Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Now to refute what religious people "can't refute"

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Religious person at worship?

On the atheist blogDebuncking Christianity, Valerie Tarico at 11/02/2007 posts an article with the interesting title "What Religionists Can't Refute." So you Know I have to refute it.

A recent article and book by Mr. Dinesh D’Souza argue that atheists can’t refute the possibility of God. From there, Mr. D'Souza goes on to argue for an affirmative belief in his god: the god of orthodox Christians. It seems like Mr. D’Souza misunderstands atheism and because of this inadvertently supports the argument of the atheists: Whether God is real or not is a separate argument from what we can know. Religionists claim to know that a god exists and typically which god it is. Atheists simply say there is insufficient evidence to call this knowledge.

But D'Souza said atheists can't refute the possibility of God. You can't. you can't prove God is impossible. that's what he's saying. Now Tarico confuses that with saying we can prove there a God, or so it seems. The existent to which "Religionists" claim to "know" God exists, is not in a demonstrable objective sense but is existential sort of knowing; deep conviction based upon some form of personal experience of insight. It's a subjective sort of knowing. Again Tarico falls into the mistake so many atheists think of believing that there is a distinction between Gods. God compete for existence in the mind of the atheist. But that's because they don't get the notion of necessity. They don't understand that God can only be one thing,a nd one thing only, eternal necessary being. Any disputes identity of God are disputes about religion tradition, communication, cultural constructs or knowing wht God wants, not disputes about "which God." The goes goes on to demonstrate a misunderstanding about the nature of knowledge.

Might there be realities that we finite humans can’t perceive? Of course! The claim that there could be gods or a god that we can’t perceive is valid. But to call this knowledge, and then to engage in the slight of hand that takes one from this ambiguous opening to religious assertion is absurd.

Why do they think that only empirical "facts" can be called "knowledge?" knowledge is what we know, while it may be only fictional, the idea that Tom Sawyer is Becky Thacher's boy friend is knowledge, it doesn't matter it is literal historical knowledge or not. But this tendency to take only the empirically demonstrable as knowledge demonstrates that theism is much more than merely the lack of a belief. Clearly atheism is not knowledge,t he lack of a belief cannot be knowledge. Tarico fails to come to terms with any sort of distinction between one kind of knowledge or another.

There might be fairies we can’t perceive. There might be djinns we can’t perceive. The world might rest on the back of an imperceptible turtle. There might be an invisible warrior waiting to whack my head off outside my front door. I can’t say there isn’t because if he’s there, he’s invisible. And if I survive when I go out to feed the chickens, maybe it will be just because he moved on to my neighbor’s house. And if I survive tomorrow, perhaps it’s because he only appears once in 2000 years. Neither I nor you can rule him out.

You can see where this leads—to a paralyzing lot of mental clutter.

The mental clutter I see is the ever present arrogance of the empiricist who thinks because he/she has an idea that idea must be universal and only his/her concept of reality can ever be taken seriously. I see the tired familiar begging of the question, obligatory for membership in the atheist fan club, and once again, the famous atheist stereotype of religious views, refusing to think seriously about any religious persons ideas. After one atheist has demonstrated the ability to appreciate sophisticated Theological concepts, although she had to desacralize it and turn it into something other an God concept, now we are back to lumping in all religious ideas with the most superstitious and with concept s totally unlike any modern ideas of God. Note: these are all contingent concepts from folklore, none of them count as eternal necessary being. Yet there is the old atheist straw man, all religious concepts must be reduced to silliness. They are really afraid to take on the real religious ideas.

In order to function, humans generally limit themselves to making claims about things that they can perceive using logic and evidence.

No in fact this is not the case at all. What we do is to rely upon our senses and extrapolation from our sense data, but we extrapolate using criteria or regularity, consistency, and shared confirmation. We take for granted many aspects of reality that are not derived from either evidence or logic. But before I give examples I must point out that the major

And, in fact, this is exactly what religionists do. Believers say that their beliefs rest on faith, when in reality what they rest on is frail and faulty evidence—the same kinds of evidence that have always been used to support the existence of magical creatures: anecdote, emotion, testimonial, folklore, and inexplicable sensations of transcendence, otherness, or transformation. Religionists don’t see that this kind of low-grade evidence fails to differentiate among the many magical gods and creatures that have populated human history, and, therefore, a position of integrity would require that one argue for the existence of them all.

The reason we don’t hear this argument is because each supernaturalist is actually believer of a specific sort. Each has been infected with a specific viral ideology that creates an emotional inclination, a desire to believe in a certain kind of magical being or a fear of not believing in this being. This emotional valence in turn protects that single set of supernatural beliefs from the ravages of reason.

This is the kind of special pleading that makes my blood boil. It's special pleading by default because the implication is everyone else has a "viral infection of an ideology" (whatever the hell that means) except of course, my view is the really true truth! It's so obviously special pleading. Of course the author would argue around this by saying atheism is the lack of a belief (which is itself a mistake and propaganda line) thus can't be an infection. Its all so campy and clever by half. Atheism is clearly just as much an ideology as religion or communism or any other belief. The absence of a religious belief becomes the presence of a materialist belief, Derrida couldn't have invented the Hegelian irony any more effectively. Like deconstruction, Like the transcendental signifier, being absent it is presence, absence becomes presence. The claim fostered by the idiot Dawkins that religion is a disease, that ideas are diseases, is nothing short of Nazi.

The fomenting of propangandistic device is truly Herr Dawkins triumph of the will, if you catch my meaning. He's found a final solution to his problems with religious people. If ideas offend you declare them "diseases." What do we do with diseases? We eradicate them along with the "germs" that spread them.

To make matters worse, if the resonant beliefs are tried-and-true handed-down religions, they fit the structure of human information processing the way that heroin fits receptors in the brain—damn near perfectly, even though that isn’t what the receptors were made for. All of the rational argumentation about whether god could exist is just window dressing, people making abstract arguments for an abstract deity because they want to believe in a personal deity, the image of which has been virally implanted in their brains through social contagion.

Holy assumption not in evidence batman! These atheists are really trying to create their own er zots science. This one is trying to do brain/mind functionalism without any data. Likening religious belief to heroin is argument from analogy. that's a fallacy.that's real actual informal fallacy. The assertions of social contagion what has no support. There is no data to back that up. This is entire unfounded assertion stems from drawing an analogy between disease and drug addiction and belief. It is nothing more than an analogy.Here we see the familiar attempt to privilege the atheist position. We must always start from the base assumption that atheism is true without ever having to establish any truth value to the constituent building blocks that make it up, such philosophical reductionism, materialism, positivism and the like. Argument from analogy cannot demonstrate a causal relationship because it is the unfounded assumption that like cases are always perfectly parallel in all respects. But heroin is not an apt analogy for religious belief to any degree.

Heroin is an addiction because one who is hooked cannot live without it. It is debilitating and the need for it is not a natural endowment, such as the need for food. The only similarity is that heroin makes you feel good, but it fosters a false sense of well being because it is breaking down your system as long as you use it, and the withdrawal pains are so great you can't give it up.These assertions fly in the face of the major work in the field of brain/mind study of the God parts of the brain. A voluminous body of work exists which tears asunder this foolish assertion. The major researcher in the field which studies God parts of the brain,
Andrew Newberg, says nothing about religious experience being like heroin. In fact Newberg sees religious experience as valid and healthy. The title to his book says it all; why God wont go away. The idea of God, he finds, far from being like heroin or the misuse of receptors, is natural and hard wired. We are endowed (by Nature?, or "someone"?) with this idea, a ready formed innate idea! There is even a more voluminous body of work which shows that religious experience is far better for the experience than any other form of experince. To liken it to heroin is crazy. You are comparing regenerative addictions to the most positive experince of life which is progressively more positive over time. Religious belief is more analogous to food. It is nourishing, good for you, has good effects (although food can be bad for you, and one can get improper nutrition. one must be careful to get a balanced diet).

Mountains of evidence doesn't affect the beliefs of true believers. Why? Because, the rationality of believers is in fact a false rationality.

Of course that is drawing an illogical conclusion form sign. Why would false rationality lead one to cling to an experince if they didn't get something out of it? Obviously the more plausible reason is that the believers experiences or a nature such that the believer has deep seated conviction of the truth of such beliefs. to dispute this is to claim a knowledge of others experiences. Strange, I would swear materialists can't believe in being clairvoyant. This interpretation is backed up by hundreds of studies. Moreover one would think that fallacious reasoning such argument from analogy wold go hand in hand with false rationality. Why wouldn't false rationality be just as likely to lead one to conclusions drawn from informal fallacies?

To some extent this is true of all of this; most of the time we use reasoning simply to support our emotional preferences.

Hmm you don't say! You mean like if we are really hurt by religious people and we want to get even with God so we lash out at all of religion and try to prove through bogus conclusions about science that religion is not good? Then we would use fallacious reasoning like argument from sign and argument from analogy as a bait and switch in lieu actual scientific data! like that?

In the case of religionists, supernatural beliefs are not bound to follow logic and evidence to their rational conclusions. Argumentation may appear to seek truth, but it does not.

Of course this is a statement turns upon the modern misunderstanding of the concept of sueprnature. supernatural beliefs do follow logical rules. I suggest it's more like the author knows very little about such things because, because like most atheists. she doesn't read theology. I have demonstrated on this blog on more than one occasion that the modern understanding of supernatural is not the true concept of the Christian faith but a watered down and bastardized left over from the enlightenment. The arguments turn on the myth of "rationality" that fostered atheism since the days of Laplace. The idea that atheism is rational and scientific and is needed to free humanity form some dark days of superstitious has been long exploded by modern scientific (and atheist) thinkers such as Maslow. Perpetuating that myth is one of the ggreatest disservices modern atheism is doing. They are simple unaware of or ignoring a vast body of works in philosophy, psychology, historical studies, social critique of the new left, the brunt of Western culture, to perpetuate a myth tauted by a small band of holdovers from ninteeth century positivism and the 1939 world's fair.

It seeks to maintain the status quo. That is why arguing with true believers is so maddening. Even the most lucid arguments put forward against specific magical creatures ultimately are a waste of breath. They may change the minds of a few people who are more compelled by evidence than their peers. (Ironically these may be people who have an emotional aversion to not following the evidence where it leads.) But this has always been and always will be a small minority.

What she's really voicing here is a level of frustration born of her own inability to comprehend arguments from traditional Western thought stretching back to Plato, and the refusal to grant the value of diversity in outlook. If we do not buy into the myths of reductionism, positivism, and naturalism then we are being obtuse and uncooperative and using bad logic. Of course she's already demonstrated that her main argument is based upon an informal fallacy. But we have the bad logic. I think one thing that creates the frustration level is when atheists really don't understand the rules of logic, they think theists are merely being stubborn to keep insisting that necessity is a valid concept and that argument from sign doesn't proven anything.

If this were not the case, our devout friends would be subject to rational argumentation.

you mean like not begging the question? Not arguing from analogy? What purpose does this sort of statement serve? It's merely a question begging generalization that aplys as much to her as to anyone.

We now have excellent reason to posit that the gods humans believe in (Yaweh, Shiva, Allah, Zeus, and company) are modeled on the human psyche. Evidence abounds that they are the products of human culture and evolutionary biology. Increasingly, we can describe where they come from, both in prior religions and in the structure of our brains.

It's always so amusing when they discover something obvious that liberal theology has been saying for centuries, then act like its some big damaging insight that destroys the truth of religion. Of course individual characters used to portray gods in various sacred literatures are modeled after the human psyche. What else would they be modeled after. That's like saying 'ah ha! all those old sermons use words to convey their meaning, we have them now! They can't refute that!" If God is beyond our understanding, as the bible says "he" is, then of course we can't understand God. We have to relate god to something we do understand, don't we? Relating God to humanity is a way of trying to relate to God. We can only think in cultural constructs. WE cannot think beyond them because that is the fabric of the symbolic universe from which we derive language. We think in language,we do not think in nameless feelings. The reality of God is beyond our understand then it is beyond our cultural constructs. But it is not beyond nameless feelings, yet we can only filter it through cultural constructs if we wish talk about it. That's ok because God is an expirential reality. We have to experience God. We cannot capture the truth of God exhaustively on paper. The image of the big man on the throne is a metaphor, place holder for the experience.

In addition, as knowledgeable former Christians and ex-Muslims have demonstrated over and over again, the claims of traditional monotheistic dogma are refutable because they are internally contradictory and they are empirically contradictory. They violate morality, evidence, and logic.

That is a totally groundless generalization. All that is demonstrated is that a lot of people don't understand their own faith, or the religion tradition to which they claim connection. It's a question begging tactic that reveals more bad logic on the part of an atheist who likes to use small groups to represent the whole. This nothing more than a form of guilty by association. Well there are ex Christians who fell away so that proves Christianity is wrong. But they that same logic, the fact that I was an atheist and became a Christian should prove that atheism is false and Christianity is true. Those who think this rarely happens think again. There are more former atheists who became Christians than there are former Christians who became atheists. Atheism is still just 2 of the world population. Atheists who try to write off the main body of Christian thinking by chalking it up to bad logic have try to claim elite status when faced with the possibility that 90% of humanity is just stupid.We can make that argument on any side. Any minority view can say "we are the special smart people everyone else is stupid." She just doesn't get it, its' really dyslexics who are the smart elite.

Mr. D’Souza makes his abstract arguments in the service of his religion, orthodox Christianity. But we shouldn’t waste our time arguing with him about either philosophy or specific orthodox doctrines.

Don't confuse me with the facts, If I don't know it ant worth knowing. This is a way of dismissing the vast ancient tradition of western civilization because tis' against atheism. They do not have anything close to a lion's share of the thinkers. So they have to dismiss the entire western tradition and start from a position that says real knowledge was invented last Thursday and we are the only one's that have it.

Perhaps the best argument against the time-worn understanding of Christianity is that it is vile. It is selfish, materialist, and morally repugnant.

Nothing like cold dispassionate logic is there? Not in her thinking. I'm glad she hasn't stooped to name calling!

The heart of orthodox theology is a god who demands human sacrifice. The Bible gives sacred status to some of the ugliest impulses of the human heart: tribalism, sexism, vengeance, rape, genocide, and a host of other brutish self-indulgences. Ironically, it corrupts the deepest values of Christianity itself, the love of Love and the love of Truth. It promises an afterlife in which the saved will be as rich as Paris Hilton (not just gold jewelry, streets of gold; not just gem studded purses and high heels, gem studded walls; not just good make-up but eternal youth) and as blissfully indifferent to the exquisite suffering of their brethren as, well, Paris Hilton (partying it up with their riches and friends including the Jesus friend-- while Baghdad or Southern California or Hell--burns). It isn’t just misguided. It’s disgusting.

What can one say when confronted with a huge pile of generalizations and bad stereotypes demonstrating that one knows little about the subject which one is dealing. Perhaps if this person really understood Christianity when she was a Christian she would still be one. The greatest disservice the fundies are doing is to cut us off from our cultural and intellectual heritage in the Christian faith. Even the first generation of Pentecostals knew more about Christian history than do the current generation. They were known to be less literate than their modern decedents. These atheists, not all of course, but the vocally crusading ones, are people who have been hurt by religious people and they can't distinguish between those who hurt them and the tradition with which those people are connected. I think we have the fundamentalists to blame for this. This kind of crusading atheist, and the author here is no exception. Consistently demonstrate a lack of understanding not only of the depth of Christian theology but of the Western philosophical tradition as a whole. Happily there are exceptions on both sides. There are critical thinking atheists, as well as Evangelicals, who understand the Western tradition in letters. I wish these people would have more of an effect upon their respective camps.

Here are some quick links to pages that might help fix the misconceived ideas about the nature of Christian theology:

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