Tuesday, April 22, 2014

New Atheism's Moral Meltdown

From Saints and Skeptics. Here. 

55 comments:

Legion of Logic said...

I have never understood how liberal atheists believe they have the objective moral certainty to decry people who, say, believe that homosexuality is not "normal" and that abortion is not simply a matter of a woman's body. Evil, sexist, bigoted, homophobic, all sorts of slurs thrown at those who disagree...yet by what objective, scientific truth do they judge?

Christian social liberals, as odd a combination as I find that, can at least say they believe pro-gay and pro-abortion (sorry, pro-choice) is what God means our morality to align with. Atheists really only have genetic compulsion and majority opinion as bases for morality, and neither is grounds for the hatred they throw at those who disagree with them.

Hugo said...

I have never understood how conservative theists believe they have the objective moral certainty to decry people who, say, believe that homosexuality is not "normal" and not a choice, and that abortion is not simply a matter of a woman's body but a complex issue in which the woman and her doctor have the first word. Evil, perverted, immoral, irrational, illogical, and untrustworthy, all sorts of slurs thrown at those who disagree...yet by what truth do they judge?

Atheists social conservatives, as odd and unusual combination, can at least say they believe anti-gay and anti-choice (sorry, pro-life) is what reason* yields our morality to align with, not some subjective divine opinion that happens to align with their subjective moral views. Theists really only have emotional compulsion and majority opinion as bases for morality, and neither is reasonable* grounds for the hatred they throw at those who disagree with them.


Now that I have got your attention... I have been reading this blog for several months now, and I feel like there are some smart people here who might be interested in addressing the following "challenge". I use quotes because I don't really like to call it like that, since it seems to imply some sort of useless/unintelligent "gotcha". The challenge, or conversation starter perhaps, is simply to give me your best line of reasoning* for believing in what 'you' label as 'God', with a common starting point we agree on.

Any rational person holding a god belief will necessarily tell me that this cannot be done within a single comment box, especially since I added the notion of a "starting point." The goal is not to pretend that I am somehow special and deserving of being convinced; I only want to understand where we really agree/disagree by starting with some common strong beliefs and objective facts. As an example, while insulting 'im-skeptical' withall sorts of names, I saw some of you compare him to crazy creationists who really believe the Earth is 6,000yo. This, right off the bat, shows some common ground that we can stand on, both literally and figuratively. The 6,000 years part, not what you think of him, to be clear.

Moreover, no need to complain that this is all over the net already, that I am too lazy to read, that you have been over this dozens of times. Just point me to your best 'starting point'; the thing(s) you cannot possibly reject. Hopefully it should be something you can summarize in steps, some rational arguments with premises we can agree on. I would really like to see why we reach different conclusions and belief while accepting so many other things as true. It might be interesting to see if you agree among yourselves too... Let me know if that makes sense!

Cheers,
Hugo

p.s. The intro was really just a (hopefully) funny take on Legion of Logic's generalist rant.

* Steven Pinker and Rebecca Newberger Goldstein: The long reach of reason

planks length said...

"give me your best line of reasoning for believing in what 'you' label as 'God'"

You were right to put the word challenge in quotation marks, because this is no challenge at all. I'll bite:

I believe in God because Jesus was resurrected from the dead, as testified to by the Apostles and recorded in the New Testament. I do not woodenly believe in this fact "'Cause the Bible tells me so" but rather because I have studied the New Testament in depth over a period of many decades (dating myself here, but since the 1960s), and am now convinced beyond any reasonable doubt that the Gospel narratives are reliable historical documents, accurately describing actual, literal events. I have yet to come upon an alternative explanation (despite looking for one) that holds the least bit of water or that stands up to the most cursory of examinations. It is my position that a reasonable person conducting an objective examination of the evidence, without preconceptions, will find the statement "Jesus literally and physically rose from the dead, and is the beginning of a New Creation" to be as true as it gets.

Corollary: No literal Resurrection, no Christianity. None of this allegorical, symbolic, "spiritual" garbage for me!

Papalinton said...

So Plank, you actually believe in the literal truth of Matthew 27:52-53?

planks length said...

Yes.

Legion of Logic said...

I don't know why you would call my post a "rant" since it doesn't even remotely fit the definition of a rant. Also, your reversal is cute, but in no way addresses any of my points. :) I could "deconvert" and declare Christianity to be utter garbage, and yet my opinions on atheism wouldn't change in the slightest. Attacking Christianity does not strengthen the case for philosophical naturalism.

Regarding your challenge, planks length answered from a different angle than I was prepared to do, so I may be answering something that you are not actually asking. I've had this conversation a little bit on this blog and elsewhere already, but to me a deity of some sort is a basic logical requirement. I have not encountered any naturalistic explanation equivalent to a "first cause" that I find to be rationally compelling. Quite the opposite, in fact (and like I said above, countering with "well what created God" does not in any way strengthen naturalism). So if a creator deity (or deities, to be fair) is the single explanation that offers a rational worldview, well then that's what I'm going to go with.

And once you look at every fact of science, history, human nature, etc through the prism of "there is a deity", then it looks quite a bit different than saying "well we have a natural explanation for how this occurs, ergo no god". If a deity is the "why" arrived at strictly through logic, then the "how" doesn't matter one iota to me. Evolution and the Big Bang theory disprove God about as much as an oven disproves bakers.

I was saved at 18, but went to Bible studies since I was 6. So it's impossible for me to have ever been strictly objective on matters of Christianity. But the peace that descended on me the day I was saved, the perceivable difference in my life I can note whenever I actually turn my life to God rather than focus on video games and nonsense like that, the knowledge I gain whenever I read the Bible, particularly Paul's letters to the Gentiles, things like this are the emotional foundation for my belief.

Logically, I've read books from both sides about the historicity of Jesus and Christianity (the two sitting in front of me right now are "Evidence for Christianity" and "The Christian Delusion") and as would be expected by all competent psychologists, I find the "for" to be more compelling than the "against". I frequent websites like Biologos and others that look at the Bible from a different perspective than the 6000 year old Earth perspective.

So, yeah. There's my train of thought, at least the engine and caboose and maybe a couple cars.



planks length said...

Legion,

I like your last comment. Basically (as I read it), you believe in God largely because of the "Why is there something rather than nothing?" question. That speaks very powerfully to me as well. Even were I not a Christian, I could never in a million years choose atheism as an alternative. The idea that the universe exists without a Creator is (to me, at least) totally unbelievable in the truest sense of the term, which is, I find it impossible to believe.

Daniel Joachim said...

@ Hugo, Legion and Planks

To your challenge: I would actually recommend David Bentley Hart and his Experience of God: Being, Conscience and Bliss.

I'm not saying you will convert, but you will at least have a complete understanding of what God is in all the major monotheistic religions, and why God is not an arbitrary hypothesis at all.

It may be more than you wanted, but those hours would be a valuable investment for future discussions! :)

If that wasn't enough to entice, look at some opening quotes:

“I do not regard true philosophical atheism as an intellectually valid or even cogent position; in fact, I see it as a fundamentally irrational view of reality, which can be sustained only by a tragic absence of curiosity or a fervently resolute will to believe the absurd. More simply, I am convinced that the case for belief in God is inductively so much stronger than the case for unbelief that true philosophical atheism must be regarded as a superstition, often nurtured by an infantile wish to live in a world proportionate to one’s own hopes or conceptual limitations.

(…)

When I say that atheism is a kind of obliviousness to the obvious, I mean that if one understands what the actual philosophical definition of “God” is in most of the great religious traditions, and if consequently one understands what is logically entailed in denying that there is any God so defined, then one cannot reject the reality of God tout court without embracing an ultimate absurdity.

This, it seems to me, ought to be an essentially inoffensive assertion. The only fully consistent alternative to belief in God, properly understood, is some version of “materialism” or “physicalism” or (to use the term most widely preferred at present) “naturalism”; and naturalism – the doctrine that there is nothing apart from the physical order, and certainly nothing supernatural - is an incorrigibly incoherent concept, and one that is ultimately indistinguishable from pure magical thinking.

The very notion of nature as a closed system entirely sufficient to itself is plainly one that cannot be verified, deductively or empirically, from within the system of nature. It is a metaphysical (which is to say “extranatural”) conclusion regarding the whole of reality, which neither reason nor experience legitimately warrants. It cannot even define itself within the boundaries of its own terms, because the total sufficiency of ‘natural’ explanations is not an identifiable natural phenomenon but only an arbitrary judgment.”


Peace,

DJ

im-skeptical said...

DJ,

The quotation you provided is ample reason for me not to bother with the book. Clearly, the author's mind is closed to anything but his own belief. He assumes that atheists don't have a proper philosophical understanding of God. While there are undoubtedly many who don't, there are certainly many who do. Furthermore, by insisting on the incoherence of a materialistic worldview, he reveals that he doesn't have a proper philosophical understanding of it. So why should I waste my time? It's like plank saying that he believes in the resurrection, and he automatically dismisses any and all evidence to the contrary. Is there any point in discussing the issue further? What does this book have to offer in the way of enhancing my understanding?

planks length said...

"[Plank] automatically dismisses any and all evidence to the contrary"

You obviously did not bother to read (with understanding) my posting. I wrote, "I have studied the New Testament in depth over a period of many decades" and " I have yet to come upon an alternative explanation (despite looking for one) that holds the least bit of water". (emphasis added)

Now how on God's Green Earth does that add up to "automatically"? The only practitioner of automatic dismissal on this website that I can see is you.

"What does this book have to offer in the way of enhancing my understanding?"

For starters, maybe a point of view outside of the airtight box you have imprisoned yourself in.

Daniel Joachim said...

im-(sorry, I just can't accept that last part of your name)

Now, this post wasn't really directed towards you, but I can't avoid the temptation of answering. (I'm a weak person)

"Clearly, the author's mind is closed to anything but his own belief"

No, it only says he finds naturalism incoherent, for perfectly good reasons he spells out in the book. He defends Hinduism just as much as he defends his own Orthodox Christianity.

"He assumes that atheists don't have a proper philosophical understanding of God. While there are undoubtedly many who don't, there are certainly many who do"

No, he only says that if naturalists understands what the classical notion of God means, they understand what absurdity they embrace by rejecting him. They should be proudly recognizing themselves as confronting this. Excellent atheist philosopher Quentin Smith, among others, does this.

"Furthermore, by insisting on the incoherence of a materialistic worldview, he reveals that he doesn't have a proper philosophical understanding of it"

Non sequitur...much? That's gotta be the reason, huh? Seems like you would at least enter the same close-minded "fallacies", that you (wrongly) accuse Hart of. Why don't you start by spelling out what's not incoherent by having a closed contingent and mechanically determined (by mystic "natural laws", which really amounts as magic, as long as they are purely brute facts) natural system that cannot account for its own existence?

"It's like plank saying that he believes in the resurrection, and he automatically dismisses any and all evidence to the contrary"

No, it's like plank saying that he has studied this professionally for his entire life, evaluated pro's and con's, and come to the conclusion that the resurrection is the only likely explanation. (Not a perfect analogy since the historicity of the resurrection and the existence of God are two different categories).

Have you written a post on basic logic yet, Reppert? I think that would add a nice contribution! :)

planks length said...

Thanks, Daniel, but I can't claim any "professionalism" in my studies. Purely amateur.

Daniel Joachim said...

Planks

Hehe, I only used you for the purpose of getting through a (very simple) point. Sorry! ;)

For now it suffices to say that Hart isn't an amateur, but a highly respected classical theist, by theists and atheists alike...

Ilíon said...

LoL: "... I could "deconvert" and declare Christianity to be utter garbage, and yet my opinions on atheism wouldn't change in the slightest. Attacking Christianity does not strengthen the case for philosophical naturalism."

Indeed.

Even if some new-and-contrary evidence were to lead me to reject the reality of the Resurrection, and thus to reject Christianity, I still wouldn't/couldn't be a God-denier. Atheism is easily seen to be false, quite apart from and prior to any questions of whether Christianity is true.

Ilíon said...

LoL: "[I] went to Bible studies since I was 6. So it's impossible for me to have ever been strictly objective on matters of Christianity."

"Objectivity" != hostility

"Objectivity" != ignorance

"Objectivity" != disinterest

Legion of Logic said...

Objectivity certainly isn't any of those things, but what I meant by that was also referenced when I said "Logically, I've read books from both sides about the historicity of Jesus and Christianity...and as would be expected by all competent psychologists, I find the "for" to be more compelling than the "against".

That is, when a position is emotionally important to you, rationality can often go out the window and get replaced with rationalization. No one is immune to that.

planks length said...

"when a position is emotionally important to you, rationality can often go out the window and get replaced with rationalization"

Everyone needs to stop making excuses for emotion. (Yes, I do take note of your use of the word "often") Were I alive in the 1940s, I imagine I would have quite an emotional stake in the Allied side in WWII. But that wouldn't make my position irrational. Contrariwise, a Confederate soldier might have an understandable emotional attachment to the Lost Cause, but that wouldn't make his support for slavery right. So whatever emotion one might bring to bear on a particular topic would seem to have little or no bearing on what is true or false.

I have no discernible emotional reaction to atheism, other than pity for its adherents. So likewise, the lack of emotion also has minimal relevance.

im-skeptical said...

DJ,

"No, he only says that if naturalists understands what the classical notion of God means, they understand what absurdity they embrace by rejecting him. They should be proudly recognizing themselves as confronting this. Excellent atheist philosopher Quentin Smith, among others, does this."

So you're telling me that the excellent atheist philosopher Quentin Smith recognizes the absurdity of his own position? Would you care to elaborate on that?

Legion of Logic said...

Agreed, it doesn't mean that your position is less tenable just because you feel strongly about it, nor is separating emotion from reason inherently a good thing. But it does mean that you will be less likely to accept that your position was in fact wrong, were that the case.

I'm being charitable to the other side here, and acknowledging that I could be failing subconsciously at weighing facts regarding Christianity because of underlying emotional attachments. :) I'm very comfortable rejecting atheism as a coherent worldview either way.


Karl Grant said...

Legion of Logic,

That is, when a position is emotionally important to you, rationality can often go out the window and get replaced with rationalization. No one is immune to that.

True, as someone once told me the only objectivity is subjectivity made aware of itself. And no one is immune to it but, some people think they are.

Ilíon said...

LoL: "That is, when a position is emotionally important to you, rationality can often go out the window and get replaced with rationalization. No one is immune to that."

Certainly, a person *may* choose to be non-rational (or even anti-rational) about some subject. But it remains a choice; there is no requirement that he do so. There is nothing about a person's life experience, nor his emotional investments, that *requires* him to adopt a non-rational stance.

That you went to Bible studies since you were 6 does not make it "impossible for [you] to have ever been strictly objective on matters of Christianity"; whether or not you are "strictly objective on matters of Christianity", or on any other matter, is a choice that you make, and re-make constantly. Your history does not "choose" for you.

Papalinton said...

I asked this question: So Plank, you actually believe in the literal truth of Matthew 27:52-53?
Plank replies: "Yes"

Matthew 27:52-53? "New International Version (NIV)
52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and[a] went into the holy city and appeared to many people."


So according to Plank this event actually and physically occurred "because I have studied the New Testament in depth over a period of many decades (dating myself here, but since the 1960s), and am now convinced beyond any reasonable doubt that the Gospel narratives are reliable historical documents, accurately describing actual, literal events."

Now I know, without doubt, I am not conversing with a normal person here. I now know his intellect has been subverted and one whose grip on reality has been traumatically compromised. He fits the archetypal pattern of delusional thinking. Dan Barker, would know. A former renowned evangelical preacher who maintained a touring musical evangelical ministry for 17 years, following years of missionary work in Mexico converting Catholics to christianity [as he tells it] astutely observes:

" You believe in a book that has talking animals, wizards, witches, demons, sticks turning into snakes, food falling from the sky, people walking on water , and all sorts of magical, absurd and primitive stories, and you say that *we* are the ones that need help?"

And now you are telling me that you are convinced that worm-ridden corpses climbed out their graves and walked into Jerusalem?

I don't think I see anything of value or merit in what you bring to the table. You are a caricature of an interlocutor not to be taken seriously anymore.

Saints and Sceptics said...


Thanks for posting this Vic

FWIW
We covered Matthew 27v52-53 on our site recently. http://www.saintsandsceptics.org/matthews-dead-saints-rising/

Saints and Sceptics said...


The point Papa, before you misrepresent the piece, is that Matthew is not terribly clear about the events he is reporting. We would expect him to give much, much more detail if these verses were to be read naively (as you do).

It doesn't seem to be apocalyptic or symbolic language; yet Matthew's theology would not allow for a general resurrection before the Parousia!

The best explanation is that Matthew is citing a source that he trusts, (even if he is somewhat unsure of the meaning himself!)

But the substantial point is that rejecting these verses does not allow the sceptic to throw out Matthew as a source.

Graham

Saints and Sceptics said...

Barker ought to have spent more time looking at the theology behind those "magic tricks"...

http://www.saintsandsceptics.org/is-jesus-god-the-testimony-of-the-gospels/

Papalinton said...

D J: "He [Hart] defends Hinduism just as much as he defends his own Orthodox Christianity."

He has to. He is compelled to add all disparate, competing, controversial, primitive and folkloric narratives to garner as much support for his defense of superstitious supernaturalism.

For those of a skeptical mind on the issue of supernaturalism and wish an insight into Hart's latest contribution on what a god is, without buying the book, you can read, in sequence, a very comprehensive review of Hart's book HERE, HERE and HERTE.

This ARTICLE is a pre-sequel but related topic on Hart's new book.

Papalinton said...

"The point Papa, before you misrepresent the piece, is that Matthew is not terribly clear about the events he is reporting. We would expect him to give much, much more detail if these verses were to be read naively (as you do).

Misrepresent? According to your apologetics. Give me a break S&S. Your interpretation doesn't make Plank's conviction any less nonsense than it is.

Let's face it. What you believe now is the 'right' interpretation is simply a change of attitude and what you think might be a defensible position in a contemporary world increasingly becoming skeptical to the contrived exegetical efforts to make the christian mythos more comfortable a story to defend.

The trouble with that approach is that the fable itself is deeply flawed and predicated on myth, oral and imaginative embellishment, and other legendising devices.

Rationalizing a mythos simply no longer washes with people as it once did.

Papalinton said...

Did you like the 'very comprehensive review' part ?

Daniel Joachim said...

Papa:

Sadly, also Hinduism beats the rationale of mechanical materialism by plenty of horse's heads.

And are you really linking to Jerry Coyne? Really? The man who puts the GNU into Atheism? The man who's starting of his review with "I haven't read the book, but I'm going to post a review anyway". The man who through and through boasts of his own ignorance?

Now, that's just hilarious!

Why don't you run along and find a review from someone who's not currently at a 3rd grade level in Philosophy? Syllogism? No, that's too hard.

Sayin' Coyne is skeptical, is like sayin' Adam Sandler is a world-class comedian. It's only true if you've been living under a stone for your entire life.

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.no/2014/01/the-pointlessness-of-jerry-coyne.html

Why don't you give Hart a try? Worst case: He could really save you from a lifetime of pointless discussions...

Daniel Joachim said...

William Briggs is always entertaining as well.
http://wmbriggs.com/blog/?p=12145

Crude said...

Gents,

To those of you discussing things with Linton - since I notice some names I've not seen before (Greetings and so on, by the way) - I want you to be well aware of what you're dealing with.

He's got a history of plagiarism. What's key here, however, is that his plagiarism - and this is only the 'caught red handed' portion - centers around, put short, "pretending to know and understand things he manifestly doesn't, even things he's currently discussing and criticizing".

I inform you of this just so you're aware of what you're dealing with, so you can decide how much time you spend interacting with him. Insofar as he has a track record of bluffing about knowledge, etc, there's a good chance that at any given moment that you "discuss" something with him, you're basically dealing with an angry atheist version of a chinese room. A fair chunk of people around here just ignore him for that reason.

But do as you will - I just wanted to make sure you all knew what you were getting into.

Chris said...

I took a look at those reviews.
Comprehensive? Those "reviews" were absolutely empty. First, there was the charge of pantheism- basically irrelevant and as far off the mark as possible. I have no idea how the reviewer concluded that Hart was saying that the physical universe and God are one and the same.

Then there was the repeated charge of God of the gaps. Again, absolutely empty. The whole book dealt with foundational metaphysical issues- no "gap" discussion whatsoever.

Oh, and then there was the tired standard (non)objection of how do we get a good God from Being Itself.

These reviews were just plain worthless.

Legion of Logic said...

To those of you discussing things with Linton - since I notice some names I've not seen before (Greetings and so on, by the way) - I want you to be well aware of what you're dealing with.

The good news for me is that I've decided to be as petty as all the atheists who, out of what is apparently a strong emotional need, refuse to use proper grammar when saying Christian, God, and Bible. I'm just not going to respond to anything they say, until they manage to overcome their hurdles and start using proper grammar.

I suspect I won't find many atheists to respond to with such a rule, but I guess I will find more stuff to do with all my free time.

im-skeptical said...

Here's what Quentin Smith has to say about arguing God from consciousness:

http://www.closertotruth.com/video-profile/Arguing-God-from-Consciousness-Quentin-Smith-/987

Here are some of his articles:

http://infidels.org/library/modern/quentin_smith/



Karl Grant said...

Paps,

Gee Paps, we enjoyed it immensely. Between Coyne starting off The book is The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss, and although I haven’t yet read it (believe me, I will, and have ordered it), I posted a critique of Damon Linker’s blurb for the book that appeared in The Week magazine (Gee, if you ain't read it how can you critique it?) to not publishing or even linking to rebuttal articles like here
A riled-up theologian, whom I shall neither name or link to, has written a diatribe about my remarks on David Bentley Hart’s book (Gee, I wonder if the guy had something to say that Coyne didn't want any faithful sheep like you to see). Why it has almost as much comedic value as you claiming that you are a, how did you put it, . An honest and open guy sees no need to separate their person from their comments by the shroud of anonymity after you have been caught plagiarizing, a very dishonest act, on multiple occasions.

Daniel Joachim said...

@Crude

Thank you. I'm kinda gullible in thinking that most people are actually tryin' to have a substantive discussion, with a desire to learn and engage with others. As long as people are trying, engaging, keeping to logic, and willing to withdraw arguments when they are struck down - I can totally respect that.

This however...is plain silly.

Thank you again. With the time saved, I can perhaps read one more...and even write a book!


DJ

Papalinton said...

What a bunch of unsmiling, hard-faced,, grim, dour, humorless, and dreary kill-joys you god-botherers are. I was told that use of irony and wit with biblebashers is a squandered opportunity. Like a fly to diarrhea they swarm to the bait of imagining as if Prof Coyne would be an appropriate candidate to review Hart's book. I say let'em at it. Coyne's a brilliant scientist, boys, but he ain't no theo-philosopher, indeed he himself professes only to being a lay philosopher. But no, just like the autonomic drones for Jesus they are, Karl, Chris, Crude and Daniel, true to form, predictably stick to dishing out shtick because that is what their religious training demands, incapable of appreciating and intellectually unable to discern the ruse of irony.

The comment, "Did you like the 'very comprehensive review' part ?" was a dead give-away.

But alas it is true. Blindsided by their god-instilled duty to man the barricades against the godless infidels, a play to irony and wit is truly a squandered moment.
Hart's ineffable Ground of Being, neither anthropomorphic nor refutable by any empirical observations, etc etc etc. is a regurgitated god descriptor written in the idiom of 21stC religious dialectics. Emma Goldman, Russian-Jewish-American activist and writer eruditely summed up Hart's position in her 1916 Essay, "The Philosophy of Atheism":

"The God idea is growing more impersonal and nebulous in proportion as the human mind is learning to understand natural phenomena and [as] science progressively correlates human and social events .... God, today, no longer directs human destiny with the same iron hand as of yore. Rather does the God idea express a sort of spiritualistic stimulus to satisfy the fads and fancies of every shade of human weakness."

Amen to the insightful Emma Goldman.

Papalinton said...

Crude: "He's got a history of plagiarism. What's key here, however, is that his plagiarism - and this is only the 'caught red handed' portion - centers around, put short, "pretending to know and understand things he manifestly doesn't, even things he's currently discussing and criticizing"."

Stop it. You can't keep up growing, embellishing and legendising my exploits like that. If you continue attributing all these additional feats, deeds, achievements, and accomplishments to me I will be as famous as Jesus quicker than he was able to accomplish, given the speed of today's communications.

planks length said...

Crude,

You'll note that my posting at April 23, 2014 7:05 AM was the first (and hopefully last) time I decided to acknowledge a certain contributor's existence. Reading his commentary prior to my jumping into the fray on this website some months back had already convinced me that, in the words of Gertrude Stein, "There's no there there." And even in this case, I purposefully limited myself to a single syllable - all that was necessary.

I am a firm believer in not casting one's pearls before swine.

Papalinton said...

THE START of the critiques of Hart's 'Experience of God'.

It will be interesting to see how big the ripples flow outside theological circles into the broader community on this one.

If Feser's 'The Last Superstition' is any guide I'd say, forlorn.

Daniel Joachim said...

Well, I gotta Papa this: It's good entertainment.

Coyne's a brilliant biologist. But in all topics at hand - he's just blatantly stupid. Imagine Mozart tryin' to engage with experts in engineering, and telling them that he understand bridges better than they.

Just imagine talking about the notion of God as ground of Being, as something that's "growing more impersonal and nebulous as we learn about natural phenomena".

If only Hart were referring to someone who's not a product of categorical mistakes and ignorance of philosophy, induced by misunderstanding the progress and nature of natural science.

If only there was some justification for sayin' that God hasn't become nebulous or has even changed slightly, just because he provides existence to all being at every instance.

If only this traditions have always been completely raised above the laughable accusations of God-of-the-gaps (translated into GNU: things I don't understand in general).

If only he was talking about something that reflects the very roots of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism and various late Paganism.

Oh wait - he is!

Well, that's a bummer...

Even though it's good entertainment, I've gotta follow Crude's (clearly obvious) advice on this and locate some more fruitful reading and discussion.

I guess all fair spectators recognize Papa's ad hominems (yes, they're only ad hominems because you're not able to provide even the slightest bit of justification), and complete question-begging anyway, tryin' to justify not having to learn anything about the topics at hand prior to a discussion.

Papalinton said...

And another review of Hart's book. This time from The Tablet, the International Catholic News Weekly, which concludes:

"At its best, this hugely suggestive book is a lyrical paean to a vital, more capacious understanding of reality, ourselves and God: a timely and gripping invitation to wake up, see the regnant naturalism, and subvert its suffocating hegemony. The text is by turns elegant, curmudgeonly, witty, infuriating, incisive, nostalgic, rhapsodical, explosive, frequently bang on the money – and always stimulating. Hart does a good line in sparkling aphorisms and illuminating paradoxes. But, frustratingly, he frequently resorts to pompous put-down in place of argument. Almost every page contains quotable one-liners. They are pretty well all negative. I lost track of the number of fallacies his interlocutors are accused of (genetic, pleonastic, compositional, pathetic, verificationist are just a few).

Although The Experience of God seems to be intended for the general reader, Hart comes across as a theologians’ theologian and I fear those outside the self-pleasuring academic guild may not get the substance or the jokes. All theologians trying to write supposedly “accessible” books might find watching Channel 4’s Gogglebox instructive. More substantially, Hart’s argument for a retrieval of the classical understanding of God as so transcendent as to be immanent, and a Hopkinsesque view of reality as saturated with God, suggest that Hart’s gleeful bashing of naturalists is not just alienating but a touch perverse. For a Christian theologian with such strong commitments to divine incarnation and immanence in the world (crucially unlike most faiths in this respect), would it not be more fitting to engage with real scientists, creating a more generous, differentiated but joined-up conversation, to see what a close-up investigation of reality might suggest about God’s active presence in the cosmos?"

The reviewer was not that impressed.

Daniel Joachim said...

So I'll try to reconstruct your main argument throughout this post:
1) If someone dislikes or disagrees with the book, it's gotta be shit
2) Someone dislikes or disagrees with the book
3) It's gotta be shit

(Good luck in being consistent with that argument in the future).

Nothing like googling negative reviews to reduce cognitive dissonance while refraining ourselves from actually having to leave the keyboard to do some good ol' honest work of studyin' our opponents, huh?

Much could be said about the confusions of Chotiner, but that would require a post of its own. Well, besides him using the Coyne fallacy: "Many have a less-than-perfect conception of this. Therefore it's false". Oh no - farewell to evolution and quantum theory!

im-skeptical said...

DJ,

"Nothing like googling negative reviews to reduce cognitive dissonance while refraining ourselves from actually having to leave the keyboard to do some good ol' honest work of studyin' our opponents, huh?"

It was your own excerpt that gave me the same impression as the review Papalinton cited. I attempted to engage you with some questions, but your only response is to hurl the usual barrage of insults that are so common here. Then you say this: "I'm kinda gullible in thinking that most people are actually tryin' to have a substantive discussion, with a desire to learn and engage with others. As long as people are trying, engaging, keeping to logic, and willing to withdraw arguments when they are struck down - I can totally respect that."

Bullshit.

Papalinton said...

"Much could be said about the confusions of Chotiner, but that would require a post of its own. Well, besides him using the Coyne fallacy: "Many have a less-than-perfect conception of this."

The dark arts of christian apologetics has indeed been honed by centuries of bullshitting. When a reviewer or commenter contests the claims of superstitionists [or in the case of Hart, mysticism] it is put down as either 'confusion' or 'misunderstanding' of the christian position.

Well it isn't confusion and misunderstanding, it is simply that a punt to religious MYSTERY is no longer acceptable as an explanation. In short this cited review from another Christian organisation in part notes: "I am not one to think that trotting out the word “mystery” is a good thing to do, by and large, in theological writing. I have a mentor who instilled in me a profound respect for the word. He did not advise against it, just noted that 99.9% of the time “mystery” is just a sign of intellectual confusion. Hart obviously did not have such a mentor. His writing is not riddled with mystery, but it is used enough to make me cringe."

To be fair, the piece does end on a positive note for Hart in that he is after all a brethren of the 'faith'. But the reviewer nonetheless has a few fundamental disagreements.

vultureofcritique said...

The challenge, or conversation starter perhaps, is simply to give me your best line of reasoning* for believing in what 'you' label as 'God', with a common starting point we agree on.

I don't know if we can agree on a common starting point.

I agree with various people - including Christians, Muslims, and Hindus - about the nature of mystical experience.

If one starts with mystical experience, one discovers a wide world of consciousness and spirit.

I cannot argue that spirit is real but God is not.

Experience shows that spirit is real. Thus I must believe in some kind of God - I hope it's closer to Brahman than to Yahweh.

But I don't think materialists will even be able to agree to mystical experience as a starting point. Thus I will leave them to debate Godel's Ontological Argument while I get on with other issues.

Ilíon said...

DJ: "Coyne's a brilliant biologist. ..."

Really?

Hmmm .... oh, well: biology is pretty much just glorified butterfly collecting, so if people think that Coyne is a brilliant butterfly collector, who am I to question it.

Ilíon said...

LoL: "... atheists who, out of what is apparently a strong emotional need, refuse to use proper grammar when saying Christian, God, and Bible."

That's one of the dead give-aways that one isn't dealing with an intellectually honest person. Once or twice could well be a typo (and should be considered as such), but a consistent "typo" reflects a mindset.

planks length said...

As I said, it's a major reason I can't take Ben seriously. If you can't be bothered to check your grammar and spelling, then what else aren't you checking?

Now there's nothing at all wrong with the occasional, accidental typo. We all do that! But there's something seriously wrong with stream of consciousness autotyping and never reading over what you've written and not correcting mistakes. Shows contempt for the medium of exchange (and thereby contempt for your audience).

Ilíon said...

"and thereby contempt for your audience"

Exactly. And as he has recently posted, he knows that he has problems in this area ... and he doesn't care ... which is to say, he does not respect those who may read his posts.


Amusingly, the "prove you're not a robot" text for this post starts with "Jacob"

Hugo said...

Two weeks ago (an eternity on blogs... the post being buried now...) I posted: "give me your best line of reasoning for believing in what 'you' label as 'God', with a common starting point we agree on."

planks length said, not necessarily in that order:
"the Gospel narratives are reliable historical documents, accurately describing actual, literal events"
"Jesus literally and physically rose from the dead"
"I believe in God because Jesus was resurrected from the dead"


There is no obvious common starting point here so that's already a problem if we want to discuss a reasoned argument. However, there is still a lot to be discussed... First, I can infer some common grounds; the little bit we can agree on is that the Gospels were written by people who really believed what they were writing about, be it as direct eye witnesses or because they believed stories told by others. Let me clarify what part I think is important regarding the Gospels: I would never claim the authors were lying. I just think they were mistaken, misquoted or caricatured. Not much more to say about what we agree on, so here's where we disagree.

These reasons to believe in Jesus and God, described by PL, are precisely a case of 'Cause the Bible tells me so'. It's quite amazing to claim that studying the same texts for decades somehow changes that fact. PL believes these fantastic events happen only because people told stories about these events. There is no other reason since without these testimonies; there would be nothing to talk about. Therefore, PL believes it really 'just' because the Bible, the people who wrote it, say so. I am not saying it's completely absurd to believe because of that; we do go through life believing things 'just people said so'. However, PL, if you cannot accept the fact that you do believe in Jesus 'just because someone said so', then you are lying to yourself about 'why' you believe.

Moreover, what I find interesting here is that there is an even bigger, but very common, error in the line of reasoning. Let's assume for a moment that what was written in the Gospels is exactly what 'appears' to have happened. The people who wrote the Gospels really were eye witnesses, or the people who told them the stories really described what happened accurately to them. The argument in this case would look like this:
- Jesus said things about God
- People 'saw' what they 'think' is Jesus being resurrected from the dead
- Therefore, what Jesus said about God is true
There is a huge flaw in that reasoning. Even if Jesus really did what people claim he did, that's not even evidence that he was God in human form. He could have been an awesome charismatic leader and fantastic illusionist; the result would be exactly the same: people thought they saw him rise from the dead and thus believed what he said. Who has seen the movie 'The Prestige'? I don't want to ruin the ending for anyone so I won't explain exactly what I mean; but there is no way to prove that Jesus was not using similar tricks as magicians in 'The Prestige.'

Hugo said...

In a follow-up comment, PL wrote:
"Basically (as I read it), you believe in God largely because of the "Why is there something rather than nothing?" question."

There is something, now, so the question of why is there something rather than nothing makes a faulty assumption: it assumes that there was nothing at some point in the past. However, it is possible that there was always something, and never nothing. It's also unclear what 'something' means when this silly question gets asked; as the person asking the question always believe that God always existed, hence there was never literally nothing. There was nothing except God, which is not nothing.

"Even were I not a Christian, I could never in a million years choose atheism as an alternative. The idea that the universe exists without a Creator is (to me, at least) totally unbelievable in the truest sense of the term, which is, I find it impossible to believe."

The universe exists; that's a starting point. So what can we learn from this universe to get to the conclusion that a Creator created it? It seems to me that you re-iterated Legion of Logic's fallacy that I will address next:
- The universe exists
- I cannot believe the universe was not created by a Creator
- Hence, I believe a Creator created it

Hugo said...

Legion of Logic said, not necessarily in that order:
"There's my train of thought, at least the engine and caboose and maybe a couple cars."
Actually, all I see is the caboose, with maybe a couple of cars yes, but no engine and more importantly, not an engine we agree on.

"to me a deity of some sort is a basic logical requirement."
So you don't need an 'engine' for your God-related beliefs? God is the engine from which you get other beliefs.

"I have not encountered any naturalistic explanation equivalent to a "first cause" that I find to be rationally compelling."
There is a fallacy here that can be made obvious by re-phrasing the statement: 'I have not encountered any explanation of the form 'X' that can explain 'Y', therefore, this explanation of type 'non-X' is more rationally compelling. The error of course, in case it's still not evident, is that not accepting 'X' does not justify accepting 'non-X'.

"countering with "well what created God" does not in any way strengthen naturalism)."
It depends in which context. Generally speaking I agree with you; it's over-simplistic. However, if a line of reasoning includes something like 'all that exists was created', only to conclude later on that 'God exists and was not created', the exception needs to be justified. Therefore, any line of reasoning must include 1, and only 1, of these 2 statements:
1) Everything that exists was created, including God.
2) Some things that exists were not created.
Some arguments for the existence of God make the mistakes of using some form of '1' as a premise only to conclude that God is special and an exception to '1'. But I wouldn’t know if that's what you believe Legion as you did not present any line of reasoning...

"Attacking Christianity does not strengthen the case for philosophical naturalism."
True.

"And once you look at every fact of science, history, human nature, etc through the prism of "there is a deity""
Why/how would I do that? Which deity am I supposed to pick? If I try to define the deity myself, I will be told 'aint the God I believe in'...

"If a deity is the "why" arrived at strictly through logic"
Please do share how you arrive at that 'why' strictly through logic; I don't reach that conclusion and that's what I like to discuss. If we start with some common ground, where do we part ways on the way to believing in God? Is it simply because I don't see why I would start with God? That's the only thing I got from your comment I am afraid.

"Evolution and the Big Bang theory disprove God about as much as an oven disproves bakers."
Sure. However, the oven teaches us something: the baker does not need to use magic power to add heat to the oven. There is a heating element inside it that does all the work, and that heating element is also part of the oven. Perhaps a baker was needed to press the 'start' button, but after that, the baker seems to be looking through the little window at the front of the oven without intervening much.

Hugo said...

Daniel quoted:
"I am convinced that the case for belief in God is inductively so much stronger"

But where is that case Daniel? I don't mind reading parts of a book to discuss the topic. However, there needs to be some sort of line of reasoning you believe in, and understand, that you can point me to. The quotes you included are far from that...

"if one understands what the actual philosophical definition of “God” is in most of the great religious traditions, and if consequently one understands what is logically entailed in denying that there is any God so defined, then one cannot reject the reality of God tout court without embracing an ultimate absurdity."

I would love to read that particular definition... however, the way these quotes sound, I am almost certain that the definition will include some sort of self-validation where God is defined as 'logically necessary' and thus 'necessarily existing'. The last paragraph re-enforces my intuition:

"The very notion of nature as a closed system entirely sufficient to itself is plainly one that cannot be verified, deductively or empirically, from within the system of nature. It is a metaphysical (which is to say “extranatural”) conclusion regarding the whole of reality, which neither reason nor experience legitimately warrants. It cannot even define itself within the boundaries of its own terms, because the total sufficiency of ‘natural’ explanations is not an identifiable natural phenomenon but only an arbitrary judgment."

There is nothing wrong with what's written here; the problem is that it is meaningless. Sure, we cannot conclude, from within nature, that nature is all there is. However, this does not justify a belief in 'nature is NOT all there is'. Assuming we agree that we are part of nature and thus necessarily believe that natural things exist, the real question is whether or not we believe non-natural things also exist. I don't. And this is what makes it 'look like' I believe that nature is all there is, but I would never affirm that I can prove that nature is all there is.

Hugo said...

vultureofcritique said:
"I don't know if we can agree on a common starting point."
Well that's just silly... I am sure we agree on most things we encounter though our daily lives...

" I cannot argue that spirit is real but God is not.
Experience shows that spirit is real. Thus I must believe in some kind of God
"
That's very similar to the fallacy I described above regarding Jesus. Even if we were to agree that there is some sort of non-physical spirit associated with who we are as people, this would not automatically prove a deity exists. You literally jump from 'spirit' to 'God' for no reason, and repeat it both ways. Spirits are only real if God is real. Spirits are real so God is real. There is really nothing in between?

More importantly, the disagreement is more about what people mean by spirit. As far as I can tell, the mystical world you refer to is something people in the real world talk about. So it's more hearsay about what they 'think' is already true, without ever considering that the entire thing is just natural experiences natural people have because of their natural body. Replace natural by material/physical/real if you want; still the same thing. Hence, you are correct:

"I don't think materialists will even be able to agree to mystical experience as a starting point."
Correct, because there is nothing non-material about mystical experiences. It's people talking about what happened to them and jumping to the conclusion that there must be something else since natural explanations just don't do it for them. Yet another case of 'I don't find an X for A, so I will assume that some non-X of my choice is rational'.

" I hope it's closer to Brahman than to Yahweh."
I am married to a Hindu Brahmin so if you are right I will wish for the same too, and hope that it somehow helps me ;)

P.S. sorry for the multiple messages in a row... I don't write often so took some time for all of the comments at once!