From CI to Alan M:
You wrote to IL
>> All world views... are founded on presuppositions or axioms that are not the conclusion of other arguments and are therefore unproved. They are givens, just like the axioms of geometry... <<
Okay, are geometric axioms pulled out of thin air? Did a bunch of people decide on them like driving on the right side of the road? I think you misrepresent what axioms actually are.
>> But the belief that empirical facts provide knowledge cannot be empirically proven... <<
I suppose we got to the moon because of a lucky guess! Your statement is nonsense. (1)
>> None of the axioms of empiricism are provable by empiricism. <<
But they could be demonstrated as false by empiricism if they were not axioms. (2)
>> The atheist assumes a metaphysical system at the outset of his argument. <<
If by metaphysical you mean something like "theoretical" then you're not telling anybody anything they didn't know. I assume that I did not will the universe into existence. I'd love to be proven wrong, btw.
>> Hence, all world views, including atheism, start with axioms that are statements of faith (belief). <<
This "hence" comes out of nowhere! You have not proven that all axioms are statements of faith. You have merely asserted it, like it's your own personal first axiom. I assert that your first axiom is not one at all, therefore your theories based on that axiom are suspect.
>> Atheism fails as a rational world view because its axioms create irresolvable contradictions that if held consistently, would destroy the basis for all rational knowledge. <<
Oh, so now I understand where you are going. Atheism is the philosophy of the devil! It's bent on destroying all rational knowledge! LOL! (3)
>> So to be consistent, the atheist must either become a skeptic ...<<
Skeptic of what exactly? All knowledge? That's the Christian position -- it says so right in the Bible. Of course it says the opposite too, which is a consistent epistemology I guess. (4)
>> ...or consider that perhaps his presuppositions are in error and start again. <<
Yes! You're catching on. If an atheist sees the error of his ways, he's forced to start over, hopefully with good presuppositions this time. The theist, however, refuses to see the error in his way because there can be no error. Maybe this is why you doubt the authenticity of all axioms -- you're forced to project your bad ones on the atheist's good ones. (5)
>> Finally, your statement that there is no empirical evidence to support a religious belief presupposes your own omniscience, since it means that you must have examined every case of empirical evidence that ever has existed or ever will exist in all parts of the universe. <<
This is a vacuous argument. You are advocating total chaos. By your logic anyone could make any statement, no matter how bizarre, and we'd be forced to accept it at face value because we are not omniscient. (6)
>> So we see that the assertion of your position requires that you presuppose that theism is correct after all. That is another sign of the internal incoherence of atheism. <<
Very, very shabby logic! You are trying too hard. Do I need to be a god to "know" that the sun will rise tomorrow, or that Santa is a fiction? (7)
>> I think it would be more accurate to say that your presuppositions disallow the possibility of there being any empirical evidence in favor of God, so that you must find a naturalistic interpretation of all events. <<
You falsely assume we have no way of distinguishing between a natural event and a clearly unnatural event. If God told us that tomorrow he was going to turn off gravity on planet earth, and then he did it, I'd have to say he was THE MAN. No question about it.
>>This assumption, then, you carry with you as a bias before any investigation starts. Thus, you cannot approach the historical evidence for, say, the resurrection of Jesus objectively, but are committed to explaining it away before you even look at it, because by definition in your system dead people don't come back from the grave. <<
But you see, people don't come back from the grave. So the presupposition obviously works. Evidence shows it works every time. I think you have the same presupposition but you temporarily abandon it because it makes you feel good. In this case the atheist is the one who stays objective. (8)
From IL to AM:
Message text written by Alan Myatt
>Unbelief is not always innocuous. I think the history of the 20th century bears that out. Take Stalin and Mao for example. You really can't make a case that its only the zealots of belief who commit atrocities.<
Alan, do you honestly belief that Stalin and Mao were not zealots?
I would ask that you consult a dictionary for the definition of the word as it would appear you represent it as having an exclusively religious meaning.
--I (and that just ain't so)
From AM to IL:
I would say they were zealots of unbelief. Ergo, atheism is not always innocuous. But I also think it unfair to judge the validity of a world view on the basis of its worst examples.
From IL to AM:
Message text written by Alan Myatt
> As for the error of insisting that our own world view is correct and rejecting others, the Christian world view is of such a nature that if it is correct then its contrary cannot be true. So is atheism. So if I decide to admit that both Christianity and Hinduism, for example, could be true, then I would in fact have already abandoned Christianity.<
Y'know Alan, the admission that you might be wrong is not the same as declaring another person right.
Granted, it is easier to proclaim you have the one truth but the ability to shout you are right is not proof of anything but volume.
I believe my beliefs are correct, but I might be wrong. Thus I will continue thought and discussion.
I suppose I could just declare myself right and ignore all evidence. Hmmmm. Sounds good.
Therefor it is concluded that the universe was created 13 days ago when the Great Bird ate a magical fruit and excreted the world in it's present form.
--IL (the matter is now closed)
From IL to AM:
Message text written by Alan Myatt
> That is partly because God has implanted morality as an inherent structure of the human mind (see Romans 1-2).<
No, that was the Great Bird.
--IL (just ask me)
From B to AM:
>>>>Are you assuming that there is more than one kind of rationality? <<<<
I suppose I am. For example, since you have a God base for your world view, then, within the given context of such a base, it is rational to believe praying to God means something, that God created the universe, that God is concerned with every minute aspect of your existence, including your sex life.
I, however, although not an atheist, do not possess the same God base you do. I allow for some kind of being's existence, but I do not assign such an entity any specifics, as to do so would to me cross over into supposition, which for the most part for me is not rational in respect to this kind of unknown.
So, one might then ascertain that a certain degree of rationality is subjective. Gee...is that such a wondrous revelation? Not really.
Now, are you seeking for some kind of absolute rationality? I'd say it's the same illusion as one who thinks he can know God absolutely or have an understanding of God exactly how God is like, or that God has available to humans some absolute matters. Even if such things exist, no human being can know them in an absolute sense. Therefore, given this limitation, it becomes rather pointless to sweat over whether something is "absolute" or not.
>>>> But if we suppose something can be rational for me but irrational for someone else, then it seems that we are defining rationality in a subjective manner that already confesses that there is no final truth, but rather multiple truths that may even be contradictory, but nevertheless true and rational for those who hold them.<<<
Well, even if there is "final" truth, or as some put it, "absolute truth", no one person can know this truth absolutely in an absolute and final form. (10) Suppose for the moment that "truth" is a stand-alone entity. It is not subject to human interpretation....it's just there. Emotions, moods, fads, etc. have no effect on it. So, this entity, given its nature, must now come up against a creature whose view of things is almost entirely subjective, even when presented with objective elements emanating from this "truth". Therefore, can this creature be expected to glean the entire, objective, absolute reality of this entity? Nope. The best it can hope for (here I go personifying it <g>) is that certain vital elements of itself will be discerned by a mind subject to untold thousands of meaningless distractions.
Would you agree that within the context of your world view, it is "rational" to pray to God? You would probably say yes. Me? It's not rational for me because I don't view a god as having that kind of micromanaging interest in my life. If I saw some evidence that it did, I might change my view. It would then be rational for me to pray, for I have evidence that it has meaning and relevance. You may find comfort in the mere act of praying, therefore it would be rational in a sense, given that it comforts you and perhaps releases stress. I ease stress through other means, such as drawing, music, writing, and exercise. I don't think it would be rational for another to tell me my stress relief valves are faulty, any more than I would be to say it's pointless to pray. I've done a lot of praying in my own day....there's definitely a soothing aspect to it.
>>>> Or do you think that it can be the case that God does exist and he does not exist at the same time? This is a capitulation to a completely irrational world view. <<<<<
Your supposition I find irrational, because of what it is...a supposition. Nobody with any sense is going to hold a view that God can both exist and not exist. It's not something the human brain is fond of cherishing. Human minds essentially want things to be one way or the other, not both. It's just easier, a cerebral Occam's Razor, if you will. I, however, in my world view, most definitely allow that people can believe there is or is no God, yet it makes little difference whether there really may or may not be one. That we cannot know with absolute certainty, for if we could, all speculation regarding it would be pointless. There's God...end of discussion. There's no God.....the universe is a personless entity...end of discussion. Since we don't have anything iron clad either way, then the only rational thing for someone as myself to do is allow for both, or neither, or something inbetween, in regards to how others see the world and universe. Whether any one of them are in an absolute sense absolutely correct is irrelevant to me, for my own view states that nobody is. In fairness this would allow that nobody is absolutely wrong, either.
>>>> Yes, the unbeliever thinks his position is rational, but they too are controlled by their presuppositions. Presuppositions control what a system can consider as being rational. <<<<
Exactly! I have no problem with that! That's what being human is! Since I think both of us would readily agree that any possible absolute is not absolutely knowable by any human being, the best we can expect is some rational form of supposition! Rational in the sense that it has some consistent merit to it, such as prayer giving comfort and skepticism serving well the agnostic or atheist. (11)
Let's be frank. It's a big spooky world out there, and nobody left behind blueprints on how exactly the thing works. We younger ones learn from older ones who are still wondering what it's all about. The best we can expect is nothing absolute, but something rationally relative. (12)
>>>> However, it appears to me that if one starts with the presuppositions of non-theism then the end result, when they are carried to their logical conclusion, is the destruction of rationality itself. <<<<
That's why I find agnosticism rational, but my atheist friends would not hold the same view. That doesn't bother me one bit. It makes sense to me, and in the end, that's all that matters for anyone. (13) Of course, the huge red herring immediately bursts to the surface....what if my "make sense" involves killing, maiming, sexual plundering, etc. etc. Well, it's a red herring, fer sure. Why don't I personally do those things? Not all that hard....I don't want to. It's not my thing, you see. And not because God is standing over me with a holy baseball bat. I have enough basic love and respect for my fellow man that I don't want to have a legacy left behind me of beating the crap out of every person I meet. So, the argument that one needs a theistic base with "absolute" truth sprinkled in to be a decent human being is, in my understanding, irrational. (14)
>>>>You, however, can make no rational positive or negative assertions at all, if, as it appears, you don't believe in the law of non-contradiction. <<<<
I believe in the law of non-contradiction when it comes to developing a base of rationality upon what is expected to be consistent. Like an all-knowing, all seeing, all feeling, all aware God, for instance. One would expect anything that particular God may have left behind in the manner of clues would be consistent and make consistent sense. It doesn't.
If the desire for rationality to be consistent is the aim, non-contradiction is a basic requisite.
I've spent a great deal of my life repairing mechanical gizmos of one kind or another, especially air conditioning systems. I expect a certain level of consistency when it comes to how they perform and why. I understand the theory, after all, and a great deal of the physical science involved. I've troubleshooted thousands of a/c units with little variables in how I did it, or what was the cause of the problem. However, now and then, there's a unit out there that has my number and plays the full deck. I'm left scratching my head, thinking this thing cannot have possibly ever worked right, but it does, or the failure it has experienced should have never happened, or it has failed in such a strange way, I can't initially figure out what's wrong.
In other words, there's variables even within what I understand to be a basic correct way for a/c systems to operate, and also in how they can be repaired. Once those variables are known and understood, they become rational to follow when the situation merits their implementation. Under most circumstances, to employ the unusual methods would be irrational, for they do not apply, and would not be consistent with what's at hand.
But you're talking about world views, I know. I still hold that nobody has an absolutely correct world view, but I do have a basic expectation that world views of any kind have not only a reasonable degree of consistency, but that they jive with common human experience and what can be somewhat objectively observed (consistently, again). It's a reasonable world view to hold that lightning strikes are dangerous. I have enough personal experience to be convinced they are. To say that God strikes people dead with lightning is to me irrational, because I have no way to know whether God is doing it or not, but the science behind lightning strikes leads me to think God isn't anywhere involved with it, at least in a directed, vindictive, or intentional way. Lightning strikes to me are random, based upon converging forces coalescing to a climax.
>>>>Unbelief is not always innocuous. I think the history of the 20th century bears that out. Take Stalin and Mao for example. You really can't make a case that its only the zealots of belief who commit atrocities.<<<<
Zealots of any stripe are nothing more than misdirected idiots who thrive on the displacement of others to bolster their own faltering ego in spite of any bluster they may spew forth to the contrary. Stalin and Mao can only take their place alongside legions of Dark Age popes and crusaders, Salem witch trial enthusiasts, Ancient Israeli conquerors, early American settler slaughtering of Indians, David Koresh, Jim Jones, Timothy McVeigh, Muslim terrorists, Idi Amin, etc.
>>>>As for the error of insisting that our own world view is correct and rejecting others, the Christian world view is of such a nature that if it is correct then its contrary cannot be true. So is atheism.<<<<
I'd have to modify that.....your understanding of a "Christian world view" is such that it cannot allow the contrary to be true. There are other Christians who do not hold that. If you want to play the game that their Christianity is somehow diminished by their stance, be my guest, but that diminishes any form of belief, no matter what it is. If you respond that they are not "true" Christians because they do not hold that their own beliefs are absolutely correct, I have to wonder at your arrogance, and how that is supposed to be "Christian". (15)
Most atheists I know don't give a flip about what Christians believe, until Christians start going around saying everybody must believe this way or there will be dire consequences, whatever nature those might take. In the past, it was deeming every little alleged deviance as "heresy" and therefore giving excuse to kill the "heretic". In our day, it's fundamentalists, the Christian Coaltion, Pat Robertson, and so forth saying that America's screwed because there are so many unbelievers and atheists. What arrogance. (16)
>>>> So if I decide to admit that both Christianity and Hinduism, for example, could be true, then I would in fact have already abandoned Christianity.<<<<
That's your conundrum to muddle through, not mine. I don't have a problem if a Christian holds his belief as true and a Hindu his, but neither should beat each other up or kill each other or oppress each other for any divergences between the two belief systems. Self delusion of any kind remaining in an innocuous form is cool with me. <g> (just kidding....I give belief systems respect for the power they can have on a person)
>>>> The issue I want to get the atheist to face, before we start comparing evidence, is what is the nature of proof in the first place. What conditions are necessary before one can prove anything at all? <<<
Let's start with a reasonable expectation that what we are seeking to have proven can be proven at all. A hundred years ago it would have been ludicrous for me to go up to a colleague and tell him that I can prove to him that men will go to the moon. Now it's old hat...it would be stupid for me to attempt to prove that men and women cannot go to the moon, and never have.
But you can't prove God, you cannot disprove God. So what's the point? The atheists I know do not base their views on "proof". Many say the lack of proof is more compelling, but some will also say they just see no need within themselves to believe at all...period. Call it lack of motivation, call it theistic apathy, call it nonchalant indifference. It's just not there. I think it would do you some good to have some civil discussions with atheists. It would open your eyes a lot.
>>>> Either way, atheism fails to be rational.<<<
That is an irrational supposition. <g>
>>>> Basically, there are no cool, decent and moral people when measured by God's standard of absolute moral perfection.<<<<
Says you and your delusion of God. <g> So nyah! <ggg>
Seriously, here's a good opportunity for the "proof" argument. prove , objectively, that God has these kind of standards. Don't use a bible, don't use any sacred writ. Just prove it. Should be pretty simple if God is this iron clad. (17)
>>>> So if you thought you would like to kill someone, or if you fantasized about sleeping with your friend's spouse, then as far as Jesus was concerned, you were guilty. <<<<
Well, if Jesus thought that badly about my moral constitution, then what can I do? He's pretty spaced out to think that any testosterone endowed male doesn't ever think of sleeping with some off-limits babe or that some chick doesn't dream of being with some hunked out guy. I mean, what's all this emphasis on the males, BTW? Did Jesus think women were sexually mute?
My friend's spouse is pretty cute, and we'd probably have fun, but I've known my friend forever. I value our friendship far more than one night rolling in the hay with his wife. I also love my own wife and told her she's the only one for me. I'm not fond of turning myself into a liar. Does Jesus have a problem with that?
>>>> He often had defendants who went to great lengths to tell the court about all their good deeds, accomplishments, and positive contributions to society. However, that was all irrelevant to the issue at hand. The issue at hand was a specific charge and whether they did that or not. <<<<
That is because these folks generally have an immature level of moral development. They're deluded into thinking their good deeds directly relate to offsetting the one bad deed, or several, which they don't. Good deeds don't hurt anybody, one bad deed can. No amount of good deeds, no matter how noble, can offset the reality of snuffing out a life, or permanently disfiguring a human body or psyche, or, on a more mundane scale, stealing, vandalism, etc.
It comes to this...if you don't have a basic love for your fellow man, then forget it. No set or understanding of any kind of law, "absolute" or not, will amount to a hill of beans. Isn't that one of the concepts Jesus put forth, much to the chagrin of the religious idiots of his day? Isn't that a core belief of Christianity, in most of the forms it takes?
>>>> So God gets ticked off because sin is serious and we are all guilty.<<<<
Then God has a flawed understanding of human nature and has failed to instill in man a basic love for their fellow man. He's says we're sinners on one hand but doesn't seem to convey the idea that love for one's fellow man is greater than any law ever created to convict one of "sin". (18)
>>>> As for the old notion that religion supports dysfunction and neurosis, I think that has been adequately debunked by scientific research into religion. Dysfunction and neurosis are complicated, occur in many varieties and have varied causes (just look at the size of the DSM-IV), most of which are unrelated to religious issues.<<<
I agree. Not all dysfunction is religious based. It can even be argued that in many cases, certain tenets of certain religions were only contributory factors of a neurosis, not a cause. However, there should be a similar level of study done on exactly how much certain teachings can contribute to dysfunction and neurosis. One cannot rule out that it never does.
>>>> That is partly because God has implanted morality as an inherent structure of the human mind (see Romans 1-2).<<<<
This argument is weak in that it assumes the bias of a deity implant is a given, based upon a book written a long time ago. I hold that human morality is based upon survival instinct, higher forms of it are merely evolved from this base. Chances are real good that if I am known for being more of a positive influence on those around me than negative, I'm not going to end up dead by their hands. If I go around killing their wives, cleaning out their bank accounts, selling their cars across the border to Mexico, getting their kids hooked on drugs...do you really think I stand a good chance of living to be seventy, let alone forty? I'd like to live....I prefer it to death, at this point. I'd like to live happily and well, so I make choices to tip the scales favorably. My concepts of happiness and well-being aren't based on screwing other people over. It's that simple.
>>>> It is my contention that the notion of an essentially immoral act cannot be defended successfully once the existence of God is denied.<<<<
It may be your contention, but there's a chance that's all it is. I cannot defend genocide, even if God told me to do it, like he may have to Ancient Israel. I can, but will not cheat on my wife, because I told her I wouldn't. She should be able to bank on that. I can't defend myself if I went back on that. I wouldn't expect her to understand if I did. If she did, she's a better person than me. I can't justify telling the world that only MY belief system is absolutely true, even if I thought it was. I give my opinion and let folks weigh it for whatever merit it may have. I also can't defend those who insist they have a hammerlock on truth.
>>>> Of course, since God is the origin of all being then a human is hardly in any position to dictate what is becoming or not for him.<<<<
But God should expect humans to do stuff like that. Why is it such a shock to him? Does it impugn his sovereignty, diminish his holiness, taint his ideal to be other than human, even though by all aspects I see (the biblical God, I'm referring to) he is very human?
>>>>My point here is that the argument that people believe in something for emotional comfort, etc. is just as likely to be the case for an atheist as anyone else.<<<<
For some atheists, it might be that. Again, have you talked to enough of them to know? I do know some Christians that if I pressed the matter with them, they would say they believe mainly for emotional comfort, and they don't seem to have the struggle with it you might. Does that make them less of a Christian?
>>>> I made this remark in response to F's post, which I took to imply that Christians hold their beliefs because they need them emotionally (since they couldn't possibly be true). This has the convenience of removing the necessity to deal honestly with the other person's arguments.<<<<
Not really. If we could absolutely demonstrate that not one aspect of Christianity is true, then there might be something to dismissing Christian based arguments. I, however, know there are elements of truth in Christian teaching and thought, but I do not hold the entire aspect of Christianity to be true. I see what truth there is and respect it as that. Atheism, however, seldom if ever comes across as having any codified form of belief. Unbelief is not like belief, and it is rather vain to compare the two as if they are and expect to argue along those lines.
>>>> I was simply pointing out that following Christ is not something one does in order to be comfortable, as would be implied by the notion that one becomes a Christian (in spite of it being false) according to Freudian, etc. explanations. Clearly there are non-believers of all types who exhibit self-sacrifice, altruism, and any number of praiseworthy actions.<<<<
Then what's your point? Are you trying to suggest that "following Christ" with any accompanying pain is more noble than any pain that accompanies unbelief? If not, your whole point is moot. I mean, who cares? If you really believe something, or don't but are visible either way, you'll feel some pain. That's just the way it is. You may believe your God gives you brownie points for feeling pain for him. That's fine. I don't. I think the pain is there to learn from and that's about it. Nothing special or noble about it. It's just part of the territory.
In closing, despite any gulf that may exist between us, I have enjoyed our exchange. You demonstrate more depth of thought than many of your genre, for which you are to be commended. I only encourage you to dive even deeper, as I seek to do.
(1) Note the assumption here again that if it works then it must be true. This is just as flawed as the notion that the inductive form of argumentation is logically valid. I will get back to this issue again before we are done.
(2) The logical positivists and others tried this move once it was pointed out to them that their verification principle (only statements that can be empirically verifiable are meaningful and thus capable of being true) is itself not capable of empirical verification and hence self-refuting. They resorted to the principle of falsifiability; i.e., only statements which are capable of empirical disproof are meaningful. The problem is, there are no principles of empiricism that do not depend upon at least some non-empirical or metaphysical axioms. The notion that the axioms of empiricism would be falisifiable if they weren't axioms reveals a profound lack of understanding of the issue. It is an irrelevant response, because the axioms of empiricism are, in fact, axioms. They are not falsifiable by the empirical method. For example, the axiom that nature always behaves in an ordered and predictable fashion and will continue to do so in the future cannot conceivably be falisified by empirical testing because the future, by definition, is always unavailable to us. Yet this axiom is fundamental to empiricism, and must be assumed if anything like getting a man on the moon is to be done by means of science. Who would get into the rocket to make the trip without trusting (i.e., having faith) that the future will continue to follow the mathematical priniciples being used to guide the spacecraft?
(3) One of the difficulties of any debate is getting people to respond to what you actually said. This is a case in point. I did not say that atheists are trying to destroy rationality (although some atheists like Sartre and Stanley Fish have tried to do so), but rather that the logical conclusion of atheistic thinking is the destruction of rationality. Most atheists who still believe in empiricism portray themselves as the only ones who are rational, although they have no basis for such a claim.
(4) A piece of advice for atheists who want to debate Christianity; don't make a claim that the Bible says something without giving the reference and showing by valid exegesis that it actually says what you claim it does. I have read the Bible from cover to cover numerous times and never found anything like what he claims here. It is hard to know how to respond since he does not give a reference. I have read a number of anti-Bible tracts and books by atheists who claim to be pointing out contradictions and absurdities in the Bible. What these reveal is that the atheist often has no clue what the text is actually saying as he foists an interpretation on it that no informed Christian, much less a scholar of Greek or Hebrew, would ever accept. Then he uses his eccentric intepretation as a basis for asserting the existence of a contradiction or some other absurdity. Such treatments make the atheist look like an idiot and are singularly unimpressive to the believer.
(5) The problem as evidenced by this discussion is that the atheist refuses to start over, even when he reaches a dead end. He obviously does not understand the issue, for if he were to actually give up his axioms as an atheist, this would entail ceasing to be an atheist! My argument was never against the validity of axioms, only against the validity of the atheist's axioms. Occasionally it appears that these atheists are so blinded by their assumptions that they cannot see that they are, in fact, mere assumptions. They imagine that no one could possibly reason on the basis of non-naturalistic presuppositions so they regard an attack on these presuppositions as an attack on rationality itself. But they never face up to the question of what are the pre-conditions of rationality in the first place.
(6) No, I am only saying that when you make a statement of universal proportions (about all of reality) then that type of statement does presuppose omniscience, either on the part of the one making the statement or on the part of someone who reveals truth to that person (i.e.; God). The statement that there is no available empirical evidence to support a religious belief requires that the one who made it have access to all available empirical evidence. Of course, this raises the question as to what is meant by available. Available to whom? If only to me, then on what basis do I say that the evidence available to, say, the apostles (the empirically verified resurrection of Jesus) is not valid? If available to everyone, then again, you must be omniscient to know this. In either case it is an irrational assertion. My charge, however, does not advocate chaos, but it does point out that if there is no omniscient reference point at the base of all knowledge, then chaos would be the result. Hence, the necessity of presupposing the Triune God in order to get a valid epistemology off the ground.
(7) Well, yes. Given the naturalist assumption that pure chance is one of the guiding principles behind the behavior of the universe (witness, for example, the role of chance in evolution), then it is more rational to think that anything could happen tomorrow, than that nature will continue to behave consistently. Unless one were omniscient, or knew that nature will continue to behave regularly because an omniscient Being had revealed it to be so, one could not rationally know that the sun will come up tomorrow. David Hume demonstrated this quite clearly.
(8) Here we have massive begging the question again. He asserts and assumes what needs to be proven, namely that evidence proves every time that dead people don't come back. But part of the argument is whether or not the case of Jesus' resurrection is evidence to the contrary. Adopting the mentality of the close minded, dogmatic fundamentalist, the atheist decides on philosophical grounds that dead people never return from the dead, and then uses that to rule out the evidence of Jesus, rather than letting the evidence speak for itself. A rational and open minded approach would be to at least admit that it could occur and then examine the evidence surrounding the resurrection of Jesus to see if it might actually be empirical support for the fact that in at least this one case, someone did return from death. The assertion made by the atheist here is incredibly arrogant and without any rational warrant. Of course, in the end this shows that no evidence really can speak for itself, but rather, all evidence takes its meaning within the framework of an intepretive system; a world view. However, the Christians contention is that the Christian world view offers a much better explanation of the evidence than philosophical naturalism.
(9) Of all the responses I received in this dialogue this is probably the most coherent (and most respectful). The author is an agnostic and my response to him was given in a lengthy post at the end of the discussions.
(10) This statement, itself, is an assertion of an absolute truth, and it requires the assumption that one knows at least one thing absolutely about the nature of ultimate reality; namely that knowledge by revelation is impossible. This amounts to the assertion that the the universe is of such a nature that whatever else might be the case, there could not under any circumstances be a God such as the Bible describes who is capable of revealing Himself and also of revealing true propositions about ultimate reality to the human mind. Otherwise there would be no way to guard against the possibility that the Christian view might be true after all. Hence, the move towards agnosticism is not indicative of humility, but rather involves statements that legislate what is or is not possible for all of reality, just as much as in the case of statements made by atheists. There really is no way of avoiding taking a position on ultimate issues and the agnostic who thinks otherwise is only deceiving himself.
A serious problem with his response here is his equivocation on the meaning of the term "rational." I used it, arguing that there cannot be multiple world views that are contradictory but equally rational in the sense that "rational" means at least conforming to the basic laws of logic such as non-contradiction, identity and excluded middle. I took this route because these laws are fundamental to all thought, and to point out that the Hindu, who says that all religions are true, is advocating a rationality of another sort all together. It is a rationality that is really irrational; i.e. it allows for the existence of contradictory truths. In his response, B is apparently using the word "rational" to signify "that which makes sense to a person within his or her own frame of reference." Clearly, if this is what rationality is, then it is rational for the Christian to pray and equally rational for the atheist to scoff at prayer. But this is simply to ignore or miss the point that I was making. From the standpoint of the law of non-contradiction there cannot be multiple equally true but contradictory world views.
(11) Here we have pragmatism again, not that it is objectively true if it works, but if it has a good function, go ahead and do it even if it cannot be known to be true. I would reply that it is simply irrational to talk to someone if you don't have good reason to believe that they are actually there and listening. Whatever comfort might be derived from this would be based on a delusion. Prayer provides comfort to the believer because he is convinced that God is actually there.
(12) This assertion is tantamount to a proclamation that he knows that the Bible is not God's revealed blueprint to us of how the world works. But that is one of the points in contention. Again, this is a declaration about the nature of ultimate reality. It is not a position of humbly withholding judgment, but a declaration that what Christians claim to be true, cannot possibly be so.
I would also dispute the notion that there can be such a thing as the "rationally relative" since the whole point of relativity in epistemology is the notion that truth is not fixed, i.e.; it does not have to conform to the dictates of either correspondence to an objective reality or the laws of logic. This again is the whole question at dispute in these discussions, whether atheism (and agnosticism) can rise above realtivity to attain to rationality. It cannot.
(13) This kind of subjectivism presupposes that he knows that in the end that he won't face God on judgment day, when according to the Bible, what he believes will matter a great deal to someone else besides himself. But if he truly does not know whether or not God exists, how can he be sure of this? It also assumes that one's actions, which flow from one's world view, somehow do not matter to others, especially those one has a direct impact on.
(14) The notion of red herring implies that this objection has no bearing on reality. However, the scenario he rejects here certainly was no red herring to the German Jews in 1939, the Christians in the Soviet gulag during the 1950s or dissidents in China during the "cultural revolution" of the 1960s. The fact that he avoids committing atrocities because he doesn't want to is nice, but it provides no rational response to a Jeffrey Dahmer, who became a murderer and a cannibal after deciding that there are no moral absolutes. History shows that without the restraint of a belief in transcendent morality, human behavior can become very savage quickly.
(15) Here he says that if we insist on defining precisely what Christian belief is, the we are being arrogant and un-Christian. He contradicts himself by denying that there is any way to define what constitutes Christian belief, but yet he uses a presupposed notion of the content of Christian belief (that one should not be judgmental) to condemn the possibility of defining the content of Christian belief. In fact, the foundational documents of Christian faith (contained in the Bible) along with the first ecumenical creeds, have been accepted as the minimal definition of Christian belief for centuries. This, of course, rules out liberal "Christians" who would be the ones holding that one can be a Christian while affirming that contradictory systems of belief are also true. The charge of arrogance here is good for emotional effect, but it is no more valid than charging that a Republican is being arrogant when he points out that a fellow registered member of the Republican party who supports socialist policies is really no Republican at all!
(16) Actually, there are a number of atheists who have made a career out of attacking and deliberately attempting to destroy and limit Christian belief. Bertrand Russell, John Dewey, Paul Kurtz, Corlis Lamont as well as the entire American Humanist Association, Prometheus Books, the ACLU, and the American Atheists founded by Madalyn Murray O'Hare, not to mention dozens of university professors in tax funded institutions across the United States. Others attack Christian principles, attempting to root them out of society; i.e., the National Organization of Women, the National Education Association and homosexual rights organizations. The Christian organizations he mentions here, while sometimes over zealous and lacking in perfection, were created largely in response to attacks by anti-Christians. Numerous historical works demonstrate that Western democracy is the fruit of the Christian world view being worked out in culture and that it is the atheists and agnostics who have arrogantly attacked this foundation in order to destroy it. See John Wesley Bready, England Before and After Wesley: the evangelical revival and social reform. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1938 and C. Gregg Singer, A Theological Interpretation of American History. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1981. Bready was an unbeliever who set out to show that Christianity was harmful to democracy, but a careful study of the evidence led him to the opposite conclusion. Singer presents a Reformed interpretation of the American experiment in liberty.
(17) He is asking me to prove that God has established absolute standards by starting from the unbeliever's assumption that there is no revelation from God. That is like asking me to prove that there are Frenchmen starting from the assumption that France does not exist. What he fails to grasp is that we are discussing the preconditions for proving anything at all. Certainly atheists base their views on proofs, for they write entire books attempting to prove that there is no God. And it won't do to say that they base their belief on a lack of proof for the affirmative. The adoption of a position by the attempt to discredit arguments for the affirmative is certainly a form of proof. Not to mention the numerous books by the likes of Sagan, Dawkins, Wilson, Gould, et. al., that purport to show how the world could develop and evolve without the need for God. These do serve as attempts at proof by atheists. The writer has simply dodged the question here.
(18) Now he sits in judgment on God. This is another common reason why atheists and agnostics reject God. They have a preconceived notion of what God would have to be like if he existed, and when they find that God does not fit that standard, they declare him to not exist or to not be worthy of human worship. It really boils down to them not liking God very much and so choosing to reject him.
Alan Myatt, Ph.D.