January 21, 2011

"I have to confess that I now regard 'the case for theism' as a fraud and I can no longer take it seriously enough to present it to a class as a respectable philosophical position..."

"... no more than I could present intelligent design as a legitimate biological theory. BTW, in saying that I now consider the case for theism to be a fraud, I do not mean to charge that the people making that case are frauds who aim to fool us with claims they know to be empty. No, theistic philosophers and apologists are almost painfully earnest and honest... I just cannot take their arguments seriously any more, and if you cannot take something seriously, you should not try to devote serious academic attention to it."

A religion philosophy professor packs it in. 

127 comments:

shoutingthomas said...

Standard stuff.

Gather up the usual suspects.

Scott M said...

I had scores of political science teachers who outright thought conservatives were idiots. They still (with two notable exceptions) presented both sides of the various arguments academically and, for the most part, allowed the students to run with the material.

This...educator, if the title even applies, is nothing of the sort.

Leo Ladenson said...

Academic attacks theism :: dog bites man.

Geoff Matthews said...

Seems rather myopic. Theism is based on the claim of god/gods dictating something. This is a classic case of appeal to authority.
And before you say that's the problem, this is how, for most transactions, society functions.

shoutingthomas said...

And yet, and yet...

Think of the great minds that defeated the Soviet Union, that brought the Evil Empire to its knees...

Alexandr Solzhenitzn... a theist.
Ronald Reagan... a theist
Pope John Paul II... I'll bet he was a theist

I'll bet this professor is a lot smarter than those guys.

Ann Althouse said...

"Academic attacks theism :: dog bites man."

He's walking away from his own work. That is a big deal.

ricpic said...

Is Kwanzaa respectable, professor?

crickets crickets crickets

Maguro said...

I feel the same way about global warming.

shoutingthomas said...

He's walking away from his own work. That is a big deal.

For who?

Looks to me like he's old enough that he's vested in his pension.

So, you might call this "retirement."

LarsPorsena said...

""Academic attacks theism :: dog bites man."

He's walking away from his own work. That is a big deal."

Is he returning his salary for fronting a fraud?
Is he forsaking his tenure?
Moving on to a job in the private sector?

I's a big deal if and only if the answer to the above is in the affirmative.

SteveR said...

Seems like a made up field to write books and get teaching jobs. What in his life makes me want to know what inspires his actions?

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)


Althouse, it is and it ISN’T a big deal….

WITHIN the confines of Academe it IS a “big deal” because, yes as you say, this guys walking away from his life’s work, HOWEVER, outside of the University, not so much, in that it is NOT surprising. As someone said, “Academic attacks theism :: dog bites man.” That an academic admits to atheism, is like a prostitute admitting having had an STD…it’s kind of expected. It would be akin to the Chair of the Communist Party USA walking away from his/her appointment to the Federal Reserve Board, because s/he no longer believes in Capitalism, Rly? Who could have seen THAT coming?

Peano said...

Althouse said, He's walking away from his own work. That is a big deal.

If he can't distinguish between presenting an argument and agreeing with an argument, he isn't qualified to teach.

Gabriel Hanna said...

No matter how wrong the arguments might be, a teacher has an obligation to present them in a way that those who agree with the argument would say is fair--the opposite of what creationists and ID proponents do, but I digress.

And if he can't do that anymore, he should quit--and since he has what's there to say?

David said...

Thank God (pardon the expression) he has figured it all out. Perhaps now he can give a course in the triumph of certainty over doubt.

shoutingthomas said...

So, to summarize, the guy is retiring, and his final words are:

"Take this job and shove it!"

Redneck or professor, we all get sick of our jobs, don't we?

Working for the man every night and day!

Henry said...

Seems to me most are missing the point. He's walking away from the idea that there are philosophical proofs (or even arguments) that support theism. He doesn't say you can't believe. He says, he doesn't have a theory to support you.

In a way, I think religion has to settle for a life outside logic. If it can be reduced to logic, it isn't religion anymore.

This is akin Hayek's observation that free markets function beyond theory. If free markets can be reduced to theory, then they can be planned. And if free markets can be planned, they aren't free markets anymore.

Coketown said...

I guess the tradition of "taking [blank] seriously" articles isn't as common in religious philosophy journals as it is in law journals. I just don't find, "I can't take it seriously," a very compelling argument against a whole field of study. But if he wants to declare the last decade of his academic life a waste, that's fine. He just shouldn't feign frustration when others "devote serious academic attention to it."

Now, queer theory. That's a fascinating subject.

Roger J. said...

What Lars Porsena said--somehow I think he is retiring along with his very large TIAA CREF pension--but, that just the cynic in me--he can look for to honoraria for doing his theism schtick in other venues which is why publishing his cri de coeur at this time makes good business sense.

BTW--did Thomas Aquinas walk through all these arguments about god, man and science in the 14th century? This dude is no Thomas Aquinas

Quayle said...

"He's walking away from his own work. That is a big deal."

Yes it is, but it is the only intellectually honest position.

After having rejected revelation as a living, on-going foundation of religion, casting it only as expedient to 2000 or more years ago, it should surprise no one that some get tired of talking about something that they themselves can't have.

What is religion without personal revelation? Philosophy and history only.

Pastafarian said...

RogerJ said: "This dude is no Thomas Aquinas"

Agreed. Aquinas was a man of faith, and this Parsons has lost his. He must have had faith at one point -- I'm not sure why anyone without it would enter such a field as philosophy of religion.

And it's that self-selecting aspect of it that he rails against -- Henry's on the right track here, I think. There are great complicated thorny things for philosophers to think about with respect to religion, but when you create this field "philosophy of religion" within the field of philosophy, you're only going to attract people with one particular point of view with respect to the big questions. What's the point?

I'm not sure why people are becoming pissed-off at this guy for losing his faith.

I don't think he could remain a professor of religious philosophy if he, himself, now honestly thinks it's all nonsense. I don't think many students signing up for such a class would want a professor like that. It would be a little like if I signed up to teach Queer Studies.

Peter said...

I think that Henry's right and Ann's (sort of) wrong.

Parsons is "only" giving up on the pursuit of a single set philosophical questions. He's given up on debating theists. And he's handed over the teaching of "Philosophy of Religion" to a colleague.

In their stead, Parsons has taken up a different set of philosophical questions (philosophy of science, which he calls his "real interest"). He will start writing different essays and books. And, I bet, he has a different class to teach.

This is more like John Shelby Spong announcing at his website, "I have made a decision. I will no longer debate the issue of homosexuality in the church with anyone." Or P.Z. Myers announcing, as he did some time back, that he will no longer debate creationists.

Still, I like the story. We should all be able to say at some point, "I'm sick of this crap. I can't fake it anymore. I'd rather do something that really interests me."

That, I think, will lead to better teaching and better learning. So maybe its a big deal after all.

Peter

Pastafarian said...

Or better yet: It would be as if I signed up to teach one of Althouse's constitutional law classes.

"You want to know what the constitution means? Read it, you shit-heads. It's in plain English. Class dismissed."

Quayle said...

Or as Yale's Harold Bloom has well said, "All religion depends upon revelation. All revelation is supernatural. If you wish to remain a hard-rock empiricist then you should not entertain any religious doctrine whatsoever."

Sounds like this guy wants to remain or become a hard-rock empiricist.

So to me he has nothing meaningful to say about religion.

Tari said...

When you try to "make a case" for God ultimately you will fail. Belief comes from something more than the sole reliance on rational thought. Until Western Christianity figures this out, people are going to continue to come to the same conclusion this professor did.

Scott M said...

Until Western Christianity figures this out, people are going to continue to come to the same conclusion this professor did.

I know quite a few "western Christians" who never thought any other way. I was raised Lutheran myself, but it wasn't until I was an adult that I realized that faith exists outside the ability to rationally explain it.

Just like love, not coincidentally.

David Talcott said...

Dr. Althouse,

I'm not sure it's right to say that Parsons is "walking away from his own work." Instead, Parsons has said "My work here is done." Parsons has been an atheist for a long time. His work in the philosophy of religion has been opposed to Theism. Saying he's walking away from his own work sounds like he's recanting, retracting, or saying his own work is of little value. I think he probably thinks his work has value, but he will not be doing any more of it since there's no point. As an area of academic interest, theistic arguments have run their course.

Fortunately for those of us who are Theists and want to have something intelligent to say about it, there are a fair number of philosophers who think that Parsons is wrong about this. And so it continues. FYI I am a philosophy Ph.D. student (thesis defense scheduled for this summer!). Long-time lurker. Thanks for the blogging,

David

Quayle said...

"Just like love, not coincidentally."

Hear, hear!

When the scientist can't put the love she feels for her children in a petre dish and prove it to me, should I declare that it doesn't exist - that she has no love?

Yet that is the very test that the proverbial 'scientist' proposes for my religion.

Scott M said...

Did Parsons ever administrate any Projects? Anyone know if his knickname is Alan?

Skeptical said...

If a theistic philosopher teaching at Nowhere University who published in nothing but shitty places declared the case for atheism a fraud and said that he wasn't working on philosophy of religion anymore, it would be a nonstory. This, too, is a nonstory. This guy is a nobody in academic philosophy and anyone who thinks his decision matters either doesn't know whose philosophical work is respected or is just working an angle.

Leo Ladenson said...

"Academic attacks theism :: dog bites man."

He's walking away from his own work. That is a big deal.



I guarantee he is not walking away in the same way that, say, St. Francis of Assisi walked away from his inheritance, trusting solely in Providence.

Sigivald said...

shouting: Sozlhenitsyn was a theist, but none of the import of The Gulag Archipelago depends on God.

Reagan was a theist, but frankly none of the important parts of his opposition to Communism or love for America were impossible without God.

I'll give you the Pope as one where the deism might actually matter...

But it's all irrelevant.

Theism's value as a philosophy is almost completely unrelated to the individual actions of theists.

Just as "atheism is bad because look at Stalin!" is invalid, the reverse is also invalid.

(Now, despite my being a lifelong atheist, I don't share his belief that theism is not respectable as a philosophical position.

I do hold that none of the attempts to prove theism are respectable, but that's because all of them fail. Then again, I've also always held that failure to prove theism is not a mark against it.

Turns out that at the philosophical level it's damn near impossible to really prove anything at all, even the things atheists take for granted.)

edutcher said...

Up next - God is Dead.

I get the feeling, based on what David Talcott says, the guy has been marking time for the past few decades.

The philosophy of religion is not religion. It sounds like an attempt to systematize it, not preach it.

Religion is based on faith, in some cases to the point of certainty. Which is why people have been willing to be thrown to the lions rather than recant. You're not going to quantify it. That's where that leap of faith comes in (not invoking Soren here).

Paddy O said...

Is he retiring? I didn't see that was clearly stated.

If so, that's good and all the best to him in pursuing what he loves.

But, from what I could tell, he's using his status as an academic to somehow make a definitive conclusive argument by stating he has changed his mind.

Basically, it boils down to "academic convinced by other academics, some other academic still disagree". In his original post he calls the arguments against theism devastating and unanswerable. All well and good, but I bet there will be yet more philosophers who disagree with his conclusions about such arguments.

Indeed, there's still a lot of brilliant men and women going into philosophy, who offer, and will offer, many more arguments for and against theism. And many of these will be devastating and convincing and life-changing for students and others. The battle of words continues to rage, even if one man calls it quits.

In a way, this big announcement is like the counterpart to Anthony Flew's big announcement a few years ago that he had become a theist.

chickelit said...

He's walking away from his own work. That is a big deal.

People said something similar about Bob Dylan when released Slow Train Coming in 1979. Ditto when he went electric (though I'm too young to remember that).

Paddy O said...

"In a way, I think religion has to settle for a life outside logic. If it can be reduced to logic, it isn't religion anymore."

Then what is it? Why would religion and logic be opposites? What is the basis for this assertion?

It probably doesn't help that I spent the morning reading Wolfhart Pannenberg, whose whole theological career was based on arguing that faith has a rational basis. Now, this rational basis may not be the same for everyone and may not convince everyone, but we all have reasons for what we believe, and often this follows logical assumptions and interaction.

"He doesn't say you can't believe. He says, he doesn't have a theory to support you."

Just because he doesn't have a theory doesn't mean the issue is conclusive. He's saying he is not convinced and so can't convince others. But, as David Talcott notes, he's never been really trying to convince people to be theists. He's a philosopher of religion who, logically, now finds it absurd to spend his life in a primarily negative position in a field. Totally understandable! Who would want to spend their life fighting for a negative, in his case fighting to prove God doesn't exist? I get the cause, but it's not really something to live for.

It's also curious to me because this gesture by Parsons seems to be, overall, trying to convince others by stating how convinced he is and how many other really smart people are convinced. If you're smart, and want to be in the club of sophisticated, you'll agree with him too!

That's not an argument, that's a logical fallacy.

Scott M said...

Then what is it? Why would religion and logic be opposites? What is the basis for this assertion?

I don't take it from the previous statement that religion (meaning faith, not the organized practice thereof) is opposite to logic at all. It is outside it. Meaning, religious belief can contain some logic, but logic cannot explain the whole of religious belief.

Joe said...

I agree with Henry.

To expand a little, most, if not all, theistic arguments are completely circular. Religions really is a matter of faith and the attempt to make it more than that not only fails, but misses the point that in most theologies, you are supposed to live by faith.

mtrobertsattorney said...

"The existence of the universe needs no cause", so saith the professor.

So, either the universe simpy sprang into existence out of absolute nothingness (the "void") or the universe is eternal and cannot "not exist".

If the former, the professor believes in magic. If the latter, he believes in necessary existence-a quality ascribed to G-d by theists.

This poor fellow is hopelessly confused.

Quayle said...

"Then what is it? Why would religion and logic be opposites? What is the basis for this assertion? "

How about Christ's statement that the wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and wither it goeth: so is ever one that is born of the Spirit. John 3:8

It isn't that religion and logic are opposites, it is that there is another kind of logic that the world can't or doesn't see, that applies.

Scott M said...

This poor fellow is hopelessly confused.

Maybe not. Maybe he's just throwing in the towel and putting on his beach sandals. Or, far more likely, there's a cute little co-ed that's gotten into his head (take your pick) who's an outspoken atheist.

Dave said...

REV 3:15 "I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot."

It's better to be an honest atheist than to pretend or deceive. Of course it's easy to understand that presenting fairly what you dismiss is a chore. I can't blame him for walking away.

Like others point out, in different terms, the belief in God is a gift of faith. While religion is best understood within a rational system of belief (reason is also a gift of God), faith in God must be accepted as axiomatic. It can neither be proven nor disproven. Faith begins with an act of trust, not a deduction from evidence. The world hints at it's Creator in every corner, but He is not revealed without faith.

Paddy O said...

"To expand a little, most, if not all, theistic arguments are completely circular."

Okay, here's the argument for Christianity:

Jesus died on a cross. He rose from the dead after three days.

That's not a circular argument. That's a historical argument. Do you agree with it or not? Now, we can argue this is only done by faith, but that's not really true. The earliest church made all kinds of arguments using testimony and other forms of proof that this is what actually happened. Meaning, they didn't say, "Just believe." They said, "I saw Jesus." It's testimony.

And if it didn't happen, then Christianity is false. Going further back, the Bible doesn't make circular arguments as much as it says "God says he will do something in history. He does this thing in history. He says he will do things in coming ages. Based on what he has said and done, will you live as if what he said he will do, he will actually do?" Not circular.

The problem with Jesus and the resurrection and all that is that we're left with testimony and we're left with competing arguments and claims. So, we can have a rational basis for our faith in God's continued work based on the evidence as we understand it. Or we can say the evidence is not convincing. But it is a choice, and it does basically come down to if we think the evidence is convincing or not.

Just about any position can be made to seem circular, atheists accuse theists of it, and theists accuse atheists of it. And some theists and some atheists absolutely engage in circular arguments. Though, generally each would say their own position is clearly the most logical, and not circular at all.

Dave said...

Logic and faith are not at odds. Logic is simply a rigorous processing of known facts, like mathematical theorems. Logic proceeds within a set of assumptions, or axioms in math. God (or His absence) is the axiom or unfalsifiable theorem that Godel spoke of in his work. Scientist forget that evidence has it's limits: there exist untestable hypotheses.

Bender said...

This poor fellow is hopelessly confused

He's not confused. He's obstinate. Selective in considering and responding to those arguments and proofs that contradict his chosen position, he has plucked out his eyes and covered his ears and is saying "blah, blah, blah, I can't hear you."

He has rejected reason, and chosen the arbitrary will instead.

Freeman Hunt said...

"Atheist says theistic counter-arguments too stupid. Doesn't want to teach them." What a surprise!

Dave said...

"A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic -- on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg -- or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse."
C.S. Lewis said it better than I can

Freeman Hunt said...

He's walking away from his own work. That is a big deal.

Changing jobs is a big deal? Headline worthy?

He's not walking away from any of his work. He agrees with all of his own work, is tired of dealing with other people's work, and so is making a lateral move. That's really not a big deal.

Would it be a big deal if some Christian philosophy of religion professor said, "atheistic arguments are ridiculous, and I'm sick of them, so I'm going into seminary?" No.

Revenant said...

Unsurprisingly, I'm in complete agreement with this professor.

Revenant said...

Changing jobs is a big deal? Headline worthy?

Come on, it's not like he's on the front page of the New York Times. It's an article in Religious Dispatches, an online magazine that covers religious issues in America.

Freeman Hunt said...

Rev, I'm talking about Althouse. She's the one saying it's a big deal and giving it a headline here.

Bender said...

Logic and faith are not at odds.

Of course, "logic" is derived from the Greek "Logos." And, for 2000 years, Jesus Christ has been understood to be the Logos in person. (See Gospel of John)

Speaking of Ven. John Paul II, who was himself an accomplished philosopher, two of his major writings on the subject are
Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason) and
Veritatis Splendor (The Splendor of Truth)

Of course, our current theologian Pope, Benedict XVI, has also spoken and written often on the inter-relationship between faith and reason. As he has pointed out --

Faith and reason are not incompatible. Faith helps reason to discover itself.

One problem is that reason is necessarily limited by what is already known or by what can be imagined. However, reason can be enlightened by revelation, by others revealing things to us, thereby helping us to know who and what it is that we seek. Thus, the search for truth in any endeavor never starts from zero, but always presupposes a trust in knowledge, ideas, and data which we cannot always control by ourselves.

Far from rejecting it, faith implies reason and perfects it, and reason, illuminated by faith, finds the strength to rise to knowledge of God and of spiritual realities. Human reason loses nothing when it is open to the contents of revealed faith.

Revenant said...

Rev, I'm talking about Althouse. She's the one saying it's a big deal and giving it a headline here.

Well, duh. She knows it is likely to prompt discussion in the comments.

Scott M said...

If you say "duh" into a mirror three times, Jeremy shows up to ruin the thread.

JAL said...

Until Western Christianity figures this out, people are going to continue to come to the same conclusion this professor did.

I don't think it is a particular problem of Western Civilization.

It is a particular problem of the human heart: In China, Afghanistan, Iran, the Congo, the Brazilian jungle, NYC, Australia, Duluth, IA, et. al.

The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?
Jeremiah 17:9

People are going to reject God. This guy's problem appears to be teaching about the why and how of theism is no longer satisfying since he doesn't think there is any there -- there.

For some theology is an intellectual exercise, not a transformational experience some try to explain with words.

That (the intellectual exercise part) could get old.

JAL said...

Jeremy doesn't get paid to post on these kinds of topics.

Revenant said...

And, for 2000 years, Jesus Christ has been understood to be the Logos in person. (See Gospel of John)

"Understood" is an amusing word choice, there.

It is a bit like saying "for 1400 years it has been understood that Jesus was not the son of God, was never crucified, and didn't atone for man's sins".

Bender said...

That's a historical argument. Do you agree with it or not? Now, we can argue this is only done by faith, but that's not really true.

George Washington lived over 200 years ago, and he was the first president of the United States.

Prove to me that the above statement is true.

The only proof you have is the testimony of witnesses. (And even that is hearsay upon hearsay.)

But I reject the testimony of such unreliable sources. Therefore, George Washington never existed.

Revenant said...

So, either the universe simpy sprang into existence out of absolute nothingness (the "void") or the universe is eternal and cannot "not exist".

If the former, the professor believes in magic.

Why is that magic? Things spring into existence from nothingness all the time at the subatomic level. It isn't like there's no precedent.

If the latter, he believes in necessary existence-a quality ascribed to G-d by theists.

Scales are a quality ascribed to dragons. Also, snakes. I leave it up to you to decide if it is rational to believe that snakes are real and dragons aren't.

Anyway.

You missed option three, which is that time itself is a property of the universe. This renders discussions of causality meaningless, since you can't have causality if you haven't got time.

In my experience, most people who believe God created the universe think option three is cheating. Unfortunately option three appears to be the case; it isn't a cheat, just suggestive of our inability to ever know what came "before" the universe.

chickelit said...

Bender said...
George Washington lived over 200 years ago, and he was the first president of the United States.

Prove to me that the above statement is true.


The burden is not upon Washington to prove that he existed. Prove it is untrue.

But I reject the testimony of such unreliable sources. Therefore, George Washington never existed.

You are free to reject the historical existence of God, Christ, and even George Washington.

Scott M said...

This renders discussions of causality meaningless, since you can't have causality if you haven't got time.

This negates your "Things spring into existence from nothingness all the time at the subatomic level. It isn't like there's no precedent" argument. If those things are happening right now, and with precedent, they have time as an ingredient, do they not? This doesn't explain something coming from nothing minus time, according to your argument.

Oroboros.

Peano said...

Pastafarian said, when you create this field "philosophy of religion" within the field of philosophy, you're only going to attract people with one particular point of view with respect to the big questions.

Have you ever known anyone who taught philosophy of religion? I wonder how you would argue that your sweeping statement applies to a philosopher like the late Phil Quinn.

NB: "A specialist in the philosophy of religion and the philosophy of science, Quinn was the author of more than 100 articles and reviews in ...."

Chris said...

I'm not sure he knows what "fraud" means.

Revenant said...

The only proof you have is the testimony of witnesses. (And even that is hearsay upon hearsay.)

You're right that there is no such thing as "proving" that a past event happened. That isn't the same thing as saying all historical records are equally likely to be accurate, though.

The primary problems with accepting the Gospels as history are:

(1): The stories were already second-hand when written. They're akin to the tale that George Washington chopped down his father's cherry tree -- it may be true, but historians are understandably skeptical because there's no record of anyone who directly witnessed it.

(2): They don't correspond to other historical sources or to what we know of the people and places involved (Judea, Herod, Pontius Pilate, et al).

(3): They contradict one another. This is a problem with historical records in general, of course, but in this case it is compounded by the small number of data sources.

Based on what we know, the proposition that a guy named Jesus lived, acquired followers, and was executed by the Romans is on pretty solid ground. He was also probably crucified, since that's what the Romans did to perceived threats to their power.

With George Washington we can be confident that he was tall, led armies, served as our first President, owned slaves, etc. The cherry tree incident, eh, that's iffy. Propositions like "he was a good man"? Opinions differed. I suspect that if all we had were the testimonies of some of his most devoted followers we'd think he was the second coming. :)

Revenant said...

This negates your "Things spring into existence from nothingness all the time at the subatomic level. It isn't like there's no precedent" argument.

That's why I offered it as Option Three.

In option one, the universe springs into existence from a void; this sort of thing has been observed.

In option three the universe neither springs into existence nor exists eternally, because time and the universe go hand in hand. The universe is as old as time, but time itself isn't "eternal".

So yes, option three contradicts option one. That's why they're listed as two different options.

mccullough said...

Philosophy has gone nowhere since Hume. I don't see why they don't all resign.

traditionalguy said...

Not all religion Philosophers believe in a personal Spirit that reveals Himself in scripture and experience. As he says, the miracle is that any of them believe. Most are courageous existentialists daring any God to judge them at death. Blaise Pascal just cannot get any respect these days.

J said...

He's walking away from his own work

Parsons, another low-rent Humean, has been grinding his secular-skeptic axe for years. He didn't just ship---he wasn't on the ship. He seems to be saying he's tired of religious/metaphysical disputation itself--then, it's unlikely he ever quite got Pascal's Wager (then, most reductionists don't--but atheism is good for business).

Suburbanbanshee said...

Considering how many philosophers don't think they themselves exist, and yet continue to collect paychecks which are nonexistent in their own opinion, I don't see why lack of belief in the existence of God or gods would stop you from philosophizing about gods or indeed religion. It seems a quibble.

OTOH, I'm sure students can rejoice in a professor finally admitting that he thinks his own field is a fraud, instead of collecting paychecks and faculty dinners while practicing what to him could only be considered a fraud upon students. If we can just get rid of all the literature professors who think literature doesn't exist, it'd be all to the good. :)

EDH said...

A religion philosophy professor packs it in.

"Philosophers! Their brains are full of mildew!"

Revenant said...

Blaise Pascal just cannot get any respect these days.

False dichotomies just aren't as popular as they used to be, I guess.

Gabriel Hanna said...

@Dave: Here's the biggest problem with C. S. Lewis "Lunatic, Liar, or Lord" argument:

In the twentieth century, claiming you are God made you crazy. In ancient times, kings and emperors did it as a matter of course, and were worshipped as divine by their subjects. Roman Emperors did up until a little after Constantine.

Now some Roman Emperors were evil or crazy, but so have been some carpenters. We have stories about Jesus handed down to us, but not everything people wrote in ancient times was true.

Lewis's argument only works if you already believe that Jesus was some kind of unprecedented moral philosopher. Marcus Aurelius was a moral philosopher too--unlike Jesus, he wrote books and was written about by contemporary historians. He was also worshipped as a god througout the Empire. Yet you don't think he really was a God, you think that at most some people might have thought he was. We have no reason, except faith, to think Jesus was any different.

Suburbanbanshee said...

All languages are received not from the source, but at an infinite remove. Since English came from a mysterious and doubtful source, there's no way you could possibly believe in it. So I guess you better stop speaking and typing. :)

BTW, if you claim to be any sort of Jew or Christian, you're forbidden to believe that religion has nothing to do with reason. The existence of God and of basic moral law is supposed to be within the grasp of basic logic, to any reasonable human being at any era. Unfortunately there's a lot of deliberately unreasonable and unreasoning humans out there, but then, that's no news either.

Gabriel Hanna said...

@Scott M:

St Augustine pointed out that the question of "what did God do before the universe existed" is meaningless, because time is a property of the universe. That's no different form what Revenant said.

Scott M said...

I wasn't disputing that. I was pointing out how one argument negated the other.

J said...

NO, Rev. you obviously still don't get Pascal's wager. It's not true or false: it's ...what if. What if some spiritual realm holds ...ala Dante--(tho' Pascal didn't offer odds). Then Parsons, like most of the Dawkins crew will be up sh*t creek sans paddle (well, the virtuous pagan's head--say Jefferson or Bertie Russell--might poke into purgatorio. with boo-coo hypocritical, conservative churchies, buried in ice).

Revenant said...

I wasn't disputing that. I was pointing out how one argument negated the other.

Because you missed the fact that they were options, not arguments.

Revenant said...

NO, Rev. you obviously still don't get Pascal's wager. It's not true or false: it's ...what if.

Yes, but it offers only two possibilities -- that there is a God who rewards belief, or no God at all.

Starting with Pascal's immediate contemporaries and continuing ever since, it has been pointed out that this is a false dichotomy. It ignores, for example, the possibility of a God who punishes those who believe in him and rewards those who do not.

There are numerous other problems with Pascal's reasoning, of course. But that one alone is reason enough to dismiss it.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

"Academic attacks theism :: dog bites man."

He's walking away from his own work. That is a big deal.



Is he going to start writing articles attacking himself?

That should be interesting.

Paddy O said...

The primary problems with accepting the Gospels as history are:

This sort of gets at my point. Your problems are not universally agreed upon nor are they universally given the same level of rejection or acceptance.

In academic discussions, there's a lot of problems in every field and every topic. New Testament scholars range from raging atheists to fundamentalist pentecostals. Some very, very good historians interested in the New Testament believe that it is indeed valid testimony, and would offer disputes to your "problems". The way you phrased these as problems, and the way you wrote them as accepted conclusions rather than your personal response to the relevant issues points to how you have decided on the relevant evidence.

NT Wright, for instance, argues for different conclusions based on different perceptions of the relevant evidence, including how he views the textual issues and the earliest history.

All to say, that because it is conclusive to you does not mean it is entirely concluded. Others, including those significantly more well trained, come to different opinions. Just as those significantly more well trained than me come to different conclusions. It's academic discussions on topics of history and philosophy that remains open precisely because there are immensely intelligent men and women making entirely rational arguments on both sides of the relevant issues.

One person saying he's done doesn't make the topic done. Especially if in quitting he's saying he's been right all along.

I look forward to his explorations in astronomy, his love. Hopefully, he'll not make a career out of arguing against dark matter, even though we can't see it, touch it, perceive it, or even know what it is or anything. We just know it's out there because it fits in with all kinds of other 'evidence' of its presence and effects. Hopefully, he'll just enjoy looking out at the beauty of the night sky and celebrate his own perception of eternity.

mtrobertsattorney said...

Re: "Time is a property of the universe"

First, our notion of time is grounded in, and based on, memory. And memory essentially rests on a non-public judgment of the mind.

Second the idea of time as a property of the universe presumes that time is not a property of cognition. That is, it may well be that we "impose" time on our perceptions or sensations coming from "out there". Simply put, we have "time" glasses on that we cannot take off. So everything we perceive is located in time.

As for what is "out there", unstructured by time, that is the great mystery.

Bender said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bender said...

Time has a mathematical definition. It is a measure of change in the universe.

Velocity = distance (D1 - D2) divided by time

Rearranging the variables gives us --
Time = (D1 - D2) / V

Thus, time necessarily requires a change in distance, that is, a change in space. That is why space and time necessarily go together.

And that was true billions of years before there was any human around to have a memory about it.

Comrade X said...

He's just saying the philosophy is settled.


wv: vaterskr Hitler jumps the shark.

AST said...

I have to confess that I now regard the case for "higher education" as a fraud. I can't really recommend it to young people anymore.

J said...

Rev:Yes, but it offers only two possibilities -- that there is a God who rewards belief, or no God at all.

Yes, that's called the Law of the Excluded Middle. Either the traditional God of judeo-christianity exists ...or He don't. Sort of like...your computer's on, or off.

Pascal wasn't interested in discussing the 10,000 names of Vishnu. Some new agey types might modify the Wager, yet....that merely means you're betting Dios does not exist (and ...offering other scenarios) .

Revenant said...

NT Wright, for instance, argues for different conclusions based on different perceptions of the relevant evidence, including how he views the textual issues and the earliest history.

Paddy, even if you were correct that the three things I stated as facts aren't, the fact that there are "different conclusions based on different perceptions of the evidence" illustrates why the Bible is not useful as history in itself. It is just one data source.

There aren't "different interpretations" of the evidence that, e.g., there was a man named George Washington who lived during the mid to late 18th century, served as a general in the Revolutionary War, and went on to become the first President of the United States.

In contrast, where the story of Jesus is concerned there is an equivalent level of historical evidence supporting... er, the fact that as of the mid to late first century there was a growing number of people who believed Jesus had lived and done certain things a generation earlier.

That doesn't mean he didn't do the things described in the Gospels. Just that we cannot honestly say that there's good evidence that he did.

rcocean said...

Seriously, does anyone give a damn about "Philosophy" or Philosophy professors? Its hard to think of a more useless profession.

The profs certainly are smart. Tenure, good salary, co-eds, all for spouting random bullshit a couple days a week, and writing a book or a couple articles. Good gig.

Probably one philosopher in a thousand says something that's original or enlightening. I think its one College subject we should just eliminate. College students should spend their time on something more intellectually useful - like basket weaving or navel gazing.

Revenant said...

Yes, that's called the Law of the Excluded Middle. Either the traditional God of judeo-christianity exists ...or He don't. Sort of like...your computer's on, or off.

More like "either your computer's on, or no computers are on".

Pascal wasn't interested in discussing the 10,000 names of Vishnu.

Ah, the little known "if I don't feel like discussing it then it can't be used to refute my argument" rule of formal logic.

Pascal's wager works if and only if a Christian-type God is the only one who can possibly exist. Pascal forgot to either demonstrate that or account for it. He has limited imagination when it came to religion.

traditionalguy said...

Time remains the profoundest mystery. We take note of the times that we live in when we see the scripture call them the "Last days" of an age. "Forever" in scripture is a translation of the Hebrew phrase to the age made of ages. Everything we do time in this world has a time. Therefore "Facts" must be a Time Descriptive statementFor example, I saw that JFK's inauguration was 50 years ago but it still seems like it was a recent fact. If we lived through only 20 such quick 50 years periods, then we could all have been eyewitnesses to the events described in the Apostles Creed. What the next 50 will hold...half of a 100 year lease, for one thing, and then the lease expires.

The Crack Emcee said...

Henry,

I think religion has to settle for a life outside logic. If it can be reduced to logic, it isn't religion anymore.

That's why they call it "faith". All of these people I've read (so far) are tripping. If there's a "case for theism" then you're not doing it right. You're just another poser, trying to get science or whatever to validate what you can't - when you shouldn't even be trying. I may be an atheist but I know what religion is.

I don't think those who are dissing this guy believe any of it, for real, either.

I hope, as I read the rest of the comments, I don't find Traditional Guy with them.

Paddy O said...

"Just that we cannot honestly say that there's good evidence that he did."

This is why there are juries in courts. What one person sees as good evidence, another doesn't. Is the Bible conclusive evidence? No. You have to begin with an assessment of its relative validity and use it in connection with the other historical source material as it helps or doesn't.

"Jesus had lived and done certain things a generation earlier."

Here is your, no doubt informed, assumption masked as accepted fact. There's general consensus that, for instance, at least five of the letters of Paul are genuinely written by Paul. There's arguments over the other letters, as well as discussions of the other books of the New Testament, but again, you are making concluding comments based on arguable (and argued!) assessment of the relevant materials.

There are non-slouch academics who would, using strict textual evidence, suggest that there is genuine first hand testimony being given. So, is there a difference between accepting hearsay from a guy who knew a guy who saw something and accepting evidence from someone who said himself saw something and went an entirely different direction of life as a result? Yes. So, there's rational discussion on the validity of the testimony as testimony.

We also have the reality of historical consequence. We don't need to have a exact biography of Hitler, or even know his name, to learn that some leader in mid-20th century Germany caused all sorts of issues and changed the course of history. Europe post world war 2 was different. So, an argument can be made that there was a historical consequence to the life of Jesus that seems, to some, to suggest more than a mere philosophical teacher. A radical movement started and spread and eventually took over Rome. There's lots of explanations that can be made, but unless you are a priori rejecting Jesus as resurrected, there's definitely a rational reason for assuming someone very influential came onto the scene and reverberated into history for a reason.

As far as G. Washington, we know more about his era, but there are even still lots of arguments about details of his life. Maybe a more direct example would be Plato. How can you prove that Plato existed? But we all talk about Plato as being a real, historical figure with a distinct philosophy. In truth, he probably didn't exist exactly as what we think, and a lot of details are left out. But maybe we know about him what was most important to know, because that's what his followers decided to pass on. That's up for rational argument and rational conclusions that may disagree with others.

Revenant said...

First, our notion of time is grounded in, and based on, memory. And memory essentially rests on a non-public judgment of the mind.

Our perception of time is grounded in memory. Perception is not reality. For example, we perceive a gold brick as being solid even though 99.9999999999999% of its volume consists of empty space (yes, that's the actual figure).

Second the idea of time as a property of the universe presumes that time is not a property of cognition.

It isn't so much a "presumption" as a way of avoiding a descent into solipsism.

Time and space go together. If time is a property of thought then so is space, which means that the answer to the question "why does the universe exist" is "it doesn't, you just think it does. And by 'you' I mean the person I'm imagining right now."

The Crack Emcee said...

TG,

Not all religion Philosophers believe in a personal Spirit that reveals Himself in scripture and experience. As he says, the miracle is that any of them believe. Most are courageous existentialists daring any God to judge them at death. Blaise Pascal just cannot get any respect these days.

Whew! - you showed up, but didn't make the idiot move.

Thank God! (LOL)

The Crack Emcee said...

AST,

I have to confess that I now regard the case for "higher education" as a fraud. I can't really recommend it to young people anymore.

Wow - neither can I!!!

Paddy O said...

"I don't think those who are dissing this guy believe any of it, for real, either."

Parsons' response to religion: "I disagree with you, therefore you're irrational!" (by the way, it just occurred to me how ironic his name is."

Crack MC's response to religion: "I disagree with you! Therefore you're a poser!"

Both are examples of a pansy response to the issue. Deride and dismiss, asserting superiority merely because you believe it so much everyone else must.

Here's a macho response to the topic. And another. But, it's all still up for rational conversation, for the daring.

chickelit said...

by the way, it just occurred to me how ironic his name is.

Really? I notice that kind of thing immediately. I didn't say anything though. I'm glad you did.

The Crack Emcee said...

Paddy O,

Crack MC's response to religion: "I disagree with you! Therefore you're a poser!"

I expect better out of you. That's not my position at all, and my friendship, and profound love for Traditional Guy proves it. If he had sided with the rest of you, I would've been deeply disappointed.

I'm saying, arguing as you are, you don't understand religion. (I've even skipped over most of your comments on this thread because of the convoluted nature of your arguments. Needing so many words to defend something so simple is a clue to me you don't actually "get" it.) And, if you don't understand it, then how can you truly believe?

And, finally, before you decide you know what this atheist thinks - and I doubt you do - don't forget there's a reason I side with religious folks against NewAgers.

Bender said...

So, what you are saying CMC, is that faith is, by (your) definition, unreasonable and illogical. So, only those who are unreasonable and illogical understand religion and if you instead seek to reconcile faith and reason, then you don't understand religion and are being a poser.

I confess, I do not understand the reasoning or logic in your argument -- does that mean that I am not a poser?

rcocean said...

(I've even skipped over most of your comments on this thread because of the convoluted nature of your arguments. Needing so many words to defend something so simple is a clue to me you don't actually "get" it.)

Yeah Crack, that applies to a lot of things. Ever read Glenn Greenwald?

hombre said...

Pascal's wager works if and only if a Christian-type God is the only one who can possibly exist. Pascal forgot to either demonstrate that or account for it. He has limited imagination when it came to religion.

Why would Pascal imagine the existence of any God but the Christian God? He was a Christian who had examined and, presumably, rejected other faiths, including atheism?

traditionalguy said...

Crack...We were out to dinner, and I just saw your kind remarks. I have a deep respect and love for you. We need to eat dinner together sometime. Thank God for good food and good people even if they are temporary.

hombre said...

There's no reason to suppose that a guy who posts on a blog called "The Secular Outpost" was a theist.

So what's the big deal? That he's gone from being an atheist to being an anti-theist, providing ammunition for the Dawkinists?

"He's walking away from his own work. That is a big deal."

Really? Was it somehow trancendent? It would be a bigger deal if he walked away from his faith -- for him.

Pogo said...

Justice, most especially the innate feeling for its lack, is hard to explain in a senseless universe.


When Chesterton said "If there were no God, there would be no Atheists.", he was describing the poor University professor, who must struggle daily against his own name.

Ankur said...

back in b-school, I had an extremely fantastic entrepreneurship professor. He is on the board of about 5 companies, and had launched 3 successful companies himself. He is an african american man, married to a chinese woman. He has a JD from Yale and an MBA from harvard.

In a previous life, he used to be a talk radio host. He also used to be a columnist for World Net Daily. He was as conservative as they come.

And yet...and yet... I once gave him two books called "Just Sustainabilities" and "Natural Capitalism" and this is the email he wrote to me:
_________________________________
Ankur,

As things would have it, I am now teaching a practicum on sustainability.

One of the books is “Natural Capitalism.” I’ve attached my syllabus so you can see the impact of the seed that you planted.

Let me know when you are free and we can get back together and catch up.
__________________________________

I am only writing the above to say - it is not easy to classify people, it is not easy to simplify them. This professor is probably one of the most conservative people I know, yet - he took to sustainable forms of capitalism like a fish takes to water. So..does that make him an environmental nut lefty?

The cavalier way in which people classify and simplify others bothers me, and I can't help but imagine that that simplification is a result of ignorance, and of living within their own bubbles and never venturing to step out.

paul a'barge said...

So.

Big fat older bald white guy wearing glasses and a beard decides to ... what?

Take a slog for attention?

What else is he going to do?

John Lynch said...

I don't get it.

Religion is important in that the vast majority of people who ever lived believed in some god or gods.

How can that not be taken seriously? I learned a lot of things in college that I didn't agree with but I'm glad to know.

For an academic to simply say something is not worth studying when it's this important is... really condescending. How can it be a mystery that anyone believes at all? Given human history, it's a mystery why we have atheists. I'm annoyed by the trappings of intellectual superiority that a lot of atheists assume, when most of the geniuses ever to walk the planet were religious.

Perhaps I'm misunderstanding "philosophy of religion."

I think philosophy, theology, and science are fairly separate. Each is a different field with its own rules for answering different questions. Combining them usually leads to grief. Not always, but usually. Like "intelligent design," "philosophy of religion" seems pretty shady to me.

Science is good for answering the questions "what?" "when?" and "how?" Theology is of course about "who?" and both theology and philosophy are about "why?" Science doesn't really tell us why we are here, or how we should live. That's why we have philosophy and religion, despite knowing the outlines of what the universe is and how it got to be this way. It turns out that knowing how the galaxies formed doesn't really answer a lot of things we need to know.

Accepting that there is no single path to knowledge is very important. It depends on the question.

hombre said...

Karl Popper: I think so badly of philosophy that I don't like to talk about it. ... I do not want to say anything bad about my dear colleagues, but the profession of teacher of philosophy is a ridiculous one. We don't need a thousand of trained, and badly trained, philosophers — it is very silly. Actually most of them have nothing to say.

Revenant said...

Why would Pascal imagine the existence of any God but the Christian God? He was a Christian who had examined and, presumably, rejected other faiths, including atheism?

I'm an atheist and I can imagine all sorts of Gods. I'm pretty smart, but I will humbly suggest that I'm not actually smarter and/or more imaginative than every single Jew, Muslim and Christian on Earth.

In any event, regardless of whether or not Pascal was capable of bringing himself to imagine other sorts of Gods, the fact is that he failed to do so. His wager requires that there be only one possible God, and he didn't demonstrate that that was true.

Revenant said...

That he's gone from being an atheist to being an anti-theist, providing ammunition for the Dawkinists?

You don't have to be anti-theist to think religious philosophy is a load of hooey.

Heck, there are Christians who think that much. If you truly believe, as many Christians do, that the mind of God is beyond human comprehension then any attempt to intellectualize his nature and actions is just mental masturbation. You've already been told the proper way to act, so what's to be gained by rationalizing why it is a good idea?

Revenant said...

Religion is important in that the vast majority of people who ever lived believed in some god or gods. How can that not be taken seriously?

I don't know. How successful are you at taking seriously the idea that the gods live on a mountain in Greece and spend their spare time boinking mortals in animal form?

In my experience, most people are pretty good at not taking that belief seriously. From there it's just a matter of practice. :)

Given human history, it's a mystery why we have atheists.

I would agree.

When you consider that there have been approximately 8000 generations of humans, the first 7200 of which were hunter-gatherers and remaining 800 of which overwhelmingly consisted of illiterate farmers and herders whose lives and livelihoods depended on the incomprehensible behavior of the winds and rain, and enduring belief in Something Behind It All seems like a good way to ward off insanity.

The Crack Emcee said...

Bender,

So, what you are saying CMC is,...

Damn. That would've started off so much more intelligently with another "is" and a question mark in there, such as "So, is what you are saying CMC is,...?" Sigh.

...is that faith is, by (your) definition, unreasonable and illogical.

No, that's not what I said, or have been saying, at all. Feeling good about yourself yet? Grasping the world around you well these days? Should we send someone over to check your faculties? I really don't understand how you guys do it.

So, only those who are unreasonable and illogical understand religion and if you instead seek to reconcile faith and reason, then you don't understand religion and are being a poser.

How did I get stuck with the word "poser"? Read the entire thread - did I ever utter the word? No, Paddy O wrongly defined me with one statement - and used that word in doing so - and (even after I made it clear he wrongly defined me) now you want to continue with the wronged definition and the word I never said. Incredible.

Don't you think, if I thought Traditional Guy was "unreasonable and illogical", it would be kind of hard for us to be friends? I swear, you guys make no sense.

I confess, I do not understand the reasoning or logic in your argument,...

No, you don't understand the concept of argument at all, because it definitely doesn't include making shit up out of whole cloth then and sticking it on your opponent, while thinking you can A) get away with it, or B) win.

...does that mean that I am not a poser?

For a reasonable person? Yes. Grab a sign and head downtown - the end is near.

Paddy O said...

"I'm saying, arguing as you are, you don't understand religion."

Crack, just as you criticize me for how I argue, I criticize you back. In this thread, you show you don't get it either.

I use lots of words, because that's what academic arguments do. So, in a topic on the rationality of religion, I jump into the fray arguing strongly for my position. I use lots of words also because that's what my training is demanding of me these days, and it's easier for me to say a lot and I don't edit blog comments before I post.

But do I get it? Sure. Because what set me off against you here is when you call people of faith posers. I'm not defending me, but what came to mind are people like my wife, my mother, my father, my grandparents, my friends, neighbors, colleagues. These are people who have made radical decisions to live in a certain way based on their conclusions about a certain Jewish man. And these aren't lives of selfish greed or deception. These are lives who have shown absolute sacrifice in helping others.

I come from a long line of people who get it much more than you think you do. And study the thoughts of people who get it and live it. Like your respect for Tradguy (deserved respect, to be sure) shows, your comments in this thread don't show all your nuances. Neither do mine here. But, if you want to know if I get it, you have to see how I live my life.

And you have to see the lives of the people of faith I know. People who I trust entirely, wholeheartedly, and who make a profound, positive difference in the lives other people ignore. These are also people who have been through more suffering than you've ever expressed, who have seen more life, and who aren't anything near naive. Those are the people I think of when you posted your comments. And I'll defend them. Christians are known, after all, for dying for what they believe in, and many who have died have offered very rational arguments for the reason they are willing to die for their testimony.

Faith includes rational thought, but if it doesn't have actions that reflect this thought, it's not faith. I suspect the great many people in your life who talked religion, didn't have genuine faith, so you dismiss most everyone.

Don't. I think you're better than that.

Sorry I used lots of words again. Succinctness is a goal I'm still working on.

Paddy O said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paddy O said...

How did I get stuck with the word "poser"? Read the entire thread - did I ever utter the word?

At 5:28, Crack MC wrote: "All of these people I've read (so far) are tripping. If there's a 'case for theism' then you're not doing it right. You're just another poser..."

Crack,force of personality does not make for macho arguments. Especially, if you attack others and insult them in the process, when they are offering discussions in good faith based on what they read here.

Which suggests that even as you're entirely convincing to yourself, you don't get religion either. You believe strongly that God doesn't exist. Fine. But acting the judge and expert merely out of using forceful language isn't any better than using lots of words. You're playing a rhetorical game, and cheapening your own worthwhile contributions.

You get the religion that you've seen. And you assume you know it all and judge people based on the limited perspective you've had, which has been filled with all kinds of posers, charlatans, and outright fiends.

But, you've not seen everything, sometimes not even your own words.

Paddy O said...

Revenant, by the way, again offers great responses. I disagree with his conclusions, but he always makes me think and pushes me to think better.

Pastafarian said...

Peano said: "Have you ever known anyone who taught philosophy of religion? I wonder how you would argue that your sweeping statement applies to a philosopher like the late Phil Quinn."

No, I haven't. But since the article you linked to gave the date for his funeral MASS, I'd say that my sweeping statement (that anyone who goes into the field of "philosophy of religion" has already decided where they stand on the big questions of the field -- that is, that they're all likely to be religious) is actually borne out by your example.

I'm sure he was a brilliant man with a broad range of expertise. I wasn't trying to imply anything about that.

The Crack Emcee said...

Paddy O,

At 5:28, Crack MC wrote: "All of these people I've read (so far) are tripping. If there's a 'case for theism' then you're not doing it right. You're just another poser..."

Whoa - you're right. Fuck, don't know how I missed that - or said it. I'm sorry (to you and bender) for that - and for accusing you of debating in bad faith. It was my mistake, clearly.

What set me off against you here is when you call people of faith posers. I'm not defending me, but what came to mind are people like my wife, my mother, my father, my grandparents, my friends, neighbors, colleagues.

Let me clarify:

I, too, am defending the faith of the same people you are - specifically my (foster) mother - who didn't need scholarly arguments to justify her belief. She didn't need a scientific discovery to make her faith "stronger". Jesus was real and that was all she needed to know. Any attempt to "prove" it would've struck her as silly - what further proof, than her faith, was necessary?

My own position, which is misunderstood even by other atheists - the Richard Dawkins crowd, let's call them - is the lessons of religion are correct. This country, built as it is on those lessons, is proof of that for me. Christians, and Jews, strive for the "good" and that's the right direction to go in - that we, as Americans, are headed in. I don't really care how they got there - whether through belief or whatever - they are there, and that's good enough for me. I feel myself to be a part of that, and they see me as a part of it, too. I've spoken on Christian radio stations, in churches, and to many people of faith, who I think are all logical and reasonable. When Traditional Guy speaks to me, I understand him perfectly, though he uses the language of faith - a language I'm familiar with. Unlike most atheists, I see no reason to be "at war" (as other atheists are) with him or them.

But the actual idea of "God" - of a supernatural being - is wrong, disproved, and outdated. I see no need to debate it any longer - which actually makes me a lot like my mother - and gives us one more thing not to argue about:

There's no "proving" it, either way, so let's drop that - it's not even worth discussing.

But what the Bible is saying - like the Constitution - is worth discussing. Traditional Guy quotes the Bible often (as my mother did) and I listen. I see it as a historical document, of early man working out what the "good" is.

Again - I'm sorry for my mistake. I hope you accept it as just that, and not as an attack on you "crazies" or anything. That wasn't my intention.

The Crack Emcee said...

Paddy O,

You get the religion that you've seen. And you assume you know it all and judge people based on the limited perspective you've had, which has been filled with all kinds of posers, charlatans, and outright fiends.

But, you've not seen everything, sometimes not even your own words.


I think I ought to answer this:

I have seen so much of religion it would blow your mind. And so much of cultism, it blows mine. And I understand the difference. Cults are like usurpers to the throne (for lack of a better term) who, naturally, set themselves up as enemies of the good - they try to sell it as being "sophisticated" - when it's opposite is all they've got to fight with.

I learned that best in gay nightclubs, believe it or not, when - right around 4AM, when the "bridge and tunnel" crowd left - the "scene" would emerge, sprouting Devil horns and the meaning of the club's iconography, the decorative skulls and such, became clear through the music ("Welcome to Club Bad") they played. Once we were alone, the subversion wasn't thought to be necessary, and became obvious so everyone knew they were in a sort of Satanic "church" where they could feel safe to be themselves. (It's like I've said about Liberals telling me they want to see a civil war because I'm black - my skin allows me to be a sort of spy, glimpsing their true intentions.) Their "religion" is NewAge, Paganism, call it what you want, and it's wrong. They've raised no nations of note, produced no thinkers of note, nothing. Why it still exists is also a matter of "belief". Like the French looking at the United States, they can't understand how anything became more powerful than they were, when they used to be, practically, the only game in town.

Anyway, I get it, and I, too, find being an atheist a bizarre place to be in a spiritual discussion, but here I am, with what I think is an important contribution to make to it.

mtrobertsattorney said...

Rev: "Perception is not reality"

Here's the problem. Our only acess to the "outside world" is through our perceptions. But our perceptions exist only as mental events. What then can we know of the "outside world", i.e. reality?

Rev seems to imply that our perceptions must bear a one to one relationship to reality-even though they are not "reality" in themselves. But how can a perception be "like" something that is not a perception? It would seem that a perception can only be like another perception.

An eminent philosopher argued that science, understood as knowledge of nature, cannot be justified if we suppose that the mind and its perceptions conform themselves to reality. But if the mind actively "shapes" reality by projecting onto it space and time, then science becomes possible because all incoming data will always be located in space and time.

What reality is, unstructrued by space and time, cannot be answered by any argument based on empirical premises.

Under this view, religion, which attempts to deal with this question, cannot be dismissed out of hand.

"A little philosophy turns one into an atheist; much philosophy turns one into a mystic."

Paddy O said...

Crack, thanks for that response. If I push back it's precisely because I respect you. So, I hope know that.

And I totally get your atheism. I think my point in this thread wasn't as much to make a decisive argument for theism. I was saying there's a lot of discussion, and even as it is not proof enough for you (and your mom didn't need it -- as so many people I know didn't need it), there's still a tradition and people who do find it worthwhile.

I'd say I'm a Christian because of the faith, and life, of my parents but also because during a time of loss of faith I leaped into studying the faith. And it was in the writings of the early church Fathers, who were utterly rational and mystical combined, that I found some very new and helpful answers to what I saw as an entirely anemic spirituality in so many churches I knew.

From what you've shared of your life, I get your atheism. Indeed I respect it. I respect an honest atheist much more than a deceptive Christian. My point, if I can find one, is that in coming to your conclusions, you can't negate the conclusions of others who have equally sought actual truth. Some who have sought it even more.

There's 1900 years of Christians writing lots and lots and lots of words as part of their faith, and who have lived it out in very sacrificial ways. So, there's the faith of your mom, which is valid I know, but also many other kinds of expressions, all of which combine as a broad testimony.

And some of that testimony is convincing to some. Some of it isn't. People are convinced by different approaches, and many of those people are earnest and honest seekers of truth, even if they land in different places.

You absolutely have an important contribution, which is why I always appreciate your posts. Even in a spiritual discussion. Atheists are often much better informed than most, because they have studied and seen enough to come to strong conclusions. I've come to strong conclusions too, for much the same reasons.

I should also add I'm only arguing for a Christian perspective on theism, which comes at the topic much differently than other approaches. Cults and such are a totally different issue, and I cheer on your revulsion because far, far too many people have lost their way and their hope and their relationships when they get trapped in the serpent's gaze. Oddly enough, that was the message of a lot of early church writings who wrote a lot of words so that people didn't get trapped in the corruptions of so many other religious options of their day.

They wanted people to be free, to stay free, and to bring freedom to others. That's the message I seek too. So, I think we're on the same side, even if we might have different thoughts on some key issues.

Sorry, I used a lot of words again. I promise for more pithiness in coming threads.

jamboree said...

Article differentiates between "philosophy of religion" and "philosophy of metaphysics".

What's the dif?

jamboree said...

I don't think it's a huge deal just because he's walking away from "his work". Think of how many priests or ministers leave the clergy - and how many have a middle-aged revelation, but stay even though they don't believe anymore because they can't make a mid-life career jump that extreme.

Revenant said...

Article differentiates between "philosophy of religion" and "philosophy of metaphysics". What's the dif?

Religion is faith-based, metaphysics is reason-based.

They're both after basically the same thing, with about equal success.

Revenant said...

Rev seems to imply that our perceptions must bear a one to one relationship to reality-even though they are not "reality" in themselves.

Why are you speaking about me in the third person? It is rude.

Anyway, I not only didn't imply that our perceptions must bear a one to one relationship to reality -- I flatly stated that they don't.

An eminent philosopher

... whose name you appear to have forgotten...

argued that science, understood as knowledge of nature, cannot be justified if we suppose that the mind and its perceptions conform themselves to reality.

So present the argument. Saying that a famous person said something is true carries no weight, especially when you can't remember who they were.

mtrobertsattorney said...

Calm down Rev. There's some serious football to be played today.

The name of the philosopher is Kant. Ever heard of him?

Pick up a copy of his Critique of Pure Reason. You'll enjoy it.

Revenant said...

The name of the philosopher is Kant. Ever heard of him?

Yes, but that's a pretty mangled version of his arguments you're presenting here. You'll need to explain how they apply.