Tag Archives: argument

… a challenging quote about God:

“If he is infinitely good, what reason should we have to fear him? If he is infinitely wise, why should we have doubts concerning our future? If he knows all, why warn him of our needs and fatigue him with our prayers? If he is everywhere, why erect temples to him? If he is just, why fear that he will punish the creatures that he has filled with weaknesses? …If he is reasonable, how can he be angry at the blind, to whom he has given the liberty of being unreasonable? … If he is inconceivable, why occupy ourselves with him? … and if he has spoken, why is the world not convinced?”

-Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

Name-Calling and Education

I am amused and somewhat confounded that when one contests a point-of-view and takes it to its end, the person who finds themselves cornered and apparently without the wherewithal to respond to questions and comments speaks out with a vengeance and declares the other person to lack civility and is a fool to boot. 

My opinion about such things is that our educational system has not fulfilled its rightful role. Those who would call out another in a not-too-subtle manner as a “fool” etc., in most cases, have not been given a stage to present their thoughts for peer review. It is as if you can believe what you want as long as you are passionate enough about it to remain convinced. I find that approach to education wrong headed. Everyone should be given the opportunity to defend their position before their peers while having a person of authority, an instructor, also chime in with their years of experience and maturity. Are we too weak to call out defective thinking because it might hurt the little ones in their social interactions? Well, welcome to the real world.

Higher education is a place for trying out new ideas and getting the kind of feedback that benefits the presenter, shapes the message, even gives reason to re-think one’s position. I find that most of those who do not allow themselves to be challenged in a place of advanced education are unable to handle the emotional baggage that comes with being “outed” for poor style, as in name-calling.

Presidential Insight

“Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear. . . . Do not be frightened from this inquiry by any fear of its consequences. If it ends in a belief that there is no God, you will find inducements to virtue in the comfort and pleasantness you feel in its exercise, and the love of others which it will procure you.”

—-Thomas Jefferson, third President of the US

Disliking (Hating) Atheists and other Pestilences

One of the conundrums of religion is the sad but real fact that many people of faith have little tolerance for those without faith. In other words, there appears to be a lot of hate going around. Why does this happen? It is my view that any form of atheism and agnosticism are perceived as a threat to the religious. After all, if one believes they are strong in their faith and a question about their faith appears unanswerable, who wouldn’t begin to wonder and speculate about the foundations of their faith? It happens to everyone. At this point the only thing left to do for a person without an answer is to resort to “faith” as faith gets by with little or no logical formation for it to exist. While this debate could be productive it is stopped cold in its tracks when arguing from logic or supposition. The subsequent “disliking” of faithless non-believers usually takes the form of distancing one’s self from the logician. If you remain distant from the cause of discomfort then discomfort does not have to consciously exist nor do inconvenient reminders of one’s irrational faith and logic. All one needs to do is stay away from its cause. In the short term this works but in the longer view one must take ever stronger and stronger measures to counteract the possibility that logical thoughts of others are the cause of many fears and anxieties.

There are a number of tools we have at our disposal to manage the questions and subsequent anxiety about religion. We could talk it out, try to understand it, we could rationalize it to ourselves, ignore it, pretend it doesn’t exist, run away from it, and get angry. Anger, minimizing, ignoring and exclusion appear to be the most frequently used tools to deal with what is not acceptable thinking or questioning about one’s faith. That is why there is so much religious hostility in the world. Too often the mantra of those with clear-cut but unprovable religious mandates espouse something like the following statement: “If you don’t believe as I do, I will (kill, hurt, ostracize, label, etc. [fill in the blank]) you!” Nations often take up arms against each other because of one’s beliefs. These nations are often driven by religious ideations and are no different than an individual. Taking up word weaponry to prove one is wrong or to hurt another is not uncommon. Most war efforts are driven by fear and/or anger. In order for one to avoid confrontation or lose a word war we resort to hostile statements while ostracizing the offender. The result is rage, intolerance and isolation. The tendency to isolate one who thinks differently than we do is born of a lack of understanding of both one’s own views and that of others. Of course this works both ways.

The irony in all of this is that many religious types claim to be concerned about the behaviors and thinking of those whose views run contrary to theirs. Yet, when pushed to understand that of another an impenetrable wall arises and communication is severely thrashed. This is an unfortunate result of closed minds, minds that will not consider the views of another when a position runs contrary to theirs. The need to perpetuate their thinking brings a kind of comfort outlasting that of logic. A place of disgrace lingers in the background as a person of faith will surely find themselves placed should they ask the wrong questions or betray their growing lack of faith in their religious culture.

Integrity is at the heart of most religions and expressions of faith. Therefore, it seems only right that a person of faith who is seeking to be a person of integrity would be willing to open up their faith questions and those of others with an approach that questions with honesty, fairness and reasonableness and not hostility, isolation, shunning and ridicule.

Comfort in Conformance

There is a core belief that when certain topics arise, particularly around politics or religion, they are best ignored. It is assumed that if you go into those deep waters you will soon drown in unsubstantiated facts and opinions. Based on certain prejudices that are sure to overwhelm a fact-based encounter, these prejudices reveal one’s animosities and cultural influences. When pressed for their argument’s support an emotionalized reaction is often what you get with name-calling and sarcasm about one’s ancestral heritage. Pedigrees are often questioned and identification with a non-affiliated group is put to a stringent litmus test. Why does it have to end this way? Either, “you do (this) or I will do (that).” Fill in the blanks. Apparently, conformance is comforting.

What does conformance look like in a group? It is the picture of satisfaction, no worries, straight thinking – think the same, stay away from conflict, always have an answer even if it might be a trite one. They say; “No matter, we have faith. Faith in what we believe. We have enough faith to carry us through any question or criticism about our belief system.” That is the essence of conformance. You either accept it or you are considered an enemy to a way of life and thought.

In most cases positive human interaction and the appearance of social harmony is dependent on thinking similarly. This kind of phony congruence becomes a roadblock to new ideas and solutions for it is often in disagreement that learning takes place. I learn when someone picks apart my argument, takes on my thinking, challenges my thought processes and conclusions. So, why are we threatened by questions calling out our thoughts, revealing our thinking errors? Because we are uncomfortable being wrong! It can be embarrassing, especially when an idea from outside the group penetrates the group in spite of strong resistance.

Thinking is the core of our conscious being. It is where we process the data that presents itself in various forms to our organs of perception. And, since we take our conclusions seriously, while observing them up close and personal, they become an intimate part of us. The result of this process is that we find ourselves becoming defensive when challenged, the worst kind of hindrance to an open mind. Being on the defensive is uncomfortable and emotionally draining.

So, what does one do in the pursuit of truth and clarity? If that is your desire be prepared to accept the possibility there will be those who will distance themselves from you as it is you and your ideas that make them uncomfortable. Refusing to conform, some of the greatest thinkers have even sacrificed their lives for the truth as they understood it. That takes a great deal of stamina, confidence and a clear mind with the realization that it will be uncomfortable, very uncomfortable, and perhaps lethal.

Ten Things Christians Should Keep in Mind When Debating Atheists – Edited, John Loftus

1. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Consequently, the burden of proof is on the theist rather than the atheist.

2. Science has radically altered how we understand the universe, so theism must grapple with the implications of science before offering prescientific beliefs as truth.

3. There is a gap between natural theology and revealed theology. Arguing for a prime mover is not the same thing as arguing for any faith tradition.

4. An atheist is under no obligation to take your theology seriously. It’s your belief, you need to justify it in secular terms. Just as a Hindu or a Scientologist would.

5. The problem of miracles is a serious challenge that must be overcome for any testimony or private revelation of the divine to be taken as verifiable.

6. Faith is not an [sound] epistemology, and the retreat to faith is a concession of the failure of the belief to be defended on rational grounds.

7. The link between theism and morality has been conceptually (Euthyphro dilemma), empirically (evolutionary ethics), and culturally (morality existing without theism) discredited. Thus coupling God with the notion of Good is not only misleading, but trying to own a fundamental aspect of the human condition.

8. Atheism is not materialism. Materialism is a scientific doctrine, while atheism is a stance on the position of gods. Arguing against materialism is not going to make the case for theism.

9. Atheism is a conclusion, not a worldview. Atheism is not an answer to life, the universe, and everything – just the conclusion that theism isn’t.

10. Attack the arguments for what is said, not what isn’t. Though this should apply to everyone – not just theists. Arguing against interpretations not in the text is setting up a caricature, as is arguing against uncharitable interpretations of what is said.

You Believe What?

The following argument is in response to a person proposing a proof of God he had recently discovered, finding it to be a satisfactory proof. John Loftus responds as follows:

“Is this why you believe? Surely not, because you believed before ever hearing of this argument. So tell me why you first believed. That is much more interesting to me. I want to know what brought you to believe in the first place. Which religious or non-religious options did you consider before choosing Christianity? What program of study did you follow in doing so? What works of a skeptical nature did you consider before making your choice?” – John Loftus

Merely accepting what parents, friends and family believe is not proof of anything, let alone Christianity.