Class Warfare Blog

August 13, 2019

Free Will and the Problem of Evil

Filed under: Morality,Philosophy,Reason — Steve Ruis @ 9:49 am
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If you are unfamiliar with the “Problem of Evil” the earliest record we have of it is from the philosopher Epicurus (341–270 BCE) and it goes like this:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence comes evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

Among all of the arguments for the existence of a god or gods, this is the most powerful one against the existence of a god or gods, so this is a favorite of atheists.

The apologists have many answers (many) but the first and foremost was the defense of Free Will, which goes like this:

God gave mankind free will and if one human wants to harm another God can only prevent that by taking a way his free will, something of greater value, so He does not do that.

Basically people doing evil is a tradeoff for free will. Many atheists take the approach to grant that this is a good argument, but then point out that this only addresses evil created by humans, not by other animals or Nature (earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions, landslides, etc.)

This is a mistake, actually several mistakes. The Free Will Defense is bogus. The comment is usually made that without free will, we would all be a bunch of robots, acting only as god wants us to. WTF? Making a jump from not having a desire to do evil to being a mindless robot is ridiculous, in the extreme. The idiocy is the claim that all free will is being taken away, not just the will to do evil.

Most people alive today choose not to do evil. Heck, I go further and try not to suck! But think about this. If you were to go up to a neighbor and suggest they help you kidnap neighborhood children to torture and kill them, what response do you think you would get? At a bare minimum it would be a visit from the police. Most people have no desire to do evil. Now, if “God,” the “Creator,” created us without the will to do evil, how would we know? How would we differentiate between that dislike and say a dislike of pizza with pineapple on it, or a dislike of the New York Yankees or any other distaste we possess? How would we come to the conclusion that we were nefariously programmed not to do evil, but having an intense dislike of poetry or sports is “normal?” Would scientists immediately start work on how to remove this ridiculous restriction of our autonomy?

If we all had a severe eschewing of evil, how would that improve our lives? No Hitler. No Pol Pot. No autocrats at all. Put all of that (Think about it!) on one pan of a balance and on the other put “not having free will to do evil, but having free will in every other circumstance.” How does your balance move? Mine slams down under the weight of the immense amount of good created from the setting aside of an ability the vast majority of us do not want in the first place!

The Free Will Defense for the Problem of Evil is bogus, a piece of deepity that is ridiculous. (It sounds deep but is actually shallow.) If you were to survey a million people today with the question: “Should we universally give up the ability to do evil, to prevent all of the human caused evil in the world, with no side effects?” How many “no’s” do you think you would get?

So, dismiss the Free Will defense for what it is, then move on to address natural evils. (This is exactly how a world would be if there were no supernatural creator and we just had to live with it.)

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August 5, 2019

Exploring “The Absence of Evidence . . .”

Filed under: Philosophy,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:47 am
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Theists have been known to claim that “the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” when defending their belief in their deity. This is often accompanied by “you can’t prove my god doesn’t exist, so . . .” comments.

The aphorism isn’t quite true or possibly doesn’t really apply to the subject. If you, for example, state that you believe in your deity because: evidence1, evidence2, evidence3, . . . and I find your evidence incoherent, weak, or unfocused, I do not have to accept your argument. Nor do I have to offer a counter argument, because there is nothing to counter.

In this vein, atheists are often challenged to back up their “disbelief” with evidence, that is they should prove the non-existence of whatever god is being claimed. This is not how it works. (Nonbelief is not disbelief, it is merely the lack of belief; this is the minimum criterion to be met to classify anyone as atheistic.) If we don’t find the existence of, say, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, unicorns, pixies, Zeus, etc. to be proven, we are free to ignore them and go about our lives. I do not, and I think most people do not, feel an obligation to prove these things do not exist. It is not worth the time it would take.

So, often absence of evidence is evidence of absence, and therefore no further attention is warranted until some decent evidence is provided. If I may quote Christopher Hitchens “That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”

Another pertinent quote, this time by Carl Sagan, is “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” This second quote can be a lot of fun. When, for example, theists claim that the extraordinary beauty of nature is evidence for the existence of their god, I like to say, “No, you have it completely wrong; that is evidence for your god not being involved.” Gobsmacked they usually sputter “But, but, but . . .” If you want to follow through you can ask them to establish the link between their god and the beauty of nature. (They will ignore all of the ugly bits, the predators eating prey while they are still alive and whatnot, but that is another argument.) After they provide their argument (In scholarly circles it is called the Argument from Beauty.) you can then say: “There were humans once who did not see beauty in nature, but they were too depressed by all of the ugliness and terror to pass on their genes, so the only ones left were those who did see the beauty in nature. See, no god required, only the theory of evolution.”

All snark aside, this last bit was supposed to be a segue to my second point, namely that theists use this argument both ways. You will hear from theists, ‘Since science cannot explain <fill in the blank>, therefore my god must have done it.” What happened to “absence of evidence is not . . .”? In this case, the absence of evidence is evidence of absence of any evidence that could possibly be found in the future that will prove them wrong.

And, just how the heck does one establish that “science cannot explain . . . anything”? There are a great deal of things that science has not explained. There are a great many things to be discovered that science will not be able to explain right away. But how does one back up a contention that science cannot explain something? Do you recall that people felt that railroad trains could not go much over 20 miles per hour because the people on board would not be able to breathe? Remember when people felt that no one would ever run a mile race in under four minutes? If so, do you also recall that when someone did, several other people did it in rapid succession? Do you recall that in the US it was recommended that the Patent Office be closed because pretty much everything that could be invented or discovered had been? I think this was right before Einstein published his Special Theory of Relativity. I think any claim that begins with “science cannot explain . . .” belongs with these other horrific miscalculations, the dustbin of history.

The duplicitous nature of theistic apologists, however, means that this “argument” will be continued to be used for its propaganda value. It should not be used at all because “That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.” I do not think that any evidence exists that “science cannot explain . . .” that could not be overthrown by discoveries in the future, as has been demonstrated over and over and over in the history of science.

August 2, 2019

Yet Another Book Report

Warning! Danger Will Robinson. This book is being recommended only for philosophy nerds. Warning!

If you were unaware, I minored in philosophy in undergraduate school, even after my chemistry adviser informed me that chemistry majors did not minor in philosophy. Now you know more about me, at the minimum that I don’t take advice all that well.

This book is a serious treatment of Christian apologist arguments up to the present day. The author includes many of Swinburne’s arguments, Plantinga’s arguments, and even Craig’s argument. They are all treated with respect and dissected as if in an anatomy lab.

The book is The Nonexistence of God by Nicholas Everitt. Apparently it is the best selling of his over two dozen books. This is a careful philosophical analysis and you can tell from the title what the overall conclusion was.

And, boy did he stick to his philosophical guns. In discussing, for example, faith in a god based upon personal experience, he did not even mention what I think is the strongest counter evidence, namely that such a “personal experience,” no matter how profoundly felt are interpretations of what they felt. How can anyone confirm that their god spoke to them. In the Bible, the phrase, “This is the Lord, your god, . . .” occurs over and over. So, apparently voices in your head can be assumed to be hard to identify. How does one recognize God’s voice? How does one know that it is not Satan speaking, or another god entirely, or a ventriloquist. (Holy Moley, can you imagine the havoc Jeff Dunham could have created in Hebrew circles?)

The capper is that of people claiming to have personal experience of their god, it is always the god of their patents. Hindus claim Vishnu spoke to them. Muslims claims Allah spoke to them. Buddhists claim that the Buddha spoke to them. And I am sure those going a viking heard Odin speak to them.

Personal experience claims are interpretations. In order for them not to be, the “messages” have to be stripped of interpretation. So, Abraham would have to say “I heard a voice in my head that told me to take my boy, Isaac, up on the mountain and sacrifice him as a burnt offering” or worse “I got the feeling that I needed to take my boy, Isaac, up on the mountain and sacrifice him as a burnt offering.” By claiming that it was Yahweh who had told him this, then Yahweh followers would be all over this story. But if he just claimed a voice in his head told him to do that, he might be looked at a bit differently. Interpretations are often made to please one’s audience. (Even Flip Wilson’s “The Devil Made Me Do It” was such a device.)

Also, I am always suspicious of people who claim they heard long, windy speeches in their heads. Our thoughts are usually too fast for words. They usually come as images or preformed ideas that flash into existence. The words only follow later as we try to describe our ideas/notions.

In any case, Philosophy Nerds of the World Unite! Read this book if you are so inclined.

 

July 8, 2019

The Ken Ham Theistic Argument for the Existence of Aliens

Filed under: Philosophy,Reason — Steve Ruis @ 12:20 pm
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This an argument.

1. God is maximally great; there can be no greater deity.
2. God created man on planet Earth.
3. A deity which created man on Earth and aliens on other planets would be a greater deity.
4. Therefore, God created aliens on other planets.

Corollary to the Ken Ham Argument
1. A deity which created six races of aliens would be greater than one which created only five.
2. A deity which created ten races of aliens would be greater than one which created only nine.
3. Therefore, a deity which created n+1 races of aliens would be greater than one which created only n.
3. God is maximally great; there can be no greater deity.
4. Therefore God created alien races on all of the other planets.

But then, I might have missed something, no?

July 6, 2019

Tying Oneself in Knots for Jesus, Part 1

I am currently reading a critique of William Lane Craig’s Kalam Cosmological Argument for the existence of his god. Dr. Craig is a philosopher and Christian apologist of some note. If you are unfamiliar with the argument, it goes something like this:

  1. Everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause of its existence.
    2. The universe has a beginning of its existence.
    3. Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence.
    4. Therefore, if the universe has a cause of its existence then that cause is God.
    5. Therefore, God exists.

The author of this critique (Unreasonable Faith: How William Lane Craig Overstates the Case for Christianity) James Fodor starts with a tidbit I had not heard, namely that “‘Kalam’ is Arabic for ‘word’, and is the term that Craig adopted to describe his argument because it is built upon the work of various medieval Islamic theologians.” Wait a minute. I do not think Islamic theologians would be creating an argument for the existence of Yahweh, now would they? They would be arguing for the existence of Allah. How can an argument for the existence of Allah be turned into an argument for the existence of Yahweh? My first guess is that Christians would say that Allah is a false god and therefore cannot be proven to exist, but then my question becomes “How can an argument for the existence of a false god be turned into an argument for the existence of a real god?” Argh! Never mind; sorry for the diversion.

Back to the Kalam!

I had just started reading the critique of the Kalam when a bomb gets thrown. Apparently, Craig is aware that there is not universal agreement regarding time. He is quoted as having written “The kalam cosmological argument presupposes from start to finish a theory, not of tenseless time, but of tensed time, according to which temporal becoming is an objective feature of the world.”

Tensed time? Tenseless time? Wha?

Okay, I had heard about these discussions regarding time in a physics context. “Tensed time” is time as most of us understand it. We exist in “the now,” aka “the present,” which separates the past from the future. Once something slides into the past, we no longer have the ability to examine it. And things in the future aren’t accessible because they haven’t happened yet. “Tenseless time” makes the conjecture that the past, present, and future all exist just at different temporal coordinates.

Note how these two viewpoints affect the concept of time travel. In tensed time, time travel would be impossible, because there is no past to go back to, nor is there a future to go to, there is only the now. If in six months, the house across the street from yours is to be demolished and you were to hop into your time machine to move seven months into the future, when you stepped out of that machine, that house would be gone. Step back in and come back to when you began and the house would be back. There are serious problems with this viewpoint, making time travel basically impossible.

However, if the all of the pasts and futures all exist, you could hop around to your heart’s delight because those are just existing states to be visited. They don’t have to be created by your time travel machine.

Clearly, this has implications for Craig’s god. If time is tenseless, then there seems to be some hope for his god existing outside of time. It is outside and steps into the time stream in 4 CE. It is outside again, and gets to New York in 2001 in time to witness the 9-11 events. If time is tensed, then there would be no ability for this god to access any time that had already passed. World War 1 would have already happened and the ships, planes, tanks, and soldiers all turned to dust. How would those be recreated? Magic, I guess. And Christian apologists frequently claim that their god is a maximally endowed being, that no greater being could be imagined. I suspect that a god that can live outside of time and can time travel is greater than one that cannot, no? And, if his god can do this, then it also has a way to become all-knowing, by hopping around to any event past or future and seeing what did or will happen. So, clearly Craig must favor tenseless time, the viewpoint of time that allows for time travel and for his god to exist outside of time for however long it wants and to be all-knowing, and . .  and. . . .

Er, no. Craig insists that time is tensed.

The Kalam is what Craig’s first doctorate dissertation was based upon (a Ph.D. in Philosophy). It is his pride and joy, the work he made his bones on as a Christian apologist. If time is tensed, then the universe can have a beginning and an end . .  and a creator. If time is tenseless, then the universe always is and no creator is needed and the Kalam argument goes “poof.”

I am intrigued to see if Fodor brings this up in his critique.

 

 

June 30, 2019

Why and What Questions

In the comments section of one of today’s posts a short discussion occurred over questions we want answers for, with one philosopher preferring to focus on “why” questions. Part of my response to that factoid was that asking “why” rather than “how” questions explains more about us than they do nature. Our need to know “why” is basically a god seeking effort. Our need for a god is the source of our need to know why. Nature is completely impersonal. There are no “whys” which is why science focuses on “hows.”

I remember being in college and studying “modern” physics (50 years ago!), relativity being one part of that course (which was from 50+ years prior). I remember being astonished that if you continuously fed energy into an object in an attempt to make it go faster and faster, more and more of that energy would be converted into mass rather than into faster motion (acceleration). There are equations. In order for an object to travel at the speed of light, it would have to have infinite mass. (Often these equations “break down” at or near the boundaries of their application, and since this cannot be verified near those limits, it is conjecture only, IMHO, of course.) Since the speed of light is the ultimate speed limit, of course the added energy would have to be converted into mass, otherwise where would it go? If the energy just leaked away, then it wouldn’t have been added to the object then, would it? If the object accepts the energy, it gets more and more massive, and less and less faster as it approaches the speed of light.

Gosh, I would sure like to know “why” the speed of light is the fastest any thing or field or whatever can travel in this universe! (Along with “why does quantum mechanics work” and . . . and. . . .)

But this “why question” is just a colloquial way of stating the question. One does not go after “why” if one really wants to know what is going on. Scientists only ask “how” questions for this reason. If you go about asking “why” questions, you end up like philosophers, feeding into pre-existing ideas of nature (and Beyond!). Those philosophers, for example, who make attempts at proving the existence of gods via argument (Foolish, foolish philosophers!) always end up with arguments that do not point to their god. Just like those who claim that their god is what caused the Big Bang, they don’t consider that whatever caused that to occur (if there was a cause) didn’t need to be Old Yahweh or Jesus or Love (God is love, you know) or the property of ineffability, or asitey or <fill in any other god power here>. The philosophical arguments never end up at “God” but all claim that they do, which makes them foolish. Searches for answers to “why” questions only leads to answers that tell us more about who we are and not about the thing being questioned.

So, a scientist wants to know how it is that the speed of anything (or nonthing) is limited to any value at all. (A current TV adaption of a popular Science Fiction universe shows off a slow zone, in which the top speed limit is way slower, restricting the movements of spaceships, even communications. This is caused by some unknown alien technology, because we haven’t got a clue how such a speed limit could be imposed.)

If we can figure out “how,” we get closer to understanding the way things actually are.

And, ultimately, the universe doesn’t care. It has no “whys” so cannot surrender them to our investigations or introspections. That we want the answer to “Why?” indicates we are all closer to being two-year olds than mature adults.

<This concludes the most furious day of posting I have had in a very, very long time. Steve>

June 18, 2019

Prayers Are Needed

Filed under: Philosophy,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 1:33 pm
Tags: , , ,

The Ontological Argument for the existence of a god has been on life support since it was first published sometime after the year 1000 by Anselm. Since then, it has be re-imagined in quite a number of forms because whenever its existence is made known to a fair number of people with more than two brain cells to rub together it has been hacked to death.

All snark aside, this logical proof was designed by believers for believers as some sort of intellectual cover. Why it is needed may be due to apologists and philosophers simply needing something to talk about.

The latest incarnation of this argument (it has a long history and I will not bore you with it) has been made by philosopher Alvin Plantinga. Here it is:

  1. A being has maximal excellence in a given possible world W if and only if it is omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good in W; and (a Definition)
    2. A being has maximal greatness if it has maximal excellence in every possible world. (a Premise)
    3. It is possible that there is a being that has maximal greatness. (a Premise)
    4. Therefore, possibly, it is necessarily true that an omniscient, omnipotent, and perfectly good being exists.
    5. Therefore, it is necessarily true that an omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good being exists.
    6. Therefore, an omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good being exists.

Now, a common “flaw” in such arguments (Apologists think of it not as a bug but as a feature!) is to slip a premise into the argument that, if accepted, requires the conclusion desired.

In this argument the stealth premise is #3. By claiming as an unadulterated truth that such a being is possible, if you combine that with the definition of what is possible, you define a god into existence.

The reply to “It is possible that there is a being that has maximal greatness.” is simple: no it is not. Not even in your imagination can you come up with such a being. (Even Thanos has flaws.)

Any argument that says that “something is possible, therefore it exists” can define into existence anything at all: unicorns, Bigfoot (Bigfeet?), fairies, elves, etc.

So, try an experiment. (Hear Rod Serling’s voice as a voice over and it is really dramatic.) “Imagine, if you will, a being which is maximally great in any attribute you want.” What prevents you from imagining a greater being? (You say “god,” I say “god’s mother.” And if you do not think the Abrahamic god didn’t have a mother, you haven’t done your homework.) What actually prevents you is the philosopher saying “If you can imagine a greater being, then you weren’t imagining a maximally great being in the first place!” so you start over. No matter what you come up with, you will be able to imagine something greater. Think about childhood bragging (this may just apply to boys as I have no experience being a girl). If a member of your group brags that so-and-so is the greatest baseball player ever, another says “No he is not, so-and-so is.” And off we go. There was never an end to such imaginings.

Think about the largest object in nature. The Universe has to be the maximally greatest thing in existence. Then the kid says, “No, it is two universes.” And another says “Three! And a fourth says it is the Multiverse! And a fifth says “two multiverses!”

The problem here is that a maximally great anything is not definable or imaginable because we have scales of comparison. For the longest time, the fastest time any person had run a mile in was just over four minutes. That was thought to be a barrier, that no one could run that distance any faster. Then someone did, and a lot of others quickly copied that feat.

Now, you could argue that zero seconds would be the fastest possible time to run any distance. But nothing can move in zero seconds, so some time is needed, so make it 1/10 of a second. Then the Flash is born and he can do it in 1/100 of a second. And then we are back to carving time down to a smaller and smaller bit. The scales are continuous, they don’t end anywhere. (They start but they don’t end.)

By claiming that “It is possible that there is a being that has maximal greatness” they are basically saying “my god is possible.” But this is not a premise. It is not “obviously true” to anyone except believers. And starting a “proof” of the existence of your god by saying “my god is possible” is a pretty big leg up on “my god exists,” especially if you are going to define the gods unimaginable powers into existence, too.

Hopefully, this silly argument is on its last legs (although it appears as a prime example of a “zombie idea,” and idea that doesn’t die) but theists are probably forming prayer circles right now to ensure that it survives. Prayers are definitely needed as all natural cures have been exhausted.

 

 

 

June 11, 2019

On Purposes, Destinies, and Lots in Life

I stated something a few days ago, to which I now return. It was this: “Anyone, theist or atheist, who thinks that ‘purposes’ exist anywhere but in our imaginations is sadly poorly informed.” It must have had a bit of a ring of truth about it as it was mocked by John Branyan.

The whole idea of there being a purpose in life (Branyan’s will take eternity to fulfill, according to him) is part and parcel of a whole load of rubbish regarding what we do and why we do it.

At the top of the list is the Divine Right of Kings. Kings have fashioned themselves as having been chosen by god to be his very instrument. This was obviously part of a power play. The religious elites and secular elites contested for power (Gilgamesh, one of the oldest stories in existence, makes this clear. Gilgamesh had to seize power from the religious elites who controlled his actions.) It had to become clear to someone that these two power centers would be better off allied than enemies. So, in return for state power protections, kings were granted “divine rights.” In earlier societies that were theocracies, these two powers were often vested in one and the same person (a “god-king”) and that person could use whichever weapon that better suited a situation. One could either send in the priests or send in soldiers to resolve a “situation.”

Right next to this is being Called by God. I am sure many Popes and others of high religious office state that god has called them to their office. Obviously anyone challenging them would therefore have to be criticizing god’s decision making abilities. Another power play.

At the bottom of this hierarchy is someone’s “Lot in Life.” Basically, no one wanted to clean out the cesspool, so we drew lots and well, it was your lot in life to have to clean the cesspool. Only poor people have these. Poor people and slaves have a purpose or a calling only in fictional tales designed to give the poor hope, so they won’t riot or rebel.

In the middle of this spectrum is where we find “purposes.”

All of these designations are fictional (not actual cases of drawing lots, like drawing the short straw, but metaphor ones, in which someone is told that being a slave was their “lot in life”) and serve to flatter/appease the receiver or con the audience. These are all parts of social control mechanisms.

By having clerics declare the divine rights of secular kings, the clerics get to perform the crowning ceremony, implying they were the ones giving the office (and in the machinations of history this proved true on more than one occasion). And also, the “state” collected their tithes for them, and enforced ecclesiastical commands (e.g. the Crusades). The royals had their power reinforced from the pulpit. Every one of the elites involved acquired greater power.

Christian life purposes are part of the con, also. Christians are often told that it is their job to “spread the Good News,” that is to spread the religion. So, once you have a mark who has embraced the con, they get to spread the con to others, kind of like a multi-level marketing scheme. In return for this, Christians get pumped up by being given a purpose for their live, one provided by God! And they are saved! Their afterlife will be more clouds than barbecue. Their god has a plan for each and every one of us, don’t you know.

Since people often display photos of themselves in the presence of celebrities (as proof they have actually met them or know them?) so, I wonder whether people have such photos of themselves hanging with Jesus or Old Yahweh in heaven? To believe that a god has noticed them and written their name in a big book and knows who they are and has gone so far as to help them with a career plan, well that is the biggest puff piece of them all. (Hint: how do you get people to work for you without paying them? Flattery seems to work.)

I have done a great many things in my life. As a youth and young man I played baseball and basketball, but apparently it was not my destiny to play those professionally. At a young age (16, I think) I chose my profession that I practiced for 40 or so years. Was that my purpose in life? If so, why did I retire and stop doing it? What I am doing now is quite different from what I did for those 40 or so years, so is what I am doing now my true purpose? I became a husband and father, were those my true purpose in life? The fact that no one can tell definitively tells you that this is all make-believe. It is what we tell one another to reinforce life changes we make or are made for us.

Now, if I can only figure out a way to get Branyan to mock my analysis, I will know it is true. (See, fictional bullstuff. We all do it.)

June 4, 2019

Religious Experiences

I am currently reading Keith M. Parsons book “God and the Burden of Proof.” In it he discusses Alvin Plantinga’s defense of religious belief. One particular excerpt has prompted this post. Here it is:

“What, then, are the circumstances in which Plantinga regards belief in God as obviously properly basic? He gives a number of such circumstances:

“Upon reading the Bible, one may be impressed with a deep sense that God is speaking to him. Upon having done what I know is cheap, or wrong, or wicked, I may feel guilty in God’s sight and form the belief `God disapproves of what I have done’. Upon confession and repentance I may feel forgiven, forming the belief `God forgives me for what I have done’. A person in grave danger may turn to God asking for his protection and help; and of course he or she then has the belief that God is indeed able to hear and help if He sees fit. When life is sweet and satisfying, a spontaneous sense of gratitude may well up within the soul; someone in this condition may thank and praise the Lord for His goodness, and will of course have the accompanying belief that indeed the Lord is to be thanked and praised.

“Plantinga claims that it is clearly rational for persons in such circumstances to form a spontaneous belief in God.”

To me this is nonsensical. Plantinga’s “feelings” of guilt, shame, gratitude, etc. are just feelings and are not deniable. But all of the rest are interpretations of the sources of those feelings. Allow me to reframe his statement:

Upon reading the Koran, one may be impressed with a deep sense that Allah is speaking to him. Upon having done what I know is cheap, or wrong, or wicked, I may feel guilty in Allah’s sight and form the belief `Allah disapproves of what I have done’. Upon confession and repentance I may feel forgiven, forming the belief `Allah forgives me for what I have done’. A person in grave danger may turn to Allah asking for his protection and help; and of course he or she then has the belief that Allah is indeed able to hear and help if He sees fit. When life is sweet and satisfying, a spontaneous sense of gratitude may well up within the soul; someone in this condition may thank and praise Allah  for His goodness, and will of course have the accompanying belief that indeed Allah is to be thanked and praised.

In a similar fashion, could not any religious believer make the same statement, invoking whatever god they have?

William James’ definition of religion—“the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may consider the divine.” I emphasize “whatever they consider to be divine.”

So, basically Plantinga is arguing for polytheism because his argument is “it is clearly rational for persons in such circumstances to form a spontaneous belief in God” or rather a spontaneous belief in their god.

But I do not even accept that as a reasonable conclusion. I think those interpretations are what people are taught to make and that they do not happen spontaneously. If you have had children, you have had the experience of a child who hurts. If they can talk, you probably had to work with them to find out what was wrong: “Where does it hurt?” “Does it hurt here? . . . or here?” “Oh, you have a tummy ache!” Children are always relieved that their parent’s know what was wrong and knew what to do to make them better. I can remember being sick as a child and enjoying the extra attention I got. And we teach our children in this fashion how to interpret what they feel.

Children in religious families are indoctrinated into the religion because that is what most Abrahamic religions teach you yo do. Sometimes this indoctrination is half-hearted, as mine was, and sometimes it is full tilt boogie, which I do not wish on anyone. Seeing little children coached in how to interpret any feelings they have as communications with Jesus makes me ill. But this does happen. Parents do praise their children for saying things like “I love Jesus,” and other inanities that cannot possibly be true. They are coached to feel Jesus in their hearts, to see Jesus around them, to hear Jesus in the words of the Bible. So, is it any wonder that many natural feelings get interpreted as being sourced in their god? But just how this in any way “forms a spontaneous belief in God.” I’ll tell you; it does not.

May 27, 2019

Artificial Pearls Before Real Swine?

Filed under: Philosophy,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:40 am
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I have been inspired by Jim over at TheCommonAtheist quite a bit of late. (His site is worth a visit: go, go.) Quoting him: “Searching for god, we don’t discover who he is, we discover who we are. This aphorism brought to my mind a number of other “pearls of wisdom.” I have been perusing a book entitled “1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom” for some time and found more than a few that are self-serving nonsense. For example:

I can’t explain it, but spiritually it makes sense—though I don’t understand how it does make sense. —Kevin McDonald
In other words, it makes no sense but I believe it.

If somebody wants a sheep, that is a proof that one exists. —Antoine de Saint Exupéry
This seems to be an offhand “proof” for the existence of a god or gods . . . but if you take that sentence and modify it a bit you get “If somebody wants a unicorn, that is a proof that one exists.” You can have fun with other variations involving Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, whatever. Bizarre thinking.

Every word, every image used for God is a distortion more than a description. —Anthony de Mello
Was it this guy’s intent to undermine all Abrahamic scripture? In scripture this god is described as a whirlwind, a burning bush, a blinding white light, looking like a man, etc. So, all of these are false? And this god is quoted ad nauseum, e.g. “I am the Lord your God, and blah, blah, blah.” All of those quotes are distortions rather than descriptions of what this god actually said? WTF?

For those who believe, no explanation is necessary; for those who do not believe, no explanation is possible. —Franz Werfel
Uh, says who? How does he know that no explanation is possible? Or are you just trying to get people to stop asking for explanations? And the Bible itself tells believers that they are to have reasons to believe, so screw the Bible and listen to my deepity, that’s the message?

The sheer number of these “spiritual” pearls of wisdom that are utter nonsense is an indication that the collector was daft or that there aren’t really that many actual pearls of spiritual wisdom to share.

I think Jim’s aphorism is spot on. It also has application elsewhere, for example to authors of books on finding the historical Jesus (Searching for the historical Jesus in these books, we don’t discover who he is, we discover who the authors are.) There is no better evidence for the lack of an historical Jesus than the dozens upon dozens of people who have written books on finding the Real JC™ with each effort coming up with a different result. Apparently the evidence is not conclusive one way or another. Not having enough historical records to establish an historical character doesn’t mean that one did not exist, it just means we have neither the evidence nor a clear idea of who they were. I tend to think Jesus is fictional but that belief (the ordinary kind, not the religious kind), at least, is supported by evidence (Jesus said nothing that had not been said before, Jesus’ miracles are based upon miracles described in the OT, etc.).

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