Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Does the problem of evil/pain warrant unbelief?


. Poster at Secular Outpost, argues that there are two uses of the problem of evil/pain but one use overshadows the other,. He says it not only can the argument be used to assail Christian belief as irrational but it can also be used to warrant unbelief. In the latter case one would forgo picking on Christian beloief and merely justify unbelief,

The problem of evil can be used in two different ways.  It can be used offensively; that is, in an attempt to criticize and undermine theistic belief, to show that theism is false and that belief in God is unfounded. But it can also be used defensively, i.e., to show that atheism is epistemically warranted, justified, or reasonable.  Of these two distinct uses, the first is by far the most common. But I think that the almost exclusive use of the problem of evil as part of an offensive attack has obscured the value of the defensive use. Used defensively, the problem of evil can serve as the basis for additional arguments against many versions of Christianity.[1]
This is really an analogous to the move I make of arguing for belief as rationally warranted rather than proving the existence fro God, I'm afraid I must agree with this latter view, We can argue down the notion of Christian belief as irrational even against the POE/P but I think it is true that unbelief could be warranted in this manner, The problem is there are differing degrees of warrant, surely. It may still be possible to argue that the warrant for belief is stronger and to produce a turn around argument.

He argues that the existence of "a fully rational and informed theist" does not add much to the question:
 Let’s also assume that it is possible for a person to be an informed theist without having made some error in logic or reasoning, or deliberate ignoring relevant evidence. We can call this person afully rational and informed theist. One question we can ask is what relevance the existence of fully informed and rational theists have to the question of whether God exists. I would suggest that the answer to this question is: not much. The existence of such individuals does not provide much by way of evidence that God exists nor does it provide evidence that God does not exist.[2]
Yet he finds that the existence of a fully informed and rational atheist makes a difference, so it;s the opposite. "Such a person has dutifully considered all of the relevant arguments for the existence and non-existence of God and ... has made no errors in logic or reasoning, and has not deliberately ignored any relevant evidence. Despite this, the atheist sees no reason to abandon her atheism."[3]

It seems to me that the existence of such people is very relevant to this question. If God exists, then there is a perfect being who loves every individual and, given the enormous value of a relationship with the perfect being, must want to have a relationship with every individual that is capable of having such a relationship. Given that believing in God is necessary for having such a fulfilling relationship, God must not want any person to believe that he does not exist.

Like much of the argumentation on the SOP this one inspired by J.L.Schellenberg (Argument from Divine Hiddeness). God's divine hiddenness is morally wrong because it means condemning well meaning seeking people who just haven't put it together in the way believers do, that is unjust and thus immoral, The Christian God cannot be unjust or immoral. 
Given that the atheistic belief of such atheists is non-voluntary (and so cannot be deliberately changed), ... Thus, the conjunction of beliefs that I have describe (that God exists; that God punishes, allows to be punished, etc. people who don’t believe in God; and that there are non-theists turned fully rational and informed atheists) is inconsistent.
 "What does seem very relevant, for reasons that are implicit in what I have written here, is whether there are any non-theists turned fully rational and informed atheists. It strikes me that the various versions of the argument from evil show us that it is possible to be such an atheist."

It seemed to me at first that he was saying two uses for POE the latter being warrant unbelief rather than attacking belief. But then he seems to go after Plantinga and thus stretch the warrant for unbelief into an a priori disproof of belief. So it appears to turn out that there are not really two uses but it;s just a matter of weather one wishes to attack or defend. While I do grant that a rational warrant derived from the realization of an inconsistency in the rejected position is a indictment of that position, I think there are three major issues that mitigate this position and while they don't disprove the warrant they might imply that belief in God is better warranted,

I have three observations that I think blunt the force of his argument:

(1) he assumes that logic is the only way to know truth but God's existence could be intuitive and the atheist cold be denying the intuitive

He clearly sets up the notion that an atheist who studies the issues and reasons flawlessly  is blameless. Clearly he sees reasom and logic as the hallmarks of truth. But what if belief and culpability for unbelief is not matter of reason and logic alone but induces an intuitive sense? What if it is the rejection of this intuitive sense that is the most serious sin of all. Certainly reasoning in a flawed manner can't be a sin. That does not require moral decision.Since an intuitive sense involves the same sort of internal conscience faculty as moral this might signal the possibility that there is a similar process at work.,Rejecting the sense of God;'s reality placed upon the heart may be a moral issue, and at least it constitutes another form of knowledge that has to be addressed. This highlights the fallacy of his argument in the aspect that he ascribes blamelessness to reason and logic, One who has considered the arguments as matters of logical puzzle working is blameless and salvation worthy. But this completely overlooks a moral obligation  to believe which is one of the first things one shucks in becoming an atheist. It also asserts that there are other methods of knowing truth which of course logicians don't want to hear.

(2 ) we could make different assumptions  assumptions about hell

His assumption is that the price of failing to comprehend God's reality is eternal damnation. There is no true obligation to believe in that, No creed spells out such an obligation, I argue that the Bible does not really teach eternal conscious torment as punishment.[4]  .  seems to include annihilation in the classification of unjust consequences, Yet that's what they are opting for when they choose to be atheists, Now of course they like to think they don't choose to be atheists, but I did, I recall thinking "Ok I'll be an atheist," I'm not saying that in itself is blameworthy. I'm only saying that annihilation is not necessarily unfair, It's a just solution fort one who does not qualify for the goal of eternal life and yet doesn't merit damnation. 

 Yet I'm not even saying this definitely the issue. If one truly has been brutally self honest and sought all avenues and reasoned flawlessly and feels no tinge of intuitive sense of God then an atheistic response may not met with any sort of blame or reprisal.  It is only logical that if two aspects of doctrine are inconsistent we should change the doctrine and bring it into conformity with the most basic principle, I think the most basic Principe about God is love, That's why they call it "liberal" theology.

(3) POE/S is justified given the importance of soteriologocal drama [5]

I agree that the problem of evil is a serious issue it something we must maintain and be aware of and always seek to deal with. It is not the knockout t punch a lot of atheists assume. It is inconsistent that God as described in christian theology would allow pain and suffering. But that does not mean there can't be mitigation reasons that make the allowance of pain, suffering, and evil necessary. The major mitigation is the necessity of the search, God puts upon the heart a desire to seek him. That's why the psalm says the fool has said in his heart there is no God, not the fools has reasoned logically there is no evidence for God. The Bible asserts that when onev goes down the path of reason there is confidence that one will find god, "come let us reason together," Of course this is not always the case but the fool is only brought int it where the influence upon the heart is shut off.

God is not hidden. There is no exclusion of thinking but the real battle ground of faith is in the heart. Reason's role in salvation is like that of philosophy in positivism.It is there to clear away the clutter so that science (in this case the heart) can do it's work.The difference is we are not clearing away the clutter for science we are clearing it away for the heart. The search the soteriological drama as I call it, is crucial. If God shut down all source of pain and protected us from ever hurting we would not need to search for truth, But the search is how we internalize values of the good, So the search must go on. Thus the general allowance of  POE/S is necessary, That's why there is no gratuitous evil. Even calamity that has no moral consequence is justified because preventing it woudl negate the search, no one searches for what is obvious and if God eliminated all pain we would cleanly know without a doubt there;s a God. That's not hiding it's just the necessity to search.

Finally salvation is not just a matter of  ascent to be like, it involves a commitment of one;'s life to God, But we can't do that without belief. At least in Christian perspective. Just asserting there is or is not a God is only a first step toward relationship with God which is the point of salvation. Paul intimates that one who follows the good is following Jesus defacto (Rom 2:6-14), so salvation is not just av cut and dried matter of intellectual assent to a proposition. Yet it' not merited but a free gift of grace.

[1] , "How to Use the Argument From Evil." Secular Outpost, Oct. 19. 2016, blog\

[2] Ibid
[3] Ibid, all quotatiojs of Thibodeau from this article
[4] Joseph Hinman, "Why I don't believe in Hell" Doxa, website URL: 
http://www.doxa.ws/Theology/hell.html  (access 10/25/16)
[5] _______ "Soteriologiocal Drama," The Religious A Priori, website
(access 10/25/16)
see also "Twelve Angry Stereo Types"

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Children of the lack of reading the material they criticize

  photo A_012br_GirlTrance.jpg

In 2014 my first book was published, (see add below). That work centered around a huge body of academic work that proves religious experience is good for you and is life transforming (long term positive dramatic change in life). There are 200 studies or more covering a 50 year period and they are still coming, I have found a couple since the book came out, I use this material in backing my God arguments. At the basis of the research is a methodological apparatus called "The M scale" it's a control mechanism for sorting between real mystical experience and mere wool gathering, Bringing this body of work together and focusing it on apologetic is ground breaking. Atheist blogger "I am Skeptical" (aka "Skepy" to the Cadre) put down my book having not read it. Now he's cut lose on an article I did on Cadre called "Children of The .Lack of a God." But it's really an excuse to bash my book more. His blog peice hatchet job is called "Children of the lack of objectivity." That explains the title of this piece.

 I wrote an article that received interested from  an academic conference at U of Georgia. It's basically a summary of my book with a good clear explanation of the M scale. That can be found here:

Here are my answer's to Skepy's blog article below.

Joe Hinman raises an issue [1] that is worth considering.  It is the question of how we can relate to something for which we have no familiarity and no experience.  It may not be easy to understand something that you've never seen or never experienced.  He asks the question:...What Hinman wants us to think is that atheists have no understanding of Christians' belief in God because they haven't experienced it for themselves.  Of course, this is the same old trope that we hear over and over again.  And it's just not true.[2]
He assumes that there is nothing there to explained so therefore any human feeling is as good as another therefore he knows all about it. That is manifest nonsense. One of the major things that body of researche I used in writing my book proves is that religious experience is not had by all humans and there is a huge difference in any old religious feeling and the kind we call "mystical." That is the point of having an M scale in the first place because all experiences are not the same,[3] Some atheists (small group) do have mystical experiences and the studies show that these atheists react to the experiences the same way that religious people do but they use different terminology, but they are the same experiences.I did write about this in my book.[4] Some atheists do wind up converting to religious belief as did I.

He takes up on my color analogy that one born having never seen blue or yellow can't understand what it's like by mere description, just as atheists can't understand religious experience just by hearing discrimination.Then he makes the argument that we can know enough it even without exposure to color:"
You can't understand what it's like qualitatively to see blue or yellow unless you've had the experience, but you can understand how those sensations are caused from a physiological perspective, and you can understand what kind of sensory stimulation causes them...."  But so what? That does not answer the issue, Understanding how they are caused is not the point, Without knowing what the sensation of religious experience is like  you can't judge it's reality, It's quite common for mystics to explain their experiences as "more real than reality," That is not the full basis for my argument but it is part of it.

But is it true that atheists have never had the inner experience of God that Hinman speaks of?  Not in the least.  Hinman ignores a couple of very key points:  One is that whether or not we believe in God, we are all humans and we all have the same kinds of inner feelings and experiences.  The other is that the majority of atheists are former believers."  
I just got through answering this, The fact of The M scale (which ha been validated  by research) proves that human experience is not all the same. Other scales exist as well, even though the M scale is the most corroborated by validating studies, they all find the same thing,[5] All the studies such as Wuthnow demonstrate this fact. Those who have mystical experience are experiencing something different than the average human that' why there;s a big correlation between this experience and life transformation, the results of two major studies: The Wuthnow study and the Noble study

Long-Term Effects
*Say their lives are more meaningful,
 *think about meaning and purpose
*Know what purpose of life isMeditate more
*Score higher on self-rated personal talents and capabilities
*Less likely to value material possessions, high pay, job security, fame, and having lots of friends
*Greater value on work for social change, solving social problems, helping needy
*Reflective, inner-directed, self-aware, self-confident life style

*Experience more productive of psychological health than illness
*Less authoritarian and dogmatic*More assertive, imaginative, self-sufficient*intelligent, relaxed
*High ego strength,
*relationships, symbolization, values,
*integration, allocentrism,
*psychological maturity,
*self-acceptance, self-worth,
*autonomy, authenticity, need for solitude,*increased love and compassion[6] 

The people who have these experiences are more likely then the average person to find themselves growing in these characteristics such as Wuthnow and Noble document. when he says "the other is that the majority of atheists are former believers." That proves nothing because most believers don't have mystical experiences and those who do are at the mature end of the spectrum. In other words, mystical experience is synonymous with maturity, at least in terms of Christian spirituality, according to the Voyle study.[7]

He asserts that we all have mystical experiences:

On the first of those points, there is no question that there is some kind of inner feeling we all experience that creates a sense of awe or spirituality.  It may be felt with more intensity by some, but we pretty much all feel it at some time in our lives.  In fact, Hinman makes this the basis of his pseudo-scientific claims about warrant for belief.  But as I said, this experience can be understood at different levels.  We all have some understanding of what it feels like because we all have felt it to some degree.

Wuthnow (above) proposes a theory that all have such experiences but for most it's very mild. He points to William James who  also made such an argument, The whole point of scoring the scale is that there are varying intensities. If he's not a believer in God or any sort of transformative ontology then he probably has not had such experience to the degree necessary for understanding. As for my claims about warrant I have documented this time and time again, they are based upon the works of a major logician in the rhetorical tradition who made major contribution to debate theory, Stephan Tulmin.[8]

He reduces the complexity of cause to a one liner that is essentially  a falsehood because it's too much a simplification to amount to anything. "There is disagreement about what causes it.  Theists think it is caused by God, but science has shown that the same feelings can be caused by certain kinds of physical stimulus, or even by psychological manipulation." I devoted a whole chapter to this in the book,  By physical stimulus he means brain chemistry, I document philosopher John Hick showed that researcher's who use helmets and so forth to stimulate such experience do not use controls like the M scale thus they cannot establish that they have indeed produced mystical experiences,[9] Moreover, there is an argument made by Dr. Hood (inventor of the M sclae) that atheists cannot answer. There is just as much reason to think God would use brain chemistry to allow u to feel his presence as not, Thus merely tying the experience to brain chemistry proves nothing, The tie at this stage is broken by my (8) tie breakers, see the article link to at the top.

At this point he wastes a lot of time in foolish speculation over "meaning: of the experience when he could be reading my book and understanding how actual scientists (psychologists) think about it,

And then there is the question of meaning.  How does the mind interpret this experience?  That depends entirely on what concepts and associations already exist in the mind.  We associate red with the concept danger mainly because that concept is culturally ingrained in us.  The same is true of religious experience.  The interpretation of a religious experience is based on concepts we already have in our mind.  No Christian would ever have a religious experience that causes him to become a Buddhist if he didn't already have some knowledge of Buddhism, and vice versa.  Nobody ever learns something new from a religious experience.  The religious experience only serves to reinforce what we already believe.
This shows his utter ignorance, I document cases where mystical experience converted people, the famous Indian philosopher Sri Aurobindo became Vadanta because of such an experience. It is quite common for one to find that one's sacred doctrine is contradicted by mystical experiences. I don't advise using it to establish doctrine and I deal with this in a whole chapter, the last chapter of my book, Eventually, doctrines are dependent on many things such as reason and logic, culture, tradition, but mystical experiences are the same the world over regardless of the doctrines. [10] these experiences do not determine one;s religious tradition but they demonstrate a reality behind all traditions.

He ventures off into more ignorant prattle trying to claim credit  for an experience he's never had:

The other point that Hinman ignores is a common mistake among Christians who love to pretend that their understanding is so much superior to that of atheists.  Most of us have been raised as believers.  We do know what it's like to have a religious experience and interpret it as the experience of God.  We've been there and done that.  The difference is that the atheist who is an ex-believer has more ways to interpret the experience.  The atheist understands that God is not the only possible reality, and not the only possible way to explain what we observe and what we feel.  The atheist sees it from a wider perspective, because he knows what the Christian feels, and he can still take a more objective view that encompasses a greater body of understanding.
Some of the more authoritative measures of incidence rate put mystical experience at about 1 in 4 and that does not even speak to the level of intensity. True mystics are more rare. So just being a believer is not a ticket to mystical enlightenment. There is a difference, As I said  above the Voyle study proves that mystical experience is the mature end of Christian experience, in so doing it also proves that just being a believer doesn't mean you have had a mystical experience.
I have to laugh every time I hear Christians making these claims about how blind atheists are, how limited their epistemological toolbox is.  We reject God belief, not because it is outside our understanding, but because our understanding is broader.  When it comes to interpreting our experiences, we have more than just one way to see everything.  We are not limited to always arriving at the same old conclusion that was instilled in us when we were children.  We can look beyond those childhood beliefs and see more.  Most of all, when looking at a broader range of choices in how to understand something, we can base our decision on objective evaluation, because we are not hemmed in by religious faith.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

How vs, Why: Is Science Undercutting the ground for belief in God?


Last time I discussed an article in which geneticist Colin Blackmore makes triumphalist statements of science ridding roughshod over religion:

Science has rampaged over the landscape of divine explanation, provoking denial or surrender from the church. Christian leaders, even the Catholic church, have reluctantly accommodated the discoveries of scientists, with the odd burning at the stake and excommunication along the way....The process of Christian accommodation is a bit like the fate of fieldmice confronted by a combine harvester, continuously retreating into the shrinking patch of uncut wheat.Ten days ago, on Darwin's birthday, Richard Dawkins, Archbishop of Atheism, and Richard Harries, former Bishop of Oxford, conducted a public conversation in the Oxford University Museum, where Bishop Sam Wilberforce and Darwin's champion, Thomas Henry Huxley, had debated Darwin's ideas in 1860. The two Richards were more civilized. But inevitably, Richard H claimed for religion a territory that science can never invade, a totally safe sanctuary for Christian fieldmice. Science is brilliant at questions that start "how", but religion is the only approach to questions that start "why". Throughout history, human beings have asked those difficult "why" questions.[1]

Based upon comments to that piece two questions present themselves:

(1) Is science steadily taking ground from Religion?
(2) Science can't disprove God but has it undercut all reasons to believe in God?

That science is steadily taking ground is Largely a matter of what one thinks constitutes the ground for religion. The atheist friend commenting on that section looks at the matter as though religious belief and skepticism are two warring empires. The strength of these empires depends upon their influence in the world and how many adhere to each. If that is the case religion is still vastly overwhelming science. Even though we depend upon science for so many facets of life, 90% of humanity still believes in God and only about 3 to 6% actually actively say there is no God. It really is a matter o how one tallies things up.

I think it's irrational to see science as taking ground away from religion because the only ground it's taken wasn't really religion's ground. In ancient times religion was all we had to explain things, So they depended upon it a lot for all explanations. As humanity began to understand more about the physical workings of the world it began to accord proper sphere's to each endeavor. Now we have an ideology (scientism) that seeks to take all the marbles for science and to eliminate all other forms of knowledge, religious or otherwise, Scientism destroys a lot more than just religion: art, literature, philosophy, ethics, feeling, humanity. Yet that's not science it;s an ideology of unbelief. Science is not about disproving religion so there's no basis for understanding science's triumphs as defeat for religion, We can be both scientific and religious. In fact we can be scientific, religious, skeptical, artistic, cultured, and intellectual all at the same time.

As for the assertion that religion is undercutting the grounds for belief, that depends upon what one thinks is the ground or belief. Areas of overlap with science but certain aspects will never be revealed, We want to know origins. We want to know why we are here even if there is no real reason (we want to know that too). This is why we don’t see scientists just throwing up their arms and saying “there's no way to tell, it's just here that's all, we can't know why.” They are still making theories because we want to know. We don’t find it satisfying to just leave it hanging. Perhaps there is no actual reason and saying that is not satisfying than sloughing off the question as though it's not important; that is most unsatisfying of all. Yet modern secular thought can't even ask the question much less answer it. It's not enough to merely talk about planetary formation and how the galaxy emerged. That's not an answer to the question “why are we here?” Even if the answer is “there is no way to know” we still want to know that definitively. Modern secular thought can't give a definitive answer because the question is out of bounds. That is a metaphysical question and modern thought abhors metaphysics even though Heidegger would say it is metaphysics. When purpose and ends and goals have already been eliminated as impossible there's no point in asking.

Religious belief is about integration into one's place in the universe. It's more than just understanding the physical workings. The integration point is  depth of being. All religions deal with this they all define the nature of the human problematic, they assess what is at the heart of the problem of being human, They mediate a solution usually in terms of ultimate transformation experience, that transformation opens up the point of integration where we understand our place in the universe. As Christians we understand that in terms of contingency. We are creatures of God. To be is to be a creature of God; we know our place in the universe and it all makes sense at least to some degree. We can't have any of this with just the physical level of understanding, We can have scientific wonderment and God. Those are not mutually exclusive. But we can't have depth of being with just the surface level of existence. Moreover the scientific wonderment as scientific and scientistic types describe it is not moving because it's science, The individual scientist may get a thrill from personal accomplishment but the real transformative aspects are pointing beyond themselves, The physical reality is pointing beyond itself to depth but the secular naturalist can't acknowledge that. We know they are pointing beyond human finitude because they point to the infinite. The juxtaposition of our own finite mortality against the infinite of space produces the sense of the numinous, The wondrous nature of the cosmos is a trigger for foundations of mystical consciousness. 

There is no way to get in back of the final jumping off point for empirical observation such as background radiation that tells us of the big bang. We know from study of background radiation that there can't be an infinite regression of worlds.;[2] weather or not we can infer an eternal necessary origin is open for discussion.That's exactly why we can't write God off due to materialism or science, it is open to discussion. We are, therefore, left with reality as a brute fact. The brute fact is to be dreaded, thus the state of purpose being the antithesis of the brute fact is to be preferred. Sean Carroll says there is no reason why anything exists. He warns against not understanding reality all the way to the top. He says this because he wants us to know science.

More than two decades ago, the renowned astronomer Carl Sagan wrote that 'We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology. This is a clear prescription for disaster.' Unfortunately, Sagan’s warning remains as true today as ever: American culture is deeply infused with an anti-intellectual distrust of scientific knowledge, a failure to understand the nature of peer-review, and an unwavering predilection for conspiracy theories and pseudoscience. [3]

Why is it important to know and understand the process that tells us there's no point to life? The ultimate reality we are going to get out of that is that nothing matters, but he wants us to know science we can understand climate change and vote accordingly. I share his concern about climate change but, what's the point of caring about future generations when life is just a big accident and there's no point to any of it?  All Carroll can really prove is that science cam't produce a "why" in terms of our existence.[4] So he assumes that therefore there must be no why. But that assumes science is the only way to think and I'm not willing to make that assumption. Smith's argument that reality can't be an infinite regression of worlds means that it might be the produce of one eternal necessary reality. That would be a necessary and perhaps sufficient condition for assuming God or other higher answer of a religious nature.

The best science can do is tell us how things work. It cannot tell us weather or not there is more to it than that, This is the depth of being of which Paul Tillich speaks. One might call it the "why?" Now it may well be that there is no why. If that is the case it ca't be decided merely because science fails to supply the answer. That science does not supply an answer does not mean there is no other way to think about it, After all why is beyond the scope of science. Why is the province of religion. Religion seeks to understand the human condition to label the human problematic. This is at the heart of the human condition, the need to ask "why?" Understanding origins is a big part of the human condition. Materialism and phsyicalism just cut off that inquiry merely because the answer can't be supplied with their methods. 

The further ground for belief not dependent upon scientific evidence of origins is experience of God's presence or the divine. While the only thing required for the validity of belief is this experience itself, due to it's transformative nature, it is backed by scientific study in the social sciences, this is what my book, the Trace of God, is about.[5] Since these experiences are about the divine and do impart a sense of the meaning of life, and they tend to produce in the experiencer effects of complete psychological overhaul, they supply noetic sense of understanding the why, even though it is notoriously hard to communicate. The scientistic type will argue this is some sort of unverifiable area. The social scientific methods help us to demonstrate the transformations wrought by this experience the content of the experience itself speaks of the divine. 

From this I would make an argument that, to use the vernacular, philosophy still owns science. In other words the fact that we can reason about the nature of reality in relation to our own raison d'etre
that in itself proves the validity of existential and phenomenological inquiry and proves that science alone is not up to the task of giving us answers in this regard but is itself subject to critique.


[1] Colin Blackemore, "Science is Just One Gene Away from Defeating Religion." The Guardian.  Originally from the Observer. 21st of Febuary, 2009. On Line:
accessed 10/29/13.
 Colin Blakemore is Professor of Neuroscience at the Universities of Oxford and Warwick. He is a member of the UK Drugs Policy Commission, but the views expressed here are his own.

[2] Q. Smith

[3] Sean Carroll, “The Evidence is pretty incontrovertible...” Salon. (May 8, 2016) online resource URL:

[4] Ibid.

[5] Joseph Hinman, The Trace of God: Rational Warramt for Belief. Colorado Springs: Grand Viaduct, 2014,


 photo frontcover-v3a_zps9ebf811c.jpg 

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Hillary moment: about the emails

Flashback: Karl Rove Erases 22 Million White House Emails On Private Server At Height Of U.S. Attorney Scandal – Media Yawns (DETAILS)


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Beyond God Arguments, Toward Beleif Without Message Boards


The impossibility of proving the existence of God, is far from an atheist defeat of apologetic, this is a premise I have long sense accepted. That is why my usual tactic is to argue for "rational warrant." I'm not sure that "proving the existence of God" is even a meaningful phrase, much less a possibility. I think the urge to produce a heuristic structure capable of evoking in the skeptic a sense of the rational nature of belief, is fine and high minded. It might be possible, if one can find a skeptic who is willing to hold still, so to speak. But the whole enterprise runs up against the following problem:

Think of the nature of proving things: Proving things is a "technology." I use this term in the Faucaultian (that is, the postmodern sense) as the manipulation of objects in the world. In this sense "object" does not mean a physical thing, but an idea. We mentally bring before our minds eye objects in the world, such as “being” or “science” or “existence” or the existence of things, the universe for example. We cannot bring before our minds eye a chunk of sanctifying Grace. We cannot manipulate God as an object in creation. Belief Is, therefore, a realization about the nature of reality, not a technology. The use of this technology requires that we have physical referents. We can manipulate ideas in such a way as to understand their reference to physical objects only so long as we understand what we are talking about. We cannot understand God, therefore, we can't manipulate God or bring God before the skeptic as we might a toothbrush or swizzle stick. We make arguments for God in order to demonstrate to others something of the  realization that prompts our own belief. We are actually seeking to trigger in them the same kind of realization. To do so we manipulate aspects of reality, and the skeptic proposes alternate explanations for the various aspects we try to manipulate. Obviously this course will have no more success than trying to cram God into the parade of objects we seek to present and manipulate. But the major reason we make God arguments is because we ourselves do not understand what it is we belief. We seek to nail it down. But this is an impossible task, since God is beyond our understanding. What we should do is seek deeper, ever deeper, experiences of God. But we are rational creatures and we must spell it out for ourselves first.

The God of the Christian tradition is the the concept of the basis of reality. God is Eternal, the basis of all that is (what we used to call “firs cause”) and is always already, and thus, without cause. This means that God is the basis of reality. The basis of what is, the “ground of being” can’t be manipulated as though an object in creation. If we knew the basis upon which the realization of God is triggered in our own minds, we might be able to suggest to the skeptic ways to trigger the realization. But we don’t know. Of course we do not know. All we really know is that once we realize God is real, it works to live as though God is real. What can we tell the skeptic? I’m sure that what I’ve said so far will bring scoffing and trigger an orgiastic bought of “aren’t Christians stupid?” That’s because atheists have cut themselves off from the basic existential sense of reality that enables one to have this realization. At that rate there’s really nothing one can do. Why even write a book then?

The religious a priori is this realization, the argument I make is not an argument to prove the existence of God, but to seek the realization. That's really the strategy involved in God argument making, we seek to show that there is a basis in rationality, a method to our madness. Of course this meets with varying degrees of success. Some atheists are willing to grant even a scintilla of rationality to belief, others are merely waiting for a pay off that never comes. There is a tendency to expect an argument even after it has been stated that we can't prove them. The pay off never comes because they expect that somehow out of all the statements that God is beyond understanding we will show some back door to understanding and make it plain. The less well meaning use this absence of technology, this failure to manipulate God as one more object in the universe, as a sign that there is no God. In a sense there is no God, if by "God" we understand another object in creation. Atheists, and many Christians as well, are always putting God on the level of a big man on a throne, so that God is just one more thing in the universe. This makes God subject to the universe itself. As though the world consists of all these bits and God is just one bit alongside the others: trees, rocks, energy, tin cans, bus tokens, swizzle sticks, God, lotto tickets, ect. Tillich said that God did not exist, and this is exactly what he meant by that; God does not "exist" because "existence" is something contingent things go. God is the ground of being because God is the basis upon which reality coheres.

Atheists expect this to have a high pay off. How could God be that important and not be inescapable? Of course it could be that God is inescapable but they just refuse to look through the telescope. They wont look in the way that finds God because they would mean abandoning their control. By the same token we go on making God arguments because to cease would be to lose our control. We are both sides seeking to manipulate God through a technology, as though God is a physical object to be empirically demonstrated. What we should be seeking is a means of promoting the understanding that our faith is based upon a realization about the nature of our being. What atheists need to understand is that it wont make sense to them until they face it as a realization, not a set of data to be manipulated. This is why belief in God is a phenomenological problem. It's a matter of letting the phenomena suggest their own categories. This is after all what the believe has done to become a believer. S/he has allowed the realization of one's own being to culminate in belief. The joining of a religious tradition is merely a means of obtaining a vocabulary through which one might speak of that which is beyond words. We speak of it because in the tradition we encounter others who have encountered the realization, and thus talk about things beyond talk is meaningful, to a point. It is only meaningful to a point, because we can say "O that sounds like what I've experienced." But to speak of it is still to load it into cultural constructs, and thus to water it down. The only sure method is to go back and allow God to do again what was done before in the obtainment of the original realization. Thus belief is a language of its own, shared between the believer and God that can only be hinted at in discourse between human beings. The only real conversation about God must forever remain a conversion between the believer and God.

The empirical information that we can manipulate, that is related to objects in the world, is the effect of the ideas upon the individual. We can't prove that a certain life turned out as it did becasue the subject was too Hegelian, or not Hegelian enough. But we can trace the effects of an experience if it is dramatic enough and if the changes in one's life in close proximity to that experince are dramatic enough. This is what the studies of RE demonstrate. The empirical effects of these experiences change people's lives long term and in dramatically positive ways. That amounts to saying "it works." The one empirical thing we can prove by way of demonstration is that it works to navigate in life as though God is real, and to allow the experience of the reality of God to guide our perceptions of the world. Of course atheists are going to remain resistant to this notion, they will continue to mock and to demand proof. It's not about proof, it's about realization. The skeptic will always miss it as long s/he demands "proof." The skeptics on CARM used to constantly warn against believing things without proof. The stupidest thing one could ever do was to believe something without being able to prove it. That's because they are hung up on a relationship with things. They have no had the realization of God consciousness, and thus all they can think of is technology. They think in technology, as though thinking this way is a language. All they can understand is manipulation of objects in the world. Of course one can hardly blame them, we don't understand much beyond this point.

The best God arguments, Ontological, (modal), cosmological, design (even though it fails), even non arguments such as the feeling of utter dependence, are all about reality as a whole; the order in creation, the reason for creation, the necessity of first cause and the contingency of its effects. This is because belief is a from of consciousness, and the consciousness is the realization of an aspect of reality that underlays and predicates all that is. The real achievement of the modal argument is that it gives us a clue about reality itself, and its predication. The problem is when we try to approach it as though it is a God finder technology. No amount of philosophizing can make us have God consciousness. Although I am convinced that the modal argument, as a mantra of sorts, is a gateway to the realization of God consciousness. I am sure one could criticize these ramblings as idealizations of arguments I no longer care to debate. Perhaps that's all there is. It is with all this in mind that I present the following. I do not offer these ideas as arguments for the existence of God, but merely as an understanding as to why the skeptical attempt at explaining away religious phenomena doesn't work. I think that's all we can expect in the way of empiricism, or logical demonstration: the skeptic will approach our realization as though it were a technology, and the skeptic will try to demolish the structure (perceived structure) with the technology of skepticism. All we can do is keep deflecting the attempt by clarifying how and why our view is not a technology, not a demonstration, not an attempt to prove, but merely attempts at clarifying what we have "realized" through the higher consciousness. So I am moving to the east, so to say, by treating God belief not an the object of knowledge, around which revolves the qualia and phenomena of sense of data, but as a from of consciousness, the result of an understanding of what it means to be.

The empiricist path which the atheist trudges is the technology of which I speak. Descartes, even though he was a Christian, places the center of consciousness (the "I") at the center of the epistemic universe and makes sense data to revolve around it. Descartes is labeled "rationalist" but his project really kicked off the empiricist reaction. The empiricists take up with the same place but like characters in a Beckett play are immediately stuck somewhere. In this case, not a trashcan but their own need to manipulate objects in such a way that they satisfy their own need to manipulate. But this is a self feeding process, thus never ends. Unable to demonstrate definitive proof of the nature of reality, they will be forever consigned to reduce all clues out of existence. One can only imagine to which circle of hell Dante would consign them. I guess that would be the bean counting circle.

In reflecting upon the nature of reality, the aspect that triggers the realization of the divine, one finds that there is a continuum. On the one hand we have the demonstration of formal logic which is aimed at showing the predication of existence upon the necessary aspect of being itself. This pole includes the modal argument, and all versions of its grandfather, the ontological argument. The cosmological argument can be included here because it is really based upon the ontological principal in a sense; both deal with necessity and contingency. The other pole is that of personal experience; the experience of God, mystical consciousness, and so forth. What both poles have in common, what makes them a continuum is their encompassing natures. At both ends of the spectrum we are dealing with the nature of necessary being as the predication of all contingent existence. This is so for the mystical because mystical experience usually includes undifferentiated unity of all things. At the formal pole we are dealing with it as a formally presented conclusion to logical demonstration. For years now my theory has been that what Anselm really discovered was the feeling of utter dependence. Since he lacked the necessary vocabulary for phenomenology he tried to place it in formal terms. I still believe this. The stating of formal God arguments is really an attempt to approach technologically something that cannot be manipulated but must be experienced.

What can we do when the well meaning atheist asks "why do you believe?" Or when asked "How can I know that these "realizations" have anything to do with actual reality. Lack of a God forbid we should believing wrong, or that we should not be able to prove our beliefs! The only thing we can do is continue to elucidate the inability of naturalistic explanations to really explain things, and to point to the fact that the realization works for navigating through life. Beyond that the skeptic is going to have to seek God.