Sunday, August 12, 2007

Descent into Madness: Challenging Christianity to be Rational

Beginning with this article, and in all future compositions, I consistently shall refer to the deity as "god," with a lower-case "g." I also shall use lower-case letters when referencing invisible garden banshees.Ed.


I recently have been reading "Atheism: The Case Against God," by George H. Smith. It has inspired me to compose a list of a dozen arguments/questions for Christians. These are not the typical issues with which many Christians might be familiar, so I urge thoughtful consideration, rather than unthinking dismissiveness.


1. Is god supernatural? If god is natural, then we have to entirely redefine our god concept and, essentially, start over from scratch. If god is supernatural, we may continue.

2. If god is supernatural, then how can humans possess any knowledge of god? Humans are part of nature, and, as such, our knowledge is bounded by nature. The very notion of something existing beyond nature is wholly incomprehensible, given that our knowledge and thought processes are nature-bounded.

3. Does god possess any characteristics? Characteristics are determinative and limiting. That is, once a being has characteristics, those characteristics lead to certain capacities and abilities. Dogs, for example, can do certain things. However, dogs cannot build an umbrella; doing so would be contrary to their nature and their characteristics. Humans cannot undergo photosynthesis; doing so would be contrary to our nature and our characteristics. If god is possessed of any characteristics, then god is limited by them (if only in the sense that possessing Characteristic X means one cannot possess Characteristic Not-X). If god has no characteristics, then god is indistinguishable from nothingness.

4. Do you accept omnipotence, omniscience and consciousness as characteristics of god? If you do, we may continue.

5. Humans live in nature, and our knowledge is bounded by nature. There exists in nature nothing infinite. Therefore, humans have no comprehension of anything being “infinitely Characteristic X.” If humans cannot conceive of infinity, then how are the “omni” characteristics meaningful?

6. To say a being is omnipotent is to say the being has all power. Therefore, god need not engage in actions, processes or anything else in order to get what it wants. After all, a being possessed of all power need not do anything to achieve its desired results. [Upon further consideration, having a desire/purpose also might be unnecessary, because it is an extra step with which an omnipotent being should not need to concern itself.] In short, god’s power is incomprehensible since it involves getting its way without first possessing desires, taking actions or executing processes. How is this meaningful?

7. To say a being is omniscient is to say the being has all knowledge. In the natural world in which humans live, knowledge is gained by study/observation (learning) and verification (confirmation of that which is observed/learned). God never could have learned anything nor had any information verified, since that would imply a time during which god lacked comprehensive knowledge. Thus, god’s knowledge is wholly dissimilar to our own and utterly incomprehensible. How is this meaningful?

8. Free will cannot co-exist with an omniscient, creator deity. Let us say that I am a ten-year-old boy. God, being omniscient, knows that, on my thirtieth birthday, I will rob a convenience store and shoot the clerk. Is there any way for me to disprove god’s foreknowledge and not commit this heinous crime? If so, then god is not omniscient, since its foreknowledge can be disproved. If not, then I lack free will, since my actions are determined before they occur, and I cannot possibly change my destiny.

9. Omniscience and omnipotence are incompatible and lead to insoluble contradictions. Suppose that, on Monday the 14, god knows, based upon its omniscience, that it shall smite Bob Washburn on Thursday the 17. Come Wednesday the 16, can god change its mind and decide to spare Bob Washburn? If so, then god can disprove its own foreknowledge and cannot be categorized as omniscient. If not, then god cannot be called omnipotent, because it lacks the ability to change its mind (and thus disprove its own foreknowledge).

10. Is god conscious? Consciousness, as understood by humans, who are bounded by nature since we are products of nature, is an emergent quality of some biological life. Humans can conceive of no consciousness divorced from biological life, since such does not exist in nature and any such consciousness would be different not in degree but in kind. How do Christians resolve this?

11. Does god have any similarity with humans? It seems not. For example, humans have some knowledge, whereas god has all knowledge. However, we neither comprehend knowledge of an infinite kind (since humans only comprehend limited things) nor understand what knowledge might mean in a supernatural realm, which itself cannot be comprehended (since we are bounded by nature and cannot conceive beyond it). As another example, humans have some power, whereas god has all power. However, in god’s exercise of power, it does not employ purposes, actions or processes, since such would be encumbrances to limitless power—an obvious contradiction. This being the case, the word “power,” especially in an incomprehensible supernatural realm, signifies something of an unknowable, altogether different, kind. Christians, can this be made sensible?

12. Most Christians admit that god cannot cause logical impossibilities to occur. For example, god cannot craft a circular square or a deceased living rabbit. The theist might say nonsense is nonsense, and the deity cannot actualize an inherent contradiction. However, most Christians also say that god’s omnipotence allows it to perform miracles, which might be something as silly as making a desk lamp respire. However, is this not also logically impossible? A desk lamp is possessed of certain characteristics, which, in themselves, define it as being a desk lamp—and are both limiting and determinative. A square boasts four 90-degree angles and four straight, equally long sides. A desk lamp is inanimate, used to illuminate a workspace and does not respire. As such, a desk lamp cannot breathe anymore than a square can be a circle. Thus, omnipotence reveals itself as purveying logical impossibilities, be they obvious or subtle.


To any Christian considering responding, I implore thoughtful consideration.

29 Comments:

Anonymous robomancer said...

Hi,

I'm atheist, but I still present the following arguments/questions -- mostly because I'm interested in seeing these ideas refined further.

Re #5: "there exists in nature nothing infinite" -- I'm not so sure about that. To my knowledge, cosmologists aren't yet sure whether time has a beginning and an end. Space may or may not be infinite, though the volume of space that is ever reachable by particles currently in the observable universe might be finite (depending on how you define volume, as the universe's volume seems to be expanding at an ever-increasing rate since the Big Bang). Some physical quantities (e.g. the force of gravity at the singularity of a black hole) may be infinite, but our current understanding is limited.

The argument in #9 is obviously fallacious. If God knows everything, he knows everything about what happens at all times, and therefore doesn't/wouldn't "change his mind" with regard to the outcomes of "future" events. So if God indeed doesn't smite Bob Washburn on the 17th, then God would not have had the thought (or whatever) about smiting him on the 14th. However, as your #6 alludes to ("having a desire/purpose also is unnecessary"), it's not clear that an omniscient & onmipotent God would actually have "thoughts", in the sense that we do, which is yet another absurdity about a God that possesses the claimed characteristics.

#10: "Humans can conceive of no consciousness divorced from biological life" -- many humans have concieve of non-biological consciousness; ask any sci-fi author. :) The current state of robotics isn't there yet, but I don't think it's unreasonable to say that we may have robots that are intellectually indistinguishable from humans sometime in the next 100-200 years.

Re #12: the characteristics of a desk lamp are functional, not defining. A desk lamp is a thing that produces light and is physically structured so that it can be set on a desk. There's nothing contradictory in having an animate desk lamp: imagine a robotic desk lamp that tracks your eyes and automatically illuminates anything you look at. Such a lamp could even be biologically alive -- imagine an animal that (like an anglerfish, but surface-dwelling) produces its own light and can be tamed/trained to "switch on/off" at will and stand on your desk. On the contrary, the definition of a "square" or "circle" is mathematical. No perfect squares or circles exist in nature -- so a square is a concept, not a thing (though obviously we use the label "square" to refer to physical things that are reasonably close to the mathematical definition.) Certainly, an all-powerful God could turn a square thing into a circular thing, but making an object that is simultaneously both a square and a circle is a logical impossibility. (I think the argument in #3 is problematic for a similar reason.)

9:45 PM EDT  
Blogger Tommy said...

Hey Jolly,.

Good to see you are posting frequently again.

I have a new visitor over at my blog who wants to know why we in the atheist minority feel the need to have our atheist blogs and books nitpicking religion and trying to ruin things for all the decent god-fearin' folks of America.

I already gave him my response, but I would like him to hear from many different atheists bloggers to give him a full range of responses.

The post is titled "I'm an Atheist and I'm Proud of It!" Feel free to come on over and enlighten him!

Thanks,

Tom

3:33 PM EDT  
Blogger Guitanguran said...

Well, I'll try...

on #2, what would prevent God from communicating with us? Taken literally, supernatural is 'above' nature. What' to prevent Him from communicating with us?

#3 That would be the case only if we define His characteristics in purely human terms. That in itself is the limiting factor.

#5 Just because we can't completely comprehend what omnipotence, omniscience, or omnipresence is, doesn't mean we can't get the gist of it.

#6 Omnipotence doesn't exclude exercise of it. That goes back to not necessarily understanding it fully.

ooops out of time.

8:01 PM EDT  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

on #2, what would prevent God from communicating with us? Taken literally, supernatural is 'above' nature. What's to prevent Him from communicating with us?

The supernatural, if extant, must be utterly different from the natural. If the supernatural exists, it represents an entirely unique realm as compared to the natural. This can be concluded based upon the fact that "supernatural," almost by definition, is the utter reversal and opposite of "natural" [Nature is material, limited, finite, comprehensible, etc.] We, as humans, are products of nature and are nature bounded. If you were to claim that god, a supernatural being, communicated with you, I would ask for evidence that this communication took place. But, before even that, I'd ask how "supernature" and "nature" came to interact, and the processes by which god's communication came through. Then I'd ask for evidence that the communication was legitimate, rather than the product of delusion, vivid dreaming, self-hypnosis or some other such prosaic explanation.


#3 That would be the case only if we define His characteristics in purely human terms. That, in itself, is the limiting factor.

Therefore, in order to keep characteristics from being limiting and determinative, we have to assume characteristics for god are utterly dissimilar to characteristics for humans. God, according to you, possesses infinite characteristics. Maybe so--but such characteristics would be incomprehensible precisely because they are not limiting and not determinative. You are attempting to characterize an incomprehensible deity by citing equally incomprehensible traits.



#5 Just because we can't completely comprehend what omnipotence, omniscience, or omnipresence is, doesn't mean we can't get the gist of it.

How can you--a nature-bounded primate--even partly comprehend "unlimited characteristics" in some fantastical "supernatural" realm? After all, you are a product of the natural realm, in which all characteristics are limiting and determinative. How is your knowledge achieved? How can you be sure it is accurate and true?


#6 Omnipotence doesn't exclude exercise of it. That goes back to not necessarily understanding it fully.

How did you gain this alleged partial understanding? Besides, if your understanding is only partial, how can you be sure the un-comprehended element of the concept doesn't negate or substantially modify that which you think you know?


Here is your biggest hurdle: You are a primate, bounded by nature since you are a product of a material, finite, limited, comprehensible, natural world. How can you claim any knowledge, understanding or comprehension of some utterly different "supernatural" realm? Such a realm might exist--but you, as a mere product of nature, are incapable of comprehending it. That which is incomprehensible to humans is the practical equivalent of nothingness.

9:29 PM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

Hi there JN,

I'm a Reformed Baptist and I'll take a stab at it.

1) Supernatural.
2) He condescended revealed Himself to humans.
3) Yes God possesses characteristics.
And of course they limit Him. God is not, for example, illogical. He cannot sin. He can't cease to exist.
God can do anythg that is logically possible.
4) Yes to all.
5) They are in many ways apophatic.
OTOH, humans require a standard against which to compare the imperfections of the human condition.
6) God can do anythg that is possible, that's the working def. of "omnipotent".
Just b/c sthg is incomprehensible in its entirety doesn't mean that it's impossible or incomp. in its part. I can't fathom how hot the sun is but I can know that it's hot outside now.
7) Yes, God knows all that there is to know.
See #6 for comments on incomprehensibility.
That's also kind of the point - God boggles our tiny minds b/c we are limited. It's one of those things that's supposed to teach us humility.
But we need a standard, again, to know anything. God's omniscience is the template by which we know anythg. So what if God doesn't learn? We do; God has ordained us to.
8) Just b/c God sees it all doesn't mean we don't have free will.
You'd need to prove that God has preordained everythg in a deterministic fashion.
Also, many atheists, such as Dan Barker are on record as saying that, as naturalists, they believe humans have no free will - biological determinism. You have some trash to clean up in your own camp.
9) God doesn't change His mind.
You're trying to create a "can God microwave a burrito so hot He can't eat it?" false quandary. Why would God change His mind? His plan and will are perfect from the beginning. He can do whatever is possible. Ceasing to exist is not possible. Changing His mind like that is not possible. Creating a universe IS possible. Etc.
10) God is conscious; His consciousness is the template out of which our consciousness flows.
Why should anyone accept a strictly biological formulation of consciousness anyway? That's begging the question, and is refuted by scientific evidence.
11) This makes me laugh.
"Does god have any similarity with humans? It seems not. For example, humans have some knowledge, whereas god has all knowledge. "

Anyone lacking an overarching agenda will recognise you've answered your own question. God has KNOWLEDGE. People have KNOWLEDGE. So yes, they do have things in common.
And why would God's acting w/ a purpose be a limit to His power?

12) How is a miracle that is supernatural in nature comparable to creating a square circle? What logical law do miracles violate?
Just saying, "They're not scientific!" doesn't count. "Science" is not a law of logic.

Peace,
Rhology

PS - I'll be posting this on my blog if you care to discuss there as well. It's however you'd like.

12:21 PM EDT  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

1) Supernatural.

Fair enough. Prove the supernatural exists. Prove something beyond the natural is comprehensible to nature-bounded humans. Think of it this way: Humans can reveal themselves to ants. However, given their nature, ants cannot comprehend humans even after we reveal ourselves.



2) He condescended revealed Himself to humans.

Prove this. Prove that humans, being fallible primates, didn’t screw up the revelation and draw all the wrong conclusions. Think back to my ant analogy. We are thousands of times greater than ants. As such, we are incomprehensible to ants. Now then, if your god character exists, that god is infinitely greater than humans are. Therefore, the level of incomprehensibility should be infinitely higher than in my ants-to-humans example. I want hard proof to back up your certainty.



3) Yes God possesses characteristics.
And of course they limit Him. God is not, for example, illogical. He cannot sin. He can't cease to exist.
God can do anythg that is logically possible.


How did you ascertain these characteristics? Prove them true. By the way, if god truly is infinite and so on, then nothing can limit god. Infinity cannot be limited. So, if god can be limited, god is not infinite.



5) They are in many ways apophatic.
OTOH, humans require a standard against which to compare the imperfections of the human condition.


Negative theology is fallacious. If god truly is ineffable and incomprehensible, then negative theology fails as miserably as positive theology. In order to possess knowledge of what god is not, one must already possess some knowledge of what god is. If one does not possess any positive knowledge of god’s nature, then one cannot say anything is incompatible with that nature—nothing can be incompatible with an incomprehensible void. Negative theology’s great sin is presupposing positive theology’s veracity.

The need for a “standard” against which to compare human existence does not mean that standard actually exists in some conscious form. There is a vast range of smelliness in the world. That does not mean there is a pinnacle of smelliness existing somewhere in the cosmos as a foundation for all comparison. Similarly, there is no need for extant omniscience or omnipotence simply because degrees of knowledge and power exist.



6) God can do anythg that is possible, that's the working def. of "omnipotent".
Just b/c sthg is incomprehensible in its entirety doesn't mean that it's impossible or incomp. in its part. I can't fathom how hot the sun is but I can know that it's hot outside now.


The sun does not exist in an alternate, immaterial realm.

According to Christian mythology, god is omnipotent. The problem is, since god cannot be bothered with desires, actions or processes, power for god is something altogether different than power for humans. And, let’s not forget that “power” is only meaningful as a word in its proper context—the material realm. Taking human words, which were created in and are bounded by nature, and trying to apply them to a supernatural being in a different realm is like trying to use the word “red” to describe volume. You are wrenching words from their context and, as such, making them incomprehensible and veridically worthless.

If natural language can be applied to god, then god is part of nature. If god is outside nature, god also is outside the bounds of natural language.



7) Yes, God knows all that there is to know.
See #6 for comments on incomprehensibility.
That's also kind of the point - God boggles our tiny minds b/c we are limited. It's one of those things that's supposed to teach us humility.
But we need a standard, again, to know anything. God's omniscience is the template by which we know anythg. So what if God doesn't learn? We do; God has ordained us to.


“Knowledge” is a word that was created to describe a phenomenon in the natural world. It was created by primates existing in nature, and is applied in a natural context. When you attempt to use the word “knowledge” with regard to the supernatural, you are wrenching the word from its proper context and making it unintelligible. Again, this is like trying to use the word “muscular” to describe something’s color. Context lends words their meanings. Natural language cannot function outside nature.

If god exists outside nature, then human language cannot apply to god.



8) Just b/c God sees it all doesn't mean we don't have free will.
You'd need to prove that God has preordained everythg in a deterministic fashion.
Also, many atheists, such as Dan Barker are on record as saying that, as naturalists, they believe humans have no free will - biological determinism. You have some trash to clean up in your own camp.


Let’s use Ted Bundy as the example here. As god was in the process of creating Mr. Bundy, did god have foreknowledge about the serial killings Mr. Bundy eventually would commit? If so, then god, in essence, crafted Bundy to be a serial killer. If not, then god cannot be called “omniscient,” whatever that term means.



9) God doesn't change His mind.
You're trying to create a "can God microwave a burrito so hot He can't eat it?" false quandary. Why would God change His mind? His plan and will are perfect from the beginning. He can do whatever is possible. Ceasing to exist is not possible. Changing His mind like that is not possible. Creating a universe IS possible. Etc.


Prove your possible vs. impossible examples. Prove that god cannot change his mind, as I suggested might be possible. Prove that god can create a universe. Prove these things, rather than just stating them as givens. The burden of proof is all on the theist, my friend.



10) God is conscious; His consciousness is the template out of which our consciousness flows.
Why should anyone accept a strictly biological formulation of consciousness anyway? That's begging the question, and is refuted by scientific evidence.


Prove that god’s consciousness is the template out of which our consciousness flows. I’m not simply going to “grant” your (I would argue) incomprehensible assertion. If our consciousness flows from god’s own, you should be able to prove it with evidence.

We’re not talking about whether consciousness is naturally emergent or not. We’re talking about whether god is conscious and, more importantly, how the word “consciousness,” which was created to serve and describe the natural realm, might be applicable to a supernatural being in a supernatural realm. Again, remember that words only are meaningful in their proper contexts. You continually wrench words from their natural context and try to say they function exactly the same way in other contexts, such as a supernatural realm. I already have given two examples demonstrating how loss of proper context makes words like “red” and “muscular” become incomprehensible. I argue the same incomprehensibility holds true when “power,” “knowledge” and “consciousness” are wrenched from the natural world and shoved into a supernatural one.



11) This makes me laugh.
"Does god have any similarity with humans? It seems not. For example, humans have some knowledge, whereas god has all knowledge. "

Anyone lacking an overarching agenda will recognise you've answered your own question. God has KNOWLEDGE. People have KNOWLEDGE. So yes, they do have things in common.
And why would God's acting w/ a purpose be a limit to His power?


People have knowledge as we understand that term. Our understanding of that natural term involves observation, learning and confirmation. We observe something, learn from those observations and try to have what we’ve learned confirmed. Through this process, we gain knowledge. On the other hand, when applied to god, knowledge does not involve observation, learning and confirmation. The word means something different—and this is the case even when ignoring the fact that natural language cannot be applied to a supernatural being in a supernatural realm. If natural language is applicable to something, that something is natural. Human communication was not designed to be functional in other realms—such would be wrenching words from their context.



12) How is a miracle that is supernatural in nature comparable to creating a square circle? What logical law do miracles violate?
Just saying, "They're not scientific!" doesn't count. "Science" is not a law of logic.


To say that a particular square is circular would be to deny the essence of a square. That is, circular characteristics are in violation of a square’s nature. This is also the case for many claims of the miraculous. If you believe god could make a desk lamp respire, you fall into this trap. A desk lamp also is possessed of an essence and a nature. To say a particular ceramic desk lamp can respire is to deny the ceramic desk lamp its nature. A ceramic desk lamp that respires no longer is a ceramic desk lamp, just as a square that is circular no longer is a square. One cannot rationally deny something its nature.

Thanks for your indulgence.

8:38 PM EDT  
Anonymous Matthew said...

1. Define "natural." Read this article.

2. If God is a product of physical nature, He is not God. If He is not a product of physical nature, then He made our minds and could easily have made them capable of understanding Him.

3. You say that to exist is to have characteristics, and to have characteristics is to be limited; ergo, to exist is to be limited. That's just wordplay. Of course, if God has infinite knowledge, He is not ignorant. Does that mean He is limited to being unignorant? No, it means that ignorance is a limitation that He doesn't have.

4. And if I don't, am I still allowed to continue? This point is meaningless; please be more efficient.

5. We have experienced all of the omi- characteristics, but only to a point. They are infinitely "meaningful" because we can experience them to infinitely greater depths throughout eternity, and never experience them fully. (By "meaningful," I assume you are talking about an emotional and intellectual grasp of the characteristics. You are very bad at using words precisely.)

6. How is your little ramble "meaningful"? What is the meaning of "meaningful"? God's power flows from His being the Ontological source. Everything is because He is and He wills it. Your attempt to separated God's action into desire, decision, and execution assumes that God is a creature in time, ontologically dependent, except, with magical powers.

7. "Meaningful"? You need to learn how to make a logical point. Of course, if God is the source of all existence, he knows all that is. The learning process is only for those who must discover information which exists apart from themselves.

8. You ask Christians for "thoughtful consideration," but you have obviously never read what Christians have to say on this subject. Additionally, you have never even read what others have to say on the subject. The problem of free will versus fate is not a solely Christian or even religious problem.

Since you want to stick your hand into Christian theology, go and read C.S. Lewis's explanation in Mere Christianity. There are other explanations; in fact there are countless volumes of complicated theological debate on that subject. Christians are not so stupid that they have never asked the question you're asking.

If you have questions after Mere Christianity I'll discuss it more.

9. A False dilemma. If God is omniscient, then He always know what's best and never changes His mind. Apparent changes are easily explained. (See this article.)

10. Consciousness is the awareness of biological life, and can only be had by someone at least partially outside biological life. Maybe you can explain this more, since I don't fully understand it.

11. You're just showing that you've never read what Christians have to say. See, for example, this article.. Of course, God's power and knowledge are different from ours, but they are still power and knowledge.

12. I'd like to know where the desk lamp example came from. I've never heard of anyone claiming that God could, would, or ever has made a lamp breath.

However, you're confusing logical impossibilities with physical impossibilities. It is logically impossible for something to be A and non-A at the same time. IT is logically possible, however improbable, for A to act differently from how it normally does. All the apples we've ever seen have fallen down, but there is no logical barrier keeping an apple from falling up. Water usually moves out of the way for people, but apart from our experiences, there is nothing that keeps it from holding up a person's feet.

4:58 AM EDT  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

1. Define "natural." Read this article.

To be “natural” is to exist within the natural realm. This realm is material, finite, limited, comprehensible and able to be talked about with human language.



2. If God is a product of physical nature, He is not God. If He is not a product of physical nature, then He made our minds and could easily have made them capable of understanding Him.

Not so. First off, you have to prove that god created our minds. Before you can say, “Since god created our minds, therefore our minds can understand him,” you have to demonstrate with evidence that god indeed created those minds. I do not accept that premise at this point, so you first have to support it before I will give it a jot of consideration.



3. You say that to exist is to have characteristics, and to have characteristics is to be limited; ergo, to exist is to be limited. That's just wordplay. Of course, if God has infinite knowledge, He is not ignorant. Does that mean He is limited to being unignorant? No, it means that ignorance is a limitation that He doesn't have.

You are appealing to the possibility of an “unlimited attribute,” which is problematic in itself. I think limits inextricably are part of attributes themselves, which would make an “unlimited attribute” as absurd as a square circle. In any case, you believe god is omniscient. Tell me how you know that is the case—present your evidence, please. Also, tell me how you can apply the word “knowledge” to a supernatural being existing in some supernatural realm. The word “knowledge” was created by primates such as us in order to describe a phenomenon in the natural world. That word was created to describe and serve natural beings in a natural context. You are wrenching it from its context and, in my view, thereby making the word unintelligible and meaningless. Trying to use “knowledge” as an attribute of a supernatural being is just as absurd as trying to use “red” as a descriptor related to volume. Words become meaningless when wrenched from their contexts.



5. We have experienced all of the omi- characteristics, but only to a point. They are infinitely "meaningful" because we can experience them to infinitely greater depths throughout eternity, and never experience them fully. (By "meaningful," I assume you are talking about an emotional and intellectual grasp of the characteristics. You are very bad at using words precisely.)

And you are very bad at refuting my poorly written arguments. So, we are even.

I think your response here is little more than pseudo-philosophical gibberish. “We can experience them to infinitely greater depths throughout eternity, and never experience them fully.” OK…whatever.

Here is the challenge for theists such as you:

1. Demonstrate that “infinite attributes” are rational, possible and extant.

2. Demonstrate that mere primates such as us can grasp an “infinite attribute” in any substantial way.

3. Explain how you gained knowledge of god’s “infinite attributes.”

4. Explain how you can be sure this knowledge is reliable, since, once again, we are mere primates that occasionally fuck things up, even when said things are spelled out for us.

5. Explain how words like “power” and “knowledge” can retain their natural meanings even after being wrenched from the natural world and shoved into a supernatural realm. Said another way, explain why words are not dependent on their contexts but, rather, can be applied willy-nilly as you personally see fit.



6. How is your little ramble "meaningful"? What is the meaning of "meaningful"? God's power flows from His being the Ontological source. Everything is because He is and He wills it. Your attempt to separated God's action into desire, decision, and execution assumes that God is a creature in time, ontologically dependent, except, with magical powers.

Prove your truth-claims here. Prove that god’s power flows from his being the ontological source. Prove that everything is because he is and he wills it. As I said earlier, I shan’t simply grant the truth of Christian theology in this discussion. If you want to make truth-claims about what god is and is not, and what god can and cannot do, you must support those claims with evidence and convince me to my satisfaction. As it stands, I could insert the term “magic elves” wherever you put “god” and get the same basic information—none.

And, my ramble was meaningful because I adequately demonstrated that “power” for your god character is very different than “power” for us primates. This goes along with my earlier argument that one cannot wrench words from their contexts and still retain their meanings. You have proven my point for me. God’s power is so different from our conception of power as to become incomprehensible and, thus, meaningless.

In short, if god exists apart from nature and the natural world, then natural language is inapplicable to god. Natural language only is useful in its proper context—the natural world.



7. "Meaningful"? You need to learn how to make a logical point. Of course, if God is the source of all existence, he knows all that is. The learning process is only for those who must discover information which exists apart from themselves.

So, once again, you have proven my point for me. Your god character’s knowledge is entirely dissimilar to our own, since god does not need to bother with observation, study, learning and confirmation in the course of gaining knowledge. Indeed, god does not gain knowledge at all, but “is” knowledge or some other such nonsense. This speaks to my point that “knowledge” is being wrenched from its context and shoved into another one, thereby making the term itself incomprehensible gibberish. It is like trying to use the word “muscular” to describe the color of a house; you are rendering words meaningless, which makes the characteristics to which you refer also meaningless.

In short, you are attempting to describe an ineffable god character by applying questionable natural descriptors (infinite “knowledge” and infinite “power”) to an inappropriate supernatural context. You, in a very literal sense, fail to know what you are talking about.



8. You ask Christians for "thoughtful consideration," but you have obviously never read what Christians have to say on this subject. Additionally, you have never even read what others have to say on the subject. The problem of free will versus fate is not a solely Christian or even religious problem.

Since you want to stick your hand into Christian theology, go and read C.S. Lewis's explanation in Mere Christianity. There are other explanations; in fact there are countless volumes of complicated theological debate on that subject. Christians are not so stupid that they have never asked the question you're asking.

If you have questions after Mere Christianity I'll discuss it more.


I am not interested in C.S. Lewis’ explanation. If you accept Lewis’ explanation, then tell me it in your own words. I am not having a discussion with Lewis, so I have no need to refute him; I am having a discussion with you.

In any case, this remains a secondary point. There are many other points which need to be addressed before this even becomes relevant.

1. Demonstrate how mere primates can possess reliable knowledge that an incomprehensible, ineffable god exists. [Note: This is not the question of existence itself. Rather, I want to know how supernatural existence even is ascertainable.]

2. Demonstrate that your god exists.

3. Demonstrate how you came to know god’s characteristics.

4. Demonstrate that infinite attributes are possible and rational.

5. Demonstrate that words such as “power” and “knowledge” retain their meanings even when wrenched from their natural context and shoved into a mysterious supernatural realm.

6. Explain how our primitive (in the most literal sense of that word) language can be used to describe the supernatural, the divine or your god character.

These are much more primary concerns than my later arguments in the original essay. I want your thoughts—not a list of library books which you may or may not agree with in totality.



9. A False dilemma. If God is omniscient, then He always know what's best and never changes His mind. Apparent changes are easily explained. (See this article.)

Again, my primary questions need to be answered before this discussion can be meaningful. You are predicating all your points on my accepting omniscience and other highly questionable unlimited attributes. I have not even been convinced that mere primates can tackle the question of god’s existence. How can we speak of the supernatural at all? Moreover, how can whatever knowledge we might possess be known to be reliable?



10. Consciousness is the awareness of biological life, and can only be had by someone at least partially outside biological life. Maybe you can explain this more, since I don't fully understand it.

I do not accept your proposition that consciousness only can be had by someone outside biological life. I believe consciousness is an emergent quality of some biological life. I believe the “I” inside me is an illusion perpetrated by my brain and, when I die, that illusion will be over and the “I” will disappear forever. In short, I believe the human brain is the source of human consciousness.

Explain god’s consciousness.

Explain why the word “consciousness” can be wrenched from the natural world and shoved into a mysterious supernatural one.

Explain why natural language—designed by products of nature (humans) and meant to serve the same—can be applied to incomprehensible, ineffable supernatural beings who are infinitely different than we are.



11. You're just showing that you've never read what Christians have to say. See, for example, this article.. Of course, God's power and knowledge are different from ours, but they are still power and knowledge.

At the risk of regurgitating the same points over and over ad infinitum, we have more primary concerns to tackle before delving into the minutiae.

1. Demonstrate how mere primates can possess reliable knowledge that an incomprehensible, ineffable god exists. [Note: This is not the question of existence itself. Rather, I want to know how supernatural existence even is ascertainable.]

2. Demonstrate that your god exists.

3. Demonstrate how you came to know god’s characteristics.

4. Demonstrate that infinite attributes are possible and rational.

5. Demonstrate that words such as “power” and “knowledge” retain their meanings even when wrenched from their natural context and shoved into a mysterious supernatural realm.

6. Explain how our primitive (in the most literal sense of that word) language can be used to describe the supernatural, the divine or your god character.

I have grave fears that anybody speaking of the Christian god character literally fails to know what he is talking about.



12. I'd like to know where the desk lamp example came from. I've never heard of anyone claiming that God could, would, or ever has made a lamp breath.

However, you're confusing logical impossibilities with physical impossibilities. It is logically impossible for something to be A and non-A at the same time. IT is logically possible, however improbable, for A to act differently from how it normally does. All the apples we've ever seen have fallen down, but there is no logical barrier keeping an apple from falling up. Water usually moves out of the way for people, but apart from our experiences, there is nothing that keeps it from holding up a person's feet.


One cannot rationally deny something its nature.

To say that a particular square is circular would be to deny the essence of a square. That is, circular characteristics are in violation of a square’s nature. This is also the case for many claims of the miraculous. If you believe god could make a ceramic desk lamp respire, you fall into this trap. A ceramic desk lamp also is possessed of an essence and a nature. To say a particular desk lamp can respire is to deny the desk lamp its nature. A ceramic desk lamp that respires no longer is a ceramic desk lamp, just as a square that is circular no longer is a square. One cannot rationally deny something its nature.

I invented the desk lamp example, by the way. Do you believe your god character could execute my example? If not, then omnipotence seems to fall into grave doubt—whatever the term means….


It seems you have been well inculcated. I doubt my rationality will grant you deliverance.

2:10 PM EDT  
Anonymous Matthew said...

You know, I want to apologize for my comment. It was about two o'clock in the morning after a hard day at work and I was in a bad mood, so I was really rude.

I don't feel like replying in detail right now, but I think you really should read the first article I linked to - it's by an atheist.

Anyway, sorry about my attitude.

3:00 AM EDT  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

Thank you for the apology. I definitely am of the opinion that personal animosity has no real place in serious debate. As such, I also apologize for the negative tone of my reply to your (admittedly negative) response. If you read the rest of this website and its comments, you will find that I unfailingly try to be civil, even when arguing forcefully.

Whether you reply to my response is of little importance, since neither of us is poised to change our mind. However, I urge you to consider the questions I raised and, at the very least, find answers that satisfy your obviously considerable intellect. They probably won't satisfy me; however, I have a harder skeptical streak than most.

Once again, thank you for the apology. I enjoyed responding to your points; rethinking my arguments has hardened my stance and raised my confidence.

2:17 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We must remember we but in a state of furthering development..hence it be hard to come to conclusion of a journey that as yet not completed... development of the brain leading to far more depth in understanding as,equaling motion the opening of the heart giving a much needed dose of compassion to ease the aches as pains that our development brings....it no easy task no easy journey ....but whom in truth would wish give such up whom in truth looking at creation can not admire,as doing so bow in humility, crying out.. Allah be Praised God is Great...

4:27 AM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

Hey JN,

Sorry for the delay... I'll try to keep up, w/ limited time at my disposal. And I've posted the same comment on my own post.

I have gleaned the following from reading the entire interaction so far here, and I'll try to post it at your place too, but my own blog takes precedence, as I'm sure you can understand.

1st of all, here's where I'm coming from, and this will be the backbone for most of my argumentation.
I presuppose God exists. You presuppose God does not exist. These become the grid thru which we see any and all facts, assigning some facts value as "evidence" and others as "irrelevant." Now what we have to do is take on the other guy's worldview and examine reality in light of it, to see if it comports. Thus, when you make comments about "proof" and "evidence", they are automatically disqualified, b/c I may see X as evidence and you may not. We have to go some other way.
Why do I continue to believe that the God of the Bible (TGOTB) exists? B/c of the impossibility of the contrary. I do not grant that you as an atheist have no burden of proof. You'd have to make an argument why your position is the "default," for one thing. I *might* be more willing to concede to agnosticism as the default. However, Romans 1:18-20 and following reveals that all people at all times know that God exists, but they suppress that knowledge in wickedness. Thus you are suppressing it. The default position is to believe in TGOTB.
W/o TGOTB, there is no rationality. There is no logic. There is no morality. There is no induction. We can't even communicate.

#1 - prove supernatural exists

God exists.
Prove the supernatural DOESN'T exist. You can't - that's a universal negative. Therefore I am justified in believing in it.


#2 - prove God condescended

The Bible says He did.
Again, prove He did NOT condescend.

Prove that humans, being fallible primates, didn’t screw up the revelation and draw all the wrong conclusions

Prove they did.
Again, if they did, then we have no way to communicate nor reason. God has to exist.

god is infinitely greater than humans are.

Yes, that's kind of the point of self-revelation. TGOTB desires to be understood in part, loved, and worshiped by people. Thus He revealed Himself.

#3 - prove God possesses characteristics

The Bible is evidence that He does.
Any being that exists possesses characteristics. I don't really understand your objection.
Finally, prove He DOESN'T have characteristics. You can't - that's a universal negative. Therefore I am justified in believing in it.


So, if god can be limited, god is not infinite.

God is not infinite in everything. He is not infinite in the sense of being able to do impossible things. He is self-limiting in certain ways.
His "size", however, is infinite. His grace is infinite. His knowledge and power of all that is possible is infinite. His holiness is infinite.


#5 - negative theology is fallacious...Negative theology’s great sin is presupposing positive theology’s veracity.

Since God is infinite and I am finite, I reach the bounds of my understanding quickly as relates to God's being. That does not mean I can't know anythg at all.
And again, the positive theology is the knowledge of the impossibility of the contrary.

In order to possess knowledge of what god is not, one must already possess some knowledge of what god is.

Yes, God revealed Himself, so that's taken care of.


There is a vast range of smelliness in the world. That does not mean there is a pinnacle of smelliness existing somewhere in the cosmos as a foundation for all comparison.

It means that there is a "not-smelliness" in the world somewhere. There is a standard.


there is no need for extant omniscience or omnipotence simply because degrees of knowledge and power exist.

Maybe, maybe not, but that's not the basis of my argument for TGOTB's existence.

The sun does not exist in an alternate, immaterial realm.

That's fine.
I was using it as an example of humanly incomprehensible heat.

#6 - The problem is, since god cannot be bothered with desires, actions or processes, power for god is something altogether different than power for humans.

Where did you get that?
God does desire. God does act. God does use processes.
Remember, I get my worldview from the Bible - when critiquing my position, critique the biblical position. If you don't know the biblical position in Issue X, you may ask me or you may study harder. Either way. :-)

let’s not forget that “power” is only meaningful as a word in its proper context—the material realm.

Why should I accept that definition?

If natural language can be applied to god, then god is part of nature.

Not if TGOTB condescended to reveal Himself.

#7 - It was created by primates existing in nature, and is applied in a natural context.

An unprovable assumption on your part.
I'd say that part of TGOTB's self-revelation includes knowledge.

#8 - As god was in the process of creating Mr. Bundy, did god have foreknowledge about the serial killings Mr. Bundy eventually would commit?

Yes. He knows everythg, remember?


If so, then god, in essence, crafted Bundy to be a serial killer.

How is that the same? The Bible states that God created man upright, but he has sought out many devices. Why blame God for the man's actions?

Prove that god cannot change his mind, as I suggested might be possible.

1) Numbers 23:19 says He can't and doesn't.
2) His will is perfect from the beginning, why would He change?
3) His knowledge is perfect, why would He change?
4) He doesn't learn, why would He change?
Don't make the mistake of anthropomorphising TGOTB too much.

Prove that god can create a universe.

1) If He didn't, then there would be nothing.
2) there is sthg.
3) therefore, He did.

4) He is all-powerful; creating a universe is easy.
5) You have no supportable hypothesis for how the universe came about.

multiverse

You who ask for proof all the time advance a hypothesis w/o any shred of evidence. That's rich.
And the multiverse hypothesis just moves the infinite regress problem back a step. Go back to the nth multiverse; where did it come from? How did it start?

I don't know how the BB happened

God made it happen. There is no other possibility.

God needs a designer

One of the reasons we posit a designer Creator God is b/c we want to AVOID the impossibilities of an infinite regress or spontaneous generation of the universe.
Fortunately, as a theist, I don't have to cling desperately to impossible conceptions of origins.

only way complexity can happen is by small successive steps

That's just a bare assertion. Complexity COMES FROM God; He is the template.

Your god character still is highly complex and highly unlikely simply to have arisen “by chance.”
How were the laws of improbability defeated, allowing your deity to “simple be”?

God didn't "arise." He always was.
God is the One out of Whom laws of reason and logic, such as probability and improbability, flow.
If you disagree, provide a different mechanism and use an atheistic universe model. I don't envy you that task.

Care to be more specific about why, in your judgment, the universe cannot be eternal?

I have discussed that at length here and here if you care to check.

Any vastly complex deity is statistically improbable. Why? Because vast complexity is statistically improbable. Vast complexity of any kind demands an explanation

The explanation for God's complexity is that complexity is impossible (as is existence) w/o His existence. He is that being out of which the concept of complexity flows.
If you disagree, you need to provide a different mechanism. And you have to do so in an atheistic universe, which rules out a universe that came to be, that began. You must use the infinite regress model (which is also logically impossible. Sorry, but that's all you have).

Surely one can say that utter nothingness, from a statistical point of view, is much more probable than a deity that can answer prayers,

What a foolish thing to say!
Sthg exists; of that we can and must be certain.
Absolute nothingness is not the case. It is impossible.
You yourself have said God's existence is not logically impossible. You stand refuted.

#10 - Prove that god’s consciousness is the template out of which our consciousness flows.

Prove it isn't.


If our consciousness flows from god’s own, you should be able to prove it with evidence.

Yes, the Bible tells us it does.
If it doesn't, whence does it come?

Charles Darwin said: "With me the horrid doubt always arises, whether the convictions of a man's mind, which have been developed from the mind of lower animals, are of any value or are at all trustworthy. Why would anyone trust the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there were any convictions in such a mind?"
Sounds like he was further along than you in reaching the logical conclusion of his worldview.


You continually wrench words from their natural context and try to say they function exactly the same way in other contexts, such as a supernatural realm.

I follow the Bible's example in using human words to explain God to an extent, to an understandable degree.
It's part and parcel of God's condescension to His creation.

#11 - If you believe god could make a desk lamp respire, you fall into this trap.

Oh, how does a lamp respiring, or a bush burning w/o being consumed, deny the essence of fire, bush, respiration, or lamp?



I have no burden of proof whatsoever., Atheism, in and of itself, makes no positive claims about anything.

On the contrary, see above: you have quite a few things to prove.

Christians define god as an “infinite being”? From whence was this knowledge derived?

From the Bible.

I demand that premises be substantiated before they are built upon

W/o TGOTB, you have no way to reason towards any conclusion one way or th'other.



Peace,

11:15 AM EDT  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

Good evening, Rhology.


Sorry for the delay... I'll try to keep up, w/ limited time at my disposal. And I've posted the same comment on my own post.

No problem. Below, please find Part One of my rebuttal. I will post Part Two very soon—within 48 hours. If you would be so kind, please do not respond to this publicly until I have completed and posted Part Two of this response. An immediate response from you, I fear, would lead to hopeless confusion as to who is responding to what. Thank you kindly.



I have gleaned the following from reading the entire interaction so far here, and I'll try to post it at your place too, but my own blog takes precedence, as I'm sure you can understand.
1st of all, here's where I'm coming from, and this will be the backbone for most of my argumentation.
I presuppose God exists. You presuppose God does not exist. These become the grid thru which we see any and all facts, assigning some facts value as "evidence" and others as "irrelevant."


I hate to shoot down your summary right off the bat, but you have mischaracterized me. You, indeed, might presuppose god exists. However, I do not presuppose god’s nonexistence. Rather, I lack theistic belief. I did not say, “Your god character does not exist.” I did not say, “Your god character is impossible.” On the contrary, I simply stated that I lack a belief in god. Lacking a belief in god involves no presuppositions and entails no positive claims. It is a purely negative stance.

In contrast, your presupposition is irrational.



Now what we have to do is take on the other guy's worldview and examine reality in light of it, to see if it comports. Thus, when you make comments about "proof" and "evidence", they are automatically disqualified, b/c I may see X as evidence and you may not. We have to go some other way.

No. There is no truth without examining evidence. To discount evidence is to eschew truth. As to your claim that I might reject your evidence, the only reasons I would do such a thing would be if the evidence was either unconvincing or unsubstantiated. I never would discount evidence that both was convincing and was substantiated. Doing so would be irrational, and I take great pains to be rational at all times.

If you present convincing and substantiated evidence, it will affect my views and, perhaps, alter my perception of reality.



Why do I continue to believe that the God of the Bible (TGOTB) exists? B/c of the impossibility of the contrary. I do not grant that you as an atheist have no burden of proof. You'd have to make an argument why your position is the "default," for one thing. I *might* be more willing to concede to agnosticism as the default. However, Romans 1:18-20 and following reveals that all people at all times know that God exists, but they suppress that knowledge in wickedness. Thus you are suppressing it.

OK, you already have jumped into your first unsubstantiated claim. You have not proven that god’s non-existence is impossible. Forget proof—you have not even presented any evidence to indicate god must exist (and cannot possibly not exist). Making unsubstantiated assertions gets us nowhere.

Whether atheism is a “default” or not is more complex than we need to get into at the moment. I will explain why I have no burden of proof, though. I am an atheist. The word “atheist” describes an individual who lacks a belief in god. The word, in itself, does not imply outright denial of god. The word, in itself, does not mean one declares god impossible. No, the word means an individual without theistic belief. In short, atheism describes what one lacks, not what one possesses. As such, the atheistic position makes no truth-claims. Where there are no truth-claims, there is no burden of proof.

Citing the Bible is a waste of time. You have not substantiated the Bible yet, so it has no value in furthering your arguments. If you prove the Bible is inerrant and a perfect vessel of truth, then I will accept the Bible’s truth-claims and give its proclamations the weight of fact. However, to this point, you have not proven anything with respect to the Bible’s veracity. In other words, while you believe the Bible is the inspired word of god, I lack that belief. Prove your claim, or else put the tome away.



The default position is to believe in TGOTB.
W/o TGOTB, there is no rationality. There is no logic. There is no morality. There is no induction. We can't even communicate.


This is your dogma—not rational argumentation. If you cannot prove god exists, or provide evidence god exists, your claims with respect to god deserve no consideration at all. That which can be asserted without evidence also can be dismissed without evidence. The same goes for your subsequent truth-claims. Prove that god is the root of rationality, logic, morality, induction and communication. PROVE THESE THINGS WITH EVIDENCE. Otherwise, your words are meaningless. They are like me saying, “Without the ethereal cosmic catfish, there can be no logic, reason, science, communication or existence. Everything flows from the ethereal cosmic catfish.”



God exists.
Prove the supernatural DOESN'T exist. You can't - that's a universal negative. Therefore I am justified in believing in it.


Please…. Prove god exists or walk away from the subject quietly. Prove the supernatural exists or do the same. The burden of proof rests on the person making the truth-claim. I shall not grant you god anymore than I would grant somebody magical elves or invisible garden banshees. Substantiate your beliefs, or remain in the realm of the irrational.



The Bible says He did.
Again, prove He did NOT condescend.


The burden of proof is not on the doubter! If you refuse to accept the basic principle that people making positive claims must substantiate those claims, then we truly have nothing to discuss. It is not my job to prove your dogma wrong anymore than it is my responsibility to prove there are no white-haired closet goblins. If you want to use the Bible as a source of truth, you must prove it is such a source. If you want to build arguments upon god’s condescension, you must prove god condescended. The doubter has no responsibility to do anything except consider the evidence. Without evidence, the doubter can dismiss you out of hand.



Prove they did.
Again, if they did, then we have no way to communicate nor reason. God has to exist.


Yawn. You still have not proven (or even attempted to prove) that god is necessary in order for communication or reasoning to exist. Your claim is analogous to saying, “Without magical elves, we have no way to communicate or reason.” Again, either present your evidence or live silently with your dogma in the realm of unreason.



Yes, that's kind of the point of self-revelation. TGOTB desires to be understood in part, loved, and worshiped by people. Thus He revealed Himself.

Proof? Also, on what reliable evidence can you conclude god desires to be understood in part, loved and worshipped by people? From whence did you gain knowledge of god’s desires? If you must cite the Bible, you first must prove the Bible is a flawless vessel of truth (as you claim it to be). That claim, in itself, is utterly unsubstantiated.



The Bible is evidence that He does.
Any being that exists possesses characteristics. I don't really understand your objection.
Finally, prove He DOESN'T have characteristics. You can't - that's a universal negative. Therefore I am justified in believing in it.


The Bible is evidence of nothing, until the Bible is verified as a source of perfect truth (which is what you believe it to be). When you say, “Any being that exists possesses characteristics,” you are utilizing your limited primate brain and appealing to its limited knowledge of the natural world. You possess no knowledge of a supernatural world, which may or may not be extant. Or, at the very least, you have failed to prove you have knowledge of a hypothetical supernatural world. As such, you can draw no grand conclusions about supernatural creatures and whether they must possess characteristics. In any event, the “infinite attributes” to which you eventually appeal are absurd. “Infinite attribute” is a contradiction in terms. And, I believe I already have exhausted the point that the doubter has no responsibility to prove or disprove anything. You are making positive claims; thusly, you must prove them. Otherwise, resign yourself to irrationalism.



God is not infinite in everything. He is not infinite in the sense of being able to do impossible things. He is self-limiting in certain ways.
His "size", however, is infinite. His grace is infinite. His knowledge and power of all that is possible is infinite. His holiness is infinite.


Proof?



Since God is infinite and I am finite, I reach the bounds of my understanding quickly as relates to God's being. That does not mean I can't know anythg at all.
And again, the positive theology is the knowledge of the impossibility of the contrary.


This is really growing tiresome. I certainly mean to be polite and civil in all my discussions with theists and atheists alike, but you act as though I must accept your theology in order to engage you in discussion. Unless this conversation can be held on firmly rational grounds, I quickly will lose all interest. If you believe god MUST exist—that is, god’s nonexistence is impossible—you must prove this. If you cannot prove this, you are just obfuscating the important issues on which we might yet touch.



Yes, God revealed Himself, so that's taken care of.

I am tiring of typing the one-word question “Proof?” over and over. So, from now on, when you make an unsubstantiated assertion, I simply will type “P” followed by a question mark.

Let us try it…. P?



It means that there is a "not-smelliness" in the world somewhere. There is a standard.

Explain why this standard must be extant, rather than theoretical.



That's fine.
I was using it as an example of humanly incomprehensible heat.


If there truly is a supernatural realm in which things are infinite, immaterial, unlimited and entirely beyond nature, then nothing in nature is analogous to those things. Nature is material, finite, limited and comprehensible. If “supernature” is altogether different—indeed, altogether opposite—then no valid analogies can be crafted.



Where did you get that?
God does desire. God does act. God does use processes.
Remember, I get my worldview from the Bible - when critiquing my position, critique the biblical position. If you don't know the biblical position in Issue X, you may ask me or you may study harder. Either way. :-)


I am trying to make use of the word “omnipotent,” which, although absurd as an “infinite attribute,” seems to have some inescapable implications. It makes no sense that an omnipotent being—a being that always gets its ends—would need to toil through actions and processes in order to bring about those ends. A more powerful being would be one able to think its ends into existence (or, perhaps, a being that gets those ends without even having to think them into being). Toiling with processes is for limited things like us.

Again, though, this is secondary and, at this moment, irrelevant. As it relates to god being omnipotent—P?



Why should I accept that definition?

The word “power” was created by primates, which are part of nature, in order to serve themselves and the natural world of which they are part. Language was not created to serve “supernature.” Indeed, you have failed to prove a supernatural realm even is extant.



Not if TGOTB condescended to reveal Himself.

Yes, even if your unsupported condescension occurred. Natural language applies to the natural world. The natural world is the context in which natural language becomes meaningful. When wrenched from the natural world, natural language ceases to be intelligible and becomes utterly meaningless. Primates of millennia ago did not craft their language to serve “supernature,” but rather nature. This is something of which we all can be certain.



An unprovable assumption on your part.
I'd say that part of TGOTB's self-revelation includes knowledge.


This is comical. You call my reasoned analysis an unprovable assumption. Then, in the same breath, you refer to god’s self-revelation as though it is established fact. Prove this “revelation” to which you keep referring. If you cannot prove the revelation, you should abandon it as a point of argumentation. It is dooming you to irrationalism.



Yes. He knows everythg, remember?

How is that the same? The Bible states that God created man upright, but he has sought out many devices. Why blame God for the man's actions?


This is an easy one, even for the theologically untrained (or, perhaps more accurate, un-inculcated). You believe god crafted Ted Bundy as one of his children. You believe, while Bundy was being crafted by god, the deity possessed full knowledge of Bundy’s serial murders and rapes. Yet, incredibly, you place no blame whatsoever on the crafter himself—god. If god truly is omnipotent (once more, unlimited attributes are absurd), then god could have crafted Bundy in innumerable other ways. That is, god could have crafted Bundy as a generous, loving philanthropist or a brilliant and nurturing teacher. Rather, god crafted Bundy to rape, murder and torture. Looking at the world from your perspective, god only can be viewed as a deranged toymaker, and we the unfortunate toys. In short, god is crafting flawed humans and then blaming us for his craftsmanship choices.


Yours,
JN

10:16 PM EDT  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

Greetings, Rhology!


1) Numbers 23:19 says He can't and doesn't.
2) His will is perfect from the beginning, why would He change?
3) His knowledge is perfect, why would He change?
4) He doesn't learn, why would He change?
Don't make the mistake of anthropomorphising TGOTB too much.


1. Until you have substantiated the Bible as a vessel of truth, Bible verses have no factual weight. The Bible, at this moment, has the same intrinsic merit as the hypothetical Book of the Jolly Nihilist, which is to say none.

2. With respect to god’s will being perfect—P? I refuse to allow unsubstantiated claims into this discussion. If you wish to make a truth-claim, you are obligated to substantiate it. Your dogma/essential truth/underlying theology is of no interest to me, unless you can demonstrate its veracity.

3. The presence, or addition, of knowledge is not necessarily connected with changing one’s mind. This very morning, I fully intended to have Chinese food for dinner tonight. Then, over the course of the day, I slowly changed my mind and decided pizza would be a better choice. I gained no new knowledge during the day on the relevant subjects. Rather, I simply changed my mind. Why would omniscience (an absurd infinite attribute) preclude changing one’s mind? Is not god entitled to his whims?

4. Already answered in my previous response. I changed my mind today without learning anything new about pizza or Chinese food. I simply changed my mind. Why could god not do that?

I hardly can anthropomorphize your god character; I have no idea what your deity even is, or is not. The most Christians have given me is self-contradictory attributes such as infinitely powerful and infinitely knowledgeable. Why are those absurd and self-contradictory? Attributes, by definition, are limited. There is no such thing as infinitely tall. There is no such thing as infinitely fat. There is no such thing as infinitely hairy. There is no such thing as infinitely muscular. Limits are implied by characteristics and attributes. If your deity is infinitely powerful, my next-door neighbor is infinitely Caucasian.



1) If He didn't, then there would be nothing.
2) there is sthg.
3) therefore, He did.


This “proof” is fallacious. I could use the same “reasoning” to “prove” the existence of the ethereal cosmic catfish. Or magical elves. Or aliens from another realm who grew our universe from a cosmic seed. You raise a problem (the origin of our universe’s mass-energy) and then leap frivolously to your god character, refusing to acknowledge that 100,000 other explanations are theoretically possible, and equally probable.



4) He is all-powerful; creating a universe is easy.
5) You have no supportable hypothesis for how the universe came about.


Number four is unproven—utterly lacking in evidence. As for number five, just because there is a gap in human knowledge does not mean you have carte blanche to shove your god character into that gap and declare the battle won. There are infinite theoretically possible explanations for the universe’s mass-energy. I am not married to any. I simply mean to say there is a library of potential explanations and, without convincing and substantiated evidence, I remain “agnostic” about the universe’s origins. If you make a positive claim about from whence the universe’s mass-energy came, you must support that claim with evidence. If you do not, I will dismiss your claim as evidentially unsupported and intellectually anemic.



You who ask for proof all the time advance a hypothesis w/o any shred of evidence. That's rich.
And the multiverse hypothesis just moves the infinite regress problem back a step. Go back to the nth multiverse; where did it come from? How did it start?


I am not “advancing” Smolin’s ideas. I simply mean to say his theory is theoretically possible. It is not self-contradictory and is not logically absurd. Smolin’s theory is one explanation in a nearly infinite library of explanations meant to solve the riddle of our universe’s mass-energy’s origin. You cling zealously to a single explanation, despite the fact it has no more evidence supporting it than the ethereal cosmic catfish does. You should be “agnostic” about the universe’s mass-energy’s origin, like me.

Also, effects need causes in our universe. For me to postulate properties of other universes or realms would be irrational, since I am a primate bounded by nature, both physically and mentally. I do not have the conceptual ability to analyze other universes in a multiverse.



God made it happen. There is no other possibility.

This sweeping statement is so hideously unsupported that I read it twice to make sure I was not mistaken. Support your truth-claims, friend.



One of the reasons we posit a designer Creator God is b/c we want to AVOID the impossibilities of an infinite regress or spontaneous generation of the universe.
Fortunately, as a theist, I don't have to cling desperately to impossible conceptions of origins.


Perhaps not. But, as a theist, you must prove god exists. Additionally, if you claim god not only exists but also is an “uncreated creator,” you must prove that. And, you still have to deal with the problem of statistical improbability. Your god character, by your admission, is vastly complex. Vast complexity of any type is statistically improbable. As such, your god is statistically improbable. Therefore, you must explain god’s existence in such a way as to defeat statistical improbability’s long shadow.



That's just a bare assertion. Complexity COMES FROM God; He is the template.

That's just a bare assertion. P?



God didn't "arise." He always was.
God is the One out of Whom laws of reason and logic, such as probability and improbability, flow.
If you disagree, provide a different mechanism and use an atheistic universe model. I don't envy you that task.


I have no burden of proof in anything here, since I am taking an utterly negative position, that of atheism. You allege god “always was.” You allege god “is the one out of whom laws of reason and logic, such as probability and improbability, flow.” Yet, you simply state these as facts, never bothering to explain why you make such queer assertions, and utterly eschewing evidence of any kind. Your bare assertions are of no value to me. As I already have written, I could replace the word “god” with the phrase “ethereal cosmic catfish” in all your responses, and your writings would have the same sense, rationality and truth value—none. Prove your worldview, or my negative stance wins by default.



I have discussed that at length here and here if you care to check.

What is your scientific background? How many peer-reviewed articles have you published in scientific journals? How many National Academy of Science (NAS) members agree with your armchair cosmology? Let us stick firmly with the scientific evidence, and avoid any theological underpinnings when discussing cosmology.



The explanation for God's complexity is that complexity is impossible (as is existence) w/o His existence. He is that being out of which the concept of complexity flows.
If you disagree, you need to provide a different mechanism. And you have to do so in an atheistic universe, which rules out a universe that came to be, that began. You must use the infinite regress model (which is also logically impossible. Sorry, but that's all you have).


I have to laugh. I am sure you are very secure in your Christianity and utterly believe, to your core, that you have discovered cosmic truth in the way of your god character. [With a different upbringing, you surely would be an equally dedicated warrior for Vishnu or Enlil.] Yet, from my standpoint, your theology is a house of cards (just as is the theology of every other religion infesting the planet). You make baffling pseudo-philosophical statements about god being the creature out of which the concept of complexity flows, yet make no attempt to substantiate such statements with evidence. Again, I am not willing to grant you your theology in this discussion. You must prove every inch of your theology, especially when attempting to build more complex arguments upon its flimsy foundation.

Also, our universe could have had a distinct beginning even without your god character. The ethereal cosmic catfish could mark its beginning. Magical elves could mark its beginning. Smolin’s multiverse theory could mark its beginning. Aliens from another realm “planting” a universe seed could mark its beginning. Alternately, our universe’s mass-energy might always have existed, simply changing forms in perpetuity.

Frankly, I have no idea what you mean when you say complexity, rationality, existence, communication, etc. have to “flow from” something. As far as I am concerned, it’s all gibberish for which you have provided no evidence and no coherent explanation. And, lest you forget, that which can be proclaimed without evidence also can be dismissed without evidence. Thusly, I dismiss you on this point.



What a foolish thing to say!
Sthg exists; of that we can and must be certain.
Absolute nothingness is not the case. It is impossible.
You yourself have said God's existence is not logically impossible. You stand refuted.


Nothingness is possible; it just is not the case. There is no law that says something must exist. We merely are fortunate something does exist.

I said that a creator of our universe is theoretically possible. Indeed, a creator of our universe is possible in theory—just not supported by evidence at this point (least of all by evidence you have shared). Any being capable of answering prayers, creating our universe, and ruling over heaven and earth is vastly complex. This seems obvious and self-evident; just imagine the bandwidth necessary to interact with billions of people simultaneously, all whilst ruling over heaven, too. Vast complexity is statistically improbable. As such, your god character is statistically improbable. Therefore, you must explain how god, in defiance of all probability, exists. And, if you believe god is a necessary creature (that is, a creature that must exist for anything to exist), you must prove that hypothesis.



Prove it isn't.

Somebody played a dirty trick on you when they explained how the burden of proof works. For years now, you have been operating on an utterly fallacious and backward concept.



Yes, the Bible tells us it does.
If it doesn't, whence does it come?


Who knows? I am the doubter, the atheist. I am pushing no grand worldview. I simply am doubting your own. As for the Bible, you have not substantiated that tome yet. The Bible, at this moment, has veridical value equal to the Book of the Jolly Nihilist, or Bridget Jones’ Diary.



Charles Darwin said: "With me the horrid doubt always arises, whether the convictions of a man's mind, which have been developed from the mind of lower animals, are of any value or are at all trustworthy. Why would anyone trust the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there were any convictions in such a mind?"

Sounds like he was further along than you in reaching the logical conclusion of his worldview.


Our brains demonstrably are fallible. That goes without saying, since evidence of human mental fallibility is ubiquitous. However, that does not mean we are blind to all knowledge. We have big enough and powerful enough brains to collect some facts, perform some analysis and reach some solid conclusions based upon the evidence we comprehend. There is no such thing as absolute and definitive proof for our meager species, but we can reach tentative facts about the natural world of which we are part. But, remember, I am the doubter here, not the person making frivolous truth-claims. My stance of utter doubt best meshes with human fallibility.

By the way, human imperfections, such as our mediocre brains, argue against a beneficent creator. Our faulty brains represent good evidence that we arose through step-by-step evolutionary modification. Our bodies reflect anything but perfection and diligent design.


Alas, I have run out of time to respond tonight. I shall post a tiny Part Three tomorrow.


Yours,
JN

8:30 PM EDT  
Blogger Tommy said...

Way to kick ass Jolly!

To second you Jolly, the Bible itself is not evidence of the existence of the god described therein.

Here is what the Bible does tell us. It tells us about the beliefs of the people who wrote it. Though we do not know the precise authors and exact dates for when the books of the Bible were written, we can glean approximations. We can also gain insight into the Hebrews or Israelites or Jews or whatever you want to call them by studying their neighbors as well. To look at the history of the ancient Middle East through just the Bible is to just see a small part of a greater puzzle.

The Bible describes, or at least purports to describe, events that took place over the course of several millenia in the Middle East. Some of these events, or at least the places where these events are supposed to have taken place, can be supported to varying degrees by the archeological evidence. Others cannot.

Take the story of Exodus for example. It starts out in Egypt with the Hebrews enslaved by the Egyptians and longing for liberation. We've all here seen the movie "The Ten Commandments" with Charlton Heston countless times, so there is no need to summarize the events here.

Now, we know that there was a kingdom called Egypt ruled by a monarch with the title of pharaoh. But Exodus is pretty vague on who the pharoah in question is, and Egyptian records do not provide us with any information about Moses, the plagues, the exodus of the Jews, and the swallowing of pharaoh's army by the Red Sea.

Now, I know the cop-out answer for a lot of Biblical literalists is that the Egyptians would have tried to cover up such a calamitous event. But the thing is, they could not have. We know from Egyptian records and archeological evidence that Egyptian rule during the Ramesside pharaohs extended into the Levant and when approximately it ended. If the events described in Exodus really happened, Egypt's power would have suffered such a swift collapse that it would have been noted in the archeological record.

Another story believed by Biblical literalists is the story of Noah's Ark. But the story on its very face is so ridiculous as to merit outright dismissal. On every continent on this planet there are species that can only exist in very narrow ecological niches. I just finished reading the September issue of National Geographic today, and there is an interesting article in it about isolated species of insects and other life forms that live in caves throughout the world. In some caves, there are life forms that exist only in tiny pools of water that are formed from water dripping from the ceiling of the cave. There are species of animals and insects that can only be found in the canopies of tropical rain forests. The koala of Australia only eat the leaves of the eucalyptus trees. The extinct flightless dodo bird existed only on a couple of isolated islands in the Indian Ocean.

Now, Biblical literalists will counter that the prevalence of flood myths in cultures throughout the world is evidence for Noah's flood. But here's the rub. The Biblical timeline for Noah's flood takes place within recorded human history, say around 2300-2500 BCE. The civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia predate this time. In fact, the evidence suggests that Egypt became a unified monarchy around 3,000 BCE. And yet there is no evidence of a worldwide flood taking place around 2500 BCE. Therefore, why must I read Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis when the overwhelming evidence indicates that the Bible cannot be taken literally?

The authors of the Bible were so limited in their understanding of the Earth and the cosmos that to believe that what they wrote is literal truth is to willfully deny reality and to limit one's understanding of the magnificent universe within which we have the good fortune to live.

9:17 PM EDT  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

Greetings again, Rhology!


My schedule has freed up sufficiently to allow me to finish the job….


I follow the Bible's example in using human words to explain God to an extent, to an understandable degree.
It's part and parcel of God's condescension to His creation.


You have failed to prove “god’s condescension to his creation.” What is more, you also have failed to provide a shred of credible evidence for the condescension to which you continually refer. You simply assert it, as part and parcel of your theology. However, until it is verified through rational examination and credible evidence, your theology is of no veridical value. You bear the burden of proof. You must confront that burden, and justify your truth-claims.



Oh, how does a lamp respiring, or a bush burning w/o being consumed, deny the essence of fire, bush, respiration, or lamp?

A ceramic desk lamp is possessed of certain characteristics. For one, a ceramic desk lamp must be made of ceramic. It also must have been designed to produce light. It also must have been designed to be functional on a desk. More broadly, the word "ceramic" encompasses inorganic non-metallic materials whose formation is attributable to the action of heat. The key word there is “inorganic.” Generally speaking, inorganic compounds are judged to be of mineral, rather than biological, origin. Minerals do not respire. Ceramic does not respire. A ceramic desk lamp cannot respire.

It always is irrational to deny a natural entity its nature.



On the contrary, see above: you have quite a few things to prove.

Not at all. Atheism denotes a belief that I lack—a belief that I am without. To be an atheist, going by the strictest definition of that term, is to be somebody who lacks a belief in god. I have no burden of proof whatsoever as it relates to beliefs I do not possess. I only am responsible for defending and supporting beliefs I do possess. In this particular interaction, it is you who is proposing a detailed worldview, replete with endless truth-claims. For my part, I merely doubt said worldview.



From the Bible.

I am not concerned with an evidentially unsubstantiated tome. Demonstrate that the Bible is a perfect vessel of cosmic truth, or else retire it from intellectual consideration.



W/o TGOTB, you have no way to reason towards any conclusion one way or the other.

I sound like a broken record, but at least the record I keep replaying is a sound one: Prove it.

If god truly were the foundation for reasoning, you would be able to prove it. You would not simply make truth-claim after truth-claim, eschewing evidence as an unnecessary extravagance. If there is one truth-claim I happily shall make here tonight, it is this: “The road to truth is paved with evidence.” Without evidence, there can be no knowledge. Without evidence, there can be no rational discussion. Without evidence, one cannot even live one’s life.

Although a pure, by-the-definition atheist espouses no positive worldview, I momentarily will take leave of that label. My worldview is based upon evidence—its collection, inspection, comparison, analysis, confirmation and preservation. While evidence might not, in itself, be Truth, only through evidence can Truth ever be discovered.


Yours,
JN

10:48 PM EDT  
Blogger Tommy said...

Here's something I like to throw out at Christians.

The God of the Bible, according to a Christian, is not only a real entity, but is also all powerful and all knowing.

That means that this god is faster and more powerful than any computer created by man.

A Christian also believes that one must believe that Jesus was the son of god and accept him as lord and savior so that his or her soul can go to paradise in heaven upon death. Failure to believe this will result in an eternity of suffering in the afterlife.

Now, back to the computer. Today, we have the means to deliver an important document within seconds to a recipient via e-mail almost anywhere in the world where the recipient has access to a computer, has an e-mail account, and has a decent internet connection.

Again, Christians must believe that God is faster and more powerful than any computer ever made and that it is necessary to accept Christ as lord and savior to go to heaven. Therefore, it stands to reason that as soon as Christ died, everybody alive on the face of the Earth should have been made aware of who he was and what he did for mankind.

Upon his alleged resurrection, it should have been within the power of Christ to appear simultaneously to every person on the face of the Earth and tell them all "I died for your sins. Believe in me and you shall have eternal life in heaven with me and my father." If you believe that Jesus was not only the son of god, but was god himself, then as a Christian you must believe that Jesus had the power to do what I just described.

So why wasn't this vital message of salvation spread to every person on the Earth simultaneously? Because what in fact happened was that it took some 1,500 plus years for the message of Christ to circle the globe and be made known to the majority of the human race.

That means that tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions of people lived and died over the course of some 1,500 years without ever hearing the vital message of salvation.

Giving it a brief moment's thought, I come up with three possible explanations.

1. Everyone who died without having ever heard of Jesus got a pass and got to go to heaven anyway. If you believe this though, what do you base this belief on?

2. Everyone who died without having ever heard of Jesus is burning in hell because life is unfair and tough shit on them. Again, if you believe this, what do you base this belief on?

3. The fact that Christianity relied on its message being spread by humans over the course of some 1,500 years is strong evidence in favor of the argument that Christianity is in fact a human creation.

Of course, it should be pretty easy to tell which option I would pick.

11:47 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To use the dictionary as my argument...


How does God effect nature (us) when he is supernatural?

"of, pertaining to, or being above or beyond what is natural" meaning, the supernatural is BOTH the natural and beyond.

Most importantly: "unexplainable by natural law or phenomena" And all of the arguments used are obviously pertaining to the natural, unless your trying to convince us you have supernatural senses.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/supernatural
(look at #1)

6:48 PM EDT  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

Tommy,

Thank you for your well-reasoned, edifying contributions. While I feel very comfortable on topics philosophical and scientific, I have a smaller base of knowledge as it pertains to history. That's why I found Hitchens' "god is not Great" to be such fantastic reading. Hitchens, clearly a man of letters, mercilessly uses religions' own texts and truth-claims against them.

Of course, as you observe, our friend Rhology makes a terrible mistake in automatically granting credibility to the Bible. The Bible is nothing but a collection of truth-claims, and many of those claims are flagrantly irrational and wholly extraordinary. Until that tome is substantiated, it has as much factual weight as Alice in Wonderland and other fairy stories.

I'm glad you have enjoyed my interaction with Rhology and other theists who have come to this website. Much to their chagrin, skewering their arguments only makes my atheism stronger and more impenetrable.

Once again, thanks for complementing my arguments, and educating me in the process.


Your friend,
JN

8:06 PM EDT  
Blogger Tommy said...

Thanks Jolly.

One minor correction though. I should have written the archeological evidence supports the formation of a unified Egyptian kingdom around 3000 BCE, not suggests.

That's what I get for staying up too late at night trying to bang out this stuff, the brain sometimes doesn't function properly.

8:24 PM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

Hi JN,

You've been answered.

Hi Tommy,

I read your comments. They're poorly thought out. Care to bring them over to my place to see how well they do?

Peace,
Rhology

9:42 AM EDT  
Blogger Tommy said...

Wow, Rhology declares that my arguments are "poorly thought out."

Gee, I'm so emotionally devastated by that........NOT!

I put the arguments out there and you can either address them or not. I am not going to follow you to your own blog.

Nor do I require getting you to agree with me to give me a sense of personal validation. If you want to fashion a mental prison for yourself constructed out of the Bible, far be it for me to try and stop you.

12:13 PM EDT  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

Greetings Rhology!


You shall have to wait for a rebuttal whilst I enjoy a heathen’s getaway to mark the end of Summer. Upon my return, I intend to re-engage, although our discussion’s utility reasonably could be questioned. Perhaps, in the interim, Tommy shall mix it up with you (should he be inclined to pound his head against a wall of brick, that is). In any event, until my getaway is concluded, I shall leave you to simmer in your theological juices (and, more importantly, to compose sound proofs for ALL your presuppositional premises).

Just one final note—a parting thought, if you will. Without question, your projected confidence level is high. However, I firmly believe that your confidence is matched (or exceeded) by the demonstrated certainty of individuals such as Osama bin Laden and Mohandas Gandhi. As I already have stated in our discussions, if you had had a different upbringing, you surely would be a loyal warrior for Enlil, Vishnu or Ammon Ra.

Also, a most critical question: Could your belief in TgOTB be falsified? In other words, could you possibly change your mind, or is your mind utterly unchangeable?


Yours,
JN

2:15 PM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

Tommy,

Ah yes, my prison. Well, consider the invitation always open.

JN,

Yes, my belief in TGoTB is falsifiable. Produce the body of Jesus and that's probably pretty much it.

I'd like to know how YOUR position is falsifiable as well.

Peace,
Rhology

2:53 PM EDT  
Blogger Tommy said...

Find the body of Jesus? What if they dumped him in a river or gave him the Jimmy Hoffa treatment? No one can find Hoffa's body, and we're talking about somebody who was alive in recent memory.

Enjoy your mental prison Rhology.

7:32 PM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

Tommy,

You won't find it b/c God raised Jesus from the dead, as attested by multiple historical sources.

I am enjoying it, thank you.

10:58 AM EDT  
Blogger Tommy said...

The 'Empty Tomb' is an awfully slender reed upon which to hang one's fervent devotion to a particular religious belief.

Did it ever occur to you that the story was intentionally written that way for a particular purpose? If the story was written so that Jesus makes some grand exit from the tomb that is witnessed by thousands of people, it would have clashed with the memories of people who might still have been alive when the gospels first began to circulate. By making the resurrection a rather stealthy affair known only to a few people, then it becomes harder to refute.

And for an example of a religion that grew up in living memory that worships a person who likely never existed, try googling John Frum Cargo Cult.

12:23 PM EDT  
Blogger Frank Walton said...

For anybody's interest.

2:23 PM EDT  
Blogger MikeTwo said...

Awesome post. Smith's book is great. It was instrumental in my deconversion.

I'm working on The Selfish Gene right now, but it's kinda tough. If there's anything I truly suck at, it's Biology.

Anyway, just commenting...

2:10 AM EDT  

Post a Comment

<< Home