Reason / Science / Religion

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Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#21  Postby Will S » Jun 18, 2010 9:41 am

katja z wrote:[theist mode]All we've got? You're forgetting the word of god, Will, the word of god! :ahrr: [/theist mode]

You must try harder.

In the RDF forum, I was conned by a bloke who I discovered (sooner rather than later, thank ... something or other) was a humorist from the Landover Baptist Church. (see http://www.landoverbaptist.org/)

So I've become much more wary.
'To a thinking person, a paradox is what the smell of burning rubber is to an electrical engineer' - Sir Peter Medawar (adapted)
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Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#22  Postby CookieJon » Jun 18, 2010 10:38 am

Will S wrote:
CookieJon wrote:
Will S wrote:He may tell us to rely on a sacred book, or on the pronouncements of a religious authority (himself, perhaps!), but, as soon as we ask why this particular sacred book, or this particular religious authority, if he responds at all, he has to use … (wait for it!) ... reason!
...
The unavoidable conclusion is that, when we are trying to find out the truth about things, reason trumps everything, and nothing can trump reason.


So? Your proposed argument from the theists' point of view about reason was not that it doesn't work at all, just that it "has its limits". It doesn't follow that "reason trumps everything" if you've only used the limited ability of reason to reason that reason itself is limited, or to reason the best method of overcoming its limitations.

I can't see any problem at all with the statement '(human) reason has, or may have, its limits'.

I'm not arguing there is (a problem with that statement). ? It was "reason trumps everything" that I didn't agree followed.

If religious people think there is, then it's down to them to convince us. N.B. if they try to convince us, what will they use .... presumably, reason!!

Does a concept's truth (or otherwise) rest on whether it's possible to convince you of it? Does the truth change as you change your mind?

So when I say 'Reason trumps everything', I not so much saying how wonderful, glorious, reliable reason is; rather I'm saying that it's all we've got.

All you may have, perhaps.

Just sayin'... ;)
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Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#23  Postby CookieJon » Jun 18, 2010 1:00 pm

Sophie T wrote:Actually, I've been reading so much apologetic stuff lately that I could also play the part of a Christian theist if it would help these discussions.


You should convert! That would liven up the discussion around here ;)
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Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#24  Postby Will S » Jun 18, 2010 2:12 pm

CookieJon wrote:
Will S wrote:I can't see any problem at all with the statement '(human) reason has, or may have, its limits'.

I'm not arguing there is (a problem with that statement). ? It was "reason trumps everything" that I didn't agree followed.

If religious people think there is, then it's down to them to convince us. N.B. if they try to convince us, what will they use .... presumably, reason!!

Does a concept's truth (or otherwise) rest on whether it's possible to convince you of it? Does the truth change as you change your mind?

So when I say 'Reason trumps everything', I not so much saying how wonderful, glorious, reliable reason is; rather I'm saying that it's all we've got.

All you may have, perhaps.

Just sayin'... ;)

I suppose that most of us believe that the truth exists 'out there', whether or not anybody is convinced of it. I believe that myself, because, as far as I can see, any attempt to overthrow that idea is, necessarily, self-defeating.

The issue is how, and to what extent, we can ascertain the truth. We all know that reason/science works; the question is are there any viable competitors? As far as I can see, there aren't any, and that's what I mean when I say 'Reason trumps everything'.

But I don't mean that as any deep, provable philosophical idea; it just seems to me to be a practical truth about the world we live in. I suppose I can (just about!) imagine possible worlds in which that wasn't the case, or even possible changes to our world which would result in it not being the case.

Suppose it happened that some young kid habitually, in his sleep, shouted out next week's winning lottery numbers, and suppose that we had absolutely no naturalistic explanation for the phenomenon. Then, I suppose, we'd have to agree that there was, in this case, some way other than reason of determining the truth. (Certainly, those running lotteries would have to retire from the business!)

Any thoughts about this? :angel:
'To a thinking person, a paradox is what the smell of burning rubber is to an electrical engineer' - Sir Peter Medawar (adapted)
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Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#25  Postby Sophie T » Jun 18, 2010 5:44 pm

Will S wrote:
Yes, quite apart from the great paradox at the centre of Calvinism, which you point out, it's ... argumentum ad hominem, par excellence, in excelsis. (Now behold the awful effects of an old-fashioned British education. :( )


Ah, the beauty of the British language. We Americans are quite coarse by comparison, I'm afraid, in that we are not nearly so eloquent with our speech. :(

argumentum ad hominem, par excellence, in excelsis. I do love that turn of phrase, and you surely have it right when you characterize such "arguments" as ad hominem attacks. What I am finding, though, is that Calvinists have a funny way of dealing with such accusations. They say, "Hey, I'm not the one who is saying that you're a morally perverse, cognitively broken, delusional simpleton. God is the one who's saying it. Isn't that convenient! :P

Will S wrote:
I agree that's increasingly a factor: a 'backs to the wall' attitude. Note the rise of the inclusive term 'people of faith', that is, everybody except the bloody atheists. It sounds so much better than 'religious people', doesn't it? :dopey: Just as 'faith schools' sounds so much better than 'religious schools' or 'denominational schools'. :dopey:

Did you know that our beloved Prince Charles has announced that when/if he becomes King (and ex officio Supreme Governor of the Church of England), he doesn't want to be titled 'Defender of the Faith' (see current British coins)? Instead he wants to be 'Defender of the Faiths' (plural).

If he means it seriously, then the reaction of the Church of England will be ... interesting! :angel:


Oh my. Yes . . . "defender of the faiths" - - how noble! When reading some of these modern-day apologists, one gets the same impression, that they view themselves as knights in shining armor, nobly defending the great cause of faith and valiantly protecting the lowly and ignorant peasants who find themselves naked, shivering, and speechless without defense against us dark-hooded critics of faith. :?
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Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#26  Postby Sophie T » Jun 18, 2010 5:50 pm

CookieJon wrote:
Sophie T wrote:Actually, I've been reading so much apologetic stuff lately that I could also play the part of a Christian theist if it would help these discussions.


You should convert! That would liven up the discussion around here ;)


:lol: Of course, if I were to convert to fundamentalist Christianity, and most especially to a Calvinistic brand of Christian fundamentalism, I'd have to turn at least a part of myself into a monster, and not just a Cookie Monster either! :P

But maybe . . . hmmmm. Maybe. Using this same name, I could sometimes be Cassie Calvinist, as long as everyone understands that Cassie is just playing the part of a Calvinist, for the sake of discussion. Shall I? Cassie would, of course, adhere to the forum rules . . .
It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll,
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Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#27  Postby katja z » Jun 18, 2010 5:54 pm

Sophie T wrote:
CookieJon wrote:
But maybe . . . hmmmm. Maybe. Using this same name, I could sometimes be Cassie Calvinist, as long as everyone understands that Cassie is just playing the part of a Calvinist, for the sake of discussion. Shall I? Cassie would, of course, adhere to the forum rules . . .

Maybe Cassie the Calvinist could post some stuff at O'Bannon's site while she's at it, and the rest of us can sit back and enjoy the comedy? :evilgrin:
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Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#28  Postby Sophie T » Jun 18, 2010 5:59 pm

Will S wrote:
CookieJon wrote:
Will S wrote:I can't see any problem at all with the statement '(human) reason has, or may have, its limits'.

I'm not arguing there is (a problem with that statement). ? It was "reason trumps everything" that I didn't agree followed.

If religious people think there is, then it's down to them to convince us. N.B. if they try to convince us, what will they use .... presumably, reason!!

Does a concept's truth (or otherwise) rest on whether it's possible to convince you of it? Does the truth change as you change your mind?

So when I say 'Reason trumps everything', I not so much saying how wonderful, glorious, reliable reason is; rather I'm saying that it's all we've got.

All you may have, perhaps.

Just sayin'... ;)

I suppose that most of us believe that the truth exists 'out there', whether or not anybody is convinced of it. I believe that myself, because, as far as I can see, any attempt to overthrow that idea is, necessarily, self-defeating.

The issue is how, and to what extent, we can ascertain the truth. We all know that reason/science works; the question is are there any viable competitors? As far as I can see, there aren't any, and that's what I mean when I say 'Reason trumps everything'.

But I don't mean that as any deep, provable philosophical idea; it just seems to me to be a practical truth about the world we live in. I suppose I can (just about!) imagine possible worlds in which that wasn't the case, or even possible changes to our world which would result in it not being the case.

Suppose it happened that some young kid habitually, in his sleep, shouted out next week's winning lottery numbers, and suppose that we had absolutely no naturalistic explanation for the phenomenon. Then, I suppose, we'd have to agree that there was, in this case, some way other than reason of determining the truth. (Certainly, those running lotteries would have to retire from the business!)

Any thoughts about this? :angel:


Hello, Will. Cassie Calvinist here. May I offer a few thoughts? May I suggest the possibility (and of course, it's just a possibility, I'm not saying it's a fact) that the reason atheists and non-Christians fail to "see" God is because they are cognitively busted, so to speak? I mean, think about it. So many people in this world do see God, and only a minority of people fail to see him. What if the atheist's failure to see God is simply a result of atheists having some sort of cognitive malfunction, in the same way that some people are color blind or mentally ill or blind? And what if certain activities could be proven to improve cognition so that such a cognitive malfunction could possibly be corrected in which case that person's paradigm induced blindness (just a theory remember) would disappear?

Edit: By the way, Cassie should point out that these are not Cassie's ideas but a paraphrase of ideas that Christian Calvinist apologist James Spiegel has batted around in his book, The Making of an Atheist.
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Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#29  Postby Sophie T » Jun 18, 2010 6:01 pm

katja z wrote:
Sophie T wrote:
CookieJon wrote:
But maybe . . . hmmmm. Maybe. Using this same name, I could sometimes be Cassie Calvinist, as long as everyone understands that Cassie is just playing the part of a Calvinist, for the sake of discussion. Shall I? Cassie would, of course, adhere to the forum rules . . .

Maybe Cassie the Calvinist could post some stuff at O'Bannon's site while she's at it, and the rest of us can sit back and enjoy the comedy? :evilgrin:


:lol: How dare you suggest such a thing?! Both Sophie (and Cassie) have principles, you know!

If O'Bannon and company want to talk to either Sophie or Cassie, they know where to find me, er her. I mean them. :scratch:
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Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#30  Postby katja z » Jun 18, 2010 6:05 pm

Sophie, I think Cassie sounds altogether too tentative, too conscious that she is only speculating. She should be more certain of her truth if she's to pass herself off as a fundamentalist with any credit. Although "just a theory" is a nice touch :lol:
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Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#31  Postby Sophie T » Jun 18, 2010 6:10 pm

katja z wrote:Sophie, I think Cassie sounds altogether too tentative, too conscious that she is only speculating. She should be more certain of her truth if she's to pass herself off as a fundamentalist with any credit. Although "just a theory" is a nice touch :lol:


Well, Katja . . . Cassie does understand that she is a guest in this forum and that there are rules which she must abide by. Of course, if Cassie were to be speaking in a religious forum, she would express herself in much stronger terms. As it is, though, Cassie just wants to get along. :dopey:
It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll,
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Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#32  Postby Will S » Jun 18, 2010 7:50 pm

Sophie T wrote:Hello, Will. Cassie Calvinist here. May I offer a few thoughts? May I suggest the possibility (and of course, it's just a possibility, I'm not saying it's a fact) that the reason atheists and non-Christians fail to "see" God is because they are cognitively busted, so to speak? I mean, think about it. So many people in this world do see God, and only a minority of people fail to see him. What if the atheist's failure to see God is simply a result of atheists having some sort of cognitive malfunction, in the same way that some people are color blind or mentally ill or blind? And what if certain activities could be proven to improve cognition so that such a cognitive malfunction could possibly be corrected in which case that person's paradigm induced blindness (just a theory remember) would disappear?

Edit: By the way, Cassie should point out that these are not Cassie's ideas but a paraphrase of ideas that Christian Calvinist apologist James Spiegel has batted around in his book, The Making of an Atheist.

I think there are two things here. The idea that we atheists are suffering from a kind of cognitive malfunction seems very implausible. I've never met a blind person who denied that other people can see, and I've never met a colour blind person who denied that other people can discriminate between colours which seem the same to him. Surely, in such cases, the people who have the appropriate cognitive ability can find ways of demonstrating that they possess it to those who don't.

I fear that, lurking behind this idea is something a good deal nastier: the idea that 'you atheists know perfectly well that there is a God, only you pretend there isn't'.
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Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#33  Postby PhiloKGB » Jun 18, 2010 8:09 pm

Sophie T wrote:Will, I'm not sure what most theologians are doing these days, but the apologist I've been reading lately (the one I mentioned in the previous post) is claiming in his book that atheists are deluded because they don't see what is so obvious to most people. He actually claims that atheists have a broken "God-sensor" and view the word through what he calls "paradigm induced blindness" that causes them to willfully reject God. Yet, he's a Calvinist who believes that even our wills are determined by God! He implies (or states outright, I'll have to look back and see) that failure to believe in God is cognitive flaw--a disability like blindness or being deaf, etc., and he says that if one engages in "right living," one can improve one's cognition, which may improve one's ability to "see" God. And again--he's a Calvinist! He says that atheists don't reject God because of lack of evidence but because of immorality and broken God sensors. So--if this is become a prevalent attitude among apologists (and I don't know whether it is or not), then perhaps they don't feel the need to construct rational arguments? I just don't get it. There's something about this approach that strikes me as unbelievably deceptive and almost malicious.

Does he explain how the "God-sensor" works or what its limitations are? Positing its existence begs, for me anyway, multiple questions related to how the sensor (and whatever else is at work) manages to produce wildly differing god-concepts.
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Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#34  Postby Sophie T » Jun 18, 2010 10:23 pm

Will S wrote:

I think there are two things here. The idea that we atheists are suffering from a kind of cognitive malfunction seems very implausible. I've never met a blind person who denied that other people can see, and I've never met a colour blind person who denied that other people can discriminate between colours which seem the same to him. Surely, in such cases, the people who have the appropriate cognitive ability can find ways of demonstrating that they possess it to those who don't.

I fear that, lurking behind this idea is something a good deal nastier: the idea that 'you atheists know perfectly well that there is a God, only you pretend there isn't'.


/Cassie. She is giving me a tremendous headache!

I have been working on a refutation of Spiegel’s writings, so I appreciate you helping me sort out my thoughts on this.

You wrote: I fear that, lurking behind this idea is something a good deal nastier: the idea that 'you atheists know perfectly well that there is a God, only you pretend there isn't.'

Yes, this is exactly what Spiegel is proposing (well, at least some of the time). He sometimes claims that atheists “know” that God exists and that they are somehow suppressing that knowledge out of a desire to engage in immoral behavior. He claims that based on irrational desires (to engage in immoral behavior), people attach themselves (irrationally so) to paradigms that, in a sense, reward their desires. (This isn’t exactly the way he words it, but it’s something along these lines.) And by the way, I agree that Spiegel levels a nasty accusation against atheists. In fact, I would go so far to say that he has a written a nasty little book filled with such nasty accusations.

I think you make a good point that a person who is color blind or blind or deaf is a person who knows that he or she is color blind or blind or deaf. However, Spiegel also gives the example of insanity, and I suppose that in that case, he would argue that a person who was insane wouldn’t know that he was insane.

What interests me about this point of whether or not a person knows that he is suffering from this proposed cognitive malfunction is that in one section of Spiegel’s book, he claims that people are aware, at least at some level, that God exists. Yet, in another section of the same book, he writes of people not knowing that they have a cognitive malfunction or from “spiritual deadness.”

Here are the two examples of what appear to be two conflicting theories:

“To be dead and not know it” is to describe the condition that into which every human being is born-original sin. According to Orthodox Christian theology, everyone is born spiritually dead and must be made alive in Christ. A stultifying aspect of this condition is that it prevents us from recognizing the condition we are in. Our spiritual condition assures that we can’t recognize our spiritual condition.”

The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief
Chapter 3 (The Obstinacy of Atheism), p. 57


“Self-deception is a much debated psychological concept, and in researching for my book on the subject of hypocrisy, I learned how complex and even mystifying it is. The phenomenon has been variously analyzed in terms of lying to oneself, motivated irrationality, conflicting subconscious processes, and existential disavowal, to name a few theories. But the essential feature of self-deception is a denial of what, at some level, one knows to be true. If the sensus divinitatis can never be completely expunged, then anyone who disbelieves in God’s existence denies what, at some level, he knows to be true. This does seem to be a case of self-deception, if anything is.

The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief
Chapter 4 (The Obstinacy of Atheism), p. 71


So—either Spiegel doesn’t have his story straight (which is what I suspect) or he is arguing that while people have a basic awareness of the existence of God, they are not aware of their “cognitive malfunction” or “spiritual deadness” that makes it impossible for them to “think straight” about God.
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Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#35  Postby Sophie T » Jun 18, 2010 10:50 pm

PhiloKGB wrote:
Sophie T wrote:Will, I'm not sure what most theologians are doing these days, but the apologist I've been reading lately (the one I mentioned in the previous post) is claiming in his book that atheists are deluded because they don't see what is so obvious to most people. He actually claims that atheists have a broken "God-sensor" and view the word through what he calls "paradigm induced blindness" that causes them to willfully reject God. Yet, he's a Calvinist who believes that even our wills are determined by God! He implies (or states outright, I'll have to look back and see) that failure to believe in God is cognitive flaw--a disability like blindness or being deaf, etc., and he says that if one engages in "right living," one can improve one's cognition, which may improve one's ability to "see" God. And again--he's a Calvinist! He says that atheists don't reject God because of lack of evidence but because of immorality and broken God sensors. So--if this is become a prevalent attitude among apologists (and I don't know whether it is or not), then perhaps they don't feel the need to construct rational arguments? I just don't get it. There's something about this approach that strikes me as unbelievably deceptive and almost malicious.

Does he explain how the "God-sensor" works or what its limitations are? Positing its existence begs, for me anyway, multiple questions related to how the sensor (and whatever else is at work) manages to produce wildly differing god-concepts.


That's an excellent question! I've just been skimming through Spiegel's book, and I don't think (unless I missed it) that he addresses that issue. I do recall that he wrote something about this "theory" (if we can even call it that?) that this "God-sensor" provides everyone with just a very general knowledge of, I suppose, a generic God? You bring up an important point, though, in that if we look at all of the accusations that Spiegel levels against atheists in his book--that we're all moral perverts, etc.--wouldn't all of these same accusations have to be levelled against Jews and Muslims and Hindus? So--if Spiegel wants to say that atheists are deluded, and morally perverse, and suffering from cognitive malfunction, he must also say the same thing about Jews, and Muslims, and Hindus. Yet, if he does so, he contradicts his argument that people are "designed" with minds that function "properly" and that we can see this merely by the number of people who believe in God. Again, you've made an excellent point! :thumbup:

I will have to look to see what else I can find about this "God-sensor" theory, which I believe originally comes from Platinga. I will report back when I have more.
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Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#36  Postby Sophie T » Jun 18, 2010 11:15 pm

PhiloKGB wrote:
Does he explain how the "God-sensor" works or what its limitations are? Positing its existence begs, for me anyway, multiple questions related to how the sensor (and whatever else is at work) manages to produce wildly differing god-concepts.


I just did a quick preliminary Google search on this concept of the "God-sensor" [Sensus Divinitatis], which apparently comes, originally, from John Calvin. This individual wrote a brief summary about it, and although I can't verify the veracity of his claims right now, I will look into it later. Assuming that he is correct about Calvin's claims regarding the Sensus Divinitatis concept, I thought he made one interesting point, as follows:

http://philofreligion.homestead.com/fil ... ology.html

Calvin distinguishes between the knowledge of God as creator and the knowledge of God as redeemer. The former is accessible to human reason and constitutes our natural knowledge of God; the latter is not accessible to human reason but must be revealed by God and is believed, not because of reason, but because of what Calvin called the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit.

Given this statement (if it is true), it does seem odd that Spiegel claims that a person who is "spiritually dead" would have an innate knowledge of God. Of course, Christian apologists get to define their terms in any way they like, and since this concept of "spiritual deadness" is one of their own inventions, I suppose they get to decide what it means.

If we only look at the first part of this "argument" though, I think it might be easier to deconstruct it. The argument for the existence of a "God-Sensor" seems to go like this:

1. Most people believe in the existence of a God or gods.

2. Therefore, all people must be born with a "God-Sensor."

3. Some people don't believe in the existence of a God or gods.

4. Therefore, people who don't believe in the existence of a God or gods have a broken "God-Sensor."

When the "argument" is looked at from this angle, it's easy to see where it falls apart . . . right there between 1 and 2. Basically, this is just a "Goddiddit" explanation for the existence of widespread belief. This kind of reasoning could have been used to explain a widespread belief in the existence of witches. People who believed in witches could have used the exact same argument above to "show" that people who didn't believe in witches were deluded or morally perverse or stupid. When looked at in this light, I think that Will is right--there doesn't seem to be any reason to believe that people are born with a God-Sensor unless you assume that the Bible is true. And actually, Spiegel admits in his book that everything he writes in his book is based on that very assumption! Yet, as far as I can tell--Spiegel writes nothing, in any of his books, about why anyone should make such an assumption. Given that that is the case, I don't even know why he bothers to try and provide any sort of extrabiblical support for his claims. Without a good reason to believe that the Bible is authoritative, none of his proposals based on such an assumption can even, rationally, be considered. I think I've just wasted a lot of my time! (Not with you--with him.) But it's all good. I've definitely gained, through all of this, some valuable insights about the mindset of the Calvinist.
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Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#37  Postby PhiloKGB » Jun 19, 2010 12:43 am

I'm actually familiar with Calvin's take on the matter. I was hoping that Spiegel could attempt to enlighten where Calvin obscures, but alas.
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Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#38  Postby Ragwortshire » Jun 19, 2010 2:29 am

Wow, awesome essay Will! :thumbup:

Question though: Suppose one were to put together this:

Will S wrote:Reason is all very well. It is enormously powerful; it has solved lots of problems. But it has its limits; there are issues which reason cannot address, and problems which it cannot solve.

and this continuation which is very similar to your hypothetical theistic continuation:

Not quite Will S wrote:Therefore, we must recognise that there are other ways of finding out about reality, such as our intuitions or our emotions, and we should use these to supplement (but not to correct) what we learn from reason.

It seems then that considerations about the scientific method and common sense etc., wouldn't then be strictly relevant to the argument. If this understanding is correct, then how would you answer the argument?

(Note: I think this is quite a different question from the one we're discussing on the other thread, which is more about how decision-making works in practical situations than the philosophical implications of reason.)
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Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#39  Postby Will S » Jun 19, 2010 7:24 am

Sophie T wrote:Yes, this is exactly what Spiegel is proposing (well, at least some of the time). He sometimes claims that atheists “know” that God exists and that they are somehow suppressing that knowledge out of a desire to engage in immoral behavior. He claims that based on irrational desires (to engage in immoral behavior), people attach themselves (irrationally so) to paradigms that, in a sense, reward their desires. (This isn’t exactly the way he words it, but it’s something along these lines.) And by the way, I agree that Spiegel levels a nasty accusation against atheists. In fact, I would go so far to say that he has a written a nasty little book filled with such nasty accusations.

Well, Cassie (note that I'm addressing you in your persona of Cassie Calvinist :angel: ) should you not be looking for objective evidence to support this view?

Your theory predicts that atheists will go in for more immoral behaviour than theists, so here is something which you can test. What you ought to do to begin with, I think, is to pick examples of behaviour which nearly everybody agrees are immoral, for example stealing or personal violence (what's called 'grievous bodily harm' in English law), and look for statistics to show whether or not atheists, proportionately, are more often guilty of it than theists.

You could then move on to looking at other activities where there's controversy about whether they're moral or not: various different kinds of sex outside marriage might be an example.

I honestly don't know what result you'll get, but I'd be surprised if you got clear-cut support for your thesis. The only indicator I can immediately think of is not a very good one, but, for what it's worth, it works against your thesis: the British prison population contains a disproportionately low number of atheists - or so it used to be said.

And, Sophie (are you there? :angel: ) I begin to fear that I may have to read Spiegel's book.
'To a thinking person, a paradox is what the smell of burning rubber is to an electrical engineer' - Sir Peter Medawar (adapted)
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Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#40  Postby Sophie T » Jun 19, 2010 9:03 am

Will S wrote:
Sophie T wrote:Yes, this is exactly what Spiegel is proposing (well, at least some of the time). He sometimes claims that atheists “know” that God exists and that they are somehow suppressing that knowledge out of a desire to engage in immoral behavior. He claims that based on irrational desires (to engage in immoral behavior), people attach themselves (irrationally so) to paradigms that, in a sense, reward their desires. (This isn’t exactly the way he words it, but it’s something along these lines.) And by the way, I agree that Spiegel levels a nasty accusation against atheists. In fact, I would go so far to say that he has a written a nasty little book filled with such nasty accusations

Well, Cassie (note that I'm addressing you in your persona of Cassie Calvinist :angel: )


Cassie is delighted! :jump:

Will S wrote:
. . . should you not be looking for objective evidence to support this view?

Your theory predicts that atheists will go in for more immoral behaviour than theists, so here is something which you can test. What you ought to do to begin with, I think, is to pick examples of behaviour which nearly everybody agrees are immoral, for example stealing or personal violence (what's called 'grievous bodily harm' in English law), and look for statistics to show whether or not atheists, proportionately, are more often guilty of it than theists.

You could then move on to looking at other activities where there's controversy about whether they're moral or not: various different kinds of sex outside marriage might be an example.

I honestly don't know what result you'll get, but I'd be surprised if you got clear-cut support for your thesis. The only indicator I can immediately think of is not a very good one, but, for what it's worth, it works against your thesis: the British prison population contains a disproportionately low number of atheists - or so it used to be said.


Hmmm. . . maybe. :scratch: But here's the thing . . . anyone who really is a Christian is going to be a person that is living his or her life in obedience to Jesus. It doesn't mean that he or she will be perfect, but it does mean that he won't be a casual sinner. A person isn't saved by his works, of course--but a person's works are proof that he has been saved.

With this in mind, then, anyone who is living a life of what Christians define (and I realize that not all people define it this way) as moral perversity--for example, anyone who is engaging in chronic sexual misbehavior--would be a person who might claim to be a Christian but is really not a Christian. Also, how could we measure such moral "sins" as unforgiveness or hatred that a person harbors in his or her heart? Also, according to Christianity, the greatest immoral behavior of all is moral rebellion. This means that, by definition, all atheists are immoral, and all Christians are moral. Does that make sense? ;) :angel: (I know it probably sounds insulting, but remember--my in arguing my points, I have to go by what the BIBLE teaches about immorality and not what society says. I'm not saying that the Bible is right and society is wrong. I'm just saying that according to the Bible, certain attitudes and actions are immoral.)

The problem then with conducting the sort of study you mentioned would be that a lot of people would be included in the study who would say they are are Christians, but whose lives would indicate that they are not, in fact, Christians.

Will S wrote:
And, Sophie (are you there? :angel: )


Barely :levi: :mrgreen:

Will S wrote:
I begin to fear that I may have to read Spiegel's book.

Oh, I hope you will! That way, I'll have someone to discuss it with!

If you do read it, I think you'll find it interesting. It's a short book but very confusing and in my opinion very dishonest, manipulative, and vindictive. Be prepared to feel angry as you read it. I know I did. It's quite nasty.

Edited to add: In this post, "Cassie Calvinist" employed ideas taken from two of James Spiegel's books, The Making of an Atheist, and Gum, Geckos, and God.

Edited one more time to add a note from Cassie Calvinist: In case anyone wants to accuse Cassie of saying that belief leads to unbelief, that is not what Cassie is saying at all. That would be redundant and silly. What Cassie is saying is that the root of all immorality (according to the Bible--and only according to the Bible) is a spirit of rebellion. And this rebellion is manifested in immoral behaviors such as -- well, you know --disbelief in God, etc. But again--Cassie understands that not all people view these behaviors as immoral. Cassie is only saying what is immoral based on what the Bible says is immoral. Whew!
It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.
~ Excerpt from William Ernest Henley's Invictus
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