Reality Check: What Must Be the Case if Christianity is True?

17) That although there is no rational explanation for why Jesus had to die on the cross to atone for our sins, his death atoned for our sins.

96 comments:

Jeffrey Shallit said...

Yes, I think this is a very important objection. No civilized person thinks that if you commit a serious crime, and are sentenced to do time for it, then your obligation is magically relieved if someone else is sent to prison in your place. And this becomes even more absurd if the penalty is torture instead of prison. Yet Christians ask us to accept this preposterous aspect of the crucifixion myth without question. When I went to Sunday School, it was never even addressed.

busterggi said...

Even if Christianity were true it wouldn't make the whole Adam & Eve story any less a fairytale - so Jesus would have died for an imaginary sin.

shane said...

Part 1

The whole thing about Jesus dying so God can forgive us makes no sense in the first place.

How is it forgiveness if God takes out our sins on either us (hell), or in Jesus (restitution)?
Eitherway God does not forgive a sin, He either punishes us for our own sins, or He has already punished Jesus for our sins?
But God never lets an offense go!

Yet in the gospels we are commanded to forgive others their trespasess and God will forgive ours?
We are commanded to forgive 77 times 7 times if need be, yet God Himself does not do this?

Why should we be commanded to do something that God will not/cannot do Himself?

shane said...

Part 2

How is it possible for Jesus to take our place and pay the penalty for our sins, when He only died a a one time physical death?

If the wages of our sins in Gods eye's deserves eternal torment in hell, then how come Jesus isn't in hell for all eternity?
Why is it that a temporary amount of suffering equals a permanent amount of suffering?

This is like owing someone 100$ every day for the rest of your life, but then a friend pays one payment of 100$ for you and your debt is called off!......makes no sense.

Lvka said...

To destroy death, and to give human nature the power to do the same.

zenmite said...

I think Lvka makes an important point. I confess that I don't just disagee with many of the ideas asserted by christians, I actually find many of them incoherent.

If one scientist suggests that some new illness is the result of a virus and other scientists assert that it is due to bacteria, I can reject one view and embrace the other based upon the evidence. But I find neither view incoherent.

If a historian asserts that Rome was founded by etruscans and another historian suggests it was founded by Greeks, I can prefer one explanation over the other.

But if a 'scientist' came forward with the idea that the new illness was the result of evil spirits I would find this assertion incoherent. If a historian suggested Rome was founded by aliens from the planet ork, I'd find the idea incoherent.

When an ancient pagan priest asserts that tossing a virgin into a volcano will appease his god's anger and bring prosperity, I find this idea incoherent...as in without logical or meaningful connection; lacking in correct logical relation. I think most christians would also reject this notion, not just because they find it mistaken but because it is illogical or incoherent.

This is exactly how I view the idea that sacrificiing a goat will appease the jewish god and how I view the idea that jesus sacrificing himself on a cross somehow atones for all of mankind's sins. It's not just that I disagree, I find it absurd and lacking in coherence. It's right up there with "Step on a crack and break your mother's back" or "breaking a mirror brings 7 years of bad luck.".

Hendy said...

@busterggi: Exactly. It's so true. Without a fall, there is no troubled nature in need of redemption. I think the fall is supremely overlooked as a way to decide the truth on the resurrection. With no plausible fall account, the resurrection 'facts' which are long lost, and the issues with penal substitution actually become, with great relieve, moot.

Who even cares at that point? We're evolved primates who are on the way up. No prior perfection or divine closeness that we fell from. Therefore no need for redemption requiring a human sacrifice. That simple.

Ignerant Phool said...

First of all, this concept of sin makes no sense to me, so the notion that Jesus had to die on a cross for my sins doesn't follow. There is no rational explanation because there is nothing to atone for.

Why didn't God just kill himself before he created us, and then tell us that he had to that in order for us to exist. It's just that it seems he could have skipped so many things and that he just doesn't have a lot of options.

Andre

Eric said...

I don't find this objection problematic at all.

John is a writer. He communicates with words, phrases and sentences. Communication with words, phrases and sentences presupposes that words, phrases and sentences have *meaning*, but anyone who has studied philosophy of language will tell you we have not figured out how words, phrases and sentences mean anything. (We have a host of competing theories, just as we have competing theories of the atonement.)

We thus get:

(17') We cannot explain how words, phrases and sentences mean anything, but John writes books, so words, phrases and sentences mean something.

Does this stop you from writing?

That aside, any reasoning of the form, "We don't have a rational explanation for X, so either not X or probably not X" is just blatantly fallacious. (And, clearly, at least "probably not X" is implied by John's post.)

John W. Loftus said...

Okay Eric, a hidden premise is that if God wants us to believe in him then we should be able to rationally explain more things than we can, for the more we cannot understand about him the less we think he exists. The atonement is one belief that cannot be rationally explained. So is the Trinity. So is the incarnation. So also is personal identity after death. So also is timeless bodiless existence.

If God wants us to believe his ways are reasonable and good then we must be able to know enough about his ways to think they are reasonable and good. After all he created our minds and supposedly tells us to use then, so we would expect that when we do we could understand enough of his ways to know they are reasonable and good.

Got it my friend?

Eric said...

"Okay Eric, a hidden premise is that if God wants us to believe in him then we should be able to rationally explain more things than we can, for the more we cannot understand about him the less we think he exists."

Hi John, thanks as always for the thoughtful response.

I agree with this in general, but it's not, it seems to me, easy to apply in each particular case. For example, considering (17) for the moment, is it the case that understanding the 'mechanics' of the atonement is a necessary condition for rational belief in God? I don't see how that's a tenable position.

I'm reminded of what Professor Peter Kreeft has said about the Eucharist: Jesus didn't say, "Take this and understand," but "take this and eat." Don't get me wrong: I'd prefer to understand too. But the question is, Is it necessary (in any particular case, with respect to the rationality of a belief) to understand? (This is true of any worldview: consider all the things physicalists don't understand, but have no problem accepting, about the world.)

Eric said...

Oops, I forgot to add that your objection seems to refer to God's apparently poor marketing abilities. (Though, with over 2 billion Christians worldwide, it seems to me as if He could teach Madison ave. a thing or two! ;) ) But I for one have no idea whether more people would believe in God if we understood how the atonement works, though I suspect that it wouldn't make much of a difference. This seems more obvious to me when we consider that when Christians refer (admittedly loosely) to 'belief,' they're not talking about the intellectual assent to the truth of a proposition, but to a commitment. What I don't understand about my fiancee greatly outweighs the little bit I do (I think!) understand, but that hasn't stopped me from making a commitment to her. And, it's not obvious to me that I'd have been more willing to make that commitment if only I'd understood more about her, unless -- and this gets back to the point of my last post -- we're talking about something it's necessary for me to understand pre-commitment.

Ignerant Phool said...

Hi Eric, would you care to apply your analogy to the fall/A&E eating a literal fruit being literal people causing us to be sinners and knowing good and evil? And if you don't believe in all of that, can you tell me when and how did I become in need of Jesus dying for my sins.

Andre

Eric said...

Andre, you don't have to take literally the Genesis account of the Fall to see the need for something like the atonement; all you need is to accept the reality of sin. (Incidentally, even as an atheist I accepted the fundamental Christian belief that human beings are not properly ordered to the good -- a 101 level course in either history or literature is all you need to understand that -- though then I wouldn't of course have called the problem 'sin.') Here's Chesterton on sin:

"[The ancient masters of religion] began with the fact of sin--a fact as practical as potatoes. Whether or no man could be washed in miraculous waters, there was no doubt at any rate that he wanted washing. But certain religious leaders in London, not mere materialists, have begun in our day not to deny the highly disputable water, but to deny the indisputable dirt. Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved. Some followers of the Reverend R.J.Campbell, in their almost too fastidious spirituality, admit divine sinlessness, which they cannot see even in their dreams. But they essentially deny human sin, which they can see in the street. The strongest saints and the strongest sceptics alike took positive evil as the starting-point of their argument. If it be true (as it certainly is) that a man can feel exquisite happiness in skinning a cat, then the religious philosopher can only draw one of two deductions. He must either deny the existence of God, as all atheists do; or he must deny the present union between God and man, as all Christians do. The new theologians seem to think it a highly rationalistic solution to deny the cat."

Ignerant Phool said...

Hi Eric, even if I would accept the reality of "sin" or whatever you would call it, where, when, and how did this reality come about?

Also, my point earlier was to illustrate that I can use your analogy and apply it to a belief in a literal fall, and say that not because I can't explain or understand it, it doesn't make it untrue.

Hendy said...

@Eric:

Your hidden analogy, as well as Chesterton's from Orthodoxy, is that there was a point where previously we were perfect or not somewhat 'dual-natured.'

Until this is proven or shown to be likely, we have no reason to suspect that we are not evolved primates with a host of animalistic tendencies. That simple.

Nature and science tend to favor the simplest answer. I find a curve that has gradually shifted in a positive direction with respect to morality far simpler to explain than one that starts at infinite (perfect unity and closeness with god), then literally plummets to a trough and then begins it's gradual ascent from there.

How do you suppose that we would verify a perfect pre-existing state? Given evolution, it seems that there is far better evidence to support no such thing.

Eric said...

"Until this is proven or shown to be likely, we have no reason to suspect that we are not evolved primates with a host of animalistic tendencies. That simple.
Nature and science tend to favor the simplest answer."

What in the world makes you think that anything I've said is opposed to 'evolution' or 'nature' or 'science'? I accept evolution as thoroughly, and almost as gladly, as Richard Dawkins does. Please, don't assume that every Christian you speak to reads the Bible as the most ignorant, ham-handed fundamentalists do.

Now you insist on asking me for a mechanism when I tried to point out to John that you must first defend the notion that my understanding of the mechanism is a necessary condition of rational belief. Can you defend this assumption?

John W. Loftus said...

Eric there are other considerations. When it comes to understanding something there must be evidence that there is something to understand, a known fact that needs an explanation, if you will. With the atonement there is no known fact to understand, but a mere assertion that Jesus atoned for sins. If no sense can be made of an assertion without a basis in fact then it is most likely a false assertion. And as I said the more you cannot explain or understand what you think is the case then the more that what you believe is false, especially when there are no known facts to explain.

Your notion of God explains everything doesn't it? But when you have an explanation that explains everything then it explains too much. It ends up not being an explanation at all.

Hendy said...

@Eric:

I don't really get your point... Here's the deal: if you support evolution, you hold that we are evolved primates.

No souls.
No previous state of goodness.
No fall from this previous state.
No need of any redemption.

No need of redemption = who cares if Jesus did die for us?

That's the issue. So, yes, you need to present a mechanism to defend any sort of fall which would contradict the above. Evolution alone does not illustrate anything contradictory to the above statements and therefore no reason to suspect these supernaturally infused aberrations in the animal kingdom.

Without this, you are merely equating 'sin' with evolved views and beliefs about desirable/undesirable actions in terms of evolutionary survival and our tribal/cultural history.

Ignerant Phool said...

Eric, I don't know if I'm asking for too much, but I'm really just trying to understand these beliefs, b/c they make no sense to me considering their developments and so on. I would need to go into this detail for detail, as I will not take such a huge leap of faith to believe in this atonement, even if it is the case that we can't rationally explain it.

"...you must first defend the notion that my understanding of the mechanism is a necessary condition of rational belief. Can you defend this assumption?"

Yes you have a point in what you say, but as I was trying to show, the bigger issue lies with the idea of the atonement. This must be the case since it could be applied and said for so many things. Your argument seem to be heading away from the issue, and I think the point of John's post is directed at dealing with it.

Btw, congratulations on your engagement dude.

Andre

Gandolf said...

1,John said....17) That although there is no rational explanation for why Jesus had to die on the cross to atone for our sins, his death atoned for our sins.

2,Eric said..17') We cannot explain how words, phrases and sentences mean anything, but John writes books, so words, phrases and sentences mean something.


1,There is very little/none good evidence to prove the atonement actually works, or why there was really even any good reason for it in the first place.

2,Even if we cant explain how words have meaning,we do still have plenty of good evidence to actually prove that they obviously must have meaning as well as plenty of proof that mostly they actually work.

Eric said..."I don't find this objection problematic at all."

Eric to be honest im lost for some understanding, of how you dont see these situations as really being very different.

If use of words were still only a theory somebody had only suggested "might" work, using rock drawings.Then maybe id see it as being more comparable to people who suggest maybe the death of Jesus atoned for our sin.

But even so, just by the very use of (explaining by rock drawings),i would still be able to see some actual evidence for good proof that very likely verbal dialogue could actually also work.

shane said...

Eric.

How is Gods (supposed) message communicated to us?.....its communicated to us by the bible.

What is the bible?.....the bible is words, phrases, and sentences!

Therefore, if words dont really have a meaning then the bible is obviously a useless tool for God to communicate His divine will now isn't it?

Hardly befitting for an all knowing being!

GearHedEd said...

Eric said,

"...I don't find this objection problematic at all."

Of course not. You're a modern day Catholic apologist who bases his reasoning on incomprehensible word games and archaic philosophy like Aquinas.

Believe whatever you want, Eric.

I, for one, am bore with your continual obfuscations.

GearHedEd said...

Chesterton (quoted by Eric) said<

"...Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved."

Faulty reasoning!

If "sin" is defined as "an offense against God, then you're concluding that God exists for the atheist a priori.Yet in the same paragraph, Chesterton states,

"...He must either deny the existence of God, as all atheists do..."

The argument only works if you redefine "sin" without appealing to it as an "offense against God.".

GearHedEd said...

Eric said,

"...17') We cannot explain how words, phrases and sentences mean anything..."

Implying that the Bible can (and DOES) mean whatever anyone wants it to?

We CAN explain how words, phrases and sentences mean something. Words are symbology that all who use any given language agree upon for meanings. Otherwise, no one could have ever written a dictionary.

Cut the nebulous philosophy and deign to talk to us lowly mortals with plain talk so you don't need "a hundred pages just to set up the arguments", Eric.

shane said...

Gearhead.

Good point in regards to the whole "sin being an offense against God".

I'll add by saying......if you christians want to define sin as an "offense against God", but....at the same time claim that God is all powerful, then you contradict yourselves!

What is an offense?
An offense is a hurt!....it is an emotional hurt!

If God is all powerful then how can God be hurt in anyway?......whether its emotional or physical.

If God is an omnipotent,omniscient,omnipresent,omnibenevolent, eternal and perfect being......then He is above all things!
God would be above offense and above reproach!

How can one offend a being who is above being offended?

By trying to reconcile sin as an offense against God, then you are in effect admitting that God is limited!....You are saying that we humans have the power to actually instigate Gods emotions!

Chuck O'Connor said...

The problem with Eric's reasoning is that he makes up his own facts. Paul relied on a literal Adam to incorporate atonement theology so if this premise no longer holds (which Hendy argued successfully) than the atonement argument is defeated. Eric does this often and continues to insist he is rational. I doubt his reason and morality simply due to his haughty defense of the RCC despite their crimes against children.

Eric said...

(post 1 of 2)

"When it comes to understanding something there must be evidence that there is something to understand, a known fact that needs an explanation, if you will. With the atonement there is no known fact to understand, but a mere assertion that Jesus atoned for sins."

Here's the data it seems to me we're working with (note, these aren't 'known facts' in the strong sense of the phrase -- few things are, as you well know -- but they are what Christians believe to be true, and which they have reasons to believe to be true):

There is a God. God is the creator and sustainer of all that exists. Human beings exist in the image of God, in terms of reason and will, and thus stand in a special relationship to God. There is a right way to stand in relationship to God, and a wrong way, and we're standing in the wrong relationship to God. God became man to right this wrong relationship, and he did it as it has always been done -- with a sacrifice. In the past, priests offered sacrifices, but in this case God is both the priest and the sacrifice. This sacrifice, which provides us the means of standing in the proper relationship to God, is what we call the atonement.

I haven't 'explained' the atonement there, but have provided the data we're working with. You of course dispute each and every piece of data, and that's fine. But if you want to discuss whether the atonement makes sense, you can do it by either (1) denying the data, or (2) presupposing the data for the sake of argument and going on from there. With respect to (17), you seemed to be taking the latter approach, and it was *that* argument I was criticizing. If you want to now approach the question with (1), well we're back to the most fundamental questions in this whole debate (why think God exists, etc.).

"Your notion of God explains everything doesn't it?"

Well, of course. God as most informed Christians understand him -- that is, as the pure act of "to be" itself -- *must* explain everything.

"Here's the deal: if you support evolution, you hold that we are evolved primates.
No souls."

This is false. For Aquinas, 'the soul' is the substantial form of the human body; it's not some spooky stuff you add to matter. You can't have a human body without a soul. However, given Aquinas's metaphysics, you can have a soul without a body. Simply put, you can't have matter without form, but you can have form without matter.

"No previous state of goodness."

You don't need a "previous state of goodness," but a conscious turning from God.

"No fall from this previous state."

See my last point.

"No need of any redemption.
No need of redemption = who cares if Jesus did die for us?"

If there is a God, and if he is our creator, and if we have consciously separated ourselves from him (this is all sin is), and if we instead need unity with him, then we are in need of redemption. (I know someone will misunderstand this and comment on the "ifs," so let me preempt that by saying that the point isn't whether the "ifs" are true, but whether this alternative to a literal reading of the Fall leaves us in need of a redeemer.)

y.

Eric said...

(post 2 of 2)

"How is Gods (supposed) message communicated to us?.....its communicated to us by the bible.
What is the bible?.....the bible is words, phrases, and sentences!
Therefore, if words dont really have a meaning then the bible is obviously a useless tool for God to communicate His divine will now isn't it?"

Yeah, I didn't say that words etc. "don't really have a meaning" but that we can't yet explain how they mean anything. Oh wait, apparently Gearhed Ed can:

"We CAN explain how words, phrases and sentences mean something. Words are symbology that all who use any given language agree upon for meanings. Otherwise, no one could have ever written a dictionary."

Ed, quickly write up your explanation and publish it. If it's as successful as you think, you're *guaranteed* a tenured position at the university of your choice and a place among the greatest philosophers in histor

Eric said...

I expressed myself clumsily here:

"You can't have a human body without a soul."

Of course, corpses don't have souls. For Aquinas and Aristotle, 'form' doesn't just comprise the shape of a thing, but includes its functions as well, since 'form' also comprises a thing's organization and structure. So the remark above should read, "You can't have a *living* human body without a soul." (Indeed, modern philosophers of mind have commented on the similatity between Aquinas's view of the mind and functionalists' views of the mind.)

Hendy said...

@Eric:

Thanks for the reply and for clarifying your stance. I do think you run into an issue of when and where the soul is infused along the evolutionary path, which is what I'm trying to get at. If humans are evolved primates, there is no reason to suspect that since previous primates are viewed as not having souls that we do have souls.

Does that make sense? Or do you hold that animals have souls as well (not being facetious; some do hold this, I believe)?

Also, you are rearranging words but saying the same thing... 'Turning from god' implies a previous state of 'not having turned from god.' You cannot have a point in time after which we are subject to death, pain, sin, and divine depravity without having a previous point in time when such was not the case.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric

Nothing you offer is data, it is superstition and dogma.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric

Here is a good working definition of data "Factual information, especially information organized for analysis or used to reason or make decisions."

Assertions of fact (like your theological mumbo jumbo) do not require that I take them as factual.

GearHedEd said...

@ Eric:

The statement, "There is a God" is not data.

The rest fails from there.

GearHedEd said...

Eric said,

"Yeah, I didn't say that words etc. "don't really have a meaning" but that we can't yet explain how they mean anything. Oh wait, apparently Gearhed Ed can: (etc..., quoting me.)"

You're splitting hairs here.What then pray tell are you on about with the "can't yet explain how they mean anything" BS, if it's not another case of the "I'm a uber-educated philosophy major and you're not" argument you try to pull on everyone you engage in debate?

Same tactics, always.

First you kick out some ill-defined, cryptic shit, then attack us for not understanting your cryptic shit, saying;

"That's not what I said, you're being obtuse or misrepresenting what I said", or "...not understanding that I'm using obscure definitions", etc, etc.

Your debating techniques are dishonest at best.

GearHedEd said...

This:

"...we can't yet explain how (words) mean anything"

First, I explained it. Consensus.

Second, if philosophers are still in the dark about this, then that's probably why I never felt like studying philposphy.

Mental masturbation!

Cogs said...

Main Entry: con·sen·sus
Pronunciation: \kən-ˈsen(t)-səs\
Function: noun
Usage: often attributive
Etymology: Latin, from consentire
Date: 1843
1 a : general agreement : unanimity b : the judgment arrived at by most of those concerned
2 : group solidarity in sentiment and belief

usage: The phrase "consensus of opinion", which is not actually redundant (see sense 1a; the sense that takes the phrase is slightly older), has been so often claimed to be a redundancy that many writers avoid it. You are safe in using "consensus" alone when it is clear you mean consensus of opinion, and most writers in fact do so.

shane said...

Eric.

Whether or not we can explain how words have meaning is stupid shit to talk about in the first place!

The fact that you even appealed to this shows the incredible idiocity that you have to stoop to just to have an argument of sorts.

Words have meaning as much as a "thought" has meaning.
Words have meaning because they explain our thoughts on a humanly conscious level!
So far, there is no higher level of consciousness to our knowledge!

John W. Loftus said...

Eric, I don't know where you stand on the atonement. Apparently you agree with me that there isn't a rational explanation for it, as you might admit for the problem of evil, the Trinity and the incarnation. At some point the lack of a rational explanation for these and other beliefs of yours would be fatal to your faith. No one can say in advance how much incomprehensible mystery you can allow and still believe. But that is simply way over the top for me especially when there is a corresponding lack of evidence to believe.

You should look at a series of posts on the atonement written by Dr. Ken Pulliam.

Cheers.

Eric said...

John, thanks for the recommendation. I'll definitely check that series out.

GearHedEd said...

John said,

"...No one can say in advance how much incomprehensible mystery you can allow and still believe."

Shouldn't the thirteenth word there be

'swallow'?

Just asking...

Eric said...

This is a somewhat glib response (I can't remember where I read it), but there's nonetheless something to it: I find the mysteries and the questions that belief in God evokes to be more satisfying than the the answers non-belief provides. (One could also refer to Newman here: "Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt." He's right.) That's true in part because we all have our mysteries: it's not as if it's a choice between mysteries and questions on the one hand, and perfect understanding on the other. The naturalist/physicalist faces mysteries as serious as those of any theist. You've said something similar in the past, John (it may have been on "The Things That Matter Most"), when you suggested that whatever the truth about reality is, it's absurd. You have your mysteries and I have mine, and we both have to find ways to deal with them.

GearHedEd said...

"I find the mysteries and the questions that belief in God evokes to be more satisfying than the the answers non-belief provides."

Satisfaction is the measure of truth?

Glib, indeed.

GearHedEd said...

Your problem, Eric, is that you have this NEED to be satisfied.

Life is uncomfortable, and I embrace that. I don't NEED answers.
And I don't accept answers that others attempt to thrust upon me.
That's why I argue these points, not because I'm 'searching' for anything...

Eric said...

"Satisfaction is the measure of truth?
Glib, indeed."

Ed, and you wonder why I rarely respond to you: you aren't even a capable enough reader to distinguish epistemic satisfaction from the sort of emotional satisfaction you're talking about. How many times have you heard a scientist speak about whether he finds a particular solution "satisfying"?

Don't waste my time with this nonsense.

John W. Loftus said...

Eric, yes, but keep in mind that the choices before us are emphatically not between your particular brand of Christianity and atheism. For some reason it appears you forget this. I don't. What you've done is to isolate your modern Catholic Christianity as the only religious choice before you and you contrast that option with unbelief. You know differently but you don't seem to take that into account when assessing what is the case. All affirmative claims have anomalies and mysteries that we must all put on the back burner. But your choice is emphatically not between Catholicism and atheism. The options are myriad and anyone of these other choices could say the same things you just did and keep on believing. Because I understand this I argue that the default position is agnosticism. You ought therefore become an agnostic, like I am. But agnosticism naturally pushes us toward atheism since they are almost twins. Having denied all extraordinary religious claims the agnostic simply concludes no extraordinary claims have any support. Having denied all supernatural explanations and beings by a process of elimination the agnostic simply denies they exist. A person like that is an atheist, a skeptic of all such claims.

GearHedEd said...

Eric said,

"...you aren't even a capable enough reader to distinguish epistemic satisfaction from the sort of emotional satisfaction you're talking about."

Sure I am. You were the one who said it was glib, and neglected to qualify “satisfaction” in your statement. And you’ve just accused me of being simple-minded. I didn’t imply emotion; you assumed. I DO understand. You bend over backwards to beat the dents out of the concept of Christianity, and I laugh at your gymnastics.

Now you're hacking on about special definitions again.

First, you're the only one in any of these comments who insists on looking down your nose at everyone who doesn't habitually speak in "Philosopherese".

Second, like I said a year and a half ago, if you NEED a hundred pages of Philosopherese to set up the argument for God's existence, then the concept is incoherent to the extent that it NEEDS apologetics.

You're a pompous ass.

GearHedEd said...

And before you cry "ad hominem!" on me, realize that the pompous ass comment was directed at YOU, not your argument.

Eric said...

"What you've done is to isolate your modern Catholic Christianity as the only religious choice before you and you contrast that option with unbelief. You know differently but you don't seem to take that into account when assessing what is the case. All affirmative claims have anomalies and mysteries that we must all put on the back burner. But your choice is emphatically not between Catholicism and atheism. The options are myriad and anyone of these other choices could say the same things you just did and keep on believing. Because I understand this I argue that the default position is agnosticism. You ought therefore become an agnostic, like I am."

John, I would agree *if* (1) it were the case that all other alternatives were equally well supported (such that they in effect canceled one another out), and (2) I didn't have good reasons for thinking that the beliefs I do hold are well justified.

I see no reason to think (1) obtains: for example, I have concluded that any type of Christianity that teaches sola scriptura is logically self refuting (since scripture doesn't teach sola scriptura). This example alone, if it holds, and if Catholicism isn't similarly self defeating, refutes (1).

But even if I cannot refute (1) -- and there are of course myriad religions I have never heard of, let alone studied or refuted -- I'm still not in the religiously equivalent position of Buridan's ass if (2) is false. And, of course, I have concluded that (2) is false, since I think I have good reasons for concluding that Catholicism is true. Take any scientific theory as an example: given underdetermination, we know there are countless possible, and empirically indistinguishable, alternative theories, most of which no one has ever refuted, because no one has ever formulated them. But it doesn't follow that we're not justified in accepting theories we think we have good reasons to accept.

So, your argument seems to me to presuppose that (1) and (2) obtain, and I see no good reasons to think they do.

Eric said...

"You were the one who said it was glib, and neglected to qualify “satisfaction” in your statement."

Yeah, it's called 'context,' Ed. If a person talks of 'satisfaction' in the context of (1) the questions certain answers raise, and (2) his preference for those questions to alternative answers, it's pretty obvious, to any charitable reader, what he's talking about.

"I didn’t imply emotion; you assumed."

Right, so when you wrote the following, you weren't talking about emotional satisfaction:

"Your problem, Eric, is that you have this NEED to be satisfied.
Life is uncomfortable, and I embrace that. I don't NEED answers."

I doubt even you buy that one.

"First, you're the only one in any of these comments who insists on looking down your nose at everyone who doesn't habitually speak in "Philosopherese"."

No, I insist that those who disagree with me at least understand what I mean when I use a particular term. And since we're dealing with philosophical, scientific, historical etc. questions on this blog, it's often the case that terms are used technically. Come on, are you telling me you never had to correct a creationist who simply didn't understand what scientists mean by the term 'theory'? Were you looking down your nose when you did so because the fundamentalist didn't speak "scientistese"?

"Second, like I said a year and a half ago, if you NEED a hundred pages of Philosopherese to set up the argument for God's existence, then the concept is incoherent to the extent that it NEEDS apologetics."

Hmm, let's apply this reasoning elsewhere. It takes most of us years of study (from elementary school to middle school to high school to college) of hundreds -- even thousands -- of pages of mathematical textbooks before we are in a position to understand multi-variable calculus. Does it follow that multi-variable calculus is incoherent and needs apologetics? Or is it the case that, like it or not, some subjects *are* complex and do require a specialized base of knowledge and ability before we're in a position to understand them?

GearHedEd said...

"Hmm, let's apply this reasoning elsewhere. It takes most of us years of study (from elementary school to middle school to high school to college) of hundreds -- even thousands -- of pages of mathematical textbooks before we are in a position to understand multi-variable calculus. Does it follow that multi-variable calculus is incoherent and needs apologetics? Or is it the case that, like it or not, some subjects *are* complex and do require a specialized base of knowledge and ability before we're in a position to understand them?"

So this is the rationale for brainwashing little children into believeing in God long before they have the critical thinking skills required to decide for themselves whether or not the story has merit?

Pardon me for having skipped the indoctrination...

GearHedEd said...

About context:

My statement,

"Your problem, Eric, is that you have this NEED to be satisfied.
Life is uncomfortable, and I embrace that. I don't NEED answers."

fits just as well with an epistemicological explanation as it does wioth an emotional one. You can NEED one just as easily as you can NEED the other.

GearHedEd said...

AND...

There's a vast gulf between Calculus (which, incidentally, rests upon a series of mathematical PROOFS) and your invisible, incoherent God.

GearHedEd said...

And as for Calculus, I have seven years of college without a single semester that didn't include university level mathenatics.

I understand how to derive a general solution to a non-linear least squares matrix well enough that I could explain it to you and you'd UNDERSTAND it, even without the necessary math bacground.

I also got A's in college level physics, chemistry and engineering courses.

And inbetween, I took some classes in comparative religions, ethics, intro philosophy, social science and political science.

AND my overall GPA is in excess of 3.8

When you think I'm just another hack blogger, you underestimate me.

GearHedEd said...

AND...

My GPA would probably have been higher, but I bought a house, went through a divorce including a custody battle and moved three times WHILE I WAS GETTING MY DEGREE.

GearHedEd said...

AND!

I got to keep both houses, all five cars and most importantly, I got physical custody of the kids.

GearHedEd said...

All without religion, belief in God, or prayer number one.

GearHedEd said...

Here's an even better one:

Whenever I sneeze, all the people who know me well have been told not to say "Bless you" to me, but instead they say "Damn you to Hell",

to which I reply,

"Why, thank you."

GearHedEd said...

Eric said,

"...One of my favorite arguments is a proper development of Aquinas's first way. However, while the argument appears simple if you google it, it in fact uses everyday terms in a highly technical way, so it's almost always misunderstood (even by professional philosophers!). Explaining it requires an enormous amount of work; for example, one of the best *popular level* treatments of it I've read devotes just under one hundred pages to providing the sort of conceptual prerequisites I'm talking about. And keep in mind that's before you ever get to the argument!"

And THAT, folks, is why Aquinas fails.

GearHedEd said...

...and Eric considers that level of obfuscation and Byzantine word-smithery to be a ringing endorsement of Aquinas' argument's force and veracity...

classic.

John W. Loftus said...

Eric said: John, I would agree *if* (1) it were the case that all other alternatives were equally well supported (such that they in effect canceled one another out), and (2) I didn't have good reasons for thinking that the beliefs I do hold are well justified.

Eric, you have an unjustifiably high regard for your own reasoning abilities given that (a) we are all products of our times, that is, when and where we're born; and b) there is no evidence that can decisively answer these religious disputes.

It's a shame someone like you cannot factor (a) and (b) into your equations and come to agnosticism.

How do you really know the alternatives are not well-supported?

How can you conclude that people around the world are stupid when compared to you such that they do NOT have good reasons for what they accept? Have you ever tried to convince them otherwise? Try it.

Chuck O'Connor said...

What I am baffled by is how Eric can continue to assert truth in RCC dogma when the recent child-rape collusion seems to be a strong defeater of the Catechism, specifically the concept of a Holy Spirit guided church leadership. It is as if a rabbit fossil were found in the pre-Cambrian yet Darwinian Evolutionists continued to believe in common descent and speciation through natural selection. The behavior of the spirit chosen leadership of the RCC is a strong defeater to the religion's theological claims and should (if you are intellectually honest) challenge number 2 in Eric's argument.

Eric said...

"What I am baffled by is how Eric can continue to assert truth in RCC dogma when the recent child-rape collusion seems to be a strong defeater of the Catechism, specifically the concept of a Holy Spirit guided church leadership."

Chuck, point out the section in the Catechism that claims that Catholic clerics, from parish priests to the pope, will never commit even the most horrible acts imaginable, and we'll go on from there.

"Eric, you have an unjustifiably high regard for your own reasoning abilities given that (a) we are all products of our times, that is, when and where we're born; and b) there is no evidence that can decisively answer these religious disputes."

John, you've spoken out on a number of moral issues on this blog. But you must have an unjustifiably high regard for your reasoning abilities given a) and b). The same could be said for political opinions, scientific opinions, etc. all of which are subject to a) and b). Do you see the problem here? Life *requires* us to make sundry decisions for which we have incomplete information -- information that is often ineluctably colored by our cultural prejudices -- and during which we use fallible reasoning processes. How many moral, political, etc. issues can *you* answer *decisively*? Few, if any at all, correct? But you still hold them, don't you? You'd even be willing to give your life to uphold some of them, wouldn't you? You can't demonstrate much more commitment to the truth of a claim than that.

"How can you conclude that people around the world are stupid when compared to you such that they do NOT have good reasons for what they accept?"

John, you know better than this. A false belief can be held rationally by a remarkably intelligent person, so it's decidedly not the case that my potion entails that I conclude those who disagree with me are 'stupid.' You're confusing the truth value of a claim here with its justification.

Ed, I sincerely congratulate you on your academic achievements. I don't underestimate anyone on these blogs because I tend to deal more with the content of posts than with the people who write them. I'll treat someone who writes one good post after a host of poor posts just as I treat others who consistently write good posts.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric,

Thanks for twisting my argument (nice application of charity there) but I will restate it for clarity.

How can you continue to defend a church that asserts Holy Spirit guided leadership as true when that same Holy Spirit led church has been indicted for child rape.

From the Catechism;

"III. THE CHURCH IS THE TEMPLE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

797 "What the soul is to the human body, the Holy Spirit is to the Body of Christ, which is the Church."243 "To this Spirit of Christ, as an invisible principle, is to be ascribed the fact that all the parts of the body are joined one with the other and with their exalted head; for the whole Spirit of Christ is in the head, the whole Spirit is in the body, and the whole Spirit is in each of the members."244 The Holy Spirit makes the Church "the temple of the living God":245

Indeed, it is to the Church herself that the "Gift of God" has been entrusted.... In it is in her that communion with Christ has been deposited, that is to say: the Holy Spirit, the pledge of incorruptibility, the strengthening of our faith and the ladder of our ascent to God.... For where the Church is, there also is God's Spirit; where God's Spirit is, there is the Church and every grace.246"

If the Holy Spirit makes the church the temple of the living god then doesn't that call into question either the decision making abilities of the Holy Spirit or its reality.

Again, I am a firm believer in evolution but if the fossil record showed complex species prior to simple ones that would be a defeater of my conviction.

Your "temple of god" existed to enable and then hide child rape. The crime was not the actions of individual men but the machinations of an institution that operated without impunity due to its Heavenly sanction.

Doesn't that cause you to question your conviction in the metaphysical claims it asserts?

Again, I'm just asking for some intellectual honesty here Eric.

Eric said...

"How can you continue to defend a church that asserts Holy Spirit guided leadership as true when that same Holy Spirit led church has been indicted for child rape."

Chuck, you need to (1) at least try familiarize yourself with some of the facts concerning the child rape cases (read not only the post the link leads you to, which is by Dougherty from Baylor, but also the comments below, which include remarks from Beckwith and Pruss from Baylor, and Derose from Yale), and (2) to try to understand in what sense the Holy Spirit guides the Church (hint: it has nothing to do with making it a perfectly moral institution, or an institution that will not include horrible and corrupt people).

Ignerant Phool said...

"....try to understand in what sense the Holy Spirit guides the Church (hint: it has nothing to do with making it a perfectly moral institution, or an institution that will not include horrible and corrupt people)."

Eric, who is it that says how the holy spirit guides the church? Are they not the words of man? How convenient is it that the holy spirit would not cause perfection, no corruption, and no evil. Since we know these are the words of man and man knows its own capabilities, imperfections, and evil ways, what makes more sense, that we know the holy spirit guides the church, or that man made claims on behalf of their idea of an holy spirit? So of course the church would not make any claims knowing our human limitations and potentials. My point in all this is that you still don't get away with the idea of an holy spirit guiding the church in any sense at all. All you have left is the opposite of what you don't claim the holy spirit does. But these are still a part of our imperfections, which includes any good deeds that we do or of our deriving true from false. For example, the good that we do is also a result/consequence of our imperfections, yet the christian wants to claim "it's the holy spirit within me".

Eric, I totally agree with John's assessment of you. I've been thinking the same for a while now, but he has a way of saying things much better than I can. You argue well as is evident in your responses (though a bit too circular for me), and because of that, it seems you feel it's enough to not only claim theism true, but Catholicism also. There are so many factors that must be taken into consideration as exemplified in "The Christian Delusion" and similar works. Since John recommends you to Ken Pulliam's series of post on the atonement, his last two post are a case in point of other factors to consider and the role they play in forming our beliefs. Realize that in the conclusion reached in both essays, it doesn't do much for the truthfulness of the atonement as it does for a rational explanation of why it may be appealing to some, and therefore adding to the reasons for non-belief in its truth claims. How do you see it?

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric

So you are of the amortirization school of apologetic to minimize ethical horror (se Dsouza and the Inquisition)?

If the Holy Spirit can't prevent His (It's?) ordained ministers from raping and colluding to cover up rape than He (It?) is either impotent, amoral or a non-existant superstition.

How about you provide an argument regarding the Catholic Child Rape legacy from a non-Catholic source?

Read Lobdell's "Losing my Religion" for an accurate description of the RCC horror.

You are an apologist for evil and an enabler of deceit.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric

The Catholic Clerical practic of raping children while being protected by Church Hierarchy is more than a US scandal. It is global. Here is a link to the Irish rape and collusion to conceal rape cases.

www.childabusecommission.ie/rpt/index.php

Read the executive summary.

I am aware of the scandal.

GearHedEd said...

Eric said,

"I don't underestimate anyone on these blogs because I tend to deal more with the content of posts than with the people who write them. I'll treat someone who writes one good post after a host of poor posts just as I treat others who consistently write good posts."

And John said,

"...Eric, you have an unjustifiably high regard for your own reasoning abilities...How do you really know the alternatives are not well-supported?

How can you conclude that people around the world are stupid when compared to you such that they do NOT have good reasons for what they accept?"

I'm going with John's thinking here.

John W. Loftus said...

Eric, so what, you're rational. Big deal. I am too. Rationality is not enough. Why can't you be rational enough to conclude this and that given the human propensity to accept and defend what we were all raised with and given the propensity to defend what we prefer to believe that we need some hard evidence to accept something? Otherwise we will be building intellectually coherent castles in the sky that never have to touch down on solid ground?

It will do you no good at all to point out I have the same intellectual difficulties. You must still deal with your problems regardless of whether or not I do. But in fact I do, and I think I'm a lot more consistent than you are. I'm trying to be skeptical of everything consistently. You are not. I'm rational enough about these difficulties to be an agnostic. That's the most rational conclusion given what we know about human rationality.

Hendy said...

Interesting posts discussing the RCC child scandal. My brother asked me what I thought of this as a former Catholic. I looked in the Catechism and found these:

- "The Lord made Simon alone, whom he named Peter, the "rock" of his Church. He gave him the keys of his Church and instituted him shepherd of the whole flock. "The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of apostles united to its head." This pastoral office of Peter and the other apostles belongs to the Church's very foundation and is continued by the bishops under the primacy of the Pope. (881)

- "The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter's successor, "is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful." "For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered." (882)

- Sections 889-892 are also quite applicable.

Where does this get us, however? As Eric will readily point out... nowhere. Why? Because despite all of the lofty claims and amazing sounding promises of the Holy Spirit's faithfulness to Christ's body and the clergy, infallibility in scripture and morals only works if the Pope declares that he's speaking ex cathedra (from the chair of Peter).

How many times has this happened? 7 times. Ever.

And on what matters? Completely theological untestable things like the perpetual virginity, assumption, and dual natures of Christ.

So... while Eric is right, as a seeker I find this falling into the category of annoyingly frustrating claims that do not appear whatsoever like one would expect.

To reiterate in one last way, I do want to believe in god if he exists, but I constantly run into things like this:

- Theoretical faith claim: Prayer works
- Actual qualifications: only when it aligns with god's will and there is no unrepentant sin, when it is something that might have happened anyway... and even if all of those conditions are met, it only works unpredictably. And if you try to test it god won't do anything; he sees through that crap.

- Theoretical faith claim: the church can be trusted as a moral signpost for the body of christ present on earth
- Actual qualifications: if really, really good people come along, it's because of god's amazing grace and we'll make them saints. If child molesters come along, then it's quite obvious that they spit in god's face and chose their own wickedness despite their position.

- Theoretical faith claim: the bible is god's inspired word
- Actual qualifications: it is wholly inspired, but god was limited to working through brutal means in the OT to really communicate well, though creation and the fall are impossible literally, somehow they are definitely true figuratively, and none of the historical inconsistencies or irreconcilable theological statements are real -- they're just misinterpretations.

I could definitely go on.

The bottom line is that since I began my journey I cannot tell you how many of the claims Christianity makes I've looked into, found issues, and then been told why it's not actually how I expected it to be.

And this is why I've come to the conclusion that the definition of theology is as follows: a field of study in which the aim is to convince individuals that what they would expect from a timeless, spaceless, omni-characteristic deity who has followed the Christian storyline... is completely false and that what we, in fact, do observe is the only way that this being could possibly have done things and that, therefore, faith in him regardless of seemingly irreconcilable issues is the only way forward.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Hendy,

I agree my criticism of church leadership would not be valid if I were concerning myself with Papal Infallibility but, I wasn't. I was concerning myself with the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit and the inculcated direction this person of God gives His Church. The Holy Spirit guides the selection of the leadership and navigates the Church's historical track. One would need to accept that child rape is part of the Holy Spirit's plan for God's Church.

It seems the simplest answer to the question. It also of course calls into question the moral ground of the Catholic Catechism or convoluted rationalizations that amount to special pleading.

Eric said...

"Eric, who is it that says how the holy spirit guides the church? Are they not the words of man?"

The issue we've been discussing is not how we know this is true, or even whether it's true, but what we *mean* by it. Even if it's false, it's still the case that Chuck has fundamentally misunderstood what Catholics mean here.

"though a bit too circular for me"

This is actually a pet peeve of mine. It's very frustrating when someone accuses you of committing a fallacy without showing precisely where he thinks you did it.

"So you are of the amortirization school of apologetic to minimize ethical horror (se Dsouza and the Inquisition)?"

No, and neither is D'souza. Is D'souza correct when he says that Kuttner's claim that the Inquisition was responsible for the deaths of millions is false? Yep. Is he correct when he says that in fact between 2,000 and 4,000 people were executed over a 350 year period? Yep. Is it worse to kill millions of people than it is to kill 4,000? I think it's safe to say it is. So precisely how does pointing out the *facts* "minimize ethical horror" in the sense you're using the phrase?

It's similar when it comes to the current sex-abuse scandal. You claim that the Church itself, as an institution, is guilty of child rape, and the *facts* prove you wrong. Were a number of priests, a few bishops and at least one cardinal guilty of harming children and of attempting to cover it up? Yep, just as the Church is guilty of those 4,000 deaths over that 350 year period of the Inquisition. Is "the institution of the Church" guilty of child rape? Nope, just as the Inquisition didn't execute millions of people.

"I understand how to derive a general solution to a non-linear least squares matrix well enough that I could explain it to you and you'd UNDERSTAND it, even without the necessary math bacground."

Could you explain it to me even if I had *no* math background whatsoever, including an ignorance of the most basic arithmetic? Because that, you know, is the only way to make your claim analogous.

"It will do you no good at all to point out I have the same intellectual difficulties. You must still deal with your problems regardless of whether or not I do. But in fact I do, and I think I'm a lot more consistent than you are. I'm trying to be skeptical of everything consistently. You are not. I'm rational enough about these difficulties to be an agnostic."

John, with all due respect, you are decidedly *not* in any meaningful sense an agnostic when it comes to moral claims. I could point to post after post after post to prove it. Yet your moral conclusions are just as subject to a) and b) as my religious conclusions are -- perhaps more so. Therefore, on the contrary, it seems to me as if I'm more consistent than you are here, since I recognize that we all must make commitments to the truth of sundry propositions that are subject to a) and b), while you claim that you're a consistent skeptic. In fact, few things are more difficult than being a consistent skeptic: I know of no one in the history of philosophy, from Pyrrho to Hume to Rorty, who has ever succeeded at that.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric,

Yes it is a minimization of the horrors done by the Church because the ideas that make up the church (Divine Command, Clerical Authority) enabled the horrors to happen.

You and D'Souza look to obscure the issue by minimizing the numbers. It is a shameful argument and a Red Herring. Neither experience would exist if the slavish devotion to unquestioned authority (simply earned by a process of ordination) you practice as a Catholic (and having 14 years of Catholic Education under my belt I know the RCC culture and practice) would not exist. There is no mechanism within Catholicism that empowers the laity to place themselves on an equal plane with the Clergy and, because of that abuses of power exist.

You can say I don't understand the invocation to the Holy Spirit as articulated in the Catechism but you are mistaken. The words themselves betray you.

Additionally, you minimize the child rape by the Catholic Church when you fail to address the report by Irish authorities I provided. The Roman Catholic Child Rape tradition is now being exposed for the trans-continental horror it is. This horror was fueled by the systematic practice of moving pedophile priests into positions of authority for the sake of maintaining the reputation of the church. This was further enabled by devoted congregants who practiced unquestioned authority towards clergy based on tradition, doctrine and dogma.

We still don't know the numbers of children harmed by the practices of the Roman Catholic Church but we do know the mechanism by which this was allowed to happen. The collusion practiced by Church authority is supported by consistent tradition whereby men like you offer devoted allegiance to an idea of perfect authority that doesn't exist. And you do this in an unquestioning manner which betrays your desire for an educated world-view.

Eric said...

"Yes it is a minimization of the horrors done by the Church because the ideas that make up the church (Divine Command, Clerical Authority) enabled the horrors to happen."

Chuck, did you know that the Inquisition began in part because the Church was seeking to prevent state powers from trying heretics, a power states exercised regularly and abused far worse than the Church ever did? No, you didn't know that, and there are a host of other facts about the Inquisition you're completely unaware of. What's worse, you don't care. Not only that, you don't even care enough about your own position to at least try to present decent arguments or reasonable critiques of positions you oppose.

Take the quote above, for example. Here's your argument:

To point out that those who say the Inquisition executed millions are wrong, and that in reality at most 4,000 people were executed by the Inquisition over 350 years, is an attempt to minimize the horrors done by the Church because pointing out this fact supports the ideas that made the horrors possible in the first place.

Chuck, this is beyond incoherent.

But let's address the notion of "the ideas that made it possible." Do you reject democracy because it comprises ideas that made slavery possible? Do you reject science because it comprises ideas that made Hiroshima possible? You see, Chuck, every good can be abused, so every good makes some horrors possible.

"You can say I don't understand the invocation to the Holy Spirit as articulated in the Catechism but you are mistaken."

Then please, *please* point out the passage in the Catechism, or any Church document, that claims that if X is guided by the Holy Spirit in the sense that the Church is said to be guided by the Holy Spirit, then X cannot commit even the worst act imaginable. What is this, the hundredth time I've challenged you to defend some claim? Will you fail yet again, as you have on *every* previous occasion, to respond?

"Additionally, you minimize the child rape by the Catholic Church when you fail to address the report by Irish authorities I provided."

Yeah, I don't live under a rock: I'm well aware of the report. What you fail to see is that *if* the Church *has* addressed the issue here, in the U.S. -- and the facts indicate it has -- then your claim that the institution *as a whole* is corrupt is demolished. That's the point I was making by directing you to Dougherty's website, and it's a point you've failed to address. But then you're not interested in facts; you only care about discrediting, by any means necessary, those who disagree with your vicious attitude towards religion, or who call you on your patently dishonest claims.

Unless you respond to my challenge, I'm through responding to you on this thread.

Eric said...

John Paul the Great:

"Yet the consideration of mitigating factors does not exonerate the Church from the obligation to express profound regret for the weaknesses of so many of her sons and daughters who sullied her face, preventing her from fully mirroring the image of her crucified Lord, the supreme witness of patient love and of humble meekness. From these painful moments of the past a lesson can be drawn for the future, leading all Christians to adhere fully to the sublime principle stated by the Council: “The truth cannot impose itself except by virtue of its own truth, as it wins over the mind with both gentleness and power.”

John W. Loftus said...

Eric wrote: John, with all due respect, you are decidedly *not* in any meaningful sense an agnostic when it comes to moral claims.

Well, I most definitely am agnostic about some moral claims and I'm most definitely not agnostic about other claims. It depends on the moral claim.

I maintain that extraordinary faith claims need a lot of evidence for them and that Christianity is not supported by the available evidence nor can it make any rational sense of many of its doctrines. I maintain that because of (a) and (b) people will defend what they are raised to believe and what they prefer to believe. Because of these facts they should be reasonable enough to become agnostics about extraordinary claims until there is sufficient evidence for them.

What is there about morality that is an extraordinary claim? There is some evidence needed, yes, for some claims. We have morals. They evolve. They are important to us. Want to know why? Because I want to live in some peace and security and pursue my goals unhindered by others in a community of people who help each other. Life is best lived that way. How do I know? Because I do not want people to steal from me or rape my daughter. My God what are you looking for here? I DO NOT NEED ANY EVIDENCE TO SAY TO AN ANNOYING PERSON OR THIEF OR RAPIST TO GET OUT OF MY FACE! I don't want him there. And I wish to grant everyone that same moral/political right or else I cannot claim that right myself.

Geese 'O Pete, Eric.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric

I expect the manmade institutions you cite to make mistakes and be self-correcting. They never claim to be the "temple of God's spirit" as the Catholic catechism claims. The engine for the child abuse and the inqusition were the superstitions rooted in the doctrine and dogma of the church. You throw another red herring out once again when looking to ennoble historical catholicism for being a lesser evil than its monarchist alternative but fail to acknowledge that any torturous choice made by the Holy Church is a defeater to its claims to be the temple of god. Eric, you can't claim the enlightened status of your church and acknowledge the horrors performed under its auspice while maintaining its enlightened status. If you are willing to modify your position and acknowledge that the Catholic Church is an interesting set of organizing principles handed down as tradition and dogma then I will meet you half way but, you don't believe that do you? You believe it is the ONLY institution that offers true communionwith the living Christ. Yet you modify your religion's status by seeking exhoneration of its crimes through the comparison of secular institutions.

The question here for me is this, has the indoctrinated culture of unquestioned clerical authority based on doctrines of Holy Spirit sanction allowed the Church authority to commit horrible crimes without question from congrgants? Yes it has. Have there been any modifications to this Divine Command ethic as a result? No. Catholics still claim special privilege as God's holy beacon on earth despite the fact they operate in a no more enlightened way as any other institution.

You can't have it both ways Eric, either the RCC is the Holy Spirit filled Temple of God or it is just another flawed man made isntitution.

I see your defense as something that matters to you but the RCC does not represent the best possible ethical thinking and is essential a social club for people who enjou ancient rituals and superstitions. Seems silly to me.

GearHedEd said...

Eric said,

"...did you know that the Inquisition began in part because the Church was seeking to prevent state powers from trying heretics, a power states exercised regularly and abused far worse than the Church ever did?"

Is it not at least as likely if not more so that the church objected to the secular authorities stepping on their "turf" by prosecuting cases that the church considered it's province?

I for one don't buy the implied altruistic motive you expressed, Eric.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Ed

And Eric's defense proves too much because it doesn't exhonerate the Church at all. It simply implicates the church as a competing social power which deferred to inhumane practices despite its Holy Spirit ingredient. It defeats any assertion to providential wisdom and exposes Eric's faith for what it is - manmade rules that can't transcend their cultural times.

John W. Loftus said...

Eric, when it comes to basic ethics most people agree. Basic ethics are the kinds of behavior that are expected from people when there are no dilemma's or extenuating circumstances, like tell the truth, be kind to others, share with the needy, treat others the way you want treated, and so forth. Almost all ethicists will argue for these things. C.S. Lewis's book Abolition of Man shows we have these shared basic morals. So what's there to be agnostic about them? Nothing I can see. It makes life better for all of us. If I have to defend why these ethics makes life better for all of us with you then something is wrong. Suffice it to say with Aristotle that holistic happiness (eudomia) is an end in and of itself.

Our disputes arise when it comes to dilemma ethics, that is, what behavior we should expect from people when they have to make a choice between two different basic ethical obligations (i.e., don't lie vs save a life, and so forth.

What's very interesting to me is that when facing these moral dilemmas there is no way in advance to predict what behavior will be recommended by ethicists who hold to different meta-ethical foundations in all cases.

Hendy said...

This conversation will go nowhere because, as I pointed out, the claims only apply to 'The Church' as Eric continually falls back on.

What we need to do is define 'The Church.'

Eric will choose a definition that is inclusive of everyone who is 'living a life of Christ' at the present moment. Should they stop doing so, by killing during an inquisition or raping a deaf child, they are no longer part of his definition and therefore cannot possibly violate any claims made about 'The Church.'

Chuck, I realize you're not discussion papal infallibility, though I think it's right with the principle you brought up: Doctrine says X, but we observe Y... what gives?. My point was that the doctrine makes lofty claims in numerous places but common sense expectations from those statements are apparently completely false.

And so, to conclude, this is where it falls apart for me. Miracles, promises of being guided and taught by the Holy Spirit, prophecies, infallibility, answers to prayer... they're all reactive; one knows they 'existed' only afterwards.

This is contrary to Jesus' ministry. Power, truth, validity of claims comes from predictive value, not reactive descriptions or attribution.

Truth of Christianity would be the most powerful if one could predict things like:
- this pope will never make a mistake
- this person will be healed today (or not) and the result works repeatedly
- this specific prophecy will be engraved in stone and come to pass in 10 years

Instead, as I pointed out, no one can discuss these matters with Eric. If it's 'good fruit', it was of the body; if it is pointed out as 'bad fruit', it doesn't hold water because he pruned it off the tree when you weren't looking.

Ryan Anderson said...

Forgive me for being a little late to the party, but this line of reasoning has always annoyed me due to it's dishonesty...

"Is he correct when he says that in fact between 2,000 and 4,000 people were executed over a 350 year period? Yep."

This is the equivalent of someone asking how many Japanese the US military killed in WWII and then only counting the number we tried and executed for war crimes.

The fact is that armies led by inquisitors and other catholic officials killed many, many more people then Eric is willing to acknowledge (at least 20,000 during the period from 1209–1229 CE).

GearHedEd said...

Eric said,

(quoting me)""I understand how to derive a general solution to a non-linear least squares matrix well enough that I could explain it to you and you'd UNDERSTAND it, even without the necessary math bacground."

(Eric's reply) "Could you explain it to me even if I had *no* math background whatsoever, including an ignorance of the most basic arithmetic? Because that, you know, is the only way to make your claim analogous."

I guess you ARE admitting the need to indoctrinate little kids into Christain thinking BEFORE you attempt to explain anything about HOW it's supposed to work (to carry the analogy on in a locical direction).

Like I said, there's a big difference between mathematics and religion.

Example:

When teaching a child how to do addition and subtraction, you can use pennies, puzzle pieces, etc. as training aids to show how reality is connected to the symboligy of numerals, and kids understand this.

On the other hand, there's a world of anecdotal evidence that kids often ask difficult questions at early ages such as "Where did Mrs. Cain come from?", that can't be explained satisfactorily to a child. The analogy breaks down.

I admit, if you didn't have at least an eighth grade math proficiency, it would take some effort to explain least squares reductions to you, but I could still do it.

GearHedEd said...

Here's some more info ( I know wikipedia is scoffed at as being non-authoritative, but the references are listed in the article)

"In the Middle Ages Antisemitism in Europe was religious. Though not part of Roman Catholic dogma, many Christians, including members of the clergy, have held the Jewish people collectively responsible for killing Jesus, a practice originated by Melito of Sardis. As stated in the Boston College Guide to Passion Plays, "Over the course of time, Christians began to accept... that the Jewish people as a whole were responsible for killing Jesus. According to this interpretation, both the Jews present at Jesus Christ's death and the Jewish people collectively and for all time, have committed the sin of deicide, or God-killing. For 1900 years of Christian-Jewish history, the charge of deicide has led to hatred, violence against and murder of Jews in Europe and America."[1]

During the High Middle Ages in Europe there was full-scale persecution in many places, with blood libels, expulsions, forced conversions and massacres. An underlying source of prejudice against Jews in Europe was religious. Jews were frequently massacred and exiled from various European countries. The persecution hit its first peak during the Crusades. In the First Crusade (1096) flourishing communities on the Rhine and the Danube were utterly destroyed; see German Crusade, 1096. In the Second Crusade (1147) the Jews in France were subject to frequent massacres. The Jews were also subjected to attacks by the Shepherds' Crusades of 1251 and 1320. The Crusades were followed by expulsions, including in, 1290, the banishing of all English Jews; in 1396, 100,000 Jews were expelled from France; and, in 1421 thousands were expelled from Austria. Many of the expelled Jews fled to Poland.[2]

As the Black Death epidemics devastated Europe in the mid-14th century, annihilating more than a half of the population, Jews were taken as scapegoats. Rumors spread that they caused the disease by deliberately poisoning wells. Hundreds of Jewish communities were destroyed by violence. Although the Pope Clement VI tried to protect them by the July 6, 1348 papal bull and another 1348 bull, several months later, 900 Jews were burnt alive in Strasbourg, where the plague hadn't yet affected the city.[3]"

Persecution of Jews

There were other occurences of "official murder" by the church besides the Inquisition, Eric.

And you know this.

Eric said...

"There were other occurences of "official murder" by the church besides the Inquisition, Eric."

Who said there weren't? Ed, before you critique an argument you must learn how to discern just what the argument is. You don't seem to have acquired this basic skill yet, which is one of a number of good reasons I have for ignoring most of what you say.

Eric said...

"I guess you ARE admitting the need to indoctrinate little kids into Christain thinking BEFORE you attempt to explain anything about HOW it's supposed to work (to carry the analogy on in a locical direction)."

No, it's just the case that we do begin teaching children basic math from Kindergarten on, while most people are *never* taught basic philosophy.

GearHedEd said...

Eric,

Christian churches don't teach philosophy to little kids; they teach them cute little bible songs and stories but can't explain the material to the kids where they can UNDERSTAND it, is the point I was making.

Christian teaching to little kids is not philosophy, even in basic form. It's

"Believe what we tell you, because we told you to believe it."

Not because it makes sense. I' with Dawkins on the idea that cramming Christianity into little kids is tantamount to child abuse, because it counts on

a) the child's trust of grown-ups, and

b) the child's lack of experience in devloping critical thinking skills.

As for official policy of the church in overseeing deaths, when you focus on one area like the Inquisition and in effect say things like '4000 people over 350 years wasn't so bad' (that's the way it sounds, even if you didn't intend it to), I feel obligated to point out that's misleading at best.

GearHedEd said...

Is it just me, or does anyone else get the feeling that Eric is insulated from the reality the rest of us are experiencing?

Eric said...

"when you focus on one area like the Inquisition and in effect say things like '4000 people over 350 years wasn't so bad' (that's the way it sounds, even if you didn't intend it to), I feel obligated to point out that's misleading at best."

First, I didn't bring up the Inquisition, Chuck did.

Second, he brought it up in the context of D'souza's "minimizing" it, which can only refer to his refutations of the large numbers of executions commonly attributed to it. So he not only raised the issue, he raised the context in which the issue was to be discussed.

Third, I didn't say 4,000 people over 350 years wasn't bad, but that it's not a few million over 350 years. You've studied math at a high level, so the claim that 4,ooo =/= 1,ooo,ooo + shouldn't be too controversial.

"Christian churches don't teach philosophy to little kids"

Who said they do? I was referring to your "if it's so complex you can't perfectly explain it in a combox to someone with no experience in the subject then it's BS" claim.

Cogs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GearHedEd said...

My daughter is always cracking on me about my 'reduced mental abilities'...

Maybe she's onto something there....

GearHedEd said...

Table turning time...

Eric said,

"Who said they do? I was referring to your "if it's so complex you can't perfectly explain it in a combox to someone with no experience in the subject then it's BS" claim."

Show me where I said it's BS. All I ever claimed on the subject was that your analogy of comparing little kids learning math so that they can later understand calculus is not qualitatively the same as sending little kids to sunday school to learn about Jesus, so they can understand philosophy at some later date.

It's apples and orangutans.

GearHedEd said...

I stand by my original quote:

"Second, like I said a year and a half ago, if you NEED a hundred pages of Philosopherese to set up the argument for God's existence, then the concept is incoherent to the extent that it NEEDS apologetics."

Again, this doesn't say "BS", it says "incoherent".

If it was BS, no amount of apologetics could redact the smell from it.

GearHedEd said...

...and NEEDING apologetics speaks to the idea that the core material is LACKING is some regard, i.e., "not true".

GearHedEd said...

Or, to be charitable, "not sufficiently detailed to support it's own conclusions".