Bags of Bran


Apologia #11
April 3, 2012, 11:28 pm
Filed under: Apologioi
Curt Ames md20gm@gmail.com
7:01 PM (4 hours ago)

to me
No ‘transcendence’ is necessary! It’s just a brain doing what it does- a ‘mind’ is what is known as an ’emergent property’ of a brain.

No ‘creativity’ is required- your argument is logically flawed because it begs the question. You are trying to prove that creativity is required by claiming that creativity is required.
The difference between knowledge of God and knowledge of, say, apples, is that I have evidence of apples’ existence that does NOT depend on my own acceptance of their existence.  There is a big difference between faith and knowledge! I could have faith in the existence of pixies all I want but that will never, in my mind, prove anything except that I am willing to accept something without sufficient proof. YES, ‘knowledge’ of God is entirely subjective and cannot be otherwise until evidence is supplied. People have craptons- metric craptons- of opinions about God, and there is no way to disprove any of them. It’s very similar to people’s opinions on how a cup of coffee ‘should’ taste.
I find it very interesting that “God’s” opinion on a subject so often lines up with the opinion of the person telling you what “God’s” opinion is. To the Westboro Asylum, “God” is killing innocent soldiers (the vast majority of whom identify as Christian) because of this-and-that inflammatory political hot button issue. To some people, “God” wants to stop “murder” by having his followers murder doctors- doctors who at times save lives, and stop women from having to live with the shame of bearing and raising the child of a rapist- sometimes their own kin. Other, more tolerant, people, think that “God” loves everyone, even people who don’t live the same as them. The whole thing is entirely subjective, and is beyond comparing with the kind of ‘knowledge’ that comes of experiencing actual physical objects and phenomena. You simply cannot put the two in the same category of subjectivity.
People who reject Christianity based simply on its followers are committing a fallacy as well- an ad hominem if I ever saw one. It’s no better to say “I reject this faith because I know a lot of jerks who ascribe to it” than to say “I reject established, well-supported, consistent scientific theory because some scientists have committed dishonest acts.” It’s just an invalid argument for anything. HOWEVER a fairly strong inductive argument can be made that members of a ‘true’ faith would be “known by their fruit.” It’s basically circumstantial evidence, but I think that a faith that has the least evil being wrapped in pleasing rhetoric (and ‘pleasing’ is a VERY subjective measure based on the mind of the hearer) and has the lowest ratio of persecution of other faiths and similar atrocities to ‘time extant’ has at least some circumstantial evidence for its veracity, or at least its usefulness to mankind. By this standard, every faith in the world has a lot of catching up to do with Buddhism- which has its own brand of malarkey ‘bundled,’ as it were, with the positive beliefs.
The problem of evil is, I agree, a huge one. When I want to discuss something like that, I usually find the most educated theologian that I can muster. It’s very much like when I was playing DOOM over Xbox Live- I sought out the best, the very pinnacle of other players, because I wanted to hone my own abilities and better understand my own weaknesses. I went so far as to ask one guy to be my official arch-nemesis via a polite private message, and played him a lot- until one day he admitted to me that he was modding. He had his Xbox hooked up through his desktop computer and was running a hacked version of the game that gave him things like health and speed boosts. Imagine my disappointment! It turns out, though, that such a low-tech program is very easy to hack/mod. That’s why #6 on the rankings was ‘The DOOM Modder’ and #1 had 10,000,000 kills and zero deaths. This lead to my eventual withdrawal from the community- I was beating a lot of people who weren’t playing by the rules but that didn’t make me feel much better.
Anyway, the parallel is that a lot of people, when discussing the problem of evil and other theological issues, basically run a ‘modded’ version of morality and reality that allows for some incredible “mental acrobatics” to arrive at their conclusion. I hesitate, Chris, to tread this quagmire with you, because I love you, and don’t want to be a source of offense. Still, if you’d like to give me your answer to the ‘problem of evil’ conundrum I’d be glad to have it. Just don’t expect it to go undissected.
Much of what you have given me as reasons for your belief amounts to the ‘argument from beauty’ line of thinking, with a bit of the Ontological Argument thrown in. Yes, Christianity has produced some extremely beautiful things (though we will both agree that not everything produced by Christians or any other group fulfills the subjective definition of ‘beautiful’ by most people’s standards). That’s great! Babylonian beliefs led to a lot of really cool art, as well as contributed some really cool stories and character archetypes that have been repeated in mythology throughout the ages. You KNOW that Greek mythology inspired absolutely scads of frescoes, murals, sculptures, temples, music, theater, architecture.  How then is Christianity different in its ability to produce awesome things? How does that point any more to its truth than any other group that has produced works of beauty?  This seems like it might be a case of special pleading.
I also must point out that a lot of your reasons you quote beg the question. When you say that you believe in God because he has created so much awesomeness you are already presuming upon His existence in order to form the conclusion that he exists. I could easily say “I know there are aliens. Why? Because they left alien poo in my backyard.” Well, I’m presuming it’s aliens that left the poo (rather than Henry the Corgi which would be a much simpler and logically sound explanation) and I haven’t really gotten anywhere. And we also have to take the idea to its logical conclusion- if beauty proves the existence of God then does ugliness disprove it? (No, no, I know. We did that to ourselves of course- sin and all.)
It’s really great to be able to look at historical accomplishments like Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling (M. being a renowned poofter by the way) and be in awe of their majesty. It’s healthy to have a sense of wonder at things like the Scots highlands and to feel like an insignificant little mote on the edge of the vastness of the ocean (or- WOW- the solar system, the Milky Way, the galaxy cluster, the universe itself). But what isn’t necessary is to ascribe it to whatever deity the observer happens to believe in. It is wonder enough that amongst all the flotsam and jetsam whizzing around in the vast emptiness, something as improbable as mankind occurred so that there could be an intelligent observer to look out on it all.
People have believed fervently in many religions throughout the ages. Almost all of them (including Christianity) have within their dogma a ‘this is the only truth’ statement, so it follows that most (though not all) of them believed their faith to be the only way to salvation. Many of them had ancient writings to ‘back up’ (much like my old RC car, backing up right around into a circle everytime)  their beliefs. There were undoubtedly strong community leaders associated with their faiths, efforts to take care of one another and promote things like forgiveness for your fellow man, moral guidelines to guide those less possessed of their own strong moral compass, great works undertaken by the groups, religious art of great beauty created, GOOD done for the world in general. But I ask you, do you follow those religions? They’ve got the same kind of evidence you’ve cited for your own beliefs.
I put it to you that you are much more of a skeptic than you give yourself credit for, because you don’t accept those beliefs and probably would (and I don’t mean to put words in your mouth here) say that just because a belief system has these elements does not mean its core precepts are true. You don’t believe, for example, in Zeus, Bastet, Marduk, Vishnu, Lord Xenu, or any of the thousands of other deities that have been invented to fulfill certain roles in the human psyche (or in some cases to gain something from their followers like, oh, I don’t know, tax-free income and consolidated political power) and for good reason. I simply take it one further step.
I as well have had to struggle with the pronouns, mostly out of respect for the beliefs of the reader(s) have I bothered as I usually do not worry about such things.
I guess that would have been a good conclusion but my brain keeps firing so I must continue.
You say you know the ‘character’ of God.  We as human beings have an ability to ‘know the character’ of constructed personae- though Han Solo is not real I have a very ‘real’ concept in my head of what his character is like- independent, freedom-loving, wisecracking, cocky, a good shot with a DL-44. A guy who claims to act only in his own self interest but with a strong sense of good and evil that gets him into a lot of trouble. Basically he’s a Chaotic Good character trying to live a Chaotic Neutral life, to put it into D&D terms (which I find is really a helpful paradigm for explaining things sometimes!).
He could have let Chewbacca get put into Imperial Prison and most likely sent to the Spice Mines for a long life sentence of hard labor (Wookies live like 400 years barring things like violent death and spice mining) but he gave up his career as an Imperial officer to save him. (Side note: I once used a video-game style ‘cut scene’ of the incident as a ‘reward’ for my Star Wars players after a long session. They loved it- that’s the kind of thing you can’t account for with an XP or monetary value. But I digress- often and at length.)
We can imagine what Tom Bombadil would be like to hang out with (what an awesome guy!) and what sort of personality Prince Caspian had. But they are still all constructs of the imagination- simply knowing their character does not make them ‘real’  beyond the mental sphere, right? (Another side note: I’ve heard someone try to argue that Mario was ‘real.’ Yepper.)
I don’t expect you to answer me point-for-point. If I REALLY want something answered, I will make it a point to ask. Otherwise feel free but not obligated!
Here’s a poser that I really would like answered though: In your opinion, does someone born without a brain have a soul?
I’m off to make dinner for my better half (the left side… kidding!). I appreciate the time you take to have this discussion, and hope that you know that no offense is meant. I know a lot of people have very emotional reasons for their beliefs (I just watched a Deadliest Catch where a captain plucked a hair from his head, held it under his left nostril, and breathed in and out while wishing for better fishing, all because he felt bad he wasn’t making money for his crew and family!) and a lot of people get very emotional when those beliefs are questioned. It’s hard to distance yourself emotionally from an issue so close to the heart and talk about the logic that goes into it. It’s something that I had to do once or twice. 😉
Hoping that your ticks are all experiencing malnourishment or a death-related loss of life,
Curt
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