Saturday, October 26, 2013

Reason vs. Faith

A favorite question which many Christian apologists like to pose to atheists is “How do you know?” When challenged by such apologists to identify any item of knowledge that the atheist knows with certainty, an atheist might say something such as “I know that the sky is blue,” “I know that turtles are reptiles,” or “I know that I got up this morning and had breakfast.” And as though the apologist really had no way of dealing with an atheist who does have full confidence in at least some items of his knowledge, the apologist retorts as if by trained reflex: “How do you know that?”

Now, we should understand that the apologist’s line of interrogation here is not motivated by some deep love of knowledge and how the mind works. Quite the opposite is the case: the apologist is on a mission to undermine any non-believer’s confidence in his own mental faculties. Such simple questions are thus intended to accomplish three things:

1) to keep the focus of the exchange on the non-believer’s worldview so that the believer’s own worldview is kept safely out of view;  
2) to put the non-believer on the defensive; and  
3) to push the non-believer further and further towards saying “I don’t know” or “I can’t answer that.”
It should be noticed that no matter what answer a non-believer may supply in response to the apologist’s questions, apologists do not take the time to consider them carefully (let alone charitably), nor do they typically acknowledge analogous situations in their own life. You won’t find apologists saying, “Hey, that’s a good answer. In fact, that’s probably how I know that I got up this morning and had breakfast, too,” just as you will never find them saying “Hmmm, I never thought about it like that before, I’ll have to give it some further thought.” Nope. That is not likely to happen. Rather, no matter what answer the non-believer gives in reply to the apologist’s questions, another rendition of “How do you know that?” is waiting in the wings for aggressive deployment. It makes things very easy for the apologist for he doesn’t have to do any thinking. Thinking might lead to the discovery that the non-believer has made a true statement, and such a concession is to be avoided at all costs. So it is safest for the apologist to minimize all opportunity for thinking. Thoughtless regurgitating is thus preferred.

But there is something profoundly ironic here. The question “How do you know that?” is indeed a legitimate philosophical question, at least when the goal to discover how the mind works and increase one’s understanding of the process by which knowledge is acquired and validated is what one sincerely has in mind. But in the context of an exchange with a Christian attempting to bamboozle a non-believer, there is no such sincerity on the apologist’s part: he really doesn’t care how you know what you know – he just wants to erode your determination to rely on your own mind. And yet, the irony is: while we are supposedly not to have confidence in our ability to know that the we got up this morning and had breakfast, we are supposed to “just know” that the believer’s god is real and that his worldview is true. Perhaps the underlying implication here is that an individual is certainly able to believe, but he is never able to know.

Since apologists insist that we accept their worldview’s claims, non-believers are naturally curious as to understanding the basis on which one might accept them. So it is not unusual for non-believers essentially to turn the apologist’s same pet question back on them: How do you know that your god is real? How do you know that the universe was created by an act of consciousness? How do you know that the 10 commandments really came from the Judeo-Christian god and not some primitive bureaucrats to assembled them from their progenitors and simply asserted that they came from a supernatural being? How do you know that Jesus rose from the dead? Etc.

Such questions put the focus back on the believer’s worldview, and in response to them some apologists attempt to shift the focus back onto the believer’s worldview and its (alleged) shortcomings, some use this as an opportunity to begin ridiculing the non-believer (“you’re so stupid,” “you’re so naïve,” etc.), while others abandon the conversation altogether. Very few seem either willing or prepared (and even fewer seem to be both) to address the non-believer’s questions in a mature and thoughtful manner. This is especially difficult for many apologists because they know that they will have to drop façade of being all-knowing in order to do so. They will have to let their guard down and be willing to acknowledge any inability on their part to answer questions they don’t know the answers to that may come up. In spite of all the talk of “humbling oneself” that Christians like to pump, it is in contexts like this that they expose this too to be part of the apologetic façade.

But seriously, if I cannot know that I got up this morning and ate breakfast, how am I supposed to know that there’s a supernatural being out there that created the universe and everything in it, including me? Indeed, if I am unable even to have confidence in my own faculties – to the point that I cannot be certain that I got out of bed this morning – this would not speak well for any supernatural designer alleged to have created me. So the irony of the apologist’s predicament just grows.

When apologists do make responses to the question “How do you know?” when put to their worldview claims, they typically only indicate the means by which one cannot know that their worldview claims are true. For instance, one cannot come to know that their god is real by means of science, because their god is supposed to be “a part of reality that is not capable of being confirmed by empirical experience and reason based thereon” (B.C. Hodge in this 16 Oct. comment), which means that one cannot come to knowledge of their god’s by means of reason as well. So reason and science are out – these cannot be the means by which one comes to what apologists claim as knowledge.

In fact, thinking as such seems entirely to be the wrong mode involved in coming to belief in the Christian worldview’s supernatural being. For what is thinking if it is not thinking one’s own thoughts, indeed thinking for oneself? But we are told that:
"thinking for oneself" means "thinking according to whichever cult in which one finds himself," i.e., "being brainwashed." The fact that you think you can transcend the philosophical and finite box in which you live and have been philosophically-conditioned, an ability necessary to "think for oneself" in some autonomous manner, and to experience all of reality directly, another condition necessary to "think for oneself," shows how utterly naive your view of humanity, culture, and thought really are. (B.C. Hodge in this 25 Oct. comment)
According to this view, it is clear that one is not to think for himself. The apologist making this statement, if he is consistent with his own stated policy, could not have formulated this opinion by thinking for himself. Rather, he must be repeating something he has been taught to repeat. And yet, that is what he characterizes thinking for oneself as: “being brainwashed.” So let’s get this straight: If you think for yourself, you’re really just “thinking according to whichever cult” you find yourself in, you’ve been “brainwashed” by immersion into that cult, and thus you’re “utterly naïve” to think that you can think for yourself, and the proper alternative is to “humble” oneself before a being which one can only imagine and join some cult which encourages and indulges in such behavior. So thinking for oneself is “brainwashed” behavior of a cult, and the proper antidote is to join a cult – i.e., your local, pre-approved church. According to this mentality, one is either brainwashed by a cult, or he is brainwashed by a cult. As one thinker once put it, “a difference that is not a difference is no difference.” Clearly Hodge’s purpose here was to express his spite and resentment rather than present a rational statement (let alone an argument).

But apologists do not seem to be uniform here. In the same thread, another apologist characterizes using one’s own mind, thinking his own thoughts, thinking for himself, forming his own judgments, etc., as follows:
you are your own highest authority. You decide what is right and what is wrong. You decide what is true and what is false. You decide what is a good reason and what is not. You decide what sufficient proof and what is not. You have faith in yourself. You are your own highest authority. You worship at the authority of Self-Autonomy. Self-Worship. (Truth Unites… and Divides in this 25 Oct. comment
Considering oneself as one’s “own highest authority,” “decid[ing] what is right and what is wrong… what is true and what is false… what is a good reason and what is not,” etc., do not strike me as marks of someone who has subserviently humbled himself to the authority of a cult’s teachings. Such self-exaltation is quite different from the humility required of a cult member. But it may be characteristic of the cult leader himself (I’m reminded specifically of one cult leader’s claim that “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” – John 14:6).

The apologist sees all human activity in terms of obedience to some authority. Either one submits to the right authority, or he submits to the wrong authority. It is unclear, given such a premise, how one is expected to discover which authority is the right one, for any such mental action involved could be counted on this premise as evidence that one is presuming himself as his "highest authority." And yet presumption of obedience to some authority remains unquestioned. This is just another expression of the primacy of consciousness metaphysics: since it is assumed by the religious mind that reality conforms to conscious dictates, there must always be some authoritative consciousness calling all the shots. And since human beings are error-riddled, inherently naïve, bespotted and depraved, they have no alternative (for as we have seen, reason, science and thinking for oneself are out) but to put their faith in some authority figure, whatever it may be. The believer wants to believe that he has put his faith in the real authority and that the non-believer has put his faith in a false authority.

It does not occur to such individuals that the proper alternative to religious hysteria is not presuming oneself to be the “highest authority” and deciding what is right and what is wrong on the basis of some whim (like a god!), but that we have the ability to discover what is real and what is not real, what is true and what is not true, what is good and what is not, etc., by rational means. The apologist thus trades on a false dichotomy: either swallow whole what his religion tells you to believe (whether you could know any of it is true or not), or presume to be able to dictate what is true and what is not true from the vantage of “Self-Worship.” Thus reason and rationality are systematically excluded here.

Thus, since the religious view is essentially that faith in some authority to whose dictates reality automatically conforms is inescapable, it can only mean that objectivity is impossible. Consequently, since the human mind is incapable of governing itself objectively, reason is impossible. These are the inescapable implications of any religious worldview, including Christianity. The opposition of faith to reason could not be any clearer. Thus when defenders of religion insist that reason and faith are compatible, we can safely conclude that either they are simply being dishonest, or that they simply do not know what they’re talking about.

In their Handbook of Christian Apologetics, authors Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli tell us point blank that “Religious faith is something to die for” (p. 14). The Christian is welcome to his faith. It has only one end: an end to life.

As for me, I will go with reason. It gives me something to live for. And it's certainly not the Christian god.

by Dawson Bethrick


Unknown said...

HA! I love you. lol Thanks for this post!


Bahnsen Burner said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it, Daniel.

FYI, I made a few edits for sake of clarity. So if you refresh your screen, you will find some small changes, all intended to make it even better!

More on the way as time allows!


Justin Hall said...

Dawson you have done it again. I have struggled to find a way to explain what thinking for one's self really means to authoritarians and have had mixed success. You did a bang up job with this post.

Unknown said...

My father and I aren't on speaking terms. I did however find out through the grapevine that he has taken to calling me a fool because of my outspoken atheism ("the fool saith in his heart there is no God"). So, it's good to read a post that helps me feel a bit better about it all.

P.S. Even cut me out of his will without giving me the heads up. Funny that he would think I care about his money and not a relationship with him. Also, what is odd is that he would think that that would somehow teach me a lesson, or "turn the screws on me" one last time. Religion (God fearing Baptists particularly) can make the most short-sighted decisions all the while thinking that they are planning for eternity. No level of pain inflicted upon their loved ones and the world in general, is too much pain. The spiritual is more important than the physical. Why, he hasn't even met his own grandkids (the oldest is 5 years old).

Sorry for carrying on. I just really appreciate a post that validates the choices I've made for myself and my family.

In Humanity,

Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Daniel,

I’m sorry to hear about what must cause much heartache in your life. Naturally it is very sad how religious beliefs can break up families. Many times Christians pump their religion because it is supposedly unique in its emphasis on forgiveness. And yet, what you describe here does not indicate that this part of the religion has taken root in your father. Then again, I wouldn’t think that anyone would need to forgive you for following your convictions, especially if you’ve been honest and guided them by reason. But to the thorough-going religious mind, following reason equals “autonomy,” which – as we’ve seen in conversations with folks like Hodge and other apologists – is the very root of “sin” itself. If you have your own mind, you will earn only scorn and resentment from those who take such teachings seriously.

Obviously, I do not know your family situation, and I do not want to judge anyone without a fair hearing. But I do know that religion is lethal to rational human relationships, even among adults, and history provides plenty of examples of this, their extremity notwithstanding. There is a causality to all this.

I also know that human beings are the most complex things we know of in the universe. Think of all the history shared between family members compounded over time and weighing on each individual’s psychological make-up. Clarity of one’s own values is crucial in overcoming conflict in a family, and even then resolution may not be possible (since that takes two willing parties).

If what you say about your father is accurate, he has clearly made his choice: his religion is more valuable to him than his own child. As both the child of two parents who are still living, and as a parent of a little girl who’s just staring out her life, I find that to be the most tragic and perplexing of all. No god is big enough to come between my daughter and me. I am no Abraham! Any god that requires me to hate my family and jettison my values can go screw itself for all eternity.

I have much more on the way, Daniel, that I think/hope you will find valuable in your current struggles. Please bear with me. I am very busy. I want very much to devote more time to my writing, but many responsibilities compete for my time. I’ll post what I can when I can. Until then...


Anonymous said...


I am sorry about your relationship with your father. Still, having grown up with nightmares because of the Christian doctrines taught to me while a little kid, I have to tell you, Daniel, that I was able to see my kids grow up much healthier mentally and with no nightmares because I did not submit them to those horrors. I remember my nightmares were due to my doubts about the doctrine and about myself as "worthy." I would think, for example, that something in the doctrine did not sound right, and then be afraid that "God" would judge me for questioning "him." Things like that would keep me awake at night, provoke a nightmare, etc. By contrast, my kids rarely if ever had any nightmares.

And that's but one of many details. Christianity is sick.

Unknown said...

Dawson and photo,

Thank you both for the kind words and solidarity. I did not post what I did to garner sympathy or pity from anyone. I'm not saying that is what you two were giving me, in fact I know it was quite the opposite.

I said what I did merely to emphasize the practical results of consistently picking "faith" over reason. That is where it ends up. When they fully integrate what the bible teaches about "godly" values and ethics, this is the fruit that is born. Any watered down touchy-feely, warm-fuzzy, type of lovie-dovie crap isn't true to the doctrine found in the bible. Anything short of my father's full commitment to the "kingdom of heaven" is a hybridization (more like bastardization) between biblical models and enlightenment (rational) values. Of course, such a version of Christianity is looked down on by men like my father who are dedicated to the fullest Calvinist interpretation.

Anyway, thanks again. It does hurt to see the outcome of this worldview and if more of the Christian bible-thumpers really stood back and looked at what happens when you stay consistent, I wonder how many of them have the intestinal fortitude to see it through to the end. I wonder how many of them say one thing on the internet but when it comes to their real family end up as mealy-mouthed as the tele-evangelist that spout their catered-to-the-masses b.s. "sermons" on public access every Sunday morning.

I'm rambling. If any Christians are out there, I guess my message to you is, that your "worldview" is one of the most destructive, vitriol soaked, hypocritical, unreasonable, dangerous, hate filled, make-believe, imaginary, Baal worshipping cults this world has ever seen. I know it won't make a difference to those Christians who read this. I just feel that more people who have had their lives turned upside down over and over again by this inhumane theology should speak up and let their stories be known. Maybe one day, it will sink in for some... for the fringes, at least.

Dawson, if my comment is not appropriate, I understand if you edit it or refuse to post. Again, thank you for your kind words and the work that you do here. By virtue of staying true to your values and doing what you enjoy, you end up inadvertently playing scholar, teacher, therapist, and friend to many more, I'm sure, than me.

In Humanity,

NAL said...

As B.C.Hodge wrote:

It may shock you, however, to learn that the Bible’s view of love is not inclusive. Instead, love is in the context of exclusivism. It divides people into groups: the believers and the unbelievers, those who belong to the covenant community and those who do not.

Christians can't keep their believers with reason, so they have to resort to emotional blackmail.

Bahnsen Burner said...

I've been saying this for years - Christianity divides people into two opposing collectives: the chosen vs. the damned. It is certainly not individualistic, it is not a pro-individual worldview. No worldview that does this could be pro-individual. (Of course, there are many other reasons why Christianity is not pro-individual, but on an interpersonal or society level, this is the culmination of its anti-individual epistemology and ethics.)

NAL, can you post a link to where Hodge wrote this?


Ydemoc said...


Just thought I'd jump in and provide that link. You can find where Hodge wrote that here, three or four paragraphs in:


Bahnsen Burner said...

Wow! Thanks, Ydemoc!!

Ydemoc said...


No problem at all. Since I haven't been commenting as much as I would like (due to time), I thought the least I could do, as far as contributing goes, was attempt to track that down and post the link.


NAL said...

Thanks Ydemoc, that's it.

I've been setting up a new WiFi router and am finally back in the game.

Ydemoc said...


My pleasure.


Unknown said...

Hey all,

Watch this.LOL

Me: "What is "faith" then and how does it work?"

Christian (Christian school teacher who basically thinks he really has his act together. Quite stuck up about it too.): "Faith is the simplest word in the dictionary because we all do it every day at every moment of our life. It is also a word depressingly complicated by people who generally have no idea what they're talking about.

Faith. Trust. Belief. Pick your poison. Same concept.

Tomorrow you will get into your car trusting it will start and drive to your destination believing you'll get there without dying. While there who [you][sic] will have faith that no one has strapped a bomb to himself with the intent of killing you and everyone else. All the while trusting that prices have[n't][sic] inflated, believing that your money will be accepted, and hoping that a rogue asteroid won't crush your waiting car.

We have no proof any of these things will or won't happen. If we were certain of any of it we would have never left the house. And yet we live as if we're certain that everything will be okay.

That is faith. Believing something. Trusting. In a sense, hoping.

Faith is the body of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen."

Epic. Just Epic. When faced with all the ways it is actually used in the Bible, he says he doesn't see how I'm getting what I am from the verses I provide. HILARIOUS.

Bahnsen Burner said...

Interesting anecdote, Daniel. I’ve heard similar over the years. I thought the “pick your poison” part was rather ironic in fact. According to the school teacher, it seems that faith is more in line with expectation than actual trust or belief.

What’s important to note here is that the school teacher is in no way describing a method of acquiring and validating knowledge. Given his description and examples, faith is not epistemological – it is not a means of knowing. So according to this chap, if a person says “I know that X is true by means of faith,” that individual has misunderstood what faith is and needs to review the steps he took to come to what he calls “knowledge.”

Expectations can be guided by reason, or they can be guided by unreason – i.e., faith as I understand it. To be sure, there are profound distinctions between expectations guided by reason and hopes guided by prayer. Let us put these in contrast.

For example, yes, when I get into my car with the intention of driving off some place, I expect it to work. There is evidence to support my expectation: e.g., the car exists, the car worked fine just a few hours earlier as is its nature to do, I am aware of no change since the last time I used it that would cause me to suppose that it would not work, etc. This is called a rational inference. It is not some unevidenced belief or “trust.” Certainly I am not expecting the automobile god to ensure that it works. Of course, there may have been some change since the last time I used it that I am not aware of; I am not omniscient. Perhaps an electronic device was left running and drained the battery. Then I can determine the cause of the malfunction and repair it. Again, all by means of reason. This is reason-based expectation. It follows the law of identity and conforms to the facts of reality. Consequently it does not need prayer.

On the other hand, faith seems to be what one would be acting on when he straps that bomb around his chest and hopes that by detonating it on a crowded city bus and killing 29 random people, he will go to heaven and enjoy 72 virgins for eternity. This is hope guided by prayer. This is faith in action. Consider the parents of a diabetic child who want to put their faith in “the Lord.” Instead of seeking medical treatment and getting their child the proper care he needs (i.e., care guided by reason), they choose to rely on prayer instead. They insist that it’s all “God’s will,” and if they have enough faith, “the Lord” will make their child all better if it so desires. This of course is the primacy of consciousness – the law of identity is not the standard here: the parents have faith that a supernatural consciousness has the ability to override the law of identity and reverse the facts of reality in favor of their desires, which they express to the ruling consciousness in the form of fervent prayer. Sadly, when their child dies from the disease, they are sorrowful, but the lesson they say they learned is that they simply did not have enough faith.

So I would not say that “Faith is the body of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen." Faith is more of the hoping itself, hope resting on the primacy of consciousness metaphysics. The faithful might like to understand that hope as “evidence of things unseen,” but this is self-deceptive. We have never seen a god come down and heal a child from a deadly disease, and we never will. But, we can imagine this, and we can pretend that this is possible, but imagination and pretense are not a rational basis on which to conduct one’s choices and actions. They never will be.


Unknown said...

Thanks Dawson, for the reply. The sad thing is, had I provided the kind of explanation you did (even if less eloquently) it would have fallen on deaf ears. So, with this individual (again an old church mate) I've just resigned myself to expecting only a chuckle from our exchanges.

You said:
"Sadly, when their child dies from the disease, they are sorrowful, but the lesson they say they learned is that they simply did not have enough faith."

Or (as in the case of my teacher friend who does not believe in modern "miracles" [he's a "dispensationalist"]) they simply need to have more faith that geebus still has something wonderful planned for their lives (or next lives if nothing pans out in this one) and that they just need put enough trust in him that he will "bless" them or "show them" "a way".

Thanks again for the thoughtful reply.

In Humanity,

IratePotentate said...

I hope you realize that in the realm of presuppositional apologetics the "How do you know?" question is just as tiresome amongst fellow believers. There are two methods of approaching presuppositional apolgetics and about fifty years ago the men that championed them had a popularity contest. Van Til won, and Gordon Clark lost. So what you see today are Van Til's acolytes rabidly shouting, "How do you know that?" while anyone who reads and advocates Gordon Clark's methods and arguments are shouted down as heretics and fools.

Gordon Clark is a sleeping giant. When the church stops running from his ideas in fear, you will see a breed of apologist for which there is no counter.

Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello IratePotentate,

You wrote: “I hope you realize that in the realm of presuppositional apologetics the ‘How do you know?’ question is just as tiresome amongst fellow believers.”

How would anyone be able to tell? When folks like Sye Ten Bruggencate, for instance, are out there twerking for Jesus with their high-decibel repetitions of “How do you know?” I typically do not find “fellow believers” saying something like, “Hey, Sye, honestly, that’s getting tiresome.” Perhaps there are here and there, but I would hesitate to suppose it’s universal. On the contrary, last I looked on some of the YouTube channels (and I admit it’s been a while), many believers out there are quite happy not only to encourage this kind of behavior, but to try their own hand at it.

You wrote: “There are two methods of approaching presuppositional apolgetics and about fifty years ago the men that championed them had a popularity contest. Van Til won, and Gordon Clark lost.”

Yes, I’m quite aware of this. So you side with the loser of this contest. How’s that going?

You wrote: “So what you see today are Van Til's acolytes rabidly shouting, "How do you know that?" while anyone who reads and advocates Gordon Clark's methods and arguments are shouted down as heretics and fools.”

This only suggests that those who practice Gordon Clark’s methods must be quite weak indeed if they’re shouted down so consistently by the likes of the Vantillians. I’m glad that’s not my problem!

You wrote: “Gordon Clark is a sleeping giant. When the church stops running from his ideas in fear, you will see a breed of apologist for which there is no counter.”

Yes, there’s always another apostle coming over the horizon, and I’m guessing you’re one of the heralding prophets, a modern day John the Baptist shouting in the wilderness and feasting on locusts and honey. But seriously, that’s all quite silly, don’t you think? After all, why would either a Cornelius Van Til, a Gordon Clark, a John Calvin, a Martin Luther, or even an Apostle Paul be necessary given the overt supernaturalism of Christianity? Why is the Christian god perpetually fashioned by its adherents as a kind of ventriloquist? Why can’t the Christian god just make itself known to men objectively – i.e., rather than us having no alternative but to imagine it in the confines of our subjective psychology – and make whatever it allegedly wishes to communicate to us known directly? According to the legend we find in Acts, Jesus did this on behalf of Saul of Tarsus, who was supposedly an aggressive persecutor of the budding church. Why doesn’t Jesus just appear before all of us rather than sending out these most fallible and contradictory apologists who cannot answer rational objections to Christianity, who cannot provide a coherent worldview, who cannot even provide biblical definitions of key terms?

As I said, I’m glad these aren’t my problems.

Good luck with Clark’s cold corpse.


IratePotentate said...

Just consider it a friendly warning. Your foundation is not so sound as you think, nor your arguments as convincing.

When you spend all your time refuting those who swim in the shallow end of the pool you forget the deep end even exists.

Bahnsen Burner said...


You wrote: “Just consider it a friendly warning. Your foundation is not so sound as you think, nor your arguments as convincing.”

So, I’m supposed to be scared or something?

You wrote: “When you spend all your time refuting those who swim in the shallow end of the pool you forget the deep end even exists.”

Bring it on, Scripturalists!

Yes, I know – you have your “axiom” – “The Bible alone is the Word of God.” Some axiom!

And you want to accuse others of begging the question?

I think you yourself put it best:


How’s that?


IratePotentate said...

Not just scared, you should be terrified.

For your pleasure, a challenge:

Please produce one axiom that does not beg the question. I would hope one of your own is suitable.

Is *chortle* more condescending than *chuckle*?

I hope so.


Bahnsen Burner said...


You wrote: “Not just scared, you should be terrified.”

I guess you’ll just have to be satisfied with being disappointed in me. I’m neither scared nor terrified. I’m happy. A genuinely happy person needs no gods.

You wrote: “Please produce one axiom that does not beg the question.”

A genuine axiom would not be the product of prior inference to begin with, so a genuine axiom could not commit the fallacy of begging the question. An axiom (a real one) is conceptually irreducible – it does not assume any prior knowledge. It formally identifies a general fact that is perceptually self-evident.

You wrote: “I would hope one of your own is suitable.”

Here you go: Existence exists.

See, no question-begging there.


IratePotentate said...

Dawson, I warned you that to keep my interest you must exhibit basic levels of intellectual honesty and grasp of logic. You are not displaying either, and so losing my attention.

You seriously wish to posit that the axiom you provided does not beg the question?

"Existence exists."

"Because A, A."

Not only does this beg the question, it is completely circular.

Had you a proper understanding of the axioms of logic you would have understood that my challenge is impossible to answer. The men who laid down the axioms we use understood that all axioms must ultimately be circular and beg the question in some for or another. If you don't understand and accept this truth, I'll leave you to your navel gazing as you have constructed a false reality for your own happiness.

I don't fault you for this, it's more than most people can do.

Bahnsen Burner said...


You wrote: “You seriously wish to posit that the axiom you provided does not beg the question?”

I cannot beg a question. It is not an inference. It is not the product of an inference. It is simply a formalized, conceptually irreducible recognition.

I wrote: "Existence exists."

You apparently interpreted it as: "Because A, A."

The axiom “Existence exists” is not at all equivalent to saying “Because A, A.” There is no “because” in “Existence exists.” There is no attempt to draw an inference here. And it is not the product of an inference. Thus there is no occasion for question-begging or circularity.

I suspect that you simply do not have a good understanding of concepts and thus do not understand what conceptually irreducible means. But this is key. If you don't want to learn, that is your choice. But why deliberately take the loser's path?

You wrote: “Had you a proper understanding of the axioms of logic you would have understood that my challenge is impossible to answer.”

Then explain what you seem to think I’m missing. What you gave above only shows that you must mutilate my axiom in order to charge it with some fallacy or deficiency.

You wrote: “The men who laid down the axioms we use understood that all axioms must ultimately be circular and beg the question in some for or another.”

This does not show in any way that the axiom “existence exists” is circular or question-begging. You’re just appealing to some unidentified group of thinkers who supposedly said whatever you put into their mouth. Again, I suggest you spend some time trying to understand Objectivism.

You wrote: “If you don't understand and accept this truth, I'll leave you to your navel gazing as you have constructed a false reality for your own happiness.”

Okay, sayonara then. If you cannot hold your own, then by all means, show yourself out.


Ydemoc said...


Irate wrote: "Please produce one axiom that does not beg the question. I would hope one of your own is suitable."

Religion's apologists sure have a difficult time understanding when a question is being begged and when it isn't, don't they?

Perhaps this murkiness in their understanding is because they are so accustomed to wallowing in the question-begging swamp of they're own making, that they assume everyone else must be wallowing in it, too.

How is the fundamental recognition, the sweeping of one's arm around to indicate everything that one perceives, and then saying, "By 'existence' I mean this" be an instance of begging the question? Religion's apologists don't tell us how, because they can't. So eventually, they move on and start attacking the senses, sinking ever further into the swamp of their own making.

It's just another case of religion's apologists wanting something to be true when, in fact, it isn't.


Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Ydemoc,

Yes, as you describe, it appears to be a combination of projection and self-inflicted ignorance buttressed by “all these experts say” along the way, with no understanding of metaphysical primacy, concept-formation, stolen concepts, etc. It is the best that one can hope to have without Objectivism. Notice that Irate does not address questions directed to him, either about his purpose in posting here or on the topics in the discussion. Rather, when his statements are probed and his assertions rebutted, he accuses me of intellectual dishonesty, immaturity, hubris, and other sins. It’s as though he reserves for himself the privilege of always standing on the sidelines while trying to get everyone else to dance, then condemning every step a dancer makes without explaining how any fault has been committed. Meanwhile, he wants us to believe that he has an omniscient, infallible deity on his side, all the while trying his best not to let on what his invisible magic being has to say on the questions that have been raised.

Notice also how Irate has to mutilate completely beyond recognition the axiom ‘existence exists’ in order to make his charge of question-begging at least seem to stick. The axiom ‘existence exists’ is not the same thing as “because A, A.” It’s nowhere near this. Irate insinuates that it is similar or the same, but makes no effort to explain why. He clearly does understand what *conceptually irreducible* means. But he does imply that his own worldview’s axioms are admittedly question-begging. If that were their only flaw, that would at least confine its flaw to one thing. But in fact the Clarkians’ axiom is laughably arbitrary and ludicrous as a starting point, taking an enormous quantity of unexamined assumptions for granted, precisely the opposite of what an axiom must do to have a snowball’s chance in hell of qualifying as an axiom.

Frequently I get the impression that theistic apologists have this strange impression that “begging the question” is entailed any time someone affirms a position with which the theist himself simply does not agree. Irate has further reinforced this impression.

But lo, the Clarkians are coming! We’re all supposed to be scared and take cover.

I’ll be in my chaise lounge.


Ydemoc said...


Thanks for the response.

It seems that many apologists who stop by your blog to post are so ill-equipped to deal with the pushback of a rational philosophy and so unwilling to learn, that I wouldn't be surprised if they're leaving comments simply as a way of following the directives handed down to them from their storybook.

A quick Google search for the string "It is our duty to witness to others" reveals several religious websites that mention "soul winning" as a major goal. One reads: "It is our duty to witness to others concerning Christ crucified, whether they listen or not is an entirely different matter between them and God. Our job is to get the Gospel out to sinners." (

As long as such apologists follow these directives handed down to them by their storybook, well, that's all that really matters. They can do a few drive-by posts and then leave, feeling good in having done their duty in spreading the word, satisfied in having pleased the imaginary god they worship.


Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Ydemoc,

You wrote: “It seems that many apologists who stop by your blog to post are so ill-equipped to deal with the pushback of a rational philosophy and so unwilling to learn, that I wouldn't be surprised if they're leaving comments simply as a way of following the directives handed down to them from their storybook.”

It’s a very common pattern: the believer comes here, posts a message containing any number of negating assertions, receives interaction on his first message, replies a few more times without addressing direct questions or offering information and basically just asserting things like “Objectivism is fundamentally flawed” without making any effort to show this, and then leaves in a huff when his claims are not accepted on his mere say-so. Over and over again, one will find this pattern repeated in the comments sections of my blog entries.

Believers, we should remember, are constantly telling us that “only” their worldview can “account for” all these things, morality being among them, and yet when it comes to fundamental questions about the matters they identify, they scurry off into the shadow all the while repeating “You can’t account for it!” Perhaps in their minds they are doing “the Lord’s service.” Their “Lord” must really be enamored with mediocrity.

You wrote: “A quick Google search for the string ‘It is our duty to witness to others’ reveals several religious websites that mention ‘soul winning’ as a major goal. One reads: ‘It is our duty to witness to others concerning Christ crucified, whether they listen or not is an entirely different matter between them and God. Our job is to get the Gospel out to sinners.’ (”

Thanks for the link. I’ll have to keep that one.

Unfortunately for believers, the notion that it is a “duty” to “witness” simply means that one is to undertake this activity even if his heart isn’t in it. He can try to pretend that he wants to do this, but his wants are neither here nor there when it comes to “duty.” If it’s a “duty,” he *has* to do it regardless of what he wants, like a soldier conscripted into a military.

As for “soul-winning,” presuppositionalists take a more tepid approach to this topic: yes, they are to go out and “apologize” for Christianity – with their aggressive recitations of their stock “you can’t do X” refrains – and they seem to think this satisfies their call to evangelism. As a form of evangelism, presuppositionalism focuses on setting up a kind of contest in which the apologist declares himself the winner at the outset and then attempts to deploy canned tactics which are intended to ensure this phony victory. But presuppers are essentially forced into downplaying “soul-winning” as a goal since their tactics are doomed to attract converts from the very beginning. If someone like Sye Ten Bruggencate were amassing proselytes by the dozens at his open-air preaching sessions, no doubt he’d be posting video after video documenting his daily catch. But I’ve not seen anything like this. Rather, folks like this seem only concerned with making other people look stupid and themselves superior. “Good going, Sye! You really painted that college yard secularist into a corner!” Did the college student convert? “Well, he might one day!”

Does someone like Irate really think he’s scored points for his god-belief here? It’s hard to see how anyone in Irate’s shoes could walk away with such an impression, but the religious mind, we must remember, is prone to amazing feats of self-delusion.


l_johan_k said...

I found this and thought I might be of some interest for your blog/future blogpost. (

Anyway, great job with the blog! Absolutely the nr 1 resource for debunking presupps.

best regards,

Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello l_johan_k,

Thanks for your comment and for sharing this link. I suspect portions of it may very well come in handy.

I did manage to read a good portion of it last night. It is noteworthy how presuppositionalists keep things so hyper-generalized and avoid getting into specifics. Apologists use the term "presuppositions" - in the plural - over and over again without every identifying what they are, how many there are, explaining how they are known or how they can be validated, how exactly they relate to the matter under discussion (e.g., logic, morality, knowledge, uniformity of nature, etc.) all the while claiming that "only Christianity's presuppositions" can "account for" these and everything else. It is asserted over and over, and yet completely void of content.

Okay, I have to run off to work soon. I have a new blog entry up for those who may be interested. You can find it here:

A Reply to Stefan on Induction and Deduction


Bahnsen Burner said...

l_johan_k and everyone else:

Check out the comments of my blog Before the Beginning: The Problem of Divine Lonesomeness.

I posted this blog back in July of 2008. But just today I received a comment from Jonathan Bradford, one of the Christians participating in the discussion that l_johan_k linked to above (see here).

I answered Jonathan and posed a few questions of my own to him. A short while later he responded but failed to answer one of my questions. Apparently discussion is supposed to be a one-way street with folks like this.

Anyway, thought it might interest you.