Bringing the argument home to the apologists

April 27, 2013 at 5:11 am 22 comments

The good news is that today’s apologists find their own core belief indefensible. This is leading to an attempt to draw the debate away from the many core logical absurdities found in the “gospel”, and to a focus on arguments absent from what has lead most of them to their faith. These are just a decoy. Any proposal of a spherical cube of gold can be immediately dismissed due to the impossibility of a spherical cube, evidence of gold not withstanding. In like manner, any proposal of the logically impossible Christian god can be dismissed based on the impossibility of that god, in spite of proffered evidence of “changed lives” or “fine tuning” or perceived weaknesses in evolutionary theory or the need for “objective purpose”. Whatever gods may exist, the logically impossible god of the Bible is disqualified as a candidate due to his logical incoherence. Let’s avoid the intentional distractors, and bring the argument home to the apologists, smack-dab in their incoherent backyard of redemption.

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22 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Anonymous  |  April 27, 2013 at 11:48 am

    the Church is just a fairy tale
    someone once said to me
    who must have felt infallible
    about Reality…

  • 2. cag  |  April 27, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    Anonymous, the church exists, what the church preaches are fairy tales. Not ordinary fairy tales, but fairy tales designed to scam the uncritical. All religions are designed for the benefit of the leaders, not the masses. All religions are scams. If you give money to any religious entity you have been scammed.

  • 3. Anonymous  |  April 27, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    “Ever learning, yet never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” As if a Big Bang was the force that created mankind and morality.

    “You strain at a gnat and swallow a camel.”

  • 4. cag  |  April 27, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    Anonymous #3, if you have a point to make, please let us know. Just because we do not know exactly what the sequence was for the current iteration of the universe is no reason to posit a supernatural explanation. You are aware, I hope, that research is continuing and actually accelerating so that our understanding of natural processes is reducing the “we don’t know” gaps in our knowledge. At no point in this search has anything supernatural been the reason. Like all the other thousands of gods, those remaining are destined for exposure as human creations.

    The bible makes claims for truth. Claims are not proof. Real knowledge, based on reality, comes from science, not revelation. Do you accept that it took 5 days to create the earth and 1 day to create the rest of the universe? Does that even seem reasonable to you? It certainly does not ring true to me. Do you believe that the earth is fixed and immovable? Do you believe that the universe is geocentric? Do you believe in a “firmament”? These are beliefs that ancient people believed. Only god besotted people still hold such beliefs.

  • 5. Anonymous  |  April 28, 2013 at 12:08 am

    “Reason’s last step is that there are an infinite number of things which are beyond it.”

    -Blaise Pascal

  • 6. cag  |  April 28, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    Anonymous #5, quotes from a mid 17th century philosopher who gave us the utterly discredited “Pascal’s Wager” do not comport with the knowledge of the 21st century. Quoting Pascal to support religious belief is just marginally better than quoting the book of absurdities commonly known as the bible. Pascal would not have understood lightning and thunder or germs just to name a few of the things we have figured out since his time. Discovery is accelerating, not diminishing.

    Pascal, being constrained by religious doctrine, would have believed in a geocentric universe. His beliefs have been replaced by knowledge, knowledge that we can all use to escape the clutches of regressive religion. The Genesis account of creation falls apart with just a bit of knowledge. We now know that the universe came before the sun and the sun came before the earth. The bible is just a record of the ignorance and absurd beliefs of ignorant people. Educate yourself.

  • 7. Anonymous  |  April 29, 2013 at 3:16 am

    Yes, science is brilliant when it comes to the “how” questions.
    When it comes to questions about purpose, though- the “why” questions- we are in the realm of faith and philosophy.

    That’s life.

  • 8. Phil Stilwell  |  April 29, 2013 at 3:23 am

    Science finds no evidence for the existence of legitimate objective “whys”.

    That’s science.

  • 9. Anonymous  |  April 29, 2013 at 3:49 am

    OK, you’ve convinced me. All religious people are fools, the very possibility of objective purpose is off the table, and this we know infallibly. Period.

    ;-)

  • 10. Phil Stilwell  |  April 29, 2013 at 4:15 am

    Who knows that infallibly? Oh I get it. You’re setting up a strawman.

    How about this. Instead of mocking what you think is the dogmatism behind the claim, provide an argument demonstrating the claim to be ill founded. That’s more in line with what science does.

  • 11. Anonymous  |  May 7, 2013 at 11:51 pm

    What about the ancient astronauts?

  • 12. Brisancian  |  September 19, 2013 at 10:51 pm

    This is a fabulous illustration – kudos all around. As an engineer, I’ve thought that we really need more visuals for people to see. Its too perhaps too technical for some folks to listen to debaters and realize when a question has or has not been answered well – visuals really help. I have a few that I intend to put together… perhaps one on how the canons of OT/NT scripture were assembled. Keep up the good work.

  • 13. Phil Stilwell  |  September 20, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    Thanks for the comment, Jericho. It’s much appreciated.

  • 14. Brisancian  |  September 21, 2013 at 9:15 am

    Reblogged this on Jericho Brisance and commented:
    As an engineer, I have considered that illustrations would be of great benefit in clarifying the various issues surrounding the Bible and adverse evidence. This illustration was absolutely spot on per my own observations from the past year’s study. One of my critiques of Plantinga’s “Where the Conflict Really Lies” was that he made a project of defending a streamlined and generic theism, only to leap to a conclusion that Christianity was therefore more reasonable than non-belief. This illustration depicts precisely the downfall of the entire book. And such conflations abound everywhere. As I have posted elsewhere, theism or deism may possibly be true, but that does not save Christianity. The Bible’s credibility collapses on the great weight of disconfirming evidences and the many textual ascription crises.

  • 15. Anonymous  |  December 10, 2014 at 9:04 pm

    Hey, I would be happy to have the gold even if I can’t understand how a spherical cube is possible! Wouldn’t you? Or would you be too offended that the possibility of a spherical cube flies in your understanding of reason and logic? In such matters, I’ll gladly accept the gold from the giver, and will wait until later to worry about how my reason is faulty and limited.

    I know this is an old post, but it is very interesting none-the-less. Thanks for sharing!

    “Logical Impossibilities”
    1) Were German citizens who were opposed to the Nazi movement “punished” vis-à-vis invasion? Were Japanese citizens who were destroyed in Hiroshima culpable? In both cases, the country became the enemy, and the country was “punished”, and the individual citizens did not escape this “punishment”. The “condemnation” and “punishment” were dealt to the enemy.

    In your Logical Impossibility #1 you assert that your understanding of culpability is in fact reasonable, without considering whether your definition of “culpable” matches God’s definition of “culpable”. But regardless of the “culpability” of the individual, the human race became God’s enemy, and is subject to his “punishment” / destruction without respect to individuals.

    It is helpful to distinguish between sin as a nature or condition, and sin as an act. Unfortunately, humanity is plagued by both.

    Finally, even if you want to rail against the notion of original sin, there is plenty of actual sin committed by every single individual. So even if you could establish that original sin is a logical impossibility (according to your understanding, regardless of God’s revealed view on the matter), this does not change the fact that both humanity as a whole, and every person as an individual is justly under God’s judgment.

    2) Even though you are a logical person, you would not allow your daughter to be raped rather than commit violence against the rapist. There is justifiable cause for violence. How about punishment of any kind? Is that to be allowed? If violence or punishment is ever permissible (i.e. righteous), then eternal punishment (“torture”, to use your word) cannot be dismissed simply because it is punishment. Punishment is not incompatible with love. In fact lack of punishment (such as letting bad guys reign unchecked at the expense of decent citizens) is unloving, not loving.

    While God’s active, willful punishment is indeed reasonable and righteous, yet another way of viewing this as a conflict of natures: light dispels / obliterates darkness. Fire consumes fuel and melts ice. Perfection and holiness by nature cannot tolerate sin, by their very nature. How is the compatibility of light and darkness not a logical impossibility? How then is the compatibility of perfection of sin not a logical impossibility?

    3) You are exactly right: one man’s death would not be sufficient payment for the sins of humanity. The death of the son of God is a different matter entirely: Jesus was God, as he claimed and demonstrated.

    4) No, Christianity does not propose faith as a “mode of honest rational inquiry”. Christianity proposes that reason is an imperfect tool, subordinate to divine revelation of truth. Even perfect reason can only be good insofar as it goes: reality goes beyond the reach of reason. Our imperfect reason is fallible, and there is more to reality than even perfect reason can fully grasp.

    That is to say that reason is NOT inherently opposed to revelation: God is the author of reason, and created both reason and the physical. But reason (created by God) cannot bound he who created it. If you were to draw this as a Venn diagram, perfect reason would be a subset of divine reality. Imperfect reason (which is what in reality we have), is not only a subset, but expands beyond the bounds of divine reality. In other words, imperfect reason can be “wrong”, / lead us to wrong conclusions.

    “Pragmatic Failures”
    1) No confirmed miracles…what, confirmed by you personally by whatever subjective confirmation you require? Perhaps. But the greatest, most central miracle upon which the whole of Christianity hangs is the resurrection of Jesus Christ: a miracle with profound historical confirmation of many and various kinds.

    2) Again, to assert that there has never been a supernatural response to prayer is an assertion that you cannot prove. In fact there is substantial evidence that attests to supernatural responses.

    But even if there are no supernatural responses to prayer…this is not a pragmatic failure of Christianity. On the contrary, from the dawn of creation we see that God not only created the natural, but explicitly called it good. In perfect creation we see God’s providence through the natural. We see that time and again God works in time and space, in human history, through the natural. If God provides through the natural, how can you reasonably say that answers to prayer through the natural / through material in keeping with “expectations” is a failure of Christianity? On the contrary, this would be a triumph of the creator’s working through a vastly intricate creation.

    Keep up the thought and dialog! Peace.

  • 16. Phil Stilwell  |  December 12, 2014 at 5:14 am

    Dear Anonymous,

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    Let me address a few of your points.

    1. You said in response to the cubical sphere of gold analogy that I introduced that you’d be glad to take the gold and worry about how it could be a cubical sphere later. But that was not the analogy. The analogy is that someone is claiming to have a cubical sphere of gold in their pocket. The gold is tempting, but from everything you know about reality, cubical spheres do not exists. The only rational course of action is then to dismiss the claim as bunk.

    2. Gods are assessed for their likely existence first, then their claims accepted second. If you accept first that anything the god has allegedly said is true, then you have given yourself over to pure gullibility. If I tell you that I have a unicorn in my pocket, then claim the unicorn has told me it is invisible and does not appear to people who doubt its existence, well…you get the picture. What is the likelihood that an actual god of the universe would like humans to whom he has given rationality to forsake that rationality and to accept the assertions of that god before they have acertained that god’s existence?

    3. Therefore, would any actual god of the universe introduce a notion of culpabilty that runs contrary to human notions of culpability without explanation? Could an actual god of the universe invert notions such that evil is good, injustice is justice, hate is love, and innocence is culpability? Would we not then have to abandon our experiential understanding of these notions and accept perverted versions of these notions upon the faith that the god so perverting them knows what he’s doing? In what other domain of inquiry would we epistemically act in a way such as believing in a god prior to assessment of his/her claims, and accept the accompanying entire package of counter-intuitive or apparently absurd claims from that god?

    4. Contrary to your claim, eternal punishment is contrary to love. Punishment is applied to correct the loved individual so they can, in the end, have a happier life. There is no future in which to live better based on the loving punishment if the punishment is eternal.

    5. Jesus became human to pay the human price for sin, not the divine price for sin. He did not sin as a god, but he took on our sins as a human, and is therefore subject to fulfilling whatever human punishment has been decreed. A judge who sentences a jaywalker to life in prison, then offers up his own son to fulfil that sentence, then releases that son after 3 hours in prison is not just by your own standards, I’m sure, even if that judge were to suggest that his son was the son of a judge.

    6. The fact that we are fallible does not warrant believing anything we want. We retain the responsibility to follow our rationality. The moment we abandon rationality, we have allowed ourselves to believe anything posited. Rationality is is demonstrably the best path to truth, as evidenced by the success of modern technology and medicine. Quiry the claims of divine revelation around the world and note its consistent failure.

    7. The fact that there is “more reality than we can grasp” does not mean we default to the ungraspable claims of some god. The existence of that god, as mentioned previously, is assessed through the coherence of his/her accompanying claims.

    8. You don’t get to claim that your god is the author of reason (as do all the world’s theistic religions), then claim that gives as the right to violate reason in accepting that god prior to his/her rational assessment. How coherent is it for an actual author of reason to have rational agents abandon reason in their assessment of his/her existence? Once again, to ignore the incohrence of a proposed god’s claims is irrational. Faith that those apparently absurd claims are completely coherent in the mind of that god is irrational. You are responsible to assess that god based on your own rationalty, not hoping that mind of the god in question has some ineffable redeeming explanation of the incoherencies.

    9. The resurrection of Jesus is definitely not historically confirmed. Check your own credulity. Would you believe that a man split the moon (Muhammed) if an old book claimed he did? How about if thousands of people swore to it? How about if they died defending the claim? You’ll have to be consistent.

    10. Asserting that there has been no confirmable miraculous response to prayer is like asserting there has never been a hippy found on the moon. Based on everything we know, there has never been a miracle. Note the inverse relation between the scrutiny of science (the proliferation of cameras for example), and miracle claims. If you have evidence to the contrary, there is no sense hiding that evidence. It’s not up to me to “prove” there are no hippies on the moon. The burden of proof is on you. When I tell my children that unicorns are not real, I don’t want you telling them their faither is a fool for making such a claim since he is not omniscient. If you have evidence to the contrary, stop sitting on it.

    11. Given the many bible verses on god promising to answer the prayers of christians, plus the long history of no statistically verifiable health or wealth advantages among believers nor mountain-moving events, there is indeed a pragmatic failure of biblical promises. Or are all the broken promises to answer prayer indicative of a mendacious god?

    I recommend you assess your god BEFORE you accept his/her claims as true. This is rational, and the point of departure from rationality is the point at which an infinite number of gods become equally viable as the many mutually exclusive faith-dependent ideologies demonstrate.

  • 17. Alban  |  December 23, 2014 at 7:45 am

    Phil, I compliment you on your reasoning. You have obviously put a lot of time and effort into your assessments. Let me complEment that reasoning by one asset of analysis that is completely overlooked by most.

    Our outer senses, all of them are able to go inward. We do not know how to do this. Why we cannot, is a subject of much conjecture to those within whom that would even matter. Is it an intellectual interest or a spiritual one? Neither reason brings about a sufficient answer.

    Is there another “reason” to want to know? Does something inside us gnaw to know, the same element which thru our intellect, rejects our substitutes in that knowing? Some accept this rejection and others cave in to the prescribed hope of divine fulfillment.

    It is my humble observation that the goal of the wish to know what is true, is clouded by any of a thousand ways we rationalize. So we remain clouded. Doesn’t matter if we refer to this blockage as ignorance or arrogance, the fact remains we do not recognize or utilize the greatest of all our assets.

    It is not so much the ability to ‘use’ our senses inwardly. It is our ability as individuals to sincerely appreciate that aspect of our ability.

    Where we can go as a race of people can, again in my humble observation, knowing this ability myself for quite a long time and living it, is optimistic beyond our expectation and limitation. Not a set of rules or a guideline of any kind, rather an appreciation of something so wondrous and beautiful, I prioritize its presence. It is not separate in me. It is the integrating part of me beyond my thinking and it is feel-able literally beyond imagination.

    This is being, being made available for all people. For a long time there seemed to be much ‘red tape’ including monasterial implication and religion capitalized on the threat of its dissemination and the inconvenience of its acquisition. That is no longer the case.

    There will be those who haven’t thought this out like you and I have and I’m glad for them. They will just simply want the fulfillment. They will be like “the man on the scene”. Others who get stuck in rationale will rationalize away the possibility. I am just glad to have been given the opportunity to know in spite of all my complication.

    I can understand the skepticism. Just understand where that originates in you, but discern if possible, in bigger picture mode, where religion has been a substitute for what I have described.

  • 18. Phil Stilwell  |  December 23, 2014 at 7:59 pm

    What is your point? Your comment does not seem to be related to my post.

  • 19. Alban  |  December 24, 2014 at 5:25 am

    The defense of Christianity in this case is entirely based on rationale. You pick it apart effectively, yet in that rational pursuit there is the overlook of the inspiration that has been transmuted into doctrine.

    The inspiration is pure. The assessment of it is based on religious beliefs, is derailed in the doctrine. No amount of defense can put THAT inspiration back on track.

    The greatest miracle a human being can perform is to inspire AND to back up that inspiration of anyone wanting to provably know what sustains all life. Not interfering with choices. Not making a certain caste of people “chosen” not rescuing people from bad choices etc. If we are attentive, this offered miracle when we can accept at least it’s possibility, virtually eliminates apologists’ rationalization even its very platform as there is no defense for the original purposeful demise of the real possibility offered by Jesus (not to begin a religion) or anyone else so gifted before him…or after him. The mission was and is to show what is most beautiful and most practical in human beings. How these efforts are ignored or turned into religion is almost humorous in its ignorance and its destruction IF it were not undermining to what we all want and cherish, simple happiness!

    This has everything to do with your post as your well crafted assessment of apologists is in response to a false doctrine in an arena where truly there never has been and never will be a “doctrine”. (It is much, much bigger than a doctrine)

    In an arena which is make-believe and ongoing and accepted by many, you are spot on, given what you know to this point. Can we at some hopefully near future point, elevate the discussion to what is not based on make-believe? Otherwise the exercise is just a pissing contest, or rather, politely stated, “a rational debate'”.

    Hope that answers your question.

  • 20. Phil Stilwell  |  December 27, 2014 at 8:35 pm

    Once again you’ve offered no argument. You have only offered assertions. An argument starts with assertions, then reaches a conclusion. Can you at least offer that? Lay something out in syllogistic form. Then I can address it. To this point, you’ve offered hundreds of fluffy words that have no actual content…a common tactic among apologists, but nothing to be proud of.

  • 21. Alban  |  December 29, 2014 at 6:17 am

    Phil, I am hardly an apologist. Intellectual rationale can go in any number of directions, except for one… literally and directly within inside every person, no matter the creed or lack thereof.

    I like your blog and your detail in answering questions, and I cannot disagree except in what the intellect can really absorb without the unique perspective of people knowing ALL of themselves, independent of that intellect.

    I have personally differentiated (over a consistent extended period of time) inspiration from a hand me down source from a personal experience, having nothing within me sourced to a book, a belief or the parroting of scripture, If people want to tangibly take in this same experience, they must number 1. genuinely want to, and 2. be willing to put in an hour a day within and more with eyes open, to see and touch again, the knowledge of, to clearly reconnect with, what’s already there. Simply an immeasurable peace, joy and clarity (caps if you like)

    Certainly there is an understanding that comes from that perception, but different than that of our ‘evolved’ intellectual rationale. The measuring stick of religious fables is what is actually inside us not what is created by history. And we all can be the judge of inward inspiration edified in ourselves, to the extent we accept the unique perspective we see, not what we are told to see. So intellect can be applied afterwards but cannot before, be the judge of whether a god could exist or does/does not.

    Seems sometimes futile to attack apologists who want themselves as well as their faith to be accepted.

    This is where parables, metaphors, or allegories come in, as assertions and even explanations of this are giant puzzle pieces not able to fit in on the puzzle board we have adopted..

    Let’s say you and I are frogs. I live in the ocean. You live in a well. Your organization, your direction for existence, your understanding of the well is remarkable. Other frogs living in neighboring wells attempt to live in a similar manner albeit with some different perspectives, challenges etc;. Water is common to you, me and every other frog.

    You may have heard legends about the ocean, some may be true, some may be not. If you have never seen the ocean, then any thoughts about it, there or not there, are purely conjecture. The concept of ‘huge’ may not be understandable or acceptable to you. Water after all, has its place and its limits…as you have been told.

    If you really want to see it, I take you there. If you enjoy being there, you can be for as long as want, taking in the joy, the fun, the indescribable beauty, the clarity, the magnificence etc. Then if you like it and dive in everyday, you can decide what you will about those legends, distinguishing how the inspiration for that discovery was altered/misdirected.

    You will see it more clearly than those others simply content to live in their well and accept or argue about legends because you frequent the ocean while still living in your well. You weren’t aware how close by it was.

    What if Jesus was resuscitated from the cross, no resurrection, no ascension, just the rest of his life living with his family in Kashmir offering to show people the “ocean” within them? Google it. They don’t mention the ocean part but do mention the crucifixion scars on the hands and feet and heard him to say? he was The? (a) son of God and born of a virgin (no term or theological concept of a “pure soul” then).

    Guess that would change the big picture of what Jesus as The Christ was actually doing while living a long time…fundamentally changing the dynamics of Christianity. Do the details of one legend erase the availability of the ‘ocean’, or do those details make the ‘ocean’ a GOD (much like in our own image) as well?

    Which would be a more fulfilling gift, being forgiven for all sins thru redemption or being shown how to go where the veil of ignorance or any ‘stain’ of its shadow cannot go, be we be saint, sinner skeptic or atheist?

    Just food for thought. Doesn’t resemble a doctrine in its simplicity.

  • 22. Phil Stilwell  |  December 29, 2014 at 6:25 am

    ok.

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