Friday, July 22, 2011

Nide's Snide

A Christian who is apparently reluctant to identify his true name, has been active in the comments sections of my previous two blog entries, Considering Tony’s Offerings and A Proof that the Christian God Does Not Exist

This individual usually posts under the moniker “r_c321” but occasionally posts under the name “Nide Corniell.” When r_c321 posted under Nide Corniell, he wrote: “Nide is not my name. I accidentally signed in with someone else [sic] account” (comment posted July 12, 2011 7:22 PM on this blog). Since then, r_c321 has “accidentally” signed in on this other person’s account a handful of times. It’s hard to fathom that one would “accidentally” sign in with someone else’s account one time. It strains credulity to suppose he’s done it several times.

But this is not the only story of Nide’s that I find unconvincing. Nide has come to defend Christianity, and as the record in the two comments sections testifies, he’s been doing a pretty poor job of it. One might be forgiven for supposing he’s done an awful job at it.

Nide claims that the Christian god is real and that “God the father draws men unto himself through Jesus Christ and by the holy spirit raises them from ‘spiritual deadness’" (posted July 13, 2011 12:11 AM on this blog).

I have pointed out to Nide that I can surely imagine the things he claims. But Nide wants me to accept the claim that these things are real, not merely imaginary, even though he has not indicated any alternative to one’s imagination as the faculty by which one can apprehend the god and other supernatural things he says are real. I have asked Nide repeatedly to explain how something that I imagine, is not imaginary. In response to this, he quoted Romans 1:18-20, even though this does not explain how something I’m imagining is not real. In fact, he has nowhere challenged the fact that I am imagining his god when he tells me about it, nor has he explained how what I am imagining is not imaginary. So Nide, and frankly all Christians, have a huge problem on their hands.

But Nide continues to resent me calling his god imaginary, even though he has not identified any alternative to man’s imagination as the means by which anyone could “know” his god. It’s as if he wants us to disregard the fact that we are imagining when we consider his god-belief claims, and pretend that what we are really only imagining is actually real, when in fact it is merely imaginary.

Now he writes:
Sir, you keep making the claim that I am imagining things. But haven't been able the prove it. So, when will you?
Nide must not be reading very carefully. Not only has he not shown that I have not proved this, he ignores the fact that I have in fact proved it. I posted a link several times in our discussion, as well as in the very blog to which he has posted numerous comments, to an earlier entry on my blog, one which identifies 13 points of evidence to support the conclusion that the Christian believer is actually imagining his god. Here’s the link again:The Imaginative Nature of Christian Theism.

The question for Christians to consider is this:
What alternative to the imagination does any man have in seeking to apprehend what Christianity describes as its god, the other supernatural beings it describes, supernatural destinations like heaven and hell, and the narratives which are found in the Christian bible depicting characters and events that supposedly took place on earth some 2000 years ago?
I can imagine a garden and a naked man and woman walking around in their “Blue Lagoon” innocence. I can imagine a talking snake. I can imagine a man named Noah building a giant vessel. I can imagine him packing it with thousands of animals. I can imagine it raining for 40 days and 40 nights. I can imagine the vessel coming to rest and its occupants getting out and repopulating the earth. I can imagine a man named Moses confronting the Egyptian pharaoh. I can imagine Jonah being swallowed by a whale. I can imagine a virgin giving birth to a child. I can imagine a man rising from the dead.

I can imagine all these things. The question is: what alternative to my imagination do I have in apprehending all this? If there’s no alternative to my imagination in apprehending all this, then on what basis could I possibly say it’s all true? A rational basis is one which, at the very least, recognizes that the imaginary is not real. So I would have to abandon rationality in order to claim that all this stuff that I can *only* imagine, is real. This is the root reason why people sense that faith and reason are somehow at odds with each other. They are at odds with each other. Faith is a pretense while reason requires an unflinching commitment to honesty. An honest man will not try to carry on as if what he is imagining is real.

Consider the relevant facts here:
Fact 1: Christians tell me that what the bible claims is all true.
Fact 2: I can imagine all the characters, places and events depicted in the bible.
Fact 3: Christians fail to identify any alternative to the imagination as the proper faculty for apprehending what the bible claims.
Fact 4: When Christians are confronted with this problem and are challenged to explain how something one imagines is not imaginary, they have a profoundly difficult time addressing it (e.g., quoting bible passages just gives the problem another opportunity to manifest itself).
Christianity requires man to accept as real that which he can only imagine. And in so doing, Christianity requires man to abandon his honesty, just as biblegod required Abraham to be willing to kill his own child on command in Genesis 22. It requires one to sacrifice his honesty on the cross, just as the Christian god sacrificed his own son on the cross. What kind of man abandons his own honesty? What kind of father abandons his own child? The former is what Christianity requires of man, and the latter is what Christianity holds up as the model which men are expected to accept as their ideal.

I know for a fact that back when I was trying to be a Christian, the Christian worldview activated itself within my imagination, for that is where the story establishes itself- in the believer’s imagination. It’s all story from a storybook, like Harry Potter, like the tales of Narnia, like Tolkien’s “Ring” series, like The Wizard of Oz, etc. When one reads a story, he has no alternative but to imagine the characters and events he reads about.

I have asked Nide repeatedly to explain how what I am imagining when I imagine his god, is not imaginary. Nide finally reposted Romans 1:18-20, as if he wanted me to think that this somehow answers my question. It doesn’t answer my question, and to demonstrate how poor a response it is to my question, I explained that his answer requires me to rely on my imagination no less than 10 separate times just to consider it. I wrote:
Here’s the only way I can interpret this as a response to my question:
First I must imagine that there is a god (1). Then I must imagine that this god has wrath (2), it is “revealing” its wrath (3), and that it is revealing its wrath from something else that I must imagine, namely something called “heaven” (4). Then I must imagine that people (apparently *all* people) are “wicked” and “unrighteous” (5), that they are somehow aware of this god’s revealed wrath (6), and that they all “suppress” this awareness “by their wickedness” (7). Then I must imagine that “what may be known” about this god that I must imagine, is somehow “plain” to these wicked people (8). Then I must imagine that the reason why “what may be known about God” is “made plain” to everyone is that its “invisible qualities… have been clearly seen” by the wicked people (9), and thereby I must imagine that they are therefore without excuse (10).
In order to consider Nide’s response to my question, I had to use my imagination no less than 10 separate times. So again, how is what I imagine when I imagine Nide’s god, not imaginary?
Blank out.
See how unhelpful to the Christian’s challenge quoting bible passages is? It’s as if Nide simply doesn’t understand the magnitude of the challenge before him, or he simply doesn’t know what to do in response to it. Neither predicament bodes well for his worldview’s claim to philosophical solvency.

More broadly, it can safely be taken for granted that all human beings who have initiated their conceptual development have the capacity to imagine. Nide himself, for instance, is someone who has the ability to imagine. Since we can be assured that the Christian believer is capable of imagining, just as any other human thinker is, then we must consider the possibility that he is merely imagining the god and other supernatural spooks that you claim exist. We must consider this because we ourselves, as bystanders looking at Christianity from the outside, have no alternative to the imagination when it comes to considering Christianity’s totems and beliefs.

Indeed, Nide has failed to identify any alternative to the imagination by which his readers can apprehend what he claims when he claims that his god is real. I have no alternative to imagining it, and Nide identifies no alternative to my imagination as the psychological faculty by which I can apprehend what he claims. So even if he wants to deny that his own imagination is involved, he’s made no progress toward removing the imagination as the active faculty in my own effort to apprehend what he claims is real. So the problem he faces is very real, if in fact he wants to answer me.

I know it’s difficult for believer’s to allow themselves to come to the honest realization that what they’ve invested themselves emotionally into believing, is really only imaginary. For one, they sense that there is too much at stake. Socially they will lose face big time, and psychologically their whole world will be turned on its head. It is an experience that is comparable to suddenly find yourself becoming exempt from gravity. To embrace honesty will mean that the edifices that the believer has constructed from an enormous constellation of emotional indulgences, will come crashing down, and he will in effect have to start completely over in re-learning how to deal with the world. Regaining honesty once one has renounced it and turned his back on it, is not an easy thing to do, and few are man enough to do it. I did it, so I know it’s possible. But since I did it, I know how difficult it was for me to do it. But I wasn’t even halfway in as deep as Nide apparently is, at least in defending the belief. The very act of defending the belief in question will only serve to cement the believer’s devotion to the labyrinth of lies that he has swallowed in constructing the imaginative complex that informs his worldview.

As for me, I was a reluctant believer; I was unhappy from the get-go (believing in the Christian god certainly did not bring me joy), and happiness has always been very important to me. And one thing I have really come to understand is the truth of Rand’s view of happiness – that “happiness is a state of non-contradictory joy” (Atlas Shrugged). Nide will not make this discovery by reading the bible, and since he has already announced that he “reject[s] everything [R]and says” (comment posted July 18, 2011 8:53 PM on this blog), he must – if he thinks joy has any place in happiness – suppose that happiness is possible in spite of contradictions choking one’s joy.

The Christian worldview is teeming with contradictions. Many contradictions have already been pointed out to Nide. In fact, I have argued that Christianity is essentially the worship of contradiction (see here and here).

But the fundamental contradiction is in its adherence to the primacy of consciousness (see for instance here), its blurring of the distinction between reality and imagination (see, among others, here and here), and the dishonesty it requires on the part of the faithful adherent (I expose this throughout my blog).

I could not sustain the dishonesty that Christianity required of me – I could not keep conning myself that it was all really true, when in fact it so clearly wasn’t true, since it was merely imaginary. Eventually I had to face my abandonment from dishonesty, and find a way to reunite with it. That’s not possible for someone who has made the determination to continue propping up the lies that Christianity seeks to have men swallow.

by Dawson Bethrick

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17 Comments:

Blogger ActionJackson864 said...

makes me happy to see you more active on your blog Dawson! Have been too busy to keep up with it all lately but my routine sunday mornings is always as follows for the past year and a half:

1. Wake up go to work

2. Get Coffee

3. Read the wealth of knowledge in the Bahnsenburner blog!

always a pleasure to read here and Katholon! thanks so much for your writings!

see ya back here sunday!

; ]

July 22, 2011 6:12 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Dawson,

This piece of writing...

"What alternative to the imagination does any man have in seeking to apprehend what Christianity describes as its god, the other supernatural beings it describes, supernatural destinations like heaven and hell, and the narratives which are found in the Christian bible depicting characters and events that supposedly took place on earth some 2000 years ago?"

...is great and is perfect for a business card, fitting easily within any wallet, ready-made for any theologic occasion.

Great post!

Ydemoc

July 22, 2011 7:06 PM  
Blogger r_c321 said...

Sir,

Thank you. I feel honored and so does my brother Nide.
I want to thank all the gentleman that made this possible
with you we would of never got this far.

Thank you for letting me preach the Great News Of Jesus Christ.


Thank God for raising Him from the dead.

Thank God for his spirit. The same spirit that raised Jesus.

The lord of glory blessed be his name forever.

This is the same spirit that raises rebel sinners from their spiritual deadness and brings them to the knowledge of the truth. In our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.


1 corinthians 3 " 18Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.

 19For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.

 20And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.

 21Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are your's;

 22Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are your's;

 23And ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's.


and also that raises rebel sinners from

July 22, 2011 8:53 PM  
Blogger Mike Bacus said...

Dawson, this post was fantastic. Best one I've seen in a long time. Your posts have been consistently great, but this one was simply exceptional. If the Christian God (or any religious God, for that matter) hasn't already been proven to be imaginary, you've done so.

July 23, 2011 5:21 PM  
Blogger Agreus said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

July 26, 2011 2:17 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Agreus,

I don’t know why you deleted your post. I’m happy to answer your questions.

You wrote: “I think you are being a little harsh on theists.”

I’m being “harsh” on theists? How so? By asking how one can reliably distinguish between what they call “God” and what they may merely be imagining? Or by asking how what I imagine when I imagine the god they describe, is anything other than imaginary?

Theists insist that we believe their claims, even though they cannot prove them true, and along with belief they also insist that one dedicate his life to service and self-sacrifice. It’s not as if they want us to believe just some additional fact about the universe that they have discovered through rational means. They will tell us point blank that their god-belief is not some additional belief that we integrate into the sum of knowledge that we have already accepted. On the contrary, they seek to overturn our entire worldview and have us replace it with one full of supernaturalism and accept one’s own death as the founding condition upon which he proceeds to govern the remainder of his life. As Bonhoeffer viewed it, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” These are a Christian’s own words about the nature of his god-belief, and yet it I who is being “harsh”?

The “supernatural” is a realm which we can *only* imagine. If the supernatural actually existed and one could have legitimate, i.e., rational, knowledge of it, why do we need to rely on our imagination in order to apprehend it? Theists can’t even specify the means by which they temselves are supposedly aware of what they call “the supernatural,” and to the extent that they touch on the issue of how it is known, they tell us how we *can’t* know their god (e.g., we can’t touch or see it), or are extremely vague if they do say anything at all about how their god can be known. It’s not even clear, for instance, whether they think they have direct awareness of their god (as one has of a tree that he sees in front of him), or whether they are limited merely to some indirect means of awareness, such as when astronomers infer the existence of a planet that cannot be directly observed by the motion of nearby bodies.

Moreover, keep in mind it’s theists who keep telling us what will happen if we don’t believe their claims. First of all, we’re berated for some kind of chosen moral trespass, such as that we’re “suppressing the truth in unrighteousness” – i.e., we’re doing something wrong on purpose for not believing or “acknowledging” their god’s existence. We are called outright “fools” (cf. Ps. 14:1). Then we’re told that we’re going to suffer for all eternity for not believing, as if scare tactics had some epistemological significance.

Meanwhile, I’m just pointing out the fact that even if the theist tries to argue for his god, I’m still left with no alternative but to imagine the god he claims to be proving, which is a fact: I don’t have any alternative to imagining the theist’s god, and when asked for an alternative, theists can’t identify one. That’s not my fault.

[Continued…]

July 26, 2011 6:21 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “Though you may state that their belief in God is a product of their imaginations, they sincerely believe in God and many claim to experience God in some manner that may not be clear to you.”

If the manner in which theists claim to experience their god is not clear to me, it’s not for lack of trying on my part to know more. For I’ve been asking theists for several years now, both on my blog and through private correspondence, to identify the means by which they experience what they call “God” and to distinguish that means from their imagination. I don’t doubt that theists experience things. We all do. But the issue is not whether or not we experience things, but the epistemological process by which we identify the nature of that experience and the causality responsible for that experience. If one allows his imagination to cloud his thinking on the issue (as will happen if one indulges his imagination in the manner that storybooks like the bible encourage), then he’s not going to be capable of rationally identifying the nature and causes of his experience, at least, certainly, not consistently.

Also, I’m not so sure that theists, particularly those who invest themselves in a “ministry” to bamboozle or even convert non-believers, are really all that sincere. Even if they are, that is irrelevant in regard to whether or not their claims are true.

You wrote: “Everyone holds non-tangible beliefs about the world, and just because these beliefs are non-tangible does not mean they are proven false.”

One could easily claim that all beliefs are intangible. After all, as theistic apologists will be quick to point out, we cannot hold beliefs in our hand. But this is probably not what you have in mind here. Rather, it seems that you’re saying that, since the *objects* of the beliefs in question are intangible, that those beliefs are not therefore necessarily false. Of course, I’ve nowhere affirmed such an argument. I presented my argument in just a few simple steps here, and you’ll see that this is not the argument that I have presented.

You wrote: “It also does not necessarily mean that they are imaginary.”

And I have nowhere argued that, because the objects of the theist’s beliefs are intangible, they are therefore imaginary. Check the record, that is not the argument that I have presented.

On the contrary, I’ve presented 13 pieces of evidence – facts which we can consider and examine – all of which support the conclusion that the theist’s god is in fact imaginary. I presented those pieces of evidence here. If you examine what I’ve written, you’ll see that I’ve not argued the point that you’ve sought to correct here.

You wrote: “For example, your ‘awareness’ of things is not tangible and yet your ‘awareness’ is not imaginary.”

Indeed, consciousness would serve as an obvious counter-example to the argument that you’ve disputed here. Of course, if someone argued that consciousness (I use “consciousness” and “awareness” interchangeably when speaking generally) is imaginary, one would be right in detecting the fallacy of the stolen concept. Imagination is an activity of consciousness. To say that consciousness is imaginary, one would have to be conscious even to formulate the thought that consciousness is imaginary. It would be as wrong as saying “All proofs are bogus, and here’s how I can prove it!”

Regards,
Dawson

July 26, 2011 6:25 AM  
Blogger Agreus said...

Dawson,

I deleted my reply because I knew that I would be opening up a can of worms I don’t have time to delve into right now. However, I will briefly respond to your own response.

What you are essentially asking the theist to do is provide evidence of God according to what you deem as an acceptable standard for evidence. Even though your standard coincides with the scientific standard of evidence, which has a proven track record of success, you cannot deny the theist the possibility that they may very well be aware of God in the same manner that you or I are aware of objects that we can either directly or indirectly perceive.

You state that ultimately there is a single question that atheists should pose to apologists and that is: “When I imagine your god, how is what I am imagining not imaginary?”

A theist may answer this by stating it is impossible to imagine God, and if you think you are imagining God, then you actually are imagining something else. For what one can imagine existing, one can imagine not existing, and such a contingent being is by definition not God. Now for a non-believer this is entirely circular reasoning, as you probably recognize, however from a believer’s perspective, who believes God’s existence is axiomatic, it makes perfect sense. The point is that even though you can only imagine God’s existence, a theist who believes God is axiomatic will claim to be fully aware of God’s existence.

Your complaints seem to be primarily directed towards Christian apologists, and I think rightfully so. For example, you have legitimate criticisms in pointing out some of the numerous problems inherent in presuppositional apologetics. But what about other forms of theism? For example, how do your criticisms apply to pantheism or panentheism?

July 27, 2011 2:53 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Agreus,

Welcome back.

You wrote: “I deleted my reply because I knew that I would be opening up a can of worms I don’t have time to delve into right now.”

Well, since the can’s now been opened, I’m ready to for a snack. ;)

You wrote: “What you are essentially asking the theist to do is provide evidence of God according to what you deem as an acceptable standard for evidence.”

And that’s “harsh”? Really?

In fact, I don’t think my challenge to theists can be reduced simply to a call for evidence, whether it falls within what I would consider acceptable evidence or not. The issue that I raise has to do with distinguishing between what is real and what is merely imaginary and probes the ability of theistic beliefs to withstand scrutiny that is consciously governed by the recognition that the imaginary is not real. If the theist is in fact convinced that his god-belief claims are true, and he recognizes that the imaginary is not real, why would he have a problem with someone raising this concern?

You wrote: “Even though your standard coincides with the scientific standard of evidence, which has a proven track record of success, you cannot deny the theist the possibility that they may very well be aware of God in the same manner that you or I are aware of objects that we can either directly or indirectly perceive.”

I don’t think I need to deny this. Theists deny this already. They are the ones who tell me that their god is beyond the reach of the senses. They’re the ones who tell us that it is invisible, imperceptible, intangible, immeasurable, etc., etc., etc. The manner in which I am aware of objects directly is through sense perception. But theists have already cut this avenue of awareness off from the get-go as an epistemological contender by their own descriptions and stipulations. Moreover, I’m aware of objects indirectly by reasoned reference to other objects that I can perceive directly. By “reasoned reference,” of course, I would, at minimum, have in mind a process of inference which maintains fidelity to the primacy of existence, which (as I have explained numerous times on my blog) rules out supernaturalism.

[Continued…]

July 27, 2011 7:26 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I have asked: “When I imagine your god, how is what I am imagining not imaginary?”

You respond: “A theist may answer this by stating it is impossible to imagine God,”

How would he show that it is impossible for me or anyone else to imagine the god he describes? If he uses concepts that have legitimate meaning to describe his god (such as when he says it speaks, hears, listens, commands, acts, etc.), then by all means I can use these concepts to generate images in my mind. If it’s truly impossible to imagine the Christian god, someone better tell Jack Chick!

You wrote: “if you think you are imagining God, then you actually are imagining something else.”

How would the theist know this, too? Does he simply stipulate that this is the case?

If we cannot even imagine his god, then it seems that the theist is in an even worse pickle. For now there’s not even the imagination by which one can apprehend his god. Again, it appears that the theist is all about epistemological negation: he continues to tell us what our minds cannot do. But where does he explain how our minds can apprehend what he calls “God”? How does he apprehend it? How are we supposed to, especially if our minds are, for whatever reason, incapable even of imagining his god? The problem becomes even more pressing, since the imagination indeed has some analogous qualities to other modes of awareness. For instance, when we imagine something, we can experience what we imagine as something distinct from ourselves. That’s really the hook in theism that catches so many fish.

You wrote: “For what one can imagine existing, one can imagine not existing, and such a contingent being is by definition not God.”

How can one not take something that exists, and imagine that it does not exist? How is such an action preventable? I can imagine that there’s nothing at all. Just by being able to formulate the statement “there’s nothing at all,” I am able to conceive of such a condition. This seems to fly directly in the face of such objections.

The angle in which you couch this objection assumes the necessary-contingent dichotomy, which of course Objectivism rightly rejects. In fact, it seems, as many theists have in fact done, to rely on the necessary-contingent dichotomy in order to stipulate one’s god into existence, as if one could make something exist simply by defining it as a necessary being. In my view, this only highlights the theist’s tacit reliance, in the realm of epistemology, on the primacy of consciousness. For he is performatively arguing as if his mind had the power to command something into existence and have the nature he wants it to have, whether he realizes it or not. At least he’d be somewhat consistent with his own worldview’s metaphysics by taking such an angle.

[Continued…]

July 27, 2011 7:27 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “Now for a non-believer this is entirely circular reasoning, as you probably recognize,”

Worse, in fact. It is utterly arbitrary, and one could apply this template to anything one imagines. I can claim that Blarko the WonderBeing is a necessary being, and therefore that one cannot imagine that it does not exist. When my detractors exclaim, “Oh but we can imagine that Blarko the WonderBeing doesn’t exist!” all I need to do is say that it is not Blarko the WonderBeing that they’re imagining, but an imposter or counterfeit thereof. See how easy it is to take a set of conjoined arbitrary claims and fit them to anything one imagines?

You wrote: “however from a believer’s perspective, who believes God’s existence is axiomatic, it makes perfect sense.”

Just as devotion to the arbitrary “makes perfect sense” in the mind of anyone who has divorced his mind from the anchor of reason. Indeed, to call a belief in “God’s existence” axiomatic, simply means that the one doing so does not know what an axiom really is. And still the theist has not identified the means by which he has awareness of what he calls “God,” nor has he explained how we can reliably distinguish between what he calls “God” and what he may merely be imagining.

As for your proposed answer to the question of how what I imagine when I imagine the theist’s god is not in fact imaginary, it’s not only full of holes (the theist would need to provided a better explanation for why we cannot imagine his god - the explanation you provide is entirely unconvincing; also, it leaves fundamental epistemological questions completely unanswered), it introduces a new set of problems without settling the original concern. It seems to be a form of evasion for evasion’s sake. In my book, that signals something’s desperately wrong.

You wrote: “The point is that even though you can only imagine God’s existence, a theist who believes God is axiomatic will claim to be fully aware of God’s existence.”

Right. And you’ll see that I’ve not challenged theists simply to produce evidence for its existence, but in fact to identify the means by which they are allegedly aware of their god’s existence, and to explain how the means by which he is allegedly aware of his god’s existence can reliably be distinguished from imagination.

Now in a sense, there’s a key point that you’ve hit on here, though it does not play in favor of the theist’s case. The theist may in fact claim that he’s fully and directly aware of his god’s existence. (I’m reminded of Canon Michael Cole’s claim to be aware of Jesus standing right before him as he prayed; see here for the juicy details.) But in fact, when we imagine something, we are directly and fully aware of what we’re imagining. Indeed, when we imagine something, we are consciously selecting various attributes that we have learned about independent of the present imaginative concoction, and deliberately putting them into new combinations. So the theist’s claim to be fully and directly aware of his god, will in fact only confirm my analysis of theism, unless of course he can explain how the faculty by which he is allegedly in full and direct awareness of his god can be reliably distinguished from his imagination.

[Continued…]

July 27, 2011 7:29 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Another point in response to the claim that we cannot imagine the Christian god, I would point out that Christianity teaches that Jesus the Son is “fully God” as well as “fully man,” and we can very easily imagine Jesus, given the storybook depictions of Jesus in the NT. We can also imagine the Holy Ghost, and in fact must in order to grasp the stories in the NT about the Holy Ghost acting behind the scenes and commandeering men’s consciousnesses to behave in certain ways. So I would content that this defense very much conflicts with the NT record itself.

You asked: “Your complaints seem to be primarily directed towards Christian apologists, and I think rightfully so. For example, you have legitimate criticisms in pointing out some of the numerous problems inherent in presuppositional apologetics. But what about other forms of theism? For example, how do your criticisms apply to pantheism or panentheism?”

My criticisms ultimately stem from the primacy of existence and associated recognitions, such as that the imaginary is not real. Since the issue of metaphysical primacy is the most fundamental of all issues in philosophy, there is no worldview which can escape its application. The pantheist and panentheist are both minds aware of objects that exist independent of the conscious activity by which they are aware of those objects. I would merely check to see how consistent their worldviews are with this fundamental fact. It’s not hard to do once one has a good understanding of the issue.

Regards,
Dawson

July 27, 2011 7:33 AM  
Blogger Agreus said...

This will be my last comment on this as I'm in the process of moving and will be without Internet access for a while.

You wrote, "The issue that I raise has to do with distinguishing between what is real and what is merely imaginary and probes the ability of theistic beliefs to withstand scrutiny that is consciously governed by the recognition that the imaginary is not real."

For the believer, God is axiomatic and as such is accepted as an a priori truth. To ask for evidence of God, which is what you are asking of the theist, is a request that the theist cannot fulfill. They accept God's existence through faith. As non-believers we find this highly problematic, however for someone who presupposes God's existence, this is not a problem.

The question I would pose to the theist is, "How is the existence of God axiomatic?"

It is unclear what the theist means by axiomatic. Do they mean God's existence is obvious, i.e. everyone is aware (to varying degrees) of God's existence? Or do they mean that it is axiomatic in a logical sense, in which case they are implying that God's non-existence entails a logical contradiction. Or perhaps they mean both. For one cannot be aware of a non-imaginary God unless that non-imaginary God exists in reality and if God exists in reality, then God's non-existence would entail a logical contradiction.

You asked, "If the theist is in fact convinced that his god-belief claims are true, and he recognizes that the imaginary is not real, why would he have a problem with someone raising this concern?"

The theist has a problem with someone questioning whether God is imaginary most likely because in their eyes it is impossible for God to be imaginary. To question whether God is imaginary is to allow for the possibility of God's non-existence and in a worldview that holds God to be axiomatic this possibility is rejected by the theist.

To clarify on something I wrote previously, when I stated a theist may be aware of God in the same manner that you or I are aware of ordinary objects, I am implying that there is nothing special about their *awareness* of the supernatural as opposed to our *awareness* of ordinary objects. Awareness is awareness to varying degrees.

You wrote, "They are the ones who tell me that their god is beyond the reach of the senses. They’re the ones who tell us that it is invisible, imperceptible, intangible, immeasurable, etc., etc., etc. The manner in which I am aware of objects directly is through sense perception. But theists have already cut this avenue of awareness off from the get-go as an epistemological contender by their own descriptions and stipulations. Moreover, I’m aware of objects indirectly by reasoned reference to other objects that I can perceive directly."

The theist who tells you God is beyond the reach of the senses is essentially just telling you that you must accept God on faith if you are to believe in God. Once you have accepted God on faith, it is inconceivable for God to be imaginary. At that point, you have basically defined God into existence. Of course, I suppose you can change your mind about God at which point God's non-existence becomes conceivable again and you've defined God back out of existence. But then they will say you never had true faith to begin with. As soon as you are absolutely certain that you believe in the one true god, then you have completely ruled out the possibility that your god is imaginary.

[Continued...]

July 28, 2011 4:17 AM  
Blogger Agreus said...

You wrote, "How would he show that it is impossible for me or anyone else to imagine the god he describes? If he uses concepts that have legitimate meaning to describe his god (such as when he says it speaks, hears, listens, commands, acts, etc.), then by all means I can use these concepts to generate images in my mind. If it’s truly impossible to imagine the Christian god, someone better tell Jack Chick! "

You can certainly generate images of what you think god is based off the words you read that *describe* god, however I think the theist could answer that this is just your particular conception of god. You cannot imagine god anymore than you can conceive of a square circle. From the theistic perspective, to imagine god is to acknowledge the possibility that god may not exist, and there is no room for this possibility when god is axiomatic.

You asked, "How would the theist know this, too? Does he simply stipulate that this is the case?"

Pretty much. He knows it through faith.

You wrote, "If we cannot even imagine his god, then it seems that the theist is in an even worse pickle. For now there’s not even the imagination by which one can apprehend his god."

I agree that they are in a pickle. The Christian theist apprehends god by what they read in scripture. They are aware of god's existence through faith and not imagination.

You wrote, "How can one not take something that exists, and imagine that it does not exist? How is such an action preventable? I can imagine that there’s nothing at all. Just by being able to formulate the statement “there’s nothing at all,” I am able to conceive of such a condition. This seems to fly directly in the face of such objections."

It could be argued that there are indeed some things that cannot conceivably not exist. Take for example your statement, "there's nothing at all." This condition in actuality is inconveivable. For what you are referring to as "nothing at all" is actually some object of your awareness. Given, it may be imaginary, nonetheless, there is something there, and something is not nothing. It is almost like asking if it is possible for a state of non-existence to exist.

You wrote, "The angle in which you couch this objection assumes the necessary-contingent dichotomy, which of course Objectivism rightly rejects."

Yes, it does assume the necessary-contingent distinction, and I understand that objectivism rejects this distinction. I reject it as well, but I would be curious as to why objectivism rejects it?

You wrote, "For he is performatively arguing as if his mind had the power to command something into existence and have the nature he wants it to have, whether he realizes it or not."

Indeed, he is attempting to define God into existence.

You wrote, "It is utterly arbitrary, and one could apply this template to anything one imagines. I can claim that Blarko the WonderBeing is a necessary being, and therefore that one cannot imagine that it does not exist. When my detractors exclaim, “Oh but we can imagine that Blarko the WonderBeing doesn’t exist!” all I need to do is say that it is not Blarko the WonderBeing that they’re imagining, but an imposter or counterfeit thereof. See how easy it is to take a set of conjoined arbitrary claims and fit them to anything one imagines?"

I agree, it does seem pretty absurd. However, if Blarko the WonderBeing is axiomatic in your worldview, then according to you, it makes perfect sense. The question I would ask is "How is Blarko axiomatic?"

[Continued...]

July 28, 2011 4:20 AM  
Blogger Agreus said...

You wrote, "And still the theist has not identified the means by which he has awareness of what he calls “God,” nor has he explained how we can reliably distinguish between what he calls “God” and what he may merely be imagining."

The theist will typically be aware of God through faith. They have no means of distinguishing between what they call God and what they may be merely imagining because they presuppose the existence of God. I think some apologists find this problematic and therefore attempt to rationalize their faith with various arguments, however for the most part, your average theist doesn't care so long as their religion provides emotional comfort to them.

"Another point in response to the claim that we cannot imagine the Christian god, I would point out that Christianity teaches that Jesus the Son is “fully God” as well as “fully man,” and we can very easily imagine Jesus, given the storybook depictions of Jesus in the NT. We can also imagine the Holy Ghost, and in fact must in order to grasp the stories in the NT about the Holy Ghost acting behind the scenes and commandeering men’s consciousnesses to behave in certain ways. So I would content that this defense very much conflicts with the NT record itself."

There are many contradictions inherent to Christian theism and I am not attempting to defend their arguments, rather I am trying to show you how things could possibly make sense if one has blind faith in God. I am always interested in learning about the various paradigms that people hold and understanding the logic or lack thereof behind their beliefs.

I think you're doing a great job with your blog, however it would be great if you would engage apologists in discussions more often and not merely preach to the choir so to speak. Keep up the good work!

July 28, 2011 4:22 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Agreus,

Thanks for all your comments. This is a fascinating discussion. I hope your move goes smoothly and that eventually you’ll be able to return and pick up where you’ve left off.

Naturally, everything you’ve stated has given me lots to think about, and of course I have lots to say in response to everything you’ve posted. I too am very busy, but I wanted to touch briefly on your following statement:

Agreus: “The question I would pose to the theist is, ‘How is the existence of God axiomatic?’ It is unclear what the theist means by axiomatic. Do they mean God's existence is obvious, i.e. everyone is aware (to varying degrees) of God's existence? Or do they mean that it is axiomatic in a logical sense, in which case they are implying that God's non-existence entails a logical contradiction. Or perhaps they mean both.”

Back in the first year of this blog, I posted an entry discussing the proposal that the existence of the Christian god is “axiomatic.” See my blog Is the Assumption of the Christian God Axiomatic?

In that piece I was reacting to internet radio apologist Gene Cook’s passing claim that his “assumption of the Christian God” is axiomatic in nature. He characterized his belief in the Christian god as axiomatic in a radio dialogue he was having with Zachary Moore. I don’t know if the transcript is still available on the internet – I should have it some place in my records, and can probably dig it out at some point if needed. But it should be noted, as I note in my blog, that Cook does not explain how his belief in the Christian god could be rightly considered axiomatic. I’ve explored this question before, and Christians themselves seem to have no uniform explanation, which I think is rather telling in itself, given the overall context of what we’re expected to believe from them. In fact, if you check out the comments of the blog entry, you’ll find that one Christian poster wrote, “We don't claim that God is an axiom (bad choice of words for Gene to use in my opinion).” Of course, that individual made associated comments which only added to the confusion coming from the Christian side of the fence. So, go figure.

What I would point out to any Christian who claims that his *god’s existence* is axiomatic, is that he is clearly confused on what an axiom is (for one, axioms are epistemological, but here he’s treating it as something metaphysical; also, he still needs to identify the means by which he is aware of his god – if he says “by faith,” he needs to explain this [though Christians have tried to distance themselves from the position that faith has any epistemological import for a long time now]; etc.), and also that the Objectivist axioms (‘existence exists’, ‘consciousness is consciousness of something’, and the axiom of identity) would have to be true even for the theist to consider the question of whether or not his god’s existence or his belief in his god’s existence is axiomatic. So he would be, as the Vantilniks like to say of everyone else, “borrowing” from a non-Christian worldview just by entertaining Christianity’s claims, or some take thereof.

Anyway, I have lots more to say on this and other points you’ve brought up. But it will have to wait.

Regards,
Dawson

July 28, 2011 3:04 PM  
Blogger Nide Corniell said...

Why is my name on the topic of this post?...

August 07, 2011 7:47 PM  

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