A Third “both/and” principle: evidence and faith

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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. If you act on anything, you have faith. This is completely unlike the modern idea that faith is something in the absence of evidence, and that the two are opposite methods of knowing the world. But, as we have seen, both are necessary for purposely doing anything in the world.

This sort of faith is a trust in your own ability to properly know the world; a faith that you really do see the things that you see and really do experience the things that you experience. Your mind could be mistaken or corrupted in some way so that you can’t truthfully see and know what’s going on in the real world, but most of us don’t question the accuracy of our minds. We trust that what is going on in our heads matches what is going on around us.  But, we are irresistibly compelled to take the next step, to see what is going on, to know ourselves and the world more fully.

Another sort of faith is a trust in what another person tells you. You trust that when they say, I love you, it is true. It’s the same when you trust your father to tell you about the world. He tells you that seeds turn into trees and you believe him though you haven’t seen it yet. And others who become your teachers tell you a great many things that you could never have discovered on our own.

A religious faith goes beyond faith in parents and teachers. It is trust in God and what he says. We do not approach him with a worldly or self-trusting faith, but a faith as you would in your own father. Self and the world are inadequate of themselves to know the person of God, although necessary staring points for life. This sort faith, however, is born out of a response to him and what he has said to you, either through nature or through his word.

The quality, or type of faith one might have changes upon where you put it. Whether it’s in yourself, the world, a person, or a creator. Faith’s substances changes depending on where it’s placed.

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Both/And Principles

As of late, humanity has rushed head long into a disconnectedness that separates us from almost everything. John Stuart Mill proclaimed the individual was paramount, and expounded a doctrine that de-emphasizes community, family, and fraternity. The Enlightenment separated reason and imagination. The founding fathers separated church and state. Everywhere we see distinctions between organic and inorganic; values and facts; conscious and unconscious; design and random variation; purpose and chance; mind and body; reality and fantasy. Yet, being able to discern distinctions, doesn’t necessitate a separation. Are these concepts opposite operating principles, what I call “either/or” principles; or are they principles that work together, “both/and” principles?

In the following posts, I am introducing some principles that attempt to enjoin things that have been thought to be separated. The first post will be up shortly.

-Dan O’Brian

Atheism and the Bonds of Society

“An atheist is a person who questions every kind of authority, and this is the thing that is important. Because, if we can, without blinking an eye, question the ultimate authority, God, who must be obeyed; then we can question the authority of the state, we can question the authority of a university structure, we can question the authority of our employer, we can question anything.”

–Madalyn Murray O’Hair (quote from here)

“A being, independent of any other, has no rule to pursue, but such as he prescribes to himself…”

— Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England

“Those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the being of God. Promises, covenants, and oaths, which are the bonds of human society, can have no hold upon an atheist. The taking away of God, though but even in thought, dissolves all.”

“For in all states of created beings capable of laws, where there is no law, there is no freedom; for liberty is to be free from restraint and violence from others; which cannot be where there is no law: but freedom is not, as we are told, a liberty for every man to do what he lists: (for who could be free, when every other man’s humor might domineer over him?)”

–1. John Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration,  2. John Locke, Second Treatise of Government

“For as God, when he created matter, and endued it with a principle of mobility, established certain rules for the perpetual direction of that motion; so, when he created man, and endued him with freewill to conduct himself in all parts of life, he laid down certain immutable laws of human nature, whereby that freewill is in some degree regulated and restrained, and gave him also the faculty of reason to discover the purport of those laws.”

–Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England

The law of human nature is not, in all points, a limitation of human freedom but a direction of a freewill agent toward his proper interest. That law does not deserve the description of confinement which prevents us from falling off of cliffs and getting stuck in ditches. It’s aim is to preserve and broaden our freedom, not only to restrain.

If no God exists, then no law of human nature exists. If no law of human nature exists, then all government of human society is arbitrary and has no objective foundation or obligation upon men.

Moreover, there is no foundation for the establishment of government by free discourse in light of atheism because there is no objective and equal value of human persons to respect concerning each other’s jurisdiction or dominion over one another. Others need not respect the property (life, liberty, and estate) of their neighbors because no one has laid equality upon them or an obligation to respect.

The only reason, outside of the law of human nature, that can be maintained concerning respect of property, is only in the pursuit of certain social ends: i.e. If it is the case that men are pleased to preserve their property, then they need only confine their actions in such a manner as to meet those ends. But, let it be clear, if there is no superior being to lay an obligation upon them, then the choice to confine one’s action toward the preservation of property is arbitrary, and only holds so much as men are pleased to do so.

Also on atheism, outside of society, freedom is to do what one lists. There is no security within which one may conduct one’s affairs without constant threat of harm, and that harm cannot be considered illegitimate. There is no law the victim may appeal to, neither has he right to punish the offender, although, he may punish the offender if it so pleases him.

Furthermore, since rules of society are arbitrary, in a democratic society where the social end is peace with one another, those who think themselves outside this arbitrary law can rightly consider it tyranny. Tyranny is the exercise of power beyond right, and right cannot be defined by arbitrary decision if a person is not pleased to accept that arbitrary decision.

This is why John Locke states that promises and oaths, which are the bonds of human society, cannot hold for an atheist. He has no law but such as he prescribes to himself and it holds as long as it pleases him to hold it.

The objection may arise, “But there are, indeed moral atheists. Are you saying that atheist are inherently immoral?” No. Because there is a law of human nature and they can apprehend it as much as the religious man can. They can be just as moral or even more so than the Christian because the same law holds for both and both understand it. Not only does the law of nature govern them, but the laws of the society they are in confine their actions as well. However, since the atheist has rejected God, the only foundation for moral obligation; the option is left open to him to reject the law of society and the bonds of nature’s law, even in the smallest of measures, because his true foundation is whatever pleases him.

The Age of Manipulation

This is the age of information, but more like the bombardment of information. From the internet to the millions of books, everyone who can write wants their voice to be heard and given as much consideration as the millions of others who want to be heard. The public processes information too fast and with so much volume, it is hardly surprising that people know very little about a whole lot of subjects. In previous times when words and information were scarce, people put time and labor into their reading. The public, then, knew very well the value of every word and the implications that could be drawn from each one. Now, the public is pushed on every side by words. For each modern word touts an agenda and a bias. Feeling a responsibility to give every writer equal audience, the public gorges itself on more and more information. And just when it is just about to vomit, it forces more down its collective throat. As a consequence, the public has become indistinguishable from a lazy man who, because he cannot manage to govern himself, is manipulated not by the man with the wisest words, but by the man who speaks the most often.

Why Atheists sometimes lose effectiveness in Theistic discussions

Observed truth or truth we discover, is ultimately inadequate to affect absolute certainty within man. Having no deeper foundation other than our own fallible faculties, our beliefs must deliver a standing invitation to all competing ideas until all possibilities are exhausted. If, then, our beliefs stand, they can only hold certainty in the sense of having withstood all other ideas our current day and age can muster and for which we are able to understand. Thus, our beliefs can only hold a current temporary certainty while holding a respect for such a time in the future that mankind is able to obtain a greater understanding of those beliefs. Thus, absolute certainty can never be reached by mankind. It has the effect of silencing the free exchange of ideas and creating a tyranny upon other men who hold differing beliefs.

Truth, as a Being with person-hood, is entirely in the position to produce a greater degree of certainty within man than he could reach alone. For Truth, having personality, could relate with man, instruct, and cleanse man of error he could not have eliminated on his own. That is not to say that man would then have an infallible understanding of the truth. The best he could do is present to others a representation of this Truth-Being or a representation of some external truth the Being has communicated. The representation would still be subject to the fallible faculties of man and therefore must deliver the same standing invitation to other representations. Otherwise, tyranny will result. Furthermore, whatever refined beliefs man contains inside himself must be held in a progressive truth-seeking manner with a respect for some newer revelation communicated by this Truth-Being in the future. For it is absurd to believe that man has perfect understanding of truth the first time it is communicated to him.

Therefore, the only difference realized by man, either in truth discovered solely by man or truth received from this Truth-Being, is the deeper ground on which he stands when receiving communication from this Being. Those who criticize representations of this Being without standing in deeper ground themselves will compete with any self-authenticating witness this Being has produced inside the man standing on the deeper ground and will, thus, be only marginally effectual in an argument. Effectiveness can be obtained either by developing a greater understanding of the representations or moving onto deeper ground.

Reverse Psychology

When the veil of human ignorance is taken away, we find out what has been happening all along: that we only seemed to be the questioners, the teachers, the testers, the judges, the knowing ones acting like scientists looking for God in a test tube. In reality we are the questioned, the tested, the students, the judged, the known ones. When God asks a question he either is the answer or the answer lies within him. That is the nature of God, which man does not have. Truth is not simply around God or known by him, truth is him. This is why when we answer his question, it does not leave us lost, but found. And not only found, but joined to the Truth himself. People who observe the world around us with the intent only to know ourselves better (our origins, our present condition, and our future), are still left with uncertainty, for who knows what new discoveries will confuse the present ones and suffer man to redefine himself once again. If men observe the world and ask the question, “Who is God?” instead of, “Who is man?”, we can obtain certainty. For this reason, belief in God is not religion, it is the discovery of the true nature of reality, for God is reality. Reality based on man is fictional, delusional, a fairy tale: as evidenced by the absence of satisfying truth in man based answers. Questions that originate in man leave us lost at sea. Questions that originate in God set us on dry land.

Choose Your Own Adventure

When we are young we have faith in our parents. We obey them (hopefully) because they love us and they show us how life is, and what it should be. As we get older we put faith in our teachers trusting that they are authorities on Mathematics, Science, English, and so on. Each time we learn, we receive by faith the things they teach us since we have no first-hand knowledge of the things they relate to us. It’s better than making each generation rediscover everything over again. However, there is a time to learn what others teach and a time to gather knowledge ourselves. We begin to have faith in ourselves that we have the capabilities to understand the right ways of life. In the process of attaining knowledge we endeavor to reject faulty knowledge. But, we cannot be 100% certain that the knowledge we acquire is free of corruption since it cannot be independently verified by an outside source. Although some people see evidence of a Creator,  no 3rd party materializes in front of us to provide confirmation or denial of our findings, and these findings are subject to further criticism from every other person looking for answers or just looking to poke holes in other people’s findings. At this point, two types of people can emerge. The first is a person who begins to find the answers of life within himself, picking himself up by his bootstraps, so to speak, creating his own meaning and purpose, reality and truth. He has faith in himself. The other man perceives that his own reason has limitations and is therefore inadequate to get the answers needed. Since he perceives that the human experience is common to all, he looks for answers outside of himself and humanity. He puts faith in a 3rd party in order to confirm or deny his findings.

What is the difference between a man who has faith in himself and his human teachers, and the man who puts his faith in God? Both of them have faith, but the object of their faith is different. What are the outcomes?

The man who puts faith in himself eventually becomes selfish. This does not mean he only thinks of himself, but rather that all of his charitable and self-serving acts come from values formed from his own authority. His self and others like him are the highest forms of life he can find. He creates his own meaning, his own reality, his own purpose, and his own morality. Essentially he is his own property. He can do with himself what he wants. The obstacles to this, however, are others and laws of society. He respects others because it is reasonable, but he may decide that it is not reasonable if he so wishes. As his self grows in value, he can reason anything he wants. He eventually does not need society to decide what is right and wrong for him to do. If he kills someone it was for a good reason even if society does not agree. If he commits suicide he is only hurting himself and it is just fine because he is his own property. If he hurts others it can be justified. Reasons exist to respect other’s “property”, but reasons also exist that justify the disrespect of other’s “property”. The choice is his. He is the judge and jury. He could be the most moral person or the least moral person. Most everyone will not take it this far. They adopt this philosophy in moderation. Herein lies temporary harmony with the rest of men. However, this philosophy taken to the end of itself can lead to the destruction of self and others and it’s perfectly reasonable.

The man who puts his faith in God eventually becomes selfless. This does not mean he never thinks of himself, but rather that all of this charitable and self-serving acts are derived from values given by his Maker. God is the highest form of life he can find. In understanding God’s identity, he realizes his own identity, and derives from God his meaning, reality, purpose, and morality. Essentially, he is God’s property. He can do with himself what he wants, but he gives his self away to the Self of God. In this act, a new identity emerges that naturally follows the character of God. He respects others because they are God’s property, and we are all tenants, so to speak. He does not need society to decide what is right and wrong for him to do. If he kills someone he goes against God’s character. If he commits suicide he is destroying God’s property. If he justifies hurting others, he must ignore God’s laws. Reasons exist to respect God’s property. Reasons not to respect God’s property are products of a corrupt mind. The choice is still the man’s choice, but God is the judge and jury. The man’s degree of morality is dependent upon his conformity to the character of God. Most everyone will not take this as far as it will go. We don’t like to give up our selves completely. We adopt this philosophy in moderation. However, herein lies contention with men, God, and self. This philosophy taken to its end can diminish the self and the lead to a new identity created by God.

Now the paths are laid out before you. Which path will you choose?

 

(Picture created by Luke.)

Let Truth grapple with Falsehood in the streets

 

Is there anything more basic than faith in the God of creation? Faith that he provided forgiveness and a way for us to be together? Indeed, many atheistic debaters say it is too simple. It’s when we use reason to describe him or what he wants that we have natural contention. To this, I say, “Bring it on.” Let truth grapple with falsehood in the streets. But, let us not bring our “isms” to the fight, these warped windows that we see the world through. Let us not use modernity as our foundation for argument, for it changes all the time. By all means, however, let the lies test the truth. The truth will be stronger as a result. But, let us not allow these things to corrupt our relationship with God. Once inferior ideas are understood to be inadequate, let us drop them and reject them as idols so that there is only the individual and God. If we are to stand before God and give an account, we will not be able to blame our “isms” or modern ideas. Faith saves In the end not reason, philosophy, theology, or intellect. This is the only equality that matters to mankind throughout history, the equal opportunity of faith in God to all people at all times. For no other equality reaches the eternal.

Dear Law-Condemning Atheist

You joyfully apply Old Testament laws to today’s society to show how ridiculous they are.

“If you worship other gods…then you get stoned to death.”

Does this apply to you? Do you fear stoning? No. These are obsiously not laws that apply to all times and all cultures. You have the same choice as any other man. God created man, gave him the ability to choose, and set a choice before him. “Of every tree in the garden you can freely eat, but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it, for in the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die.” Adam chose and we still choose today. The Christian should allow the same choice for every man, but he should still cling to the truth he knows and expel and refute the lies around him. If the truth purges, that’s great. But force shoudn’t be used unless there is a threat of imminent harm to freedom.

I know why you bring up stoning and other harsh laws in the Old Testament, and leave out the rest of the Bible in your assessment of God. That harsh part of God that demands perfection is hard to reckon with and is easy to reject as unreasonable. You know, if that’s all there was, no man could have hope. I urge you, don’t ignore the merciful and gracious side of God either. He has provided a way to bring us to himself without requiring us to follow a list of do’s and dont’s. Jesus is that way. Without him, our imperfection could never be reconciled with his perfection.

Why the World Sees Error in the Bible


Ezekiel 14:4 …Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the LORD will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols;

The man that has an idol in his heart looks at the world through the lens of self or some unbiblical ideology. If you believe in a naturalist philosophy, a false god, or believe in yourself more than God, and then seek truth when your heart will not take it, God will let you see what you want to see: error, contradiction, and discrimination. He answers you in your delusion. This is what happens when a skeptic tries to interpret the word of God. This is the condemnation of the world, that men love darkness rather than light. The serious student comes to God honestly seeking without a pretense in his heart. God gives his light to the latter man.