The Unfundamental Conversion
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Most People Believe in God, But:

January 8th, 2014 | Posted by Lana Hope in Faith | Philosophy | SE Asia

People often ask me if I believe in God for a rational reason or if I believe on faith. Usually I answer a rational reason. After all, I am a student of the humanities, and I have had more formal training in rational belief than most naturalists outside the academy.

Incidently I stumbled across this article a few days ago where a naturalist philosopher is disgruntled by all the uniformed naturalist philosophers out there. I grinned because I often see tweets where people make supposedly sound arguments about the absence of the supernatural that theist philosophers could refute in 10 seconds. Smith, again a naturalist, is right that sometimes we aren’t as logical as we claim to be.

Here lately I’ve begun to reconsider my faith position. For sure there is a rational component to my belief. After all, even the philosopher Kant said he was impressed by the teleological argument for God’s existence. And on an intellectual level, I have labored for answers my whole life. It started in elementary school when I’d hit myself to see if I was real or a figment of the imagination. I am not intellectually lazy.

But it’s more than intellect. Ultimately, it’s an experience with “something more” that’s kept me in the faith community. In the dark moments it wasn’t a “valid judgments” as we say in logic that held me in God’s hand. It was what I have seen and experienced that held me, and what others have seen and experienced.

That’s why when Tony Jones’ wrote about how he believes because of a collective belief in God worldwide, I got it. Here’s what he said.

At this point, I simply cannot abide severing myself from the rest of the world’s population, from 7 billion of my fellow human beings. I have enough respect for the collective wisdom of humanity to stand in solidarity with them in proclaiming that there is, indeed, a God.

 

I know Jones got some of his stats wrong, and made offensive statements about race. But beyond this, I still *got* it. I have, as I have mentioned the before, experienced that there is “something more.”

This has included things such as the blind seeing after we prayed over him, God providing me with emotional healing, seeing a very, very broken dad be transformed, and the presence of God really showing up in my church. Admittedly, I’ve always known that there could be natural explanations for these things. The blind boy could have been healed because he believed God was healing him so much that the energy of his body came through and healed him. My dad could have been transformed by a strong will or good therapist (except he did not go see a therapist). God’s presence could have been an emotional experience that was nothing more than human emotions. This is all true.

But you know what kept me going? A community of faith. For example, there is simply too many miracles in SE Asian alone for me to deny them all, and everyone on the missions ground knows what I mean.  There is simply too many broken people transformed by God’s presence globally for me to dismiss it as just emotional comfort.

I’ve mentioned this story before. But there was a man who came to church week after week but never said a word, not even hi. He had several severe addictions and was a street person. He did not want financial assistance; just wanted to stand there and say nothing. But then one day in the middle of worship he burst out crying and fell over and couldn’t get up. Then he believed right.like.that. He started talking and said God had touched him; the church dropped their guitars and gathered around and just prayed over him as Jesus became real to him for the first time. The next week his buddies from the slum were at church too.

Jesus said that we come to him like a child. And now I finally get it. We do.

That’s why when my friends on twitter said Tony Jones does not have “good logic” and “what kind of Christianity is that?” I disagree because most of us don’t, in the final end, believe because of logic or science (even though I think it is a logically sound belief system). In fact, what makes the gospel so difficult is that it requires us to become a child, and this is uncomfortable.

Some have suggested that Tony Jones’ argument is equivalent to arguing that we should just jump off the cliff because the majority do, or that it’s denying that that the majority of the world has been wrong about a lot, such as the majority who once believed the earth is the center of the solar system.

This is not about jumping off the cliff because everyone does it: this is a prior experience that gives me solid grounds to take that leap believing that God is catching me.

Given my experiences of the divine, I turn to the world, and in finding a community, I simply cannot easily dismiss the testimonies of several billions of people throughout the course of history.

Could we all be wrong and all be disillusioned? Sure. Possible. Is Jones’ stats off, both because a large portion of westerns are no longer believers in anything supernatural, and because there are a lot of closet naturalists? Sure.

But no matter what, we are bumping into large percentages of people who have had experiences, and these individuals are not, no matter what, an isolated few. I think it’s important, as Bram mentioned, to remember that westerners live in a world where we have suppressed the supernatural, but much of the third world has very a very different experience than us.

We as Western moderns do live in a world with a seemingly complete absence the supernatural, and we do everything to keep up this illusion that it doesn’t exist in no way at all… People are conditioned to see the world this way, have learned to not bother about those superstitions. But is this reductionist naturalist world the real world, or is it just what we want to see? Isn’t a life of materialism and naturalism, like a lot of us have in the ‘civilized’ part of the world (especially academic circles…) the privilege of ivory-tower Westerners, more like a form of wishful thinking than ‘the only rational way to view reality’ as some claim it to be.

From a few things that I’ve experienced, and a lot of things that I’ve heard from different sources around the world, the influence of the supernatural is not always as easy to put away as ‘superstition’ as it is here and as we would conveniently be able to do. People in a lot of countries do even live in fear of it, sometimes out of real superstition probably, but sometimes not without a good reason nonetheless…

I agree that it’s in a way very convenient to have a world that is completely ‘rational’ and that can be described solely through ‘the laws of nature’ as modern science defines them. But do we have such a world? We have at least been living like we have in only a material world, for a few hundredths of years. Since the enlightenment we’ve been denying the supernatural here in the West, telling ourselves it does not exist… Which also means that we generally stopped almost all of our contact with it, and we got completely our of touch with it… We built up a world in which it has no place and is not supposed to exist!

And still it did not go away, and it won’t… No matter how much we cry to the sky that it’s empty, the world is and has always been more than just ‘natural’ in the modern sense. Things I’ve experienced myself, as well as heard from witnesses do convince me that there is something, whatever it is…

It’s interesting, but me too. When I doubted Christianity, my mind did not immediately turn to atheism. I simply walked the Buddhist temples and talked to friends, because my gut said there was too much out there for there to be nothing.

I don’t think the community proves Christianity as much as it’s a serious step that turns me towards the supernatural.

I have a professor who studied under a famous atheist philosopher half a century ago. Himself a naturalist, he spent years in intense logic, science, and mathematics trying to grasp an intellectual, rational, logical, and sound argument to believe or disbelieve. It was an experience that made the leap to Christianity possible for him nearly 40 years later (incidently, he does not call it a leap; he says he’s certain that God exists). Here he was a man with more training in logic than most individuals in the entire world, but it was experience that brought the belief in Christianity.

I know this deconstructs more questions than I can answer in one post. We might start to ask why God does not give us all an “epiphany” or why some people are left screaming for help in the snow with only more snow falling in their face. These are valid questions worth an entire blog series, and I don’t want to dismiss that pain.

I still cry out sometimes. But for me, and admittedly I’ve lived a fairly privileged life, it forces me to come face to face with my limits and humanity. Perhaps this is why I believe more than ever.

Sadly, I cannot prove God’s existence. Atheists tell me that is my job. It’s not my job. It’s God’s job. Granted if we were to debate, the burden would rest on me. But for me, life is not a debate.  Life is a faith journey.

Something a scholar and philosopher said to me last semester stuck out to me. He said, “We have spent hundreds of hours worrying about these problems for theists. But at the end of the day there is something to what the Bible says: are you preparing yourself to dine with your maker?”

The naturalists will make their own choices, and I understand. But I have made a different choice, and this decision directs my life.

Even so, may you come Lord Jesus.

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  • brambonius

    Not much that I can add, and a very impressive post that I also would like and recommend a lot if you would not have been quoting me in it ..

    • Lana Hope

      hah! It helps me out to quote someone on the same page.

  • Amplitudo

    The premise is eviscerated by one simple proposition:

    Empiricism cannot substantiate universal propositions.

    • Lana Hope

      The thing is, the universal propositions for naturalism are not conclusive enough to disprove the existence of the supernatural. That is one reason that the article I linked to from Quinton Smith talks about how 1/3 of the philosophy professors in the US are theists.

      • Amplitudo

        Whether they are conclusive or not, an argument for the existence of the supernatural based on experience or collective wisdom is fundamentally flawed.

        I suspect philosophers used to justify belief that the world is flat using the same argument you present in this blog post.

        “At this point, I simply cannot abide severing myself from the rest of the world’s population, from millions of my fellow human beings. I have enough respect for the collective wisdom of humanity to stand in solidarity with them in proclaiming that indeed, the world is flat.”

      • Amplitudo

        Did you delete my post?

        I apologize for any cognitive dissonance I caused.

        I was not aware you squashed dissenting opinions.

        • Lana Hope

          No, I don’t delete comments. But I have a spam detector that grabs certain comments to be approved. I’m not sure why it sometimes grabs non-spam comments. Sometimes it does it when the same individual is posting too quickly; othertimes it’s certain words that gets the spam detector’s attention. I approve them all, though. Don’t worry.

          The reason I don’t see int as fundamentally flawed is because I don’t see reason as more conclusive than experience. This, of course, does not mean all experience is equal, but there are certain experiences which deny the natural and make it harder for me to find a natural reason for their existence. In other words, it’s worth the leap of faith to me. If it’s not worth the leap for others, that’s fine.

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            …there are certain experiences which deny the natural…

            There. Right there is an assertion that transfers responsibility from the person making it to the ‘experience’ itself. We misinterpret and insert causal factors all the time to ‘explain’ agency in our environment that may or may not be present, so to assume the attribution of supernatural causal factors is true because it originates from the experience rather than our poor interpretation of it is a thinking mistake. Every time we investigate claims of supernatural causation, guess what we find? Reasonable alternatives and a materialistic world ticking along just fine without complications of explanations of Oogity Boogity! that undermine our knowledge of how the world operates (while we conveniently forget that these natural explanations work to produce applications, therapies, and technologies that work for everyone everywhere all the time).

          • Lana Hope

            Cause and effect is certainly tricky. I’ve no doubts that large percentages of the time people misinterpret. Where we disagree is on the assumption that the god/gods/supernatural have no agency. If it is true that they do – and I realize that is a debate- then it is also not odd to assume that they are working in our lives. If their is no god, and the blind person sees after people pray, then it’s obviously that it’s a coincidence. If their is a god, and a person who the doctors said could never see again then saw after times of prayer, then their is a possibility the gods did answer. Obviously the causal link is not inherently there, but neither is it so obviously not the case that I easily dismiss it.

            I also think their are much better arguments for the existence of god than just miracles. However, the point I was trying to make, and I think you agree, is that most people on earth don’t come to a rational belief in the supernatural or some other deity in the offset. Most come because of experiences or revelations in some form. This does not mean that Christianity is not defensible. But it means most don’t come for those reasons. Obviously where we disagree is 1) you don’t think it is defensible and 2) you don’t think these experiences are rightly attributed to a deity or spiritual force. In 2) I would agree with you that many instances have been wrongly attributed to a deity.

  • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

    Lana, have you ever considered how many people simply go along with religious sentiments for various reasons? (So much for the 7 billion claim.)

    Look not at what you wrote, but the method by which you attempted to justify your conclusion: you tried to use empirical evidence but, realizing just how poor this was, reverted to revelation and second hand accounts before switching entirely to a metaphysical approach. This tells us something about the quality of the reasons; if there was compelling evidence adduced from reality, you’d be shouting it from the rooftops because you realize the power of adjudication from reality. You don’t have that and it should be widely available if true. So you shrink your claim not because you believe any less but because you realize you have to compensate your faith-based belief so that the absence of evidence can be trivialized. This tells us something about the quality of the reasons.

    And now for your consideration, I suggest that there is a good reason why we are superbly described as superstitious naked apes, but that doesn’t mean the superstitious part is therefore justified as probably true. Most of us are superstitious but, unlike faitheists and religious apologists and accommodationists, we quite properly trivialize the superstition and realize its hold over us is only as true as a momentary nod to a specific application of Pascal’s wager! It’s a just-in-case belief, recognized as irrational, emotive, and based mostly from some form of fear originating in the reptilian part of our brain. Most of us would feel very silly building temples to this fear, singing songs of gratitude and praise for irrationality’s hold we allow to have temporary influence, nor dare to legislate laws that all us should believe in my particular superstitions or be killed or vilified or marginalized for daring to give voice to apostasy. Directing one’s life by these forces I think is a very sad and belittling admission of giving in to superstitious leadership in a world ripe with life-enhancing knowledge.

    • Lana Hope

      It’s interesting, but I believe it’s good that we don’t have all the answers, and I don’t think it should be so widely available that it’s completely obvious. I don’t think that it should be so obvious that we could all shout it from the rooftops. To me, that defeats the purpose of coming to earth and the learning scope of earth. I consider revelation an experience and wasn’t differenciating between the two. I certainly understand that there is a metaphysical leap to it although given experience, I don’t think it’s a blind leap. It’s also possible that the world has no material existence, but probably it does not. In other words, I’m still certain that God exists.

  • http://www.godslittlefeminist.com Katie

    Well said girl! We had a friend over this week who is one of the most confused, manicly (is that a word??) questioning people I have ever come across and a big thing with his whole belief system is denying miracles and existence of the super natural. I would love to show him this post…will try to the next time we have him over. This rings so true and the way you put it is quite simple I think, for many to “get it”…well done!

    • Lana Hope

      I think, Katie, that it will always be hard for people in the modern world because they have not seen miracles, and then simulataneously seen the absence of them. I don’t blame them. It’s a cause to question why this is the case. Perhaps miracles are there, but we’ve suppressed it and come up with natural explanation. Perhaps we never try to pray over the blind. Perhaps it’s a necessary work of God in some countries whereas it’s not needed here. Or perhaps it makes no difference. At any rate, I am totally okay with people not believing in miracle. Why would you believe if you have never seen? But I’ve seen.

      • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

        Lana, you say stuff like “Perhaps miracles are there, but we’ve suppressed it and come up with natural explanation” and assume the conclusion, that miracles are real. I don’t think you’ve really taken the time to understand what this means in terms of understanding how reality itself operates. You are suggesting that it is possible that a blind person can receive or alter physiological changes to restore sight by the intervention of a causal agency. This means that the agency can affect matter. This means it has a mechanism by which to do so that operates with a physical force. Yet there isn’t a shred of evidence for and nothing but evidence against such a physical force, not a shred of evidence for such an undetectable mechanism, not a shred of evidence for the location and activity of such an agency. Your claim is based on nothing but a <i.belief that such an agency exists, using a hidden mechanism, influencing matter by a secret force, and then blaming some nefarious conspiracy to SUPPRESS this supposed evidence. This is equivalent in all ways to delusional thinking, where no matter what evidence we can provide from reality to counter a contrary belief claim, the person continues to inform the belief claim with unjustified confidence.

        For your causal claim to be true (and this what you are indeed proposing: a causal claim) means our knowledge of how reality operates is wrong. It means that this knowledge you use daily and trust with your life is wrong. It means that how reality operates is subject to the intervention of supernatural forces, and you are trying to present this causal claim as if equivalently reasonable and justified as any other. It’s not. It’s superstition in action that stands contrary to knowledge about how reality operates… the same knowledge that informs technologies, applications, and therapies that work for everyone everywhere all the time to be equivalent to some causal agency of supernatural origins but ability to interact in this natural reality. And to back up this causal claim, you try to elevate personal revelation based on feelings of ‘something more’ and interpreted experience as if these justify an equivalent belief in the supernatural as a causal agency. But you’ve explained nothing about reality by making such a claim, and you’ve replaced hard-won knowledge that works consistently and reliably well for everyone to be wrong in support of the possibility that your causal claim might be true. Or, it might not be. And here’s the kicker: HOW can either of us know anything about the supernatural if all it requires to be considered a reasonably justified causal claim is personal revelation and attribution? Any claim made on this basis should be held by you to be reasonably justified, yet you yourself reject almost all of these kinds of claims because you know perfectly well that magic words don’t work, that no agency intervenes when you ask for it to do so, that answers your prayers with equivalent knowledge unavailable by any other means. You know that the epistemology of faith-based beliefs doesn’t produce knowledge of any kind anywhere at any time. This is a powerful clue that your justifications are inadequate. It’s time to recognize this clue and deal with its ramifications to your wishful beliefs once and for all because you’re putting yourself into a position of gullibility and credulousness that will cost not just you but others if followed into the rabbit hole of believing superstitious claims on such a demonstrably broken epistemology.

        • Lana Hope

          I siad I did not want to debate this, so I’m not. Bye

  • Anonymous

    “there are certain experiences which deny the natural and make it harder for me to find a natural reason for their existence.”

    And there are certain experiences which deny the existence of the supernatural.

    “The naturalists will make their own choices”

    It was never a choice for me. If there are gods they’re indifferent, if not actively malevolent. That’s what my experience tells me.

    • Lana Hope

      I can totally respect this because for me, it’s not really been a choice not to believe. For a while I did not want there to be a god, but I could not erase that belief. That said, I believe that to understand we must interpret first, and so their was a choice involves in the worldview I assumed that later dictated that I believe. But certainly there is a valid point in what you said.

  • Mark Nielsen

    Coming from another direction below on this one. Sorry if it distracts, but hope it instead speaks to the idea of subjective experience as relevant, and not _necessarily_ contradictory to empirical/natural activity or evidence. As I read Lana’s post, I was thinking of the song “More Than This” by Peter Gabriel, which I see as his “pro-supernatural” position statement. So let me make a conjecture, a leap of sorts: As a decades-long supporter of Amnesty International, Peter’s acquainted with both objective and subjective “power” at work throughout Africa, including superstition and abuse of political/religious power. This is not automatically something that leads to supernatural explanations of reality. But with songs like this, plus his ongoing conversations with religious, artistic, and intellectual leaders (Archbishop Tutu and the like), I think he advocates a both/and pragmatic approach.

    Give a listen, see what you think. If nothing else, at least you’ll be entertained for five minutes. ——> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Qta5_pY9y0

    • Lana Hope

      Hi, Mark, thanks for the video. Sorry, the comment was caught in spam, but I just approved it.

  • sgl

    i’d be curious to know more how you derive the characteristics of god from the evidence you see for him.

    given that all the different peoples of the world worship different gods in different ways, how does that prove that they’re all the same god in your mind? why does it not prove that there are multiple gods rather than a single god?

    and if each religion gets part of the truth incorrectly, (a common mechanism to be able to say they they all worship the same god ultimately), how does one tell which parts of religion are true and which are false?

    also, if praying for healing causes god to bring back a person’s sight, what does it say about the characteristics of god that he waits until people pray before doing the healing? is god a jealous god or not? does this all powerful being need people to pray first before doing the healing? why?

    do miracle prove the entire bible is inerrant? or prove some of it is? what about what proof it provides for holy texts from other religions?

    the long and short of it from my perspective is, talking about proof of god without talking about which god and what characteristics that god has doesn’t make much sense to me. nice academic exercise but doesn’t tell me much about how to run my life.

    • Lana Hope

      I don’t think miracles proves a Christian god or theism. It does, however, point to the supernatural.

  • http://blog.debenny.de/ De Benny

    I see you wrote this long ago but I ran across it jut now. You ask two questions in the end that I would like to try to propose an answer for:

    1. Why doesn’t God give us all an epiphany?
    What would come out of it? All the world falling to their knees? Hardly. People, at least some, will explain it with emotions, psychic problems, chemtrails, you name it. I’m pretty sure there’d be a fair deal of conspiration theories coming up. And then, let some more years pass, and the grandchildren of the people who got that epiphany for all will maybe start doubting (what did you smoke back then, grandpa?). So God would have to give everybody an Epiphany on a regular basis, which would as I stated before lead to doubt and mistrust on a large scale. I cannot say that this is THE reason why God is not doing this, but at least this would make some sense to me (not that it mattered in any way). The more silent way He is indeed doing it (as you mentioned and as I too believe and did experience) might be way more effective. Remember Eliyah in the desert? And God wasn’t in the wind nor in the thunderstorm…

    2. How to prove God’s existence?
    We can’t. Now let’s leave aside all the Heidegger stuff (that I cannot completely remember) about Sein, Dasein, Sein-Selbst etc and God being on a whole different ontological level ten creation (I think that wasn’t Heidegger, maybe Bultmann, I told you I don’t remember too well)…
    Anything you prove you must have at hand in some form. You must have it under your control, and not only you, but everybody. Tests have to be repeatable with identical outcome. Now what would that be, a god that is dragged into a human laboratory? Even if only metaphorically, this would twist things around. We’d have God under control, we could describe things He didn’t reveal to us. He wouldn’t be a god anymore, but … well, I have no word for it. Maybe an inconsequent concept.
    Jesus came down to Earth and got Himself killed, people had control over Him (or at least He let them think so), but He never gave up control. Not on His human side and even less on His divine side. He let the humans side ave a controlled crash, and put it up again.
    We won’t control God in any way. Ever. So I think this is the reason why we will never ever have a chance proving His existence. All we can hope for is revelation. And that would go to the experience field.

    • tildeb

      We won’t control God in any way. Ever. So I think this is the reason why
      we will never ever have a chance proving His existence. All we can hope
      for is revelation. And that would go to the experience field.

      Yet I suspect that if a properly done study on amputees being prayed over were to respond with new growth every time a prayer to Jesus was made, you’d be first in line to declare this compelling evidence for your beliefs.

      But what I’m reading is apologetics that pretends no compelling evidence plus no evidence where it should be plentiful equals a rather pathetic excuse claim that “God won’t be controlled.” Revelation without corroborating evidence independent of the believer’s belief is identical to delusion.

      • http://blog.debenny.de/ De Benny

        You suspect wrong. And my intention was not apologetics. Actually I don’t give a … on what you believe or not. And by the way it’s none of your business whether I follow delusions or not. Leave me my delusions and I leave you yours.

    • http://www.wideopenground.com/ Lana

      Butlman just appropriated Heidegger. Heidegger was an atheist but believed in transcendence via language and thinking. He lamented that modern atheists have little concept of transcendence.

  • tildeb

    Then stop making excuses on this god’s behalf with claims for which you have absolutely no justification and no means to gain any knowledge. I’ll do the same.

    • http://blog.debenny.de/ De Benny

      Not everything I do is to gain knowledge. Sometimes it’s about gaining perspectives. And sometimes it’s not about gaining at all.

      That said I want to assure you: I make no excuses. And I made no claims I want you to accept. I’m absolutely fine with you not believing in God. So please stop trying to put the burden of proof on me for something I never intended nor claimed to proof in the first place. You see, you can apply the scientific method in pretty much anything you want in your life. You can demand your wife to give evidence for her loving you (and of course she is free to react in any way she sees fit), you can demand evidence for Mozart being better than Picasso and all that kind of stuff. But please understand that I use the scientific method rather strictly in the place where it belongs. In science (and maybe humanities – that’s one word in my mother tungue, so I seldomly differentiate between the two). So if you want to talk about physics, maths or even history, I’m fine with the scientific method. But in religion it doesn’t work, just like you cannot cut bread with a hammer. It’s the wrong tool to get to any useful result.

      • http://www.wideopenground.com/ Lana

        I couldn’t agree with you more. My perspective on some of this has changed since I wrote this, but I do have a problem with applying the scientific to religion. I also have a problem with applying the scientific method to the humanities as a whole, with some exceptions (philosophy of mind, for example). Moral formation that derives from the humanities as a whole is not empirically verifiable but is transformable. I know religion is not quite the same, but,

        God wouldn’t be God if he wasn’t transcendent. Philosophically, God must be the greatest being and transcend to us, or else he wouldn’t be God.

        • http://blog.debenny.de/ De Benny

          As I said, we only have one word, “Wissenschaft” for what you call science and humanities combined… And you do actually have methods in humanities, think historic criticism. But they are slightly different, because well, you cannot raise Caesar from the dead and have him invade Gaul once more to check on the outcome…
          You cannot proof things like in physics by doing it again and looking at the outcome you get, all you can do is interpret the details… if you are strict you cannot disproof the resurrection, we just are not used to this so we consider it out of experience inprobable, but there you have your experience again…

          • http://www.wideopenground.com/ Lana

            It’s very interesting. I need to know German to understand the impact of that. Yes, but a lot of these ways we do history or literature is a result of the enlightenment. I don’t know if you are familiar with Gadamers Truth and Method. He is German and explains it all. Many people who are keen on authorial intention disagree pretty strongly with him.

          • http://blog.debenny.de/ De Benny

            Roughly it means anything that has to do with research at university is “Wissenschaft” which I would generally translate with science , but I found out that English speakers tend to differ between sciences that have to do with nature and the humanities that have to do with … how to put it? Mind? Thought?
            But looking things up in an online dictionary I came across the term “political science” which is in my understanding a humanity, so maybe “science” is not as strictly refering to nature as I first thought.
            Gadamer. I know the name, I know (or think to remember) that he is related to Barth and Dialectic Theology, but I made my theology degree without really knowing about him. I’m not sure if … no wait, my wife just tells me I’m mixing him up with Gollwitzer. Gadamer was a philosopher, not a theologue…
            But still, I know almost nothing about him, but as you bring him up in this context maybe I’ll take a closer look at him…

          • http://www.wideopenground.com/ Lana

            Yes, Gadamer was not a Christian, but he was spiritual. He is well studied in theology, though, because he does hermeneutics, which was first a theological discipline. Wahrheit und Methode is the german title, I believe.

        • tildeb

          You may want to consider the words of this theology graduate:

          I am a credentialed theologian! At least, that is what I was told after graduating with my BA in theology from St. Gregory University, a Benedictine school in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Perhaps you will not accept me as an authority on theology on the basis of an undergraduate degree, given that I lack an M.Div. or the hilariously named STD (sacrae theologiae doctor, or doctor of sacred theology), though I do have two MAs and a Ph.D. in other fields. However, I can tell you that my few years at the undergraduate level was enough to divest me rather completely of the notion that theology was the study of anything solid, that there was an object to this subject. I went in a fairly faithful Catholic eager to uncover the workings of the divine and came out, on my graduation day, with an awareness that I had wasted my time completely. I enjoyed some classes. Studying scripture entailed the heady analysis of texts, while our classes on ethics and morality were headed by a knowledgeable and passionate professor who was capable of taking us into some controversial territory. However, any truly challenging discussion always ended with “God said so” or “the Church said so” (both of which are simply restatements of “the Church said that God said so”). How can there be such a thing as a just war but not a just abortion? The Church said so.

          What I ended up discovering is that there are no actual standards in theology. If there were, then there would be unity in the field, rather than division. Look at biology, chemistry, and physics. We consider them separate fields for the purposes of organizing a university, but they are mutually informative–in fact, we can’t really understand biology in its modern manifestation without tackling chemistry and physics. All are
          subject to the same universal laws because they are studying the same thing, if with different emphases–the universe itself, material reality. Contrast this with theology. Your progressive folk will claim that all religions are expressions of the same universal truth, but if so, why do they come to such different answers about the nature of that universal truth? Why, if theologians are approaching the same phenomenon, are there Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, etc.? These are not
          overlapping disciplines–these are mutually exclusive worldviews. Even in the “field” of Christianity, there are exclusive subsets. Your Catholic theologian believes that the bread and wine of the Eucharist become the literal (not figurative) body and blood of Christ, while the Protestant
          finds symbolism there. If both have open access to the same God, then that God is lying to one group or the other–or both.

          My study of theology made me aware of the fact that there was no objective, empirical underpinning to the field. Nothing on which you could hang your hat. Just the promise of some hint at the divine through the contemplation of “mysteries”–or absurdities lent an air of sanctity by dint of tradition. Philosophy, on the other hand, I find very useful. My own academic work explores issues of racial violence, and I regularly reference several philosophers, such as racial theorist Charles W. Mills, or Claudia Card and Arne Johan Vetlesen, who have both
          done amazing work in fashioning secular theories of evil. But such philosophical work is based upon empirically derived evidence. These philosophers reference historians, scientists, psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, etc. Theology has no such grounding in the real world. Sure, some theologians have a concern for society, such as liberation theologians like James H. Cone, who provide genuine critiques of racism and inequality. But insofar as those critiques are
          based upon reference to some view of the divine, they are refutable by those outside that theological tradition, and thus such debates eventually devolve into arguments over some bit of scripture’s relevance to a modern issue rather than the nature of the issue itself, its real-world components. We can only solve problems we experience in this world by reference to the world, not to otherworldly spirits whose existence has never been verified. (Source)

          • http://www.wideopenground.com/ Lana

            You missed the part where I said that theology and religion are different fields. I agree with this person. Most theology programs are an embarrassment. Even the adults program, they are writing far shorter papers with less rigor than we do in the philosophy department (as my old roommate studied theology, it was like we were at completely different levels). They are scared to wrestle and part from scripture even if the idea makes no sense. I hear you, but there are rigorous religion programs out there,

          • http://www.wideopenground.com/ Lana

            Typo, I mean graduate program, not adult program.

          • http://blog.debenny.de/ De Benny

            I don’t know the US landscape in theology and I don’t know Catholicism well enough. So I can hardly say anything about what this theology graduate wrote. I have a feeling like he wanted to ground God in the world and didn’t succeed. And he wouldn’t ever, you can only ground the world in God. Additionally his programme might really have been just bad, I don’t know.

            At one place he writes:

            Theology has no such grounding in the real world.

            and then he goes on writing about liberation theology. That’s exactly what I mean. He wants to ground theology in the “real world”. But theology isn’t there to explain the real world, but to explain the divine according to certain accepted revelations. And yes, these are mutually exclusive just as he writes. Because the acceptance of revelations, of any revelation comes before the reasoning about their meaning. But once you got to a meaning you can then adjust your belief accordingly. So theology changes belief and religion, which influences the actual behaviour of people which influences and changes the “real world”. This leads then to liberation theology followers getting into social programmes and what not: This grounds the “real world” in God or rather the perception of God in this certain group. Of course other groups have other revelations and bring another influence…
            One can refute the other for being “ungodly” and yes, this will lead to nothing. But it is still linked to reality as it all happens in the “real world”. Some will fail and some won’t. And everyone will have their own experiences that might lead to changing sides or not…

          • tildeb

            It’s not a question of ‘he’ doing this or that but a recognition that theology is a subject without an object. Consider Thomas Paine’s observation in 1795 and tell what has changed:

            “The study of theology, as it stands in Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on no principles; it proceeds by no authorities; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing; and it admits no conclusion. Not any thing can be studied as a science, without our being in possession of the principles upon which it is founded; and as this is not the case with Christian theology, it is therefore the study of nothing.”

            What has been furthered by theology in the 200+ years since this was written?

            One application that works? One therapy that works? One technology that works? One addition to the library of knowledge about the reality we share, one key insight that has opened a door to further study? Anything?

            It seems obvious to me that a study of something not ‘grounded in the real world’ produces nothing worth knowing. It’s explanations about the divine are worth exactly nothing in knowledge or truth value because it’s equivalent in all ways to just making stuff up..

          • http://blog.debenny.de/ De Benny

            It’s explanations about the divine are worth exactly nothing in
            knowledge or truth value because it’s equivalent in all ways to just
            making stuff up..

            If you know all the answers then why do you ask?

            One application that works?

            Yes, faith. Works for me and others too. And there are people it doesn’t work for, because theey don’t share the premise of God existing. But then again, if you do not believe in quantities, maths will hardly make anything work for you. It will be just like making things up…

          • http://www.wideopenground.com/ Lana

            As an American, I do have to agree with tildeb that most theology programs in the states are unrigorous (I disagree that theology is inherently unrigorous, but I do agree that it usually is). I am only familiar with protestant programs, though. Where I disagree that it is inherently is that theology approached the way Bonhoeffer or Barths does is very rigorous (especially the former). But I will say rigorous programs usually those things are studied in religion departments, not seminaries and protestant theology degrees. To testify to this, alll one needs to notice is the lack of philosophy faculty at a typical seminary. It’s appalling, whereas science an philosophy are integrated into a true religious program.

            I have no iea about the dynamics in Germany. From my experience in philosophy, Germany does the humanities better.

          • http://blog.debenny.de/ De Benny

            I really don’t know your strutures and what would be the difference between religion department and seminaries etc.

            Here if you want to become a pastor, you go to university, which is owned and run by the state. You study protestant theology or catholic theology and you earn a degree after a few years. It used to be a “Diplom” but will change into Mater or Magister, because of this unnecessary Bologna process, but that’s politics.
            You study the ancient languages along with philologists, you study the bible with methods like historical criticism, you study church history with the same methods as in history department, you study Ethics and Dogmatics with methods from philosophy, and you also have some lectures and/or seminaries in philosophy, but in many cases you would attend them at the philosophy faculty, not at the theology faculty, because there is not so big a choice (that’s why I was in a lecture by Metzinger).

            You also study what we call “practical theology”, which has to do with things you later do. Paedagogics for teaching religion classes in school, you need to have an understanding of preaching, counseling and the like, which you study by looking into the according humanities.
            I do not know in how far this is comparable to the US, but Bonhoeffer and Barth went through a similar process (also Bultmann and Tillich and… actually all German theologists)…

          • http://www.wideopenground.com/ Lana

            Interesting, I think that is quite different, I think. Barth, btw, is pretty well respected in the states. Tillich and Bultmann, not so much, in seminaries. I think there is good reason for that, though.

        • sgl

          re: “God must be the greatest being and transcend to us, or else he wouldn’t be God.”

          a bit of humor that only a few theology/philisophy geeks will like:

          https://xkcd.com/1505/

          • Lana Hope

            haha! True. :P

  • tildeb

    Science is a method, a process of respecting reality enough to allow it to inform our beliefs about it. Science can be used in any area of inquiry.

    • http://blog.debenny.de/ De Benny

      Science can be used in any area of inquiry.

      Then why don’t you go ahead and proof your claim scientifically? ;)

  • tildeb

    Sure. They’re called applications, therapies, and technologies that work for everyone everywhere all the time. Beliefs that don’t comport to reality should be held with very low levels of confidence and those that do with much higher levels… or is that too reasonable for you?

    You seem to be hung up on this idea of ‘proofs’ which are useful only in closed axiomatic systems like logic and math. Reality is not an axiomatic system. What we work with in real life are probabilities and likelihood and you exercise these every day of your life. In fact, you bet your life every day on their ability to reflect and describe reality accurately. If that’s not enough ‘proofs’ for you then you trying to win some kind of childish semantic game.

    In any of academia, the use of science aids inquiry and this includes the arts and humanities where they inquire into reality itself. Some, however, are not used as inquiries but as expressions, in which case one has no use for the scientific method.

    That’s fine.

    But when religious folk make claims about reality – about what causal agencies it contains and associate certain effects we encounter to those causes – then you bet science is the number one way to go about verifying them because the methods works consistently and reliably. This is not debatable. it works and not because of any bias or prejudice but because we have found it to be practical. Even in philosophy, the scientific method is very useful to see how well premises used to describe and reflect reality comport to reality. Only theology tries to avoid this method when it produces inconvenient, contrary, and incompatible information while believers are all too willing to trumpet some result if something seems to support the faith-based beliefs. This is a sure sign of confirmation bias. And it gets in the way of trying to find out how reality really does operate, by what mechanisms causal effect occurs, and what it really does contain. It affects one’s ability to pursue what is both knowable and seemingly true.

    • http://www.wideopenground.com/ Lana

      I agree with you on philosophy, and I would say philosophers do arguments better than just about every other discipline. But you are wrong that those same tools are t used in religion. There is a lot of philosophy stuff going on in religion departments. It’s theology departments that often pretend that logic doesn’t exist.

      • tildeb

        Yes, philosophy has always been used by theology for its patina of respectability. The problem is that the reasonable form presented (very logical, of course) is mistaken for reasonable content that is then assumed to produce reasonable conclusions. This epistemology is broken.

        Again, when one takes the time to look at the link between the premises used to arrive at ‘sophisticated’ theological conclusions – the reality it purports to describe – one finds a broken connection, a break between the effects selected and the ‘divine’ cause attributed for them. You will find this in every philosophical argument used for theology, which is why it has its own special philosophical category: metaphysics.

        That recognized disconnect (the reliance on metaphysics) is fatal to the assumed reasonableness of the philosophical arguments used to defend theological explanations about reality (and falsely advertised as philosophical descriptions about reality rather than theological imaginings of it). And in my experience, the worst offenders by far are the Thomists so glamoured by Aquinas and his reliance on the logical form that they pay no attention whatsoever to the broken epistemology they exercise. They don’t even know that without that link they have no means to know! (This is why the Galileo affair is so important to understand and why this understanding is absolutely central to utterly destroying the philosophical foundation of theological metaphysics and all the ‘sophisticated’ arguments still used today.)

        • http://blog.debenny.de/ De Benny

          theological explanations about reality

          In my understanding theology doesn’t describe or explain reality. It describes or explains the according God and his relation to believers. Whether or not this God is real is a different thing which is not to my understanding a part of what theology does or should do.

  • http://blog.debenny.de/ De Benny

    Beliefs that don’t comport to reality

    Well, to get an idea of “reality” you need to start with some belief (or conviction) you can test everything else against. Like presuming that reality works that way that doing the same thing under the same circumstances will always get you to the same result. So when your results differ you’d rather guess that the conditions weren’t the same rather than question your conviction about reality getting you always the same result under the same circumstances.

    You seem to be hung up on this idea of ‘proofs’ which are useful only in closed axiomatic systems like logic and math.

    I fully agree with you (and that was more or less part of what I wanted to get through to you, so I am really glad we are on equal grounds here).

    But when religious folk make claims about reality – about what causal
    agencies it contains and associate certain effects we encounter to those
    causes – then you bet science is the number one way to go about
    verifying them because the methods works consistently and reliably.

    But when is a thing verified? Let’s get away from these religious folks (which are at least culturally totally different people in you place and in my place I am almost sure, so you can hardly generalise) and maybe to a more scientific field. How about physics? I have no deeper knowledge of physics. I had some kind of interest in school but had miserable teachers so the interest vanished a bit (and no, back then there were no libraries around to check in rural Germany, let alone the internet – we didn’t have it and when we had it it was too expansive to just surf and look what you find).
    But what I did take up is that the whole thing is at a certain point rather hypothetical. They make claims about reality which are just fine because it explains certain things and of course they cannot proof things but there are probabililties. And that is fine.

    Now let’s get back to the field of religion and belief. I belief that there is a God (and the He is triune and… let’s not get into detail here). No wait, one detail: Don’t mix me up with other religious folks you know because as I said before: I’m from a different country with a different culture and things are just different. Back to the issue, so I do belief in God. I know that I cannot proof Him (as you said reality isn’t an axiomatic system) and maybe I cannot even make it probable to anyone there is a God. No wait, I am convinced I cannot make it probable to anyone, because I am convinced… no, that’d maybe also lead to far,let’s just say my understanding of ontology is different. Nature/creation isn’t all of reality (at least not necessarily).
    I cannot make God probable to anyone and I do not need to do this (many Us christians would strongly disagree and say we need to win people for God). But I have some experience I cannot but explain with God. You say they are delusions but because of what? Because there are delusional people who believe things that aren’t true? (now truth is another term we’d have to talk about) Let’s guess the following:
    There is a vast forrest somewhere and there are unicorns living in it. People have never seen unicorns and thus do not believe they exist. They don’t even know horses or any animals with horns. Now one guy who’s travelling alone in the forrest sees a unicorn. He goes to the village outside of the forrest and tells people about it. They go there and search for the unicorn but don’t find one, because the forrest is really huge and there are no people going there usually etc etc. So they say the man who saw the unicorn might have had a visual illusion. Two days later he says he saw another unicorn not far away, but still the villagers can’t find it when they search for it. After some more times more and more people call that guy delusional. Is he?

    Now I had experiences (few but intense ones) and somehow they are similar to what other people of faith tell me (actually they differ a lot from the fundamentalist stories you can find at many places on the internet, but this can also be culturally related because in their culture these are the words to use for describing that thing that happens). You can always say I’m just nuts (or find more polite words for something going wrong in my brains) and there is a certain probability that you are right. There are people who see things others would say they are not there, and the sheer number of people not seeing these things is maybe not an argument but a strong hint. But when it comes to faith, the believe in a God etc, the majority of people worldwide is not atheist or agnostic. Especially Lana keeps writing about the supernatural playing a role in people’s lives outside of the western world, so it must be many many people having faulty brains that one could pose the question: Maybe what you consider as normal or as working brains is not actually normal. I raise doubt here, I do not make any claims.

    After all one could ask: What is normal and what is not, what can be accepted and what not. You spoke about reflecting and describing reality accurately. Now having an accurate image of reality isn’t a value in itself, so I guess (tell me if I’m wrong) what you aim at is getting alone with life. But then I look into evolution and I think I read about religion serving certain functions and thus religion being evolutionarily explainable. (If you read German I could give you the address of a sociologist who is doing research in that field. Oh, I just found out he has an English website and also an English language blog: http://www.blume-religionswissenschaft.de/english/index_english.html ).

    So what you call delusion could really be some evolutionary advantage over nonreligious people. This doesn’t mean I think you should adopt religion because as I said above I do not think it works that way (though I think pressure can lead to people behaving like they were religious to not get them into trouble, but that’s a whole different story). And you can still call me delusional. But I hope I could show you a bit that staying a believer (instead of getting myself into mental treatment) is a bit more reflected than you thought when you first commented.

    Only theology tries to avoid this method when it produces inconvenient,
    contrary, and incompatible information while believers are all too
    willing to trumpet some result if something seems to support the
    faith-based beliefs.

    Now I cannot speak for US theology because I didn’t study there. What I know is Germany and Switzerland (and let’s restrict this to protestantism). And all I can say here is that scientific methods are used and no avoided. You have the historic critizism which is was as I heard developed to a large extent at theology departments (and the historic department adopted it later). You have the methology of the literary studies, the in systematic theology (dogmatics and ethics) you have everything you’d find in philosophy department, in church history you have no different methodology from “profane” history departments. You have pedagogics (because in Germany we have mandatory religious classes or ethics for those whose religion doesn’t offer classes) and everythign you might find in sociology in practical theology. Religious studies, the subject that researches religions from an outside view even started as a subject at the theology department of the Universität Göttingen if I’m not mistaken (it developed out of missiology, because future missionaries to the overseas were to know and understand the religions they might encounter there).

    So no, for Germany I cannot agree with you that theology tries to avoid these methods. They are used. They are accepted. If you want to find some institutions of education that do avoid, you’d have to look at “bible schools”. They are not theology departments (thought they can name themselves so now, but then again to do so they had to open up to teaching those methods). You go to these bible schools if you want to become a pastor but are afraid that going to university would destroy your faith (I’d say what would my faith be worth then but I also wasn’t afraid about that when I studied theology). Maybe these bible schools are the equivalent of what you know in the USA (I always presume you are USAmerican, are you?), because they do generally have strong ties to the USA and the denominations that go there are minorities here but bigger over there I think, like Baptists and Adventists… they would not visit universities here because there are departments of Lutherans and Reformed/Presbyterians which are the majority protestant churches here…

    But the aim of theology, at least here, is not to proof God or even make Him probable. God is the presumption and that is where you start. Like in religious studies you start with taking religon as granted and start there. You wouldn’t question the existence of religion, that’d be another subject, maybe philosophy…

  • tildeb

    Theology: a subject without an object!

    In the same way you may feel you have a relationship with the word ‘Zorg’ because you import to this nonsense word meaning and purpose and intentions that are fully of your own making, so too is a ‘relationship’ with some god entirely imported from you.

    The study of theology is the study of what other people imbue into ‘Zorg’. But that doesn’t make ‘Zorg’ an object. Yet gods are treated by the vast majority of people as if real objects with real properties and real causal effects. (And that’s what you did when you assured us that your God cannot be tested – imbuing the property of transcendence merely by asserting it so.) And it is this importing that crosses the necessary boundary between the so-called magisteria of religion with that of science.

    Now, you try to turn the method of inquiry we call science into another kind of belief equivalent to theism. This is dishonest because, unlike theologies and religions, the method of science yields practical applications, therapies, and technologies that work for everyone everywhere all the time based on our best singular understanding of how certain regularities occur in our environment. (That’s why there is no such thing as Argentinian chemistry and Bolivian physics.)

    Just because our understanding about how reality operates and by what mechanisms can change over time is not an indication that the knowledge used in these various ways with such predictable results is somehow now only a belief… unless you want to define this kind of belief as a level of confidence directly adduced from its evidence. And that, De Benny, would be fatal to theism… a method of inquiry about ‘Zorg’ that produces absolutely no knowledge about anything anywhere at anytime that can be demonstrated to be independent of the believer. No object, remember?

    To make its hollowness palatable to the masses, religion steals everything, claims to be its source, and then tries to fill itself with respectability (always reminds me of a drunk and very loud uncle uninvited to a dinner party proclaiming his beneficence to produce and then offer everything from the setting to the dinner itself.) But because its purpose is to sell itself, to sell its ideas to people to create influence over them, religion doesn’t care about anything other than protecting and promoting its own peculiar doctrine and dogma… because that’s all it ‘owns’ so to speak. Religious belief has absolutely no interest in what’s true and even less in what’s knowable unless something appears to promote and protect the religious belief itself. But the motive is then different. And that’s why the study of theology is always incestuous, relying on, as it must, on what other people say about it. And to do that, religious institutions use whatever is at hand and borrow from all other faculties not to discern what is true and knowable but to buttress the supposed virtue of faith-based methodology that leads to belief in some deity- a virtue, I must point out, that is a vice in all other areas of human inquiry.

    So when we encounter a doctor of divinity, we know that the field of ‘expertise’ represented by the degree is theological, and therefore empty of any knowledge value because this field represents nothing but what other people say about it… dressed up with all kinds of other faculties like philosophy and languages and humanities to make it seem academic.

    But it isn’t… because it is a subject without an object.

  • http://blog.debenny.de/ De Benny

    so too is a ‘relationship’ with some god entirely imported from you.

    What makes you think I don’t know this?

    The study of theology is the study of what other people imbue into ‘Zorg’. But that doesn’t make ‘Zorg’ an object.

    Theology does not make claims about the existence of God if that is what you mean.

    And that’s what you did when you assured us that your God cannot be
    tested – imbuing the property of transcendence merely by asserting it
    so.

    I said I believed so and I too think transcendence is something that is linked to the word god in many (at least western) religions. You still can say there is no god and I am fine with that. But saying so you imply the letters g-o-d in conjunction do have a certain meaning, so there must be some kind of definition and if you add transcendence to that definition (as most people at least in the west would do I guess), then you make a claim about something you cannot make claims about as it is by definition transcendent. You could of course say there is no non-transcendent god, but well. I guess many people would agree with you on that.

    And it is this importing that crosses the necessary boundary between the so-called magisteria of religion with that of science.

    I read about this magisteria for the first time here, I looked it up on wikipedia (German) and think I have a superficial understanding of what it is about. Of course this isn’t much and I can have understood things wrong, so correct me if I’m on the wrong track.

    I do not think that there needs to be such a boundary between science and theology or not in such a way that religion was about morals and science about empirical things. Now this is some ground I have problems expressing myself, especially in a foreign language, so bear with me. I do think science works wonderful to find out new things and to explain a great deal of the world or reality or whatever you want to say. But still, science doesn’t explain all and probaly never will. So what I am after is not a god of the gaps, but a god of experience. There are people who claim to have had these experiences of god, and there are quite some texts, ancient and newer of people with such experiences or about people with such experiences. There is also an oral tradition, no many oral traditions in many religions throughout the world. And these things seem to work somehow. So considering those experiences and what the people made of it somehow worked out for people long ago before the scientific method was developed and it still works for people, even some scientists.
    You said sometime earlier how science would just work in everyday life, and well, religion does so too, at least for some of us. And they are not mutually exclusive, so you can make use of both.

    This is dishonest because, unlike theologies and religions, the method
    of science yields practical applications, therapies, and technologies
    that work for everyone everywhere all the time based on our best singular
    understanding of how certain regularities occur in our environment.
    (That’s why there is no such thing as Argentinian chemistry and Bolivian
    physics.)

    In ideal this is true, but if say an Argentinian Professor likes the big bang and a Bolivian Professor likes the Steady-State-university better, you would maybe not speak of Argentinian or Bolivian physics, but there would be disagreement as well, wouldn’t there. Now maybe they wouldn’t recruit soldiers to win over the other, but this has to do more with politics and how theological differences can be used for them in a completely different way then higher physics…

    You speak of therapies and what not, but is it true they always work? I’ve heard of therapies or medical treatmnt that works in the one case and in the other not and people are not sure about why this is so. If we knew it all there’d be no adverse effects in medicine, would there? So when saying practical science things always work for everyone and religion doesn’t, you are not honest to yourself.
    Plus: You might have noticed I said religion, not theology. Just like the applications is the practical side of sciences like medicine, biology or physics, religion is the practical side to theology, which does as I said also apply the methods other subjects at university apply.

    unless you want to define this kind of belief as a level of confidence
    directly adduced from its evidence. And that, De Benny, would be fatal
    to theism… a method of inquiry about ‘Zorg’ that produces absolutely
    no knowledge about anything anywhere at anytime that can be demonstrated
    to be independent of the believer. No object, remember?

    I think you miss to see that we all are subjects. Science is objective and needs to be, so it works at all places the same way and brings the same results. But still we are subjects. So the evidence you talk about needs not be objective evidence like in science, subjective evidence suffices for the subject to be confident. And this subjective evidence is as I think what we called experience before. It gives the actual person experiencing a certain confidence ad that’s it. Of course this does not give you any objective knowledge about anything anywhere, but it gives you subjective presumptions to start with that others don’t have and so marks a certain way if you so will. And to add it again, these people with confidence are around for quite a while, several millennia, so while what they get out of their confidence is nothing objective that gives you safe and ultimately relyable data the data you get seems to be just good enough for the people involved to survive as a group. As I wrote earlier, it seems to work evolutionwise. So if I have this confidence and living by it works for me, why should I bother about the confidence not producing objective knowledge?

    But because its purpose is to sell itself, to sell its ideas to people
    to create influence over them, religion doesn’t care about anything
    other than protecting and promoting its own peculiar doctrine and dogma

    See, now you are not speaking about religion or theology, but about church leaders. They want this protection you speak of and they use (or should I say abuse) religion to reach their aims. This is nothing special, you find the same in politics and actually all hierarchies. People will try to use the system for their own benefit. This doesn’t mean that the system itself is meant for them to benefit from it, and I am all on your side when you criticise such behaviour, but I do not believe we can get rid of this, we can only shrink its influence like we cannot hinder power abuse in politics or police units or army units or whatever. Where there is power, there is abuse.

    Religious belief has absolutely no interest in what’s true and even less
    in what’s knowable unless something appears to promote and protect the
    religious belief itself.

    Again you are speaking of people and not a concept. Religious belief cannot have an interest, it is not a person. And or course the people who are on top of religious institutions try to promote and protect their institution, because that’s where they get their influence from. And who wants to loose influence? This is true for non-religious institutions in exactly the same way. You want to criticise this? Again, I am completely on your side, because this is a necessary thing to do in our own interest. But will this behaviour ever change? I doubt deeply.

    But you spoke about doctrine and dogma and how theology does nothing but trying to protect it. While it is true that churches (or better: certain church groups that try to get or keep their influence) tend to protect it (in its actual state), theology does set it, at least to a great extent. Otherwise there wouldn’t be different denominations with all slightly different doctrines and dogmas. Doctrines and dogmas evolve out of what the religious group considers important to their tradition/set of actual and passed down experience. Some things change rather easily, others don’t. So while more and more churches are welcoming to homosexuals they still are at odds with abortion. There are also other examples. Most churches and Christian groups approve of the holy trinity. Jehova’s witnesses don’t, for example. Doctrine changes, and those doctrine lines that don’t work cease to exist some day, while others flourish. The knowledge, if you so will, of theology is how to make the doctrines be life supporting and keep them that way. Thinking about it now I guess you could even call it religious engineering maybe. In order to keep the doctrines in line with contemporary living, you need to know where they come from and where a certain change would lead to and stuff like that. Maybe that is something religious studies doctores could do as well as theology doctores (I never understood why in America you become doctor of divinity and not doctor of theology), but the religious studies guys are more into describing the system than actually working on it.

    What I call “the system” here is certainly incorporating some set of rules or ethic advice, but it also contains presumptions about the world and people and how they work on a social level… “love your enemies” is the stroke of a genius, alone because it works.

  • tildeb

    Theology does not make claims about the existence of God if that is what you mean.

    Really?

    Theology definition in OED: The study of the nature of god and religious belief, religious beliefs and theory when systematically developed

    So why capitalize the term ‘god’ if you are willing to concede that it doesn’t exist?

    • De Benny

      I am German so capitalising is a common mistake I make when writing English, but in this case I use “God” to refer to the christian god I believe in and “god” when I mean a synonym to “deity”. I thought this was how these are distinguished in English (we don’t have this distinction in German, here it is always “Gott”).

      And I did not concede God wouldn’t exist, did I? I just conceded that you cannot proof or give objective reasons for its probability. That’s a difference.

      Theology definition in OED

      I found a definition I found more adequate here:

      http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?o2=&o0=1&o7=&o5=&o1=1&o6=&o4=&o3=&s=theology&h=000&j=0#c

      (the rational and systematic study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truth

      I know Princeton is in the states and Oxford in the UK, so maybe this is an BE/AE issue…

      So according to this theology studies (in a rational way!) religion, its influences and the nature of religious truth.

      While studying the nature of religious truth there could be some theologians who come to the claim that there would be objective reasons for the existence of God (Think Anselm or Herrmanni). If you criticise them for it that’s okay and fully within academia, like criticism is what it’s all based on, isn’t it. But still, claims about the existence of God (or generally gods) can be a result of theologian theories, but theology as a science (can I say so or would I rather say humanity?) does not make any such claim. Of course many presume that there is a god they call God, but there are all kinds of questioning the God-system. You can also question the concept of God completely, but then you are not within theology anymore but within philosophy. Just like you can question the existence of the material world (think Matrix movies), but again then you are not within physics anymore, but in philosophy or conspiration theories, however you want to put it.

      • http://blog.debenny.de/ De Benny

        Got a problem with disqus login. Just wanted to confirm that this post was by me.

        • http://www.wideopenground.com/ Lana

          I have a german question for you. Does Bewachern mean guard? Here is the context (Bonhoeffer’s poem). I ask this because the English translation of this poem is confusing. The English they translate it as warders, so I am unsure if the meaning is like a prison guard, or say, a fellow person in his jail.

          Wer bin ich? Sie sagen mir oft,
          ich träte aus meiner Zelle
          gelassen und heiter und fest,
          wie ein Gutsherr aus seinem Schloß.
          Wer bin ich? Sie sagen mir oft,
          ich spräche mit meinen Bewachern
          frei und freundlich und klar,
          als hätte ich zu gebieten.

          http://www.dietrich-bonhoeffer.net/predigttext/wer-bin-ich/

          • http://blog.debenny.de/ De Benny

            Bewachern is the dative plural of “prison guard”.

            What Bonhoeffer writes here is that people say, h’d be talking friendly and clear to his guards like he was the one who could give orders…
            Do you have a link to the English translation?

          • http://www.wideopenground.com/ Lana

            Yes, here is a link. Most people translate Bewachernwarders, and I think guards is a more clear translation. Here is a link: http://www.dbonhoeffer.org/who-was-db2.htm

            Part of it with poems is trying to retain the overall poetic feel. What you said was very helpful. I revised part of my paper because you got me thinking about something. If you would like to read my paper, let me know. Of course, it’s in English, but I wouldn’t mind hearing your overall take on how I interpreted the poem. My essay is being published in Cambridge scholars conference volume on Bonhoeffer.

          • http://blog.debenny.de/ De Benny

            I sent you an E-Mail

  • tildeb

    The point of the post was whether or not Lana believed in God as a matter of faith or a rational reason and argued for the rational. But because God is not an object, it cannot be for rational reasons and must rely on faith-based belief imported to it.

    Theology I said is a subject without an object. That’s a criticism that reveals why belief in the object is not adduced from reality but is a faith-based belief imposed on it. That’s not a rational reason for holding the belief but in spite of rational reasons to reject it.

    The study of this subject is called theology and of course it covers religions that have that central element of theism, the root term theos meaning the belief in the existence of gods or a God. So the study of theology is about examining this object that presumes the reality of it. Shifting the object into some transcendental realm is just an attempt to excuse its lack of evidence in our reality while pretending that we can still know something about it to study!

    We’re not talking about comparative religions here and that was not the intention of the post. To argue that any god is not necessary for this study to occur is like arguing that rocks are not a central feature of geology or sound is not a central feature of music, that forces are not a central feature of physics or numbers aren’t a central feature of mathematics. In other words, It makes absolutely no sense to remove the central object being studied and then try to pretend that there is still a subject to be considered.

    • Lana Hope

      God is not an object, but surely he is a subject. As to whether or not belief in God is rational, it surely is rational. Read Alvin Plantiga’s God and Other Minds. The analytic philosophers are not claiming that God does nor does not exist, but the claim is that we are rational to believe in a God for the same reason we are rational to believe in other minds, the external world, and the past. It is an inductive generalization to say that I have a mind to the belief that others have a mind, yet we are rational for believing in mind. Same for God. Again, the claim is not that there is or not a God, but that those who choose to believe in God are not being irrational. Even most atheist philosophers agree with Plantinga.

    • http://blog.debenny.de/ De Benny

      The point of the post was whether or not Lana believed in God as a
      matter of faith or a rational reason and argued for the rational.

      Then I misunderstood her. I haven’t reread the article, but I think to remember she argued with experience and community, which is in my opinion something very subjective and not objective as rational arguments. Maybe I still understand her wrong.

      That’s not a rational reason for holding the belief but in spite of rational reasons to reject it.

      I think I can agree with the first but see no reason as to why agree with the second. I see no rational reasons to reject the believe, unless I make presumptions about the world being naturalistic or whatever.

      of course it covers religions that have that central element of theism, the root term theos meaning the belief in the existence of gods or a God

      Theos is the Greek word for god. It does not imply the believe in the existence of god or gods. You can use that very word without believing in these objects existing, like when you say “there is no god”. And you can well do theology without believing in a god or gods in the first place.

      So the study of theology is about examining this object that presumes the reality of it.

      Of course you presume the reality of something you examine. If you study on the effects of global warming, you need to presume global warming to begin with. This says nothing about your actual belief.

      Shifting the object into some transcendental realm is just an attempt to
      excuse its lack of evidence in our reality while pretending that we can
      still know something about it to study!

      There’s no excuse. It’s an explanation or call it a theory if you like. Presume God being trancendental in general but also revealing Himself from time to time. All you have are the revelations. These are in this world, even measurable. They are not of the form to give evidence for God’s exitence, because if they did, God would become testable and would not remain God, He’d be stripped of His general trancendence. Nonetheless we have the revelations that give us an idea not about if God is but about how God is. That is what theology is examining. The sources are these revelations, an important one being the bible.

      To argue that any god is not necessary for this study to occur is like
      arguing that rocks are not a central feature of geology or sound is not a
      central feature of music, that forces are not a central feature of
      physics or numbers aren’t a central feature of mathematics.

      But are there numbers? Show me one! They are a concept, made up to form the system of mathamatics. These mathematics work in their special field and are widely applyable. But still no one has ever seen a number. God is – similar to numbers – a central concept of certain systems of theology – and they also work in their special fields. We’ve talked about the experiences often enough…

      • http://www.wideopenground.com/ Lana

        I wrote this post a long time ago, so not sure my point them. But what I believe now is that theism is a rational belief. I also stand by my point that religion is experiential in nature and is not verified by the scientific method. I believe that theism is a rational belief for the same reason that we are rational to believe in other minds. We can’t verify other minds by the scientific method either.

  • tildeb

    Yes, I find this all the time in apologetics and accommodationist writings that try to morph the object ‘god’ into contortions necessary to comport with science… but always depending on the audience, of course. Case in point from Plantinga:

    “What [Daniel Dennett] calls an ‘anthropomorphic’ God, furthermore, is precisely what traditional Christians believe in – a god who is a person, the sort of being who is capable of knowledge, who has aims and ends, and who can and in fact does act on what he knows in such a way as to try to accomplish those aims.”

    Regarding theism:

    “[In Christianity, Judaism, and Islam], theism is the belief that there is an all-powerful, all-knowing perfectly good immaterial person who has created the world, has created human beings ‘in his own image’, and to whom we owe worship, obedience, and allegiance… Now God, according to theistic belief, is a person; a being who has knowledge, affection (likes and dislikes), and executive will, and who can act on his beliefs in order to achieve his ends.”

    Plantinga very much identifies God not just as an object but a God with personhood.

    So the question I ask is, how does he know about this object? And the answer – after much verbiage – is he doesn’t. He believes first and then exercises confirmation bias to try to support those beliefs. What he in fact believes is his own beliefs a priori and then imposes it on the reality we share. This is identical methodology to what we describe as a mental condition known as ‘delusion’ because like the tinfoil hatted worrier in alien radio signals controlling human behaviour, sophisticated theists try to present religious belief in belief as qualitatively different because of the sanctity of the object they presume – for which they have NO independent evidence adduced from reality – exists. That’s irrational and couching it in religious garb and then demanding special exemption from critical review only serves to avoid responsibility for maintaining delusional thinking – which is exactly what faith-based beliefs are – as a virtue. If your mechanic or plumber or dentist tried to get away with this broken methodology, they’d face permanent unemployment because you’d have an engine that didn’t work, pipes that didn’t flow, and teeth causing you nothing but pain.

    • http://www.wideopenground.com/ Lana

      He knows there to be a god because God is a properly basic belief, that is a belief that is not formed through evidence but rather immediately. Other properly basic beliefs is that there is a past, an external world, and other minds.

  • mia

    I enjoyed your point of view on this topic. I feel we spend a great deal of time arguing the “realness” of god while forgetting that reality is perception. My experience is very similar to yours and it lead me to atheism. I recognize, that our individual perceptions can lead us to different conclusions and this is why I never seek to dissuade anyone from believing in a higher power. When someone shares with me their epiphany which brought them to god, I liken it to my own journey which lead me to atheism. I feel a peace now which was never present when I was a believer. And I think the path to inner peace is what we are looking for, even though we take different routes.

    • http://www.wideopenground.com/ Lana

      Yes, I agree with this so much. It’s interesting how we all filter our experiences differently. Science tells us that if we could just be objective enough, we would all reach the same conclusion. As a philosopher, however, I feel that it is impossible to step outside interpretation and perspective.

  • tildeb

    Mia, you assert that we ‘forget’ that reality is perception. Umm… no it’s not. Your cell phone doesn’t work because you perceive it does. Your perception of it makes no difference to the physical forces at work independent of thee and me and our subjective perceptions. This can be demonstrated.

    By suggesting that our perceptions cause reality is playing right into the delusional thinking that beliefs imposed on reality can magically make reality comport to the. This is a recipe for foolishness and gullibility.

    • http://www.wideopenground.com/ Lana

      I agree. Perception isn’t reality, but in order for us to access reality, we have to first interpret it, and interpretation is always perspectival in nature, at least that is what German philosophers teach. I suspect this is what Mia is saying.

      • tildeb

        And we either interpret it correctly and function well within it, or we do not and suffer the consequences for this dysfunction. Religious belief is just such a dysfunction because the method used is faith-based (beliefs imposed on reality) rather than evidence-based (beliefs adduced from it).

    • http://blog.debenny.de/ De Benny

      What Lana said. Plus: No one of us can be sure of the actual physical forces at work. We compare multiple perceptions and derive rules for these forces. But still our perceptions might be wrong or at least not exact enough. So we cannot actually make claims about reality, only about our perception of reality…

  • tildeb

    Yes, philosophy can be very rigorous. But the point I’m making is regarding religious belief itself: how rigorous can that belief be (and not learning what other people think about it) when its a subject without an object?

    • http://blog.debenny.de/ De Benny

      Belief is not meant to be rigorous. Theology is. And theology can be very rigorous. And again: There are objects to deal with. We have mutually accepted revelations (this is why we have denominational theologies, so each theology has its own set of revelation it accepts). These revelations are the sources you deal with, the object you study in order to come to an conclusion about God, the world and everything (or less, whatever the outcome of the study is).

  • tildeb

    But are there numbers? Show me one! They are a concept, made up to form
    the system of mathamatics. These mathematics work in their special field
    and are widely applyable. But still no one has ever seen a number.

    I agree. Numbers are not objects. Numbers are representative symbols used to compare and contrast quantities. If you are trying to suggest that ‘god’ is a representation of something similar, some unreal comparative concept, be my guest… but that’s not theology. Unlike theology that uses the term ‘god’ as if an object independent of what some few believers may use it to represent, quantities REQUIRE real objects to represent.

  • tildeb

    Pendantic semantics.

    You, like Mia, bet your life on these understandings daily independent of your perceptions… without a second thought. Even 15-18 month old children process about a million interactions daily with their environment and consistently and across the board establish general rules of almost identical and remarkable accuracy. This puts to Mia’s point to bed, that our perceptions have some kind of influence about the rules of how reality operates or we would find no such consistency and a wide variety of strategies in play. We don’t… because reality is one thing independent of us and something we have to comport our beliefs to if we wish to function in it. To pretend that we really can’t trust the idea of an independent reality (that we might not be able to understand and incorporate knowledge about accurately) is ludicrous because if we inhabited such an wavering environment, we’d die out as a species within a generation.

    Again, science is a method and not conclusions. That some of these conclusions reached by using the method change over time by using the method of science to self-correct, for crying out loud, and never, ever the method used by faith-based belief that cannot self-correct for there is mechanism to do so, in no way supports the idea that faith-based belief is somehow compatible with the method of science. It isn’t. It is its antithesis.

    So when you suggest that we can study revelation as if this is a subject that contains insight into how reality operates (knowledge), you’ve got absolutely no evidence to back that up… other than what other people say. That turns the subject of revelation into just another set of empty claims. Revelation is not a source of knowledge independent of the person doing the revealing that can be studied; it is a set of knowledge-empty claims. It’s like suggesting we really can ‘study’ the Napkin Religion and produce knowledge about it by examining the napkin upon which we can read the words, “The Napkin Religion is the One True Religion because it says so right here on this napkin.”

  • tildeb

    … if you do not believe in quantities…

    Quantities can be demonstrated. God cannot.

    If you’d just spend a moment thinking, you would always be better served than believing utilizing faith.

    • http://blog.debenny.de/ De Benny

      Quantities can be demonstrated. God cannot.

      You got a point there. But the question or not was whether there is an application for theology and there is: faith. The sentence about the quantities was only an example. Without quantities, maths makes no sense. Without faith, theology makes no sense. So you have no faith in God and say theology was pointless. q.e.d

      If you’d just spend a moment thinking, you would always be better served than believing utilizing faith.

      Life isn’t only about rationally understanding stuff. There’s hardly anyone who’d say: Today was a wonderful day, I was sitting home alone thinking all the time…
      There are good use cases for rationality and there are good use cases (if you so will) for faith. If faith had no use, evolution would have eridicated it. But till this day from the earliest beginnings we know about there has always been faith and there has not been one culture without faith that was able to stand the test of time evolution brings. You can complain about it, but that won’t help a bit.

      See, I’m not saying I do believe because it works evolution-wise, but I want to make you see that there are applications for faith (and thus for theology). I do not say I need these applications for me to believe, because you don’t get faith through reasoning. But once having faith, it does indeed also make sense, so you can reason about it.

      I will be better served thinking than believing in some cases but I also will be better served believing than thinking in others.

  • tildeb

    @ De Benny

    You’ve got it backwards; ‘faith’ is not a application derived from theology… it’s a method of inquiry, a method that says its okay to impose your beliefs on reality and assume reality will comport to them. I dance. It rains. See? I believe my dancing causes the rain.

    And we’re to think this method is not just a virtue but the highest virtue.

    Good grief.

    The method of faith is used to empower theology (a subject without an object) as much as it empowers alternative medicine and anti-vaccine justifications. Faith as a method creates theology and pretends its a subject about something as much as it creates ghosts and future readings from chicken entrails and UFOlogy. That’s what faith produces: nonsense and delusion. Reliably. Consistently. Always. It’s a method rejected in all other areas of human inquiry and held to be a methodological thinking error, a way guaranteed to impede gaining justified knowledge.

    And you’re right to suggest that without comparative quantities, math makes no sense… because numbers – symbolic representations, let us not forget – are predicated on the principle of comparative quantities. So, too, are you correct to suggest that without faith, theology makes no sense… because God – a what? – is predicated on being real!

    I don;t think it is unreasonable to suggest that our beliefs about real things should align with how compelling the evidence is for that belief. And this is exactly how you think almost all of the time… with the exception of certain faith-based beliefs. I don;t think those exceptions deserve such privilege from our rational and evidence-based thinking… especially when such pernicious effects accrue from utilizing faith-based beliefs in real life to effect. It really does cause real harm to real people in real life for no good reasons other than to privilege some faith-based belief. I think we can and should and eventually must do better if we hope to address real problems with real and efficacious solutions.

    • http://blog.debenny.de/ De Benny

      Faith is not a method. What you write about rain dances. These dances are not faith. They might be religious rituals, but then such a ritual is a method if you like, but not faith. You can have faith in rain following such dances without partaking in the dance, so faith does not mean to actually apply a method.

      It’s you who has it backwards. Faith is not a method.

  • tildeb

    Many people have a very strange notion of what ‘science’ is. It is a method that yields understanding how (remember that word ‘how’ and not ‘why’) the universe actually works which is then demonstrated to be understood by various applications, therapies, and technologies that work for everyone everywhere all the time. That’s not a trivial product but an essential part of lending increased levels of confidence to that understanding. Science is not some fixed body of knowledge. Science is a set of tools developed over hundreds of years for getting answers about nature that work. Thought of in slightly a different way, science is the method used to answer the question How do you know that?

    Science produces a testable body of knowledge open to rejection or confirmation and the reason why we employ this method is, as Feynman so eloquently and simply explained, to arrive at an understanding that uphold the first principle of science, namely, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about that.”

    We use the method of science all the time and to great effect… right up until it interferes with what we want to be the case, what we wish were the case, what we would prefer to be the case. And then we utilize all kinds of rationalizations to avoid this reliable method… not because it doesn’t work to produce understanding that is applicable but because it doesn’t bend to our desires.

    Feynman’s warning clearly bumps up against ‘how’ we lend confidence to religious claims. I think what most religious folk utilize is the kind of rationalization called confirmation bias where we select bits and pieces of stuff that appears to lend support to our beliefs and we tend to ignore or trivialize or rationalize away stuff that doesn’t.

    For example, to suggest that science cannot ‘verify’ other minds is only true if we first assume that ‘minds’ are real things. That’s a scientific question and it has been answered: minds are not real things. And, without going into a long-winded explanation why this is the case, science has shown us why ‘minds’ are really just a construct we use that is very useful in communication with others. In fact and unequivocally, mind is what the brain does. It is an emergent property of neural activity that only appears to be a real thing. (I think the best way to understand this is to think of flocks of birds where the flock itself appears to be a discrete and real thing with a mind of its own rather than what it actually is: local units obeying local rules. That’s why this argument about ‘minds’ is facetious in that it only seems to support the equivalent belief that god is real (a discrete and real thing) and so belief in God only seems rational!

    Well, this is where Feynman’s criticism is right on: the method used to justify belief in this God or that God or some other God is identical. One would think more people might recognize this clue – multiple and conflicting ideas of ‘God’ – as an indication that something is wrong with the thinking process that arrives at this god or that one or the other one, that there is problem with the method used to arrive at completely different and incompatible conclusions. The most obvious conclusion is that believers are not being careful enough and so they fool themselves into believing that their selected justifications and rationalizations are sufficient. They’re not. And the evidence for this is overwhelming… considering that we know of more than 40,000 christian sects alone and untold hundred of thousand of incompatible gods in human history.

    This method doesn’t work.

    If we allowed this methodology to be received with tolerance and respect in, say, engineering, no one could trust that certification as having any reliable meaning of expertise and trustworthiness. Engineers would equivalently produce some stuff that only appeared to work and mostly stuff that didn’t… but as a profession claimed to produce stuff that worked just fine because the engineer believed it did while ignoring all the examples we frustrated purchasers of engineering services where it clearly didn’t.

    You see the problem; claims based only on justifications that they seem to be rational because they are believed to be rational is no means to produce explanations that are equivalently useful tin comparison to a method that allows us to test and verify the explanations not by belief but by evidence independent of our preferences.

    That’s why the ‘how’ is so vital to the quality, the reasonableness, the actual truth value of explanations for ‘why’. The explanations are only as good as the method used to arrive at them. And the method used to justify faith-based beliefs we know by multiple examples across all areas of human inquiry doesn’t work to produce justified confidence! It is a guaranteed method to fool ourselves (as demonstrated by the hundreds of thousands of different and incompatible gods claimed to be real). To continue to believe that one;s belief is sufficient to reveal some understanding about anything when faced by such overwhelming evidence that this is not so is, to borrow the vernacular definition of crazy, doing the same thing and expecting a different result.

    • http://blog.debenny.de/ De Benny

      It is a method that yields understanding how (remember that word ‘how’ and not ‘why’) the universe actually works

      We were talking about faith, and faith is neither a science nor a method.

      For example, to suggest that science cannot ‘verify’ other minds is only
      true if we first assume that ‘minds’ are real things. That’s a
      scientific question and it has been answered: minds are not real things.

      I am not too deep into this, though I heard a lecture of Metzinger were he mentioned it. But then I wonder, first you emphasise how we use science and ratio every day and make this an argument for it, but now you say things we do use and acknowledge in everyday life, like minds, were no real things. Maybe they are no real things because they do not fit within the scope of naturalism?
      Actually we do have minds and they are real things if we want to think in the first place. What is thought if not a function of the mind? Is thought not real either? It rationalizing unreal? See how you saw on the branch you sit on?
      When you assume everything is material/naturalistic in the first place, you will not get anything unmaterial. Thus, minds being non-material, you must end up with something like you mentioned. Like minds being no real things, though you assume the existence of your mind every day, especially when you write here. Of course it is connected with things happening in your brains, but it’s not the same as these biological things happening.
      It’s like saying software is no real thing but only electricity and semiconductors, ones and zeros… but there is a difference between the code of a software and the actual software running in your machine. It’s to some extent a question of your point of view and of course the software is connected with its cod an the hardware it is running on, but it still is something else, though immaterial. Of course you will deny this because you do not share my premises. But your system is at least as corrupted as mine, because you use your mind every day and still claim it was no real thing. Your science doesn’t work to explain the universe you live in when it comes to this, and you seem to have no problem with it. It’s okay with me, but please don’t start with God being unprovable. He doesn’t fit into a naturalistic world view, but this doesn’t mean God’s the problem, maybe it’s the world view. As we have seen, naturalism works for many fields but when it comes to the mind, questions arise.

      considering that we know of more than 40,000 christian sects alone and
      untold hundred of thousand of incompatible gods in human history.

      The differences within Christianity are to a very large extent differences of theology, not faith. They all believe in the same God. They describe this certain God in different ways, according to the sources they accept and their hermeneutics. While many of the “sects” do fully recognize one another. Think of Reformed and Lutherans in Germany. Or the Leuenberg community…
      You could even take other monotheist religions like Judaism and Islam into this. The differences are less in faith than in theology. That’s why church fathers called Islam a heresy, not paganism. And also Islam recognizes Judaism and Christianity as something different from polytheist religions.

      Then, on the other hand you have the polytheists. Their gods are on a large scalde interchangeable. Think of Assmann’s theory that monotheism brought conflict for not accepting other gods. Polytheism has no problem with this. Further gods can either be added or identified with already known gods. So Poseidon becomes Neptune, Zeus becomes Jupiter… Again, faith (if you want to speak of faith here rather than religion) doesn’t change too much if at all. But here also theology is rather equal. There are hardly any heresies and conflicts have not so much to do with the right perception of the gods.

      So the big differences you make up are not so big at all.

      This method doesn’t work.

      Faith is no method.

      but as a profession claimed to produce stuff that worked just fine because the engineer believed it did while ignoring all the examples we frustrated purchasers of engineering services where it clearly didn’t.

      Oh, some companies come into mind when you say this… but then I remember, my mind isn’t a real thing, so I guess I can’t say that… ;)

      is no means to produce explanations that are equivalently useful tin
      comparison to a method that allows us to test and verify the
      explanations not by belief but by evidence independent of our
      preferences.

      How useful is your science when it proclaims minds, that we all use like we had them, were no real things, illusions? You keep saying how the one side works and is useful and the other isn’t, you keep criticising premises you don’t agree with but don’t see how your own premises are also very questionable. If things were like you say, if faith was of no use, why does it work? Why do people of faith not fail miserably in every field of life? If you were right, they should die out within a generation. But people of faith are here for millennia, and there is nothing proposing this would change at any time leave alone any time soon.

      the actual truth value

      Don’t speak of truth when speaking about science. Science gives you probability and nothing else. That’s a whole different thing than truth of any kind.

      And the method used to justify faith-based beliefs we know by multiple
      examples across all areas of human inquiry doesn’t work to produce
      justified confidence!

      That’s not necessary, because faith doesn’t need to be justified. It’s a – how did Lana call it? A properly basic belief? You have those too, but you seem to not be aware of it. Check your belief system, why do you think science is a good thing? Because it works? Well, faith does too (for millennia).

      See, if it makes you feel better you can well call me crazy. But this wouldn’t change my faith and it wouldn’t make your claims more sound.

  • tildeb

    @ De Benny

    You say Actually we do have minds and they are real things if we want to think
    in the first place. What is thought if not a function of the mind? Is
    thought not real either? It rationalizing unreal? See how you saw on the
    branch you sit on? When you assume everything is material/naturalistic in the first place, you will not get anything unmaterial.

    Local units obey local rules produce processes and functions that only appear to be discrete objects (think flock or school of fish). This is the illusion. The illusion isn’t the processes or functions of the brain; those are quite real and produce real effects. Your thoughts are those processes and those functions of your brain activity. That’s why I said that “the mind is what the brain does.” And this is demonstrable.

    But you do not wish to understand this vital difference because it doesn’t serve your goal here, which is to pretend that ‘faith’ is an ‘application’, a product of theology, rather than a method guaranteed to fool yourself.

    My goal is to align my thinking with reality’s arbitration of it. I can alter your mind by artificial means. I can duplicate various kinds of religious experiences and perceptions by artificial means. I can make you feel all kinds of sensations by artificial means. And to do so, all I need to do is change those local neuro-chemical rules in your brain and your ‘mind’ will change right along with them. Your mind is what your brain does. Damage the brain, damage the mind. Alter the brain, alter the mind. Kill the brain, kill the mind. Change the brain, change the mind. This is a one-to-one correlation. However, our brain processes can also be altered by those very processes themselves when directed to do so by other brain processes and the environment. That’s what we call ‘learning’. That’s what your faith-based beliefs are: brain processes that can and should be altered to align with reality through learning.

    To combat this learning, your brain has trained to avoid dissonance. It has been trained to ignore contrary and troubling evidence. You utilize a plethora of defensive tactics to avoid facing reality’s arbitration of these beliefs… beliefs for which there are no compelling reasons independent of your brain processes to believe.

    The dualistic notion that mind and body are somehow separate and discrete has exactly zero evidence from reality in its favour. Sure, it has lots of metaphysics, lots of philosophy, lots of theology to support this necessary notion but absolutely none where it should be in abundance in electro-chemical, physical, and material evidence. You’ve tricked your brain into reinforcing certain processes by utilizing a method of inquiry that doesn’t care about what reality itself has to say in this matter, that dismisses, trivializes, and excuses reality’s failure to provide independent and compelling evidence where it should be easily found.

    In this case, the absence of evidence is compelling evidence of absence.

    • http://blog.debenny.de/ De Benny

      But you do not wish to understand this vital difference because it doesn’t serve your goal here

      Please speak only for yourself. You don’t know my goals.

      which is to pretend that ‘faith’ is an ‘application’, a product of theology, rather than a method guaranteed to fool yourself.

      Because faith is nothing that I or any other actor would do, it is nothing to be done, like a method. It’s a state. This is why I keep saying, faith is no method. It is influenced by theology, though not iniciated. But above all, it’s not a method, it’s nothing you do. It’s something you experience. You are rather passive.

      Your mind is what your brain does. Damage the brain, damage the mind.
      Alter the brain, alter the mind. Kill the brain, kill the mind. Change
      the brain, change the mind. This is a one-to-one correlation.

      If you are strict with this, then there is no tildeb, no De Benny and no Lana, but only protons, neutrons and electrons. And maybe even noth these, but quarks. Change the quarks, change the tildeb, change the wide open ground blog, change the internet change everything. So all sciences except physics, which deals with quarks, are sciences without objects, because as there are no real minds (and no real God), all the other things are not real things either.

      That’s what your faith-based beliefs are: brain processes that can and should be altered to align with reality through learning.

      They already align with reality, no less than your brain processes do.

      To combat this learning, your brain has trained to avoid dissonance. It
      has been trained to ignore contrary and troubling evidence. You utilize a
      plethora of defensive tactics to avoid facing reality’s arbitration of
      these beliefs… beliefs for which there are no compelling reasons
      independent of your brain processes to believe.

      You have a point there but then again, the same is true for every human being. Your brain is also trained to avoid dissonances. Maybe you are not aware of it. You also ignore troubling evidence. I told you like your premises are no better than mine, just that yours appear to be “better” for the lack of a god (which is just something that is modern and cool in your culture at your time, but just because it is “in” to think so, this isn’t any more true than what was “in” in other cultures at other times).
      What people believe is very subjective, there are no compelling reasons for these things. That’s the same with things you believe. You need to deal with illusions and what not to make sense of your world view, thus declaring the majority of living people ignorant and say they’d need to learn. But what for I ask you? Faith works. For millennia. Just so people can be glad you approve of their thinking?

  • tildeb

    De Benny

    You state “Faith works.” Well, it works to fool one’s self into having confidence where none is warranted. And history is full of examples where this practice causes real harm to real people in real life. In fact, we call this exercise ‘delusion’ for a very good reason… because it does not comport with reality by definition. That’s why faith is employed and not compelling reasons.

    • http://blog.debenny.de/ De Benny

      Well, it works to fool one’s self into having confidence where none is warranted.

      Same applies to you and your belief in science. Its results are only true if the premises are true which no one can guarantee. Still you have confidence.

      And history is full of examples where this practice causes real harm to real people in real life.

      You mean like when studies from certain industries “proof” the healthyness of their products etc? Yes, I see what you mean ;)

      because it does not comport with reality by definition.

      Problem is, neither you nor I nor anybody else is in the position to give a definition of this “reality” you are always talking about.

  • tildeb

    Same applies to you and your belief in science. Its results are only true if the premises are true which no one can guarantee.

    See, it’s statements like this that draw into question your critical faculties… faculties that should be required to be demonstrated before earning a university degree. This statement does not demonstrate those critical faculties.

    As I have said repeatedly, my belief in ‘science’ is directly proportional to to the quality of the evidence for or against it. This is reasonable… so reasonable, in fact, that you not only utilize it every day of your life without every considering that it may be philosophically questionable but are quite willing to, and do, bet your life on it. This argument you offer here is full blown apologetics of the worst kind… brought forward and placed on the sacrificial alter of your religious beliefs. You are willing to try to argue that today’s applications, therapies, and technologies that work for everyone everywhere all the time are because people believe they do. This is lunacy.

    The form of thinking we call logic is an axiomatic system that works very well in mathematics. It’s no way to study reality. That’s why you must have encountered the widespread understanding that science isn’t about proofs; it’s about likelihood and probability and how we can come to know about these. And when we come to know a very great deal about how reality operates, we make stuff that utilizes this understanding. Belief plays no part.

    I know you don’t want to hear this. I know you don’t want to understand its importance. I know you will not accept its fatal influence on justifying faith-based belief. That’s why I continue to argue that faith gets between people and reality and reliably misguides and misleads people away from knowledge. This is what you’re doing. You are hanging your hat on the notion that there is equivalence in beliefs about theology and science. Unfortunately for you, there is absolutely no evidence in favour of this hypothesis and an overwhelming amount of evidence against it. To continue to infuse this position with trust and confidence as you do reveals an unwillingness on your part to deal honestly and fairly with reality as it is. And that, De Benny, is your problem and not mine.

    • http://blog.debenny.de/ De Benny

      You really don’t see how biased your position is, do you?

  • tildeb

    No, because as far as I can tell it’s fair. Show me the bias.

    • http://blog.debenny.de/ De Benny

      Science, logic, ratio, all you bring forth are methods that need to operate on some data. The data is the real world at our hands. You get results when applying logic, science and ratio to it, and these results need to be interpreted. And that is where the bias is.
      Because you interpret the results based on what you believed before (if you fancy Latin a priori).
      You need some kind of measurement, some rules of interpretation, and you cannot get this measurement, these rules rationally or logically grounded, because they form the base you start from.

      Everyone has such a base. Some people do change those bases when they encounter problems, like results making no sense in the actual measurement they are using. Then they maybe switch to another measurement system that has not these very problems (there will almost certainly be other problems).

      So my measurement for the results of reality has God within them, yours don’t. None of us can proof the other wrong. All you can do is say that from your base with the means of science, logic and ratio, you cannot get to the point where God is proofed or made probable. he same I cannot get, from my base, with the means of science, logic and ratio to the point where God is unprobable.

      My point is: You cannot measure the meter, the base, the premisses. You can only get to the point when they make you get to strange and nonsense results. Then most people change their premisses. That’s also the point where people of faith get rid of their religion.
      These are a bit different from me. Such people tend to believe that one would have objective reasons to believe in God, they seem to have a tendency to put God into this system of reasoning and logic based on their premisses. They have a clear understanding of who God is and how He is intended to work, so once they find out He doesn’t work that way, their system of thought makes no more sense and they switch to another one.
      But this is not the case in my case. I do know that God cannot objectively described and that He can by definition not fit into such a system of thought. Still I use science and logic and ratio just like you and other people do it, and why not. You are right, I do bet my life on it in certain moments, like when I enter an airplane. But I also bet my life on God. These exist next to one another, there is no conflict between faith and science, because my faith is not like you describe it all the time, my faith is not the faith of the bible fundamentalists you might know from your place, my faith is not like what Lana writes about when speaking of her upbringing.

      You write:

      You are willing to try to argue that today’s applications, therapies,
      and technologies that work for everyone everywhere all the time are
      because people believe they do.

      See, I never made that claim and I do not think so. They work because they work, and we also have explanations for it, but these might be wrong. If we had the overall knowledge there wouldn’t be side effects in medications. There is still a lot of trial and error involved.

      Your bias is, that you do not see that your position is not at all any more probable than mine, and still you claim I am delusional.

  • tildeb

    De Benny

    Let’s try this:

    “So my measurement for the results of reality has Baal within them, yours
    don’t. None of us can proof the other wrong. All you can do is say that
    from your base with the means of science, logic and ratio, you cannot
    get to the point where Baal is proofed or made probable. he same I cannot
    get, from my base, with the means of science, logic and ratio to the
    point where Baal is unprobable.”

    So my measurement for the results of reality has Yeti within them, yours
    don’t. None of us can proof the other wrong. All you can do is say that
    from your base with the means of science, logic and ratio, you cannot
    get to the point where Yeti is proofed or made probable. he same I cannot
    get, from my base, with the means of science, logic and ratio to the
    point where Yeti is unprobable.”

    “So my measurement for the results of reality has Thor within them, yours
    don’t. None of us can proof the other wrong. All you can do is say that
    from your base with the means of science, logic and ratio, you cannot
    get to the point where Thor is proofed or made probable. he same I cannot
    get, from my base, with the means of science, logic and ratio to the
    point where Thor is unprobable.”

    There’s something wrong here, don’t you think, where anything I can imagine I can now believe in not because I have any means to know any such things but because I assume my belief alone is sufficient.

    In contrast, my beliefs are proportional to the evidence for them and I am always willing to change these beliefs accordingly. I see no means in your approach to ever changing any belief ever… but I can see a way to rationalize ANY belief this way.

    • http://blog.debenny.de/ De Benny

      You forgot unicorns and flying spaghetti monsters. And: You cannot believe anything you can imagine. Some things will conflict with your other premises about reality and you’ll run into problems.

      In contrast, my beliefs are proportional to the evidence for them

      Then show me the evidence for the nonexistance of God. Or didn’t you say belief in God was delusional? Then, according to what you said, there must be evidence that He doesn’t exists (which isn’t the same as no evidence that He does exist by the way).

      I am always willing to change these beliefs accordingly.

      Then all you need to do is wait for God to step into your life. You can even pray for it if you dare.

      I see no means in your approach to ever changing any belief ever…

      My belief in God? No, I don’t see that means either.

      but I can see a way to rationalize ANY belief this way.

      I don’t know if I’d go as far as to saying it was rational. Lana is the philosopher, I’m not. What I say is that belief in God isn’t irrational (which is something different).

      • http://blog.debenny.de/ De Benny

        One thing I’d like to add: I might not change my belief in God like I belief that there is a God, but my beliefs about God, how He is, do change and have changed repeatingly. The only thing needed are good theological arguments.

  • tildeb

    @sgl

    +1!

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