Sunday, July 25, 2021

Review of: The Trace of God, by Joseph Hinman

I came accross a splended review of my book [1] ----------------------------------------The Trace of God: A Rational Warrant for Belief

Joseph Hinman

Reiew by Don McIntosh

Dallas: Grand Viaduct, 2014

418 pages

---------------------------------------- In The Trace of God, author Joe Hinman has presented a sophisticated argument for rationally warranted belief in God on the basis of religious and mystical experience. As an avid reader of all things theological, apologetic and scientific, I found The Trace of God both illuminating and compelling. It quickly became evident to me, as it should to any reader, that Hinman has done his homework (and then some) in order to lay out a fresh and powerful presentation of the old argument from religious experience to the existence of God for a twenty-first century readership.

Hinman constructs his case like a high rise, meticulously laying his foundation and building on it layer by layer. He thus begins with a very useful and interesting explanation of “Preliminary Concepts and Definitions,” introducing readers to technical concepts (the “religious a priori,” religious experience and mystical experience), found throughout the book but not likely to be encountered often outside the fields of theology, psychology or sociology. This is followed by a discussion of his “Decision Making Paradigm,” one tailored for the subject at hand: Given that God is (by definition) not an object of empirical knowledge, we must decide whether belief in God (as opposed to empirical confirmation of God) is rational. Hinman proposes that in principle the evidence of religious experience is sufficient to meet a prima facie burden of proof – that is, on the strength of these experiences belief in God should be deemed rationally warranted until and unless someone presents reasons or evidence to overcome the warrant. In the process he offers a keen analysis of Thomas Kuhn’s depiction of scientific revolutions and an insightful critique of the logic behind a concept often used (and abused) by science-minded naturalists: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

From there specific arguments are presented, of two distinct types: “the argument from co-determinate,” and “the argument from epistemic judgment.” The argument from co-determinate is roughly analogous to an inference from footprints in the snow to people having been present recently. Evidence of God’s activity in the form of very basic and culture spanning religious experiences leaves a psychological imprint upon the human psyche, leaving recipients of the experience in turn understandably, and quite rationally, inclined to believe in God as a result. This, essentially, is the trace of God. Experience of the numinous – of the holy, transcendent, awe- and fear-inspiring presence of God – has been recorded at all times and cultures, and therefore constitutes empirical grounds for belief. Moreover, these experiences confer universally beneficial effects upon those who have them: an enhanced psychological outlook, physiological health, and hence overall well-being. The related argument from epistemic judgment concerns the reliability and validity of the experiences reported. These experiences are consistent in character, regular in occurrence, and shared by a majority of people. And again the effects upon the persons who have them are demonstrably and overwhelmingly positive.

Having presented the arguments, Hinman bolsters those arguments by revisiting the studies used to derive the data for human religious experiences. Here the book takes a decidedly technical turn, examining the criteria for identifying religious and mystical experience, then the methodology chosen to elicit and record human responses to those experiences, for a large and wide-ranging number of studies. This for me was the least interesting portion of the book, but for the serious-minded atheists Hinman intends to challenge it may be the most important. By carefully describing the empirically focused instruments and methods used to collect the data, Hinman preempts any objection to the effect that the argument from religious experience can be reduced to so much unscientific, subjective tale-swapping. Along the way various other objections are considered and rebutted, e.g., that emotions are unreliable indicators, or that religious experience is "mental illness."

The way I see it, the remainder of the book consists of mopping-up operations in the form of rebuttals to actual or potential objections and counterarguments. This includes a review and defense of the idea of “religious a priori” as a rational default position for believers to take. With direct experiences of God at hand believers have “no need to prove” – that is, no burden to justify – their faith, either to themselves or to others. Also in this part of the book is a critique of Wayne Proudfoot’s skeptical arguments against the religious experience inference to theism, which proceed from a faulty assumption that the experiences are purely subjective and ineffable. This is followed by consideration of various other forms of “alternate causality” other than the presence of God: brain chemistry, as postulated by researchers like Michael Presinger (this recalled a fascinating online debate I had many years ago now involving what we called the “God module” part of the brain); the effects of drugs; evolutionary mishaps; and the like.

Reading The Trace of God was for me decidedly positive. This is not to say that the book will be a page-turner for everyone. The sheer richness of the material is difficult to digest in places, if well-researched and erudite, and the presentation almost unfailingly methodical. Those accustomed to popular-level inspirational writing, theology or apologetics will need to buckle down and concentrate to take in the information and appreciate the arguments. And whereas in the interest of disclosure I should mention that Hinman is a friend of mine, I should also mention that I do not agree with everything he has to say in this book – particularly his take on New Testament atonement and soteriology. Still, he comes close to my own view with this: “…(T)he universal nature of mystical experience does not invalidate either religious truth in general or the Christian tradition. God is working in all cultures, and what he’s doing in all the cultures of the earth is moving people toward Christ” (p. 365). Amen.

All in all, this book has more than earned its place on my shelf. Much like the life-transforming religious experiences it describes with such meticulous care, The Trace of God left me with not only better informed, but with a strong desire to seek God in my experience and to share the good news of that experience of God with others. For this believ
er that makes The Trace of God a worthwhile spiritual and intellectual investment.

[1] Don McIntosh,"Review of: The Trace of God, by Joseph Hinman"Gerizim publishing, (2018) https://www.gerizimpublishing.com/post/the-trace-of-god-by-joseph-hinman

Monday, July 19, 2021

scientific doubt vs religious faith: revisiting and old dispute

I came across an old blog post of mine from 2009. The post itself was not what I was drawn to but one of the comments. The comments by an anonymous atheist were of a nature easily answered. I think my answers were good as far as they went. Yet I negated their effectiveness with anger and insults. The heat of rhetorical battle and the abuse of atheists took their toll on my psyche. Here is what I wish I had said. I don't think it's wasted because this is a philosophical issue that cuts to the heart of the conflict with atheistic doubt.

Anonymous Atheist said... Wow, you sure write a lot, but don’t say much. There is truth, and that truth lies in the material world, and science is the only way to find that truth. All the philosophical notions in all the minds of all the philosophers mean nothing unless they are grounded in material reality, all else is just the endless gibberish of the human mind talking to itself, or a collection of human minds talking to each other. All of our supposed understanding exists only within human minds. This includes the supposed laws of the universe, i.e. gravity, atomic force, the behavior of light etc. The universe simply behaves as it does because … it does. We are just building models in our heads so we can think we are making sense of it.

This is not profound. Everything we know and perceive is filtered through human consciousness. Holy cogito Batman, we've known this since Descartres. That fact cannot be used to disprove the reality of God because the atheist is bound to accept the notion that there is a reality external to the human mind and we can know something of that reality. Otherwise the atheist must give up science and resort to mysticism or solipsism.

AA:All of our ideas about gods and spirituality exist only in the human mind as well. Regardless of your claims that there is any actual proof for god, it doesn’t exist.

All our ideas about matter and energy only in the human mind as well.By the logic of his argument,therefore,regardless of science's claims that there is any actual proof for energy and matter, it doesn’t exist.

AA:The concept of gods exists only within our heads. You can’t offer any more substantial evidence for your particular idea of gods than any other’s evidence of theirs.

yes of course we can because some ideas are more logical than others. Being in the mind desn't mean an idea is indefensible. Moreover . He can't prove a reason to see materialism as the external reality and not an idea involving one of spirit and matter.The proof for a materialistic external reality must come through human perception and is, therefore, not validated or proovable by the logic of his argument

AA:All of the output of all apologists is just so much detailed, convoluted rambling trying to explain the details of something that doesn’t exist. If all humans were to suddenly die off, the gods would die with them, as would the laws of the universe. The universe, however, would not be affected in the least.

Ditto science. notice he affrms there is an extrenal universe and yet how can he prove it apart from human perception?

AA:Man seems to have some inherent need to create supernatural causes for natural occurrences. Lot’s of ink has been spilled as to why this is, but just because so many are affected by the phenomenon, doesn’t make it true.

Need doesn'tmake it false either, so it must be irreluant

As has been pointed out by a philosopher who is grounded in reality, Daniel Dennet, we believe in belief.

Except atheists who seem to believe in not believing. In the modern world we have identified virtually all of the causes of things that occur around us, which should have freed us from our primitive superstitions.

sorry that is highly fallacious! We have barely scratched the surface of understanding our world. There is much more to go. Here are 10 major concepts atheists take as gospel which we can't prove or don't understand.

(1)Dark matter not proven

(2)Gravity, no definitive proof as to what causes the attraction of mass over distance.

(3)the existence of the multiverse

(4)Cause of the unified field

(5)the nature and definition or consciousness

(6) Can't prove string membranes exist

(7)why we sleep and dream

(8) the hard problem of conscioisness

(9) the cause of mystical experience

(10) case of the image on the shroud of Turin


Science is not about proving things, it's about disproving things(that is to say testing hypothesis).There is no science that disproves God.

This[modernity freed us from our primitive superstitions] has not happened, in a large part, because the purveyors of religious and spiritualistic beliefs maintain the structure of those superstitions.

He's already disproved his argument because it comes to us from the human mind. He has no more extra human proof of no God than i have for God.

In many cultures, such as ours, we are awash in these superstitions from birth. The idea of gods is pushed as the default truth, when the real default should be no gods, since there is no evidence for any.

Of course there's evidence for God. Remember above his argument is that evidence for God is only in the mind. Bit his knowledge of science is also in the mind.That's moot.He has no logical basis for the claim that there is no reason to believe in God. Of course he does not know my reasons for belief.see my eidence [2]

Most people in our culture have been exposed to the notion that God is watching you, and if you sin you will burn in hell, or at least that sinning, whatever that is, will make God mad.

That is a pathetically childish notion of religion.Reducing religion to superstition is just an ideological ploy. Science has its ideological side. Religion has its logical and complex side

I find it difficult to believe that you were really the atheist you claim to have been, although saying you’re an atheist does mean you actually believe in a rational world. I know that since I have cast of the blinders of belief and faith, the world is a much more understandable place and I cannot see any reason to ever change my mind.Red Mann

He finds it hard to believe that one can have experience that leads one to think other than he does. Welcome to the adult world.No aspect of logical or scientific thought is denied me by my faith and my faith offers a dimension he doesn;t understand.

[1] Joseph Hiinman, "Answerto Aisti Cline," Metacrock's blog(feb 5,2009) https://metacrock.blogspot.com/2009/02/my-answer-to-austin-cline.html

[2] My warrant for belief page on Religious A prioi
br> http://religiousapriori.blogspot.com/2009/01/rational-warrant-for-belief-sub-menu.html

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Politics and the Distortion of Christian Values.

Politics distorts the values that motivate it. Eventually solidarity with the group and revenge dominate the ideals that motivated political action. The ideals recede into the background. Evangelicalism is a product of the south. It's notions of justice were forged in light of the slave trade and it's notions of love were rationaliztions for its raw poloticcal instincts. Let us note the way Christ's commands to love, especially love of enemies, have become distorted.
The results from a recent poll published by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life (http://www.pewforum.org/Politics-and-Elections/Tea-Party-and-Religion.aspx) reveal what social scientists have known for a long time: White Evangelical Christians are the group least likely to support politicians or policies that reflect the actual teachings of Jesus. It is perhaps one of the strangest, most dumb-founding ironies in contemporary American culture. Evangelical Christians, who most fiercely proclaim to have a personal relationship with Christ, who most confidently declare their belief that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, who go to church on a regular basis, pray daily, listen to Christian music, and place God and His Only Begotten Son at the center of their lives, are simultaneously the very people most likely to reject his teachings and despise his radical message.[1]
He points to militarism, draconian criminal justice, hatrod of the poor and lionizing the rich.
Jesus was very clear that the pursuit of wealth was inimical to the Kingdom of God, that the rich are to be condemned, and that to be a follower of Him means to give one’s money to the poor. And yet Evangelicals are the most supportive of corporate greed and capitalistic excess, and they are the most opposed to institutional help for the nation’s poor — especially poor children. They hate anything that smacks of “socialism,” even though that is essentially what their Savior preached. They despise food stamp programs, subsidies for schools, hospitals, job training — anything that might dare to help out those in need. Even though helping out those in need was exactly what Jesus urged humans to do.[2]
Examples of co opted values, according to Sean Mcelwee,  include:

(1)Immigration 
The verse: "When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God." - Leviticus 19:33-34.[3]
Yet, as he points out the evangelicals oppose the imigration bill, rampage against the poor who desperately leave their homes to seek life sustaining employment, and they rationalize keeping kids in cages.[4]

2.Poverty

"Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God." - Matthew 19:24.

Mcelwee points out:
Because the only thing fundamentalists dislike more than immigrants is poor people. Seriously. Just this year, Tea Party congressman Stephen Fincher explained why he thought the government should cut food stamps entirely, “The role of citizens, of Christians, of humanity is to take care of each other, but not for Washington to steal from those in the country and give to others in the country.” Michelle Bachmann has also made a similar statement. The entire Tea Party movement is based on the idea that a huge portion of Americans are “takers” who suck the lifeblood out of the economy.[5]
as John Gehring points  out:
Too many white Christians sacrifice the gospel’s radical solidarity with the poor and oppressed with comfortable, self-serving ideologies. Prosperity gospel preachers affirm the cult of consumerism and individualism. Evangelicals rally behind political leaders who make a holy trinity out of tax cuts for the wealthy, attacks on social safety nets and anti-government propaganda.[6]
We can see the upshot in the way conservatuvee Christians blame the poor themselves for their poverty rather than the system or their circumstances. In  a 2016 study by the Public Religion Research Institute we find:
Christians, the study found, are more than twice as likely to blame a person’s poverty on individual failings than Americans who are atheist or have no specific religious affiliation. White evangelical Christians, who voted overwhelmingly for President Trump and continue to be some of his most steadfast supporters, are especially wedded to this worldview. Half of white Catholics also cited lack of effort — read: laziness — rather than difficult circumstances as the primary reason why people are poor. Less than a third of African-American Christians agree.[7]
What is the solution? It seems that politics dreches one in muck and distorts our view of the world, obscuring Christ's clear teachings. Shall we declare politics  too worldly for Christians? That would also be to ignore human suffering. Ignoring people's pain is to ignore Jesus' teaching. I think the only remedy is the litmus test "is your political stand based upon your own wordly comfort?" Only if we are willing to give and to get out of the comfort zone can we obey the gospel.

Notes:

[1] Phil Zuckerman and Dan Cady, "Why Evangelcals Hate Jesus,"Huffpost, (03/03/2011 10:11 am ET Updated May 25, 2011) https://www.huffpost.com/entry/why-evangelicals-hate-jes_b_830237

[2] Ibid.

[3]Sean Mcelwee, "5 ways Fundamentalsts Mistreat the Bile ," Salon, (AUGUST 6, 2013) https://www.salon.com/2013/08/06/when_fundamentalists_get_liberal_about_the_bible_partner/

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6]John Gehring, "What is Wrpg woth White Chrstians?" Religion News Service, (August 10, 2017). https://religionnews.com/2017/08/10/what-is-wrong-with-white-christians/

[7] Ibid

Sunday, July 04, 2021

Hartshorne's Modal Argument

What follows is one of the most challenging subjects you will ever hear about. It is the best way to get a head ache, but I think it proves the existence of God. The problem is it requires a very specialized background to understand it. First you have to understand modal logic.

Modal Logic is so called because it turns upon the use of so called "modal operators." It's called "modal" because it is the logic of modes of being. "modes" as in what type of existence something exits in, whether it is dependent upon other things, whether it can cease or fail to exist and so forth. The modal operators are "necessity," "contingency" "impossibly," "possibility."

Necessity and contingency lie at the base of our modern understanding of cause and effect. They come from scholastic notions of logic, but the distinction between the notion our modern notions of c/e and the scholastic ones in the middle ages is not that great. The scholastic had more levels of cause, efficient cause, final cause and several others. But one could everything we have done in modern science using the scholastic ideas of c/e.

Necessity doesn't mean has to exist. It doesn't mean God is necessary to the existence of the world (except in so far as if God exists then of closure God is necessary to the world as creator--without God there would be no world).The modal argument does not begin with the assumption that God has to exist. It begins with the assumption that there is a valid distinction between necessity and contingency, which there must be. It proceeds along the lines of hypothetical consequence that obtain from different scenarios of God's existence. It concludes that is necessary. But by "necessary" it means not contingent, or not dependent upon something else for its' existence.

This is often misconstrued by atheists and taken to mean the argument proceeds from God's existence as an assumed first premise. This is not the case, the first premise is either/or. Either God's existence is necessary or it is impossible. This allows for the possibility that there is no God. So the argument does not begin by "defining God into existence."

Necessity essentially not contingent, it also conveys the idea of he can't cease or fail to exist, stemming from his eternal nature.

Contingent means the opposite: that a thing is dependent upon a prior thing for existence, or that it could cease or fail to exist.

Impossible means logically impossible, something in the structure of the idea contradictions, such as square circles.

One of the sore spots that atheists get stuck on is the idea that God cannot be contingent. They will always leap to the conclusion that this is defining God into existence, because they don't understand the concept of God. God, by the nature of the concept, carries certain parameters just as the existence of any human assumes humanity, or the existence of any tree assumes that the tree in question is a plant. To have to define that God is not contingent should not even come into it. The idea of God is that of eternal creator of all things. Thus God cannot cease to exist and cannot be dependent upon anything (or he wouldn't be the creator of all things). Atheists usually assume that all knowledge has to be empirical. they will argue this is defining God into existence. maybe God is contingent.

Argument:

Close to Hartshorne's version

1. God is either necessary or impossible.
2. God can be conceived without contradiction.
3. Whatever can be conceived without contradiction is not impossible.
4. God is not impossible.
5. God's existence is a necessity (from 1-4, not contingent or impossible means necessary)
6. If God is necessary, then God exists.
7. Belief in God's existence is warranted

About Hartshorne

Hartshorne Lived to be 103, at the time of his death in the Fall of 2000, he was known as "the greatest living Metaphysician." Hartshorne was one of the major forces in the "back to God" movement in Philosophy (a term coined by Christianity Today in a 1979 article. His first and greatest calim to fame is as the second most influential voice in process philosophy, along with Alfred North Whtiehead, but he is also credited as the man who brought the Ontological argument back from ignominious defeat by Kant almost two centuries earlier. Hartshorne was also a recognized authority on birdsong, and an authority on bycicles, having never driven a car a single time in his centogenerian lifespan. Hartshorne devoted the last years of life to waging a letter's to the editor campaign to advocate social issues such as medical care.