Apologetics & Apostasy Pt.4- My Christian Friend Kate Takes Me To Task: Imagination and Deism Edition

Posted on August 5, 2010. Filed under: Atheism, Religion, Science |

Note From George: This is part 4 in my series on Apologetics and Apostasy.  It is a bit of a tangent from my other posts on the subject, posted in response to a conversation I have been having with Kate over at her blog.So this post is both part of my series and also a response to her post “In Response To My Atheist Friend“.  Please visit her blog to get the full context of quotes used.

On The Differences Between Lacking Imagination And Worshiping It

From Kate’s original post:

…..the skeptic limits reality to that which he can perceive with his current senses.

The theist, on the other hand, has a broader sense of reality, albeit the aspects of reality which lie below the surface of his sense perception, exist primarily in his imagination.

I have said before that I don’t believe that atheists lack imagination.  The key distinction lies in where we draw the line between our imaginations and our credulity.  It is not a lack of imagination so much as a careful effort scrutinizing what parts of our expansive imaginations can make a leap into our material reality.

I can, and have, imagined the principles behind a perpetual motion machine.  I have on many occasions tried to work through a concept for an energy multiplier.  I do this for fun, knowing full well that this concept could not possibly come to fruition.  Why?

Ray Comfort's lying mouth is the closest thing to a perpetual motion machine we can witness.

Because it is direct conflict with the Second Law of Thermodynamics.  Perhaps I might stumble across a new means to reduce voltage loss in my experimentation, but the concept of perpetual motion is off the table save my imaginations of it.

The subject of God is, granted, a bit trickier. There are no scientific, indisputable Laws preventing a God in the same way as perpetual motion.  There are certainly some limits to making the logical conclusion that an Abrahamic God exists though, and I will get to those shortly.

My point is that we all place limits to our imaginations if we are wise.  You may imagine a unicorn, or a dragon, or a bunny that brings treats to children because Jesus died.  You may imagine a sasquatch is lurking in the bushes that rustle as you walk through the woods.  Certainly we must eliminate those things that have no grounding outside of our mind’s creative wanderings. Yet if you imagined that that rustling was a raccoon, or porcupine, you very well might be right-even if you never could prove it.

Imagination to my mind is intuition minus experience.  That is not a bad thing, but it must be tempered in reality to migrate from fiction to truth.  You already knew this, though, when you said:

I can no more produce a factual god through imagining or wishing or hoping for it, than Shakespeare could have produced himself a best friend or a lover, by setting down to pen him, her, or it!

So the old adage “perception is reality” uncovers only a half-truth.  What steps do you follow to make God a raccoon instead of a Sasquatch?

Is There a Difference Between Arguing For God and Arguing For Faith?

Here are a list of Kate quotes:

1. “I do not close my mind to this (the concept of other gods) at all.  The one with the Christian name, Jesus, said “When the shepherd brings his own sheep outside, they will follow him because they know [recognize…are familiar with] his voice.”  I do believe that some “come in the name of god,” when in fact they are none of the sort. I believe these are thieves and robbers, and I am skeptical of these.  Christ did advise us to be shrewd as vipers.  It is my opinion that a person choosing faith ought to follow the god of their own understanding…and they ought to allow others the same dignity.”

2. “You think there is one way with skepticism, and that is your way.  If we say there is One God, and it is the god who knit you together, you stand up and take up vehement debate with us…”

3. “It would be just as easy for modern science to say that the “facts” [I’ll call them facts instead of evidence, until I call the facts as evidence] point toward a creator as it is to say that all these facts suggest that there is not one!”

Fun Fact: Science has proven that the body of Christ was Almond Nougat instead of a wafer. At least that's what I told my pastor.

Quote number 1 is a non-sequitor.  If Jesus’ words can be interpreted as validating other cultures religious traditions, then only the act of belief is necessary to come to God.  This makes the teachings and rituals of every religion pointless and redundant in God’s eyes.  Only following a God is necessary, not how you do it.

From the second part of quote 1, I know that you don’t really believe this quote in that context.  You are rightly suspicious of the claims made by other religions.  I am just suspicioius of the claims of one more than you.  This is an important point, for if you believe that God only reveals himself in a redemptive capacity to let’s say “protestants”, then you agree that he essentially damns some humans from birth, or at the very least makes their salvation highly improbable.  This is a common problem faced by theologians over the centuries.  The question of the Elect.

But if there are many truths, any of which could be practical for The Elect, then the bible is superfluous, maybe even a man made manifestation of a misunderstood revelation.  Every religion I am familiar with believes they have the only set of keys to St. Peter’s Gates.  They may give a head-pat, “Good for you, Johnny.  You almost got it!” brush off to the sage understandings of other texts, but they are squarely sure of their own righteousness.

So to argue for faith as opposed to God is like throwing down a pair and asking everyone to agree that it’s a full house.

I don’t deny that “a god” might exist.  I can give you a pretty good argument why “Your God” doesn’t.  If the bible were a brief book of platitudes and vague stories we likely wouldn’t be having this conversation.  Religion cannot help but be specific though, as it seeks to control every aspect of your being.  Because of this, it also all but disproves itself in the specific.

Quote 2 & 3 cut to the heart of this “Deism: therefor Yaweh” argument you seem to want to make.  There are those who are deists and skeptics in the same breath.  Those people are not what anyone could recognize as a Christian.

A skeptic would look at the inconsistencies between the historic record and biblical recounting of the birth of Jesus and realize that, at very least, the biblical account is not divinely inspired.

A skeptic would look at the miracles and resurrection of Jesus and admit that none of these feats lay beyond the realm of a competent conjurer.

A skeptic, in brief, would read the bible as a hodge-podge of conflicting logic and man made rules.  The Bible needs to be divinely inspired mainly because it is so unbelievable.  I argue that you claim much more than just a “leap of faith” when you read the bible as a history rather than an allegory.

I don’t claim there is “One True Skepticism”, I claim that skepticism is by your own admission “one’s mistrust of a thing, and subsequent investigations to “get to know” that thing…” coupled with accepting the inevitability of the evidence, no matter how disconcerting.  When the evidence requires massaging to suit your worldview, you are not being skeptical.

As to your point about science being as right with theism as atheism, you miss two key points.

Be advised- I am about to blow your mind with another math analogy. You were forwarned...

Science has disproved a literal interpretation of the bible.  You are right to say that this is no proof that a god does not exist.  It certainly does make a Christian God less and less likely, as now you must “square the circle” and say that some of the bible is allegory while other parts are literal.  If you do not take this line, then you are marching into the deist camp and cannot rightfully call yourself Christian.

Secondly, science makes a good case against deism.  It’s not airtight, but it’s pretty damning.

Let’s say for the sake of argument you ask me to give you the next number in the following sequence: 1,2,3,5,7…..

I say to you “The answer is 11, that is a list of prime numbers!”

You say “Wrong, the answer is 21, it is a list of my favorite numbers, you imply a pattern where none exists!”

500 years ago, science was almost non-existent. Religion held the best possible answers to almost any question under the sun.  Time marches on though, and science has knocked down the religious answers one by one. Flat Earth? Nope.  Firmament? Nope.  Geocentric? Nope.  Special Creation? Nope.

So when you tell me that the one answer they got right is that God exists, or plays with the puppet strings in our daily lives….I have every right to skepticism.

You are right that I may be imagining a pattern where none exists.  If we were just talking about a small sample like the one above, you should feel more safe in that claim.

But science has done much more than that. They are offering something more like this:

2 3 5 7 11 13 17 19 23 29 31 37 41 43 47 53 59 61 67 71
73 79 83 89 97 101 103 107 109 113 127 131 137 139 149 151 157 163 167 173
179 181 191 193 197 199 211 223 227 229 233 239 241 251 257 263 269 271 277 281
283 293 307 311 313 317 331 337 347 349 353 359 367 373 379 383 389 397 401 409
419 421 431 433 439 443 449 457 461 463 467 479 487 491 499 503 509 521 523….
3433 3449 3457 3461…..

and you are asking me to have faith that the next number is anything but 3463.

I’ll leave it at that for now….

any questions?


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12 Responses to “Apologetics & Apostasy Pt.4- My Christian Friend Kate Takes Me To Task: Imagination and Deism Edition”

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I’m working on digesting…you are a bit out of my league, I’ll admit…but you make me smile. I love that you challenge me. I’ll read up and get back asap.

Kate.

You Said:

As a Christian do you not close yourself to the imagining of Krishna, Zeus, Allah, or (insert deity here) as being responsible for all you see before you?
I Said: …all that stuff about the shepherd and the sheep recognizing the shepherds voice and such…

To this, you said (My short responses are in parenthesis; a longer response will follow):

Quote 1 is a non-sequitor (What was my premise and how did my response not follow that premise? Just curious, as I am learning, here…please instruct me in the rigors of formal logic).

If Jesus’ words (which words, specifically…he seemed so friendly toward the common people, and so defensive/hostile toward the “religious” folks) can be interpreted as validating other cultures religious traditions, then only the act of belief is necessary to come to God (BINGO—this is the whole point which the god has been trying to make, through all manner of making promises, fulfilling promises, allowing man the dignity of human error, not tolerating his errors, shaking and quaking of mountains, driving out of nations, speaking directly to the people, not speaking directly to the people but instituting mediators through a priesthood, closely following the humans, backing away from following the humans, leaving some place called “glory” to join the humans, walking among men and not being recognized for who he was, retreating to a smaller subgroup of the humans who did recognize him, trying to gain the world, training men in the rigors of creating a sort of “secret society”, being misunderstood, being the most misunderstood being known to mankind, having his glory diminished in the eyes of the object of his love, being told that, “he is the one whose sins are as scarlet, who is he to talk,” allowing the humans to prosecute him, allowing the humans to insult and abuse him, allowing the humans to convict and sentence him AND carry out the sentence of death by crucifiction, reversing the process of death and the knowledge of this spreading only by means of humble “rumorous reports” by men who were just as un-credible as he himself was in the eyes of his own creatures…tax collectors, fishermen, sinners and the likes: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—not a single one of the men Christ inspired as reporters of his message was a religious leader…or even a religious person at all, taking his place in the dock in a human court of law, allowing man to attain the “bench” status and so pronounce his human judgment against the god…all of this in an endeavor to communicate the point of the God all along, which was the following: “Either you can run the ship as though you are an experienced expert (be perfect in every way—not practically perfect, but absolutely perfect), following every jot and tittle of the law thereof…OR you can attain righteousness through faith, or trusting the god with your (vessel) will and life).

This makes the teachings and rituals of every religion pointless and redundant (Exactly the god’s point, in my critical opinion) in God’s eyes.

Only following a God is necessary, not how you do it (There is only one way to do it: make a decision to trust to his care your will and your life, allowing him to teach you how to be a better and better man, with each passing day; two billion-billion-billion raised to the billion-billion-billionth degree– hail Mary’s– will not accomplish this feat—man is the activation barrier to that Love of Terrible Aspect, which is the love of the God).

I Also Say:

Returning to your original quote, let’s address each of the gods you had mentioned one at a time.

Krishna: if man invented god, then come on, you and I both know we can do better than that!

Allah: I do imagine Allah, but a strange thing about this one…when I imagine the Being behind that name, I simply see the god of my understanding being approached and worshiped by others than myself, in a manner which is unfamiliar to me, culturally speaking. That is okay. I expect a really well constructed god to be bigger than myself and my own ideas and understandings of him/her/it. Again, I reiterate, the individual must approach the god whom they believe created them…the god of their own personal understanding. When a person does this, then the ball is left in gods court, not ours. We’ve done our part. If the god doesn’t like being referred to as Allah, then it is his duty to communicate this to his follower, or his duty not to hold that follower accountable for wrongdoing. We are the ones who are constantly imposing criteria for “qualification” by the god…but I will say, the true qualification is both easy AND intolerably NOT easy—go figure!

Zeus: or any one of the zillions of Greek gods OR, for that matter, the Pagan gods…these seem suspiciously born of mans imagination, because history shows us that they began innocent enough and without too many requirements for appeasement, but became increasingly corrupt and confusing, ending in a slaughter-house-penthouse-sort of worship, whereby their appeasement appeared more “human” than “divine,” in my critical opinion. When I say “human,” I am not here referring to humane, but to the aspect of human nature whereby our corrupt tendencies tend to proliferate, meaning that they are not isolated or sterile in nature, as the evil of pain is isolated and sterile, causing no permanent or lingering damage to the creature once it has “passed” or “ended.” The proliferating tendency of human corruption can be seen in such examples as greed or lust, which begin innocently enough, but grow progressively more corrupt and far reaching in their damage against the self and others. E.G. A serial killer’s career is usually launched in his imagination, then proliferating to the exploration of road kill, then to killing animals, eventually to their first human victim, and further still, to countless more victims until they are buried or captured!

Supposedly, the god teaches men how to be “real men.” However, now that modern thinking has de-horsed the god by setting fire to his “moral standard[s]”, it is difficult to engage in “god-talk” anymore.

If modern thought is accurate, then even if there is a god, it is useless to initiate a relationship with him/her/it, for if the whole point is to teach us how to be “real men,” well…without a true righteousness and without a reasonable path to that righteousness, why should a man haunt himself with a god? He may as well just stay “as he is,” and count on the fact that he’s on his own in “manning the ship,” so to speak. If there is no “better” [a moral standard by which all our actions are measured], then why volunteer to be “nettled” by the haunting “numinous,” who would be no different in his demands than Zeus or any of the other Greek gods.

Without his scepter and his balance scales of justice—we’ve quite simply rendered the god powerless!! He isn’t going to turn us into “real men” who are “better” than we were without him!

Remember the moral objective I spoke about? It is about believing, apart from one’s traditions, rituals, ceremony’s, and other religious behaviors. If you follow every tradition and ritual of your religion, but never decide to trust your will and life to the care of god, then your religion is worthless. The whole point is our happiness in accordance with the manufacturer’s knowledge of what will really make us genuinely happy, when it has all been said and done.

Apologetics and Apostasy:

First of all, if a man assumes that no god exists, then there can be no such thing as apostasy for that man, unless there lingers at the back of his mind some reservation about his own conclusions on the matter.

Second, what are we who study apologetics apologizing for, anyway?
“We are sincerely apologetic for any discomfort or inconvenience you may experience as a result of your decision to trust the care of your will and your life to the God, as we understand all too well ourselves that such a decision will result in demands which counter your own natural will and desires, and which will no less frustrate your old pursuits of the sort of limited happiness you had once held in your mind, all of which will generate a long period of irritability, restlessness, and discontent of which will most sternly assay your faith to the fullest degree.”

Instead, we ought to be apologizing to all of you for our gross errors along the way, as we have endeavored to commit ourselves to the care of the god, only to find ourselves, as is only human, taking back control of the ship for our own selfish interests and gains…

We may also want to “explain” what fears (fear is the opposite of faith) drove us to do some of the anti-Christian things which are recorded in our history (e.g. burning “witches,” slaughtering barbarians, moors, etc., shooting ourselves in the foot [the indulgences and corruption within the clergy, Luther’s Table Talk, Christian’s destroying Christian temples during the reformation, etc.).

We would not want to forget about our arrogance in South Africa, if we are Danish Christians, our shameful banishment of the aborigines, if we decided to colonize Australia, our pompous treatment of the people’s of India, wherever we attempted to settle and colonize there, our shameful treatment of Native American Indians, if we are white European immigrants to North America, from around 250ish years ago…and let’s not forget about our despicable decision to build slave ships and then beat our prisoners over the heads with our King James Bibles, and the likes…

If man invented God, it seems he would have done a better job than to invent the god who leads, guides and directs his “willing vessels” to do some of the atrocious things we Christians are “known” for having done! We need to tell the world the truth about how opposed to courage we really are…about how vehemently we resist the Spirit of the God…about how we are faced with an infinite number of opportunities to allow one or the other of “us” to be in charge…the self or the god, and how, faced with this constant bombardment of having to “die to self,” we more often choose the self than we do the god!

And then we keep quiet about it, which causes the world to associate our actions with the god…which, in all honesty, would obligate any good man to reject such a discraceful deity as we have painted the god out to be!

For Christ’s sake, let’s exonerate the god…it wasn’t his leading, guiding and directing which motivated certain “Christian” behaviors, but the weak Christian’s trend toward “self” which motivated them.

We don’t have much right to try and “explain” things like the flood to the unbeliever…we weren’t there, we had no part in it, we did not see exactly what it was that so “grieved” the god that he should make the executive decision to wipe all flesh from the face of the earth! People take one of three views of this and similar executive decisions made by the god. 1. I don’t have all the information, so I can’t make a judgment. 2. He is a good god, therefore he must have known what he was doing when he made such decisions. 3. He cannot be a benevolent god, but a god which any good man has a moral obligation to resist and reject.

We need to stop trying to “explain” what is the god’s to explain. We have too much explaining to do for our own damned-able decisions, as his followers.

I don’t believe much in apologetics anyway, unless we are stepping up to take the bullet for the things for which we know damned well we deserve to be lined up and shot.

As for apostasy…if there is a god, then aren’t we all apostates? Or did Christ just die for those “tax-collectors and sinners?”

I’ll address the rest of your post later.

Kate.

About the non-sequitor. I was referring to your accepting Jesus’ quote at face value, then post-scripting it with

I do believe that some “come in the name of god,” when in fact they are none of the sort. I believe these are thieves and robbers, and I am skeptical of these. Christ did advise us to be shrewd as vipers. It is my opinion that a person choosing faith ought to follow the god of their own understanding…and they ought to allow others the same dignity.”

I strain to follow the logic of “Everyone finds God in their own terms” with “I don’t trust how others profess to come to God”
This is the non-sequitor.

I also think you walk a very thin line when you say that “Sola Fide” (by faith alone) is the only necessary path to God. If God wanted only faith, why write a whole book about what rules to follow, how to eat, dress, worship, treat others, etc. Why not just say “BELIEVE”?
I must assume to take this line that you also believe the bible to be man-made and God to be the only non-negotiable truth within it. What, then, must we use as our prism with which to filter truth from tales? Is the creation story real? The Exodus? The flood? The Resurrection? The virgin birth? The Beatitudes?
What if all those pronouncements in the bible about belief are man made? What if God just popped by to say “HI” to folks about 5000 years ago and the rest is just an imagined back story and sequel? What if He couldn’t care less if you believed, but wanted you to just live your life?
I charge that if you are anything but a deist you must accept the totality of your Scriptures to profess that specific faith. Else you be forced to admit you have no idea what God wants, demands or favors.
I also stand disheartened at your hostility toward the Gods of other faiths. I think if you explained that a guy made everything in seven days, got mad ’cause a talking snake made a chick eat an apple, cursed man forever, empregnated a virgin with Himself, required his own blood sacrifice (which was not much of a sacrifice if he was God and knew he was coming out clean), then came back to life, rose to the sky, and sits up there waiting to answer (or not) sincere requests, till you die and He passes judgment on you for doing all those things he knew you would do anyway (whew!) to a Hindu or a Pagan they would likely echo the sentiment “if man invented god, then come on, you and I both know we can do better than that!”
I have some trouble seeing how you could arrive at the distinction of Zeus as man made but not Jesus. The only real differences are in the number of practicing subjects and self-flagellating rules. If you can logically make a distinction between a man made and divinely inspired deity, can you not then by rights create a man made deity who appears to be more divinely inspired?
I am careful not to attribute the poor behavior of Christians to their religions, even when those behaviors are condoned or implored by the Church. I understand the delicate fallibility of man. I take issue that Hindus “could have done a better job” inventing their god, while Christians couldn’t have invented theirs because they “would have done a better job” if they created Him. Double Standards abound….

Here’s a fun God-Game to help you see if their are flaws between your God and your logic. I had a lot of fun with this…

So, is Krishna the God of Hinduism, because its been years since my comparative religion studies. Wasn’t Hinduism the religion based on the caste system? This was why I thought “we could do better.” I stand corrected if this is not what Hinduism was. Back when I took comparative religion, Hinduism didn’t fit the god of my understanding, as the idea of our righteousness coming through faith and not through the self-attainment of perfection seemed more sound and certainly more logical, realizing the fallibility of man you had mentioned.

Buddhism sought to destroy the flame of human desire…I determined this did not match a god I could understand. I think our desire under the care of the god is a powerful, positive, and wonderful thing put inside of us to make each of us unique. Nirvana did not fit my understanding of god at all.

I will tell you that you said you didn’t appreciate my “hostility” toward other deities. I need you to know I hold no hostility toward them, but have interviewed all the major ones and found them to be lacking in too many areas, even if they came close to my understanding in some areas of their being.

Because I did not decide to “do business with them,” does not mean I’m hostile toward them, nor toward those who find they can do business with those gods and not with the god I understand.

Of course, you will continue to say I’m this and that, as usual. I’m getting used to it. Even if I say I am not hostile toward them, you will say, “you are hostile toward them.”

If anything, I am indifferent toward them, but in no way do I discount the fact that there are a myriad of humans out there and not all of them are going to be anymore than indifferent toward my Jesus…that does not mean they are hostile toward my choice of god. Does that make sense. You need not be “disheartened,” because life is full of choosing things, which always means “not choosing” alternative things. That does not mean I am hostile toward what I did not choose, but that what I chose fit what I understand.

On faith, as opposed to will-power and “being good.” Sometime I will post an essay I wrote on this awhile back, but for now I’ll give you the short of it.

Apart from faith, there is only will-power left for helping us do what we ought to do…or follow the law. It is okay with me if you think a man must follow the law, to the letter, if he claims to be a Christian. That would be the god of your understanding. I, too, have read the Bible cover to cover multiple times. I have constructed my own understanding, which is obviously offensive to you…to the point of your accusing me of not being Christian.

When Christ comes on board the ship with a man, he does not just “take over” while the man “takes a vacation,” relieved of his duty. God pulls you over and the two of you work together as two oxen who are yoked together. It is his desire to teach you how to efficiently and honorably manage your own life, as he is the “owner’s manual” for our lives, so to speak.

If we are trying to manage our lives apart from him by keeping a checklist of good deeds done…going to church 2 or 3 times a week, saying our prayers the right way, abstaining from this or that, not engaging in that or the other thing, etc., then we are still trying to run the ship without him. This is not faith. God is interested in relationships with us, not in our “being good.” He desires to make us “better” men than we are without him, but not the way you are thinking…through will-power. Instead he wants to make us better through His-power and strength.

This keeps us from boasting and being prideful and thinking we are better than so and so, or that we have different planes of spiritual status.

The other thing most people don’t understand is that god doesn’t ask us to obey some command and then give us a “treat” or “reward” for following it. He asks us to obey a command because he knows it will lead to its own reward…does that make sense?

Many choose to believe that god does not have good intentions for us; I happen to disagree. I suspect that he has good intentions, but that what he is offering is costly…one must go through hell, just as a soldier must go through boot camp, in order to be prepared for his good intentions.

About the Bible. Personally, I “get” the Bible, without having to analyze it to death. That is personally. I choose not to include the Bible much in my conversations, as I am taking on the theory of “when in Rome, act as the Romans act.” Sorry, that is just my personality. I think the Bible is a treasure trove of information about things seen and unseen, and it is a source of great comfort to me as well. I’m not quite so judgmental of god as many people are, as I have much to be judged for myself. I figure he knows what he is doing, and questionable decisions he has made will come to light one day, showing us that he knew exactly what he was doing, and that it was not what we humans have determine wrong.

I do not know if it is literal or allegorical or part of both. I just know I “get” what it is saying to me…but have no idea what it has to say to you. It has a lot to say about the idea of faith without works, and works apart from faith and on and on. But I don’t refer to it with you guys, because it is inadmissible in your view…so why bother.

On creating a man-made deity who appears to be more divinely inspired. Ever read Le Morte de Arthur. Remember Sir Gawain—Beauamains?? This is why god appears as he does…and we have wrongfully diminished his glory, while he has been unmindful of that diminution. He has one main focus. He is after our hearts so he can one day enjoy fellowship with us real time. If that means doing us damage to that end, well…have you ever been in love??

It doesn’t look well for Yeweh, does it? I cannot and do not have the slightest desire to create a god more phenomenal than the one I follow, in spite of the embarrassment he must have to live with for his being “seen” this way…he is completely misunderstood.

But you have a right to your conclusions as do I.

On the double standard. I did measure Krishna against Yeweh and found Krishna wanting. Where is the double standard in that. That is like saying that because I measured two people and one was four inches taller, then I must be using a “rigged” measuring stick??!!

Also, I am not hostile toward other gods, but I am not going to choose all of them, just to prove to you I’m not hostile toward them. When I hire people at my job, I choose them because they fit what I am looking for. It is not the other way round, that I rejected all the others because the one I hired was the only one i didn’t feel hostility toward. I never feel hostile toward those I do not hire…they simply don’t fit the role I need filled!

Kate.

First off, please don’t feel that the bible is “off limits” in a conversation with me. What you might be alluding to is most atheists simply ask for corroborating evidence where the bible is concerned. This stems from a difference between most Christians and all atheists. Christians, not all but most, are rightly or wrongly convinced that the bible is all that is necessary to prove a point. Christians by doing this fail to “meet you where you are”. In essence, they ask that atheists give unfounded weight to a book they are already skeptical of. I have no problem having a scripture conversation, as long as we can agree that it is open to criticism and context.

I think you are right to criticize my choice of words and tone when I stray a little to far into “black and white” rhetoric. I should have chosen my words a little more carefully when I said you were “hostile” toward other faiths. I was trying to convey the point that I have trouble feeling convinced by your arguments against other faiths, as though you seem all too prepared to wave them aside or hold them to a different standard than your own faith. This may be you merely attempting to be parsimonious or avoiding unnecessary tangents, and the accusation stands corrected. However, I still stand by the logic that if we can imagine the differences between a man made and divinely inspired faith, then it can equally be postulated that we can imagine a divinely inspired faith. If you can think of those attributes that a divinely inspired religion must have, you can create a false religion with the appearance of inspiration. So it’s not so much that the yardstick is rigged as it is that you seem to measure one person with a yardstick and then extrapolate the height of the other one by the inseam of his pants.
Please do not take this as a personal attack, but I suspect that many people “interviewing Gods” will be by degrees more likely to choose the one that evolved in their culture as opposed to someone else’s. I think that this should be easily explained as a regional God will have a regional flavour. You are as much a product of your culture as your concept of God is.

Biblical literalism is a subject I struggled with a fair bit as a Christian. I can say that to the degree that I am agnostic (which admittedly is on an atomic scale), I can tell you that if the bible is literal I am 100% convinced that Christianity is false and if it is allegorical or a mix of both then I can afford it some faint hope.
I struggled with literalism because if even one passage is false or misleading, my logic tells me that any passage could be false or misleading.
My personal preference would be to assign the pentateuch to the dustbin, but I can’t help but thinking that this strips the bible of it’s worth as a “holy book”. If Ex. 21:21 can be discarded (and I hope it can), then any passage on which I build my faith could just as easily be discarded. I am left with a book that may or may not express the will of God, may or may not express his plan for me, may or may not even be about God. I can find inspiration in Freud, Nietzsche, Camus, Orwell, Einstein, or any other person who captures my imagination. I certainly would not build a temple to any or all of them.
Without literalism, we are left to fashion our own God out of a lump of clay, an action I can only describe as the theistic equivalent of an “argument from design”. To fashion yourself a Christian under these premises is to make yourself no different than an atheist who picks and chooses those things from philosophy that fit his self-concept and discard those things in conflict.
How, then, is Christianity truly difficult or testing of your will? How then is that faith? If you use the bible to verify those things you already would be striving for or doing negates the need for a God.
If you can make a case for a personal yet divinely inspired God I’m all ears. It has slipped through my fingers for ages.

I’m not sure how I can make a case for a personal, yet divinely inspired God, when I have no way whatsoever to prove or support my case, save with a logic which includes assumptions and intuitions of which the two of us cannot possibly agree.

I can put up my case using only the assumptions and intuitions which come from my reasoning/logic/common sense, from the authority of respected or reputed others and/or from holy documents which are rendered legitimate sources of support [as long as these are not my sole support], and my own personal experiences. This is an “old school” manner of argumentation, but I am completely useless in today’s modern world of logic and/or rhetoric.

After providing such a case, I will warn you that you will want to dismantle it piece by piece, due to the fact that we do not share agreed upon assumptions or intuitions. All I ask is that you first [before dismembering my case] appreciate the train of thoughts I link together from my proposition to my conclusion…once you have done this, then you are free to dismantle the whole argument. I warn you though, it is a pretty vain endeavor to dismember an argument’s assumptions and intuitions, as these are two things which CANNOT be altered through argument. I learned this from C.S. Lewis. If my intuition tells me that all good men ought to reject a god who prohibits persons who have been born in a culture which practiced a “religion” other than the “religion” which he meant for them to practice…prohibits them from entering into some ether-world called any number of things, such as Heaven…if I take this to be a commonly held assumption which the majority of “good men” would assume, but you do not hold this assumption, even though you are a “good man,” then there is no way to persuade you through argument.

What an argument is supposed to do is persuade someone that a certain conclusion is reasonably come by. Take a persuasive speech given to young 19 or 20 year old men designed to persuade them to serve a few years in the armed forces. If you set up a train of thoughts and get to an intuition which none of these boys/girls commonly holds to be intuitively correct, then the argument either ends, or that one intuition must be thrown out and another brought in to replace it. If I say that serving time in the armed service is a moral duty of every citizen, then I may have a problem finding agreed upon assumptions and commonly held intuitions in order to make a good case of it.

Does this make sense?

Kate.

Give me some time to work this up, and I’ll give you the only case I’ve got for a personal God who is, as you say, divinely inspired [which I will point out is a mis-statement, when one is speaking of a God who truly IS…but, anyway].

I do not know how to do “trackbacks” [maybe you could teach me]. Anyway, I’ve posted a new post in response to your request for a case for a personal yet divinely inspired God. Even if it leads nowhere, I think the project would be a lot of fun…take a look and let me know if you want to try this “experiment” with me:)

Kate.

I wrote you a brief tutorial on linking to sites in a post. Feel free to delete it later as it does not pertain to your post.
I also posted a bit of a reply to your premise and I will post a more thorough answer later. Just thought I would give you a primer of what I am thinking.
I think by now you expect me to disagree, but I will try and be as civil as possible.
Did you do the God Test yet?
How did you score?

As a side, I just took the test. It has the standard flaws of such tests in that it encodes the presumptions of whoever set it up.

I got hit twice:

Direct Hit 1

You answered False to Question 7 and True to Question 15.

These answers generated the following response:

You’ve just taken a direct hit!

Earlier you claimed that it is not justifiable to base one’s beliefs about the external world on a firm, inner-conviction, paying no regard to the external evidence, or lack of it, for the truth or falsity of this conviction. But now you say that the rapist Peter Sutcliffe was justified in basing his beliefs about God’s will solely on precisely such a conviction. That’s a bull’s-eye for the intellectual sniper!

Direct Hit 2

You answered True to Question 15 and False to Question 17.

These answers generated the following response:

You’ve just taken a direct hit! You claim that it is not justifiable to believe in God based only on inner-convictions, but earlier you stated that it was justifiable for the serial rapist to draw conclusions about God’s will on the same grounds. If this form of justification is good enough for the rapist, why is it not good enough for the believer in God? There’s an inconsistency here.

The first one is not logically inconsistent at all. The fact that I consider it not acceptable to justify God from inner convictions does not mean at all that I do not think that a rapist cannot hold that believe, clearly that man is acting irrationally and he surely can hold an irrational belief.

The second is just a corollary to the same.

The flaw is that it assumes that my judgments hold for everybody, but clearly they don’t. If my judgments applied to Peter Sutcliffe, he would both be an unbeliever and not hurt people.

I made it through unscathed by being especially careful of the logical traps I could see coming. I would say I agree with you that the test is “rigged” to the philosophical bias of the creator, I don’t think it could be any other way with the “true” or “false” dichotomy of answers allowed. I got through without foreknowledge of the questions by being purposefully wishy-washy, reading and re-reading, and guessing where they were going. I agree that I would have answered differently given the option of long form answers.
Still a fun mind game though. It helps you understand how someone can take a generalization out of context and make it sound absurd.

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