Is Atheism Rationally Coercive?

Let me comment on what Eric said here at DC, who is an intelligent Christian:
I'm just trying to get at the truth. I was an ardent atheist for a number of years, but gradually came to believe that the theistic worldview and the arguments for it are more consistent with my experience of the world and my philosophic intuitions (which we all rely upon when thinking these things through). I've changed my mind in the past, and I'm certainly open to doing it again in the future. I don't think that my position is rationally coercive, but I do think that it's rational, just as I would say (and I presume John would agree) that the arguments for atheism aren't rationally coercive, but atheism is rational. LINK
First off I really appreciate Eric's honesty and willingness to consider his faith to be in error. Not many believers will say what he did, and for that I find it a joy to discuss these issues with him, even if we both think the other person is wrong. Kudos to him! Can I say the same thing?

Am I open to the possibility that I'm wrong? Well, it depends on the question. If the question is whether there was a supernatural force or being who may have created a quantum wave fluctuation which caused this universe to spring into existence as his last act before dying, then yes, I could be wrong. Such a being might have existed. Nor am I 100% sure no supernatural force or being exists now. But if the question is whether evangelical Christianity is true or many other moderate to liberal versions of that faith, then yes, I am very sure. Do I think there is a slightest chance that I might be wrong about Christianity? No. In fact, I am so sure I'm right that I'm willing to risk being thrown into hell for all of eternity. I think this says a lot about how assured I am that I'm correct.

That being said, do I think arguments for atheism aren't rationally coercive? Yes, that's what I think. Let me explain by defining the words "atheism" and "rationally" as well as what it means for something to be "coercive". These distinctions need to be fleshed out to see why I say this.

If the word “atheism” means “metaphysical naturalism,” as Eric and many Christian theists equate the terms, then I do not think “metaphysical naturalism” is “coercive” in the sense that the evidence compels people to accept it. One could affirm deism, or the philosopher’s god. If the word "atheism" is defined as simply "the lack of a belief in God," then that too is not rationally coercive, if for no other reason but that rational people disagree (as I'll explain later when it comes to the word "rationally"). I do think that agnosticism is rationally coercive, if by that we mean a skeptical method for assessing truth claims. We should all be agnostics in the Huxleyan sense. I also think agnosticism is rationally coercive if by that we mean the view that we just don't know why the universe exists (known as "soft-agnosticism"). We must all admit this is the default positon before making any positive claims about the origins of existence. I just happen to think this kind of agnosticism leads us to atheism though, as defined in either sense above.

When it comes to what it is that makes a person reasonable or “rational,” this is a complex topic. If people can only be considered rational if they are correct, then there are a few serious problems to be dealt with which cannot be satisfactorily answered. For one, how is it possible for a rational person to change his mind and still be considered a rational person both before and after changing his mind? Did he all of a sudden become rational because he changed his mind for the truth, or did he become irrational because he changed his mind and is now wrong? Besides, how do we describe what it means to be rational when all of us are surely right about some things and yet wrong about other things? Are we just rationally schizophrenic human beings? Furthermore, how can we tell when someone is rational if being rational means being correct, since everyone is influenced by non-rational emotional factors having to do with what William James described as our passionate natures? If we are to judge whether someone is wrong about an issue and hence irrational, then how sure can we be that we are not wrong and therefore irrational ourselves?

If instead we think being rational means following the rules of logic, then rational people can be dead wrong and still be rational. All they have to do is follow the rules of logic to be rational. Rational people can be dead wrong simply because they start with a false assumption. If they take a false assumption as their starting point then they may be perfectly rational to follow that assumption with good logic to its logical conclusion, even though their conclusion is wrong. They would be wrong not because they are irrational, but because they started with a wrong assumption.

To people who think we should have no assumptions I merely say that we must all assume some things if for no other reason than that we can never examine everything we accept to be true all at once. Ideas which are not subject to conscious scrutiny form a set of background beliefs which are used in assessing a given issue at hand. Our conclusions on these other issues are our accumulated set of assumptions. Yes, we must try to examine everything we accept one at a time, but we can never examine all of that which we accept as true. Just as Michael Polanyi effectively argued that we know more than we can tell, we also accept more than we can justify. Have you, for instance, ever serious examined whether or not communication is even possible between two people? Some philosophers have, and at least one ancient Greek philosopher named Cratylus concluded this was impossible. Given that conclusion of his, Cratylus merely wiggled his finger whenever he was asked a question, which, if he was correct, was the logical thing to do even if it might seem irrational. Your assumption that we do communicate is just that, an assumption, until you actually examine the arguments to the contrary. Was Cratylus correct? I don’t think so. But even if he was wrong he was still being rational. In the same sense I think George Berkeley was wrong for arguing there was no physical universe even if I think he was rational in doing so, and I do.

As another example, I personally think the logic of the Inquisition was impeccable, but absolutely wrong because it assumed God was the author of certain Biblical texts that justified it. As another example, if a believer assumes God exists then this might lead him to logically conclude God is the author of morality and that there is a life after death. The logic is probably there, at least for believers. It’s just that their starting assumption is false.

34 comments:

Bluemongoose said...

Why should God be bound by the natural laws of this earth? Is He human, with human limitations? If we are to believe that He operates outside of the entity we know of as time, then why would superceding natural laws be too hard for Him?

It comes down to this: Do you believe Yawheh of the Bible is a liar?

Chuck O'Connor said...

Blue,

I'll weigh in. I think Yawheh of the bible is a fictional character.

Havok said...

Completely agree Chuck :-)

Blue: If we are to believe that He operates outside of the entity we know of as time, then why would superceding natural laws be too hard for Him?

And why should we be inclined to believe this entity exists, especially given the subjective nature of the evidence in it's favour?
I can name all sorts of entities (and imagine many more) which I could claim are able to supercede natural laws. I doubt you'd accept any of them as existing however :-)

Blue: Do you believe Yawheh of the Bible is a liar?
2 Chronicles 18:22 "Now therefore, behold, the LORD has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of these your prophets, for the LORD has proclaimed disaster against you."

To me that says that this Yahweh character is a liar in the stories of the bible.

Rob R said...

Virtually any view can be made logically coherent if one is willing to pay the price. The rest of the discussion involves haggling over the price.

Bluemongoose said...

Hi, Chuck.

Notice how you prefaced your statement with, "I think". But if relativism truly has the day, then why should your interpretation have any meaning to anyone else? When you say things like: "I think", "I feel", "I believe", etc., you hold yourself out as a moral compass with which others should use when weighing such matters as the aforementioned one. So again, why should what you think matter, relatively speaking?

Bluemongoose said...

Havok, notice you said, "to me". This also shows you wish to be the moral compass. I'll let you boys hash it out as to who will be the reigning champion...

Bluemongoose said...

Rob R:

Why should anything cohere?

Rob R said...

Oo. That is just too basic of a question.

Geonite said...

I've always wanted to know what the rational for the Inquisition was. Can anyone fill me in?

Geonite said...

Where do Christians get the idea that the Bible is a "morality" book?

John W. Loftus said...

Geonite, read this.

floyd said...

What does it mean to be "irrational"? One way to describe irrationality is to believe strongly in things where the evidence doesn't warrant it. Strong beliefs + poor evidence = irrationality. Belief is a matter of degree and what makes a person irrational isn't just that they believe something that's unwarranted, but that their degree of confidence in that belief does not scale with the evidence. If your beliefs are not commensurate with the amount and quality of the evidence, then you're being irrational.

Imagine you are in a Washington D.C. train station and you want to travel to New York City. Now, if you get on a train that is going to Los Angeles when you read the signs that it is going to Los Angeles and the train conductor and other people told you such, then you are being irrational because you had plenty of evidence that the train was not going to New York. You just wanted to believe it for other reasons/motives.

Havok said...

Blue: But if relativism truly has the day, then why should your interpretation have any meaning to anyone else?
I could observe that both Chuck and I could relate the location of New York city in relation to our current positions, and no one would claim that New York's locality was subject to either of our whims.
"Relativism" is a handy quip for the believer, but it fails under further examination :-)

Blue: Havok, notice you said, "to me". This also shows you wish to be the moral compass. I'll let you boys hash it out as to who will be the reigning champion...
Well, "Prophecy" under your world view is the provenance of Yahweh, who caused these people to utter falsehoods, meaning he uttered falsehoods to them.
Is that not "lying" or am I missing something vital here?

Madeleine said...

I am open to the fact I might be wrong on any subject, I think not being so is foolhardy. However, I hold to the position I think is the best one. As I encounter more facts, get into more debates I find my willingness to be open ensures I am not blind to a truth I may have missed. Over the years and currently, my position shifts, refines as a result.

However, to shift me from the reasoned position I hold I need more than assertions or weak arguments. However, few arguments for atheism are rationally presented. I usually find most atheists are dogmatically blind and not open at all to the possibility their truth might not be.

Havok said...

Madeline: I'm open to the fact I might be wrong on any subject, I think not being so is foolhardy.
Good for you. Same here :-)

Madeline: However, to shift me from the reasoned position I hold I need more than assertions or weak arguments.
It would be interesting to know which arguments caused you to reason your way to your current position. Assuming Christianity, I haven't found any personally :-)

Madeline: However, few arguments for atheism are rationally presented.
Why should there be arguments FOR atheism. It's a reasonable default position to take regarding Christianity, which I assume you subscribe to.
It should be enough to show the arguments FOR your position are flawed, which I'm (somewhat) confident is the case.

Madeline: I usually find most atheists are dogmatically blind and not open at all to the possibility their truth might not be.
Well, personally, I like my "truth" to have a reasonable epistemic basis. If the results ignore basic epistemic standards and intersubjectivity, then I'm not sure how I can adhere to them, and I don't understand why anyone else would :-)

Geonite said...

John,

None of those verses justify the inquisition. Those verses refer to idol worshipers withing Israel.

This is another example of the Church twisting, mistranslating and misrepresenting the text.

Judaism is NOT a missionary religion. Jews do not go around trying to convert others to Judaism nor will they accept convert candidates until they have proven many times over that they really want to be Jews and are really willing to take on the burden of being Jewish. There is no commandment to convince others to convert not is there any reason for it. All a non-Jew has to do in the eyes of Judaism is accept that God is the one God and keep the seven laws of Noah. Not the Ten Commandments! If a non-Jew does those two things they have the rights of a Jew in the days of the Messiah.

Once again I'm going to challenge you to listen to the entire debate. It proves that Christianity is not based on Judaism.

http://divineinformation.com/downloads/Rabbi_Yossi_Mizrachi_The_Debate_2007_11_07.wmv

I don't see this video as proof that God exists. I do see it as an excellent debunking of Christianity. And the Rabbi doesn't even begin to go into the whole Mithra mythology that Christianity is really based on.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Blue,

Yawheh as fiction is the assumption I operate from.

I'm going to take Eric's advice and keep my responses in line with the post. I think it will discipline my thinking.

Thanks.

Eric said...

John, I agree with almost everything you've written in this post. Let me say that when I speak about rationality, I mean more than logical consistency. I also refer to the acceptance of plausible premises and assumptions, the coherence of our beliefs with what we know is true or probably true, the way in which our beliefs match up with our personal and public experiences, and the extent to which our beliefs adequately express our 'sense of life.'

Also, let me say, with David Bentley Hart, that "there are numerous forms of Christian beliefs and practices for which I would be hard pressed to muster a kind word from the depths of my heart, and the rejection of which by atheists or skeptics strikes me as perfectly laudable." Among those forms of Christianity I would include the evangelical Christianity (which I take you to mean not the shift that originated in England in the early 1700s, but the fundamentalism that originated in the late 1800s) you rail against. If I had to choose between atheism and fundamentalism, I'd be an atheist.

Indeed, my earlier move from nominal Christianity to atheism was motivated in no small part by my identification of fundamentalism with all of Christianity (as you can see, I was a very nominal Christian indeed!). So, I suspect that we in fact agree on much more than might appear to be the case on the surface.

However, I do not think that it's at all the case that the more sophisticated forms of Christianity are as certainly or obviously false as fundamentalism (which you seemed to imply: "But if the question is whether evangelical Christianity is true or many other moderate to liberal versions of that faith, then yes, I am very sure. Do I think there is a slightest chance that I might be wrong about Christianity? No."). Do you really think that the Christianity of a fundamentalist, which directly contradicts modern science, and which is in many cases obviously internally contradictory, is as certainly false as, say, the sophisticated, subtle, logically coherent and scientifically informed Christianity of a David Hart, a Richard Swinburne, or an Alvin Plantinga (to take some of the most popular examples)? Or, to use examples of of extremely intelligent and well informed Christians you've interacted with, is the sophisticated Christianity of a John Haught or a Victor Reppert as certainly or obviously false as the fundamentalist Christianity we both reject? It doesn't seem to me to be the case that it is.

edson said...

Eric, I am interested to know from you as a christian, why would you rather ally yourself with atheists to fight against Christian fundamentalism?

Well, Christian fundamentalism is against modern science and this seems to be a primary reason why you would rather prefer to attack Christian fundamentalism; okay, but realize also that you are so much closer to Christian fundamentalists who trusts God exist, Jesus exist as depicted in the bible, judgement day will exist, etc, notice also that you are completely and radically opposite to John and the likes who trust these things are delusions.

So dont you think that you are doing disservice to Christainity when you show a dislike a group of people who call themselves christians but with slightly different hermenuetics?

See, I have no intetion whatsoever of being hard on you but beware that your approach (and this seems to be the trend with so many christians who post here) is dangerous and does nothing educative for the people you aim at, i.e. atheists. Notice that these are people who knows Christianity in and out. Some were even former pastors, international missionaries and apologists. Some are more intelligent than any of us Christians here. These are people who made a decisions to get out of Chrstianity after considering so many things on their own and they will or will not revert on their own by doing exactly the same thing.

Your take should better be to inspire other Christians (if you truly have a gut level love and passion for a Christian faith). As for me, I made a decision to never condemn any form of Christianity and if I do so, I'll do it when it is required the most and in a very cautious possible place and way; but certainly not on a site where goats, dogs and foxes are all present to laugh over how sheep are totaly disorganized.

John W. Loftus said...

Eric, I doubt very much that Richard Swinburne or Alvin Plantinga have taken a serious look at biblical criticism. Plantinga admits this in Warranted Christian Belief, pp. 420-421. And I seriously doubt they've read the books linked in our sidebar, especially Kenton Sparks
book
.

In any case, since you admit atheism is rational, and by this you mean what I mean, then don't you have a problem that I don't have? I think so. I see no reason why a reasonable God would ever create a world in which a reasonable person would conclude he didn't exist.

Rob R said...

I see no reason why a reasonable God would ever create a world in which a reasonable person would conclude he didn't exist.


God's not just reasonable. God is personal and rationality (or at least the ability to be rational) is only a part of personhood (which is not to say that the other parts are irrational, but they may be arational(not contradicting reason but not dictated by reason or perhaps not even relevent).

Clearly, God wanted to create creatures that were more complex than mere rational thought producing entities. He wanted loving creative creatures who'd have the free will to 1)make a love characterized by self determinsim possible, 2)make a type of consciousness possible 3) make a type of creativity possible 4) reflect the kind of free soverignty that God has and 5) reflect God himself who is free.


The kind of love god expects from us as mentioned involves freedom to obey or disobey him, but today, God has to a degree, for a temporary period has stepped aside enough that that freedom even extends to whether we can coherently believe in him or not.

Eric said...

Edson, I take your criticism seriously. However, there are a few things I'd like to clarify.

First, the anti-scientific, anti-intellectual, dogmatic fundamentalism John attacks cannot be sustained in the modern world. This may seem like a controversial claim, especially given current numbers and trends, but it's a conviction I find nearly impossible to dislodge.

Second, fundamentalists do Christianity as a whole a great disservice. Many people will do what I once did and lump all Christians into the fundamentalist camp. Indeed, it seems as if many in the media and the entertainment industry are striving to make this identification stick. This makes it all too easy to dismiss Christianity as such as Bronze age nonsense (a misnomer, to be sure, as anyone who knows the relevant Bronze age dates could tell you).

Third, Jesus, as a Jew, never missed an opportunity to criticize what he took to be the reprehensible beliefs and practices among his fellow Jews. What if he had followed your advice, in the interest of unity?

Finally, when I criticize fundamentalist Christianity, I don't criticize it as a whole. You'll never hear me speak out, for example, against its passionate devotion to Christ, or against the manner in which it makes Christianity a 'way' as opposed to a 'practice' or a 'set of beliefs.' However, when fundamentalists fail to recognize what even many of the earliest Christians did, viz. that our understanding of the world informs our understanding of the Bible, it seems to me, as a Christian, that it's my duty to speak against them. After all, we're commanded to love god not only with our hearts and souls, *but with our minds as well*. And, given the identification of god with truth, how can turning a blind eye to the truth, and endorsing blatant falsehoods, evince a commitment to god?

Eric said...

"Eric, I doubt very much that Richard Swinburne or Alvin Plantinga have taken a serious look at biblical criticism."

John, I'm not sure what you mean by 'a serious look.' Surely you'd agree that they know much more about it than the average atheist who comments here. Also, they know far more about the philosophic arguments, and in most cases about the relevant science, than the average atheist who comments here. Does this mean that the average DC atheist's rejection of Christianity is irrational?

Also, it seems to me that you're suggesting that 'being a rational Christian' requires 'taking a serious look at Biblical criticism.' Now, you have said on many occasions that no one can be expected to master all the relevant aspects of the issued under consideration here. Hence, it doesn't seem that 'taking a serious look' would require a level of expertise. So, given that the bar must be set relatively low, are you sure that these men couldn't be said to have taken a serious enough look at textual criticism?

Indeed, isn't it the case that since I can point to people like WLC who do understand the science, the philosophy, the history and the textual criticism that it's manifestly possible, given your 'textual criticism' criterion, that there are rational forms of Christianity? And, since you're making a universal claim, doesn't one counterexample defeat your claim? For good measure, here's another: You openly admire the scholarship of Bart Ehrman with respect to textual criticism. Now, as I'm sure you know, Ehrman's mentor, Bruce Metzger, was a far more accomplished scholar than Ehrman, in all likelihood, ever will be -- yet he remained a believer until his death.

"In any case, since you admit atheism is rational, and by this you mean what I mean, then don't you have a problem that I don't have? I think so."

I agree. However, it seems to me that you also have a problem that I don't have, insofar as you accept a conclusion I take to be false, to wit that no form of Christianity is rational.

"I see no reason why a reasonable God would ever create a world in which a reasonable person would conclude he didn't exist."

I of course agree that the problem of divine hiddenness is -- well, a problem. However, I'm sure you don't mean you see no reason, since, again as you know, oceans of ink have been spilled on this question (e.g. Moser's recently published 'The Elusive God'). You must mean that you see no persuasive reasons. However, I'm not sure that much follows from that; at best, it strikes me as an argument from ignorance or from personal incredulity (e.g. I see no reason to believe X, hence not X, or, I cannot see how it could be possible that X, therefore not X).

John W. Loftus said...

Eric, I never said it wan't rational to believe, nor that Swinburne or Plantinga are not rational either. If that's an implication you got from something I wrote then I'm sorry to have led you to think this way. I think they are wrong. They start with a false set of assumptions and they haven't yet seriously examined the most important one they make about the reliability of the Bible.

I think their understanding of biblical criticism is probably on a college level, and that's not good enough for me.

Thanks for speaking out against fundamentalism though.

Cheers.

Eric said...

"If that's an implication you got from something I wrote then I'm sorry to have led you to think this way."

John, I just saw that the error was entirely on my part. I made the rather stupid and obviously fallacious logical move from, (1) John has concluded with certainty that all forms of Christianity are false, to (2) John therefore has concluded that all forms of Christianity are irrational. As I said, this is obviously fallacious, since we all know that people can rationally hold false beliefs, so the fact that you think a belief false doesn't entail that you think it irrational. Again, the fault is entirely with me here.

John W. Loftus said...

Eric, don't be so hard on yourself. We all make some honest mistakes.

edson said...

"Second, fundamentalists do Christianity as a whole a great disservice. Many people will do what I once did and lump all Christians into the fundamentalist camp."

Eric, thank you for your clarification, however, I would suggest that an anti scientific, an anti intellectual attitude possessed by some christian fundamentalists is not going to do any disservice to Christianity, as I'll clarify now.

Eric, it is very important you understand the psychology of fundamentalists, or at least understand what ignites fundamentalism, in order to have a correct view about them. I'm sure you quite know that there is a growing tendency among westerners that the more a person become acquinted him/herself with scientific knowledge, the more a person grows intellectually, the more a person absorb in a multicultural ideology spewed tirelessly by liberal leftists - the more anti-Christian the person will become. It is not all the time, but in most cases.

So it is a counter reaction for these people to be more fundamentalists in a struggle to preserve the intergrity of the bible. It happens in all religions and all cultures, so this is nothing unique. But my curiosity is: I find it strange why are you concerned by the views expressed by media and entertainment pundits - when you fully know what type of these people are, self-labeled intellectuals, pop stars and cultural elites, who think they have all things figured out and see Christianity as a dispensable thing? Is it any wonder when they give a "fundamentalist" label to people who adhere strictly to the views they despise?

It is also important you understand that Christianity is no way threatened. You, I and any other conscious Christian probably recognize that if God exist, Jesus exist and Christianity is true, then there is no point of being worried about what fundamentalists christians do, christians who adhere staunchly to a literal interpretation of scriptures, that their attitudes will somehow be intrepreted negatively by the world to be unscientific or unintellectual (given that their actions do not violate correct biblical theology). A better look for this is Matthew 13:24-30, which highlight the importance of being cautious on other christians about our Christianities. It is possible that some Christian groups are doing disservice to Christianity according to our viewpoint but not to God himself for God does not play dice and has everything under his control.

Finally, I'd like to say that we are not in a Christian faith so that we may be approved by the rest of the world. In the same token, it does not mean Christianity will be disapproved by any scientific or intellectual argument. It is so sad to see that so many Christians have lost their faith because of Evolution. But it is equally sad to see so many Christians today seeking tirelessly to show the world that their understanding of the bible and their Christainity is in accordance with current scientific facts, and this attitude by these christians, of basing their faith by a constant appeal to scientific authority, seems to be a pathetic attitude which reveal a deep insecurity of someone's faith. Here is where an anti scientific attitude by fundamentalist christians originate.

Russ said...

Edson,
You said,

It is so sad to see that so many Christians have lost their faith because of Evolution.

Actually, it is a sign of intellectual honesty and maturity to change one's mind, alter one's opinion, or reject past understandings when faced with reliable evidence that contradicts one's prior thoughts, or provides better insights. It is a mark of corrupted mental faculties to persist in belief when the evidence does not support it.

It is not sad at all that people have lost their faith when shown the evidence supporting evolutionary theory. Evolutionary theory is as scientifically well supported as gravitational theory, atomic theory, or the germ theory of disease. Through evolutionary theory and many other sciences, we know the Genesis stories are not true. Specifically, there were no Adam and Eve as Biblically chronicled. Also, although most Christianities love the morally corrupt notion of inherited guilt and sinfulness, original sin never happened. None of us owes the debt continually thrust in our faces by the Christianities.

Yes, we're humans and finding our way through mistakes is our lot, given our lack of foreknowledge, but we are in no way culpable for imaginary transgressions by imaginary people. Fact is, in the developed world including the US, state systems of justice hold no one responsible for other's misdeeds.

No one was ever "sacrificed" for the imaginary shortcomings of mankind. None of us is obligated to "believe" in saviors or deities by the feeble fables of the Bible.

To be sure Christian clergy have used original sin to extract great sums from the poor, the ignorant and the credulous. Evolutionary theory demonstrates the vacuousness of original sin, exposes the corrupt nature of clergy, and sets people free from the shackles of clerical authority.

It's not at all sad that people lose faith when the props supporting that faith are shown to be lies. Lies that maintain cash flow and clerical financial benefit. Lies that sustain clerical authority. Lies that keep people psychologically dependent. Lies that enslave the next generation by taking advantage of children's natural credulousness, trust, and desire to please.

Gandolf said...

Bluemongoose said..."Hi, Chuck.

Notice how you prefaced your statement with, "I think". But if relativism truly has the day, then why should your interpretation have any meaning to anyone else? When you say things like: "I think", "I feel", "I believe", etc., you hold yourself out as a moral compass with which others should use when weighing such matters as the aforementioned one. So again, why should what you think matter, relatively speaking?"

Oh dear.Some folks it seems just cant even start to comprehend how folks can ever even have there own opinions or suggestions etc in this world.Some folks it seems would like to portray all of humanity as being simply just totally brainless and without even possessing a single clue.

Seems by their bible based faithful type thinking things automatically need always to automatically add up to some moral supplied by some supposed god or something.

When the bluemongoose walks past somebody who maybe might say "oh i think or i believe or i feel its best maybe you dont go park in the spot over there,because i did and i personally had trouble getting back out of the park".

It seems quite likely bluemongoose would fly into lots of specialist faithful hand waving fully equipped with anything that can be found to try to make matters as confusing as possible, and be questioning him/her on where they might have received these morals from.And why this experience should be of any use to him/herself etc.

And yet we are asked if not even ordered to still try to be respectful.Does ignorance and blind faith really still deserve respect?.

Bluemongoose heres another little simple scientific method you might decide to try out yourself.

How about you go swallow a large bottle of arsenic or something,then later ask yourself the same type of question again.

Hmmmmmm???....just why might somebody else`s suggestion or opinion of maybe not swallowing poison etc,have some strange need to really matter so much relatively speaking.

Or poke yer head in a bucket of ice cold water twice but only remove it from the water once,it maybe might help shock you into some deeper thought and understanding of how and why maybe somebody elses experience and suggestion or opinion etc of it maybe not being such a great idea after all. Could ever be understood as possibly maybe being useful and relative information to yourself also.

Doug said...

John, even though I'm a theist, I must say that was a very thoughtful post. I can see how the Reformed Epistemologists have been a key factor in the discussion about a belief being true versus rational (even though a given belief may be both).

I disagree that morality makes any sense apart from God, but I guess that's a topic for another discussion. :)

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

John,

Your thought that agnosticism is the default is not without problems as you set forth in this article. First, I don't believe that to be true. We are not naturally agnostic individuals about truth claims, only certain truth claims for certain individuals and that for certain reasons.

Example: You seek to purchase a new car. You don't make a preliminary investigation that it works when the key is turned or the button is pressed, why? because you make the assumption that it works like other new cars work. So the investigation of every truth claim is not something that rational being do 100% of the time.

Secondly, in the article while trying to say that you admit to the "possibility" that you could be wrong about the the existence of God at any time, you effectively deny that you could be wrong by saying:

If the question is whether there was a supernatural force or being who may have created a quantum wave fluctuation which caused this universe to spring into existence as his last act before dying, then yes, I could be wrong.

This statement would deny the existence of God as God would have to exist just like we find within the Bible as a being who is not subject to death. In fact he would have to be without days and eternal as we find the description within the bible. Your understanding places God subject to death therefore he couldn't be God because God would have power over all death including his as we find aptly within the biblical description of God. Your understanding of this may just be short, but I don't believe so. You supposed "possibility of wrong" is only a deceit to entertain the reader. (good evangelization technique though)

Then finally you assume that the wrong starting point dictates the endpoint and that diametrically opposing views could both be rational. You said this:

Rational people can be dead wrong simply because they start with a false assumption.

So by virtue of that, being rational in no way can lead one to the truth, only their perception of the truth...

This is a false assumption because 1- That assumption is a truth claim itself which by the your own standards cannot be true for everyone. In other words this is circular and self defeating assumption.

2- Truth can be known absolutely...ie: What percentage of the time is it wrong for me to murder my next door neighbor?...It's wrong 100% of the time John. Therefore I can know the truth of that statement absolutely.

Given the above hypothetical, under your construct, my logic to murder my neighbor is a rational decision...In fact, given your construct, anyone's logic to do any crime or to do any good all live on the same plateau and are rational decisions. That's ridiculous.

Deeper...under your view, the terrorist SCUM that flew those airplanes into the buildings on 9/11 were rational people.

WHO IN THE COOLEST PART OF HADES BELIEVES THAT CRAP JOHN?

Christianity is MUCH better situated to deal with this than atheism as atheism is empty, places all actions on the same level and as you have set forth in this article offers no true basis to distinguish right from wrong or good from bad. Aside from the solid evidence for God and biblical Christianity, I cannot in the least bit make a rational decision for atheism for it is the worst construct of all worldviews available to mankind!

Thanks John.

Gandolf said...

Howdy District Supt. Harvey Burnett you said..."Example: You seek to purchase a new car. You don't make a preliminary investigation that it works when the key is turned or the button is pressed, why? because you make the assumption that it works like other new cars work. So the investigation of every truth claim is not something that rational being do 100% of the time."

I suggest this example only proves that sometimes some folks are not so investigative as maybe they really should be.But we still learn from each experience.

you said "2- Truth can be known absolutely...ie: What percentage of the time is it wrong for me to murder my next door neighbor?...It's wrong 100% of the time John. Therefore I can know the truth of that statement absolutely."

So what??....Who said much experience over much time still cant get us as near to what we might then perceive as supposedly being as close to what be an absolute as far as we can see it for the present moment?.

Just because we suggest that maybe our morals are relative to our experiences etc,doesnt rule out the idea that maybe its not ever going to be that likely that swallowing a large bottle of arsenic will ever be much good for our health if we wish to keep on living,is it?

But at least by not starting at the point of a absolute in the first place at least we can say we actually have learned by experience and also by not holding on to the certain needs of absolutes it allows us to also retain the intelligence to change as new information is learned.

Hey and if absolutes in the sense of being given to us from some God were really that very likely,quite possibly we would still even stone thieves to death still to this very day.

Thats where those religious folk wishing to go asserting some absolutes in our past came very unstuck,it soon became quite obvious that stoning people for stealing maybe wasnt such a great idea after all.Some folks im sure were stoned to death having been wrongly accused and later found out of not being a thief after all.

So a cover story was needed and the creative men got to work on it.

Bible......New Testament

Hell ...holy heck !...Crikey District Supt .... :)....even the damm bible was evolving huh

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

Gandolf,

Allright my friend, I'm readin' your answer and will get back.

Thanks for the response.

A Recovering Catholic said...

Nicely laid out, I enjoyed reading your post.