“Without God, people can do as they please”

china christianity

One of the most enlightening books I have ever come across was The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success by Rodney Stark. And at the very end of this book there is a quote from a Chinese scholar who had been part of an investigation into the causes of Western economic success. This is a direct quote of what this Chinese scholar had said:

One of the things we were asked to look at was the success, in fact, the pre-eminence of the West, all over the world. We studied everything we could from the historical, political, economic and cultural perspective. At first, we thought it was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years we have realised that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity. That is why the West is so powerful. The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics. We don’t have any doubt about this.

I was reminded of this by an article in London’s The Telegraph with the self-explanatory heading, China on course to become ‘world’s most Christian nation’ within 15 years. And while you may be sure the Chinese government has been keeping a watchful eye on where this might go, they have also not been attempting to stamp it out. And there are reasons for this, in keeping with that earlier study:

Some officials argue that religious groups can provide social services the government cannot, while simultaneously helping reverse a growing moral crisis in a land where cash, not Communism, has now become king.

They appear to agree with David Cameron, the British prime minister, who said last week that Christianity could help boost Britain’s “spiritual, physical and moral” state.

Ms Shi, Liushi’s preacher, who is careful to describe her church as “patriotic”, said: “We have two motivations: one is our gospel mission and the other is serving society. Christianity can also play a role in maintaining peace and stability in society. Without God, people can do as they please.”

In place of a moral order we now have political correctness and the pagan religion of Gaia and the environment. China, meanwhile, may become a Christian nation as we in the West depart from what may be the single most important part of the inheritance we have.

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469 Responses to “Without God, people can do as they please”

  1. Tel

    The US is under serious threat too and I reckon that can be pinpointed to the moment the SCOTUS decided abortion on demand was a right to privacy. Even people who support abortion rights could argue that decision was a travesty. The US has gone downhill ever since.

    I dunno, what do you think of the following?

    http://www.salon.com/2013/07/07/%E2%80%9Cwhy_did_you_shoot_me_i_was_reading_a_book_the_new_warrior_cop_is_out_of_control/

    The militarised police have become a feature of US culture under both parties, and the trend is creeping into Australia as well. Is that the way you want to live? Can you blame “the left” or abortion for that?

  2. JC

    I’m not blaming abortion per se, Tel. I’m talking about the erosion of American institutions from that point on. The decision was a travesty to the interpretation of the constitution.

  3. .

    The militarised police have become a feature of US culture under both parties, and the trend is creeping into Australia as well. Is that the way you want to live? Can you blame “the left” or abortion for that?

    When Obama orders wartime levels of small arms munitions for the DHS, I say you can blame leftism.

  4. johanna

    Cousin marriage was pretty popular among the royal families of Europe, including the Catholic ones – in fact, it was difficult to marry someone you weren’t related to. As for it being “stamped out”, well maybe among ordinary Catholics (I wouldn’t know) but it was certainly perfectly acceptable and not uncommon among Protestants in England and northern Europe. It was not, however, a preferred strategy as it is in some Muslim cultures (e.g. in Pakistan). But if you and your cousin fell in love, that was fine, and it doesn’t seem to have had any noticeable ill effects.

    What has always intrigued me is the influence of Protestantism on the Industrial Revolution and subsequent economic growth in the UK. The early mine and factory owners of the North were mostly dour but economically ambitious Protestants, both mainstream and non-conformist. I think that Weber had something with his “Protestant work ethic” when you look at how that apocalyptic scientific, economic and social upheaval played out. Predominantly Catholic countries spent a very long time playing catch-up, and some (like Spain) never did catch up.

  5. Rabz

    Canberra is a disgusting leftist hovel.

    Some of us are down here trying to remedy that situation, Squire.

  6. Tintarella di Luna

    Hannan ignores what other nations that are important.

    Yes Hannan does gloss over other nations but their potency has not endured and of the power of the US has seen to English thriving, except I don’t think a lot of Americans know they speak English. French once the international language of commerce and diplomacy is no more, France has faded notwithstanding its influence, the Netherlands has faded, Portugal has faded, Spain has faded. Germany still a power house is a very close linguistic cousin but not a great track record on freedom.

    Having said that, Britain had the strongest institutional trust.

    I note you use the past tense, and those institutions and that trust are crumbling

  7. JC

    I dunno, what do you think of the following?

    The GOP started this crap after 911. That’s the erosion of civil liberties from the right. However it’s a lopsided pyramid when you take the left’s attacks on liberties into account.

  8. Token

    My point: There’s a lot more to it than just Christianity.

    No one contests that view. I could cite many other thesis other than Niall Ferguson’s which raise other critical parts like Germanic democratic traditional, Greek logic, etc.

    That said, Judeo Christian thinking fused it together and when the crusade of the left is complete & it has been ripped out, most likely we’ll find a neo-Marxist green Statist hell hole which consumes its own citizens to sustain the elites.

  9. Notafan

    Portugal and Spain were extextremely successful until some time in the 17th century, major traders and colonists, they certainly fell by the wayside though.

  10. Gab

    My point: There’s a lot more to it than just Christianity.

    Why wasn’t capitalism an invention of the Middle East? Or China?

  11. Splatacrobat

    Predominantly Catholic countries spent a very long time playing catch-up, and some (like Spain) never did catch up.

    And the Netherlands.

    They are in religious decline.

  12. cohenite

    To sum up: the rise of the West was based on four primary victories of reason. The first was the development of faith in progress within Christian theology. The second victory was the way that faith in progress translated into technical and organizational innovations, many of them fostered by monastic estates. The third was that, thanks to Christian theology, reason informed both political philosophy and practice to the extent that responsive states, sustaining a substantial degree of personal freedom, appeared in medieval Europe. The final victory involved the application of reason to commerce, resulting in the development of capitalism within the safe havens provided by responsive states. These were the victories by which the West won.

    Extract from The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success , Rodney Stark.

    I shall put that on the list of things to read.

  13. Combine_Dave

    A research in 2003 shows that about 1.27 million people in the Netherlands express explicitly an affinity with secular humanism, which is about 9.4% of the total population.[122] Erasmus and Dirck Coornhert are important early representatives of humanism in the Netherlands in the 16th century. In the 17th century, especially Spinoza and Hugo Grotius were important. During the Age of Enlightenment (18th century), the importance of science and research increased sharply. Confidence in human understanding and logical reasoning was given shape in liberalism. The German philosophers Ludwig Feuerbach and Kant and the evolution theory of Darwin, among other scientific theories in the 19th century, had an exceptionally strong influence and were a major step in the development of humanism in the Netherlands.

    Doesn’t seem to have hurt their living standards however -

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_Human_Development_Index

  14. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.

    A good Easter Monday thread on the Cat. Wot an excellent blog this is.

  15. JohnA

    If you cope with that book, then read the Bible (or at least some of it). I recommend the King James Bible, but any will do. This is one book you will find easy to get hold of.

    My guess, Tel, is that you will read a couple of Amazon reviews of David Hart’s book and dismiss it out of hand.
    You will then say that you tried reading the Bible once, but it was all just a bunch of smiting and begetting, and not relevant to the modern age anyway.

    I may be wrong. Prove me wrong by looking up Jeremiah 5:21 in the King James Bible.

    Strewth, Robert. Why inflict the KJV on him? There are so many other modern versions available

    And what point are you making by referring to the snippet from poor old Jeremiah, the weeping prophet? Wouldn’t Jer 5:1 be a better place to start?
    ““Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem,
    look around and consider,
    search through her squares.
    If you can find but one person
    who deals honestly and seeks the truth,
    I will forgive this city.”
    (NIV)

    That was all God wanted – ONE person…and He was ready to forgive an entire city.

  16. Kevin White

    Infidel Tiger

    #1273448, posted on April 21, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    I certainly don’t believe there is a creator out there who gives the slightest crap what I think or who I have sex with.

    http://imgur.com/e9DJjCo

    An amusing non-sequitur. By that logic God wouldn’t care if you made child porn or were Lee Rhiannon.

    Correct. God does not care what we do to ourselves or children. In fact he actually commanded people in the Bible to murder their own children. Not a very nice bloke really when you think about it. Lucky for he is just a fictional character like Santa Clause but minus the presents.

  17. JC

    Shut up Kevin. Say something interesting or fuck off. We’ve heard the fictional character schtick like every other day for years now.

  18. johanna

    There is a huge struggle about liberty going on in The Netherlands, Splat. Geert Wilders was not an Australian, or a Swede.

    There is a big streak of pragmatism in Dutch culture, not to mention what others call “stubborness”, but they/we prefer to describe as adherence to principle. In other words, some things are negotiable, and some are not.

    Hit the wall against the things that are not, and you are crying into the wind.

  19. The reason for the rise of the West is and always has, IMO, been rooted in Christianity’s antecedents. Western civilisation is predominantly Graeco-Roman in its political and economic heritage. Christianity has at best merely provided a tempering influence on some of humanity’s worst tendencies, while at worst being used to justify them. Victor Davis Hanson has a lot to say about this, and in general I agree with him.

    The important thing is that its underlying ethos is one of tolerance, forgiveness and charity, with its spread encouraged by witness and example rather than coercion, fire and sword. Christian civilisation has fallen down on all of this significantly from the very start, but the ethos is always there and at least some of humanity does manage to live up to it a significant proportion of the time. To what extent this welds a disparate collection of nations into a world-spanning empire can be debated until the cows come home.

    Too much of what nominally Christian institutions were doing until even the late 20th Century was completely unacceptable; the problem was that it gave the Left the excuse to toss the baby out with the bathwater.

  20. dover_beach

    Kevin White is a lovely example of a village atheist (although I should say in fairness to village atheists, generally, even they have managed to master the art of formatting their comments correctly in order to avoid confusion for the reader). The village atheist believes that in rejecting the proposition, “there is a creator out there” whatever ‘out there’ means, he is rejecting theism in toto. In this he is like the person that rejects quantum mechanics in toto because it is occasionally taught to popular audiences with use of ready images like billiard balls and he can’t bring himself to believe in a billiard ball universe.

  21. dover_beach

    The reason for the rise of the West is and always has, IMO, been rooted in Christianity’s antecedents. Western civilisation is predominantly Graeco-Roman in its political and economic heritage. Christianity has at best merely provided a tempering influence on some of humanity’s worst tendencies, while at worst being used to justify them.

    I think this is nonsense, let me explain. Firstly, there would be no ‘West’ if not for the Christian civilization that emerged in the fourth and fifth century simply as a matter of history. Secondly, the elements of our Graeco-Roman antecedents that are alive in the West are those parts integrated into that Christian civilization. Thirdly, it is probably to loose to speak of the Romans and the Greeks as a single civilization, Graeco-Roman, given that they are quite different civilizations themselves. Fourthly, the most important idea, and it really is an idea of world-historical significance, is the idea of imago dei; that idea we owe to our Jewish and Christian forebears alone. Ideas of libertas and polis are fine ideas but they were always enjoyed by a limited franchise, but once joined to the former, well, the rest is history.

  22. dover_beach

    I think that Weber had something with his “Protestant work ethic”

    Weber’s thesis is that Calvinists, for instance, struggling to discern whether or not they were members of ‘the elect’ took earthly success as the indicator of their fate in the next. So they throw themselves at work but as they were frugal they accumulated capital which could be reinvested in further efforts of accumulation, and so on. That is the thesis, such as it is. Whether or not the historical evidence confirms the thesis is another matter. The thesis hasn’t enjoyed much success.

  23. Senile Old Guy

    That’s what I can’t get my head around with protestants and atheists. They still have this unquenchable need to believe in something, ANYTHING!!

    Nope, atheists do not have an “unquenchable need to believe in something”. Some may; many don’t. If you want to argue for religion do so, but stop making stuff up.

  24. Combine_Dave

    The village atheist believes that in rejecting the proposition, “there is a creator out there” whatever ‘out there’ means, he is rejecting theism in toto

    Well it would seem a little redundant to reject the idea of a creator and retain organised religion.

    Back to the topic at hand. The thesis that a plurality of Christianity (along other timely social forces) played a big role in the dominance of the West in the past would seem plausible.

    In terms of relevance for countries which are currently at their peak and those which are developing and catching up fast, it would seem not so much.

  25. JohnA

    dover_beach #1274453, posted on April 22, 2014 at 3:18 am

    I think that Weber had something with his “Protestant work ethic”

    Weber’s thesis is that Calvinists, for instance, struggling to discern whether or not they were members of ‘the elect’ took earthly success as the indicator of their fate in the next. So they throw themselves at work but as they were frugal they accumulated capital which could be reinvested in further efforts of accumulation, and so on. That is the thesis, such as it is. Whether or not the historical evidence confirms the thesis is another matter. The thesis hasn’t enjoyed much success.

    D_B The Calvinists who did as you describe were on the wrong tram, then. In fact they fell into the same error as the nation of Israel after the conquest of Canaan.

    For example, Gideon in Judges 6:12-13

    When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”

    “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

    conveniently forgetting the cause, explained in v1 of that chapter:

    “The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites.”

    That same erroneous thesis is still around today, as in the driving theme of that travesty of a film “Raiders of the Lost Ark”.

  26. dover_beach

    The Consiglieire:

    In the past century there have been very few theists in the fundamental sciences of cosmology, high energy physics or quantum physics.

    Even if this were true what would it demonstrate? We don’t judge the reasons for or against X by means of the someone’s proficiency in Y.

    Einstein wrote a great many words ridiculing the idea of a personal God. His ‘God’ was a pantheistic, Spinoza like conception. He considered belief in a theistic god to be ‘naive’.

    And classical theists would consider his critique of theism ‘naive’ given the brief discussion here.

    Dear Philippa, reason and emotion are not mutually exclusive. I’m passionate about science. Apart from my friends and family it is also my life and it makes up a lot of who I am. I get emotional about Reason and Truth. I have great affection for the heroes who inspired me to take this path. Lets try and show a little respect for those who contributed so much shall we?

    Have Philippa or I, or anyone else for that matter, denigrated science, or pretended that one had to choose between religion/ philosophy or science? No.

    Entropy:

    Dover, wouldn’t you say that because Europe never adopted the separation of church and state, that it has been prone to the multiple idiocies it has endured for the past three hundred years, while the anglosphere led the way for them to emulate (and resent). I could also argue that England probably went further than it otherwise would have if it were not for the aggressive separation of church and state in its colonies.

    The Church was always separated from the state in Europe. Even in the Papal States, the Papal States and the Holy See were/ are different entities/ offices. What happened with Henry VIII, and in other Protestant jurisdictions following the Treaty of Westphalia, was the establishment of national confessions where there was none.

    Tel:

    Christianity regularly split into sub-groups such as various Protestant traditions, but even minor splits amongst the Catholics for example Jesuits or Franciscans.

    The latter are separate orders that nevertheless profess the same creed. They are only different in the sense of adopting the particular spiritual disciplines of their founder.

    IT:

    I certainly don’t believe there is a creator out there who gives the slightest crap what I think or who I have sex with.

    http://imgur.com/e9DJjCo

    An amusing non-sequitur.

    Indeed. And yet the people making them think their philosophical opinions are worth listening to.

    jupes:

    You Christians shouldn’t be bruising yourselves by patting each other on the back too hard.

    There was a little thing called the Dark Ages where the Church was in charge for 500 years or so. Not too much freedom, capitalism and Western success going on back then.

    I see that Token corrected jupes’s error above but it is worth repeating that without the efforts of the Church the Romans and Greeks would have been entirely lost to us. It also worth noting that ‘the Dark Ages’ is itself a derogatory label typically bandied about by ideological historians in the early modern period engaging in politics; a label which was largely discredited last century.

    My point: There’s a lot more to it than just Christianity.

    Of course.

  27. JohnA

    Combine_Dave #1274566, posted on April 22, 2014 at 6:05 am

    The village atheist believes that in rejecting the proposition, “there is a creator out there” whatever ‘out there’ means, he is rejecting theism in toto

    Well it would seem a little redundant to reject the idea of a creator and retain organised religion.

    Yes, it would Dave, but the world seems to have managed it – and especially the liberalised, weakened, Western Christian churches: those which have abandoned consistent belief in their founding document, and which re-define God down to their own level.

    They speak of magnificent creativity, but deny that God is the source of all creativity. They speak of the diginty of all persons, but deny that God is Person, and reduce Him to the level of “divine influence for good” (their own idea of “good”, that is).

  28. JohnA

    jupes:
    You Christians shouldn’t be bruising yourselves by patting each other on the back too hard.

    Well, hello Jupes! Enjoying a Christian holiday whilst bagging the faith that gave it to you? Or are you writing from work, hmm? :-)

  29. Tel

    I dunno about you JohnA but I’ve been enjoying a traditonal harvest festival.

    I’m told the people in the North enjoy a traditional pagan solar festival about this time of year.

  30. dover_beach
    The village atheist believes that in rejecting the proposition, “there is a creator out there” whatever ‘out there’ means, he is rejecting theism in toto

    Well it would seem a little redundant to reject the idea of a creator and retain organised religion.

    CD, you have missed my point. Classical theists don’t believe that God is an instance of a kind, even a unique kind, rather we believe that God is Being itself, and we have arguments to the effect that if there is a God – accepting the classical arguments for God’s existence – He must be this. As Feser wrote recently:

    Now for the classical theist, God is not “a being” — not because he lacks being but on the contrary because he is Being Itself rather than something which merely “has” or “possesses” being (in “every possible world” or otherwise). Nor is he “a person” — not because he is impersonal but on the contrary because he is Intellect Itself rather than something which merely “exemplifies” “properties” like intellect and will. (As I have put it before, the problem with the sentence “God is a person” is not the word “person” but the word “a.”)

    (N.B. The Consiglieire, take note of this as well, given your comments re theism and pantheism).

    There is ample room for reasoned criticism of theistic arguments – and there is as illustrated in that link above between classical theists and theistic personalists – but this requires actual understanding of the arguments themselves, which is sorely lacking among village atheist critics.

  31. nerblnob

    Why inflict the KJV on him? There are so many other modern versions available

    Because it’s immortal poetry. Even we lapsed Catholics can appreciate that.

    Other versions are unmemorable and mushy, as your quote from the NIV amply demonstrates.

  32. dover_beach

    Corr: and there is as as is illustrated…

  33. Tel

    My guess, Tel, is that you will read a couple of Amazon reviews of David Hart’s book and dismiss it out of hand.
    You will then say that you tried reading the Bible once, but it was all just a bunch of smiting and begetting, and not relevant to the modern age anyway.

    I asked one small specific question about what is the meaning of the title of this post. Just explain one simple sentence, that’s all.

    I’ve been given “subtle hints” and about three weeks of reading lists to distract me (and if I did bother reading that lot I’d be told I read it wrong or need help understanding or something) but no actual answer to one tiny question. This religion stuff sure is mystical.

  34. dover_beach

    Tel, what is your question?

  35. Andrew

    What atheists regularly fall for is attempting to disprove literal Christianity as a proof of atheistic Creationism.

    “The bible can’t be right because A contradicts B; therefore the universe created itself with precisely the right mix of physical laws to last 13.7bn years with perfect conditions for evolution QED” is a stupid argument. Even if they found a signed confession from Jesus H bar-Joseph of Nazareth that he made the whole thing up together with photos of them faking the resurrection, that would only disprove one version of the Creator. This is no way provides any evidence of the spontaneous creation of 10 exp 56 kg of mass- energy and the other preconditions to life.

    Agnosticism is not a religion, but the positive statement atheism is.

  36. nerblnob

    If you don’t believe there is a god, then you are atheist. You don’t need to disprove or prove anything. It’s about belief. If you don’t have it, you are a-theist: without belief in god.

    Those who wish to “scientifically” disprove the existence of a god or insist on challenging those who do believe to provide proof, are on a different, er, “mission”, altogether and do not necessarily represent atheists in general.

  37. dover_beach

    If you don’t believe there is a god, then you are atheist. You don’t need to disprove or prove anything.

    If I were an immaterialist, wouldn’t I have to give some arguments both against materialism and in favour of immaterialism? Yes, of course I would.

  38. jupes

    … but this requires actual understanding of the arguments themselves, which is sorely lacking among village atheist critics …

    Village athiest? Pretty lame attempt at a derogatory term db.

    You are wrong that ‘reasoned’ criticism of theistic arguments ‘requires actual understanding of the arguments themselves’. This is because most of the arguments for God are just religious wank e.g.

    … the problem with the sentence “God is a person” is not the word “person” but the word “a.”

    No, the reason it is so easy to criticise theistic arguments is because:

    a. There are so many religions;

    b. They are all mutually exclusive i.e. they are all the one true religion;

    c. They are all ridiculous; and

    d. There is no evidence that any of them are true.

  39. The_Consigleire

    dover: Even if this were true what would it demonstrate? We don’t judge the reasons for or against X by means of the someone’s proficiency in Y.

    No I’m comparing apples with apples. Those fields deal with the fundamental aspects of the universe and its origins. Exactly the purview of the so called cosmic religions that purport to explain the existence of the universe and make vast all encompassing claims on how the universe operates.

    A religious person believing in the “God did it” theory, or any of the thousands of creations myths would clearly not have the same level of interest in trying to figure out the natural causes of the Universe. A person who is atheistic or agnostic would have a much greater impetus and ability to pursue these difficult fields. The demographics of scientists partaking in fundamental physics is ample evidence of this.

    And classical theists would consider his critique of theism ‘naive’ given the brief discussion

    Whatever, I was responding some idiot claiming that Einstein was a (Judeo-Christian) God-believer. Einstein didn’t go into detail of how much his views agreed with spinoza so I’m stopped reading your link after the article started making confident statements about his specific beliefs and the way he prioritised aspects of it,

    All that we can gather from his writings are that he just said it was something akin to Spinoza. He was more expansive in expressing a reverence to the beauty and symphonic order of the universe whilst clarifying that he didn’t believe that is was a conscious intelligence behind it all.

  40. Token

    Tel’s first post was not a question, it was a personal statement.

    Tel

    #1273046, posted on April 21, 2014 at 9:50 am

    This is effectively saying that the purpose of God is to control people, or in other words, if God didn’t exist it would be necessary to invent him.

    As a rationalist, I find that a bit of a lame argument for God… could be a valid argument to look at Christian values, and how morality works, but it does bring us back to Epicurus: morality exists only as an agreement between men.

    It read like a personal reaction to a topic he finds challenges his internal value system.

    In no way did not actually address why there has been such an astounding growth in Christianity in China (i.e. me, me, me):

  41. The_Consigleire

    Dover: ” Have Philippa or I, or anyone else for that matter, denigrated science, or pretended that one had to choose between religion/ philosophy or science? No”

    I was responding to Philippa’s patronising comment for me to be more rational when I called out the guy who claimed Einstein was a god-believer and expressed some annoyance at seeing such worthy men being slandered. I think you read that out of context.

    PS as for the larger point of whether you have to chose between religion or science… in some fields yes you do. Depending on what exactly your religion is.

  42. Robert Blair

    Nerblnob, JohnA:

    Why inflict the KJV on him?

    Well, strangely enough, I am with Nerblnob on this one. Try reading the same passage in KJV out loud, as it was intended to be read.

    BTW, John A, I thought Jeremiah 5:12 was self explanatory in the circumstances – there are none so blind etc.

    That said, the NIV, and all the other versions are still the Word of God, albeit imperfectly recorded by man.
    As well as those Bibles above you should look at Wycliffe’s Bible, and the extremely interesting (and enlightening) Jerusalem Bible.

  43. The_Consigleire

    Andrew: Agnosticism is not a religion, but the positive statement atheism is.

    Atheism is a religion in the same way that a lack of believe in the invisible teapot is a religion.

  44. dover_beach

    Village athiest? Pretty lame attempt at a derogatory term db

    Not mine, but it hits the mark; however, it isn’t to be applied to all atheists, otherwise ‘village’ would be redundant.

    This is because most of the arguments for God are just religious wank e.g.

    … the problem with the sentence “God is a person” is not the word “person” but the word “a.”

    Ummm, no, the argument above is philosophical, not religious.

    No, the reason it is so easy to criticise theistic arguments is because:
    a. There are so many religions;

    b. They are all mutually exclusive i.e. they are all the one true religion [only one of them can be correct];

    c. They are all ridiculous; and

    d. There is no evidence that any of them are true.

    Not even an argument, a) and b) are truisms; while c) and d) are mere assertions. In order to convince anyone of c) or d) you would actually have to understand what was criticized.

  45. Robert Blair

    Tel,

    I asked one small specific question about what is the meaning of the title of this post. Just explain one simple sentence, that’s all

    Well, you got me there Tel. Sorry, I misunderstood your question.

    In fact I have no simple answer to your question.

    Strangely, it is possible to pose simple questions that are very, very difficult to answer. Like “What is good?”. Or “Why is the sky blue?”.

    It helps it the questioner really wants to know tho.

  46. dover_beach

    No I’m comparing apples with apples. Those fields deal with the fundamental aspects of the universe and its origins.

    No, you are not. The sciences cannot explain the creation ex nihilo.

    A religious person believing in the “God did it” theory, or any of the thousands of creations myths would clearly not have the same level of interest in trying to figure out the natural causes of the Universe. A person who is atheistic or agnostic would have a much greater impetus and ability to pursue these difficult fields. The demographics of scientists partaking in fundamental physics is ample evidence of this.

    This is just wrong as the history of the sciences attests, and the description of the religious person is utterly infantile.

    Whatever,…

    I wish I could argue like this.

  47. nerblnob

    And, FFS, or FGS if you’re that way inclined, can we please take care to spell atheist as in a-theist, “without theism”, instead of athiest, as in “most athy of athies”. A small thing but it drives me batty.

    Don’t tell me it’s just a typo.
    Once is unfortunate, twice is just careless.

  48. jupes

    [only one of them can be correct];

    No, they all claim to be the one true religion. Of course only your religion is though, right db?

    In order to convince anyone of c) or d) you would actually have to understand what was criticized.

    No. How much Buddhism, Hinduism or Dreamtime do you understand? Nevertheless no doubt you know they are ridiculous and you certainly know there is no evidence that they are true.

  49. dover_beach

    Jupes, to say, as you did, that they are each mutually exclusive, is to say that only one of them could be correct or none at all. It is as simple as that. As to second claim, I don’t say anything, least of all anything derogatory, about those religions precisely because I’m not particularly familiar with them. In fact, I apply this across the board on any subject I’m not familiar with.

  50. The_Consigleire

    dover_beach sciences cannot explain the creation ex nihilo.
    Do you mean the scientific method? Or the body of scientific knowledge that we have now?

    This is just wrong as the history of the sciences attests, and the description of the religious person is utterly infantile.
    And I wish I could argue like this.

    Robert Blair: It helps if the questioner really wants to know tho.

    Dear Robert. A person who believes that Einstein was a “‘firm believer” clearly lives on a much more subtle and spiritual plane than the rest of us. Unfortunately us mortals need to rely on mere reason and evidence to form our world views. And it helps when people are clear and concise in their descriptions rather than be vague and oblique about things like definitions.

    Because we don’t have the same level of revelatory understanding that you have, when we hear ambiguous sentences and parable-speaking we start suspecting that its because you really don’t know what you are talking about.

    That’s most likely our fault since that’s the kind of people we sometimes have to deal with at work and everyday life. You know the type, the ones that couch their ignorance and lack of clarity in profoundism and holistic woo.

    It is very well possible that you are the genuine article but its very hard to tell from this humble place cos of all that bright and shining light that blinding our eyes when we look up to hear you speak.

    So lets try this again. The title of the post seems to posit that God is a moral arbitrator and motivator of Good. That’s what is in contention. Its not the ‘illiterate hillybilly”‘ view of the universe that’s being attacked unless you feel that the content of this blog post is illiterate hillybilly-ish. You tried to evade that point by throwing volumes of irrelevant text at someone who tried pin you down on one of your statements.

    Even when you got called out on that you pseudo-apologise and then deflect again by bringing in further meaningless profoundism at the end of your comment.

    Lets give intellectual honesty a go here shall we?

  51. .

    The term dark ages is of course nonsense. What followed the so called dark ages? Feudalism, salic law and right of conquest. The harrowing of the north and anarchy in England happened well into the medieval period of Europe more generally.

    The rulers of the despotic middle ages had their roots in the so called dark ages. A unified saxon monarchy or even British overlord (Bretwelda) in Athelstan had roots back to the exit of the Romano-British, whilst the Kingdoms of Charlemagne had roots back to Clovis defeating the last Roman rump and uniting Gaul.

    The title was part of Western Emperors and British cultural affinity to Greece and Rome forming two strains of historical propaganda, that the East did no good and the church or other competitor states pre existing them did not preserve culture and could not produce hallmarks of civilisation such as fine art or engineering.

    All false.

  52. dover_beach

    Do you mean the scientific method? Or the body of scientific knowledge that we have now?

    The former.

    This is just wrong as the history of the sciences attests, and the description of the religious person is utterly infantile.

    And I wish I could argue like this.

    I hear that a lot.

  53. Zaphod

    Why inflict the KJV on him? There are so many other modern versions available

    Is The Jefferson Bible an option?
    Keeps cognitive dissonance to manageable levels.

  54. jupes

    As to second claim, I don’t say anything, least of all anything derogatory …

    Of course you don’t.

    It’s the pact between religions and it’s utterly ridiculous. Each of them know the others are wrong but have to pretend in public that they respect the other’s beliefs.

    I suppose you can be content that they will spend in eternity in hell.

  55. dover_beach

    Of course you don’t.

    It’s the pact between religions and it’s utterly ridiculous. Each of them know the others are wrong but have to pretend in public that they respect the other’s beliefs.

    It’s hardly a pact. I would criticize Hinduism on the matter of polytheism because I could offer a reasoned argument against it, or of Islamic claims against the triune God. Disagreement is possible without being disrespectful.

  56. The_Consigleire

    dover_beach: “‘The former.”

    That’s a very confident statement. Along with your debating skills I also wish I had your your ability to see into the future with such clarity.

    There’s a book by Lawrence Krauss called ”A Universe from Nothing”. It doesn’t prove anything but it does give a very clear overview of current avenues of research in cosmology and the possible methods by which a Universe can come from nothing. It takes a position that is far more plausible than an massively complex being coming out of nothing, especially considering that there is no scientific evidence for such a being’s existence.

  57. Rococo Liberal

    And so the humourless scientific nerds enter the fray. Christianity isn’t logical they say. The creation myth is not scientific. Yet of course science hasn’t really answered that question either. We have got to the stage where many scientists are treating their subject like a religion.

    The thing that the nerdy scientistic poeters haven’t mentioned is that Christianity gave the impetus to scientists too. One only has to look at Isaac Newton’s story to understand that. he was iontensely religious and though that he became closer to God through hois discoveries.

    I would argue that the Old Testament is not really the cause of Chritsianity’s success as much as the New . The story of Jesus Christ is one of belief in the human race to achieve greatness through a core of beliefs. it leaves room for growth. Other religions didn’t.

  58. jupes

    I would criticize Hinduism on the matter of polytheism because I could offer a reasoned argument against it, or of Islamic claims against the triune God.

    LOL

    Your lack of self-awareness is showing db. How is a triune God any more reasonable than polytheism.

  59. Senile Old Guy

    And so the humourless scientific nerds enter the fray.

    And so RL enters the fray and the first statement is a simple put down. Oh, and wrong.

    We have got to the stage where many scientists are treating their subject like a religion.

    Which scientists? Which subject?

    The thing that the nerdy scientistic poeters haven’t mentioned is that Christianity gave the impetus to scientists too. One only has to look at Isaac Newton’s story to understand that. he was intensely religious and though that he became closer to God through hois discoveries.

    So? Linus Pauling won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry but also believed that high doses of Vitamin C could cure cancer (among other things). And he was an atheist.

    Exactly what people think they accomplish by saying “Scientist X was intensely religious” I will never understand.

  60. The_Consigleire

    When we take the major religion as it is, a charming story told by our predecessors from a pre-scientific era to try and understand the world around them we get the all the little religious folk jumping up and down asking us to take them seriously.

    Then when we take them at face value and question them on their tenets we get labelled as humourless and nerdy.

    I suppose in some circles that’s a legitimate method of debate.

  61. dover_beach

    That’s a very confident statement. Along with your debating skills I also wish I had your your ability to see into the future with such clarity.

    Well, the statement isn’t remarkable nor is it a prediction. For a discussion of the issues, see here. I’d also look at his recent exchange with Parsons and he’s most recent post on the problem of ‘brute facts’.

    There’s a book by Lawrence Krauss called ”A Universe from Nothing”. It doesn’t prove anything but it does give a very clear overview of current avenues of research in cosmology and the possible methods by which a Universe can come from nothing. It takes a position that is far more plausible than an massively complex being coming out of nothing, especially considering that there is no scientific evidence for such a being’s existence.

    Except the universe in his explanation does not come out of nothing, but out of a quantum field which is not nothing. See here; David Albert in the NYT was also devastatingly critical of Krauss too. Krauss is hopeless on the issue.

  62. dover_beach

    LOL

    Your lack of self-awareness is showing db. How is a triune God any more reasonable than polytheism.

    My lack of self-awareness? That would require an argument, which on these issues is always lacking on your part, jupes. At least on that matter, the muzzies precede you.

  63. dover_beach:

    I would criticize Hinduism on the matter of polytheism because I could offer a reasoned argument against it, or of Islamic claims against the triune God.

    Please do point out the objectively observable trait of the universe that can be used to distinguish between the types of possible deities.

  64. jupes

    That would require an argument

    How about a question: How is a triune God any more reasonable than polytheism?

    Go.

  65. The_Consigleire

    I’ve read David Albert’s review and agree with a lot of it.

    I was more interested in the bits in Krauss’s book about how most of cosmology seems to point to all the complexity of the current universe possibly evolving from a simple quantum field obeying a simple unified law.

    Its about relative plausibility of current theories and how consistent it is with the history of science and what we know about the observable universe. Is it more plausible that a biblical God created the universe and is guiding its evolution, or is it more plausible that the universe is following unconscious laws of physics?

  66. Senile Old Guy

    For a discussion of the issues, see here.

    d_b, I read it and it’s like every other bit of Feser I’ve read: lengthy, turgid, making many claims but putting few arguments. Whatever it does discuss, it has nothing to do with establishing the necessity for God.

  67. A Lurker

    As I said much earlier in the thread, all my readings of Cosmology, Astronomy, Astrophysics etc., make me believe in a creator God. Our Universe is uniquely suitable for life – it could have come about randomly, each Universe a flawed version of the one before – too much mass, too little mass, too much anti-matter etc. The ‘just-right’ Universe that we inhabit seems to be so exquisitely balanced at just the right amount of mass and motion; when the alternative futures could have been the whole thing immediately and violently collapsing back into itself; or it possessed so little mass and too much motion that gravity was too weak, the first proto-stars did not form, and the Universe ended cold and dark.

    Our ‘just-right’ Universe speaks to me of intent, of design, and although many scientists might scoff, I don’t see a problem with a creator God – after all, if you apply the humourless Occam’s Razor to the very beginning of time, matter and space, then random Universes popping in and out of existence (until our ‘just-right’ Universe finally comes to be) or a creator God both seem equally implausible.

    I just tend to sit with the creator God group, i.e. God the great cosmic architect or engineer – simply because our Universe’s exquisite balance, and the existence of life is not in my opinion, the end result of sheer random variability.

  68. Our ‘just-right’ Universe speaks to me of intent, of design

    Or just selection bias.

  69. The_Consigleire

    Douglas Adams’ way of explaining selection bias:

    “This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!’

  70. A Lurker

    “Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mind-bogglingly useful could have evolved purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as the final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God.
    The argument goes something like this: “I refuse to prove that I exist,’” says God, “for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.”
    “But,” says Man, “The Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn’t it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don’t. QED.”
    “Oh dear,” says God, “I hadn’t thought of that,” and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.
    “Oh, that was easy,” says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing.”

    I guess Douglas Adams and God are at this moment having all sorts of interesting arguments about God’s existence.

    p.s. It’s Towel Day soon.

  71. The_Consigleire

    wow I did not know about Towel Day. But I carry my towel around everywhere anyway. In the usually futile hope of getting to the gym at some point during the day.

  72. The_Consigleire

    dover_beach, I shouldn’t have been dismissive of your claim that science cannot explain how something came from nothing. It may well not be able to.

    But just how valid is the question really?

    How do you ask a temporal question such as what came before the universe and what kicked it off, when time itself it a property of the universe? And why does anything need to kick it off if the universe is a wholly self-contained entity? Why should there be nothing rather than something?

    Krauss’ book does not answer why the universe began. Rather it gives several pieces of evidence to suggest that the universe is self contained and there doesn’t need to be a creator god to get things going. At that level its a worthy read. Krauss is an idiot when he goes on to attack the philosophy of science etc.

    The question of why the laws of physics take the form they do (at the fundamental energy states) is troublesome for the following reason: Questions like ”why is the sky blue” and ”why am I wasting my day off on this blog” are all valid questions because they rest inside a greater context of cause and effect as defined by physical laws. But asking a question about the cause of the universe is meaningless because the Universe is everything. That’s how we define it. There is no larger context in which it is embedded from which there is an cause.

    In any case I apologise for my previous off-the-cuff dismissal.

  73. jupes

    The ‘just-right’ Universe that we inhabit seems to be so exquisitely balanced at just the right amount of mass and motion;

    Well of course. Otherwise you wouldn’t be here posting. However this is neither evidence for or against God.

  74. Zaphod

    or it possessed so little mass and too much motion that gravity was too weak, the first proto-stars did not form, and the Universe ended cold and dark.

    Give it time………………….

  75. Notafan

    Going back to ‘Protestant work ethic ‘ How does that fit with the lack of opportunity and poverty of the working classes in Scandinavian countries up until around the end of the 19th century which saw so many emigrate to north America? Swedish workers also expected to be provided with significant amounts of alchohol as part of working conditions. The state took over the supply of alchohol and I think even today alchohol can only be purchased from government owned outlets.

  76. Into the fray! (Freudian mistyping pre-autocorrect as “into the frau”)

    Not that anyone cares, but as an agnostic with a fascination of science and acceptance of evolutionary theory in absence so far of a better theory, I just want to say that in my view, the whole science vs religion thing is oil and water.

    Theological arguments are fascinating, but largely moot. There is no way to test them, so each to their own. I personally resent a person dictating to me on behalf of god as I do not accept the authority of a mere person over the sovereignty of my sentience, however I also apply that to any person who dictates on behalf of any cause.

  77. Robert Blair

    Consigleire,

    I seem to have struck a nerve with you. At the risk of further upsetting you, may I suggest that it should be “Consigliere”?

    (a) Einstein was a firm believer in God. Did I say he was a devout Catholic, or Mormon, or Muslim? No. But Einstein believed in God – he was not an atheist.

    (b) I am sorry that you were upset by the parable. I think it is an accepted explanatory form, even within computer science. In fact, my good friend Tel appeared to grasp the meaning quite easily. Of course, not all of us are that quick off the mark.

    (c) I am further saddened that you must work with people who spend their time trying to conceal their ignorance, and speaking in holistic woo (a central African laguage perhaps?). I try to work with people who say what they mean (even if couched in parables).

    (d) Bright shining light? Thanks, I guess. Are you sure you’re not being a little narky there?

    (e) “God is a moral arbitrator and motivator of Good”. Well, I think only a very stupid person would argue that God (as in the mono-theistic God of Abraham) is NOT held up as the supreme moral arbiter. By the religions who worship him.
    I am trying to answer a slightly different question: Why do they believe that?
    And my answer is: This a very difficult question which cannot be answered in a blog post. I gave Tel directions to some reading material that would largely explain it.
    BTW, let me recommend that book again: Atheist Delusions. It really is great read.

    (f) Intellectual honesty. Hmmm, you are raising rather a high bar here Con, but I am willing to place my hand on my King James Bible and swear that I am telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the intellectual truth. As far as I know it to be.

    Con, my friend, you remind me of some clients I’ve had in the past. They have budget to build a wood and string kite, but they are demanding a 747.
    Dang, more parables. They do get under your skin, I know. Sorry :)

  78. The Consigliere

    Parables don’t get under my skin. Evasiveness and dishonesty do. Like this for example:

    Einstein was a firm believer in God.

    Here’s what Einstein himself says to that: “The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses”.

    He called himself an ”agnostic” and ”religious non-believer”.

    Not sure how you go from “agnostic” to ”firm believer in God”. Explain to me how that’s honest?

    Cheers.

    PS thanks for catching the error in spelling in my handle.

  79. johanna

    Beer Whisperer, I am largely in accord with your views.

    I’ve never been keen on “leaps of faith”, but don’t deny the power of that perspective for those who do.

  80. Senile Old Guy

    Robert Blair:

    Einstein was a firm believer in God. Did I say he was a devout Catholic, or Mormon, or Muslim? No. But Einstein believed in God – he was not an atheist.

    I posted a quote from his Autobiography in which he rejected this:

    He also called himself an agnostic, while disassociating himself from the label atheist, preferring, he said, “an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.

    And:

    He stated, “It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I feel also not able to imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere. My views are near those of Spinoza: admiration for the beauty of and belief in the logical simplicity of the order which we can grasp humbly and only imperfectly. I believe that we have to content ourselves with our imperfect knowledge and understanding and treat values and moral obligations as a purely human problem—the most important of all human problems.”

    To imply that he believed in “God” in the sense the word is usually used here is, at the very least, deceptive.

  81. Robert Blair

    Consigliere,

    Not sure how you go from “agnostic” to ”firm believer in God”.

    For all it’s faults, I think Wikipedia is a useful resource. Go here: Religious_views_of_Albert_Einstein

    ” He said he believed in the “pantheistic” God of Baruch Spinoza”

    disassociating himself from the label atheist, preferring, he said, “an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.

    I repeat, Einstein was a firm believer in God. He was NOT an atheist.

    I would add that he was humbly honest about the enormity of the task of understanding. We could all use a little of that humility Con.

  82. Robert Blair

    Senile Old Guy,

    Sorry, I did not see your post just now.

    To imply that he believed in “God” in the sense the word is usually used here is, at the very least, deceptive.

    I said that Einstein believed in God. I also said that he was not an atheist.

    When Ayatollah Khameini says he believes in God, I accept that he means it. Likewise Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.

    I do not believe in the God that any those men do. But I accept that they believe in God, and are not Atheists.

    Please do not define my God for me, or Einstein’s for him. If he says he believes in God (even Spinoza’s God) I accept that he does, and that he is not an Atheist.

    If there is an accepted, strictly limited, definition of God in force here at Catallaxy then I am not aware of it. I had no idea that Cats were such Theological powerhouses.

  83. Senile Old Guy

    If he says he believes in God (even Spinoza’s God) I accept that he does, and that he is not an Atheist.

    Some who calls himself an “agnostic” does not believe in God; at the least, they are indifferent.

    I am quoting from the Wikipedia article, so I am well aware that you are selectively quoting short pieces which support your view.

    Einstein used many labels to describe his religious views, including “agnostic”,[4] “religious nonbeliever”[5] and a “pantheistic”[6] believer in “Spinoza’s God.”[7]

    On 22 March 1954 Einstein received a letter from Joseph Dispentiere, an Italian immigrant who had worked as an experimental machinist in New Jersey. Dispentiere had declared himself an atheist and was disappointed by a news report which had cast Einstein as conventionally religious. Einstein replied on 24 March 1954:

    It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.[9]

    In a 1950 letter to M. Berkowitz, Einstein stated that “My position concerning God is that of an agnostic. I am convinced that a vivid consciousness of the primary importance of moral principles for the betterment and ennoblement of life does not need the idea of a law-giver, especially a law-giver who works on the basis of reward and punishment.”[21]

  84. Senile Old Guy

    Mucked up my b-quotes, I did.

  85. Robert Blair

    Senile Old Guy:

    Some who calls himself an “agnostic” does not believe in God; at the least, they are indifferent.

    I like Wikipedia: Agnosticism

    The “at the least they are indifferent” is, at the least, misleading. Agnosticism is a statement that it is beyond the power of mortal men to know or, not know, the existence of God.

    I repeat, Einstein said that he believed in God. If it is not the God you would make for him, then I commiserate with you. I would also refer you to that Great 20th Century British philosophe, Michael Philip Jagger: “You can’t always get what you want”.

    And I repeat again, Einstein was NOT an Atheist.

  86. Senile Old Guy

    I repeat, Einstein said that he believed in God. If it is not the God you would make for him, then I commiserate with you.

    Right, you are a wanker.

    Einstein clearly and explicitly refutes any kind of “God” in any of the senses traditionally used.

    Agnosticism is a statement that it is beyond the power of mortal men to know or, not know, the existence of God.

    An agnostic, by definition, does not believe in God. If you cannot know the existence of something, you cannot, rationally, believe in it.

    And I repeat again, Einstein was NOT an Atheist.

    And I have not claimed that he called himself an atheist. I have clearly given Einstein’s views in his own words. But someone who is not an atheist, and who calls himself “agnostic”, does not believe in any kind of personal or actual God.

    Since you persist in maintaining falsehoods, I will not trouble myself further with you.

  87. The Consigliere

    We don’t need to define the God Einstein believed in, he defined it himself…as a Pantheist. He explicitly denounces a personal God.

    Do you know what Pantheism means? This means being reverential to the Universe. i.e. everything! The sun, the stars, the galaxies, the earth, the trees, you and me, the physical laws. Everything is held to the same reverential standard as how a Christian would hold their theistic Gods.

    For them and for Einstein God is not someone who can intervene in your affairs by over-ruling physical laws. Miracles were nonsense and prayer is useless. Einstein actually says this pretty clearly in his letters.

    What’s the difference between Pantheism and Atheism? In terms of rejecting the supernatural beings (including a personal God), supernatural forces and realms its identical to atheism. Pantheism just places a greater emphasis on being religiously reverent about the Universe and everything in it.

    If you want you can be an Atheist and a Pantheist at the same time since the technical term for an Atheist is a person who rejects the Theistic conception of god. Which is what a pantheist does, plus more.

    Since you were able to check Wikipedia why don’t you click on that link to Pantheism?

  88. JC

    But why would people concern themselves with what Einstein believed? He had as much insight on the subject of the existence of god as pretty much anyone else. In other words zero or close to.

  89. The Consigliere

    JC I’m trying to defend the guy against some slanders. Just like to be accurate is all.

  90. Robert Blair

    JC,

    He had as much insight on the subject of the existence of god as pretty much anyone else

    I agree with you JC. As did Einstein: “an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.”

    The main point I am trying to get across is that Einstein was not an Atheist.

    And I also still happen to think that Einstein believed in God. As he is quoted as saying.

    Modern Atheism is very evangelical, and is very keen on conscripting famous dead guys to their cause.

    I have also noticed that Atheists are very sensitive on this subject. They cannot seem to bear the idea that very smart people often explicitly reject Atheism as a creed.

    One very smart Atheist, Wolfgang Pauli, was reputed to be always declaiming: “There is NO God – and I am his prophet!”.

  91. Andrew

    Atheism is a religion in the same way that a lack of believe [sic] in the invisible teapot is a religion.

    If someone believes that there is no invisible teapot, that does not require a faith-based system.

    However, if around the alleged location of the missing teapot, 10^57 cups of tea suddenly materialised and then the teacups evolved into sentient life – some of which professed to know the teapot, then greater rigour is required to assert that there is no teapot.

    There is prima facie evidence for a Creator. In fact, there appears only one credible explanation for the current universe. Other explanations offered have only emerged in the last couple of years, and strike me as farfetched – to be kind to them.

  92. blogstrop

    I’m a believer but fail at the main fence: not good with organised religion. That chinese girl in the blue jacket might be able to drag me along to services though, if I wasn’t already hitched – and way over the hill.

  93. Robert Blair

    Consigliere,

    So you have never read Spinoza?

    For you God must always be the big white bearded guy in the sky?

    Seriously, read about the subject a bit more. This book is pretty good start: Atheist-Delusions

    I had thought people were a little bit more sophisticated over here.

  94. Robert Blair

    Andrew,

    There is prima facie evidence for a Creator

    Well said. To be fair, the prima facie evidence for the existence of God is weak, in scientific terms.

    However the evidence for the non-existence of God is not just weak, it is non-existent.

    Under common law rules the weight of evidence is with the Theists.

  95. Gab

    I’m trying to defend the guy against some slanders

    Wow. Saying someone believes there is a God is now “slander”. Good stuff.

  96. Tel

    However the evidence for the non-existence of God is not just weak, it is non-existent.

    Under common law rules the weight of evidence is with the Theists.

    One would hope that common law is a bit better than that, otherwise a lot of people are going get arrested for failure to have solid proof demonstrating all the crimes the did not commit. Under normal circumstances the default belief is that you don’t believe in anything until you have a reason to do so.

    After all, do you believe in tiny pink elephants that dance around in the fridge but only when the door is closed an no one is looking? But do you have real evidence proving they don’t exist? What about orange elephants, or blue? Please write a list of all the things you don’t believe in, and proof of why you don’t believe in each… there’s a job for you.

  97. Robert Blair

    Tel,

    That’s actually pretty funny Tel :)

    See how hard it is to prove that something doesn’t exist?

    Which is the Atheist position.

    Who, to be fair, are mostly quite angry at God for not existing.

  98. There is prima facie evidence for a Creator.

    Do you have evidence that the pattern of cause and effect observed within our universe applies outside it?

  99. The Consigliere

    Read enough about Spinoza to know what his conception of God is.
    Didn’t say anything about beards or rotundity of God.

    Atheist Delusions has a chapter on Spinoza’s god does it?

    Andrew: However, if around the alleged location of the missing teapot, 10^57 cups of tea suddenly materialised and then the teacups evolved into sentient life – some of which professed to know the teapot, then greater rigour is required to assert that there is no teapot.

    Yes but luckily that didn’t happen so we don’t have to believe in teapots. Prima facie evidence only to those indoctrinated into God-believing.

    Regardless we are talking about the nature of the universe here. Prima facie evidence isn’t the relevant test. Falsifiability is.

  100. Demosthenes

    Under common law rules the weight of evidence is with the Theists.

    What the what now?

  101. Kevin White

    I thought I would check back and see if this thread still had legs.

    Sure enough its still going strong and I see the same tired old arguments that always rear their heads on these religious threads. The same lame arguments just going round and round in ever diminishing circles from the true believers. I really feel sorry for people who are so messed up that they can’t get through their day without believing in superstitious nonsense. Christianity is just one of the false belief systems that the human mind has created. It is no better or worse than the beliefs of the head hunters in New Guinea who recently raped and burned alive a young girl they suspected of being a witch. Christians have killed more innocent people over the centuries than any illiterate head-hunters could hope to kill with their crude weapons.

    Most believers just get on with their lives, but the type of religious people we see on these sorts of online debates are the ones who are unsure of their faith, so they need to get reassurance that other people agree with them and at the same time they want to attack, denigrate and belittle anyone who dares to disagree with their oddball beliefs.

    These “believers” are not content with “faith”. They want to be able to “prove” that their belief is true. They are armed with long lists of quotes from ancient books written by humans long dead. But if it could be proven that their religions was true it would cease to be a belief, and would become a fact. We know that there is not one religion today that is based upon fact.

    Most of the people who built the West were nominal Christians. It was not easy in those times to be anything else. I doubt that they had strong beliefs or that their token belief in Chrisianity had much to do with their successful building of the industrial age.

    I can understand the need for those of a weak character to crave the solace of a supernatural overlay to their material life and in a guaranteed life after death, but I can only feel pity for them. It just highlights to me how weak and pathetic these people are. And as for ethics, it must be terrible to be a person who needs the fear of everlasting torment in Hell to prevent them going on a rampage of looting raping and pillaging.

    One advantage us atheists have is that we know what we would do if there were no god. We just go about our lives without causing trouble for our fellow humans. In fact some of the most terrible violent murders are performed by people hearing the voice of god inside their head telling them to kill someone.

    Priests were present among the people committing genocide in Rwanda. Christian Germans operated the gas chambers and ovens of Nazi Germany.

    To those religious people with wavering doubt about your beliefs let me assure you that the day you throw off the shackles of these out-dated superstitious beliefs will be the day that you set yourself free to live in the real world and enjoy it for what it is.

    Atheism equals freedom.

  102. Common law would throw the case out for lack of evidence (and cause of action (and lack of justiciability)) and if anything, simply order the parties to live and let live.

  103. Splatacrobat

    So you have never read Spinoza?

    Jeeves did. He thought very highly of him.

    “Sorry to keep you waiting, Jeeves,” I said.
    “Oh no sir, thank you. I was quite happy with my Spinoza.”
    “Eh?”
    “The copy of Spinoza’s Ethics which you kindly gave me some time ago.”
    “Oh, ah, yes, I remember. Good stuff?”
    “Extremely, sir.”

    “I suppose it turns out in the end that the Butler did it.”

    -From Jeeves in the Offing

  104. Tintarella di Luna

    hearing the voice of god inside their head telling them to kill someone.

    But you do realise Kevin that’s just their excuse don’t you? You don’t really believe them do you?

  105. Robert Blair

    Consigliere:

    Atheist Delusions has a chapter on Spinoza’s god does it

    Actually, Spinoza is not mentioned by David Bentley Hart in “Atheist Delusions” (love that title) at all.

    However Spinoza’s God-conception is discussed in Hart’s “The Experience of God”. The ever excellent Statistician to the Stars, Wm Briggs, has a review here: Which God Are You Rejecting?

    Falsifiability?

    How shall you falsify the statement “God does not exist”?

    I am sure that, should you come up with a good answer, you will receive a bigger prize than Hart did for “Atheist Delusions” (10,000 British Pounds I believe).

  106. Robert Blair

    Kevin,

    To those religious people with wavering doubt about your beliefs let me assure you that the day you throw off the shackles of these out-dated superstitious beliefs will be the day that you set yourself free to live in the real world and enjoy it for what it is

    Bravo! Let’s have more of that old-time evangelism!

    Kevin, I have cautioned my children about starting arguments with people over religion.
    I have explained, however, that it is a relative proposition. One may fairly safely argue with a Zen Buddhist, or a Mormon, about religion.
    However, I caution them against starting arguments with the votaries of Mahomet, and Atheists.

    They are the two religions most sensitive to criticism.

    It takes two to make an argument Kevin, and I am not sure that you are being particularly temperate here with your careless slander of Christians.

  107. Robert Blair

    Splatacrobat:

    Great stuff. Wodehouse is probably the best writer of the 20th Century.

    Jeeves was wise, but I think Bertie Wooster was actually the wisest. Even about Spinoza.

  108. The Consigliere

    Robert: How shall you falsify the statement “God does not exist”?”

    Simply by showing scientific evidence for the existence of God. One single small teeny weeny piece of scientific evidence…

  109. JC

    Christians have killed more innocent people over the centuries than any illiterate head-hunters could hope to kill with their crude weapons.

    Care to compare the numbers with the atheists, Kev, you clown?

    Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot would account for around 200 million direct and indirect.

  110. Robert Blair

    Consigliere,

    You won’t like this, but I shall strip out the word “scientific”, since we are dealing with religion and philosophy.

    Then I shall present thousands of items of testimony, eye-witness gospel and expert opinion (I will call in the big guns here, including the Pope) – all perfectly good in a court of law.

    If you protest and insist on retaining only “scientific” evidence (which by definition is non-religious) then I will accuse you of presenting a non-falsifiable proposition.
    Which, in scientific terms, is invalid. You will have to go sit with those other Atheists: the Greens and CAGW scientistitic religious.

  111. Kevin White

    JC (Jesus Christ ??) said
    ” Care to compare the numbers with the atheists, Kev, you clown?
    Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot would account for around 200 million direct and indirect.”

    OK, here goes.
    Hitler was a lapsed Catholic who also believed in Astrology. Hitler did not actually kill people himself. The killing of millions of jews, gypsies and gays was performed with relish by German and Polish Christians. They probably went to church on Sunday to seek forgiveness for the thousands they had killed during the working week.
    Stalin did not personally kill people. The killing was done on his behalf by Russian Orthodox Christians.
    Pol Pot had his killing done by Bhuddists.
    Mao delegated the hands on killing chores to believers in Confusionism.

    So if we use your examples JC, the atheists seem to come out smelling of roses.

  112. Gab

    JC (Jesus Christ ??)

    Well clearly it is becuase the initials JC couldn’t possibly stand for anything else.

  113. Robert Blair:

    eye-witness gospel … – all perfectly good in a court of law

    Wikipedia:

    Biblical scholars generally agree that early oral traditions about Jesus, along with collections of accounts, preceded the canonical gospels

    Hearsay doesn’t cut it, even if it’s eventually written down. That’s not to mention that much of that evidence is contradictory and incomplete, and hence unreliable. It’s certainly not reliable enough to overcome to contrary evidence provided by Jewish/Islamic/secular/etc scholars.

  114. To those religious people with wavering doubt about your beliefs let me assure you that the day you throw off the shackles of these out-dated superstitious beliefs will be the day that you set yourself free to live in the real world and enjoy it for what it is.

    Until you die, that is. Then what?

  115. The Consigliere

    When JC asked why we were bothered with Einstein’s view of God since E had no special knowledge in relation to the rest of us and you were quick to affirm that sentiment, saying “I agree with you JC. ” #1275421, posted on April 22, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    At this juncture it might be useful to repost your comment that started off this whole strand on Einstein:

    Robert Blair
    #1273287, posted on April 21, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    Try this exercise on your non-believing friends:

    Ask them to list the twenty smartest people of all time. People of very recent vintage (ie, from their own lifetimes, and still alive) are not eligible, because this a “for all time” list.

    Should their list be full of “Elvis Presly” and the like, do not despair.

    Once the list is done, count how many on the list believed in God.

    And don’t forget that some of the central figures in the Atheist hall of fame were in fact firm believers, Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein for instance.

    So just to be clear it was you who felt it was important and relevant to the argument that famous thinkers be either Theists or Atheists, and you brought up Einstein specifically as part of the former group.

    Just wanted to ensure that people realise we’re still talking about Einstein in the interest of ensuring that his views on God and religion are not misappropriated by people like you who have no trouble misrepresenting the views of dead heroes.

  116. JC

    It’s certainly not reliable enough to overcome to contrary evidence provided by Jewish/Islamic/secular/etc scholars.

    What Islamic scholars are those Desi, you imbecile? Islam occurred much later. STFU. There were no Islamic scholars that could possibly offer any peer reviewed research on this subject.

    Idiocy isn’t allowed at the Cat on Monday nights. Friday’s is fine, which is when SDFC shows up here.

  117. Biblical scholars generally agree that early oral traditions about Jesus, along with collections of accounts, preceded the canonical gospels

    Hearsay doesn’t cut it, even if it’s eventually written down. That’s not to mention that much of that evidence is contradictory and incomplete, and hence unreliable.

    Oral tradition was far more reliable in the pre-print era, 2000 years ago, than it is today. Memorisation was far more common, especially in the Jewish tradition.

    Copying and recopying was also more reliable than you might think, as the Dead Sea Scrolls showed with the book of Isaiah.

    The evidence is also not ‘contradictory’. The fact that, for example, the accounts of the Resurrection differ slightly, actually makes them more convincing and less likely to be invented by any conspirators. These are recollections of a confusing event some years past, by different people, only two of whom were directly involved (Matthew and John – and in John’s case, the recollection was probably decades later). The other two seem to have received accounts from others, and Luke openly claims to have synthesised his from many different accounts.

    This gives the four gospels more honesty and transparency than most people think, and they are also completely devoid of the elements of the fantastical and mythological which are found in popular Greek religious/romantic fiction of the same period.

    I usually find that people who diss the gospel accounts have never read them from beginning to end. I’d challenge them to do so. They’re not long accounts, and wouldn’t take much time, and you may be surprised at how well they all hang together.

  118. JC

    OK, here goes.

    Can’t wait Kev.

    Hitler was a lapsed Catholic who also believed in Astrology. Hitler did not actually kill people himself. The killing of millions of jews, gypsies and gays was performed with relish by German and Polish Christians. They probably went to church on Sunday to seek forgiveness for the thousands they had killed during the working week.

    LOl

    Stalin did not personally kill people. The killing was done on his behalf by Russian Orthodox Christians.

    You’re a complete imbecile.

    Pol Pot had his killing done by Bhuddists.

    A moron.

    Mao delegated the hands on killing chores to believers in Confusionism.

    A life time ban is well deserved.

    So if we use your examples JC, the atheists seem to come out smelling of roses.

    Are you genetically related to Homer Paxton, Kev?

  119. They probably went to church on Sunday to seek forgiveness for the thousands they had killed during the working week.

    You know, JC. Those ghastly Christians like Rev Dietrich Bonhoffer and Fr Maximilian Kolbe and Pastor Niemoller and Sr Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein).

    Never happier than when they had a gun in their hand, killing thousands.

  120. JC

    So if we use your examples JC, the atheists seem to come out smelling of roses.

    As well as being a fucking moron Kev., That statement shows you’re really fucked in the head if you think known atheists like Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot Mao come out smelling like roses.
    What a despicable piece of shit you are Kev. The worst.

  121. The Consigliere

    If you protest and insist on retaining only “scientific” evidence (which by definition is non-religious) then I will accuse you of presenting a non-falsifiable proposition.
    Which, in scientific terms, is invalid. You will have to go sit with those other Atheists: the Greens and CAGW scientistitic religious.

    Err that’s a bit tortured there. Can;t ask for scientific evidence cos that’s non-falsifiable and and non falsfiable is not allowed cos its unscientific. Right.

    Scientific evidence is required if you want to make claims about this Universe and anything happening in it. If you want to make unfalsifiable claims about the spirit realm or Narnia or Neverland you go ahead and make those if only to amuse yourself. But that’s not what we’re talking about here.

    Gospels are not scientific evidence.

  122. JC

    Con

    Why don’t you jump in here and support Kev, who reckons that because Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol pot didn’t pull the trigger or hang the rope of someone’s head they can’t be accused of mass killings. They come out smelling like roses, he says.

    Defend him!. Go on.

  123. Leo G

    Hearsay doesn’t cut it, even if it’s eventually written down. That’s not to mention that much of that evidence is contradictory and incomplete, and hence unreliable.

    That’s history for you.

  124. Gospels are not scientific evidence.

    That’s right. No one here has said that they are scientific evidence at all.

    But they are perfectly valid historical evidence, which is why I think you should read them.

    Unless you’re scared of something, of course.

  125. The Consigliere

    Hitler the known atheist:

    “”Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.”"

    ”My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God’s truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison. To-day, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice… And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly it is the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people.

    -Adolf Hitler, in a speech on 12 April 1922 (Norman H. Baynes, ed. The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, April 1922-August 1939, Vol. 1 of 2, pp. 19-20, Oxford University Press, 1942)

  126. JC

    Con

    Hitler said a lot of things in order to win popularity. He was good at it.

    Nazism was an atheist ideology and the man at the top of that ideology was Hitler. To even suggest it had any theist underpinnings would put you in the same category as that stupid and malignant Kev. Don’t do it! Just walk away.

  127. You will need to watch carefully, Venerable Brethren, that religious fundamental concepts be not emptied of their content and distorted to profane use. “Revelation” in its Christian sense, means the word of God addressed to man. The use of this word for the “suggestions” of race and blood, for the irradiations of a people’s history, is mere equivocation. False coins of this sort do not deserve Christian currency. “Faith” consists in holding as true what God has revealed and proposes through His Church to man’s acceptance. It is “the evidence of things that appear not” (Heb. ii. 1). The joyful and proud confidence in the future of one’s people, instinct in every heart, is quite a different thing from faith in a religious sense. To substitute the one for the other, and demand on the strength of this, to be numbered among the faithful followers of Christ, is a senseless play on words, if it does not conceal a confusion of concepts, or worse.

    Thousands of voices ring into your ears a Gospel which has not been revealed by the Father of Heaven. Thousands of pens are wielded in the service of a Christianity, which is not of Christ. Press and wireless daily force on you productions hostile to the Faith and to the Church, impudently aggressive against whatever you should hold venerable and sacred. Many of you, clinging to your Faith and to your Church, as a result of your affiliation with religious associations guaranteed by the concordat, have often to face the tragic trial of seeing your loyalty to your country misunderstood, suspected, or even denied, and of being hurt in your professional and social life.

    Pope Pius XI, ‘Mit Brennender Sorge’ [With Burning Sorrow], encyclical to the German people against Nazism, 14 March 1937.

  128. The Consigliere

    Thanks for the suggestion Phillipa but I’ve read them already.

    There are a lot more examples of contemporary testimonies for the miracles done by Sai Baba. Do you believe in him too?

  129. Gab

    historians such as Ian Kershaw, Joachim Fest and Alan Bullock agree that Hitler was anti-Christian – a view evidenced by sources such as the Goebbels Diaries, the memoirs of Speer, and the transcripts edited by Martin Bormann contained within Hitler’s Table Talk.[12] Goebbels wrote in 1941 that Hitler “hates Christianity, because it has crippled all that is noble in humanity.”[13]

    Hitler repeatedly stated that Nazism was a secular ideology founded on science.[14] However, in many of his speeches as well as his semi-autobiographical Mein Kampf, he makes a number of religious allusions.[15] Nevertheless, he declares himself neutral in sectarian matters and supportive of the separation between church and state, while criticising political Catholicism. He presented a nihilistic, Social Darwinist vision, in which the universe is ordered around principles of struggle between weak and strong, rather than on conventional Christian notions. During his early career he made various public comments against against “bolshevistic” atheist movements, and in favour of so-called “Positive Christianity” (a movement which sought to purge Christianity of its Jewish elements and key doctrines like the Apostle’s Creed and instil it with Nazi philosophy). While campaigning for office in the early 1930s, Hitler offered moderate public statements on Christianity, promising not to interfere with the churches if given power, and calling Christianity the foundation of German morality. According to Max Domarus, Hitler had fully discarded belief in the Judeo-Christian conception of God by 1937, but continued to use the word “God” in speeches.

  130. Gab

    historians such as Ian Kershaw, Joachim Fest and Alan Bullock agree that Hitler was anti-Christian – a view evidenced by sources such as the Goebbels Diaries, the memoirs of Speer, and the transcripts edited by Martin Bormann contained within Hitler’s Table Talk.[12] Goebbels wrote in 1941 that Hitler “hates Christianity, because it has crippled all that is noble in humanity.”[13]

    Hitler repeatedly stated that Nazism was a secular ideology founded on science.[14] However, in many of his speeches as well as his semi-autobiographical M ein Kampf, he makes a number of religious allusions.[15] Nevertheless, he declares himself neutral in sectarian matters and supportive of the separation between church and state, while criticising political Catholicism. He presented a nihilistic, Social Darwinist vision, in which the universe is ordered around principles of struggle between weak and strong, rather than on conventional Christian notions. During his early career he made various public comments against “bolshevistic” atheist movements, and in favour of so-called “Positive Christianity” (a movement which sought to purge Christianity of its Jewish elements and key doctrines like the Apostle’s Creed and instil it with Nazi philosophy). While campaigning for office in the early 1930s, Hitler offered moderate public statements on Christianity, promising not to interfere with the churches if given power, and calling Christianity the foundation of German morality. According to Max Domarus, Hitler had fully discarded belief in the Judeo-Christian conception of God by 1937, but continued to use the word “God” in speeches.

  131. There are a lot more examples of contemporary testimonies for the miracles done by Sai Baba. Do you believe in him too?

    But there aren’t, Con.

    What Jesus and later his followers did was so dramatic that it spread like wildfire, without the use of weapons. And it’s still going equally strong, 2000 years later.

    Sai Baba looks pretty pissy in comparison evidence-wise, so no, I won’t be swapping allegiances just yet. Unlike most atheists, I don’t believe in everything butGod.

  132. C.L.

    After Hitler attained power and no longer needed to placate the German middle class:

    The heaviest blow that ever struck humanity was the coming of Christianity … The deliberate lie in the matter of religion was introduced into the world by Christianity.

    I’ll make these damned parsons feel the power of the state in a way they would have never believed possible. For the moment, I am just keeping my eye upon them: if I ever have the slightest suspicion that they are getting dangerous, I will shoot the lot of them. This filthy reptile raises its head whenever there is a sign of weakness in the State, and therefore it must be stamped on. We have no sort of use for a fairy story invented by the Jews.

    - Adolf Hitler, icon of atheism, 1935.

    [Quoted from Hitler's "Table Talks" with Bormann,
    in Hitler: A Study in Tyranny by Sir Allan Bullock, Baron Bullock].

  133. Leo G

    Hitler the known atheist:

    Failed irony. Hitler’s Positive Christianity was a cynical political ploy- and a failure. Where is there any evidence that the man supported any important tenet of Christian belief at any time in his life?

  134. Gab

    Hitler said a lot of things in order to win popularity. He was good at it.

    I’ve tried to post the relevant passages about Hitler hating Christianity and not being one himself but the comment keeps getting put into moderation.

    Here’s the link, in any case. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_views_of_Adolf_Hitler

  135. C.L.

    [Quoted from Hitler's "Table Talks" with Bormann,
    in Hitler: A Study in Tyranny by Sir Allan Bullock, Baron Bullock].

  136. C.L.

    Hitler approved of Christianity in 1922 in the same way that Obama supported traditional marriage in 2012.

  137. Thanks for the suggestion Phillipa but I’ve read them already.

    Unfortunately I don’t believe you, because the evidence would strongly suggest otherwise. I think you might just think you’ve read them, because you had to go to church as a kid.

    I’ve yet to meet an honest atheist who can convince me s/he’s actually read the four gospels as primary evidence. (Sometimes they’ve read one second-hand ‘deconstruction’ of them in paperback form, which has given them a superficial sense of knowing all about them, which collapses on closer examination).

    I also find that most atheists aren’t historians, and therefore aren’t aware that there’s more and better historical evidence for the existence and activities of Jesus Christ than there is for William Shakespeare.

  138. Anyway, go to bed, peoples. It’s late, and one should never discuss religion after 9pm.

  139. JC

    Con

    You realize that Jesus was Jewish, right? You know that, no?

  140. JC

    Hitler approved of Christianity in 1922 in the same way that Obama supported traditional marriage in 2012.

    Oh yea, the Kenyan. The Kenyan spent 20 years attending Rev Wright’s “church” where he listened to sermons suggesting Jews were worse than dogs, Whitey introduced AIDS to the black population. This obviously makes the Kenyan a devout Christian. Right Con?

    Where’s Kev?

  141. The Consigliere

    Ok CL I see you date and raise you 6 years

    “I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so”
    -[Adolph Hitler, to Gen. Gerhard Engel, 1941]

    Here he is at the Reichstag repeating what he affirmed before in the Main Kampf:

    “I believe today that I am acting in the sense of the Almighty Creator. By warding off the Jews I am fighting for the Lord’s work.”
    -[Adolph Hitler, Speech, Reichstag, 1936]

    Maybe he had a period of disillusionment with Christianity. But he definitely wasn’t an Atheist.
    God was a big part of German society at the time and Nazi Germany used the church to maximum effect to organise its people.

  142. Fisky

    Hitler approved of Christianity in 1922 in the same way that Obama supported traditional marriage in 2012 2008.

    Minor edit, but I have to say that is by far the best summary and analogy regarding Hitler’s attitude to Christianity I have yet seen – not that Obama is Hitler (in case any trolls were planning to seize on that point), but that Hitler’s “support” for Christianity before coming to power was motivated by the same calculations as Obama’s “support” for hetero marriage.

  143. JC

    I think we need to have a talk about Kevin.

  144. The Consigliere

    “‘You realize that Jesus was Jewish, right? You know that, no?”

    If he existed. Yes.

  145. JC

    If he existed. Yes.

    At least that’s marginally better than another idiot showing up here recently arguing black and blue that Jesus never existed and if he did he was gay.

    Con:

    Nazim was a political ideology/religious aligned to paganism. These days you’d see evidence of the Greens closely resembling it.

  146. JC

    Hitler didn’t actively propagandize in support of atheism in the same way the communists did. He used religious beliefs in order to turn people his way and he was, as I said quite skillful at doing it.

    On the other hand, the Nazis certainly promoted Darwinism. In Mein Kampf, Hitler wrote

    “In the struggle for daily bread all those who are weak and sickly or less determined succumb, while the struggle of the males for the female grants the right or opportunity to propagate only to the healthiest. And struggle is always a means for improving a species’ health and power of resistance and, therefore, a cause of its higher development.”

    This is a cornerstone of Nazi philosophy and is merely a statement of the Darwinian concept of natural selection. Nazism and evolution are both based on the same fundamental belief.

    At the same time, Nazism certainly discouraged the concept of a personal, Biblical God.

    It’s best to clearly define what atheism actually means.

    Core beliefs: There is no Biblical God and evolution created us. Evolution is different from God in that it has no intelligence, therefore it demands nothing.

    Basic proof: The fossils prove the bible is false and evolution is true.

  147. Kevin White

    “Until you die, that is. Then what?”

    When you die, it means that you are dead. Quite a simple concept really.

    I don’t see the point of stretching it out in the company of angels playing tedious harp music for eternity. Or worse, arriving and finding a line of 72 Virgins demanding my immediate attention.

    I actually used to go to church back in the day and I don’t remember seeing too many people there who you would really want to live for eternity.

    PS. Who forgot to give JC his meds today?

  148. they are also completely devoid of the elements of the fantastical and mythological which are found in popular Greek religious/romantic fiction of the same period.

    uh…

  149. JC

    I actually used to go to church back in the day

    Let me guess- a proto?

  150. JC

    PS. Who forgot to give JC his meds today?

    Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, Hitler….

    Kevs says

    So if we use your examples JC, the atheists seem to come out smelling of roses.

    Roses indeed Kev, you debauched fucking moron.

  151. Kevin White

    I am still waiting to get a coherent explanation as to why Christian Germans murdered millions of Jews.

    Why didn’t the Christian religious leaders speak out and forbid their brethren from working in the concentration camps? I would have expected the Christian leaders to martyr themselves rather than permit their flock to participate in genocide.

    Germany in the first part of the 20th century was the one of the leading examples of the pre-eminence of the West as a result of the influence of the Christian church. But sadly its Christian beliefs did not stop its people descending into barbarism of the worst kind.

    PS. Why do some poster on this site use the most vile and disgusting language to insult other posters? Not very nice, not very Christian really.

  152. C.L.

    I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so.

    Almost word for word what Nancy Pelosi has said numerous times.

    LOL.

    “I believe today that I am acting in the sense of the Almighty Creator. By warding off the Jews I am fighting for the Lord’s work.”

    Trying to convince the Reichstag what a German everyman he was with absurd rhetoric.

    See also Kevin Rudd: “I am a fiscal conservative.”

    Hitler is an icon of atheism. Face it.

  153. JC

    PS. Why do some poster on this site use the most vile and disgusting language to insult other posters?

    When it’s deserved people get a spray. You deserve a bucket full, Kev. You smug malignant douchebag.

    Not very nice, not very Christian really.

    Who said anything about being a Christian, you dick?

    Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, Hitler….

    Kevs says

    So if we use your examples JC, the atheists seem to come out smelling of roses.

    I gather I was right. You were a proto, Kev.

  154. JC

    Hitler is an icon of atheism. Face it.

    Kev thinks he smells like roses. Con supports him.

  155. C.L.

    Here’s what we know, axiomatically.

    The worst mass murderers and most irrational wackos in human history were – to a man – 20th century atheists.

    Game, set, match.

  156. Kevin White

    Still waiting to get a coherent explanation as to why Christian Germans murdered millions of Jews.

    (sound of tumbleweeds gently blowing past)

  157. dover_beach

    desipis:

    Please do point out the objectively observable trait of the universe that can be used to distinguish between the types of possible deities.

    You can distinguish them rationally, not empirically.

    jupes:

    How about a question: How is a triune God any more reasonable than polytheism?

    Go.

    You can only answer this question by considering the arguments.

    SOG:

    d_b, I read it and it’s like every other bit of Feser I’ve read: lengthy, turgid, making many claims but putting few arguments. Whatever it does discuss, it has nothing to do with establishing the necessity for God.

    Putting few arguments? I think the phrase that immediately follows, “Whatever it does discuss” illustrates the problem here. Who should I believe on this, you or

    “One of the best contemporary writers on philosophy” National Review

    “A terrific writer” Damian Thompson, Daily Telegraph

    “Feser… has the rare and enviable gift of making philosophical argument compulsively readable” Sir Anthony Kenny, Times Literary Supplement,

    and my lying eyes?

    The Consigleirie:

    But just how valid is the question really?

    It is a valid question, because the starting premise of philosophy and science is that the universe is, in principle, completely intelligible. I don’t hold it against science at all that it confronts a problem here, or to put it more precisely, reaches its disciplinary limit here. It’s just that with such a question, the answer can only be derived from philosophy.

    The Beer Whisperer:

    Theological arguments are fascinating, but largely moot. There is no way to test them,…

    Yes there is. If people give reasons for their beliefs, as they do for any other beliefs, whether practical, political or moral, and so on, we can attend to the reasons they actually give.

  158. C.L.

    Still waiting to get a coherent explanation as to why Christian Germans murdered millions of Jews.

    Because the atheists running Germany had frightened them into barbarism.

    Next question.

  159. dover_beach:

    You can distinguish them rationally, not empirically. You can only answer this question by considering the arguments.

    Well then, please provide/link to said arguments.

  160. dover_beach

    Seriously, I’ve given one already upthread. Look, if someone is going to be very opinionated while at the very same time demonstrating their ignorance of the arguments I’m really not going to bother.

  161. Fisky

    Sorry, did Kev just argue that Mao/Stalin etc were not responsible for anything because they didn’t personally kill anyone??? Fucking hell, the standard of Leftist troll around here always gets worse.

  162. Notafan

    There was a piece on Bolt a couple of days ago about the Germans in the lead up to world war II which mentions Archbishop Von Galen? speaking out against the euthanasia program. It also mentioned the many prohibitions and illtreatment of the church and it’s member in Germany by the Nazis. Which is not to say that say that some German Christians did participate and many turned a blind eye.
    While I am sure there were many practising Christians in the regular armed forced wasn’t the SS principly responsible for the camps and the roundups.

  163. Oh come on

    Woh. We bicker amongst ourselves, but we’re on the same side. It’s times like this that I’m proud to ideologically orient myself amongst the Cats – JC, CL, Dover, Fisky etc. You’re fighting the good fight, gents.

  164. Senile Old Guy

    The main point I am trying to get across is that Einstein was not an Atheist.

    Nope, that was the point you eventually tried to make, after failing with your other points. And no-one arguing against you, especially me, claimed that Einstein said he was an atheist. And I was careful to quote Einstein’s own words.

    And I also still happen to think that Einstein believed in God. As he is quoted as saying.

    And you are being tricky with words again, because the “God” that Einstein sometimes said he believed in is simply the majesty of the universe. It is in no way similar the God of Christianity.

    Modern Atheism is very evangelical, and is very keen on conscripting famous dead guys to their cause.

    Says Robert, who has persistently tried to conscript Einstein to his cause.

    I have also noticed that Atheists are very sensitive on this subject. They cannot seem to bear the idea that very smart people often explicitly reject Atheism as a creed.

    I am not the least bit sensitive. All I have been doing here is trying to correct your persistent misrepresentations of Einstein’s beliefs. And, yes, I know I said earlier that I wouldn’t bother any more. But, hey, it’s early am and I’m bored.

  165. Senile Old Guy

    d_b:

    Putting few arguments? I think the phrase that immediately follows, “Whatever it does discuss” illustrates the problem here. Who should I believe on this, you or…

    You can believe whoever, and whatever, you like; and you undoubtedly will. I don’t expect that anything that I write will have any effect on your beliefs, at all.

  166. Senile Old Guy

    I’ve yet to meet an honest atheist who can convince me s/he’s actually read the four gospels as primary evidence.

    So now an atheist has to be “honest” and they have to “convince” you they’ve “read the four gospels as primary evidence”?

    So primary evidence is…”A primary source is a document or physical object which was written or created during the time under study.”

    But from what I’ve read, the four gospels were written AD 65 and later, so they are not “primary evidence”.

    Saying that we should read them as “primary evidence” seems to require that we simply believe that they are true accounts, without anything else to substantiate this claim.

    Now I am sure I got something wrong there…what was it?

  167. Kevin White

    The original point of this thread was that Christianity was behind the rise of the west.

    That may be so, but all that I am saying is that Christianity was found wanting as a moral force when it was needed most. I don’t care about the mad man they had running their country, his evil system would not have worked without people to carry it out. Someone said that the Christians were scared of the Nazis. If that’s true then maybe they needed a more robust belief system to follow.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Nazi_Germany

    “In 1933, prior to the annexation of Austria into Germany, the Christian population of Germany was around 67% Protestant and 33% Catholic.[1] A German census in May 1939, completed more than six years into the Nazi era[2] and incorporating the annexation of mostly Catholic Austria into Germany, indicates that 54% of Germans considered themselves Protestant, (including non-denominational Christians) and 40% considered themselves Catholic, with only 3.5% claiming to be neo-pagan “believers in God,” and 1.5% atheists. Most of this latter 5% were committed Nazis, who left the churches in response and encouragement of the Nazi Party who wanted to reduce the influence of the Christian churches in Germany[3] Most members of the Nazi Party, however, were Christians, composed of some Lutheran Evangelical, the apostate members of Nazi inspired Positive Christianity and some of the Catholic faith traditions respectively.”

  168. Kevin White

    “Most members of the Nazi Party, however, were Christians”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Nazi_Germany

  169. nerblnob

    Kevin White
    #1276238, posted on April 23, 2014 at 7:00 am

    “Most members of the Nazi Party, however, were Christians”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Nazi_Germany

    Kevin, could that possibly be because most Nazi Party members were …. Germans?
    Just a wild guess.

  170. The Consigliere

    The armed forces and the SS had to swear their oaths by God.

    Eidformel der Schutzstaffel
    “What is your oath ?” – “I vow to you, Adolf Hitler, as Führer and chancellor of the German Reich loyalty and bravery. I vow to you and to the leaders that you set for me, absolute allegiance until death. So help me God !”

    “So you believe in a God ?” – “Yes, I believe in a Lord God.”

    “What do you think about a man who does not believe in a God ?” – “I think he is overbearing, megalomaniac and foolish; he is not one of us.”

    Charming.

    Although I think there can be atheistic motivations for killing, the mass deaths in Nazi Germany and Nazi controlled Europe was clearly not one of these as has been amply demonstrated. Social Darwinism is an atheistic ideology in the same way that capitalism or communism is a atheistic ideology. Social Darwinism is as scientific as the quantum spirituality woo that Deepak Chopra preaches. An inaccurate extrapolation of a misunderstanding of scientific principles into realm where they don’t apply.

    As for deaths in Stalinist USSR particularly during the Bolshevik revolution I think in some deaths atheism may have been a motivator, but it was more to do with revenge against an corrupt church establishment that supported the autocratic rule they were fighting against.

    I don’t know enough about Cambodia to comment but pretty sure that was more to do with Communism than with atheism.

    Atheists only have one thing in comment with each other. A disbelief in the Theistic conception of God. Some are like Stalin, others are like Bill Gates or Einstein.

  171. The Consigliere

    nerblnob: Kevin, could that possibly be because most Nazi Party members were …. Germans?

    Point?

  172. Frank.i

    One of the most enlightening books I have ever come across was The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success by Rodney Stark.

    Snap! Except I first read “The Rise of Christianity: A Sociologist Reconsiders History” – such an amazingly simple, detailed and convincing description of the way the practice of Christianity led to its rise. And it all took place in such difficult, straitened times. I can’t help thinking that today, with material wealth so high, the green religion might be about to work in exactly the opposite direction.

  173. The Consigliere

    JC: Nazim was a political ideology/religious aligned to paganism.

    Which is it? Just a moment ago you were saying they were atheists.

    just about Einstein. He explicitly stated he didn’t identify with atheists. But Robert has now almost convinced me that he actually was an atheist. After all he established his lack of belief in a theistic god. That’s all you need to be an atheist.

  174. The Consigliere

    dover_beach: It is a valid question, because the starting premise of philosophy and science is that the universe is, in principle, completely intelligible. I don’t hold it against science at all that it confronts a problem here, or to put it more precisely, reaches its disciplinary limit here. It’s just that with such a question, the answer can only be derived from philosophy..

    Yes. I agree science reaches its limit at the edge of the Universe. It is meaningless to talk about anything beyond the Universe as the Universe encompasses everything, ever.

    If by philosophy you mean idle speculation and fantasy then yes they can make up all kinds of stories beyond that limit. But it has no bearing on reality which is entirely encompassed by the universe, which by definition is everything, ever.

  175. Combine_Dave

    Eidformel der Schutzstaffel
    “What is your oath ?” – “I vow to you, Adolf Hitler, as Führer and chancellor of the German Reich loyalty and bravery. I vow to you and to the leaders that you set for me, absolute allegiance until death. So help me God !”

    “So you believe in a God ?” – “Yes, I believe in a Lord God.”

    “What do you think about a man who does not believe in a God ?” – “I think he is overbearing, megalomaniac and foolish; he is not one of us.”

    I’ve also seen quotes from Hitler where he indicated his support for a personal god, although this could have been part of his attempt to coopt the churches and make them a willing party to his National Socialist plans.

    However isn’t the theisis of this post that Christianity placed the west in a position of strength relative to other nations? In this the example of Germany would seem to support this theory, whether you look at the protestant work ethic of industrialising early Prussia or the healthy Protestant /catholic mix of modern industrial Germany (world’s second biggest exporter).

    Mind you, they have always had and continue to have a large pool of Atheist engineers and sceintists upon which to rely on for future technological advancements.

  176. dover_beach:

    Seriously, I’ve given one already upthread.

    The only link I can find from you, includes the assumption of an anthropomorphised reality and a divine Jesus. That’s not reason; it’s mere assertion. Do you have an actual argument?

  177. A Lurker

    Yes. I agree science reaches its limit at the edge of the Universe. It is meaningless to talk about anything beyond the Universe as the Universe encompasses everything, ever.

    Depends which Universe you are talking about…

  178. JC

    I have a great deal of respect for atheists like De Button. They’re good people with their heads firmly screwed on. However, atheism is problematic for most people simply because they don’t have the intellectual stamina for it. They go ethically haywire and they also begin to see atheism as a religion.

    Case in point- The Lying Slapper. I’m pretty certain that if the slapper had some religious ethical underpinnings she may have avoided boning married men, committing alleged fraud and lying… constant lying.

    And look at the example on this thread with Kev saying Mao, Stalin, Hitler and pol pot are atheists smelling like roses. And the other atheist- Con- supports him.

    Atheism simply doesn’t work for most people as they don’t have the head for it. I’d make a great great atheist of course because I do.

  179. JC

    Desi

    Shut up. Earlier up-thread you suggested Islam was around during the time of Jesus. You also have no business posting comments here other than Friday nights when we have stupid hour

  180. Zaphod

    hmmmm.
    Wondering how many people who call themselves Christians have pondered these arcane and esoteric considerations of their Faith. Probably not many.
    Perhaps most just take Pascal’s Wager (just in case) and get on with life.

  181. .

    Nazi Christianity was not Christianity at all. The Nazis also planned to devolve the State religion into a SS cult of neo-paganism.

    This is common knowledge. Those who lacked such information should tend to their intellectual weakness before piping up.

  182. .

    Zaphod – everyone does both. This is why cosmology is popular around a fire at 2.30 am on a camping trip after too many scotches.

  183. The Consigliere

    JC And look at the example on this thread with Kev saying Mao, Stalin, Hitler and pol pot are atheists smelling like roses.

    Settle down. He said no such thing. Pretty sure he didn’t say Hitler was an atheist.

    He said atheists came out smelling like roses in comparison to religious involved.

    I know its tough for you JC given your track record but generally we try and argue against the point that our opponent is actually trying to make rather than make it up for them.

    That would be arguing against yourself and that’s not reasonable mmmkay?

    Combine_daveHowever isn’t the theisis of this post that Christianity placed the west in a position of strength relative to other nations?

    I’m not arguing against them on that. I think its fair to credit Christianity, along with a whole bunch of other factors for the West’s great successes and some failures.

  184. The Consigliere

    Nazi Christianity was not Christianity at all. The Nazis also planned to devolve the State religion into a SS cult of neo-paganism.

    I agree with this too. Nazi Christianity was a corrupted version that removed all the good and beautiful parts of Christianity and ended up being something exactly antithetical to it.

    Just like how Nazi Darwinism isn’t science and neo-paganism isn’t atheism.

  185. JC:

    Earlier up-thread you suggested Islam was around during the time of Jesus.

    No I didn’t. I was pointing out that Muslims also claim to be inspired by “eyewitnesses” to divinity. Not only that, but they also managed to write things down at the time, not merely decades later. To the extent that the testimonies are inconsistent about the nature of the divine, there doesn’t seem to be a clear evidentiary reason to favour the Christian accounts.

  186. dover_beach

    SoG:

    You can believe whoever, and whatever, you like; and you undoubtedly will. I don’t expect that anything that I write will have any effect on your beliefs, at all.

    It seems that this could be more fairly applied to yourself. You said Feser simply made assertions and provided little arguments but you didn’t even pretend to provide any justification for your conclusion. In other words, you merely made an assertion.

    The Consigleirie:

    Yes. I agree science reaches its limit at the edge of the Universe. It is meaningless to talk about anything beyond the Universe as the Universe encompasses everything, ever.

    Well, it is certainly problematic to talk about something physically beyond the universe. Now, if you want to argue, rather than merely assert, that only the physical is real, you are going to have to make a philosophical argument.

    If by philosophy you mean idle speculation and fantasy then yes they can make up all kinds of stories beyond that limit. But it has no bearing on reality which is entirely encompassed by the universe, which by definition is everything, ever.

    No one is talking about “idle speculation and fantasy” but it is interesting to note that new Atheists always seem to throw philosophy under the bus at some stage.

    desipis:

    The only link I can find from you, includes the assumption of an anthropomorphised reality and a divine Jesus. That’s not reason; it’s mere assertion. Do you have an actual argument?

    You are simply asserting that he hasn’t provided an argument. Still, to return to the issue, the implications of the Unmoved Mover argument might be worth considering in regards to your initial request.

  187. Leo G

    “Now I am sure I got something wrong there…what was it?”

    Clear that you haven’t done much original research. A primary source usually refers to a physical object, or the detailed record of such an object affirmed by concomitant evidence, as it relates to the specific issue under question.
    The gospels are not primary sources for the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, but to varying degrees are primary sources for the teachings of the early Christian Church.
    Atheists often dishonestly claim to be confused about the basis for Christians faith in the accounts in the canonical texts of the Christian Church, demanding Christians show a scientific standard of evidence supporting their theism.
    However, a basic tenet of theism is that that the existence of God cannot be proven, but can be assured by personal revelation. (I note that many Christians- notably those who accept creation science- may not agree.)

  188. Senile Old Guy

    Leo G:

    Clear that you haven’t done much original research.

    Don’t cast aspersions. In the sciences, we don’t bother about “primary” and “secondary” sources because we make the observations ourselves, of the actual phenomena.

    Philippa made a cryptic (to non-historians) reference to “primary sources” and I was honestly (so far as an atheist can be considered “honest”) trying to understand what she meant.

    A primary source usually refers to a physical object, or the detailed record of such an object affirmed by concomitant evidence, as it relates to the specific issue under question. The gospels are not primary sources for the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, but to varying degrees are primary sources for the teachings of the early Christian Church.

    Excellent! Clear and concise. And I can accept that without argument. I am still, however, puzzled as to what Philippa was using the four gospels as “primary sources” for.

  189. dover_beach

    For those interested, this is the book, The Rediscovery of Wisdom, that the late Antony Flew credited with influencing his move from atheism to theism in the last decade.

  190. Senile Old Guy

    d_b:

    It seems that this could be more fairly applied to yourself. You said Feser simply made assertions and provided little arguments but you didn’t even pretend to provide any justification for your conclusion. In other words, you merely made an assertion.

    No argument with that. I gave you my opinion of Feser’s writing, based on the pieces I have read.

  191. jupes

    You can only answer this question by considering the arguments.

    And you can’t answer the question db because you know both concepts are ridiculous.

  192. dover_beach

    And you can’t answer the question db because you know both concepts are ridiculous.

    jupes, I’m not going to bother answering your question because you are not interested in the answer. If you were interested, you would be looking for the answer yourself by considering the classical arguments.

  193. jupes

    jupes, I’m not going to bother answering your question because you are not interested in the answer I don’t want to embarrass myself.

    Fair enough db. I understand.

  194. Rococo Liberal

    They go ethically haywire and they also begin to see atheism as a religion.

    I see the same thing with some libertarians who were once leftists: they are almost statist fundamentalists in their wish to use the State to impose liberatrain ideals on others.

    But I would qualify your theory, JC, about atheists needing more intelectual heft. It seems to me that in fact atheism is the refuge of the second class mind, the mind that has given up on true intellectual inquiry by restricting itself to intellectual inquiry and dismissing other possibilities.

    It is far more intellectually challenging to take that extra step and try and reconcile faith and science.

    Faith is like sensible politics, something that can be embraced by the simple and the truly sophisticated, but which noisy faux-sophisticates have great difficulty in accepting.

  195. dover_beach:

    From that link:

    Theistic personalists are… For the theistic personalist… Now for the classical theist…For the classical theist…Now classical theism….etc

    It does a reasonable job of describing the differences between those two theisms, but provides no argument why one is inherently more believable. Really the only thing it is even attempting to show is that “classical theism” is useful because it can make Christianity just a little bit more different to other religions:

    Now for the classical theist, God is not “a being” … For this reason it is superficial in the extreme to think that the story of Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection bears any interesting relationship to the various dying-and-rising deities of pagan mythology. … Thus do we see yet again how crucial classical theism is to a sound Christian apologetics.

    The fact that a particular theism might be different in some distinct way to other theisms does nothing to establish it is more likely to be true.

  196. Christians have had almost 2000 years to put together a clear, concise and convincing argument for the truth of their claims. Surely it’s not too much to ask to be presented with such an argument. I thought you all took this stuff pretty seriously.

  197. jupes

    It seems to me that in fact atheism is the refuge of the second class mind

    LOL. Yeah we’re all too stupid to be a Mormon Buddhist Muslim Christian.

    It is far more intellectually challenging to take that extra step and try and reconcile faith and science.

    Yeah only idiots can’t reconcile a virgin birth, walking on water and a triune god with science. Fuck we’re dumb.

  198. The Consigliere

    Rococo Liberal:

    ‘ It seems to me that in fact atheism is the refuge of the second class mind, the mind that has given up on true intellectual inquiry by restricting itself to intellectual inquiry and dismissing other possibilities.’

    As an atheist I’ll accept this. I do have a second class mind in that I have only my senses, reason and evidence to rely on. Therefore I’m restricted only to intellectual inquiry albeit motivated by passion for such inquiry. I don’t have the gift of seeing the very laws of the universe take anthropomorphic shape and tell me things in my sleep. Nor do I have the power to make it do things when I clasp my hand together and recite incantations.

    But hey we can’t all be First Class Minds can we?

    Leo G
    #1276425, posted on April 23, 2014 at 9:48 am

    A primary source usually refers to a physical object, or the detailed record of such an object affirmed by concomitant evidence, as it relates to the specific issue under question.

    The gospels are not primary sources for the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, but to varying degrees are primary sources for the teachings of the early Christian Church.

    Atheists often dishonestly claim to be confused about the basis for Christians faith in the accounts in the canonical texts of the Christian Church, demanding Christians show a scientific standard of evidence supporting their theism.

    However, a basic tenet of theism is that that the existence of God cannot be proven, but can be assured by personal revelation. ”

    I agree with everything you say here Leo G. About your description of primary sources, what it takes to believe in the existence of God in the absence of scientific evidence, I even agree with the bit about how some Atheists are dishonest about their apparent confusion regarding basis of Christian tenets.

    I just wish the rest of your theist colleagues on here would accept this too.

  199. dover_beach

    It does a reasonable job of describing the differences between those two theisms,

    So it was providing an argument.

    but provides no argument why one is inherently more believable.

    The discussion about God not being an instance of a kind provides a summary of one of the arguments; this is fleshed-out in other posts, in various papers, in two of his books, and will probably be given some treatment in his forthcoming, Scholastic Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction. Or you could just consult other classical theists.

    The fact that a particular theism might be different in some distinct way to other theisms does nothing to establish it is more likely to be true.

    I never argued the above. I believe this initially started when you asked how the classical arguments for the existence of God ruled out polytheism; they do, Aristotle certainly thought so. So one thing we can be sure of is that polytheism cannot be true.

  200. Leo G

    In the sciences, we don’t bother about “primary” and “secondary” sources because we make the observations ourselves, of the actual phenomena.

    In my scientific investigations, I regarded my real time records of a parameter to be primary sources but the output of equipment such as statistical analysers to be secondary sources.
    Proxy data, of a parameter of interest, is usually regarded as data from a secondary source.

  201. Senile Old Guy

    d_b:

    Well here, for instance (I’m quoting these two sections entire to avoid being accused of being selective):

    A related error is the confusion of examples that are intended merely to illustrate philosophical points with purported empirical evidence for those points. For example, expositions of Thomistic arguments for the existence of God often make use of examples like that of a hand which is moving a stick in order to move a stone. One point of such examples is to introduce the idea of instrumental causality, where an instrumental cause is one whose causal power derives from something outside it, as the stick derives its power to move the stone from the hand. Another point of such examples is to introduce the idea that God is cause of the world not merely in the temporal sense of having gotten the universe going at some point billions of years ago, but in the deeper sense of keeping the universe going at every moment, just as the stick’s movement of the stone persists only insofar as it is itself kept moving by the hand.

    Now when a physicist illustrates a point he is making by asking us to imagine what we might experience if we fell into a black hole or rode on a beam of light, no one thinks it a clever response to point out that photons are too small to sit on or that we would have been ripped apart by gravity long before we made it into the black hole. Such “objections” would completely miss the point. But it would similarly miss the point to insist that Aquinas is refuted by the fact that there is a very slight time lag between the motion of a stick and that of a stone it is pushing (as one hostile reader of this blog used to point out obsessively a few years back, as if it were a fatal objection). For nothing in Aquinas’s argument rides on the question of whether the motion of a stick and that of the stone it is pushing are strictly simultaneous, any more than it rides on a hand’s really being a “first” or non-instrumental cause in the relevant sense (which it obviously is not since the hand itself is moved by the arm). The example is intended merely as an illustration to jog the reader’s understanding of abstract concepts like instrumental causality and conserving causality. And as I have argued in several places, once the homely examples in question give us a grasp of these concepts, as well as of concepts like that of the actualization of a potency, we are on the way to seeing that even the sheer existence of a thing from moment to moment (never mind its local motion) requires a sustaining cause.

    The bolded bits are assertions unsupported by any arguments or evidence. The example of the stick is to communicate the ideas but a kind of sleight of hand to get you to go “Oh, yes, the stick doesn’t move on its own, so neither can the universe. There must be something making them move…God!”

    I can, perhaps, anticipate one of d_b’s objections: immediately after the section I have quoted, Feser refers to two other posts and another document in support of the statements above. In response to that, I would ask: How much of this stuff do we have to read before we get a clear and succinct outline of the argument. I leave that to the next post.

  202. dover_beach

    However, a basic tenet of theism is that that the existence of God cannot be proven, but can be assured by personal revelation.

    This is not a basic tenet of theism. Never has been. Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Avicenna, Averroes, Aquinas, Suarez, Leibniz, Clarke, just to name a few, nor any of the Church Fathers ever held such a unphilosophical and heretical notion.

  203. The Consigliere

    Hi dover_beach

    I’m specifically deriding speculation of what’s beyond the universe. I’m actually a fan of philosophy, including some of the links you posted, and am enjoying your comments even though I disagree with them. Please don’t assume that I disrespect philosophy.

    There are some atheists, particularly from the physical sciences who feel that philosophy is dead, but I certainly am not one of those.

    Well, it is certainly problematic to talk about something physically beyond the universe. Now, if you want to argue, rather than merely assert, that only the physical is real, you are going to have to make a philosophical argument.

    This is very interesting. Would you classify time as physical? How about the brain and its logic circuits. How about the way we perceive those logic circuits in our mind? The Universe is everything including the abstractions our brain uses to represent the world around us.

    So no, the limits of the Universe is not just a random collection of individual fermions and bosons. Rather it include all structures that they make and the laws of interactions they follow en-mass. This includes the hadrons the quarks make, the nuclear forces they obey, the atoms the hadrons make, the molecules the atoms make, the electrostatic forces they follow, the starts, the heavy elements, the carbon forms including those of the biological kind, the brains they have, the thoughts those brains have… everything.

  204. JC

    Science as in theoretical physics…

    There was nothing.. Then photons showed up.

    That’s science?

  205. JC

    Con and desi…

    I have to go out so I’ll with you two imbeciles later.

    Con, we need to talk about Kevin.

  206. Senile Old Guy

    So, found a piece praising and criticizing Feser’s arguments:

    Feser provides a handy eight-step summary of his argument in his article, “Existential Inertia and the Five Ways” (Australian Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 85, No. 2, 2011):

    1. That unintelligent natural causes regularly generate certain specific effects or ranges of effects is evident from sensory experience.
    2. Such regularities are intelligible only on the assumption that these efficient causes inherently “point to” or are “directed at” their effects as to an end or final cause.
    3. So there are final causes or ends immanent to the natural order.
    4. But unintelligent natural causes can “point to” or be “directed at” such ends only if guided by an intelligence.
    5. So there is such an intelligence.
    6. But since the ends or final causes in question are inherent in things by virtue of their natures or essence, the intelligence in question must be the cause also of natural things having the natures or essences they do.
    7. This entails its being that which conjoins their essences to an act of existence, and only that in which essence and existence are identical can ultimately accomplish this.
    8. So the intelligence in question is something in which essence and existence are identical. (2011, p. 254.)

    The argument falls apart from 2, on wards. From the link:

    2. The key premise upon which the argument bases its claim that there is an Intelligent Being guiding Nature is that the behavior of natural objects is not only oriented towards the production of certain effects, but also that it is oriented towards future effects, at a fundamental level. This premise is questionable on scientific and philosophical grounds. To establish his case, Feser needs to rebut the claim that the apparently future-oriented behavior of objects can be explained more simply, in terms of their present-oriented tendencies.

    Now the author goes on to try and “fix” the problems he identifies in Feser’s arguments but I don’t have time to read more of this. I will quote this final statement from him:

    As a leading Thomist philosopher, Professor Christopher Martin, has acknowledged in his book, Thomas Aquinas: God and Explanations (Edinburgh University Press, 1998), the most controversial step of Aquinas’ Fifth way is his assertion that unintelligent natural causes cannot tend towards certain ends (or effects) unless they are guided by an intelligent being.

    And note the word I emphasized there: “assertion”.

    (Apologies for the length but d_b complains that Feser’s arguments are never addressed, only dismissed.)

  207. Leo G

    “This is not a basic tenet of theism. Never has been. Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Avicenna, Averroes, Aquinas, Suarez, Leibniz, Clarke, just to name a few, nor any of the Church Fathers ever held such a unphilosophical and heretical notion.”

    Refer to the “problem of the particular knowledge of God”. Even the Book of Exodus deals with it.

  208. dover_beach

    SOG:

    The bolded bits are assertions unsupported by any arguments or evidence….I can, perhaps, anticipate one of d_b’s objections: immediately after the section I have quoted, Feser refers to two other posts and another document in support of the statements above.

    Given that that post is making an argument other than the one you are concerned with – related to but not itself a classical arguments for God’s existence -I’m not sure why you are criticizing him for not including that argument or for referencing that argument via a link therein.

    The example of the stick is to communicate the ideas but a kind of sleight of hand to get you to go “Oh, yes, the stick doesn’t move on its own, so neither can the universe. There must be something making them move…God!”

    No, the example isn’t a sleight of hand at all. The point of the example is to illustrate that the movement of the stone depends upon its antecedents, namely, the stick, the hand, and so forth. However, such a chain cannot continue indefinitely – which is where the quip, that infinitely long handles can’t move themselves either comes from – it must terminate in a cause categorically unlike those before it; that is upon a cause that is independent of all other causes. Is this ‘unsupported by any arguments’, no it isn’t.

  209. dover_beach

    And note the word I emphasized there: “assertion”.

    And note that Martin uses it in reference to Aquinas, not Feser. Even the section first bolded simply says that a premise is questionable and needs attending to; wow, that never happens in philosophical disputes. As yet, nothing you’ve raised establishes that Feser merely asserts but does not argue. In fact, all your effort seems concentrated on this single purpose.

  210. Senile Old Guy

    Even the section first bolded simply says that a premise is questionable and needs attending to; wow, that never happens in philosophical disputes.

    If a “premise is questionable and needs attending to” then the argument is flawed. If you admit that the “premise is questionable”, then you are admitting that Feser’s arguments are flawed.

    d_b, from the source I quoted earlier:

    More controversially, Feser’s argument assumes that natural causes are oriented towards future effects (the Future Orientation Principle). However, we can explain the behavior of natural causes in the inorganic world more simply, by assuming that they are oriented towards their present effects. Living organisms are another matter: they display future-oriented behavior, as they develop towards maturity. But even this behavior supervenes upon the present-oriented behavior of organisms’ physical and chemical constituents: anything with the same chemical composition as a bacterium will develop in the same way as a bacterium, when placed in a hospitable environment. So it seems that we can explain the behavior of natural causes perfectly well, without needing to ascribe any mysterious “future orientations” to these causes. By Ockham’s razor, we can therefore dispense with the Future Orientation Principle. Once we jettison it, however, Aquinas’ whole case for an Intelligent Being Who guides natural causes towards their ends collapses.

    Feser’s argument is based on that of Aquinas. Following Aquinas, Feser makes monumental assumptions which a skeptic will simply say are not required.

    You keep telling us to read stuff. Read the link the link.

  211. JC

    Con

    We need to talk about Kevin

    He said

    So if we use your examples JC, the atheists seem to come out smelling of roses.

    You now say:

    He said atheists came out smelling like roses in comparison to religious involved.

    “Your examples” is a direct reference to the names I mentioned, Con you dipshit.

    My examples were Mao, hitler, stalin and Pol Pot. I forgot to mention Lenin. The commies had two big bites at the cherry in the Soviet Union

    He also had the temerity to defend these poster boys of pure evil by suggesting they couldn’t be blamed for the 200 million deaths because they didn’t pull the trigger or tie the noose.

    Stop being a moron by trying to cover up for him

    Kevin is a sick, sick person. Very very ill.

  212. JC

    Desi

    Hearsay doesn’t cut it, even if it’s eventually written down. That’s not to mention that much of that evidence is contradictory and incomplete, and hence unreliable. It’s certainly not reliable enough to overcome to contrary evidence provided by Jewish/Islamic/secular/etc scholars.

    Me

    Earlier up-thread you suggested Islam was around during the time of Jesus.

    No I didn’t. I was pointing out that Muslims also claim to be inspired by “eyewitnesses” to divinity. Not only that, but they also managed to write things down at the time, not merely decades later. To the extent that the testimonies are inconsistent about the nature of the divine, there doesn’t seem to be a clear evidentiary reason to favour the Christian accounts.

    Of course you did, otherwise what value added would muzzles offer as they showed up 1000 or so years later.

    What’s even worse desi is that you categorise the early gospels as hearsay, but give credence to muzzo scholars hundreds of years later.

    You’re a rotten lawyer desi. Shocking.

    Seriously what law school did you go.

  213. Notafan

    My understanding is that there are no eyewitnesses to miracles in Islam , the book is the miracle, only Mohammed saw the Angel, who dictated the book to Mohammed.

  214. dover_beach:

    The discussion about God not being an instance of a kind provides a summary of one of the arguments; this is fleshed-out in other posts

    Digging down those links, it seems there is something that could actually be considered an argument. However, all that argumentation seems to be premised on the doctrine of divine simplicity:

    As I have indicated in earlier posts, the doctrine of divine simplicity is absolutely central to classical theism.

    … nothing less than what is absolutely simple could possibly be divine, because nothing less than what is absolutely simple could have the metaphysical ultimacy that God is supposed to have.

    Naturally if you assume the divine requires some sort of metaphysical purity and is therefore simple and without parts, then naturally you’ll wind up in the land of monotheism. However, to make such an assumption in an attempt to argue for monotheism is rather begging the question. Why should divinity be constrained by the limits of human language and cognition?

  215. JC:

    Of course you did, otherwise what value added would muzzles offer as they showed up 1000 or so years later.

    The witness Muhammad clearly cannot provide any evidence about the mundane activities of Jesus. However, in this case the mundane activities of Jesus aren’t really in question. We could consider the proposition that there was a bloke named Jesus who wandered around the middle east, started a cult and got himself executed as facts not in dispute. What is in dispute is the nature of the divine as testified by the witnesses. Unless you’re willing to accept that the nature of the divine changed over time, or explain how the testimonies of Muhammad and those of the gospels are not contradictory when it comes to the nature of the divine, then the two remain in conflict.

  216. Senile Old Guy

    Naturally if you assume the divine requires some sort of metaphysical purity and is therefore simple and without parts, then naturally you’ll wind up in the land of monotheism.

    And that’s what the argument is. Of course, people usually use a lot more words but, in a nutshell, it boils down to what you have said. So if you accept the “if you assume”, you get where they want to go. But why accept it?

  217. Senile Old Guy

    The Aquinas and Feser versions of the single God argument:

    In his Summa Theologica I, q. 11, article 3, St. Thomas Aquinas advances the following argument for God’s unity:

    Secondly, this is proved from the infinity of His perfection. For it was shown above (Question 4, Article 2) that God comprehends in Himself the whole perfection of being. If then many gods existed, they would necessarily differ from each other. Something therefore would belong to one which did not belong to another. And if this were a privation, one of them would not be absolutely perfect; but if a perfection, one of them would be without it. So it is impossible for many gods to exist.

    In his book Aquinas (Oneworld, Oxford, 2009), Feser uses the Identity of Essences Principle to argue (following Aquinas) that there can only be one Being Whose essence is pure, unbounded existence – for if there were two such entities, there would be nothing to differentiate them:

    Aquinas also gives … other reasons for holding that the being whose existence is argued for in the Five Ways is necessarily unique. For there to be more than one such being, there would have to be some way to distinguish one from another, and this could only be in terms of some perfection or privation that one has but the other lacks. But as Pure Act, … there can be no way in principle to distinguish one such being from another, and thus there could not possibly be more than one (ST I.11.3). (2009, p. 121)

    They are similar and both require that skeptic accept something that there is no reason to accept. These are simply metaphysical assumptions that we can reject.

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