Circles and more circles


John Loftus writes “there is no independent way to determine what God thinks, if he exists at all. Believers simply create their own religion, their own Gospel, and their own God in their own image.”

Of course there would be no independent way to determine what God thinks. Loftus seems to require a third “Verificator” being to exist outside of humanity and God in order to verify the thoughts of God and put his stamp of authenticity on it. But, then how do we verify the Verificator? Shall we require a fourth being to certify the thoughts of all the previous beings? What about a fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth? Loftus has walked himself into a vicious circle. Yet he seems to be unconcerned about his next statement or its need for verification: “believers simply create their own religion.” Unless, Loftus advocates a sort of faith in himself, we need to verify his statement. But, who’s going to verify that? Whoever it is would have to exist outside of humanity and at least have similar cognitive abilities. It seems Loftus requires an alien to exist for verification purposes. But, then who’s going to certify the alien? John, really, is this the logic of an atheist? All you have here is circular reasoning.

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8 thoughts on “Circles and more circles

  1. Dan, for crying out loud, follow your own reasoning: if Believer A says that god thinks X, and Believer B says god thinks Not-X, then how are we to know which – if any – is closer to what’s true independent of Believer A and Believer B?

    Rather than use the word ‘verificator’ which connotes an outside agency, why not use a more useful notion like ‘method to arbitrate belief’? Oh, right… we already have that and it isn’t very supportive of your belief preference. What’s a believer to do when reality doesn’t cooperate to arbitrate what is merely believed to be true?

    Rely on nebulous words to paint metaphysical labyrinths that try to convince us through opaqueness and obscurity that everyone is so confused that only faith in a particular labyrinth-maker can help us find the way into the metaphysical light! The only fly in the ointment of this approach is that this light – like the labyrinth itself – is entirely imagined.

    1. ” if Believer A says that god thinks X, and Believer B says god thinks Not-X, then how are we to know which – if any – is closer to what’s true independent of Believer A and Believer B?”

      Exactly. We can’t know, unless God tells us. Anything we “know” all by ourselves is trapped in a circle. For the person who says X proclaims simultaneously that it is true, and so on ad infinitum.

      Who is to say that your “method” is true? You? Well, who is to verify that what you say is true? Newton? Bacon? Galileo? They say that what they say is true too. Who is to verify them? You are caught in the same circle. You are always going to need evidence for the evidence for the evidence. In fact, anything humanity grasps fully is going to be caught in the same circle.

      It’s funny how Christianity comes along and claims an actual changeless transcendent standard of measure and those caught in circles gripe about it.

      1. We can’t know, unless God tells us. So Believer A knows X is true because god tells her, and Believer B knows that not-X is true because god tells her. And you see no problem with this methodology that is entirely dependent on each believer. According to you, each is correct even though the beliefs themselves are in direct conflict.

        Who is to say that your “method” is true? You?

        No Daniel. Reality arbitrates. The method of inquiry that allows reality to arbitrate claims made about it independent of the beliefs of those undertaking the inquiry may or may not yield knowledge that works for everyone everywhere all the time. But the test is not a ‘perspective’ or ‘bias’ or world view’ or any of the other misrepresentations you unfailingly grasp to trivialize and attack the character of those who utilize this method; reality will arbitrate whether or not claims made about are true independent of those making a claim about it.

        The problem arises when people like yourself simply do not respect the goal of the inquiry, namely, to finding out in the least biased way possible if reality shows us that our understanding works, if applications and technologies and therapies work for everyone everywhere all the time. If so, then we safely assume that the knowledge that informs these are ‘true’ as far as we know. This is not a circle, Daniel, but an ever-expanding library of reliable and applicable knowledge. That’s why your keyboard and my keyboard and the commentator’s keyboards work, because the knowledge we have gained about how electrons function seems to work for all of us all of the time, whereas religious beliefs attributed to god’s personal revelations has yet to yield even ONE bit of equivalent knowledge to empower a religious technology, a religious application, or a religious therapy that works for everyone everywhere all the time. In any honest comparison, religious revelation is a fraud, a methodological failure, an epistemological disaster that keeps on causing the real effect of harm to real people in real life every day. That’s not a ‘gripe’; it’s an accurate observation that correctly identifies adherence to a religious idea – a faith-based belief – as the mechanism used to implement harmful causal effect.

  2. Exactly. We can’t know, unless God tells us.

    Um, how do you know what your brand name god told the other guy? How does some other guy know what your mutual god told you in a dream or something? Verification?
    This may come as a shock to you but people will lie to you about what your god told them. People will willingly believe those lies and waste their time and money…and worse.

    Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Jim Jones.

    Jonestown Massacre Documentary

  3. Reality cannot arbitrate, because there would have to a judgment of what is reality. Reality is subject to perception. Arbitration itself is subjective because it does not have a foundation of truth that it holds to. It is subject to the perceived reality of the arbitrators. No one can be totally objective, therefore arbitration by reality is not a valid means of deciding what is true.

    Believers,(and I assume you mean believers in Jesus Christ) and unbelievers alike, are continually tempted to create their own god. Often the god looks very much like the creator. When we compare ourselves to the rest of ourselves, whether we are believers or not, we tend to promote superiority in ourselves, not love. So then, we often end up worshiping ourselves in some form. This is not unique to Christians. What is unique to Christians, is that they have found a way to deal with the problem of sin and the guilt that goes with it. They have found this in something outside themselves. They have also found justice and forgiveness culminating in one place at one time at one Cross by the Greatest Love.

    1. No, jessemelon, judgement – to be a reflection of reality rather than simply perception – can be quite separate from belief. We, in fact, have a very useful method of inquiry that tests claims about reality not against what you or I may believe about it but by whether the claim works. This method is exactly what you do almost all of the time when the claim doesn’t involved privileged beliefs: you utilize reality to establish what is true. You may believe you left the keys on the table but to verify this you don’t rely on your belief or pretend your perception of them is fundamentally flawed; you rely on reality to justify your belief if and only if your keys are determined by your senses to be there on the table. If they are not there, you don’t pretend that your beliefs – through revelation – are able to make them reveal themselves. This would be highly dysfunctional. You go and look for them. You ask people if they have seen them. You track back your movement from the last time they were in your possession and check pockets and other locations where they may have been misplaced.

      You don’t make a burnt offering, hold a seance, check the entrails of a goat, read the tea leaves, or prey for supernatural guidance back to your keys. Standing still and praying about finding them does not produce practical results; no divine intervention happens and you quickly learn that spending time and effort appealing to unseen authorities wastes time that could be used productively to locate the missing keys. You use reality to arbitrate the location of your keys without giving your perceptual limitations and unseen agencies even a second thought; you fully allow the keys to arbitrate their location. And this method works reliably well, doesn’t it? Be honest!

      In fact, if you were to find the keys hanging from the lock you would not refuse to believe that were there and continue to insist through metaphysical reasoning that you were fully justified to continue to believe that they were still on the table but merely hiding, or that an unseen other-world agency was responsible for their mystical translocation and revelation to you (because you’re special and the agency loves you). You would not find it reasonable if others insisted that finding your keys in a different location could be interpreted to mean that this invisible agency was in need of your submission to its authority, that it was the one true path you need to guide you in morality and ethics. You would dismiss these claims by others as nothing more than directions to Crazy Town.

      For whatever shortcomings your senses may have, you know by experience that your beliefs alone are far more untrustworthy in every area of your life in any fair comparison…. every area, that is, except religion where you – not reality – determine that untrustworthy, untested, unverified belief that produces nothing practical that works in reality suddenly becomes the highest virtue here but only here.

      This is a rather important clue, don’t you think?

  4. What is unique to Christians, is that they have found a way to deal with the problem of sin and the guilt that goes with it. They have found this in something outside themselves.

    You do realise that the concept of “sins” is not exclusive to Christianity, right?
    It’s the standard shtick of religions everywhere, both ancient and new.

    You’ve committed a sin that we get to define?
    Oh you terrible person you. I’d hate to be in your shoes.
    Tut tut tut.
    Fortunately, we happen to have the local market cornered on that particular sin and how to absolve you of it. Aren’t you lucky!
    So, um, do this…now do that…very good, wonderful…now say this…mkay,fine…and nowputmoneyinthecollectionplaceyeswetakecreditcards.
    So, that’s taken care of.
    See you next Thurday.
    NEXT!

  5. I daresay if I left my keys on the table that the keys would not arbitrate. I would be the one arbitrating with myself on where I left the keys. I would not believe I left them on the table. In that case, of course, if you are from the country, the word “believe” is often substituted for “think.” And I do believe that I have used “believe” in that way before (case in point).. But to be technically correct the right word would be “think.”

    Keys are not worthy of belief in the way a person is. Inanimate objects are lifeless. It would be like worshiping a golden calf. Would it not make better sense to worship the creator of the golden calf? Would it not make better sense to worship someone who can do something for you…someone who can think, feel, and make decisions? Therefore I do not consider a rock to be able to think or arbitrate. People do those things.

    While I do believe very strongly that God could do a miracle (something outside of the realm of science and the laws of nature), He has never done a miracle, in that sense, for me. God isn’t here to help us find our keys, or even raise someone from the dead. God is here to help us with the problem of sin no matter what definition any religion may put on it. We all obey somekind of moral law (and where there is a moral law, there is a moral lawgiver). We all disobey that moral law at times. The guilt of that reeks havoc in our conscience and evidences fragmented thinking and disrupted relationships externally. The atonement for sin is not something to be taken lightly. It cost God his only Son dying an horrific death. Neither is it something that we give assent to and then walk away living life the way we want. Life is forever changed. We may sin again, but not because we want to. And we press toward a higher calling made possible by renewed thinking.

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