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February 14, 2012

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a supernatural being who by its own nature DEFIES proof deliberately is not subject to normal standards, so all discussions of proof have always seemed silly to me. the burden of proof is always upon those making a claim, not those disputing it. subjecting faith to inquiry as if it was science is just a waste of time. there isn't a single scrap of contemporaneous evidence that jesus existed, and no one who believes in him cares.

I totally agree which is why even though I've dropped my beliefs in Christianity and the Bible, I can't completely dismiss the notion that there is a higher power. There really is no way to prove or disprove it. Even if you could prove that God existed you would also wonder whether or not he/she/it actually gives a shit what we do.

I would imagine that there comes a point where people simply rely on faith. Either you believe in one thing or disbelieve it. At root, there's belief and I think such a thing is beyond analysis.

The idea of a God doesn't need to be "disproved" it doesn't make sense from the very start, it is supposed to "explain" the state of the world but it is NOT an explanation just *dormitive* mumbo-jumbo: http://everything2.com/title/Dormitive%2520virtue

We differ. I think that the easy bit to believe in Christianity is that there was a gifted preacher called Jesus pootling about Palestine in the relevant years, who met a violent death. It's all the supernatural stuff that's obvious codswallop.

The best argument is to mention that having faith in God is like being able to see color, only those with eye sight (spiritual ability) is able to see. Atheists are similar to blind people, who claim that colors don't exist since they are unable to fathom its existence and never have experienced the grace of God.

People who take anything in the bible literally are imbecilic regardless of faith or not, its written by a man, hence making it susceptible to personal agenda, translation error and bias.

***disproving the truth of a large number of “facts” in the Gospels or the Torah is quite easy***

No, it isn't Sigma, and your poor research certainly hasn't done so. In any event, Roebuck's essay is not about "disproving" God. It's about whether it's true that "there is no evidence" for God (it's not true).

One possibility is that Gospels are a mixture of historical truth and fiction. That would be similar to some memoirs which, in addition to truth, contain exaggeration or fabrication.

OT, I suspect some of the readers here might have some thoughts on this question by Auster.

http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/021671.html#comments

You know, Godel proved that it's impossible to prove all true statements.

There is compelling evidence that Jesus did exist; he was the illegitimate son of a Jewish mother (Myriam/Mary, who has been often described as a "whore") and a Roman legionary who raped her. What I allege can be found in a famous apocryphal Gospel of the period, which was understandably rejected by the Vatican. You could legitimately ask why someone would give credit to an anonymous document like that; well, at the time almost nobody could write, and the text is well-written, coherent and seems to originate from people with first-hand knowledge of the early Christianity. This thesis can also be read in nearly all anti-Christian writings of the times, such as those of Celsus, Mary being either a whore, or a slave, or both, and Jesus the head of a gang of political agitators.

What is more compelling and more troubling, however, is another recently found document, sometimes called the "Dead Sea parchments". It is the complete annals of an influential Jewish religious group, the Essenians, who lived ~70 kilometers from Jerusalem, in a convent, at the time of Jesus' exploits and miracles.

Like most Jewish sects of the period, they were very knowledgeable and scrupulously noted everything that was happening around them, including events unfolding in foreign lands.

There wasn't a single mention of Jesus in their writings.

[HS: Someone has been reading too many Dan Brown books.]

God = the mystery of all that is unknowable, including how you got inside your body

"[HS: Someone has been reading too many Dan Brown books.]"

I've never read any of Dan Brown books and I don't really plan to.

In any case, what I say is not fiction, unless you consider the writings of Roman philosophers and archaeological findings to be fiction.

Xenu ... I knew I was missing out on something.

"But disproving that there is a single all-powerful supernatural entity is as difficult as disproving that there isn’t such an entity, or that there are multiple Gods, or that there’s an overlord ruling a far-off galaxy whose name is Xenu."

But that's a straw man argument. The atheist says the burden of proof is on the believer and the believer doesn't have proof. The atheist then says , there are good reasons to believe that God, as defined in the Western religions at least, doesn't exist because the concept of God is incoherent, that the attributes the Western religions place on God aren't consistent with what we see and are aware of, and that as long as we can explain the occurrence of things by the laws of physics then there's no room for him to intervene.The atheist doesn't have to be omniscient to claim God doesn't exist just as the physicist doesn't have to measure every collision to conclude that Newton's Laws haven't been repealed.

From the article you linked:

"The essay makes the elementary and crucial point that most atheists, when they try to rebut arguments for God, simply presuppose atheism. Viewing reality through atheism-colored glasses, they naturally see what they want to see. Their reasoning is circular."

I'm an atheist. I am just exhausted by this lunacy. This is exactly what the religious do. Some atheists are poor in debates, and so I won't say that NO atheists make bad arguments pre-supposing the non-existence of a God. However, any honest debate about existence must start with a neutral position: such (a) being(s) may or may not exist. To the religous, even this starting point is "atheism". The drivel in the link you posted is what it means to embrace intellectual laziness. God exists or he does not. No one vested in the debate believes he can exist AND not exist at the same time. What the religious really have a problem with is that the debate must start with the possiblity that no God(s) exist(s); this places all the burden on them.

Of course, one could assume existence and attempt a proof by contradiction, but the religious mind is immune to such contradictions and they are swept under the rug of "the unknowable" or "the transcendent".

This is why I've stopped actually debating about God, and personally focus on ways to avoid the literalists in my everyday life and work.

Jesus existed. He was a long-haired Nordic looking guy. Case closed. This is a off topic and if HS doesn't want it here I can raise it later, but is it possible to be a pro-White leader without being a little batshyt crazy? It seems like so many of the leaders in White Nationalism are not that stable. This doesn't seem to be true of Amren or Vdare, which may not call themselves WN. It just seems strange that there aren't normal, friendly, pro-White groups, in the way that there are normal pro-Hispanic or pro-Black groups.

Belief in God requires faith without empirical evidence. One could cite certain events that defy odds as qualitative evidence for a God, but there is no way to definitively prove or disprove the existence of God. It all comes down to faith. Anyone who claims to have logical, rational and/or scientific evidence for the existence (or non-existence)of a God is fooling themselves.

Furthermore, humans are genetically programmed to seek ways to justify their existence. One way to do that is to have a belief in a God. It's the innate desire for certainty and purpose.

Here are a few arguments taken from SEP with some additional comments by me. They are convincing and plausible enough to stop anyone from being a militant atheist a la Dawkins. At the very least, they make such atheism unjustified. They don't, of course, prove the existence of the specific God of the Bible.

1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause of its existence.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence.
4. Since no scientific explanation (in terms of physical laws) can provide a causal account of the origin of the universe, the cause must be personal (explanation is given in terms of a personal agent because it can't be a causally impotent abstract object, the only other possible explanation). It must also be beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless and enormously powerful. We could just as well call it God. Occam's razor rules out other gods.

The universe itself cannot be eternal (in defense of premise 2):

5. An actual infinite cannot exist (it would lead to absurd consequences such as Hilbert's hotel).
6. A beginningless temporal series of events (an eternal universe) is an actual infinite.
7. Therefore, a beginningless temporal series of events cannot exist.

A modal ontological argument:

8. It is possible that God exists (even Dawkins doesn't say that he is 100% sure that God doesn't exist).
9. God is not a contingent being, i.e., either it is not possible that God exists, or it is necessary that God exists (a contingent "God" which exists only in some possible worlds wouldn't be God).
10. Hence, it is necessary that God exists.
11. Hence, God exists.

Note that it follows that it is not enough for atheists to show that God is highly improbable. They have to prove that God is impossible.

12. A contingent being X exists.
13. X has a cause of or explanation for its existence.
14. The cause of or explanation for its existence is something other than X itself.
15. What causes or explains the existence of X must either be solely other contingent beings or include a necessary being.
16. Contingent beings alone cannot provide an adequate causal account or explanation or the existence of a contingent being.
17. Therefore, what causes or explains the existence of X must include a necessary being.
18. Therefore, a necessary being exists.

You have to admit it's funny when Auster goes off on these God-proving tangents. Like when he blames whatever ill of society on libertarians - in that way he sounds just like Ayn Rand (a notorious atheist). Those blinded by ideological dogma make strange bedfellows.

MrM,

Your most recent post is chock full of fallacious reasoning and, whilst I would love to help, I have (sadly) insufficient time and space to respond comprehensively, but your primary error is that of pre-supposing that your central questions/suppositions are meaningful, thus inverting the burden of proof, which lies 100% with the theist or 'agnostic'. Since not even the tiniest fraction of this burden has been met, non-theism is the only intellectually-viable option. As such, there's nothing 'militant' about the non-theist position, until it becomes coercive and Richard Dawkins certainly isn't seeking to 'outlaw' anyone's beliefs.

>>>"They are convincing and plausible enough to stop anyone from being a militant atheist a la Dawkins. At the very least, they make such atheism unjustified."

But the 'arguments' you proffer are only "convincing and plausible" to anyone who thinks that your arguments fly, or might fly, in the first place. But these 'arguments' do not even make sense. As such, your entire position is question-begging - there isn't space, or time, for me to explore this more fully. Firstly - and most importantly - there is, quite literally, nothing to discuss until someone has tabled a coherent concept entailing the 'immaterial' and the 'supernatural' - they haven't because no such concept exists. As such, 'atheism' only 'exists' because of the *cultural* force that theism wields and not because theism represents a viable means of accounting for anything - it doesn't, otherwise it would be entertained by cosmologists.

>>>"Note that it follows that it is not enough for atheists to show that God is highly improbable. They have to prove that God is impossible."

This is rank nonsense! Although this detail has certainly been met (by non-theists), it is the burden of theists (and/or theistic 'agnostics') to show, not only that 'God' is 'conceivable' (i.e. is logically non-contradictory) but that 'God' is, furthermore, 'possible'. Good luck with that!

Sadly, for your argument, it does not follow that, because something is 'conceivable', that it is, thereby, 'possible'. These ideas are not the same, otherwise one can, likewise, reason that the existence of 'flying pigs' and 'pink elephants' is also 'possible' for the *sole* reason that no logical contradiction is entailed in supposing them. There simply isn't any warrant for thinking that what exists in your imagination might/could, eo ipso (i.e. by that fact alone), exist in reality.

GGFiddle pretty much nailed it.

Roebuck is cherry picking with his charges of circular reasoning, because many atheists do at least admit the possibility of a Christian-like God. Logically this means that the assumptions of the atheist are weaker than the assumption of the existence or non-existence of God and so the reasoning cannot be circular. New truths are needed to establish or refute the proposition.

Second, materialism isn't really a single set of assumptions like he seems to be claiming it is, it's more of a family of ontologies and assumptions. It may be the case that a Christian God is simply not definable within the given ontology to a theist's satisfaction. It would not be 'possible' for God to exist, for want of a sensible definition. This may be disappointing, but it is hardly a logical error.

His remarks on philosophy are downright quaint. By making judgements on the 'validity' of certain ontologies he is treading into philosophical waters here that are murky even by philosopher's standards of clarity. I do think his criticism of materialism positing a complete system of evidence gathering may have some weight. But this just makes a certain flavor of materialism wrong. It doesn't quite open the door for believing any silly thing we want to. Materialism is a favorable ontology because it guarantees harmony and agreement among minds that might otherwise be inclined to believe incompatible ideas. Asking materialism to go away so you can 'prove God' sort of shows you missed the whole point of this way of thinking.

MrM,
Your argument isn't with the atheists--it's with the physicists and cosmologists. I don't know enough to evaluate the equations, but from what I've read they say that the universe did not need the type of first cause you postulate.
If I want an answer to a question of cosmology and have to choose between Stephen Hawking and Thomas Aquinas, I'll take Hawking. If you want to take Aquinas that's your choice.

"If I want an answer to a question of cosmology and have to choose between Stephen Hawking and Thomas Aquinas, I'll take Hawking. If you want to take Aquinas that's your choice."

It's not a question of cosmology, but a question of metaphysics.

Josh, isn't metaphysics comprised of "meta" and "physics"?

Here's a pragmatic question for the board: what is more useful in life - i.e., what helps people more in leading happy, successful lives - atheism or faith? I know one almost-atheist (he's really an agnostic, if you press him hard on it) who seems genuinely happy and is fairly successful, but for the most part, the religious people I've known have been more successful and happier.

I've made this point elsewhere (
http://thehackensack.blogspot.com/search?q=Atheism ), but whether you're an atheist or a believer, you're left with enduring mysteries. The more salient question for all of us is how to live our lives. Religions have traditionally offered guidance and structure on this.

A quote from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Many by Joyce when the main character tells his friend he is leaving the Catholic Church. His friend says, " Are you becoming a Protestant?". The main character says, "A Protestant! I lost my faith not my self respect. Why would I leave an absurdity that is logical and coherent and embrace an absurdity that is illogical and incoherent."

"Josh, isn't metaphysics comprised of "meta" and "physics"?"

Indeed. It's a purely philosophical field in which our only tools are reason. Hawking's physics takes a much narrower view of existence and causation. He is certainly no more an expert than Aquianas on whether the mind "exists" in some sense apart from the physical brain or whether sensory perceptions "exist" (the color red) apart from the physical processes of the brain. They obviously don't "physically" exist, yet these things obviously exist in a certain sense.

'People who take anything in the bible literally are imbecilic regardless of faith or not, its written by a man, hence making it susceptible to personal agenda, translation error and bias.'

I think it's equally imbecilic to abstract the events in the bible until its idea of God becomes irrelevant. I know someone who believes in God, but believes that there are several other Gods, that there is no hell, and that atheists can go to heaven because God rewards people who think for themselves.

In general, atheists have no burden to disprove God. They don't believe there is definitely no God, they simply do not see any reason to believe that there -is- a God.

'The best argument is to mention that having faith in God is like being able to see color, only those with eye sight (spiritual ability) is able to see.'

I don't think this is an argument as much as it is an assertion. A child could simply argue that having faith in Santa Claus works in the same fashion. Would that explanation convince you that they weren't talking nonsense?

"he religious people I've known have been more successful and happier.

. The more salient question for all of us is how to live our lives. Religions have traditionally offered guidance and structure on this."

It may help some, but it ruined my life. Most people don't follow their religion at all. Just look at their sex lives. Mel Gibson gets divorced so he shouldn't have sex again for the rest of his life according to his beliefs, but he goes right and gets a woman pregnant. Most people know very little about religion and that is why it may help them. They just have some vague notion about God and heaven and think they will go their even as they live immoral lives in the eyes of their religion.

" know someone who believes in God, but believes that there are several other Gods, that there is no hell,"

Tony Blair became Catholic and in a debate with Hitchens said he doesn't believe in hell or that is what I took out of it. Many priests don't believe hell. Although, I had the idea of hell drummed into me by my mother. I think there was a priest in Religilous who said he doesn't believe in hell.

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