Meeting the Hitchens challenge? Easy!

Christopher Hitchens set out a challenge in his efforts against religion:

“Name me an ethical statement made or an action performed by a believer that could not have been made or performed by a non-believer.”

The point, presumably, is to say that atheists are ethically the same as believers, at least. But his challenge can be debunked as unable to make this point (of unbelievers and believers being similar). Or his challenge can simply be met instead.

Debunking the value of the challenge:
To prove an ethical difference, you need not show an ethical action that one group has absolutely never performed. It is enough to show that one group more often performs the ethical action.
Are there statistics that show an ethical difference between believers and unbelievers? A well-documented fact, for example, is that religious believers give more money to charity, and volunteer more time (even to secular charities) than the non-religious. Other examples could also be mentioned, but this one is sufficient for now.
We can easily conclude that there is, on average, ethical differences between believers and unbelievers. And the Hitchens challenge cannot argue away that fact.
Another thing commonly pointed out on this topic is that atheists, even when doing the ethical thing, cannot logically ground why they do it. They may say “this helps rather than harm humans” but why, logically, should humans not be harmed, unless some higher power exist who say they should not?
 
 

 Meeting the challenge:

Before meeting the challenge, let’s first examine what counts as an ethical statement. An ethical statement is a statement like:
“It is ethically wrong to do [x]” or “[y] is a good moral deed.”
Therefore, any ethical statement which only believers can make will have unbelievers protesting something like:
“It is not ethically wrong to do [x]” or “[y] is not a good moral deed.”
It will, for the purpose of the Hitchens challenge, be an invalid protest. In fact, it will prove that there are indeed moral statements only believers can make.

And now, for an answer: The first ethical law, according to the Christian world view, is “love the Lord your God with all your heart and your soul and all your mind.” It is an ethical statement that unbelievers cannot make. It is an ethical action which unbelievers cannot perform. Christianity thus meets the Hitchens challenge head-on: Not with an obscure side issue, but by their biggest commandment.
(Do you want to protest that unbelievers do not find loving God an issue of ethics? You can’t. As I explained in the previous paragraph, that protest is a clear sign that the challenge was indeed met.)

 The Hitchens challenge is misleading, since the only valid type of answer sounds inadmissible at first glance. (Did Hitchens set his challenge up in a misleading way on purpose, perhaps?)

Advertisements

47 thoughts on “Meeting the Hitchens challenge? Easy!

  1. The point was not that athiests are the same as theists. Just the opposite. Hitchens has already discussed what you are talking about. Believers (which are not easily identified) do have ethical differences to atheists and he would argue that some of them are negative. Would Islamic fundamentalist fanatics be willing to die to harm others as much if it wasn’t for the belief that they would be rewarded for doing so in the afterlife? Hitchens would point this and other examples out.

    The question was whether or not an athiest could be moral. Is there any reason to think that an athiest can’t be?

    I agree that most athiests can’t explain why they are moral, but I doubt religious people can easily do so either. Is it because they fear punishment from God, or would they still be good people when they start to doubt God’s existence, which almost every religious person will do at one point or another? Do Christians start to be more immoral when they have doubts?

    We need to have an ethical foundation that is strong, even when we doubt the existence of God. (Buddhists are also religious and don’t have to believe in God. What are their statistics for wrongdoing and charity work?)

    Do you know what philosophers have to say about ethical reality? There are many experts with better things to say than Hitchens. I have an entire blog devoted to learning about the truth about morality and I discuss contemporary and ancient philosophy.

  2. James, thanks a lot for your thoughtful comment and welcome here.
    About Hitchens not saying atheists are ethically the same as theists: I followed that with “at least” since I am familiar with the rest of what he say.
    You ask: Are Christians good because they fear punishment from God?”
    No, Christians do “good” out of love for God. You will know that love can motivate wonderful and noble deeds.
    (You can convert to Christianity, “fearing punishment from God.” But you cannot have Christian ethical values for that reason, since the Christian doctrine is that God forgive when the Christian confess.)
    Will we stop doing good the moment we stop believing? No. Do atheists do good sometimes? Yes. But statistically, the most evil, genocidal regimes ever have been atheistic regimes. (According to Vox Day’s book “The irrational atheist” , there have been 89 leaders of atheistic nations in the past century. 52 of the 89 have each been responsible for the killing of more than 20 000 people in their country.) I do, however, believe that atheists without political power is likely to be a lot closer to average, morally, than atheistic leaders.

    And statistics do show that, in fact, those who can ground their morality in their religion do more of several kinds of “good.”
    Those are taken in countries where religious believers are mostly Christian. (Sorry, I do not have Buhddist statistics.)

    I still find the challenge misleading, for the reason mentioned in the last paragraph of the article.

    Thanks again for dropping in, and oh, I will read more of your blog!

  3. I agree that many atheists have an ethical problem because they lack an ethical foundation. There was thousands of years of thinking, “why, logically, should humans not be harmed, unless some higher power exist who say they should not? ” In other words, the answer to this question was that a higher power is necessary. However, I doubt that many Christians know why this is the case. It is merely an assumption for most people, and it can be a dangerous assumption. Therefore, people from cultures that relied on God for morality could end up having ethical problems when they have doubts about God’s existence.

    Buddhists should not have this same problem because their morality is not grounded on God, and it was not part of their culture.

    Hitchens would obviously debate about whether or not atheists have caused the most harm. I would argue that religion and God are actually pretty irrelevant. What matters the most is having a philosophical and deep understanding of ethics. (Right now Christians might have an advantage in the West because they lack an atheistic tradition.) People that lack a deep and philosophical understanding are more likely to do bad things. This is something you seem to agree with to some extent by your question, “Why be moral without God — the foundation to morality itself?” Atheists with this belief could have problems. An atheist will need a philosophical foundation to ethics.

    Right now “God” is not a very philosophical answer to the foundation to ethics because God is a huge unknown. Plato’s forms seem easier to understand than God, and can be used as an atheistic foundation to ethics. The first Christians thought God was necessary for ethics because they decided that Plato’s forms were in the mind of God. Additionally, even theologians seem to admit that God neither exists nor doesn’t exist, because of the question, “Who created God?”

    I personally don’t think God has to say that we shouldn’t harm people because children can understand not to harm others with common sense. If pain is bad when I feel it, then it is also bad when other people feel pain for the same reason. The same goes for why human existence has intrinsic value. Killing someone is wrong because our existence has value. It is harder to know why killing is wrong “if we can’t really stop existing.”

  4. “love the Lord your God with all your heart and your soul and all your mind.”

    Christians say that to everybody.
    Telling me an athiest or say a Muslim that the Christian God is their lord and we should worship “him” is neither right, ethical or moral, because If the Muslim God is the correct God then we would go to hell.

    You have failed the challenge

    • See? Hitchens asked a statement of ethics/morality which only a believer can make. Neil proves once again, by not agreeing with my statement of ethics/ morality, that this is indeed a moral statement only a believer can make!
      (Actually, Neil’s protest to “love the Lord your God” seems equivalent to protesting “1+1=2” with:

      “You mathematicians say that to everybody. Telling us who don’t believe mathematics that ‘1+1=2’ is not right, because if 2-1 isn’t 1 then it would be wrong.
      You failed, I do not believe 1+1=2.”

      With that. I do not say the premises “Love God” and “1+1=2” are the same.
      I state that you cannot prove a statement wrong by merely saying “if X was true, your statement would be wrong.” You cannot prove “Love (the Christian) God is not a moral statement” by merely saying “If the Christian God was not the true God, then the statement would not be a moral statement.” You cannot prove “1+1=2 is wrong” by merely saying “If 2-1 was not equal to 1, it would have been untrue.”
      Even if the argument (loving the Christian God would not be ethical if He does not exist) was correct, you would have to demonstrate he does not exist to make the point that loving him is not ethical.)

  5. Here is perhaps a clearer picture, in fewer words, of why Neil’s argument does not work.

    Suppose someone said: “It is moral to be kind to your children.”
    And suppose Neil answered: “It is not moral to be kind to your children, because if Molech was the true God, then burning your children would be moral.”

    It is easy to see why this argument fails- Neil, in this example, never argued for Molech being God. Neil’s argument fails for the same reason.

  6. I noticed this week that rest of what I wanted to ask James Gray was never posted. Here it is (and I’ll notify his e-mail adress of this too):

    An atheist will need a philosophical foundation to ethics.

    We agree there.

    Buddhists should not have this same problem because their morality is not grounded on God, and it was not part of their culture.

    What does Buddhists ground their morality on? It is interesting that you refer to Buddhists as a way of showing that morality does not need to be grounded in God/ a god. Because it seems to me Buddhists ground their morality in the teachings of a superior character (Buddha) who’se dictates they follow? They do not ground it in reason or naturalism at all, in fact, they value reason low? It seems to me that their way is closer to the way God-believers ground theirs, than to how atheistic naturalists ground theirs?

    Right now “God” is not a very philosophical answer to the foundation to ethics because God is a huge unknown.

    Should that not be, ” Right now I, James Grey, do not find “God” a very philosophical answer to the foundation to ethics because God is, in my mind, a huge unknown.”? Many people do claim to know God. God is, to me and many Christians, not a huge unknown but one who has made himself known through his word and through Jesus.

    theologians seem to admit that God neither exists nor doesn’t exist

    That is nonsensical.

    A short answer to “who created God?” : Only things with a beginning need to be created. The Biblical God is said to be without a beginning. God having no beginning have already been part of Hebrew teaching millennia before they had philosophers.

    If pain is bad when I feel it, then it is also bad when other people feel pain for the same reason.

    Not necessarily. Other similar sentences would be “If being bitten is bad when a dog bites me, then it is also bad when dog food is bitten by a dog, for the same reason.” or “If it is bad to take money from someone who doesn’t owe you money and haven’t given his consent to you taking his money, then it is also bad to take money from someone who buys something from you.”

    A counter-argument would probably come down to: “But you and dog food are not equal. Taking as in stealing and taking as in getting money for sold goods are not equal. ‘Me’ and ‘other people’ are equal.” But how do you prove other people equal to yourself? Our looks, intelligence, athletic prowess, future expectations, level of ability, etc. are obviously not equal.

    Killing someone is wrong because our existence has value.

    How do you prove (apart from God) that the murder victim’s existence had value? And if you cannot prove it has, is the murderer who believe his existence did not have value at all ethically worse than yourself? And if so, why? Because most of society feel he is worse? In that case, would murder be okay if most people said it was?

    It is harder to know why killing is wrong “if we can’t really stop existing.”

    James, if you grounded “killing is wrong when it stops our existing” , I missed it? Because you gave no ground,as far as I can gather, to your statement of “our existence have value.”

    I can ground it: Our existence have value because God put us here for a purpose. Our existence in this realm is valuable. It will be wrong to kill someone and take him out of this realm, because God could still use him in this realm.

    In summary, James: You call God “not a very philosophical” answer to ethics, because you feel He is “unknown.” But then “our existence have value” is also “not a very philosophical” answer to ethics, because without God, it is “unknown” why our existence should necessarily be regarded as having value.

    I know that deep-thinking philosophers have pondered the basis of ethics for millenia. So, you probably know how they would ground, without referring to God, “Our existence have value.” If you do, please post it here.

  7. “What does Buddhists ground their morality on? It is interesting that you refer to Buddhists as a way of showing that morality does not need to be grounded in God/ a god. Because it seems to me Buddhists ground their morality in the teachings of a superior character (Buddha) who’se dictates they follow? They do not ground it in reason or naturalism at all, in fact, they value reason low? It seems to me that their way is closer to the way God-believers ground theirs, than to how atheistic naturalists ground theirs?”

    Buddha told us how to avoid suffering and attain bliss using common sense. He explained the cause of suffering and the cure has a causal relation to the cause.

    “Should that not be, ” Right now I, James Grey, do not find “God” a very philosophical answer to the foundation to ethics because God is, in my mind, a huge unknown.”? Many people do claim to know God. God is, to me and many Christians, not a huge unknown but one who has made himself known through his word and through Jesus.”

    No, professional phliosophers are pretty unanimous about it. If you write a philosophy essay and think you have proven that God probably exists, you will revolutionize the world, or a philosopher will explain why your argument doesn’t work.

    What exactly do you know about God? How exactly is evidence of God reliable? The fact is that other Gods have also made themselves known in the same way, but we don’t believe that the evidence is reliable. We both probably agree that the Gods most people believe in probably don’t exist.

    Your answer is the same kind of answer that lots of Christians give, but it hasn’t convinced many philosophers. It might be that your answer is correct and can be defended in a profound way that has never been seen, but it is currently not compelling.

    “That is nonsensical.”

    Maybe it is. I haven’t read all the arguments given by theologians. If you want to be an expert or know what the experts have to say, you will have to read about it.

    “Not necessarily. Other similar sentences would be “If being bitten is bad when a dog bites me, then it is also bad when dog food is bitten by a dog, for the same reason.” or “If it is bad to take money from someone who doesn’t owe you money and haven’t given his consent to you taking his money, then it is also bad to take money from someone who buys something from you.”

    I don’t know what point you are trying to make here. My point was about intrinsic value. My point might be false, but many philosophers have found it to be plausible. If we can understand intrinsic value, then we can have morality without God.

    I don’t know if you know much about intrinsic value. It is philosophical jargon, but it is essential for understanding if morality is part of reality or not.

    “A counter-argument would probably come down to: “But you and dog food are not equal. Taking as in stealing and taking as in getting money for sold goods are not equal. ‘Me’ and ‘other people’ are equal.” But how do you prove other people equal to yourself? Our looks, intelligence, athletic prowess, future expectations, level of ability, etc. are obviously not equal.”

    No, it’s not about being equal. It’s about pain. We have no reason to think dog food feels pain. If pain has intrinsic disvalue, then it’s a good idea to help ourselves and others avoid pain.

    “How do you prove (apart from God) that the murder victim’s existence had value? And if you cannot prove it has, is the murderer who believe his existence did not have value at all ethically worse than yourself? And if so, why? Because most of society feel he is worse? In that case, would murder be okay if most people said it was?”

    We don’t prove our life has value, but we can make it plausible that we do. Moral intuition is part of how we can justify it. We think murder is wrong because people’s lives have value. Do you disagree that people’s lives have value?

    “James, if you grounded “killing is wrong when it stops our existing” , I missed it? Because you gave no ground,as far as I can gather, to your statement of “our existence have value.””

    I can’t prove every point in a blog post, and I don’t see why it is necessary to. An atheist can agree that human life has value, and that idea makes a lot of sense for why murder is wrong.

    Do you really think God is necessary for your life to have value? Otherwise you might as well be dead? You know it has value because you are living it and you know what it is like to exist. Most of us would like to keep existing because it’s a good thing.

    “I can ground it: Our existence have value because God put us here for a purpose. Our existence in this realm is valuable. It will be wrong to kill someone and take him out of this realm, because God could still use him in this realm.”

    Does god give us value just because he says so, or does he say so because we have value?

    If you really think God is necessary for us to have value in order to have a purpose, it isn’t clear to me that you really believe in morality in the first place. We either have real value or we don’t. To have value based on a “purpose” isn’t real value at all. That is an instrumental value only. You might want to know the difference about intrinsic and extrinsic value to understand my point here.

    The Stoic philosophers thought something like what you say here, but their point was that God has a plan for us and we might as well do it because God knows best. Our value wouldn’t necessarily depend on god. God can merely help us figure out how to be moral.

    “I know that deep-thinking philosophers have pondered the basis of ethics for millenia. So, you probably know how they would ground, without referring to God, “Our existence have value.” If you do, please post it here.”

    I gave a little information about this issue, but it’s a minor point. Not all philosophers will agree with it and they still can believe in intrinsic value.

  8. Answering the spirit of the comment:
    James, it seems to me that you started reacting because you took up my statement

    ” …atheists, even when doing the ethical thing, cannot logically ground why they do it. They may say “this helps rather than harm humans” but why, logically, should humans not be harmed, unless some higher power exist who say they should not?

    for comment.
    You tried saying that finding “a deep and philosophical foundation” for ethics is better than choosing God as foundation, because God is “a huge unknown. But then, with further questioning, you revealed that you find moral intuition” a part of how you justify morality. Intuition – feeling something is right – is not a logical grounding for morality. It is good that some morality is ingrained in most, if not all people (and some will say it is because God put it in us.)
    The only reason I got to asking things like “how do you prove this” is because you said that God is not very philosophical because God is “a huge unknown.” I showed that your objection apply to statement like “pain has intrinsic disvalue” too. (You cannot prove it is intrinsic, you can only feel it.)
    ——–
    Answering the letter of the comment:

    We either have real value or we don’t. To have value based on a “purpose” isn’t real value at all. That is an instrumental value only. You might want to know the difference about intrinsic and extrinsic value to understand my point here.

    You are right. I apologise if I expressed myself badly. We have intrinsic value. The part of value that is based on purpose only answered one question and is not the whole truth about value.

    Does god give us value just because he says so, or does he say so because we have value?

    Is this your version of Eurythpro’s dilemma? God concieved of us and made us as the crown of his creation, a little less than the angels, beings whom he love and who can choose wether to love Him back. That’s the doctrine. We don’t have value because he say so, but because He made us so.

    JG: Additionally, even theologians seem to admit that God neither exists nor doesn’t exist
    Me: That is nonsensical.
    JG: Maybe it is. I haven’t read all the arguments given by theologians. If you want to be an expert or know what the experts have to say, you will have to read about it.

    “God neither exists nor does not exist” is nonsensical. The excluded middle and the principle of non-contradiction makes it nonsensical. But then, an average ten-year old, who never heard terms like “non-contradiction” or “excluded middle” would understand that the statement is nonsense. I do not need to study the statement more deeply before rejecting it. Anyone who tries to defend “God neither exists nor does not exist”, is busying himself with sophistry. Experts? They can be as knowledgeable as they want. They are still wrong here.

    No, professional phliosophers are pretty unanimous about it. If you write a philosophy essay and think you have proven that God probably exists, you will revolutionise the world, or a philosopher will explain why your argument doesn’t work.

    It would seem that the philosophers are not so unanimously against it. The recent book “In Defense of Natural Theology: A Post-Humean Assessment” , for example, has the thesis: “Natural theology is alive and well in contemporary philosophy; the supposed Humean refutation of the enterprise is a myth whose exposure is long overdue.” A dozen philosophers contribute to the task in this substantial volume.

    I also know that philosophers like William Lane Craig argue convincingly for (the Christian) God’s existence – and is very much respected.

    The fact is that other Gods have also made themselves known in the same way, but we don’t believe that the evidence is reliable.

    What other gods made themselves known by predicting future events important to them in detail, centuries in advance, like God predicted everything from Jesus’s lineage to Him being preceded by a messenger, to His side being pierced? By predicting in detail very unlikely events, centuries in advance, like God predicted the scattering and, millennia later, reestablishment of the nation of Israel? What other Gods made themselves known by living between men, then dying and apparently convincing lots of people they rose from the death?

  9. Intuition isn’t a feeling. By “intuition” I was using philosophical jargon. It involves conceivability, inconceivability, common sense, and/or personal experience. Like I said, we experience our lives as having value. Philosophers might argue that it would be counter-intuitive to kill unhappy people, and they could then theorize it is because we have intrinsic value. This involves our experience. A theory that has few counterexamples like that would be considered to have justification based on being the most intuitive theory.

    “Natural theology is alive and well in contemporary philosophy; the supposed Humean refutation of the enterprise is a myth whose exposure is long overdue.”

    Natural theology might be a reason to believe that God exists, but does it prove that God probably exists? That would require a lot of argument and Hume’s refutation was merely an objection. If objections fail, a theory can still be false. There are probably countless objections involved in this matter anyway.

    The kind of predictions made sound like predictions that human beings can make true. Part of why Isreal was taken by the Jews was because their scripture said it was theirs for the taking.

    We also know very little about Jesus. Why did it take so many years for the Gospels to be written if they were true?

    To agree that Christianity is the true religion seems circular. God said some stuff, and that stuff was true according to the bible and so forth. If the bible isn’t the word of God, then we don’t know it’s true. If you grew up in a different religion, then they will be justified in a similar way. I haven’t learned enough about them to know the details.

  10. James, I think we can drop the topic of objectively grounding morality now. I think my point and yours have both been clearly stated for whoever want to read us here.. It is interesting that you regard intuition as part of it. (That intuition, that feeling-I would still call “feeling” a better word for it than “experience”- that we are “ought to” behave in a certain way, have been used as (another) argument for God, by CS Lewis.) But thanks. This was a good chance to explore the topic.
    My question to you is: Why are you taking up this topic (wether Christianity is true) with me? I can understand that you took up grounding morality with me- it is the topic of much of what you discuss. Why do you work so hard on insisting, for example, that other religions must be justifiable in the same way, if (by own admission) you don’t know details that prove it?

    The kind of predictions made sound like predictions that human beings can make true. Part of why Isreal was taken by the Jews was because their scripture said it was theirs for the taking.

    Jesus could not make it true where he’d be born, when he’d be born, from what lineage he’d come, or people’s reactions to him, or how or where he’d be buried.(Those were all predictions that came true.) Nor would he order for people to betray him, to crucify him with thieves, or for his side to be pierced. (Those predictions also came true.) No dead man can make a resurrection prediction true.
    And have you ever heard of any nation that still exist- and was not assimillated – 2500 years after being scattered, so that they would still want to be part of this new country rather than those their forefathers came to live in? And the Jews may have wanted to make the nation part true(The becoming a nation part was remarkably accurate: http://www.1260-1290-days-bible-prophecy.org/bible_prophecy-Israel-nation-1260-years-x2-A-1.htm ) , but other nations who did not want it may have prevented it, (Hitler may have been successful in exterminating them a few years before that, for example). Then the prediction may still have flopped, if not from God. But the Jews did not want to make the scattering part, millenia before, true. That was made true by nations who did not try to fulfill the Jewish scriptures.

    We also know very little about Jesus. Why did it take so many years for the Gospels to be written if they were true?

    What many years? A vast nuber of Bible scholars believe that the gospels were all written prior to 70AD. With Jesus dying roundabout 30 AD that is not long at all, since prior to that they could orally spread the message in their region (before the temple fell and the Jews were scattered) with many people – converts and non-converts alike- knowing as eyewitnisses what happened, and able to contradict it and write opposing material, and speak opposingly, if it was untrue. Why do you feel we know very little about Jesus, while so many documents mention him? Is it possibly because you want “outside the Bible confirmation” of Him, whilst the early church felt like taking the best documents about him, keeping them available, writing them over and spreading them, and later making them part of the 66- book library they called the Bible? There are several sources of outside-the-Bible confirmation, but it stands to reason that if the church took all the most reliable biographies and other sources about Jesus for their library, in an era before the printing press, expecting a lot of outside-their-library confirmation for Jesus would be unrealistic.

    To agree that Christianity is the true religion seems circular. God said some stuff, and that stuff was true according to the bible and so forth. If the bible isn’t the word of God, then we don’t know it’s true.

    It may have applied to some arguments I made here (a lot of other arguments, not made here, cannot be covered in the objection at all), if the Bible was only 1 book. But it is 66 books. A lot of things written down in several books by several writers earlier than (sometimes a lot earlier than) 400 BC came true, by several historical sources, some included in the Bible and some not, in AD years. The history of the Jews- up to and including the nation of Israel in 1948 is accurately predicted in BC writings! That most certainly do not count under this argument.

    If you grew up in a different religion, then they will be justified in a similar way. I haven’t learned enough about them to know the details.

    I postulate that you learn more about the details then, to know if your statement (other faiths can justify themselves the same way) hold water? Learn how apologists justify the Bible (which is, remember, a library and not a book) and their God, and wether other religions really have similar evidence of accurate predictions, or of someone convincing many people- who knew him and witnessed his violent death- that he rose from the death? Untill you honestly did that, your statement is an unjustified opinion. You are just re-iterating here after failing to answer the “What other gods ….”-paragraph.

  11. My original point was simply that God is not generally considered a philosophical answer to the foundation of ethics at this time by experts in the field. It might be that it can be one day, but it isn’t at this time. God is a mysterious notion and it isn’t easily justified. If God doesn’t go by the same rules as everything else in the universe, then how can we know anything about him?

    You offered answers to this, but I don’t think they are very satisfying. If God explains something, we need to make sure that something else couldn’t explain it equally well. Plato’s forms, for example, seems to ground ethics in a way that leads to less problems. This is very relevant because we need to know if an atheist can ground ethics. Plato offered one way for atheists to do it. This is one reason that Atheists can be moral and actually have a foundation for ethics at the same time.

    I know someone who has heard a voice giving precognitive and clairvoyant information, but I don’t think that proves God exists. Even if lots of paranormal activity really happens, it doesn’t prove anything supernatural is happening, and it certainly doesn’t prove that God exists. However, it might be evidence that God exists, and it might be that God could be proven through argument. It hasn’t happened yet.

    Some people think Jesus was an ancient astronaut. You might think that idea is absurd, but it requires a lot less metaphysical baggage than postulating that God must exist, and it might explain just about everything in the Bible. As far as we know, a superior alien being could do anything we attribute to god.

    A philosopher would want to figure out which possibility (of thousands) is the most probable and least problematic. When I lose my keys it makes more sense just to say that I forgot where I put them than to attribute the event as being evidence of a mischievous spirit.

    There are philosophical arguments for god’s existence, as you pointed out. I have studied them some time ago. The experts don’t have much to say about predicting the future probably because of many reasons including some I already mentioned. The arguments for god’s existence are not yet convincing, but you might say that they make a case that God might exist. They are reasons for believing even if they aren’t sufficiently justified at this time.

    One of the best arguments for God was actually made by Plato to justify the forms. The question is, where do we get our idea of perfection from? It doesn’t seem that we can find the idea of perfection from the senses. There are only so many ways of trying to answer this question, and if we can eliminate all possibilities except “God,” then we might have a good argument.

  12. James

    I have heard the “ancient astronaut” theory (and read the fascinating, but factually and logically challenged book “Chariots of the gods?” from embezzling fraudster Eric von Daniken). The theory reminds me of something GK Chesterton said:

    When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe nothing. They believe anything.

    Nobody who seriously read the Bible can think the “alien astronaut” explanation work. Only a very superficial look at little more than miracles can cause people to believe that. What Jesus said and done, for example, is a well-connected unit that just isn’t explained that way.

    You seem to regard knowledge, understanding and learning highly. In that case, do not use this theory again. If you knew the Gospels specifically and the Bible in general, you would find it ridiculously inadequate for most Bible prescriptions, laws, names, Christian conversion experiences, even much of Bible history..

    Also remember that philosophers are not the only people in the world with knowledge.It seems to me that most of your ideas about the reliability of defences for God comes from how philosophers do it. But philosophers are not the only people who defend God. There are definitely Christian apologists with arguments that take historical facts and life experience. (please do not assume you already know every kind of experience that count as evidence for God) into account.
    You claim “the experts don’t have much to say about (God) predicting the future.” You say that, I suggest, because you only read experts from your own narrow field and not experts on, say, apologetics? You find the arguments for God “not yet convincing” but have you ever thought your view may be a result of a) your bias or b) your lack of knowledge of the historical evidence for the truth of Christianity and the resurrection?

    Apologists argue that, for things like Jesus and the Bible, the God explanation is actually the least problematic. Of course, you are welcome not to read apologists if you don’t want to.

  13. You are right that I am taking philosophers to be the experts. Philosophers consider science, history, and so on. They devote their lives to making sense and improving their minds as much as possible. They are the best critical thinkers and creative thinkers. If anyone can justify why something is probably true, it’s a philosopher.

    For example, a Christian might argue that there must be a God because morality is about something real. That is basically saying, “God is the ONLY explanation.” But Philosophers already thought of Platonism to explain morality, so the Christian is merely not creative or informed enough to know of that alternative. This is a common argument used by Christians who actually never think about Platonism being an alternative. Even philosophers have used a similar argument, but they have to consider every alternative possible. This is why philosophers are experts. They have a long history discussing every alternative and every possibility. They are maximally informed and work together to think of more alternatives never thought of before.

    Philosophers have also attempted to argue that the God explanation is the least problematic, but it has not been found to be convincing through peer review. This is exactly the right way to argue about the situation. We have thousands of possible answers to each question, and Christians want to argue that God is the best answer to a question. That’s not easy. It might be right. It just hasn’t been proven right yet. If you are absolutely sure that I am wrong about that, you should be able to prove god’s existence is at least more likely than every alternative. You can write a book and see if it survives peer review by our best philosophers.

    Not all philosophers are going to be biased against Christianity because many of them are Christians. But this is usually where a “leap of faith” and existentialism is involved. Almost all philosophers in America were probably Christians at some point of time and only rejected it (if they did) because they didn’t find it convincing.

    I want to go back to your comment about intuition just being a feeling. We can easily lose sight of common sense when talking abstractly about ethics. This is how we can know what matters: A child touches fire and decides not to touch fire again because it caused pain. I am saying that the experience of pain “feeling bad” is an experience of pain being bad. That is why the child is rational when he or she decides not to touch fire again.

    If our personal experience is irrelevant and only an irrational feeling is involved, then the child would be irrational for not touching fire again. The child might as well touch the fire again. It wouldn’t make any difference.

  14. I agree with you – clear and precise thinking is very important. We agree that people need a base for their morality.We agree that “human life has value” is an unproven base assumption, if not for God. (You may go further and say it remain an unproven base, even assuming God-belief.). We also agree that Christians in the West have a moral advantage.

    But it seems to me that much of what you are rebutting me with can be paraphrased as: “Because We Philosophers Say So! That’s Why!” In several instances, I challenged the factualness or reasoning of your arguments, for example:

    *You approvingly quoted: “God neither exist nor does not exist.” [A ridiculous contradiction]
    *This is a Hitchens thread, but you never mentioned that Hitchens is often both factually and rationally wrong, or that most listeners to the Hitchens-Dawkins-Harris group believe them without any philosophical or rational truth judgement.
    *You failed to defend your statement “The fact is that other Gods have also made themselves known in the same way” [I think you could not do so, because the differences I asked about is really there.]
    *You first gave the argument “The kind of predictions made sound like predictions that human beings can make true” as a counter-argument for the prophesy argument. When I showed that that defense does not work, you answered by saying philosophers “don’t have much to say about predicting the future.” (Argument from authority).
    *You used an argument like “Jesus was an ancient astronaut.” Can you give one philosopher who wrote a respected peer-reviewed book on that? If not, why do you want my points to be peer-reviewed, if you are willing to approvingly quote views that are not philosophically peer reviewed?

    To revert to: “You never wrote a peer-reviewed work of philosophy!” or “but philosophers don’t say what you say!” whenever you yourself fail to counter my arguments, or when I counter yours, is simply not showing the clear reasoning that we both (claim to) respect. You seem to insinuate that philosophers will pull my reasoning to shards, but you cannot even counter-argue my statement: “There are reasons given for the Christian God, which is not shared by other religions.”

    (By the way, when I spoke of “feeling” instead of “experience”, I applied it to the “we are ought to do this/ not do that” aspect of morality -moral intuition as you call it-, not as you tried to rebut, to pain. Pain is obviously an experience.)

    What is more, most philosophers throughout the centuries believed in some form of God, and many could defend it. Philosophers like William Lane Craig defend both the existence of the Christian God, the resurrection, and God as basis for morality. and as far as I know WLC survives peer review. (Formerly staunchly atheistic) philosopher Anthony Flew got convinced of the evidence for God’s existence, and even got a Christian thinker to explain evidence for the resurrection (something he himself is not yet sure of) in his book “There is a God.” Many books on philosophy of religion, and reasons to believe, have survived peer review.

    Suppose, just suppose, you objectively and thinkingly have to come to the conclusion that Christianity is true. Would you then yield your life to following Jesus?

  15. *You approvingly quoted: “God neither exist nor does not exist.” [A ridiculous contradiction]

    I never approved of it. I was merely mentioning that I’ve heard that theological view. It isn’t necessarily ridiculous. Some philosophers decided that you can’t predicate God using our limited language, so if that is true, then we can’t say either of those statements is true.

    “*This is a Hitchens thread, but you never mentioned that Hitchens is often both factually and rationally wrong, or that most listeners to the Hitchens-Dawkins-Harris group believe them without any philosophical or rational truth judgement.”

    I’m not sure how that is relevant. We were discussing one specific thing Hitchens said and I tried to be as charitable to him as possible in order to make an interesting discussion. We should be as charitable to both sides as we can.

    “You failed to defend your statement “The fact is that other Gods have also made themselves known in the same way” [I think you could not do so, because the differences I asked about is really there.]”

    People of religious groups have often referred to miracles and so forth. Krishna, for example, performed miracles. Super powers and miracles are not uncommon in any religion. Hercules also had super strength because he was the son of Zeus. Super powers, prophesy, and so forth is not proof that the religion is correct.

    I think this is all irrelevant. No expert takes this to be a serious argument for God’s existence, and I explained why to some extent. Many people think they have super powers, but there was never any reason to think it proved a religion is correct or that God exists.

    All arguments for God basically say something like, X is true, and God is the only (or best) way of explaining X’s truth. Therefore God exists. The problem is that God isn’t necessarily the only way possible way of explaining X’s truth. We have to examine every possibility and refute them all. That isn’t easy because people keep thinking of new possibilities, and it isn’t even easy to prove that God is more likely than the rest of them anyway.

    So far we are just having an informal discussion without much argument involved. If you want to take arguments for God’s existence seriously, then you should know what philosophers have to say about them. If you want me to examine them, then you need to make your premises and conclusions explicate.

    “You first gave the argument “The kind of predictions made sound like predictions that human beings can make true” as a counter-argument for the prophesy argument. When I showed that that defense does not work, you answered by saying philosophers “don’t have much to say about predicting the future.” (Argument from authority).”

    What about it? Is an argument from authority inappropriate here?

    Besides, all of this is irrelevant. I don’t understand your argument. My point is that predictions don’t prove a religion is correct. There are many explanations for predictions. Some of them are more paranormal than others.

    “You used an argument like “Jesus was an ancient astronaut.” Can you give one philosopher who wrote a respected peer-reviewed book on that? If not, why do you want my points to be peer-reviewed, if you are willing to approvingly quote views that are not philosophically peer reviewed?”

    I didn’t say Jesus was an ancient astronaut. That wasn’t the argument. The argument was that miracles don’t prove God is real. I would be a total idiot if that was my argument. You can rest assured that you won’t get any arguments that poorly constructed from me.

    “To revert to: “You never wrote a peer-reviewed work of philosophy!” or “but philosophers don’t say what you say!” whenever you yourself fail to counter my arguments, or when I counter yours, is simply not showing the clear reasoning that we both (claim to) respect. You seem to insinuate that philosophers will pull my reasoning to shards, but you cannot even counter-argue my statement: “There are reasons given for the Christian God, which is not shared by other religions.””

    Yes, I use the argument from authority. A scientist says that DNA has various biological effects and we believe it because of their expertise.

    I can’t be expected to write a 10 page philosophical essay on a forum post. If you want to have a serious debate then go ahead and make one explicate argument at a time and I will tell you what I think.

    “(By the way, when I spoke of “feeling” instead of “experience”, I applied it to the “we are ought to do this/ not do that” aspect of morality -moral intuition as you call it-, not as you tried to rebut, to pain. Pain is obviously an experience.)”

    Yes, and pain shows us an ought. We ought to avoid pain and help others avoid pain. Pain has intrinsic disvalue. We get “ought” from intrinsic values.

    “What is more, most philosophers throughout the centuries believed in some form of God, and many could defend it. Philosophers like William Lane Craig defend both the existence of the Christian God, the resurrection, and God as basis for morality. and as far as I know WLC survives peer review. (Formerly staunchly atheistic) philosopher Anthony Flew got convinced of the evidence for God’s existence, and even got a Christian thinker to explain evidence for the resurrection (something he himself is not yet sure of) in his book “There is a God.” Many books on philosophy of religion, and reasons to believe, have survived peer review.”

    I already admitted that there are arguments for God and reasons to believe in God. The problem is that they don’t prove God’s existence, and they don’t even make it probable that God exists. We already had this discussion last time you mentioned a philosophical argument for God. Many of the best arguments for God can be found at plato.stanford.edu and various objections are mentioned there. I also admitted that many philosophers are Christians. I know some of them. But they don’t say that they know God probably exists. They have personal reasons to believe in God, and it requires something like a leap of faith. Since God hasn’t been proven to even probably exist, philosophers have rejected using God in philosophical arguments. One of the famous issues with mentioning God in a philosophical paper is that it is too mysterious. There are too many things we don’t know about God. Even if we knew God existed, it would still be best not to rely on it. We don’t need to mention God when we talk about science and in the same way we hope not to have to mention God when talking about ethics. I have studied moral realism and none of the greatest contemporary metaethical essays relies on God. Philosophers have done a great job at explaining moral realism without God.

    Why is God mysterious? Because we don’t know what exactly it is. Is God a natural part of the world or supernatural? Eternal or contingent? Good or indifferent to morality? Does God have thoughts? Does God have similar characteristics to the human mind? People don’t agree about the answers to these questions and it isn’t easy to settle them.

    We tend to answer questions based on scientific reality. If God is supernatural, then we can’t do that anymore. If God is eternal and “outside space and time” then he appears to be unlike anything else we know about. In that case, it is even more difficult to know anything about God.

    There is a great reason to want morality to resemble science: Science is reliable. We have made results and it seems to work. We can’t be so sure about how accurate our theories are when we can’t test them in scientific ways. Once a supernatural God enters the equation, we can no longer use our ordinary methods of justifying a theory.

    “Suppose, just suppose, you objectively and thinkingly have to come to the conclusion that Christianity is true. Would you then yield your life to following Jesus?”

    Not sure what this means. If I believe in Christianity, then it is only natural to be a Christian. However, it might be that I would disagree with all forms of Christianity and try to use reason to understand the truth about Jesus and God.

    In fact, I don’t think a Christian even needs to believe in God’s literal existence. The theologians mentioned wouldn’t admit that God literally exists because “existence” is a limited human concept. Thinking God literally exists is a form of fundamentalism. Religion doesn’t have to be taken literally. We can have stories, ethics, rituals, and traditions that make perfect sense without being taken literally. The life lived by Jesus as a religious reformer is worthy of emulation whether or not a person is an atheist.

    Even A.J. Ayer, who used to argue against God’s existence in his youth, admitted that God’s existence could be justified. I also don’t deny that it can be justified. A.J. Ayer wanted God’s existence to be justified in a scientific manner. This would still be the best way to justify his existence. It just hasn’t happened yet. (There might also be other ways to justify it, but that is a much more difficult path.)

  16. James, you get the last word on everything we previously discussed. On most points here, we both set out our views. Thank you.
    But you ask 2 questions in your post, so I’ll answer them, and a new point or 2, which will get a short response:

    New points:

    … There is a great reason to want morality to resemble science: Science is reliable. We have made results and it seems to work. We can’t be so sure about how accurate our theories are when we can’t test them in scientific ways. Once a supernatural God enters the equation, we can no longer use our ordinary methods of justifying a theory.

    This is true. But it is, of course, no argument against God’s participation, or against acknowledging it. It just means that, suppose a God participate, we have to alter our methods. Similarly, “I can’t properly count the people in this country with people being born, dying, moving overseas, and moving in from other countries.” is no reason to deny that births, deaths and immigration happen. It is a reason to adapt your method of counting, and to allow for an imprecise number.

    All arguments for God basically say something like, X is true, and God is the only (or best) way of explaining X’s truth. Therefore God exists. The problem is that God isn’t necessarily the only way possible way of explaining X’s truth. We have to examine every possibility and refute them all. That isn’t easy because people keep thinking of new possibilities, and it isn’t even easy to prove that God is more likely than the rest of them anyway.

    Do we really have to examine every possibility and refute them all? Do anyone ever? I mean, if we have lots of DNA, fingerprint, witness and circumstantial evidence pointing to person X being the criminal, do we still post new theories (“Maybe he has an identical twin brother, seperated at birth, whom his mother gave up for adoption and didn’t tell him about, who did it.” “Maybe this is a fast conspiracy by a lot of lying eyewitnesses and lying DNA people from from Forensics” “Maybe an alien shape-shifted to look like person X while committing the crime.” “Maybe everything -including person X, witnesses and memories of this crime that did not happen- popped into existence 5 minutes ago”)? The question is not how many new theories you can come up with, but what is the best theory. The ancient astronaut theory, for example, is hardly worth being taken seriously by my standards (comparing it to what the Bible actually say) or yours (philosophical peer review). We can come up with many theories, but if they don’t measure up to reason, they should be discarded- they don’t make the more reasonable default theory any less credible.

    The life lived by Jesus as a religious reformer is worthy of emulation whether or not a person is an atheist.

    Are you familiar with this CS Lewis’s quote?:

    I am trying here to prevent anyone saying ….: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would be either a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

    (I won’t be too surprised if there is more possibilities beside these three, but the possibility of regarding him as a wise, followable mere human is untenable.)

    pain shows us an ought. We ought to avoid pain and help others avoid pain. Pain has intrinsic disvalue. We get “ought” from intrinsic values.

    Why that “ought”? What if someone say “Pain has disvalue if I feel it, therefore I am ought to protect myself from pain as well as possible, no matter what effect it has on others. If I need to steal/ cheat to be comfortable and protect myself, so be it. Because my pain has intrinsic disvalue.” Or “I am smarter/ stronger that you, so I’m ought to regard my desire not to feel pain/ hunger as more important than your desire for the same” ? Many people in my country get their criminal proclivities from oughts: “I’m ought to have as much as you, so I can kill you and steal to get from you.” The thief who stole my laptop feel no pain at not owning a laptop (he probably sold it), so why should he understand/care that losing all my data has a lot of disvalue for me?

    Questions

    Is an argument from authority inappropriate here?

    Arguments from authority is valid when hearer and speaker agree that these authority figures know and understand the topic at hand. I have never heard of philosophers who give themselves out as experts on Bible prophesy, so I have no reason to give value to wether they do use it or not. And what I believe should ultimately rest on logic and evidence, not the authority of the person promoting a view.

    “Suppose, just suppose, you objectively and thinkingly have to come to the conclusion that Christianity is true. Would you then yield your life to following Jesus?”

    Not sure what this means.

    It means: Would you then do what the Jesus said? Would you live as He asks in the New Testament? (Remember this is supposing Christianity- including the new Testament- is true.)

  17. I wrote a detailed response and hit reply, then got an error and lost it all.

    Here is a little bit of what I wanted to say:

    New points:

    This is true. But it is, of course, no argument against God’s participation, or against acknowledging it. It just means that, suppose a God participate, we have to alter our methods. Similarly, “I can’t properly count the people in this country with people being born, dying, moving overseas, and moving in from other countries.” is no reason to deny that births, deaths and immigration happen. It is a reason to adapt your method of counting, and to allow for an imprecise number.

    It wasn’t meant to prove that God doesn’t participate, but we are able to understand the world better the less God participates. Right now ethical philosophers don’t think we need to talk about God in order to understand ethics. Before assuming God is required to understand ethics, we should see if we can understand it without God.

    God might exist and still not require his existence to be known in order for us to understand ethics.

    Do we really have to examine every possibility and refute them all? Do anyone ever? I mean, if we have lots of DNA, fingerprint, witness and circumstantial evidence pointing to person X being the criminal, do we still post new theories (“Maybe he has an identical twin brother, seperated at birth, whom his mother gave up for adoption and didn’t tell him about, who did it.” “Maybe this is a fast conspiracy by a lot of lying eyewitnesses and lying DNA people from from Forensics” “Maybe an alien shape-shifted to look like person X while committing the crime.” “Maybe everything -including person X, witnesses and memories of this crime that did not happen- popped into existence 5 minutes ago”)? The question is not how many new theories you can come up with, but what is the best theory. The ancient astronaut theory, for example, is hardly worth being taken seriously by my standards (comparing it to what the Bible actually say) or yours (philosophical peer review). We can come up with many
    theories, but if they don’t measure up to reason, they should be discarded- they don’t make the more reasonable default theory any less credible.

    Good point. We don’t have to look at unreasonable possibilities. However, alien involvement might be able to explain religious beliefs with less metaphysical commitments than “God did it.” Therefore, it’s not necessarily “more unreasonable” to consider an ancient astronaut theory.

    Are you familiar with this CS Lewis’s quote?:

    I am trying here to prevent anyone saying ….: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would be either a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. (I won’t be too surprised if there is more possibilities beside these three, but the possibility of regarding him as a wise,
    followable mere human is untenable.)

    I disagree with this quote. Muslims and Jews believe Jesus was a prophet and have an alternate understanding of his life that says he was a very reasonable person.

    Jesus spoke in parables, allegory, and metaphors. His most important points were very simple: Be nice to each other. Sounds quite reasonable to me.

    Why that “ought”? What if someone say “Pain has disvalue if I feel it, therefore I am ought to protect myself from pain as well as possible, no matter what effect it has on others. If I need to steal/ cheat to be comfortable and protect myself, so be it. Because my pain has intrinsic disvalue.” Or “I am smarter/ stronger that you, so I’m ought to regard my desire not to feel pain/ hunger as more important than your desire for the same” ? Many people in my country get their criminal proclivities from oughts: “I’m ought to have as much as you, so I can kill you and steal to get from you.” The thief who stole my laptop feel no pain at not owning a laptop (he probably sold it), so why should he understand/care that losing all my data has a lot of disvalue for me?

    Why that ought? Because other people also have similar oral experiences to our own. Pain is bad no matter who feels it. To say, “When I feel pain, it’s bad, but when others feel it, it doesn’t matter at all” is absurd. If it’s not absurd, then it’s a rejection of intrinsic value, which is precisely about the fact that pain is bad without strange restrictions.

    To be willing to harm others to benefit ourselves simply requires us to reject the fact that pain has intrinsic disvalue.

    A strong understanding of ethical facts helps us do good and avoid doing harm. False ethical beliefs are harmful, so we should learn as much about ethics as we can. We can know more about ethics if we can have an ethical science than if we have to rely on God to understand ethics for us.

    Questions

    Arguments from authority is valid when hearer and speaker agree that these authority figures know and understand the topic at hand. I have never heard of philosophers who give themselves out as experts on Bible prophesy, so I have no reason to give value to wether they do use it or not. And what I believe should ultimately rest on logic and evidence, not the authority of the person promoting a view.

    Ethical philosophers are experts about ethics, not theology. God might exist, but that doesn’t mean we need God to understand ethics. That is exactly what the experts agree to right now: We don’t need God to understand ethics, even in the realist sense that intrinsic values exist. That means atheists can believe in intrinsic value and be moral based on plausible ethical beliefs.

    It might be that philosophers are wrong that we need God to understand ethics, but that is not what they say the evidence shows right now.

    You are right that evidence is more important than authority, but I am not going to study all biological experiments. I will just take the biologist’s word for it. Science tends not to be taught based on all the evidence because it’s too complected and immense.

    I have however done some research about what ethical philosophers have to say and I discuss it quite a bit on my blog. My newest post on a Moral Realist Perspective is about how we can make sense out of intrinsic value and apply it to our lives without having to mention God.

    It means: Would you then do what the Jesus said? Would you live as He asks in the New Testament? (Remember this is supposing Christianity- including the new Testament- is true.).

    It would be impossible to know. The assumption is that we tend to do what we believe is right, but it is possible to have ethical beliefs without having the motivation to act on those beliefs. Every Christian that acts immorally doesn’t prove that they aren’t a Christian. If it did, almost no one would be a Christian.

  18. Jesus spoke in parables, allegory, and metaphors. His most important points were very simple: Be nice to each other. Sounds quite reasonable to me.

    Are you sure that was his most important point? I challenge you to read the gospels, and see what he said most often. 😉 (Perhaps you can even ask yourself: Would a high-tech astronaut have done/ said/ allowed that? while you read.)

  19. John 16:25 “These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; an hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but will tell you plainly of the Father.”

    Is this quotation incorrect? What did he say that a reasonable person would have to reject? How could anything he say prove he’s not an alien?

  20. James
    I once saw this summing up of “The Shawshank Redemption” in a magazine TV guide: “A man who landed in jail for murdering his wife, starts a money laundering scheme from the inside.” That summary is not untrue. But, as anyone who saw the movie would know, it completely misses the point. “Shawshank Redemption” is a story of hope, not of crime.

    That is more or less my view of the “Jesus was a nice, helpful healing alien” theory too.

    I can’t think of one particular fact about Jesus that single-handedly proves He’s not an alien. (He is described, for example, as being there from the beginning, that everything that exists was made by Him. But the non-Christian would simply reject verses like that that, and not see them as proof of anything. Similarly, someone who want to believe the alien astronaut idea would invent some sciencefiction story to explain His birth and growing up on earth.)
    In a certain sense He is an “alien” (His Kingdom is in not of this world) and the NT even say Christians will be aliens in that sense.

    But the alien theory actually tries to say that Jesus is not God; that He is not send from Yahwe, the creator-God; that his (healing) miracles was some high-tech way of showing he cares. The whole idea behind calling Jesus an alien, not God, is to show that he should not be worshipped today, that Christians mis-understood his message. It also tends to portray the healings and niceness to people as the heart of his message. (That is why you say it has “less metaphysical commitments than “God did it.” “)

    But central to most everything Jesus say and does is how He is to be followed, loved, and worshipped, and how merely being nice to people is not, by far, the entire heart of His message. Even people who never met him will be blessed for believing him. (John 20:29, for example). He divides and people by wether they believe Him or not. (John 3:18-21 +36, for example). He speaks of his right to judge man. (John 5:22-27, for example.)

    Conversion still changes people from the inside in ways they cannot change themselves, but is entirely in keeping with what the new Testament say. Would a mere alien who visited 2000 years ago hear a conversion prayer, and change you from the inside? And the fact that the prayer works shows that the explanation that tries to have “less metaphysical commitments” is inadequate- it does not explain why the conversion commitment work.

    A mere helpful healing alien would probably have taught his followers his high-tech tricks and medicines for doctoring everyone, and some of that would have been part of the writings that the followers left. But not even in the gospels can you find much mention of (possibly high tech) objects used in healing. Not “Jesus operated on the leg and it was healed” or “He gave lepers an ointment to smear on their skins.” It is usually a case of Jesus speaking, and someone is healed.

    A high tech alien would probably use his powers to avoid pain- why accept a pointless crucifiction if you have all the power that Jesus had? But the crucifiction, in my world view, had a very important goal. There was a reason why someone with so much power would do it. How would the message of salvation sound under the alien theory? What would be the point of the cross?

    Calling Jesus an alien from another world is perhaps not so much false as missing everything He really was/ is.
    ———–
    As to the CS Lewis quote you disagree with- perhaps you should see his reasons, and compare them with those of Muslims and Jews, instead of disagreeing because Muslims and Jews disagree. There is reasons to find them incorrect. And you probably agree that not all religious people put their views up to adequate intellectual scrutiny.

  21. What you are saying requires us to accept that Jesus was entirely honest, that he actually “knew” the truth, that everything he said was accurately represented in the bible, and so on. The fact is that if Jesus was a human he could still believe in God and he could even believe he is God without being stupid. He could still be quite wise and virtuous overall. I must admit that it is even possible he really had some kind of power. But none of that would prove he really is God.

    If C.S. Lewis said anything like what you just said, I will not agree with it. If there is a website with his argument, I can take a look.

  22. If C.S. Lewis said anything like what you just said, I will not agree with it. If there is a website with his argument, I can take a look.

    No, James, there is no point in telling you where to find it. Your mind is already made up.

    What you are saying requires us to accept that Jesus was entirely honest, .

    . .
    A man could lie about something that would cost his followers -whatever the era- their entire lives to live up to it, and that would even get millions (from his disciples onwards up to today) literally killed for believing and following it, and he would still be regarded as a virtuous? A liar like that will be willing to die painfully for his lie rather than retract? Someone so moral in all his other recorded actions will lie about something this important?

    What you are saying requires us to accept … that he actually “knew” the truth, … if Jesus was a human he could still believe … he is God without being stupid. He could still be quite wise and virtuous overall.

    A man could honestly be mistaken that he is God, he can forgive sins that was not against him, that he created the world and that it is he who kept on (centuries before his birth) sending prophets to Israel? That the only way to God is via him? Such a man would be crazy, a lot crazier than those people in mental hospitals who believe they are Napoleon or the president of the USA. Get real.

    ..that everything he said was accurately represented in the bible…

    No it does not require everything he said– each sentence- to be accurately represented.
    (Jesus said in dozens of ways- direct and indirect – that he is God. The gospels are saturated and His actions motivated by the ways in which He is called God. No single writer can think up them all. And it took many Bible commenters to find all those indirect ways in which he calls himself God.)
    It does require, however, that the word/deeds (claimed to be) of Jesus combination is not an entirely false construction, that the gospels were not thought up by a committee. Anyone who think the gospels were made up by a committee, knows almost nothing of the gospels, or literature in general, or committees. Seriously, now, Christianity is not the sort of thing anyone in that culture (in any culture?) would have made up.

  23. Retha Said:
    —————————

    “The point, presumably, is to say that atheists are ethically the same as believers, at least.”

    Elika Kohen Response:
    —————————

    Hey, thanks for the response to my post on his challenge: http://www.kohen.com/2008/06/christopher-hitchens-answered.html

    Though, I am not sure if I agree with your thesis in your response. Then again, I really didn’t consider his argument in this light. So, you got me thinking.

    I don’t think he was attacking believers, and I don’t think he was arguing that believers are /not/ ethically superior … (In this argument, anyway).

    I think his point was more along the lines of the “value of religion”. Is there any ethical action that religion teaches us, that we can’t do without belief?” If so, then there is a benefit to religion AND belief.

    If religion doesn’t teach us anything new AND religion isn’t required in order to perform these actions, then those that are religious, and believing, really don’t have any “advantage” when it comes to ethics. And, I think, he would argue that people should stop claiming that religion should serve as a guiding light when it comes to morality and ethics.

    Unfortunately, from my view point, Hitchens is making a strawman argument, ignoring something that both Jews and Christians claim: Morality is apparent, to act morally doesn’t take a divine experience. But this law is written on our hearts, (Biblically, heart always referred to thoughts/mind). And, this truth is readily apparent.

    From your point of view, if he really is trying to determine whether or not one set of people are more moral statistically than another set in order to come to some great philosophical conclusion, then he is making all kinds of logical falacies.

    • Elika, you commented on my first point. What do you think of the second one? That it is indeed possible to meet the challenge, but Hitchens and his ilk will not accept the answers?

      (About the first point – Perhaps you are right about the point of this argument of his. But he do try to reason, in other points of his if not this one, that religion has a morally negative influence “poisons everything.” That can be showed to be wrong in many ways, even by using statistics.)

  24. My mind is made up? So I am an idiot for not agreeing to it? Almost no one would be convinced by that argument. I require evidence to believe in things. “It’s in a book” isn’t good enough.

    Lots of people don’t think Jesus is God including Christians. Do I need to explain why? There is obviously more than one way to interpret the bible, and it wouldn’t be a stretch for anyone to claim to be god in that time anyway.

    Jesus didn’t require all Christians to get themselves killed. He didn’t demand that they go to war. We must all die if that is what ethics demands. I suspect he knew that anyone trying to help others and revolutionize society would probably get themselves killed doing so. That’s been the way the world works for a long time Socrates and other philosophers had a similar fate.

    If you can rationalize your religion, that just means that “it can make sense.” It means that it can be logically coherent. It doesn’t prove itself to be right.

    If you think you have proof that one specific view of Christianity is correct, then you should be able to prove that you have figured out the religion better than anyone else. Lots of people will disagree with you, so you better have a great argument for your beliefs. If you can’t do that, then you have to admit that there is room for interpretation.

  25. I require evidence to believe in things. “It’s in a book” isn’t good enough.

    Agree. “It’s in a book” isn’t good enough, “lots of people think it” isn’t good enough.

    My mind is made up? So I am an idiot for not agreeing to it?

    James, I won’t take you to task if you said“I do not agree with it“, before looking at evidence. I am taking you to task for saying “I will not agree with it” (no matter how good the arguments may be.) The problem is that you already say what you will and will not agree with- before seeing if a certain viewpoint is reasonable.

    Lots of people don’t think Jesus is God … Do I need to explain why?

    This far, you could not rationally defend your reasons for believing:
    * that Jesus may have been deliberately dishonest about being God while allegedly so moral in everything else;
    * the alien astronaut theory have value
    * that Jesus’s most important points was: “Be nice to each other”
    * that the gospels need to have gotten “everything” right for us to believe Jesus is God
    * that all/ most Bible prophesies can be self-fullfilling.
    * that a human Jesus can believe he is God “without being stupid” (or crazy?).
    This far, there is absolutely no reason to trust that you can rationally defend why people believe Jesus is not God. Do you need to explain why people believe it? Only if you want to.

    If you can rationalize your religion, that just means that “it can make sense.” It means that it can be logically coherent. It doesn’t prove itself to be right.

    Correct. Rationally coherent is not synonymous with right. But James: if you cannot rationally defend your views- the views James Gray prefers- if your views fails to be rationally coherent, it makes it rather likely that those views are wrong. I can tell you that I try to see if other views are rationally coherent. And some views- like “if Jesus was a human he could still believe … he is God without being stupid” just don’t make rational sense. In fact, of all religious views I ever tested, only one makes rational sense.

    If you think you have proof that one specific view of Christianity is correct, then you should be able to prove that you have figured out the religion better than anyone else. Lots of people will disagree with you, so you better have a great argument for your beliefs. If you can’t do that, then you have to admit that there is room for interpretation.

    If we take “you” plurally and meaning “evangelical Christianity and it’s apologists” , we have great arguments for our beliefs, yes. If some are to lazy to listen to those arguments, prefering to say “Lots of people don’t think Jesus is God” or “Muslims and Jews have an alternate understanding of his life”, (argumentum ad populum), that is not our problem. Yes, there are things, like the rapture, on which there is room for interpretation, but for Jesus being God, those who disagree have never, to my knowledge, explained their reasons coherently.

  26. I said if his argument was like what you said, then I wouldn’t agree. I said I was willing to take a look at his argument, and you said you wouldn’t bother to give me advice about where to find it.

    I don’t know that Jesus did say he is God. It’s not even clear that he says it in the bible.

    Even if the bible said he did, it took some years before his story was written down. Followers often exaggerate their leaders. Especially after time passes. Do you know about Paul Bunyan?

    Even if he did lie about being God, I’m not convinced that it would be such a terrible lie.

    Even if he did believe he is God, I’m not convinced he would have to be an idiot or insane. Two thousand years ago some people believed they were gods. Philosophers even said that they could be god-like if they could attain wisdom. Many Hindus think all people are God.

    One of my friends thinks Meher Baba might be God. He said he is God, and he was a very nice person. He had his followers build a school for children who wouldn’t be able to afford to go otherwise. Meher Baba was alive less than 100 years ago and we know a lot about him.

    If you want to convince me that everyone must agree with you, then you need solid evidence. That is very unlikely given the fact that we are dealing with history and a person who spoke in metaphors. That’s why religious tolerance makes so much sense. We simply can’t say which one (if any) is right. Even if Christianity had to be right, there’s hundreds of different Christian religions. All of them have their faults, but some of the beliefs have to be based on faith rather than evidence.

    Evangelical Christianity has failed to convinced philosophers that they must join the religion. They have failed to join the ranks of the greatest philosophers and prove their beliefs must be correct.

    Evangelical Christians believe that the mind is basically part of the soul and are substance dualists. That is not yet a tenable position, but of course, anything is possible when God exists. They will just say God fixes all their philosophical problems. However, that is not a form of evidence. It’s just a way to be coherent.

    I am not too lazy to not read the millions of arguments given by all the different religions. I read the very best arguments given by philosophers. That is the best way to guarantee that I don’t waste my time. To read what a non-philosopher deems as a good argument has proven not to be the best use of my time. Philosophers tend to know a good argument from a bad one, not non-philosophers.

    You said that my view isn’t rationally coherent, but all you’ve really said is that some people have given arguments that prove that. What you said so far doesn’t prove it. The fact is that you need an argument with premises and a conclusion. Those premises will have to be justified. To say “Either A is true or B is true” generally gives us false dilemmas. It’s black and white thinking and philosophers are often able to think of new possibilities. You are basically saying “Jesus was either God, or he was dishonest and a bad person, or he was insane.” I don’t see those as the only possibilities. He could lie and be a good person, or he might have never said it in the literal sense, or he might have never said it at all. You can’t prove he said it. You can’t prove he said it literally. You can’t prove he couldn’t have lied.

    What I think you could do is say, “Given this interpretation of the bible, and taking the bible as being historically accurate, and given that Jesus was a horrible person who got people killed, he couldn’t have lied.” I disagree with all of these premises.

    Of course, I’m not an expert with the bible, so you should be talking with a genealogist about it rather than with me. We could check to see what genealogists have to say about it.

    I try to be a philosopher, so I can only tell you what I think is wrong with your argument given my limited understanding and knowledge of general argumentative strategies.

  27. I said if his argument was like what you said, then I wouldn’t agree. I said I was willing to take a look at his argument,

    I still claim it’s no use to show you where to find it if you already admitted: “I wouldn’t agree.” But it is available in the second section (“What Christians believe”) of his book “Mere Christianity.” I would rather recommend this book to you than speak further to you on this topic, for several reasons.
    One, you already admitted that you find arguing with non-philosophers (i.e. me) not the best use of your time. Lewis, an Oxford literature professor who started a Socratic club, may appear a better read to you.
    Two, it covers topics you care about (moral oughtness is in section one, other morality-related topics is in section 3).
    Three, it is probably the work, outside the Bible, that best describes Christianity, in an accessible style recommendable to all. A non-Christian who read that will at least know better what he rejects.
    I know, saying “It’s in a book” is not an answer. But I have tried answering, you have said listening to people like me is not a good use of your time. So it may make sense for me to stop answering. Not because I have no answers, but because you are not paying attention to them anyway.

    I don’t know that Jesus did say he is God. It’s not even clear that he says it in the bible.

    Yes, he does: http://str.convio.net/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6301 http://www.tektonics.org/jesusclaims/jesusclaimshub.html#create http://www.reasons.org/resources/apologetics/greatclaims.shtml
    And it’s unlikely that anyone could make it up: http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/why_christianity_is_not_false.html http://str.convio.net/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6187

    Even if he did believe he is God, I’m not convinced he would have to be an idiot or insane. Two thousand years ago some people believed they were gods. Philosophers even said that they could be god-like if they could attain wisdom. Many Hindus think all people are God.

    From “Mere Christianity” same chapter as other quote:

    “Then comes the real shock. Among these Jews there suddenlenly turns up a man who goes about talking as if He was God. He claims to forgive sins. He says He has always existed. He says He is coming to judge the world at the end of time.
    Now let us get this clear. Among Pantheists, like the Indians, anyone might say that he was a part of God, or one with God: there would be nothing very odd about it. But this man, since He was a Jew, could not mean that kind of God. God, in their language, meant the Being outside the world, who had made it and was infinitely different from anything else…
    One part of the claim tends to slip past us unnoticed because we have heard it so often that we no longer see what it amounts to. I mean the claim to forgive sins: any sins. Now unless the speaker is God, this is really so preposterous as to be comic. We can all understand how a man forgives offences against himself. You tread on my toes and I forgive you, you steal my money and I forgive you. But what should we make of a man, himself unrobbed and untrodden on, who announced that he forgave you for treading on other men’s toes and stealing other men’s money? Asinine fatuity is the kindest description we should give of his conduct. Yet this is what Jesus did. He told people that their sins were forgiven, and never waited to consult all the . other people whom their sins had undoubtedly injured. He unhesitatingly behaved as if He was the party chiefly concerned, the person chiefly offended in all offences. This makes sense only if He really was the God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin. In the mouth of any speaker who is not God, these words would imply what I can only regard as a silliness and conceit unrivalled by any other character in history. Yet (and this is the strange, significant thing) even His enemies, when they read the Gospels, do not usually get the impression of silliness and conceit. Still less do unprejudiced readers. Christ says that He is ‘humble and meek’ and we believe Him; not noticing that, if He were merely a man, humility and meekness are the very last characteristics we could attribute to some of His sayings.”

    Remember, too, that Jesus’s disciples called Him Yahwe (translated as Lord into English), which was the name of the Jewish creator God , the one who made the universe, higher than all others. He was not called by the name of a much smaller god-concept.

    Evangelical Christianity has failed to convinced philosophers that they must join the religion.

    Premise 1: Evangelical Christianity has failed to convinced philosophers that they must join the religion.
    Premise 2: Humans are a rationalizing species, not a reasonable one;
    Premise 3: Philosophers are humans:
    Conclusion 1: Philosophers may, in some cases, neglect to do what is perfectly rational because they don’t want to do it. (From premises 1 and 2)
    Conclusion 2: Philosophers may fail to join Christianity because they don’t want to, not because it is irrational.

    Philosophers tend to know a good argument from a bad one, not non-philosophers.

    Do you have any idea then, why no philosophers proved William Lane Craig’s arguments for God and Christian morality wrong yet? Why other philosophers lose in debates agains him? (And the fact that you find“God neiter exist nor does not exist” an acceptable claim, make me seriously doubt this particular premise of yours anyway.)

    You said that my view isn’t rationally coherent, but all you’ve really said is that some people have given arguments that prove that.

    What argument of yours have I called rationally incoherent, then only said “some people have arguments against it? I know I called “God neither exist nor does not exist” rationally incoherent, but I gave reasons: The excluded middle and the principle of non-contradiction. I failed to believe you that most Bible prophesies can be self-fullfilling, but I gave examples of prophesies that could not be self-fulfilling.

    You are basically saying “Jesus was either God, or he was dishonest and a bad person, or he was insane.” I don’t see those as the only possibilities.

    Just after the Lewis quote, I myself said in brackets: “(I won’t be too surprised if there is more possibilities beside these three, but the possibility of regarding him as a wise, followable mere human is untenable.)” So, if you think I am saying what you accuse me of saying, think again.

    He could lie and be a good person,

    [sarcastic mode on]Yes, liars who live off others, eat their food, sleep in their homes while traveling around and teaching them untrue things, including untrue things that may make God angry at them for following it, are really good people[/sarcastic mode off] You re-iterated here without arguments.

    or he might have never said it in the literal sense, or he might have never said it at all. You can’t prove he said it. You can’t prove he said it literally.

    If roundabout 30 historic sources comes to about the same conclusions as to the things He said, whilst we have no sources from that same era that writes the opposite, it would be more reasonable to believe the 30.
    As for meaning it literally, I know that people who find it literally true- including me – have changed from the inside , for the better (also for the better according to your harm/good metric) from exactly the moment we gave their lifes over to Jesus. Things I wanted to change, but could not, started changing that very weekend. Something very real happened inside me that day and from that day. I have searched, but never heard one story of a similar type from anyone who submitted to any other view exept “Jesus is God, and I give my life over to His rule.” In Christianity I meet new stories of that sort all the time. They come from poor and rich, near and far, old and young, “decent ordinary people” and ex-criminals/ ex-drug-addicts, educated and uneducated, all countries and spheres of life. That is evidence for this Jesus-literally-God world view actually doing what we cannot do. How would you explain this change, if the person we asked to take over was long dead? How would you explain that you do not find conversion stories (defined as stories of being changed for the better from the inside, in ways you cannot change yourself) in other world views?)

    What I think you could do is say, “Given this interpretation of the bible, and taking the bible as being historically accurate, and given that Jesus was a horrible person who got people killed, he couldn’t have lied.” I disagree with all of these premises.

    Strawman argument. No, I never called Jesus a horrible person. And I never said that people are honest because they got people killed.
    So, James, if you desire to respond, first answer these questions before making any more assertions.
    1. why did no philosophers prove William Lane Craig’s arguments for God and Christian morality wrong yet?
    2. What argument of yours have I called rationally incoherent, then only said “some people have arguments against it?
    3. How would you explain the conversion change, if the person we asked to take over(Jesus) was long dead? How would you explain that you do not find conversion stories (defined as stories of being changed for the better from the inside, in ways you cannot change yourself) in other world views?)
    4. And a question I asked you in September already: Why are you taking up this topic (wether Christianity is true) with me? Why do you work so hard on insisting, for example, that other religions must be justifiable in the same way, if (by own admission) you don’t know details that prove it?

  28. First, you are telling me that I am incoherent, which implies that I accept premises that contradict. This is false.

    Second, I might have beliefs incoherent with the facts. I believe this is also false. I agree that you provide some reason to agree with your premises, but they still leave a lot of room for doubt. I don’t think an intelligent person will feel forced to accept them. This might just be a problem with communication. You seem to want to imply that you can prove something beyond reasonable doubt, but that is way too difficult for an internet discussion of this proportion.

    Third, there’s no way we can continue this conversation in this way. I already mentioned that we should only take a look at one argument at a time. It isn’t possible to do justice to any of these arguments and that has been our situation from the start.

    Let’s take a look at #1. First, philosophers tend not to prove anything entirely. There are many arguments for god and they might be right. They simply haven’t been proven yet. So the real question is whether or not William Craig’s argument is fully justified. Is this an argument that we have to accept? Do we have to believe in God? Would we be incoherent not to?

    Craig’s argument is a kind of Cosmological argument and philosophers have replied to it. The cosmological argument and Craig’s version of it, and objections to it are given here:

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/cosmological-argument/#4

    Like most metaphysical arguments, it isn’t difficult to doubt the argument. Many people have. You say no one disproved it, but I will have to take that to mean, “No one can reasonably doubt it.” That seems to be simply false.

  29. James, you are intellectually dishonest. I back up my charge these ways:
    a) You first discuss one topic in your last thread (my allegedly calling you incoherent) without answering my question on the topic (a question to prove your assertion), then say “there’s no way we can continue this conversation in this way”, meaning that we have to discuss one topic at a time, then discuss another topic (WLC), and use “one topic at a time” as your apparent reason to not answer 3 of my 4 questions.
    b) You talk as if WLC has only one argument, not a lot of cumulative ones (That could be ignorance instead of dishonesty, but since I mentioned his arguing for among others the resurrection [and for God as base for morality] here, I think it’s dishonesty rather than than ignorance.)
    c) You make claims you cannot back up (like “The fact is that other Gods have also made themselves known in the same way” then, when asked to back it up, admit you haven’t learn enough about it to know if it’s true.) or will not back up (For example:JG: “You said that my view isn’t rationally coherent, but all you’ve really said is that some people have given arguments that prove that.” R: “What view of yours have I called rationally incoherent, then only said “some people have arguments against it?” JG’s turn: [JG do not mention a single example.])
    d) you defend “God neither exist nor does not exist”
    e) You apparently refuse to look at statements that are not what you want to believe. By the time you wrote response #30, you did not click a single link in my #29. (I know which links are clicked from my blog.) When I mentioned ways in which the Christian God made himself known that other Gods did not, you retort to “but philosophers don’t use those ways to defend God”, instead of looking if the Christian God indeed made himself known in ways other gods did not.

    (You ask why few philosophers accept Christianity? Perhaps because their training in thinking enables them to rationalize their intellectual dishonesty?)

    Now, I must insist: First answer the other questions. You cannot hide behind “one topic at a time” since you yourself discussed two topics in the very post in which you insist on one topic. You could, of course, choose to leave the other questions unanswered and simply not reply again.

    If you can neither back up your assertations, nor withdraw them, you are too dishonest to trust.

  30. James responded with 3 posts today. None of them was back-up for his allegation of “You said that my view isn’t rationally coherent, but all you’ve really said is that some people have given arguments that prove that.” He apparently cannot remember he said that. (See #28, 1st sentence of 11th paragraph: “You said that …”) None of them answered my other two questions either.

    He did say he cannot answer everything I say, I speak on too many topics. But the questions are on topics he took up with me. 2) directly responds to an allegation he made, 3) relates to the divinity of Jesus- which James did discuss with me, and earlier the question of “how so?” after his allegation that “other Gods made themselves known the same way” also responds directly to his allegations.

    In fact, I would accept answers like “I don’t know” on question 3, and absolutely no philosophical research is needed for question 4- a man should know his own heart.

    And for the reason that he don’t back up his own statements when called to, I deleted his posts since. You cannot keep asserting new things here if you cannot defend or withdraw the old ones. I like people to say things they can back up.

  31. James, you are welcome to return after you showed a willingness to either back up or withdraw an allegation after called on it. Currently, the allegations
    * “You said that my view isn’t rationally coherent, but all you’ve really said is that some people have given arguments that prove that.” (#28)
    and
    * “The fact is that other Gods have also made themselves known in the same way” (#8)
    are the 2 examples that you should back up, to show you care about accuracy.

  32. You misinterpret the sentence “You said that my view isn’t rationally coherent, but all you’ve really said is that some people have given arguments that prove that” to mean that I claim that you literally only said “some people provide arguments” without actually giving them. I did not mean that you literally only said that sentence. My point was that you were giving arguments that were evidence that you personally could be coherent, which have been stated by other people. The fact that others also thought of the argument is irrelevant. What is relevant is that you are giving arguments for your personal coherence. You personally could hold views in which Jesus is God and attempt to stay coherent with such a belief.

    My point was that your arguments were not evidence that I am personally incoherent for believing that Jesus was a good person and not God. Your argument might have provided some evidence that various beliefs might be false, and that is why I told you what kind of an argument would be able to prove that I am incoherent. You rejected my argument as a straw man, but it was only a suggestion, and it was a good suggestion because something like that argument is necessary. The premises would have to be proven for the conclusion to be proven. You said you don’t even agree with all the premises.

    I believe, “that other Gods have also made themselves known in the same way.” I already admit that I am not currently able to prove it, but that doesn’t mean it’s false. That would be a fallacy of appeal to ignorance to insist that a belief is false just because it’s not proven. There’s nothing intellectually dishonest about me telling you something I believe in a casual conversation, or even in a philosophical essay. Either way, it’s just my belief. I’m sure someone who has researched other religions could say more about it.

    What is the “same way?” Though revelation. By God making himself known to a person through personal experience. That in itself did happen to Mohammad, didn’t it?

    I don’t have to back up all my beliefs, and I can admit to you when one of my beliefs can’t yet be backed up. To expect all our beliefs to be fully justified is absurd. This is intellectually honest.

    That means that I can’t prove that all your arguments are false. I already admitted that there are arguments for Gods existence that might work. We just currently can’t be sure. We can’t fully justify the arguments, so we can’t be sure if the conclusions are true. You have not fully justified your arguments. That is my main concern.

    There is a difference between evidence and proof. Philosophers tend to only say they have evidence for something. Sometimes philosophers have such good evidence that it a certain theory might be the best available. In order to be sure that we have a best theory available, a lot of argument is necessary. You certainly haven’t proven that your explanations and theories are better than all the alternative explanations.

    If you want to argue something that is epistemologicallyand ontologically loaded without the use of the appropriate philosophical justification and premises, that would be typical of people who aren’t philosophers. Proving that we have to believe in God is something ontologically loaded (God) and it’s epistemologically loaded (we have to believe it.) Philosophers know that they can’t prove they know something big. They simply try to show that one view is more plausible than another.

    I have not been trying to prove that god doesn’t exist. I have merely had the position that an atheist can be rational and moral. To say that it is “possible” for an atheist to be rational and moral does have evidence in the fact that our most intelligent authority (philosophers) agree. This position is plausible from the start because it’s not ontologically or epistemologically loaded. Just the opposite, denying it is saying something very shocking. That it is impossible for an atheist to be rational and moral would be shocking. Religious philosophers tend to agree that their beliefs are not fully justified, and it would be wrong to claim that everyone who disagrees is incoherent or irrational. Such a claim is very strong, and I think such a position is absurd.

    Of course, you want to say that an atheist is incoherent only when faced with the facts. They might be coherent given their actual beliefs. But the “facts” you mentioned so far are also pretty loaded. We will prefer simple ordinary explanations of phenomena to supernatural ones. (Occam’s Razor is accepted by everyone as common sense. To deny it would be absurd given ordinary experience and explanation.)

    You want to force me to “first answer these four questions” which is just an abusive way to keep our conversation superficial. Why? Because I can’t fully develop a philosophical answer to all four questions given the time I have to reply to a post on a blog. I thought you wanted to not just have a pleasant discussion, but also say something philosophically meaningful. That means we need to try to prove a lot less and fully back up our arguments.

    Here are your superficial answers to your profound questions:

    1. why did no philosophers prove William Lane Craig’s arguments for God and Christian morality wrong yet?

    Because none of his arguments are “wrong.” They might be sound. We simply haven’t proven that they are sound yet. Atheists don’t have to agree to his arguments because there are alternative explanations. I already cited one of his arguments and explained how philosophers have challenged it.

    And his resurrection argument? I haven’t read it yet. I would have to want to take a look at it and know where to take a look. The argument I mentioned was one worthy of philosophical debate. I’m not sure if the resurrection argument is considered to be philosophical by philosophers.

    2. What argument of yours have I called rationally incoherent, then only said “some people have arguments against it?

    Already told you that you didn’t only say that. That’s not what my sentence was meant to convey.

    3. How would you explain the conversion change, if the person we asked to take over(Jesus) was long dead? How would you explain that you do not find conversion stories (defined as stories of being changed for the better from the inside, in ways you cannot change yourself) in other world views?)

    Scientists haven’t accepted conversion stories, and they are the authority on this matter. Conversion stories anecdotal evidence. (Anecdotal evidence is often misused, and such misuse is a well known logical fallacy.) Wonderful and strange experiences happen, but we don’t know why they happen. They might be supernatural, or they might be delusional. If they are supernatural, there might be supernatural explanations other than God. Such experiences must be part of the placebo effect. There are too many ways to explain conversion stories other than “it was God” that are much less ontologically loaded.

    Are conversion stories “evidence.” Perhaps. Is it proof? Of course not.

    People can prove that any drug is effective through “personal experience.” Why? Because of the placebo effect. It is difficult to prove that a drug is effective and to do so requires careful experimentation that makes use of the “double blind” method.

    I don’t have to prove that conversion stories aren’t caused by God anymore than I have to prove that people who see ghosts aren’t caused by ghosts. Maybe ghosts do exist and people do see them. Maybe people just think they see ghosts. We tend to dismiss supernatural experiences because we need strong evidence to accept the existing of entities that might not exist. Scientists don’t accept that bigfoot exists even though there are footprints. We simply don’t have enough proof yet.

    4. And a question I asked you in September already: Why are you taking up this topic (wether Christianity is true) with me? Why do you work so hard on insisting, for example, that other religions must be justifiable in the same way, if (by own admission) you don’t know details that prove it?

    This is two questions. One, I think it will be good for the both of us to examine our beliefs and to engage in real philosophical argumentation.

    Two, I don’t insist that other religions are justifiable in the same way, but I simply believe they are. There might be some differences. They might not be justified in exactly the same way given that there can be several different arguments. The “same way” that seems to be the same is revelation.

  33. Thanks, you answered all 4.

    I believe, “that other Gods have also made themselves known in the same way.” I already admit that I am not currently able to prove it, but that doesn’t mean it’s false. That would be a fallacy of appeal to ignorance to insist that a belief is false just because it’s not proven. There’s nothing intellectually dishonest about me telling you something I believe in a casual conversation, or even in a philosophical essay. Either way, it’s just my belief.

    The intellectually dishonest thing is that it was not presented as just a belief, but as a fact. Your sentence was: “The fact is that other Gods have also made themselves known in the same way.”(emphasis mine) You seem to take me to task for stating beliefs as facts. Yet you did just that.

    I don’t have to back up all my beliefs, and I can admit to you when one of my beliefs can’t yet be backed up. To expect all our beliefs to be fully justified is absurd. This is intellectually honest.

    Agreed. The two things I asked you to back up was not opinion statements, but statements of truth. I misunderstood you on the “… incoherent, but …arguments … prove… ” statement, and you just explained what you meant. My fault. But don’t try to call “the fact is that …” a sentence of opinion, that do not need backing up. I don’t believe you.
    As for the numbered answers:
    1) Accepted. (The alternative argument that I did look up -two links in a website you link to gave the same Quentin Smith article- had only one numbered-premises argument against Bill Craig, that came down to “It would be bad design to make a universe that need God’s intervention (fine tuning) right after the beginning, and our universe was not animated from the start.” Something needing intervention is only bad design if it was not supposed to need intervention. My aunts garden, for example, needs upkeep. But it is not bad design from my aunt – she loves gardening and want to be involved in said garden.)
    As for Craig’s argument being worthy of philosophical debate- he debates philosophers often.
    2) Accepted- I misunderstood. My mistake.
    3) Why do you call scientists the authority on the matter? Science accepts, for example, that child abuse still negatively influences children when they know longer have a single physical scar to show for it. Yet most evidence to prove that is anecdotal. Some of it, like some evidence for the positive difference religion can make in lives, is statistical. (Like statistics that people who were abused as children are more likely to have depression or commit suicide, or to be involved in crime. Or statistics that non-religious are more likely to to have depression or commit suicide, and to be involved in crime.)
    Even worse, you said: “Such experiences must be part of the placebo effect.” Since your sentence include the word must, you have just said another thing that needs backing up! Opinions are not facts.
    4) Number one, agreed. Number two, as already explained: You called it a fact, now you say it’s an opinion.

  34. Your second paragraph in #34 is also correct. My apologies for “Strawman argument. No, I never called Jesus a horrible person. And I never said that people are honest because they got people killed.” in #29

  35. Maybe I was wrong to call it a fact, but I think you are worrying too much about the way I talk when all that matters is the main point. I personally think I can say that I believe something is a fact. Believing something is a fact and believing something are very similar and are almost the same thing. There might be a nuance about how we tend to think we can back up facts with justifications, but that isn’t what I think we should have a discussion about.

    I says “it must be part of the placebo effect.” There is something like a typo but where what you accidentally typed actually makes grammatical sense. Given what I actually said in that paragraph, I suspect it was a kind of typo of that sort. The next sentence even said that there are many different explanations. This kind of nitpicking isn’t interesting. You can help me improve my arguments if you wish, but this kind of criticism isn’t really worth thinking too much about.

    I don’t think we need numbered premises against his argument because many of the objections will involve a rejection of a premise to the effect that “we aren’t sure if this is true.” Whenever we aren’t sure a premise is true, we can no longer be sure if the conclusion is true. Although we might be able to argue that one premise is more plausible than an alternative, this is very difficult given metaphysical or “cosmological” arguments. Whenever we are given a set of contradictory beliefs and one belief is supernatural, we will tend to reject the supernatural belief rather than one of the other beliefs. It might not even be clear which other belief must be rejected. Consider these beliefs:

    1. My socks are not where I remember them being.
    2. Someone must have moved my socks.
    3. I didn’t move my socks.
    4. No other person moved my socks.
    5. A ghost moved my socks.
    6. Ghosts doesn’t exist.

    These beliefs give us a contradiction. It would appear that a ghost must have moved my socks given that no person could have moved them, but we also want to reject the existence of ghosts (at least without extraordinary proof.) This is an ordinary situation. But we don’t usually accept that a ghost moved the socks. Instead, we want to reject a different belief. We could reject 3 or 4. Either I moved my socks and forgot, or someone else found a way to move my socks (perhaps by breaking into my apartment.)

    Arguments for God are similar to this argument in that they want an atheist to reject disbelief in God rather than some other belief. Philosophers have then said that they aren’t sure which of his premises are false, but they are still unconvinced that all the premises are true. We have some reason for rejecting the premises even if we can’t prove which one is wrong.

    I’m not saying his argument fails, but this is part of the reason that it isn’t clear that we have to accept his argument. The premises aren’t fully justified and we have some reason to reject them. In particular, “God” is not an appropriate justification whenever something else will do with fewer metaphysical assumptions. Being metaphysical is in itself a reason to doubt.

    At the very least, we want to know if his arguments are more likely true than not. That’s not something that’s not easy to figure out. It has also been pointed out that intuition concerning physics is in particular unreliable. Physics is much weirder than we expected. We need good evidence to believe something is true about the physical universe. Intuition isn’t enough.

  36. You basically argued that Jesus, if dishonest, was not a good person. Instead, he would be horrible:

    “A man could lie about something that would cost his followers -whatever the era- their entire lives to live up to it, and that would even get millions (from his disciples onwards up to today) literally killed for believing and following it, and he would still be regarded as a virtuous? A liar like that will be willing to die painfully for his lie rather than retract? Someone so moral in all his other recorded actions will lie about something this important?”

    If we reject the fact that Jesus did something horrible, then we can also accept him as a good person, whether or not he was honest. To be dishonest to some extent is not a horrible thing. Plato’s forms might have been a lie of sorts. It was very speculative and to treat it as being true seems somewhat dishonest. However, I think Plato was a good person and was still pretty honest overall.

    If Jesus’s main message was to be nice to each other, and his main interest was to revolutionize Judaism (the corrupt money lenders, the fact that you can’t work on one day of the week, etc.), then it might make sense for his followers to say he is God because of the powerful effect that can have at getting people to change and revolutionize their religion.

    This is merely brainstorming, so we need to realize that I am not an expert who could back this up, but I think many people agree to something like it: You say his main point was to make us believe he is god. Somehow to believe that is in itself so wonderful. I disagree. Our actions are more important than our beliefs. A belief with almost no moral content like “Jesus is God” is not very helpful. To get a message of loving each other as human beings, that sounds great. To “follow him” could mean to love each other. To treat others with respect, like how Jesus treats others, and so forth.

  37. Major point:

    Whenever we are given a set of contradictory beliefs and one belief is supernatural, we will tend to reject the supernatural belief rather than one of the other beliefs.

    I believe that this comes to the heart of the matter. You admit ‘we’ have an a priori bias against supernatural explanations. Further, you say on the same topic(bold mine):

    In particular, “God” is not an appropriate justification whenever something else will do with fewer metaphysical assumptions. Being metaphysical is in itself a reason to doubt.

    Now what, if anything, can convince someone of a metaphysical truth (supposing for the moment there are any) if he has made an a priori decision to believe anything else, rather than a metaphysical truth? Do you see how this matter? If someone’s world view say “never accept the metaphysical/ supernatural explanation” there is no point in showing him arguments for God- he closed his mind to the possibility of God.
    Minor points:

    Plato’s forms might have been a lie of sorts. It was very speculative and to treat it as being true seems somewhat dishonest.

    You said earlier Plato’s forms can ground morality for unbelievers! Sorry, most people don’t base their morality on what they find to be a lie. And quite justifiably so, IMO. As Josh McDowell said: “My heart cannot rejoice in what my mind rejects.”

    This is merely brainstorming, so we need to realize that I am not an expert who could back this up, but I think many people agree to something like it: You say his main point was to make us believe he is god. Somehow to believe that is in itself so wonderful. I disagree. Our actions are more important than our beliefs. A belief with almost no moral content like “Jesus is God” is not very helpful. To get a message of loving each other as human beings, that sounds great. To “follow him” could mean to love each other. To treat others with respect, like how Jesus treats others, and so forth.

    When Jesus asked people to believe in Him, it was not an intellectual proposition with no moral content. In fact, he said that believing he is God is not enough – even the demons believe that. No, the kind of belief the Bible speaks of, leads to something called being “born again” in Christianese- the kind of inner change you currently choose to call a placebo effect. (Of course, this paragraph is written from the mainstream Christian POV) But I don’t think you are ready to discuss this point yet, so it’s just a statement to help you understand what Christians believe. We do not regard “Jesus is God” as a meaningless intellectual proposition with no moral content. In fact, it is Jesus who said “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind” is the first moral law, in our viewpoint, followed by “love others as yourself” second.

  38. Interviewer: Why do you not believe God exist?
    Philosopher: Because my philosophical reasoning tells me not to.
    Interviewer: What kind of philosophical reasoning makes you not believe?
    Philosopher: Philosophic reasoning teach me to always seek a naturalistic explanation rather than a supernatural one. *
    Interviewer: Why?
    Philosopher: Because we don’t believe God exist.

    ———–
    * Being metaphysical is in itself a reason to doubt.- James Gray

  39. One, you didn’t say why you disagree that lies might be important to people. Most people don’t use lies to ground their beliefs? Are you sure? I am not convinced. Even scientists might have their share of lies. There are a lot of assumptions that might not be necessary for science to function that we tend to agree with. You might not like the word “lie” here, but my point is merely that there are many different degrees of honesty. Stoic philosophers said we should only believe what we “know” to be true. That would mean that any degree of doubt might be a good reason to reject a belief. A stoic philosopher would then say Plato’s forms should be rejected (perhaps as a kind of “lie.”)

    The idea that we live on lies (and therefore live in a world of illusion) is one that was shared by Buddha, Nietzsche, and even Christian nominalists.

    Examples of lies/fantasies that we take to be reality:

    1. The idea that Capitalism motivates people to work hard.
    2. The idea that those in authority will look out for us.
    3. The idea that money is real.
    4. The idea that countries are real.
    5. The idea that various words actually refer to separate parts of the universe.
    6. The belief that the good will always (in the long run) be rewarded, and the evil will always (in the long run) be harmed.

    These beliefs are unreal in some sense, but they might be useful cultural traditions.

    To live in “denial” and/or to accept “comforting” beliefs is not only normal but people often admit that is why their faith is important to them.

    Two, the fact that the supernatural is a reason to doubt does not mean that the supernatural or various other metaphysically loaded commitments are irrational. The point is merely that they must be in some sense “necessary” or “highly justified” and it isn’t always easy to decide when they are necessary or sufficiently justified.

    An easy example is the idea that ethics is a special property and can’t be reduced to any other property. This is a huge metaphysical commitment to make, but I believe it is correct. To see one small part of how we can argue that morality is a special irreducible domain, you can take a look at my posts on a moral realist perspective, antirealist perspective, and my argument for moral realism. The fact that I wrote several pages worth of material and still don’t expect to be as convincing as I would like should give you an idea about the difficulty involved with metaphysical arguments.

    To argue that there is a domain other than the natural (e.g. supernatural) is against the current worldview that most philosophers share because they tend to be materialists. This is no different than Stoic or Epicurean philosophers, and the materialistic worldview is one that is very tempting for a philosopher. We want everything to make sense, and materialism is one way to try to make sure everything will make sense to us.

    Whether or not God is materialistic or not is another issue. If God is a first cause, then it would appear not to be materialistic.

    Three, what is the moral content of loving God and/or Jesus? What makes this “moral?” What exactly is the “love” involved? Is it just the fact that God is good that it is appropriate to value God highly? If so, that means little more than “Once you know God exists and know what God is, you will know how important God is by definition.” Also, it wouldn’t necessarily change our decision making process.

    Whether or not Hitchens is correct that atheists can be fully moral will depend on the answer to this question. I personally think an atheist can make all the same moral decisions as a Christian based on their moral knowledge. A Christian’s moral knowledge that God is good doesn’t seem to have practical implications. To say pain is bad means to avoid pain. To say that God is good means to what?

    I suppose prayer might not make sense to all atheists and it is possible for prayer to have various benefits, if for some reason God’s decisions change based on prayer. In that case prayer might still not be so much a moral decision as just a good idea.

  40. James, thank you for the conversation. I learned a lot. I learned about world views. I learned about how not to argue (from my own mistakes.)

    But I think now is a time to end it.

    The difference between “being metaphysical is in itself a reason to doubt” (…and therefore God/ the supernatural simply cannot be accepted as an answer); and “follow the evidence wherever it leads”; is so big, it already makes a sensible discussion on things pertaining to God next to impossible. But that is not why I give up. I give up because you suggest people should base their morality on Plato’s forms, while admitting the forms are “very speculative and to treat it as being true seems somewhat dishonest.”
    And when I point that out, you give no sign of understanding the problem. (I never said most people don’t use lies to ground their beliefs.People do base their views on lies sometimes, but they do so because they believe the lies. They base it on what they think is true. When they find something is not true, it is no longer sensible to base their ethics on it.)

    The issue you seem not to understand, is that truth matter. That is an axiom. It is impossible to prove with formal logic that truth matter. (Would you need true or untrue premises to reach the conclusion that truth matter? And does it matter if the premises are true or not?) How close or far a world view is from true, matters. If you cannot see the problem with asking people to live by something that isn’t true, then we cannot have a meaningful conversation.

    I cannot learn from the views of someone who don’t care if what he promotes is true or not. And there is no reason to teach you my views, if you don’t care if (my) views are true or not.

    Yes, many philosophers sit in their academic settings, talk to other similar-minded academics, start from the assumption they were taught that anything that include God or the supernatural have to be doubted, and end up (can you believe it?) doubting God. But then, academia- like many other things – is very often concerned with getting prestige, the acceptance of the like-minded, a bigger office with a puffier chair, and having to do less actual work (teaching work, in this case). To assume that philosophers are all sincere people looking for truth will be rather naive. (In fact, I do not put too much trust in the opinion of academians at all. It is no coincidence that communism have been discarded in most of the real world, but many academians still think it will be a good thing if done “right.”)

    Ps: People who find honesty and truth unimportant, but who insists unbelievers are as moral as believers, makes me think of a(nother) CS Lewis quote:

    “A moderately bad man knows he is not very good, a thoroughly bad man thinks he is alright. This is common sense, really: You understand sleep only when you are awake, not while sleeping. You can see mistakes in aarithmetic when your mind is working properly: When you are making them, you cannot see them. You can understand the nature of drunkenness when you are sober, not when you are drunk. Good people know about both good and evil, bad people do not know about either.”

    Some unbelievers say: “We are as moral as you”; and mean: “If we redefine morality to exclude chastity, loving God, honesty, and any other moral rule we don’t like, we are as moral as you.” Yeah right. And if I redefine “drive” to mean “Counter silly unbelievers objections on the internet” then I can drive a lot quicker than Kimi Raikonnen.

  41. “I give up because you suggest people should base their morality on Plato’s forms, while admitting the forms are “very speculative and to treat it as being true seems somewhat dishonest.”
    And when I point that out, you give no sign of understanding the problem. (I never said most people don’t use lies to ground their beliefs.People do base their views on lies sometimes, but they do so because they believe the lies.”

    My point before was that you are misunderstanding my point. You are taking “lies” to mean the ordinary word. I was using it more metaphorically just to make a small point. This is what I said:

    To be dishonest to some extent is not a horrible thing. Plato’s forms might have been a lie of sorts.

    All I was saying was that there is a gray area between honesty and dishonesty. Good people can make use of the gray area. Sometimes good people can even lie whenever they believe it is necessary to do so. For example, you could like to serial killers looking for your mother.

    If I don’t understand “the problem” it’s because I disagree that “the problem” exists. I agree that we shouldn’t believe lies. We should try not to be self-deceptive or live in denial. I never said that we should.

    I also never said that we must rely on Plato’s forms for morality. That is simply one way to ground ethics, and there are others. If you read my blog posts, you will never see me accept Plato’s forms there. I think we can understand ethics from our experiences. However, Plato’s forms is a philosophical position and can be philosophically defended.

    “When they find something is not true, it is no longer sensible to base their ethics on it.”

    I agree.

    “Yes, many philosophers sit in their academic settings, talk to other similar-minded academics, start from the assumption they were taught that anything that include God or the supernatural have to be doubted, and end up (can you believe it?) doubting God. But then, academia- like many other things – is very often concerned with getting prestige, the acceptance of the like-minded, a bigger office with a puffier chair, and having to do less actual work (teaching work, in this case). To assume that philosophers are all sincere people looking for truth will be rather naive. (In fact, I do not put too much trust in the opinion of academians at all. It is no coincidence that communism have been discarded in most of the real world, but many academians still think it will be a good thing if done “right.”)”

    That would not be a good way for philosophers to argue. Philosophers are supposed to argue based on the evidence. I also highly doubt that this is a serious charge against philosophers, who were all like-minded Christians not that long ago. They eventually rejected the “requirement to be Christian” and the decision not to talk about God made a lot of sense. Whether or not God exists is an interesting question, but his existence doesn’t help us explain things very well. Creationism wants us to say God was necessary for people to exist, but evolution is currently a much better theory. Whenever God is used to explain something, we simply don’t know what we are talking about. Maybe we couldn’t exist without God, but evolution still makes sense. If God was necessary, it was because of some abstract reason that we don’t ordinarily have to deal with.

    The belief that God exists is a comforting thought and seems “all things equal, better” than the alternative. The problem is that all things are not equal.

    “People who find honesty and truth unimportant, but who insists unbelievers are as moral as believers, makes me think of a(nother) CS Lewis quote”

    Most “believers” lack honesty because they don’t know enough about ethics to have an informed belief. Instead, they just believe whatever they were taught their religious authorities tell them to. To be truly honest, we must be highly informed. We can’t just ignore the fact that experts disagree with our opinions.

    To want to be an expert in ethics without actually knowing what the actual experts have to say is very dishonest.

    “Some unbelievers say: “We are as moral as you”; and mean: “If we redefine morality to exclude chastity, loving God, honesty, and any other moral rule we don’t like, we are as moral as you.” Yeah right. And if I redefine “drive” to mean “Counter silly unbelievers objections on the internet” then I can drive a lot quicker than Kimi Raikonnen.”

    Those unbelievers might be unjustified to say that, but I hope you don’t think that is my argument. We can’t just have faith that any set of virtues are the “true virtues.” Many unbelievers have very good reasons for disagreeing that loving God is a virtue and that sex is evil. Sex doesn’t necessarily harm people. Loving god doesn’t necessarily help anyone.

    • All I was saying was that there is a gray area between honesty and dishonesty. Good people can make use of the gray area.

      I think you mean that some things are not to be taken as objectively “true”or “untrue.” You did not suggest anything in the “objectively true” category, that people can base morality on. That is hardly good enough, as someone who base his morality upon something that is not regarded as objectively true, can change his moral values any time he want to.
      Can you link us to one objectively, indisputably true ground for ethics on your blog?

      Whether or not God exists is an interesting question, but his existence doesn’t help us explain things very well.

      Evil- it’s existence, the fact that we know some things are evil, the fact that we want to be different (the fact that people like you want to blog about morality)- cannot, IMO, be explained better than by the Christian concept of it.

      Creationism wants us to say God was necessary for people to exist, but evolution is currently a much better theory.

      Evolution, even if true, cannot explain why this world is (apparently) fine tuned for life against all odds, nor how DNA and life came into existence. So no, evolution do not explain us being here. Answering “we are here by evolution” is like saying “a truck brought it from the sweet factory to the shop” to answer “where do chocolate come from?”

      The belief that God exists is a comforting thought and seems “all things equal, better” than the alternative. The problem is that all things are not equal.

      Please back up your assertation that “all things are not equal.” What precisely leads you to believe this? If you cannot back it up, withdraw it.

      To want to be an expert in ethics without actually knowing what the actual experts have to say is very dishonest.

      Agreed. And I see God as the #1 expert. His world, His rules. And the people who study Him the closest are second in line.

      Many unbelievers have very good reasons for disagreeing that loving God is a virtue and that sex is evil.

      Christian believers do not find sex evil! https://christianrethinker.wordpress.com/2009/09/04/sex-a-sin/
      And, supposing God really exist, how can it not be unethical to harden your heart against Him who gave you every good gift you have?

      Loving god doesn’t necessarily help anyone.

      Flowing out of loving God, is to really love others as yourself, to care for every person’s true good. That is part of the Christian definition of loving God. It is impossible that loving the Christian God do not help anyone. By definition, it just cannot be.

  42. I think you mean that some things are not to be taken as objectively “true”or “untrue.”

    A rock exists. That is objectively true. Murder is wrong. That is true.

    What do you think “objective” means? I think it means that we can find a method to agree upon something. We can find a way to agree murder is wrong and rocks exist.

    You did not suggest anything in the “objectively true” category, that people can base morality on. That is hardly good enough, as someone who base his morality upon something that is not regarded as objectively true, can change his moral values any time he want to.

    False. I think “pain is bad” is true, and it’s bad no matter who feels it. To say “pain is bad” doesn’t mean “I dislike pain” or anything like that.

    Can you link us to one objectively, indisputably true ground for ethics on your blog?

    I wouldn’t claim to be able to prove anything “indisputable” other than logic and math. Philosophy is a debate lasting thousands of years because it’s not about indisputable facts.

    However, I give an argument for moral realism and the fact that “pain is bad” here: http://ethicalrealism.wordpress.com/2009/10/07/an-argument-for-moral-realism/

    This is my personal argument and there is a lot said by other philosophers about moral realism. Many philosophers do not require us to accept God’s existence to justify moral facts.

    William Lane Craig argues that morality requires a “foundation,” which “must be god.” If you look at his argument, he basically only argues that reductionist materialists can’t account for morality. That is true by definition. Of course, the worry about a “foundation” is an interesting question and much can be said about it. I will write a post about it at some point.

    A quick answer: No “foundation” is necessary for those of us that reject reductionism (and accept that pain exists) because we experience that pain is bad. We don’t have to say, “Well, it’s only bad if God exists.”

    If a “foundation” is necessary, then Plato’s forms would probably do the job. I said I don’t accept Plato’s forms, but that doesn’t mean that I am 100% sure that they don’t exist. People who believe “God is necessary for ethics” tend to believe that God is the necessary foundation, but Plato’s forms seems like a better foundation to me.

    You bring up some interesting points, but I only have time to talk about one thing at a time. These questions deserve a lot of time and thought, which shouldn’t be given the quick superficial answer that would be typically given. We can talk about the next question if you are satisfied with my current answer to objective truth.

  43. You once again, when called to back up an assertion, chose to say “one thing at a time.” If that was true, why did you bring up the topic of God allegedly not being an equal explanation? You did not limit yourself to one topic then. James, I insist: Back up or withdraw that assertion. Anything else you say, before backing up this assertion, will be deleted. You cannot keep on saying things without caring if they are true.
    ——————

    You suggest basing morality on “pain is bad” and “avoid pain.” Let us see to what degree people believe that.

    Avoid pain(1)?
    Childbirth is painful, but women do not forgo motherhood for that reason.
    Marathon runners and other people who exercise hard sometimes have muscle pains, but they do not stop running/ gymming the first second they feel that.
    Anal penetration is painful, so they say, yet gays (and many straight women!) allow it.

    (You may say that you included emotional, and not just physical pain, but there are similar examples to make the same point about emotional pain.)

    It is thus demonstrably true that people do not find pain something that should be avoided at all costs. Mothers, marathon runners and male-on-male sexual practitioners prove that. Some other interests are regarded as more important than avoiding pain. Therefore, morality based in “do not hurt others” should, by common sense, be overridden by other interests.

    Avoid pain(2)?
    If “avoiding pain” was the ultimate base of ethics, and if there was no God or afterlife, then the most ethical action possible would have been to kill all humans (and animals capable of feeling pain) painlessly, so that they never experience pain again. Nobody believes that killing everyone (painlessly) is the ultimate expression of ethics, because nobody really believes that avoiding pain is the real base for ethics.

    Morally good if pain is avoided?
    Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World envisions a world where pain is pretty much eliminated. Nobody feels, for example, job frustration – they have been bred and programmed to fit their jobs. Inhabitants of that world take a soma at the first sign of even emotional distress. Yet, I would not describe his brave new world as the most ethical, good world possible. It beats a sadistic world, but that’s about it.

    Conclusion:

    I disagree with the notion that morality can be based in pain avoidance.

  44. I thought I already backed up why God is not an equal explanation. We can’t rationally posit the existence of something unless we have to. All things equal, we shouldn’t posit God’s existence. But I also said, all things equal, we should prefer that God exists. But they are not equal.

    Pain proves that intrinsic value exists. If you read what I wrote about pain then you would see that this is not a modest argument, but I never argued that “Morality is based on pain.” One reason could be that other things also have intrinsic value. Going to school is painful, but the knowledge gained is of value as well. I think I talked about that in the post.

    I don’t know what you are talking about as far as “morally good for avoiding pain” and such. All things equal, pain should be avoided. All things are not always equal.

    “All things equal, pain should be avoided” does not mean it is praiseworthy to avoid pain. Praiseworthiness and obligations are not entailed by moral realism and they require some understanding of moral theory.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s