The Scientific Method applied to Religion


Baumgardner, in quoting Frank Wolfs, boils the scientific method down to the four following essentials:1

  1. Observation and description of a phenomenon or group of phenomena.
  2. Formulation of a hypothesis to explain the phenomena. (In physics, the hypothesis often takes the form of a mathematical relationship.)
  3. Use of the hypothesis to predict other phenomena or to predict quantitatively the results of new observations.
  4. Performance of experimental tests of the predictions by several independent experimenters.

Wolfs explains, “No matter how elegant a theory is, its predictions must agree with experimental results if we are to believe that it is a valid description of nature. In physics, as in every experimental science, ‘experiment is supreme’ and experimental verification of hypothetical predictions is absolutely necessary.”1

Similarly, Atheist Ethicist explains “The way science works, a scientist can’t just shout out that [s]he knows something. She has to say why she thinks she knows something, and then wait for somebody else to confirm the findings.

Some say that the scientific method is a superior form of attaining any meaningful knowledge and that all others are to be discarded. However, Inasmuch as the scientific method requires independent verification, it is inadequate in matters of religion.

All the life and power of true religion consists in the inward and full persuasion of the mind. Religion itself is made of two components: a profession of faith toward God and an outward form of worship. If we are not fully persuaded in our own minds that our faith is true and our form of worship is well-pleasing, we are conducting an exercise in hypocrisy and adding to our list of offenses toward God. This being the nature of religion, the only force that can be used therein is not force at all, but admonishments, exhortations, arguments, and advice.

To require the truth of religion to hinge upon independent verification conducted by another person is to leave the care of your soul, indeed its very salvation, to a person who does not have as vested an interested in your salvation as you have. The mere position of an outside observer does not yield more insight into other men’s faith or worship. These things ought every man to sincerely inquire himself with due diligence, search, study, and meditation. We are all equal in nature concerning these things and no man has been placed above another.

But, let us grant for the moment that the person independently verifying another man’s faith is seeking only that man’s good and has attained superior knowledge. Even then we are in no better position. A government official who shows me the best way to conduct a business, may, upon my failure, shore up my losses and provide security for me. But, there is no security for the life to come that can be given by another man. It is not within another man’s power to ease my loss, or prevent my suffering, or restore me in some measure. That is a matter between God and myself.  The Kingdom of God is in the hearts of men (Luke 17:21) and therefore no man, who’s only real jurisdiction is in the physical world, can affect a better care than I of my soul by use of superior knowledge, or outward force, or coercion.

The failure of the scientific method in attaining any efficacious change in the full persuasion of one’s mind in matters of religion, renders pointless the need for proofs or evidence to be submitted to anyone for scrutiny. Every private man’s search and study discovers the truth of the matter unto himself. Indeed, the man to whom the proofs or evidence must be supplied will have his hands full making his own salvation sure. It would be even more treacherous for a man who cares for his soul to submit evidence for scrutiny to someone who has a complete lack of care for his own soul. An atheist is a very poor man indeed to receive advice from on matters of religion.

Therefore, let us leave aside the scientific method in matters of religion and reach toward God in faith and in the full persuasion of the mind.

1. Wolfs, F. 1996. Introduction to the scientific method. Physics Laboratory Experiments, Appendix E, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Rochester

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49 thoughts on “The Scientific Method applied to Religion

  1. In consideration of the conclusion: “An atheist is a very poor man indeed to receive advice on matters of religion.” I wonder if you might also say: A theist is a very poor man indeed to receive advice on science? Therefore, let us leave aside the religious method in matters of science and reach towards truth with evidence in the full persuasion of the mind.

    1. Wapitisriversedge,

      You countered, “A theist is a very poor man indeed to receive advice [from] on science.”
      However, for this to be an accurate comparison, your statement should have been phrased as follows, “A theist is a very poor man indeed to receive advice from concerning lack of religion.” But, as you have inserted the word “science”, I assume you find a lack of religion equivalent to an exaltation of science, specifically scientism. Scientism is the view that we should believe only what can be proven scientifically. Science, therefore, is the only source of knowledge and the only way to truth. However, if we should not believe any proposition that cannot be proven scientifically, then we cannot believe scientism’s proposition since the proposition itself cannot be proven scientifically. No one can independently verify whether this worldview is true or not, and it is not in danger of being disproved since (1) the proponents of this worldview do not use other methods of attaining truth whereby they might disprove their own view and (2) the proponents of this view are generally inclined to think that anyone else who thinks differently from them is ignorant and irrational. But, as you can see, scientism fails to uphold itself and does not need anyone else to disprove it.

      1. Scientism, in the strong sense, is the self-annihilating view that only scientific claims are meaningful, which is not a scientific claim and hence, if true, not meaningful. Thus, scientism is either false or meaningless. This is the way you are trying to use the term, as many apologists like Haught and Polkingham and Craig and so many others do, pretending that this is the necessary faith-based starting position people who do not respect theology’s positional claims about reality assume. But we supporters of science use the weak sense of term, the broad view that the methods of the natural sciences and its single epistemology allows only reality to arbitrate what’s claimed to be true about it.

  2. The scientific method is rightly applicable to any and all claims made about reality regardless of the motivation of anyone making the claims and is intended to inform the questions Is it true, and how do I know? with something more than made-up answers. Because those who are religiously inspired to make claims about reality wish to pretend these questions can be adequately and sufficiently answered with “Because I believe it is so,” we know that these claims have no basis in reality but are simply imposed upon it. We know this method of imposing a belief on reality doesn’t yield trustworthy knowledge. (Over 80% of us believe we are above average drivers.) It seems it falls to non believers to point out why this failure to produce reliable knowledge relegates religious beliefs about reality to be equivalent in all ways to irrelevant self-aggrandized delusion.

    Religious claims about reality that admit no need for evidence from reality to validate them can equally and rightly be dismissed as nonsense (that there are so many competing religiously inspired truth claims is a clear indication that belief alone is an inadequate method of inquiry to yield knowledge). Believe what you want, in others words, but don’t try to pretend your beliefs about reality are true or worthy of any kind of respect from anyone concerned about what’s true of reality until and unless you can inform those beliefs with good evidence from reality. The inadequacy inherent in religious truth claims is not a good reason to pretend it is some ‘other’ way of knowing anything about anything other than what they are: claims of what’s true divorced from reality.

    The scientific method works to produce reliable and consistent knowledge that works for everyone everywhere all the time. Of course such spectacular results will be held to be inadequate from the religious viewpoint because religion simply cannot compete. Hence the need for secret handshakes to pretend it is the way to gain special access to special knowledge about special places outside of reality. Nevertheless, religiously inspired truth claims about this reality we share are exposed through honest inquiry to be empty of producing any similar kind of knowledge about reality revealed by the method of inquiry we call science. The fault for religion’s abject failure to produce reliable knowledge doesn’t lie with anything lacking in the scientific method; it lies with the uncomfortable fact that imposing belief on reality produces no knowledge. Truth claims made under the religious umbrella about reality, then, are not worthy of deserving of exemption from legitimate and sustained criticism of its wholly inadequate method of inquiry.

    1. Tildeb,

      You said, “The scientific method is rightly applicable to any and all claims made about reality.”
      This is simply not true and you can see it in your own life. In your statement, I detect an implicit decree, “There shall only ever be one explanatory slot for anything requiring an explanation. However, almost everything in life admits of a plurality of explanations. If you come to my house and see a pot of water boiling on the stove, you may rightly ask me why the water is boiling. One explanation is that the water molecules are moving around excitedly and getting ready to go from a liquid state to a gaseous state. And, you could spend a considerable amount of time investigating what goes on at that level. A second explanation of the boiling water is because I turned the stove on. But still a third explanation is that I want some tea. The scientific method holds the first explanation rightly and firmly within its jurisdiction and is completely adequate to discover and expand upon similar types of explanations. However, it has only the tiniest grasp of the second explanation and can only make inferences to these types of causal events (similar to the cause of the universe). Furthermore, it holds no grasp whatsoever upon the third explanation. Apply the scientific method to its fullest and still you will never come to the explanation that I wanted some tea.

      The real conflict here lies in the fact that you think your first explanation of the excited water molecules replaces the third explanation of “I want tea”. But, this not the case. These are not contradictory explanations. They are layered and complimentary. You cannot even apply Occam’s Razor to this because Occam’s razor applies only to competing explanations, not complimentary ones. Therefore, the scientific method is not applicable to any and all claims about reality.

      1. You’re trying to pull a bait and switch here, Daniel with your tea analogy, switching effortlessly to the notion that I am claiming only scientific claims are meaningful. This is not a scientific claim! And it is not my position at all.

        What I’m saying is that the methods of the natural sciences and its single epistemology allows reality to arbitrate what’s claimed to be true about it rather than faith claims imposed upon it. In this sense, this method of honest inquiry – honest in the sense that reality rather than faith determines what’s true – should be applied to any subject matter that can yield satisfactory and reliable natural explanations for phenomena. Furthermore, the incompatibility of any epistemology that allows for faith claims to be equivalent in truth value is shown to be so when we gain no further knowledge from inquiries that include supernatural and paranormal speculations equivalent to made up stuff… speculations which have a very long and ‘rich’ theological history of claims about reality being startlingly inaccurate, unnecessary in complexity, untrustworthy in results, and claims assumed to be true but without any means for independent verification. The ‘explanatory monism’ Coyne uses is not a similar epistemology of the kind that informs faith-based beliefs – based on imposing a similar these faith-based beliefs on reality as Haught would have us believe – but one that is founded on a method of inquiry that extracts evidence from reality to inform truth claims made about it. This is why the epistemological differences between science and faith are insurmountable because they are in direct epistemological competition.

      2. My idiotic answer to this is: Wow! What an awesome explanation of the failure of the scientific method to explain that you wanted some tea! Love it. Thanks. Carley

  3. I’m so glad your post scrolled up during my tag surf for philosophy!

    Great point you make about the effect on religious experience of applying the scientific requirement of independent verification by other minds – I agree that can lead to coercion (I would say even tyranny). Has anyone else made that point explicit? I don’t see Baumgardner or Wolfs mentioning it. Nice job.

    Anyway thanks again for the post – and the blog – an occasion for reflection this morning.

    1. John,

      No one I know has made that point explicitly. John Locke made a similar argument applied to the civil magistrate, which is a kind of independent verification in itself. I’m happy to provide food for thought.

  4. Therefore, let us leave aside the scientific method in matters of religion and reach toward God in faith and in the full persuasion of the mind.

    Therefore, let us leave aside the scientific method in matters of religion and reach toward Baal in faith and in the full persuasion of the mind.

    Therefore, let us leave aside the scientific method in matters of religion and reach toward Santa in faith and in the full persuasion of the mind.

    Therefore, let us leave aside the scientific method in matters of religion and reach toward The Flying Spaghetti Monster in faith and in the full persuasion of the mind.

    Therefore, let us leave aside the scientific method in matters of religion and reach toward Odin in faith and in the full persuasion of the mind.
    (shrug)

    “That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”
    ― Christopher Hitchens

    1. Cedric,

      Let me suffice it to say, that if I am persuaded in my mind of faith toward God, I cannot be equally persuaded of faith in Baal, Santa, Odin, or FSM. For that would mean that I was not really fully persuaded of the first. Just because you cannot tell a difference between them does not mean I cannot tell a difference between them. Furthermore, since this is a matter between God and I, I am not beholden to you in the least to doubt that which I am already convinced of. You bump up against a few things here, not the least of which is the self-authenticating witness of God himself in my heart and soul. And again, why should I trust the words of a man who cannot really care for my soul since he believes he does not have one to care for in the first place?

  5. You are just not getting it.

    Let me suffice it to say, that if I am persuaded in my mind of faith toward Baal, I cannot be equally persuaded of faith in Santa, Odin, or FSM. For that would mean that I was not really fully persuaded of the first. Just because you cannot tell a difference between them does not mean I cannot tell a difference between them. Furthermore, since this is a matter between Baal and I, I am not beholden to you in the least to doubt that which I am already convinced of. You bump up against a few things here, not the least of which is the self-authenticating witness of Baal himself in my heart and soul. And again, why should I trust the words of a man who cannot really care for my soul since he believes he does not have one to care for in the first place?

    Let me suffice it to say, that if I am persuaded in my mind of faith toward Santa, I cannot be equally persuaded of faith in Baal, Odin, or FSM. For that would mean that I was not really fully persuaded of the first. Just because you cannot tell a difference between them does not mean I cannot tell a difference between them. Furthermore, since this is a matter between Santa and I, I am not beholden to you in the least to doubt that which I am already convinced of. You bump up against a few things here, not the least of which is the self-authenticating witness of Santa himself in my heart and soul. And again, why should I trust the words of a man who cannot really care for my soul since he believes he does not have one to care for in the first place?

    Let me suffice it to say, that if I am persuaded in my mind of faith toward Vishnu, I cannot be equally persuaded of faith in Baal, Odin, or FSM. For that would mean that I was not really fully persuaded of the first. Just because you cannot tell a difference between them does not mean I cannot tell a difference between them. Furthermore, since this is a matter between Vishnu and I, I am not beholden to you in the least to doubt that which I am already convinced of. You bump up against a few things here, not the least of which is the self-authenticating witness of Vishnu himself in my heart and soul. And again, why should I trust the words of a man who cannot really care for my soul since he believes he does not have one to care for in the first place?

    Let me suffice it to say, that if I am persuaded in my mind of faith toward The Flying Spaghetti Monster, I cannot be equally persuaded of faith in Baal, Odin, or Vishnu. For that would mean that I was not really fully persuaded of the first. Just because you cannot tell a difference between them does not mean I cannot tell a difference between them. Furthermore, since this is a matter between The Flying Spaghetti Monster and I, I am not beholden to you in the least to doubt that which I am already convinced of. You bump up against a few things here, not the least of which is the self-authenticating witness of The Flying Spaghetti Monster himself in my heart and soul. And again, why should I trust the words of a man who cannot really care for my soul since he believes he does not have one to care for in the first place?

    1. If I may jump in here, Cedric and Daniel.

      If a 5-year old is persuaded in his mind of faith toward the Santa-concept, the physical world is structured so that he will eventually discover the lie. He may feel betrayed, but he is himself responsible for seeing that his capacity for faith is not at fault. The lie and the fact that he was betrayed has really nothing to do with the excercise of faith or with the reality of its true objective field – the existence of higher objects of faith than a Santa-like gift-giver.

      If someone is persuaded in his mind of faith toward the Odin-concept, the physical world again will provide him with reality checks – especially if the Odin-concept includes expectations that the man will receive Santa-like benefits from Odin in the physical world.

      But I think his sheer excercise of faith is still important for his spiritual destiny, and if any small part of this pagan’s faith looks sincerely to Odin in the name of spirituality (spiritual-reality), with gratitude for life and seeking guidance in righteousness or brotherhood, we cannot assert that the real source of spiritual reality will not ‘work with him’ for salvation simply because he’s got the name wrong or has a strange God-concept. I don’t think even a believer in Christ (like myself) is warranted in the view that this man will be denied a real blessing for his sincerity. The whole point about bifurcating knowledge and faith is that religion is not about getting ‘the knowledge’ correctly or accurately but about being true toward an object of faith in God’s realm of Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Justice, Mercy, etc. In my opinion.

      1. Well yes, I wasn’t sure you had that level of appreciation either.

        Are you OK with talking about truth as a mode of being (as when you say that a person can be ‘true towards truth’)? Not if you believe that truth is just another word for facts. How can you say that what is not a fact is not true? What about the facts we don’t know yet (both physical and spiritual)? What about the so-called facts of 200 years ago that are now considered false but at the time encouraged men of more brain than you and I to come swaggering out to do battle against spiritual reality?

        This post is about religion and scientific method. I would join you in defending the value of scientific method as method – but I will not join you claiming you can apply it to judge of the reality of my religious experience, nor will I join you in cheerleading for the current results of scientific method as if it is all a great unchanging truth which will still be featured in the textbooks 200 years from now, or which has the power to disprove religion, or is worthy of making enemies over. Only the method has absolute value – not the quotidian result.

      2. Let;’s revisit what I wrote, John: What I’m saying is that the methods of the natural sciences and its single epistemology allows reality to arbitrate what’s claimed to be true about it rather than faith claims imposed upon it.

        This is the sense of what I mean when I suggest there needs to be a correlate between truth claims about reality and reality as the arbiter rather than faith. It has been reality that has shown us when the facts we thought were true have shown us differently. But that requires us to be open to these changes wrought from reality and not closed to them by holding fast to our faith we assume is true. Surely you can appreciate this important difference in the qualitative difference between physical reality and this so-called spiritual reality.

        Diverting from this issue with such nebulous words like ‘destiny’ and ‘spiritual reality’ and ‘being true toward an object of faith in God’s realm’ simply puts off dealing with the very important issue of truth claims made about reality based on some faith position. The reality of your religious experience belongs solely to you and if you attempt to impose it on reality without evidence to validate it, then you should be aware that your interpretation of your experience may be and probably is not reflective of reality itself. You are – like I am – the easiest person in the world to fool, John. Your religious experiences and how you interpret them do not alter this one tiny bit.

        In this light, being true towards an object of faith in God’s realm of Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Justice, Mercy, etc., does nothing but cement one’s mind closed against any possibility of correction… like finding no evidence that there is any such place or thing as ‘God’s realm,’ not that this stops anyone from claiming otherwise based on revelation. But accepting the claim as true FIRST diverts one from appreciating the role biology plays in forming exactly what these words describe. In effect, urging people to stay true towards an object of faith in God’s realm as if this were a virtue stands incompatible with gaining knowledge from reality about how our biology plays such an important role in informing what these words describe. And there is OODLES of evidence for this based not on Oogity Boogity existing in some ‘other’ reality and magically bequeathing it to us in exchange for piety but from the reality we currently occupy. Your move towards an object of faith as far as gaining knowledge from reality is concerned is in fact a vice, John, a way of promoting and protecting ignorance dressed up as piety.

      3. I’m not pressing faith claims on what you are calling ‘reality’ tildeb (by ‘reality’ I take it you mean physical, measurable energy and motion). I stated pretty clearly that this physical world is structured so that any error regarding its workings (example material benefits from Santa Claus or God) may be exposed in real time and space.

        You are not warranted in assuming that this ‘reality’ you defend extends beyond the physical and measurable stuff which we both agree must be measured accurately. I’m no flat-earther you know, nor do I doubt global warming or evolution; nor do I condone any church-state relations whatsoever. I have as full access to scientific method as you do, but I don’t foolishly claim its fine authority for assertions regarding matters outside its provenance.

        The one source other than physical reality from which a faith claim may receive a valid check is the human moral nature (i.e. Kant). I think appeals to morality can be urged against views which are advanced in the name of faith. But I do not believe that consciousnes or morality can be reduced to strictly measurable content.

      4. John writes I don’t foolishly claim its fine authority for assertions regarding matters outside its provenance.

        The one source other than physical reality from which a faith claim may receive a valid check is the human moral nature (i.e. Kant). I think appeals to morality can be urged against views which are advanced in the name of faith. But I do not believe that consciousnes or morality can be reduced to strictly measurable content.

        So you decide that morality and consciousness are from ‘outside’, do you? And where might that ‘outside’ actually be? How does it get from wherever this ‘outside’ is to us… so that we may exercise both? Is it delivered by means of a moonbeam, piggybacked on some special frequency wave right into our heads? Foolish as it must be to raise such questions, I have only your word for it that morality and consciousness come to us. So I ask in all sincerity: Is this claim true and how do you know?

        I ask because there is nothing but evidence that consciousness seems to come only from and remains bounded by the biology that houses it. Specifically, there is nothing but very strong evidence that both seem to be intimately connected to brains and develop in sophistication as these brains interact with their environments through bodies. No part of either is ‘outside’ of science’s provenance but based by all appearance in the physical. For example, there are no documented cases I’m aware of of any mix-up in delivery… where some person mistakenly receives a cat’s consciousness and morality or a cat receives a human consciousness and morality… to indicate any kind of ‘outside’ delivery system. But we do know that if we alter the physical condition of the brain, we can directly affect consciousness… and in very specific and repeatable ways. Impede the functioning of the brain, impede moral consistency. So I ask, where is the evidence that consciousness and what we call morality exists anywhere else? Surely you must have a very strong case that amply demonstrates causal effect for this outside source and show the mechanism by which delivery occurs to call investigations into these claims using physical reality ‘foolish’.

        But we both know you have nothing remotely considered ‘valid’, John. You have wishful thinking and assertions and assumptions and faith claims that fall apart like gossamer wings of fairies when examined for veracity. I think I a have full warrant in maintaining that this ‘reality’ we share does not extend beyond “the physical and measurable stuff which we both agree must be measured accurately.” You pretend we are in agreement but exempt yourself with a theological wave of the hand to make room for whatever fantastical wishful thinking you favour…and then question whomever calls you on this arbitrary and baseless exemption from reality you grant to yourself on the basis of some faith claim to be the one with the problem of appreciating the difference between accuracy and veracity. Perhaps the problem is much, much closer to home in your bicameral brain.

      5. Frankly, tildeb, you’re busted.

        To carry your threats and dismissals beyond our last exchange only shows you are only an acolyte of science, a fond fellow-traveler – except no teacher of inorganic physical science above the level of public school will stand with you here. I find that atheists of your variety are usually refugees from the full-Bible cults who have spent too much of their youth cut off from critical thinking and so are quite atrophied in that regard when they first try to convert ‘science’ into their new final authority.

        In my opinion Biology will never be a strict ‘physical science’ because life won’t allow the final pin to be stuck into it that finally allows the biologist to nail it to the wall (or ‘fix’ it upon a viewing slide). Biology especially cannot offer solutions to the problem of consciousness without descending into necrology (it’s opposite) – as you have done by conjuring an experiment involving destroyed brain tissue in order to prove your imagined point about the final disposition of moral and intellectual processes. You say consciousness is brought down with your sadistic compromise of brain tissue? Yes, but I can only point out that your act solves nothing as to the causal point in question, since by your alleged proof you have deprived yourself of your alleged final cause (functioning brain tissue) – both thought and tissue are gone together, but can you see that this leaves you with mere assertions about which one is more primal than the other?

        By the way I want to qualify my statement about evolution. I reject the materialist fantasy (which has even gotten into the best text books) that life ‘evolved’ from inorganic materials. I believe that life only comes from life, and that natural selection is meaningless without DNA or at least RNA, and that I cannot imagine a case where either of these magnificent molecules will be derived from inorganic chemicals or lightening bolts passing through acid rain or pond-scum – or any such dream of the materialist.

      6. Tildeb,

        I do not mean to do a bait and switch. What I tried to show, which I think was successful, was that the scientific method is not applicable to any and all claims made about reality. And you seem to have backed off of that statement when you admitted your position is NOT that only scientific claims are meaningful. I must conclude that you believe there are meaningful claims that the scientific method cannot evaluate. In other words, I am correct when I say, “Apply the scientific method to its fullest and still you will never come to the explanation that I want some tea.”

        However, you seem to back off of this point when you assert the weak sense of scientism: “the methods of the natural sciences and its single epistemology allows only reality to arbitrate what’s claimed to be true about it.” But, what does that mean? Taken literally, am I to believe that the rocks would speak to you and teach you about themselves? If so, this is not so different from a religious explanation. However, I take your anthropomorphic figurative language to actually mean “you do the best you can to find the truth about things using only the scientific method.” This is the strong sense of scientism couched in weak terms. Otherwise, I have to believe that you think rocks talk to you.

        Also, this weak sense of scientism has a terrible epistemology. No evidence for factual things reaches 100%. For instance, when you want to cross the street you carefully look both ways to see what your chances are. And, assuming that a car driving at excessive speeds is not coming along, your chances of getting across the street are about 80% (give or take) of doing so with your arms and legs intact. But, it’s never 100%. What you really do is combine the evidence at the level that it exists with faith. Faith is jumping the gap from the evidence to certainty. And, most people when they cross the street take 100% of themselves along, not 80%. They do not leave an arm or a leg behind. Our decisions in life are a combination of evidence and faith. This is completely unlike your idea that faith is something in the absence of evidence. This also completely blows your weak scientism out of the water. Unless you really believe that rocks speak to you.

        I have shown in my post that independent verification cannot be applied to religion and that I do not have to present evidence to anyone else of my own matters of faith toward God. I have also shown in my responses that the scientific method can only discover fully the first level of explanation in my “I want tea” scenario. It can infer the second level, and has no jurisdiction over the third explanation. I have further shown that scientism is self-defeating, has a terrible epistemology, and the weak form of it uses anthropomorphic language deceptively. And even further, you have still not answered my charge against naturalism, which underlies scientism, that I stated in previous posts: and I quote…

        “First, my belief does not constitute truth. Ontologically, objective truths exists. Epistemologically, we apprehend these truths as best we can. Attributing a degree of certainty to your understanding of a particular truth you apprehend is what makes a belief. Beliefs can be true or less than true depending on our degree of apprehension. But, before we even begin to apprehend truth, we must have a good foundation for our own ability to “find the address” of truth. Naturalism coupled with evolution gives us reason to doubt our ability to “find the address” of truth because our abilities were not developed to find truth. They were developed to adapt, survive. As long as you attain behavior beneficial to your survival, it does not matter what you believe.

        If the presence of a lion in your living room leads you to believe it’s time to run a marathon, it does not matter whether your belief that you must run a marathon is correct…as long as your running helps you survive.”

        I think it’s time, Tildeb, that you stepped off of this terrible foundation of scientism.

  6. But I think his sheer excercise of faith is still important for his magic destiny, and if any small part of this pagan’s faith looks sincerely to Odin in the name of magic (magic-reality), with gratitude for life and seeking guidance in righteousness or brotherhood, we cannot assert that the real source of magic reality will not ‘work with him’ for Nirvana simply because he’s got the name wrong or has a strange Flying Spaghetti-concept. I don’t think even a believer in His Noodly One (like myself) is warranted in the view that this man will be denied a real blessing for his sincerity. The whole point about bifurcating knowledge and faith is that religion is not about getting ‘the knowledge’ correctly or accurately but about being true toward an object of faith in The Flying Spaghetti Monster’s realm of Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Justice, Mercy, etc. In my opinion.

    But I think his sheer excercise of faith is still important for his Force destiny, and if any small part of this pagan’s faith looks sincerely to Darth Vader in the name of the Force (Force-reality), with gratitude for life and seeking guidance in righteousness or brotherhood, we cannot assert that the real source of the Force reality will not ‘work with him’ for achieving a higher plane simply because he’s got the name wrong or has a strange Yoda-concept. I don’t think even a believer in the Emperor Palpatine (like myself) is warranted in the view that this man will be denied a real blessing for his sincerity. The whole point about bifurcating knowledge and faith is that religion is not about getting ‘the knowledge’ correctly or accurately but about being true toward an object of faith in Darth Vader’s realm of Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Justice, Mercy, etc. In my opinion.

    If a 5-year old is persuaded in his mind of faith toward the Santa-concept, the physical world is structured so that he will eventually discover the lie.

    Nonsense.
    The 5-year old does not believe in Santa because of the physical world.
    The faith of the child comes from another source.
    Maintain and reinforce that faith and the child will continue to believe.

    Human history is littered with a rich supply of highly successful gods and religions that all relied upon faith and that the “physical world structure” had no negative impact on such faiths. The money rolled in nicely.

    Story of Xenu (Scientology)

    1. Cedric,

      Your responses bring the argument here to the point of the absurd. I find implicit in your responses, however, an underlying assumption: that all supernatural explanations are equal in worth or value since they cannot be verified by the scientific method. I gather that you also feel that way about religion: that all religious explanations are of equal worth and rendered meaningless since they cannot be verified by the scientific method. But, surely if you think this way then you have to believe that I and all others who are religious are delusional. If this is the case, what is the point of you reasoning with me? Do you see professors in the universities going down to the sanitariums to reason with the insane?

      But as you continue to make your point ad absurdum, I must point out that your treatment of religion, in which you lump all religious explanations together, is too simple. Any reasonable person can see that each religion is different in scope, definition, value, relevance, and in their explanations. And each divine being or beings they worship have different relationships to reality, the cause of the universe, life’s meaning, life’s purpose, and morality. Each religion must be evaluated individually as a truth question. What you are doing is not good comparative religion.
      However, I am through with this line of reasoning. But, as you will probably continue to do more of the same, I will let you have the last word.

      1. Your responses bring the argument here to the point of the absurd.

        Well, it’s your argument.
        I justed switched the labels around.

        The absurd? Well, it’s your argument. You’re entitled to describe it how you want.

        that all supernatural explanations (…) they cannot be verified by the scientific method.

        Can you think of an exception? Human history is filled with supernatural claims. Can even one be verified by the scientific method?

        …all religious explanations are of equal worth and rendered meaningless since they cannot be verified by the scientific method

        Again, can you think of an exception?

        But, surely if you think this way then you have to believe that I and all others who are religious are delusional. If this is the case, what is the point of you reasoning with me?

        Delusions do not have to be permanent.
        People abandon old ways of thinking all the time. One can have a superstition for decades and then abandon it. You don’t have to be played for sucker forever.

        …to reason with the insane?

        All I did was to take your argument and switch the labels around. Nothing more.
        Being deluded is not the same as being insane. There is always a reasonable hope that someone who is wedded to a falsehood can be reasoned out of it.

        …each religion is different in scope, definition, value, relevance, and in their explanations.

        So what? I’m sure that Santa and Baal and the Flying Spaghetti Monster are different too in scope, definition, value, relevence and in their explanations.
        (shrug)

        And each divine being or beings they worship have different relationships to reality, the cause of the universe, life’s meaning, life’s purpose, and morality.

        You are not getting this….

        And each pixie being or fairy they worship have different relationships to reality, the cause of the universe, life’s meaning, life’s purpose, and morality.

        And each ghost or wraith they worship have different relationships to reality, the cause of the universe, life’s meaning, life’s purpose, and morality.

        And each chinthay or daemon they worship have different relationships to reality, the cause of the universe, life’s meaning, life’s purpose, and morality.
        (shrug)

        Each religion must be evaluated individually as a truth question.

        (…awkward silence…)

        A what?

        (…re-reads the sentence…)

        Um, never mind. Whatever. Let’s just roll with it.

        Each religion must be evaluated individually as a truth question.

        Ok. Let’s take an example.
        Goes through the vast list of religions out there…
        Ok, got one.
        Scientology.

        Richard Dawkins: If Science Worked Like Religion

  7. Wow, having landed on this blog from randomly checking out a philosophy tag, a couple days ago, I was quite impressed with the level of conversation here. Having always been a deep thinker myself, and seeker of truth since childhood, most of “my” answers came from science, and led to an education by such. Though I make no claims to know 100% one way or another (ok, I’m a fence rider and have difficulty with absolutism) what comes after death.

    But, the sophisticated thoughts and convoluted back and forths on this post, are almost a bit above my comprehensions. I feel a bit in somewhat of a subatomic orbit in trying to understand everyone here, but thanks all the same. Like muscles, minds need to be stretched to help gain more stength, or knowledge. I’m a pretty simple person, and more of a minimalist when it comes to my path on earth.

    I’m not a Christian, or religious, and favor evidence based avenues towards truth. However, as a fence rider with no absolute committents on either side of the god question, I find all the comments here quite interesting (at least for what I can understand of the more sophisticated parts beyond my comprehensions).

    Having spent a long career living and working close to nature, I have had some profound experiences along the way. Some of which go beyond what I can explain scientifically. Doesn’t mean it can’t be explained by such, somewhere in the future, but for me, I just accept it for whatever it is right now.

    Maybe there is only a heaven and hell, for those that believe such, and not for those who don’t? If you believe anything might be possible, then perhaps two opposites can exist at the same time??
    It does seem (though I can’t measure it to come up with evidence) like there is some master force in the universe, and part of why I like the concept of Great Mystery used by most primal peoples. Who can really know, until death? And even then, we may or may not know?

    We can’t see things like the forces of gravity or electricity, but they are forces that exist and we can measure them. However, maybe the Master Force, (Great Mystery) that many folks feel as god or see (not see) by science, will never be found, or understood?? Perhaps it is like an infinity in terms of time and the universe. There never was any creation – the only time is now. If the past and future continue on in infinity, perhaps so does the Master Force. Infinity is hard for a finite mind to comprehend. Heck, I’m even having a hard time understanding all of you. But thanks again for the stretch and mental gymnastics. For now, I am just enjoying the path of questioning.

    At any rate, since folks here seem pretty darned intelligent, perhaps some would enjoy the following back an forth between a believer (McGrath ) and a non-believer ( Dawkins): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15l8LXGTCyo&feature=related.

    Sorry, I don’t know how to put the Youtube screens up – techno challenged here.

    1. Wapitisriversedge,

      Thank you for visiting. I’m pleased that you enjoy this level of conversation. I wish you success on your search, study, and mediation regarding these issues. These issues are most important and affect all of us, as you can see from the heated discussion. Come back and feel free to comment any time.

      1. Thanks Daniel,

        With winter here and i will have occassionally more time, I just might more join in here and there. Although, not sure about my success in mediation of truths ever being fulfilled. The more I learn and come to know, the more I know I do not know. The seeking of knowledge and truth is like trying to get at the end of a dichotomy for an eternally branching tree.

        Yes, these issue are important. But, I would also agree with Superman (sorry tildeb, I just can’t resist using your iconic image ) that religious belief systems are better left out of the public domain. There is good reason our founding fathers designed a system that separates church and state.

        My problem with belief systems is the dominionist themed influence they have over environmental impacts to our planet. Man continues to ravage earth, excusing himself from woes in this world, by conveniently shifting them to the next one.

        Since there are very fiew Saints (probably none in a sharp edge reality), that means most everyone else is a hypocrit at some level, for some thing, during their life time. Realizing this dynamic of human nature, the idea was spawned of man being born a sinner, thereby could not help himself. So a diety was invented to help solve the problem of finding an answer to where we came from, what life means, and to shift our human responsibilties to the next world.

        Aside from the fundamental human populations problem, we continue to exploit resources on a finite planet while ignoring the concept of carrying capacity. Most of our earthly problems seem to stem more from the impact of religious dogmas and denial of scence, than employing green science to help fix our messes.

        Men have been killing each other off for centuries in the name of religion and domination. Many believe they have the only ture ticket to heaven, to the degree that they are willing to kill those with the wrong ticket. Wars result over such. (one of natures ways of dealing with too many people)

        It would seem our world would be a better place if there were more skeptically inclined humans that were more conscientious about their actions in this world, than sheepable people unquestionably following dieties that can be reached only bytheir belief in such, and whom shift their human responsiblites to the next one.

    2. WRS writes Though I make no claims to know 100% one way or another (ok, I’m a fence rider and have difficulty with absolutism)…

      That doesn’t make you a fence sitter; it makes you properly skeptical of absolute claims. Also, you see the power of a good epistemology (how we know something) in the scientific method to find stuff out that seems to be true for everyone everywhere all the time even if we don’t fully understand how this can be so. I hold a deep respect for this epistemology not because I wish to believe it is the One True Way but because I can reasonably trust its results to work consistently and reliably well to describe the reality we inhabit.

      The problem I run up against all the time is people who try to insert the results from another epistemology into my life as if it were somehow a compatible method I can equally and legitimately trust. If people who enable faith-based beliefs would keep these results to the private domain where such beliefs properly belong, then there would be no compatibility problem. People are free to believe whatever they want but are responsible to keep such beliefs germane to their own choices and lifestyles – as long as the only people affected are themselves.

      I take issue with faith-based beliefs inserted into the public domain – in areas like public governance, public law, public institutions, public health care, public defense, public education, public policies, and so on. In this domain of the public, faith-based beliefs affect each and every one of us, which I wouldn’t mind if they were as practical and reliable and trustworthy as scientific results. But they’re not or they would wouldn’t be based on FAITH.

      Faith-based beliefs in the public domain have no right to be there other than by the support of people who should know better, who should EXERCISE their skepticism on behalf of their civic duty, but who allow their favoritism and sympathy for personal faith-based beliefs to be reason enough to justify inviting priests and clerics and pastors and evangelicals and rabbis and imams and ‘spiritual leaders’ and anti-vaxer spokespeople and conspiracy advocates and alternative medicine practitioners to assume positions of influence and authority OVER the public domain (and thus into my life). This willingness for people in positions of public trust to serve the wishes of woo-worshipers of all stripes within the public constituency by such offerings of power and influence is reprehensible and a betrayal of their public duty. it’s time to hold people who support these public officials in their pious efforts to undermine public policy – normal, everyday people – to be held responsible for their part in this debacle and asked to defend themselves on forums such as this one.

      As far as I can tell, there seems to be no evidence to suggest that faith-based beliefs of any kind are different in any qualitative way than superstition, than delusion, than wishful and magical and conspiratorial thinking. And the reason why this seems to be the case is because the epistemology that allows for faith-based belief to be considered another ‘way of knowing’ is dislocated from reality, protected as it is from avoiding what reality has to say about the belief claim and based only on what people believe… so much so that even if the belief claim stands contrary to strong evidence from reality, two thirds of Americans will continue to believe in the belief claim rather than accept reality’s judgement. One needs to look no further than the direct correlation between the acceptance of the very best science has to offer in the form of knowledge we call Evolution and religiosity: the greater a society’s religiosity, the less likely people will accept the theory of evolution to be a true description of how life has become as we know it… not just in some countries but across the world.

      How can this be?

      The epistemology of faith-based beliefs fails to account for two key questions we bring to any honest inquiry into a truth claim about reality: Is it true and how do we know? Simply believing something to be true becomes unverifiable in this method, which means it’s not knowledge by any definition we use to differentiate reality from delusion. It’s simply a belief. And people assume this is reason enough to bring together people who respect belief draped in all manner of woo-infested symbols to have some claim to influence the public domain. I argue it is not. It is a problem that needs addressing and correcting not because I hate god or chiropractors or ginseng but because I have no good reason to trust claims made about them derived from using an epistemology that respects what people believe about them. It’s not a virtue to respect such beliefs but an exercise in gullibility.

      Make truth claims about reality, but if you want my support rather than my criticism for truth claims to be inserted into my life in the public domain – and the support of growing numbers of healthy skeptics – then you need to respect what reality has to say about these claims more than what people who pretend some insight through revelation can offer.

    1. Daniel, I wasn’t originally contemplating a ‘discussion’ with atheists but I benefitted from thinking about the problems and pseudo-problems.

      I am committed long-term to some kind of defense or apologetics but have been loath to engage the current young rebels, maybe I needed this to get my juices flowing.

      And maybe not. Where did you pick up Cedric and tildeb? Did you begin by harrrassing them or did they swoop down on you? I’m not very well prepared against atheists who believe Dawkins is a ‘heavyweight’ – there”s so much groundwork that is simply dismissed. Fortunately Dawkins is still a joke among most pro and semi-pro philosophers because he really doesn’t have a philosophy and doesn’t seem to care or feel he needs one to dismiss religion from the standpoint of science (which is ridiculous).

      1. John,

        Speaking of people like Dawkins, Hawking recently declared philosophy to be dead, which is actually a philosophy. I guess you’re never too smart to make a mistake.

        Tildeb and Cedric have been here a while, but I don’t remember how we became acquainted.

        The more I learn of the ancient theologians and philosophers, the more I like them. I’m sure you feel the same way. I think we, at least in the U.S., lived off of the intellectual capital of the previous ages and didn’t really feel a need to revisit our past traditions until we couldn’t answer the hard questions anymore. We’ve been neglectful and it’s come back to bite us.

        As for Atheism, I find it has kind of a symbiotic relationship with theism or, more particularly, with modern theism. They’re kind of the yin to our yang. They look different at each period because they’re reacting to the thought of that time. In that sense, what they reject are our representations of God, not usually God himself. As I have come to understand, the current atheistic arguments would have been incoherent in medieval times because they located God in divine revelation and positioned humans as passive receivers. After the enlightenment period, knowledge of God was located in human rationale and empirical sources, and humans were positioned as active projectors. Instead of being the tested, we became the testers trying to find God in a test tube. As such, our theology became vulnerable to all sorts of critiques. Now, somehow we’ve given some legitimacy to the idea that God must fit within the confines of the scientific method in order to be verified. Ah, the arrogance of man, as if God was a hypothesis. The fact is that God grasps us more than we grasp him. Even atheists cannot get away from it when they put absolute value in the truth. In some small way, they are responding to a divine invitation to go higher.

        But, here we are…

        At least for my part, I love God because he loves me. It’s quite simple. And his witness in my heart isn’t vulnerable to outside critique as I stated in my post. But, as long as thoughts and ideas are thrown around, I’ll be there to add to the conversation.

  8. John, thank you for your reply, although I don’t recall agreeing to you wearing the police officer’s hat in this exchange.

    I will point out what I wrote, that there is nothing but evidence that consciousness seems to come only from and remains bounded by the biology that houses it. You apparently think this an elementary viewpoint. Okay then… where else does it come from? Please be specific.

    It is no surprise that you fall back on informing your assumptions with beliefs about the veracity of your attributions… about me, about my motivations, even so far as attributing boundaries on biology as an academic subject based on pins! Good grief.

    A very good example of just how far off from reality you’re willing to wander is revealed in your attribution that consciousness must be defined only by killing certain areas of the brain to see what effect it has, and then raising the specter of “my act” removing the ability to determine tissue from thought because both are supposedly gone. I mean, seriously… Wow. This is such a gross mis-characterization of how we show causal effect between brain function and consciousness that it raises the question of how serious you are to understand brain function in relation to consciousness whatsoever.

    For example, magnetic waves can and often do reproduce experiences reported to be very similar to religious revelations (among others). No brain tissue is damaged. Chemical interventions can also radically alter perceptions without killing any brain cells. Even prayer and meditation can produce functional causal effects in consciousness. Heck, John, you can grow your brain for crying out loud and learn to see with your skin and find balance by your tongue. If consciousness is not – as I wrote quite plainly – bounded by the biology that houses it then please explain how consciousness is demonstrably altered by these physical interventions?

    You see, John, the mind – or consciousness, if you prefer – is what the brain does. Even though we are only at the front end of neuroscience, we have learned more about consciousness in the last few years than the last few millennia under the tutelage of belief in dualism. And the practical applications from this burgeoning knowledge are profoundly successful in areas like medicine and rehabilitation from injury.

    One of the most intriguing aspects (for me) is the notion of consciousness arising from flocking behaviour of individual neural networks working in tandem with others to produce what look like a discrete entity. But is it? Well, I’ll be the first in line to proclaim my profound ignorance about knowing how the brain works to produce consciousness but the preponderance of evidence leads me to think that our answers lie in the brain and not in some alternate reality. I know, Call me crazy.

    It doesn’t surprise me, either that you would write I cannot imagine a case where either of these magnificent molecules (RNA and DNA) will be derived from inorganic chemicals or lightening bolts passing through acid rain or pond-scum – or any such dream of the materialist. Of course you are going to leave room for a creative interactive supernatural divine agency… as if that is a more logical and reasonable explanation! This is like saying that your lack of imagination – well, actually your lack of appreciating what statistical probabilities actually mean – open the door to the much less imaginative Oogity Boogity! Seriously, John? Again, I think you’ve mixed up which is which. Such faith-based beliefs simply do not produce knowledge. At all. And in this particular case, seems to be actively impeding its most basic attainment. I know you’re capable, but the power you grant to your attributions has to be curtailed to make way for reality to have its say.

  9. Daniel writes I think it’s time, Tildeb, that you stepped off of this terrible foundation of scientism.

    Daniel, I was never on it.

    You write that independent verification cannot be applied to religion and that I do not have to present evidence to anyone else of my own matters of faith toward God I agree. That’s why your faith-based beliefs in the matter are entirely your own aimed at your own imaginings. But don’t for one second think that claims based on this belief have any truth value in reality at all for exactly this reason: the beliefs are unverifiable. In other words, you cannot answer the questions “Is it true and how do we know” except by asserting more faith. Religious claims based on exactly this kind of faith-based belief are not claims of knowledge because they are exempt from validation and therefore not some ‘other way of knowing’ anything about anything. You should stop pretending that it is. Your religious beliefs are simply that: faith-based beliefs… unmoored, deplaned, disembarked from reality.

    This raises the point of various ‘truths’ to answer the question “Why is the water boiling?” that you use to show the various ‘truths’ of making tea. I am not surprised you think this a good analogy, used as it is by so many famous religious apologists. I am surprised that this one hasn’t been put to bed long ago, dependent as it is on having a knowable answer. In the typical case, a person has put on the water and has activated the heating and has a knowable motivation for doing so. All we need to do to verify the answer to the ‘why’ question is to ask and await the answer from the causal agent of the intention.

    But in the religious sense of various truths of ‘Why?’ questions that ‘religion’ purports to answer – taking the place of revealing the person, revealing the causal agent to us, in the analogy – the problem here is that there is NO knowable causal agent, no KNOWABLE answers from this causal agent. In this sense, the pseudo-answers offered to be revealed by religion is a sham, an insertion of made-up stuff, a fairytale, a concoction of extraordinary claims without evidence. The correct analogy would be to find water boiling and – all other material evidence lacking – having the various religions step forward and make nothing more and nothing less than a guess. This method of inquiry – inserting made-up answers – is not another kind of ‘truth’, Daniel. It’s conjecture from start to finish or, as many gnu atheists would say, it’s turtles all the way down because you have nothing else to go by, no verification guide to find out these various ‘truths’ of possible intentions, no verifiable way of ascertaining which of the infinite number of potential answers might actually lead one to knowing which intention is more probable, more likely, which one reveals the ‘true’ intention. In other words, the tea analogy reveals the correct answer, the truthful answer to these kinds of unknowable ‘Why?’ questions is “I do not know.” Unless and until you have some indication of intention – like the teapot standing by, tea bags at the ready, empty tea cups on saucers prepared for use, and so on, you haven’t a clue what the correct ‘truth’ might be. All we have is the material evidence at hand and the only ‘truth’ we can know is why the water is boiling on a material level explanation. Everything else is turtles.

    Look at what you do to your crossing-the-road example: you LOOK. When the evidence is available that it is safe to cross you do so. Faith in the religious sense has nothing to do with it, except as a substitute word for ‘hope’. But this hope is not isolated from reality but informed by it.

    You reiterate First, my belief does not constitute truth. Ontologically, objective truths exists. Epistemologically, we apprehend these truths as best we can. Attributing a degree of certainty to your understanding of a particular truth you apprehend is what makes a belief. Beliefs can be true or less than true depending on our degree of apprehension. But, before we even begin to apprehend truth, we must have a good foundation for our own ability to “find the address” of truth. Naturalism coupled with evolution gives us reason to doubt our ability to “find the address” of truth because our abilities were not developed to find truth. They were developed to adapt, survive. As long as you attain behavior beneficial to your survival, it does not matter what you believe.

    If objective truth exists – in the sense of facts independent of mind – then what we know about them is not a ‘belief’ meaning ‘faith’ in the religious sense but a term used to describe a degree of confidence we hold for a proposition. The objective truth is not affected by how much or how little confidence you have it: it simply is. Think of an objective truth… say, your keys are on the counter. If this is an objective truth, then it doesn’t matter how much confidence you have in it as a proposition: it’s either true or false and we’ve already established that it’s true. To establish confidence in this proposition, then, “we must have a good foundation for our ability to “find the address”…” and here you begin to go off the rails. My position is that we go and look for direct evidence in nature that the keys are indeed on the counter. You are trying to tell me now that nature and my biology do not equip me to do this, to ascertain these objective truths. I beg to differ. I think we come exquisitely outfitted to establish exactly this kind of confidence in our ‘beliefs’ about the environment we inhabit… but first we must appreciate the central importance that reality – and not be diverted by people who insist our faith-based beliefs play a compatible role – plays in finding and verifying these objective truths.

    And so on. Be careful with your words here because you switch meanings with the word ‘belief’. In the first part you use ‘belief’ in the sense of your religious faith.

    1. Tildeb,
      ‘Concerning the “I want tea” analogy, you write…

      “All we need to do to verify the answer to the ‘why’ question is to ask and await the answer from the causal agent of the intention.

      But in the religious sense of various truths of ‘Why?’ questions that ‘religion’ purports to answer – taking the place of revealing the person, revealing the causal agent to us, in the analogy – the problem here is that there is NO knowable causal agent, no KNOWABLE answers from this causal agent. In this sense, the pseudo-answers offered to be revealed by religion is a sham, an insertion of made-up stuff, a fairytale, a concoction of extraordinary claims without evidence.”

      You rightly state that all you have to do to understand the intention of the person boiling the water is to ask him. You then assert that, in relation to the universe, there is no “knowable” person who started it or had a purpose for it; neither is there a “knowable” answer the person can give. But here, you define the word “knowable” to mean intelligible within the confines of the scientific method. In doing this, though, you reduce a subject (God) to an object, and say that because we can’t know him as an object, then we can’t know him at all.

      Your problem is NOT that you can’t begin communication with the subject (God), but that you don’t want to, because it would mean a change of the role you play in relation to knowing. You would become the receiver, and not the discoverer or tester. This is simply the nature of interacting with a subject. If you “ask”, you must be in a position to “receive.” You would have to submit yourself to the subject in order to receive the answer, and leave your scientific method because it would become useless in such a personal exchange of communication.

      Moreover, your assertion that religion reveals the answer is fallacious. The revelation would come from the subject (God).

      You’re so close to understanding this. You just don’t want to place yourself on the submissive side of knowing which would allow you to receive the answer. Respond to the divine invitation of Truth to come higher.

      1. In doing this, though, you reduce a subject (Xenu) to an object, and say that because we can’t know him as an object, then we can’t know him at all.

        Your problem is NOT that you can’t begin communication with the subject (Xenu), but that you don’t want to, because it would mean a change of the role you play in relation to knowing. You would become the receiver, and not the discoverer or tester. This is simply the nature of interacting with a subject. If you “ask”, you must be in a position to “receive.” You would have to submit yourself to the subject in order to receive the answer, and leave your scientific method because it would become useless in such a personal exchange of communication.

        Moreover, your assertion that religion reveals the answer is fallacious. The revelation would come from the subject (Xenu).

        You’re so close to understanding this. You just don’t want to place yourself on the submissive side of knowing which would allow you to receive the answer. Respond to the divine invitation of Truth to come higher.

        So beautiful.
        (…sniff…)
        So very beautiful.
        No need to change a thing. It’s perfect the way it is.

      2. Cedric,

        I don’t know what you’re saying. Do you have a point? Really. So, there are other religions. Everyone already knew that coming into the conversation. What are you getting at?

      3. Daniel, you write Your problem is NOT that you can’t begin communication with the subject (God), but that you don’t want to, because it would mean a change of the role you play in relation to knowing. You would become the receiver, and not the discoverer or tester. This is simply the nature of interacting with a subject. If you “ask”, you must be in a position to “receive.” You would have to submit yourself to the subject in order to receive the answer, and leave your scientific method because it would become useless in such a personal exchange of communication.

        No, Daniel, if there really was a critter out there responsible for inserting all kinds of stuff into people, then I certainly DO want to know. But I’m not going to eject my critical faculties in order to accomplish this and pretend that my belief about such a critter makes it so. And this is what you are doing: you are first believing and then rationalizing about the subject of god. This is a sure-fire way to delude yourself.

        When you submit yourself to the subject you are placing your belief in the role as ‘subject’ and then pretending this subject rather than you belief then grants you audience. There is no independent verification that what you believe is true is, in fact, true. The only tool you use for this inquiry is your belief. And this is a common mistake made by those who eject their critical faculties when it comes to the veracity of their beliefs. This is why there are thousands upon thousands of competing, conflicting, incompatible religious beliefs all held by their followers to be true in fact, not because any can be independently verified but because they have already committed themselves to first believe.

        This is why Cedric continues to simply change the name of the ‘subject’ but keep exactly the same line of reasoning… to show that it doesn’t yield anything knowable. If it did, then there would be independent verification that does not rely on belief to grant it veracity. You, not Cedric, continue to recycle the same old tropes in the hope that by saying it often enough, your reasoning may gain traction. But the problem remains that your reasoning from belief does not add any veracity at all to the belief in reality. There is no such critter you believe in independent of your belief. And that’s not my problem; the problem is that there is no independent evidence for this critter you call god… any more than there is for Baal or pink unicorns. Yoda has a much stronger case for being real and that is a baseline requirement to prove if someone is going to argue that certain human characteristics derive from Yoda. It is a baseline requirement that you prove your god exists independent of your belief if you wish to attribute human characteristics to derived from it/him/her. This is what you repeatedly fail to show, this base requirement, so all the rest of your assertions about it’s/his/her effect on us and the universe we inhabit are baseless, imaginary, and without any independent verification. All rely solely on your belief. And that is insufficient to convince me that there is any ‘subject’ that is god in any way different form being exactly the same ‘subject’ of your beliefs alone. To phrase this another way, I don’t believe your belief IS god.

  10. In that sense, what they reject are our representations of God, not usually God himself. As I have come to understand, the current atheistic arguments would have been incoherent in medieval times because they located God in divine revelation and positioned humans as passive receivers. After the enlightenment period, knowledge of God was located in human rationale and empirical sources, and humans were positioned as active projectors. Instead of being the tested, we became the testers trying to find God in a test tube. As such, our theology became vulnerable to all sorts of critiques. Now, somehow we’ve given some legitimacy to the idea that God must fit within the confines of the scientific method in order to be verified. Ah, the arrogance of man, as if God was a hypothesis. The fact is that God grasps us more than we grasp him. Even atheists cannot get away from it when they put absolute value in the truth. In some small way, they are responding to a divine invitation to go higher.

    But, here we are…

    At least for my part, I love God because he loves me. It’s quite simple. And his witness in my heart isn’t vulnerable to outside critique as I stated in my post. But, as long as thoughts and ideas are thrown around, I’ll be there to add to the conversation.

    In that sense, what they reject are our representations of Baal, not usually Baal himself. As I have come to understand, the current atheistic arguments would have been incoherent in medieval times because they located Baal in divine revelation and positioned humans as passive receivers. After the enlightenment period, knowledge of Baal was located in human rationale and empirical sources, and humans were positioned as active projectors. Instead of being the tested, we became the testers trying to find Baal in a test tube. As such, our theology became vulnerable to all sorts of critiques. Now, somehow we’ve given some legitimacy to the idea that Baal must fit within the confines of the scientific method in order to be verified. Ah, the arrogance of man, as if Baal was a hypothesis. The fact is that Baal grasps us more than we grasp him. Even atheists cannot get away from it when they put absolute value in the truth. In some small way, they are responding to a divine invitation to go higher.

    But, here we are…

    At least for my part, I love Baal because he loves me. It’s quite simple. And his witness in my heart isn’t vulnerable to outside critique as I stated in my post. But, as long as thoughts and ideas are thrown around, I’ll be there to add to the conversation.

    (Ah, the gift that keeps on giving.)

    Egyptian Gods: choose your favorite

  11. So, there are other religions. Everyone already knew that coming into the conversation.

    Well, yes. It’s reasonable to presume that everybody did know that.
    Including you and me.
    So…I don’t even know why you would bother to bring it up in the first place.

    Let me suffice it to say, that if I am persuaded in my mind of faith toward God, I cannot be equally persuaded of faith in Baal, Santa, Odin, or FSM.

    Look at your argument. Look at all of them. Look at what you have created.
    They are all fatally flawed.
    Anybody can take your exact same argument and use it for their own favourite pink invisible unicorn.

    Furthermore, since this is a matter between God and I, I am not beholden to you in the least to doubt that which I am already convinced of.

    Too easy. Just use your own imagination to make the appropriate changes.

    I have shown in my post that independent verification cannot be applied to religion and that I do not have to present evidence to anyone else of my own matters of faith toward God.

    Ah, yes. Of course.
    (…audience shuffles their feet uncomfortably…)

    At least for my part, I love God because he loves me. It’s quite simple.

    Oh I quite agree. Very, very simple. I can see the invisible, pink unicorns in the sky dancing even now.

    Tell me little girl, why do you love invisible pink unicorns?

    “Why Good Sir, I love pink, invisible unicorns because they love me. It’s quite simple”

    That’s very cute. Do they do anything to you?

    “Oh yes, the fact is that pink, invisible unicorns grasp us more than we grasp them.”

    What would you say to those that do not see or are not grasped by invisible, pink unicorns?

    The witness in my heart of pink, invisible unicorns isn’t vulnerable to outside critique.

    I…see.

    A Christian Meets The Invisible Pink Unicorn

    1. Prove to me then, that all these deities are the same in relation to morality, life’s meaning and purpose, and morality. In fact, prove to me that all of them are exactly the same in definition; that they all purport to bring the universe into being from nothing, how they are all by definition a maximally great being, that each of their characters provide the foundation for morality, how they all indicate their kingdom is in the hearts of men, how they all exist out of the necessity of their own being and not by contingency, how all of them are a being of pure actuality, how all of them came to die for the sins of mankind, and I could go on.

      I’m not the one with the burden of proof here. You contend that they are all the same. Prove it. As for me, I don’t have to sift through the baggage of every other religion to be convinced of the truth of mine. Or you could just say that we’re just not talking about the same thing here when we consider other gods. It’s your call.

  12. I’m not the one with the burden of proof here. You contend that they are all the same.

    All religions make the same flabby excuses. They all deserve to be dismissed.

    “That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”
    ― Christopher Hitchens

    I contend that I can take your statements and recycle them in the service of some other supernatural mumbo-jumble.
    I don’t have to change anything about your arguments.
    All I have to do is just swap the labels around.
    It works perfectly well.
    Evidently, it never occured to you.

    I don’t have to sift through the baggage of every other religion to be convinced of the truth of mine.

    Well, yes.
    Exactly.
    I’m sure you don’t.
    That would also apply to any other follower of some other religion out there.
    I have no doubt that a Scientologist would feel very comfortable saying the exact same thing.

    1. Cedric,

      So, you reserve the right to rididule with mimicy of speech, but don’t want to put in the work to make sure it’s correct. I’ll do it for you.

      Just because you can imagine y instead of x doesn’t mean that y equals x or that x is false. In the equation 4n + 5x = 0, x has a specific identity and a specific relationship to all the constants and variables. The outcome of the equation is specific dependent upon the value of x. If you subsitute y, not only does the outcome change but the relationships change as well. If, in fact, x = y then the value of x and y is the same and neither the outcome nor the relationships change. Therefore, it is fallacious to consider the x-equation false in light of the y-equation. Even if y = x, the truth of the equation would remain the same. Just because the name of the variable has changed does not mean the truth of the equation has changed since x and y have the same identity.

      The power behind your substitution depends upon it being different than the original. The unsuspecting reader would be unsettled and might consider the original proposition to be uncertain because he notices that there is a difference between the original and the substitution. But, further reflection would reveal that they are indeed different and therefore the substitution need not be considered when evaluating the truth of the original. If the original and the substitution are exactly the same in every respect, then the truth of the statemtent is not altered. To illustrate, if Sally switches her name to Eliza, her identity remains intact. To consider her a different person because her name changed is fallacious.

      To sum up, I need not consider your substitutions because they do not have an effect upon the truth of my proposition. The force of your arguments is imaginary. Your arguments act as a smoke screen in order to avoid the outcome of the original proposition.

      1. That was painful to read. It was like you were deliberately trying to mutilate the English language.

        Just because you can imagine y instead of x doesn’t mean that y equals x or that x is false.

        Well, duh.
        This will not help you out of the pickle you are in.

        Just because you can imagine Yoda instead of Baal doesn’t mean that Yoda equals Baal or that Baal is false.
        See the problem?
        No? Okey-dokey.

        The outcome of the equation is specific dependent upon the value of x. If you subsitute y, not only does the outcome change but the relationships change as well.

        The outcome of the equation is specific dependent upon the value of Baal. If you subsitute Yoda, not only does the outcome change but the relationships change as well.

        I have no idea what the value of Baal is. Nor do I see how the relationships change if you substitute Yoda.
        (shrug)

        If, in fact, x = y then the value of x and y is the same and neither the outcome nor the relationships change.

        If, in fact, Baal = Yoda then the value of Baal and Yoda is the same and neither the outcome nor the relationships change.

        Hmm, yes. Very interesting.
        (…awkward silence…)

        If, in fact, x = y then the value of x and y is the same and neither the outcome nor the relationships change. Therefore, it is fallacious to consider the x-equation false in light of the y-equation.

        If, in fact, Baal = Yoda then the value of Baal and Yoda is the same and neither the outcome nor the relationships change. Therefore, it is fallacious to consider the Baal-equation false in light of the Yoda-equation.

        Hmm, well…if you say so.

        Even if y = x, the truth of the equation would remain the same. Just because the name of the variable has changed does not mean the truth of the equation has changed since x and y have the same identity.

        Even if Yoda = Baal, the truth of the equation would remain the same. Just because the name of the variable has changed does not mean the truth of the equation has changed since Baal and Yoda have the same identity.

        Good point. I may never look at the Star Wars franchise in the same way again.
        (…rolls eyes…)

        To illustrate, if Sally switches her name to Eliza, her identity remains intact.

        Are you saying that God might have switched his name to Santa?
        Now that’s interesting theology!

        To sum up…

        Oh yes please do!

        I need not consider your substitutions because they do not have an effect upon the truth of my proposition.

        Wow.
        Imagine the time you could have saved if you had just gone straight to the retort and skipped all the window dressing.

      2. You seem to agree with everything I said here. Each proposition must be evaluated as a truth question. They stand and fall on their own merit. If you have something different to say, now’s the time to say it. If we’re both just saying the same thing, one of us is irrelevant to the conversation.

        You say, “I have no idea what the value of Baal is. Nor do I see how the relationships change if you substitute Yoda.”

        That’s a failure of your mind, not mine. Maybe you should do some research.

  13. Each proposition must be evaluated as a truth question.

    A what?

    That’s a failure of your mind, not mine. Maybe you should do some research.

    It’s your argument, not mine.
    I would never dream of saying the silly things your are saying.
    I’m just switching the labels.
    The structure of your claims remains perfectly intact. I’m not really changing anything.

    Let me suffice it to say, that if I am persuaded in my mind of faith toward God, I cannot be equally persuaded of faith in Baal, Santa, Odin, or FSM.

    Let me suffice it to say, that if I am persuaded in my mind of faith toward Santa, I cannot be equally persuaded of faith in Baal, Santa, Odin, or FSM.

    At least for my part, I love God because he loves me. It’s quite simple.

    At least for my part, I love Baal because he loves me. It’s quite simple.

    I have shown in my post that independent verification cannot be applied to religion and that I do not have to present evidence to anyone else of my own matters of faith toward God.

    I have shown in my post that independent verification cannot be applied to religion and that I do not have to present evidence to anyone else of my own matters of faith toward Yoda.
    (shrug)

    “That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”
    ― Christopher Hitchens

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