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Why I am an atheist – Thomas Prentis

I could answer this question simply, by saying: because I no longer believe in God. But the reason this belief slowly ebbed and changed a young, conservative, fundamentalist Catholic into a fire-breathing liberal atheist was primarily the fact that the claims of religion are wrong.

If you pray every day for God to change your life, to get rid of your bad habits, your sins, your problems and nothing happens; if you see how restrictive and unnatural the rules your religion has; if you start to see how absurd it is for people wearing special gowns and hats to get some special say; if you come to understand that you are being told what to think, what to do by people with absolutely no grasp on reality; in essence if you find out that the God-voice you listened to was yourself and that religion is the biggest game of let’s pretend in the world..

Well then you stop believing.

And I’ve been better for it every step of the way.

Thomas Prentis

Comments

  1. Loud says

    Short and to the point, I like it.

    Quick question, though, Thomas. Did your loss of belief lead you to drop your conservatism for liberalism, or was that a different process altogether?

  2. rodriguez says

    I think there’s an inverse relationship between how “costumey” the leader’s outfit is and how legitimate the leader’s power is. For example, pope/Khadafi wearing golden robes/military jackets and elaborate hats is the far point on the spectrum, then Fidel Castro wearing fatigues long after he left the Sierra, then Hugo Chavez wearing red button down shirts exclusively, etc.

    And some leaders come out the other side again when they wear flannel shirts and a knit cap to be photographed chopping wood: it’s also a costume and a tip that something suspicious is going on.

    Anyway, yes, the costumes the priests wear was a clue for me too.

  3. storms says

    Gratz on coming out!

    While I came from the protestant side of things, I had more or less the same experience. Years of trying to make an untenable system work according to rules they formulate and blaming myself for failing to measure up. This led to years of study, first deepening my understanding of what they taught, then what they weren’t teaching, then comparative religion and history, and then the epiphany! It’s all big lie!

    A most insidiously evolved, self reinforcing, mentally appealing lie that seems almost designed to subvert the most honest and good-seeking individuals into perpetuating it’s own structure.
    (An argument for ID? LOL)

    Waking up from the make-believe is very freeing. Suddenly all religions look equally silly; and Science like the great light and hope it is.

    @rodriguez (#2) Nope. =>Pat Robertson, Rick Santorum, George Bush (shrub). The flashy ones are just more noticeable.

  4. allencdexter says

    “I’ve been better for it every step of the way.”

    Bingo!

    My time has been my own as I don’t worry about what day of the week it is when I want to do something.

    My money is my own as I don’t feel obligated to give a lion’s share of it to sustain the extravagant lifestyles of pompous liars.

    My short life is my own as I no longer worry about what is going to happen to me after it’s over and I know longer “search the scriptures” to make sure how I’m living won’t offend the great sky fairy who magically knows the intimate details of the private lives of billions of people and takes personal umbrage about what they do.

    Ah, sweet peace!

  5. generallerong says

    Excellent!

    “If you pray every day … and nothing happens…”

    That was the final straw for me. The utter uselessness and delusion of prayer, when faced with, say, a relative’s horrifying and debilitating disease.

    Now whenever some believer says to me, “I’ll pray for [whoever, whatever]” my retort is, “Well, I’m sure that will make YOU feel all-l-l-l better.”

  6. geekbert says

    Well said! It reminds me of how I’ve stopped believing in the United States government. No matter how many letters I wrote to my representative, I still never got checks in the amounts that I requested arriving at my house. And those stupid laws, don’t get me started!

    I’m done with it all. Now I can finally do whatever I want, whenever I want. What a relief to finally be free from all the fantasies of the rest of you idiots!

  7. Azuma Hazuki says

    Geekbert, you’re both ignorant and unfunny. I won’t write out the dissertation-length screed on why, despite sounding whiny, the OP’s objection to Abrahamic theism actually has a lot of merit, near the force of the logical problem of evil, since you couldn’t wrap your head around it anyway.

    All I’ll say is that if you think there is any analogy between human and “divine” laws and capabilities…well, it explains a lot about your thinking. Sometimes I think we atheists, the ones who took the time to learn some Koine Greek and read Origen and Josephus etc. take your God a lot more seriously than you and your kind do. We no longer believe because we know where it came from and where it’s inevitably going.

  8. =8)-DX says

    @Loud Thanks, and to asnwer your question: yes it was part of that process, but I mainly meant conservative to liberal on social issues (abortion, contraception, death penalty, gay rights, sexuality, etc.) In the political debate I’m mostly centrist and try to vote for people with what look like fair and reasonable economic policies, since in the Czech Republic the “moral” social issues are pretty much decided.

    Thomas

  9. geekbert says

    Azuma, so erudite! I’m intimidated. But you’ve tipped your hand. I see you believe in omniscience, your own. If only I had paid better attention in my Greek studies, since there are no good English translations available of the Christian scriptures or the church fathers. You presume that you know me. It only highlights your ignorance.

    Hmm…. “your kind”? Such bigoted rhetoric coming from a free-thinker! I’m shocked. Please don’t spare me the “dissertation-length screed”. That’s precisely where your problem lies. Illuminate me, O Enlightened One, what is evil? Help me understand so that I may wrap my tiny, unfilled brain around it’s problem.

  10. John Morales says

    [meta]

    geekbert

    I see you believe in omniscience, your own. [...] You presume that you know me.

    Azuma, so erudite! [...] It only highlights your ignorance. [...] Illuminate me, O Enlightened One, what is evil?

    Heh. Poseurs are funny.

    (You need Remedial Sarcasm 101)

    Help me understand so that I may wrap my tiny, unfilled brain around it’s problem.

    I just did.

    (Bonus help: [it's] → [its])

  11. geekbert says

    John, thank you so much for the correction on my inappropriate use of the apostrophe. That definitely was not an innocent error but very telling about my overall intelligence.

    I can see why you side stepped the actual issue in favor of the ad hominem. You might have just confused me otherwise. Well done!

  12. Azuma Hazuki says

    Oh, hi Geekbert! That’s your big box of buttmad in the corner there, it just arrived.

    Don’t be a jackass. I know I’m not omniscient and have no desire to be. I also know I’m likely several orders of magnitude better read than you though, and the relative distance is what counts here, not so much the absolute :) Think iceberg here: what you’re seeing is only the tip of the mass.

    So, you want to know what evil is? I’ll tell you: pursuit of greedy motives and uncaringness to others. If there is a cardinal human sin it is greed, and there are many many many kinds of greed. Simple desires on their own aren’t so bad, but consider what things like speculation on the commodities market have done to the global economy. Consider the Catholic Church’s history, until very recently. Consider the regressive, mind-numbing wave of fundamentalism sweeping the United States. This is evil, and all of it is rooted in greed and fear and anger. These things we must let go.

    Or was it an ontological grounding of morality you’re looking for? That, too, is simple, and beautifully so: we evolved it. It is part of us. With the exception of sociopaths, we can not help being moral any more than we can help breathing oxygen: we’re social, group-organized creatures with long gestation periods, vulnerable young, and tremendous cerebral cortices relative to our size.

    Morality emerges from these parameters as naturally as the crystal structure of ice from the chaotic motion of cooled water molecules. It is possible, but unlikely, that morality would not have evolved, but as we’ve seen in history any group that forsakes it dies a lingering and painful death as it comes apart at the seams. We are, remember, most closely related to bonobos and chimpanzees. I’ve no doubt our close primate relatives have morals, as well as cetaceans and possibly even corvids (crow/raven type birds).

    …er…want some ice for your hemorrhoids?

  13. geekbert says

    So, evil is “pursuit of greedy motives and uncaringness to others” then. Would you include arrogance in your definition of evil too? I assume not.

    Thank you for including your ontological basis for morality. That is ultimately what I was after. Since I’m not certain that your sense of morality and my sense of morality have evolved to the same level (me and “my kind”, you know) and I don’t want to be considered a sociopath, would you mind if I consult you from time to time to make sure that I’m in compliance?

    I hope you don’t mind me asking but, with you being so well read and all, I could really benefit from your perspective. Your definition just seems arbitrary to me. Shows how little I know. So our morals are like other evolved traits. Would you say that our morals are improving? How would we even know that? Is it a matter of determining what better aids our survival as individuals; or better, as a society?

    I guess that’s why I need you. You’re able to reduce that which philosophers have examined for ages to such simple black and white terms. Well, at least if there is no god, we always have you.

  14. Azuma Hazuki says

    I realize you’re trolling but will answer you anyway. And there’s nothing wrong with a little arrogance if you can back it up :)

    Now, despite how it looks, philosophy is not my strong suit. If you would like a much, much, much more in-depth expansion than I am capable of giving, read through Camels With Hammers on the sidebar here; Professor Fincke is orders of magnitude better at this than I am, not least because it’s his major (I am a geologist). You may also be interested in (by which I mean “will probably never work up the guts to touch in a thousand lifetimes”) Richard Carrier’s “Sense and Goodness Without God.”

    As to whether our morals have been improving, I would say “yes and no.” In explanation: the problems humans face are not very different from century to century. As the Bible itself observes, “there is nothing new under the sun.” We have, however, learned tremendous amounts about ourselves and the reality we live in in the past few hundred years.

    Professor Fincke argues that one dimension of morality is a sort of “goodness of fit” with our surroundings and each other; and one must admit, it’s easier to find a good fit when you know what shape the holes are and where the sharp bits can be found. We are physically wired for moral behavior, given our cohort of mirror neurons and our ability to empathize with other beings…and we are not alone in this.

    Most of our problems come from two things: fear, and greed. Greed in itself is often based in fear, at least at first, but it quickly becomes self-reinforcing (and to bolster the above, knowledge of feedback loops in the environment leads to self-awareness on this score as well…). I would argue that incorrect beliefs, including incorrect religions like Islam, Christianity, etc., also indirectly lead to problems of the sort we face today because they dehumanize anyone in the “out group.”

    If you’re really concerned about not being a sociopath, you may profit from realizing that the idea of God you have is itself sociopathic. I’m not sure if you’re actually a Calvinist or a presuppositionalist, but I suspect your arguments for the existence of Yahweh would eventually reduce to those positions. Getting free of them is the first step, and it’s not an easy one.

  15. says

    geekbert,

    I have a book recommendation for you: Religion Explained by Pascal Boyer

    and a question. Let X be some behavior which you believe is both morally good and commanded by God.

    Does God command X because it is morally good, or is X morally good because it is commanded by God?

  16. geekbert says

    Azuma, thanks for the book recommendation. I’ve downloaded it to my Kindle and will begin it this afternoon. I also picked up his “Why I Am Not a Christian”; it was a steal at just $3.95. I’m sure I’ve read some of Carrier’s writing before over on the secular web, but looks to be a good survey of his thoughts on the subject.

    I’ll also check out Professor Fincke on your recommendation. I appreciate your disdain for believers who don’t take the time to understand their own claimed beliefs much less the opposing views. I really do try to understand other vantage points because I don’t think I can really have confidence in my own conclusions otherwise. I think the test of whether I really understand another’s view is that I can recount it to him in such a way as to obtain his agreement that I “get it”. I don’t expect I’ll learn anything that I haven’t heard before from Carrier or Fincke but the prospect that I might is exciting.

    I’d also like to apologize for coming on so strong in my first posts. I had been reading something on another site (crockoduck.com) that was in a rather sarcastic tone and I’m afraid I let that carry over into my comment here on a pretty sincere sounding post.

    You wondered if I am a Calvinist or a presuppositionalist. Yes on both counts. In particular, I would love to know of any treatments/refutations of the presuppositional argument for God’s existence that you have found satisfying. That may better be a question for Professor Fincke. I’ve found very few current Christian apologists who use this argument or atheists who seem to understand it. Yet I find it to be the Biblical as well as the most sound argument.

    Finally, as I consider your comments on fear and it’s role in producing evil, it occurs to me that fear can be both good and edit according to the Christian view. The same fear of heights can both protect me by discouraging me from getting close to the edge of the roof and also prevent me from saving the life of one who will fall from the roof unless I run to their rescue.

    An axiom I’ve derived from the Christian presentation of the world and have come to appreciate is that evil is not in the thing but in how it is used. I’ve found that this applies without exception so far in my experience.

    Thanks again for the recommendations and I appreciate any tips on a good refutation of the presuppositional argument for God that you might make.

  17. geekbert says

    Love, Thank you as well for the recommendation. It looks like it lays out all the standard arguments but I’ll take a look.

    Thanks for the good question. I think it creates somewhat of a false dichotomy but I understand the tension you’re observing. I understand the nature of that which is “good” to be derived from God’s own nature. Therefore, He commands it because it is good but at the same time, one might recognize it to be good because He commanded it.

    As I understand goodness, it’s very definition comes from the nature of the supernatural being who created everything else. I would say that the term “good” does not have real meaning outside of a worldview that posits a transcendent standard. Any other definition reduces “good” to the level of mere preference. Some may like chocolate and others vanilla but we all know intuitively that we’re referring to something of a different order when we say that something is “wrong”.

  18. Azuma Hazuki says

    There’s no refutation to the presuppositionalist PoV because none is possible. The reason presuppositionalism seems so effective on the surface is because it isn’t an argument; it’s a lifestyle. Put another way, “presupposition” is a fifty-cent word for “axiom.”

    Dawkins infamously compared religion to a virus, biological or computational. The analogy for presuppositionalism is similar, but instead of being simply a computer virus, it’s a specific type of exploit called a “blue-pill rootkit” or “hypervisor trojan.” What this means is that instead of simply making more copies of itself when a file is opened as a normal virus does, it actually takes over the resources and allocation of same of the infected machine at a level below the OS.

    In the sense of arguments here, evidential (e.g., Thomist) apologetics is analogous to the old style of virus, in that the systems of reasoning etc are left untouched, and simply produce more copies of the meme due to spurious use of same.

    By contrast, presuppositionalism acts more like a hypervisor exploit in that it modifies and controls reasoning itself to disallow certain thought processes explicitly. It may also be compared to a biological retrovirus, or to a compiler exploit where the compiler produces bugged copies of even itself. Basically, evidentialist apologetics is gonorrhea; presuppositionalism is HIV/AIDS, right down to completely disabling the faculties of the infected and leaving them open to opportunistic attack.

    In case this needs repeating, this is not a virtue. Presuppositionalism is an epistemological lifestyle choice; there is a conscious decision to choose it as an axiom. Martin Luther was a Calvinist before Calvin; his various frothy diatribes on Reason’s whorishness are classic proto-presuppositionalism (I will spare the sure-kill tactic of pointing out that this is the fallacy of the stolen concept; you’ll get to that soon enough).

    Well, in an enlightened society we don’t punish the whores; we punish the pimps and johns who enslaved them. Luther, Calvin, Edwards, van Til, Bahnsen, Frame, Craig (however he may try to avoid admitting it) and so on are the worst pimps; for your own sake, don’t join them.

  19. geekbert says

    “There’s no refutation to the presuppositionalist PoV because none is possible.” That sounds accurate to me.

    “The reason presuppositionalism seems so effective on the surface is because it isn’t an argument” Seems like that should be pretty easy to demonstrate thus refuting your first point.

    Viruses and pimps… ok.

    “Presuppositionalism is an epistemological lifestyle choice; there is a conscious decision to choose it as an axiom.” Sounds similar to naturalism in that respect.

    “Luther, Calvin, Edwards, van Til, Bahnsen, Frame, Craig and so on are the worst pimps; for your own sake, don’t join them.” Too late. :-)

  20. Azuma Hazuki says

    This is the last time I’m going to reply to you, as I can see that you’ve become a textbook example of what I mentioned in the last post. It’s unfortunate, but as things stand you’re beyond anyone’s help but your own. I will reply only to point out a few flaws in your thinking

    – I am not a metaphysical naturalist, only a methodological one. Perhaps this is different from most atheists you know, but I take philosophical skepticism and agnosticism extremely seriously, sometimes to the point of sounding like a caricature. There very well may be a God, and I have no problem with this. Part of me rather likes the idea, if I don’t think too hard about it. But I am equally certain that this God is not Yahweh, and the fact that the only way to defend the existence of Yahweh is by quite literally not thinking about it any longer does not speak well of the chances.

    – On this note, you seem to be confusing atheism (a simple lack of belief) with scientism (an epistemological overgeneralization of the scientific method). In much the same way that my knowledge of technology makes me conduct transactions in cash and not carry a smartphone, my knowledge of science makes me extremely wary of applying the method in cases where it shouldn’t be used, or even feels like it shouldn’t. My failing, far from being scientism, is a paranoid unwillingness to apply the scientific method where it really would be useful.

    – Presuppositionalism is not an argument, but a lifestyle choice, precisely because axioms are not arguments. They are instead the bases from which arguments are constructed. This is why I likened it to retroviral re-encoding of one’s DNA; the very machinery of reason and argumentation is re-written by it.

    All presuppositionalist “arguments” are simple restatements of axioms, and presuppositionalism itself is purely axiomatic. It is actually redundant to posit any premises at all, and is done purely for the sake of appearing to be an honest debater. In other words, it’s all so much masturbation :)

    – Lastly, and bitterly ironically, presuppositionalism is the worst form of blasphemy on the planet. Worse then unbelief, worse than desecrating holy sites, worse even than staring God in the face and cursing him/her/it. Why? Because it is predicated on absolute faith in one’s own flawed, finite, limited reasoning. This also makes it, as mentioned, a case of the fallacy of the stolen concept; you are using reason to defy reason. You have turned your brain into your God and your thoughts into dogma. If there is a God, it will deservedly punish you for your insular, self-worshiping ways. Fin.

  21. geekbert says

    Azuma, thank you for the time you’ve already given to this. I whole-heartedly agree with you when you say, “… axioms are not arguments. They are instead the bases from which arguments are constructed.” That is the power of the approach. It retrains the focus of the argument where it belongs, namely, on the underlying assumptions of the worldviews in question.

    However, I think you are mistaken when you characterize a presuppositional apologetic as blasphemous and “Because it is predicated on absolute faith in one’s own flawed, finite, limited reasoning.” It is exactly the opposite. It begins by positing the Christian God on the basis of His self-authenticating revelation. This is the approach consistently demonstrated in the scriptural accounts themselves (e.g. Paul in Athens). The argument proceeds to demonstrate how any view that does not begin in this way undermines reason itself and is therefore self-refuting. God is not the conclusion of the argument but rather the starting point. Presuppositional apologetics shows that, without God, it is impossible to prove anything. Thus, it is the only argument I have found that does not turn human reason into an idol as you have described.

    Again, thank you for the interaction and for the reading recommendations.

  22. David Marjanović says

    In other words, it’s all so much masturbation :)

    Well… it’s been called a DoS attack on the listener. That makes it more like bukkake, doesn’t it. X-)

    it is predicated on absolute faith in one’s own flawed, finite, limited reasoning

    *lightbulb moment*

    Funnily enough, that’s exactly what science tries to save us from. “Your idea makes sense? Great, go try to disprove it. Then come back, and we can talk.”

  23. David Marjanović says

    It begins by positing the Christian God on the basis of His self-authenticating revelation.

    Please explains how it’s self-authenticating.

    This is the approach consistently demonstrated in the scriptural accounts themselves (e.g. Paul in Athens).

    Doesn’t that merely show that presuppositionalism wasn’t invented yesterday?

    The argument proceeds to demonstrate

    …using… …reason.

    Presuppositional apologetics shows that, without God, it is impossible to prove anything.

    So, what makes you think it is possible to prove anything in the first place?

    How would you disprove the claim that I’m the solipsist?

  24. geekbert says

    David, “God’s self-authenticating revelation” means that when God speaks, there is no higher authority by which one may check the veracity of his statement. If the God of the Bible is who he claims to be, then this must be the case.

    Yes, my mention of Paul in Athens was intended to show that this approach is not new nor is it blasphemous according to the model given in the foundational Christian documents.

    You are correct. The argument does proceed using reason. It does this on the basis of the revelation that truth does exist and that some things can be known for certain. That is the essence of the argument. It does not preclude the use of reason but rather provides a basis for having confidence in our use of reason. Moreover, it demonstrates that without God, there is no basis for confidence in our use of reason.

    Do you believe that the self is all that can be known to exist? If so, you are by definition the solipsist. I think it is possible to prove things because I believe that laws of logic and laws of science exist. I believe this in the context of a worldview that posits a God who is the foundation of such laws.

  25. CJO says

    Yes, my mention of Paul in Athens was intended to show that this approach is not new nor is it blasphemous according to the model given in the foundational Christian documents.

    Paul’s sermon before the Areopagus is not any kind of foundation to presuppositionalist apologetics. Nor can any of Paul’s authentic thought (which the speech in question is not an example of) be drafted into the service of presuppositionalism, because Paul didn’t trust wisdom or logic and saw no reason to ground these in God. God’s ways were precisely mysteries that transcended human thought, and the discomfort with this kind of mysticism that breeds schemes like presuppositionism is a thoroughly modern disease. You may feel the need to defend your faith on pseudo-rationalist terms; Paul did not. Characterizing the sermon the way you do is just another instance of using the figure of Paul as a malleable mouthpiece for whatever idea a believer has and wants to pretend already existed in the earliest stratum of Christianity. It’s been true since before Acts was written.

    What the author of Acts is at pains to demonstrate in the passage, though, is that Christ worship is not disruptive to the social order. That is the apologetic purpose of the episode, and the author achieves it by allusion and direct reference to the Hellenistic literary traditions of poetry, drama, and rhetoric. There is no more reason to believe any such event ever took place than there is to believe “the God of the Bible is who he claims to be” (unless he claims to be a fiction), and many reasons to believe the episode is a literary creation of the author, and equally ficticious.

  26. geekbert says

    CJO, I’m not sure on what you base your statement that “Paul didn’t trust wisdom or logic”. Acts clearly portrays him as regularly engaging in rational discourse about the Good News:

    As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures” (Acts 17:2)

    “So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God‑fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there.” (Acts 17:17)

    “Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.” (Acts 18:4)

    “They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.” (Acts 18:19)

    I think you may be misunderstanding Paul’s condemnation of what he calls worldly wisdom (1 Corinthians 3:18-20) for a general repudiation of wisdom or reason. As you see from the above accounts of his regular practice of engaging in rational discourse on the basis of revelation, that is not the case.

    Lest you doubt this or wish to accuse me of proof texting, I’ll point out that He actually teaches the approach I have described. He clearly teaches in Colossians 2 that the “mystery of God” you mentioned is Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” He didn’t deny the validity of wisdom or reason but rather any attempt at employing them outside of the foundation of God’s ultimate revelation, Christ.

    He told the church in Ephesus (1:7-9) that they

    “have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ”

    He tells the Corinthians in his second letter to them that

    “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

    As you can see, Paul’s apologetic was clearly one in which he reasoned on the basis of revelation. As you see from Acts, this was Paul’s regular practice and thus I called it a model. But it’s not just what he modeled. It is the method he taught the believers at Corinth, those in Colosse, and those in Ephesus. Augustine would later summarize Paul’s apologetic in the phrase crede, ut intelligas, “believe so that you may understand”. That is what presuppositionalism contends. You must believe what God says in order to know anything.

  27. says

    Love, Thank you as well for the recommendation. It looks like it lays out all the standard arguments

    Definitely not. I’m 99.9% certain you’ve never read anything like it.* It’s not a book about why atheism is correct. It’s about why religion is what it is, instead of something else.

    *There are a total of about a half dozen books in the field, and a couple hundred papers, but it’s a very good bet you’ve never read any of the others either; this is the best-known of them.

  28. says

    I think it creates somewhat of a false dichotomy but I understand the tension you’re observing.

    I don’t think it’s a false dichotomy. Though it’s possible I mangled it. Please allow the following to stand in for what I meant to say:

    If it is true that God commands X because it is morally good, then X would still be morally good if God did not command it, and even if God did not exist. Moral goodness is the nature of X, logically prior to God’s command. This priorness was meant to be implied thusly: “X [...] is morally good”, and “because” of this, “God commands” it. The “because” indicates that one thing is the cause of the other, and so is logically prior. (“Logically prior”, you might allow, could have meaning even if “temporally prior” does not; that is, if you’re going to insist that there’s nothing temporally prior to God’s command, it may still be possible that something would be logically necessary in order for that command to make sense. The possibility of such a logical necessity is not too much to ask, I think, since I suppose you’ll allow that 2 plus 2 would equal 4 even if God does not exist, and so there are things which are logically necessary, independent of God’s command.)

    But if it is true that X is morally good because God commands it, then X would not still be morally good if God did not command it, if God’s nature was different such that his commands were also different, or if God did not exist at all.

    Now that I’ve stated it more clearly, these should be mutually exclusive options (P = “X would still be morally good if God did not command it”, and ~P = “X would not be morally good if God did not command it”, law of the excluded middle).

    And I assume, reading between the lines, that you’d choose the latter. Is that right?

  29. John Morales says

    Bah.

    Presuppositionalism is very, very stupid, much like the geekbert.

    (Occam’s razor disposes of it very easily)

  30. theophontes, Hexanitroisowurtzitanverwendendes_Bärtierchen says

    @ John Morales

    (Occam’s razor disposes of it very easily)

    Occam now has disposable razors?

  31. John Morales says

    [meta]

    theophontes, nah — it’s an eversharp, and Occam never keeps more of anything than he needs.

  32. geekbert says

    John, you hurt my feelings but it’s okay because the disposable razor bit made me laugh.

    Love, I’ll take your word that Religion Explained is very rare. The sections I skimmed sounded very familiar. Perhaps I recognize similar topics from On Intelligence by Jeff Hawkins (great book as well). I’ll add it to my reading twist. Thanks!

    Let me see if I get what you’re setting up in item:

    1. If it is true that God commands X because it is morally good, then X would still be morally good if God did not command it.
    Yes.

    2. If it is true that God commands X because it is morally good, then X would still be morally good if God did not exist.
    No. According to my view, if God did not exist, then neither would anything else. For the sake of argument, even if the universe could exist without God, then there would be no basis for calling anything morally good since God is the standard of moral goodness.

    3. Moral goodness is the nature of X, logically prior to God’s command.
    If I understand you correctly here, I would say yes. Moral goodness is that which conforms to God’s nature whether He commands it or not.

    4. This priorness was meant to be implied thusly: “X [...] is morally good”, and “because” of this, “God commands” it. The “because” indicates that one thing is the cause of the other, and so is logically prior.
    Yes; however, this does not mean that moral goodness exits as a brute fact outside of God. It exists as a reflection of God’s nature. (I’m with you on the temporal/logical distinction. Makes sense to me.)

    5. The possibility of such a logical necessity is not too much to ask, I think, since I suppose you’ll allow that 2 plus 2 would equal 4 even if God does not exist, and so there are things which are logically necessary, independent of God’s command.
    As I explain in #2 above, without God, nothing would exist. Again, for the sake of argument, if the universe could exist independent of God, I see no reason to believe that 2 plus 2 would equal 4. Why should it?

    6. If it is true that X is morally good because God commands it, then X would not still be morally good if God did not command it.
    False. God is not obliged to command exhaustively all that is good. It is entirely possible that there is good about which God does not issue commands. Even so, as I have stated above, I do not say that God commanding something makes it good. That which is good, is so because it is a reflection of God’s nature.

    7. If it is true that X is morally good because God commands it, then X would not still be morally good if God’s nature was different such that his commands were also different.
    I’m not sure as I think you’ve combined two things between which I would see distinction. I think the point of the question is whether good would change if God were different. Again, I do not think god’s nature is subject to change but, for the sake of argument, I suppose it would.

    8. If it is true that X is morally good because God commands it, then X would not still be morally good if God did not exist at all.
    I think you get my view by this point. If it were possible for the universe to exist independent of God, then there would be no standard of determining moral goodness and such an idea would merely be a convention or an illusion. It would be not dissimilar to preferences over what is the best flavor of ice cream. One may like strawberry and another vanilla. To each his own.

    Having walked through that, I think it may be more clear why I called it a false dichotomy. I would agree that the two options you presented are mutually exclusive. However, I infer from your presentation of the issue that your second option is meant to represent good as a brute fact that exists independent of God. If I have inferred correctly, then you have left out at least one alternative. God commands things because they are good, meaning they conform to His nature.

    I honestly do not want to turn this into a quibble over semantics. If I’ve misunderstood your argument, show me where and I’ll try to address it directly.

  33. geekbert says

    Reading *list not twist. Have fun with that one at the theist’s expense. :-)

    Thank you autocorrect.

  34. geekbert says

    Love, as I took another look at my response, I noticed another typo. I said, “Let me see if I get what you’re setting up in item” and it should be “by item”. Also, the beginning of my response to item 7 is awkward and might be better expressed as “I’m not sure, as I think…”. You probably understood what I meant in spite of the colloquial wording and poor punctuation.

    I also thought of a question to which I’d be curious to hear your answer. In my response to item 8 of your question, I explain what I propose morality would be without God (for the sake of argument). I wonder, do you agree with Azuma that morality is simply evolved? If so, do you agree with my comparison of morality to preferences about ice cream flavors? If not, why?

  35. CJO says

    He tells the Corinthians in his second letter to them that

    “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

    Ugh. The NIV is truly awful. But in this instance it is my ally, ugly though it be. The passage is a fine demonstration of just what I’m saying; the NIV has hidden it from you. The word translated “arguments” there that you saw fit to emphasize is logismous, “reasonings, logic”. The sense of the passage is precisely that logic is opposed to gnoseos tou theou, “the knowledge of God”. Literally, in the Greek, Paul is talking about tearing down logic and taking minds captive. The allusions are military (“pretentions” completely obscures this) and convey a strong sense of antagonism to the terms the NIV translates as “arguments” and “thoughts”.

    He told the church in Ephesus (1:7-9) that they

    “have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ”

    Here you seem to misunderstand even without the assistance of bad translation. A “mystery” (musterion) is what is being made known, a secret God has been keeping until now, which can only come about via the grace of God and the sacrifice of the annointed. There’s nothing about human reasoning in this passage at all. The wisdom (sophia) is God’s alone. Paul asserts that because God possesses this wisdom, he makes known the mystery at this time, in this way (kata ten eudokian atou “according to his good pleasure”), but there is no sense that the wisdom itself can be apprehended by men, and in context it is clear that Paul perceives direct opposition between the sophia of God, gnoseus tou theou on the part of men, and logismous, human reasoning.

    Acts is a fiction for whose author Paul was a convenient mouthpiece. It is not a reliable guide to Paul’s thinking; in fact it is an obstacle to understanding the view expressed in the genuine epistles.

  36. theophontes, Hexanitroisowurtzitanverwendendes_Bärtierchen says

    @ CJO

    Please tell me you are writing a book! (I want mine autographed.)

  37. John Morales says

    geekbert:

    John, you hurt my feelings but it’s okay because the disposable razor bit made me laugh.

    You should praise your god for it no less than for anything else whatsoever: befire it created creation, it knew this would happen (indeed, it made it so).

    (Presupps are beyond being insulted; as well insult a coprolite, for all the offence it takes)

  38. geekbert says

    CJO, how do you know that Acts is fictitious? I say it should be taken at face value.

    The heart of our disagreement is whether or not Paul discouraged/prohibited the use of reason as you suggest or whether he insisted that one begins with God’s revelation and then reason from there. I can see why you would like to discredit Acts since it recounts him reasoning in the synagogues regularly.

    I recognize that Paul strongly emphasizes the noetic affects of sin and the spiritual nature of God’s wisdom; however, your eisegesis blatantly misrepresents what he actually says. I’ve only had 8 semesters of Greek and haven’t regularly studied in Greek for years. But it only takes a novice with a good lexicon to realize that when you say, “Literally, in the Greek, Paul is talking about tearing down logic and taking minds captive”, you’ve got it all wrong. You really expect anyone who reads the context and any other of Paul’s writing (Romans for example) to think he is repudiating logic itself? Come on now, only people who are so predisposed to wanting what I say to be wrong would go for that (and be so geeked out about it that they want you to write a book and autograph it for them).

    Rather than declaring war on logic itself, he IS declaring war (great job recognizing the military imagery) on reasonings or arguments of a specific kind. You said it yourself. He is making war with any reasonings/arguments and hypsoma epairomenon that are “opposed to [teis] gnoseos tou theou“. He is at war with worldly wisdom not the use of logic in and of itself.

    “The sense of the passage is precisely that logic is opposed to gnoseos tou theou

    This is simply not the case. You don’t have to be an ancient language buff to read Paul and see that his attitude was basically,

    “You think you’re wise? You’re a fool if you say there is no God. Bring on your arguments, set up your obstacles and I’ll knock them down because the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

    Why else would he suggest in Romans 1 that general revelation is sufficient grounding for mankind’s culpability before God for rejecting Him?

    With regard to Ephesians 1, you said, “There’s nothing about human reasoning in this passage at all.” Isn’t it an unavoidable implication that, because of God’s gracious gift of wisdom and understanding and knowledge of the mystery once hidden, a man’s once darkened mind may now reason clearly?

    I applaud your diligence for looking into these passages rather than just taking my word for it but don’t miss the obvious. Paul can’t be rejecting logic and reason in general. He is laying out a logical case for rejecting fallen logic and reason which sets itself up against the knowledge of God, that which has not been informed by God’s gracious revelation of the truth. It’s not really that complicated.

  39. John Morales says

    geekbert:

    He is laying out a logical case for rejecting fallen logic and reason which sets itself up against the knowledge of God, that which has not been informed by God’s gracious revelation of the truth.

    <giggle>

    Fallen logic and reason, eh?

    (Naughty, naughty logic and reason!)

    It’s not really that complicated.

    It’s perfect for a simpleton such as you.

    The grown ups are talking.

    <snicker>

    If you’ve very, very good, you will get a nice present after you die.

    (You can console yourself with the thought I shall get a lump of coal)

  40. John Morales says

    [meta]

    Looks like the geekbert has run along and is minding its manners. :)

  41. geekbert says

    Hi John. I can see my comment really affected you. It was only meant in jest. And I haven’t run along. I’m satisfied with my response to CJO and I’m trying to find the balance suggested in Proverbs 26:4-5. Have a good day.

  42. John Morales says

    geekbert:

    I can see my comment really affected you.

    I can see mine didn’t affect you. :)

    I’m satisfied with my response to CJO and I’m trying to find the balance suggested in Proverbs 26:4-5.

    Simpletons are easily satisfied.

    Have a good day.

    Your manipulability hasn’t hurt any.

  43. geekbert says

    Simpletons are easily satisfied.

    I can see that. I’m guessing you didn’t check the passage I referenced. Verses 1-12 are a unit. Don’t miss the conclusion in verse 12. It is very pertinent to this whole discussion.

  44. John Morales says

    Psst, geekbert: the Babble was written by people, not by magical sky fairies.

    That is what’s pertinent to this whole discussion.

    (CJO is doing textual criticism, what you’re doing the equivalent of believing that Harry Potter is real and is a wizard)

  45. geekbert says

    Of course it was written by people! Most advice is. Does that make the advice in Proverbs 26:1-12 necessarily any less useful? You really are demonstrating the point of the proverb.

  46. John Morales says

    Heh. Evasiveness is evasive.

    Do you not see how “what God says” is the same as “what Harry Potter says”?

    (It ain’t what the fictional characters say, it’s what the author says that they say)

  47. geekbert says

    “It ain’t what the fictional characters say, it’s what the author says that they say”

    Wow! For someone who likes to call others simple, you sure are thick. The citation is attributed to Solomon, not God.

    “A wise man speaks because he has something to say, a fool because he has to say something.” ~ Anonymous (although frequently attributed to Plato)

    This statement’s author is unknown and yet the wise will see the value in the statement. But on to the point you would like to make but don’t know how to introduce without stretching and tossing out insults.

    “Do you not see how “what God says” is the same as “what Harry Potter says”?”

    No, I do not. Harry Potter is a fictional character. God is a real person. You may like to challenge that statement. Go ahead but it will take more than a vacant assertion if you’d like any thinking person to listen to you.

  48. John Morales says

    geekbert:

    For someone who likes to call others simple, you sure are thick. The citation is attributed to Solomon, not God.

    “what God says” is a direct quotation from your very own #31.

    (But no surprise you ignored the substance and misread my parenthetical elaboration)

    No, I do not. Harry Potter is a fictional character. God is a real person.

    And you claim to know this because you presuppose it.

    You may like to challenge that statement.

    Heh. Your empty assertion needs no challenge; you are the one making the claim, I just laugh at it.

    Go ahead but it will take more than a vacant assertion if you’d like any thinking person to listen to you.

    Your psychological projection is somewhat amusing, and its irony somewhat more so.

  49. geekbert says

    “what God says” is a direct quotation from your very own #31. (But no surprise you ignored the substance and misread my parenthetical elaboration)

    I did misunderstand what you were getting at. After all, it was a reference to a comment from 4 days earlier. You made the reference in response my post on a different subject. Frankly, I wasn’t expecting you to say something relevant to the discussion after your previous comment track record of childish name calling. I was caught off guard as it were. Even so, my mistake.

    “And you claim to know this because you presuppose it.”

    No. I know this as a result of God revealing it (also in comment 31, last paragraph in bold). And so do you; however, you don’t want to acknowledge it. Your conscience and intellect prompt you to agree with me but you suppress that knowledge. Your very persistence in arguing against me is evidence of this. Do you claim that you know that the Christian God does not exist?

    I would also direct your attention to my comment #41 in which I assert that, if your view is correct, then what we commonly call morality is nothing more than mere preference. Yet, I know that you do not live like that is the case. I’m certain that you either a) attempt to conjure some naturalistic justification for the existence of moral facts (Sam Harris fan?) or b) talk like there are no such things as moral facts yet demand that everyone around you live like there were (and hope no one notices).

    The latter would be the more consistent view for you to take. If you take the latter, perhaps you would even acknowledge that you live as though there were moral facts as a matter of pragmatism. I think that in your most honest moments, and more discussion would likely bear this out, that you would have to admit that it’s more than pragmatism. That is your conscience arguing my case.

    Again, just to be clear, these are not offered as proofs for God. I am convinced that you don’t really need proof because you know better. You just wish it were not so. The basis of my conviction is revelation (just in case I wasn’t clear earlier).

    What these arguments do prove is that, even though you say you do not believe in God, you still use the fruits of a Christian theistic worldview in arguing against it. You cannot avoid doing so. And your worldview cannot account for why you do.

  50. John Morales says

    geekbert:

    “And you claim to know this because you presuppose it.”

    No.

    Liar.

    I know this as a result of God revealing it (also in comment 31, last paragraph in bold).

    You “know” God revealed it because you presuppose the truth of your mythos.

    And so do you; however, you don’t want to acknowledge it. Your conscience and intellect prompt you to agree with me but you suppress that knowledge. Your very persistence in arguing against me is evidence of this.

    And you know it ain’t so; however, you don’t want to acknowledge it. Your conscience and intellect prompt you to agree with me but you suppress that knowledge. Your very persistence in arguing against me is evidence of this.

    Do you claim that you know that the Christian God does not exist?

    To which Christian god do you refer?

    The god of wrath, or the god of love?
    The trinitarian one, the binitarian, or the unitarian?
    The monophysite, or the dyophysite?

    (Et cetera et fucking cetera)

    I would also direct your attention to my comment #41 in which I assert that, if your view is correct, then what we commonly call morality is nothing more than mere preference.

    Anyone can assert anything, but guessing (wrongly) what I think and asserting it to me is risible.

    I’m certain that you either a) attempt to conjure some naturalistic justification for the existence of moral facts (Sam Harris fan?) or b) talk like there are no such things as moral facts yet demand that everyone around you live like there were (and hope no one notices).

    Your certitude suits you, O simpleton, but alas, life is a little bit more complicated than you realise.

    Again, just to be clear, these are not offered as proofs for God.

    Duh. Had you proof, you’d not need to presuppose. ;)

    What these arguments do prove is that, even though you say you do not believe in God, you still use the fruits of a Christian theistic worldview in arguing against it. You cannot avoid doing so. And your worldview cannot account for why you do.

    <snicker>

    Not only are they not arguments, but do they prove nothing of the kind, but (ironically) it is you who pervert rhetoric in your futile attempts to bolster your defences against the cognitive dissonance that atheists can live satisfying lives without needing your mental crutches.

    It’s amusing that you assert that only believers in your god can have morality, and then try to sustain that claim by further asserting that non-believers must really, actually, secretly believe what you believe to account for their morality.

  51. geekbert says

    You “know” God revealed it because you presuppose the truth of your mythos.

    If this were the case, why would it be problematic?

    And you know it ain’t so; however, you don’t want to acknowledge it.

    How do you know this?

    “To which Christian god do you refer? The god of wrath, or the god of love…”

    Nice side step. Do you know for certain that no God of any kind exists?

    Anyone can assert anything, but guessing (wrongly) what I think and asserting it to me is risible.

    It’d be really easy to prove me wrong on this one. Explain what you believe about morality. Giving an answer to the question I asked in comment #41 could clear this up. Remember, keep it simple enough for even me to understand it. Interesting, by the way, how you keep insisting that my views are due to an inferior intellect (ad hominem). My intellect may well be inferior to yours. Maybe not. I’d be interested in hearing how you propose that you can know that. Do claim to be able to know things for certain?

    I don’t think you’re stupid. Honestly, I wondered at first when all you offered were childish insults. I think you’re just rebellious. Still, I do not say and would never say that “only believers in [my] god can have morality”. You may need to re-read my post again and you’ll see that I actually say the opposite. I doubt you’ll be willing to admit your mistake but, in fact, I said that I’m sure you live as though there are certain moral facts which are true:

    “if your view is correct, then what we commonly call morality is nothing more than mere preference. Yet, I know that you do not live like that is the case.”

    I’m sure that you live as though moral facts exist. I argued that, in doing so, you prove that you know about God. I have never said that atheists are without morality. However, they are unable to justify in any cogent way, why they are moral. The moment they start trying to explain it, they must either admit that it is illusory or borrow from the theist’s worldview to explain themselves.

    Once more, do you know for certain that no God of any kind exists?
    How do you know that I “know it ain’t so”?
    Do you agree with Azuma that morality is simply evolved? If so, do you agree with my comparison of morality to preferences about ice cream flavors? If not, why?

  52. John Morales says

    geekbert:

    If this were the case, why would it be problematic?

    Petitio principii

    How do you know this?

    Heh. I was echoing your own rhetoric, or had you not noticed?

    Nice side step. Do you know for certain that no God of any kind exists?

    What’s a god?

    It’d be really easy to prove me wrong on this one.

    I just did: I told you you were wrong about what I think.

    Explain what you believe about morality.

    Morality refers to ideas about right and wrong behaviour.

    Interesting, by the way, how you keep insisting that my views are due to an inferior intellect (ad hominem).

    It’s an observation based on your stated views; you have the causality reversed.

    Do [you] claim to be able to know things for certain?

    Some things, sure: analytical truths.

    Still, I do not say and would never say that “only believers in [my] god can have morality”. You may need to re-read my post again and you’ll see that I actually say the opposite.

    Well, hardly the opposite, but indeed you made the claim that without your god, morality would only be a convention or an illusion.

    I’m sure that you live as though moral facts exist.

    Nope; my morality ain’t rule-based, though heuristics do play a part.

    The moment they start trying to explain it, they must either admit that it is illusory or borrow from the theist’s worldview to explain themselves.

    Really?

    My morality is based on empathy, theory of mind, the principle of enlightened self-interest, my personal preferences and my knowledge-base.

    There’s nothing illusory about it, nor do I borrow anything from theism (or deism, for that matter) — in fact, I discarded a bunch of stuff from it (I was brought up Catholic).

    How do you know that I “know it ain’t so”?

    Heh. You are repeating yourself; as I wrote above, I merely played your own claim back to you, and you immediately asked a fundamental question.

    (Perhaps you should ask that very question about the claim I echoed, no?)

    Do you agree with Azuma that morality is simply evolved?

    In the sense that almost humans have a sense of morality, sure.

    If so, do you agree with my comparison of morality to preferences about ice cream flavors?

    A classic pressup gotcha question, and a silly one based on a category error.

    (You think people think “Hm, what morality shall I employ today?” ;) )

  53. chigau (√-1) says

    John Morales
    Do you ever get bored with having this exact discussion over and over and over and over?
    Don’t you wish They™ would present something new?

  54. geekbert says

    Petitio principii

    Well I know that! We are talking about foundational truths, right? That’s why I keep asking how you know things. I’m drawing attention to the fact that while you will not permit me to have a starting point that is self-authenticating, you do the very same thing. The difference is that, from my starting point, I acquire the tools (reason, logic, induction) to gain knowledge about other things. I would imagine you could reply that your starting point is reason, logic, induction as being properly basic. That is where we disagree. Your circle is 1) reason which you use to conclude 2) materialism which 3) renders reason meaningless. My circle is 1) revelation which provides a basis for rationality by which 3) I understand the revelation. It’s not that one of us is using circular reasoning but rather which of us has the right circle. As you’ve indicated, you’ve had this same conversation many times. I’m sure that’s not the first time you’ve heard that.

    Heh. I was echoing your own rhetoric, or had you not noticed?

    Yes, of course I noticed. I really wondered if you would go for that or not. I didn’t think you would. I already said how I know it. It has been revealed. Are you saying that you have some revelation that says different? Or would you say you know based on your senses and observation and reason?

    Heh. You are repeating yourself; as I wrote above, I merely played your own claim back to you, and you immediately asked a fundamental question. (Perhaps you should ask that very question about the claim I echoed, no?)

    Right again. This is an argument over a fundamental question. How do we know things? I’m asking you to explain how you know things. My answer to this question gets labeled Petitio principii–and it is, though not in the way you say it is–which it has to be. The answer to the question of ultimate authority must be properly basic or it is not the real answer. I’m asking you to acknowledge that you do the very same thing.

    What’s a god?

    The things Richard Carrier says he does not believe in (and you called me evasive :-). In his introduction to Sense and Goodness Without God, he describes himself as a “Metaphysical Naturalist”. I take it that you would hold a similar worldview? That’s what I’m getting at. If you would consider yourself a metaphysical naturalist, then you probably would say that you do not believe in a god because you do not find there is sufficient evidence (or even evidence against). Even so, you would be over reaching to say that you know for certain that I am wrong. Would that be accurate? I realize that I’m generalizing. If I’ve guessed wrong, I’m sure you’ll tell me.

    Morality refers to ideas about right and wrong behaviour.
    …Nope; my morality ain’t rule-based, though heuristics do play a part.

    What is a “right” and “wrong”? Hey, if you can do it, so can I. That’s actually a really important term to define in this conversation.

    geekbert said: The moment they start trying to explain it, they must either admit that it is illusory or borrow from the theist’s worldview to explain themselves.

    My morality is based on empathy, theory of mind, the principle of enlightened self-interest, my personal preferences and my knowledge-base. There’s nothing illusory about it, nor do I borrow anything from theism

    I count 5 or 6 contributors to your morality. They’re all subjective but still you insist that your morality is objective. I know, you say I’m guilty of category error because I “think people think ‘Hm, what morality shall I employ today?’” First, how do you know they don’t? Second, you are the one making the claim in this case. So I ask are they the same or different and you say they’re different. Your reason? They’re different (category error). I would be interested in your explanation of why one’s favorite morality (based at least in part on personal preferences) is different from favorite flavors. It’s not because one is chosen while the other is not. Do you choose which flavors you like or dislike? No, you choose which flavors to try but you like what you like. That is the nature of a personal preference. In that way, they are the same. You say they differ. How so?

    Q: Do [you] claim to be able to know things for certain?
    A: Some things, sure: analytical truths.

    And how do you know analytical truths? Gotcha! Just kidding. In all seriousness, we’re arguing about which view is correct. Unless somebody is able to present a “gotcha” question, we get no where. What’s the point of constantly trying to find fault with the other person or his approach? Especially if the argument is as silly as you say it is. My question is how do you know analytical truths? How do you know anything? We’re both claiming to be using reason to reach our conclusions. I’m arguing that if all that exists is matter, then neither of us has a way to know if our view is correct. I’m sure you’ve read the Wilson-Till exchange on this topic.

    Well, hardly the opposite, but indeed you made the claim that without your god, morality would only be a convention or an illusion.

    Yes I did. I stand by that. And yet almost every atheist I’ve ever discussed this with and heard discuss it treats it as though it is not conventional. I’m still interested in hearing your explanation of how a morality derived from “empathy, theory of mind, the principle of enlightened self-interest, my personal preferences and my knowledge-base” is not merely conventional.

  55. John Morales says

    geekbert:

    Well I know that!

    You know you’re assuming your conclusion?

    (The next step is to realise that’s fallacious reasoning)

    We are talking about foundational truths, right?

    No, we are talking about necessary axioms; yours ain’t.

    I’m drawing attention to the fact that while you will not permit me to have a starting point that is self-authenticating, you do the very same thing.

    I assume reality exists and I that I have awareness of it because the alternative is solipsism.

    You assume your mythos is right because it makes you feel good; if you leave out that assumption, you either end up in my position or become a solipsist.

    So, no, they’re quite different things.

    The difference is that, from my starting point, I acquire the tools (reason, logic, induction) to gain knowledge about other things.

    Your starting point is to assume your conclusion, which is hardly employing logic.

    Your circle is 1) reason which you use to conclude 2) materialism which 3) renders reason meaningless.

    You think I should imagine reason is meaningless, because I don’t need to assume some magical being exists and transcends spacetime?

    (Do you not even see that your 3 is a non sequitur to your 2?)

    My circle is 1) revelation which provides a basis for rationality by which 3) I understand the revelation.

    Since your claim is irrational, it’s self-falsifying.

    It has been revealed.

    Since Revelation is your supposition, that means you have assumed it.

    (You don’t see how stupid it is to claim you know things because you’ve assumed them?)

    How do we know things?

    We who do not assume things are true just because we assume them believe that all knowledge outside formal domains is provisional; all knowledge about reality is based on empiricism.

    The answer to the question of ultimate authority must be properly basic or it is not the real answer.

    Reality is the ultimate authority; it doesn’t get any more basic than that.

    I’m asking you to acknowledge that you do the very same thing.

    I’ve already told you I have to either assume reality exists or become a solipsist; you prefer to assume reality and something else exists, to no actual gain in knowledge.

    The things Richard Carrier says he does not believe in (and you called me evasive :-).

    What a stupid, stupid response. :)

    In his introduction to Sense and Goodness Without God, he describes himself as a “Metaphysical Naturalist”. I take it that you would hold a similar worldview?

    It would be even more perverse to deny that nature exists than it is to imagine one needs to presume some supernatural realm to account for it.

    Even so, you would be over reaching to say that you know for certain that I am wrong. Would that be accurate?

    Again: All I did is echo your own claim, and any objections you have to my echo apply to that which it echoes.

    (You recognise its vacuousness when it’s echoed to you, but not when you originally give it voice. Cognitive blinkers in action)

    What is a “right” and “wrong”?

    You’re such a simpleton that you failed to note I was referring to behaviours, not to abstractions.

    Again: “Morality refers to ideas about right and wrong behaviour.”

    That’s actually a really important term to define in this conversation.

    Easy for a simpleton: morality is whatever my holy book says is morality.

    I count 5 or 6 contributors to your morality. They’re all subjective but still you insist that your morality is objective.

    You know this because you’ve assumed it, right? :)

    (Such silly, silly lies you make, when anyone can scroll back and read what I’ve written)

    I would be interested in your explanation of why one’s favorite morality (based at least in part on personal preferences) is different from favorite flavors.

    You’re a proven liar, and I don’t for a second believe your claim to be interested.

    (Besides, your very phrasing (“one’s favorite morality”) gives away your total misapprehension of what I’ve already explained)

    What’s the point of constantly trying to find fault with the other person or his approach?

    I don’t need to try; what I need to try is to avoid engaging every stupidity that flows from you.

    (As you see, even being abstemious in my endeavour, the list grows ever longer)

    Yes I did. I stand by that.

    Well, duh. You cannot learn anything new, since your presupposed source of truth doesn’t change.

    (You’re but an echo of long-gone Semitic people’s traditions and morality)

    I’m still interested in hearing your explanation of how a morality derived from “empathy, theory of mind, the principle of enlightened self-interest, my personal preferences and my knowledge-base” is not merely conventional.

    And I’m still amused by your evident lack of knowledge as to what the term ‘convention’ refers, so that you imagine my morality is conventional.

    (Instead of parroting others’ claims, you could try to think for yourself, you know. But I know that’s kinda hard, for a simpleton)

  56. geekbert says

    You know you’re assuming your conclusion? (The next step is to realise that’s fallacious reasoning)

    You don’t see how stupid it is to claim you know things because you’ve assumed them?

    We who do not assume things are true just because we assume them believe that all knowledge outside formal domains is provisional

    No need to re-read the thread to see your lie.

    …all knowledge about reality is based on empiricism

    “Nothing circular here. These are not the droids you seek.”

    Reality is the ultimate authority; it doesn’t get any more basic than that.

    How do you know that you’re real? What if you’re a projection in my consciousness? What if I’m a projection in yours?

    I count 5 or 6 contributors to your morality. They’re all subjective but still you insist that your morality is objective.

    You know this because you’ve assumed it, right? :) (Such silly, silly lies you make, when anyone can scroll back and read what I’ve written)

    You’re a proven liar, and I don’t for a second believe your claim to be interested.

    Yes, good strategy. Avoid answering the question by calling your opponent names and questioning his motives. You’re far more intelligent than me, surely you know the latin term for that, right?

    And I’m still amused by your evident lack of knowledge as to what the term ‘convention’ refers, so that you imagine my morality is conventional.

    When I say that your explanation of morality treats it as conventional, I mean that it treats it as subjective and not objective. You define morality as what is commonly done or believed not as a transcendent standard of what ought to be.

    It’s entirely possible that I’ve misunderstood your use of the terms or that we are thinking of different uses. How about talking to each other instead of tossing insult grenades. Have you noticed that you frequently answer something you say I’ve got wrong with an insult or by simply stating that it is wrong? You rarely reply with an answer as to why it is wrong? True, it’s not every time but pretty frequently.

    You’re such a simpleton that you failed to note I was referring to behaviours, not to abstractions. Again: “Morality refers to ideas about right and wrong behaviour.”

    You know very well what is being asked here but you continue to avoid answering the question. What does it mean for a behavior to be right? What does it mean for a behavior to be wrong? According to your understanding of morality, what do these things mean? If a behavior is right, does that mean it is commonly thought of as acceptable? Does that mean it is commonly understood to be beneficial? Does it mean that doing it commonly makes one feel good?

    Azuma said that evil is “pursuit of greedy motives and uncaringness to others”. He said this is so because it is how we evolved. Today, evil is “pursuit of greedy motives and uncaringness to others”. Yesterday it may not have been. Tomorrow it may not be. If that is the case then it is constantly changing with us and is conventional.

  57. John Morales says

    How do you know that you’re real? What if you’re a projection in my consciousness? What if I’m a projection in yours?

    You imagine I need to justify my reality? :)

    Yes, good strategy. Avoid answering the question by calling your opponent names and questioning his motives. You’re far more intelligent than me, surely you know the latin term for that, right?

    Does it irritate you? Oh dear.

    When I say that your explanation of morality treats it as conventional, I mean that it treats it as subjective and not objective.

    And when you write subjective, you mean that it’s arbitrary, right?

    How about talking to each other instead of tossing insult grenades.

    Been there, done that. You’re a pressup proceeding according to a script; I am long-familiar with you mob.

    Have you noticed that you frequently answer something you say I’ve got wrong with an insult or by simply stating that it is wrong?

    Have you noticed you’re like a little kid asking “why” to every answer?

    Here, have some answers:

    [1] What does it mean for a behavior to be right? [2] What does it mean for a behavior to be wrong? [3] According to your understanding of morality, what do these things mean? [4] If a behavior is right, does that mean it is commonly thought of as acceptable? [5] Does that mean it is commonly understood to be beneficial? [6] Does it mean that doing it commonly makes one feel good?

    1. It means it accords with one’s morality.
    2. It means it transgresses against one’s morality.
    3. To what do you refer by “these things”, right and wrong or their meaning?
    If the former, you’ve just repeated 1 and 2, if the latter, it’s their significance to someone.
    4. Not necessarily.
    5. Not necessarily.
    6. Not necessarily.

    Azuma said that evil is “pursuit of greedy motives and uncaringness to others”. He said this is so because it is how we evolved.

    What makes you think Azuma Hazuki is a ‘he’?

    Today, evil is “pursuit of greedy motives and uncaringness to others”. Yesterday it may not have been. Tomorrow it may not be. If that is the case then it is constantly changing with us and is conventional.

    Much better to have evil be whatever your mythological book says it is, right?

  58. geekbert says

    And when you write subjective, you mean that it’s arbitrary, right?

    I do not mean that I think people close their eyes, spin a wheel, and stick their finger out to select their moral system for the day. I understand that many factors affect what people hold as their system of morality. What I am saying is that a system like the one you describe is ultimately than a system of preferences in spite of you calling it morality. When Bill says that it is right to love others, he is saying that he likes the idea of loving others. And yet, generally the one who proposes such a system rarely treats it as though it is really what he says it is–a system of preferences.

    Been there, done that. You’re a pressup proceeding according to a script;

    You’re very proud of your “ability to think for yourself”. Do you really expect us to believe that your ideas are novel? Even if they were, how is that virtuous? That’s such a bizarre criticism. Whatever, if it makes you feel better.

    Anyone can assert anything, but guessing (wrongly) what I think and asserting it to me is risible.

    Have you noticed you’re like a little kid asking “why” to every answer?

    Hmm… you might want to make up your mind. Do you want me to guess what you think or is it okay for me to ask you what you think?

    What makes you think Azuma Hazuki is a ‘he’?

    Wow. I just picked a pronoun since I do not know Azuma.

    Well, John Morales, it’s been a barrel of monkeys talking to you. I think it’s time I heed the advice given in Proverbs 26:4. If you need to, comfort yourself with the thought that you embarrassed me and I ran off not knowing how to respond to your superior intellect.

  59. John Morales says

    If you need to, comfort yourself with the thought that you embarrassed me and I ran off not knowing how to respond to your superior intellect.

    <snicker>

  60. Aquaria says

    John, you hurt my feelings but it’s okay because the disposable razor bit made me laugh.

    Can the passive aggressive stupidity, because you have zero fucking room to talk about insults.

    You’ve vomit up enough vapid bouts of irrational christer diarrhea that it’s an insult to maggots.

  61. Aquaria says

    If you need to, comfort yourself with the thought that you embarrassed me and I ran off not knowing how to respond to your superior intellect.

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    More passive-aggressive stupidity from yet another idiotic christer.

    This is why I don’t bother arguing with manipulative, lying pieces of shit like you–and it seems like the vast majority of you christers are liars and manipulators.. No matter how much people try to discuss things with you honestly and rationally, you all throw up the persecution card when you realize nobody’s buying your stupid bullshit assertions and that those arguments that your kid-raping shamans said would work–don’t work, and worse, get torn apart and mocked.

    So why not cut straight to where all of you end up, when you refuse to face reality or use your brains for something other than a hat rack?

    This isn’t your church group, cupcake. This is Pharyngula.

    Deal with reality, or fuck right off.

  62. geekbert says

    This isn’t your church group, cupcake. This is Pharyngula.

    Oh no, Pharyngula! Oooooo, so tough after the fact. By the way, when I said he hurt my feelings, it was sarcasm. Persecution card…okay. Maybe you don’t understand what’s being said here as well as you think you do.

    You might want to see someone about your anger issues. It doesn’t seem normal. And don’t forget to take your meds. We don’t want you to hurt yourself or someone else.

  63. John Morales says

    geekbert:

    By the way, when I said he hurt my feelings, it was sarcasm.

    Actually, it was attempted sarcasm, in which you definitely need a remedial course.

    You might want to see someone about your anger issues. It doesn’t seem normal. And don’t forget to take your meds. We don’t want you to hurt yourself or someone else.

    Lemme guess: that’s attempted patronisation.

    (You’re not very good at it, either)

    PS: Welcome to Pharyngula ;)

  64. John Morales says

    BTW, geekbert, TZT could use some goddist fodder, and you qualify.

    (Entertainment ain’t to be disdained.

    (Ecclesiastes 10:19))