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Oct 07 2008

Copy and Paste Dialogue

I don’t mind a theist being inspired by another person’s arguments or ideas. I don’t mind a theist referencing someone else’s ideas and arguments in his own arguments. There’s nothing wrong with including a link or a quoted passage, in a correspondence, to someone else’s data or views. But if a person comes to me announcing that he wants to talk to me about his beliefs, he should at least do me the courtesy of presenting his beliefs—whether or not they are supplemented by the ideas of those who have influenced his thinking.

The author of Article X, from which the theist quotes, is not the person who contacted me to discuss her beliefs. If that author wants to hear my views about her beliefs, she is able to write to me and request my feedback. But I see no value in pretending that a long strand of copied and pasted material from her article is the view of the theist who wrote to me to dialogue about his beliefs.

If a theist writes and wants to know my response to a particular article or view that is not his own, that’s fine. But he should refrain from calling it his belief, if all he can do is parrot the argument of someone else. If he lacks sufficient understanding of the concept to be able to so much as restate it in his own terms or respond to questions without running back to the source, then he shouldn’t put it forward as his belief.

Forming our own beliefs in life is not the same as memorizing and internalizing someone else’s arguments and ideas. To label such things as our own beliefs is plagiaristic and shows a woeful lack of understanding about what constitutes forming beliefs of our own. In order to dialogue about what I believe requires I have a firm enough grasp on the belief to express it clearly, in my own terms, to others, and also to respond to questions without seeking input from any source beyond my own mind. Anything that can honestly be labeled as my belief can exist nowhere but inside my own mind. A prerequisite to holding a belief is understanding the belief. It is not possible for a person to both assert a proposition is true, and to fail to understand the proposition. When questioned about what we believe—why should we need to go and look it up? If I find myself looking up my response to a question that concerns what I claim I believe, clearly, I have a dilemma.

If someone were to ask me, for example, what I believe regarding UFO activity on our planet, I can’t imagine it would make sense to that person if I said, “give me a second to go and look up what Carl Sagan has to say about that, because I believe whatever he says.” How can I call it my belief if it (a) is not contained within my own mind, and (b) I don’t even know what it is I’m claiming I believe while I am asserting I accept it as true?

I seem to see more often than is comfortable long-winded e-mails that ultimately say, “I don’t understand it myself, but I absolutely believe it.”

60 comments

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  1. 1
    Matt D.

    I’ve had a long-standing policy on this: if you send me some lengthy cut/paste that makes up the bulk of your point (and not simply supporting information), the conversation is over.If you do it and pretend that it’s your own (as I’ve had several people try to do), you get a nasty response and we’re done.By the way, the short teaser for this post was pretty amusing when I was skimming Google Reader. Watch where they cut this off…”I don’t mind a theist being inspired by another person’s arguments or ideas. I don’t mind a theist referencing someone else’s ideas and arguments in his own arguments. There’s nothing wrong with including a link or a quoted passage, in a correspondence, to someone else’s data or views. But if a person comes to me announcing that he wants to talk to me about his beliefs, he should at least do me”

  2. 2
    tracieh

    I had to be really careful about the character count to get it to do that…Seriously–that’s funny.

  3. 3
    maddogdelta

    Let me give you a nightmare! Consider this banana…// I keed!I hang out on Fark.com quite a bit, and whenever an evolution story gets posted, a lot of the standard people hit their keyboards. I enjoy getting into these as a proud member of the “Fark Atheist Cabal” You have the standard “banana pushers” or the “Kirk Cameron Repeaters” who post a couple of times, then go away when they find out the thread isn’t filled with ignorant morons.But probably the most annoying of the bunch is one dude who only posts quotes. Not just any quotes, but a whole boatload of “quite mines”, which, as we all know, is absolute crap. Not only is he only using quotes to show “his” argument, but they are blatant lies.So “here here!”.

  4. 4
    Zurahn

    I can’t imagine it would make sense to that person if I said, “give me a second to go and look up what Carl Sagan has to say about that, because I believe whatever he says.”Not that I don’t agree that that’s ridiculous, it seems that pretty much a standard line of thought in Christianity–just replace “Carl Sagan” with either “The Bible”.

  5. 5
    MuseSusan

    It always strikes me as being along the same lines as the people who quote arguments like Pascal’s Wager as something that doesn’t convince them but they think it should convince me. If you can’t be bothered to explain in your own words an argument that convinces you, why am I even listening?

  6. 6
    Bob

    I have to confess, I did this once. And I agree, it doesn’t help because it’s not personal. The belief is still “out there” and not a part of you. I have since tried to have some basic knowledge about what I am saying but that, too, can be a challenge because when christians argue, they often go way off track and tie in so many unrelated themes that to give a logical answer seems “too simple” to them.Ugh…it’s challenging sometimes.Thanks for the post!

  7. 7
    Cafeeine Addicted

    Ugggh.. I absolutely despise this tactic, even when the person doesn’t imply the words were theirs.I suspect that these long winded, many times vacuous walls of text are an unconscious attempt to emulate their own path to unthinking faith, by overwhelming us with raw data.

  8. 8
    Amnistar

    Not that I don’t agree that that’s ridiculous, it seems that pretty much a standard line of thought in Christianity–just replace “Carl Sagan” with either “The Bible”.That’s slightly different, or at least usually is so. Because what they believe is that the bible is true (or some variation thereof) and thus they know their belief, just don’t have their Bible (or other holy book) memorized.Now if all they say when questioned about their beliefs is direct quotes from it, then it’s the same thing, otherwise the actual belief they have is that the bible is true.

  9. 9
    tracieh

    Zurhan:First of all, that’s part of my point as well—it applies as much to the Bible as it would to other apologists’ writings.I think many apologists truly think this is also how skeptics think. This is why they say things like, “You worship science.” They think, from what I’ve encountered, that an atheist skeptic is simply using a different “authority” as the “source” of “his/her” beliefs—because the theist often confuses learning about and memorizing a model/concept with “beliefs” of their own. I can say from experience that as a Christian, what I called “my beliefs” weren’t “my beliefs” at all (although I’d have insisted at the time that they were). One way to tell the difference between brainwashing and personal beliefs is this: Did you need to learn and memorize “your” beliefs from a source outside your own head? And do you need to go an look up what “you” believe—when confronted with questions? (And by this, if you’re simply memorized it to the extent you no longer have to “look it up”—that’s still looking it up). The point is: Did this ultimately come out of your own head or not? If not, it’s not what “you” believe. It’s simply someone else’s belief that you’ve been brainwashed with. I don’t think most theists really understand the difference.With regard, for example, to scientific models, I can only “believe” them to the extent that they’re demonstrated and I can understand them. When I get into a discussion about, for example, evolution, and questions go beyond my knowledge, I have to admit we’re outside of anything I could reasonably call “my belief” at that time. I can only believe a thing to the extent I understand it and personally agree that it aligns with what I consider to be reality.So, when I hear a Christian say that god is moral for not interfering with child rape—for example, my question is instantly—would you also not interfere if you knew a child was being raped and you could stop it? If he, as is normal, says he would interfere, then he does not agree that noninterference is the moral thing to do. If he further argues that the rapist’s free will is paramount to god, I will ask if he would agree that the rapists right to exercise harmful tendencies supersedes the child’s right to not suffer harm? And so on down the line. Ultimately—the theist does not agree that it’s right to allow a child to be raped if it can be avoided. But he will generally end on a note that we cannot judge god, because the morality of a god or the plan of a god cannot be judged by humans. However, without any point of reference for what constitutes divine morality, the theist is claiming to “believe” god is acting morally, without any actual understanding of what is “moral” for a god. I do not accept that a person can believe what they do not understand. The best they can say in honesty is that they hope god is moral, but they have no way to know god is acting morally, because by all we can know or judge, the behavior appears to be immoral.In other words, when a Christian says “I believe the Bible,” what they seem to really mean in many cases is that they believe the Bible is the inspired word of god (and each Christian has a different idea of what that implies). It often also means they will abide by it whether or not they understand the reasoning behind the dictates or actually agree with them. What they are honestly saying is that “what god says in the Bible supersedes my personal beliefs. But they generally express it as “this is what I believe,” which I put forward is not the correct phrasing. Oddly enough, they will generally sometimes state that “this is not what I want, it’s what god wants,” or “this is not what I despise, it’s what god despises.” So on some level they do “get it”—but it doesn’t seem to fully sink in. If I’m saying, “I didn’t say gay behavior is wrong—god said it in the Bible,” then I’m actually saying, “it is simply a statement from god that I support even though it’s not my belief.” They don’t agree the statement is right—they only agree it’s authoritative. If they believed it was right, they wouldn’t need the Bible as the source of their belief. They would be honestly able to say, “God said it in the Bible, but it is my personal belief as well, because…” And they’d be able to defend it outside of god or the Bible.Musesusan:Right. That’s along the lines of putting something to me and asking, “What do you make of this other person’s idea? I’m OK with someone doing that—but they should understand that the idea is not something they believe. As you say—does it convince a Christian to believe in Allah? No. So, they don’t agree with that the idea is valid. They don’t “believe” it.Bob:It is a confusing concept because what’s the difference between agreeing with someone else and having a personal belief? You nailed part of it—can you understand it fully? You can only “believe” it to the extent you (a) understand it (b) accept it as aligning with reality. So, while it’s OK to post something from Hawking, and say, “I don’t know much about this theory, but here’s what someone who does know something about it says,” that is NOT to be confused with “your” belief. If a theist writes in and asks about evolution, I can certainly talk about what I know and what I believe about that theory. But once we’re into some odd aspect of genetics questions, for example, I’m outside of “my” beliefs and simply into providing the person data about the model. There’s a world of difference between saying, “here’s the model science puts forward” and saying, “I believe Big Bang.” I don’t say “I believe Big Bang”—and I site my own lack of knowledge about the theory as the reason. I don’t take issue with the theory. I simply lack sufficient understanding to say it is my belief. I can only say that according the most informed minds in the field, this is the most reliable model that accounts for the facts. That’s NOT the same as a personal belief. And I’m not under any obligation to “believe” Big Bang. I really don’t think scientists care whether I take a stand on it one way or another. Nobody is threatening me with punishment if I don’t claim to believe it based on scientific authority.Daniel:I’m not sure I agree with you or not. See my responses above. I don’t accept that I can take any material—Bible or otherwise—and say “I believe it.” They can say I believe it’s from god/true.” But that’s still not “my belief.” It’s a model I’m willing to endorse because I believe it’s from god. That in no way makes what is included in the book “my belief.” Personal beliefs are not dictated from external source. External sources can impact them, surely—reality does have bearing on what we believe (generally). But to say I will believe whatever X source says is to grossly misunderstand what a “belief” is. And it’s not the same as asserting, “I believe whatever source X dictates is what I need to do/enforce.” A police officer, for example, enforces the law. But that does not mean the law reflects his personal belief. If the Christian cannot independently answer for what they believe and why, then they are not talking about what “they believe.” They’re simply referencing a manual to see what they should do/say—that’s not personal belief—that’s just acceptance of authority (despite what they might personally believe).

  10. 10
    tracieh

    I should add something for clarity. Let’s say I pick up a political pamphlet and read it, and I when I’m finished I think that what is contained in that pamphlet is right in line with how I view things and what I think things should be, and I say, “Wow! This is EXACTLY what I believe!”That is NOT analogous to a Christian with a Bible.In the political example, what’s happening is that I already have an idea established in my own mind about how the society should function. And the pamphlet happens to be written by someone who views the issues the same way I do. And when I read it, I’m simply going down a mental checklist to see if my personal beliefs align with those of the author. And if they do, and I say, “I believe this!,” what I’m actually saying is that the author shares my personal beliefs.This is NOT what a Christian (most often) seems to be doing. The Christian is saying that whatever is inside them (their personal beliefs) is irrelevant. And all that matters is what is in the Bible. That’s actually _the opposite_ of a personal belief, because what the person has to be saying when they say “I’ll believe whatever is in here, sight unseen,” is that they’re not going to respect their personal beliefs in this paradigm. The book in this case ONLY espouses their personal beliefs in so far as it aligns with whatever is ALREADY in their heads. Where it doesn’t not align with their beliefs, they will do what the book says due to their belief it is authoritative—NOT due to the fact that the action or stance is aligned with their personal belief. It’s followed DESPITE the fact that it may, in fact, be in discord to that the Christian personally believes—and some Christians admit this outright. What’s in the book is believed to be true—but it does NOT represent “their beliefs” in the sense that they agree with it.

  11. 11
    Sparrowhawk

    Tracie, you’re probably right about a lot of theists accusing people like us of “worshipping science”, and I think it’s probably just because they assume everyone else looks at things like they do. I don’t want to go down the road of generalizing and saying all theists are stupid and never think about anything, but it’s pretty clear that this accusation of “worshipping science” is just them projecting their own way of looking at things. To people who make this accusation the world is nothing more than a set of narrow and specific “world-view’s” that people choose to ascribe to.And since we’re labeled “atheist” in their mind, then that MUST just mean that we’ve picked Darwin to worship. I also think anyone who ever uses the term “Darwinist” is guilty of this. It kind of ties in with the whole “if you don’t believe in god you don’t believe in anything” mentality. Some people just can’t handle the idea of skepticism.

  12. 12
    J. K. Jones

    I would like to point out that if I believe something because ‘the Bible says so,’ that belief can be the end of a linear and cogent argument. In other words, I believe what the Bible says because I have been intellectually convinced that the Bible is true.

  13. 13
    Sparrowhawk

    @j.k. Jones:You think you’re saying something new? I mean…I really don’t want to seem confrontational, but they get this from a caller almost every day on their show. I don’t mean to “call you out” or be a jerk, but why are you intellectually convinced that the entire Bible is true? It’s your business if you want to believe that it’s true, but I’d like to know why you say you’re intellectually convinced that it’s true. What exactly do you mean by intellectually? If you mean to say that you’ve got good evidence that the entire thing is true, I think I speak for everyone when I say please do share!

  14. 14
    J. K. Jones

    Okay, sparrowhawk,To defend all of the points in this argument requires more space than I will allow myself on someone else’s blog without their express permission, but I’ll give the outline.1)There is such a thing as absolute truth.2) God exists.3) God could intervene in the world if he wished.4) We have an accurate historical record of the life of Christ, including his teachings and the relevant historical events.5) Jesus claimed to be God. 6) Jesus did things only God could do and proved Himself to be God.7) Jesus affirmed the truth of God’s Word. 8) Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to help the apostles remember and truthfully relate the events in the Bible.9) We have a Bible we can trust. It gives us God’s truth and equips us for faith and service.In keeping with the ‘truth in advertising’ of this post, the basic tenor of this argument is taken from two sources, “When Skeptics Ask” by Norman Geisler and “Reason to Believe” by R. C. Sproul. I have restated the argument in a way I find easier to understand, and hence easier to believe.

  15. 15
    Sparrowhawk

    @JK:Okay, before this goes any further, can I clarify whether or not you’re just giving me an example of an argument someone ELSE uses (but that you don’t necessarily ascribe to), or if …this is your actual argument in simplified form.If these things are your actual argument, then I’m going to have to go ahead and point out that you’re using a VERY tired and faulty apologist tactic: “It would take too long to explain it to you.” While that may or may not be the case, it doesn’t even seem like you’re trying. I mean…some of your “points” in that list could have entire books written about them, and to someone who likes to examine things before they accept them, a lot of them seem to feed off of each other in a sort of “circular” logic relationship. Here’s an example:5) Jesus claimed to be God. 6) Jesus did things only God could do and proved Himself to be God.Uhm…ok. Jesus claims to be god in the bible, and then Jesus does things that god can do…also in the bible. Doesn’t that seem a little overly-convenient to you? I mean…you have to be able to at least SEE why that kind of logic doesn’t work on someone who actually cares about the veracity of it. Granted, it’s really only two points out of your list, but come on…you have to understand how that looks to a lot of us like using the thing you’re trying to prove to prove the thing you’re proving.

  16. 16
    arensb

    Tracie:that pamphlet is right in line with how I view things and what I think things should be, and I say, “Wow! This is EXACTLY what I believe!”I was about to make this point. This is, in fact, the purpose of having FAQs or resources like the Iron Chariots wiki: to provide a source of stock answers to questions, so that if you agree with the answers, you don’t have to waste time rewriting them each time the question comes up. When I quote someone I agree with, it’s usually because the author has made my point more eloquently than I could, or because it’s the passage that originally convinced me.As for believing only that which we understand, I think you’ve oversimplified slightly. Daniel Dennett has a Turkish sentence that he claims to believe, even though he doesn’t speak a word of Turkish and doesn’t know what the sentence says. But it was given to him by a Turkish colleague whom he trusts, and so he believes that whatever the sentence means is true.Similarly, I don’t have a good understanding of what scientists mean when they say that time started at the Big Bang, or that an electron exists as a probability wave until it interacts with another particle. I certainly don’t understand the math involved, or the experiments performed to reach those conclusions. But the scientific community has proven trustworthy in those areas that I can understand; and in my experience, if something is objectively true, then the experts in that field usually reach a consensus; and so I conclude that when cosmologists agree that time began at the Big Bang, it’s likely true, even though I don’t really understand what that means.Of course, one difference I see between this and a Christian’s trust in the Bible is that I don’t trust in the scientific community as a virtue: in an ideal world, I’d have the time to learn everything and check everything out for myself. But I can’t. Unlike faith, trust in the scientific community is not something that I strive for, but something that I settle for.

  17. 17
    Eric Ross

    I was going to make much the same point as arensb, particularly in regards to Dan Dennett’s Turkish sentence. However, ultimately I agree with Tracie that my beliefs must be contained within one’s own mind.To reconcile the two points of view, I must make a fine distinction about what it means to “believe” something. To say “I believe X” is to say “I accept that X conforms to reality”. I cannot make this statement if I do not understand what X is. In this view, Dan Dennett can say “I believe that the Turkish sentence translates to a statement that is true”, but cannot say “I believe the Turkish sentence” because the former only requires that he accept that the sentence is from a reliable source, while the latter requires that he understand the sentence. Similarly, I can say something like “I believe that the what cosmologists refer to as the Big Bang correspond to an actual cosmological event” because I trust the scientific process, but not “I believe the Big Bang occurred” because I lack sufficient understanding to make that statement.If I have not explained this well, perhaps someone else can do it better. I would add, however, that the subtle difference I am attempting to illuminate is largely subsumed by the imprecise nature of everyday speech. Perhaps I am splitting hairs?

  18. 18
    -C

    Eric Ross: No, I understood you fine. You’re saying the same thing essentially as arensb.JK: Unfortunately I can’t agree with anything that you said on an intellectual level because of point 2: God Exists. You make the claim but you start midway, you don’t explain how or why you believe god exists, and as such the rest of your points are being built up from a faulty base.With regard to point 1: There is such a thing as absolute truth. I don’t think so. Even well established facts such as gravitational attraction and Newton’s laws are not universally constant. It’s a _very_ big universe. It would take us 100,000 years at the speed of light to cross from one end of our galaxy to another, and there are 100 billion galaxies in the known universe.In the face of such vast existence, it becomes very hard for me to say, as an absolute truth, that there is no such thing as a triple-headed giraffe. Even if the chances of such a creature existing were a trillion trillion to one, there are at least that many planets in the universe, easily.Absolute truth is difficult to arrive at. Even with abstract concepts like ‘being good is a noble goal’ you can easily thwart this by introducing the concept of punishment: how do you deter those who would do evil if you only did good?Perhaps our human minds just can’t stretch enough to fill the concept of absolute truth, but that would be like snails speculating about nuclear fusion. If we can’t arrive at it, there’s no reasonable way to discuss it.That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try tho

  19. 19
    arensb

    -C:In the face of such vast existence, it becomes very hard for me to say, as an absolute truth, that there is no such thing as a triple-headed giraffe.It gets better: on NPR, a few weeks ago, they were interviewing a cosmologist who was arguing that if a) the universe is truly infinite, and b) any given chunk of that (say, a 1-parsec cube) can only have a finite number of particles in one of a finite number of states, then obviously there has to be duplication. In particular, there’s probably a duplicate planet Earth out there somewhere, all the way down to the individual history of all the inhabitants and the thoughts running through their heads.After that, the discussion got weird. So I guess triple-headed giraffes are small potatoes by comparison.

  20. 20
    tracieh

    I need to add that the entire thing is filled with irony. Christianity (in this vein) asserts that I should not consider my own personal judgment (beliefs) regarding what is right or wrong. And instead I should subjugate my judgment/beliefs to whatever the Bible dictates (as the authoritative word of god–but for whatever reason for my purposes).This is extremely odd to me, because I had to have absolutely trusted my own beliefs and judgment to GET ME to the conclusion a god exists and the Bible is god’s word and I should subjugate my beliefs to the dictates of the Bible!If one of the dictates is “don’t trust your own judgment/beliefs”–isn’t that self-contradictory? I have to trust my own judgment/beliefs to accept I should accept the Bible–that then tells me not to accept my own judgment/beliefs.This is the part I’m stunned by currently.

  21. 21
    tracieh

    JK:>I believe what the Bible says because I have been intellectually convinced that the Bible is true.I’m asking what it means to say “I believe the Bible is true.” I have in the last few weeks dialogued with one theist who puts forward that science supports the Bible, WHILE he argues science is wrong (and the Bible is right). And another who argues that he “cannot trust” his “own mind” because he is a “depraved” and “vile” human. And these two are not offering me anything I haven’t heard from 1,000 other theists.What both these people are telling me is that they will accept the Bible’s dictates even if what’s in the Bible doesn’t align with the most current and reliable data we have amassed regarding reality (scientific observation should be tossed out where it disagrees), and that their own judgment is contrary to the Bible (I can’t trust my own mind). So, if they agree it doesn’t align with observations and data and that it conflicts with their personal judgment of what is right and wrong—what, exactly, are they saying when they assert that they “believe” it?From what I gather—and I don’t think I’m being unfair to the Christian viewpoint—they “believe” that the Bible is “right” about any point X—even if “they” disagree with the Bible’s stance on point X. It’s a very odd statement, to be sure. But the reality is that if I agree with the Bible, then the statement that “I can’t trust my own mind” on the matter makes no sense. The only context in which that makes sense is if I do not always agree with what is taught in the Bible.So, what’s actually being said is that “I believe I’m wrong about what I believe, and I should accept the Bible’s teaching, even though it’s not what I personally believe.”Is it right to say “I believe the Bible” while I actually admit that I actually believe otherwise—but that I, rather, simply _accept_ the Bible’s position as “right” OVER what I, personally, believe is right? Honestly, I barely even know what that means—but that’s what I’m hearing from many, many Christians.In your later post, where you enumerate your argument in more detail. I get those points. My point, however, is the next step that would occur right after you stopped. Are you accepting the Bible’s teachings because (1) it agrees with your beliefs (so you judge it to be true)—or (2) despite the fact that it does not agree with your beliefs and judgment?If you accept it because it concurs with your beliefs, then all you are really saying about the teachings within it, is that you were already of that mind before you read it, and it only is a document that agrees with your own beliefs. In that case, you’re doing what you believe, and the book only happens to agree with you.If you accept it despite the fact that it does not concur with your personal beliefs, then you are subjugating your personal beliefs to it—because you ALSO believe the book is always right. So, it’s not that you’re personal beliefs are in line with the book (in that Christian model)—in fact the book, in that case, does not teach what you personally believe. If it did, there would be no need for any “subjection” of personal will). You “believe” only that whatever it teaches should be adhered to—whether it’s in line with what you personally believe OR NOT. In other words:Rule 1: Everything the Bible says is moral and must be obeyed without question.Rule 2: If you personally judge anything in the Bible to be immoral, refer to Rule 1.If you’re at Rule 2, I’m saying you don’t believe what the Bible teaches—even if you genuinely believe it is the word of god. You’re only believing it’s wrong to NOT obey it, EVEN IF you don’t personally agree with (believe) what it says.It’s a very odd Catch-22. What’s in it is contrary to what I would do. But my belief that it must be obeyed overrides my personal judgment that it’s not what I would say I should do.That is what appears to be happening from what I understand of my dialogues with Christians. I totally accept you believe it is from god and that you believe it must be followed. But most Christians I have dialogued with add that it also must be followed above and beyond what they personal would do.My question is: Do _you_ subjugate yourself to it or not?If you do, then you are admitting it is contrary to your personal beliefs—and you are only obeying it because you believe it is from god and must be obeyed (not because you personally agree the tenets it contains).On the other hand, if you agree with the actual teachings, then I assume that’s what you would have been doing with your life, anyway, and I can’t see any need for subjugation in that case.It’s almost along the lines of Euthyphro. Either it’s what you already personally believed without the Bible, and you, therefore, didn’t need to subjugate your personal beliefs to it, since it was inline with what you believed already, or it’s not what you already believed, in which case you simply adhere to it _despite_ the fact it does not coincide with what is already your personal belief.Arensb:>Daniel Dennett has a Turkish sentence that he claims to believe, even though he doesn't speak a word of Turkish and doesn't know what the sentence says. But it was given to him by a Turkish colleague whom he trusts, and so he believes that whatever the sentence means is true.I’m not sure I understand what you mean here. If you’re saying that he considers the translator to be expert in Turkish and that he accepts the translation as an accurate translation (which is not actually what you said), THEN, I would assert that he should (1) have a supportable reason to accept the colleague is qualified to translate Turkish and (2) have a supportable reason to accept that his colleague does not generally lie. If he does not have adequate support for both of these assumptions, he should not accept the translation (I assume?). But I would assert that if I know about X, and X does Y based on demonstrable reality that I have observed, I have reason to accept X is doing Y in this instance as well. In other words, my brakes on my car worked fine this morning. This afternoon, I have no guarantee they will work. However, as they work perfectly well for me time and again, I do not feel a need to check the pads and lines myself before each time I operate the vehicle.If, however, a mechanic said to me, before my commute home, “There is fluid under your car, and it looks like brake fluid.” I would check under my car, and if there was mysterious fluid, I would be cautious of my brakes. NOT because I believe what he’s saying, but because I believe what he’s saying is possible (which is not the same thing).BUT, what happens with Bible belief is that I have to assert I do not personally believe there is any problem with my brakes, and that I do not see the fluid, yet I will pay the mechanic $1,000 to fix them, because I have an overriding belief that the mechanic is never wrong and I must do whatever the mechanic says. His “authority” overrides my personal belief that my brakes are fine. Christians teach “not my will, but thy will be done.” Beliefs inform our actions. If I agree with “thy will”—then how is the Lord’s prayer reasonable? It’s only if what I think I should do is NOT in line with what you think I should do that I need to subjugate to what you want—isn’t it?> and so I conclude that when cosmologists agree that time began at the Big Bang, it's likely true, even though I don't really understand what that means.In other words, you don’t believe it. Belief is the acceptance of a proposition as true. If a theist says to me that they think god likely exists, I’m going to ask them if they can say “I believe god exists.” To say “I believe X,” means I ho
    ld it to be true. Not that I hold it to be likely. If the theist says, “I cannot say I believe god exists. I can only say I believe it is likely god exists,” I will argue he’s not a theist—by definition. Possible and Probable things are not the same as what is “true.”My question is: Why would anyone assert BB is “true” if they is no need to? What is the advantage or motive for assigning things more certainty or truth value than I can actually, personally defend or support?I hold it as possible that any scientific theory may need to be revised or wholly abandoned with the introduction of new or contradictory data. If so, why would I assign it a value of “true”—especially while I admit I’m not qualified to judge the support for the theory? If I actually do hold that position, I would be making a logical fallacy—the argument from authority. It seems you’re saying, in essence, that if you don’t understand the support, you will agree it’s true because the person (or people) telling you about it are expert. However, it’s not unusual for even scientists to note that “truth” isn’t what science offers:http://www.gly.uga.edu/railsback/1122science3.htmlIf science doesn’t feel a need to assign it a truth value—why should anyone else while it’s not compulsory? In court, for example, I may need to do such a thing. But in my life generally, why can’t I simply assert that it’s the most sensible model as far as what little I understand about it? Why isn’t that good enough?Eric:If your description of the Turkish sentence is accurate (you sound like you’re more familiar with it than I am), then I wholly agree that Dennet is accepting the meaning of the translation as true and not addressing whatever the Turkish sentence might _actually_ be. In other words, if I have a foreign sentence and I ask you (as a translator) what it means, and you say, “It says ‘the sun rises each morning,’” and I agree with that—it would only be accurate for me to say I agree with what you said the sentence says. For me to say I believe the Turkish sentence is simply sloppy communication. And if I understand you right—we’re in agreement.> "I believe that the what cosmologists refer to as the Big Bang correspond to an actual cosmological event"I usually say simply that it’s the best model put forward by the best minds based on the most current and reliable data. I accept _that_ as true based on what I am able to comprehend. But since I cannot understand the full support or the full theory, I can only agree with it in so far as I can comprehend it. To do otherwise is unnecessary—and I think unwarranted. So, I think we are in agreement on this as well.

  22. 22
    J. K. Jones

    Sparrowhawk,I have stated my own argument in simplified form. However, I cited sources because the basic structure is not unique to me. I have modified an existing argument. It does not seem fair that I have to think up everything on my own in order to hold a position. I can understand and ‘own’ the reasoning other people use. All of us do. I took geometry in high school. I did not have to prove each of the laws of geometry from scratch in order to use them. I did have to work proofs of those theorems in order to understand the laws. “…a VERY tired and faulty apologist tactic: “It would take too long to explain it to you.”I would be glad to take the issue point by point here if you wish. I can also point you to http://www.jkjonesthinks.blogspot.com, search label “God’s Existence.” …you have to understand how that looks to a lot of us like using the thing you’re trying to prove to prove the thing you’re proving.”These two points depend on the prior point: the New Testament is an historically accurate account. If it is, then the reasoning is not circular. The historical account of real events can report both Christ’s teaching and His actions.

  23. 23
    J. K. Jones

    -C,“…you don’t explain how or why you believe god exists…”I no longer make the habit of posting comments over 500 words on others’ blogs without permission. This is not a tactic on my part; it’s an honest concern for common courtesy. Would the blog owner(s) like me to continue? “…it becomes very hard for me to say, as an absolute truth, that there is no such thing as a triple-headed giraffe…”You are coming up against David Hume’s argument against deductive reasoning. It is philosophically impossible to prove something beyond all doubt while reasoning from the ‘universal’ to the particular for the very reasons you state. Also, we have to assume that the universe will behave in the future as it has in the past, and that may be gratuitous.In order to reason deductively, we must assume that the universe will behave in the future as it has in the past, that the universe itself is orderly and uniform, and that our senses are reliable guides to reality. A Christian has every reason to make these assumptions because he believes in a rational God who would design the universe in this manner in order to facilitate the reasoning ability of His creatures. We cannot make this assumption in a universe that is the result of random events. (I am indebted to Greg Bahnsen here.)“…Even well established facts such as gravitational attraction and Newton’s laws are not universally constant … Absolute truth is difficult to arrive at. Even with abstract concepts …”I do not argue that absolute truth is easy to find out. There are many things in the universe that we do not yet understand completely (i. e. quantum mechanics). I am talking about a proof from the impossibility of the contrary. In order to deny absolute truth, you have to state an absolute truth. If I say “There are no absolute truths,” I have just made an absolute statement that purports to be true. If the statement is false, I don’t have to worry about it. If it is true, then there is one absolute truth: “There are no absolute truths.” If it’s true, then it is false. There is/are absolute truth(s). Now we just have to find out what they are.

  24. 24
    Sparrowhawk

    Well everyone, here’s a link to JK’s blogposts about God’s existence:http://jkjonesthinks.blogspot.com/search/label/God%27s%20ExistenceWhat I’ve seen so far seems like wordy rehashes of fairly typical apologists arguments, mainly the whole “first cause” thing. JK, maybe you should just admit you believe what you believe because you believe it because you believe it? Why even try to pass it off as scientific?

  25. 25
    J. K. Jones

    Tracieh,“I’m asking what it means to say “I believe the Bible is true.””I cannot answer this question for others, but it means two things to me. 1) The Bible is a generally trustworthy account of historical events and teaching. This is demonstrable given historical evidence.2) The Bible is the Word of God and completely true in all that it says. This is demonstrable given the words and actions of Jesus as recorded in the generally historical accounts.This is not circular reasoning. The Bible as an historical account is a different thing logically from the Bible as the Word of God written. I do what the Bible says because I have been convinced it is true based on historical and philosophical evidence. “…they “believe” that the Bible is “right” about any point X—even if “they” disagree with the Bible’s stance on point X…”The Bible says many things that make me uncomfortable (i. e. love your enemies). It even says some things that I do not want to be true (i. e. unless I repent of my sins and believe Christ paid the penalty for them, I will go to hell). That is a different thing than saying the Bible is not true. I cannot speak for all ‘Christians’ on this, or any other, issue.Please also keep in mind that there are some passages in the Bible that I do not understand. It is a collection of 66 books, and it is very thick. It is not possible for me to affirm a truth that I do not understand.“…the statement that “I can’t trust my own mind” on the matter makes no sense.”I agree in many cases. There are truths which we can know apart from the Bible. We can know these truths through the application of logical reasoning.“On what grounds do you accept the Bible teachings?”Historical evidence. The teachings of Jesus and His followers as recorded in the historical accounts.

  26. 26
    J. K. Jones

    Sparrowhawk,“…seems like wordy rehashes of fairly typical apologists arguments, mainly the whole “first cause” thing. JK, maybe you should just admit you believe what you believe because you believe it because you believe it? Why even try to pass it off as scientific?”Is this a tactic that you use to avoid intellectual interaction with the arguments?

  27. 27
    J. K. Jones

    Sparrowhawk,”…wordy…”Guilty as charged. I am an engineer by education and training. Written communication is not a strong suit of mine:).I apologize.

  28. 28
    Sparrowhawk

    @JK:”Is this a tactic that you use to avoid intellectual interaction with the arguments?”Yeah, I guess I am kind of trying to avoid the interaction with your arguments. But it isn’t because I’m afraid to try and refute them, believe me. It’s because I’ve refuted them too many times. Seriously, it’s almost laughable how many times people like you will re-iterate some version of “first cause” or “god of the gaps” argument. Do you think you’re the first one to stumble upon that faulty logic? But no…it’s ok. I’m just an evil “darwinist” (like the ones discussed in ‘news’ articles you link to on your blog). I’m denying god! How dare I! Atheism is just faith too! You’re right! Either way I’m not filling up these nice peoples’ blog with a bunch of refutations of your crappy arguments for god’s existence.

  29. 29
    -C

    JK: Of course you can use other people’s ideas instead of pregenerating your own. I’m doing the same thing.To your point about the universe having laws that govern how it behaves and dictates how it functions, that’s not a point that you’ll hear argued against by me, or I suspect many people around here. This is because on the show I have heard Matt espouse his opinion on the laws of the universe and they are similar to what I have just stated.However your assertion that:A Christian… believes in a rational God who would design the universe… in order to facilitate the reasoning ability of His creatures.’is somewhat fallacious in my opinion, for a few reasons that I can think of: (and anyone who reads this who knows more than me can jump in and tell me I’m wrong)Firstly, Occam’s Razor. The universe in all its complexity and infinite form should therefore have an even more complex and infinite creator. This sort of violates occam’s, because it requires a greater number of assumptions than the alternative, which is currently the big bang theory, supported by our current understanding of scientific evidence.Secondly, the prime cause argument. By asserting that the universe must have had a creator, you then shift the responsibility backwards one step and then you have to ask: What created the creator?

  30. 30
    -C

    Sparrowhawk: JK is honestly trying. I know that your refuting the same thing over and over and over is tiresome for you, but for him it could be his genuine belief that he has stumbled upon a truth for himself and he’s trying to have an honest debate about it.

  31. 31
    tracieh

    JK:You're not understanding what I'm asking. And I'm not sure how to reword it. I understand all the things you wrote, and I accept all but the assertion you can believe what you do not understand for reasons I've stated already.But when you write this:>The Bible says many things that make me uncomfortable (i. e. love your enemies). It even says some things that I do not want to be true (i. e. unless I repent of my sins and believe Christ paid the penalty for them, I will go to hell). That is a different thing than saying the Bible is not true.To try and help–you latched onto "true"–but I'm trying to stress "believe."When I ask what it means to _believe_ the Bible is true, I know you accept that the content needs to be considered infallible reality. If the book asserted we have two moons, you'd reconcile that or mark it down as one of those things you "don't understand"–but you'd accept it as "true." I get that.What I’m asking is this:If you don’t WANT X to be true. You’re describing a situation where you don’t believe X is correct—even while you accept X MUST be correct.So, for example—and I’ll use myself here, because I can’t know what parts of the Bible cause you discomfort—I don’t personally believe that mass infanticide is morally correct as a method of retaliation against war-time enemies. So, when I read in the Old Testament that god ordered the Hebrews to commit mass infanticide against the Amelakite infants and children, I consider that a story relating god commanding an immoral action.For the Christian, however, it seems to work like this (assuming this is one of those issues that “causes discomfort” for the Christian): I don’t personally believe that mass infanticide is morally correct as a method of retaliation against war-time enemies. BUT, when I read in the Old Testament that god ordered the Hebrews to commit mass infanticide against the Amelakite infants and children, I become uncomfortable because I also believe that the Bible is always right, and therefore sometimes mass infanticide must be morally acceptable.Now, whether this particular item is a problem for you personally or not—I hope you can see the point I’m driving at. My question is then: WHAT does the Christian “believe”? Does he believe mass infanticide is morally wrong? I assert he must or else he wouldn’t be feeling “discomfort.” If he _truly_ agreed that mass infanticide was morally correct, then where would this dissonance come from? It wouldn’t exist.So, when he asserts that mass infanticide is morally correct in some settings—is he being honest to say that’s what he “believes”?I say no way. He believes it’s wrong—which is the root cause of his uncomfortable feeling of having to accept it is morally correct because of what he REALLY believes—which is that what he personally believes doesn’t matter—he has to subject his support, statements and actions to whatever the Bible endorses.For him to say “I believe mass infanticide is sometimes right,” while he clearly expresses that he’s not comfortable making that statement, means, to me that he doesn’t believe what he’s saying. What he believes is that “No matter what I believe about mass infanticide, only what god has to say about it matters.” And that’s a very different statement.When I Christian says, “I believe the Bible is true,” they do not seem to mean that they believe it is morally correct. The, rather seem to be saying that they support that it is morally correct regardless of what they, truly, within themselves, truly believe.I don’t doubt their sincerity that they accept it is god’s word. And I don’t doubt their sincerity that “if god said it, then it’s right/true.” I doubt their sincerity in saying “I believe what the Bible teaches,” because too often they CLEARLY do not. They only believe it must be right—even though it seems wrong to them.My followup would be: If I can’t judge what is morally correct by examination and consideration, then how do I then assert that what the books says is morally correct? “Written by a god” assumes a moral god—but if we cannot judge morality, then on what do we base that judgment?

  32. 32
    tracieh

    I just thought of one more thing that might help get it across:>The Bible says many things that make me uncomfortable (i. e. love your enemies).If "your belief" is that you should love your enemies, then I would think your reaction to reading it in the Bible would be more along the lines of "Right on! That's exactly what _I_ believe as well!"When I read something that agrees with what "I believe"–I don't ever feel conflicted by it. I feel hearty agreement and a need to say "Hear! Hear! Well said! I couldn't agree more!" If "love your enemies" honestly reflects what "you believe"–why should it cause you discomfort to come across it in the Bible?

  33. 33
    J. K. Jones

    Sparrowhawk,Ad hominem abusive arguments are fallacious.

  34. 34
    J. K. Jones

    -C, “… Occam’s Razor…an even more complex and infinite creator…”The simplest explanation is not always the best. General Relativity is much more complex than Newtonian Physics. I expect the theory that reconciles General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics will be even more complex. The argument I use argue directly from what we find around us to what must be to explain what we find. If the evidence requires complexity, then complexity is what we must postulate.“… What created the creator?”The argument I use requires an uncreated being at the beginning of a sequence of physical events / entities. In other words, the ‘creator’ cannot have been created because it must have always existed.

  35. 35
    J. K. Jones

    -C,And thanks for taking my concerns / arguments seriously. My temperament is such that I learn best by friendly discussion / argument, and I think I can learn much from you all.

  36. 36
    J. K. Jones

    Tracieth,Thank you for taking the time to further explain. I am not sure I understand, but I do plan to print off your comments and review them carefully latter.“…the assertion you can believe what you do not understand…”I intended to say that I cannot believe what I do not understand. It is impossible to believe something you do not understand intellectually.I don’t think your argument applies to me because of the way I have come to believe that the Bible is true. I no longer accept the Bible based on blind faith, if I ever did. I have evaluated historical and philosophical evidence outside (!) the Bible as God’s Word to arrive at the conclusion that the Bible is true.I now subjugate my own beliefs about morality to what we find in Scripture. There is an explanation for the things I do not understand. I have not yet found that explanation, but I do believe it is possible to find an explanation. I continue to pray and study the Bible.In the case of the ‘scorched earth’ policy employed by the Hebrews when they conquered the Promised Land (infanticide and all), I do not have a complete explanation. Without an explanation, I have no firm beliefs on the subject. (I do not think for one minute, however, that God owes any of us sinners anything but death and eternal punishment. That is justice, and just because God doesn’t require just punishment of us does not mean He cannot.)There are analogies in science. We do not have complete explanations of the origin and destiny of the universe, for example (Is it Big Bang / expanding universe, oscillating / expanding and contracting universe, etc.). We learn more every day. That doesn’t mean we ignore those things we have reason to believe right now; it’s just that we seek further explanation for those things we do not understand. “…they support that it is morally correct regardless of what they, truly, within themselves, truly believe.”I do not believe what I do not understand. I cannot. Belief / faith does not act in opposition to reason; it cannot. The agreement of faith and reason is what makes a person reasonable. This is what the old-time Puritans called “the primacy of the intellect.”

  37. 37
    J. K. Jones

    Tracieth,“If “your belief” is that you should love your enemies, then I would think your reaction to reading it in the Bible would be more along the lines of “Right on! That’s exactly what _I_ believe as well!””In those cases where I understand exactly what the Bible says, I do say, “Right on…” But that does not necessarily mean I always feel it is the right thing to do. Feeling can rebel against the intellect for a time.I went through a bitter divorce a few years back. My ex-wife left me for another man. You can bet it took some praying and hard thinking before I was able to love her in the midst of all of this.This is part and partial to having what the old-time Puritans called a “sin nature.” I do not always do what I should do (Romans 7).

  38. 38
    Adrael

    J.K.: “The argument I use requires an uncreated being at the beginning of a sequence of physical events / entities.” You just spelled out the very reason why I think the “first cause” argument is so appallingly pathetic and weak. Why? well, imagine you want a hot dog and I stand in front of the vendor and stop you to tell you “hold on, I’m gonna buy a hot dog, then I’ll sell it to you for 20% more than it would’ve cost you, deal?.”That’d be all kinds of stupid, of course, because we’d be arbitrarily shoving a middleman where none is required… like, just buy the hot dog yourself, dude. And that’s what Occam’s Razor is about. Not “simplicity” as in “simple to understand” but as in “avoiding needless complication.” J.K.: “In other words, the ‘creator’ cannot have been created because it must have always existed." Ok, now replace "creator" with "universe" and you'll see what I mean. First you posit that EVERYTHING MUST have a creator, then you turn around and say "oh, except my god, obviously." Well, then, obviously you don't have a problem with at least one thing not having a creator. All I'm saying is why do you feel it's necessary to throw in a universe-making deity when we could just say that the universe may have always been there, in some way or another(let's not go into the "time" before Planck's time 'cause we don't know what the deal is there yet). The soup tastes great because of the ingredients, get rid of the Magic Stone™J.K.: "(I do not think for one minute, however, that God owes any of us sinners anything but death and eternal punishment. That is justice, and just because God doesn’t’t require just punishment of us does not mean He cannot.)“Now I’ll have to drop my usual politeness ’cause that attitude just pisses me off. I have nothing but disdain for that moronic view. It’s the height of inanity the way some Christians grovel and whine before a miserable mythological character. “Oooooh we’re sinners, we’re not worthy, we’re filth, O Lord, it’d be ecstasy just to be allowed to lick the manure off the bottom of your sandals.”Humanity may be deeply flawed but at the same time it is capable of immense beauty. Nature is as majestic as it is cruel and indifferent. What goes around comes around… except when it doesn’t. The universe is as random and/or orderly as you’d expect it to be if it had come about from natural processes. Nowhere do we see a reason to believe a heavenly intelligence is acting and I, for one, am perfectly comfortable with it.There might not be any grand cosmic justice that punishes the wicked without fail, but we can aspire to live in, and work together for, a more just society. We may not have guardian angels protecting us from harm, but everyday we surround ourselves with loved ones so that we don’t have to confront life’s hardships alone.There’s a lot more I disagree with, like the wild assertion that the Bible is well-supported by historical evidence and outside sources. But this has gone on for long enough. No one should suffer through any more of my writing.

  39. 39
    J. K. Jones

    Adreal,Okay. No one has tried to run me off yet. I have decided to my rule and go for about 800 words. If it offends, just invite me to leave.I exist. I must exist in order to deny my own existence. This may seem an obvious point, but some make much of the idea that everything we see is an illusion. Even if that is the case, I must exist in order to have the illusion.I was caused. There was a time when I came to be. My own self-awareness and the empirical evidence that I find support this. If I trace back from the cause of my existence to the cause of the cause of my existence, and so on, I must arrive at something that never came to be. The series of causes cannot go back without end. It is not possible to count to the end of the series of positive real numbers when you start at zero (0, 1, 2, 3, 4…). You can always count one more. It is, in one sense, an infinite series of discrete things. You cannot count to the end of the string of positive numbers; it has no end. Starting from zero, you cannot count to the beginning of the string of negative numbers; it has no beginning (0, -1, -2, -3, …). We go endlessly in either direction. We cannot count either up or down through an endless series of numbers. If we count forward to zero, we must start counting from a particular negative number, or we will never count to zero.Going back to the series of causes leading up to me, this series cannot contain an endless number of causes in the past because I would then be the end of an endless series of causes, which is impossible. There must have been a first cause to begin the series of causes that lead to my existence. This first cause must have always existed in order to give a starting place to the series. If there was a time when it did not exist, there would be nothing now. This first cause must always exist because it has the power of being in itself. Again, it existed before everything else, so nothing else could cause it to be. It’s being is not caused by anything outside it.This first cause must have the power to bring about everything else. It was the only thing that existed at the time of creation, so everything must have been a result of its action. This first cause must be able to cause itself to act to produce everything else (this sounds conspicuously like the power of free choice). The first cause existed before everything else, so there was nothing else to cause it to act. This ability to act or not to act implies something like the freedom of choice. Free choice is a key element of personhood.“…obviously you don’t have a problem with at least one thing not having a creator. All I’m saying is why do you feel it’s necessary to throw in a universe-making deity when we could just say that the universe may have always been there…”What if the universe has some element in it that has always existed? Then that element must have always existed, has the power to bring the universe into existence, and has the power to cause itself to act. Now we are just arguing about the name of the first cause, not its essential nature. If Occam’s Razor is employed to remove to avoid “needless complication,” we are still left with a universe that needs a cause that has the attributes described. In other words, the complication is needed.

  40. 40
    J. K. Jones

    Adreal,“Humanity may be deeply flawed but at the same time it is capable of immense beauty.”I never said that we are as bad as we could be. All I have said is that we are not perfect. The God who exists has a standard of perfection, and we don’t meet it. “The universe is as random and/or orderly as you’d expect it to be if it had come about from natural processes.”Why should we expect to find any order at all in a universe that is formed by random events? If we are all just the product of matter in motion, why do we have any reason to trust our intellects at all? Wouldn’t the order we perceive just be a result of the random chemical and biological events in our brain? Wouldn’t argument itself be meaningless?“…we can aspire to live in, and work together for, a more just society…everyday we surround ourselves with loved ones so that we don’t have to confront life’s hardships alone.”I intend to do those things, but why should I?

  41. 41
    -C

    Deleted my comment to clarify some statements. Reposting.JK:Regarding number strings that regress or progress infinitely: You cannot unfortunately use a mathematical construct as an analogy to the real world.As an explanation: (Credit to Matt) Take Xeno’s Paradox, the runner one for example. The runner can never reach the end, because he would first have to reach the half way mark, and before that, the quarter way mark, and before that… into infinity.While it is mathematically possible to continue to divide into smaller and smaller parts into infinity, in the real world it does not work this way. Real space is not infinitely divisible. It is divisible by a very long way, but eventually there is a smallest possible unit. Xeno’s Paradox illustrates this.’Wouldn’t the order we perceive just be a result of the random chemical and biological events in our brain? Wouldn’t argument itself be meaningless?’Yes to the first, no to the second. Human perception of order is in fact the result of random chemical and biological events in our brain. Chipmunks, for example, cannot perceive order in the way we can because their intellect does not allow them to.Now, order exists whether or not humans are around to perceive it. But our perception of the universe is what we use as a frame of reference for discussion, so your statement that argument is therefore meaningless if we perceive it from an internal frame is somewhat flawed because we have to. We all have only our perception to base our entire intellect, reasoning, and logical ability on. A mentally handicapped individual who has a different perception of the world thus cannot develop the above abilities to the degree that non-handicapped individuals can.Reading between your lines a bit, you seem to see God as a kind of external motivator, a force that allows you, directly or indirectly, to do everything. I’m not saying in the sense that ‘god created me, therefore I am’ per se, you seem to be going more along the ‘god is the only reason I can think/see rationally/debate with people on the internet/raise a spoon to my mouth’ track.I’m not trying to say that you believe that humans are incapable of self-action. Your argument that ‘argument is pointless if all we are is bags of chemicals and hormones held together by carbon’ seems to point towards you feeling that without god, there is no point to existing. Could you clarify? I may not be reading you correctly.Another quote of yours:’I intend to do those things, but why should I?’Could you elaborate on this a bit? At the moment it reads like ‘why should I be a nice good person?’ which I don’t think is your real intent.

  42. 42
    arensb

    J.K. Jones:This first cause must always exist because it has the power of being in itself.What this sounds like, to me, is a mathematical statement, like 0+1=1, which can’t possibly not be true.This first cause must be able to cause itself to act to produce everything else (this sounds conspicuously like the power of free choice).Presumably by “everything else”, you don’t mean that the first cause has to be able to design a bacterial flagellum or set the orbit of Mercury. But rather that the first cause has to be able to trigger an avalanche of events that cause other events, eventually leading up to what I had for lunch yesterday.If that’s the case, then the initial cause can be a small, trivial thing, like “electron-positron pairs can appear for a limited amount of time”. And, in fact, we see this sort of thing going on all the time.Which brings me to my second point: the first cause need not be unique. That is, if you go back in time you’ll eventually find the event that you identify as the first cause (assuming that things like “time” make sense under the conditions of the Big Bang). But that event may simply be the first of a myriad of similar events.

  43. 43
    tracieh

    JKLet me just say you have a lot of conversations going here. I understand if you don't have time or inclination to carry-on with all of us on this. I'm offering this response, but if you are hurting for time, I won't hold it against you if you need to drop this strand in order to focus on others. Just fyi.>Thank you for taking the time to further explain. I am not sure I understand, but I do plan to print off your comments and review them carefully latter.I can promise you that when I was a Xian, I would also have had a very hard time with this. After leaving Xianity, there was a dilemma I encountered. What I referred to as “my beliefs” or what “I believe” began to take on a different meaning, but I was unable to tell what was different. So, even after stopping the (what I’m going to call, but not trying to be insulting) assault on “my beliefs” that was religion, I still took several years to understand the dfference between what I actually believed and what I had been taught, all my life, was OK to refer to as “my belief”—which was really not “my belief” at all, because, as I’ve come to finally realize, a person’s beliefs cannot be imposed from the outside in. They come from the person’s own mind, and reflect his view of the world. So, while external things can offer input that might alter what we believe, Our beliefs are ultimately only generated from within ourselves, by ourselves. Adopting a system, regardless of the authority I assign it, can never be rightly referred to as “my” belief unless I am able to both comprehend it and internally agree with it—in so far as I’m claiming to believe it.>>“…the assertion you can believe what you do not understand…”>I intended to say that I cannot believe what I do not understand. It is impossible to believe something you do not understand intellectually.I think we are in agreement there, then.>I don’t think your argument applies to me because of the way I have come to believe that the Bible is true. I no longer accept the Bible based on blind faith, if I ever did. I have evaluated historical and philosophical evidence outside (!) the Bible as God’s Word to arrive at the conclusion that the Bible is true.I do not doubt you accept this as true. But what you are saying is that you accept the account is accurate. I believe you that you do. I do not question that. I do question the fact that you “believe” what it teaches. I don’t mean “what it teaches about facts”—I get that you believe every word. I mean what it teaches about behavior and morality.To my argument—it matters not an ounce why you believe the Bible is true. It only matters that you can say you believe it, and explain what you mean by that. There is a big difference between a police officer believing that the law is authoritative and that it is not fake—the laws he is enforcing are enacted through legislation, and he understands all that. BUT, does that mean he agrees with all the laws he is asked to enforce? I’d be stunned to meet a cop who doesn’t have some discomfort with parts of his job that he feels should not be handled by law enforcement. Does he believe the laws are truly enacted by real legislation, historically? Yes. Does he believe he must enforce them? Yes. Does he believe their right? I’m betting most cops would have to say that some laws, they do not agree with. In other words, it is not their belief that this law should be something they should be enforcing.I don’t doubt you believe the law is true law. I don’t doubt that you believe it is authoritative. I don’t doubt you believe you must follow it. I doubt you agree with it, as your personal belief. In that regard, I believe it’s wrong to say that the morality it teaches is “your belief.” If you have to disregard what you believe in order to accept it—then it cannot be your belief.>I now subjugate my own beliefs about morality to what we find in Scripture.This is my point in a nut shell. If your belief was what the Bible teaches, then your belief would not require subjugation. If I believe it’s wrong to murder, then it isn’t correct to say that I subjugate my will to the law—because my will is not to murder, and the law is not to murder. No subjugation is, therefore, necessary. Now, if it was my belief that some people deserve to die and I should kill them, but the law forbids it, and I don’t murder—then I have subjugated my beliefs to the law. But the law, in that case is not “what I believe.” Surely I believe I must follow it—but I can’t honestly say in such a case that “not murdering” is “my” belief. It’s what I force myself to follow despite the fact I do not agree with it.When I was beginning to leave Xianity, I remember thinking that it seemed hypocritical to be in a church subjugating my beliefs in this fashion. I did not think that I would be acceptable to god if the best I could say was “I followed the rules, but I didn’t agree with them. I just knew you were god and I had to obey.” Yes, I accepted that god knew better than I did what was best for me. But if I have limited knowledge and can’t see the bigger picture, then I just can’t grasp the “why” of god’s reasons for putting forward things that seemed flat out wrong to me. And if it was due to lack of knowledge, so be it—but as you say, I cannot claim to believe what I cannot claim to understand.So I was up a creek on two counts. And I figured sitting in a pew, believing god was real, and doing what he asked, but not agreeing with it, probably wasn’t going to cut it with Jehovah. Eventually I came to understand the canonization process, which helped quite a bit. Once I recognized that the Bible was not what I’d been taught it was, I no longer had to make it make sense, and all the odd things that seemed so wrong in there were no longer “uncomfortable” to me.>There is an explanation for the things I do not understand. I have not yet found that explanation, but I do believe it is possible to find an explanation. I continue to pray and study the Bible.I agree with that line of reasoning. And since we agreed above that I cannot claim to believe what I cannot understand, I assume we are still in agreement that while you don’t understand it—even as you seek an explanation you believe you will find—you cannot claim to believe what you do not understand until you have found that explanation, and understand it.>In the case of the ‘scorched earth’ policy employed by the Hebrews when they conquered the Promised Land (infanticide and all), I do not have a complete explanation. Without an explanation, I have no firm beliefs on the subject.And to be fair—I wasn’t asking for you to explain it. I was only using it as an example. I only would say that I would expect you to, as a Xian, defend it as morally right action (since god is not immoral?), even though you, yourself, would apparently not call it moral. My assumption is based on the fact that if you did have a reason to believe this action was moral, you would have offered the defense at this point rather than assert you don’t get this particular event, either. In other words, I don’t accuse you of thinking it is immoral action; but if you don’t understand it—then you can’t have a belief on it, as you say; so, you cannot, at this point, believe it was moral (or immoral). So, we are here at a point where I believe the action to be immoral, and you can’t say whether it was moral or not—which begs the question: Are you asserting that god could be sometimes immoral? If not, then I would think you’d tag the event “moral” immediately—on the grounds that god is incapable of immoral action?>(I do not think for one minute, however, that God owes any of us sinners anything but death and eternal punishment. That is justice, and just because God doesn’t require just punishment of us d
    oes not mean He cannot.)I understand you believe this. This is one of the more immoral things about Xianity—that it teaches children to be self-depricating. If you lived next to a parent who daily told his child that she is worthless and vile and deserved to suffer eternally for her despicable state, I should hope you’d think that father a monster. But that’s what Xianity does to children, and we praise it for it’s wonderful, uplifting quality. It convinces people to not trust themselves, to be self-hating and to hate their own species, then says it’s all OK because god is willing to be merciful rather than just. It’s no different than the self-teardown and rebuilding any other brainwashing cult puts young people through. It’s very effective, so there’s no reason it shouldn’t work in Christianity just as well.To say that god, because he is god, can order us to commit mass infanticide, and we are arrogant to question such a command is insanity to me.When I used to go to church we had a phrase. It was “searing one’s conscience.” If you aren’t familiar with this, it is the idea that a child may fear shoplifting the first time he does it, but if he gets away with it, he may continue to do it, and later he loses any fear of committing the crime. He “sears” his conscience and thus kills that part of himself that tells him what is right and what is wrong. In fact, the Bible claims god gave us no conscience, but instead conspired to keep people from learning the difference between good and evil. I wonder if his desire to keep people in that state was so that we would not know to question a command like “kill all their infants on your way out the door!”? Please know this is entirely hypothetical on my part. I accept this as mythology. But I am thinking in order to wonder out loud what I would think of it now if it was presented to me as truth.My point is that while my church taught me that sin seared the conscience, what they failed to recognize was that their own religion seared more conscience than any criminal act. I’d rather see a person shoplift 1,000 times than have someone mass killing infants! But here you are, telling me that if god wants to have a bunch of babies killed—who are we to question? He owes us no explanation. Actually, as I’m human, and he wants to kill human infants, I can’t think of who would be MORE qualified to demand an explanation. These are my people he’s going after, and I don’t see the harm in asking “why”? Defensible truth has nothing to fear from honest inquiry. If the act is moral and right and justified, surely it can be explained so that it isn’t so objectionable? What’s the harm in a dialogue with god? If god wants to interact with people, he does, I think, owe us explanations for what he’s asking us to do.It seems odd to me that anyone would claim they don’t understand the mass infanticide command, and then state that they don’t think it should be questioned.Earlier you stated you had no beliefs about it—so you don’t believe it’s moral (or immoral), if that statement was true. If you can’t be sure it was moral. Isn’t it just common sense to ask yourself if you could be following an authority that is potentially immoral—and further, who instructs immoral behavior?If Jehovah exists and is an immoral being—how would his followers ever find that out if following blindly and doing heinous things on command without question is their dogma?>There are analogies in science. We do not have complete explanations of the origin and destiny of the universe, for example (Is it Big Bang / expanding universe, oscillating / expanding and contracting universe, etc.). We learn more every day. That doesn’t mean we ignore those things we have reason to believe right now; it’s just that we seek further explanation for those things we do not understand.Science doesn’t require belief, so the analogy fails in that regard. To the extent we understand a thing, we can determine whether or not we believe what we understand. But we cannot assert belief in any part we do not understand. And although I comprehend some components of BB, I don’t fully understand the support for it, so it would be a lie for me to say “I believe it.” Science offers models that are subject to revision and expansion, sometimes total overhaul. So, I don’t think “belief” in science is necessary. I tend to believe what is demonstrated and consider ideas of how it fits together interesting. But “belief” is not required (or wise) beyond what can be demonstrated.>>“…they support that it is morally correct regardless of what they, truly, within themselves, truly believe.”>I do not believe what I do not understand. I cannot.Do you understand god?How do you differentiate between things that exist and things that do not exist?>Belief / faith does not act in opposition to reason; it cannot.Faith (in theology) is generally differentiated from belief in that it is belief without adequate justification. Belief is simply accepting a proposition as true (whether it is justified or not), and since there are people who have the same level of access to data who believe polar opposite things about reality, I have to state that you’re assertion here is not demonstrated in reality. People can, for example, belief things for emotional reasons that are divorced from reason. Presented with overwhelming data to the contrary, a mother might still accept it as true that her son did not murder his own children. She would be unreasonable, but I would not doubt her faith in her son.>The agreement of faith and reason is what makes a person reasonable. This is what the old-time Puritans called “the primacy of the intellect.”Due to my definition of faith, I disagree, but I would guess it’s a semantic disagreement more than anything.>>“If "your belief" is that you should love your enemies, then I would think your reaction to reading it in the Bible would be more along the lines of "Right on! That's exactly what _I_ believe as well!"”In those cases where I understand exactly what the Bible says, I do say, “Right on…” But that does not necessarily mean I always feel it is the right thing to do. Feeling can rebel against the intellect for a time.That “feeling” is your belief. “Feelings” don’t rebel, your mind, which controls your reactions to what you’re reading, rebels—by letting you know, “Hey—this isn’t what I think about it at all!” But you just stuff that deep down and go on as if nothing is wrong.When you see something in the Bible you agree with—that is what you believe—you feel like any normal person who reads what they believe.When you see something in the Bible you disagree with—that is NOT what you believe—you also feel like any normal person who reads what they do not believe. The difference is, you just ignore that red light and go on as if there’s no warning signal going off in your brain. I used to do the same thing. If you read it and it seems “wrong” to you—you say, “I just don’t understand it.”So, where you’d normally agree, you say, “I believe it.”And where you’d normally disagree, rather than say, “I don’t believe it” (which is what is occurring in your head), you know you aren’t allowed to say that—so you default to: “Since it’s right and I don’t think it’s right—I can’t be right. So, I must not understand it.”What I find sad about Xianity is the way it teaches people to kill who they are and what they believe and spend their lives in a pretense, wearing a veneer of a doctrine that they go around calling “my belief”—and they go to their graves never even taking the time to examine what they actually believed, because they weren’t allowed to even admit that their own beliefs deviated from what they had to
    say they believed (or “didn’t understand”).So, when you don’t agree with something the Bible says you should think, you don’t feel a need to ask, “Hey, why do I think this is wrong? Am I wrong? Or is this a wrong teaching?”In fact, if there are “wrong” things in the Bible—but you’re trained to call them “not understood” things—how would you ever recognize an actual flaw in the book? If it does teach some good things and some crappy things—and you aren’t allowed to call it on the crappy things—then you can’t really say that it doesn’t contain some real crap. If you don’t understand it, it wouldn’t be honest to assert it’s not an immoral teaching. You can say you don’t believe god would offer an immoral teaching—but how would you know with that attitude of yours that you don’t think about it, you just accept it as “unflawed, and not yet understood.” In fact, the book could be filled with faults and that “I don’t understand” response would offer an adequate blinder to keep you from—say, not being able to assert that it’s wrong to commit mass infanticide?Think about it. This religion has affected you so deeply that you are unable to assert that it is immoral to kill infants en masse—even while you know you cannot think of any moral explanation for god’s command. You must hold out that sometimes it may be right. If someone asserted such a thing on behalf of Allah, or someone they considered to be a relavently high authority, you’d likely join me in condemning the doctrine as corrupting people’s minds. I can’t say you’d join me for sure, but surely many Christians would. This is the reason many atheists fear what Christianity does to people’s heads. I have, so far, seen people defend infanticide (some actually do assert it was right), genocide, slavery, rape, and all manner of atrocities that are condoned in the Bible in different circumstances. Actions that, today, would be condemned in any circumstance—but Christians assert they were OK because god asked that they be done.If I excuse every atrocity of Jehovah as “misunderstood,” and then assert Jehovah is “moral,” that’s a fairly weak brand of “morality” that simply ignores my immoral actions and puts them in the “doesn’t count” category—followed up with an asterisk that points to, “when we have better data, surely this will seem right to us—although I can’t imagine how right now.”>I went through a bitter divorce a few years back. My ex-wife left me for another man. You can bet it took some praying and hard thinking before I was able to love her in the midst of all of this.>This is part and partial to having what the old-time Puritans called a "sin nature." I do not always do what I should do (Romans 7).If we can’t trust our judgments, then it seems to me we also cannot trust our judgments regarding god’s morality/immorality…?

  44. 44
    -C

    Q: Why do you call it Xianity?

  45. 45
    tracieh

    -C:In writing something long, it’s just easier to abbreviate a word I’ll be repeating often.JK:I wanted to add something in case I wasn’t totally clear my stance regarding “reasonable” as it relates to beliefs. Although I’d like to believe people are all capable of critical thinking, I’ve seen too many who simply lack that skill. I still believe they could learn to think critically—but it’s not a natural ability. It’s a learned skill.Logical fallacies are, basically, a list of unreasonable assumptions people make routinely in their thinking. Fallacies “seem” reasonable to a person who cannot think critically, but they are not reasonable when examined.The main examples I can provide relate directly to religion. This is not because I wish to attack religious people. It’s simply that I’m most familiar with their application of fallacies. But, for example, I’ve had theists appeal to me that “so many people believe in god,” as if that has any bearing on whether or not god is real.If I ask them point blank, “If I make up a story, does it become more likely to be true the more people I can convince to believe it?” They readily admit that it doesn’t work that way—and yet, with regard to their own beliefs, they will go right back to the idea that it is somehow meaningful to the question “does god exist?” that so many people accept it as true.They defy what they, themselves, acknowledge as “reason” when it comes to something they want to support.Confirmation bias is also not reasonable—to disregard relevant data and focus only on data supporting one side of an issue is certainly no way to get at what is correct; but people do it all the time.I’ve just seen too many people offer unreasonable arguments to support their conclusions, for me to accept that reason and belief must go hand in hand.

  46. 46
    J. K. Jones

    -C,Please note that I am responding to your original comment. I thought you were more forceful in your statements the first time. If my responses do not fit the later version, please clarify.“While it is mathematically possible to continue to divide into smaller and smaller parts into infinity, in the real world it does not work this way. Real space is not infinitely divisible. It is divisible by a very long way, but eventually there is a smallest possible unit.”Exactly. The point of the series is not that an infinite series is infinitely devisable. It is not, therefore the argument works. It is a discrete series, not a continuous one. I’ll use Richard Dawkins as a foil:“To return to the infinite regress and the futility of invoking God to terminate it, it is more parsimonious to conjure up, say, a ‘big bang singularity.’ Or some other physical concept as yet unknown. Edward Lear’s Nonsense Recipe for Crumboblious Cutlets invites us to ‘Procure some strips of beef, and having cut them into the smallest possible pieces, proceed to cut them still smaller, eight or perhaps nine times.’ Some regresses do reach a natural terminator.” (“The God Delusion,” p. 78)This is a false analogy. To make the analogy fit the argument that is being questioned, we have to think of a strip of beef so long that when we stand at one end of it we cannot find the other end. We simply cannot cut the entire thing into fine pieces because we will never reach the other end of the thing.“…order exists whether or not humans are around to perceive it. But our perception of the universe is what we use as a frame of reference for discussion, so your statement that argument is therefore meaningless if we perceive it from an internal frame is somewhat flawed because we have to. We all have only our perception to base our entire intellect, reasoning, and logical ability on.”I agree. The question is not whether order exists in the universe. The question is why any order exists at all. Matter in motion according to random events cannot in theory lead to order. Random events by definition are not orderly. Order cannot arise from disorder.“Reading between your lines a bit, you seem to see God as a kind of external motivator, a force that allows you, directly or indirectly, to do everything.”Yes. I have never heard an alternative explanation for why the human condition is as it is. God enables the power of choice, reason, action, and even life itself. “…’why should I be a nice good person?’ which I don’t think is your real intent.”Yes, that is my intent. Note that the question is not “Should I be a nice, good person?” The answer to that question is obviously ‘yes’ for both of us from and atheistic and a theistic perspective! The question is why should I? What’s the point?

  47. 47
    J. K. Jones

    Arensb,“…a mathematical statement, like 0+1=1, which can’t possibly not be true.”Exactly.“…a small, trivial thing, like “electron-positron pairs can appear for a limited amount of time”…”If the initial cause can be small and trivial as described, then that small, trivial thing must have always existed, must have extraordinary power, and must be able to act on its own without outside influence. The argument still works.There is another form of the first cause argument that you are vulnerable to here. It is based on the premise that “out of nothing, nothing comes.” There must be something that exists in and of itself for the current universe to come from. Nothing comes into being from nothing (if you will permit me the standard definition of the word ‘nothing.’).“…the first cause need not be unique… that event may simply be the first of a myriad of similar events.”It must have been first. The event(s) that lead to our universe must have been caused by something that existed before anything else existed.

  48. 48
    J. K. Jones

    Tracieh,“…I understand if you don’t have time…”Thank you very much for your civility.I will take the time, just not right now. I have copied and pasted your comments into something I can print and review in detail, and I will get back to you.

  49. 49
    J. K. Jones

    Tracieh, “…Logical fallacies are, basically, a list of unreasonable assumptions people make routinely in their thinking. Fallacies “seem” reasonable to a person who cannot think critically, but they are not reasonable when examined.”I agree. I just think that atheists are as guilty of this kind of fallacy as theists. I would not accept something unreasonable as a tenant of faith. “…“so many people believe in god,” as if that has any bearing on whether or not god is real.”Yes, 10,000 Irishmen can be wrong, to borrow the old philosophical line. With regard to testimony, we must explore the reasons why people accept things as true, the bias of those people, and the circumstances they were in when they developed those beliefs. This is standard fair in the court of law.“Confirmation bias” is something all humans are prone to. I shall endeavor to avoid it.“I’ve just seen too many people offer unreasonable arguments to support their conclusions, for me to accept that reason and belief must go hand in hand.”Agreed.

  50. 50
    arensb

    J.K. Jones:If the initial cause can be small and trivial as described, then that small, trivial thing must have always existed, must have extraordinary power, and must be able to act on its own without outside influence. The argument still works.It works only up to the point where someone says “and let’s call this first cause `God’”. You are, of course, free to define “God” in any way you like. But defining “God” as a mathematical tautology or as the possibility of virtual particles is far enough outside of what most people mean that it’s bound to cause confusion.A tautology, however beautiful and seminal, did not create the world in six days or free Israelites from slavery; it does not have any sons, only-begotten or otherwise, to save people from its wrath; it doesn’t give moral guidance, or any of the other things that gods normally are said to do. The possibility of virtual particles is not something worth praying to, or building shrines to, or even separating from government.Nothing comes into being from nothing (if you will permit me the standard definition of the word ‘nothing.’).Actually, particle-antiparticle pairs appear all the time. And as I understand it, quantum physics is chock full of things that happen for no reason.Furthermore, if I understood Vic Stenger correctly in “God: The Failed Hypothesis”, if you add up all of the energy bound up in matter and stuff, and subtract the gravitational potential energy of everything in the universe, you get zero. This is kind of like starting out broke, and ending up with a $100,000 house and a $100,000 mortgage (though I’m not sure how the “repayment” will happen).

  51. 51
    J. K. Jones

    Arensb, “…defining “God” as a mathematical tautology or as the possibility of virtual particles is far enough outside of what most people mean that it’s bound to cause confusion…A tautology, however beautiful and seminal…”I have demonstrated that the first cause must have certain attributes by logical necessity. I don’t see a tautology in the argument given. It reasons from what we have to what must be in order to have what we have.I will need to add other arguments to demonstrate other attributes of this first cause. The argument from purpose (teleological) demonstrates intelligence and purpose. It moves step by step.“Actually, particle-antiparticle pairs appear all the time. And as I understand it, quantum physics is chock full of things that happen for no reason.”Quantum Physics is full of things that happen for no reason we can yet discern. But even if they happen without physical cause, would this not just add credence to creation from nothing?“… if you add up all of the energy bound up in matter and stuff, and subtract the gravitational potential energy of everything in the universe, you get zero.”I never said that the first cause was contained within the universe. In fact I demonstrated that it could not be. It existed before anything else did, so it cannot be contained within the universe. So its power cannot be found here.

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    J. K. Jones

    Tracieh,“…I pick up a political pamphlet and read it, and I when I’m finished I think that what is contained in that pamphlet is right in line with how I view things and what I think things should be, and I say, “Wow! This is EXACTLY what I believe!” … In the political example, what’s happening is that I already have an idea established in my own mind about how the society should function.”I hold what the Bible says to be true because of argument and evidence outside the Bible and from looking at the Bible as an historical source. I do not come to the Bible convinced beforehand that I should submit to it as the Word of God.“…I’m simply going down a mental checklist to see if my personal beliefs align with those of the author…”You did not develop your beliefs in a vacuum. You had reasons to believe what you believe before you picked up the pamphlet. I do not speak for all Christians, and I freely admit that some Christians would be vulnerable to your argument, but I am not. I have formed my beliefs with evidence before turning to the Bible as the Word of God. My belief in the Bible is analogous to your belief in the contents of the political pamphlet.

  53. 53
    arensb

    J.K. Jones:I have demonstrated that the first cause must have certain attributes by logical necessity. I don’t see a tautology in the argument given. It reasons from what we have to what must be in order to have what we have.I didn’t say your argument was tautological. Rather, you agreed above that the first cause could be something like “0+1=1″, which can’t possibly not be true. In math, a statement that is always true is a tautology. You also agreed that the first cause could have been something trivial like the possibility of virtual particles to appear in a vacuum.What I’m saying is that that’s not what most people mean when they say “God”. So you ought to use a different word so as not to cause confusion.

  54. 54
    J. K. Jones

    Tracieh,“… Xianity…teaches children to be self-depricating…be self-hating and to hate their own species…”Christianity describes humanity as it is. There is no avoiding the fact that people do things that are wrong. There is no denying that people do not do things that are right. The facts are obvious. Christianity does not leave people there. People are valuable because they are made in God’s image. This gives all people, no matter their personal attitudes and action, value. Christians call this dignity. Dignity requires that people be treated as valuable. This is a powerful contribution of Christianity to culture.Further, God has chosen to come to earth in the Person of Christ, live a perfect life, die a death He did not deserve on the cross, suffer the wrath of God that our sins deserve, and rise from the dead to demonstrate His power over sin and death. Faith in Him gives us credit for what He did and suffered. This gives people value because their sins and defects of character have been paid for by Christ. “…the Bible claims god gave us no conscience, but instead conspired to keep people from learning the difference between good and evil.”That’s not what I read in Romans 1.“…as I’m human, and he wants to kill human infants, I can’t think of who would be MORE qualified to demand an explanation…”God would be just in condemning all of us to death at any point in our lives because we are the kind of people who sin. Here’s an answer that goes beyond mine: http://www.ligonier.org/questions_answered.php?question_id=90“Do you understand god?”Not completely. But I do understand many things that I believe about Him. The same is true of other places where the Bible’s teaching is mysterious.“How do you differentiate between things that exist and things that do not exist?”The same way you do: I use my sense perception and intellect.“…That “feeling” is your belief. “Feelings” don’t rebel, your mind, which controls your reactions to what you’re reading, rebels—by letting you know, “Hey—this isn’t what I think about it at all!” But you just stuff that deep down and go on as if nothing is wrong.”That does not fit at all with my experience of life. I am conflicted all the time. True, my feelings should go along with my intellect, but they often do not. Intuition is valuable, but it does not replace the need for hard evidence and argument. This is true of scientific inquiries as well. If people did not feel so attached to paradigms (ways of looking at the data), we would make scientific progress must more quickly.“In fact, if there are “wrong” things in the Bible—but you’re trained to call them “not understood” things—how would you ever recognize an actual flaw in the book?… that “I don’t understand” response would offer an adequate blinder…”I would evaluate the objective evidence and make conclusions. I would look for contradictions with scientific fact, internal contradictions, inconsistency with established historical fact, etc. I strive to find contradictions in Scripture for the very reason that it broadens my understanding of what the Bible actually means. Questions like this have lead me to study the process by which we have acquired the Bible’s text, and I have benefited much from that study. It’s a little like the person who refuses to accept established scientific theory because he / she sees contradictory data. It leads to a new theory.“I have, so far, seen people defend infanticide (some actually do assert it was right), genocide, slavery, rape, and all manner of atrocities that are condoned in the Bible in different circumstances.”I can’t help but think that you often confuse what the Bible records as an historic fact with what God approves as morally right. The Bible records all kinds of sins of people that God accepts as His own. That does not make what they do right or approved in God’s eyes. Like you, I use my logic and observation to form a view of the world in which I live. We agree on the value of reason. We agree on the fact that many people do not reason well.But why should we expect any of our abstract beliefs about anything to be true? In an atheist view of the world, what possible evolutionary advantage would any abstract beliefs have? Why should we expect random actions of inanimate matter to give rise to a being that could reason at all? The very fact that we can reason with each other about abstract beliefs requires a God who designed us to be reasonable people capable of using our senses to gather facts about our surroundings. It also requires a God to design the universe in an orderly way. It also depends on a God who upholds the universe in such a way that it behaves in the future the same way it does in the past.

  55. 55
    J. K. Jones

    Arensb,“… the first cause could be something like “0+1=1″, which can’t possibly not be true…”What I meant was that the first cause must logically be as it has been described. It must have always existed, have immense power, and have the ability to act without outside influence. The argument is undeniable.“… You also agreed that the first cause could have been something trivial like the possibility of virtual particles to appear in a vacuum.”As long as this ‘trivial’ thing must have always existed, have immense power, and have the ability to act without outside influence. “…that’s not what most people mean when they say “God”. ..”That’s not all they mean, but it is good part of what most theists believe about God.

  56. 56
    tracieh

    >>“… Xianity…teaches children to be self-depricating…be self-hating and to hate their own species…”>Christianity describes humanity as it is. There is no avoiding the fact that people do things that are wrong. There is no denying that people do not do things that are right. The facts are obvious. Christianity does not “describe humanity as it is.” It overlays a condemnation on humanity as it is. A judgment is not a description of a thing “as it is.” It’s a description of a thing “as I see it.” That’s very different.People do things that are “wrong” by other people’s standards. People “do not do things that are right” by other people’s standards. That is an obvious fact. But it is not an obvious fact that humanity is loathsome or worthy of general condemnation or judged by any deity. That is what is in dispute as not being an “obvious fact.”>Christianity does not leave people there. In fact Christianity convinces them that they are unable to redeem themselves of whatever perceived shortcomings they or others decide they have. Christianity overlays a fantasy villainy upon humans that is a false layer of wrongness. It imposes a false judgment and a false condemnation. It does not demonstrate that people are required to be perfect by anyone’s standards. And it does not demonstrate that people are “saved” by it in any way. It merely claims people need divine intervention and that there is a punishment to avoid. I simply see no reason to make up fake systems to impose upon people when reality can suffice.>People are valuable because they are made in God’s image.This is an example of an unsubstantiated claim. Further, it is used to condemn people—to say they should be living up to a standard of some god model put forward by ancient sheep herders. Why can’t they accept the reality that they’re people and accept themselves as people. I have seen zero evidence to support any reality that requires people to model themselves after an ancient Jewish teacher/myth in order to not be loathsome. It’s just a bizarre, unsubstantiated belief that beats people over the head where it’s simply unnecessary. To hold up some made up image of god and tell people that’s what they should accept as “perfection”—and that if they can’t be just like this (imperfect, in my view) deity—they deserve eternal torture—is just a horrible thing to teach a child. It’s right up there with telling them there is a monster in their closet who will eat them tonight if they fail their spelling test. Is it really necessary to frighten little children with made up scary stories in order to get them to perform to some made up “perfect” standard? I’m unconvinced.>This gives all people, no matter their personal attitudes and action, value.No, it gives them some made up aspiration of “perfection” that is far from perfect.>Christians call this dignity.And people who are abused often defend their abusers as being “right.” This is not unusual at all. They make up a god. They grovel before it—and they consider themselves dignified. That’s their prerogative.>Dignity requires that people be treated as valuable.But if people are worthy of eternal condemnation when judged on their own merits—how is that “valuable”? That’s what I consider garbage—the stuff that should be tossed on the fire—that’s exactly as Jesus described it, in fact. It’s impossible to say that a person is garbage, but that luckily god is merciful (not just—but merciful), so they aren’t getting what they really deserve—and call that telling people they are “valuable.” In fact, this is a great example of exactly how deluded many Christians are.>This is a powerful contribution of Christianity to culture.Color me unimpressed. It’s like claiming child abuse is a powerful contribution to human culture.>Further, God has chosen to come to earth in the Person of Christ, live a perfect life, die a death He did not deserve on the cross, suffer the wrath of God that our sins deserve, and rise from the dead to demonstrate His power over sin and death. None of which anyone can substantiate—so more claims without merit.>Faith in Him gives us credit for what He did and suffered. We get the “blame,” according to the Christians who believe the ridiculous claim that an omniscient, omnipotent god couldn’t come up with a better plan than “torture and kill an innocent person” to make up for little Jimmy telling a fib—because otherwise that fib requires little Jimmy to burn for eternity in Hell (another excellent plan Christians attribute to their all-wise god).>This gives people value because their sins and defects of character have been paid for by Christ. Why does anyone’s failure to live up to the Christian standard of perfection require payment? Why can’t people just be people and that’s OK? Why does a human sacrifice have to be provided to an ancient Mid-East deity—and more importantly how do you sleep at night worshipping a god whose best plan is “Kill an innocent as a sacrifice to me so I don’t torture you all forever (bwa-ha-ha)!” At what point does your brain kick in—if ever—and warn you that your on the side of evil with this sort of a doctrine?>>“…the Bible claims god gave us no conscience, but instead conspired to keep people from learning the difference between good and evil.”>That’s not what I read in Romans 1.I was referencing Genesis. Sorry if that was unclear.>>“…as I’m human, and he wants to kill human infants, I can’t think of who would be MORE qualified to demand an explanation…”>God would be just in condemning all of us to death at any point in our lives because we are the kind of people who sin.And I can see by this exactly how much we’re valued.>Here’s an answer that goes beyond mine: http://www.ligonier.org/questions_answered.php?question_id=90>>”I am satisfied that the Old Testament is the inspired Word of God and that God did in fact command the Jewish nation to institute the herem against the Canaanites. God does tell us in the Old Testament why he instituted that policy against the Canaanite people.”OK, so he accepts that his model of god is one that includes a personality that endorses and commands mass infanticide.>>”It’s not as though God commanded a group of bloodthirsty marauders to come in and kill innocent people.”So—infants _aren’t_ innocent people?>>” God said to Israel, “I am using you here in this war as an instrument of my judgment upon this nation, and I’m bringing my violence upon this unbelievably wicked people, the Canaanites.”Yes, I get that. My question is—how is mass infanticide moral?>> “I’m giving to the Canaanites their just deserts”Babies deserved to be run through with swords—according to this writer—and you’re putting this forward as what you also endorse? I assume otherwise you wouldn’t have sent me this link. But correct me if I’m wrongly affiliating you with a wack-nut that endorses killing babies.>>” don’t want any of the influences of this pagan heritage to be mixed into my new nation that I’m establishing.” That is the reason he gives.”God hates pagans so much that killing their babies is moral. That’s your “deeper” argument? I’m sorry, but if you accept that it’s OK to slaughter babies because you don’t like what their parents are choosing to do—I’m calling that immoral—and I would call it immoral no matter what “being” put it forward. And if a god or anyone else tried to kill infants en masse—you’re free to stand by and cheer for their good deed—but I’ll be doing whatever I can to stop them. For goodness sake, man—what exactly separates people who believe
    killing babies for Jehovah is moral and people who believe flying a plane into an office building for Allah is moral? If there’s a difference between the bloodthirsty nature and the moral castration those doctrines teach—I’m seriously hard pressed to idenitify it.>>“Do you understand god?”>Not completely. But I do understand many things that I believe about Him. But since we agree that we can only believe what we understand, then I assume you don’t completely believe in god.>The same is true of other places where the Bible’s teaching is mysterious.This teaching is not “mysterious,” though. The link you sent says it means exactly what it says—and I actually agree. It’s a very clear verse. Do you believe a god that instructs mass infanticide and requires human sacrifice is a good and moral god? You appear to be answering “yes,” even while you claim you don’t fully even understand why you’re answering “yes.” I find that ludicrous—but I accept that’s your answer.>>“How do you differentiate between things that exist and things that do not exist?”>The same way you do: I use my sense perception and intellect.I accept that which can be measured as an existent manifestation. What do you measure that is god? And I accept your descriptions of your sense perceptions. What I mean by that is, for example, some people tell me they get overwhelmed by emotion and that is how they know god is there. I accept they feel emotions—which can be measured. And I accept they are defining measurable brain activity as god. I don’t know why they call it god—I call it brain activity. However, I at least now understand that they label a particular set/combination of emotion as “god.” What are you calling “god”?>>“…That “feeling” is your belief. “Feelings” don’t rebel, your mind, which controls your reactions to what you’re reading, rebels—by letting you know, “Hey—this isn’t what I think about it at all!” But you just stuff that deep down and go on as if nothing is wrong.”>That does not fit at all with my experience of life. I am conflicted all the time.Where did I say people don’t feel conflicted? I’m merely pointing out that conflict comes in many forms. And if I read a statement about morality that I believe to be moral, I don’t feel conflicted by it. I feel supportive of it. And I don’t think that’s an abnormal response.>True, my feelings should go along with my intellect, but they often do not.That is because you’re not sold on your “intellect.” You don’t actually accept what you’re telling yourself is correct. In other words—you are trying to intellectually force a belief in a thing that, deep down, you don’t believe. It would be like having a partner you find yourself not trusting. They work late one night and you can’t get them on the phone. They’ve never lied or cheated that you know—but you can’t shake the feeling something isn’t right. Maybe you had a prior relationship where the person was cheating and you have personal trust issues. But the reason you feel conflicted is that you cannot make yourself BELIEVE that the person is trustworthy—even though on an intellectual level you (a) want to believe it and (b) are telling yourself it’s more likely true.What I’m saying is that you’re telling yourself the morality in the Bible is correct—but if you really believed that—you wouldn’t be conflicted by it.>Intuition is valuable, but it does not replace the need for hard evidence and argument. This is true of scientific inquiries as well. If people did not feel so attached to paradigms (ways of looking at the data), we would make scientific progress must more quickly.Intuition is what you believe. Your intellect is not what you believe. And I’m not claiming it is. I’m claiming that as much intellect as you want to throw at any situation—if you “feel” conflicted you don’t trust your intellect in this case. And it would be a lie to say you personally “believe” your partner is faithful if you don’t feel like you can trust him/her. You may be able to tell yourself you’re being unfair and even wrong in your mistrust—but that doesn’t change the fact that you DO believe the person is not trustworthy—because you DON’T trust him/her. If you did, then your intellect and your belief would be in concert and no conflict would occur. You’re saying the Bible says god kills babies—and I’m conflicted—but I “believe” it is (a) true and (b) moral. I’m saying you believe “a”—maybe. But you haven’t totally swallowed “b” yet, or you’d have no conflict.>>“In fact, if there are “wrong” things in the Bible—but you’re trained to call them “not understood” things—how would you ever recognize an actual flaw in the book?… that “I don’t understand” response would offer an adequate blinder…”>I would evaluate the objective evidence and make conclusions. I would look for contradictions with scientific fact, internal contradictions, inconsistency with established historical fact, etc.All this because it’s really _that_ hard to say “Mass infanticide is not moral”? You know the story. God disapproved of the pagan Canaanites. He told the Hebrews to kill them all—down to the last child and the last infant. Does that meet with your moral standards or not? Does that illustrate to you a “moral” god? Someone who loves people and cares about them and wants what’s best for them? Or maybe I should ask, what does “moral” mean to you? Maybe we have different ideas of morality. I just don’t see the “good” part of killing an entire race-worth’s of infants as a military response—commanded by a deity a human or a parakeet.>I strive to find contradictions in Scripture for the very reason that it broadens my understanding of what the Bible actually means. Questions like this have lead me to study the process by which we have acquired the Bible’s text, and I have benefited much from that study. It’s a little like the person who refuses to accept established scientific theory because he / she sees contradictory data. It leads to a new theory.I wrote recently to a friend on this topic, and I want to share a passage, since I think it is relevant here:>>>“Was god wrong to have the Hebrews slaughter the Amelakite children and infants?” might be the topic of a sermon. But you can bet that the answer is going to be, “No, god was not wrong,” at the end of that sermon. When a [literalist] questions god, there is never any question, even from the outset of the examination, that the answer is going to be “god was right.” So, they may examine the morality they are handed—but they don’t really ever consider it in terms of asking, sincerely, if it’s possible that it’s a flawed model of morality. And, again, this is [literalists] in general. I have yet to meet one who has ever said to me: “I believe god did X, and I think X was immoral.”…>>>So, within the framework of that system, I [speaking as the literalist] never even considered why I believe what I believe (it’s god, so he’s automatically right), and whatever consideration I do of these ideas, they must justify the ideas—not actually call them into serious question. I can (and maybe I will) seriously and adamantly study and try to determine and understand WHY they are right; but never IF they are right, because that mode of thinking is not allowed. And that’s very significant.I don’t see that you’re approaching it any differently. You’re handed a very clear story. There’s nothing hard to grasp. God told the Hebrews to kill all the Amalekites—including the infants and children. Is mass infanticide an atrocity or do you think it is justified if a god asks for it to be done. OR do you think that if a god asks you to do it you should show some species-loyalty a
    nd tell that god to go find a better plan than killing all the infants of a particular race? Seriously—just the fact that this is so hard for you to answer should be enough to shock you out of whatever indoctrination you’ve been exposed to. How do you tell a moral from an immoral doctrine if “mass infanticide” doesn’t phase you?>>“I have, so far, seen people defend infanticide (some actually do assert it was right), genocide, slavery, rape, and all manner of atrocities that are condoned in the Bible in different circumstances.”>I can’t help but think that you often confuse what the Bible records as an historic fact with what God approves as morally right. The Bible records all kinds of sins of people that God accepts as His own. That does not make what they do right or approved in God’s eyes.In this case, god _commanded_ the killing of the Amalekite children. So, there’s nothing ambiguous about this particular example. So, let’s stick to one issue at a time here. And with slavery—I showed where the Hebrews took the slaves in accordance with what “god commanded,” so, I’m not that blind to the discrepancy you’re invoking. I’m talking about what god fully condones, endorses and commands people to do.>Like you, I use my logic and observation to form a view of the world in which I live. We agree on the value of reason. We agree on the fact that many people do not reason well.But do we agree that if a god tells people to kill one another’s children—that’s probably a doctrine nobody should be following? We don’t seem to. Since I’m the one saying, “No, we shouldn’t be listening to a religion like that,” there is no need for concern on your part. But I’m on the other side of that fence, talking to people telling me that they agree god commands atrocities—but that it’s OK, because he’s god. Can you understand the concern for those of us who don’t follow Abrahamic religions? My neighbors think mass infanticide isn’t an issue if god says it’s OK. That’s worrisome—and it should be to any sane person. Any cult that can get people to downplay mass infanticide is not something I want sweeping my nation.>But why should we expect any of our abstract beliefs about anything to be true? In an atheist view of the world, what possible evolutionary advantage would any abstract beliefs have? Why should we expect random actions of inanimate matter to give rise to a being that could reason at all?Because all the evidence we have to examine suggests that it has. And there is no legitimate cause put forward to doubt the evidence. We must work from what we know to what we speculate. Religion asks me to work from speculation to knowledge. And that’s simply not a valid method of fact finding. I don’t agree to a premise and then seek to prove it. I work from what can be substantiated to see what conclusions it supports. There is a reason that the more a person is exposed to natural sciences, the more likely they are to disregard religious claims. I have found no evidence of a manifestation of any god except for pantheist claims. If existence is measured by what can be measured—and we seem to agree it is—then god cannot be said to exist except as a natural event that is simply labeled god—exactly as the pantheists assert. Other people measure very normal things and call them god—but then assert there is more there that can be measured. But if it can’t be measured it’s not substantiated; and therefore lacks support to justify belief.>The very fact that we can reason with each other about abstract beliefs requires a God who designed us to be reasonable people capable of using our senses to gather facts about our surroundings.You have not demonstrated that there is any validity to this claim. In order to substantiate it, we must find and examine a god. And we must then determine whether or not gods would produce things that reason abstractly. Otherwise, we’re looking at a hole in the mud and calling it a “Big Foot” track. Unless we have examined a Big Foot and have verified it can make such tracks—we cannot assert this track is the result of a Big Foot having passed this way.You may not know how beings that reason abstractly could come about. But unless you have a god at your disposal to examine and test, you cannot say what it is or what it does. Things that do not exist cannot be the cause of other things. Until you can demonstrate a god as a clear, existent manifestation, and show it produces abstractly reasoning beings, you’re talking out of your hat and must making up gods and making up that gods produce abstractly reasoning beings.I am going out on a limb that you no more have seen a god or seen one produce abstractly reasoning beings than I have. You cannot say what a god would do any more than I could. We don’t know what a god is. We don’t have one to examine. We don’t know what a god would or wouldn’t do if we did have one at our disposal. You’re talking pure speculation based on nothing whatsoever.>It also requires a God to design the universe in an orderly way. It also depends on a God who upholds the universe in such a way that it behaves in the future the same way it does in the past.And how does anyone know what a god does or doesn’t do—or do you think we should believe claims without verification? Have you verified gods produce universes? I seriously doubt that you have. Anyone can make up anything and say “that’s what gods do.” How can we verify the claim? We need to examine a god. Have you done that? If not, you don’t know anything you’re claiming is valid. In fact, if no god exists, all of your prior assumptions are flat out wrong. So, before anything you say is to be believed, you must produce an existent, measurable manifestation of your god. Then we can examine that and see if it’s responsible for making a universe.What sort of universe would a god produce? How the heck could anyone claim to know such a thing without a god to examine? Anyone can _claim_ to know—but what steps have they taken to examine god? And if god is “this feeling I get when I go to worship,” I will be the first to say “feelings you have probably aren’t the cause of the universe.”So, put up or—well, you know the option. But if you can’t produce your god as an existent item, then nobody has any reason to think the Bible is the product of a god, the universe is a product of a god, people are the product of a god…basically god has to exist before you can go around attributing things to god. Have you established that very first and basic premise yet—or have you just dived off the deep end with a load of assertions before you verified your premise: God exists–?

  57. 57
    Adrael

    tracieh: “Have you established that very first and basic premise yet—or have you just dived off the deep end with a load of assertions before you verified your premise: God exists–?“Well, in the great scheme of things, what does “god exists” even mean, anyway?.I bet you’ve never asked yourself that, have you, Ms. Harris?. =D

  58. 58
    tracieh

    I just wanted to post an afterthought that could condense all of this for me. I considered what I’m asking, and it really boils down to this for what I’m driving at with JK:Is there any atrocity whatsoever that would make you halt and question the action you’re about to take if you thought it was directed by a god? And if you believe god’s instruction is more moral than your own judgment–how did you manage to come to that conclusion if you, by your own estimation, are not able to evaluate that morality using your own moral reasoning and judgment? If you are unable to assert as a result of your own judgment that what you’re about to do is a moral action (and especially in cases where you would assert it as immoral if not for the belief “god told me to do it”)–how can you believe that you should do it?Adrael: Exactly!

  59. 59
    J. K. Jones

    Tracieh,“This is an example of an unsubstantiated claim… None of which anyone can substantiate—so more claims without merit… the ridiculous claim… I find that ludicrous… you are trying to intellectually force a belief in a thing that, deep down, you don’t believe…nobody has any reason to think the Bible is the product of a god, the universe is a product of a god, people are the product of a god…”Only if you ignore the evidence presented in my comments on this post and presented elsewhere by able historians, theologians and philosophers. Only if you ignore the philosophical arguments for God’s existence. Only if you ignore the overwhelming historical evidence substantiating the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Only if you ignore the moral teachings of the greatest religious teacher to ever walk the face of the earth: Jesus Christ.“…if it can’t be measured it’s not substantiated; and therefore lacks support to justify belief …or do you think we should believe claims without verification? Have you verified gods produce universes? …How can we verify the claim? We need to examine a god. Have you done that? If not, you don’t know anything you’re claiming is valid. …you must produce an existent, measurable manifestation of your god. Then we can examine that and see if it’s responsible for making a universe.” It seems you are saying that we have to be able to tangibly verify the existence of something before we can believe it exists. If that is the case, how do you tangibly verify the claim that “we have to be able to tangibly verify the existence of something before we can believe it exists.” The answer is that you can’t. It’s an abstract concept. You have used abstract reasoning to arrive at a principle that there can be no abstract reasoning. “…you’re talking out of your hat and must making up gods and making up that gods produce abstractly reasoning…you no more have seen a god or seen one produce abstractly reasoning beings than I have…”Then your alternative is that there is no abstract reasoning at all. Or at least that is the impression I get from you post. In that case, there is absolutely no reason to continue this running argument since we cannot reason abstractly anyway.You’ve already heard my answers to your other questions in the post. I see no reason to go on after this comment. It is your blog. You all deserve the last word.Good luck and God bless.JK

  60. 60
    Stephen

    JK,Only if you ignore the evidence presented in my comments on this post and presented elsewhere by able historians, theologians and philosophers. …the philosophical arguments for God’s existence. …the overwhelming historical evidence substantiating the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. …the moral teachings of …Jesus Christ.How typical. He complains about us ignoring his evidence, as if he presented any.It seems you are saying that we have to be able to tangibly verify the existence of something before we can believe it exists.If you don’t have anything that can be independently verified, then you don’t have evidence. So please stop lying about having all of this copious evidence to back up your claims, okay? You don’t have any, and you know it. All you have are “abstractions” and speculation. You’re free to believe in your abstract “God” all you want, but if you want to convince rational, skeptical thinkers that he exists in some relevant way, you will have to provide real evidence.You’ve already heard my answers to your other questions in the post. I see no reason to go on after this comment.What a cowardly way to avoid Tracie’s very pointed and relevant questions about how you reconcile God’s alleged orders to commit mass infanticide, with your stated beliefs that the Bible is true and God is somehow moral. Please turn your brain back on long enough to address that one issue honestly. I want to know whether or not YOU, deep down, seriously believe that an entity who commands mass infanticide is morally just. And if not, I’d like to know how, exactly, you reconcile belief that the Bible is true with belief that God is moral.

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