Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Can Bayes Decide the Probability of God? No Dice!

  photo probability-theory-3224.jpg

It is understandable that naturalistic thinkers are uneasy with the concept of miracles. So should we all be watchful not to believe too quickly because its easy to get caught up in private reasons and ignore reason itself. Thus has more than one intelligent person been taken by both scams and honest mistakes. By the the same token it is equally a  danger that one will remain too long in the skeptical place and become overly committed to doubting everything. From that position the circular reasoning of the naturalist seems so reasonable. There’s never been any proof of miracles before so we can’t accept that there is any now. But that’s only because we keep making the same assumption and thus have always dismissed the evidence that was valid.
            At this point most atheists will interject the ECREE issue (or ECREP—extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, or “proof”). That would justify the notion of remaining skeptical about miracle evidence even when its good. There are many refutations of this phrase, which was popularized by Karl Sagan. One of the major problems with this idea is that atheists rarely get around to defining “extraordinary” either in terms of the claim (why would belief in God be extraordinary? 90% of humanity believe in some form of God) [1] The slogan ECREE is usually said to be based upon the Bayes completeness theorem.  Sagan popularized the slogan ECREE but the mathematical formula that it is often linked to (but not identical to) was invented by the man whose name it bears, working in the  seventeen forties but then he abandoned it, perhaps because mathematicians didn’t like it. It was picked up by the great scientist and atheist Laplace and improved upon.[2] This method affords new atheism the claim of a “scientific/mathematical” procedure that disproves God by demonstrating that God is totally improbable. It is also used to supposedly disprove supernatural effects as well as they are rendered totally improbable.[3]
            It is often assumed that the theorem was developed to back up Hume’s argument against miracles. Bayes was trying to argue against Hume and to find a mathematical way to prove that there must be a first cause to the universe.[4] Mathematicians have disapproved of the theorem for most of its existence. It has been rejected on the grounds that it’s based upon guesswork. It was regarded as a parlor trick until World War II then it was regarded as a useful parlor trick. This explains why it was strangely absent from my younger days and early education as a student of the existence of God. I used to pour through philosophy anthologies with God articles in them and never came across it. It was just part of the discussion on the existence of God until about the year 2000 suddenly it’s all over the net. It’s resurgence is primarily due to it’s use by skeptics in trying to argue that God is improbable. It was not taught in math from the end fo the war to the early 90s.[5]
            Bayes’ theorem was introduced first as an argument against Hume’s argument on miracles, that is to say, a proof of the probability of miracles. The theorem was learned by Richard Price from Bayes papers after the death of the latter, and was first communicated to the Royal society in 1763.[6] The major difference in the version Bayes and Price used and modern (especially skeptical versions) is that Laplace worked out how to introduce differentiation in prior distributions. The original version gave 50-50 probability to the prior distribution.[7] The problem with using principles such as Bayes theorem is that they can’t tell us what we need to know to make the calculations of probability accurate in dealing with issues where our knowledge is fragmentary and sparse. The theorem is good for dealing with concrete things like tests for cancer, developing spam filters, and military applications but not for determining the answer to questions about reality that are philosophical by nature and that would require an understanding of realms beyond, realms of which we know nothing. Bayes conquered the problem of what level of chance or probability to assign the prior estimate by guessing. This worked because the precept was that future information would come in that would tell him if his guesses were in the ball park or not. Then he could correct them and guess again. As new information came in he would narrow the field to the point where eventually he’s not just in the park but rounding the right base so to speak.
            The problem is that doesn’t work as well when no new information comes in, which is what happens when dealing with things beyond human understanding. We don’t have an incoming flood of empirical evidence clarifying the situation with God because God is not the subject of empirical observation. Where we set the prior, which is crucial to the outcome of the whole thing, is always going to be a matter of ideological assumption. For example we could put the prior at 50-50 (either God exists or not) and that would yield a high probability of God.[8] Or the atheist can argue that the odds of God are low because God is not given in the sense data, which is in itself is an ideological assumption. It assumes that the only valid form of knowledge is empirical data. It also ignores several sources of empirical data that can be argued as evidence for God (such as the universal nature of mystical experience).[9] It assumes that God can’t be understood as reality based upon other means of deciding such as personal experience or logic, and it assumes the probability of God is low based upon unbelief because the it could just as easily be assumed as high based upon it’s properly basic nature or some form of elegance (parsimony). In other words this is all a matter of how e chooses to see things. Perspective matters. There is no fortress of facts giving the day to atheism, there is only the prior assumptions one chooses to make and the paradigm under which one chooses to operate; that means the perception one chooses to filter the data through.
            Stephen Unwin tries to produce a simple analysis that would prove the ultimate truth of God using Bayes. The calculations he gives for the priors are as such:
Recognition of goodness (D = 10)
Existence of moral evil (D = 0.5)
Existence of natural evil (D = 0.1)
Intra-natural miracles (e.g., a friend recovers from an illness after you have prayed for him) (D = 2)
Extra-natural miracles (e.g., someone who is dead is brought back to life) (D = 1)
Religious experiences (D = 2)[10]
This is admittedly subjective, and all one need do is examine it to see this. Why give recognition of moral evil 0.5? If you read C.S. Lewis its obvious if you read B.F. Skinner there’s no such thing. That’s not scientific fact but opinon. When NASA does analysis of gas pockets on moons of Jupiter they don’t start out by saying “now let’s discuss the value system that would allow us to posit the existence of gas.” They are dealing with observable things that must be proved regardless of one’s value system. These questions (setting the prior for God) are matters for theology. The existence of moral evil for example this is not a done deal. This is not a proof or disproof of God. It’s a job for a theologian, not a scientist, to decide why God allows moral evil, or in fact if moral evil exists. These issues are all too touchy to just blithely plug in the conclusions in assessing the prior probability of God. That makes the process of obtaining a probability of God fairly presumptive.

[1] find,
[2] Sharon Berstch McGrayne, The Theory that would not Die: How Bayes’ Rule Cracked the Enigma Code, Hunted Down Russian Submarines, and Emerged Triumphant from Two Centuries of Controversy. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011, 3.
[3] As seen with chapter (? Disprove) by Stenger and Unwin.
[4] McGrayne op cit
[5] ibid, 61-81
[6] Geoffrey Poitras, Richard Price, Miracles and the Origin of Bayesian Decision Theory pdf$$$.pdf
Faculty of Business AdministrationSimon Fraser UniversityBurnaby, BCCANADA V5A 1S6. Geoffrey Poitras is a Professor of Finance in the Faculty of Business Administration at Simon Fraser University. Lisited 12/22/12.
[7] ibid
[8] Joe Carter, “The Probability of God” First Thoughts. Blog of publication of First Things. (August 18, 2010) URL:  visited (1/10/13). Carter points out that when Unwin (an atheist discussed in previous chapter) puts in 50% prior he gets 67% probability for God. When Cater himself does so he get’s 99%.Cater’s caveat: “Let me clarify that this argument is not intended to be used as a proof of God’s existence. The sole intention is to put in quantifiable terms the probabilities that we should form a belief about such a Being’s existence. In other words, this is not an ontological proof but a means of justifying a particular epistemic stance toward the idea of the existence or non-existence of a deity.The argument is that starting from an epistemically neutral point (50 percent/50 percent), we can factor in specific evidence for the existence or non-existence of a deity. After evaluating each line of evidence, we can determine if it is more or less likely that it would entail the existence of God.”
[9] Metacrock, "The Scale and The universal Nature of Mystical Experience," The religious a priroi blog URL: see also the major argument I sue for documentation in that article,  In P, McNamar (Ed.), Where God and science meet, Vol. 3, pp. 119-138. Westport, CT: Praeger. linked in Google preview.
[10] Stephen D. Unwin, The probability of God a Simple Calculation That Proves the Ultimate Truth. New York New York: Three Rivers Press, Random House. 2003, appendix 238

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Proposed debate with Bradley Bowen: Existence of God


Paul Tillich

My friend Bradley Bowen and I are discussion debating the existence of God, We had a fine debate last Year on the Historical Jesus, this this should be more fun. It will be a friendly debate. These comments were made om face book regarding expectations and what ground work to lay, Jeremy Scully also took part in that discussion. This could be the opening or it could be merely a proposal. I put it u for Bradley to get an idea of what I want to argue.

Jeremy Scully:
Please define what you mean by "God". It's such an overloaded word. Are we talking Theism?

I use a generalized version of Paul Tillich's notion of The ground of being," Tillich spoke of the God Beyond the God of theism.[1]There's a lot of confusion about this concept but I take it  to mean essentially that God is not a localized entity that could  be described as "a being" but is the fundamental aspect of being upon which all individual being are continent,[2] I link Tillich's notion with that of Pseudo-Dionysus the Areopagite, which places it the historic Christian tradition butting a unconventional aspect of that tradition. In answering the question of God's personal nature  Dionysus' notion of God has been called "universal mind." [3]

Bradley Bowen:

You know how I understand the phrase "God exists": There is exactly one being who created the universe, and who is the only eternally omnipotent, eternally omniscient, and eternally perfectly morally good being. ...Can you try to avoid the problems Geisler ran into by providing a definition or clarification of what you think the phrase "God exists" means?
This is a critical issue for one who follow's Tillich's theology. Tillich believed that the term "exist" pertains to contingent things. This in a technical sense God does not "exist," Although this should be construed as saying "there is no God." He equates God with being itself (in the Heideggerian sense). Thus he specifically refrains from referring to God as"a being." This is Langley a metaphorical stance,and thus Hartshorne got him to admit that on could say "God exits" in a metaphorical sense.[4] I generally avoid this discussion and use it that way because to technical to burden most people with, But not philosophers so i brig it up here.

The Tillich prohibition on saying God does not exist does not mean there is no God, God is real, God is the basis of reality the ground of being. God cannot be any less real and be the basis of reality; God is not an individual mind cut off off from other beings and localized as  humans or as biological organisms are. Now this may defy our understanding but I see now reason why we should understand the basis of reality.I also reject, as did Tillich, the suggestion this seems to some to raise that it is a from of pantheism. Tillich devotes a lot of  Time to the discussion of why this is not pantheism, he classifies it as panENtheism (emphasis mine). Pantheism is either a sum total of everything or a diafication of nature but in either case "God" would  be a thing in being. In This from of peanentheism God is the basis of being or equated with being, being itself. By the way,I prefer calling it ground of being,(GOB) that's the term I'll be using.

Mystical Experience

This concept is crucial to my argument, it is wrapped up with the being itself or ground of being notion.[5] The term does not imply visions or voices, it's not about miracles. it's not a trance. it's a from of higher consciousness similar to the effects of meditation, it can be achieved thorough meditation,or it can be spontaneous and is triggered by various forms of stimulation such as classical music or beauty, the sublime, and of course prayer. Many theologians, some anthropologists and psychologists think mystical experience is the basis of all religion.[6] It's the connecting link between the ground of being and a religious interpretation of reality, or deity,God ,the Holy, the mysterium tremendum .[7] This form of consciousness is designated by two aspects: (1) a sense of undifferentiated unity of all that is. (2) the sense off the numinous or (SON). That is to say, an all pervasive sense of total love and of presence. This will also be accompanied  by noetic effects the sense that postoperative information has been imparted.Not specific information but general such as:God is real,God loves you,: I am aware of the danger that this can be used as a magical king's X, I am determined not to use it in that way but to be responsible in meeting  burdens of argument.

For more information read my book[8] Article,
I wrote for an academic conference , summarizing the book [9]

Rational Warrant, not proof

I am not going to make any fancy definition for "warrant." It;s pretty obvious, take the phrase "that assertion is not warranted." What does warrant mean there? It means reason's permission to believe a thing either thorough logic or factual evidence, When an assertion is warranted there's a good reason to believe it. Rather than proving the existence of God I argue for the goal of providing a warrant for belief. A popular saying is often heard on the net: proof is for mathematics and whisky,

GOB = Ground of Being

SON - Semse of numinous

RCSN = Regular,Constant,Shared Navigation

Argument I: from Eternal Necessary aspect of being

1.All naturalistic phenomena is contingent and temporal

2. Some aspect of being must be eternal and necessary unless we are willing to accept existence ex nihilo

3. In contrast to Human infinitude the GOB evokes sense of the numinous

4. whatever evokes the SON is a valid object of worship, thus we are warranted in equating  Gob with God

5, Belief is warranted from 2 and 4.

Argument: II: From Epistemic Judgement

(1) we trust perceptions that work for us in navigating the world

(2) we judge by criteria: RCSN

(3) RE fits this criteria

(4 )enables navigation

(5) :. we are warranted to trust RE as indicative of reality since it meets the criteria ofepistemic judgement

Regular meaning it's not a fluke the same phenomena are always associated with the experience. consistent, meaning the same out come is obtained, Shared meaning inter-subjective, Navigation  meaning one can navigate in life by the experiences,


[1]  Paul Tillich, The Courage to Be, Yale University Press; 2 Sub edition., 2000, 186-90.

[2] __________,  
Systematic Theology, Vol 1, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957 

see also my article "What is Being Itself? )(This Time I've got it_)" Metacrock's blog

[3] Edwin Rolt in Joseph Hinman, "Super Essential Godhead" Metacrock's blog (May 3, 2016)

Original source for Rolt: 
Dionysius the Areopagite: on Divine names and the Mystical Theology, trans. Clearance Edwin Rolt , New YorkNew York: Cosmio 2007, from original 1920 publication.  see also online versionChristian Classics Ethereal Library, on line version, The Author and his Influence, trans by, 1920  website URL:  by
visited May 13,

[4] John M. Russell, "Tillich's Implicit Ontological argument," Sophia, Vol 32, No 2 (1993) 1-16.

[5] Tillich, Paul. A History of Christian thought, New York, NY:TouchStonme books. 1967

[6] Ralph Hood Jr. “The Common Core Thesis in the Study of Mysticism.” In Where God and Science Meet: How Brain and Evolutionary Studies Alter Our Understanding of Religion. Patrick Mcnamara ed. West Port CT: Prager Publications, 2006, 119-235., 127.
see also 
Walter T. Stace, Mysticism and Philosophy, New York: Macmillan,1961,44.

Several other thinkers agree, 
Rudoph Otto (see below) and Huston Smith

[7] Stuart Sarbacker, "Rudolph Otto and The concept of the numinous," 

Christianity, Mysticism and Spirituality, Theology and Philosophy of Religion, Sociology, Anthropology, and Psychology of Religion, Religion:  Oxford Research Encyclopedias, 
Online Publication Date:
Aug 2016  (accessed 5/28/17) 

[8] Joseph Hinman, The Trace of god,Rational Warramt For Belief, Colorado Spromgs: Gramd Viaduct. no page indicated.

available on Amazon"

[9] Hinman, "The Empirical Study of Mystical Experience," The Religious A proiri website (accessed 5/28/17) URL:
part 1:

Part 2:

Thursday, May 25, 2017

On Resistance is not Futile: Trump Cuts

Trump palms deep cuts for poor and environment on pipe dream trickle own idea that destroying the environment will prompt business to jump start  economy

please support my political blog resistances not futile

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Gospel According To Metacrock


A skeptic on the comment section of this blog wants to imitate a dialogue and asked me to answer a certain question,He's not not being as flippant as the inquisition seem to imply but here it is:

It's actually about the fact that I have devoted way enough time on this thing already. Why should I care? I don't find anything convincing and I feel like I just hear the same things over and over again. It doesn't mean that it's false, but it does not compel me.
Why one should care about the truth of God is so that we can know God. Knowing God is important because it's the purpose of creation so it gives us meaning and makes us happy in a deeply satisfying way nothing else can.match. That's what you expect to hear but what else could I say?That really is the bottom line,everything else is just explication. I think to flesh this out more fully I have to put it in context in relation to other faiths.

I am assuming the next question will be why Christianity and not some other religion? You probably expect me to give a big thing a out how True Christianity is and how false other religions are. I don't think in those terms anymore,Yes I do believe Jesus is the incarnate logos he died on the cross for our sins but I don;t think in terms of one true religion and all others are false and deceived. I think in terms of knowing God and Jesus is the direct route. God is working in all cultures. Religion in general is a cultural expression through which people filter their subliminal experience of  God and encode it with cultural constructs so it;s meaningful to them.I think people can follow Jesus without knowing it;s Jesus. That;s how I read Romans 2:6-14, and Acts 17:16-29.

All religions seek to do three things:
a) to identify the human problematic,
b) to identify an ultimate transformative experience (UTE) which resolves the problematic, and
c) to mediate between the two.
But not all religions are equal. All are relative to the truth but not all are equal. Some mediate the UTE better than others, or in a more accessible way than others. Given the foregoing, my criteria are that:
1) a religious tradition reflect a human problematic which is meaningful in terms of  what we find in the world.

2) the UTE be found to really resolve the problematic

3) it mediates the UTE in such a way as to be effective and accessible.

4) its putative and crucial historical claims be historically probable given the ontological and epistemological assumptions that are required within the inner logic of that belief system.

5) it be consistent with itself and with the external world in a way that touches these factors.
All religions seek to resolve and define the problematic. Some define it in terms of imbalance with nature,or the problem of re-birth. Christianity defines it in terms of separation from God due to sin and the remedy is reunion with God through redemption. The consequences of non belief are that one fails to be transformed, and does not know God which is the greatest joy in life. I don't believe hell as eternal concision torment but I see it as a symbol of spiritual death, the realty is cessation of existence at the end of life. Salvation is a process that begins in his life through the transfomraitve power and culminates in eternal life with God.

The efficacy of God;'s transformation power and the validity of my ecumenical view view can be proved empirically. To really understand this one needs to read my book, The following observations spell this out:The power of god is real and it can be experienced in real terms, This happens in born again experience, in Baptism of the Spirit and in mystical experience, Mystical experience is the direct efficacy of God's transforming power as it draws all people toward Christ. The reality of it is extremely well documented,I have 200 studies in the corpus that my books deals with The point is there is measurable impact in the lives of those who have such experiences, I've written a great deal about this too much to put here.[1]

Greeley found no evidence to support the orthodox belief that frequent mystic experiences or psychic experiences stem from deprivation or psychopathology. His ''mystics'' were generally better educated, more successful economically, and less racist, and they were rated substantially happier on measures of psychological well-being.[2]

(2)Long-Term Effects


*Say their lives are more meaningful,
*think about meaning and purpose
*Know what purpose of life is
Meditate 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[3]


*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[4]

(3) Trend toward positive view among psychologists. Spiriutal Emergency MYSTICAL OR UNITIVE EXPERIENCE "Offsetting the clinical literature that views mystical experiences as pathological, many theorists (Bucke, 1961; Hood, 1974, 1976; James, 1961; Jung, 1973; Laski, 1968; Maslow, 1962, 1971; Stace, 1960; Underhill, 1955) have viewed mystical experiences as a sign of health and a powerful agent of transformation." (4) Most clinicians and clinical studies see postive. (Ibid) "Results of a recent survey (Allman, et al,. 1992) suggest that most clinicians do not view mystical experiences as pathological. Also, studies by several researchers have found that people reporting mystical experiences scored lower on psychopathology scales and higher on measures of psychological well-being than controls (Caird, 1987; Hood, 1976, 1977, 1979; Spanos and Moretti, 1988)". 

Why be a Christian and not a mystic or a universalist? Because I know the reality of Jesus in my as well as in history, Jesus rounds the relativity of God in a history that we don't have with Buddhism or Hinduism,even though I'm sure the Upanishads and the Mahabharata are based upon some kind of historical reality we don't have a flesh bold connection to the divine as we do in Jesus,now that would be just a rationalization if it was only a historical connection but that same connection is real in my own life, I have to admit it's just my end of things,I was raised in Christianity so even though I was an  atheist it was Jesus I called upon when I was desperate and the fact that I got an answer means I have to accept that it was Jesus who answered. When I reached out in baptism of the Holy spirit was a dramatic events that knocked me standing up out of my chair with a jolt of actual power that was like electricity but didn't hurt. Read about these things on my old website.[5]

I can't claim that everyone who turns to Christ will have these kinds of experiences,unfortunately I can't tell anyone how to have them, but even the day today normal sense of belief provides a great degree of meaning and purpose and a sense of God's presence, I think we are experiencing God's presence all the time we just allow things to distract and drawn it out. Robert Wuthnow, one of the major researchers on mystical experience, discusses the theory that mystical experience is on a continuum and everyone feels it to some degree.[6] 

The efficacy is not an objective issue either, but the fact that only a couple of religions in the world share the concept of Grace should be a clue. No other religion (save Pure Land Buddhism) have this notion. For all the others there is a problem of one's own efforts. The Grace mediates and administrates through Scriptures is experienced in the life of the believer, and can be found also in prayer, in the sacraments and so forth.

Where the historical questions should enter into it are where the mediation of the UTE hedges upon these historical aspects. Obviously the existence of Jesus of Nazareth would be one, his death on the cross another. The Resurrection of course, doctrinal is also crucial, but since that cannot be established in an empirical sense, seeing as no historical question can be, we must use historical probability. That is not blunted by the minor discrepancies in the number of women at the tomb or who got there first. That sort of thinking is to think in terms of a video documentary. We expect the NT to have the sort of accuracy we find in a court room because we are moderns and we watch too much television. The number of women and when they got to the tomb etc. does not have a bearing on whether the tomb actually existed, was guarded and was found empty. Nor does it really change the fact that people claimed to have seen Jesus after his death alive and well and ascending into heaven. We can view the different strands of NT witness as separate sources, since they were not written as one book, but by different authors at different times and brought together later.

The historicity of the NT is a logical assumption given the nature of the works. We can expect that the Gospels will be polemical. We do not need to assume, however, that they will be fabricated from whole cloth. They are the product of the communities that redacted them. That is viewed as a fatal weakness in fundamentalist circles, tantamount to saying that they are lies. But that is silly. In reality there is no particular reason why the community cannot be a witness. The differences in the accounts are produced by either the ordering of periscopes to underscore various theological points or the use of witnesses who fanned out through the various communities and whose individual view points make up the variety of the text. This is not to be confused with contradiction simply because it reflects differences in individual's view points and distracts us from the more important points of agreement; the tomb was empty, the Lord was seen risen, there were people who put there hands in his nail prints, etc.

The Bible is not the Perfect Revelation of God to humanity. Jesus is that perfect revelation. The Gospels are merely the record of Jesus' teachings, deposited with the communities and encoded for safe keeping in the list chosen through Apostolic backing to assure Christian identity. For that matter the Bible as a whole is a reflection of the experience of transformation and as such, since it was the product of human agents we can expect it to have human flaws. The extent to which those flaws are negligible can be judge the ability of that deposit of truth to adequately promote transformation. Christ authorizes the Apostles, the Apostles authorize the community, the community authorizes the tradition, and the tradition authorizes the canon.

In summation the basic thing that all religions seek to do is to explaimn the human problematic and to resolve it through transformation experience. The Christian tradition does this in a way that both grounds it's  truth claims in history and transcends the historical scene,In so doing it offers a way of life that works  to transform the lives of of adherents with divine encounter.

[1] Joseph Hinman, The trace of God:Rational Warrant for Belief. Colorado Sprimgs Col.: Grand Viaduct Publishing, 2014

on amazom

[2]  Greely in Charles T. Tart, Psi: Scientific Studies of the Psychic Realm, p. 19.

[3] Robert Wuthnow,  (1978). "Peak Experiences: Some Empirical Tests." Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 18 (3), 59-75.

This summary was actually complied on the counsel on spiritual practices website I researched that study form my book it establishes a 20% increase accords the board in self actualizing categories for the first year of the experience as compared with non experiencers and it is renewable.

[4]  Kathleen D.Noble, (1987). ``Psychological Health and the Experience of Transcendence.'' The Counseling Psychologist, 15 (4), 601-614.
The same situation also ob tins with this summary as that for Wuthnow,

[5] Joseph Hinman,  "How I got Saved and  Became Metacrock," Doxa: Christian
Thought in the 21st Cemetery,
on line resource URL  (accessed 5/24/17)

[6] Wuthnow Op cit

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Jean-Paul Sartre Harbinger of the Defense of Reason

Jean-Paul Sartre (1905–1980)

The other day I was struck by an affront to my love of continental philosophy so grievous it must be avenged. Where else but that bastion of analytical philosophy would this occur but among my friends at Secular Outpost? This is no mere sectarian squabble among arcane academics, it has profound implications for theology and apologetic, The real real issue here is the mystification of knowledge through the illusion of technique, which analytical philosophy is bad about lending itself to, vs. a discursive understanding of issues that is accessible to people of all walks of intellectual life. Ryan M was making a point with which I basically agree. Certain figures such as Nietzsche and Sartre are no longer regarded as major voices of atheism in the atheist community or in American philosophy a (so say the Analytical types). Nevertheless, The stature of these thinkers must nevertheless be understood and respected, They still post challenges and offer valuable insights in spite of their lack of technical proficiency in analytical philosophy, This is not to deny the value of analytical philosophy which I do admire, or to cast aspersions upon Ryan or any of the crowd at SOP whom I also admire. I do think discursive reason is discounted and there is too much mystification of knowledge in the perpetuation of technical proficiency and it shows in the lack of attention to the concerns voiced by these overlooked figures.

This blog piece will focus on Sartre. It's not that I am so in awe of Sartre that I must defend him.I don't want to defend him, ultimately I disagree with his entire project. He was an atheist and I am a Christian. I do see his many flaws, Ryan M. is basically right when he says Sartre doesn't make good arguments, it's just that I'm not sure that makimng good arguments is the only point of philosophy. Nor am I sure that the inability to make good arguments means the guy's thought is not worth considering. This will not be the kind of thing I want to write. I want to show from his writings that good arguments can be drawn out even though he's wrong in his final conclusion. I don't have my books here where I am and I  can't reach them. If I had them I could find all the marked passages easily. I will instead just make a couple of quick observations.

The offending statement came in an article about mistakes theists and atheists often make in arguing about philosophy of reliogion:
Mistake 6 - [Falsely believing particular individuals are representative of the PoR at its best]- Atheists on this blog have probably encountered theists who will quote Nietzsche, Sarte, Camus, and others as representatives of the best arguments against theism. It is difficult to say Nietzsche, Sarte and Camus offered arguments at all, let alone arguments against theism. These people are not representative of modern atheism, nor any form of analytic atheism. More representative would be Graham Oppy, John Schellenberg, Jordan Howard Sobel, and other contemporary era philosophers. Likewise, Dinesh D' Souza, Josh McDowell, and Lee Strobel are not representative of the best arguments for theism. More representative would be Richard Swinburne, William Lane Craig, Alexander Pruss, Robin Collins, and other contemporary era philosophy.[1]
Even though Sartre is not taken seriously by new atheism or by analytical philosophers that is not to say that he has no fans. Sartre is still regarded as "arguably the best known philosopher of the twentieth century. His indefatigable pursuit of philosophical reflection, literary creativity and, in the second half of his life, active political commitment gained him worldwide renown, if not admiration...whose writings set the tone for intellectual life in the decade immediately following the Second World War."[2] He was dismissed by Foucault as "nineteenth century." This was for his commitment to enlightenment ideals of humanism, his Marxism,  and the individual which postmoderns came to identity with outmoded modernism.[3]
It is common practice for teachers in the Anglo-American philosophical tradition to be scathing about Sartre’s philosophy, dismissing it as woolly, jargon-laden, derivative, wrong-headed and so on – in Bryan Magee’s recent TV series ‘The Great Philosophers’, for instance, Sartre’s philosophy was declared to be only of passing interest. But even where Sartre’s philosophy is obviously flawed, as it certainly is in Existentialism and Humanism, it can fire the imagination and offer genuine insight into the human condition.[4]
I think part for the reason that atheists rejected him is because he had a conversion at they end of his life, he became the poster boy for Christian apologists seeking to show that their conception of atheist casual approach to morality didn't work. It's only Christian apologists who don't argue with atheists in person who think Sartre is still a "big gun" for atheists.

Nevertheless I still find reasons to admire him and to value his work. He did dedicates the second half of his life to working to improve the lot of the poor and marginalized. Even though he was a Marxist he stood up to Soviet Marxism and American imperialism equally. In an age where people want to be robots and can't understand the value of individualism he is one last light drawing thinkers to value the individual. He's the last bastion of enlightenment humanism, in an age gone wild for determinism and selling to anti-humanism. Sartre is one of  the last defenders manning the ramparts against the tide of what Robert Bloom calls "The war on Reason." Social psychologists in numerious studies pint to hundreds of unseen factors that control our behavior while those idolizing psychopathology chalk everything up to chemical determinism.[5] There's really no room left for the individual as a responsible agent in society.

I think it's basically true that Sartre doesn't argue. That seems to be more of a cultural thing, They were all trying to be Nietzsche who used his superior sensibilities as the ultimate proof of  veracity. Even though Sartre had German relatives (Albert Schweitzer was his cousin) he was after all French. Rather than argue vociferously Sartre cultivated a subtle approach based upon elaborate nuanced development of his themes and a literary style.  
Sartre's gifts of psychological description and analysis are widely recognized. What made him so successful a novelist and playwright contributed to the vivacity and force of his phenomenological “arguments” as well. His early studies of emotive and imaging consciousness in the late 1930s press the Husserlian principle of intentionality farther than their author seemed willing to go. For example, in The Psychology of Imagination (1940), Sartre argues that Husserl remains captive to the idealist principle of immanence (the object of consciousness lies within consciousness), despite his stated goal of combating idealism, when he seems to consider images as miniatures of the perceptual object reproduced or retained in the mind. On the contrary, Sartre argues, if one insists that all consciousness is intentional in nature, one must conclude that even so-called “images” are not objects “in the mind” but are ways of relating to items “in the world” in a properly imaginative manner, namely, by what he calls “derealizing” them or rendering them “present-absent.”[6]
One subtle as aspect of his thought is in his dictum from a work largely taken as a  manifesto (even though he declined that) "being proceeds essence." [7] 'Benjamin Studebaker follows up by arguing that Sartre's dictum must be wrong,  essence has to proceed being for there to be anything to be. Studebaker rightly points out that the phrase has to be taken somewhat metaphorically, Even so, as he also points out there are still problems. Essence: for Sartre doesn't mean God;s creative power, he was an atheist,It meant genetics and environmental influences. [8] Even so those factors must still be present even morose for a 21st century naturalist, with nothing other than those two factors to fall back on. Post humans have no spiritual essence that transcends the chemicals.

It is ironic many atheists encountering Sartre's ideas in connection with apologetic will say disagree with Sartre on the assumption that he says there is a universal meaning They will juxtapose their idea of private personal meaning against it, That's actually in agreement with Sartre. He is not saying there in some transcendent cosmic meaning he's saying life is meaningless and absurd but we make our own meaning. That really demonstrates the problem with Sartre, there has to be a kind of essence for us to be, but once we are then we make our own meaning and become more than we are. So really he should say being and essence are a dialectic that goes essence-- being-- synthesis (private manufactured essence). He is really saying we become more than the naturalistic essence are born with and are shaped when we learn to exert our self making freedom. 

Freedom is another issue that puts him  at odds with 21st century atheists. Most of the new atheists I've seen either on message boards or in print are  chemical deterministic and opposes free will. I've seen atheists   claim science disproves free will (it does not). For Sartre we are radically free, almost too free. So his notion of essence is really verging on the kind of first cause that is almost independent of nature.  I think he had an inkling of God  that finally came to fruition at the end of his life. Flynn comments on the value he still finds in Sartre's work:
Next, the recent revival of the understanding of philosophy as a “way of life” as distinct from an academic discipline focused on epistemology or more recently on the philosophy of language, while renewing an interest in Hellenistic ethics as well as in various forms of “spirituality,” can find in Sartrean existentialism forms of “care of the self” that invite fruitful conversation with contemporary ethics, aesthetics and politics without devolving into moralism, aestheticism or fanaticism. From a philosopher suspicious of moral recipes and focused on concrete, lived experience, this is perhaps as much as one could expect or desire.[9]
The profound consequences for Theology is that since most theology is written in the vain of continental philosophy and most is not written as analytical philosophy (not Christians who are analytical philosophers as doing theology ). Paul Tillich is a good example of someone who is very continental in way he wrote, he was of course German. It's just discursive reasoning, it uses logic no less than analytical philosophy for formal deductive argument. They are still reasoning even though they don't package it is the same. It;s more accessible.Even though theology has it;s own mystification of knowledge, still analytical philosophy while it is a great help in clarifying and making critical distinctions can also become a straight jacket and feed into the illusion of technique.


[2] Thomas,  Flynn,"Jean-Paul Sartre", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = .

[3] Ibid

[4] Nigel Warburton, "A student’s guide to Jean-Paul Sartre’s Existentialism and Humanism,"
Philosophy Now: A Magazine of Ideas, (Dec 2016, Jan, 2017), online jouirnal

[5] Robert Bostrom, website, “Is there a God the Evidence For and Agaismt,”On-limn resource, URL: (accssed 9/21/16)
Yale University (Philosophy)

[6] Flynn Op Cit

[7] Jean-Paul Sartre,"Existentialism is a Humanism." PDF
Written: Lecture given in 1946
Source: Existentialism from Dostoyevsky to Sartre, ed. Walter Kaufman, Meridian Publishing Company, 1989;
First Published: World Publishing Company in 1956;
Translator: Philip Mairet;
Copyright: reproduced under the “Fair Use” provisions;
HTML Markup: by Andy Blunden 1998; proofed and corrected February 2005.

[8] Benjamin Studebaker, "A Critique of Existentialism," Benjamin Studebaker: about Politics, Economics, International Relations, ect... (Sept 5, 2012)

[9] Flynn, op cit