Wednesday, September 29, 2010

L 5.9

In regards to the ontological explanation for God’s existence, Kant asserted that it is not reasonable to infer the extramental existence of something merely from it’s definition. (p. 81) His point could be restated that while the ontological explanation might have some explanatory value about the MGBP, that doesn’t mean that the idea of the MGBP necessarily possesses the characteristic of existence. However, Kant missed the point of the ontological explanation. The extramental existence of God is implied in the definition of God’s nature. If it is said that God’s existence isn’t necessary, then you haven’t achieved the desired result; accurately and thoroughly defining the MGBP. Describing the MGBP must necessarily include it’s existence. Otherwise, it is missing a crucial quality. In fact, it would be missing the most meaningful quality possible. If existence isn’t one of the qualities God possesses, what is being discussed?

Monday, September 27, 2010

L 5.8

Theists should remember that if you are looking for something, you don’t solicit help from someone who is already biased against it’s existence. Non-theists commenting on God’s existence are probably not a good source for truth on the matter because they aren’t looking for God to exist. Granted, non-theists would likely say that they aren’t looking because they have already looked and discovered that God doesn’t exist. As I have stated before, that is something no person can substantiate. No person possesses the kind of knowledge necessary to know that God does not exist. So, the non-theist stance on God’s existence should eliminate their testimony from the pool of viable options.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

L 5.7

In response to the ontological explanation for God’s existence, Loftus quotes Hume’s objection to the explanation in that the ontological explanation obscures the boundary between matters of fact and relations of ideas. (p. 80)

What Loftus is saying via Hume, is that an idea of the maximally greatest being possible (MGBP) is far from that being actually existing. In other words, God is most likely just a figment of our imaginations and there probably isn’t a MGBP. We can think up all sorts of grand ideas but, that doesn’t mean they actually exist in reality.

Descartes showed in his Meditations that nothing in the mind can exist that isn’t at least partially true in the real world. No person can think up something that doesn’t have at least partial basis in real world fact. Therefore, Hume’s distinction is somewhat artificial. This certainly doesn’t prove God’s existence beyond the shadow of a doubt but, it does point out that when we explain God’s existence, we’re talking about something real, not something that is solely in our minds.

Todd Furman asserts that matters of fact require “empirical evidence for any sort of justification it might ever have”. (p. 81) However, there isn’t going to be the kind of empirical evidence Furman is looking for. A supernatural god is going to have evidence in metaphysical form, not naturalistic form. Evidence of God’s existence is beyond the purview of science. Unfortunately, many people think that science will eventually prove or disprove everything possible. This is a grave misunderstanding of the purpose of science. Science works in this existence and operates according to the rules of this existence (methodological naturalism). Outside of this existence, science is woefully inadequate. Who knows what kind of supernatural rules are in place outside of this natural existence? Science can’t even tell us what happened during the Planck epoch of this universe, much less telling us anything about existence outside of this universe.

In summary, it is not accurate to say that the idea of the MGBP is without substantiation. People who reject the ontological explanation are looking for substantiation from naturalistic science when they should be looking more to philosophy and metaphysics.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

L 5.6

“Atheists generally think Christian theism inhibits scientific progress, creates class struggles, sexism, racism, mass neurosis, intolerance, and environmental disasters”. (p. 79)

Christian theism inhibits scientific progress
What is most unfortunate about this kind of thinking is that it somehow overlooks the obvious fact that many Christians have been and are scientists because they seek to better understand the existence God created. In that way, Christians aren’t actually preventing progress but, contributing to it. Loftus may not have heard of Georges LemaĆ®tre. He was known for something pretty significant.

creates class struggles
Certainly, there are Christians who have used Christianity to create class struggles. However, they have done so contra the Bible's teaching about the first church where everyone shared as they had need (Acts 4:32-35). Indeed, many socialists use this as justification that Christianity supports socialism. These people draw the exact opposite conclusion that Loftus has drawn.

sexism
One of the most prominent oversights about Christianity is that the first Christians treated women with unparalleled equality among ancient belief systems. A Christian I know pointed out that there are “many references in the Bible to women holding high, important positions in families and in society at large. Women are even mentioned in the lineage of Jesus, and that’s very unusual in itself. In those days, women were typically omitted from the genealogical lists. It was a MAN’S WORLD in every respect. Jesus changed all that. As for creation, God said that ‘it was not good for man to be alone.’ Therefore, His creation was not…complete without women. Think of how Jesus took care of His mother Mary; the story of the widow’s mite that seems so insignificant yet has been retold countless times throughout Christendom; the Godly influence of Timothy’s mother and grandmother on his life; the huge roles played in the Bible by Jesus’ mother Mary, Esther, Miriam, Pharaoh’s daughter, Rahab, Martha and Mary, Priscilla, Lydia, etc., etc. If God hadn’t placed a great deal of value on women, we wouldn’t have all those accounts of women and their deeds in the Bible. Many of them were in leadership positions.”

She continues “As for submission per se, I’m not so sure that the definition was exactly the same when the Bible was written as we often hear it today. Today we think of it as being lorded over, bossed around, intimidated, etc. I think it carried more of the connotation of love, caring, and respect, and earned respect at that. The role of all Christians–men and women–is one of submission . . . to God first, to authority (for civil order), to one another in all kinds of relationships (friendships, marriages, businesses, etc.). It’s not like a king and his subjects. That doesn’t work in any kind of relationship. In Ephesians 5, most pastors until recent years have totally omitted verse 21 which admonishes people to honor Christ by being submissive to each other. Then, the following verses expound on exactly how women are to be submissive and then how men are to be submissive. Marriage doesn’t work without mutual submission. A lot of what has been preached over the past hundred years or so has done more to fuel the battle between the sexes than any other outside force. I can tell you one thing for sure: If a man really loves a woman like Christ loved the church (loving and caring for it/her to the point of sacrificing his wants and even his very life for it/her), it’s easy and practically automatic for the woman to respond in kind. I think that’s what submission means, and that’s the great power of love. The problem is that mankind is fallen and, only with God’s help, can come anywhere close to loving someone that much. The biblical ideal is so antithetical to the way the real world functions that it’s very hard to get our contemporary minds to wrap around it. It’s a ‘dog eat dog’ world, and everyone wants to be the big dog. That’s just not the way God wants His children to function.”

racism
The accusation that Christianity creates racism is just plain laziness. The Christian diaspora is one of the most amazing phenomena in the history of mankind. Followers of Christ endeavored, even died for, people of all races and creeds. Christians brought unparalleled human services to all people in the face of all manner of dangers to themselves. In this sense, Christianity crossed all social and racial borders. The same is the case today.

intolerance
Many Christians feel that, based on the discrimination against Christianity prevalent in America today, non-Christians are much more intolerant than Christians are. The overriding sentiment in America today is to be tolerant of everything except Christianity.

mass neurosis
Christians suffering from mass neurosis depends on whether or not what they are seeing is true.

environmental disasters
If I understand Loftus correctly, the environmental disasters he is referring to are really more of a political issue than a religious issue.

The totality of this statement by Loftus is a fallacy called hurling the elephant. This fallacy usually takes several parts of a complex situation, throws them together with little regard to detail or contrary information and hurls an unwarranted conclusion at the target. Each individual point of Loftus’ statement bears little resemblance to reality. Not only does Loftus blame Christianity for something non-Christians are also guilty of but, he blames Christianity for the actions of a minority who acted outside of Christian beliefs.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

L 5.5

Stating that God is evil for allowing suffering diminishes the human experience. It is not evil. Rather, inscrutable suffering is part of uncertainty in life. Uncertainty can be used to breed spiritual alacrity. Uncertainty can serve as motivation to develop safer means of living. Uncertainty helps people to not take life for granted. To blithely dismiss inscrutable suffering as evil is to rob humanity of one of it’s most profound experiences and one of God’s most effective teaching tools.

Monday, September 20, 2010

L 5.4

One of the most profound truths about suffering is that without God, pain and suffering have no meaning. They exist merely to torment us. This is one of the greatest shortcomings of the non-theist position. There is no meaningful way to deal with suffering outside of God’s purpose in it. Non-theist systems, such as Buddhism and some forms of Hinduism, attempt to maintain the belief that suffering is illusory. Ideas like suffering, good and bad are to be overcome in order to reach enlightenment. In these systems, concepts like suffering are mental states that prevent enlightenment (moksha in Hinduism and nirvana in Buddhism). Once these limiting ways of thinking are overcome, a person can reach enlightenment where the mind has no boundaries and there are no more barriers between a person and the ultimate reality. Ultimately, these systems are untenable because they philosophically fail to acknowledge that suffering exists while existentially acknowledge that suffering exists. If suffering doesn’t exist, what is it that needs to be overcome? Why is there so much focus on meditating to rise above something that doesn’t exist? Even non-theists know that to cause someone else suffering is immoral. To the Hindu, doing so would negatively affect that person’s karma. How can something be immoral if it doesn’t exist? So, even the most sophisticated attempts to deal with suffering outside of God’s allowance and purpose for it utterly fail.

Friday, September 17, 2010

L 5.3

It’s unfortunate that most non-theists don’t acknowledge that God did create an existence without suffering; what is sometimes called the afterlife. The Bible tells us that as far as our existence goes, God will one day eliminate suffering from our experience. The good news is that this existence can be attained by anyone. The first step is written in Romans 10:9.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

L 5.2

Religious skeptics believe that people should be spared from suffering. Yet, they are not able to explain why. Most importantly, they are unable to explain why that type of existence would be better. When asked how the world should operate without suffering, the non-theists launches into some of the most interesting and convoluted scenarios imaginable that would make you think they should consider a career in fiction, or comedy. People playing God is never devoid of entertainment.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

L 5.1

P. 79 yields a statement on suffering that “…there is too much intense suffering in this world for there to be a good creator”. Loftus adds on p. 235 that many people state that suffering is pointless.

In general, there are two kinds of suffering; physical and emotional. Certainly, there are varying levels of suffering. On the physical side, a pin prick doesn’t hurt nearly as bad as getting burned. On the emotional side, getting passed over for a promotion isn’t nearly as painful as losing a loved one or being abandoned. Still, is the degree of suffering the most pertinent question? If the most intense suffering experiences were removed from our existence, there would still be suffering. The scale will have shifted and what was a moderately painful experience will then become the most painful experience and our sensitivities would adjust accordingly. We would still ask why the most intensely painful experiences are allowed by God. Therefore, the real question being asked by the non-theist isn’t really that there is intense suffering but, why there is suffering at all. Why are we allowed to suffer?

One of the most common approaches to this issue traditionally is that suffering came into the world as a result of sin, particularly that of Adam and Eve. However, non-Christians do not accept the authority or reliability of the Bible so, for them, the question still stands. Another typical response is that suffering is a result of our freewill. People suffer because of the immoral things people do to each other. On that statement, Loftus responds that “eliminating intense cases of suffering would still allow good and evil”. (p. 250)

An important distinction to make on the issue is that there is a difference between evil and suffering. The two often get conflated. The existence of evil will be discussed in later posts. On the subject of suffering, another important distinction is the difference between gratuitous suffering and inscrutable suffering. Bad things that people do to each other comprise gratuitous suffering. Gratuitous suffering is when one person causes another person pain. This kind of suffering is clearly a result of our own choices and isn’t difficult to understand. People make mistakes (including immoral actions) and pain to others is often the result. To ask for this kind of pain to be eliminated is to ask for people to be perfect which is not really a major issue with non-theists. Debate arises mostly in regards to inscrutable suffering. This kind of suffering is difficult to understand; hence, inscrutable. Natural disasters are the most common example. Why did God create a world that contained such great potential to cause so many people suffering?

God allows suffering for various reasons. Although, non-theists vehemently object to this. How can there be purpose in something like hurricane Katrina or an infant suffering from a painful disease? In Unshakable Foundations, Geisler and Bocchino list some purposes for suffering:

To develop character

To teach moral consequences

To warn of impending greater danger

To avoid greater suffering

To get our moral attention

One dynamic about suffering that is often overlooked is that it often has purpose. We experience this in our lives. For example, a doctor may intentionally inflict pain on a patient in order to instigate healing. Good can come from suffering. If you don’t think so, ask someone who is handicapped if any good has come from their life. Even if a handicapped person has been unable to be directly responsible for good, people who are caretakers can, at the very least, demonstrate unselfishness, love and compassion for others. In addition, suffering reminds us that we are mortal and not able to control our own circumstances which teaches us to look for greater purpose in life than just existing. A relationship with God can help us through painful experiences and suffering should cause us to strengthen that relationship. Ultimately, it’s an urgent and sobering realization that there are absolutes in this life, the greatest of which is God and His will. Concordantly, suffering can also help to remind us that this existence is not our permanent home.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

L 4.11

“Whether or not people accept these apologetic arguments [that support their own religion] will depend upon whether or not they are already insiders to that particular faith in the first place”. (p. 76)

This assertion is demonstrably false. Examples to the contrary are Anthony Flew, C. S. Lewis, Lee Strobel, Josh McDowell. These people set out to prove that Christianity was false and ended up becoming Christian because they were convinced Christianity is the truth.

Monday, September 13, 2010

L 4.10

Another criticism of the outsider test is that it is practically impossible. As stated previously, there is no belief vacuum, not even agnosticism. Everyone fits into some category and there is no way to be “outside” of every belief. How can someone truly exercise the outsider test when there is no "outside" to equally judge the various beliefs?

People who advocate the outsider test commit special pleading in that they want religious people to “step outside” of religion so that non-religion can be evaluated objectively. Simultaneously, they complain that those religious people don’t accept nontheist beliefs because they don’t understand or don’t try the best arguments against religion. In other words, they don’t want religious people to be religious and they want religious people to be nontheist so that they can be swayed by the best arguments against religion. So, it’s special pleading. Nontheists are basically telling theists to “get out of all beliefs except nontheism”. Many nontheists don't even recognize that they are doing this.

Regardless, there are many, many followers of Christ who can accurately reproduce and respond to the most current, most forceful arguments from nontheists against Christianity yet, they remain unconvinced by nontheist conclusions. Many more followers of Christ are aware of these rebuttals. Therefore, it isn’t totally accurate to say that Christians are ignorant of these arguments.

Friday, September 10, 2010

L 4.9

Loftus advocates an “outsider test” but, such a test is not wholly convincing. Being a disciple of Christ implies a relationship. One has to genuinely invest in the relationship through good times and bad for a longer period of time rather than shorter to have any real insight into it. It’s the spiritual equivalent to not judging a book by it’s cover. Some people claim they were devout Christians but still left Christianity. Unfortuantely, many people participate in works-based variations on Christianity. Works-based religions proceed from particular acts to a general state. Being a disciple of Christ works in the opposite way; from a general state to particular acts. Did the former Christian ever actually have a lasting relationship with God? I’m not sure if this is true of Loftus. The first chapter seems to indicate that he did not. Second, I would ask if the person was not able to keep up their end of the relationship and ended up leaving Christianity when faced with difficulties. Being a disciple of Christ is not easy and not everyone is cut out for it. God allows us to be tested and some people don’t have the wherewithal to withstand those tests, even if they have had a genuine relationship for a short period of time. The relationship with God is like a muscle; it has to be exercised to be strong enough to handle adversity and have endurance.

Loftus implies that American Christians don't test their faith by examining other beliefs and their reaction to Christianity; the outsider test. America has been religiously diverse for several decades. Americans are exposed to quite a few religions that are significantly different than Christianity. Consequently, Christians do have their faith tested by direct exposure to other religions especially given the fact that diversity is so prevalent in American education and media.

Moreover, it is possible for a person to find truth on the first try and therefore, not need to test that truth. The relevance to the outsider test is that a person might have a particular religion as an accident of birth but, if that religion is true, further testing will only serve to continually reinforce that truth. Consequently, the outsider test is not necessary to discover truth in every case.

Disciples of Christ recognize works-based religions and have no need to test each one. While the particulars of worship among them might vary based on culture, they basically function the same in that the adherent must perform a prescribed set of actions in order to remain in good standing. This means that a person does not need to travel the world sampling each religion. One works-based religion is going to be fundamentally similar to the others. Christianity, on the other hand, is unique among the world religions in several ways.

The religious pluralist is going to disagree with Loftus. One branch of pluralism maintains that all religions are basically saying the same thing. Another branch says that even though religions are saying different things, sincere adherents of each religion will all end up saved or a participant in the ultimate reality. Therefore, pluralism maintains that the “outsider test” is irrelevant.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

L 4.8

In answer Four on pp. 73-74, Loftus attempts to respond to the objection that his argument from sociological conditions for belief commits the genetic fallacy. He states that “sociological facts provide evidence against religious faiths in general”. No, they don’t. They merely show a pattern of how some people adopt the beliefs of their culture. Those facts say absolutely nothing about the veracity of the beliefs. At most, they merely show that some people either don’t get exposed to other beliefs or do but still reject them.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

L 4.7

Imagine that theism is like driving to a destination. Upon arriving, events can take place. Using this analogy, atheism would be like not starting the journey, closing your eyes and pretending there are no destinations. Things that you can reach out and touch with your eyes closed are the only things that exist. Agnosticism would be like driving without stopping. You see destinations that you should stop at and investigate but, you feel like there aren’t good enough reasons to do so or that your shouldn’t stop because you don’t know what might happen.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

L 4.6

It’s possible that the reason why “it’s hard to shake the evangelical faith” (as Loftus says) is because theism is true and a great deal of brainwashing, obstinacy and/or intellectual forfeiture is required for a person to deny theism.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

L 4.5

“Psychiatrist Valerie Tarico describes the process of defending unintelligent beliefs by smart people”. (p. 70)

This assessment of Christians rests on an idea called compartmentalization. Acknowledging that there are brilliant people who are Christian despite incredibly persuasive arguments against Christianity, non-theists let the imagination run riot by asserting that these people in question turn their brilliant minds off when their lives intersect the realm of religion. They can work in scientific disciplines and operate with objectivity. Yet, they somehow flip the smart switch in their brains to the off position the rest of the time which enables them to remain religious. In this way, they compartmentalize their religious beliefs into a space that doesn’t require intelligence.

The most acute problem of this charge is that there is absolutely no way to prove it. What test could be devised to show that intelligent Christians are turning their brains off? It’s possible that the non-theist could claim that religious compartmentalization is the equivalent of genetic disposition; the so-called “God gene”. If there were a gene that predisposed someone to religious belief, they could function with normal rationality except in the area of a higher power. Aside from the fact that there is no such thing as a God gene, genes don’t affect our behavior in that way. The latest research on the alleged “gay gene” is interesting. The gene that has recently been linked with obesity does not dictate that people who have it are obese. It just means they have a proclivity for more caloric intake. If the person does not regulate intake vs expenditure, they will get obese. However, that is true of any person. What this does illustrate is how complex human behavior is.

This nontheist line of reasoning definitely constitutes sawing the branch they’re perched on because the statement can be turned around and used on non-theists. It could easily be said that nontheists turn off the smart switch in their brains when it comes to dealing with metaphysical issues that theists are well aware of like origin, purpose, destiny, etc.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

L 4.4

Elaborating on the notion of how to test beliefs, p. 70 provides the statement that “the whole notion of ‘an independent rational judgment’ is suspect, especially when there are no mutually agreed-upon reliable scientific tests to decide what to believe”.

Previous posts in this forum have outlined the fallacy of looking for scientific proof of something that is beyond science. Yet, that doesn’t mean that theistic beliefs are irrational.

What is interesting about Loftus stating that there are no mutually agreed-upon, reliable scientific tests is that he prides himself on the reliability of his control beliefs to conclusively establish the problems with Christianity. What’s more is that his control beliefs are supposedly based on scientific methodology. With that in mind, do atheist beliefs adhere to the Shermer statement quoted by Loftus that “people...give intellectual reasons justifying their beliefs that they arrived at for non-intelligent reasons.” Merely asserting that there is nothing supernatural without a shred of evidence would definitely fall under the category of a belief arrived at for non-intelligent reasons. Since that's the case, nontheism is certainly no better than theism. Moreover, nontheism can't address many metaphysical issues whereas theism can. In that sense, theism has a distinct advantage over nontheism.

When Loftus says that there is no “independent, rational judgment” he is making an independent, rational judgment. This kind of relativistic, postmodern double standard committed by non-theists never ends.

Non-theists constantly prop up “mutually agreed-upon” tests as the standard par excellence. Yet, he admits all over page 70 that people arrive at their beliefs for non-intelligent reasons. What makes secular rationalists think that such a test is reasonable?