It’s All Magic!

What’s clear is that when it comes to explanatory power, there’s no difference that makes a difference between “God” and “Magic”.

Why is there life?

“God”
“Magic”

“God” and “Magic” are defined then as “the thing that caused x”; be that life, be that morality, be that logic, whatever the question is.

So, the answer to why there is life is God such that when one then goes on to ask, “Well, what is God?”, the answer is “the thing that caused life.”

That of course is tautology and tautology doesn’t in any circumstance explain anything.
Whether you then use the word “God” or “Magic”, they are no different than the other.

Just a thought.

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Praying Alone

Ultimately, I think what we mean when we say God is love is simply that the we matter to the universe. I don’t mean in the sense that we’re important, but in the sense that we’re not individually alone. We know too well that praying doesn’t give us our desired results any more consistently than not praying; Popes get cancer too, and why are there martyrs after all?

It seems to me that prayer is a symptom of the human desire for solidarity in suffering. The desire to not be alone, to not feel alone in our despair. Prayer doesn’t work because it doesn’t deliver. It works because it does. Of course we excuse God for not hearing us or because we just didn’t “faith” enough or that “eventually”, or that “He’s got this, but we just don’t get it”, or any number of rationalizations. What it succeeds in doing is keeping us from a blunt reality; that we are alone.

Test the psychology. Look at the facts of reality. The rain falls on the just and unjust. There’s talk of cosmic, karmetic justice but no signs of it. This existential need to matter in this way, to not be alone in our suffering, it’s real. Were it true that some Big Other were palpably present, do you think there’d be an anxiousness causing this desire? Would we excuse God’s inattentiveness if we knew He was there, or forgive it for the genuine and silent knowing that He’s not; not there, or, not loving, and that we are alone?

Just a thought.

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God Is Not A Being

P1) It is said that God is love.

P2) It is said God cannot act against his nature.

C1) If God can choose to love, then God’s nature isn’t love.

P3) If God always chooses to obtain the best, or optimal outcomes in each moment, then God having the ability to choose is identical to God having no choice.

C2) If we hold to philosophical simplicity, we must accept God is not volitional and therefore, not a being, or that

C3) God is a being who can and does choose not to love, and is a being that could choose the best outcomes but chooses less favorable ones, or cannot identify them, or simply cannot obtain them.

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Doubling Down

Johnny lived in a sorted neighborhood. There was all kind of mischief all the time. Johnny’s roommate one morning offered Johnny a bet. “I will bet you ten bucks that your car is not outside, someone stole it.” There had been a rash of car thefts recently and Todd, Johnny’s roommate, was serious about the bet but easily using it to comment on how bad things had gotten that such a bet could actually be made.

Johnny had worked late last night and parked his car near a street light. If he were a car thief, he would have been in bed by that time and wouldn’t pick such a visible target. Still, you never know. Johnny believed his car was right where he’d left it. Ten bucks is ten bucks though and, having thought about it, Johnny knew the odds at that point were about even.

Though Johnny genuinely believed “My car was not stolen” rather than “My car was stolen”, Johnny did not take Todd’s bet. Doubting either proposition wasn’t a factor. Johnny didn’t believe one because he doubted the other. He believed them both. He just had more compelling reasons for thinking one way versus the other.

Johnny is said to have a doxastic belief and an epistemic belief about “My car was stolen”. It should be clear that it is possible to hold many dispositions toward the same state of affairs including contradictory ones yet not be thinking incoherently. Johnny genuinely believed “My car was not stolen”, for one set of reasons, and that “My car was stolen”, at the same time but for another set of reasons. Johnny has a “propositional attitude” in contrast to his other beliefs about the state of affairs about which the proposition is speaking.

It is then not always telling to suppose we know what a person believes merely by asking what their conclusion is; after all, truth be told, Johnny believes more that his car wasn’t stolen than he believes otherwise, but how would Todd know, Johnny didn’t take the bet.

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“In And Around The Lake”

Each side of The Great Debate has its annoying particulars. For Theists, it’s Presuppositionalism. For Atheists, it’s the nonsense of lacking belief. I don’t know which is more irksome either.

Atheists, there’s a difference in lacking a belief in God and lacking belief about God. For instance, I lack belief in the existence of Santa Claus, and I believe Santa Claus doesn’t exist. I can believe you exist and not believe in you. I can believe I know the ideas associated with deity and not believe in them.

The point of labeling one’s self or others is to be clear, not to preemptively suggest you don’t have to justify yourself.

Atheism is simply a way of saying one sees the world without deity and an Atheist is one who would reject “There are deity” and accept “There are no deity”.

A Theist would accept “There are deity” and reject “There are no deity”.

Agnostics would reject “There are deity” and reject “There are no deity”.

An Ignostic would say, “Bad question!”

Apatheists would accept “There are deity” or “There are no deity”, but think the truth of either is irrelevant, a waste of time.

There’s never just one proposition where “contraries” exist; binary, mutual exclusivity. The first is “There are deity” and its contradiction is “There are no deity”. So again, an Agnostic will reject both being the case. An Atheist doesn’t at all reject “There are no deity”. So, the Atheist may well not be disposed to “There are deity”, but doesn’t at all lack a disposition to its contradiction.

If you’re going to take part in The Great Debate, be honest first and foremost, and then follow established conversational etiquette such as Grice’s maxims of quantity, quality, speaking only to what you know, and speaking only to what you genuinely believe.

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It Happens …

One of the most mistaken aspects of reasoning in the Great Debate is over aspects of propositions, and namely, what denial is.

Example: “This is a square.”

We could deny this and mean a couple of things. First, we may lack sufficient reason to agree that “This is a square.” We may actually have sufficient reason to believe that it isn’t true that “This is a square”, though we may not know what else it actually is. Finally, we may actually know better. “This is really a rectangle.”

People usually mistakenly translate the denial of a proposition as the belief that its contradiction is true. So, mistakenly, denying “God exists” means one thinks “God does not exist”. This is not the case.

When denying “This is a square”, it’s clear that there’s no contradictory belief to hold. There’s no opposite to “square”. This implies denial applies to how the case is presented. In other words, “This is a square [is the case]”. Denial applies to this property of the proposition. Denial is then as follows:

Correct: [It is not true that] This is a square [is the case]

Incorrect: This is not a square [is the case].

Don’t see a difference?

If the proposition is “Steve’s T shirt is green” and I deny it, it’s not because I believe “My T shirt is not green.” It’s because I am not wearing a T shirt. Hence, denial is correctly “[It is not true that] Steve’s T shirt is green [is true]”. This shortens to simply “That’s not the case.” And consequently, I would deny the contradiction, “Steve’s T shirt is not green”.

The mistake happens honestly because of “negative facts”, contradiction, and “The Excluded Middle”. Folks mistake denial for contradiction. Above, with “This is a square”, insufficient reason and reason to doubt cause denial rather than contradiction. When two ideas cannot both be true at the same time, and cannot both be false, there’s a contradiction. With contradiction, something either is or isn’t. Either there is a God or isn’t, either it is a square or isn’t, either my T shirt is green or it isn’t. These have no “middle” ground. But as we see with my T shirt, denial isn’t contradiction though contradiction can cause denial.

So denying that “God exists” doesn’t mean a person believes “God does not exist”. It means they deny there’s reason to believe “God exists [is the case].” It happens that Atheists, Agnostics, and Theists alike, can all deny the proposition “God exists” yet have various beliefs about the existence of God.

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The Unknowable Love Of God

In creating, God cares. In sustaining, God cares. However, how much a scientist can be inferred to love the lab rat is anyone’s guess, and in what sense his care for them also entails a meaningful connection with them is equally dubious. God is love? Only in such a way that He could have created this reality without the potential for evil but didn’t, could actively prevent evil but doesn’t. Here, Thomas Jay Oord is right in “The Uncontrolling Love Of God”; God can do nothing but give freedom and then seek to influence moral agents. Where such an idea fails is in the idea of Heaven; for in Heaven, we still suppose free will, but without the possibility of a Fall, and the absence of all evil. This once again leaves the presence of evil utterly unaccounted for.

Just a thought.

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On Sovereignty …

I don’t know what folks mean saying God is “sovereign”. There’s no requirement at all to think that any creator needs to direct the enterprise of creation. It would be like expecting an engine to run only if a mechanic lifted every rod, made the fuel flow, the spark ignite, and so on. The creator of a roulette wheel understands a creation with freedom.

What’s obscene is that rather than understanding freedom, people cast the idea aside.

What makes this obscene is that if God is sovereign in this way, then everything that has happened, is happening, will happen, is by the will of God; every rape, every murder, every disease, every cancer, the absolute will of God.

“We’ll never know this side of Heaven” is meant to be a way for us to escape saying, “God is a giant, sadistic asshole!”

It doesn’t work! There is no possible world where “God is love” and “God is sovereign” and “This reality is necessary, yet another exists, Heaven” is moral! No end exists that justifies such dubious means!  There’s no skirting it.

Unless a person changes his view of God such that He sustains reality, including sustaining genuine freedom, God is necessarily grotesque.

Just a thought.

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Traditionalists Against Tradition

From the onset of Judaism, God is unknown. In Exodus, we learn through Moses that God is being itself, eternally present, as Augustine sees it. We learn, through Philo early on in the Christian tradition of the Jewish unknowability of God, His transcendence, maintained but shown in participation, He is temporally known; the God of Abraham (Teaching), Isaac (Perfection), Jacob (Practice). And we have Gregory of Nyssa particularly certain on the point. No one can know God’s nature, His essence. Nature, the material, is all man can know, except for the suspicion and growing conviction of His existence and His power.

At some point during the Enlightenment, and particularly in the last fifty years with those like Norm Geisler, R.C. Sproul, and other eager folk back in Chicago in 1978, God was reduced to a book, literally (see Geisler in “Systematic Theology, Volume I”, deny the whole of Christian thinking from the apostles onward in this move).

The thrust, the motive of the more than two thousand year old tradition in Jewish and Christian thinking on the complete transcendence and unknowability of God was to preserve our ideas of His majesty, keeping us humble and God, ultimate. “Other, other, other is the Lord God Almighty!” Essentially, it was respectful. For the Christian, it also put the greatest possible emphasis on Jesus of Nazareth, the complete image of God on Earth, the proposed sole means a man could know God.

It seems to me that over the years, Christianity has become a bit cheap in the bid for certainty; a Bible that’s inerrant and not interpreted, an infinite God it somehow captures the nature of, whose pages are quoted to the horror of the oppressed, the poor, the outcast, yet preferred to the image of God through the actions of Christ who loved them all.

May one of these traditions die right on the vine!

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The Simple Truth

Common language makes sense when talking about things like knowledge and truth, but if it is inspected, people tend to get uncomfortable, fast.

For instance, it makes sense to ask, “How do you know that’s true?”, and the answer will be along the lines of “Because of x, y, and z.” Ask what knowledge is and you get something like “Knowledge is all of the things we know.”, as if that answers something. Ask about truth and folks mean “the way things are.”

None of that makes sense, however. If knowledge is the collection of everything we know, then truth must be what we know. This makes “How do you know that’s true?” an absurd question. If something is true, it is by definition, something we know, at least in the general sense. The appropriate question then is, “Why do you think that’s the case?” And when one seeks to answer with some, any, explanation, one is justifying a belief. Simple thoughts on “Truth is that which corresponds to reality” are revealed as meaningless, considering it begs the question of “What corresponds?” and how one would know when “correspondence” is reached? For certain, “truth” would be the test for correspondence in that case, which leads right back to a simple fact of justification. Too, if truth is “the way things are”, then substitution works wonders! “The way things are corresponds to reality”; or in other words, reality is reality. When discussing these things, we must be thoughtful and make sense, and common use doesn’t, it turns out to be absurd in most cases.

Finally, when we realize all of the above, it shouldn’t shock anyone hearing that there’s no genuine difference between saying something is true and something is justified.

However, for many, and not just laymen, such a remark unleashes something akin to a swarm of the hornets’ nest, or the frantic sprawl of a fireant colony on three alarms.

After years of interrogating theories of knowledge and looking at our use of these terms, it can only suffice to say that knowledge is all the stuff we think is true, and what’s true are only our ideas about what the case is, and stating what we think the case is, or even believing what the case is, requires justfication, warrant, in every case from belief to doubt to reserving judgment.

Just a thought.

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