Apologetics & Apostasy Pt.4- My Christian Friend Kate Takes Me To Task: Imagination and Deism Edition
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?
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!”
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.
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:
and you are asking me to have faith that the next number is anything but 3463.
I’ll leave it at that for now….