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[Religion] Why Believe?

insanecarbonbasedlif (623558) writes | more than 5 years ago

User Journal 42

I have a couple of thoughts, which may seem offensive, but I don't mean to be. These are just thoughts that have distilled out of my consideration of many different books, essays, talks, discussions, and debates. I'm hoping that it won't be offensive - as a matter of fact, I am sure that many of you on slashdot who disagree with me about whether or not there is a deity will actually agree with me about one or both of these points, though your final thoughts may be different.

I have a couple of thoughts, which may seem offensive, but I don't mean to be. These are just thoughts that have distilled out of my consideration of many different books, essays, talks, discussions, and debates. I'm hoping that it won't be offensive - as a matter of fact, I am sure that many of you on slashdot who disagree with me about whether or not there is a deity will actually agree with me about one or both of these points, though your final thoughts may be different.
 
No one has found a rational reason to believe in any deity.
There is no deity who is apparent.
 
Explanations for the above claims:
If there were a rational reason to believe in any deity, it surely would have been brought out in one of the debates against atheists, or in one of the many books and essays I've read about "why believe?", but it has not. I can not guaruntee that there is not a rational reason out there, undiscovered, but it seems unlikely. If one were to be found, I would be very excited to hear it, but for now, rationality must go out the window to believe.
 
If a deity were apparent (in the mystery of creation, or some such), there would be no major conflict about whether or not there is a deity among serious thinkers, and the attributes of said deity would not be so debated among the different religions.
 
If there is a deity, it must be a non-rational, unapparent deity. I know a few people who beleive in a deity that doesn't, by definition, try to tread into one of those areas, but most theists do tread there.

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Just picking on one point (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 5 years ago | (#26137715)

"rationality must go out the window to believe."

http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/04/03/collins.commentary/index.html [cnn.com]

Rationality and Faith are not mutually exclusive. This is a common mistake of those who think that people who believe in a supreme deity are crazy insane nutjobs.

I've experienced enough things in my life, that cannot be explained. Randomness itself isn't good enough to explain these things. And making the claim I'm delusional is just strawman.

Most people don't even want to think their is a supreme deity. That would require them to actually search for HIM/HER/IT. Something that they are scared to do (for whatever reason, there are many).

I don't expect you to understand how Faith and Rationality are not mutually exclusive. But please accept the evidence that they are not (one example given above).

And I don't necissarily agree with his faith, just using that as an example.

Re:Just picking on one point (1)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 5 years ago | (#26138857)

Speaking of erroneous thinking:

I've experienced enough things in my life, that cannot be explained.

Well, explained by you, anyway. Also, just because nobody knows the answer, doesn't mean there isn't one.

Randomness itself isn't good enough to explain these things.

Again, so sez you. Plenty of mathematicians who'd happily disabuse you of that notion.

As for rationality and faith not being mutually exclusive, I see what you're trying to say, but dictionaries the world over are taking issue already.

Re:Just picking on one point (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 5 years ago | (#26139515)

I'm looking at definitions for rational right now - but not seeing anything that says belief in God must by definition exclude rationality. A quick one is "consistent with or based on or using reason;" It is relatively simple to construct reasonable, logical arguments that support the belief in a deity. Some people may reject those arguments but that doesn't mean they are wrong, just not universally accepted.
 
I find Aquinas's 5 proofs to be rather rational.

Re:Just picking on one point (1)

insanecarbonbasedlif (623558) | more than 5 years ago | (#26141275)

It's funny how semantics always comes in to Journal discussions - I think it's a function of 1) the stilted nature of the communication, and 2) the lack of auditory and physical cues to clarify possibly ambiguous language. For the sake of this discussion, when I said "rational", I intended "justified via reason" where "reason" is used in reference to the logical system of understanding via cause and effect.
 
Regarding Aquinas's proofs, they are interesting, but antiquated - you won't see a modern theist use them successfully in a debate. For the sake of discussion, I will respond to why I don't find any of the five to be as rational as they were originally supposed (this will be brief, and will not do justice to the clarity of Aquinas's thoughts, but will, I think be clear and reasonable).
 
His proofs 1 and 2, the first mover, and first cause, both ignore the fact that the first mover and cause can be a non-sentient entity. His first two proofs do not describe anything except to say that there was a first, and he wants to say that "first"="God".
 
His third proof is a little more refined, that is, how can there be something now if there was nothing before? However, he once again fails to show anything about the nature of the first thing, and so it reduces to the same fault as the first two, that is, the first thing that is from nothing can very well be a non-sentient entity.
 
His fourth point hinges on the idea that great things only come from greater things. This is fallacious - biology, and on a shorter time scale, genetic algorithms, have shown that greater things arise naturally out of simpler things.
 
His fifth point fails for the same reason his fourth does - we can see how things with intention (intelligence) can arise naturally from non-intentioned things.
 
Sorry, but Aquinas fails to show a natural (rational) proof of God.

Re:Just picking on one point (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 5 years ago | (#26142375)

Be patient with me here - because you may see this more clearly than I do - but I have difficulty understanding why assuming that God is not the first mover or original cause is more rational than believing that he is. Unless you believe the universe is without beginning or end, eternally collapsing only to explode into existence again.

And when we now say that rational and natural are synonymous, then of course things break down. God by definition is supernatural. But why must something be natural to be rational? That this assumption is ok while others are not is what frustrates me sometimes. I'm not sure why assuming that the natural world is all that exists is o.k. but assuming that it is not isn't. It seems like a double standard.

There are things in the human experience that stand as sign posts to something more than just the physical order. One can dismiss this as a byproduct of brain chemistry - and many do. But that doesn't mean it is necessarily true. Reality is not up to a vote.

Re:Just picking on one point (1)

insanecarbonbasedlif (623558) | more than 5 years ago | (#26148031)

Be patient with me here - because you may see this more clearly than I do - but I have difficulty understanding why assuming that God is not the first mover or original cause is more rational than believing that he is.

Assuming either that God or not-God is the first mover or original cause are both non-rational. To dismiss God as a possibility would be, in my opinion, equally irrational as assuming that God is the first (mover, cause, thing). Aquinas's first 3 proofs fail to describe anything about the first other than that it is the first, and that there was a first. Arguments have been made that the claim that there must be a first is also debatable.

And when we now say that rational and natural are synonymous, then of course things break down.

Sorry for the vague reference, I was simply referring to Aquinas's proofs as part of his practice of natural theology [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Just picking on one point (1)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 5 years ago | (#26141899)

Your post is only half complete. I'm waiting.

Aquinas is interesting, btw, but still highly assumptive. Also, its relation to almost anything in the Bible is tenuous at best.

Re:Just picking on one point (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 5 years ago | (#26142301)

I wasn't really talking about the Bible. It seems to me talking about the Bible is a bit pointless unless one has moved past the point of God existing in the first place.

That's the way I have approached it anyway.

Re:Just picking on one point (1)

Chacham (981) | more than 5 years ago | (#26161665)

I'm looking at definitions for rational right now

According to Jung, the T and F functions are the rational functions. They are rational because there is reasoning behind it. T is the bi-state logic-judgment where everything is either true or false, F is the tri-state value-judgment where everything is either less-than, equal-to, or greater-than that which it is being compared to.

It is important to note that T pulls things apart, and F puts them back together. F without T is to put things together without breaking them apart first. No unit testing to know what each thing does. Therefore, those one-sided Fs assume a lot based on subjective thoughts. T without F pulls things apart, but never puts them back together. Misses the forest for the trees. Therefore, those one-sided Ts ignore the obvious.

The arch-typical scientists is INTP. The immature INTP (that is, never develops their shadow) always demands objective proofs, and is all T with no F. Great for research, but useless in life itself.

In short, rational has two functions, T and F, both must be used in tandem to be fully rational.

Re:Just picking on one point (1)

insanecarbonbasedlif (623558) | more than 5 years ago | (#26141749)

Splendid post, if a little harsh in your pithiness, Captain Splendid.

Re:Just picking on one point (1)

insanecarbonbasedlif (623558) | more than 5 years ago | (#26140433)

Wow - given the fact that I've laid out a lot of my thoughts on this journal in previous entries, your characterization that I think

people who believe in a supreme deity are crazy insane nutjobs.

and

Most people don't even want to think their is a supreme deity. That would require them to actually search for HIM/HER/IT. Something that they are scared to do (for whatever reason, there are many).

is not only non-sequitar to my points above, but is irresponsible in the highest order. You can read about me in my other postings. Please do so before you go around insulting me and putting words in my mouth.
 
A short note - I was a dedicated Christian, and I would treasure nothing more than a reason to believe again, and not face the alienation of and attack by family and friends that I have endured. I didn't find following "God" to be burdensome, rather, my current path is rougher, and more distasteful. The implication that I want to do so many "sinful" things that I can't stand to submit to an obvious "God" is disingenuous and bigotted to the extreme.
 
Back to the topic at hand, you say:

I've experienced enough things in my life, that cannot be explained. Randomness itself isn't good enough to explain these things.

First, not knowing what those things are, I can't claim that randomness is a good explanation, but Captain Splendid hits the nail on the head - just because you can't explain it does not mean that it is inexplicable by natural means. You seem to be engaging in a more personal form of the ancient god of the gaps [wikipedia.org] claim. This may not be the case, but, if so, please explain how that is not the case. Second, how can your anecdotal claim be the basis for a rational objective understanding of God? If you use subjective experience for your basis of faith, that is fine, but it is not proof of God.
 
From your linked article, the scientist says:

Ultimately, a leap of faith is required.

His words, not mine. Just to be clear about this, a leap of faith is the antithesis of rationality.

Re:Just picking on one point (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 5 years ago | (#26141239)

"Ultimately, a leap of faith is required.

His words, not mine. Just to be clear about this, a leap of faith is the antithesis of rationality."

Then you don't understand what faith is, and why you think it is mutually exclusive of rational thought.

And, I didn't ascribe the "Crazy Insane Nutjob" to you. I said it was a common mistake of those on your side of the equation.

God offers proof, just not to people who require it. The fact that some require proof, is proof that they don't understand what it means to put God into a box. Oh, by the way, there are plenty of people claiming faith that do the exact same thing (put God into a box). I call it "push button theology", push a button, get a result. They are just as wrong for the exact same reasons.

Here's my example. How can I, a simple geek in Northern California, "know" what someone 1/2 way around the world, whom I've never met, is thinking ... EXACTLY? Not one person, but several times.

Sure, I might have some sort of super extreme insight in the human condition (in which case, people ought to listen to me) naturally cultivated or as pure instinct; or something else, completely unexplainable.

I'm pretty sure I cannot duplicate this feat on command, but it has happened enough times that it cannot possibly be "random" either.

Now, I'm sure the "Rational" person would "naturally" doubt my example, and want to test it, to "prove" it. And like I said, I'm pretty sure I would tank any such test.

So, am I a lunatic, or misguided, delusional, lying or what? And if I have such a super human insight into the human condition, then why won't anyone listen to me?

Whatever your answer is, even if it is "I don't know" defies rationality. Rationality always provides a rational answer, even to irrational propositions. So, when I say things like "common mistake" to ascribe certain labels like "Crazy Insane Nutjob" it is the only "rational" answer most are willing to offer. (Which is the core of what I stated, and exactly why I didn't specifically put you in that box. I am very careful about how I use words.)

It (Crazy Insane Nutjob) is the only answer most are willing to offer, because the alternative scares the crap out of them. THEY want to control their lives, uninhibited and unashamed. That way, they can rationalize all sorts of irrational behaviors to free themselves from guilt. Perhaps you know of normally rational people doing completely irrational things, who offer seemingly rational answer why they did it.

I cannot explain God. I don't try to; that would be putting God in a box. I don't blame you for giving up on Christianity, because modern Xians don't offer God, they offer their own creation; they offer push button theology, which cannot and doesn't work.

I'd explain myself further, but that would be bringing "God" into an otherwise "rational" discussion. ;-)

Re:Just picking on one point (1)

insanecarbonbasedlif (623558) | more than 5 years ago | (#26142105)

Your insincerity in this discussion is astounding.

His words, not mine. Just to be clear about this, a leap of faith is the antithesis of rationality.

Then you don't understand what faith is, and why you think it is mutually exclusive of rational thought.

Explain, if you really wish to continue this discussion with me and are not just trolling, how a leap of faith is rational. Otherwise, I'm done talking to you. There are plenty of people I disagree with on slashdot that can actually carry on a reasonable discourse without shenanigans of the sort you are trying to pull.
 
An aside about the rest of your post - you need to read up on confirmation bias [wikipedia.org] . There need be no implication that you are crazy or insane, all humans suffer from confirmation bias. If you claim that you don't, you are deceiving yourself. Your claim that "it cannot possibly be random" is a classic argument from personal incredulity [wikipedia.org] , which is to say, fallacious. When you claim that you have seen something that is not observable, but you still claim it's not subjective, I must leave you to the tangled web of made up definitions for words that you must be operating in.

Re:Just picking on one point (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 5 years ago | (#26147609)

"how a leap of faith is rational. "

Okay, I'm not trolling, and my sincerity is ... well ... sincere.

What I said, exactly is that rationality and leaps of faith are NOT mutually exclusive. Because you don't know what a leap of faith is, then you have no basis for understanding.

SO, I'll try to put this into perspective.

Marriage (regardless of definition) is a leap of faith. Let us just say for the sake of argument that 1/2 of all marriages fail. Why would any rational person get married?

The only explanation is that people getting married are not being rational. In fact, I would suggest that friendship itself is not rational behavior.

The moment you trust someone, you're necessarily putting faith in something completely outside your control, knowing that chances are that your faith will be broken.

As for confirmational bias , you don't have a clue what that is, because I gave alternative examples. If you have a better explanation go for it. This clearly shows that I have considered the options, and I don't have a rational explanation, even admitting it. Does that mean there is a god? to you, no because it cannot be duplicated on command. To me, I don't have a better explanation for it, and there is no way I'm that talented. Even your insults thrown at my direction indicate you don't think I'm that bright ;) So, do you have an alternative explanation?

As for Personal Incredulity, I don't think you understand what that fallacy really is. From the example .... "I can't believe this is possible, so it can't be true". My example is "I can't believe this is true, but it appears to be", entirely the 180 degree opposite.

In fact, I would suggest that you are using the second option of that fallacy, argumentum ad populum. I personally don't care if anyone else believes me, again, the exact opposite of what the definition implies.

"I must leave you to the tangled web of made up definitions for words that you must be operating in."

Nice try. But it is clear you're trying to redefine logical definitions to suit your point. Exactly what you are accusing me of, you yourself are doing. But I doubt you'll agree.

Re:Just picking on one point (1)

insanecarbonbasedlif (623558) | more than 5 years ago | (#26153707)

What I said, exactly is that rationality and leaps of faith are NOT mutually exclusive. Because you don't know what a leap of faith is, then you have no basis for understanding.

Your earlier claim, that you are careful with your words, is pure falsehood at this point. The fact that you start this post off by claiming that I don't know what a leap of faith is is bad enough. But when you don't give me what you're using as a definition as a follow-up, it's a sure sign that you don't know what you're defining it as. Here you go - faith [wiktionary.org] :

  1. Mental acceptance of and confidence in a claim as truth without proof supporting the claim.
  2. (Christian theology) Belief and trust in the Christian God's promises revealed through Christ in the New Testament.
  3. A feeling or belief, that something is true, real, or will happen.
  4. A trust in the intentions or abilities of a person or object.

And, if that's not enough to disabuse you of the notion that a "leap of faith" means, by definition, abandoning rationality, here's the definition of a leap of faith [wikipedia.org] :

the act of believing in something without, or in spite of, available empirical evidence.

If that doesn't clear it up for you, then your claim that you're being sincere is trivial to prove false.

SO, I'll try to put this into perspective.

Marriage (regardless of definition) is a leap of faith. Let us just say for the sake of argument that 1/2 of all marriages fail. Why would any rational person get married?

That's not putting into perspective, that's just making things up. Marriage is not necessarily a leap of faith. Many people see proof that their partner loves them before they decide to commit to marriage. Your assertion that rational people would only engage in actions that have a 100% chance of a positive outcome is also false and foolish.

As for confirmational bias , you don't have a clue what that is

Yes, I do know what it is, and you still, obviously, do not. If you claim you can do something better than chance, but not when you're being tested, you're just engaging in special pleadings for your case.

As for Personal Incredulity, I don't think you understand what that fallacy really is. From the example .... "I can't believe this is possible, so it can't be true". My example is "I can't believe this is true, but it appears to be", entirely the 180 degree opposite.

Again, yes, I do understand it, and you clearly do not. I will repeat, since you seem to have trouble comprehending what you read. Your claim was that "it cannot possibly be random", not that "I can't believe this is true, but it appears to be".
 
 

Even your insults thrown at my direction indicate you don't think I'm that bright

I don't think you're that bright. You haven't shown evidence of it yet. And I'm not just saying that because you disagree with me. Plenty of people disagree with me without showing any of the stupidity that you continue to.

Nice try. But it is clear you're trying to redefine logical definitions to suit your point

No - you are not free to develop your own set of definitions that are in contradiction with the accepted definitions of things, and then accuse me of twisting things when I use the accepted definitions.
 
This is my last post to you, I have wasted enough time with your idiocy already. You can post all you want, but I won't respond until you start being sincere, which is to say,

earnest; meaning what one says or does; truthful.

Apparent (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 5 years ago | (#26139545)

If I understand correctly you are saying that any matter on which there are differences of opinion, the answer is not apparent. This must cut both ways. Since I am unaware of many topics on which all serious thinkers agree, I guess we are left with the fact that little is apparent. So I guess you can call deism unapparent but by the criteria you've laid out thus far, just about everything is unapparent.

Re:Apparent (1)

insanecarbonbasedlif (623558) | more than 5 years ago | (#26141429)

If I understand correctly you are saying that any matter on which there are differences of opinion, the answer is not apparent.

Not really - I shouldn't be surprised that my brevity in the JE has lead to confusion on what I meant. By apparent I meant the dictionary definition [wiktionary.org] - that is

  1. Capable of being seen, or easily seen; open to view; visible to the eye; within sight or view.
  2. Clear or manifest to the understanding; plain; evident; obvious; known; palpable; indubitable.

The key to what I said in my failed attempt at explaination was the "major conflict" and "serious thinkers" phrases. I can see why you say

I am unaware of many topics on which all serious thinkers agree

but I'm not looking for complete agreement. Consider the fact that there is no major conflict among serious thinkers about many things. Even kids find it apparent that rain comes from clouds. It is apparent to a variety of people for a variety of reasons that the earth is round. It is apparent to astronomers and mathematicians that the earth orbits the sun at an average of about 93 million miles. It is apparent to biologies that DNA code for proteins that work for cell function and growth, allowing a single cell to contain the design for an entire organism. There are a great deal of things that apparent. There is no deity among them.

Re:Apparent (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 5 years ago | (#26142411)

I realize you are just throwing out examples but everything you mentioned are just cataloged facts about what a deist would consider to be creation. You can't find the creator in the creation.

The creation may reflect attributes of the creator but the creation is of necessity separate. (Obviously I'm not a pantheist - I wouldn't know how they would talk about this.)

But I would say that many things we consider apparent are done through indirect means of approaching the problem. Much of astronomy works that way right now. We find things by seeing how they impact our view of other things.

I bring this up because with the definition you've given I'd say that you are right that God is not apparent for the reason I've mentioned above but that this does not impact the rationality of deciding that God may exist. I would assume you've tied the two together as you feel they support one another - though you can correct me if I'm wrong there.

Re:Apparent (1)

insanecarbonbasedlif (623558) | more than 5 years ago | (#26146407)

I bring this up because with the definition you've given I'd say that you are right that God is not apparent for the reason I've mentioned above but that this does not impact the rationality of deciding that God may exist.

You are correct, the apparency and rationality questions do not impact each other. I simply paired them in the JE since I thought of them concurrently. I didn't intend for either one to support the other.

Here is a link to a serious answer (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 5 years ago | (#26140681)

I've read most of Tillich's stuff.
This link is a summary of "The Courage to Be".
http://www.escapefromwatchtower.com/tilground.html [escapefromwatchtower.com]

Re:Here is a link to a serious answer (1)

insanecarbonbasedlif (623558) | more than 5 years ago | (#26141721)

That was very dense and interesting. I hate to not address all the thoughts that Tillich brings up, but I honestly don't have time to talk about any of the rest of his thoughts right now. (I will be looking at his stuff some more, and there may be some JEs from it in the future)
 
Anyhow, back to this entry, I don't see where Tillich excludes a non-deity based philosophy like secular humanism substantially.

Re:Here is a link to a serious answer (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 5 years ago | (#26154521)

Understood. Tillich had doctorates in both theology and philosophy. He was also a chaplain in the Kaiser's army in WWI (which isn't mentioned on Wikipedia, but was in a bio). So he's sort of out in the ozone.
Most fundamentalists who have even heard of him reject him as an ultraliberal nitwit, evidenced by the joke:
Colleague: Arheologists found physical proof of Christ!
Tillich: You mean he existed?

I, on the other hand, while not agreeing with him (a Religious Socialist politically) on many things, found his non-use of "Christianese" a breath of fresh air.
I'm sort of goofy like that.

Tillich is a bagel for the mind, and I totally understand the lack of time to go through it all. Just so you know there is some serious thought out there. ;)

Re:Here is a link to a serious answer (1)

insanecarbonbasedlif (623558) | more than 5 years ago | (#26156041)

I'm sort of goofy like that.

No worries - goofy people are welcome! Thanks again for the mind bagel.

Spot on! (1)

Corporate Troll (537873) | more than 5 years ago | (#26142507)

You've got it....

Plantinga (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 5 years ago | (#26142535)

First off let me say I've really enjoyed all your posts and they've made me turn my mind in directions I haven't explored in great detail for some while. And now I will reach back to reading I had to do for a Philosophy of Religion class that I was in sometime in the early to mid 90's. I had to read a book by Plantinga [wikipedia.org] and it really wasn't very easy for me.
 
This link will hopefully jump you right to Plantinga's modal form of the Ontological argument [wikipedia.org] . I think the end of this little piece is key. With this argument Plantinga shows that one needn't prove God exists to prove that belief in God is rational. And I guess that's what I've been trying to get at. But he is much smarter than I am so hopefully this will say it all in a much more specific and satisfying way.
 
The book I had to read by the way was Warrant and Proper Function [amazon.com] and it really kicked my butt. I even had a chance to meet briefly with an assistant of Plantinga's at the time who spoke at my school. His answers to my questions confused me as much as the book. So I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed with this stuff. But I keep at it anyway. Much like you, I am not satisfied to take someones word for things without digging deeper and really trying to work through the issues. It really bothers me when I meet people like that. I feel bad for them because it seems they are content to ignore some of life's biggest questions.

Re:Plantinga (1)

insanecarbonbasedlif (623558) | more than 5 years ago | (#26153297)

I'm glad to hear that you're enjoying this too - my specific intention is to bounce ideas of off people to try and figure out what I think and if it's valid; I can only hope that it is as helpful for you to be operating on the other side of many of these questions, and clarifying and validating your own thoughts.
 
Plantinga is interesting, but I also find him frustrating - he seems to have some big blinders about his own assumptions, and a propensity for overstating the strengths of his claims. I first ran across him when I was mulling over the ideas of naturalism. He has made a famous argument that naturalism is self-defeating, which he persists in holding to, even though I think there have been substantive unanswered criticisms of it [wisc.edu] . Not to bore you with a side thought to the question of God, but he claims that naturalists are self-defeated by Plantinga's claim that neurobiology can adapt to an environment without being tied to what is true in that environment. The academic criticisms do a better job of exposing the faults in that claim than I can do.
 
Back to the topic at hand, his ontological claims are, in my opinion, lacking. Primarily, I think that the claim that

By definition a maximally great being is one that exists necessarily and necessarily is omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good.

is a stretch on many levels. Plantinga creates a tautology by saying that an MBG (maximally great being) must exist in every world to be great. He then says it's possible (as in, may exist in some world) that the MBG exists. Then he claims that, since the MBG must exist in every world if it is an MBG, and it may exist in one world, it must exist. I don't have Platinga's credentials, but allow me to, in shorthand, refute this. First, his assumption that an MBG must exist everywhere is unfounded. Second, his claim that it may exist is, while seemingly logical, simply a tautological claim. If you posit it in the reverse, while still illogical, it can be claimed to disprove the MGB. That is, consider that it is possible there is a world that the MGB does not exist in. According to the rules followed by Plantinga's ontology, then the MGB can not exist in any world. These both follow from a set of parallel (in my opinion uninformative) premises and a parallel logical structure.
 
In short, his ontology boils down to a claim that the MGB exists, and then uses that to prove that the MGB exists. In the end, his use of the words possible and necessary lead him to a logically untenable position, where the logic he claims proves his MGB exists can be used equally to prove that his MGB does not exist.
 
For the sake of clarity, I do not think this, or my JE, are dis-proofs of a deity. Deities may or may not exist, I do not know - but I am asserting that if one or more do, they are not rational or apparent...

Why even ask? (1)

Ethelred Unraed (32954) | more than 5 years ago | (#26144189)

If there were a rational reason to believe in any deity, it surely would have been brought out in one of the debates against atheists, or in one of the many books and essays I've read about "why believe?", but it has not.

Since when is rationality the only way of doing things in life? Intuition works pretty well.

The question is not why should anyone believe, based on rational argument as to the existence of God. I've long said -- as have the Desert Fathers in Christianity, by the way -- that rational proofs of God are futile. You either believe there is a God, or you don't.

If it were rationally possible to prove God's existence, then it would be the case that I could demand you believe. That not being the case, then belief is something to be shared willingly and for other reasons.

Lastly I think it's worth pointing out that the question should not be termed "does the Christian God exist" or "does Ram exist" or "does Zeus exist", but rather is there a Supreme Being of any kind, by any definition. Looking for definitions of God that work for you is a waste of time if you can't even accept that there is some kind of Supreme Being to begin with. Through intuition and some reasoning, I think there is, and I think it's reasonable to believe that the Christian portrayal of God is the most internally consistent from my experience of God. But trying to reduce everything to pure rationality is going to be a dead end no matter what you try.

It's frustrating for me to watch people try to make everything fit rationality, as if it's the only way. People are themselves rather irrational, but that doesn't stop them from doing wonderful things. Indeed intuition and creativity are by their nature anarchic and irrational.

Cheers,

Ethelred

Re:Why even ask? (1)

insanecarbonbasedlif (623558) | more than 5 years ago | (#26153415)

The question is not why should anyone believe, based on rational argument as to the existence of God. I've long said -- as have the Desert Fathers in Christianity, by the way -- that rational proofs of God are futile. You either believe there is a God, or you don't.

We agree on this. However, there's a great deal of talk and discussion about God being rational that I have looked through, and decided to put to rest in this JE. You and I agree, however, we have our dissenters, and it is to their claims that I addressed my JE.
 
 

If it were rationally possible to prove God's existence, then it would be the case that I could demand you believe. That not being the case, then belief is something to be shared willingly and for other reasons.

Clearly, this is not a problem in the OT and NT narratives of God interacting with man - burning bushes, blinding lights, talking donkeys. I just question the premise that a rational God would deny choice among followers. People revolt against powerful rulers, despite the probable consequences and rational evidence of the rulers existence and power - there is no reason to suppose that they would not exercise the same choice after getting a rational proof of God.

Lastly I think it's worth pointing out that the question should not be termed "does the Christian God exist" or "does Ram exist" or "does Zeus exist", but rather is there a Supreme Being of any kind, by any definition

To be sure, this is the question I am looking at, in general.

Re:Why even ask? (1)

Ethelred Unraed (32954) | more than 5 years ago | (#26158131)

Clearly, this is not a problem in the OT and NT narratives of God interacting with man - burning bushes, blinding lights, talking donkeys. I just question the premise that a rational God would deny choice among followers. People revolt against powerful rulers, despite the probable consequences and rational evidence of the rulers existence and power - there is no reason to suppose that they would not exercise the same choice after getting a rational proof of God.

By and large the way God appeared in the OT was actually quite personal. The burning bush was just Moses experiencing God personally, for example. Abram heard the voice of God, but others around him did not. Meanwhile the cases of God doing miraculous things were not cases of God speaking to people, but rather from the perspective of the participants God was acting through a person -- be it Moses or Elijah or Joshua.

I think therein lies the key to understanding the portrayal of God in the Bible. The Orthodox generally don't portray God as an overbearing tyrant, but as the "lover of man", who gave us free will to make our own choices. A God constantly trying to prove Himself to us would be a rather pathetic thing, an attention-seeker working against our free will, rather than a loving God truly concerned for our welfare and self-reliance.

Furthermore God speaks to individual people who are ready to open themselves up to listen. God is a personal experience of the eternal divine. Sam may not like to refer to the cosmic force he thinks exists as "God", but that cosmic force is just what I'm referring to: that thing from which we came, by whatever manner. Through prayer and meditation one learns to hear that voice of the divine, and it takes years of practice. Some hear it more clearly than others. And religion's job is to try and make it easier to hear that voice. Some are better at it that others.

Which is why I bridle at the description of God as a rationally experienced thing. God is intensely personal. I'd certainly argue that mystic Christianity is the best way to get there, but I'm not going to argue that others can't get there.

Cheers,

Ethelred

Re:Why even ask? (1)

insanecarbonbasedlif (623558) | more than 5 years ago | (#26161433)

By and large the way God appeared in the OT was actually quite personal.

But not exclusively - pillars of smoke and fire, a divided sea, the sun standing still in the sky. The God of the OT was quite willing to act in large, astoundingly apparent ways.

A God constantly trying to prove Himself to us would be a rather pathetic thing, an attention-seeker working against our free will, rather than a loving God truly concerned for our welfare and self-reliance.

Honestly, I can't fathom the claim that a God who provides proof is somehow less of a God. An athlete is not pathetic when he competes to prove his prowess at a sport; to the contrary, a skilled athlete is only praised via his great accomplishments. A deity that does great, obvious things is certainly no less great than a deity who is otherwise the same but does not do those great, obvious things.
 
I should clarify, this is in no way a proof that there is no god - I can accept that there may be a god who chooses to remain hidden. However, I can not accept that if god was apparent it would somehow cause a failure either in the "goodness" of said god, or in our ability to choose whether to follow said god.

Furthermore God speaks to individual people who are ready to open themselves up to listen. God is a personal experience of the eternal divine.

There are a couple of problems I have with that claim. First, there's the (unintentionally I hope) insulting implication that when I was personally seeking God and trying to hear him, I was not actually either really trying to listen, or I was somehow not ready. Secondly, and more broadly problematic, is the idea that if anyone does not experience this God, it's not because God is not there, it is because the seeker is not ready. Accordingly, everyone who claims to seek and does not hear God is simply insincere in their seeking. If there was some way to tell, apart from having "heard God", that someone was read to listen to God, then this would be a useful statement. Otherwise, it can be applied to anything. For example, I can claim that string theory can be proven personally, because individuals who are ready to open themselves to feel can sense the vibrations of the strings. When you claim that you feel no vibration, I can simply say, "Well, you weren't ready, string theory won't force itself on anyone".

Through prayer and meditation one learns to hear that voice of the divine, and it takes years of practice.

I used to feel this way as well, but a couple of things happened that, in my opinion, make that claim dubious. First, I failed to hear the divine - even with years of prayer, fasting, and meditation on scriptures. I believed, completely and substantially, that there was a God out there and that I would be able to hear him eventually, if I simply sought him. Secondly, I have read of people who think they hear the divine who are obviously completely mistaken - If they are not mistaken and there is a god who tells people to murder other people, I do not want to listen to that god. On the other hand, if they only thought they heard the divine, I personally have not yet found a test to ensure that I am really "hearing the divine" and not just my own, probably faulty, thoughts.

Re:Why even ask? (1)

Ethelred Unraed (32954) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241541)

But not exclusively - pillars of smoke and fire, a divided sea, the sun standing still in the sky. The God of the OT was quite willing to act in large, astoundingly apparent ways.

No, not exclusively. Hence the use of the phrase "by and large". However, those events are also notable for their rarity and narrow scope. Only in truly extraordinary circumstances did God see fit to do more. Most of the time God appeared in personal ways -- to Abram, to Moses and so on.

Honestly, I can't fathom the claim that a God who provides proof is somehow less of a God.

Your comparisons are flawed, because a God that is truly self-confident would not need to prove Himself to us.

The proof of God's greatness is the fact that we exist from nothingness. I see no need of further proof of that greatness. We live.

However, I can not accept that if god was apparent it would somehow cause a failure either in the "goodness" of said god, or in our ability to choose whether to follow said god.

A God that needs to continually prove His existence is a God lacking self-confidence, a God that has needs. That strikes me as the antithesis of an omnipotent God. Why would Almighty God need anything? That simply makes no sense.

There are a couple of problems I have with that claim. First, there's the (unintentionally I hope) insulting implication that when I was personally seeking God and trying to hear him, I was not actually either really trying to listen, or I was somehow not ready.

There are many things you and I are both not capable of, no matter how hard we try. Why is it insulting or patronizing to point out the obvious?

You couldn't climb Everest without a tremendous amount of practice and patience either. Some people would never be able to climb it, no matter how hard they try. Such is life.

Your example of string theory is again flawed. You and I experience the Universe in intensely personal ways. If you claim you personally experience the vibrations of the strings, who am I to doubt you?

Furthermore, if numerous people engage in prayer and claim to experience the divine in the process, who are you to doubt them?

Can you run the 200 meter dash in less than 6 seconds? Can you compute advanced calculus in your head? Your response amounts to "well obviously no one else can, either". Non sequitur.

Secondly, I have read of people who think they hear the divine who are obviously completely mistaken - If they are not mistaken and there is a god who tells people to murder other people, I do not want to listen to that god. On the other hand, if they only thought they heard the divine, I personally have not yet found a test to ensure that I am really "hearing the divine" and not just my own, probably faulty, thoughts.

When the thoughts that people have in turn have commonalities, a "red thread" running through them, then it makes me think there is something more to it than mere chance or personal experience. There are too many examples of people having such experiences, and those experiences in turn resonate with others. That suggests to me that some people can in fact reach deep inside themselves and experience God, or the swinging of the strings (which may well be the same thing).

Suppose you're inside a locked glass cube, and can't directly feel wind. You can see things outside the cube moving in the wind, but not all pointing in the exact same direction -- since wind has eddies and currents in it. Nonetheless you can infer the wind's presence from the various directions things outside are waving, and you can get a feel for its direction, as they all wave in the same general way. For whatever reason, you can't feel the wind, but you can still infer its existence from what others tell you and the results of it. And you know which way it's blowing.

Don't let your inability so far to experience something prejudice yourself against the strong possibility that others can. They might just have an easier time of it.

Cheers,

Ethelred

Re:Why even ask? (1)

insanecarbonbasedlif (623558) | more than 5 years ago | (#26255159)

Your comparisons are flawed, because a God that is truly self-confident would not need to prove Himself to us.

I'm not sure I can convince you of this, but I don't see it as a sign of a lack of self-confidence to provide evidence to weaker, lesser beings.

The proof of God's greatness is the fact that we exist from nothingness. I see no need of further proof of that greatness. We live.

Well, you are as aware as I am of the atheist's position on that claim, and as an agnostic, I am profoundly excited about humanity's existence, but I haven't seen any compelling evidence that our existence is a result of god or not-god.

There are many things you and I are both not capable of, no matter how hard we try. Why is it insulting or patronizing to point out the obvious?

First, it's not insulting to point out that I can't climb Everest or run a 100 meter stretch in 10 seconds. But the common claim is that there is a God who wishes to know me personally if I will just listen and open myself to him. If an omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent God is incapable of reaching me when I'm trying to listen, how on earth can that not be insulting?
 
Now, if you're breaking rank with the "God is available to all" crowd and saying that God only reveals itself to special people, that's fine. That is, however, a sharp departure from the "God wants everyone to come to him" line of typical Christianity.

Your example of string theory is again flawed. You and I experience the Universe in intensely personal ways. If you claim you personally experience the vibrations of the strings, who am I to doubt you?

Furthermore, if numerous people engage in prayer and claim to experience the divine in the process, who are you to doubt them?

If you claim your god is unique to you and subjective, that's fine. If you claim your god is universal, and that (as I was getting at with the string theory example) is part of the experience that is open to all people, then I should be free to doubt it when the experience is so intermittent and tenuous, and the universality is contradicted by the variety of people's experiences.

When the thoughts that people have in turn have commonalities, a "red thread" running through them, then it makes me think there is something more to it than mere chance or personal experience.

There may be, and I would love to see proof of that. On the other hand, (and I don't expect you to answer this in a comment to this thread) is there anything that could make you think that these commonalities are not the result of God, but of nature? You should be free to belief what you will, but I don't find the weight of those things to be compelling the way you do, and I wonder about that a lot.

Don't let your inability so far to experience something prejudice yourself against the strong possibility that others can. They might just have an easier time of it.

True - and I endeavor not to be prejudiced about it. However, as I have stated in other comments, I find the dischordant nature of the major religions in the world makes me strongly doubt there is a singular divinity (other than perhaps a general, non-personal, non-instructive one) to be found.

Re:Why even ask? (1)

Ethelred Unraed (32954) | more than 5 years ago | (#26259123)

Well, you are as aware as I am of the atheist's position on that claim, and as an agnostic, I am profoundly excited about humanity's existence, but I haven't seen any compelling evidence that our existence is a result of god or not-god.

You're still stuck on that "evidence" thing. Evidence is useful for proving scientific claims, but it isn't the only way to believe in things in general. Intuition works fine most of the time.

First, it's not insulting to point out that I can't climb Everest or run a 100 meter stretch in 10 seconds. But the common claim is that there is a God who wishes to know me personally if I will just listen and open myself to him. If an omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent God is incapable of reaching me when I'm trying to listen, how on earth can that not be insulting?

If someone simply doesn't say anything to you, for whatever reason, that person is nonexistent?

For that matter, maybe the person we're talking about is talking to you, but you haven't figured out how to listen, or spot the things that person is in fact saying. Sometimes silence means something as well. But it is not a reason not to believe.

It sounds to me like you've just jumped to "sour grapes".

There may be, and I would love to see proof of that. On the other hand, (and I don't expect you to answer this in a comment to this thread) is there anything that could make you think that these commonalities are not the result of God, but of nature? You should be free to belief what you will, but I don't find the weight of those things to be compelling the way you do, and I wonder about that a lot.

I have gone to great lengths to point out that I do not consider any of this "compelling" or based on "evidence" or "proof", throughout our discussions. Until you accept that and continue the conversation on that basis, I see little reason to continue the discussion.

What I am saying is that it is reasonable to believe in spite of the lack of compelling evidence and that it is still helpful and useful to believe. I would not ever demand that someone believe in God because they must. I would believe that they should anyway, for the benefits it provides.

I'll restate it: There is no proof of God, or of the lack thereof. Claiming proof of either option is being intellectually dishonest, and I refuse to discuss that issue further.

I find the dischordant nature of the major religions in the world makes me strongly doubt there is a singular divinity (other than perhaps a general, non-personal, non-instructive one) to be found.

The major religions aren't as discordant as you claim. Indeed the general nature of the major religions is strikingly similar. Are they identical? No, and I never made that claim. But they do have commonalities in how they describe humanity and its relationship with the divine, and just as no two weathervanes point exactly the same way (even if side by side), the direction of the wind is still recognizable.

Cheers,

Ethelred

Re:Why even ask? (1)

insanecarbonbasedlif (623558) | more than 5 years ago | (#26264059)

You're still stuck on that "evidence" thing. Evidence is useful for proving scientific claims, but it isn't the only way to believe in things in general. Intuition works fine most of the time.

Intuition may work just fine for small things (Is this food OK?), but for big things (Is this a good car to spend a few grand on? Do I need a doctor to help my malaria or is homeopathy better?) I prefer evidence. I consider "What is the source of life?" and "What should the goals of my life be?" to be big things.

It sounds to me like you've just jumped to "sour grapes".

I still can't fathom, even with your new comment about it, how me being unreachable, even when I'm trying to be reached, by the most powerful being ever who *really* *really* wants to reach me, is not insulting to me. If you want to call it sour grapes, that's your prerogative, but it's not informative on any level.

I have gone to great lengths to point out that I do not consider any of this "compelling" or based on "evidence" or "proof", throughout our discussions. Until you accept that and continue the conversation on that basis, I see little reason to continue the discussion.

I sincerely did not mean to put any words in your mouth - I'm really trying to figure out what it is that causes you to look at all this and come to one conclusion, and me to another. I'm going to quote your previous post, so that hopefully you can understand why I said what I said in the last post. You said:

When the thoughts that people have in turn have commonalities, a "red thread" running through them, then it makes me think there is something more to it than mere chance or personal experience. There are too many examples of people having such experiences, and those experiences in turn resonate with others. That suggests to me that some people can in fact reach deep inside themselves and experience God, or the swinging of the strings (which may well be the same thing).

When I said "I don't find the weight of those things to be compelling the way you do" I am referring specifically to you saying

then it makes me think there is something more to it than mere chance or personal experience

and

That suggests to me that some people can in fact reach deep inside themselves and experience God

, and this ties directly into my question about myself, that is why you think these commonalities are not the result of nature, but are the result of God? I posed the question to you in the reverse ("is there anything that could make you think that these commonalities are not the result of God, but of nature?"), not intending for you to answer, or to be attacked by the question, but simply as a reflection of my own thoughts and personal question about it. Hence the "and I wonder about that a lot." at the end of the paragraph.
 
When I said "I would love to see proof of that" at the beginning of the paragraph, I was not challenging you to provide evidence for your claims or so such. I was simply stating my own desire for evidence (apparently a dirty word...) if I am to find God.
 
Also, and I guess I'm treading on thin ice here (but I really want to know), I'm finding your use of the word "evidence" to be genuinely confusing to me. If there is *no* evidence for or against God, why believe? If you are made to think "there is something more to it than mere chance or personal experience", how is that not "evidence" (subjective though it may be)?
 
If, in the end, you think this is entirely too close-minded of a response on my part, I guess the conversation will have to end. However, this question of how we look at other peoples' experiences is, I think, the crux of our difference in understanding the world.

Good discussion (1)

SamTheButcher (574069) | more than 5 years ago | (#26149925)

Hey icblf, I've been reading these and going through a little questioning period of my own.

I'm looking more into the teachings of the buddha, and most of the things I've heard (I've been listening to a lot of podcasts) seem to say that belief in God or gods isn't really the point, at least according to the buddha/buddhism. The point is living correctly in order to decrease suffering, which is outlined in the Eightfold Path. God/gods won't alleviate human suffering, which seems to be the cause/concern of praying to God/gods. If Job had been perfectly happy, would he have even thought about God? Probably not. But somehow, humans see the bad and the good and attribute it to God/gods. In the article linked above, the scientist asks questions like "What's the meaning of life?" and it seems that there must be an answer, and that answer, to him, is God.

Personally (which is all we can really do, I guess), I've come to the conclusion that it doesn't matter, but I really don't believe in big-G God. There might be an "energy", which some call God, but I don't. Some might say that I do believe, if I believe in a "cosmic energy", but I don't believe in the Abrahamic God, I guess. Not through any great questioning as you've done (and admirably, I'd add), but...it's just something that I've felt for a long time, but have always had that lingering ... fear of, I guess? But, knowing people who are adamantly atheist and seeing other views, I feel more comfortable in saying "no...no. That's not for me", but that's all it is.

Which is, I guess, why I find the teachings of the buddha so instructional for me. Is there? Isn't there? Doesn't matter. Live well to decrease suffering in yourself and others. There will be sad times, there will be happy times, but none of them depend, in my view, on God/gods. They just are, and how I react to them is how things will be. And that's all I can control.

Thanks for writing about your journey.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_in_Buddhism [wikipedia.org]

http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma3/budgod.html [urbandharma.org]

http://www.badbuddhistradio.com/pc01.html [badbuddhistradio.com] - Podcast 24.

More to read and listen to and ponder. :)

Re:Good discussion (1)

SamTheButcher (574069) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150385)

Oh, I should also point out that I'm not trying to say that the buddha was right or wrong, or that my beliefs are right and others are wrong, or that you should "convert" to or consider buddhism.

I'm just a 38 year old dude who has come to these realisations for himself at this point in his life.

Oh yeah, and fuck the two-minute limit and slashdot.

Re:Good discussion (1)

insanecarbonbasedlif (623558) | more than 5 years ago | (#26153505)

Hey, glad to see you around - Thanks for the good words, too. In regards to Buddhism, it is a very attractive philosophy - I can concur that I think decreasing suffering is the highest aim we can have, morally. And its general lack of dogmatism about God and such is very refreshing.

Re:Good discussion (1)

SamTheButcher (574069) | more than 5 years ago | (#26162329)

And its general lack of dogmatism about God and such is very refreshing.

Thank you for putting this so succinctly. :)

w00t! :) (1)

btlzu2 (99039) | more than 5 years ago | (#26154151)

very nice JE. :) I think I know exactly where you're coming from because I reached this point a few years back. It's a really liberating understanding as far as I'm concerned. It makes a whole lot of sense where before things were much more confusing because of all the cognitive dissonance. :)

Re:w00t! :) (1)

insanecarbonbasedlif (623558) | more than 5 years ago | (#26154361)

Thanks! It is very personally liberating - I didn't know how bad the cognitive dissonance was until I stepped outside of it. If only it were more socially acceptable.

My $0.02 (1)

baldass_newbie (136609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26160949)

I gave up a long time ago thinking I could 'prove' $DEITY existed. No sense in that.
I also don't buy in to either the Bible as 'Word of God' (i.e. sola scriptura) or the 'miracles' of Jesus. Not up for debate, just don't believe them.

What I do believe is that we are on a path of discovery which has heretofore been known as 'unfolding the mysteries of God' and can now be taken as 'Science'.
The part where we believe. Where we look at a flower unfolding and realize that some combination of sunlight, moisture, nutrients, etc. cause it to bloom. Both the wonder inherent and the desire to explain - to me that is God. Both the phenomenon as beauty and as something to be known - that nexis - that is what I term 'God'.

That's as close as I've ever come to explaining it. I have a wonder - a desire to know things and experience things. Whence does that come?

All the ancillary ceremony and prayer and ritual - that often gets confused for understanding but it's just a societal norm that's evolved. Historically there was and is a point to all of it - but to posit a 'will' of God, well that's where the wheels fall of the wagon.

I would say that you in your desire to disprove the foolishness around belief are actually trying to get closer to 'God'. Ironic in a way. But I won't call you a Catholic or Protestant or whatever. Those are religions distinct from what I am describing.

I think there are some rules/mechanisms in how things work, whether it be how beer ferments or how we socialize with other humans. In this mechanism and our desire to understand it and apply rules based on past experience - there is where I see the idea of 'God' playing out.

But I can't point to a logic theorem and say, Q.E.D., there is God. Won't work.

Just some ramblings from a guy who wants a beer.

Re:My $0.02 (1)

insanecarbonbasedlif (623558) | more than 5 years ago | (#26180745)

Just some ramblings from a guy who wants a beer.

Beer is good... Oh, yeah, God.

Both the wonder inherent and the desire to explain - to me that is God. Both the phenomenon as beauty and as something to be known - that nexis - that is what I term 'God'.

Fair enough - that's the type of God I could probably get behind, philosophically. I daresay I personally think our wonder and curiosity have arisen naturally from our evolution, but you could be right as well.

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