The Concept of God Solves All Problems!?

One of the reasons I started this Blog is because I was curious to see which arguments have the best chance to persuade Christians that their faith is false. Sadly, I am no closer to figuring this out then when I started, and I think I know why.

The bottom line seems to be that when someone believes in God, then his concept of God becomes the answer to all of his problems.

The problems I refer to here are intellectual complexities, socio-political troubles, and personal difficulties. If something bad happens to the believer, for instance, he believes either God has a reason for it, or God will bring good out of it. The same goes for unanswered prayer, for the believer will claim it just wasn’t God’s will, or that it’s not in God’s timetable.

I don’t mean to suggest that there are no problems for the believer. He does indeed have problems. But he also has an explanation for them in that God allows him to experience them in order to strengthen his mind, character, and body, or that they are the punishment for sin. I only mean that with his faith the believer has a solution to all problems, and they are solved by his concept of God.

The Christian thinks this way, as I’ve seen, but so does the Muslim, so does the Jew, so does the Hindu, so does the Buddhist, in their various respective ways. But because religious believers have their problems solved by their faith it’s nearly impossible for them to see that it’s their faith itself that solves these problems, and not the object of their faith. This is especially true when the believer is fearful to doubt.

When you stop to think about it, with such a faith it's nearly impossible to see that faith for what it really is: faith in a concept of God. Such a concept must solve all problems. It cannot be otherwise. By definition the theistic God must answer or solve all problems and/or difficulties, otherwise he's not worthy as a God concept.

I watched the movie Troy (starring Brad Pitt as Achilles) just recently. I liked the movie a great deal even though it was long. It was very entertaining and loosely based on Homer’s The Iliad, along with Greek mythology. You ought to watch it! So long as it’s even close to how the ancients thought about the gods, it’s enlightening. The confidence they had when they spoke of the gods of Apollo or Poseidon or Zeus was absolutely amazing to me, and reminds me of how confident Christians are too, even though there are differences in how they determined the will of the gods. Kings consulted the priests for signs from the gods about whether or not they will win a battle, and the priests saw omens in nature to indicate what the gods will do. [Christians determine God’s will from a book that was written by the same kind of superstitious people, too, although they will never acknowledge this. But even in the Bible divine guidance was sought for through Rhabdomancy, Hepatoscopy, Teraphim, Necromancy, Astrology, Hydromancy, Casting of Lots, and Dreams (look these up yourselves). And while there were many prophets proclaiming what they called God’s word, how did anyone back in those days actually know which ones were from God, if any of them were? I know the so-called tests for a true prophet, but the so-called false prophets didn’t think they were false prophets, did they?...nor did those who followed them. Who would you really believe in Jeremiah’s day, since he was walking around Jerusalem proclaiming that it would fall? On Jonah’s story see here.]

The basis of their faith rests in ancient pre-scientific superstitious people, and in when and where they were born, but they refuse to acknowledge this.

Take for example religious diversity. Why is there a proliferation of religious belief systems? Well, if you believe in a specific concept of God then God is your answer. Consider the arguments used to explain religious diversity by adherents of different religious faiths. These explanations are similar in kind to each other, if not exactly the same. They will argue that those who don’t accept their particular religion are either ignorant of the truth, willfully ignorant, unenlightened, deceived by Satan, or that God has good reasons for permitting this state of affairs. Cultural factors are downplayed or even ignored, even though they play an overwhelming role in what a person believes.

Take for instance the issue of miracles. Miracles don’t occur in today’s world (Pentecostal believers will very rarely claim they happen in today’s world nearly as often as the Bible records, or with such force). But if you believe in the Christian God concept, then God is your answer. Miracles must’ve occurred, even though believers face a double burden of proof, and even though believers must overcome Lessing’s Broad Ugly Ditch

Take for instance the problem of evil. If you believe in a Christian God concept, then God is your answer. God knows what he’s doing, and what he does is good, even though Christians have no answer as to why God didn’t explicitly condemn slavery, or create all human beings with one color of skin. Intense suffering speaks volumes against the Christian faith. Believers will even try to justify why people end up in hell with arguments that seem absurd, because of a faith that believes God solves all problems.

With a God concept like this who solves all problems, it’s nearly impossible to help the believer to see his faith for what it truly is, as a Freudian wish fulfillment, or Nietzsche’s will to power, or the Marxian opiate of the people. Ludwig Feuerbach was correct, human beings have fashioned God in their image rather than the other way around.

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Since I’ve mentioned the movie Troy, according to Greek mythology when Achilles was born, his mother, Thetis, tried to make him immortal by dipping him in the river Styx. As she immersed him, she held him by one heel and forgot to dip him a second time so the heel she held could get wet too. Therefore, the place where she held him remained untouched by the magic water of the Styx and that part stayed mortal or vulnerable. Achilles died from a heel wound as the result of a poisoned arrow fired by Paris. To this day, any weak point is called an “Achilles’ heel”. I think the Achilles’ heel of Christianity is to be found in the advance of modernity.

22 comments:

Glenn Dixon said...

Excellent points all around.

Even though it wasn't your main point, I found the mention of superstitions in the Bible to be thought-provoking. It's one of the many aspects of the Bible I have yet to re-think. Any doubt or question I had about this in the past was usually resolved with a simple explanation that God was merely working with who the people were.

Oh really? So why didn't he leave them in their polytheism instead of requiring them to worship him alone? Why the food menu rules? Those restrictions were ok, but no such restriction against polygamy and slavery? Sometimes Teraphim are ok, sometimes they are not?

It really does make much more sense when you take a real God out of the picture and view it all as a collection of writings made by ancient superstitious nomads.

Theresa Frasch said...

John - I think you hit the nail on the head. A lot of my friends and family are still Christian and it is their faith in faith that keeps them going. For them to even think of life without God shakes them to their very core. They live with, converse with, rely on, blame, and praise God for everything in their lives.

One of my friends commented on my blog:

"Too much of anything saturates the mind into “believing” for beliefs sake. However, one must consider not throwing the baby out with the bath water. Going through hell sometimes is what refines us and makes us face who we are because of what choices we want to make and we no longer rely on others either making choices for us or feeling we make choices just to please others. Kind of like being a free agent. Often, you are right about the Christian belief and form of indoctrination. I have to say, though, that after many of the difficulties I went through with my divorce, etc. I came out of it even stronger in why I believe in God and how it is that He operates in my life. It’s been really a very freeing experience. Perhaps it is because I stopped performing my faith and really started believing in it. Hmmmmmm sounds profound enough. : ) All I know is that like other relationships I have, it is a relationship for me and no longer a religion."

My sister wrote:

"A life without God? How sad. Thinking about life without God is like saying life without love, but worse. You can have love stop, family turn on you and people die, you might lose your mind never experience love at all. If this life on earth is all there is, then that is even more sad. Even if God was a myth, living a religious life is so much more fulfilling and satisfying. I use science everyday in my life, I study it and teach and I never see that believing in God and Science are opposites.

To live for self and to be morally upright are opposites. We are biologically geared to be selfish, to keep the species going. Only religion helps people go beyond that. Sorry to say this Theresa, but from reading your blog and comments I can’t see where the relationship with God was, only your disappointment with an institution and the people.

It always makes me sad when I hear you or dad make comments about how this life is all there is. It makes sense that people who are religious spend their lives making sacrifices for others as that is what brings satisfaction and they know there is more than life here on earth."


It makes me sad for them because they live their lives focused so much on the future that they don't really enjoy the here and now. They are so focused on God that everything in their life is colored by it. They think the world is evil and satan is out to get them.

Oh well, I still like them and they have stuck with me through thick and thin. We have fun together, drink wine together, I've seen a few of them dance on tables. I guess Jesus wasn't watching :-).

Anonymous said...

Theresa, your observations fit right in with mine. It's not an intellectual debate; it's far deeper and more profound. It's a way of thinking and being.

John said:

One of the reasons I started this Blog is because I was curious to see which arguments have the best chance to persuade Christians that their faith is false. Sadly, I am no closer to figuring this out then when I started, and I think I know why.

****************

John, you and I have been seeking the same thing. I have finally concluded that no intellectual argument is going to do the trick. Something else is required. What is that “something else”? This fall I am studying under a professor who is very articulate regarding what faith is. Here is a bit from a letter I wrote to my sister that might be relevant:

“This professor was doing all he could (short of telling me) to get me to believe. I was asking a lot of questions about his belief and why he believes. I just want to understand what people believe and why. Even after several years studying Christian theology formally with the most highly educated teachers I have not yet found any explanation that makes sense about Jesus dying so we can get to heaven. Am I just too stubborn to believe? NO! It is impossible to believe something that does not make sense.

This prof explained that this is what faith is. For myself, that is where I draw the line. To me, that is lying. I have to live with my conscience. I feel so much freer, so much more at peace, now that I have shed the burden of belief. I believe this is what Jesus meant. It is the only thing that makes sense.”

In other words, we have to appeal to the heart and experience. I have no idea how to do this but I consider it a break-through simply recognizing that intellectual appeals don’t cut it.

kapmahn said...

I have a response, but I must warn you I am long winded and I don’t think and appropriate response to this could possibly be a short answer. Please, if you are not willing to read this comment in its entirety please don’t continue. This will take a while and hopefully some hard thinking. (I know for a lot of you, this is exactly why you have been reading on these boards at all)

I won't claim to be educated. I won't claim to know it all. However, I do wish to comment from the perspective of a still practicing Christian. I ran across your blog and decided it would be interesting to know why you left Christianity and your reasoning. I figured that I could look at and answer in my own mind what you have said or questioned. I by no means am trying to convince you to change your mind, but I hope you will be accepting of an explanation from what I know of my own faith and of what I have learned about God. I just want to take your 3 examples and answer them.

Issue one was with the explanation of religious diversity. You said that culture is downplayed or even ignored. I can see where you may have run into this in the past, but I pray that this is just an over-generalization. I for one, know very well how impacting a persons upbringing, culture, and surrounding factors can effect their beliefs. I would have a hard time believing that someone who is inundated with a cultural of animalism to subsequently reject their peers and elders beliefs initially. Yet, I do think, that if they challenge themselves, as I believe most people will do, to critically think about their surroundings, they will be able to start seeing things that make them question themselves and/or the standard that has been set before them. This is what you may have done yourself as you grew older and started evaluating the things you believed. Many, and here I generalize, find logic as a solution to each and every problem in their lives as opposed to faith/religion/spirituality (whatever the word you may be using in your definition here). For me, logic is what leads me back to God, and a belief in Him. I hope it is an honest logic, and I hope it is similar to Acts 17 wherein Paul explained the message of Christ to those at Areopagus. Some from that meeting were able to look at the things around them and find a greater being/object for their worship. Paul pointed them to what he and I recognize as the one and only true and living God. I hope that can convey to you, that not all Christians have an inability to explain religious diversity beyond just God. Yes, as logic has lead me it does lead back to a concept of something that would have to be perfect. The concept does not have to be pre-existent however. The idea of perfection in anything is not a foreign idea to the atheist or agnostic, or those that have no concept of a god at all. They do know perfection. They get there by seeing imperfect. We have in us an innate sense that there is always something better. We have found, created, or set standards wherein we know that more or higher things can be attained. I run a mile in 10 minutes; therefore I figure with more practice that it can be run in 5. And once I manage to run it in 5, I assume that with even more practice I can get to 1 minute. Where the standard is set on perfection may be different though. If all I came from a generation of people with no knees, and all I knew were people with no knees my standard for perfection would probably be a lot less. From that step logic leads me to innovation. I would try to create ways to go faster. Perhaps I would even discover/create something like knees that would make me go faster. Or wheels, engines, rockets, etc. Suddenly a whole world of opportunity has opened up and I realize that there must be much that I haven't even realized yet. In an instant my standard of perfection goes beyond my own imagining. So I set my standard to the incomprehensible. There must be something/someone out there who is "perfect". Not to say that we create the concept of God, but the purely logical person may assume that is how he got to the point of believing in something/someone beyond his previous standards. If someone is truly pursuing this, then, they would begin testing it, looking for it. Consequently, if I am looking for someone who is perfect and they do not exist. I will never be able to find them, or I will be forced to create evidence of their existence. So goes the creation of many a "false" idol in all societies as it has for all of time. Yet, to get to the point of believing in God as I have found Him, takes even more. If one is truly honest, he will find that even his idols do not live up to the level of perfection they have setup. We see this in many ancient and modern cultures; most specifically I will mention those at Mars Hill and the meeting of the Areopagus. They had an idol, statue, setup to the unknown god. They knew that they still had missed something. They realized that despite the fact they had idols to everything they could possibly imagine, there had to be something beyond even that. From my own logic I realize that there must be something or someone that was not only the perfection of individual things, but of all things. There is just a couple of logical steps left to reach a concept of God that is established in the Bible, without ever even seeing the Bible. Because I next realize that if there is a god that encompasses all these things, he will by his nature be contradictory to himself. A “perfect” god cannot be both the fastest runner in a race and at the same time unable to run at all. So logic would lead me to believe that there is either 2 gods, one of perfection good and one of perfect evil, or that there is but 1 god whom is perfect and anything outside of him is imperfect. And this then leads to the final concept of a perfect singular god. For if this god has things outside of himself, they must be in nature in opposition to him, and perversions/imperfections of him that can each trail their origin back to the perfect being. He must also be able to control those imperfections, and at the same time he must allow these imperfections to control themselves for if he controlled them, they would either no longer exist or they would become perfectly a part of him and his control and we know no concept of shortcomings. Therefore, as it is, I can see imperfections. I can see evil. So I must believe that there is a God who is perfect and able to control all things. And I must believe He has allowed the imperfect to control themselves, or have choice. So I, in my logic and in my knowledge of my own shortcomings, it is only natural for me to wish to pursue perfection, and/or seek out the one who is perfect to either be like him or to give him the glory that is due him for his perfection. For I feel obligated to reward the fastest racer, and I feel obliged to honor the best of the things I see.

I hope this can explain how I logically have come to a belief in the one true God mentioned in the Bible apart from its teachings, and how logic leads me back to believe the difficult but logical truths I have found in it. I am also sure there are holes in my logic for things I have overlooked completely explaining, and holes wherein I did not have the time to completely explain. I am also sure someone out there will be more than willing to point these out to me, and I welcome them. Please. Let me know, because, perhaps you have found something I have overlooked. Like I said, I am not perfect, and I hope I haven’t conveyed that to anyone. But also perhaps, I have an answer as well and can explain it logically to you so that others might better understand me and evaluate for themselves what they believe and why.

Thanks for your time. I will try to cover the other 2 points from your post in the next comments.

DagoodS said...

kaphman,

Can a Perfect being create imperfect beings? If a perfect entity makes something imperfect, that act was imperfect.

So which is it—is God partly imperfect, or is all of creation perfect?

kapmahn said...

To connect this with the last comment I made, and to more completely answer the question of religious diversity I want to say this. I do not believe it to be for ignorance (willful or otherwise), for unenlightenment (assuming that this means some divine revelation), for deception (as if one who is truly seeking truth will be so easily and entirely deceived), or for the simple answer that God has his reasons (although, by logic, He has to have his own agenda). But, to, I do think it is more to the willingness to follow a true logical path to its honest fruition beyond just culture and the influence of society around us, those they, in and of themselves, may affect very drastically how far we are willing to go logically.

As in the case of miracles, I myself am not a Pentecostal, and my belief is that miracles do happen today. They happen as frequently, and as powerfully as ever. The difference is I have seen nowadays we are quicker to attempt to explain things scientifically even if science doesn’t adequately answer the question. I think we are so prideful to think that we have completely explained something that we are quick to quit once we find a pragmatic solution. This is not to say that science does not explain most things. So the semantic issue we have to return to is that of what is a miracle. A miracle is, by the definition I am referencing, an occurrence that cannot, and will never be able to be explained by the scientific method, logic, or reason. In addition they are things that are at the time of the occurrence beyond our control. That some outside force defied what we know as scientific boundaries in our own world, whatever these may be. Just as we cannot call flying as defying gravity and a miracle due to the fact we understand the relation between mass, gravitational pull, and aerodynamics; we must be critical logical thinkers and constantly questioning the things we do call miracles. For an example, I will mention probably the most controversial of miracle, but the ones most often exemplified in the Bible, healing. The disappearance of many diseases seen as incurable or untreatable is not so rare a thing as we might think. Cancer patients who have no way of recovering but suddenly experience a complete remission of their disease and no sign remaining would be a good modern example. Do a little research and you will find lots of these stories. The Bible mentions Jesus healing many people form incurable diseases that even now there is no cure for. He healed 10 lepers at the same time. It seems that we wonder then, why there are so many of these miracles supposedly so frequently in the Bible. For one, most of them that we see are in direct relation to God/Jesus. Logic would seem to say, that if we have a perfect being like this God concept that many have established, then would it not seem logical that miraculous sings would follow him like a shadow? In addition, if you wish to explain the seemingly high concentration of miracles then as opposed to now you would have to take into account the time span the Bible covers and the purpose of its presence. If it is here to tell about God, then shouldn’t it show Him in miracles? If a biography highlights a person’s life, then wouldn’t a book about a perfect being seem to have a lot of things that seem beyond belief, especially when in the last post we established that the god concept would have to be beyond our own understanding? Today’s world is not a Bible, and today’s papers are not meant to highlight the workings of a god. We shouldn’t really expect to see these things in the papers, at least not explained as the work of God. That would be ridiculous to assume, but I guarantee you it won’t be that hard for you to look in the papers and find many stories of the unbelievable and the unexplainable. How easily could many of them fall into the definition of miracles I gave above?

And finally we tackle the last point you made, the problem of evil. To be honest, this is probably the most common and honest question most people can and do ask. Why do bad things happen? Why is there suffering? You will need to have read the last post for this explanation to make sense. Reaching a concept of a god character is one thing, but developing and fully understanding the exact character of that god character takes even more logic and time. God, as I have come to understand Him, is a perfect being. I logically tried to explain in the last post that a perfect God in a world of imperfections either meant there had to be a perfectly good god and a perfectly evil one, or 1 truly perfect god who has allowed imperfections to exist outside of his own control. I didn’t explain why the first option was ruled out in my last post, but here is an explanation. If there were truly one perfectly good god and a perfectly evil one, then logically, I would assume, things would be in perfect balance. We would see an equal amount of good and evil in each every person’s life because they would perfectly balance each other as one could not be greater then the other. This is obviously not the case. I know that is an overly simplified answer, but I will continue on. If God is perfect then logic would seem to point in the direction of recognition for that perfection and greatness. Perfection with glory is pointless and imperfect. Perfection it seems requires praise to be perfect. It appears to be an essential element to perfection. So if there must be something/someone to give glory to a perfect object, it also leads us to logically believe that the object could not directly affect that which was praising it. It must be able to choose the praise perfection without direct influence. Perfection constitutes praise, praise constitutes choice, and choice in turn will always constitute a non-proportionate amount of imperfection as with choice that imperfection is also a viable option. God cannot control us if he is to remain truly perfect. It by definition doesn’t make God any less perfect, it actually completes the perfection that is his nature. Therefore, if imperfection exists, then too evil must exist. Not as a powerful entity equal to the godhead figure, but less than him, as all things that are not directly in control of the godhead are merely imperfections of qualities already in the nature of that godhead. Hate the opposite of love, adultery the opposite of fidelity, lies the opposite of truths, and death the opposite of life. This too, when followed to its logical end, means that eventually evil would need to be accountable for its imperfection and removed completely or made perfect. This, hopefully, helps you understand a little more the need for heaven and hell. And previously, I hope it helps you understand how I can logically understand the presence of evil in our world.

I know that in a roundabout way this just comes back to the whole thesis of the original post. God solves all problems, and that was, ironically, “the problem.” I hope that this helps a little to clear up a very obvious difference in the major assumption of your premise. It is not that God solves all problems, and it is not either that God is the “answer” to all the problems in our world. If that was the case, then there would be no problems left in a Christian’s life. Like you said, you aren’t suggesting that there are no problems in a Christian’s life, but the problem that you illicit upon yourself in this question is “why is it a problem for there to be a solution or a reason for all things?” We are logical beings, and therefore should we not evaluate all things thusly? It is apparent that logic, reasoning, and wisdom are, if you subscribe to a Darwinian view, ultimately advantages to our survival. I guess what this means is by our nature we should be desiring a furtherance of our own lives and consequently our ways of thinking. This by nature creates in us a logical discovery of God. That in its nature requires, as you present a faith in our logical development of God. So then, why is faith from logic a bad thing? The claim that you make is that “faith rests on ancient pre-scientific superstitious people, and in when and where they were born.” I acknowledge that this can have a major affect on the cultures ability to reach the same logical end. In other words, how long it takes for someone in that culture to be able to take the full logical path to the end of these thoughts. However, from my presentation, I should hope it apparent that this hardly necessitates a need for superstitions. It merely requires a desire for betterment of ones life and the willingness to be truly thoughtful and finish the path of ones thoughts about life and desire. If they are followed completely, each should reach the same end and conclusion in a faith in a perfect God. The basis of faith is not just culture as it merely perpetuates a timetable for what faith is actually based on, logic, wisdom and desire.

Thanks again for your time. I know you probably are just as frustrated now that you are finished reading this article, but I didn’t feel I should answer unless I addressed each of these thoughts in their entirety.

Dave Armstrong said...

RubySera wrote:

John, you and I have been seeking the same thing. I have finally concluded that no intellectual argument is going to do the trick. Something else is required.

. . . In other words, we have to appeal to the heart and experience. I have no idea how to do this but I consider it a break-through simply recognizing that intellectual appeals don’t cut it.


Exactly! THANK YOU. I've been maintaining that atheism is irrational for years. It's refreshing to have an atheist come right out and admit that it's all subjective mush having little to do with reason; quite the contrary: as you say: "intellectual appeals don’t cut it." You make my work as an apologist easy.

---------------

Hi DagoodS,

Can a Perfect being create imperfect beings?

He not only can do so, He must, because He cannot create another being that is eternal, like Himself, and all-knowing, etc. (e.g., any created beginning cannot know firsthand about that which occurred before it was created).

Therefore, whatever He creates must be lesser than Himself; hence imperfect, because He is perfect. Logic requires this. It cannot be otherwise, far as I can see.

If a perfect entity makes something imperfect, that act was imperfect.

Hardly. All it means is that even God is subject to the limitations of logic, because they are inherent to reality. God can't, e.g., make the sun and the moon be in the same place at the same time, or make it the case that your entire life's experience is suddenly mine, and mine yours, or make 2 + 2 = 5. There's lots of stuff even an omnipotent being cannot do.

So which is it—is God partly imperfect, or is all of creation perfect?

Neither. God is perfect and creation isn't, at least in many respects (meaning the best it can imaginably be, etc.).

DagoodS said...

Well sure, Dave Armstrong. If we are going to torture the definition of the word “perfect” so that it manages to fit the isolated instance to conform to your belief, I can see how this could work. ‘Course the only person persuaded with this argument are those that share a bias for a limited definition necessary to provide support for this particular God.

I always wonder—what good is it to only convince those who already believe. Is it some sort of “circle the wagons” defense?

Remember, we are not talking about “perfect” in the moral sense, but in the full definitional sense. You focused on time (eternal) and experience (first-hand knowledge). But “perfect” encompasses so much more.

How would we use the words “complete” and “satisfy” within the parameters of a “perfect” being? Could a perfect being be incomplete? Would it have some desire, some need, some compulsion to do more? Could it be unsatisfied?

“Perfect” would entail completeness. Satisfaction. A god that is perfect would never need to create. It would be complete and satisfied within itself. Literally, the thought of creation could not pass through its mind; such an uncompleted act would make it less than it would be in the future.

At some point, in our consideration of what we would call time, your god concept had either a desire or a need to create. To do more than its current existence. Therefore, it was not “perfect” in that it was not complete at that time. It may have become complete upon acting out its desire, but that would mean it started off incomplete. Not perfect. (And I hardly need to point out its continued interaction with its creation, which would demonstrate further needs and desiring and a continuing dissatisfaction. Apparently your God was and continues to be far less than perfect. It needs or desires more.)

Prior to creation, your God did not have first hand knowledge of what it was to create. Unless, of course, we agree that creation occurred in the same instance that God existed. Which would mean creation was necessary for God to be complete. Making creation part of God’s perfection.

As to God being subject to the limitations of logic—Doesn’t Christianity hold that Jesus was both completely God and completely human? Can you explain, logically, how Jesus could be God and not God? Can you explain logically the Trinity?

Scottj said...

I've been reading a bit in this blog, and would like to reply with a couple of observations/questions. First of all, most of the questions of theodicy have been answered elsewhere by able theologians/apologists. The questions of theodicy have not been answered adequately to some, as is obvious. That impasse is well documented and both sides (theistic and atheistic) have declared victory.
Second, are these debates failing to understand the antithetical nature of presuppostions? Given the presuppostions of atheism/theism, neither can convert the other, or cede victory.
Third, and I direct this question to atheists, because I believe Christian theism has an adequate answer, but I want to see if "there is anything new under the sun" from atheism: "Why does any of this matter at all?" In a strictly materialist universe, all reality is physical, and all physical reality is an accident, and all of this accident can be reduced to material explanations. The final solution to all experience, at least on our plantet, is a solar supernova, which will cancel out the entire human accident. All human acheivement, emotions, rationality, knowlege, relationshiops, etc, are terminal. What is the point of caring whether our spark of existence along side of cosmic time is enjoyable, worthwhile, meaningful, or anything else?

Unless I am mistaken, if every aspect of our existence is irrational, then any ontological, epistemological, or ethical imperatives are also irrational. I can understand that someone wishes to have the "faith" of an atheist. What I cannot understand is why it matters to the atheist that he/she is right and the theist is wrong.

But if our existence is rational, how can rationality be found apart from mind? And if rationality precedes human rationality, from whence comes the rationality of the universe?

As a point of reference, yes, I am a Van Tilian with great respect to Dooyeweerd.

Scottj said...

Dave Armstrong said:

Hardly. All it means is that even God is subject to the limitations of logic, because they are inherent to reality. God can't, e.g., make the sun and the moon be in the same place at the same time, or make it the case that your entire life's experience is suddenly mine, and mine yours, or make 2 + 2 = 5. There's lots of stuff even an omnipotent being cannot do.

I appreciate your post, Dave, but actually, it isn't so much that God CAN'T make 2+2=5 (and your other examples) as that He would not do something contrary to His rational character. God is not subject to the laws of logic; He created them in conformity to His nature.

openlyatheist said...

All good questions, Scottj. Here is what I can contribute:

Scottj asked:
"Why does any of this matter at all?" In a strictly materialist universe, all reality is physical, and all physical reality is an accident, and all of this accident can be reduced to material explanations. The final solution to all experience, at least on our planet, is a solar supernova, which will cancel out the entire human accident. (…) What is the point of caring whether our spark of existence along side of cosmic time is enjoyable, worthwhile, meaningful, or anything else?


openlyatheist replies:
Because in a strictly material universe the here and now is all we have. You speak of the future as if it is something written, that it is inevitable and fruitless. But to me, the future is not written, it does not even exist, and even if it is written the here and now is no less precious. I think Christians also ask this question as if there is some sort of choice for the materialist to make, as if the materialist can choose to not value the here and now. Such a position would be self-contradicting and we materialists simply can’t come to any other conclusion. You may as well ask the Earth why it turns. It won’t answer at all, and will continue right on going.


Scottj asked:
What I cannot understand is why it matters to the atheist that he/she is right and the theist is wrong.


openlyatheist replies:
I wonder the same question of Christians: Why is it important to them that they prove us wrong? They do not accept their own Pascal’s Wager: for if Christians are wrong they lose nothing in letting us be. If Christians are right then we unrepentant atheists justly go to Hell.

But if we materialists are right, the truth is worth fighting for in the here and now, because that is all there is. It would be self-contradictory not to live by our conviction. Of course, that is only because there is a fight to be had. If freedom from religion were easy, sites like this very blog would dry up quickly, I believe. No one debunks anything unless they feel it harmful.

Anonymous said...

Dave Armstrong said...

RubySera wrote:

John, you and I have been seeking the same thing. I have finally concluded that no intellectual argument is going to do the trick. Something else is required.

. . . In other words, we have to appeal to the heart and experience. I have no idea how to do this but I consider it a break-through simply recognizing that intellectual appeals don’t cut it.

Exactly! THANK YOU. I've been maintaining that atheism is irrational for years. It's refreshing to have an atheist come right out and admit that it's all subjective mush having little to do with reason; quite the contrary: as you say: "intellectual appeals don’t cut it." You make my work as an apologist easy.

*********************

Dave, as I am sure you are aware, I was referring to Christians and not to atheists. Logic dictates that within the given context John, Theresa, and I have assumed Christians to operate as we do i.e. weigh rational and intellectual argument and decide accordingly, that we have unsuccessfully tried that method with Christians, and are now exploring other possibilities. Thus, it follows that what works with/is true of Christians does not work with/is not true of atheists and your conclusion is faulty.

Glenn Dixon said...

kapmahn wrote:

We have in us an innate sense that there is always something better.

I believe this to be a faulty assumption which undermines your point.

If one is truly honest, he will find that even his idols do not live up to the level of perfection they have setup. We see this in many ancient and modern cultures; most specifically I will mention those at Mars Hill and the meeting of the Areopagus. They had an idol, statue, setup to the unknown god. They knew that they still had missed something.

I am curious as to where you gained this knowledge of the motivation behind this statue.....

The disappearance of many diseases seen as incurable or untreatable is not so rare a thing as we might think. Cancer patients who have no way of recovering but suddenly experience a complete remission of their disease and no sign remaining would be a good modern example. Do a little research and you will find lots of these stories. [snip] That would be ridiculous to assume, but I guarantee you it won’t be that hard for you to look in the papers and find many stories of the unbelievable and the unexplainable. How easily could many of them fall into the definition of miracles I gave above?

You are correct - it isn't rare, it has in fact never happened. Stories abound regarding healings (usually in the context of fund-raising letters) yet none have ever withstood scrutiny. In comparison, a recent large-scale, double-blind study commissioned by the Templeton Foundation found that the only demonstrable effect of prayer on recovering heart bypass patients is that the ones who knew they were being prayed for actually had more complications than the others in the study. Perhaps you should 'do a little research' on this topic?

Anonymous said...

At 11:39 PM, December 02, 2006, Scottj, you asked a number of questions regarding why atheists care about religion. Your questions make it obvious that you subscribe to some myths or misconceptions about what atheism is. If you are serious, I suggest you take a look at this site: http://exchristian.net.
Look up these articles:

Why do Atheists care about Religion?
Atheism Is Not a Religion
Common Misconceptions About Atheists and Atheism

If you read these articles with an open and receptive mind, which is somewhat more than I would expect of a man with the self-description you post on your profile, you might learn a few things.

Cut and paste the titles into the site's search engines and they should come up.

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi RubySera,

Dave, as I am sure you are aware, I was referring to Christians and not to atheists.

Yep, I was. I was just having a little fun. Have a great day!

Anonymous said...

Denying the Lord in the middle of a crooked and perverse generation, what a shame! All your knowledge amounts to soulish generalizing, and your lack of faith, and understanding of what faith actually is. This only proves you were never taught and you never clasped the basics! Your falling away at this juncture only proves that, the (self reasoning ) spirit that is evil in its origin has a ring in your nose, it (the seducing spirit) and you are leading others and your giving affirmation to the mental realm and missing the spiritual, which this may not be all your failure, your church organization and its leaders may be dead in there senses also! Yours is the seed that that fell in shallow soil and you received the word with joy and when the persecution came (because of the word ) you became overwhelmed with you own intellect, hence allowing a seducing spirit to whisk you away and I see there are many others in the same sinking ship, I’ll call your boat the ship of fools. Here’s a lesson in faith and how it works: ask for forgiveness ! say this , LORD forgive my falling away, [ he says he will forgive you if you ask] when you ask don’t expect any feelings or rumblings from above, just ask and then know that he keeps his side of bargain, then don’t listen your misinformed brain just hold fast to the word he spoke, and this is faith, and it is a sword to cut through opposing reasoning! what will it be? Repentance, or a certain fear of the future? or maybe a fluffy pride.

Rich said...

pville63,
I imagine that way before your post they were sick of answering to these same questions, in fact I haven't been to this blog for really very long and I see the same "solution" to the ills here posted frequently. In other words your not grasping the reason for this blog!

Scottj said...

I'll clarify my questions.

openlyatheist said: Because in a strictly material universe the here and now is all we have. You speak of the future as if it is something written, that it is inevitable and fruitless. But to me, the future is not written, it does not even exist, and even if it is written the here and now is no less precious. I think Christians also ask this question as if there is some sort of choice for the materialist to make, as if the materialist can choose to not value the here and now. Such a position would be self-contradicting and we materialists simply can’t come to any other conclusion. You may as well ask the Earth why it turns. It won’t answer at all, and will continue right on going.

Your statement is an assertion that you do care, and I'm sure you do. I have met very few atheists who do not love, have friends, care about family, etc. But I do believe these acts of charity and expressions of compassion are, in an atheistic worldview, irrational. How can you rationally justify caring at all? If you are a materialist, then the future is indeed written. All reality is then physical, and determined by physical laws. There is no freedom, no sense that anything can happen. Variables may seem infinite, but are actually quite finite. But on the other hand, since materialism can only function at the level of probability (“laws” are not material, but only experiences adduced in quantity), there is no reason to assume that the laws of nature will always obtain. Given the extremely limited experience of humankind, the sample of physical laws is minute.

So back to my original question: I did not say that atheists don’t care—I asked for rational justification. The video to which I was directed was about caring, but only from the emotions, as in, “I don’t like public expressions of religion.” But this is just a statement, not an argument..

Atheism claims that this existence is all that there is, all we have. Why then, does it matter that others get it wrong, when there is no certainty that the others (theists) are indeed wrong? It would seem more consistent for an atheist, upon understanding that the universe is irrational (for rationality at least requires a mind), to be agnostic in regarding all knowledge. It is self-contradictory in a value-less universe to hold to any values at all. The existence of values may not be a watertight proof of the existence of God, but it is certainly a problem for atheists.

The reason that Christians do not leave the issue alone is 1) we are mandated by God to speak (I know that is rejected here but given our assumptions it is a valid argument) and 2) atheism is never neutral. This leads into some other discussion. Atheism is not a religion, but it is religious in that it has answers to religious questions. It is a world and life view that encompasses all of reality. In some places, atheists want religion out of life as much as Islamic fundamentalists want their brand of theism in.

Atheism, because it sees theism as an unnecessary add-on to a normal life, seeks to eradicate religious expression from most of life. Schools are a good example. There is a robust movement of secularization afoot in North American public schools. I admit that neither atheist nor Christian feel that their position is, at the moment, being given a fair hearing in the schools. But if atheism were truly freethinking, atheists would be working side-by-side with Christians to push for school-vouchers, allowing all religions (and non-religions) the right to a publicly paid education. Christians who push for a publicly funded, religious education would grant this right to atheist parents: to send their child to school without fear of religious indoctrination. But as it stands now, Christian students and teachers are told to leave their faith behind when the enter the schools, where all of reality is taught from a pretended “neutral” stance, a stance to which no serious thinker could believe possible. No, religion is to be kept out of schools because it is not necessary, not true, false, harmful, etc. This is a religious stance, however, and little different than any other fundamentalism running education.

I see I've gotten a little off topic. To conclude, however, about the "myths" of atheism to which I subscribe, or not. Atheism holds (believes, teaches, knows, affirms, advocates, etc) that there is no being in the universe or outside it known as God. God does not exist at all except as a myth in the minds of those who claim to follow him/her/it/them. The universe (all reality) is purely material. There is no design/purpose/meaning to all reality, and because humans are included in the words "all reality," humans have no design/purpose/meaning other than what they make of it.

Am I wrong in my understanding of atheism?

Tommy said...

John, a number of factors in combination turned me away from Christianity. First, after reading the Bible several times, I realized that my personal value system did not square with the teachings of the Catholic Church to which I belonged.

From there, I found the whole idea absurd that a Supreme Being would create an infinite universe and then act as the tribal god for a confederation of semi-nomadic tribes. And when one considers the history of the ancient Israelites, when you see how frequently they were conquered and lived in an area vulnerable to invasion, I found it ridiculous to believe that they were the "chosen people" of the creator of the universe. I also learned to look at how the authors of the various books of the Bible copies from or were influenced by the religions and myths of their neighbors. Biblical Literalists look at the ancient world through the lens of the Bible, when what they really should be doing is looking at the Bible through the lens of history.

Michael said...

ScottJ,

This response is coming late and I hope you're still reading this...

You asked: How can you rationally justify caring at all?

The "simple" answer is that I can care because life on this planet before this particular point in time has selected my material body and brain with the ability to care, to think and to live with purpose.

Depending on the atheist you ask, you might well find agreement with your statement, "The universe (all reality) is purely material. There is no design/purpose/meaning to all reality, and because humans are included in the words 'all reality,' humans have no design/purpose/meaning other than what they make of it.

I for one, would agree with that statement though I feel it necessary to qualify the portion I bolded, namely that design does exist, if only because that is what we term material structures that we have recognized as adhering to certain patterns. Design then from a purely natural designer--Natural Selection.

You stated, "Atheism is not a religion, but it is religious in that it has answers to religious questions."

But may I ask, why do you assume that they are religious questions? Because people have been asking them and because religions as far back as we can tell have feigned to have the answers? I don't believe you have justified that religion can "own" these types of questions at all. There are simply questions and, as we are discovering, with a little manipulation we are able to answer most things or are able to provide a solid foundation for understanding things when we employ scientific methods.

You stated, "Atheism...seeks to eradicate religious expression from most of life."

And to this I say, NO! Atheism as a whole doesn't seek to do anything. It is but a declaration of our beliefs regarding the supernatural. As it happens, in the United States, the government was set up in such a way as to allow both those with and those without religion the freedoms to live their lives believing as their conscience dictated. Many religious and non-religious alike share the fear of a society that becomes dominantly religious and seeks to undo the very freedoms that enabled them to practice in the first place. Atheists tend to embrace this fight for protection of Americans' rights because they tend to see the value of such a system. They do not wish to be forced to fund religious festivals, programs and gestures at the expense of the taxpayer.

I would fully stand by you in your freedom to practice your religion as a private matter to your heart's content. What I cannot do, and I hope you would join with me on this, is to allow you to want to use the public time and dime to promote your particular religious beliefs via involuntary prayer in schools, government meetings, and public funding of religious groups acting on behest of the federal/state governments (faith-based initiatives, etc.). These things ultimately cause great injury to both your freedoms and mine.

By the sound of your grievances, I'm not convinced that you have looked into any real case-study on legal decisions that have been handed down other than those that have made their way to you via your pastor's sermons or religious media. With very very few exceptions, those pushing for religious rights in the courts have lost because they sought preferential treatment for their religious beliefs at the expense of those who do not share their beliefs. Speaking personally, there is no issue currently in the public sphere that I believe religion can add anything of value to by propogating its beliefs. Abortion, stem-cell research, homosexual rights, on and on, there is nothing of value from religion that should be taken into consideration when the public decides to pass laws that would have an effect on all its citizens. We, the people, decide what is right for our land and its laws. We, the people, grant power with limits to those who wish to govern us. God's wishes and mandates have no part in such a system. If they did, we could not rightly call ourselves a democracy.

I know I'm jumping around here, but I wanted to end on the issue you brought when you said, "Atheism claims that this existence is all that there is, all we have."

Whether or not this life is indeed all we have is not something we can presently answer. To do so would require us to abandon this life to seek out that answer and it appears that once accomplished, the person who "crosses over" can never return to impart his/her knowledge on those of us still asking the question. What we can say with more certainty that we can say about anything else is that it at least seems to be that mind is not separate from the material body and that, when one perishes, the other does so as well.

There may, in fact, be some sort of deity out there or some other utterly currently inconceivable reality that we have yet to understand. But to say so is generous to the theists. We do not need to hold our breath when we assert that the Judeo-Christian God cannot logically exist without at least one of the following being true: (1) He is not omnipotent, (2) He is a liar (if we are to take any single of his Holy Books to be true), and (3) He is not worthy of worship.

Stephen O. said...

I am a Christian who has recently become dissilusoned with the faith because of the hypocrisy, the problem of suffering and the impossibility in trying to obey Biblical law (also, I realized that like you said, the Bible not only condones slavery, but also justifies genocide in the name of "God"). What good books do you suggest I read?

John W. Loftus said...

Stephen O., start with the ones linked in our sidebar. Welcome.