Faith in atheism
First off let me say thanks for your time. I respect a man who questions. There for i believe, at least in this sense, that you are a respectable man (unless your a woman). And again i appreciate your time and responses.
The best argument that i ever heard from an atheist was that he too was a religious person. He believes there is no God and goes from there this makes sense, at least to me, to say that atheism is a religion. You say you are not convinced (is this really atheism) so it seems that you don’t have faith in the nonexistence of God but also you don’t have faith in your own faculty of reasoning to make a claim, coming off almost Nietzschian almost skeptic or at least it appears so.
I tell you that there is a possibility of your uncle being 20 foot because it is not impossible, i say it because for the slim chance that it could be a miracle (look up images on Google of giant human fossils in Saudi Arabia while we’re on this topic, natgeo is covering the site) as for you telling me that you have an uncle whom is a mile tall, i myself would say “no, he isn’t that tall that just isn’t possible”. But my first instinct would be to ask questions; “if your uncle is a mile tall how is his health, how did he have enough nutrients to grow so tall, and how is that physically possible” i would be asking these things trying to disprove you of course and if you could answer these questions i would be taken back and amazed. Like when i was taken back to discover the many logical and perfectly reasonable explanations for belief in God. Also lets take a second to imagine that you were actually telling the truth; what then? What if you were telling the truth??? But this is still different than a belief in God, for God revealed Himself to us for a brief time and did many miracles. Those who disagree say that he He used cheap parlor tricks to deceive others and try to discredit Him. I believe this goes to show a little more on what faith, doubt, and disbelief are, though it is hard to explain. Who would believe miracles, an idiot? Who would say they are parlor tricks? Are those whom believe in miracle stupid only because they believe in miracles? Thatâ€™s a tough one because it doesnâ€™t make logical sense to say this.
I believe reasonable people can believe a thing to be very unlikely, unlikely, likely, and highly likely. For example you said, “I do think it is likely that someone named Jesus existed, but I find it unlikely that he was the son of a deity.” If someone were to ask me about giants and say they had existed before i would say that it is very unlikely. Until i see images of them on google. You see, i don’t believe we can dictate possibility therefore all possibilities in a way are open. Yes we can use our reason to determine which is more likely, but that is a different topic all together.
So did you agree that Jesus existed? If you did what is your thought on this Man. The holly trinity is hard to explain and therefore hard to argue against if discussed in depth.
As for Aquinas’ argument he does not argue “that everything that moves was moved by a mover. This statement assumes that everything that currently is moving was at one time not moving.” This simply is not his argument. Let me explain. Aquinas says that we can see things through cause and effect and either trace each cause into eternity, like when Aristotle claims the earth is eternal, or you can trace it back to a starting point. For example the reason you move now is because you ate food which gave you energy, before that your mother had to eat in order for you to be born and her mother before that ect… Again this can go on forever. That is why i insisted on the “who lit it” quote of Chesterton. There must have been something that wasn’t moved to move in order for all things to exist in either case. To fully understand his argument i believe you have to take it in context and read some more of his “Summa”. There is still much left in this one argument, i left out t he a priori and posteriori types of proofs he talks about.
What would you say if i said that gravity is just the tool that God uses to express his will, yes iâ€™m saying he invented gravity? Also what is it to believe in the supernatural? Are apples falling from trees so supernatural that we just can’t explain it? And can’t it be said that the natural end to a human life is supernatural? So explanation C is preferred why? because it is harder to explain the supernatural than a principle. The supernatural also helps fill in the gap of why? A principle doesn’t do this. As for the fully known and testable theory i would have to ask once more, what if God is expressing his will through what we call principles? If this fully known theory can explain all the next step i assume would be to explain the theory, no?
Oh i see what your speaking of for example logic is a=b and b=c therefore a=c. These are also as true as 2+2=4. Wouldnâ€™t you agree?
I never stated that “the moral line for a woman showing skin is somewhere between showing her knees and complete nudity”. I simply stated that there is obviously something wrong if a woman was walking around public completely naked. The moral line itâ€™s self is more difficult to explain. There is nothing wrong with being naked for every person is born naked and takes showers naked. Paradoxes don’t explain these difficult situations they simply state the awareness of the situation and the nearness to contradiction. You also say that, “a well-defined moral system should be free of paradox”. Why??? And i say there is no such thing as a “well defined” moral system for then everyone would be moral. That is if you mean by “well defined” easier to understand. I chanllenge anyone to come up with a moral system more simple and complex than Christianity. I don’t think that thou shalt not murder is poorly defined but poorly misunderstood. Could it be said murder is a state of mind, where you actually kill the person in your head before you commit the deed? In other words it is why you kill someone that counts. Obviously if you kill a person out of jealousy and rage this is a murder. If you kill a man because he was about to kill your son this is a different story, is it not? Also couldnâ€™t morality be completely subjective and objective? I know youâ€™ll like these paradoxes.
And as to what made me convert i’ll discuss in-depth some other time, hopefully at the right time. But i’ll end on this paradox; the immorality of this world converted me to morality.
Happy to continue our conversation, and thank you for not assuming I’m a man.
As someone who is not convinced that God exists, I have no belief in God and therefore am an atheist. My lack of an assertion that God does not exist has nothing to do with a lack of faith in my ability to reason, but rather is based on the fact that — so far as I can imagine — it is impossible to prove that no deities exist (although it may be possible to show that deities with certain attributes do not exist). I would indeed describe myself as a skeptic, and as such am constantly examining my own beliefs (on my own and with the help of people such as yourself).
Turning to the subject of giants, the only Saudi Arabian giant fossil “discovery” I am aware of was a hoax (http://www.snopes.com/photos/odd/giantman.asp). If you know of another, please share with me the details.
Your approach to dealing with my claim of having a mile-high uncle is excellent — ask questions and try to make sense of the subject. This is precisely how I treat the subject of religion, the only difference being that I do not ask questions to try and disprove religion, but rather to discover the truth. But even if I could answer every possible question about my mile-tall uncle, would you eventually be convinced that he really did exist? Or would such a being be so unlikely that no eye-witness account — no matter how detailed — could possibly be sufficient proof?
What if I were telling the truth about my gigantic uncle? Then your world view would be significantly changed when you realized that I was correct. Again, this is how I feel about God — if I become convinced that He exists, then my world view will be significantly changed. I accept that.
You say that God revealed himself and did miracles. You are right that some people say that these were cheap parlor tricks, but I do not hold that view. I do not insist that Jesus was a deceptive individual (although that is a possibility, as you would point out). Stories of miracles such as those in the Bible can arise through folkloric and other means without anyone intending to deceive. If I were to accept these accounts at face value, I would also have to accept many accounts of similar acts from non-Biblical sources, and this would leave me believing a great many highly unlikely (and occasionally contradictory) things.
In short, I don’t think it’s foolish to believe in miracles, but I think its foolish to either have a very low threshold of proof for miracles or to only believe in those miracles which reinforce your world view. (I hasten to point out that I don’t think you are doing either of these things.)
You say that you don’t believe we can assign probabilities and therefore all possibilities are in a way open. I disagree. I would say that it is reasonable to say that the more something differs from observed reality the more unlikely it is. If we really couldn’t assign probabilities, then we’d have to say it is equally possible that my giant uncle exists, that he doesn’t exist, that he exists only on Wednesdays, that he is God incarnate, and that he is you. I would say that most of these options are so unlikely that we shouldn’t even consider them to be possibilities.
Do I agree that Jesus existed? I think it is likely that he existed in the sense that I think the Gospels were written probably about a real person. I think it unlikely that he was God, and I think it is unlikely that the Gospels are entirely accurate.
You say that Aquinas’ argument is not that everything that moves was at one time not moving. Quoting from Summa Theologica: “Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another, for nothing can be in motion except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is in motion; whereas a thing moves inasmuch as it is in act.” If everything that is in motion was put in motion, then before it was put in motion it must have been not moving, right?
Chesterton’s question of “who lit it” assumes that before the big bang there was nothing natural that could serve as the big bang’s cause. I don’t think this is a valid assumption. Our inability to get information from before the big bang does not prove that nothing existed before the big bang.
If you said that gravity is just the tool that God uses to express his will, I would suspect that you are using the word “God” to mean “anything I can’t explain.” Sure, gravity could be an expression of God’s will, but there is no way to prove (or even test) such a claim so it has no scientific value.
What is it to believe in the supernatural? The supernatural is that class of things that do not have a naturalistic explanation. Such things cannot be investigated by science. An apple falling is not supernatural because it can be thoroughly investigated scientifically and has a naturalistic explanation. Can it be said that the natural end to human life is supernatural? I suppose it could, but I don’t know what “supernatural” would mean in that context.
Explanation C is not preferred because it is harder to explain the supernatural than a principle, but because explaining the supernatural requires the introduction of new concepts (things outside of nature). An explanation that does not introduce new concepts is generally preferable. The big problem with allowing supernatural explanations is — as this conversation demonstrates — once they are allowed, they cannot be limited because there is no way to test them. Does the apple fall because of God? Because of gravity fairies? Because the Earth is a living thing that likes the feel of falling apples? Because a nearby squirrel has telekinetic powers? Any of these explanations would answer they “why?” question, but in doing so they would add nothing useful to human knowledge and would not improve our ability to understand the way the world works. The laws of physics may be cold, without philosophical implications, and emotionally unsatisfying, but they have the advantage of being predictive and therefore useful.
In our discussion of nudity, you said that a woman showing her knees was acceptable but that her walking around nude in public was obviously wrong. This implies that the moral limit is somewhere between those two extremes, even if we can’t say exactly where it is.
When I say that a well-defined moral system should be free from paradoxes, I mean that a good set of moral laws should be completely explained and never contradict itself, and I don’t think you can run into paradoxes without either ambiguity or contradiction. I certainly don’t mean that a well-defined moral system would necessarily be easy to understand, just rigorously described.
You ask about whether there could be a moral system more simple and complex than Christianity. I’m not sure what you mean by “more simple and complex,” but even Christians disagree about what Christian morality is, so I will ask you to be more specific. So far as “thou shalt not murder” goes, I agree that intent has something to do with murder, but it is not all of what makes a killing earn that label. For example, you imply that killing a man because he was about to kill my son would not be murder. I disagree because I don’t have enough information about the situation. For example, would it be murder for me to kill a police officer who was about to shoot my son to prevent my son from blowing up a bus? Since you know more about Biblical morality than I do, let me ask you a related question: under the 10 Commandments, would it ever be permissible to kill a baby?
Could morality be completely subjective and objective? No — those are contradictory states. I would say that morality has both subjective and objective elements.
Your closing statement makes me wonder if you and I mean the same thing when we say “paradox.” Your statement “the immorality of this world converted me to morality” is not a paradox; it’s ironic.