Thursday, July 31, 2008

Letter to an Atheist Named Alice Rose

 This has been up since July of 08, it's now 1/15/10. This post remains the post popular on the blog and people continue to send in answers on it. I am just tonight answering comments made today on this post. I have no idea why it's so popular and Alice Rose never answered back. I guess the title sounds intriguing.

A few minutes ago an atheist put a comment on an old blog spot from way back in 12/7/07 or somewhere around that time.. Ordinarily I would just let her have her say and forget it because it was such an old piece. She will probably never look at my answer. For some reason the tone of it made me want to give a good serious answer. I tried to find her profile and could not, so I googaled her name, Alice Rose. I may have found her on my space but don't know, If so he's only about 16! I don't know what experiences she has had, but she's too young to be mean to. So I am going to give a serious nice answer, trying as hard as I can to be nice. I hope word gets back to this person.

Here are her comments. the piece she responded to was "Introducing Atheist Watch" my now defunct other blog. I did away with Atheist Watch because I found that watching for atheists to say hateful things made me more hateful myself.

Alice Rose's comments:

Atheism is about love of logic, not hatred of religion, my good sir.

Sure, there are a few individuals who are feed up with what my people are going through, but honestly who are you to say we're not good people?

Just because we don't believe this "proof" that there's a bearded sky daddy handed down from thousands and thousands of years ago doesn't make us bad. Bastardizations of the truth perpetrated by delusional(but I'm sure, very nice) people make us seem bad.

We're a hate group?
Is that so? when have I, this supposed member of a hate group harassed someone?

My name is AliceRose and I am a your typical peaceful Atheist.

Anyway, I hope you see the real connection between Santa and god.

Good luck to ya, Mr. MeanyPants.

Ok I think deserves a nice serious answer:

Atheism is about love of logic, not hatred of religion, my good sir.

none of the atheists that I deal with on message boards would say that atheism is about loving logic. they all says it's a lack of a belief, nothing more. So where does this idea come from that it's about loving logic? why is it that every time I use logic to argue for the existence of God atheists come out of the wood work to tell me that logic is no good, it can't tell us anything, we have to have empirical scientific evidence not logic?

Sure, there are a few individuals who are fed up with what my people are going through, but honestly who are you to say we're not good people?

I don't' know what you mean by "fed up with what people are going through?" Before I get to that I want to point out that I did not say atheists are not good people. I did not say atheists are a hate group. I don't know why you can't just repeat myw words accurately and fairly. I pointed out over and over again that I was speaking of a certain segment within the atheist community, which apparently you know is there.

why aren't you telling that segment to stop? why is it so hard for you to use peer pressure on something you know is right? you use peer pressure to humiliate and ridicule Christians. Why can't you use it to shut up the hateful segment in the atheist community?

Now when you say "what people are going through" you mean to say that religion is so bad and so oppressive that this is why the hateful segment is reacting? But I was an atheist. I was fed up with the oppressive aspects of Christianity. But I didn't go around exhibiting lies and ridicule and hurting religious people's feelings and refusing to try to understand what religion is about? Don't you think if you are going to criticize something you should at least try to understand it first?

There is a huge body of scientific evidence that proves that religion is real good for you, much better than unbelief in terms of less depression, more awareness, self actualization, better adjustment, being positive, enjoying life and better health. People don't listen to that. They don't know about it. All the harping atheists do on how bad religion is is just setting up a straw man argument. Straw man means you construct an argument and pretend your enemy gave it. You construct in such a way that it's easy to attack. The problem is straw man arguments never really do justice to the other side or the case they could make. Atheists are just ignoring the most intelligent and rational side of religious belief and pretending like it's all like the extrmee forms of fundamentalism.

Just because we don't believe this "proof" that there's a bearded sky daddy handed down from thousands and thousands of years ago doesn't make us bad. Bastardizations of the truth perpetrated by delusional(but I'm sure, very nice) people make us seem bad.

First of all I never said atheists are "bad." Secondly, I was never talking about all atheist and made that quite clear every time. Now you show me from what you say that your basic view is that belief is a delusion and that your understanding of religion is about a big man in the say. Now this is a good example of what I mean by "straw man argument." IF you don't know that most religious belief is much more sophisticated then that, then you don't know enough about tit to be criticizing it. You should study it more. you should especially look for the theologians, the real thinkers, not just the common man on the street. If you know better and you are just using hyperbole then you are setting up a straw man argument. In either case you are not being fair. Anyone can attack the simplistic notions of ancient man, but yous should know that modern theolgoians at places like Oxford and Cambridge have sophisticated modern ideas of God. As for thinking that it's a delusion this is disproved by a host of empirical studies. Religion is proven not be connected to any kind of mental illness.

I think you are refusing to fairly study or understand religion. You want to criticize it because that's what's cool, thats' in, but it's not fair and it's wrong. You should study the best and most sophisticated version of it before you claim to know what's wrong with it.

I hope you consider what I said, you are always welcome to comment on my blog.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Civ Theme 2: Freedom and Dignity

B.F. Sinner American psychologist
and leader of the Guardians of Oa

Back in the late early 70s, about 1970 when I was young, a major force in the world of thought was Skinarian psychology, led by B.F.Skinner best known for his book Beyond Freedom and Dignity. It is very strange that Skinner should have been popular with the young in that era, because looking back on it he was counter to every impulse of the youth movement. Skinner argued that freedom and dignity were outmoded concepts that stood in the way of ecological and social reform. Yet if there was anything that the youth movement was about it was freedom. If you have true freedom, dignity can't be far behind. Those concepts are bound up together. Digty follows freedom and requires it. Freedom without dignity is meaningless. Skinner argued that people need to be engineered to protect the environment, and we need to change behavior by treating people as rats in mazes and reinforcing their good behaviors and using negative reinforcement or opporant conditioning to rid society of their bad behaviors. As I understand it the difference in negative reinforcement and opporant conditioning is this. Negative reinforcement means you are reinforcing them to stop a behavior. So you are giving goodies they want but you are influencing them to stop something. With opporant one is using abrasive or uncomfortable reinforcement to detour behavior. Skinner wanted to start treating everyone like this in order to produce good social behavior. For a time this theory was on everyone's lips. The problem was Skinner assumed environment was the major factor in behavior. When the genetic side began leading the Skinner dropped from the horizon.

It is odd that this view had any currency at all in the 60's because it was anti-antithetical to the spirit of the age. The counter culture was about individual freedom. Skinner wanted to eliminate individual freedom and relegate it to the outmoded concept bin. Now the major explanations for behavior revolve around genetic determinism. Atheists go for this sort of explication, I think, because it allows them to feel guilt free when fears of Pascal's revenge loom forth. When the slight tinge that maybe there is a hell after all dawns its ugly head, the atheist likes to be able to say "O but I'm so totally blameless because everything I do is determined by genetics. All of life is just strict determinism." This is a forlorn hope because it plays right into the hands of the most fundamentalistic theists. Surely if we are predestined (ala Calvinistic predestination) then we should expect to find a genetic predisposition that would give away our ultimate destination. I find myself mystified by many of the choices of atheists in this generation. The desire to be reduced to the status of robots is no less puzzling. I can understand why they feel so much more comfortable with technology. That makes perfect sense. But I cannot understand why they are so comfortable with being reduced to the level of robots. It seems one major reason to rebel against God is to be free, but then they don't believe in freedom.

I'm sure some atheist believe in freedom, but I have argued with many of them, a huge number, who do not. They especially reject freedom in the form of free will. maybe some atheists think its' a matter of being free to follow their pre determined natures. I have seen atheists on message boards, more times than I can count, many many times argue that free will is nonsense because everything is determinism. It seems total absolute determinism is a huge assumption among this millennial generation. At least in message board debates the hedge against religious guilt does play into it. Most of those arguments usually revolve around the notion "God can't hold me responsible for sin because I'm predetermined to do what I do." One would think that if everything is so pre determined then religious people are religious because of chemicals in their heads, they have no other choice because there is no free will. That may make atheists feel better about the slight possibility of a God, but then it also should mean that their atheism is predetermined and that may be because they are predestined to burn. Even so and at any rate they should at least understand that if this is true than religious people are not religious because they ear stupid, but because they are predetermined by chemicals. Conversely atheists are not superior or smarter because they cant' help and did not choose their outlook.

I usually avoid arguments about free will because it is absolutely meaningless. There is no reason to assume that we could ever find the truth of it. If we are so totally determined, if the universe is so totally deterministic, then research and science are hopeless. Anything we "discover" will only be the biased result of the pre determined outlook. Science has to assume free will or it can't research or experiment. If conclusions are already pre determined there's no point is doing the research. But people who make these arguments are usually just confused about the nature of cause and effect. They are confusing causation with determinism. Cause and effect in and of itself is not deterministic per se. The nexus of material cause and effect allows for a greater verity of outcomes; there are uncertainty principles, and human reason means that we can choose from between alternatives. In any choice we make reason is the motive cause of the outcome that results from the choice having been made. Some think that free will suspension of cause and effect, but in free will reason itself becomes the cause, there is no one pre determined outcome. The analogy would be the human propensity for height. Humans fall within a range of four to seven feet, in general. There is no one over all universal height that so advantageous that it becomes the universal height, so a range is possible. So we have a genetic propensity for height, but we are not per determined to necessarily be any particular height, but we will usually fall pretty much in that range.

Science is potentially of the greatest forces for freedom, yet it is also one of the greatest dangers. We saw how a certain kind of scientific thinking, with B.F. Skinner, almost contributed to the sacking of freedom and dignity. The scientistic mentality always seeks to reduce freedom and to explain away dignity. Scientism is practically the worship of science. It seeks to reduce freedom to a level of control in the name of some misbegotten misconception about the what serves science. Scientistic types always want humanity to be the servants of science. They will defend that with some circular reasoning about serving the greater good of some abstract humanity for which concrete here and now people must suffer. The other day I came across a perfect example of the scientistic mentality, on Meta Filter.

book review:Daniel Dennett's Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon
March 7, 2006 11:10 AM
March 7, 2006 11:10 AM RSS feed for this thread Subscribe
Prof. Daniel Dennett's (New York University, Philosophy) new book Breaking the Spell appears to have frightened its NYT book reviewer, Leon Wieseltier (The New Republic, Literary Editor).

(the blogger here was wrong, Dennett is at Tufts not NYU)

Wieselter claims "The question of the place of science in human life is not a scientific question. It is a philosophical question", and promptly proceeds to demonstrate that he himself knows nothing about philosophy. Dennett responds.
Prof. Brian Leiter (University of Texas, Philosophy) responds that "'The view that science can explain all human conditions and expressions, mental as well as physical' is not a 'superstition' but a reasonable methodological posture to adopt based on the actual evidence, that is, based on the actual expanding success of the sciences . . . during the last hundred years."
b l o g s s and serious reviews.

Science can explain all conditions and expressions mental as well as physical because its' had success in blowing tings up, polluting things, and discovering a few cures for a few diseases. This hardly constitutes knowing everything. People who really understand science don't make those kind of statements. People who think that way just turn their eyes to the floor when confronted with the huge list things science still doesn't know. Nothing like that matters, it's all about replacing God with the new god which they think they understand and control. We already have graphic evidence of how science is often used to exploit people and to reduce people to inhuman level. In the book What Difference Does a Revolution Makes Adrew Reding quotes Tomas Borgre, leader of the FSLN in Nicaragua (the Sandinistas) Jose Meguse Bonino (Latin American liberation Theologian) wrote about how science was being used to exploit the campesinos of Central America.The governments put statistics and technology to work dreaming up ways to control populations, modern economics made their way of life obsolete and reduced them to the level of wage slavery, and when they protested they were told "this is science, you are an ignorant peasant, you can't possibly understand but this is proven with modern efficiency). The mystique of science justifies everything. You are far too subjective, meaning ignorant and of no value, you can't possibly understand your own feelings. You need to science to tell you what to feel and if you can't stand that then science will give you pills so it wont hurt anymore.

But science is so successful, what does it matte what mere humans feel? Feelings are subjectively and subjectivity is not factual so science must erase subjectivity. Marcuse's one-dimensional man is more no tap now then it has ever been. What do you imagine the reduction of human consciousness to brain chemistry is really about? Remember the novel Brave New World? How did they keep the masses in line? By altering their brain chemistry with a drug called "soma." If we are nothing more than brain chemistry and if our choices are all illusory and bad and science can alter our brain chemistry so we make the choices some group of elites wants us to make, and they make us feel good about it, hey why not right? What is life anyway? It's not meaningful. It's really staggering how a society that is so keyed into "empowerment" and so afraid of "dissing" and so hyped on the concept of "respect" can so easily justify being controlled, manipulated and reduced to subhuman lack of dignity? So far the government doesn't have to spray soma in the air to control people; they just provide lots of nice shiny things to buy. But the ideologies of control are all over the net constantly telling us we are merely machines dignity doesn't matter, life is meaningless, just get into some localized bull shit you like and don't worry about truth or justice.

Dignity is bound up with freedom. One cannot have dignity without freedom. Dignity is the ability to feel good about who you are and to feel that you are worth something just because of who you are. Without freedom you are not able to be who you are. You are forced to make choices you do not wish to make, choices that don't suit who you are, and that's astounding that so many people are willing to be told that their choices are illusory and thus they are actually allowing the functionalists to tell them they do not merit dignity. Basic human dignity is the only thing we all owe each other a priori. Dignity is part of the concept of love in the Christian sense, agope, God's love. Agope is the willingness to bestow human dignity upon the other. I define love as "the will to the good of the other," and part of that definition of "the good" is the basic human dignity we all owe each other. Freedom and dignity are inherent in the concept of Christian love.

The relation of freedom and dignity to civilization is fundamental. Civilization, according to Schweitzer, is living conditions arranged to maximize human potential and the growth of the individual. The assumption that all humans have dignity and the freedom to grant that dignity and to see one's own sense of it is the basic goal and pursuit of civilization itself. The Skinnarians highbrow talk of outgrowing freedom and dignity was a recipee for destroying civilization.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Themes/Civ: Meaning and Truth part 2

2 of 1


I said last time that I was not trying to prove anything but just explecating my views. So angry atheists write and say "You don't back anything up, you can't prove anything." why should anyone get angry because of my opinion? I said point blank I wasn't trying to prove anything!

Meaning is a function of truth, and truth is the limit on meaning. In other words The only way that something is meaningful is in proportion to the extent to which it represents the truth of some situation or outlook. By the same token, meaning is limited by truth. A lie is not meaningful in terms of its falsehood, only in terms of what it tells us about the liar. Meaning is subjective, one cannot deduce meaning from the order of things as one might try to deduce a designer from the apparent design in the universe. For that matter, I don't think one can logically deduce a design in the universe. The fact that meaning is subject does not indicate that God can't bestow meaning. "Subjective" refers to an individual's perspective. Each individual has his/her own perspective and cannot know that of another. God, on the other hand, can know each and every individual perspective. God knows the heart, God knows the mind, God knows all hidden knowledge that no human can know. Therefore, God is the only perspective which sees from all view points at once. Thus God is both subjective and objective.

when I say "meaning in life" it should be clear that I'm talking about Meaning with a capital "M." That is higher meaning, meta narrative. The big picture.We can all have some kind of meaning in our lives, but the question is, do we have private, local, relative meaning or do we have "higher universal meaning?" Many people reacted angrily to the previous part 1 of this topic.It's odd that the sensibilities of changed so, because in the 60's that stuff would have been eaten up. The irony is these very people who take the attitude that they can find their own meaning and they don't need God, have that attitude because Sartre made it acceptable in the culture. But then turn around and lam bast Sartre for finding that meaning depends upon God. People today are at easy the existential aunxt. They don't fee it and they don't care. In any case, Sartre is only saying the most logical truth. Which would be more meaningful, if the inventor of a product said "I made this product to do X,Y, and Z." Or if someone who has never even seen the product said "I think this product is for X,Y, and Z?"

We live on a dust mote in a sea of random chance. There is no reason why we come to be. The galaxy, the solar system, planet, species and each individual in them is nothing more than an accident. If you don't believe in God you have to believe that no one designed you, no one created you for a purpose, you have o purpose, you weren't born for a reason, you are nothing than an organism, soulless, and devoid o any special reason for being. When you die, you die that's it no one cares no one remembers you and it wont matter one whit that you ever lived. If you have talent it is not a gift, its just a mistake. But if God created you then you are a creature of God's. You exist for a reason, and hat reason is o be loved by God. You exist to the object of love of the creator of the universe. What could give grand higher level meaning more than that? Yet, these people angered by that concept. That is hard for me to figure. I mean some of them actually said "this is evil." I certainly do not understand this. How could it be evil to think that each and every individual is an end in himself, a special being made for the express purpose of experiencing God's love? How in the hell can that be evil?

Each individual can find some basis of meaning that is personally satisfying. I get a kick out of thinking about that yellow garage, I don't expect that to be meaningful to anyone else. It gives me a sense of meaning in a way. But that's not higher meaning. it's not a purpose for living, it's just personally satisfying. You might not think higher meaning matters, but higher meaning gives the empitus to live for something and it makes our commitments worth dying for. Take for example the three civil rights works in Freedom summer, 1964. They were in Mississippi, registering voters. Their names where Goodman, Chainy, and Schwerner. These are the three civil rights workers murdered by the Klan and buried in a damn. This event was captured on the movie Mississippi Burning. Those guys were murdered in secret. They just diapered it took a huge search to find their bodies. If they had never been found, no one would have ever known of their sacrifice, would it be meaningful that they made it? Well each of us will die, and be forgotten and then it wont matter worth a hill of beans what sacrifices we made. By care about anything? Why help anyone or commit to anything because after you die peple forget you ever existed and it doesn't matter. It's not recorded in posterity, what dos it matter? What would it have mattered if the three workers had gone home and just didn't bother to work for civil rights? Why stand up for anything? In the end there's no consequence for cheating, no one sees.

Now I'm betting that most atheists out there will be thinking "I don't need God for it to matter." OF course without God it really doesn't matter because you just die nd then no one remembers and so who cares? You aren't around to think about it. But I bet that some where in your heart you are secretly thinking "it matters in the long run in some sense." But in the long run is not different from the short run, you exist for no reason, when you die you die and no one cares and it doesn't matter. But you are thinking there can be some way in which it does matter. But that's because you have the notion of God. In your hearts of hearts you know God is real and God is the one who sees. That makes things meaningful. Does that mean that atheists' lives are meaningless, or that atheists are of no value? No of course not, it means the opposite. Atheists are of inestemial value each and every individual because they are all creatures of God and their lives were created for a purpose. That purpose is to love and be loved in return. Atheists' lives have meaning even though they do know that they do have this meaning.

Now a lot of atheists try to make the argument that God doesn't know anything. God is no better than just any old bully in a bar. They try to make good on this idea by arguing that meaning is personal and private anyway. But the only kind of meaning they can have is personal and private so they have to make the best of it, and they have to pretend that that's as good as universal higher meaning; of course logically it can never be. You know there is universal logical meaning, you know it can only come from God.Finding a universal higher meaning is basic psychological need, and it's actually part of the definition of mental health. If these people understood the concept of God properly they would see how fallacious it is to think that God's view point is just one more opinion. Many atheists can only think of God as a big man in the sky. But is not a big man, God is the foundation of all that is. That means God is to you as your brain is the the thoughts in your head. You are a thought of God. How could we possibly compare the divine perspective to our own? We degrade it by even calling it a perspective. We should just say "how could the divine compare with a human perspective?" Because God is not just another perspective. God is all perspective. Some atheists try to say that meaning is bestowed by mind so they somehow think that God can't bestow meaning. I certainly don't understand that. The divine is the source of consciousness. The divine is the ultimate center of mind, thus the valuations that are bestowed by the divine are clearly more meaningful and carry more weight than any other.

Keep in mind, God is not a big guy in the sky. He's not the potentate on a throne with a white beard. That is just a cultural metaphor used by ancient people to make God relevant to their cultural understanding. God is not an individual being, for individual imply one of many. God is unique, God is the basis upon which all things exist, and has no category and is not comparable to anything. In my view God is the
Ground of Being or "being itself." This means that the divine is the basic foundation upon which things exist. This means the divine is the basis of the laws of the physics.I'm sure these ideas will anger many atheists. But this is because the modern sensibility cannot accept a will higher than its own. the mission of the modern is to be one's own God; we must never accept a will higher than our own. They are not use to thinking about placing their egos on a lower level than that of the divine. The modern sensibility is comfortable with local privatized meaning. But a huge body of empirical data shows that those who experience religious consciousness have a much deeper sense of meaning in life than those who do not. For thousands of years people have found meaning in the sense of the numinous.

In his amazing article "Spirituality and Well Being, An Overview" qualified clinical psychologist K. Krishna Mohan looks at a huge number of studies that demonstrate the link between self actualization and religious experience. He says that a vast number of studies prove that religious experince increases one's sense of the overall meaning in life, and that this is a major life long strength for those who experience it.

Numerous studies have found positive relationships between religious beliefs and practices and physical or mental health measures. Although it appears that religious belief and participation may possibly influence one’s subjective well-being, many questions need to be answered such as when and why religion is related to psychological well-being. A review by Worthington et al., (1996) offers some tentative answers as to why religion may sometimes have positive effects on individuals. Religion may (a) produce a sense of meaning, something worth living and dying for (Spilka, Shaves & Kirkpath, 1985); (b) stimulate hope (Scheier & Carver, 1987) and optimism (Seligman, 1991); (c) give religious people a sense of control by a beneficient God, which compensates for reduced personal control (Pargament et al., 1987); (d) prescribe a healthier lifestyle that yields positive health and mental health outcomes; (e) set positive social norms that elicit approval, nurturance, and acceptance from others; (f) provide a social support network; or (g) give the person a sense of the supernatural that is certainly a psychological boost-but may also be a spiritual boost that cannot be measured phenomenologically (Bergin & Payne, 1993). It is also reported by Myers and Diener (1995) that people who experience a sustained level of happiness are more likely to say that they have a meaningful religious faith than people who are not happy over a long period of time.

This article is on the website for the Indian Psychology Institute. Mohan looks at cross cultural studies in India and the West.

Sartre's attempt at making his own meaning failed, and this illustrates the fallacy. Sartre made the argument that sense it is up to us to create our own meaning, the meaning that we do create, as an amalgam, is the essence of humanity. In other words, humanity is as humanity does (or in this case, as humanity believes). But when asked what if humanity become fascist, then the essence of humanity will be fascist and we have to say our species is defined as fascist in essence. The only thing that Sartre could say was "this is unthinkable, we have to hope this doesn't happen." The fact that he could not find an effective answer is just a function of the problem that always dogged him. As Gabriel Marcel pointed out, Sartre never did develop a sense of ethics or a system of ethical thinking based upon his existentialism. This has always been understood as one of the great failings of humanist atheistic existentialism. This problem really points up the fact that localized meaning can backfire and make life even more meaningless. What if one is frustrated in obtaining the things that make one feel life is meaningful? For example how does a Hedonist cope with a life that is pure misery? Such a life must be meaningless a priori.

As I said meaning in life can't be deduced or proven. It has to come with the package of belief. Meaning is properly basic, however, and while it can present itself to people apart from any sort of proof, and thus taken on face value because suddenly things seem meaningful the proper basicality of meaning points o a higher truth. Since meaning is a function of truth, the sense of meaning can be understood as an indication of truth. There are certain hints at meaning:

(1)Love and the reverence for life.

Schweitzer tried to externalize the survival instinct in reverence for life, the desire to apply to all organisms the same fierce sense of survival that one applies to one's self. The sense of love and reverence for life gives one a sense of meaning in the grand universal sense.

(2) Morality

Positing a universal set of strictures that are true in all situations because they refer to duty and obligation gives a sense that there is a higher meaning behind it all.

(3) need for human dignity

Dignity is the root of the Christian sort of love. The Greek term for Christian love, or God's love, is Agape. A major aspect of the definition of Agape is "to be willing to accord the other the basic humanity dignity owed to a human being." Human dignity is a function of meaning. Because we are creatures of god we have this value in God's eyes. But human dignity is balanced by human responsibly, this is not an excuse to destroy the planet. Rather its a rationale for trying to save the planet. Fundamentalists who think "green" is a waste of time because we are headed for end already are not honoring the responsibility which comes from bearing the human dignity imparted by the image of God in which we are made.

(4)laws of physics.

That's a dilemma I use in my third God argument. If the laws of physics are prescriptive then who passed the law. Who is the law maker? Science cannot tell us where the laws of physics come from, but some scientists (such as Dr. Odenwald) recognize that the laws had to come first or nothing would happen. But where were the laws embodied when there was physical universe? If laws of physics are not prescriptive but merely generalizations drawn from tendencies of behavior that would mean the universe come to be against or without physical law, when other things happen without physical law or opposed to physical law we call it "miracle" and skeptics say it can't happen.

(5) Religious experince

as demonstrated above the studies show people who have religious experiences of the "mystical" or "peak" kind, tend to feel as part of the experince that there is an inherent overarching meta narratival meaning to life. Those who do not have such experiences are less likely to have this. This is would suggest that such a sense is part of a divine revelation that comes from contact with the divine.

It is tempting to try and make the need for meaning into an argument for the existence of God. The problem with this approach is it's too subjective to demonstrate that meaning exits. Yet since meaning is a function of truth, the need for overarching meaning, the sense that it is had in the nature of religious experince and the other hints may be indicative of a justification for faith. This is an argument from sign, but if meaning is a function of truth, then to find meaning might imply that we have found truth. It seems unthinkable that the sense of meaning that offers deep satisfaction and makes life work and gives us all the hope we need to face whatever trials may come, is just the product of a lie and a mistake. The sense of meaning the sense of the numinous gives to life is a priori indication of truth.

What is the connection to civilization? Schweitzer defined civilization as the organizing of living conditions in such a way that the individual is allowed to grain his/her full potential. Freeways and shopping malls are just the infrastructure of civilization. Just like the plumbing to a house is not the house, but merely part of the infrastructure of the house. Civilization is the ideas the enable us to pursue such living conditions as are conducive to human potential. Clearly the search for meaning in one's life is germane to the concept of civilization. If our ideas of civilization are not informed by that search then we are not pursuing civilization.

Note to Larry

You are not banned. You can post anytime you wish, but the only comments I will publish are those that deal with the ideas I raise and not with me, my spelling, my grammar or what's "wrong" with me. If you can abide by that you can post.

as for the previous post that I eliminated. I apologize to the readership because I said I wasn't going to allow the negative to take over here.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Themes of Civlization part 1: Meaning and Truth

Part 1 of 1

(part 1 of 1)

Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980)

See The Ultimate Online Sartre resource: "have a coffee Break With Jean-Paul."

I have decided to flesh out several themes that are implicit in the piece I wrote in "Open Letter to John Loftus and the DC crowd."In doing so I will be speaking in a very general sense. Obviously I can't lay out the whole history of western civ. in a blog spot. I realize I will painting with a broad brush. But this an attempt to spell out the ideas that have always acted as undergirding for my belief system and spur me on to faith. I don't claim to be making pronouncements from on high. I don't claim that I could prove all my beliefs. Rather I shall attempt to spell out some of the basic reasons for my world view.

Perhaps the most important underlying theme of that essay is that of meaning and transcendent truth. Meaning in life plays a big role in the playing our of my youthful formation, because as a Sartian existentialist I bought into the line that "life is meaningless and absurd." it certainly seem meaningless to me when I was young. This was what the Philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre was all about. I felt then and I still feel today that Sartre was entirely correct his assertion that his philosophy was the logical consequence of not God. If there is no God Sartre was basically right about life and meaning. Existentialism had its hay day in the 50's. It burst on the scene after the war, the late 40's the major thinkers were turning to social ills, as the country tried to get back to civilian life. Hollywood began making "film noir" movies, and socially poiniant films like "the Best Years of Our Lives." Films that either dealth with the dark side of human nature, or tried to expose social ills. In that context existentialism suddenly took center stage in cultural world and the world of letters, because it was seen as the way to put France back in the center as the culture leader it had been before Nazi occupation. Sartre had fought in the underground, escaped from a Pris ion camp by just walking out and acting confident like he was supposed to be doing it!

Existentialism hit its stride in the 50's when many thinkers became famous for it, such as Gabriel Marcel with Christian existentialism, Niebuhr bothers (Reinhold and H. Richard) and Paul Tillich with existentially based theologies. Albert Camus hit his stride in that decade. In art Jackson Pollock represented existentialist themes, and in film Ingmar Bergmann. By the 60s existentialism has become a cultural icon. The philosophy became fuzzy in people's minds. As with "Postmodernism" the exactly meaning of the term was replaced with an image. People who didn't know what to call a painting or a film that seemed "edgy" or confusing called it "existential." The term conjured up images of people wearing berets and sipping espresso at a side walk cafe on the left bank and smoking Galloir cigarettes and saying things like "It is all absurd!" In the 90's this image worked its ay into beer commercials. The clown of life and the slogan "why ask why" were parodies of this "existential" feeling. "why do you sit on the beach with the sad clown of life? why ask why?" That image and the feeling it evoked lent a je ne c'est qua to our adolescent rebellion and our lonley youthful strivings. My brother and our best friend Lantz saw the Bergmann film "Smiles of a Summer Night." The talk of "the yellow pavilion" in that film gave them the idea of speaking of Lantz's garage as "the yellow pavilion," (because it has just been painted yellow). We did not want to be in Dallas, we wanted to be in Paris or New York, so we forged our own Texas version of existentialist image, sipping coffee in Ihop and smoking camel filters dipped in paragaric and saying "It's all so absurd!" Texas Rednecks in ear shot would say "whut are them bo-ahs talk'n about?" as we unabashedly and loudly discussed the metrical patterns of Keats, Marcuse, Joyce, Descartes, and of course Sartre. Once my brother and friend were were working on an atheist critique of the bible, with a bible present. A redneck who didn't know up from down thought they were Christian fundametalists making apologetic notes and he came over to them and shouted, baning on the table, "a couple bible thumping bad ass boys!" I said to my brother when he told about this "why didn't you tell him what you were doing?" He said "I don't want that guy on my side!"

One of my favorite scenes in Woody Alan's filmAnnie Hall is a parody of this general image that existentialism had been stuck with by the 70's. Woody is in an art museum. A woman is gazing before a famous painting by Jackson Pollock. She says "can't you just feel the anxt, the deep respire, the black abyss of meaningless and nothingness." Long pause in which Woody contemplates what was said. He then says "what are you doing tonight?" The woman replys "committing suicide, at 12:00 midnight!" Wood says, "what are doing at 11:45?"

Despite this romanticism, existentialism was a cogent philosophy, well thought out and based upon an older tradition that stretches back to the middle ages.

Sartre explains his philosophy most cogently and non technically in his essay
"Existentialism is a Humanism." The essay was first published in 1956, the year of my birth. But its most available incarnation is in Walter Kauffmann's book Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre 1989l, however the original lecture was given in 1946. Sartre begins his discussion in defining existentialism as the belief that "being proceeds essence." This will have a profound bearing upon the concept of both meaning and truth because it is a direct attack upon age old theistic notions of the meaning of truth. The age old is say that essence proceeds being. In other words, first there is an idea in the mind of God, then God creates that idea in concrete existent form. This stems from the thinking of the scholastics and Thomas Aquinas. But there are other themes that might challenge this notion. Aquinas was an Aristotelian. In his day he was greatly despised for brining novelty into theology. Theology was supposed to be set in stone, the really true truth that you didn't mess with. Thus Augustine was the philosopher of the Church. He was a Platonist. Aristotle was the philosopher of the Arabs, they saved his ideas. Plato was the intellectual bedrock of the church, and all the language of the creeds, with its incidents and accidents, was shaped by Plato. To bring Aristotle into it, especially after he was identified with the Arabs, who were infidels, this was a scandal.

The roots of existentialism have long been seen as stretching back to Augustine, but more so to Aquinas. The major difference in Plato and Aristotle is what they do with the forms. Plato said the world we know is the reflection, like a reflection of an object in a pool of water. The reflection (the "real" world) participates in the forms thus has it's being. Augustine said the forms are in the mind of God. So the participation in the forms is that of a thought in a mind; like the idea of an art work in the mind of the artist, or of an object such as a piece of furniture in the mind of the artisan who makes it. Aristotle said "there is no form without essence." This means there is no world of the forms "out there," the forms themselves appear with and in the concrete examples of them. Thus there is no form of mud, there is mud right here and that mud contains the form of mud, there is no general universal ideal mud that it participates in.

The idea of the forms in the mind of God gave life meaning, it meant that it is an expression of what God had conceived for it in his mind. Now Aquinas obviously believed that God created the world. But taking Aristotle's view of no form without essence he left open the possibility for individual "particulars" (the things in the world, in the concrete examples) to be shaped by "incidents and accidents." These ideas already existed. The major aspect of Platonic thought that played upon the Christian notion of Trinity was the concept of "essence." This comes from the concept of substance (really the same ideas); the Greek term is hamosios. This means the aspect of something that makes it what it is. So the Platonic Augustinians are saying a thing is what it is because it is first held in the mind of God. But the Aristotelean scholastics were saying that the from, the substance that defines it is in the individual event not in some pre set concept. The third view was Nominalism that comes form the followers of Duns Scottus. They said "a rose is a rose is a rose." Meaning there is no special form that defines a thing, it's just what it is. Even though they were Christians too, they are the forerunners of modern reductionism. Well The particulars of this story get pretty complex. I have to skip over the rest to get tot he point. Suffice to say Sartre came into it and said "there is not only no form without essence but being proceeds essence."

This is a radical jump from the previous stage. I am not saying Sartre was the first to say that. But he took it and made it his own. The idea is that there is no pre set formula or concept for things in the world, they are just what they are becasue they just happen by accident and random chance. The upshot of all of this is humanity; what is humanity? Because the themes of the past said humanity is a creature of God, thus as humans we have a duty to God. Unfortunately time does not permit a exploration of this concept of "accident." Because the scholastic notion of accident is much like our modern random chance notion, and that's where it comes from. All of our modern concepts of cause and effect, occurrence (incident) and random "accident" have their origins in the scholastic notion of cause and effect. The modern world just cut off the bits that pertain to first cause and the other forms of causes and left sufficient cause as our modern notion of c/e. Thus c/e comes out of the concept of necessity and contingency.

Sartre just moves it over one. It's not that the essence is within the form, essence is following form. For humanity that means we first exist. We exist for no particular reason except the c/e reason that science uses to explain the random event that led to life on earth, and the it is up to us to us to make ourselves what we will. In other words we are free to become what we wish to become. This is a principle concept for Sartre, radical freedom. We are free, we are condemned to be free. This means we can't avoid making decisions, we can't rest upon being shaped by prior forces. Sartre would have none of the modern determinism stuff of chemical determinism. We are radically free, we have to choose what we will become. He re shapes the concept of essence. It first meant (substance, hamousios)the quality that defines what a thing is. Thus the substance of a horse is long nose, mane, tail, four legs with hoofs, and so forth. But for the scholastics it was like a special unseen quality that pervades things. For Plato there was a special realm somewhere beyond the world we know where the universal ideals exist (forms) and the particular instances of these things participate in these ideals in a way that is mediated through the spend el of necessity. But For Aquinas the substance was actual in the particular. For Sartre substance boils down to an abstract definition of what something is. This is very crucial. This must be understood, because it is up to us to decide for ourselves what we are, we determine our own essence. If I want to be brave, I want to be a brave man, I define brave formyself. "I am brave because I go to the store by myself." I am brave because I'm not worried about McCain winning. We set a value and we define if we live up to that value. Thus in a sense we are making truth for ourselves. We making meaning for ourselves.

Meaning is the whole point. For Sartre life is meaningless and absurd. This has a particular meaning. I am not doing justice to the complexity of Sartre's philosophy. He was a brilliant thinker, and his most technical philosophical treaties is hard to read and requires a real educational background in Philosophy. It is called Being and Nothingness. That book is widely known throughout the academy to have been a "ripoff" of Heidegger's Being and Time. Heidegger was Sartre's teacher. It is true that he was greatly influenced by his old professor. I see Being and Nothingness as an attempt to translate the ideas of Heidegger into French thinking, not as out and out theft. Sartre does ad his own original slant to the ideas. But the necessity of baptizing into French culture ideas of a German philosopher was a very real problem. So Sartre was doing a service to Heidegger not just stealing his work.

For Sartre "meaningless" means there is no pre set essence, there is no predetermined value or ideal or definition for life. We are free we are not shaped by any duty or obligation to God or any higher power. We just organisms and we are here. Then it is up to us to decide what our lives mean, what value there is int them, to define for ourselves the meaning we wish to put on it. The most crucial step, humanity becomes what it wishes to become. Humanity is that thing whatever it is. We are not creatures, we were not created, we are not creatures of God, we are creatures of ourselves because we crate for ourselves our own meaning. We create our own truth because truth, if defined as "that which is" is a function of essence. We shape our own essence by the force of our own being, then we are defining truth according to what we have become. That which we are is a function of that which we chose to be. This should all have real resonance with atheists. Even atheists of today who have no background in existentialism should find kinship with these ideas.

So I believe that Sartre has one of the best readings of meaning of life, if there is no God! If there is no God then there is Jean-Paul Sartre! But the problems in Sartre's views then become for me problems in being an atheist. They becomes reasons to assume the reverse of Sartre's view. Sartre was explicating the consequences philosophically of a world with no God, thus if these consequences prove to be false, that would be a reason to assume there is a God. Of course we can't think of it as proof. But I tend to think of it as a good reason to assume God in understanding what we should do about civilization.

There's one more step before I cover, self authentication. One determines one's own essence, that means we attach our own meaning to our lives by deciding upon our own values. When we do this in such a way as to act in freedom for ourselves to define ourselves, we make ourselves who we are, this Sartre calls "self authentication." It is in a sense the Sartian alternative to salvation. A Sartian existentalist doesn't die and go to heaven, he lives out his/her life on earth, enjoys it, and that is called self-authentication. Of course I'm leaving out a lot; good faith, bad faith, shinking under the gave of the other, neusia, the state that arises from realizing the meaninglessness and absurdity of it all. Also this is connected to anxiety, in existentialist terms "anxt." This is most important but I have no time to cover it. Now lest one think there is none of this in Christian existentialism, all of these moves are found in Keirkegaard in one form or another, and certainly in Gabriel Marcel.Of cousrse Kierkegaard lived over fifty years before Sartre was born, while Marcel was a big fan of Sartre's (even though he was a Christian and Sartre an atheist). Christian existentialism proceeds not from the move "being proceeds essence" but form the move that the point of life is find connection with our source and thus become "more ourselves," (Keirkegaard).

Time and space does not permit more. This is only a blog but I will do part 2 of 1 next time. In that essay I will show why all of this really can be reversed and indicates a fine justification for belief in God.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

annoucement: coming attractions: Themes of Civilization

Cathedral Notre Dame

That post on "Open Letter" has been so well received, I have decided to follow through with fleshing out a few of the themes that were mentioned or implied in that post. The umbrella for the serious I'm going to do is the role Christianity as the foundation of Western civilization. For a Background Understanding of my views on Christianity and Civilization see my article Albert Schweitzer and the Death of Civilization. I have also done other things on Christianity and Western Civilization. see also Part 2 and part 3

This time I will trace the themes that I mention or imply in the "Open Letter to John Loftus and the DC Crowd." The themes that I will trace out are these:

Meaning and Truth

Freedom and Dignity

Ethics and Morality

Art and Culture

Progress in History

The Postmodern Kiss off: no meaning, truth, freedom, dignity, ethics, morality or progress in history?

One point I want to be clear about. The major issue that erupted over the Open Letter was weather or not I was saying atheists are more dangerous than Christians. I maintained that I was not saying that. I was saying both or either can be the danger at any given time. That is talking about human behavior. Obviously I believe my beliefs or true. It's not fair to expect someone to take tolerance to the point of saying "O I know my beliefs are totally false." But I do believe that Christianity offers the best foundation for Western civ, that is the heart of Western civ. The reason sour society today doesn't make sense is because we ripped the heart out of the civilization when it was secularized.

That does not mean that atheists are bad guys or that they are going to kill more people than Christians will. Everyone has the potential to fail and to sell out, to not live up to her/his ideals. This is just talking about theory, the ideas offered by the Christian belief system are a better foundation for Western civ because they are the foundation that it was built upon. I for see comments claiming that I'm back peddling, because if the foundation is better then its less of a danger so I'm really saying Christianity is less of a danger. We can get into a real slippery sloap and say that anytime you think something you are automatically excluding everything else, so it would be the only fair thing to never think thoughts. I am merely trying to show people why I see things as I do. I do see that if you have a "better" foundation then you have more to work with. I know that assessing "better" is somewhat subjective and very complex. Again, I'm just trying to bring the way I look at things.

The first of these themes I will unveil this coming week.

Friday, July 18, 2008

PS to Loftus and the Troops

the Russian Revolution

I cannot understand how anyone could read my essay (the previous) in the mypotic fashion John and Larry seem have read my open letter. How could anyone read that well written essay, clearly from the heart, and obviously saying both sides can be dangers and can be right about different things, and conclude that I"m saying one side is better than the other? I even have a sentence in there speaking of one side trying to pull heaven down and causing Crystal Night (of course they don't catch the allusion, they are not literate enough to know what that is) the other side causing the killing fields. So clearly I'm saying both sides can have their massacres. That's why I can't say one side is right and the other is wrong. They are just illiterate enough and myopic enough to come out of that thinking I'm saying "atheists are always bad and Christians are always goooooooood!' Only an idiot would say that. why do you suppose I used Hick's the peaceable Kingdom as the graphic? Because I was saying "we can can get along." Guess not.

Then they have the gaul to s say "you don't know nut'n about hist-ur-eeee" duh! "It's real complex why Stalin killed people." So they are willing to obscure the atheist atrocities and explain away and justify them with this mastication of history "it's so complex." But of course they don't give any of the detials of this mysterious compleity. Now I am willing to bet I know far more about the Russian revolution than they will ever. I've read vast amounts of literature on it. I've read Trotsky's History of the Russian Revolution. I read Cruschev's Autobiography (he was in it as a very young man) and Cruschev also wrote something about the revolution from a historical perspective. I am willing to be they don't anything. I bet they can't tell me who Minchovicks were named after, without looking it up. Don't google it and come over here pretending like you knew it. I bet they don't know who Cruzchev was.

Do they obscure the Holocaust with this sort of answer? I bet not. I bet they are willing to say "O Hitler was a Christian and that's why he became a ma man. Christianity will drive you to this if you let it." For those who have a tiny modicum of brains and are able to realize that Hitler wasn't a Christian, they will say "Hitler was a mad man." I bet they don't say "O well it's so complex, you really can't understand it without going into a lot of history." Because that is the prelude to excusing it. Now of they didn't come anywhere near understanding the reason I gave. they say it's simplistic thinking. that's because they don't have the erudition to see what I'm really saying. I did not say Stalin was a mad man because he was an atheist. The reason I gave was that political people (know how bad they are because I was a political person for years) values the ends of their project and their temporal power more than they valued the lives of individual people.

How could anyone deny this? Obviously that's true. There are, of course, vastly complex historical circumstances that led to it. But that's is clearly what happened. If Stalin had values the lives of people more then he did his own power and his social vision, then he would not have allowed the half the stuff that was done. But of course he valued "people" in the abstract, "humanity" the "workers" that was his big rationalization for having power. He probably convinced himself he was doing it all for the good of the blessed Proloterians. But when push comes to shove he valued his vision more than he did the lives of real actual people. I just don't see how anyone could deny that. The DC guys want to cloud that issue with a mystification of a pretension to an erudition they clearly do not possess. They are never willing to make an argument, all they ever do is threaten arguments, and slough off arguments with promises "Its' in my file box. I just have time to read it." You debaters out there: they are greasy and the slough arguments! BTW that answer doesn't cut the mustard in debate. The judge votes against you because reading the proper evidence is part of the game, not telling people to go read it latter.

The Stlain Purges where totally the result of a small band of elites around Stalin who took power for themselves and didn't care about the revolution. You want complexity, go read Leon Trotsky's History of the Russian Revolution (remarkably the whole text is on line)! Trotsky was there. Of course he was an atheist. He was one of the major leaders,He commanded the Read Army in the war with the "white Russians" Stalin tried to have him killed. He started the Fourth International and was eventually murdered in Mexico by agents of Stalin. The also read his book The Revolution Btetrayed which is also online. You will see that it can all be boiled down to Stalin's bid for power. It is an oversimplification to say that all massacres boil down to someone's bid for power, but they do. That is a true statement it is not an oversimplification, just to leave out the messy complexity that led me to that conclusion. It is a true conclusion. That these guys can't see that points to their lack of erudition and their naive approach, their "them and us" mentality. John Loftus is bright and well read, but clearly he's as paranoid as I am. He just approached that essay as a total attack on atheists and I thought I was treating both sides fairly. The key sentence was the balanced statement about one side causing Crystal Night,The other causing killing fields.

I bring this up because it demarkakes the line that I am willing draw between who I block and who I do not block with. Those who would cast the aura of the sacred over their temporal projects, the right wing fundamentalists who confuse their own reading of the Bible with God's word itself, are setting society up for a crystal night, but those who would cut off any sort of higher meaning in the name of quantification are merely setting up a killing field.

The crystal Night allusion is a big concession because Hitler was not Christian and I do not believe Christianity leads to Nazism to any degree--but I have seen over and over again a too literal emphasis upon the trappings of chruchanity rather an a real living relationship with Jesus can lead to an almost fascist like approach.

The major point that is being hidden in all this, buried in their myopia is the meaning of this one statement which is the key to the whole essay: "those who seek to pull heaven down" well who would that be? Obviously the fundamentalists. Do atheists believe in heaven? No. They they believe they will bring heaven on earth through he end times? No. So obviously that refers to Christians in temporal power who lead to crusades, and such oppressive things as sacking Constantinople and so forth. If these geniuses of history who tell me I know nothing of history had any knowledge at all they would know Hitler was not a Christian and the Nazi movement was anti-Christian and was opposed by the true Christians "the confessing church." Of course atheists always lay that game, "anyone labeling himself as a Christian is a true Christian, any attempt to distinguish between one kind of Christian and another is the "no true Scotsman fallacy" (clearly they don't understand what that is). But they are so willing to distinguish between communists and ordinary atheists. When one points out the atheist atrocities they are always so quick to say "those weren't real atheist, those where communists." Do I hear bag pipes. Hout mon! for a than an tha! mindless hypocrites abound on all sides. So if these geniuses of history knew history, rather than try to stick Christianity with Hitler, they would turn to central America. The masacres in Guatemala were clearly and undeniably linked to a born again Christian (Reos Mont) who failed to see the Indians as humans but said "we are not killing humans we are killing demons." They killed them to the tune of over 100,000. Of course, even though that could be hung on a born again Christian its small potatoes compared to Hitler. Truth is the first causality of propaganda.

The meaning of that statement. The one side (fundies) causes problems becasue they try to impose their own view of the holy upon a world that they seek to control. They don't distinguish between their own human fallibility and it's lust for temporal power and the true will of God. The other side causes the killing fields and the point there is its becasue they have no transcendent value. They can't see the individual humans as being of inestimable worth, they see only that the only kind of value there is is temporal power and temporal value so they vest their social project with all importance and its worth any number of concrete human lives to obtain.There can't be anything of lasting eternal value so the only value there is is immediate temporal power. The true answer is Christianity itself, not the fundies version, not anyone particular brand, although we can find it applied in history. This is a historical fact I'm sure these giants of historicism would overlook, St. Augustan re valued the values of the empire. In so doing he established the notion that we must make a clear distinction between the eternal and the temporal. We cannot say that our social project is "the kingdom of God." We cannot make the Kingdom of God on earth. Temporal power will always belong to "the city of man." The City of God has a different end, and though ti exists on earth within the human city it cannot be made into the human city. The foundation of this point is his continuum of values. We love the eternal, we use the temporal. That means we distinguish between our understanding and God's work. We distinguish between our temporal power and God's power. We distinguish between our social project and God's eternal truth. We never vest our social project with the aura of the sacred. When we do that we sin, we make ourselves God. That's what the fundies did by turning the Charismatic movement into a right wing organizing tool. The corollary to this continuum of value is that human life is an end in itself. It is never treated as a means to an end.

Atheist utilitarian thinking treats human life as a means to an end. The individual must suffer for the greater good of the greater number. That is a violation of th is basic dictum of value of the individual. The individual is eternal. That means we love the individual we use temporal power to treat the individual as an end, an object of concern and aid not a means to achiving some future abstraction like "the workers paradise." That is why both sides are wrong, both sides can be dangers, and I have to oppose both sides. That was clearly the point.

Now honestly guys, if the "new atheists" can't figure this out, haven't the erudition to understand what I'm saying, what makes you think they know enough to crticize anything as complex of Christianity? These guys lambast me for simplistic thinking and reducing complexity. They reduce all of theology, of which they are read precious little, to utter simplicity. Clearly they are saying "atheism gooooo, Christianity baaaaaaaad." So who is really doing the simplistic thinking?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Open Letter to John Loftus and the "DC" crowd

The Peaceable Kingdom, Edward Hicks

The "DC" crowd: the folks at Debunking Christianity blog.

I have two purposes here. I do want to say a word about my manner. This is not an explanation about why I seem insulting at times nor is it another apology. I did apologize and I covered "why" in the last post here. I will say something about it. Secondly, I want to speak to a statement John Loftus made on the Triblogue. He said something to the effect "why don't you block with us and not them (the fudnies) because you have more in common wit us. This is the primary reason for this "open letter."

As for my insulting nature, this is all I wish to say: when I utter words such as "go to college get an education" that is not the devastating insult it may seem. Now I'm not saying that those offended don't have a right to be offended. I do not mean to hurt anyone, and this does come accords in a way that does offend, I am sorry for that and I am trying to change so I don't do it again. I also am not denying that I have been insulting to many in the past. Regardless of the reasons, I have been an ass at times. I do regret that. I am trying to change. Quiting message boards (except for my own) is part of that attempt. Aside from this. I did go to the Gingus Khan school of diplomacy. I am gruff and I can be cold. When I feel insulted I know how to insult back. But just telling someone "get an education" is not the insult it seems. I do not say that to imply "you are an idiot." I know you read it that way. Perhaps there's no other way to read it in the context of a heated argument. I am not making excuses and I am trying to change so that I say it more gently. But I do have grave concern that a great deal of the bitterness of atheists comes from just not knowing enough about religion, theology, and history. I hasten to add Christians, and all people must be included there. The whole culture is less literate than it used to be. We are not taught the kinds of things our parents were taught in therms of liberal arts, literature, history, we are forgetting their importance. We are so hung up on empirical data we have forgotten about other kinds of knowledge. I see the most abismal logic on message boards and blogs, not all from atheists either! I just stay out of moral arguments because neither side understands meta ethical theory and most of those discussions are so messed up it's hopeless.

To me learning is not a fixed position. If you have a deficiency in education, that doesn't mean you are stupid or no good. It means you need to learn more. Do it! I mean it, in a nice way! Read some books, take some classes and try to learn more! I am a teacher. I am a born teacher. It's all I ever really wanted to be since I was in tenth grade and I first faced the realization that I was born to teach. When I see a lack of education in some area I have to point it out. Now, as I say, I could do that in a more gracious way and hopefully I will.

As for John's statement, do I actually have more in common with atheists on DC than I do with fundies? In a way it's true, but it depends upon how you look at it.I was an atheist. But that was a long time ago, and the atheist community was very different then. There was no internet. IT wasn't even thought about. In that day when I first began to call myself an atheist and really up to the point where I was born again, computers were big main fame things with spools of tape, there was only one or at most two in a city no one every thought about having one of his own. Atheists did not come together on the internet, they met primarily through universities. There was only one atheist organization I ever heard of, that was Madelin Murry O'Hair's group in Austin. I knew a good friend of hers, an eccentric English paperhanger who was an old man when I was in highschool. He ran his own discussion group in Richardson Texas. He's long dead. It was a cool group. I got into it through a friend I knew in the McGovern campaign. That's right, it was 1972! That's how atheists had to meet back then, by accident in connection with things held in common. Almost all the atheists I knew before the internet I knew from Universities. Those I met through the English guy who put me on to the O'Hair group, were fanatical and seemed kind of dumb. I didn't hang with them much, I did not like them. I liked the old guy's discussion group. Most of those people were not atheists, but they were generally tolerant and "fellow travelers."

In those days the major influences upon atheism were not from science. Today it seems like a large portion of atheists are either people angry at religion, or people who like scientific stuff, or they overlap. In those days there was a huge influx of Marxists, which you don't find on message boards much. There was a smaller group of those who were existentialists, influenced by Jean-Paul Sartre. I was both, Marxist and Sartian. that was also common since Sartre was a Marxist himself. There was no appreiceable objectivist influence. In those days objectivism was quite rare, and when I did meet one I was instantly an enemy and tried to drive them away. Obviously, because they were anti-Marx. By "drive away" I man out argue in class or in the discussion group, or what have you. I didn't physically drive anyone anywhere.

So what do we have in common? One might think I can related to you as atheists becasue I was one. But I don't. I think the differences in the kinds of atheism I was into and the kind I see today are so great, I don't' feel any real kinship there. I can relate to some basic ideas of enlightening society, struggle to make things better, social consciousness, I relate to that strongly. I have been a political activist all my life. I was a major Dallas organizer for the Central America Solidarity movement in the 80s. I was a Vietnam protester from 6th grade (1968) to the end of American involvement (something around 74). I can relate to that but what I can't relate to is the association of social consciousness with determinism and reductionism. I see these ideas as the enemies of the people, the essence of what is oppressive in capitalistic society. I see atheists today as pulling for the death of humanity, the putting to sleep any real human sensibility and striving to turn humanity into number crunching robots. I lump in with this materialism, brain/mind functionalism, and all those things that reduce reality from an open ended metaphysical question to a quantified and spelled out chemical determinism. To me nothing is more fascist than Dennett's stuff on reducing mind to brain function. Now I don't know what John's views are on these things. But I am sepaking of atheism in general, and I'm probably wrong to generalize about what all of you think.

I saw these issues about social consciousness as disproofs or challenges to Christian belief, even though the core values that motivate them probably go back to my childhood upbringing in the church of Christ. Even so, I held those things out against Christian belief as reasons to abandon it, when I was an atheist, and a young Marxist and existentialist. Those core values that I have always clung to as the standards of what knew so undoubtedly that they could be used to judge even the truth of faith, include: compassion for others, an abstract love of something called "humanity," a desire to make the society we live in better, more humane and more reasonable, and love of the arts and love of learning. These are the ideals I would say my life is about. I would lay odds that good number of you would agree with that list, although perhaps adding some to it. I am guessing you are thinking "these are things we agree upon." They are I'm sure. There's also another sense in which we agree, and that is the modernity of my life. This is something that gives me more in common with John Loftus than with a good many fundamentalists.

Fundamentalism is an attempt to hide form modernity. Fundamentalism began as a reaction against the encroachment of the modern world. I grew up in the South, in Texas of the 1950s. I was raised in an exclusive group that saw itself as the only true Christians, for a bunch of picky reasons no one outside that group could ever relate to. They were things like "we don't use instrumental music." The Church of Christ of my youth was unlike it is today, unbelievably legalistic, exclusivistic, closed minded, bigoted, ignorant, agnry. I was raise with the idea that modern world is wrong, that's the "world" the Bible warns us of. Like all young atheists and good liberals I went through a coming of age ritual that involved shedding these ideas and embracing the modern world. As a liberal theologian I seek to translate the gospel in to the modern world, while the fundie seeks to hide from the world to save the gospel. So that in a sense does give us some common ground, but there is a problem.

While I did see these values as challenges to the faith I was raised with, when I got saved I saw that there's a much greater fit between these values and the gospel of Christ. These are not challenges to faith, they are result of faith. They are the fruit of knowing Christ. It took time to see this, it good graduate school to see how it all came together; but it does. Faith is Christ is a much better foundation for these values than is atheism. Fudnies would probably agree with most of the list of values as they stand, so the real issues are all in application. Fundies are not going to say "No I hate people, I don't want things to be better of the individual." Now some may actually not want that, but they don't know they don't want it. I always thought the end times stuff was very anti-human. We can't make society better, it's going to get so bad God just has to wipe it all out and call the game an "take us home." Did you not know that Christians haven't always thought that way? Did you knot know that in the days of the abolition movement (which was about 90% Christian) they believed that the social Gospel would make the world good, and Jesus would came back to find a socially perfect world with no war, no poverty, no prejudice. That was called "post millennialism." The Pre millenarianism of today that replaced it (the world will just worse until the whole things is destoryed in fire and Jesus will rapture out the faithful and the evil will burn in hell) that view came in on the heels of post civil war despair.

The sense of modernity I share with you, which includes wanting to understand science, and taking scientific evidence seriously, hence I'm an evolutionist, is tempered with a postmodernist sensibility. I realize that modernism was arrogant, overblown, gave short shrift to the value of the past. As the Great Marxist revolutionary Leon Trotsky once said, "opportunists think principles are dead weight when in reality they are ballast." I'm not calling John an opportunist, but by the same token the values of the past are not dead weight, they are ballast that help us stay up right in the stormy passages of life. We need continuity. While the postmodern might dismiss faith as a meta narrative, postmodernist itself becomes a meta narrative if we don't recognize when something is pulling us under and when it's acting as ballast and keeping us from capsizing. In post modernity everything is up for grabs. So religion has as much a place on the playing field as any other assumption.

Sartre and Marx were like photographers. Their photos were true images of the world, they just got mixed up as to what was the negative and what was the positive image. Sartre's project was about showing the consequences of the world without God. But he neglected to realize that there is a God. So while he was right that life is absurd, he was wrong about it being meaningless. While he was right about us being radically free, he was wrong about Christianity being a limitation to freedom. Christianity is the basis upon which true freedom is predicated. Thus what Sartre saw as the negative, Christianity, is the positive. His positive, his own ego, was the negative. But the image of the world he presented is a true picture of what's out there. We are free and we are condemned to be free in an absurd world, and a world that often seems meaningless, but the meaning is there if we seek it. Those aspects of modern thought which seek to eliminate freedom and reduce us to robot status are not bridges to a world of human compassion, they are death and they are slavery and death.

Marx' negative of the world is his materialism. The images he saw truly was the need to understand a material critique, social sciences which understand the material limitations and how they govern people's lives, and to see that clearly and scientifically without mystifying it with a bunch of hokus pockus. But he published this image in its negative, where he sees religion as the problem and a totally secular world as the answer. He was deluded by Fuerbach. Ah there's another good photographer who couldn't tell which was the negative. God is the mask of money. Fuererbach got that one right! He gives us a true image, but as with Sartre and Marx we have to turn it around from negative to positive. The need for material social critique does not mean the need for materialist metaphysics.

When I put things together, scientific understanding of social problems, the condemnation to freedom, the truth I find in art, the intrinsic need for meaning, the grounding of world views in values which are themselves ungrounded, it all tells me that these areas of thought I've always sought to follow, to understand, to explicate, my friends, the familiar things I've always lived with, my friends the ideals, these tell not of the need to discord belief in Christ, but the need to embrace it. So while we do have a lot of common values, we have very different orientations about what they mean. I'm speaking in very general terms, trying to cram in a life-time of learning and study into a few simple ideas, and speaking in great generalizations. By and large you can't ground social utopia in a society that can't be any more free than the ability to quantify freedom and reduce consciousness to chemicals. You can't build a better society in world where freedom is grounded in meaninglessness and absurdity. You cannot have a social utopia in a world that is meaningless and absurd. But "utopia" means "nowhere." There is no perfect society in a fallen world. To ignore that and then try to build a better society in a world that can never anything more than meaningless is as bad as trying to pull the holy down from heaven and construct it on earthy by confusing the distinction between the divine and temporal political power.

I bring this up because it demarkakes the line that I am willing draw between who I block and who I do not block with. Those who would cast the aura of the sacred over their temporal projects, the right wing fundamentalists who confuse their own reading of the Bible with God's word itself, are setting society up for a crystal night, but those who would cut off any sort of higher meaning in the name of quantification are merely setting up a killing field. The values I speak of only work if they are grounded in the divine, and if the distinction between the sacred and profane is very clear. That's why Secularization is not bad, its' a good thing. That was the solution to the religious wars, make a vocabulary everyone can share and speak that in the public square.

The most important thing to me is God. I had a classic "born again" experince, with a vintage Pentecostal "baptism of the Holy Spirit" with the famous "signs following."
You can read all about it here. Nothing is more important than the Gospel and representing it fairly. I don't don't expect atheists or even Christians who have not had such experinces, to understand. It was not just a matter of feeling better about things, it was not merely a matter of not worrying about hell, it was like going form death to life. It was as though I spent why life in a coffin and suddenly it was open I discovered a world of wonder and beauty I never dreamed existed. So of course that is the most important thing. Thus I choose alliances lexically, in the order of that which most serves the interest of the Gospel. There have been times that I blocked with the atheists against fundamentalists. But it has to be when I feel that the fundies are a bigger threat to the Gospel the atheists in that given issue. That does happen at times. There was my Falling out with CARM and Matt Slick. You can read about part of that those two previous links and Here. The issue began with evolution. I got sick of all these really stupid posts fundies kept dragging over form the creation board. I tried to put them wise on evolution because all of their criticisms revolved around issues they just did not understand in science. That fiasco ended with the fudnies on cARM calling me "the spawn of satan" and Matt Slick and I exchanging really harsh words. We have made up sense then. I went on to start fundies watch and was banned for six months.

I have now quite carm for good, but that was because of the atheists not because of Matt. The point is I am willing to block with atheists against fundamentalists, but only when the fundies are being a bigger danger at the moment, a danger to spreading the gospel, then are the atheists. That has to be the deciding factor because that's the most important thing in the world, because that's life. that's where life is found, knowing God. That's what its all about and nothing is better than that. The sense of being a modern person and learning understanding the world and so on those are all illuminations that help illustrate the path, they are not the path itself. the mistake atheists are making is they are using the illuminations to obscure the path instead of following where they really lead. The fundies are a bigger danger to the Gospel when they make following their social agenda the true test of the Gospel. When they confuse the temporal power they seek with the end for which they seek it, they are a greater danger. When they make agreement with their opinions the true test of faith, when they forget what grace is and think the Gospel is about idolizing the bible, they are a greater danger.

The answer is not so simple as to just start mocking the fundies, because the atheists can be a danger too at times. No one sets out to be a danger. Everyone is seeking truth, but everyone want it on his own terms. The only answer is to keep saying the truth. If that means fighting against both sides, that's just the way it has to be.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

If you are so smart, why an't you rich?

This blog is for positive exchanges and thought. It's about the ideas, and the pure pleasure of thinking and discussion. It is not about how bad atheists are, it's not about how bad I am. So listen up, the is is the only time I will say this:

I just received a comment on my blog, which I did not post because my policy is that I do not post personal attacks upon me or anyone else. It was full personal attacks and rude, arrogant, insulting the whole bit. I am so evil, I'm the most evil person ever. But the gist of it was "if religion makes you so happy how come you are the most bitter and unhappy person I've ever dealt with?" The basic logic here is "if you are so smart why aren't you rich." First of all, This person is assuming that he really knows me because we have exchanged some piss on message boards. That is truly deluded. If you think you really know me from message boards, I feel for the people who are really in your life. I don't even pretend to know people I've been dealing with on boards for ten years. There was a woman who I count as a dear friend. I have never met her, I have only known her on boards and called her. I called her every night for months even though she lives very far away (I had a calling plan). I became so enamored that I really begin to think I knew her well enough to fall in love with her. That relationship was good it did not get out of hand. But eventually she had to give me a rude awakening by reminding me "you don't know, we have never met, you have never seen me in person living my life you don't' really know what I'm like. I thought for minute there I was ready to marry her! But after being reminded that I was only falling in love with a mental image I had constructed, I began to realize that she wasn't really the person I wanted to marry. I began to realize how much of my feeling for her was based upon illusion.

You think you know me, you think you know that I'm so bitter and so hateful, but everything you have ever said to me or read from me back to you is based upon what you did to insult me and to start the ball rolling. I have been the target of character assassination and lies and misrepresentation, set up to give the responses of anger that that the atheists wanted me to give so they could destroy he good I was doing in my arguments. Of course I make myself seem some real creep by getting angry about it, but that's what you want. that's why try to evoke in me and you know you do. I am speaking to the person who wrote that letter. I am not saying that you DC guys have done this. But after years and years of this kind of treatment, how can you expect me not to be worked up and not to fly off the handle at the least implication of insult?

All any of you, the guy who wrote the thing and the DC guys, you are all just blaming the victim. How dare you be effected by our atheist attempts destroying your psyche and your sense of self esteem. Why would ever think that denying that ever went to college and constantly mocking everything you see yourself valued by would a negative effect? who would thunk it? All I ever tried to do from the beginning was tell them how to be happy. But they don't want to be happy. they love feeling miserable. they want to be trapped in their depravity and despair it feels good to be depressed, because its so easy to sit around and brood about it. It makes me some kind of major offender because I knew stuff they don't know and I have this vast body of scientific data they are too lazy to read, and it disproves their childish little bull shit.

get this through your little head. get it through the little head. when I insult it is always in a cycle. The atheist comes on with snide arrogant attitude, well your God is just big mean bully and christians are stupid blah blah."

i react to that with challenge to their knowledge base, because they don't' have one. usually those things are said in sheer ignorance with no understanding of theology, philosophy of religion, the studies on re or any of it. They construe the challenge to their knowledge base as personal insults then we are off the races. If you don't want me to do that then don't come on with litlte "I am so supior to stupid Christians" attitude.

Am I bitter? gee I don't know. why would anyone be bitter about both parents getting sick and dying, after three years of putting your whole life on hold to care for them, wipe their asses everyday, can't leave the house because they might die. Be their to give the a whole pharmacy full pills every day, make every meal, spend loads of time with them while the ramble incoherently and fade off into vegetation, all the while fighting with a mentally ill family member and an abusive alcholoic family member who spends all his time either saying "you are doing that wrong and then flies out the door when you say "Ok you do it" or getting drunk. Then when they die and you are trying to greive the mentally ill family member is so traumatized and going into a worse tailspin of paranoid delusions that you almost have to pretend they aren't dead, and don't dare express any grief or you get his huge howl. Then they take your career away, the only thing you ever really cared about and that you worked over decade on in Ph.D. work. Then they steal your house from you because they were house thieves and you were naive enough to think they were a mortgage company. The one and only thing you can find to make yourself feel better after losing the one thing you spent your life working for is exposing your ideas to these adolescent demons who can't understand them and have to be very very suspicious of every single thing you say, refuse to credit you with having even gone to college or having any knowledge at all, and have to ridicule every single thing you speak of and spread lies about you and try to destroy your reputation so that the only replacement for the career you worked so hard for becomes hell and you can't do it without harassed at every hands turn by stupid people who are too lazy to read a single page of any of the stuff you are talking about, who would be better?

You don't know jack fucking shit about me. You don't know that I'm not happy. You don't know that my bitterness is greater than my sense of gratitude to God because he's restoring the life I lost. In the summer of 2006 when I lost my house and had to move to an apartment (the kind where we found a vile of crack on the ground while moving in and where a knife fight broke out in front of our door)I was telling people "Joe Hinman died. I am dead. I'm just waiting for God to tell the corps to lie down." When I was caring for my parents (and still working on my Ph.D. the whole time) the one thing that gave me solace was the internet apologetics. But in that day it wasn't like it is now. You really enjoy message board discussion. But then the so called "new atheists" and Jesus mythers began spreading their lies and their poison and crating the social fad of hatred for Christianity, just like the Brown Shirts, making Christians the scape goats for all the ills of the world. Just as Hitler did for the Jews. So after having my real career stolen I could not even have my pretend career because they price of that was that I had to be totally mocked all the time, and then when I became human and reacted to the mocking, then that makes me so very bad. I'm just evil piece of shit because I get angry and the lies and the character assassination.

Most of the internet atheists are just too immature to listen or to think or to care about their lies. They would rather than than go to the trouble to research and find the truth. There are atheists who have become my friends. I value their friendship, even on message boards.Most of them are posting on my boards. The other kind, the trolls the bad mouthes the character assassins are not welcome. So yes, of course I am better, and I'm overly sensitive. These little hard hatred demoniacs who have no human feeling are gonig about that I have never suffered pain, I'm just a bad person. I'm just an evil religious person becasue that's how those kind of people are: they are too stupid to read any of material that disproves their childish bullshit and even though I can make good on all that I claim with scientific data, they continue to hound and harass and to claim I don't know anything, I never went to school, I'm lying about my degree ect ect.

So we have established that I"m bitter. Do they know how happy I am? I told you in summer of o6 I was saying "I am dead, I'm just waiting for God to tell the corps to lie down." Now I'm writing a book. We got a rent house. It was a total miracle, the only rent house in this whole part of the city for a price we can afford. It fell into our laps. As I drove down the street a little voice in my head seemed to say (but not really in actual words, more like a feeling) "go back that place you looked at at such and such a time." I did and the woman was walking out of the house. I asked her about it, it was for rent, the price was affordable. But we did not have the goods, bad credit, we had a rental history, but bad job, mental illness in one family member, horrible credit, forclosure on our record, ect ect. But this person just happened to be sympathetic to such a plight for personal reasons of her own and we got the house. So now we have a little yard for the dog, who we love so very much. He's happy. The dog is happy, so we are happy.It's a beautiful little yard and beautiful little house and a pleasure to live here. I feel that I do have a career after all and I am going about the task of making it happen and doing the career. So I don't say "Im dead I'm just waiting for the corps to lay down." Now I say "I am alive again thinks to Jesus."

You don't know me. You have no idea how I feel about life, myself, you or anything else. You want to make up a bunch of things, construct an image that paints me as worst person ever. I am lying about, I'm laying about knowing anything. Obviously that upsets me, why would it? Becasue I didn't get away with a lie? or because you are denying me the right I have to your respect as a degreed person who worked for a Ph.D. and came so close as to have only one more step before it was taken away. It was not taken away becasue my work was bad, I had a 4.0 for five years. All my professors knew I was good, they all told me I had a bright future as a scholar. It was taken away because I took too long getting through. I took so long because my parents were dying and I wasn't going to put them in a nursing home and forget them. But I'm such a bad person. I'm so evil I gave up my career to give my parents a coupe of last good years. What an evil bastard, but you know us Christians!

you weren't there the years and years and decades that my brother and I went to the coffee shop every night and had discussions intot he night, so long and so in depth that strangers would come over often and compliment us on how bright we where. I did not do that so they would see me. I did it to find truth. you weren't there and you don't know. You were not there during the thousands of hours that I poured over texts because I wanted to know. you are not in my head, you do not get the sense of utter pleasure that I feel in learning. You don't know what I feel about learning. I doubt that you ever derive any pleasure from learning. in fact I doubt that youc an learn.

I have been slandared and ridiculed time and time again because when a person lies about Christaintiy and I know that it's a lie and I can prove it, so speak up and say "you dont' know." that is mostly what I say when atheists get mad. Most of the time, like 90% of the time I have evolked their angry by saying "go to school." that's what gets me called "so insulting" and so on. I say "you don't know" when people dont' know, they find that really insulting. A few times I have been so angered that I break down and curse. That's wrong, I shoudl not do it, But those who evoke it only see that I did it, they never even consider what they do to make it happen. Then they spread lies about me.

like the most recent where they quoted me on a site "fundies say the stupidpest things" or something. I said something totally reasonable that any good sociologist would say, because they don't know anything about sociology the interpreted it in some stupid ass way then included me among the fundies! me! I ran the Fundy watch blog! I was warning the world about the fundies, and both the readers of that blog appreciated it!

My former blog atheist watch was good exercise in human behavior. If I wanted hits on any given day all I had to do was quote some nonsense, some atheist saying something stupid, and say "see atheists are hateful." /A hundred people would go look at that and then talk about it on blogs all over the place. but if I spent days writing an intelligent and well thoughtout blog peice to some thorny intellectual question, almost like cock work 75 people will look. If I go on Atheist watch and say "atheists are hateful" and quote some atheist saying "Christians are stupid" or something, 200 people tun in and talk about it all day. People want sensation, they wont conflict, they don't' appreciate thinking, and they want to blame and they love to villify.

Of course it's not at all bitter to huant someone's blog and ridicule everything they say and constantly push the line about how evil they are? that's not bitter at all is it? But you have no right to decide about my happiness you have no concept of it. I was happier when my parents were alive that's true. Perkins was about the best time in my life, and my child hood was so wonderful I can't let go of it. But you have no concept of happiness in my sense. You don't know how I feel and you can just but out. Even if I am not happy, the studies show God makes people happy. So if it wasn't for God I would be dead now. The first year after I moved tot he apartment after Amaquest stole my house, I consoled myself with thinking that I could go back to the old homestead, which was standing vacant, and put the car in the garage and keep the motor running. At one point I would actually put self to sleep at night thinking about "I will do this tomorrow night." I'd go to sleep with a little bit of good feeling because the bull shit could end.the corpse could lay down. Once I actually got busted up over something, not little fiddely atheists saying stupid things, but something like not being able to pay the light bill again, so I went over there. I was going to do it. Just as I was about to turn into the drive way a cop pulled up and sat there in front of the house for no apparent reason. Just at that moment. that's the only thing that stopped me from doing it. Now we have a garage on this little house. I could it do it at any time. I have no intention of it and I know I wont. Because God has restored my life.

I am also going to change the sitution vs atheists so that I wont be constantly riduclued and subjeted to character assasination. I'm not going to go on message boards anymore. they are so totally unfair, unable to think unable to even understand what a level playing feild is. they cannot be fair, they cannot understand. So I wont talk to them unless I control the zapper. Then I don't have to listen to their crap.

ok so thats the end of the negativity. From this point on personal attacks are not posted and we wont talk about negatives anymore.

I'ts utterly stupid to get so worked up over being todl "you don't know X, you need to read more about it."