• colin
    4
    I was once strictly focussed on intellectualism with my view on theism being agnostic leaning towards atheism. Remaining on the fence of the argument was the most reasonable position for the God debate it seemed.

    However, after I recovered from mental illness I started having profound religious experiences. That were entirely positive.

    And now no amount of well-conceived and consistent argument would detract from that. I now know God exists. It's a certainty in my eyes. And there can be no alternate understanding for me any more.

    These experiences have rendered the arguments of atheists quite laughable, and almost desperate to me. Where I used to find them somewhat compelling and impressive. Extremely impressive, but never convincing. Very well constructed bullshit basically.

    I wish so many well-versed intellectuals wouldn't waste their talent arguing a fundamentally void position here.

    God is beautiful..And Richard Dawkins just isn't.
  • Terrapin Station
    10.5k
    What sorts of religious experiences did you have?
  • Ciceronianus the White
    822
    I wish so many well-versed intellectuals wouldn't waste their talent arguing a fundamentally void position here.colin
    The argument is foolish and futile, I think, but arises from the belief that God's existence is something which can, or should be, established in a particular way; through reasoning or something approximating the scientific method. Atheists evidently believe this is the case, but believers do as well, and invite argument by maintaining that God's existence can be so established.
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    I now know God exists.colin

    Define God.

    These experiences have rendered the arguments of atheists quite laughable, and almost desperate to me.colin

    These people haven't presumably had these experiences of yours, so how are you to blame them?

    Many of them would likely start believing in what you call God (whatever that is) if they had the same or similar experiences as you have. So the question becomes how one has those experiences and why God appears to be so choosy in who has them. (Hopefully mental illness is not a prerequisite for them!)
  • Wayfarer
    7.8k
    Good for you, but it doesn't constitute a philosophical argument as such. If you could develop an argument against those of Dawkins, informed by your experience, then that would be interesting.
  • jkop
    533
    no amount of well-conceived and consistent argument would detract from that. I now know God exists. It's a certainty in my eyes. And there can be no alternate understanding for me any more.colin

    That's not certainty. That's a single-minded assertion no matter what.

    In other words, you don't care about whether God exists or not, for if you did, then you would at least bother to investigate and argue for that your experience is, indeed, an experience of God, and not something else (e.g. a synaptic screw-up).
  • Barry Etheridge
    349
    With all due respect, if it wasn't for people like you, Dawkins would not be as vocal in this area as he has been, and it would be very much easier to argue against him if he was.
  • Brainglitch
    205

    Argument is simply providing reason that rational others should accept or reject some proposition. Persuasive reason normally consists in coherent logical analysis and empirical evidence.

    First-hand experiences and interpretation of their meaning on the order of "I had profound religious experiences" are notoriously convincing and intractable for the person who actually experiences them, but personal conviction does not constitute sufficient reason that rational others should subscribe to your proposition. Such testimony counts as empirical evidence, but of the weakest, most unreliable kind, and is exactly the same evidence used by others in support of propositions (Ganesh, Horus, Athena ...) that are logically inconsistent with your proposition. If logically inconsistent propositions are based on essentially the same evidence, then such evidence does not provide reason to accept the proposition, and the "argument" fails. This does not demonstrate that the proposition is false, merely that the argument presented in support of it fails to demonstrate that the proposition is true.

    Atheist arguments simply are challenges to the logic and evidence offered in theistic arguments.
  • Janus
    7.7k
    Such testimony counts as empirical evidence, but of the weakest, most unreliable kind, and is exactly the same evidence used by others in support of propositions (Ganesh, Horus, Athena ...) that are logically inconsistent with your proposition.Brainglitch

    Why do you say the existence of God is "logically inconsistent" with the existence of "Ganesh, Horus and Athena"?
  • Wayfarer
    7.8k
    Atheist arguments simply are challenges to the logic and evidence offered in theistic arguments. — BrainGlitche

    Reasonable points and well expressed. But another thing to consider is that in today's culture, there is an implicit attitude as to what might be considered as 'evidence' at all. Empricism, for instance, insists that evidence consist of data that can be replicated by others and in that sense, is not something that is dependent on the first-person perspective. I suppose you could say that empiricism attempts as far as possible to bracket out the first-person perspective so as to discover facts that are able to be quantified and replicated in the third person. (This is the basis of the title of Thomas Nagel's book The View from Nowhere).

    However, an element which this excludes is the testimony of sages. I suppose that very phrase is redolent of an earlier ages and times. Nevertheless, in the sapiential (i.e. wisdom) traditions, there is an understanding that the wise are able to understand truths which the untrained do not; that is practically a definition of wisdom. Think for example of the lectures of Plotinus, although there are many other examples, such as the dialogues of Plato, and the early Buddhist texts; but this manner of discourse is something found in many schools of traditional philosophy as well as religion ( as discussed by Pierre Hadot.)

    Now the point is, much of that kind of testimony is also excluded by modern atheism, regardless of its potential veracity, because it requires and involves a first-person perspective and commitment. So it is excluded as a matter of principle. That is because religious knowledge (if indeed there is such) doesn't concern mathematically-quantifiable objects, forces and relations - which, according to the prevailing scientific worldview, are the only real sources of knowledge. What it does consist of may indeed involve encounters with legendary or archetypal figures.

    (Now some of this kind of argument might have been put by Colin, but so far it seems like he might be a 'drive by contributor'.)
  • S
    10.2k
    At what point, and on what grounds, are people like Colin able to reasonably conclude that their experiences (which Colin hasn't even described) are sufficient evidence of the existence of God (which Colin hasn't even defined), and can't better be explained another way?

    My assessment is that, assuming Colin's testament is sincere, he has merely had an experience which he wants to believe is proof of the existence God i.e. wishful thinking. After all, he has been through a rough patch and has obviously found these "entirely positive" experiences that he claims to have had to be comforting, so he has latched on to them, and is using this as a reason to come out of the closet as a believer. I find it sad that some people feel the need to fantasise about God in order to attain a more optimistic outlook.

    Since you mentioned Richard Dawkins, and compared him to God... I find Richard Dawkins much more interesting than this imaginary God character that people take so seriously. I'm looking forward to reading 'The Blind Watchmaker' which was recently given to me as a gift. I expect it to be a much better read than the Bible, which I couldn't bear reading past the first bit, as it was so awfully written, boring and very repetitive.

    I haven't read 'The God Delusion' either, but that title seems suitable in Colin's case. Are you sure you have recovered, Colin?
  • Wayfarer
    7.8k
    As a long-time Dawkins detractor, one thing I could point out is that the idea of 'God' that Richard Dawkins claims doesn't exist, doesn't exist, but that this fact doesn't actually amount to anything.

    You will find if you read The Blind Watchmaker that it contains a brief precursor to his main argument against God in The God Delusion, to whit: 'a deity capable of engineering all the organized complexity in the world, either instantaneously or by guiding evolution ... must already have been vastly complex in the first place.'

    But the point is, that doesn't match any conception of deity found in any of the world's religious traditions. Ergo it is a straw man argument, although in this case, probably better named a 'straw god argument'.
  • S
    10.2k
    As a long-time Dawkins detractor, one thing I could point out is that the idea of 'God' that Richard Dawkins claims doesn't exist, doesn't exist, but that this fact doesn't actually amount to anything.

    You will find if you read The Blind Watchmaker that it contains a brief precursor to his main argument against God in The God Delusion, to whit: 'a deity capable of engineering all the organized complexity in the world, either instantaneously or by guiding evolution ... must already have been vastly complex in the first place.'

    But the point is, that doesn't match any conception of deity found in any of the world's religious traditions. Ergo it is a straw man argument, although in this case, probably better named a 'straw god argument'.
    Wayfarer

    Although you probably know a lot more about those religions than I do, I find that doubtful. Are you sure that it's not just that you interpret them in such a way so as to evade Dawkins criticism?

    And even if you're right, isn't what people actually believe also very relevant here? I bet a lot of believers would assent to that description of God.

    What about this: What verses say that God is omnipotent?
  • Wayfarer
    7.8k
    No, not at all. Dawkins' writing outside his field of speciality is poor. I'm sure he wouldn't pass an undergraduate examination in philosophy of religion. The reviews of The God Delusion were generally dismal (1, 2), although it hasn't stopped it from selling.

    Dawkins tends to portray all religion as fundamentalism, but then accuses that any of its more sensitive intepreters of sophistry or logic-chopping. But I really don't think he understands the subject at all well, his only interest is in attacking it.

    Interestingly, in that page you linked to, none of the quoted passages use the term 'omnipotent'. My interpretation is that much of the language in the ancient texts is allegorical, as it belongs to a very different age and had to appeal to a very different mentality; so it requires interpretation.
  • S
    10.2k
    ...more sensitive intepreters... My interpretation...Wayfarer

    As I suspected...

    Interestingly, in that page you linked to, none of the quoted passages use the term 'omnipotent'.Wayfarer

    Of course not, since the term doesn't originate that far back in history.
  • Hanover
    4.7k
    If Colin saw God like I have seen my hand, then his laughing off atheists is understandable. If Colin did see God in this way, I'd ask he show me.

    As a a devout non-atheist, I find the whole certainty thing about God's non- existence as troubling as the certainty espoused by the theists. It's obvious that there is a universe and its obvious we don't know how or why it got here. Some bow down in humility to this fact and some boast that they know our existence is all just meaningless coincidence. I'd say both need to just admit they have no inkling of the answer.
  • Brainglitch
    205
    Why do you say the existence of God is "logically inconsistent" with the existence of "Ganesh, Horus and Athena"?John

    Because the prevailing notion of God is monotheistic--the one and only actually existing deity. So, the mutual existence of the one and only God AND other gods (justified by essentially the same reasoning) is logically inconsistent.
  • Brainglitch
    205
    Reasonable points and well expressed. But another thing to consider is that in today's culture, there is an implicit attitude as to what might be considered as 'evidence' at all. Empricism, for instance, insists that evidence consist of data that can be replicated by others and in that sense, is not something that is dependent on the first-person perspective. I suppose you could say that empiricism attempts as far as possible to bracket out the first-person perspective so as to discover facts that are able to be quantified and replicated in the third person. (This is the basis of the title of Thomas Nagel's book The View from Nowhere).

    However, an element which this excludes is the testimony of sages. I suppose that very phrase is redolent of an earlier ages and times. Nevertheless, in the sapiential (i.e. wisdom) traditions, there is an understanding that the wise are able to understand truths which the untrained do not; that is practically a definition of wisdom. Think for example of the lectures of Plotinus, although there are many other examples, such as the dialogues of Plato, and the early Buddhist texts; but this manner of discourse is something found in many schools of traditional philosophy as well as religion ( as discussed by Pierre Hadot.)

    Now the point is, much of that kind of testimony is also excluded by modern atheism, regardless of its potential veracity, because it requires and involves a first-person perspective and commitment. So it is excluded as a matter of principle. That is because religious knowledge (if indeed there is such) doesn't concern mathematically-quantifiable objects, forces and relations - which, according to the prevailing scientific worldview, are the only real sources of knowledge. What it does consist of may indeed involve encounters with legendary or archetypal figures.

    (Now some of this kind of argument might have been put by Colin, but so far it seems like he might be a 'drive by contributor'.)
    Wayfarer

    Yes, I agree that what can be considered to be "evidence" at all, as well as whether or not such evidence is sufficient to warrant subscription to the proposition at issue, is at the heart of the matter.

    When we ignore the often hostile and confrontational rhetoric, and attend to the substantive content, the atheist challenge to theist propositions (not to mention disputes among theist theologians) is about the kind and sufficiency of the evidence offered. In general, humans have learned over the millennia that propositions that can satisfy rigorous standards of logical analysis and independently observable empirical evidence are the propositions that are far more likely to provide us with predictive reliability.

    To be sure, in all kinds of everyday situations, we routinely and automatically count the testimony of others as evidence, often sufficient evidence. Evolution has probably hard-wired us with a tendency to accept the word of others at face value. This is a major way children learn about how the world works from infancy on. And it is how most formal instruction even through grad school works. But we also know that propositions that are supported by testimony alone, and cannot satisfy rigorous standards of logical coherence and independent empirical evidence, are far less likely to prove to be reliably predictive, whether they are from alleged "sages" or not.

    So testimony (of alleged "sages" or not) is not excluded as a matter of principle--it is simply judged, implicitly or explicitly, to be insufficient to warrant acceptance of the proposition at issue. A current analogue of the sage, perhaps, is the modern "expert." As with the sages, we still have to judge whether or not their testimony is sufficient to warrant our subscription. In the case of the modern expert. though, we typically assume that the person is somehow vetted by others whose judgment we'd trust, and that the expert opinion is based on the prevailing epistemic standards in his/her field of expertise.
  • Arkady
    762
    You will find if you read The Blind Watchmaker that it contains a brief precursor to his main argument against God in The God Delusion, to whit: 'a deity capable of engineering all the organized complexity in the world, either instantaneously or by guiding evolution ... must already have been vastly complex in the first place.'

    But the point is, that doesn't match any conception of deity found in any of the world's religious traditions. Ergo it is a straw man argument, although in this case, probably better named a 'straw god argument'.
    Wayfarer
    This is not true. There is a long history of "natural theology" which purports to explain the complexity of nature (especially its biological complexity) by appeals to a designing entity. William Paley's Natural Theology (written in the early 19th century) is just such an example of this, now presented in a more technically savvy form by intelligent design creationists (e.g. Stephen Meyer's Signature in the Cell). You may not agree with these authors' conceptions of God, but they're out there nonetheless. So it's disingenous to claim that Dawkins and company are just strawmanning their opponents.

    It's really depressing that I have to keep explaining this to you across multiple threads and multiple forums (PF and here): you just keep adamantly repeating these falsehoods over and over. Whether it's an example of a "No True Scotsman" fallacy or what, I don't know, but you can't just deny those religionists who say things you don't like, and then claim that Dawkins et al are philosophically naive for grappling with their arguments.
  • Arkady
    762
    Some bow down in humility to this fact and some boast that they know our existence is all just meaningless coincidence.Hanover
    A "coincidence" of what?

    (In my experience, the people most ardently claiming for humility in the face of the universe are those with the least amount of epistemic humility: it is religious believers, not scientists, who claim to have all of the answers.)
  • Buxtebuddha
    1.8k


    I'll never forget when I was in 4th grade, being around 7 or 8 years old. I was in bed, staring at the ceiling, and remembering how those at church kept saying that I had to ask Jesus and accept him into my heart. And so, that night I tried my very best to ask Jesus to swoop down from the rafters above and snuggle inside my heart. He never showed, though, much to my embarrassment. Even then I felt like an idiot for what I just tried to do.

    When someone like the OP brushes by my thoughts, I'm always a bit amused by what they say. And it's not so much that I deny what they've experienced (or what I haven't), but that the assumptions from said experiences are often not justified. I've never had some personal experience with Jesus or a god, but that didn't keep me from believing in the Presbyterian God for quite some time. So, while in one sense a negative experience like mine can keep one's beliefs in check (partially), a positive one can as well, in the case of the OP. However, in both cases, it does not follow that the experience in itself dictates whether one believes in "God." In other words, whether one has such an experience (whatever that is), or in fact never does, is only to judge said experience, not what follows.

    It seems something "good" recently happened to the OP, which is great, but I won't ever understand why people like him or her can't just stop with the simple occurrence of something good. y u gotta put yourself in a position to defend a massively complex theology about the source of having a good waiter at a restaurant or getting a bonus from work? Just be glad good things happen to you.
  • Brainglitch
    205
    This is not true. There is a long history of "natural theology" which purports to explain the complexity of nature (especially its biological complexity) by appeals to a designing entity. William Paley's Natural Theology (written in the early 19th century) is just such an example of this, now presented in a more technically savvy form by intelligent design creationists (e.g. Stephen Meyer's Signature in the Cell). You may not agree with these authors' conceptions of God, but they're out there nonetheless. So it's disingenous to claim that Dawkins and company are just strawmanning their opponents.Arkady
    I agree, Arkady.

    If the alleged Creator wasn't sufficiently complex enough, as Dawkins infers, to intend, understand, and possess the ability to create the universe just as he wanted it to be, then the non-complex Creator just created a universe he didn't understand and didn't intend via his Special God Magic.
  • Hanover
    4.7k
    A "coincidence" of what?Arkady
    Everything coming together by happenstance, resulting in everything from rocks to consciousness.

    (In my experience, the people most ardently claiming for humility in the face of the universe are those with the least amount of epistemic humility: it is religious believers, not scientists, who claim to have all of the answers.)
    Ok, religious people are stupid in your experience. How does this impact my conclusion that neither the atheists nor the theists have any inkling of the answer?
  • Brainglitch
    205

    I completely agree that there's a difference between an experience and one's interpretation of that experience.

    It is well-documented that a person's interpretation of unusual experiences is a function of their particular historical and social setting. Our evolved brains have an irrepressible tendency to generate some kind of explanation for our experiences, but we have very low default standards for what we're willing to accept as an adequate explanation. It is no more surprising that someone enmeshed in our present culture would interpret certain experiences as experience of God more or less as he is conceived in the culture, than it is that Achilles experiences visitations from Athena, Arjuna encounters Lord Krishna, Moses encounters Yahweh, and various Catholic saints encounter Mary.
  • Arkady
    762
    Everything coming together by happenstance, resulting in everything to rocks to consciousness.Hanover
    Again, what is "coincidental" about that?

    Ok, religious people are stupid in your experience.
    Non-sequitur.

    How does this impact my conclusion that neither the atheists nor the theists have any inkling of the answer?
    I didn't say it did. My response was geared towards your comment about some people "bowing down in humility."
  • Hanover
    4.7k
    Dawkins unanswerable objection against the intelligent designer is precisely the unanswerable argument made by theists against atheists, just phrased teleologically instead of causatively.

    That is, asking where matter came from to begin this long chain of causative events is no more answerable than asking who designed this infinitely complex designer. If every event has a cause, it's impossible to have had a first cause just by definition. If every complex entity had a more complex designer, then it's impossible for there to have been a first designer by definition.
  • Hanover
    4.7k
    Again, what is "coincidental" about that?Arkady
    So offer me your definition of "coincidental" since you're putting it in quotes like it's a special sort of term.
    Ok, religious people are stupid in your experience.
    Non-sequitur.
    Arkady
    No, it's really not. My point was to point out that it was entirely irrelevant to our conversation how deficient theists were.
    I didn't say it did. My response was geared towards your comment about some people "bowing down in humility."Arkady
    I know. You were annoyed that a theist might be characterized in a positive light (to the extent humility is positive), so you wanted to be sure to point out that atheists were no less virtuous. That is, you personalized a discussion that was never intended that way because you seem to want to defend the goodness of atheists. My point remains that neither is better or worse per se, but both are equally lacking in support for their definitive statements.
  • Brainglitch
    205
    How does this impact my conclusion that neither the atheists nor the theists have any inkling of the answer?Hanover

    Dawkins unanswerable objection against the intelligent designer is precisely the unanswerable argument made by theists against atheists, just phrased teleologically instead of causatively.

    That is, asking where matter came from to begin this long chain of causative events is no more answerable than asking who designed this infinitely complex designer. If every event has a cause, it's impossible to have had a first cause just by definition. If every complex entity had a more complex designer, then it's impossible for there to have been a first designer by definition.
    Hanover

    But the argument Dawkins is challenging is the theist argument that complexity entails a designer.

    Thus, a complex design such as that of the universe entails an even more complex designer. So either this leads to an infinite regress, or complexity does NOT entail a designer.
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    If every event has a cause, it's impossible to have had a first cause just by definition. If every complex entity had a more complex designer, then it's impossible for there to have been a first designer by definitionHanover

    Contrary to this, the fact that every event must have a cause necessitates the existence of an uncaused Prime Mover of pure actuality. The trouble with asking "who created God" is that it applies an intra-wordly phenomenon to something that is, by definition, outside of this phenomenon. And the hypothesis that there is something "outside" of this cause and effect chain put forward out of metaphysical necessity. Indeed, infinite regresses and spontaneous creation acts do not seem to make sense, so it is conceptually necessary to postulate the existence of something that is not affected by the normal cause and effect we see every day.

    So within our metaphysical framework, we seem to be required to postulate the existence of a Prime Mover, or God. Otherwise we must provide a different framework, or show how God is not necessary in our original framework.

    Additionally, God is typically not seen as "complex", but rather necessarily "simple". The Neo-Platonists and their neighbors taught that complexity cannot explain complexity. Simplicity is what does all the explanatory work, for all complex structures can be reduced to their components.

    So it is not that every complex entity has a complex designer, but rather every complex entity has a prior simplicity.
  • Hanover
    4.7k
    Thus, a complex design such as that of the universe entails an even more complex designer. So either this leads to an infinite regress, or complexity does NOT entail a designer.Brainglitch

    And contrariwise, the complex design such as that of the universe entails prior causes (as opposed to designers) leading to its existence. So either this leads to an infinite regress, or complexity does NOT entail a cause at all. That the current universe can rest its existence upon an uncaused cause refutes the basic scientific principle that every event has a cause. What else is God than an uncaused cause?
  • Arkady
    762
    So offer me your definition of "coincidental" since you're putting it in quotes like it's a special sort of term.Hanover
    I don't understand the term in a special light. I just don't see what's "coinciding" here.

    No, it's really not. My point was to point out that it was entirely irrelevant to our conversation how deficient theists were.Hanover
    If it's not a non-sequitur, please show how my statements implies that I believe all theists to be stupid (my posting history certainly doesn't reflect that; I've even said on more than one occasion that under different historical circumstances I myself would likely be at least a deist).

    I know. You were annoyed that a theist might be characterized in a positive light (to the extent humility is positive), so you wanted to be sure to point out that atheists were no less virtuous. That is, you personalized a discussion that was never intended that way because you seem to want to defend the goodness of atheists. My point remains that neither is better or worse per se, but both are equally lacking in support for their definitive statements.Hanover
    Again, a non-sequitur. I myself have painted some theists in a positive light, and nothing in my post says otherwise (sounds like you're the one getting personal here...) And defending the "goodness" of atheists per se is also something I certainly never did (there are plenty of virtuous theists and plenty of nonvirtuous atheists).
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