Newton, we could have Chris memorize the entire Bible in a couple of weeks and then send him off on his “mission from God”–you know, like Jake and Elwood. What do think, Chris? Are you game? Bob and I will have you speaking High Mass Tridentine Latin in a week. Given your extremely high passion for just about everything, it wouldn’t surprise me that after your Epiphany, you might even do cartwheels down a church aisle–like Belushi in the movie, “Animal House” movie! Rest assured Comrade Chris, Bob and I are here to help you.Report

              • Avatar Heidegger in reply to Heidegger
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                says:

                My apologies, Bob, and RTod. I should not have gone ahead and assumed anything about your theological proclivities regarding the existence God. We may, in fact, inhabit entirely different metaphysical islands.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Heidegger
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                says:

                Who left H-man? Tom?
                Don’t pick on Chris, he’s not as interesting as I first thought; kind of a snarky middle-schooler.
                I’m pretty sure there’s some serious identity issues going on. Ah yes, the modern and his pathologies or psycho-pathologies.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Heidegger
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                says:

                Why you want to drag faith claims onto a verrry secular blog is beyond me. We informally ban them at my homeblog, whose readership is far less polarized. They make principled and unheated discussion impossible, like mentioning George Dubya Bush in most places on the internet. Kerblooey.

                I suppose you have a right [as long as management here permits it], but even if the Jehovah’s Witnesses have The Truth, I’ll never give them the time of day because they’re so bloody annoying.

                [Mt 10:14 applies also, for those keeping score at home.]Report

              • Avatar RTod in reply to Heidegger
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                says:

                H- no appologies necessary. Though, as my wife often says to me before I go off half-cocked: what is the end result you’re trying to accomplish? If it’s convincing others that Christian faith is a good thing and those who bad mouth it don’t know what they’re talking about, you might not want to lead with torturing the non-believers.

                And Bob, I think Chris has just been trying to sincerely get his point of view across – I don’t think being seen as “interesting” to you was his goal.Report

              • Avatar RTod in reply to Heidegger
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                says:

                Tom – you might be right, but I hope your not. A few years ago I got invited to be part of a monthly beer date with 8 guys, all who have very different religious views, to discuss issues of faith, politics, art, etc. At this point we still meet and discuss everything through the lens of our belief, but the conversation revolves as much around our lives as the Big Issues. They are all really great guys, and I like to think we’re all a little better off for our relationship.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Heidegger
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                says:

                A symposium, RTod? Like the Greeks used to do it?

                The Romans called it a conv?vium, but “convivial” is about the last word I’d use to describe the current proceedings.

                “Crabby” sprang to mind immediately, however.

                What you describe is the lost art of “joint inquiry,” co-operative rather than adversarial discourse, discussion rather than debate, a love of wisdom more than victory.

                This requires good will, a certain amount of civilization [or, “civility”], a goodsportedness to indulge a line of argument to see where it leads rather than fight it every inch of the way, and I suppose the beer helps with the good cheer.

                The internet sez that the host of the symposium would water down the wine in proportion to whether they wanted a party-hearty or a serious discussion. Looking at the timestamp on some of the replies, I must wonder how early the writer started drinking that day, and if he passed up the Bud Light and went straight for the Jack Daniels.

                Or perhaps they quit drinking, which might explain something too, that drinking wasn’t exactly their problem. 😉Report

              • Avatar RTod in reply to Heidegger
                Ignored
                says:

                I don’t know what the ancients called it, but we refer to ourselves as the Tokens of Faith – because we’re all aware that we represent our point of view in a kind of cardboard way, and because this is what counts as high wit after 3 pints.

                The other advantage we have over the Internet is that it’s harder to miss the humanity of those you’re talking with when you can look them in th eye.Report

          • Avatar Chris in reply to Robert Cheeks
            Ignored
            says:

            Bob, comparing me to Loughner? Dude, I must have really touched a nerve to make you more petty and mean-spirited than usual. I apologize for that.Report

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