Sunday, August 24, 2008

Jamie's latest response

Here is Jamie's response to my reply to him here.

Believing in Jesus as God does not answer these questions. Believing puts the priority of life on a relationship with Jesus (which gets into spiritual/mystical issues, I realize) and that makes all other issues secondary. For instance, I believe that a primary man existed who caused the Fall even if I can't prove reasonably when he existed. (Perhaps that will be discovered or proven at some future point.) The reason I believe in that primary man is because that is what the Bible (Romans 5:12 & others) teaches in the plan of redemption (from a Reformed theological perspective).

One might say that this is an insular or circular argument (the Bible is true because it says it's true and therefore I believe it). My point, though, is that because I accept that Jesus is God (not the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus) then the things the Bible teaches about him are True, and that includes things I don't fully understand.

L. Ron Hubbard was not God, so it wouldn't matter much if four or five people witnessed his resurrection.

Your email outlines some reasons for thinking that Jesus either didn't exist (not enough non-Biblical evidence) or wasn't God (his life was myth or embellished over the last 2,000 years); that would seem to me to put him in the "liar" category. As I said, if you think him a liar (or non-existent) or lunatic then any Philosophy will do because there's no Absolute Truth. All things are relative, including ideas of god, history, existence, etc.

Jesus is what the whole Bible is about. Jesus is the lynchpin in the plan of redemption. Jesus is the counterweight to Adam. Jesus is what separates Christians from Jews and Muslims because we see him as the fulfillment of the Law (Jews) and the only true Prophet (Muslim). Jesus is the "word made flesh"; he is the Bible. His importance to Christians (true believers, not just religious persons) can't be understated. Without him as Absolute Truth then any person, thing, idea, or system can take the place of Truth; it can become god.

So that's why the evil isn't a problem. It had a beginning and it will have an end.

Thanks again,
--jamie

31 comments:

anticant said...

Yes, Jamie, your argument IS circular. You believe "a primary man existed who caused the Fall" because the Bible tells you so. There is no other evidence for it.

Just because you believe that Jesus is God that doesn't make it, or what the Bible teaches about him, "True", even if you do use capital letters to make your statement more impressive!

Disbelief that Jesus existed in the [sometimes contradictory] way described in the Gospels doesn't make him a liar, though it does make the authors of the Gospels liars, whether intentionally or not.

It is not the case that without Jesus, "any philosophy will do". There is the small matter of truth based upon evidence and probability to be considered.

How do you distinguish between "True believers" and "just religious persons?"

And nothing you have said disposes of the problem of evil. If God were indeed totally benevolent and omnipotent, why would he allow it? [Please don't trot out the old "free will" canard.]

Tony said...

I see Stephen is back debating the existence of God with yet another true believer. Does anyone else feel that such debates are more or less a waste of time? Will a person who wants proof that something exists before they believe in it ever come to some agreement with another who accepts that faith is sufficient for belief? Maybe we should have a debate about whether it is worth debating with the truly faithful.

The Barefoot Bum said...

Jamie is making any argument at all. He is simply declaring his beliefs, and noting that to believe something is to believe it to be true.

It is ironic that Jamie in one breath declares that he arbitrarily chooses to believe the bible is true, and condemns in the next breath alternative philosophies for their "relativism".

anticant said...

I agree with Tony that these debates with "true believers" are a waste of time, but this is Stephen's blog and if he chooses to have such debates, it's up to us to decide whether or not to participate.

I'd rather be discussing more serious philosophical questions, but - perhaps to my own detriment - can't always resist pointing out the idiotic fallacies these people engage in.

Stephen Law said...

I will probably not pursue this one long, Tony. But I do find these guys fascinating, and am always interested to see what particular arguments and moves they wheel out.

I am really building up a catalogue of the moves for future reference - partly because I'll do a book about it at some point.

I realize these discussions might not interest you much, but, hey, I am doing this primarily for my own amusement and edification - if others find it interesting too, well good. If not, well they can always read something else!

Adrian Thysse, FCD. said...

It does seem pointless. I am having a similar argument with J.D Kraft (http://jwkraft.com/) and another with Alden in the comments of Tangled Up in the Blue Guy (http://www.tuibguy.com/?p=1460)

How can you argue with people whose logic is based on assumptions built upon more assumptions? Evidence has no meaning to them.

Dr Funkenstein said...

As I said, if you think him a liar (or non-existent) or lunatic then any Philosophy will do because there's no Absolute Truth.

Why would the non-existence or non-god status of Jesus stop there being absolute truths or an objective reality?

that would seem to me to put him in the "liar" category

It wouldn't put Jesus in the liar category - it would put the people writing about him (possibly) in that category. Alternatively, the writers could have been perfectly honest, but working on unreliable 2nd/3rd hand word-of-mouth info , or indeed mythologising but not expecting it all to be taken literally.

it wouldn't matter much if four or five people witnessed his resurrection

I've never understood the fuss about the resurrection - the bible details lots of them, not just Jesus'. Why would people be surprised by or find unexpected something that (apparently) happened fairly frequently? It doesn't mark Jesus out as distinct in any way as it had happened to so many people.

not the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus

The Santa Claus story is actually a good example - apparently based on a real person, who did acts on a small scale (giving out gifts) that got embellished into a more grandiose story, except obviously adults do not believe the tale as being true.

Tony said...

Hi, Stephen. I wasn't objecting to your fascination with these people in any way and I look forward to the book with great interest. Apologies if it came across like I was telling you what to debate on your own blog. I was, though, seriously interested in the question of whether it really is worth debating with the faithful: are they simply in a place which makes any attempt at what a philosopher would consider debate pointless.

Tony said...

And why do they want to debate with us? I guess the real question is: what are the grounds for such a debate and if there is some ground neither party can agree to, is the debate worth having?

Stephen Law said...

Hi Tony - don't worry, I didn't take offence!

It may be that we won't change anyone's mind. But I feel I have learned a lot from these exchanges about what's more likely to be effective and what's not. It's very different to debating an actual Christian philosopher, who would never make such silly arguments. If I do a book, it's going to be aimed not at philosophers but, in part, at believers, so this is all very useful, I think.

Clearly some people have, though exposure to a bit of critical thought, eventually dropped the faith. We saw some earlier examples of creationist who had done so, and another recently got in touch.... it does happen.

Stephen Law said...

Thanks Adrian - I'm checking those links....

David B. Ellis said...

On the topic of whether these debates are pointless, I would say, as a person who used to be as thoroughly brain-washed a fundamentalist christian as they come, that they most definitely ARE worthwhile.

It was through the exposure to other views from those in which I had been brought up that I began to question my own religious beliefs.

This was 20 years ago, so I had no opportunity to discuss and debate religion over the internet at the time. But I definitely would have been looking in on discussions like this if I'd had the opportunity.

We may not convince Jamie but we can be a big help to those who are honestly examining their religious beliefs with a critical eye for the first time.

Paul P. Mealing said...

In my view, philosophy is all about argument. It's not so much about convincing someone that they're wrong and you're right, but about challenging someone's ideas and putting your own ideas up to be challenged. I think that Jamie is wanting his arguments to be challenged - he wants them tested. He's interested in counter-arguments otherwise why would he bother. He knows he's not going to change Stephen's point of view, but he knows that Stephen will most certainly challenge him.

There are a couple of points with Jamie's argument I would like to raise. One is that the argument of Jesus as saviour and redeemer is premised on the idea of 'original sin', or as Jamie calls it, 'the fall'. This is the most mythical event in the entire Bible and the one I have the most trouble with. But it provides the perfect psychological 'catch' for convincing people that Christianity is the only 'true path'.

And this leads to my second point that there are many religious beliefs of equal validity that don't involve original sin at all. For Jamie, it's original sin that validates Christianity, whereas I believe it's original sin that makes Christianity the most pessimistic religion.

Regards, Paul.

David B. Ellis said...

On the topic of original sin I was recently having a discussion on a christian science fiction blog on that topic (SPECULATIVE FAITH, for any interested).

The whole idea of original sin and the Fall seems utterly absurd:

God hates sin and doesn't want his creatures to sin.

The first two humans sinned.

So human nature was altered to make all of humanity highly prone to sin?

Huh?

Why would an omnipotent God, who doesn't want us to sin and who can choose for us to be born with whatever natural psychological disposition he chooses, decide for us to be born with a nature such that sinning is nigh inevitable?

I used to be a christian and I still find their thought processes bizarre.

Jamie Self said...

The most interesting point of these discussions for me is how much I see in these posts/blogs that looks like religion. I started to make the point with Stephen, but we got sidetracked. "Evidence" is the worship to the god of Reason. People can be "converted" to this church of Reason ("We may not convince Jamie..." and "It may be that we won't change anyone's mind"). Decrying the falsehood of other beliefs ("...idiotic fallacies..." and "silly") is common. Just an observation.

I appreciate the challenge to my beliefs and think these discussions are not "pointless" at all. As Stephen intimated, I'm not a philosopher and do appreciate that he (and others) would take the time to respond.

I do agree with the barefoot bum that my declaration of belief seems arbitrary and I'll have to think about that. Someone asked me one time if I had been raised in a Muslim culture wouldn't I feel as strongly about faith in Islam. I responded that I might, but that wouldn't make Christianity less true. (Or "True" for anticant's sake.)

Stephen, I'd enjoy reading your atheistic apologetic if you write it for us simple folk rather than for philosophers.

theObserver said...

Quick question for Jamie - How would you define a religion?

Anonymous said...

These debates are not a waste of time.

At any given time there are people like my teenage self 40+ years ago, who have begun to doubt (in my case because of the absurdity of some Christian doctrines and the lack of unequivocal experience of the divine) but may be quite unaware of the standard atheist responses to apparently convincing Christian arguments.

Even a true believer such as Jamie might abandon such thoughtless phrases as 'the god/church of reason' and its underpinning thought 'Well, you atheists have faith too!' if he tries to respond seriously to theobserver's question immediately above.

Kiwi Dave

Paul P. Mealing said...

Just on the subject of 'original sin', it can be seen a number of different ways. One is that 'Man', metaphorically represented by Adam and Eve, partook of the 'tree of knowledge of good and evil'. Metaphorically, this implies that 'Man' should have remained ignorant, yet seeking knowledge is what humans do that other species don't - in other words, it's what we are meant to do.

The other point is that I think teaching children that they are born destined to go to hell is arguably the most perverse lesson you can teach them.

So, original sin, which is what Jesus' redemptive power is predicated upon, is perverse in at least 2 ways.

So, whilst I think Jesus as a human being is a great exemplar, I think the myth of Jesus as 'the Saviour' is flawed by its explicit association with the myth of original sin.

Regards, Paul.

Marc said...

Ayep, that 'creationist ... that recently got in touch' was me.

o/ (Hello)

(I wrote this a bit ago, then some folks posted much the same, but here it is anyway as a long 'me too')

There are many uses of little mini debates like this, even if the one you're debating with stand firm in their belief.

It provides useful examples and prep for those of us that have our own debates with true believers (family, friends).

To those that are beginning their journey out of the darkness it provides references to things they can further investigate.

Marc said...

We have a couple of true believers over at the Debunking Christianity blog making much the same arguments.

The best is when you get mutually incompatible theologies arguing that all you need is faith. Hahaha.

It seems like it could be shown that faith in the Abrahimic god requires proving first that science exists and is valid. The premises accepted or proven to be true for accepting science is a small subset of the required premises that Abrahamic religion requires.

Rev. Dr. Incitatus said...

Jamie said,
"People can be "converted" to this church of Reason"

Absolutely. You have, which is why you engaged Stephen. And so have the vast majority of people inhabiting our humble sphere. Including every single Christian theologian of any merit. Our "church" is rather large. Certainly bigger than anything Rick Warren can muster. And we don't need to entice people with soft rock and laser shows. And it's all inclusive, to; even women, homosexuals and theists are encouraged to pull up a pew if they feel so inclined.

Here's the thing: nobody with any sense, regardless of personal faith, is disputing the legitimacy of reason. It works. We all know it and we all use it, on pain of being devoured by the greedy underworld sprites of natural selection. It's worth noting that there nothing in the Bible about taking care not to walk out in front of buses, but we mostly all manage, without prior experience or divine proclamation, to embrace that pearl of wisdom to the betterment of our personal progress and survival.

If reason is a religion, you have to admit it really does put the rest in the shade when it comes to explaining things. In fact, there is no evidence to suggest that there is anything that cannot be explained through reason: a given subject's ability to apply reason being the only obvious limiting factor thus far encountered.

In contrast, I can come up with a few libraries worth of phenomena not adequately explained by religious scriptures. Further, I can come up with a few books worth of phenomena incorrectly explained by religious scripture.

Why is reason so compelling? Why is it our eternal saviour? Because there is nothing - nothing - that provides a more efficacious prophylactic against tyranny than reason. Regardless of whether that tyranny is based on religious or secular dogma, reason is the ultimate tonic for the contagion, whereas blind faith and obedience are too often the vectors that carry it.

Reason is immortal, omnipotent, and to my knowledge nobody has succeeded in nailing it to anything. Reason is constant; it didn't vanish two thousand years ago, and we aren't still waiting for it to come back and make things alright. Reason has a pretty striking resume for a deity, if that is what we wish to call it.

anticant said...

Jamie, reason isn't a 'church' or a 'faith' - it's a tool for sussing out the actualities and probabilities of our own lives and what's going on around us. See my post:

http://antarena.blogspot.com/2008/01/does-reason-matter.html

And for the practical consequences of belief in original sin and justification by faith, I hope that everyone who hasn't already done so will read James Hogg's unforgettable "Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner" .

Paul Power said...

Jamie wrote:
'The most interesting point of these discussions for me is how much I see in these posts/blogs that looks like religion. I started to make the point with Stephen, but we got sidetracked. "Evidence" is the worship to the god of Reason. People can be "converted" to this church of Reason ("We may not convince Jamie..." and "It may be that we won't change anyone's mind"). Decrying the falsehood of other beliefs ("...idiotic fallacies..." and "silly") is common. Just an observation. '

From this we can only conclude that Jamie does not accept the rules of logic and does not use evidence to accept or reject any ideas whatsoever, on any subject. O

anticant said...

But like all theists, he uses reason and follows the laws of logic when it suits him.

MikeN said...

Jamie: You state yourself that no other question is important other than the fact that you believe Jesus is God. Once you accept that everything else is a secondary belief.

What I haven't seen is a good (non-circular) reason for you accepting the fact that Jesus is God. Perhaps I've missed or misinterpreted something but I would be very interested in hearing the reasons for this single belief.

Anonymous said...

David B. Ellis - Adding to your comment re the absurdity of creating creatures prone to sin, one might also point out that the OT God was not squeamish about dealing with sinners - e.g. the whole population minus Noah and family, all the inhabitants of Sodom plus Lot's wife and so on.

Anonymous said...

Stehen - "I am really building up a catalogue of the moves for future reference "

Does that mean we will be able to simply point theists to the appropriate section and get on with other thoughts? A great public service!

I propose a modest piece of further work, that of constructing a computer program to engage in the debate, analyze the theists challenge and either refer them automatically to the relevant section in your book or a real life philosopher if needed. I envisage this as a sort of combination of
Eliza
, Google and an automated call centre.

Jamie Self said...

Miken said: "What I haven't seen is a good (non-circular) reason for you accepting the fact that Jesus is God."

As I posted to the Barefoot Bum, that is the crux of it (no pun intended). I'll have to think on that some more.

And thanks to Rev.Dr.Incitatus for getting my analogy of reason being a religion.

Stephen, anonymous' idea for a computer program is brilliant! Nothing can "think" more logically than a computer. Perhaps it could explain the user's error when he answers a question in a flawed way.

Rev. Dr. Incitatus said...

"And thanks to Rev.Dr.Incitatus for getting my analogy of reason being a religion."

Surely you understand that describing reason as a faith weakens rather than strengthens your position? After all, if reason is a religion, but you can only worship one God... well, then you're in a bit of a pickle next time you cross the road, aren't you?

By - somewhat facetiously I confess - accepting reason as faith, I'm challenging you to explain why you choose to subscribe to another faith. In the same way that a Christian must ultimately explain why his religion is more valid than a Muslim's (always an exercise in circularity), they must explain why their religion is better than that of a materialist.

Presumably, one cannot be a Christian and a Muslim at the same time?

If I were you, I'm not sure I would be trying to argue that reason is a religion. That allows us to claim reason for our own, and leaves you high and dry. St. Augustine new this, you should read his opinions on trying to dismiss reason.

"As I posted to the Barefoot Bum, that is the crux of it (no pun intended). I'll have to think on that some more.

Yes, but surely you won't be trying to appeal to reason? That's our religion, remember. You just relinquished any claim you had to it.

;)

Steven Carr said...

JAMIE
L. Ron Hubbard was not God, so it wouldn't matter much if four or five people witnessed his resurrection.

CARR
Spoken like a true believer, who simply doesn't care what the evidence is.

If it contradicts his beliefs, then evidence 'wouldn't matter much'

There is no point in talking to people who publically declare that they will never consider anything which confronts their beliefs.

Steven Carr said...

JAMIE
L. Ron Hubbard was not God, so it wouldn't matter much if four or five people witnessed his resurrection.

CARR
Spoken like a true believer, who simply doesn't care what the evidence is.

If it contradicts his beliefs, then evidence 'wouldn't matter much'

There is no point in talking to people who publically declare that they will never consider anything which confronts their beliefs.