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A Modern Secular Religion

 
 
georgeob1
 
  1  
Reply Mon 7 Jul, 2003 07:39 pm
Frank,

Thanks for having the patience to get by the initial reaction and think about ideas from different perspectives.

One of my purposes in this thread is to point out that contemporary secular political thought is increasingly held, particularly by some liberals, with a zeal that would rival the most intolerant of the religious practitioners they so often characterize as the religious right. Moreover this same secular orthodoxy is increasingly extending its proscriptions into areas once left open to religion by government, and thereby displacing and diminishing religion in a way that none of the notables quoted by Setanta foresaw.

I see in this some potential dangers for us. In large part, the success of Western culture in sustaining political liberty and open societies, capable of orderly evolution, is a result of the continuing tension between religion and government. Extremes on either side yield generally grim results in history.

Thanks also for your kind words. I will be happy to further discuss these and other subjects you may choose.
0 Replies
 
Ethel2
 
  1  
Reply Mon 7 Jul, 2003 09:34 pm
reading thread.........
0 Replies
 
blatham
 
  1  
Reply Mon 7 Jul, 2003 09:49 pm
george

First off, I think it WOULD be quite appropriate to suggest that Christianity has been hostile to science. You are one of the first voices I've ever heard suggesting otherwise. There are lots of different versions of Christianity and thus, differing histories regarding this relationship, but it hasn't been comrades in arms in any case. Your tradition and the Anglican tradition are both quite rich iin the sophistication of their philosophies (standing in bleak contrast is the evangelical tradition here in North America) and I have a lot of respect for thinkers in those two traditions. But it has been a fight. Too much of importance has been at stake. Where a theist might posit the simple faith that there is a mover unmoved behind everything, then the conclusions which the natural sciences point to are not problematic. But where the belief gets much more specific than that (there was a flood; Jesus arose after dying; the Pope is infallible), then there will be trouble.

But let's look at your notion of the 'necessity' of some dialetic between church and governance. You suggest that western civilization has made the strides it has due to such a relationship. I don't know how the hell you'd ever get anywhere near adequately demonstrating that to be so. I certainly don't believe it to be so. We in the west, in our natural sciences and in our philosophy and mathematics, ride on the backs of the Athenians (and later, the muslims). Our trajectory in understanding the world through observation (rather than through authority) was established then. And where conclusions led in directions unhappy to church authorities, the church acted far more as a muzzle or as a repressive factor than as some helpful agent in the process.

A more comprehensible understanding, I think, would surely be that the church provided a story - a set of notions and theories about how the world works - and this provided a theoretical framework available for testing and disproof. In that sense, epistemologically, it was helpful.

But you also toss in the suggestion that there can be no moral compass outside of some supra-natural influence. Clearly, that's not true on an individual level, as there is no correlation between atheism and crime. And there is no reason at all to even suppose such a correlation unless one is previously indoctrinated that there is a supra-natural force who has this as one of its jobs BECAUSE human individuals are insufficient moral agents unto themselves. This notion I consider to be the biggest and most successful con job in western civilization's history, given that it is other human individuals who promulagate the notion and who themselves reside in positions of authority and status.

You predictably bring up (I knew you would) Russia and Nazi Germany. Balls, I say. Both cultures were as steeped in Christianity as Spain or Canada or the US is today. Perhaps you are suggesting that only theists (perhaps, only Christian theists) can make good governors of a state. But of course, the sins of Christians, when in charge of things, is a very long list indeed.

As to Scrat's 180 degree twist on just what the hell separation is all about (if Set hasn't knocked some sense into his head yet), here's another from Jefferson...
Quote:
Because religious belief, or non-belief, is such an important part of every person's life, freedom of religion affects every individual. State churches that use government power to support themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of the church tends to make the clergy unresponsive to the people and leads to corruption within religion. Erecting the "wall of separation between church and state," therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society.




And finally, I'm not going to let you get off the hook on your claim that faith and absence of faith are but two equal opposing positions, both residing on identical epistemological ground. I earlier gave you the example of my belief in a rather preposterous invisible dwarf on my shoulder and made the point that your refusal to share my belief the dwarf was there (making you an adwarfist - the prefix 'a' meaning 'without') does not make your stance equal to mine.

But let's get really honest and admit that your beliefs are a function of where and when you were born. Had george been born in Thailand, or been born in Syria, or been born 5000 years ago, he would believe according to the context of his surroundings.
0 Replies
 
Frank Apisa
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 08:56 am
georgeob1 wrote:
Frank,

No problem at all with your last formulation. What you said before was that the ONLY reasonable, honest, and ethical option is ... etc. There was no comparative. My conclusion was the only one you left open.


I cannot conceive that I ever said that. If you could point out where you think I said it, I think you will find that you are mistaken.



Quote:
I don't know anyone who says (at least to me) he KNOWS that God exists, but many who believe very strongly that he does.


I have been discussing and debating this issue in several forums (fora) for several years now, and I have encountered many, many people who insist that they KNOW God exists (and others who insist they KNOW there are no gods.)

If a person is saying that they do not know God exists -- but merely "believes" it -- I ususally ask "What do you mean by 'you believe it?'"

If it turns out that the person is just guessing or estimating -- I leave it be. In my opinion, that is an agnostic theist I am speaking with -- whether they choose to use that designation or not.


Quote:
I know of many serious thinkers who, on consideration of the whole of human nature, would say that Agnosticism, while logical is an unreasonable position for one to embrace.


Could you name one. I really would like to read what that person has to say, because I could not possibly disagree more with him/her. In fact, I disagree with it so strongly, I have a hard time imagining a "serious thinker" thinking it!


Quote:
Many others disagree.


I dare say almost all others disagree. But I am willing to wait to hear whom you cite as a "serious thinker" who considers agnosticism as an unreasonable position for one to embrace.

I have a bit more to say, but I'll do it in a follow up post. Keep with me here, George. This is a very interesting discussion -- and I think it can be productive.
0 Replies
 
Frank Apisa
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 09:16 am
georgeob1 wrote:
One of my purposes in this thread is to point out that contemporary secular political thought is increasingly held, particularly by some liberals, with a zeal that would rival the most intolerant of the religious practitioners they so often characterize as the religious right. Moreover this same secular orthodoxy is increasingly extending its proscriptions into areas once left open to religion by government, and thereby displacing and diminishing religion in a way that none of the notables quoted by Setanta foresaw.


Just as you see danger in what is happening to contain religion and religious influences in our culture presently -- I see danger in not containing it.

I suspect I do not see religion in the same light as you.

I know many, many very decent, wonderful, delightful, intelligent, productive, kind, non-intrusive, non-threatening religious people.

Truly I do.

I suspect they would be very decent, wonderful, delightful, intelligent, productive, kind, non-intrusive, non-threatening people even if they were not religious -- and in fact, often consider them to be very decent, wonderful, delightful, intelligent, productive, kind, non-intrusive, non-threatening people DESPITE THE FACT THAT THEY ARE RELIGIOUS.

For many, being any of those things is extremely difficult if religion is playing a major role in their lives.

ASIDE: I have known some decidedly non-religious people who are every bit as decent, wonderful, delightful, intelligent, productive, kind, non-intrusive, and non-threatening as those religous people -- and I have known people who are devotely religious (and some who are non-religious) who have almost none of those admirable traits.)

Religion is, in my estimation, a net negative for society.

I am for almost anything and everything currently being used or advocated to contain it.

I want the government out of the religion business -- AND I AM NOT ONE OF THOSE LIBERALS you mentioned.



Something different:

I want to mention something Blatham commented on -- something I must have missed.

He said
Quote:
First off, I think it WOULD be quite appropriate to suggest that Christianity has been hostile to science. You are one of the first voices I've ever heard suggesting otherwise.


I missed the part where you said otherwise -- but if you did, I must disagree with you and agree wholeheartedly with Blatham.

Over in Abuzz, I inititated a thread that was inspired by something a religious person said to me. He said "Remember what happened to Rome -- why it fell!"

My thesis in the thread I initiated was: Did Rome fall because of its irreverance and debauchery -- as some would assert?

And I came to the conclusion that when Rome was at its grossest -- when it was knee deep in debauchery -- it was also at its strongest.

Rome prospered and dominated its world completely for over 500 years -- and then, between 50 to 75 years after Christianity became a serious force in the empire, it fell to pieces.

Was it the fault of Christianity?

I certainly would not want to make that case.

But it is interesting that not only did Rome fall almost immediately after Christianity gained prominance -- the entire of the western world went into scientific decline of almost epic proportions.

In fact, the first 700 years of Christianity's dominance of the western world are referred to by historians as the Dark Ages.

And Christianity continued for centuries after to thwart any real scientific progress.

I think a strong case could be made that we are damn near 1500 years behind where we should be scientifically -- a situation that fall right at the feet of Christianity.

Let's discuss this if you have serious disagreements with the tenor of what I am asserting here.
0 Replies
 
georgeob1
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 09:34 am
Blatham,

Very interesting post !

I recall reading the frontispiece in a text on statistical thermodynamics in grad school. The center was a photograph of the tombstone of Maxwell Boltzman (in Vienna, I think) with his name and his famous equation for entropy (S = k*Log W) carved on the face. The caption below described how the scientific community rejected and ridiculed Boltzman's seminal work on the statistical development of the Kinetic Molecular theory of gases. Poor Max reacted so badly to this, he blew his brains out. Years later his professional peers felt so badly about his fate that they erected the memorial in the photograph.

My point is that religion is far from alone in, at least initially, rejecting new ideas or novel insights. Indeed the fathers of science themselves have a rather spotty record in joyfully accepting new theoretical scientific insights. This is merely a fact of human nature and the behavior of human institutions.

I will concede your point about the anti intellectualism of Evangelical Christianity. However I observe this is true of all expressions of faith that involve strict textual interpretation of revealed truth, Christian, Moslem, and Jewish. (Averroes et. al. did not arise in Whabbi-like Moslem environments; the struggle between Christ and the Jewish literalists is evident in thee New Testament.) This too is an expression of universal aspects of human nature, not entirely unlike that of the scientists noted above. Orthodoxies of all kinds, religious, scientific, Sociology, Education, even modern Liberal thought - all have much in common in this regard.

In every avenue of human thought, behavior and organization we will find those who are close-minded, rigid and doctrinaire, and others who are more willing to consider the view through other facets of the prism. Indeed both urges compete to varying degrees in us all.

I am generally critical of the central tendencies of modern liberal thought. That is not to say there is not much of value in it, rather that, as a whole, I find something to fault in it. There have been moments - rare you will no doubt interject - when I have been a bit rigid and close-minded in my rejection of liberal interpretations of events and issues. Likewise I believe there are - equally rare - moments in which you have too narrowly focused on the indefensible aspects of a complex opposing body of ideas, while ignoring others more to the point of discussion.

Does our liberal Western Culture really spring from the Athenian model? No doubt there was a beginning there, but even a quick perusal of Thucydides description of the Peloponnesian wars shows the incompleteness of the Athenian model - democracy existed only for the elite; the majority of inhabitants were slaves - not an oppressed minority, a large majority; no unifying ideas were able to trump the ambitions of Alcibiades; etc. I didn't say a tension between religion and secular government created our liberal open societies - only that it was among the very few distinguishing characteristics that likely made the difference from other historical trajectories. No doubt classical ideas were at the core of our Western civilization, and no doubt they were in major part preserved for us by Islamic scholars (and Irish monks). However these ideas bore no fruit in Islam. Only the West continued the evolution, and I belive the tension I described played a vital role in that.

I fully agree that a satisfactory moral compass can be developed without explicit reference to God. The Greek and Roman philosophers provide several good examples (and a few bad ones as well). Whether or not there is a correlation between atheism and crime (or immoral acts)on an individual basis, I certainly do not know - nor, I suspect, do you. However, the correlation for avowedly atheistic governments is very strong indeed. Both Germany and Russia were largely Christian nations to be sure. The ghastly crimes done by the Nazis and Soviets were the actions of their avowedly atheistic governments against their and other peoples. The starvation of Ukrainian peasants, the extermination of the Crimean Tatars and the Gulag were the acts of an atheistic Soviet government that gave no intrinsic moral value to human life. The extermination of Jews, Gypsies and vocal opponents by the Nazis was likewise the act of an atheistic government which saw no moral restraint whatever to their horrible acts. Neither government had any legitimate security or defensive interest in any of these actions.

I do not understand your dwarf metaphor. Do you believe that an understanding of the universe based on the proposition that there certainly is no creator or designer is significantly less fantastic than one based on the proposition that there is one ?

I will agree that time and place of origin does indeed have a good deal to do with my beliefs. However, the available literature and record of diverse civilizations over millennia reveals very similar human preoccupations and concerns. Confucius, Sun Tsu, Aesop, Seneca, Marcus Arelious and Martial are all very readable today. The details and specific manifestations change, but the core ideas are remarkably constant. I believe I would be the same good-looking, cheerful, dynamic, charming guy in any other time or place.
0 Replies
 
patiodog
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 09:51 am
Scrat wrote:
I more specifically argue that the bastardization and complete misinterpretation of the phrase "separation of church and state" has led to the creation of a hollow shell that sits where a religion cannot, but which--by occupying the same status--harms other religions in precisely the manner the framers hoped to avoid.


Okay, backtracking a bit (clearly I am a drag on this thread, but I persist) -- is the suggestion now that the government must, by its very nature, push some ideology on its people?

This is what this notion of a hollow (hollow because Godless) shell that sits in a place in government that might otherwise be occupied by religion says to me. And I am not at all comfortable with that. It is frequently pointed out that our government was founded on a Judeo-Christian ethos. Of course it was. Look who founded it. But it was not founded lock, stock, and barrel on that ethos. The framers of the constitution (for all of their faults and hypocrisy) were looking at a history of political thought, much of it inseparable from religion, and taking those bits that to them seemed most felicitous to the establishment of a free and nation. I like blatham's statement that Christian dogma provided a set of hypotheses to test through the natural sciences -- like it a great deal, in fact.

But back to this shell, which I do realize is Scrat's expression and not george's. Can someone please provide me with some concrete examples of what this shell does contain, and, if nothing, what religion would fill it with were it allowed access to government. In fact, it would even be helpful to me if someone could explain to me how exactly the government is impairing anybody's ability to practice their religion -- particularly Christianity, since that seems to be the focus here. In the last couple of years, in fact, I am inclined to see it the other way around completely -- it seems to me that Christianity has become very present in the halls of government.
0 Replies
 
Frank Apisa
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 10:06 am
georgeob1 wrote:
Whether or not there is a correlation between atheism and crime (or immoral acts)on an individual basis, I certainly do not know - nor, I suspect, do you.



Well, to be honest, maybe determining a relationship is not as hard as you might think.

It appears as though almost all the inmates in prisions in the United States are theists.

Murderer's row is amost 100% theistic.

If atheists are a significant part of the crime scene -- are we to accept that they are inordinately clever -- and are able to avoid getting caught?

Quote:
However, the correlation for avowedly atheistic governments is very strong indeed. Both Germany and Russia were largely Christian nations to be sure. The ghastly crimes done by the Nazis and Soviets were the actions of their avowedly atheistic governments against their and other peoples.


You were doing so well, it is almost a shame that you wanted so badly to include Hitler and his Nazis in your comments -- that you allowed yourself this bit of self-indulgence.

Hitler was not an atheist! He was a Theist -- a Catholic, as a matter of fact. And a Catholic who was never excommunicated.

Nazism was not atheistic -- it was theistic.


Quote:
The extermination of Jews, Gypsies and vocal opponents by the Nazis was likewise the act of an atheistic government which saw no moral restraint whatever to their horrible acts.


Nonsense!

It would be much easier and infinitely more logical and rational to argue that it was the work of a theistic regime.
0 Replies
 
georgeob1
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 10:15 am
Frank,

So much to say, so little time. Some meetings to attend now. I'll respond in a few hours. (Meanwhile you can check Mein Kamph for any referenceds to God or religion.)
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 10:22 am
Any violence which does not spring from a spiritual base, will be wavering and uncertain. It lacks the stability which can only rest in a fanatical outlook.

-- Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf

I go the way that Providence dictates for me with all the assurance of a sleepwalker.

-- Speech of 14 March 1936, Munich

God has created this people and is has grown according to His will. And according to our will [nach unserem Willen] it shall remain and never shall it pass away.

-- Speech of 31 July 1937, Breslau

I believe that it was God's will that from here [Austria] a boy was sent into the Reich and that he grew up to become the leader of the nation.

-- Speech of 9 April 1938, Vienna

"Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord."

I could go on and one with this . . . but suffice it to say that the thesis that Hitler and the Nazis were atheists is absurd.
0 Replies
 
Frank Apisa
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 10:36 am
georgeob1 wrote:
Frank,

So much to say, so little time. Some meetings to attend now. I'll respond in a few hours. (Meanwhile you can check Mein Kamph for any referenceds to God or religion.)


Here is some info for you:

Hitler was Baptized a Catholic; was confirmed as a young man; served as an altar boy; never renounced his religion -- and never was denounced by his religion.

"Perfidious Jew" was something he got, and retained, from his Catholicism. (It was not until the 1960's that Catholicism renounced the "perfidious Jew" sentiment.)

At the height of his power, Hitler specifically stated that he was a Catholic -- and would always remain one.

He was never excommunicated -- and Mein Kampf was never added to the Index of Forbidden Books by the Vatican.

Soldiers of the Vermacht wore belt buckles inscribed with "Gott mit uns" (God is with us).

Hitler railed against abortion -- and homosexuality.

Quote from a speech in 1922: "My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter."



A passage from Mein Kampf: "Eternal Nature inexorably revenges the transgressions against her laws. Therefore, I believe today that I am acting in the sense of the Almighty Creator: By warding off the Jews, I am fighting for the Lord's work."


Hope the meetings went well!
0 Replies
 
Scrat
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 03:02 pm
Setanta wrote:
I contemplate with sovereign reverence ...

Setanta - Excellent citations! I may not come to the same conclusion upon reading them as do you, but I appreciate the time and energy that went into pulling them together. I am up against a meeting here, but will read them well and be back later with my response.
0 Replies
 
Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 03:16 pm
georgeob1 wrote:
I do not understand your dwarf metaphor. Do you believe that an understanding of the universe based on the proposition that there certainly is no creator or designer is significantly less fantastic than one based on the proposition that there is one ?


If he doesn't I do.
0 Replies
 
georgeob1
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 03:17 pm
Frank,


Let's first dispose of an issue that appears to rankle you. Here is your original statement with regard to the "reasonable, honest, and ethical..." matter.

Frank Apisa wrote:
But if the compulsion to do so is so great as to preclude taking the reasonable, honest, and ethical stand on the issue (the agnostic stand), you ought at least have enough sense of proportions not to assert that a blind leap in one direction is better than a blind leap in another.


Please note the phrase, "... taking the reasonable, honest, and ethical stand...". You didn't say, 'taking a reasonable...', or 'taking the most reasonable...', or 'taking one of the reasonable...'. You said 'taking THE reasonable...'. Further you even identified the one stand that met this standard, the agnostic one - no others were identified. What other possible conclusion was left for the other choices (atheism or theism) but that they are unreasonable, dishonest, and unethical. One could perhaps argue that all that is meant is that each fails at least one of these tests. However, since all three traits were cited it must be that each is failed by at least one option. Since there is no rational basis on which one could find (say) atheism ethical, but theism unethical, and so on, the only remaining possibility is that the choice of either is unreasonable, dishonest, and unethical.
QED
0 Replies
 
Frank Apisa
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 04:42 pm
George

I certainly worded that poorly.

I stand corrected.

My apologies.

I try to be very careful with my wording -- but that one slipped through.

I aver now that I do not consider atheism or theism to be unreasonable, dishonest, or unethical -- although as I have stated several times, I consider the agnostic position (stressing the lack of knowledge rather than the guess or estimate) to be superior to the theistic or atheistic positions in all those areas.

But I absolutely did a poor job of wording the sentence you cited -- and you were correct in the inferences you drew from it.
0 Replies
 
georgeob1
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 05:21 pm
Frank,


I'll take up your issues more or less in the order in which you presented them, but without cluttering the post with a series of quotes (mostly because I don'y know how to do that.)

First the issue of know vs. believe. I said that I don't know anyone who claims to KNOW the existence of a God, interested in our fate, but know many who strongly BELIEVE He exists. These were my words, not theirs, and I chose them carefully. Many will say they know something when they merely believe it. In the case at hand you evidently would call such people "agnostic theists". I'm OK with that, but believe it is a disctinction without a difference, and one that begs the definitions of both words. I suggest we avoid merely semantical issues unless they materially affect the issue under discussion. This one doesn't.

Next the issue of the unreasonableness of Agnosticism in some cases. --- I said that, "I know of many serious thinkers who, on consideration of the whole of human nature, would say that Agnosticism, while logical is an unreasonable position for one to embrace."

My reference here was to serious thinkers who, while aknowledging they cannot prove conclusively the existence of a God, interested in our fate, but mindful of the spiritual dimensions of their natures, conclude that the only reasonable choice for the only life they will live is to think and act as thow He does exist, and to seek spiritual fulfillment through communion with Him. Examples: Seneca, Thomas Aquinas, Francis Bacon, Fyodor Dostoyevski, Leo Tolstoy, Thomas Merton. Many others come to mind, but I am not certain I will not be later confronted with the harvest of a Google search that purports to show meaningful contradictions (as with mein Kamph -- more about that later.)
0 Replies
 
Ethel2
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 05:24 pm
I wonder if we're talking about religion vs. non-religion as much as we're talking about fanatical, concrete or literal minded, punitive, rigid, superego dominated (a tendency to evaluate value by use of rules which operate according to an absolute right or wrong), polarizing thinking and explanations vs. openness to the possibility of new ideas, a respect for the value of doubt, an understanding of the value of the underlying process of ideas as well as the literal story, relatively non-judgemental, non-punitive attempts to evaluate according to efficacy of function, an ability to value and use dialectic. These traits are found in people both religious and non-religious and are found in degrees rather than in absolutes. So the dichotomy of religion vs. non-religion is misleading.

That said, most religions (all that I know of) ultimately (sometimes sooner and sometimes later) require an adherence to a concept of "faith" which is another word for the suspension of attention to observable data. ("Don't try to understand it, God's plan is beyond our ability to understand, just accept that you can't and believe.") This is dangerous business in government and is at least obstructive to the search for new, inventive and better solutions to the problems of living and at worst a recipe for tyranny.

I can think of no function religion can serve in government. Government is after all an attempt to regulate a collection of human animals with multiple needs, desires and convictions in order to make living together possible. A failure to use data based on observation and doubt can only lead to blind spots in which some people are preferentially treated over others. The hope that this danger will be eliminated completely is a vain hope, but any practice which encourages prejudice should not be used as a criteria for making difficult and complex decisions.

Religion serves many valuable functions for some people. It holds many together when they feel too anxious or depressed with reality considerations. And sometimes it just feels good to some people to let go and relax in the hands of fate (God.) And an acknowledgement that we can never fully understand the nature of reality is necessary for pleasurable living. So if some are made too anxious by this acceptance of ultimate helplessness, it is helpful to assign the responsibility for absolute understanding to some power or force out there. And of course if a person "believes" (has the sensation or feels they know) then they do. So for some it is an acknowledgement of this sensation of knowing.

But I agree with Frank and Blatham on this. True belief would require absolute and complete understanding of the nature of the universe and I'm doubtful of this possibility for any being, human or non. Or I should say that I cannot conceive of any circumstance in which this would be possible. Assigning understanding (faith as belief) is not an acceptable method for managing this ultimate dilemma when the need to understand involves well being.
0 Replies
 
georgeob1
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 05:27 pm
Frank, This is a discussion, not a contest, and no apology is needed. Both of us will likely have to get through a forest of like semantical and inferential issues on our way to engaging the core issues here. I certainly don't know how to avoid it, and ask for your consideration when I make a similar misstep.
0 Replies
 
Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 05:56 pm
george,

Do you reallu mean to state that theists often don't "just know" that there is a good based upon their beliefs?

A common staple in theism is the call to action phrases about faith. How great faith can move mountains, and how the more faith (read "certainty about your beiefs") you have the better.

How do you reconcile that with a "don't know, but believe"? That would imply a bit of doubt and uncertainty. A battle that theism has long fought.
0 Replies
 
Frank Apisa
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 07:56 pm
George

You seem to be mixing up two different concepts in your discussion of believe versus know.

Concept #1: There certainly are people who say "I believe there is a God" or the more usual "I believe in God."

They are stating a "belief" -- which is such a nebulous word, I tend to ask each person to tell me what they mean -- without using the word belief.

Almost no theists ever say they mean "guess" "suspect" "suppose" "estimate" "evaluate" or any other word that contains elements of uncertainty.

When they use the word "believe" -- I have to assume they mean "know" unless they are willing to assign another word in substitution of "believe" that contains some uncertainty.

And I can tell you that I have debated and discussed this issue with many theists who eventually acknowlege that they mean "know." In fact, once that threshhold is crossed, they tend to insist that they KNOW there is a God -- and that there is no uncertainty.

Obviously, the ones (the few) who acknowledge uncertainty, I have no problem with at all. That stand is completely compatible with agnosticism -- since an agnostic is allowed to guess, estimate, suppose, or any of those other things.

Some people who acknowledge uncertainty guess/estimate that there are no gods. They are atheists in every sense of the word -- but they are agnostic atheists.

Some people who acknowledge uncertainty guess/estimate that there is a God (some even guess it to be the god of the Bible). They are theists in every sense of the word -- but they are agnostic theists.

That is not an inconsequential distinction -- it is not a distinction without a difference -- and it does materially effect the discussion in which we are currently engaged.

Concept #2: Can you prove there is a God -- or -- can you prove there are no gods.

That, George, is an entirely different issue.

You may very well know theists who acknowldge they cannot PROVE there is a God -- but who are not agnostic theists in any case. They say they BELIEVE there is a God -- and there is no expression or acknowledgement of uncertainty in any way.

They are, for all intents and purposes, saying that they KNOW there is a God.






As to the issue of "I know of many serious thinkers who, on consideration of the whole of human nature, would say that Agnosticism, while logical is an unreasonable position for one to embrace."

Among others, you mentioned Seneca, Thomas Aquinas, and Francis Bacon -- all people who died before the word agnostic was even coined.

Thomas Merton might well have been influenced by the famous (or infamous) Pascal's Wager -- which is an absurd notion. But I would be interested in any quote you could furnish which indicates that he thought agnosticism to be "unreasonable."

Same goes for Dostoyevski or Tolstoy.
0 Replies
 
 

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