Shifting Sands


Where is the wisdom to basing our faith on the shifting sands of modern thinking? Modern knowledge itself is always changing. What we think we know now will be left behind in the future. So, whenever someone feels like nailing something down, they are ridiculed for losing relevance. Yet, if we are relevant, there is no knowledge we can claim, neither is there any wisdom to possess. As I see it, we have two choices here. We can believe in the God that stays the same and even claims to stay the same, or we can be blown about with the winds of change that human reason is so fond of. Where does faith fit in with shifting modern thought? No where. And real faith, if we are able to possess it, must be accessible to all times in human history and all peoples for that is the only way for God to make himself known to all generations. That modern people feel we must deconstruct it is a tragedy of the highest order, and severs the hope of a relationship between God and man.

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26 thoughts on “Shifting Sands

  1. No doubt this will be accepted by many conservative Christians as the reason for holding fast to the God as portrayed in Leviticus, but are you sure that is what you really mean. The God who sanctions genocide of unbelievers, killing those who wear mixed fibre clothing, condemns those who eat with Egyptians, or eat shellfish or carry wood on the Sabbath or trim their sideboards etc etc… surely you cant mean that? I prefer an idea of God that grows with knowledge – that way our understanding can expand to include tolerance.
    I have written a few essays on the subject.
    http://billpeddie.wordpress.com

    1. Must God always conform to the modern thought of a society that requires toleration of the things it approves of? Do you plan so that God changes every time society’s standards change? So, If society decides that pedophilia is OK like the Romans did, then God must put his stamp of approval on it. Maybe there should be a limit to your toleration. And, If you think there should be a limit, is this modern moment where you draw the line? Be sure that if you do, you’ll be ridiculed for it when society changes. I see no reason to play their game. There’s no wisdom in it.

  2. No, it’s not a tragedy to sever an imaginary relationship with an imaginary ‘poppa friend’. It’s an opening of the eyes to one’s self, to accepting that our lives are what we make of them, to realizing that this is our one shot to live – to live fully – and that we have decisions to make and follow and be responsible for them. It’s called maturity, a recognition that nothing remains the same and that everything changes and that this is right and proper as we grow into our adult lives and take on adult concerns. It means we have to leave behind the childish notion of some warm and cozy womb of permanence, of believing in the power of wishful and magical thinking to keep ourselves there. It’s all about being born into the real world, about growing up and leaving home and embracing life even if it is filled with the unknown. And you would recognize this story – your personal narrative – if you read the Genesis account as the myth it truly is rather than the convoluted anti-human bludgeon christianity has tried to make it into. There is no magical garden, no divine fatherly caretaker and there never was. This is the belief of ignorant dependent children. There is you and there is your life and you have to leave behind the state of dependence if you wish to live fully. Any faith that thinks this is a bad thing is a faith not worth holding because it interferes with recognizing what you need to do: leave childish things behind in order to grow up and live your own independent adult life.

    1. Tildeb,

      It takes faith to believe that you alone are sufficient to supply truth, reality, meaning, purpose, and morality. What good evidence do you have for believing this?

      1. No, it does not take the same kind of religious faith you use to believe in god. It takes only a reasonable deduction based on widely available evidence that WE do so all the time. WE have developed a invaluable and practical methodology that allows US to uncover to a very high degree of probability what is real. That you are so willing to give credit to some kind of Oogity Boogity for this pursuit of what is knowable does not speak well of your understanding of the meaning of the words you use so freely.

    2. It seems that you have a massive amount of faith without substantial evidence. How do you know? Were you there when Genesis was written?

      Independence is a farce and unhealthy for society. We need each other as well as God.

      1. Were you there when Genesis was written?

        I believe I was.

        Now prove I wasn’t there. And please do so without relying on exactly the same methodology you pretend is faith-based.

        Yeah, that’s what I thought: hoisted by your own petard.

      1. You haven’t even demonstrated how your position is defensible. And you reply to me with ridiculousness. God does exist. God doesn’t exist. Both statements are statements of faith. Both are beliefs. You can’t prove either one. Yet you can demonstrate one or the other logically. Science hasn’t proven anything. Yes it has lots of descriptive material about what it thinks may have happened but nothing is plain.

        You choose not to believe in God. You have the freedom to do that. We’ll I choose to believe because I think that nothing comes from nothing but since something is here there had to have been an agent of origin there in the first place. I believe that agent to be a creator, a super-mind and specifically God, which I think is a logical position to have. It is one based on an observation. The observed ordered universe is here. It had a beginning. And since nothing didn’t put it there then it must have been something. A creator is implied in the very existence of anything. We know that when looking at man’s accomplishment and I believe the same is observably true for the universe.

        So you may have lots of fun poking and prodding at other people’s belief but remember that some of them think your position is just as demonstrably untrue as you think there’s is. I think you make some valid points but frankly I grow tired of your condescension. I don’t think it helps anyone.

      2. Incorrect on several counts:

        First, atheism is not a belief in spite of faithists insisting over and over that is by pretending the position is “god does not exist.” That’s not what defines atheism – NON belief in gods or a god – nor my position: my position is that there are no GOOD reasons to believe god DOES exist. This is a position that looks at the paucity of evidence and concludes that there’s nothing there… certainly no EXTRAORDINARY evidence for such an EXTRAORDINARY assertion that god DOES exist. On the one hand we have zero evidence that god exists. On the other are lots of people who insist it does. These two positions are not equivalent: the absence of evidence weighs in favour of non belief in the same way that you have no good reason to believe that Zeus exists. Just because someone else insists Zeus is real does not mean the chances are equally likely to be true. The default position for any claim is non belief (although agnostics will pretend that ‘I don’t know” is a reasonable and even superior position in the absence of any evidence for an an extraordinary claim).

        I think you are free to believe whatever you want… in the private domain. As soon as you assert some belief is true and should inform public policy in some way, then it’s up to you to back that up with good reasons that are demonstrably true. Otherwise, the responsible thing to do is keep your beliefs alive and kicking all you want in your private life but put a boundary on it. That’s your job.

        As for your theological arguments, they have been adequately refuted by minds much keener than mine. All I know is (and you should too) that there is no need for any necessary supernatural creator and no evidence to back up the assertion that there was. There remains only assertion and assumption and, for me, that’s simply not good enough to move away from the default position of non belief.

        When someone responds to one of my comments with a really silly argument like “Were you there?” then one can expect the same silliness in return. When you ask me to disprove something, then it’s not condescension to reply using the same line of reasoning that you use to support your faith. It’s a very legitimate response to tell you I was there when Genesis was written because you have no way to DISprove it in the same way that I have no way to disprove your equally ridiculous assertions about knowing anything whatsoever about this creative agency you call god. But that still leaves no evidence in SUPPORT of either the truth claim, does it?

        What you call poking and prodding, I call legitimate criticism. There are HUGE problems asserting faith-based claims as true, as literal, as anything meaningful in my world. And those problems are of your making so it’s your mess to clean up. I’m just pointing out that there is, in fact and practice, a mess to be cleaned.

      3. Tildeb,

        You said, “This is a position that looks at the paucity of evidence and concludes that there’s nothing there… ”

        I present to you through the efforts of Dr. William Craig Lane some logical arguments for God’s existence. One cannot simply be unconvinced that there is a God when logical and plausible reasons exist to believe in him. Your above statement is quite silly if God does exist because everything in existence that we can see would be evidence for God’s existence.

        The Cosmological Argument from Contingency

        1. Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.

        2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.

        3. The universe exists.

        4. Therefore, the universe has an explanation of its existence.

        5. Therefore, the explanation of the universe’s existence is God.

        The Kalam Cosmological Argument Based on the Beginning of the Universe

        1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

        2. The universe began to exist.

        3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

        The Moral Argument

        1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.

        2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.

        3. Therefore, God exists.

        The Ontological Argument from the Possibility of God’s Existence to His Actuality

        1. It is possible that a maximally great being exists.

        2. If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.

        3. If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.

        4. If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.

        5. If a maximally great being exists in the actual world, then a maximally great being exists.

        6. Therefore, a maximally great being exists.

        The Teleological Argument from Fine-tuning

        1. The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.

        2. It is not due to physical necessity or chance.

        3. Therefore, it is due to design.

        To disagree with these arguments is to have a vested interest in the premise that God does not exist, which is an argument from faith.

      4. I am not impressed with Lane; he is simply rehashing these worn out metaphysical arguments that have adequately been shown to have no merit.

        I find the argument for a First Cause absurd because it asks us to accept an exemption from it’s own rule based simply on a faith claim to avoid having to actually face the question of a first cause. This is called the problem of infinite regress (or special pleading) and asks us to exempt from our consideration what caused the First Cause. The answer ‘god’ is merely a dodge because it doesn’t answer the question.

        The Moral Law argument is easily refuted by evidence: not only is there no such thing as a moral law independent of us (nature is indifferent) but the biological evidence clearly indicates moral behaviour is exhibited by many species of which we are but one.

        The teleological argument reveals a gross misunderstanding of probabilities: it presumes that what is doesn’t have to be the way it is. Consider the chances, for example, of you. You are the result of a single sperm out of tens of millions fertilizing a specific egg at a specific time. The ‘chances’ are nearly zero, yet there are billions of such examples living all around you. The presumption that extraordinarily low probabilities of an event must indicate design or intentional intervention by some agency is a failure to appreciate the evidence for what is. You exist in spite of overwhelmingly low odds, so the probability of you actually existing are not one in a hundred million but a probability of one (you DO exist). The odds based on what could have been don’t change the fact of what actually IS. Fine tuning is a backwards argument that attempts (and fails) to present these long odds as equally unlikely to what is.

        To disagree with the arguments you put forth is not based on a vested interest to disagree but on clear and critical thinking. It is not meant to show that god does not exist but that these arguments fail to support the positive claim that god does exist. These arguments are entirely inadequate for the job.

  3. Tildeb,

    Your right. It doesn’t take the same kind of faith to believe what you do. The substance of your faith is not whole. There are gaps in it. You aren’t certain that you can provide perfectly for your security and safety. You aren’t certain that the meaning you supply yourself is 100% the one that will work best for you. You aren’t certain of reality or even the science behind the reasons why you believe the way you do. Scientific findings change the paradigm all the time when new evidence comes in to discredit the old. And even then you have to worry about future findings that may even make that obsolete. Why put your faith in never ending winds of change and uncertainty?

    My faith isn’t even my own. It was given to me by God and is made of a completely different substance than yours.

    1. You make a very typical mistake in thinking that ‘science’ is all about results so if the results change the science is untrustworthy. Science is a method and not a result. The method is the most reliable one we have to reveal to us what is probably correct, i>probably accurate, probably true. You yourself use this method in every area, every activity, of your daily living. Are your keys on the table? You go and look. Have you won the lottery? You go and check. Did you hear that noise? You will go and investigate. In every case you base your response not on faith in the religious sense of the word (trust without evidence) but on some way to verify what you believe may be true, test your assumptions and assertions with evidence, maintain a level of doubt until the preponderance of evidence tilts in favour of a particular and legitimate trust in an answer. This is completely practical and highly useful even if sometimes the informed answer turns out to be different than what you first believed was probably correct, probably accurate, probably true. You continue to use the method because it works the best. You know perfectly well that although you saw the keys on table earlier, you cannot say for certain if they are still there because with the passage of time there is a possibility that they have been moved by someone else. But you don;t distrust the way you validate their location because the result may differ from the first one you arrived at. You don’t throw up your intellectual hands if the keys are not on the table and presume that the only way to find them is to read the entrails of a chicken or make a blood sacrifice to appeal to some Oogity Boogity to provide you with mystical insight to their present location. You look elsewhere. What’s the big deal that there isn’t certainty about the location of your keys?

      This metaphorical looking is the scientific method in action and you use it reliably to inform your knowledge about your self and the world… except in matters of religious faith. So the real question of interest to me is… on what basis do you make this special exemption of how you inquire about anything else when it comes to matters classified as religious faith?

  4. It is a huge risk to reject the idea that God exists. What if He does, Tildeb? Your faith…my faith…pish posh..Neither of us were there in the beginning. But …what if He exists? What then? If He does not, my life is better for having believed He does. The choices I have made based on that belief were choices that made my life and my relationships better. If He does and He is who He says He is and has done what He says He has, then all is well with me.

    1. The Atheist’s Wager says You should live your life and try to make the world a better place for your being in it, whether or not you believe in god. If there is no god, you have lost nothing and will be remembered fondly by those you left behind. If there is a benevolent god, he will judge you on your merits and not just on whether or not you believed in him.

      1. Following our argument, if there is a God, I expect we will find out if He is a benevolent one. I am sure that a God benevolent enough to give His only Son to die for the sins of mankind so they could be forgiven, would not judge based on merit, but on whether they accepted the gift of His only Son.

      2. Yeah, I almost never hear people describing themselves as “god-loving”. It’s almost always “god-fearing”.

        The notion of eternal damnation is obscene and immoral. Why would anyone worship such an unworthy god? Fear?

      3. On the one hand you tell me that my theological arguments “have been adequately refuted by minds much keener than mine.” Then you later claim that your criticism is legitimate. So, basically, as long as someone else has done all the thinking all you have to do is tout their talking points and this satisfies your own intellectual curiosity.

        I got to tell you this bugs me Tildeb. I’ve spent much time reading and listening to treatises on both sides to see if my belief in an intelligent designer has suffered any true and damaging refutation. I write based on much of that research. Yet this whole time, you sit at your computer hanging faith in effigy not taking the time to weigh the evidence yourself concerning these issues but instead relying on “better minds.” And why, because they MUST have figured it out? Well, if you don’t know what those arguments are, let me encourage you to educate yourself on the subject with a quote.

        “Without education, we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people too seriously.” -G.K. Chesterton

      4. JM, not only have these theological arguments laid out by Daniel been adequately refuted many times in many ways, I don’t honestly see how I can improve on them.

        Your belief in an intelligent designer is not based on any meaningful research you have done or you would understand why it fails in every regard except by faith alone. It is upon that plank that your belief rests and there are no other planks that support it except faith. In contrast stands evidence of evolution of mindless forces and processes. How do we know this? Consider the following
        :
        The big difference between religion and science is that science posits theories based on evidence and then does everything it can to try and disprove them, whereas religion posits theories – presented as truths – not based on evidence and then does everything it can to protect them from being questioned or disproved.

        In a nutshell, that’s the difference between your position of faith about a designer and the position of what is know: evolution. I would be a fool to accept your position of faith and choose to trust it over and above multiple supporting layers of evidence in every avenue of human inquiry that reveals no evidence of any designer.

        I am unsure of how much ‘not’ weighing of evidence you want me to undertake, in the same way I’m not sure how much research the critics of the Emperor’s attire should undertake about imaginary fashions. In other words, suggest actual evidence for design that cannot be accounted for by evolutionary theory and let’s talk. There will be a Nobel in it for you, BTW. But if all you can do is repost more silly arguments based on metaphysical assumptions about the nature of this imaginary god then there will never be an end to the research I shall have to undertake to satisfy you.

  5. Tildeb,

    Of course atheists think that God will “judge you on your merits and not just on whether or not you believed in him.” If you were persuaded otherwise, your position would become infintely more treacherous and your bet not worth the wager. Judging on merit is a much safer thought.

  6. tildeb, that answer was pure closed minded dogmatism. “Your belief in an intelligent designer is not based on any meaningful research you have done or you would understand how it fails in every regard except by faith alone.” If you don’t understand the circular reasoning in your statement here then I conclude that you are what I like to call a “true believer.” The proverbial “they” in your dogma has all the evidence on their side and even the suggestion that any evidence may point in the opposite direction smacks of ignorance and stupidity. I know you believe this by what you say. You may even be proud to admit it. There is only one problem – this is not a scientific position and you may not realize this but your “keener minds” make precisely the same mistake.

      1. look it up for yourself, tildeb. And if you believe the scientific community at large is interested in the “evidence” then I defy you to find any evidence for darwinian macro-evolution.

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