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Why I Am Not Debating the Existence of a God

January 10th, 2014 | Posted by Lana Hope in Uncategorized

I just wanted to let everyone know that I appreciated all the comments on my last blog post. I always approve comments unless they are porn or personal threats to others here. Sometimes my spam checker makes me approve comments. Please know I will approve them.

I don’t mind if you all debate amongst yourselves the existence of God, and I don’t mind when people tell me why they disagree with my conclusions. However, I am not going to debate God’s existence with you all. Sometimes I do debate you about other topics (such parental rights, etc), but I’m not going to jump in on this debate. There’s a few reasons.

1. I am not concerned what you believe about the supernatural. I’ve said this before, but I am not out to evangelize you. If I ever make you feel like I think theists are better, you should point that out because it’s not my intent. The purpose of this blog is to discuss the problems of fundamentalism and how we can become better, more accepting, less bigoted people as I relate this to my intellectual journey (in grad school) and to my travels. I’m really not concerned what you believe about the supernatural although my journey will include my faith (it defines a large part of my life).

2. It’s not my job to convince you of the supernatural. People love to drop me a tweet or comment and say the burden of proof is on the theists. For those who don’t know why the burden falls on the theists, I’ll use the common example of gold. If someone says he/she recently found gold in Alaska and that there is gold still there, there would be no way for me to prove that there is not gold in Alaska. In order to do that, I’d have to search every piece of land and dirt in the state, and even there, I coud never be sure that I did not miss it. For this reason, we say the burden of proof falls on the person who makes the claim.

But that is only true if the person who finds the gold cares to be proven right. The thing is, I am not asking for a debate with anyone, and as I said, I don’t care what you believe about the supernatural. For me, and me only, the supernatural explains my life. If it does not work for you, okay. It’s not my job to convince everyone on the internet to believe what I believe. That’s too big of a task, and I’m not undertaking it.

3. I’m not that interested in the evidential argument. This is quite honestly the number one reason I’m not interested in debating this. Most people come along and say, “I can’t see, smell, touch, or hear God. Burden of proof is on you.”  If the senses was the only reason to believe or disbelieve in a deity, I might remain agnostic. For example, I am agnostic about whether there exist life on other galaxies. I see no reason that I would know either way, so I’m agnostic about it.  But when it comes to whether or not a god exists, or whether there is some other kind of lesser deities who are not maximally powerful or what not, I don’t purely default on the 5 senses.

This happened just yesterday on twitter. I posted something on twitter from Alvin Plantinga that used modal logic to form a logical, rather than evidential, argument for the existence of a maximally great being. Immediately people I had never heard of tweeted me and said “nonsense” and “burden of proof is on you.” Of course, it’s a public forum, and people are always welcome to tweet.

It just struck me as ironic because I wasn’t posting evidential proof (in other words, I wasn’t posting about where you can find the gold ). I was posting premises. So the burden is not on me.  For example, my professors often put premises on the whiteboard. The professor will leave the room and say, “You don’t have to agree with the conclusion, but you can’t reject the conclusion without rejecting a premise” (or inference or something of the sort).  The fact is, if we were going to debate (which we are not), once I put the premises and conclusion up, the burden always rests on the other person to refute them. The Alaskan gold argument doesn’t work once I have offered my premises.

I am not interested in just having a debate on just the evidential arguments. It’s too one-dimensional.

In one of my past courses, we pretended that we had an agnostic jury, and we would put up cases from the atheists and theists on the board. Each time we had what my professor called a new day of trial, my professor reminded us that whoever won that day of trial did no necessarily win the whole debate. For example, probably most atheist philosophers think that Alvin Plantinga is right about how there is no logical contraction between a good God and the existence of suffering like J.L Mackie originally posited. But there are many other arguments on the problem of evil for the atheist to make their case.  Likewise, even if I said that you all are right that I can’t see, smell, touch, and taste God so based on evidence, you win (I have not said that, but even if I did), this still would only be one day of the trial out of many, many.

And I’m not interested in having 50 days of trial. I have to do this every week in class, and I’m tired of it.

4. I am not going to convince anyone. Probably I should have put this one first. Most of the strangers who tweet me (my regular twitter followers, however, are not this way, nor those who comment on my blog) have just picked up their “10 reasons theists are wrong” from a blog, not because they studied from the philosophers, and so there is no way I am going to convince those people that they are wrong. They are content with the 10 reasons, and aren’t interested in why 1/3 of American philosophers who have PhDs in logic and philosophy would disagree with the blog entry. Granted 2/3rds agree (though probably not with the blog entry; I’ll be honest, my profs can’t stand Richard Dawkins. Their beef is not with atheists. Gosh they love Flew and Mackie, but it’s hard to stomach Dawkins somedays), but 1/3rd disagree.

Then there are the well-informed atheists, which includes many of my readers. They’ve studied this, maybe they’ve studied it 100 times more than me, even, and come to their own conclusions. I’m also not going to convince them either. Nor should I. If you’ve studied this, I have immense respect for you, and may you live your life in peace, love, and goodness.

5. There’s always an experiential element to this. I know a few of you disagree and think people arrive at truth based purely on reason. I’m not a Descartes fan, and I have my doubts that anyone arrives at truth 100% based on reason without assuming any prior experience or worldview. Probably in the upcoming months, I will dump upon you the philosophers who first got me thinking about this. But I’ll go ahead and suppose that we arrive at truth based on reason for minute. The problem is, even if 1% of the population arrives at truth only by logic and reason, and not whatsoever by experience and emotion, the other 99% don’t. As I said in my last post, we all have experiences, myself included, and through this we’ve arrived at different conclusions. I’m not going to pretend as if we are all Descartes when most of us are not.

Plus I kind of like emotions myself.

Plus those of you who tell me you don’t believe in God because God stays hidden, I kind of like you. That’s raw and honest. I prefer those kind of conversations than the debates. I also don’t think those reasons are invalid. I’m not going ot play Descartes.

7. Maybe over coffee. If I ever meet you in person, maybe we could sit down together and discuss this. When I meet people who are interested in why I believe (as opposed to proving me wrong), I’m far more interested in the discussion. The same is true for me. I’m often curious why atheists don’t believe in god or the supernatural. But I’m not interested in debate for the sake of it.

I’m not going to have this debate in a public forum because it’s not a debate I want to have without a face. Atheists are people. Theists are people. Buddhists are people. Hindu’s are people. None of those people are stupid, senseless, illogical. Yet I hear those comments. I’ve been told Buddhists are illogical, but that’s really not true. Analytical philosophy is not the only form of correct thinking.

I much prefer to acknowledge that we all came to different conclusions and get on with life.

I hope this clears it up. As always, I will not delete your comments. Since this is a public forum, feel free to say why I’m wrong about God’s existence. But I’m not going to respond with much more than “thanks for the comment.” Also, feel free to discuss this amongst yourselves.

My next post will be about postmodernism, and then I will pick back up with the survey Swanson’s survey of philosophy.

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7 Responses

  • tildeb says:

    The purpose of this blog is to discuss the problems of fundamentalism and how we can become better, more accepting, less bigoted people.

    It is next to impossible to discuss problems of fundamentalism, which I see as symptoms, when the blog author demands that we cannot talk about the problems of fundamentalism, which I see as the root from which these problems arise. Therefore, any discussion about becoming ‘better’, more ‘accepting’, less ‘bigoted’ people is like talking about regaining a measure of health by symptomatic treatment alone rather than regaining a measure of health by addressing the root cause of these multiple problems.

    Although I understand you see this approach about criticizing fundamentalism as a debate for the sake of debate and do not want to engage it (assuming it’s only about winning a debate), I see this approach as necessary to first understanding and then appropriately addressing why and how these very real problems always accompany fundamentalism (as well as a constant companion from the exercise of ALL faith-based beliefs). By granting fundamentalism a pass, you then assure a never-ending continuation of the very problems you say you wish to address and change. This is a blind spot you demonstrate because you presume such beliefs themselves – specifically the epistemology used to justify faith-based beliefs that you yourself use in the post – are not causally responsible for the behaviours that stem from them. And as long as you do this, I think and point out that you will never, ever effect change to the problems you say you wish to change while insisting that you won’t participate in making the change.

    You see the problem?

    • Lana Hope says:

      I think the difference is I don’t see religion as synonymous with fundamentalism. In order to convince me, you would have to convince me that all religion is inherently oppressive and that atheism has no oppression in their communities. Of course their might be exceptions, but right now I can’t find a norm enough to diagnose the problem.

  • Extraordinary!

    I often deal with the same issue: people demanding that I respond to their objections or address their ‘challenging’ questions that fall outside the scope of my objectives. These people are not looking for answers or dialog–but debate. And they are not my regular readers.

    On my blog, I am always ready to answer a sincere question, and I always assume a question from a new commenter is legitimate no matter how aggressive it might seem. I will spend a lot of time responding to real questions, but I am not interested in being drawn into debates–they are not helpful or appropriate to my blog.

    You did a great job explaining your position, and I think you are absolutely on target.

    • Lana Hope says:

      I appreciate how you always are willing to answer. I don’t get into the Christian doctrines, etc, on my blog as much as you do. There are things I’m willing to debate, but God’s existence isn’t one of them

      • I know our blogs are different, and I am not suggesting you do things the way I do. But in some ways we face similar situations, and I find your response here very appropriate–as I always do.

        • Lana Hope says:

          Oh, I know. I would think your blog would give you a headahe. I’m about to post another post, and I know this one is going to open up a can of warms. Maybe since it’s Saturday, no one will find the post? hehe

  • Pingback: Why I Am Not Debating the Existence of a God | Wide Open Ground




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