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New Scientist: Why atheists think harder than other folk. Huh?

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Image result for witchcraft symbols public domain They’re more humble too. From Graham Lawton at New Scientist:

Almost everybody who has ever lived has believed in some kind of deity. Even in today’s enlightened and materialistic times, atheism remains a minority pursuit requiring hard intellectual graft. Even committed atheists easily fall prey to supernatural ideas. Religious… More.

After you’ve picked yourself up off the floor from laughing, you might want to note the post-modern rise in superstition and bunkum, generally.

See also: If naturalism can explain religion, why does it get so many basic facts wrong?

and

Lay off Graham Lawton (more on the New Scientist “Darwin was wrong” article) (2009)

A New Scientist editor acknowledges that the riddle of free will is unsolved (2011)

Collectively, New Scientist wonders whether God exists (2016)

39 Replies to “New Scientist: Why atheists think harder than other folk. Huh?

  1. 1
    LocalMinimum says:

    If God designed the human brain, he (or she) did a lousy job. Dogged by glitches and biases, requiring routine shutdown for maintenance for 8 hours a day, and highly susceptible to serious malfunction, a product recall would seem to be in order. But in one respect at least, God played a blinder: our brains are almost perfectly designed to believe in him/her.

    Always like to hear how we can build something we have no means to build even better. Even better is the complete obliviousness to cognitive/process/methodological limits, necessary compromises that describe an optimal process, or even just giving entropy its due. Because if it’s not an invincible, zero latency perpetual motion machine, it’s trash. Keep thinking harder, Graham.

  2. 2
    rvb8 says:

    News,

    “the post modern rise in superstition, and bunkum generally.”

    Correct! Religion like all superstitions tends to grow and flourish in times of uncertainty.

    ‘Bunkum’, and ‘superstition’, are exactly what religion is to me, and fellow atheists, we make absolutely zero distinction.

    Are you suggesting smarter people today are trapped by these follies?

    My answer is simple; they are not ‘smarter’ people.

    Religion is an easy way to view the world and rest your troubles at the feet of a Deity. Atheists don’t have this easy option, and they certainly don’t resort to Tarrow, Star Gazing, or Entrail readings, or organised religion for that matter.

  3. 3
    Mark from CO says:

    I’m not as learned as many of the commenters that respond to articles on this website. But I have been reading many things, atheist and Christian produced. My observation is that more Christians know why they believe what they do than their atheist counterparts. Perhaps it is because Christians are forced to know why they believe by the prevailing secular ethos. Too many atheists seem oblivious to the philosophical proofs and the increasing scientific evidence that raise serious questions about Darwinism and naturalism. I do not intend to point fingers, but RVB8’s post seems to follow this pattern. Perhaps Atheists are so tied to an internal self-rejection of a supernatural being, that they spend too much of their time trying to buttress this hope with ‘scientific’ conclusions that lack evidence (cosmology); are self-refuting logically (philosophical materialism) and are ignorant of scientific discoveries of the last 50 years that has torn away the foundation of Neo-Darwinism and its naturalistic base.

    Mark from CO

  4. 4
    aarceng says:

    It’s amazing how atheists (including NS) think they are smarter than other people; when all along we Christians are the most intelligent.

  5. 5
    polistra says:

    For any type of belief, religious or otherwise, sticking with what you learned in childhood is easier than departing from your ambient.

    If you started in a solid Catholic town and home, atheism requires more thought. If you started in a secular town and home, religious belief takes hard thought.

    I grew up in a secular house in college towns, so my initial easy pattern was atheism. It’s taken me 50 years of “hard thought”, based on scientific learning, to pull away from atheism. I still haven’t made it all the way, and probably won’t ever get there.

  6. 6
    kairosfocus says:

    News, the self-congratulatory tin-ear implied in the remarks that had to pass New Scientist’s editorial board, is astonishing. They really do believe they are the “brights,” and the rest of us are dimwits by contrast. Even while they have manifestly failed major worldviews tests, as Mark aptly pointed out in a nutshell: “Perhaps Atheists are so tied to an internal self-rejection of a supernatural being, that they spend too much of their time trying to buttress this hope with ‘scientific’ conclusions that lack evidence (cosmology); are self-refuting logically (philosophical materialism) and are ignorant of scientific discoveries of the last 50 years that has torn away the foundation of Neo-Darwinism and its naturalistic base.” A real clanger. I would say Dunning-Kreuger, but that over-rated term has in it no advance over Solomon’s 3000 year old observation, wise in their own eyes. KF

  7. 7

    polistra @ 5: Excellent comment. The following is well worth repeating:

    “I grew up in a secular house in college towns, so my initial easy pattern was atheism. It’s taken me 50 years of “hard thought”, based on scientific learning, to pull away from atheism. I still haven’t made it all the way, and probably won’t ever get there.”

    I love to hear stories like that. By the way, it sounds like you are a lot closer to “there” than you may realize.

  8. 8
    critical rationalist says:

    For any type of belief, religious or otherwise, sticking with what you learned in childhood is easier than departing from your ambient.

    Then why am I a non-theist? My parents and sister, along with her family, are all theists.

    I reluctantly go to church with them on the Sunday before Christmas. I hold hands with them when they bless their food. And, if questioned about a the topic of a sermon, I’ll point out where I disagree and present arguments as to why.

    This is not easy. In fact, it’s rather hard.

    Example?

    Supposedly, Yahweh, decided to give land to the Israelites. However part of that land was already occupied. So, we have a problem to solve. But Yahweh is supposedly omniscient, one true God, not the tribal god of the Israelites. Surely, out of all possible options, Yahweh could come up with a good solution to this problem, right?

    What what Yahweh’s solution? Command the Israelites to to kill women, children and even pregnant women using a sword.

    But this is problematic as, apparently, God would have less moral knowledge than we do. Today, we know this causes solders to become desensitized to committing violence against other women and children, including those in their own country and even there own families. It results in PTSD, etc. Solders leave their family due to fear of harming them. Or they turn to drugs because they cannot handle what they did, etc.

    God, also being omnipotent, could have just waved his hand and destroyed them as they arrived. Or destroyed them from afar and projected their deaths in the minds of the Israelites as a lesson of God’s greatness. Or just made them disappear in a painless death, etc. That’s just what I came up with off the top of my head. Even I, a finite being, can come up with better solutions, then what does that say about Yahweh?

    IOW, do you honestly expect me to believe that is the best solution that a perfectly good, all knowing and all powerful being could come up with?

  9. 9

    rvb8 @ 2: Wrong again. Your a/mat faith is actually the easier path… like most simplistic ideas.

  10. 10

    cr @ 8: Because you don’t want to be. Also, I will answer your question with a question. Do you honestly expect me to believe that our universe arose out of nothing by purely natural processes?

    Finally, I am sure having you around is “rather hard” for your family. Goes both ways.

  11. 11
    critical rationalist says:

    Do you honestly expect me to believe that our universe arose out of nothing by purely natural processes?

    And let me answer your question with yet even another question. Do you honestly expect me to believe these two questions are somehow equivalent in any meaningful sense?

    All of our current theories break down at the singularity before the universe. As such, we lack a good theory that can take us before that point in time. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t anything at all before then. Nor does assuming a deity to spark things into existence get you to the Bible or much of anything else, for that matter. Such a deity could have started the whole shebang, then bowed out to let everything take its course.

    So, no, I don’t think that improves the situation at all. It’s unclear how you intuitions about physics, information or knowledge should be even a reasonably reliable assessment of cosmological evolution.

  12. 12
    critical rationalist says:

    Finally, I am sure having you around is “rather hard” for your family. Goes both ways.

    For the most part, we get along great. It’s only if they ask me specific questions or bring up topics that I honestly point out issues, like the one above. Those are not easy conversions to have because they tend not to have thought about them very much. Or, they present canned responses they’ve heard from apologists, etc. Trying to explain the problems with those responses is not easy, either.

    And then there is the fact that many people are essentialists or justificationists and do not realize they hold a parochial view. In fact, those views often include the idea that there are no other views. None of these topic are trivial.

    For example, see: this entry on Essentialism.

  13. 13
    Latemarch says:

    CR@11

    All of our current theories break down at the singularity before the universe. As such, we lack a good theory that can take us before that point in time. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t anything at all before then.

    So we’re either left with an infinite regress or…..

    Nor does assuming a deity to spark things into existence get you to the Bible or much of anything else, for that matter. Such a deity could have started the whole shebang, then bowed out to let everything take its course.

    Deism. No other options allowed? Lot of evidence left on the table.

  14. 14

    CR @ 11: I like this game. Here’s another one:

    Do you honestly expect me to believe that your supposed “anything beyond the singularity” was an impersonal natural process?

  15. 15

    CR @ 12: What exactly is your point about essentialism?

  16. 16
    JDH says:

    rvb8 @2 said

    Religion is an easy way to view the world and rest your troubles at the feet of a Deity.

    Not really. Usually, positing the motivations of your opponents is a bad argument because you make bad assumptions, or incorrect logical steps because you just don’t think like them. For example, I know many, many Christians. I can’t think of a single Christian I know who came to belief in God because they were looking for an explanation of why bad things happen to good people. Actually, this tends to be a reason that atheists give for resisting belief in God.

    OTOH – Atheism (IMHO) is one of the few philosophies I know of that cuts off its own proverbial branch. The simple argument goes like this. Atheism, in its discounting of any higher power (NO GOD), seems to make it necessary that materialism also be posited. (If someone wants to provide a logical presentation where one can posit atheism – and also believe in something beyond the material, please post it). Once materialism is posited, there is no way that an atheist has the free will to decide to observe and conclude. Atheism stays a minority because it is a logically incoherent position. It must be false to be true and vice-versa.

  17. 17
    JDH says:

    critical rationalist said…

    But this is problematic as, apparently, God would have less moral knowledge than we do. Today, we know this causes solders to become desensitized to committing violence against other women and children, including those in their own country and even there own families. It results in PTSD, etc. Solders leave their family due to fear of harming them. Or they turn to drugs because they cannot handle what they did, etc.

    Are you really this arrogant? You purport to know that the wiping out of the Canaanites is bad because we “modern people” have increased in our moral intelligence so much because we NOW know that war causes PTSD — to me, that is an extremely odd idea. It makes it difficult to have a serious discussion when I see people posit what I believe are outrageous ideas. If you want to have a real discussion, please do not begin with the idea how modern man has increased so much in moral strength and character. Although our technological advance has made it easier to preserve individual life, (which may cause some (IMHO deluded) individuals to believe we are more moral), it is my opinion that history shows we have increased greatly in mass killings and government sponsorship of great evil.

    We can have a real interesting discussion on the problem of why God found it necessary to wipe out the Canaanite civilization. PTSD is not the argument I would find convincing.

  18. 18
    critical rationalist says:

    Once materialism is posited, there is no way that an atheist has the free will to decide to observe and conclude. Atheism stays a minority because it is a logically incoherent position. It must be false to be true and vice-versa.

    This is parochial as it assumes there can only be one kind of free will. Namely, that which is completely immune from the laws of physics.

    [sarcasm]Obviously, no one has presented anything remotely like that. And if they had you would have carefully read it and analyzed it.[/sarcasm]

  19. 19
    rvb8 says:

    News in the article mocked growing belief in new age beliefs and practices, in ‘bunkum’, and ‘superstition’, as proof ‘university types’ are crackpots.

    I pointed out atheists agree with her, we know that any faith or belief in forces not strictly, ‘natural’ is absurd.

    The main reason is that both sets of, ‘knowing’ require unsubstantiated faith, and in both cases pointless, ritual, meditation and prayer.

    That is all. I was simply restating the atheist position.

  20. 20
    rvb8 says:

    JDH @16,

    it is impossible to describe atheism as a religion, as some religious people have attempted, pointing to certain prophets (Darwin etc), and their holy books. This is because atheism is the negation of religion.

    But you suggest it is a philosophy. As an atheist I also have a distaste for philosophy, less so than religion, because some past philosophy still holds true for our lives today.

    You will say the teachings of many religious prophets of the past very often still hold, ‘true for today.’ (Mohummed, Budha, Moses, Jesus etc).

    I agree!But I don’t view these as divine interpreters, but purely as moral philosophers.

    Working with their limited knowledge they very often came up with sophisticated codes of morality; that is all!

    Now, atheism as philosophy? I’m not sure what atheism teaches. I know you are sure; death, nihlism, abortion, animal nature, inhumanity etc, etc.

    But I think atheism is at its root merely the logical rejection of the supernatural as an answer to absolutely anything.

    If that is a philosophy, then yes, I suppose atheism is a philosophy.

    As a ‘philosophy’, atheism says: “Do not look to any deity, faith, supernatural intervention, spirits, or prayer to solve the problems of humanity; instead look to our only hope, humanity itself.”

    If that is a philosophical position then I can go along with that.

  21. 21
    critical rationalist says:

    You purport to know that the wiping out of the Canaanites is bad because we “modern people” have increased in our moral intelligence so much because we NOW know that war causes PTSD — to me, that is an extremely odd idea.

    What’s odd is that isn’t what I wrote. I didn’t say anything about “bad”.

    I’m simply trying to take the claim seriously, that Yahweh was the one true omniscient and omnipotent God, as opposed to a tribal god of the Israelites, and that all observations should adhere to it.

    Again, there was a problem to be solved. Namely, Yahweh promised the Israelites land which was currently occupied. And possibly, he wanted to show his power to the Israelites. What was his solution?

    What I’m expected to believe is that out of all options available to him, Yahweh would choose putting his people on the ground and having them actually kill the Canaanite people, including children and pregnant women, by the sword.

    Nor am I just referring to PTSD due to any kind of combat, although that is significant in and of itself. I’m referring to killing civilians. That, in particular, is extremely problematic, in that it desensitizes soldiers to violence against women and children. Even when they return home to their own communities and families.

    This puts the Israelite people at risk. Especially since their numbers were so small. This has nothing to do with “Bad” or “Good”. It’s just factual knowledge.

    It makes it difficult to have a serious discussion when I see people posit what I believe are outrageous ideas. If you want to have a real discussion, please do not begin with the idea how modern man has increased so much in moral strength and character.

    Again, it’s unclear as to what is so outrageous about referring to relatively recent moral knowledge. Namely, the effect of putting people on the ground, having them look women and children in the eyes and kill them with a sword. This has nothing to do with moral strength or character, which is rather vague in this sense.

    Although our technological advance has made it easier to preserve individual life, (which may cause some (IMHO deluded) individuals to believe we are more moral), it is my opinion that history shows we have increased greatly in mass killings and government sponsorship of great evil.

    Except, we’re not supposedly omniscient and omnipotent beings. Solutions to our problems are likely to be rather poor. We have significantly fewer options and resources. Even if there are better ways to make due with what we have, we don’t know about them yet.

    Knowledge is key to resolving these situations. Unless something is prohibited by the laws of physics, the only thing preventing us from doing so is knowing how. Of course, in the case of Yahweh, he doesn’t need to worry about the laws of physics, either!

    Yet, Yahweh, seems to pick solutions that reflects a similar lack of knowledge and resources as human beings at the time. That’s what seems odd.

    IOW, it’s unclear why I should be able to come up with better solutions to moral problems that Yahweh, given what we know now.

    We can have a real interesting discussion on the problem of why God found it necessary to wipe out the Canaanite civilization. PTSD is not the argument I would find convincing.

    I’m being generous and assuming Yahweh did need to wipe out the Canaanite civilization, instead of say, relocating them. Or making them think they lived somewhere else so they moved by themselves, etc. Again, it’s unclear why you think Yahweh is so small that he couldn’t have figured out some other option than wiping them out.

    For the sake of argument, let’s assume there actually was no other option. Why did Yahweh make the Israelites actually kill them face to face with their own swords?

    Why is your God so small that he couldn’t have figured out some other option? Do you actually think that is the best solution the most perfectly good all knowing and all powerful being could come up with given the problem at had?

    Really?

  22. 22
    ET says:

    it is impossible to describe atheism as a religion,

    Court Rules Atheism a Religion

    This is because atheism is the negation of religion.

    Wrong- atheism is just believing there isn’t a God/ aren’t any gods.

  23. 23
    ET says:

    OK, OK, I think I’ve got it-

    Atheists think harder because they need more just-so stories to try to make their position coherent. 😎

  24. 24
    JDH says:

    Hi Critical Rationalist –

    Let me be clear where I stand. I find your thinking immature and arrogant. You THINK in your mind that you are able to come up with better solutions than YAHWEH – and this proves to YOU in YOUR mind that there is no GOD because YOU have such moral clarity.

    I can come up with multiple arguments why I think your solutions are not better than God’s solution. I don’t think you would listen. The point is I don’t think your reasoning is particularly impressive. Here in my thinking is your rather, and I apologize for the prerogative here, childish argument. Please revise it if I have it wrong.

    1. You assume you know God’s particular motivation – He wants to give the land of Canaan to Israel.
    2. You assume that to accomplish this purpose – not any other purpose – he can only find the solution of having the Israelites kill all the Canaanites.
    3. You then put your high and mighty self into the same position and propose other solutions you would think better if you were God.
    4. Since you feel, you as a modern human, have shown you could have made much better decisions (if you had the knowledge and power of God), it must be true that there really is no God.

    I have seen this type of argument countless times and it always makes me cringe.

    In the case of God it goes something like this…

    As a man, I propose that I know the purpose of God in a Bible story. (I don’t consult any competent theologians, I assume that I KNOW the purpose of God.)

    As a man, I evaluate how God Acts according to my understanding.

    As a man, I find Gods method and actions lacking in some way..

    As a man, I conclude then that there is no God.

    It is the type of argument that may impress other non-believers, but will not hold water with anyone who has studied God and has a deep relationship with him.

    My purpose here is not to win a stupid argument on a blog. My purpose is to help you maybe see your own arrogance which is keeping you from finding God. He is so much deeper than you see. I feel sorry for you. Would like to hear a response.

  25. 25

    JDH @ 24 to Critical Rationalist: “Let me be clear where I stand. I find your thinking immature and arrogant.”

    Don’t be too hard on the poor soul. He doesn’t know any better.

  26. 26

    ET @ 22: Thanks for sharing that link. A/mats are some of the most religious and dogmatic people I know, and now I have a court decision to reference when some smug a/mat whines that “atheism is not a religion.”

  27. 27
    JDH says:

    TWSYF @ 25 – Thanks for the comment. I am trying to understand how to talk to atheists that would actually move them closer to God. Too much of what I see online is people talking past each other. I really do feel sorry for people who put forth (what I consider) extremely flawed arguments, and yet stand behind them. I am hoping that I can learn how to be effective at hopefully reaching some. It seems like many of them have a multitude of really bad arguments keeping them from seeing the light.

  28. 28
    EDTA says:

    CR @ 8,

    Just to add a little bit to what JDH said: To make the general sort of argument you are trying to make, you have to add a number of assumptions that you don’t state explicitly:

    – That you fully know God’s motivation(s),

    – That you fully know God’s goal(s),

    – That you fully know any constraints He may be operating under (perhaps constraints of His own choice even). (For instance, having committed to making a physical universe, perhaps there are constraints we are not aware of that come along with such a choice.)

    Knowing those things might require knowing things that we don’t currently know, but could find out somehow. It might also include knowing things that we are not even capable of comprehending. But we can’t know that there aren’t things we can’t comprehend.

    If you can formulate an argument that starts by justifying those additional premises however, then I will consider it.

  29. 29
    JDH says:

    rvb8 @20 said…

    But I think atheism is at its root merely the logical rejection of the supernatural as an answer to absolutely anything.

    I have a problem with your statement.

    I will admit that it would be absurd to propose the supernatural as the answer to everything. So I don’t think you really meant exactly what you said.

    Atheism is much more narrow than you present it… It does not logically reject the supernatural as an answer to absolutely anything.

    What it does is it BY FAITH conclude is that there is NOTHING in the world that NEEDS the intervention of the supernatural.

    Therefore atheism concludes that there is no intervention of the supernatural necessary for…

    1. The creation of the finely-tuned universe..
    2. The creation of the earth.
    3. The creation of animals.
    4. The creation of mankind.
    5. The endowment of mankind with conscious thought.
    6. The demonstrated evidence of free will in humans.
    7. The demonstrated evidence of man as a moral creature able to pass judgments.

    I can accept that you think BY FAITH and FAITH alone that it is not necessary for there to be a God to bring about the above 7 observable facts. But you must correctly label it as a leap of FAITH. It is certainly not logical. It is much more rational and logical to believe that the above observations are the result of a supernatural power.

    It is logically incoherent to believe they arose without the intervention of a creator. You, as a human endowed with a will can make that illogical step to believe that. But please don’t call it LOGICAL.

  30. 30
    kairosfocus says:

    CR, if our thoughts and actions are wholly determined by blind chance and/or mechanical necessity acting on a material substrate, not even reason itself survives the impact of the loss or responsible rational freedom. As Haldane pointed out decades ago:

    “It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter.” [“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209.]

    The self-referential incoherence (and thence, self-falsification) of evolutionary materialism is plain for all to see.

    KF

  31. 31
    Seversky says:

    ET @ 22

    Court Rules Atheism a Religion

    No, it does not.

    A recent federal district court decision holding that Secular Humanist prisoners are entitled to organize a discussion groups focused on their beliefs on the same terms as theistic prisoners is easily misunderstood as relying on the conclusion that Secular Humanism is a religion. The judge did indeed note in his ruling that “[t]he court finds that Secular Humanism is a religion for Establishment Clause purposes.” However, at another point in the decision, he also wrote that “the touchstone of the Establishment Clause was ‘the principle that the First Amendment mandates government neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion.‘[McCreary County v. ACLU], 545 U.S. 844, 860 (2005) (emphasis added). Thus, whether Humanism is a religion or a nonreligion, the Establishment Clause applies.” Just as the Establishment Clause protects Christian or Muslim prisoners who wish to hold a discussion group where they promote belief in God, so it also protects Secular Humanists or atheists who want to promote the opposite view

    Truth Will Set You Free @ 26

    ET @ 22: Thanks for sharing that link. A/mats are some of the most religious and dogmatic people I know, and now I have a court decision to reference when some smug a/mat whines that “atheism is not a religion.”

    No, you don’t.

    Some of the previous coverage of the district court decision seems to conflate Secular Humanism and atheism. In reality, many, perhaps most, atheists do not consider themselves to be Secular Humanists (myself included). And a few self-described Secular Humanists are theists. Atheism is simply rejection of the existence of deities, and is potentially compatible with a wide range of different views on moral issues. Secular Humanism has many variants, but is usually interpreted as a broader ethical theory that includes components that go beyond taking a position on the existence or nonexistence of deities.

    Be that as it may, the same legal principles that protect Secular Humanists and conventional religious believers also protect atheists. In my view, atheism is not a religion in the conventional sense of the word. I think this is also true of most, though possibly not all, variants of Secular Humanism. But, as far as the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment is concerned, it does not matter whether atheism, Secular Humanism, or any other belief system that takes positions on religious issues is actually a “religion” or not. People who reject religion, or are simply indifferent to it, can still be discriminated on the basis of their beliefs about religious questions or lack thereof.

  32. 32
    critical rationalist says:

    @JDH

    I find your thinking immature and arrogant. You THINK in your mind that you are able to come up with better solutions than YAHWEH – and this proves to YOU in YOUR mind that there is no GOD because YOU have such moral clarity.

    Again, this is not my argument. I don’t know why you keep assuming this is the case.

    First, I do not think we can positively prove anything with evidence, let alone that there is no God. Second, I’m not taking about having moral clarity, or whatever that means. I’m referring to moral knowledge that we draw on to make choices about what actions we should take when faced with concrete moral problems. However, it not clear that you think there is such a thing as a concrete moral problem.

    Example?

    I can come up with multiple arguments why I think your solutions are not better than God’s solution. I don’t think you would listen.

    I don’t think my solutions are all that great. Nor do they have to be. I don’t have to be a moral genius to make my point. If you think they are not better, then why don’t you present your arguments? What does my listening have to do with it?

    Here in my thinking is your rather, and I apologize for the prerogative here, childish argument. Please revise it if I have it wrong.

    1. You assume you know God’s particular motivation – He wants to give the land of Canaan to Israel.

    The conflict in the middle east is over this claim that God promised land to Israel. This includes land that is known today as Palestine. Are you suggesting this conflict is actually based on some other belief?

    2. You assume that to accomplish this purpose – not any other purpose – he can only find the solution of having the Israelites kill all the Canaanites.

    I wrote:

    Again, there was a problem to be solved. Namely, Yahweh promised the Israelites land which was currently occupied. And possibly, he wanted to show his power to the Israelites.

    Go ahead and add punishment of the Canaanites too if you like. This wouldn’t change my argument in the least.

    3. You then put your high and mighty self into the same position and propose other solutions you would think better if you were God.

    I wonder if we’re reading the same comment. I didn’t merely say “better”. Nor did I claim to know better than God. Rather I said that if God knew even what we finite beings knew today, it’s unclear why he would make that specific choice given other options he would have at his disposal. That choice was worse than even ones that I could come up with, which are in no way supposed to be the best possible solution. God seems to be making choices that correlate with what we human beings didn’t know back then. God’s morality seems to have evolved in step with our morality.

    4. Since you feel, you as a modern human, have shown you could have made much better decisions (if you had the knowledge and power of God), it must be true that there really is no God.

    Again, unless something is prohibited by the laws of physics, the only thing that would prevent human beings from solving our problems is knowing how. That includes the Israelites in the distant past. This has everything to do with possessing moral knowledge, not being a “modern human”, whatever that means.

    None of the solutions I presented need to be that much better. I do not claim to be some great source of moral knowledge. I’m referring to decisions we might have made if we had more knowledge.

    Nor am I under any theological commitment that either the entire Christian Bible is true or it is entirely false.

    I have seen this type of argument countless times and it always makes me cringe.

    In the case of God it goes something like this…

    As a man, I propose that I know the purpose of God in a Bible story. (I don’t consult any competent theologians, I assume that I KNOW the purpose of God.)

    As a man, I evaluate how God Acts according to my understanding.

    As a man, I find Gods method and actions lacking in some way..

    As a man, I conclude then that there is no God.

    It is the type of argument that may impress other non-believers, but will not hold water with anyone who has studied God and has a deep relationship with him.

    I’ve argued that it’s unclear how anyone can infallibly identify an infallible source about what actions God took, what values or duties we should adhere to, etc. Even then, It’s unclear how anyone could infallibly interpret such a source, even if they managed to identify one In the first place.

    IOW, human reasoning and problem solving always comes first. From this article… (bold emphasis mine)

    So, there you were, visiting the Vatican and you took a wrong turn and found yourself witnessing the pope as he solemnly declared that there is no force of gravity. You happened to have purchased, from the souvenir shop, a checklist of the official requirements for a declaration to count as ex cathedra, and you took the trouble to verify that each one was met. None of this constitutes direct observation of what you need to know. Did you observe infallibly that it was the pope? Did you do a DNA test? Can you be certain that souvenir checklists never contain typos? And how is your church Latin? Was your translation of the crucial phrase “no force of gravity” infallible? Have you never mistranslated anything?

    The fact is, there’s nothing infallible about “direct experience” either. Indeed, experience is never direct. It is a sort of virtual reality, created by our brains using sketchy and flawed sensory clues, given substance only by fallible expectations, explanations, and interpretations. Those can easily be more mistaken than the testimony of the passing hobo. If you doubt this, look at the work of psychologists Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, and verify by direct experience the fallibility of your own direct experience. Furthermore, the idea that your reminiscences are infallible is also heresy by the very doctrine that you are faithful to.

    I’ll tell you what really happened. You witnessed a dress rehearsal. The real ex cathedra ceremony was on the following day. In order not to make the declaration a day early, they substituted for the real text (which was about some arcane theological issue, not gravity) a lorem-ipsum-type placeholder that they deemed so absurd that any serious listener would immediately realize that that’s what it was.

    And indeed, you did realize this; and as a result, you reinterpreted your “direct experience,” which was identical to that of witnessing an ex cathedra declaration, as not being one. Precisely by reasoning that the content of the declaration was absurd, you concluded that you didn’t have to believe it. Which is also what you would have done if you hadn’t believed the infallibility doctrine.

    You remain a believer, serious about giving your faith absolute priority over your own “unaided” reason (as reason is called in these contexts). But that very seriousness has forced you to decide first on the substance of the issue, using reason, and only then whether to defer to the infallible authority. This is neither fluke nor paradox. It is simply that if you take ideas seriously, there is no escape, even in dogma and faith, from the obligation to use reason and to give it priority over dogma, faith, and obedience.

    The real pope is unlikely to make an ex cathedra statement about gravity, and therefore you may be lucky enough never to encounter this particular case of the dilemma. Also, the real pope doesn’t just pull ex cathedra statements out of a hat. They’re hammered out by a team of expert advisors trying their best to weed out mistakes, a process structurally not unlike peer review. But if your faith in papal infallibility depends on reassuring yourself of things like that, then that just goes to show that for you, reason takes priority over faith.

    It is hard to contain reason within bounds. If you take your faith sufficiently seriously you may realize that it is not only the printers who are fallible in stating the rules for ex cathedra, but also the committee that wrote down those rules. And then that nothing can infallibly tell you what is infallible, nor what is probable. It is precisely because you, being fallible and having no infallible access to the infallible authority, no infallible way of interpreting what the authority means, and no infallible means of identifying an infallible authority in the first place, that infallibility cannot help you before reason has had its say.

    My point being, you have to employ your human reasoning and problem solving and that comes first. You just do not seem to realize this is the case. The idea that your in some better position is, how did you say it? Ahh, yes. “immature and arrogant.”

    As human beings, theologians propose they know the purpose of God in a Bible story.

    You, as a human being, evaluate how God Acts according to your understanding.

    As a human being, you find God’s method and actions as described in other holy books lacking in some way.

    As a human being, you conclude there is a God.

    In all of those cases human reasoning and problem solving comes first.

  33. 33
    kairosfocus says:

    Seversky, there is no reasonable doubt that evolutionary materialistic scientism is the substantial equivalent of a religion. Of course, that requires recognising that religions are not synonymous with theistic religions. There has been a lot of legal fancy footwork to play a double-standard game to restrict Judaeo-Christian theism from influence in especially the US, even while evolutionary materialistic scientism has increasingly influenced key governance institutions to the point of patently becoming a de facto radically secularist humanist establishment. The consequences the US framers sought to avert when they put in place the first amendment to the US Constitution, are the increasingly obvious direct consequences of the de facto imposition of the anti-church of evolutionary materialistic scientism and associated radically secular humanism. The Amendment sought to block the creation of a unified federal landeskirk, and modified the 1648 Westphalia principle to republican circumstances, i.e. it implied that at local level the people could have an established church, but dissenters — who had pressed for the amendments — were to be free and protected. At the time I believe there were nine of thirteen states with such locally established churches. In that pursuit, freedom of expression (especially the press), association and petition were grounded as protections and classic expressions of religious faith. Shortly thereafter, the Congress set out to fund and support missionaries to Indian tribes in the Northwest Ordinance, and they published Bibles. The very buildings they met in would serve as churches for many years up to the time of the US Civil War or thereabouts. And of course the framework of the Constitution as a grand statement sets out a clear Christian context, setting out to secure the blessings of liberty [cf the Congressional calls to prayer during the period of the revolution, esp that of 1776 and that of 1779], and declaring that this was done in the year of our Lord 1787. The last directly echoes Rom 1:1 – 5, i.e. it implies the living power of the risen exalted Christ. Which, BTW is an obvious part of the reason for the attempt to substitute CE for “Common Era” by the subterfuge of suppressing just what era this common era is: the Christian Era. Further to this, the speaking of the twelfth year of independence points to the delivery of the promise in the 2nd para of the US DoI, which is in fact demonstrably and specifically Christian in roots [esp. cf. Duplesis-Mornay, Vindicae 1579 and the Dutch DoI of 1581], using the double covenant view of nationhood and government under God, with the right to appeal to heaven for the defence of resistance to tyranny. Much more can be said. KF

  34. 34

    Seversky @ 31: What percentage of secular humanists consider themselves atheists? My guess is something close to 100%. What is your guess?

  35. 35
    Axel says:

    c & r @ 8

    How on earth can you expect to understand he mind of God. Einstein wanted to, in terms of the physical universe, but that’s another matter.

    Watch this YouTube video-clip from 1.20 to around 1.25.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fe08-NUTqTc

    It concerns a Q&A session with a young Jewish lad from a secular family, who had had a NDE a few days before, and went to the rabbi sitting next to him, who is apprently an expert in such matters – not necessarily NDEs, but eschatological.

    The answer to your question, however, God has given to us. It is basically a function of the Fall, the results of which we have inherited, as if a disease. The only way to grasp in some measure the extremities of suffering to which we are prey in this life, is from the viewpoint of eternity, and our eternal life as an adopted member of the Holy Trinity;
    and to understand that ‘grace builds upon nature’, very slowly, and in large part, via our sufferings.

    In the Gospels, we learn that, in the fulness of his humanity, Christ, himself, learned through suffering. He learnt experientially, as we do. He rarely called upon his fully-divine nature, and when he did, it was for our sakes; indeed, he rarely revealed the fulness of his divine power, other than to his closest disciples.

    . But that will nt satify you, nor other atheists.

  36. 36

    Axel @ 35: Good comment. Thank you for posting the video.

  37. 37
    ET says:

    Seversky- There isn’t anything in your link that refutes what I said. Atheism is a faith thing- it is all faith. And in that sense it is religion

  38. 38
    Axel says:

    Thank you, TWSYF. Glad you enjoyed it. I loved that passage: the wonderful, quirky, ironic sense of humour of the rabbi; especially the reference to the creature who was 5’7″ tall … for personal reasons ! But the whole video was fascinating.

    By the way, the third judge, whose name the lad initially didn’t remember, but did recognise his name, when prompted, was I believe an especially respected, even revered, centenarian rabbi, who died a few years ago. A massive turnout for his funeral. Well, he left a message, not to be open for a certain period of time. 2 or 3 years, I think.

    When it was opened, they found the message read that Jesus Christ was/is the Messiah. Otherwise, I found it as compelling as a Christian might expect – which is no disparagement. It is clear from other NDEs that Jesus keeps his own counsel regarding the right denomination, etc. and does not divulge much more than to love our fellow human beings. I expect it is understood that having experienced so much of God’s love, by our standards, it went without saying that they would seek the best way to worship him in prayer, etc. It is after all out intentions, the disposition of our heart that means everything to God. Sounds antinomian I know, but I am a very keen Catholic, while aware of the distortions it has suffered.

  39. 39
    Axel says:

    Incidentally, I meant to say, ‘And less of the 5’7″, if you don’t mind !’ Or words to that effect.

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