pageok
pageok
pageok
Comments Related to the Questions Posted Below:

This is a placeholder post for comments on the questions I posted below. Please do not use it to answer those questions, or to criticize others' answers to those questions.

rbj:
One answer is that I don't want to have to be constantly defending myself against attempts on my life/property. If, for example, just random killing people was ok, then society would quickly degenerate into "kill them first, before they kill you". Thus, simply to have an orderly society where we aren't constantly watching our backs or taking "preemptive" action, we put in place certain rules against specific behavior.
12.1.2005 2:44pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Faith doesn't count, huh? I don't think you'll find anyone to answer that question who qualifies as a "believer." Miracles defy logic... you can't logically explain why one believes in them.

That said, I'm still interested in seeing people try.
12.1.2005 2:48pm
aslanfan (mail):
Thanks for doing this.
12.1.2005 3:03pm
om:
I don't see why we should assume that a system of secular morality requires any axiomatic claims. Take 'justice as fairness' as an example. That theory of justice is not derived from a set of axioms but rather worked up from settled moral judgments that are nevertheless open to revision through a process of reflective equilibrium. This is, arguably, a form of coherence theory that does not rest on any rigid hierachy of beliefs about moral propositions. Our settled judgments may be revised depending on how strong our attachment is to certain principles, and, just the same, principles may be revised in light of a stronger commitment to certain moral judgments.

I suspect, here, Eugene will want to know why it is that we hold whatever commitments enter into this process of moral reasoning. But I'm not sure that we need to say anything more than that we have certain central moral intuitions--e.g., that people ought not to be humiliated, or treated cruelly, or caused pain without reason, or denigrated for attributes beyond their control. Would we really take seriously in moral argument anyone who rejects one of those propositions? The difficulty, of course, is determining the implications of our moral intuitions (which are not limited to those mentioned above as examples). But the process of reflective equilibrium is designed precisely to help us understand more completely the nature of our moral commitments--which will be both more abstract and more concrete than the set of our considered moral judgments.

So I'd reject Eugene's invitation to give a foundational or axiomatic account, one that is the secular equivalent of positing God as the basis of morality. We can move beyond the need to give an account of that kind in discussing the sources of normativity and the content of morality.
12.1.2005 3:07pm
Bob McHenry (mail):
You seem to imply that the moral reasoning of the believer is differently founded from that of the nonbeliever. But if you summarize them thus,

Nonbeliever: I accept Moral Axiom X and reason from it.

Believer: I accept the existence of God, who enjoins me to follow Moral Axiom X and reason from it.

there doesn't appear to be much difference, beyond the ontological quality assumed of the thing first accepted.
12.1.2005 3:15pm
Traveler:
om asks "Would we really take seriously in moral argument anyone who rejects one of those propositions?"

I suspect few of the commenters here would take them seriously. But we need to take seriously the widespread existence of people who reject those propositions and do not find them to be automatic "moral intuitions." Would you take seriously in moral argument someone who said: "I'm prepared to believe in those propositions, but I don't find them intuitive, and I don't see why you do, either."
12.1.2005 3:20pm
Douglas (mail):
OM said:

But I'm not sure that we need to say anything more than that we have certain central moral intuitions--e.g.,that people ought not to be humiliated, or treated cruelly, or caused pain without reason, or denigrated for attributes beyond their control. Would we really take seriously in moral argument anyone who rejects one of those propositions?


You state that there exist central moral intuitions, and that we should discount all those who do not believe these intuitions. How do we determine what these moral intuitions are? You provide a list, but I assume that your list is non-exhaustive. You ask "would we" take seriously anyone who does not believe these intuitions. Does that mean that the determination of the correct moral intuition is based upon some joint feeling among a particular group (be it society as a whole, or some subset).

Clearly there have existed societies who did not subscribe to your list of moral intuitions. Societies where slavery is accepted reject many of your intuitions. What makes your set of intuitions any better than their set?
12.1.2005 3:28pm
Kim Scarborough (mail) (www):
The links in the two "question" posts are broken, BTW.
12.1.2005 3:34pm
TomJ:
Prof. Volokh,

It might be helpful to facilitate the argument to add a number of seemingly "incomplete" typical answers to the questions posed to irreligious readers about the foundations of their moral beliefs, as you did with religious readers concerning the factual bases for their beliefs. Some possibilities include: (1) Conscience: that structuring one's conduct according to certain principles (or failing to do so) produces certain predictable psychological benefits or harms; (2) Culture: that it is convenient and/or beneficial to order one's life in accordance with the prevailing social norms of the society in which one lives; (3) Authority: modeling one's behavior after one's parents, contemporary civic or spiritual leaders, or anyone whose experience shows relative success in achieving happiness and/or garnering respect in this life makes sound prudential sense. These answers suggest similar problems that deserve further exposition: people live in very different cultures, look to very different types of leaders for guidance, and different people's consciences often seem to mandate divergent results. Isn't there, then, a need to recur to some principle that permits one to make comparative judgments about the relative worth of the various moral judgments suggested by these several sources? If not, why not?
12.1.2005 3:36pm
Joel W (mail):
I might point readers to this post on askphilosophers.org

"Even if we are theists, there's a strong case for thinking that morality is independent of religion. Socrates long ago asked whether something was right because God commanded it or whether God commanded it because it was right (the famous question asked in Plato's dialogue Euthyprho). Socrates reasoned that God's will could not make something valuable, because that would make his preferences arbitrary. Instead, Socrates concluded, the theist should say that God commands what he does, because he himself is good. On this view, God's commands are principled and track what is independently valuable. This also explains why thesists often feel compelled to resolve debates about what God has willed, and how we can ascertain his will, by appeal our moral ideas about what a morally good God could have willed.

But then there should be no deep puzzle about how there could be an objective morality without God, because plausible versions of theism must themselves recognize an objective morality -- that is, one independent of God's will."
12.1.2005 3:44pm
Anonoman:
I am confused. which is the placeholder and which is the post?
12.1.2005 3:47pm
Bill (mail):
Eugene's questions make it clear how hard it is to talk about religion and irreligion in general. For not all religious people (nor, in my experience, all members of any single religion):

(1) believe that rightous people will go on to happy afterlife
(2) see morality as following from certain basic assumptions or principles (nor do most moralities not based in divine command think that some "moral beliefs" are "axiomatic"... certainly I and most professional philosophers do not think that)
(3) describe claims of miracles and so forth as "factually true" in the sense (if any) that that expression is used in other inquiries.

Of course, some people say that you can't be a real member of religion x if you don't subscribe to one or another of these tenats. But the extent to which religions affiliation depends on belief varies between and within religions.

Personally, I think that if one tries to flesh out what truth means in different religious, scientific, everyday discourses one finds that there are many different meanings. Some ways of mixing the discourses happen to produce doxastic conflicts and some do not. To illustrate, there is a big difference between saying:

(a) "It is true that everything that exists was created 10,000 years ago. I admit that this conflicts with all scientific evidence. I'm right and they're wrong."

and saying:

(b) "God created these two huge seamonsters called Leviathans. He plays with one of them for 3 hours a day, when he's not feeding the world, studying the Torah, and rendering judgements. But he killed the other one so that they would not reproduce and destroy all the rest of creation. He put that Leviathan's meat in salt to feed the rightous and saved the beast's skin to make a tent for the meal.... True!? Yes, of course that's true."
12.1.2005 3:53pm
om:
I'm not sure that the examples of intuitive moral propositions I mentioned earlier need any deeper justification. If you don't find those propositions intuitive, then there is a major gap between us. We simply don't relate at a moral level. But I don't see why that's a reason for me to doubt my moral views.

In response to the slavery example, which is standard, I don't see why the existence of people with immoral views (now or historically) is a reason to doubt the moral propositions that I stated. Given their obvious appeal (do you doubt that obviousness? Really?), I think it should be on the skeptic to make a case against adhering to basic moral norms. Because I have these basic intuitions (i.e., I'm not a psychopath), I see no immediate need to question them until given a reason to do that.

As I said before, this isn't to say that the principles of morality or justice (or any concrete application of those principles) that I think follow, in reflective equilibrium, from those intuitions, or related considered judgments, are obvious. But working up those principles, or discovering them (if that metaphor is more appropriate), and modifying my intuitions as necessary, is a process of reasoning and argumentation.

A comment above asks which moral intuitions exist, and how do we know them? There's a large literature devoted to answering this criticism (and to pressing it). I think there are useful heuristics that can be used to get at that question: the golden rule, kant's categorical imperative, the original position, Habermas' ideal speech situation, are all various attempts to help us see our moral relationships from other peoples' perspectives. I don't think there are easy answers to the question. But I'd rather be asking this (and related) questins, than the far more difficult puzzles that follow from positing a theological foundation. "What are moral intutions are sound?" seems to me a more tractable (and indeed compelling) problem than "Is there a God? And, if so, what moral principles follow?"
12.1.2005 3:54pm
Splunge (mail):
Would I be a party-pooper if I suggested both of Eugene's questions are logically equivalent to this one:

"From what do you deduce your axioms?"

I thought so. Sorry!
12.1.2005 4:00pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

In response to the slavery example, which is standard, I don't see why the existence of people with immoral views (now or historically) is a reason to doubt the moral propositions that I stated.
You know, I am always amazed at how many people are stuck in the modern understanding about slavery. Slavery was, once upon a time, a moral improvement over the old order.

What do you do with enemy soldiers after you defeat them in battle? If you set them free, they represent a future threat. You could kill them all (after raping them--a common Middle Eastern practice). Enslaving them is relatively humane, depending on what sort of work you give them--and as John Locke observed, a slave taken in battle who becomes dissatisfied with his life always has the option of suicide--and is no worse than he was before.

Today we are horrified by the notion of slavery. Once upon a time, it was a sign of a progressive and enlightened culture. In some cultures, people were enslaved as punishment for serious crimes.

Cultures in which slavery is inherited, of course, create a whole different set of ethical problems.
12.1.2005 4:15pm
Jeff Licquia (mail) (www):
It's hard to tell, but I may have mis-posted.

In the religion thread, I basically accept the list of incomplete answers as mine by reference, and limit my elaboration to point out that you simply don't accept my evidence.

My misplaced question: why were the questions posted if you knew the answers you were likely to get and didn't like them? Did you think we would have evidence more to your liking? Or is there something else you want?

It would be a lot easier to say something rational if I knew what you were after.
12.1.2005 4:36pm
Paul Gowder (mail) (www):
In terms of the question for the religious people, which I'm not, there's a quote from the Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy which is always edifying in these situations:

Now it is such a bizarrely improbably coincidence that anything so mindbogglingly useful [the Babel fish] could have evolved by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as a 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.


Now that's a joke of course, but it has a certain truth to it. After all, isn't faith really the whole point of religious experience? It seems like asking the religious to explain the reasons they hold their particular faith amounts to asking them to deny that very faith. And, under several religious doctrines, this is rather naughty.

So in one sense, your question is rather unfair.

However, in another sense, that might provide an explanation for the religious as much as anything. Any "meme" (god how I hate that concept) that commands its adherents to avoid even the possibility of questioning it is rather likely to survive...
12.1.2005 4:36pm
om:
If condemning all forms of slavery is being "stuck" in the modern view, then I'm happy to say that I'm "stuck." Just because there is a practice morally worse than the evil of slavery doesn't for a moment give me reason to doubt my rejection of slavery as deeply immoral.

And in the American context, which is easily assumed here, slavery has an obvious referent. To describe racial slavery, or any inherited servitude, merely as creating "ethical problems" is either (on the charitable view) elliptical or badly understating the evils involved or (on the not-so-charitable view) offensive.
12.1.2005 4:43pm
Richard Bellamy (mail):
I believe there is a supernatural power, and that he currently performs miracles in the world. Just recently, he assumed into heaven all of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. They were certainly there right before the war.

I find the testimony of the Bush, Rumsfeld, Powell, and the strong beliefs of other regular American citizen prophets to be credible because they were willing to go themselves or to send their fellow citizens to suffer and die for this belief, and it's difficult for me to fathom this large a number of people being willing to suffer and die for something they knew to be a hoax.
12.1.2005 4:44pm
Perseus:
Slavery is perfect example of why you need the sort of foundations that OM thinks are unnecessary. The moral intuitions that OM takes for granted are only widespread in an egalitarian moral-political horizon.

But it seems to me that Professor Volokh might be asking for a bit too much to have people limn those foundations in the comment section of a blog.
12.1.2005 4:49pm
Sam Heldman:
My six year-old son announced a few days ago -- after asking me if I believed in any god or gods -- that he believes in Poseidon. Funny how there aren't many Poseidon-believers around these days, and if anyone older than 6 declared himself to be one he would be thought to be nuttier than Tom Cruise.
12.1.2005 4:52pm
om:
I think Perseus needs to make an argument for the view that slavery poses a moral challenge to those who hold egalitarian intuitions. It's not enough to say: you egalitarians need foundations for your view that people should be treated equally. That's just to beg the question about the need for foundations, which is precisely what is at issue.

So, to put a point on things, I think Perseus (or maybe some Thrasymachus out there) owes us non-foundationalist egalitarians a moral argument for slavery. Short of that, it's hard to take the objection seriously.
12.1.2005 4:58pm
Pius XXX:
Eugene: would you like to answer one of your questions, as appropriate? Or will you exercise the blogger's privilege and abstain? lol
12.1.2005 5:00pm
hmm:
You know, I am always amazed at how many people who you'd expect to normally find moral relativism repugnant feel the need to invoke it in the case of slavery, even when the subject is not especially germane to the topic at hand.

To the best of my knowledge, it was never the case, as a historical matter, that all slaves were defeated enemy soldiers, so it's hard to see how this line of argument supports your assertion. At most, it might suggest that, for some subset of people--defeated soldiers for whom the only other option was execution--slavery was a moral improvement (assuming also that slavery is a moral improvement over execution). But how can the (alleged) justification of a practice to a subset of its victims justify the practice in general?

Of course, the premise that the only options for a defeated soldier were death, slavery, or renewed threat seems a little tendentious, to say the least. Not every unexecuted, unenslaved defeated soldier in history continued to be a mortal threat to the conqueror.

Enslaving them is relatively humane, depending on what sort of work you give them

That's a pretty big "depends", isn't it?

Once upon a time, it was a sign of a progressive and enlightened culture.

Once upon what time? Arguments allegedly based on history are improved by actual recourse to the historical record.
12.1.2005 5:02pm
Mr. Mandias (mail) (www):
"But in Mormon doctrine, one's status in the afterlife is rather directly tied to the size of one's family."

This is simply not true.
12.1.2005 5:03pm
CKG:
Hmmm....

Anyone who has ever spent a lot of time around children drawn from different backgrounds (such as a schoolteacher or little league coach) can tell you that both a person's moral sense AND ones various justifications for specific moral judgements are primarily a product of upbringing modified somewhat by temperment and education. Culture is the most powerful factor in determining the makeup of almost everyone's moral sense.

Try this thought experiment. Make a list of ten important true-false questions that call for a contentious moral judgement, such as "killing people is always wrong", "homosexual relationships are immoral" or "eating meat is immoral". Count up how many of your true-false answers would be identical to those of your parents, or of the people who raised you. Then count up how many of the remaining answers would be identical to those of the majority of your friends or personal acquaintances. Honestly, how many people can say they answered more than one question differently from BOTH their parents and their friends?

I do not think its an accident that the words "moral" and "morale" are so similar both in pronunciation and spelling. The state of both in any given group seems to be a matter of mutual reinforcement or peer pressure more than anything else.
12.1.2005 5:06pm
Matt0322 (mail):
The answer for both religious and non-religious people comes down to faith. Like religion, rationality cannot demonstrate its own existence without recourse to itself. One must already accept its basic principles at the onset. Whether the cause of this is the inadequacy of language or natural intuition is uncertain, but its basis is external to human rationality.

As many have said before in their comments, this is a common theme in the history of philosophy. Some (particularly Strauss) have located the fundamental core of the Western tradition in the tension between these two choices of faith—between Athens and Jerusalem.
12.1.2005 5:09pm
tim02 (mail):
Why then do you order your life around some particular moral axiom that you can't logically support...? Or do you think that you can indeed logically support your choice of axiom, without calling on some other axioms that you can't logically support — and, if so, how?

Why not empirically? You know, start with some axioms that aren't logically inconsistent, and see if they generate the desired results. If not, modify and try again.

In fact, if you are thoughful, you won't have to start from scratch. A lot of generations have been testing a lot of principles over a lot of time. You can see which of those are most successful and test your axioms for logical consistency with them. Lather, rinse, repeat.

It doesn't seem that mysterious to me, unless I'm missing some great subtlety here. You can't generate and defend the axioms of physics purely from logic; you can't generate and defend the rules of language purely from logic [add all your own examples here, they are legion]. Why suggest that something is wrong if you can't do the same with moral rules?
12.1.2005 5:24pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
So if you're religious, but you're not sure you believe in miracles, you don't get no thread???
12.1.2005 5:39pm
Fishbane:
I do not think its an accident that the words "moral" and "morale" are so similar both in pronunciation and spelling. The state of both in any given group seems to be a matter of mutual reinforcement or peer pressure more than anything else.

In fact, it sort-of is an accident:


1752, "moral principles or practice," from Fr. morale "morality, good conduct," from fem. of O.Fr. moral "moral" (see moral (adj.)). Meaning "confidence" (especially of military) first recorded 1831, from confusion with Fr. moral (Fr. distinguishes le moral "temperament" and la morale "morality")

.
12.1.2005 6:12pm
Katie's Dad (mail) (www):
I have a point here, but I've got to lay a little background first. I'll try to be brief.

I was raised a Christian in a Presbyterian Church, but in my teens I became a doubter. In my agnosticism and searching for meaning, and meaning was important to me, I explored other faiths and faith traditions. I found none of them to be fulfilling. Off to college I went.

I didn't give religion much thought at all for those years, except for witnessing several friends disappear from my life as they joined one of the seemingly endless supply of cults that surrounded, and I suppose still surround, college campuses. Then in my last semester my mother had an horrific accident in the kitchen...burned over 30% of her body. I believe she hung on just to make sure that I graduated. Instead of attending my graduation, I headed home and checked mom out of the hospital's burn unit. My father had died when I was young and my older sister had a family of her own in a far off state. At 23, this was my responsibility.

I was angry. My career plans on hold. My life turned upside down. I cared for my mom
12.1.2005 6:40pm
MatthewC (mail):
I think that neither the axioms of religious or non-religious people are based on any firm foundation, but instead flow very slowly with changes in culture, like continents drifting across the face of the earth. Our culture influences the axioms to optimize them to benefit the culture as a whole. But there are no permanent rules. They change over time. They are determined collectively by society and our brains our wired to identify these rules for the good of mankind.

What I am saying is that I think most of this discussion is a red herring. I think "morale axioms" for philosophy majors are the same as "species preservation instincts" for neuro-biologists. All complex species of creatures have evolved to have a set of instructions designed to protect and help propagate their own species. If we all lied, killed and treated each other poorly, then our species would grow weak, and those sneaky dolphins would make their move and take over the place.

But the rules themselves aren't hard-wired into our brains. We are instinctual programmed to identify and absorb these rules from the culture around us. We aren't born with these moral axioms - we get them from our culture and society as a whole. Sometimes from our friends and family, sometimes from our religious leaders, sometimes from our political leaders, and sometimes from our cultural leaders.

People who are more inclined to receive these cultural instructions thrive. They are considered "good" people, and in healthy societies they rise to become community leaders. People who are less inclined to absorb cultural rules become criminals, and end up in jail.

Religious people can say they come from religion, and non-religious people can say they come from logic; but then why do they change over time? The "morale axioms" are whatever mankind needs them to be.
12.1.2005 6:46pm
Michael B (mail):
Or ... what is religion? Or irreligion? Or a warranted ideology of the state vs. one which is more presumptive and insinuating? Or faith? Or doubt?

Because of the unfounded prejudices of the present era these types of discussions almost always end up being biased in the direction of the putatively irreligious, philosophically the radical materialist, etc. (even when the discussion is initially framed more innocuously, as this one is). Inevitably, beyond the religion/irreligion distinction (and it's not necessarily a divide as they can co-exist to an appreciable degree) the moral/ethical is invoked, and then, voila, legislative/judicial categories as well. Hence a better and more transparent apprehension of the underlying concepts is needed from the start.

One place, and certainly one place only albeit a pivotal one, has recently been succinctly articulate at Maverick Philosopher's blog, under the subject heading of John Hick's Religious Ambiguity Thesis. Until these more elemental and perfectly valid tenets are fully appreciated, and transparently acknowledged for what they do in fact represent, any genuine understanding will be elusive at the very best.
12.1.2005 6:55pm
arbitraryaardvark (mail) (www):
How am I to distinguish which of my axioms are "religious"; what is the functional definition of religious here?
I think part of the answer to your overall question involves the antrophic principle. Most, maybe all, of the commenters are mammals. As mammals, we have certain insights hardwired, while others are softwired by social conditioning. Most of us come from long lines of parents who were survivors, and were able to pass on survival strategies to offspring. Much of our "morality" is encoding for behaviors that tend to produce survival in a social context. Another thing we as commenters have in common is English. I postulate that to be fluent in English, you need to share some of the prevailing morality or have learned how to fake it. Maybe yiddish gives you a slightly different set of answers. I am somewhat agnostic about my core religious belief, natural rights. The creator, if there is one, gave us certain rights including liberty. This is a useful myth, whether or not it is true.
I want other people to believe in my right to life and liberty, and stay out of my way, and not try to kill and eat me. It's a minor inconvenience for me to offer them the same rights; it benefits me more than it harms me to treat others as having rights. One problem with my "memetic fitness" approach is that past performance is no guarantee of future results - our morality worked pretty well for the past, and is only a partial fit with the emerging future. But it's way better than nothing.
There are two main strategies people use. 1) Take care of yourself, then try to help others. 2) Take care of yourself, and try to look like you are helping others until the time comes when you can get away with hurting them. There's no easy to tell which is which, so I prefer systems like markets which can accomodate both approaches, to systems like governments that let group 2 prey upon group 1.
12.1.2005 7:15pm
Chico's Bail Bonds (mail):
After reading the comments in all 3 posts, I am more confused then ever about everyone's beliefs. I still find the posts very intersting.
12.1.2005 8:53pm
Defending the Indefensible:
One of the peculiarities of the questions you've posed is that it leaves implicit the morality of God as revealed in the scriptures of organized religions. I don't feel that this is accurate, while some of the laws as given were moral, others were perhaps not. Slavery and warfare were part and parcel of the Old Testament, for instance.

I consider myself monopanentheist in outlook, all is part of God, and there is only one God. There is not a separate "Devil" -- only aspects of one divine nature. The problem of "evil" is that of free will, there is no doing or learning "good" unless one has exposure and choice of the alternative. Life is how we learn, and God teaches us lessons by letting us fail and then learning the consequences of failure until we learn to do things better.
12.1.2005 10:35pm
tiefel & lester student (mail):
Not to cast aspersions on our Creator, but I can't help but wonder if these questions were designed to draw out all the lurkers. If so, it worked spectacularly, both in my case and apparently in many, many more. I suspect the irreligious thread must be approaching a record for comments.
12.1.2005 10:59pm
Medis:
I find it interesting that the number of comments on the irreligious thread is beating the number of comments on the religious thread 2:1.
12.2.2005 7:40am
A Guest Who Enjoys This Site:

I find it interesting that the number of comments on the irreligious thread is beating the number of comments on the religious thread 2:1.


Could this be due to the fact that Volokh put de facto limits on the responses that "religious" respondents could offer while leaving wide open the type of response that the "irreligious" could proffer?

I will not assign a nefarious purpose to such limitation; though one could easily do so. I could conclude that it has to do with the suspicion that, for the 'irreligious' to understand, the 'religious' responses must be framed from an 'irreligious' perspective; which creates a conundrum that forms a logical trap for believers. One might deduce that the 'irreligious' need more latitude in that there is no, single point of reference, such as the Bible, that might serve as a touchstone. But then, Volokh, for all intents and purposes, precludes reference to the Bible and the attributes it uses to engender "belief;" e.g., creation "science," historicity, inspiration, faith, social construction (the gist of the entire Old Testament), and moral support.

So, what does that leave us?

It leaves us with a single question: "Does God exist?" If you are religious, you will answer "Yes." Such an answer is not defensible, nor is it assailable. There is no way to prove or disprove the answer. There is no way to verify or falsify the premise. In short, rational discourse is precluded. You believe. And, that is at the core of what "religion" asks. After that, everything else is predicated on that "Yes" answer.

Perhaps the simplest response to the question is found in "Lilies of the Field." When the gas station/cafe' owner is asked by Homer Smith why he is helping to build the Chapel, his response was (to paraphrase):


These people, they build this chapel so that their children will have a place to worship, to receive the sacraments, to come together. Me? I cannot see such things. I cannot believe in what I cannot see. But, if they are right senor... then I have paid my insurance.


It seems to me that this may be at the heart of why there is a 2:1 response rate. The "religious" know what they believe, for their "beliefs" are premised in something that can be viewed as perceptually 'tangible;' i.e., there is a singularity that one can point to as the basis for all else. For the "irreligious" who answered "No" to the above question, they are left to flounder in their search for a justification; they have no ONE thing at which they can point, on which they can rely, upon which to draw. Rather than "I believe," they must state "I do not believe, but..." The former tends to lead to a level of certainty that the latter can never create.

Isn't it funny how those who answer "I believe" tend to more certitude in their responses, while those who answer "I don't believe, but..." tend to scramble, scratch, and rationalize for an answer to the questions posed? This might stem from the fact that they have "found" their answer, while the others are still "searching" for an answer.

In the end, if you've "found" it, you don't need to keep searching (see Jeff Foxworthy for appropriate commentary related to "It was in the last place I looked..."). After you've found it, other questions and answers will then have a context into which they might be placed. If you're still searching, other questions and answers must be addressed without benefit of that context; thus, being dependent upon the 'morality of the moment.' The former tends to 'organize' one's life; the latter tends toward a more chaotic existence.

If consistency is the key to predictability and predictability is the key to credibility, then, who is the more consistent? The individual who 'believes,' or the individual who 'does not believe, but...?" It is awfully difficult to define what it is you believe when you start out by saying "I don't believe..."
12.2.2005 8:45am
Mr. Mandias (mail) (www):
I wonder why our society needed MathewC's belief that beliefs are a response to what our society needs.
12.2.2005 9:34am
Anderson (mail) (www):
I find it interesting that the number of comments on the irreligious thread is beating the number of comments on the religious thread 2:1.

Also note that the Prof excluded "religious-but-don't-believe-in-miracles" readers. So it's not really "the religious thread."
12.2.2005 10:21am
Vinnie:
It appears that Prof. V has fallen into the trap of using the term "religion" when he means "creed", at least in describing "irreligous" people. There are many people who describe themselves as religious, who have a demoninated religion and practice some set of religious practices who fit his description of "irreligious".
12.2.2005 10:45am
Marcus1:
Daniel Chapman,

>Miracles defy logic... you can't logically explain why one believes in them.<

Is this different from saying you can't logically explain why one believes 2+2=5? Or that the earth is flat? I mean, I can explain why some people might believe that, in various ways.

I guess Mark Twain answered that by saying "Faith is believing what you know ain't true." That's one explanation. It's just that, in any other context, you know, your explanation would be considered a cop-out. Or when it's applied to any other religion. It's effectively saying "I will continue to believe what I currently believe, regardless."

In a way, though, if that's the religious answer to Eugene's question -- that there simply is no explanation -- then that's kind of important. I mean, if this were how most people thought about religion, I think it would play a much more modest role in public life than it currently does.

If that's the justification, then there's certainly no basis for attempting to convert others. There's no basis for asking them to follow your religious tenants.

What do you think? It would seem your position must lead to a pretty secular view.
12.2.2005 12:25pm
MatthewC (mail):
Mr. Mandias says:
"I wonder why our society needed MathewC's belief that beliefs are a response to what our society needs."

I failed to discriminate between types of beliefs that society needs us to have (the core axioms such as Thou Shalt Not Kill) and every day beliefs (Broncos will win the SuperBowl).

Society doesn't need my belief in the root causes of core axioms. Society just needs us to believe the core axioms.
Killing is bad, stealing is bad, lying is bad. Monogamy is good. Obeying laws is good. Honoring your mother and father is good. Certain 'goods' outweigh other 'goods', just as certain 'bads' outweigh other 'bads'. Killing is worse than stealing.

My point is that there are no true axioms, there is just a set of morale standards dicatated by our society, and we instictively adapt these to be our morale axioms. And I suggest that we are "wired" to do this as a species-preservation instict. And our society's morale standards tend to flow over time based on what our society needs to survive.
12.2.2005 2:48pm
Michael B (mail):
"Is this different from saying you can't logically explain why one believes 2+2=5? Or that the earth is flat?" Marcus1

As regards the notional myth of the erstwhile belief in a flat earth, it's one of those ideologically engendered deceits gullibly believed by people who desperately - not logically or historically - need to believe in their own superiority or at least the inferiority of their perceived ideological enemies and inferiors.

As for 2 + 2 = 5. I'd like to see a concrete example this analogy might be alluding to.
12.3.2005 3:38pm
Marcus1:
Michael,

Well that's interesting. I don't actually have a stake in that debate, though, nor was I necessarily referring to modern western civilization. Flat-earth believers was intended to be a non-controversial example. I could have said any weird belief.

You must agree that people have had some pretty weird beliefs over the course of history? How about the witch trials or the inquisition?

I know it's polite that when people say "Oh, well it's just a matter of faith," that you're supposed to just respect that. I just don't see why. I have never seen a reason to believe why modern religion defies logic any more than all of the other illogical things people have passionately believed over the centuries.

I'm not looking to feel superior. Unlike Christians, for example, I wouldn't assert that you're going to hell for disagreeing with me. I just wish people would see how silly this idea is that we shouldn't apply logic to religion.

There are endless reasons why I think this. One is that when people refuse to apply logic to religion, it gives incredible power to the unsrupulous people who are willing to pretend they speak for god. Another is that it creates wedges between people who end up by chance in different religions. Another is that it causes all kinds of destructive behavior, both self-destructive and destructive toward others.

Anyone who looks back at historical religious beliefs, and religious beliefs of others around the world, can easily see that religion does NOT defy logic. To the extent they oppose logic, they are simply mistaken. People simply refuse to see this in their own religious beliefs.
12.3.2005 5:43pm
A Guest Who Enjoys This Site:
Marcus1: The problem is not in applying logic to religion. The problem is found in the premises to the logical arguments. This is why Kant, one of the "fathers" of modern science and rationale inquiry, held that science and religion were two, separate realms of knowledge. The premises of science are supposedly founded in objective observation (a potential contradiction in terms); e.g., "I believe it because I see it." Whereas, the premises in religion are based in subjective or aesthetic beliefs; e.g., "I see it because I believe it."

This does not make one area of knowledge more or less logical. It makes an universal crossover of the logical processes impossible. You cannot completely or universally apply the processes and rules of 'scientific' logic to religion. Why? As I stated above, the beliefs which premise the entire field of religion are unprovable, indefensible, unverifiable, unfalsifiable, and unassailable. This is the problem with the way you present your argument. If you believe God exists, in whatever form, your arguments are going to be based upon that single premise and there is absolutely no way to falsify that premise; thus, there is no way to verify the "truth" of the subsequent arguments. The very fact that the premise cannot be falsified precludes 'scientific' logic.

Now, where you CAN apply rules of 'scientific' logic is, potentially, what you allude to; but, fail to clarify. If you accept the premise that God exists, then you may debate interpretations based on the writings, documentation, historical evidence, et al. How? It depends on what level of premise you attempt to falsify. "Is the Bible the word of God?" Then you cannot falsify the premise that whatever the Scriptural text says is THE 'Word' or final authority on a matter. What you CAN prove, however, is that an individual's interpretation of the text is inconsistent or faulty based on contextual understanding.

This is where the most consistent 'inconsistencies' tend to arise; debate based on an out-of-context reference which forms the premise of an argument. In short, you can have a logically valid argument based on a false premise. You can have an valid argument based on reliance upon a series of 'untruthful' statements; which creates an invalid conclusion. This latter is where your "2 + 2" example works.

A favorite 'toy' of calculus instructors is to write "1 + 1 = 3" in the corner of one blackboard. After the snickering begins to wane, the instructor then takes two blackboards to write the "proof." Some people come away convinced that math is really a metaphysical realm and that it has no application to the real world. Some students spend hours until they finally discover the truth. Some see the flaw as the instructor writes it on the board. The problem of process? You cannot divide by zero.

You see the difference? What you are logically wrangling with is NOT the premise, but the conclusion. The conclusion is false because the process was invalid. The premise of the argument, however, is true. Why? Because the premise of the argument is that students will learn how to establish the validity of a conclusion by being forced to examine the truthfulness of the statements which form the argument. The premise had nothing to do with whether 1 + 1 actually equaled 3. (Forget 'fuzzy math' and quantum physics.)

This is precisely the problem with most people's application of "logic" to religion. There is a tendency to attack an unassailable, subjectively defined premise as logically invalid because it cannot be 'proved' through objective observation precisely because the premise has been accepted by the 'religionist' as logically 'truthful' through subjective analysis of observation. The conversation shuts down or degenerates because you are, at that point, effectively talking past each other due to the fact that you are attempting to universally apply the rules of one field of knowledge to another. However, if you take a more limited scope, then the rules apply appropriately.

As an example...

It was posited the other night that one should not be fighting for the name 'Christmas' in the public square based a logical inference from the statement, found in Matthew 6:1 -


Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye hae no reward of your Father which is in heaven.


If the premise was to 'shake' the other into incoherence, then the premise was truthful (if a bit amoral) and successful. If the premise was to demonstrate that the Bible indicates that arguing for public recognition, whether by parade, name, or ceremony, was discouraged by Christ himself, then the premise is false and the process invalid. Why?

First, Christ's premise in the passage was not to discourage public recognition or pronouncement of belief in God. The context of the quote, the Sermon on the Mount, is found in the FOUR verses on this, specific point:

(2)Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. (3)But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: (4) That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

What he was criticizing was the hypocrisy of 'charity' (in fact, the entire chapter is addressing hypocrisy) as it was being practiced by the leaders of the synagogue. True charity, whether you were Jew, Arab, or Gentile did not involve public recognition. It requires doing that which needs to be done or should be done without ANY selfish motivation. If your motive is selfish, even if it is only seeking public recognition of your acts, it is not, by definition, 'charity;' for charity is definitionally an act of 'selflessness.' Therefore, the premise is false in that Christ's discourse was related to the act of charity, not the act of public pronouncement of belief.

So, how was the process faulty or invalid? First, the quote was made acontextually. Second, intent and relevance were substituted; i.e., 'alms' was construed, acontextually and inappropriately as 'public pronouncements' to create a false conclusion. Third, other, directly relevant passages, as they apply to public pronouncements, were wholesale ignored to avoid confusion over the desired conclusion.

The more intellectually and contextually consistent argument, from a Biblical or 'religious' perspective, is found in the following:


(32) Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. (33) But whosover shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. [Matthew 10: 32-33]



And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. [Matthew 24:14] Note that "this gospel" begins with the birth of Christ; which Christmas purports to celebrate.



Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and my words in this adulteous and sinful generation: of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. [Mark 8:38]



(1) Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. (2) Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: (3) And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. [1 John 4: 1 - 3]


Logically then, the religionist's (in this case, Christian) arguments regarding Christmas are consistent and valid IF you accept their premise. It is also reconcilable with the Constitution in that the First Amendment does not "render therefore unto Ceaser" the right to prohibit the free practice, in a public setting, of Christmas based on an individual's beliefs as regards the 'Christian duty' of public pronouncement engendered by these passages. (An originalist vs. living constitutionalist debate about "an establishment of religion" is too lengthy to go into here.)

In essence then, the Christian sees it as a duty to publicly recognize Christ and his teachings (the gospel) and the celebration of Christmas, at least in theory, is a public pronouncement of the very beginning of the story which begins that gospel. Whatever the traditions of Christmas may have been in their original form (paganism, et al.), it is what they represent to Christians now within the context of their beliefs and their public recognition of Christ: star on the tree = Star over Bethlehem; exchange of gifts = Christ's gift and sacrifice, the spirit of giving; the nativity = a representation of the story; ad infinitum. Therefore, it is logically inconsistent for Christians to accept or argue that public pronouncement or recognition of Christmas is appropriate.

A similar, logical discussion could be found in your reference to the witch trials. Remember, the Bible states:


Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. [Exodus 22:18]



(9) When thou art come into the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. (10) There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch. (11) Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. (12) For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord: and because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them out before thee. [Deuteronomy 18:9 - 12]


So, there was a 'truthful' premise to the rejection of 'witchcraft;' one that continues today with many Christians' views of television programming, movies, etc. What you could argue, from a logical perspective, is whether the practices and assumptions used in the recognition of who was or was not a witch had any Biblical support. Thus, the idea of witches and witchcraft was not illogical, absurd, or nefarious, nor was the punishment for such practices inconsistent with the Biblical text. It was not even the zealousness with which the attempts to abolish such practices that created the illogic. It was the irrational and ineffective methodologies used in the identification of the 'sinners.' Therefore, it was not the 'religion' which was the historical "pretty weird belief," but the ceremonies and practices that evolved around the belief; i.e., the illogical and irrational interpretations.

I think this appears to be what you are getting at. Unfortunately, you don't seem to be distinguishing enough to provide clarity. It is not, as you say:


Anyone who looks back at historical religious beliefs, and religious beliefs of others around the world, can easily see that religion does NOT defy logic. To the extent they oppose logic, they are simply mistaken. People simply refuse to see this in their own religious beliefs.


"Beliefs" are not logically arguable. What does NOT defy logic are the practices and conclusions derived from those beliefs; particularly when viewed within the context of the writings, documentation, historical evidence, et al. which engender the beliefs. This is where the phrase "Ignorance of the law is no excuse" is applicable. If you are not familiar with what the Bible says, then you cannot defend the conclusions derived from or consistently practice your beliefs, for you have no contextual basis upon which to premise or argue them. THIS is where you "give incredible power to the unscrupulous people who are willing to pretend they speak for God." This is the admonishment you see in the verse quoted above...


(1) Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. (2) Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: (3) And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. [1 John 4: 1 - 3]



(4) And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. (5) For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. [Matthew 24: 4 &5]


If you wish a more secular reference, you might try Ayn Rand. What was the line about apparent contradictions, continually repeated, in Atlas Shrugged? Check your premises?
12.3.2005 9:57pm
A Guest Who Enjoys This Site:
Correction: Therefore, it is logically inconsistent for Christians to accept or argue that public pronouncement or recognition of Christmas is inappropriate.

I DO wish we had a text editor.
12.3.2005 10:24pm
Marcus1:
Guest,

Beliefs are not logically arguable? I often change my beliefs based on argumentation. Likewise, I think many people believe a lot of things for bad reasons, and that some will change their minds if reasoned with.

Also, as far as conforming our perceptions to our pre-conceived beliefs, I'd say that's generally a bad idea. Sounds like a good way to get put in the loony bin. I think basing beliefs on evidence has been proven much more effective.

The fact is, though, that most people try to make their religion logical. They don't necessarily think it defies logic. At the same time as I disagree with your deeply thought out defenses for why religion doesn't have to be logical, and while I think those defenses fail, I also think those defenses are irrelevant in that they don't have anything to do with most people's religious beliefs.

The fact is that most people have a lot of ridiculous beliefs that are simply illogical and that could be changed through straight talk. A great many of these, however, are protected under the label "religion." For instance, I think a lot of people have never seriously asked themselves how they know God actually wrote the Bible. I don't think they've seriously asked themselves how they blame Muslims for rejecting Christianity without reading the Bible, when they reject Islam without reading the Koran in exactly the same way. I don't think they've thought through how thoroughly hypocritical religion so often is at a fundamental level. I think that if everyone in America read a serious critique of Christianity or religion in general, many many peoples' beliefs would change, and for the better.
12.4.2005 12:40am
A Guest Who Enjoys This Site:
Marcus1: You are confusing 'religion' and 'denominational doctrines' with 'beliefs.' The term religion is an overarching, vague, non-descript label for a series of rites, celebrations, and 'organization' (if we use that word in its broadest possible meaning). Denominational doctrines are the way specific organizations identify themselves, based on interpretations of the writings, traditions, and/or historical evidences within the context of a particular 'religion.'

"Thou shalt not kill" is not a belief, it is a commandment or doctrine. You obey this command through an act of faith based on your belief that the commandment was given by God. If you find the death penalty acceptable, abortion reprehensible, political assasination practical, and war necessary, then you have an issue of 'logical consistency' in your adherence to that particular doctrine; but you have not, of necessity, altered your belief in God and the fact that he issued such a command. You are simply struggling with how to interpret or apply your faith vis a vis the commandment to a specific circumstance. The actions your choices engender are NOT changes in your 'beliefs,' they are faith-based actions related to circumstantial interpretation of a specific doctrine.

These actions are, in fact, logically arguable based on your interpretation of the commandment as related to specific situations. What is not logically arguable is your BELIEF that God exists and that he issued the commandment. You posit that: "...I think a lot of people have never seriously asked themselves how they know God actually wrote the Bible." I have seen very, very few individuals who claim that God physically wrote the Bible. However, most Christians believe that God inspired the human writers of the Bible; either directing their thoughts or literally speaking to them, usually through visions, as regards the textual content. How do you logically argue that He did or did not provide such inspiration? He either did or He did not. There is no, third alternative. ALL of one's logical arguments will be premised upon the answer "yes" or the answer "no." Which ever answer one chooses is representative of their belief and that belief becomes your moral premise. You can then spend the rest of your life arguing the logical validity of your case as premised in your answer, but you can NEVER discern the 'truthfulness' of the premise; thus, 'logic' is an insufficient tool to examine the belief. For, if you cannot logically ascertain the truth of your argument's premise, you cannot determine the truthfulness of the argument itself. This leaves you endlessly arguing form with a total 'ignorance' of substance.

You posit that: "I think basing beliefs on evidence has been proven much more effective." This is NOT religious "belief." This is 'scientific' or 'logical' inquiry. Science and logic DO NOT deal in beliefs; just ask the President of the AAAS. If you have evidence, there is not 'faith requirement.' Certainly, there is a great deal of comfort in having something to 'hang your hat on,' but that is not a 'belief.' You may use your perception of 'evidence' to provide yourself with a sense of legitimacy for your beliefs, but 'evidence' insofar as metaphysical beliefs is generally not of a tangible nature, with a direct, demonstrable causal or corrallary relationship. Such a relationship is usually accepted on faith, based on your belief that there is a God; one who created the 'evidence' (creation, miracles, divine intervention, comfort, et al.) in the first place.

Simply put, evidence only brings you back to a specific belief which provides the context for that evidence. There is NO, objective evidence that proves God exists. At some point, you have to take a leap of faith to attain a belief that He does. This is why Christ warned:


(11) And the Pharisees came forth, and began to question with him, seeking of him a sign from heaven, tempting him. (12) And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation... [Mark 8: 11 - 12]


Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou has believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. [John 20:29]


You have said: "To the extent they oppose logic, they are simply mistaken. People simply refuse to see this in their own religious beliefs." Again, I have encounter very, very few people who rejected the 'logic' of their religion - within the context of the premises of their religion. What you are doing is conflating your perceived 'inaccuracies' or 'inconsistencies' which stem from people's actions with their beliefs. Yes. You can logically argue an inappropriateness based on a straw man...


I don't think they've seriously asked themselves how they blame Muslims for rejecting Christianity without reading the Bible, when they reject Islam without reading the Koran in exactly the same way.


The straw man is NOT in the 'hypocrisy' you point to. The straw man is found in the fact that true Islam does NOT reject the doctrines of Jesus of Nazareth. What Mohammed rejected was the Disciple's interpretation of Jesus' teachings. Islam teaches that Jesus of Nazareth was a righteous prophet; as were Abraham, Moses, and Mohammed. They do not accept the divinity of Jesus, but they find his teachings to be 'correct.' In fact, Mohammed specifically taught that it was the Disciples who messed up and took off on inappropriate paths. Thus, what Islam teaches is that the doctrines created by the Disciples from Jesus' teachings caused individuals to go astray; not the belief in Allah (which is/was the SAME God as that of Abraham).

So, what we see in the divergence of Jew, Muslim, and Christian is an issue of interpretation or set of doctrines (rules for living); not a divergence in terms of the fundamental belief in some form of God. These doctrines form one's acts of 'faith' based on their belief in God; i.e., "THIS is the way God wants me to live my life." Therefore, you can logically argue about these doctrines and their historical legitimacy/appropriateness, but you cannot logically argue about the belief.

That is why you run into a logical 'dead end' when your logical discussion comes down to whether the text upon which those doctrines are based was/is the "Word of God." If someone believes that it was specifically inspired by God, what possible evidence can you proffer to falsify that belief? Short answer - None. What you CAN argue is that their understanding (interpretation) is misguided or contextually illogical. Your evidence? It will be your understanding of the text involved and your degree of familiarity with it. THIS is what you are driving at when you talk about "not reading the Bible or the Koran." It has NOTHING to do with arguing the beliefs. It is an argument regarding their understanding of what they have been instructed to do; i.e., a discourse related to behavior, not belief.


I think that if everyone in America read a serious critique of Christianity or religion in general, many many peoples' beliefs would change, and for the better.


What you are pointing to is the possibility that when one relies upon historical tradition rather than an understanding of "the Word," they tend toward inappropriate behaviors based on the influence of unscrupulous, misguided, or non-religiously motivated individuals. This was precisely Martin Luther's argument when he nailed his protest to the door. This is why Protestants are supposed to rely on an individual relationship with the Divine, not one 'filtered' through the 'hearts and laws of men' as they structure either a government or religious denomination.


For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. [1 Timothy 2:5]


Therefore, what you are addressing is not an issue of belief, but an issue related to a lack of faith. That lack of faith stems from a lack of belief that God will reveal himself to you, as an individual; therefore, you must rely on the interpretations provided by an individual you believe has a better relationship with the Almighty than you do. This you CAN logically argue with because it is NOT a belief, it is an ACT of faith by that individual (an act of reliance or dependence) and a lack of belief in God's ability to 'speak' to or work for you as an individual. That is fear and such fear comes from a lack of belief; not a lack of faith as it is commonly described, for faith is 'action' and belief is a frame of mind.


(2) For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. (3) And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. (4) And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: (5) That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. [1 Corinthians 2:2 - 5]

This is why, when Moses asked of God who he should say sent him, God's response was:


(14) And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the childrenn of Isreael, I AM hath sent me unto you. (15) And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations. [Exodus 3:14-15]

Note that the first name God provides is not a name insomuch as it is a requirement; a requirement that would stand as a memorial (something that causes you to remember) for future generations. The requirement? That you BELIEVE God exists. That he IS; or, in the first person, that "I AM." All subsequent actions are taken based on faith in that belief. You will further note that he offered NO tangible evidence and no logical argument; just the reminder that their 'fathers' believed in His existence.

So, when you say...

I think that if everyone in America read a serious critique of Christianity or religion in general, many many peoples' beliefs would change, and for the better.

...you miss the point. You are NOT desirous of changing their beliefs. For it is not their beliefs which create the problem(s). It is the actions taken or engendered by a lack of belief and the inappropriate acts of faith stemming from that lack of belief which you find unacceptable. This is demonstrated by your statement:

...I also think those defenses are irrelevant in that they don't have anything to do with most people's religious beliefs.

Are those "beliefs" truly 'beliefs,' or are they the acts of faith that a 'lack of belief' engenders? Are they adherence to doctrines of a particular religious denomination, and therefore a reliance on the 'words of men,' rather than a belief in God and 'His Word?'

I think your true angst stems from this statement:


I don't think they've thought through how thoroughly hypocritical religion so often is at a fundamental level.

"Religion" is NOT hypocritical. It is an abstraction; an overarching, vague, non-descript label or term for a series of rites, celebrations, and 'organization.' "Beliefs" cannot be hypocritical for they are simply the premise upon which we base our actions; thus, they too are abstractions. Hypocrisy requires ACTION. A label and a premise are NOT active; they simply ARE. It is the USE of the labels and the arguments or actions which stem from these abstractions which can lead to hypocrisy.

I suppose that leads us back to Ayn Rand - i.e., "check your premises."
12.4.2005 6:54am
Marcus1:
Guest,

Well, it seems you use a pretty specific vocabulary. I'm not "confusing" religion with beliefs; you're just arguing for a distinction which I don't accept.

You said one can't argue whether God inspired the Bible. You would like to make this some sort of unassailable first principle. But why? The fact is there is a great deal of evidence relating to whether God inspired the Bible. One piece of evidence is the many different religions around the world that all claim to be inspired by God. These religions don't all fit together. They're inconsistent. Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, all generally agree that Jesus is not the son of God. Similarly, they all believe things that Christians reject. It seems highly unlikely, based on the general way we gauge the likelihood of things, that they are all inspired by God.

I'm using the standard definition of "belief" here -- if you want to distinguish between important beliefs and unimportant ones, or whatever your distinction is, you'll have to establish why that's justified, and how that actually invalidates my argument.

One can also look at the content of the Bible to determine whether it's likely that it was inspired by God. Many inconsistencies have been pointed out in the text. Maybe you disagree that such inconsistencies exist, but certainly the answer to that question is evidence. When I read the Bible, it looks extraordinarily consistent with other man-written and man-inspired texts that I would expect to see from 2000 years ago. Is that not evidence that it is in fact not different from those other books, which we all agree were not inspired by God?

I suppose it was in the context of this discussion that Thomas Paine stated that "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." I mean, you're claiming something pretty wild -- that we should believe that the Bible, unlike all the other books which claim to be inspired by God but really aren't, is TRULY inspired by God. You're saying you know this, completely for sure. Why would you believe this without some extraordinary evidence? And why didn't you throw your super-rational faith behind some other religion?

It's not actually as simple as your "either it was inspired or it wasn't." If you're going to claim it was inspired by God, there are a lot of other things you have to explain. For instance, how you know THAT book is inspired and all the other books are not. We know that through history the vast vast majority of religious beliefs were just completely made up by people. An inquiring mind would want to know to know why we should ignore all of that evidence and conclude that YOUR unsupported and unsubstantiated claims are totally different. To somebody who's not already within the religion, it does seem excedingly unlikely, by general standards of likelihood.
12.4.2005 12:59pm
A Guest Who Enjoys This Site:
Marcus1: This is precisely what I meant when I stated -


The conversation shuts down or degenerates because you are, at that point, effectively talking past each other due to the fact that you are attempting to universally apply the rules of one field of knowledge to another.


What you offer is 'logical' discourse based on premises that you posit to frame the discussion. You DO NOT argue from the premises or beliefs I point to, and I do not argue from the premises or beliefs you point to. You claim that:

You said one can't argue whether God inspired the Bible. You would like to make this some sort of unassailable first principle. But why?

Ask the reverse. WHY would YOU posit: "The fact is there is a great deal of evidence relating to whether God inspired the Bible?" Is it "evidence" in the strictly objective sense? Or, is it "evidence" in that you have created a series of posited statements, the 'truth' of which very much depends upon the premise that the Bible is NOT inspired by God? The idea is that I could, but won't, use the SAME posited statements as 'evidence' that the Devil is at work; e.g., the greatest lie is one that is 90% truth.

The basic idea is that the core of most religions teach nearly identical things; i.e., this is how we co-exist. If you wish to survive as a species, thou shalt not kill and thou shalt not do those things that would give cause or desire to kill (e.g., lie, adultery, steal, etc.). Why not? Why is it in our long-term interest not to do such things when they meet our short-term needs? Because - God, Allah, Brahma, Confucious, the Buddah, Mother Nature, Gaia, whom or whatever - says so and if you do not, this is going to be the result. [Interestingly, this is precisely what Clarence Darrow held to be his problem with organized religion - They tell you what to do, when to do it, how to do it, and what will happen to you if you don't do it.]

These are the core roles of ANY religion within a culture or society. Religion is an attempt to answer the unanswerable and it provides for social or behavioral norms. Religion is thus influenced by the society in which it operates or from which it is spawned. It is a symbiotic relationship. Most Americans would not make good Buddhist in that we are too materialistic, or tied to the 'tangible,' to accept that reality is an illusion. Yet, Christianity and Buddhism hold remarkably similar, right down to the verbage used, doctrines; codes of behavior.

You wish to use as evidence the differences and similarities. I point to the differences and similarities as 'evidence' for something opposite. I recognize the differences and say that they do not provide sufficient evidence to negate the similarities as evidence that there MAY be a 'common' source (something that anthropology might support based on human development and population dispersion). You point to the differences and say that they negate the similarities because differences require extraordinary evidence to reconcile. The divergence is in our individual premises, or beliefs. You say that the differences provide evidence for your belief and I say the differences provide evidence for mine. Same evidence, different beliefs. Same teachings, different visions of "God." MMMMMMM.

This is why we continue to talk past each other. You want a 'scientific,' inductive methodology which will lead you to a belief. Inductive methodology begins with observations of nature, uses these observations as 'evidence,' and seeks to find statements about how nature works. If a statement (belief) does not conform to observations, then the statement must be changed. Or, in your words:

If an idea conflicts with what happens in nature, the idea must be changed or abandoned.

The problem is that you create a logical conundrum; an irreconcilable paradox. Since 'science' does NOT deal in 'beliefs,' you cannot use the methods of science, such as inductive logic, to create beliefs or examine their essence. Such methods were not designed to do either.

My method has been deductive; i.e., if a statement follows logically from the axioms of the system, it must be true. In other words, the 'truth' of a belief is found in the logical consistency of the statements and actions derived from that belief. The interpretation of those statements and the acts of faith which they engender are NOT evidence against the truth of the belief, they are ONLY evidence that the indivdual interpretation or act does not conform to the axiom (belief) if such interpretation or action appears to conflict with the belief. For deductive logic to work, the rule must be that interpretations and actions must logically (consistency, reconcilability, applicability) flow from the belief.

This is the 'weakness' of religion and the one that ALL religions recognize, as well as warn against. God gave humans the freedom of choice. He/She/It has set out basic rules under which we must operate; those basic rules being the nearly identical, underlying principles of virtually EVERY major, World religion. All that is asked is that we BELIEVE in the existence of Who or What set forth the rules in the first place. How we as individuals, societies, denominations, et al. CHOOSE to conform ourselves or our assemblages to those rules is OUR responsibility.

Belief does NOT require evidence. Demanding 'evidence' or 'justification' for a belief is tantamount to asking one to provide a definition for "is." It cannot be done inductively, for any amount of 'evidence' falls short of encompassing the essence of the thing. An example of this is found in physical science with 'gravity.' We accept that 'gravity' IS. We see evidence of its effects. But, science cannot define it other than to describe it by its observed effects. It cannot examine its 'essence,' it can only describe its effects. That is the limitation or 'weakness' of inductive reasoning.

This is precisely what you attempt to do with 'beliefs;' whether commonly or accurately defined. You wish to define the essence of a belief by the effects you observe; the behaviors it engenders. I submit to you that this is NOT the measure of a belief. If we cannot agree on the standard of measurement, upon the methodology of examination, on the rules of discourse, how do we talk TO each other?

We see this continually in the supposed Creation/Evolution "debate." 'Scientists' claim that "creation science" is not a science for it does not empirically arrive at a conclusion. That is not what they are truly saying. They are intending to state that 'creation scientists' use deductive logic to examine the physical universe; whereas evolutionary scientists use inductive logic to examine the same universe. One group BELIEVES that one method is correct and the other BELIEVES that their's is the proper path to knowledge. Both feel that their 'belief' is unassailable and posit their methods as not requiring a defense; i.e., their's IS 'the way, the truth, and the light.'

This is why logical discourse breaks down. When one side does not recognize the methods or rules of the other, a 'threat' is perceived to the reality they live with or have created for themselves. This threat leads to an 'instinctive' rather than a rational response. One side begins to dismiss the other as irrelevant or irrational; e.g.,...


It's just that, in any other context, you know, your explanation would be considered a cop-out...

I could have said any weird belief...

I just wish people would see how silly this idea is that we shouldn't apply logic to religion...

People simply refuse to see this in their own religious beliefs...

...I also think those defenses are irrelevant in that they don't have anything to do with [how you perceive] most people's religious beliefs...

The fact is that most people have a lot of ridiculous beliefs that are simply illogical and that could be changed through straight talk...

...you're just arguing for a distinction which I don't accept....

It seems highly unlikely, based on the general way we gauge the likelihood of things, that they are all inspired by God... [think about who the 'we' is - those who wish to approach the issue inductively or deductively?] ...

I mean, you're claiming something pretty wild...

...why didn't you throw your super-rational faith behind some other religion?...

An inquiring [what method of inquiry?] mind would want to know to know why we should ignore all of that evidence and conclude that YOUR unsupported and unsubstantiated claims are totally different...


What we see is a regular reversion to irrational statements; irrational in the sense of invoking invective or denigration as either a 'straw man' or an emotional appeal. That is not deductive or inductive logic. Do you wish such statements to be taken as 'evidence' of the essence of your beliefs related to the type of logical inquiry you posit to have "been proven much more effective?" I mean, inductive use of the evidence could support an accusation that your premise is to demonstrate that 'religion' is the 'opiate of the masses' and not rational for the superior mind, making your methods deductive - something contradictory to your stated goals and methodology.

You cite Mark Twain: "Faith is believing what you know ain't true." Yet you then posit that "you're just arguing for a distinction which I don't accept." How is that the quote you select draws the exact, same distinction? This is not the conclusion you draw, but it does not change the fact that he makes a distinction identical to mine; that faith is an action and belief is an abstraction. You wish to judge the veracity of the belief by the actions of the individual, for this is the 'evidence' you can observe. I judge the actions of the individual by the belief they claim motivates those actions. It is the same 'evidence,' but the premise and method is different.

To quote a mathematics professor: "...inductive reasoning is part of the discovery process whereby the observation of special cases leads one to suspect very strongly (though not know with absolute logical certainty) that some general principle is true. Deductive reasoning, on the other hand, is the method you would use to demonstrate with logical certainty that the principle is true." Even more to the point, to quote Kant:


"...because reason, in order to arrive at these [God, freedom, and immortality], must use principles which are intended originally for objects of possible experience only, and which, if in spite of this, they are applied to what cannot be an object of experience, really change this into a phenomenon, thus rendering all practical extension of pure reason impossible. I had therefore to remove knowledge, in order to make room for belief." [Critique of Pure Reason]

This was recognized LOOONNGGGG before Kant:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all they that do his commandments; his praise endureth forever. [Psalms 111:10]

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction. [Proverbs 1:7]

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. [Proverbs 9:10]


This was the essence of my first comment to you in this discussion -


The problem is not in applying logic to religion. The problem is found in the premises to the logical arguments. This is why Kant, one of the "fathers" of modern science and rationale inquiry, held that science and religion were two, separate realms of knowledge. The premises of science are supposedly founded in objective observation (a potential contradiction in terms); e.g., "I believe it because I see it." Whereas, the premises in religion are based in subjective or aesthetic beliefs; e.g., "I see it because I believe it."


Thus, we have come full circle. And, in the end, we are still left with the line from Atlas Shrugged: "Check your premises."
12.4.2005 8:23pm
Marcus1:
Guest,

What if the Bible said "I'm like totally God and u should worship me for like ever and ever and buy me lots of shoes. Just give them to your daughter and I'll get them from her. Sincerely, Sarah God."

Could logic or standard concepts of evidence be applied to determine the likelihood that this was actually written by God?
12.5.2005 10:35am
A Guest Who Enjoys This Site:
Marcus1: When you are reduced to snide, hypothetical extremism for response or to support your argument, any form of 'logical debate' or 'rational discussion' is over; which was precisely my point.
12.5.2005 6:15pm
Marcus1:
Guest,

I wasn't being snide. I appologize for appearing to be so. I was using the standard law school method of attacking an idea through an extreme example.

With all due respect, though, if it's such an absurd comment, you shouldn't have much trouble dismantling it.

You made a categorical statement that it is impossible to gauge the likelihood of whether God inspired a particular document. My example was intended to show an instance where this obviously is not true. If my example was invalid, I don't know why.

I could have used a different example. How about a document depicting a god that condoned rape? Could one judge the likelihood that God would condone rape? If so, would that impact the question of whether God inspired such a document?

I made this point in a more "serious" way earlier, but you ignored it. As I pointed out, there have been many inconsistencies highlighted in the Bible. This may or may not be true, but surely it relates to the question of whether the Bible was likely written by God.
12.5.2005 9:48pm
A Guest Who Enjoys This Site:
Marcus1: You state -

As I pointed out, there have been many inconsistencies highlighted in the Bible. This may or may not be true, but surely it relates to the question of whether the Bible was likely written by God.

Again, we are back to "check your premises." Here, you are begging the question and positing an absolute while admitting that it may not be true. Huh?

Written in a more straightforward manner, your comment would be:

While it may or may not be true that the Bible has many inconsistencies, surely such inconsistencies would relate to, i.e., prove, whether the Bible was likely written by God.

First of all, there are a lot of assumptions in such a statement; e.g., that one need not establish the truth of the premise that the Bible contains (inferred and presumed - "unexplainable," "irreconcilable") inconsistencies. Second, this is not a valid "if/then" argument. Third, it contains an already established "falsehood" in that, as stated above, very few people feel that God physically wrote the Bible; and a falsehood in that the 'inconsistencies' you fail to establish or specifically cite are assumed but not proven to exist. [Note: Any discussion pertaining to the verity of that 'proof' would involve the same, lengthy discussion of premise and method.]

So, how would you like me to address a statement framed with unestablished assumptions (the 'truth' of which is primarily reliant upon the premises and methodologies one relies upon to 'establish' the statement as true or false, especially since such 'truth' is typically a matter of 'belief'), containing an invalid "if/then" proposition, and that posits an established falsehood? Is this the type of 'logical' discourse you wish to engage in?

I perceive that it is, given your earlier statement:

With all due respect, though, if it's such an absurd comment, you shouldn't have much trouble dismantling it.

As you admit, what you offer is 'technique' or 'form' rather than 'substance' in your argument. ("I was using the standard law school method of attacking an idea through an extreme example.") Although it may be a 'standard law school' technique, it is not, of necessity, a logical argument. Frankly, it is tangential to the entire discussion in that it addresses no, specific, substantive aspect of the Bible or religion; but, it asks that I 'buy into' a fallacious argument so that you might either (A) 'hijack' the discussion from one of logic as applied to religious belief to one on the veracity of the Biblical text as 'inspired' or 'man made' - OR - (B) provide you the groundwork by which to make your case. In the event of "A," that is not logical discourse, it is either a 'red-herring' or a 'retreat' from the original premise of the discussion to a discussion you feel better equipped to handle. In the event of "B," if your case is a truthful and valid argument, you do not need me to do your work for you; it should stand on it's own and be obviously persuasive - not dependent on 'technique' rather than 'substance.'

Such 'technique' over 'substance' is precisely what I mean by hypothetical extremism. The technique is overtly and deliberately invoked to place a debate opponent in a box. Take your example:

I could have used a different example. How about a document depicting a god that condoned rape? Could one judge the likelihood that God would condone rape? If so, would that impact the question of whether God inspired such a document?

Never mind the legal parsing of what constitutes "rape," "condoned," small "g" vs. big "G" definition of God, "inspired," etc. The intent of the technique is to either make the opponent look 'absurd' or 'silly' if they answer any way but the one you require to make your case. Yet, the example is so hypothetically constructed with unestablished assumptions, perceptual inference, and emotion-charged statements that it lacks virtually any substantive value as related to the original discussion.

The idea is simply to distract an opponent from their argument so that you may create a perception that they are forced to agree with yours; when, in fact, the 'extreme example' has not one iota of bearing on the original discussion. In short, the 'standard law school example' is a technique designed to reframe, implicity and explicitly, the discussion to perceptually accomodate your argument. It is the game of "Three Card Monty" which lawyers are taught as a standard technique; i.e., look at everything except the actual issue.

It works on juries. It works for con artists. It is NOT logical discourse. Logical discourse does not engage over the absurd; for the absurd does not require logical deconstruction. The absurd is self-apparent when presented in a logical context. Much like the nature of your attempt to 'change the subject.'

Now, allow me to remind you of the premise with which you started this discussion:

I have never seen a reason to believe why modern religion defies logic any more than all of the other illogical things people have passionately believed over the centuries...Unlike Christians, for example, I wouldn't assert that you're going to hell for disagreeing with me. I just wish people would see how silly this idea is that we shouldn't apply logic to religion...Anyone who looks back at historical religious beliefs, and religious beliefs of others around the world, can easily see that religion does NOT defy logic. To the extent they oppose logic, they are simply mistaken. People simply refuse to see this in their own religious beliefs.

I have already explained why:

The problem is not in applying logic to religion. The problem is found in the premises to the logical arguments. This is why Kant, one of the "fathers" of modern science and rationale inquiry, held that science and religion were two, separate realms of knowledge. The premises of science are supposedly founded in objective observation (a potential contradiction in terms); e.g., "I believe it because I see it." Whereas, the premises in religion are based in subjective or aesthetic beliefs; e.g., "I see it because I believe it."

This is FIRST SEMESTER logic. Pick up ANY 'logic' text. It is the difference between inductive and deductive logic. The rules DO NOT crossover. Yet, you obstreperously continue in your attempts to do just that. If you wish to rewrite the rules of 'logic,' then perhaps you can take your rightful place as the next Kant. Until then, thems be the rules we is stuck with. Don't like the rules? Want to play by different rules? That's fine. But then, the game is no longer one of 'logic;' which undermines/falsifies your premise.

It is obvious to me, at this point, that what you wish to do, and you can see this in your "exemplars and statements extremis", is rail against the acts of men in the name of religion. Fine. Such a goal is laudable. Social critics serve a vital function in any society.

Problem: your methods and your premise are false. The methodology you're attempting to use does not allow for 'belief.' It cannot accomodate the concept of 'belief.' Rather than addressing the actions of man, you wish to undermine the belief in God, whatever form that may be, because such actions may not conform to the belief. How can you do so when the methodology you have chosen does not allow for 'belief' within the context of the methodology? You wish to argue for or against something using a methodology which already precludes the existence of that 'something' you wish to argue for or against. Is that 'logical?'

What you seem to wish to do is shake your fist at God and say: "We should not believe in you or your Word because of the way men choose to act." That is not consistent or based in the rules of logic; inductive or deductive. That is a conclusion that you have reached as a personal belief and you are attempting to use inductive methodology to support or rationalize that personal belief; a contradiction in that the conclusion is a deductive premise. This is why logical discourse breaks down, as the Kant quote above (and below) specifically explains, when you attempt to apply the rules of reason to the realm of religious belief. This is what I was pointing to when I stated:

This is why logical discourse breaks down. When one side does not recognize the methods or rules of the other, a 'threat' is perceived to the reality they live with or have created for themselves. This threat leads to an 'instinctive' rather than a rational response.

This is precisely why you have instinctively reverted to a nonlogical 'technique' or 'standard law school method' which relies on extremism, falsehood, impropriety, unestablished assumptions, and a lack of direct, relevant substance. It is why, as I pointed out above, you have continued to, consciously or unconsciously, invoke such statements, as highlighted above, which provoked me to observe:

What we see is a regular reversion to irrational statements; irrational in the sense of invoking invective or denigration as either a 'straw man' or an emotional appeal. That is not deductive or inductive logic. Do you wish such statements to be taken as 'evidence' of the essence of your beliefs related to the type of logical inquiry you posit to have "been proven much more effective?" I mean, inductive use of the evidence could support an accusation that your premise is to demonstrate that 'religion' is the 'opiate of the masses' and not rational for the superior mind, making your methods deductive - something contradictory to your stated goals and methodology.

What we seem to be left with is that you wish to argue your beliefs and I have been arguing mine. Could the very fact that we appear unable to come together or agree on premise, method, or conclusion have any bearing whatsoever on the 'truth' of Kant's observations regarding the limitation of 'reason/logic' as it relates to beliefs?

"...because reason, in order to arrive at these [God, freedom, and immortality], must use principles which are intended originally for objects of possible experience only, and which, if in spite of this, they are applied to what cannot be an object of experience, really change this into a phenomenon, thus rendering all practical extension of pure reason impossible. I had therefore to remove knowledge, in order to make room for belief." [Critique of Pure Reason]

This is precisely why virtually all religions observe that one must 'experience' God in their own, individual life. You cannot reach God through inductive reasoning. This is not a case of 'the ends justify the means.' Attempting to use inductive reasoning to address the concept of 'belief' is specifically a case of 'the means do not justify the end' in that 'the means do not allow for the end.'

This is why the Bible states:

(17) That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, (18) May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; (19) And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with the fulness of God. [Ephesians 3: 17-19]

Without such an 'experience,' without such an ephiphany, you cannot use inductive reasoning; for inductive logic requires such 'experiences' (observations). Yet, once one has had such an 'experience,' a premise (belief) has already been established and a deductive methodology invoked:

(3) For what if some did not believe? Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? (4) God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged. [Romans 3: 3 &4]


(24) For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? (25) But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. (26) Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. (27) And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (28) And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. [Romans 8: 24 - 28]

This is precisely why Christ warned:

(10) And he said. Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand. (11) Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. (12) Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. (13) They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. (14) And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. (15) But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience. [Luke 8: 10 - 15, see also Mark, Chapter 4]

We agree above:

Inductive methodology begins with observations of nature, uses these observations as 'evidence,' and seeks to find statements about how nature works. If a statement (belief) does not conform to observations, then the statement must be changed. Or, in your words:

If an idea conflicts with what happens in nature, the idea must be changed or abandoned.


How does this jibe with the passages I just presented? It seems rather self-evident that using inductive logic in relation to "the Word" is a non-starter or contradictory to the very concept. It seems to me that Kant said, precisely, the same thing.

It is obvious that further discourse is no longer of 'educational value' as related to the premise of the discussion. With your help, I have made my point. If you do not see it or you do not agree with it, that is your choice. Such choice is the freedom granted to all men. I leave you with the following thoughts; not as a 'sermon,' but as points to ponder or as issues to be addressed in your effort to apply your brand of 'logic' to religious (albeit, Christian) beliefs.


(71)It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes...(73) Thy hands have made me and fashioned me: give me understanding, that I may learn they commandments. [Psalms 119: 71 &73]

(5) Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. (6) In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (7) Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil. [Proverbs 3: 5 - 7]

All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the Lord weigheth the spirits. [Proverbs 16:2]

(24) Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: (25) Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul. [Proverbs 22: 24 - 25]

(18) Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. (19) For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. (20) And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. (21) Therefore, let no man glory in men... [1 Corinthians 3: 18 - 21]

For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward. [2 Corinthians 1:12]

This would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? [Galatians 3:2]

(1) Let us as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed. (2) And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethern; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort. (3) If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; (4) He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, (5) Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. [1 Timothy 6: 1 - 5]

(11) And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: (12) And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. [1 Kings 19: 11 &12]
12.6.2005 3:38am
Marcus1:
Guest,

I'm afraid you've seriously misread me. My intent has been to engage you in a discussion on your belief that it is impossible to rationally figure out whether a religious text was written by God. I disagree with you on that, and I've attempted to show that through rational methods.

One reason that I presented you with a hypothetical is that I think it's important to know what you actually believe. I think it's fair, if we're going to have a discussion, that I should get to address your actual beliefs as opposed to theoretical statements about Kant or what not. I'm only so interested in arguing with Kant, or your representation of Kant. I'm surprised you disagree with this "technique" of presenting hypotheticals. You think this is merely an attempt to distract you from your argument? Well, I suppose in a way that's true -- I would like to get us off of our standard arguments. But then, I thought that was kind of the whole point of debate.

I would also say, for the record, that it is very clear that you HAVE an argument, and that I HAVE an argument. You may say my argument is dismissed by first semester logic, and I may say yours is dismissed by first semester legal theory, but there is certainly an argument here where one (or neither) of us is right. I believe you've said that the fact that we can't reach a concensus proves that the point can't be argued. I would say the opposite, that the fact that we are arguing proves (or at least strongly suggests) that there is an argument.

Can you really say that you don't use technique, though? Have you not deliberately attempted to pepper your arguments with scripture? Was this simply to make an argument, or did you have another agenda? I guess only you know, but I'm pretty sure there has been some technique in your posts as well.

If you missed my substantive point, however, you weren't looking very hard. I showed an example, if extreme, where a claim of scriptural sanctity can be examined. If you want to maintain your position (and not simply retreat from the debate) then you have to provide some explanation -- not just call the example "extreme" or "absurd" or "snide."

For instance, if you said all cars have four wheels and I said "No, semi trucks have 18 wheels," that would be absurd. You could say "No, silly, a semi-truck isn't a car," and that would be that. I might ask "why," and you might say something about the general size and shape and function that a car has to have. All good and fine. You would have to come up with something, though, better than, "That's absurd."

As such, I am still interested: if the sacred claims of some documents cannot be examined, but certain extreme examples can, then what is the critical difference? I could propose every answer I can think of and argue against it, but I'm thinking it makes more sense to get your real answer.

(P.S. The reason I didn't want to argue about actual scriptural inaccuracies is that such discussions tend to be an abyss. In the end, a person has to decide for himself whether the explanations are plausible. My point, however, remains. Apparently you believe that the Bible is inerrant. I think that is something that can be challenged through rational inquiry, and I think the result of that inquiry would be exhibit A as to whether the Bible was inspired by God. As such, I think your claim, as I understand it, that no argument or information is even theoretically possible which would decrease the likelihood that the bible was inspired by God, is incorrect.)
12.6.2005 11:59am