Saturday, August 7, 2021

Adventures in the Old Atheism, Part V: Woody Allen


So far in this series we’ve considered Nietzsche, Sartre, Freud, and Marx.  None of them is exactly a laugh riot.  So let’s now take a look at the lighter side of atheistic disenchantment and nihilism, in the work of that most philosophical of American comic filmmakers, Woody Allen.  We’ve noted how one of the features that distinguishes the New Atheism from the Old is its shallow optimism.  New Atheists typically refuse to see any good in religion at all, and thus can foresee no loss whatsoever in the prospect of its disappearance.  Allen is as free of that sophomoric attitude as any Old Atheist, which gives him at least some of the relative sobriety of the members of that club.

Not that Allen is Captain Gravitas.  The loss of meaning and morality in a world without God is a longstanding theme of his movies.  But it is played strictly for laughs in a goofball comedy like Love and Death, whereas in a drama like Hannah and Her Sisters it is remedied for one character who is going through an existential crisis by watching a Marx Brothers movie and deciding to try to enjoy life to the extent he can.  This is pretty banal stuff, albeit those are both very good movies.  And the atrocious Whatever Works exhibits the same banality, but on steroids.  (How bad a flick is it?  So bad that Allen somehow managed to make Larry David unfunny.) 

All the same, Allen has also explored the theme in a more serious way, in the marvelous Crimes and Misdemeanors.  Martin Landau’s character Judah Rosenthal is a successful ophthalmologist whose life is unraveling because the woman with whom he has been committing adultery threatens to expose the affair to his wife.  He wrestles with his gangster brother’s proposal to solve the problem by having the woman killed, at first appalled by it but eventually consenting.  He is then racked with guilt, the religious teaching of his father, which he had always rejected, now coming alive for him at last.  He toys with the idea that God does exist after all and that he stands under divine judgment, and considers confessing his crimes.  In the end, however, when he realizes that he is not going to be caught, he gets over his guilt, abandons his tentative belief in God, and cynically returns to his life of affluence.

Meanwhile, Judah’s friend and patient Ben, played by Sam Waterston, is a rabbi who gradually loses his eyesight but remains devout and hopeful.  Woody Allen’s own character Cliff Stern is also going through a crisis, as his marriage is collapsing and his filmmaking career is going nowhere.  Unlike Judah, though, Cliff is not a cynic, and is trying to get a documentary made about a philosophy professor whose ideas he finds inspiring.  But his rival Lester, a fellow filmmaker played by Alan Alda, is a phony and a blowhard but one who nevertheless achieves the recognition and financial and romantic successes that elude Cliff.

One of the themes of the movie, then, is that in a Godless universe there is no moral order, so that the wicked prosper and the good suffer.  The good, and the religious in particular, are also portrayed as naïve and in thrall to wishful thinking.  As this interesting analysis points out, the wearing of eyeglasses serves in the movie as a subliminal marker of those who are, either permanently or temporarily, dominated by moral or religious illusions.  The characters who do not wear them are those who, though hard and cynical, nevertheless see reality for what it is.

All the same, one of the most interesting features of Crimes and Misdemeanors is that, despite its atheistic worldview, the movie does not portray the devout with contempt, and even affords them a certain nobility.  Ben, the rabbi, is represented throughout as admirable, gentle, and a voice of moral reassurance.  Sol, Judah’s father, is stolid and even patient with, if exasperated by, his skeptical relatives.  He defends his faith with stubborn confidence, but in a manner that is nevertheless measured and without anger or fanaticism.  Meanwhile, the characters whose atheism is most pronounced, Judah’s aunt May and Judah himself, are represented as coldly amoral.

This is a far cry from the simplistic picture of the dispute between atheism and religion that one finds in a Dawkins or a Hitchens.  And the point is not that all atheists are like Judah – of course they aren’t – but rather that Allen is, unlike your central casting New Atheist, able to take a critical distance on his unbelief (at least in this movie – in Whatever Works, not so much).  He is willing to entertain the possibility that even if atheism is true, it may have horrific implications, and that even if no religion is true, religion may afford moral depth and consolation that is otherwise unavailable.

In one of the film’s best scenes, Judah imagines being back at one of the Seder meals of his childhood, listening to his father Sol spar with his atheist aunt May.  May insists that the hard truth is that “might makes right.”  Sol, meanwhile, serenely affirms that “if necessary, I will always choose God over truth.”

Naturally, this can be read as simple irrationalism, but there is another way to interpret it.  To me, it is reminiscent of Socrates’ famous remark in Plato’s Republic:

The good therefore may be said to be the source not only of the intelligibility of the objects of knowledge, but also of their being and reality; yet it is not itself that reality, but is beyond it, and superior to it in dignity and power. (p. 234 of the Desmond Lee translation)

For “the good,” read Sol’s reference to God, and for “being and reality,” read his reference to truth.  Plato takes the Form of the Good to be so fundamental to the order of things that it is prior even to being and reality themselves, being their source.  It is a kind of super-reality or super-being.  Sol, arguably, thinks of God in a similar way.  So fundamental is the notion of God to the very intelligibility of things that, for Sol, he is a more ultimate reality even than truth of the ordinary sort.  That is, admittedly, to read into Allen’s scene more than he probably had in mind.  It seems clear enough, though, that Sol is portrayed as more than merely putting forward irrationalism or fideism – that Allen acknowledges in him a kind of dignity and moral gravitas despite his eschewal of logic and evidence as May (and Allen) understand them.

These remarks are, of course, not intended to be metaphysically rigorous.  At the end of the day, I don’t think it makes sense to think of the good as beyond being or truth.  On the contrary, as the doctrine of the transcendentals holds, being, truth, and goodness are really all the same thing looked at from different points of view.  And as longtime readers know, I also think that the relationship between morality and theism is more complicated than either Allen or pop Christian apologists suppose.  The point is that, however one works out the philosophical details, there is a nuance in the treatment of religion in Crimes and Misdemeanors that is absent from New Atheist polemic, or even from some of Allen’s other work.

In chapter 2 of his recent book The Meaning of Belief: Religion from an Atheist’s Point of View, Tim Crane draws a distinction between pessimistic and optimistic atheist responses to the disenchantment of the world.  Both responses urge that we resolutely do our best to supply some sort of meaning and morality to the inherently meaningless and amoral world revealed by science (more accurately, by the philosophical naturalist’s interpretation of science).  But the optimistic atheist thinks that the situation could never really have been other than this, and that the religious view of the world is simply based on a confusion.  To abandon religion is to abandon something that never made sense in the first place, and thus involves no real loss.  The transcendent meaning and morality the religious believer affirms is simply unintelligible on analysis, and thus could never have existed.

The pessimistic atheist, by contrast, thinks that the religious view of things is intelligible, and that the world could in principle have had the transcendent meaning and moral order that the religious believer attributes to it.  It’s just that, as it turns out, that’s not the way the world happens to be.  Hence the pessimistic atheist, unlike the optimistic atheist, feels a real sense of loss upon the abandonment of religious belief.  Allen’s attitude toward disenchantment is clearly of the pessimistic sort, as is, arguably, the attitude of most of the best-known Old Atheists in general.

124 comments:

  1. I think there is something inherent in a progressive worldview that is naturally "optimistic atheism". It's probably to the point a progressive doesn't really care if he is an atheist or not, it's just he has to conform his worldview to a progressive worldview and all is right with the world.

    This is probably why the vast swathes of Progressive Christians or probably any progresive form of any religion can have essentally an atheist worldview but still consider themselves Christians, they just happen to view the March of History and the "Spirit of the Age" as the natural progression or ultimate message of their religion and the rest of the stuff (like miricals, "outdated" / opressive morality, any sacred or liturgical place or thing, ect) can be discarded to the "dustbin" of history, which at best was "historically justified for the old times" but most likely was evil "religion" and "traditions of men" getting in the way of "true spirituality". I guess this also might show how a Progressive Christian (or Progressive Muslim, Progressive Jew, ect) is most like just a Progressive but plays around a little with the language, texts, and symbols within their respective religion to interpret their essential meaning as "the progressive processes". And they will pursue any and all progressive activism with a greater gusto and self righteousness than most non religous progressives.

    It seems that these sort of "optimistic" views are almost gleefully and willfully shallow and are there ultimatley to promote activism and ideology. The depth of the intellectualism of "optimistic views" seems to be utilitarianism to promote activism, doing geneologies to debunk and relativise and relativising the meanng of things to promote a progressive view while eliminating other views arguments. As for the matrialism in an optimistic atheist view, it probably makes the most sense to use materialism as it is probably the most useful philosophy for them to have to act upon their political desires.

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    1. I remember seeing once a passage from The Screwtape Letters where Screwtape says something like that once they can make the religious persons start being moved more by politics they pretty much won. While this is true on any ideology, the progressive mindset is truly the one where the politics seems more clearly the leader.

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    2. I think it's a bit simpler than that. When you define civilizational decay as "progress," then you'll see have a "Power Rangers" view of politics whereby the Left are a bunch of totally radical teenagers with attitude and the Right are the various Monsters of the Week that we're supposed to take seriously as a threat even though they're beaten each time they appear.

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    3. William,

      You've given a pretty decent summary of Charles Taylor's "A Secular Age"--though Taylor takes a lot longer to make his points ;).

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    4. Reminds me of Jordan Peterson. Almost a Progressive Christian, but really just a progressive optimistic (classical liberal) atheist. But still an interesting thinker, in spite of his moral, metaphysical, and theological shallowness, because he takes the genealogies (history) seriously and has a strong streak of ambivalence -- like Woody Allen, I suppose.

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    5. David McPike,

      Yes, a utilitarian Christianity. And someone like Peterson may even be willing to suffer for it. But faith is, after all, a supernatural gift, not a humanitarian philosophy.

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    6. Peterson seems more like a deist to me. He sees the existence of some force who give us value and whose nature is not possible to know but who existence is very strongly by pratical reason, sees value in some teachings of the christian tradition and see the human condition as one that, while to flawled to get a utopia, can be decent with a lot of effort. He reminds me of Kant, except more pessimistic on politics.

      But i saw very little of him, so i could be wrong.

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    7. Speaking of Peterson, here is a podcast about this very subject from the Austin Institute (highly recommended! Good Catholic stuff)

      https://www.austin-institute.org/podcast-wwcnta/episode/1e57a9ac/jordan-peterson-god-and-christianity-with-professor-christopher-kaczor

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  2. I also thought Crimes and Misdemeanors is one of Allen's best later movies. Interesting take through the old vs. new atheist lenses.

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  3. Woody Allen, Martin Short, and Will Ferrell are in a battle royale for the most obnoxious, insufferable person ever! So if you’re willing to watch one of their movies, then I thank you for taking one for the team! Haha!

    Atheist be like “poor deluded religious people. They invent an invisible friend to help them cope with the real world. Don’ they know the universe doesn’t care about them?”

    Well, that’s just how the particles vibrate, right? So some particles are religious. So? Don’t atheists know that the universe doesn’t care about them? Where do they get this objective, mind-independent standard that tells them that particles ought not be religious? Maybe enlightened self-interests? So some particles don’t vibrate in a way that comports with your self-interests, so? Particles don’t care about atheists so they should stop inventing this imaginary friendly universe that tells them how particles ought to vibrate.

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    1. The fun part is that the thinking of the atheist and the religious person are equally vibration, and therefore the atheist has no reason to believe his atheism: it's just how he vibrates.

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    2. Mary Catelli,

      As soon as you make an objective claim about thought being a mere particle vibration, you are assuming that your thinking on the matter is abstract and objective and, therefore, more than a mere particle vibration, which violates the claim being defended.

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    3. I'am pretty sure than that was Mary point. But them again, my particles could be behaving diferently today :)

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    4. Talmid,

      Yes, I agree.

      Here's where it gets interesting when someone tries to say that an atheist need not be a materialist. But any defense of the claim ends in just being a refusal to think too far into it.

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    5. A serious atheist actually ought to not be a materialist. Besides there not being good arguments for it and there being way better atheistic views, our cognitive faculties under atheist are not exactly trustworth enough to have a very strong take on metaphysics, if any. Maybe one can do a Schopenhauer, not a fan of materialism, and try to justify his views on the noumena by looking at experience. Even that might fail since, as Nietzsche said, the inner world of the instrospective is as flawled as the outer of the senses on this view. They both come from the same source, so they stand or fall together.

      And, being honest, even ignoring the evolutionary arguments(Plantinga style) and similar arguments, i don't know if i could trust my reason much if i did not believe that the basis of my worldview came from revelation from above*. Our thought starts from several presupositions that can seen self-evident to us but be the result of culture or just intellectual mistakes. Even if we try to only believe in what is provable we can still fail in grave errors(as shown by most philosophers) and never know how silly our views are. If there is nothing above the human mind, them a kinda of skepticism is all that is left.

      Not denying that the human mind is capable of knowing with certitude the preambles to faith, no irrationalism here, but it does a pretty bad job on actually doing it before it hears the Gospel. If one rejects the Church authority when commmenting on reason power, as do atheists, what reason there is to trust on reason except on a pragmatic sense?


      *which the pagans usually believe as well, their concept of revelation is way diferent but it is there

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    6. Talmid,

      So is what you wrote above not, as I wrote, a "refusal to think too far into it"?

      If the atheist affirms that something exists that is not reducible to matter, then he has an obligation to tell us something about it, no? Where does he find this immaterial thing? How does he experience it? Once he answers these questions, why is it that he can draw no further conclusions? Does he experience it as the form of the body? If so, why can't we draw conclusions concerning causality and compositeness and everything that entails? Because he doesn't like those conclusions?

      Does he have an obligation to go beyond merely refusing to think more about it and then thundering about how his opponents are dumb sheep?

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    7. It does depend on what one means by something that is not reducible to matter. Russell, for instance, would say that reality is something that can't be reducible to what we usually mean by matter and also something that can't be reducible to immateriality as we usually mean. To someone like him the distinction makes to sense. Of course, if we think on the modern material/immaterial distinction them he is right(his metaphysics are not, thought), for the moderns got this wrong.

      And i would not say that the anti-metaphysician atheist necessarily refuses to think about these things, even while it is true that the average does. Kant, while not being a atheist, is a example of someone who refused to think too far into it not because he thinked too little. There are several ways philosophers tried to argue that metaphysics is not possible and the atheist ought to take them very serious.

      In fact, the atheist, if he is not a idiot, will eventually realize that his little monkey brain is not trustworth on his worldview at all, so he will tend to not think too far into metaphysics precisely because he thinked a lot. Of course, why the average anti-metaphysician atheist is very confident when arguing against God existence is a mystery, but that is another problem for them.

      And don't get me wrong, materialism is truly ridiculous and believing in immaterial intellects(which is what should be done) is a good way of finding God, that is true. But the inteligent atheist will do his best to not let you get this far with him not only as a defense-mechanism, but also because he can't go on too far on this area while being a atheist.

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    8. Talmid,

      "he can't go on too far on this area while being a atheist"

      I really don't see how you are saying anything different than I am.

      The average Dawkins worshiping dingdong is one thing, but Russell (and, in fact, all modern philosophy) fares no better in terms of this issue: neutral monism is great as long as you don't ask what the "mon" is.

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    9. That is sure true, the average materialist, neutral monist, idealist etc ask too few questions. The modern prision is sure full.

      What i think that i'am saying diferently is that this is in part because the atheists can't expect too much of their minds if they really believe on their views, so this lack of asking does have some internal sense even if it is at least arbitrary(as is Russell "the universe is just there and that is all, lol").

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    10. "the atheists can't expect too much of their minds"

      They already have once they make claims beyond materialism. They have already become theists.

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  4. Crimes and Misdemeanors is definitely Woody's best film. The scene where he has an inner dialogue with Ben as his 'good side' is tremendous; "God is a luxury I can't afford."

    There's also the hilarious scene in Hannah and Her Sisters where he approaches a priest looking to convert to Catholicism, and his parents are shocked:

    Mother: Of course there's a God, you idiot. You don't believe in God?

    Woody: If there's a God, then why's there so much evil in the world? Just on a simplistic level, why were there Nazis?

    Mother: Tell him, Max.

    Father: How the hell do I know why there were Nazis, I don't know how the can opener works.

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    1. Although it's funny, that scene is actually basically an encapsulation of Allen's message in the entire film. In short, Mickey's dad is right and Mickey is wrong- Allen is asking why we should punish ourselves with unanswerable questions that lead to nothing but pain and confusion. At the end, Mickey realizes this in the Marx brothers film- he sees that nothing is achieved by just endlessly contemplating things he'll never get to the center of, and the importance of just moving on in one's life. Right or wrong, that's I think the point being made in the dialogue, underneath the humour.

      It's a terrific scene (although I think the one where Mickey and Hannah ask for a sperm donation is even funnier) from a terrific film. I've watched it twice, and three things struck me more the second time around- first, that the ending may not be nearly as happy as it immediately appears (is perpetual child Elliot really going to mature? e.g.); second, that all the storylines have more in common than is immediately obvious (personal immaturity and people making problems for themselves that don't need to exist is a common thread); and third, that the music is very carefully chosen. Allen basically gives lots of the characters their own themes- Mickey gets "The Trot" by Count Basie, Elliott and Lee are given Bach and David has Puccini, to show the different ways they see themselves in the events of the film.

      The set-up- of various storylines centered around three sisters- is also in another Allen film I haven't seen, "Interiors", inspired by Chekhov's "Three Sisters", and is later used in Todd Solondz' "Happiness".

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    2. I'd say that, as in Crimes & Misdemeanors, Allen manages a bit more depth than that. Even if Mickey's dad is right, the film also seems to acknowledge that leaving it at that is intolerable for us. And even if Mickey is wrong, he's asking questions that one can't be an attentive human being and NOT ask. Neat resolutions aren't on tap in Allen's best works.

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    3. I'm not entirely in agreement. All of the characters face the same problems effectively, the difference being that a) Mickey isn't dishonest and manipulative like the rest of them (with the *possible* exception of Hannah), and b) Mickey frames his problems in terms of God, evil, existentialism etc. so as to pretend that his issues are somehow more sophisticated, when they're not. His depression is something he's kind of talked himself into when he doesn't really need to be depressed at all- hence why he leaves it so easily- just as Elliott, for example, has talked himself into having an affair when he doesn't need to. You say, "Neat resolutions aren't on tap in Allen's best works", but the point is that his problem is resolved neatly precisely because it never needed to exist in the first place. Mickey is a kind of tragicomic mirror to everyone in the rest of the film.
      What would you say are Woody's best films, out of interest? I would go for "Hannah", "Crimes", "Another Woman" and "Husbands and Wives", but there are a few big ones I still haven't seen.

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    4. It's odd, because what Mickey is affecting concern about are valid questions ... it's just that Mickey's too shallow for HIS concern to be sincere. I have to confess, I'm no Allen completist--other than the two movies under discussion, I think I've seen "Take the Money and Run," "What's Up, Tiger Lily," "Zelig," and "Shadows & Fog"--probably not enough to answer your question intelligently.

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  5. Interesting post. When i saw the title i was a bit confused, "why a filmmaker?" but yea, the existencial side of any position is usually best understood and shown by art. There is no philosopher that generated more discussions of utilitarism than any modern idealistic super-villan.

    And this post made me think of one of the modern naturalist most annoying characteristics: these guys usually admit that they have no knockdown argument for naturalism but when no one is looking they pretend that it is proved that naturalism is true and so morality, free-will, order etc are just illusions and that we must live with it. New-atheists do that a lot.

    I mean, i would only consider, CONSIDER, giving up any of these if there where undeniable arguments against they and the guy admits that there is not any, why i'am even listen to him?

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  6. I have not seen this film because of my radical allergy to Allen. The post's summary makes it sound very close to the general conservative attitude towards religion. Conservatism doesn't really believe, but likes believers.

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    1. They are diferent in their atitudes, tought. The conservative also usually sees religion as relatively useful while Allen(going by the Whatever Works plot) seems to see it as harmful, at least today. But they truly seems to understand why someone would believe in it when the cold truth is(so they say) obvious.

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    2. Conservatives like Burke certainly thought religion was useful, as long as its dogmas didn't upset society and its historical evolution. However he thought dogma, even the very notion of it, ridiculous. Scruton has perhaps ideologised conservatism to the ultimate degree. Yes, for him, religion is useful to society, but he goes much further than holding religion to be useful and harmless; he misrepresents the very actions of believers and all they believe in, giving these things meanings that are abhorrent to religion. A real danger for our times is conservatism.

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    3. I agree. Both these views are horrible to religion when left to lead. But them again, one has to be a bit dumb to think that a view that is a negation of the christian faith will be a big help.

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    4. The problem is that for the last two hundred years, conservatism has been allowed to do most of the public "defending" of religion. In the process, its view of what religion is has eroded the faith of many. We have to understand, even if it is late in the day, that the average conservative is extremely immune to real faith and perhaps incapable of it in a way that even militant atheists are not susceptible to. Christian believers must defend Christianity. We don't need unbelievers to treat us like some exotic species in need of conservation. That environment is fatal for Christianity.

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    5. Miguel Cervantes:

      You keep using the word "conservatism" in ways I don't recognize. It sounds like you're talking about something else, and calling it by the wrong name. On the other hand, I can think of about six things called "conservatism" in common parlance. None fit your usage well, so far as I can see, but maybe you think one of them does. Or maybe there's another thing called "conservatism" which you're aware of, which I would recognize under another name.

      Can you describe for me what you mean by the word "conservatism?" And, perhaps just as helpfully, what you don't mean?

      Thanks.

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    6. @Miguel

      That is true. While i do see the average conservative as easier to evangelize that his liberal neighbours, it is truly bad to let they be the face of the christian faith.

      @R.C.

      Miguel seems to be using it to refer to something like anglo-saxon conservatism. While it can kinda work for sometime with protestants, his status as a enemy of catholicism seems to still be there.

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    7. Unfortunately my "fan", the oddball sockpuppeteer identified by the blog a couple of months back, is still lurking under a few aliases and beliefs. I'd be only too happy to discuss this subject with a longstanding or verifiable commenter, as has happened in the past.

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  7. Ed, I have to share a section of my forthcoming book on theological fads where my discussion of one of those fads--the denial of divine impassibility--ties in to the very first Woody Allen film you mention in the OP, Love and Death.

    Richard Bauckham argues that if God is love, he must suffer. To this end, he cites my fellow Welshman, Maldwyn Hughes: “It is of the very nature of love to suffer when its object suffers loss, whether inflicted by itself or others. If the suffering of God be denied, then Christianity must discover a new terminology and obliterate the statement ‘God is love’ from its Scriptures.”
    If you think that one can dismiss Maldwyn Hughes' comment as an example of the Welsh hwyl style of preaching gone amiss, how do you handle the same sentiments when expressed by one of the most serious and respected German theologians of today, Jürgen Moltmann? Moltmann writes, “A God who cannot suffer is poorer than any man. For a God who is incapable of suffering is a being who cannot be involved. Suffering and injustice do not affect him. And because he is so completely insensitive, he cannot be affected or shaken by anything. He cannot weep, for he has no tears. But the one who cannot suffer cannot love either. So he is a loveless being…. A God who is only omnipotent is in himself an incomplete being, for he cannot experience helplessness and powerlessness.” With their insistence on love necessarily involving suffering, Maldwyn Hughes and Jürgen Moltmann sound suspiciously like the Diane Keaton character, Sonja, in the Woody Allen movie, Love and Death: “To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering one must not love. But then one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer; not to love is to suffer; to suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy, then, is to suffer, but suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be happy one must love or love to suffer or suffer from too much happiness.”

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    1. Interesting observation,

      I read somewhere, I think it was from one of the saints - maybe St. Francis de Sales, about Heaven.

      The problem was raised that a person who is in love fears that the love he is showing is inferior (in either quantity or quality) to the love that he is receiving, and that he is at pains to determine this and rectify any defect found and surpass what is necessary if possible.

      Therefore, this might pose a problem for the blessed in Heaven because they would be completely aware of their insufficiency in returning God's infinite love and would suffer a certain despair. (Kind of like when Galadriel has her power trip before rejecting the ring; "All will love me and despair!")

      This problem is resolved due to the blessed participating in the Divine attributes; one of which is a certain divine pacificity or complacency by which they are satisfied by the fact that God is satisfied with them, and that He wills their part in His plan.

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  8. While we're on the subject of movies with interesting philosophical underpinnings, do The Matrix next.

    Every time I see the news, I'm convinced I'm in the Matrix.

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    1. The central problem with "The Matrix" is that, if it is true--if we cannot trust our everyday sense observations--there also is no reason to trust our sense observations in the Matrix. No matter what "pill" we take, the reality we receive we receive through our sense observations. One pill just gives us a different set of observations than another.

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    2. Craig Payne,

      Fair enough. But what I really had in mind was some obvious Christian themes like Neo being "the Chosen one", his death and resurrection, the empty frustration of the agents even when they win, etc.

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    3. He has discussed the Matrix before, but only in regard to a particular context:

      http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2015/06/marriage-and-matrix.html

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  10. I remember, as a teenager, having been unexpectedly drawn into a materialistic, atheistic worldview by people like Sagan, Sarte, Camus, and an education system that had groomed me into accepting a mechanistic view of the world. One of my struggles as a kid was my inability to square this worldview with the world of human beings, rights, oak trees, morality, love, tables, etc. I can attest that this fall was hardly pleasant. It produced an unbearable nihilism that made life a cruel joke, a theater of the absurd on the metaphysical plane and therefore an intrinsically miserable affair from which there is no escape and for which there is no solution. The everyday world was necessarily revealed as a farce, a nauseating and alienating lie. No amount of self-deception or bad faith could paper over the void at the heart of it all.

    The notion of "supplying" one's own meaning, while insisting that religion is a fiction that ought to be discarded because it is an illusion, is transparently absurd. If this sort of atheist insists that life and everything are meaningless, and therefore religion is nothing but an illusion, then how exactly does supplying one's own meaning fare any better? Isn't religion just another way of supplying that meaning according to that view? If the atheist is permitted to make up his own illusory meanings, then why not embrace religion after all? (Of course, none of this addresses the problem that if life is meaningless, then supplying meaning is impossible. If my mind can at least entertain meaning, then the materialistic view must be false because there is at least one fragment of the universe in which meaning exists, namely my mind.)

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    1. "The notion of "supplying" one's own meaning, while insisting that religion is a fiction that ought to be discarded because it is an illusion, is transparently absurd."

      While it is truly a silly view, Nietzsche, THE atheist, at least seemed to try to grapple with this. His points seems something like:

      1. Religion does not work once you know it is false. On a non-believer society, as he saw Europe becoming, it will not do its job anymore.

      2. Religion leaves us with less useful values that fail to make people behave correctly. This include falling to leave the door open to more useful values by making us deny our instincts, the basis of value.

      3. The idea that things being meaningless is bad is itself a contingent value that is actually popular thanks to religion, who only sees value in the eternal. On its own, the cosmos is "innocent".

      Sure, one can criticize these points, point 2 in particular*, and in the end i can't take nihilism serious anyway, but at least he tried.

      *Nietzsche see the societies as degenerating thanks to christianity, why would this be bad instead of good?

      Delete
  11. Woody Allen has been in analysis for over half a century by his own admission. Anything he has to say on the subject of religion and/or atheism is both irrelevant and nonsense. Better to discuss the subject with an honest atheist like Christopher Hichens.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Why do New Atheist types, despite their purported superior rationality, not only commit fallacies, but do so in so crude and shameless a way? (In this case, the ad hominem)

      Delete
    2. Pueblo,

      Actually, Allen's shallow ambivalence is what protects him from being nonsensical--a lesson from which Hitchens could have profited greatly.

      Delete
    3. Christopher Hitchens? F{#$%#!} seriously?

      Delete
    4. pueblo
      don't list ur email address for everyone to see

      Delete
  12. Feser: "Why do New Atheist types, despite their purported superior rationality, not only commit fallacies, but do so in so crude and shameless a way?"

    Feser's response is the genuine ad hominem here. The one ('elephant in the room') type of fallacy being committed here is the one that believes religion is a 'good thing' per se.

    Pueblosw's remarks were a factual statement about Woody Allen's long-standing and well-recognised condition. And the notion of Feser discussing this subject from Allen's perspective posits the OP as little more than a strawman attempt at argument that neither moves the debate from Allen's fantastical
    portrayal [though a brilliant one of movies] of the world nor from the fantastical portrayal of religion as a 'good thing' per se. Both are imagined as 'real' as the other [imagined is the operative word].

    The question that has never been answered by the religionists on this site is why so many forms, flavours and varieties of religions exist, all without exception, as singularly and as fervently believed and claimed, by the hundreds of millions if not billions of ardent followers, to be the 'one, real and only true religion', bar none?

    And until religionists of all stripes not only christians are able to face that fact and admit that no one religion can claim that mantle without recourse to special pleading, (as outlined by Anthropologist, Prof David Eller) renowned 20thC philosopher Ernst Cassirer, who established the profound and no doubt true fact that humans live in a "mediated" reality in which symbols are the medium, and premised his analysis of religion on its self-evident falseness and contingency, still holds true to this day: "Religion claims to be in possession of an absolute truth; but its history is a history of errors and heresies. It gives us the promise and prospect of a transcendent world - far beyond the limits of human experience - and it remains human, all too human." (An Essay on Man: An Introduction to a Philosophy of Human Culture; 1954: 97-98)

    So, yes. Why not "discuss the subject with an honest atheist like Christopher Hitchens"?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Feser's response is the genuine ad hominem here.

      What is this, third grade? "I know you are, but what am I?"

      In the comment to which I was responding, Pueblo said that because Allen has been in analysis for decades, what he says about atheism and religion is irrelevant and nonsense. That's about as close to a textbook example of an ad hominem fallacy as there is. And pointing out that someone is guilty of an ad hominem is not itself an ad hominem.

      These are not complicated points.

      Delete
    2. “ The question that has never been answered by the religionists on this site is why so many forms, flavours and varieties of religions exist, all without exception, as singularly and as fervently believed and claimed, by the hundreds of millions if not billions of ardent followers, to be the 'one, real and only true religion', bar none?”

      Actually, Dr Feser himself has responded to this “argument”, here: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/04/one-god-further-objection.html?m=1 Suffice to say, there’s a reason why you seldom see professional atheist philosophers making this rather tired point.

      Delete
    3. "The question that has never been answered by the religionists on this site is why so many forms, flavours and varieties of religions exist, all without exception, as singularly and as fervently believed and claimed, by the hundreds of millions if not billions of ardent followers, to be the 'one, real and only true religion', bar none?"

      St. Paul never posted here but he got this one, check Romans out. Not that Dr. Feser and others here never said anything about this tired variation of the problem of evil*, they did, but the old saint sure said some interesting things.

      And please, pretty much only the three big abrahamic religions would even think in saying that they are the only true religion. Even one of they, judaism, is more timid in that. Most religions, and by that i mean the great majority that exist by faaaaar, are not exclusivistic.

      Why is that a lot of the people who know, like, three religions, have this confidence in saying what all religions are? Maybe is the european blood...


      *"if god not x
      x
      not god"

      All the same...

      Delete
  13. @ Joshua McGillivray
    You say:
    "Actually, Dr Feser himself has responded to this “argument”, here: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/04/one-god-further-objection.html?m=1 Suffice to say, there’s a reason why you seldom see professional atheist philosophers making this rather tired point."

    No. He doesn't. Dr Feser does not address the reality of numerous identified religions, all offering, if not claiming, their version of things unseen and unknowable, without evidence. And I do remember that article, though I didn't comment at the time. It was little other than a polemic with no basis in fact; rather, it was a jejune attempt at 'justifying' why he imagines christianity, and in his particular case, Catholicism, a non-personally theistic rendition of christianity, as the 'one and only "true" religion. Suffice it to say, the article was less than convincing, on and about which Don Jindra's responses were superlative in the manner of their handling.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Dr Feser does not address the reality of numerous identified religions, all offering, if not claiming, their version of things unseen and unknowable, without evidence."

      Without evidence? You're just being silly, Paps.

      Delete
    2. Yer a hopeless anti-intellectual at this point Paps. ANSWERS IN GENESIS is over there buddy. They are more yer speed. Go bother the Fundamentalists and theistic personalists or the ID crowd with yer nonsense if yer not gonna actually after all these decades learn actual philosophy (even Atheist philosophy) to refute the God of the philosophers. The God of Abraham and Aquinas.

      Yer just boring and yer "Boo hoo! No Fair yer not a Fundamentalist!" shtick is getting old son.

      Delete
    3. The eternal plight of the New Atheists is not being able to tell the difference between "evidence" and "ironclad proof that has no possible alternate hypothetical explanation".

      Delete
    4. Can you offer an example of this?

      Delete
  14. Papalinton,
    The argument goes that the atheist agrees with the theist in rejecting the existence of Thor, the flying spaghetti monster, and other gods but goes one step further in rejecting the God of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. To be effective, the objection would have to show that there is a contradiction between believing in a necessary uncaused cause of the cosmos whose very essence is being itself, and lack of belief in “gods” of limited abilities and intelligence (as Zeus, Thor, Juno etc. all are). There have not even been any serious attempts by atheists who employ this rhetoric to show how the non-existence of Thor entails the non-existence of God as understood by the traditional philosophical arguments.
    It is pure rhetoric designed to give the utterly mistaken impression that the God of classical theism is one more example of a pagan god. There is nothing in the essential nature of gods like Venus or Quetzalcoatl that prevents the existence of other gods. However, by simple logic there can be at most one uncaused cause of everything else. The only possible options are atheism and theism/monotheism. Theism is the same as monotheism. Even if the uncaused cause did cause "gods" such as Oden or Venus to exist, there would still be only one God, and monotheism would still be true. Most monotheists do not believe in the existence of Oden or Venus, but the existence or nonexistence of such entities has no bearing on whether or not there is a metaphysically ultimate being (or whatever referentially equivalent description--unmoved mover, unactualized actualizer etc--is used for the metaphysically ultimate being).

    You also confuse different religions with believing in the same God. Most Jews, Christians (including Ed), and Muslims hold that Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the same God; their differences lie with what God has revealed. They also hold that certain people (including some of the ancient Greek philosophers) recognized the true God apart from any special revelation.

    A third knock against you, as Talmid pointed out, is that outside of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, many religions argue that there are several legitimate paths to the ultimate reality, i.e. they are not exclusivist.
    Your post is wrong on several levels.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Tim Finlay: Your first point (on God/gods) is accurate and well stated. However, that point has been made so many times, in so many venues, to so many atheists, we should realize at this point that the atheistic argument regarding gods continues to survive simply because it is rhetorically useful.

      Logical arguments only work for those who are open to them, or even grudgingly open to them. I've decided that many atheistic arguments continue to be trotted out because they are quick, useful, and convincing to slow people.

      Delete
    2. I don’t think those arguments are even convincing to slow people. A certain kind of atheist (I have known too many) likes to use them because they think it makes them sound smart and witty. Part of the appeal of atheism for such people is that it doesn’t impose a lot of icky judgy standards on them, so leaving them free to have an unearned high opinion of themselves. Thinking they are more intelligent than they are is a part of that.

      Recall what Samuel Johnson said:

      ‘Hume, and other sceptical innovators, are vain men, and will gratify themselves at any expence. Truth will not afford sufficient food to their vanity; so they have betaken, themselves to errour. Truth, Sir, is a cow which will yield such people no more milk, and so they are gone to milk the bull.’

      Delete
    3. Well said Mr. Simon. Reasoning & thinking are learned skills just because one denies God (even if such denial was valid) doesn't automatically make one thoughtful or rational.

      Peace.

      Delete
  15. @ Tim Finlay
    @ Craig Payne

    You believe so ardently in the notion of an "uncaused cause" or the "unmoving mover" as a rationale for why the universe exists, with your fingers crossed behind your backs that you are unable to see the forest for the trees. Just because it is so convenient to imagine Aquinas as logical in his 5-Ways conclusions, doesn't make it so. Remember he was a product of a medieval world in which so much of what he believed constituted 'reality' of the universe, was so mired in profound ignorance. Almost a thousand years of growth in science and general knowledge has passed since his time. And it is so important to always look at his theory mindful of that deep ignorance and the context in which it emerged. Change happens, and what was once believed true no longer holds. No matter how much you and Dr Feser desperately want to believe Thomism true today, stasis is entropy within an ever-changing universe. We don't know all the answers yet, and we may never, but we do know a whole lot more, a quantum level of knowledge more than Aquinas had access to.


    It is a given that, 'in logic, an argument can be invalid even if its conclusion is true, and an argument can be valid even if its conclusion is false. ... All of the premises are true, and so is the conclusion, but it's not a valid argument.' And no self-respecting scientist or philosopher would disagree.

    Craig makes two statements:
    "However, that point has been made so many times, in so many venues, to so many atheists, we should realize at this point that the atheistic argument regarding gods continues to survive simply because it is rhetorically useful" and,

    "Logical arguments only work for those who are open to them, or even grudgingly open to them."

    Both are demonstrably wrong and advances in the behavioural sciences together with the neurological sciences is giving us deeper insights into why they are not as kosher as one would like.

    TO BE CONTINUED

    ReplyDelete
  16. CONTINUED:

    The belief system operating, that best characterises the "uncaused cause" motif here, is what psychological scientists have termed the phenomenon of 'belief-bias'.

    In some of the best research undertaken taken lately, (Edward J. N. Stupple, Linden J. Ball, Jonathan St. B. T. Evans, & Emily Kamal-, & Smith (2011). When logic and belief collide: Individual differences in reasoning times support a selective processing model Journal of Cognitive Psychology) has shown:

    "In logic, an argument can be invalid even if its conclusion is true, and an argument can be valid even if its conclusion is false. It’s a confusing concept, and people are easily fooled when an argument’s validity and believability don’t match up, especially in the case of invalid arguments with conclusions that are believable."

    Stupple et al go on to record:

    "To explain belief bias, scientists have developed the selective processing model. According to this model, human reasoning involves a superficial, associative heuristics component and a rigorous, rule-based analytic component. When we’re evaluating an argument, the heuristic component of the reasoning process encourages us to accept the conclusions we believe and reject the conclusions we don’t believe. The analytic component encourages us to accept or reject a conclusion based on a mental model of the argument. Even when the analytic component kicks in, it’s not foolproof because our reasoning process functions in a way that is “satisficing.”

    Finally, the scientists go on to note:

    "...that a sensitivity to logic-belief conflict and the unique (and time-consuming) problem-solving style of high-logic thinkers is a big part of what drives the invalid-believable argument response times for all groups."

    This provides clearer insight to why, despite so much effort by apologists throughout the centuries into attempting to convince people in the factually unfounded notion of an "uncaused cause", the concept has never overcome its belief-bias baggage. In essence it is a belief that seems simply too good to be true.

    To say that God is the 'uncaused cause' or 'just is' is not an answer but an unsubstantiated rationale despite following logic.

    What we are beginning to glimpse is that, all of Aquinas's premises may be true, and so may his conclusions, but it's not a valid argument because the concept of an "uncaused cause" remains to this day, concept only, not founded in fact or reality, but rather owes its subsistence as a 'place-marker' only, no matter how one would want it to be otherwise.





    ReplyDelete
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    1. Thank you for your enduring dedication to bringing much needed sanity to the comment section Papalinton, despire your army of detractors. You prevent it from being a mere echo chamber, despite the ire you invoke in your rabid opponents.

      Delete
    2. What utter nonsense! Even if no gods exist or any God concept is in fact correct. Really?

      Decades and you haven't learned anything Paps. You would think you would at least venture on over to Joe Schmid's page so you could at least have an idea how to formulate a sound philosophical defeater & authentic challenge to Classic Theism instead of just recycling yer boring positivism nonsense? I told you man the ID crowd is over there. Have at them!

      Yer hopeless. Give it a rest and make way for the real philosophically informed Atheists to have a go at us. Yer nor it bro. Yer Gnu Atheist pop psychology is minging. Go learn some philosophy so you can be a real Atheist for once in yer life.

      >What we are beginning to glimpse is that, all of Aquinas's premises may be true, and so may his conclusions, but it's not a valid argument because the concept of an "uncaused cause" remains to this day, concept only, not founded in fact or reality,

      The triumph of Gnu Atheist dogma over reason....yer no better than a fundie bro. You just conceded the lion's share to us....

      Delete
    3. @Son of Ya'Kov:

      "The triumph of Gnu Atheist dogma over reason....yer no better than a fundie bro. You just conceded the lion's share to us...."

      You have to cut him some slack. He did acknowledge that "What we are beginning to glimpse", which means that it will probably take him another lifetime or more to make the logical connection.

      Delete
    4. Could someone translate SOY's contribution above for me please because I am not au fait with his language.

      Carry on.

      Delete
    5. @Papalinton

      "No matter how much you and Dr Feser desperately want to believe Thomism true today, stasis is entropy within an ever-changing universe. We don't know all the answers yet, and we may never, but we do know a whole lot more, a quantum level of knowledge more than Aquinas had access to."

      That statement about entropy is strange, even confusing. Paps, do you know the diference between a essencially ordered casual series and a acidentally ordered casual series and how none of Aquinas arguments rely on a acidental one? Dr. Feser explained these a lot of times on the past and every good thomist knows them. They are not hard to get, google that and it will make sense.

      And even assuming that any of the five ways use a acidentally ordered casual series, which is not true, Dr. Craig Kalam uses it and Bill not only uses philosophical arguments but scientific data to suport his premise that is more related with entropy. Dude actually got the attention of a lot of physicists. Have you ever read William Lane Craig scholarly work on the Kalam? See what attracts your attention: https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/scholarly-writings/the-existence-of-god/

      Needless to say, we are not impressed with rethoric.

      Delete
    6. Anon yer in America ladd. SPEAK SCOTTISH!:D

      Delete
  17. Papalinton,
    "What we are beginning to glimpse is that, all of Aquinas's premises may be true, and so may his conclusions, but its not a valid argument because the concept of an 'uncaused cause' remains to this day, concept only, not founded in fact or reality, but rather owes its subsistence as a 'place-marker' only, no matter how one would want it to be otherwise."
    This is gibberish.
    If Aquinas's conclusion were true, then by definition, "there exists in reality an uncaused cause" would be true.
    It also misses the main point of my post.
    You and I both know, for example, that Abraham Lincoln died in 1865 and that gold is a metal. The argument "Abraham Lincoln died in 1865; Therefore, gold is a metal" is unsound, committing the fallacy of non sequitur. Even if the conclusion happens to be true, there is nothing in the premise that entails or even gives support to the conclusion. The same is true of the argument "Oden, Juno, and Poseidon do not exist; therefore there does not exist an uncaused cause." Even if the conclusion were to be true, the premise would provide no support for the conclusion.
    Tim Finlay.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The atheist using the pop-level "one less God" argument would have to make the argument that the reasons why he doesn't think (say) Thor, Zeus, Poseidon, etc don't exist are (a) valid reasons and (b) also applicable to the purely actual actualizer. Doing (a) is easy; but I personally have never seen (b) carried out.

      (I think/speculate that a lot of these silly atheist arguments are due to their incorrect notion of God as overly personal and overly anthropomorphic. And, to be fair, a lot of silly views within Christianity itself are due to a faulty concept of God as well.)

      (A musing: I'm not sure how practical it would be to carry out in the real world, but for young people, I'd want to start out first with natural theology (and the requisite tools) and argue to the purely actual actualizer. Then discuss miracles and their possibility. And, finally, then from there, making the concept of revelation believable and likely, go into scripture. Maybe I'm idiosyncratic, but that's how I wish I had learned things, rather than the piecemeal approach I had throughout my life.)

      Delete
  18. @ Anonymous at. $.21PM

    You say: "The same is true of the argument "Oden, Juno, and Poseidon do not exist..."

    The one fundamental reason why you don't believe Oden, Juno and Poseidon exist as Gods is because they have never been a central feature of your enculturation process. Interestingly though people actually lived, fought and died for and by the tenets of these Gods. Their deaths were real but the reasons for their death saw based on an unfounded belief.
    The one prevailing fundamental reason in your not believing Shiva is because that God [with close to a billion followers who are just as fervently and vehemently dedicated to Shiva as you are to your particular rendition of disembodied non-corporeal 'uncaused cause'] never played any part during your formative enculturation. You grew up in an environment profoundly ignorant of the 'truth' of Hinduism, as equally and profoundly ignorant as they are of the 'truth' of your particular apparition.

    If there is anything gibberish, it is the profound nonsense around which religious belief, all religious belief, is built; the belief in supernaturalism.

    THIS ARTICLE briefly outlines the philosophical nonsense that goes as 'supernaturalism'.

    Unfortunately, belief in supernatural beings is both totally natural and false. Even if belief in supernatural beings is ubiquitous to the human mind, it remains a false and unfounded premise. We are so wedded to the instinctive protective nature of false positives that it is enormously difficult to rid ourselves of that superstition about the presence of supernatural beings.
    Indeed, religion feeds on this superstition. And it is going to take an enormous effort to extricate this superstition from our reasoned and logical thinking and discourse going forward. But it is ineluctably trending in the right direction as we understand more about how our brain and thought patterns work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Papalinton. Only the maddest inculturation of human history could have induced the non-religious ideologies of the twentieth-century to murder a hundred million people - many times more than all the previous wars known to us, religious or otherwise.

      Delete
    2. Papalinton,
      You do not give any argument as to how the premise “Oden, Juno, and Poseidon do not exist” (let’s call it Proposition A) provides any support for the conclusion “There is no unactualized actualizer” or similar proposition (let’s call it Proposition B). The “one more god” argument claims that Proposition A either entails or at least lends support to Proposition B. If you think this argument is a good one, you need to make arguments in support of this claim.
      All you talk about is why someone might believe proposition A or why someone might believe the opposite of proposition B.
      The reason why someone might believe proposition A is irrelevant to the question of whether proposition A provides support for proposition B. Likewise, why someone might believe the opposite of proposition B is irrelevant to whether or not proposition A provides support for proposition B.
      Either show how proposition A entails or at least lends significant support to proposition B or admit that the “one fewer god” argument is worthless. Most atheist professional philosophers think that the “one fewer god” argument is worthless. Why are they wrong?

      Delete
    3. Papalinton,
      Tom Simon is quite right that you have committed the genetic fallacy. C. S. Lewis called this "Bulverism." He wrote, "You must show that a man is wrong before explaining why he is wrong. The modern method is to assume without discussion that he is wrong and then distract attention from this (the only real issue) by busily explaining how he became so silly. In the course of the last fifteen years I have found this vice so common that I have had to invent a name for it. I call it Bulverism. Some day I am going to write the biography of its imaginary inventor, Ezekiel Bulver, whose destiny was determined at the age of five when he heard his mother say to his father--who had been maintaining that two sides of a triangle were together greater than the third--'Oh you say that because you are a man.' 'At that moment', E. Bulver assures us, 'there flashed across my opening mind the great truth that refuation is no necessary part of argument. Assume that your opponent is wrong, and then explain his error, and the world will be at your feet. Attempt to prove that he is wrong or (worse still) try to find out whether he is wrong or right, and the national dynamism of our age will thrust you to the wall.' That is how Bulver became one of the makers of the Twentieth Century."
      The old-style atheists from Democritus to Anthony Flew did not commit the genetic fallacy (or Bulverism). I am fairly sure that James Sterba's book discussed in Ed's most recent post does not commit the genetic fallacy.
      This "one god fewer" argument of you and several others is bad on several grounds. I don't understand why you persist with this one when there are arguments which theists and atheists alike acknowledge to be much stronger.

      Delete
    4. Papa and other more agressive atheists seems suprisingly imune to the effects of the culture around him. That is very interesting. These guys are so good at that than they don't even need to argue for their views!

      How you do it?

      Delete
  19. The one fundamental reason why you don't believe Oden, Juno and Poseidon exist as Gods is because they have never been a central feature of your enculturation process.

    —Genetic fallacy.

    The one prevailing fundamental reason in your not believing Shiva is because that God [with close to a billion followers who are just as fervently and vehemently dedicated to Shiva as you are to your particular rendition of disembodied non-corporeal 'uncaused cause'] never played any part during your formative enculturation.

    —Genetic fallacy again, plus a wild mischaracterization of Hinduism.

    THIS ARTICLE briefly outlines the philosophical nonsense that goes as 'supernaturalism'.

    —The article is again an extended example of the genetic fallacy, with a healthy dollop of petitio principii thrown in. It assumes that no supernatural beings exist (from false induction), and then goes on to explain, in the most naive armchair-psychoanalytic way, why people believe that there are such beings. But the causes it gives for such beliefs do not include ratiocination of any kind, and certainly do not account for the rigorous logical process that led Plato, Aristotle, Zeno, and the Scholastics to conclude that it is necessary for there to be a First Cause.

    And it is going to take an enormous effort to extricate this superstition from our reasoned and logical thinking and discourse going forward.

    —Indeed it is. In fact, the only remedy is to eliminate reasoned and logical thinking altogether, as reasoned and logical thinking are quite capable of leading us to the knowledge that there is a God. There are thoughts that an atheist cannot permit himself to think, and it is safer for him if he does not think at all.

    But it is ineluctably trending in the right direction as we understand more about how our brain and thought patterns work.

    Argumentum ad futurum, which is probably the silliest fallacy of all. ‘I win because I know that I will inevitably win, because I believe that I am winning.’

    Son of Ya’kov is quite right. You’re out of your depth here, old son. None of your arguments address the actual issue.

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    1. "None of your arguments address the actual issue."

      Dear Tom Simon: Bingo.

      These (very long) digressions from Papalinton started when it was pointed out that atheism is not the same thing as not believing in Zeus, Thor, etc., despite the atheist's tired argument that they are the same. Atheism really just means not believing in God as a Supreme Being, that than which nothing greater can be conceived--which Zeus and Thor obviously are not. No matter how many times this is explained to atheists, they still bring out, "You don't believe in Zeus and Thor, and we just add one more god we don't believe in." The statements are not parallel, but it sounds reasonable to the uninformed, which is why atheists keep making the statement despite rebuttals.

      THAT was the point being made way up yonder in the comments, before Papalinton took off with the five ways, the medieval world, Aquinas, a thousand years of science, and so on. Just about everything since then has been irrelevant to the simple point that God, Zeus, Thor, and whatever, are not equivalent.

      Delete
  20. @ Tom Simon

    So, by your claim a billion Hindus live their lives within a genetic fallacy.

    I say, 'Pull the other leg'.

    I guess EVIDENCE , I'm sure you've heard of the word, of the declining numbers of your fellow woo believers in the US is just another 'genetic fallacy', right?

    I don't know how to gently explain this to you, but there is no epistemological foundation underpinning religion as an explanatory model about us, the world, the universe. People are slowly waking from their superstition-ridden somnambulant past to discover, regardless of the type and origin, that there is no such thing as a coherent universal religious belief. As an explanatory model they all fail miserably, being as they are simply a reflection of the deeply parochial culture-bound milieu which they inhabit.

    "Let us be clear that religions do not and cannot progress the way that, say, science can progress. When science progresses, it abandons old and false ideas. Once we discovered oxygen and the principles of combustion, we stopped thinking that there was a substance called phlogiston. Once we discovered that the earth is round, we stopped thinking of it as flat. [Well, most of us did.] :(
    Science and reason, are substitutive or eliminative: new ideas replace old ideas.
    Religion is additive and/or schismatic: new ideas proliferate alongside old ideas. For instance, the development of Protestantism did not put an end to Catholicism, and the development of Christianity did not put an end to Judaism.
    With science we get better. With religion, we get more." (Prof David Eller, renowned Anthropologist)

    As an explanatory tool, theology is mythology gone rogue. And people are now beginning to understand that and are adjusting to live in a post-christian world.

    Miguel Cervantes, Tim Findlay, Tom Simon, and Yakov, stick your fingers a little deeper into that dyke.

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    1. Papalinton. The dykes around the Gulags of the twentieth century have largely broken down, but far from completely. Why are you trying so hard to build them up again? Get those twentieth-century atheist blinkers off. All that nastiness is so out of date now. The future of the world is obviously one where religion dominates again. Try to pick the right one, because the alternatives in Kabul don't look enticing.

      Delete
    2. Okay boomer, but do you know the diference between a essencially ordered casual series and a acidentally ordered casual series? On all these years on this blog can you do ANY valid criticism of the thomistic arguments or even grasp the diference between the thomistic concept of God and gods like Thor or Poseidon?

      You know that every time you run away from the arguments there are anonymous readers that get the impression that you can't reply to they, right?

      Delete
    3. So, by your claim a billion Hindus live their lives within a genetic fallacy.

      I say, 'Pull the other leg'.


      You obviously have absolutely no understanding of what I said. Do you even know what the genetic fallacy is?

      Whether many or few people believe in an entity has nothing to do with whether it exists. Whether one is ‘acculturated’ to believe in an entity or not has nothing to do with whether it exists.

      Your mischaracterization of Hinduism, which is entirely common among ignorant Westerners, is to treat it as a religion, rather than the sum total of many different pagan religions practised in the Indian subcontinent. There is no generalization that you can safely apply to them all.

      I don't know how to gently explain this to you, but there is no epistemological foundation underpinning religion as an explanatory model about us, the world, the universe.

      You can’t explain it because it is utterly irrelevant. The foundation is metaphysical, not epistemological, and from the moment you allow yourself to examine the metaphysical assumptions of your world view, you are in danger of discovering either that (a) there is a ‘Prime Mover’, ‘Uncaused Cause’, ‘Form of the Good’, or, in short, a God, or (b) your metaphysics are incoherent and cannot logically support your conclusions even about the purely physical universe.

      The rest of your word-vomit is simply a repetition of the argumentum ad futurum.

      Delete
  21. @ Craig Payne at 7.43PM

    "None of your arguments address the issue"

    No. It's not the argument, but your issue that is the big distraction. Who cares about what atheists say about 'one less God'?

    The 'one less God' issue is simply a diversion, promulgated by religionists when they are unable to rebut the factual information about the increasing demise of religion, affecting all 41,000 known variants of Christianity, as an explanatory paradigm about us, the world and the universe, in the West.

    There is no doubt many if not most people today, particularly the young in the community, are significantly less inclined to concur with the proposition that religion plays even a necessary, let alone a central role in every-day life.

    It is irrelevant whether one believes in Thor, Zeus, or whether atheism 'really just means not believing in God as a Supreme Being'. This issue is not germane to the question as to why religion and religious belief are clearly waning as a representation of life or more significantly an explanatory model.

    So while you may wish to believe otherwise, your perspective on reality reminds so much of Iraq's Information Minister [Comical Ali] telling the press how the American troops were driven back at Baghdad airport, all the while he was speaking, US tanks were rolling in to the city.

    Quite hilarious really, if it wasn't so sad.

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    1. Papalinton,
      You say, at 2:35 a.m. on August 15, “The ‘one less God’ issue’ is simply a diversion, promulgated by religionists.” Actually, there are lots of websites by pop atheists promoting this view, as well as youtube videos by the likes of Ricky Gervais. It is a popular phenomenon, not one pursued by professional philosophical atheists, and certainly not one promulgated by religionists. I assume from your comment that you acknowledge that the “one god fewer” argument is fallacious. If not, please respond to the arguments that I and others have made against it in this blog.
      The discussion began with the comment of pueblosw at 10:56 a.m. on August 9, “Woody Allen has been in analysis for over half a century by his own admission. Anything he has to say on the subject of religion and/or atheism is both irrelevant and nonsense.” The first sentence, even though it is true, is an ad hominem against Woody Allen and thus is not relevant to the truth value of what Allen said on the subject of religion. This is a standard informal fallacy and Edward Feser pointed this out at 12:44 p.m. on August 9.
      Your first comment at 5:02 a.m. on August 10 said that “Feser’s response is the genuine ad hominem here” and “Pueblosw’s remarks were a factual statement about Woody Allen’s long-standing and well-recognized condition.” The truth of pueblosw’s remark does not save the implication he draws from it being a fallacious one. Edward Feser did not say anything like “Pueblosw is an X (some bad thing). Therefore we can ignore him”; he did not commit an ad hominem fallacy; he merely pointed out that Pueblo’s argument was fallacious. So it is simply not true that “Feser’s response is the genuine ad hominem fallacy.”
      Your second comment at 12:11 a.m. on August 11, responds to Joshua McGillivray’s comment that you seldom see professional atheist philosophers making the rather tired point of the one god further objection. You implied in that comment that Feser had not adequately addressed the “one god further” argument which suggested that you accepted that argument. My first comment to you at 12:30 p.m. on August 11 showed the problem in the “one god further” or “one god fewer” argument. It also pointed out a couple of other mistakes you had made in your post.
      You had several occasions in your later comments to tell me that you disagree with the “one god fewer” argument but you did not so I assumed that you thought it was a good argument. Are you now telling me that you do think that the “one god fewer” argument is fallacious? If so, I am glad to hear it.
      Finally, your argument in the post on August 15, which is perhaps the argument that you are most invested in rather than the “one god fewer” argument, seems to go as follows:
      Religion, which includes 41,000 known variants of Christianity, is on the decline and religion and religious belief are clearly waning as a representation or explanatory model of life. Therefore, God does not exist and religion is false. Is that your argument? If not, could you tell me what the premises of your argument are, and how you argue from them to the conclusion that God does not exist?

      Delete
    2. Tim Finlay --- as you point out, the premise seems to be some "large" number N of variants of worldview X and the conclusion seems to be that classical theism is false. Here, N=41k (say) and X=Christianity.

      What if we replace X with atheism and N with all of the shades and worldviews contained within atheism? I know of no two atheists who agree on everything, and just as they do when Christians don't agree on absolutely everything, I label it a variant.

      If the argument works against Christianity, it would work against atheism. They're in the same boat, no?

      The only way around this would be to say that the number of variants of atheism is something less than 41k, and to say that there is some threshold value T such that if N>T, the argument works, but for N ≤ T, the argument does not work. The idea of such a threshold value T is prima facie quite silly to me.

      Counting variations (as you imply) is a silly argument. Maybe of sociological interest, but it doesn't begin to get at the truth or non-truth of things.

      (And for all you RCs who agree with me here, which I hope would be 100% of you, the same sort of argument used in certain types of internet RC apologetics against "Protestantism" is equally silly.)

      There's no getting around having to examine the actual arguments for classical theism in detail. There is no high-level evidence-free sort of argument or sociological observation that can be invoked to excuse one from actually examining and trying to refute the classical arguments. Maybe there are holes and issues in them, but sociology doesn't expose such holes and issues if they in fact exist.



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    3. Eric,
      You have ome good comments on the N variants part of the premise but I construed Papalinton as having a composite premise, not only the N variants, but also that religion/Christianity is presently on the decline, and that the second part of the premise is doing work also. One trouble with the second part of the premise, as I see it, is that it is just as arbitrary as the first part. The Taliban are on the rise at the moment; does that make their ideology more likely to be right? Many people in the 1950s -1970s thought that the Soviet Union was going to triumph. History is a fickle thing. Will the next pope be a Pope Francis II (which the leftist triumphalists assume) or a Pope Dominic (which the conservatives hope)?
      The major problem, of course, is that the number of people that believe a proposition, now or at any other time, is not what makes the proposition true.

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    4. Papalinton said above:

      The one fundamental reason why you don't believe Oden, Juno and Poseidon exist as Gods is because they have never been a central feature of your enculturation process.

      The decline of Christianity in the population is driven largely by the younger generations, millennials and Gen Z. These are the children raised post-"sexual revolution", which had a huge cultural impact. Since then, the culture has been increasingly moving away from "traditional" beliefs and is now focused on hedonism, promiscuity, self-centeredness, lack of charity and forgiveness, and just general irreverence. If it's a Biblical value, chances are today's culture glorifies the opposite.

      Sociologists have long tracked a "life cycle" effect of religious beliefs and practices, where people are raised Christian, run off and have their "fun", then return to religious activity as they settle down with a family. Millennials and Gen Z, raised in a culture blatantly opposed to Christian values such as the sanctity of marriage, are not returning.

      As Papalinton said, this has nothing to do with rational thinking. It has nothing to do with rejecting God based on philosophical discourse. They are simply being raised without God in a culture that openly mocks him and those who believe. They are atheists only to the extent that they simply do not care about God one way or the other, whereas religious belief imposes behavioral restrictions which are not fun.

      Meanwhile, Christiantiy is growing in South America, Africa, and certain Asian countries - even China - even as it is replaced by hedonistic self-interest in the United States. Our culture may rot, but the faith continues elsewhere.

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    5. To Tim Finlay: yes, of course you're right.

      In my half-century or so of life, I've been exposed to a number of claims of large-scale trends regarding the increasing (or decreasing) popularity of a worldview. Unless Christianity makes truth claims about its popularity, or makes other truth claims that imply its popularity (and I say it doesn't), then even with a large-scale drop in the number of Christians.....so what?

      I suppose the idea is that if a bunch of people are renouncing X for Y, then that is supposed to imply that there is some sort of evidence that the people have against X for Y. And sometimes there is such evidence (which would explain why they reject X for Y). However, sometimes there isn't, and it is just a sort of social trend. Just citing a trend, by itself without any actual arguments that get to the actual issue, is again nothing more than demographics or sociology.

      Also, as I watch western civ go down the drain, I rather expect Christianity to wither in the west. I don't like this, but it makes sense to me. When somebody cites this as some sort of argument for secular humanism or as an attack on Christianity, it misses the target completely.

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    6. Kevin and Eric,
      You both make excellent points. I witnessed 30 years ago when I covered a synod at York that most of the robust Anglicanism was displayed by representatives from Africa and Asia, and that trend has continued in Anglicanism, Catholicism, Methodism, and other denominations experiencing growth in Africa, Asia, and probably South America. Meanwhile Christianity in the West continues to decline, but conservative Christianity is declining at a slower rate even in the West.

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    7. @Papalinton.
      Religious indoctrination prevents Believers from recognising they suffer from religious indoctrination.

      Delete
  22. Bible: People will turn away from God.

    Atheist: People are turning away from God which proves me right.

    Christian: Sigh.

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  23. Even when I was an atheist, I never saw a godless universe as a good thing and I was baffled by those who did. I was somewhat drawn to the triumphant "amor fati" of Camus and Nietzsche but this seemed like a consolation prize.

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    1. My experience (FWIW) was the same as yours regarding being baffled by those who saw a godless reality as a good thing. Unlike you, though, I was not drawn to the triumphant "amor fati" that you mention.

      My feeling multiple decades ago was that, if I was right in being an atheist, it didn't really matter that I was right.

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  24. Maolsheachlann @ 2.52PM

    "Even when I was an atheist, I never saw a godless universe as a good thing and I was baffled by those who did."

    Tee-hee-hee-hee. Can anyone out there spot the contradiction? Please let him down gently.

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  25. Perhaps I need to make my statement clearer to the muddled-headed religionists. If you cannot envision a godless universe, you are by definition not an atheist.

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    Replies
    1. Are you serious? He didn't say he couldn't envision a godless universe when he was an atheist. He said that he didn't see it as a good thing. No contradiction at all.

      (I don't generally read Papalinton posts, but when I do I find that they're of about this quality. Perhaps, despite my more stringent moderation of late, I'm still letting too much crap through?)

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    2. Maybe Papa read it until "I never saw a godless universe" and had to stop his reading thanks to something in real life. It took very long and when our hero returned he had become a little confused and started to reply before reading the comment again.

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    3. FWIW I see no contradiction nor any structural issue in what Maolsheachlann wrote.

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    4. It's good to refrain from being muddle-headed when calling others muddle-headed. Not that Papalinton is likely to alter his strategy.

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  26. Dr Feser: "Are you serious? He didn't say he couldn't envision a godless universe when he was an atheist. He said that he didn't see it as a good thing. No contradiction at all."

    WRONG! Atheists don't make judgements on whether a godless universe is good or bad. We might feel good or bad about our relationship to the universe, but they are our feelings, not that of the universe. The issue of whether a godless universe is either good or bad is an irrelevant contrivance. Every atheist, certainly the ones I know, and certainly the intellectual atheists, don't ascribe a good or bad moral dimension to the universe at all; after all a universe doesn't have emotions or feelings like people do. That is real woo stuff. The attribution of an intentional agentive purpose to the universe is the stuff of unchecked superstition.

    Dr Feser, as a purported intellectual I really would encourage you to read the latest findings in the cognitive neurosciences.
    THIS ARTICLE would be a proper place to start your search for the truth of why we (both believers and no-believers alike) actually believe as we do.


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    1. Many atheists have made comments EITHER regretting that theism or some religion such as Christianity is not true OR expressing delight that atheism is true. Christopher Hitchens was one of the more vocal of the latter and discussed how he disagreed with some of his atheistic colleagues on this point. This was clearly what Maolsheachlann and Ed were alluding to.

      In your last paragraph, you continue to be a Bulverist. Humans are capable of knowing certain facts about reality; their beliefs regarding certain propositions of the way reality is are warranted by evidence and logical inferences from the evidence. Using cognitive neuroscience to explain why someone has a false belief P only comes into play after one establishes that P is false or likely false.

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    2. WRONG! Atheists don't make judgements on whether a godless universe is good or bad

      So someone who makes a judgement on whether a godless universe is good or bad isn't an atheist?

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    3. First the man fails at describing all religions and now at describing all atheists.

      Screw it, it is funny.

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    4. Oh Paps...I told you to go read philosophy. I told you this years ago over at the Dangerous Minds blog......ya didn't listen.

      Graham Oppy or Schmid you are not....

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    5. @Papalinton.

      What would a godless universe look like, I wonder?
      Probably just like the one we are told in which Yahweh is present. :)

      Delete
  27. Ed,
    The blog is so much better than when you left it unmoderated. Because the topic was old atheism/new atheism, Papalinton's comments were at least on topic and allowing them through has been very revealing. Perhaps even FreeThinker realizes that Papalinton has not actually made a good argument (or if he still thinks that Papalinton is sane and his opponents are rabid, perhaps he can outline what the argument is).

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  28. Excellent post and set of comments! I loved specially those from TN, Talmid, Kevin and Tim Finlay.

    God bless you, Professor Feser (I'm eagerly awaiting your new book on the soul!).

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  29. I take it none of you wanted to read the research article drawn to your attention:(https://www.researchgate.net/publication/233684268_What's_HIDD'n_in_the_HADD)

    That's fine. As they say, 'You can lead to water but .....'

    You see, to understand the underpinnings of religion, indeed to explain something, is to explain it in terms of something else.

    "If a scientist asks a communion taker, 'Why are you swallowing that wafer and wine?' and gets back the answer, 'Because it is the body and blood of Christ', he or she would not publish that as a theory of communion. That is a religious response, not a scientific analysis." (Anthropologist Prof David Eller)

    "When on studies religion, whether historically, sociologically, psychologically, anthropologically, and so on, one can do trivial things like count worshippers in church or evaluate their voting habits (even within the conclave). This generates a certain amount and kind of information about religion, or at least religious behaviour. But most influential students of religion have wanted to do much more, namely, provide a theory of religion, give an explanation of religion. What does it mean to 'explain religion'? The one thing it does not mean is to take it at face value - to respect its claims, its authority, its boundaries. If one were to explain scientifically some ritual or ritual in general, what one would not do would be to explain it as true: "Those people do the rain-making ritual because it really does make it rain."" (Eller)

    Religion is just another domain of human culture, not a superhuman one and not even an independent one. Religion is the dependent variable to the independent variables of everyday social and physical reality.

    What is pleasing is that an increasing body of eminent scientists across a wide range of disciplines is making religion [in all its forms] their direct object of study. It was only a matter of time that scientists would turn their attention to explaining why it is the ubiquitous nature of religion with its kaleidoscope of innumerable cultural expressions, of Gods, creation myths and concomitant dogma and practices, emerged from our evolutionary past. One such team, Drs John Tooby and Leda Cosmides, best known for their pioneering work in the field of evolutionary psychology, note: 'Any given cognitive function is stipulated to have had a selective advantage in the human ancestral environment thereby accounting for its present existence; as the slogan goes: “Our modern skulls house a stone age mind”. The function may be triggered in other contexts than that for which it was selected. It is then a by-product of the original function.'

    The truth of any religion is a truth of a limited kind, prescribed by and bound within the story-telling of any particular religion. It is the sort of truth that ardent followers of the New York Yankees believes is the greatest team ever, and as we know, any Boston Red Sox believer would vehemently dispute that 'truth'.

    So we do live in exciting times as we get to know and understand the truths of how and why religion has played such a role in the evolution of homo sapiens sapiens.

    I say, Great Stuff.

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  30. Papalinton,
    "Religion is just another domain of human culture." If that is what the article claims, then it is not worth reading. There are many subjects, including mathematics, physics, geology, and cosmology, that are not principally domains of human culture.
    The traditional metaphysical arguments for the existence of God concern the explanation for change in material objects that existed before humans came on to the scene. They concern the explanation of mathematical truths that would be true if humans never existed. They are not, principally at least, domains of human culture.

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  31. Papalinton ignores all the posts eviscerating the ridiculous things he has said throughout this discussion, including his claim that atheists do not make judgments about whether a godless universe is good or bad, then has the temerity to think he is leading us to sources of truth.

    The lead is around his own neck and the water hole is dry.

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  32. Tim Finlay @11.13PM

    You say: "("Religion is just another domain of human culture.") If that is what the article claims, then it is not worth reading. There are many subjects, including mathematics, physics, geology, and cosmology, that are not principally domains of human culture."

    Of course. How silly of me. I forgot that the geology of the Grand Canyon is clearly from the great Noahic Flood, right? As is the 'discovery' of the Ark on Mt Ararat in Turkey is the archeology.

    With respect to 'cosmology', I was interested to note that even Wiki makes a distinction between:
    1. "Cosmology is a branch of astronomy concerned with the study of the chronology of the universe. Physical cosmology is the study of the universe's origin, its large-scale structures and dynamics, and the ultimate fate of the universe, including the laws of science that govern these areas."
    2. "Religious or mythological cosmology is a body of beliefs based on mythological, religious, and esoteric literature and traditions of creation and eschatology."

    At base, religious/mythological cosmology only shares the name 'cosmology' with the scientific explanatory paradigm.

    And you are right: "many subjects, mathematics, physics, geology, and cosmology, are not principally domains of human culture. They are scientific descriptions of us, the world, the universe.

    HERE is a map of the world distribution of religions. And,

    HERE here is a map of science [including mathematics, geology, physics, cosmology].

    There is simply no intelligible congruence between the two maps that would support your rather delusional proposition that religion is synonymous with the study of mathematics, physic, geology or cosmology. Religious cosmology is a wholly-owned derivative of astrology.

    Religion is not and can never be synonymous with the universal organising principles underlying mathematics, geology, physics nor cosmology. Math, physics, geology, indeed all areas of the broad family of the sciences, including the language of science, mathematics.

    Religion has its rightful place among the body of human activity bounded in culture, mythology, tradition, supernaturalism, and astrology.

    According to Nicholas Campion, cultural commentator and director of Sophia Centre for Cosmology in Culture, University of Wales Trinity Saint David, notes:

    "Astrology is central to religious practice on account of the opportunity it presents to contact celestial deities, or to synchronize human affairs with eternal truths. The most important features of devotional astrology are the sacred calendars which were established up long ago in order to identify the most auspicious dates — and often times — to perform religious rituals. The legacy is clear in Christmas, which dramatically borrowed 25th Dec., the Roman festival of the Unconquered Sun. Easter, adapting an ancient Babylonian festival, has Christ resurrected on the first Sunday — the day sacred to the Sun — after the first full moon following the spring equinox — when day and night, light and dark, are equally balanced. The Hebrew rules, set out in the Old Testament could not be clearer: God will only take notice of such rituals if they are properly coordinated with the sun and moon. To do otherwise is to risk divine wrath."

    So I, as would any self-respecting person who has been researching for decades and decades, simply reject your assertion that religion is on par with geology, mathematics, physics and cosmology. Your proposition is nonsense.

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    1. Papalinton,
      Perhaps I should have been clearer. The topic under discussion of this blog is philosophical arguments for the existence of God. Most adherents to the monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam would concede that if God does not exist, then their religous practices are worthless. [Yes I know that some folk think that it is fine if their vicar does not believe in God so long as he performs the ceremonies properly, but that has not been a majority perspective for most of history.]
      The philosophical arguments for the existence of God are NOT principally domains of human culture. They concern, as I said in my last post, the explanation for change in material objects that existed before humans came on to the scene. They concern the explanation of mathematical truths that would be true if humans never existed. They are not, principally at least, domains of human culture.

      Delete
    2. Papalinton,
      I looked through the article that you linked to and I did not find there any premise that entailed the conclusion that God does not exist. The article, as far as I can tell, does not purport to prove that God does not exist. Which premise in the article does entail the conclusion that God does not exist? If there are none, it is irrelevant to this blog exchange where you defend the reasoning of the new atheists, or so I and others understand you.

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    3. >Of course. How silly of me. I forgot that the geology of the Grand Canyon is clearly from the great Noahic Flood, right? As is the 'discovery' of the Ark on Mt Ararat in Turkey is the archeology.

      ANSWERS IN GENESIS is over there Paps. They are more yer speed. There are no Young Earth Creationist here as far as I know....

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  33. Tim
    "The topic under discussion of this blog is philosophical arguments for the existence of God."

    No. This is misleading. It should read: 'The topic under discussion of this blog is arguments for the existence of a philosophical God."

    The logic behind the existence of a philosophical God clearly accounts for and matches the evidence for why there are so many versions of purported intentional agents extant (be it Jehovah, Shiva, Jesus, Ganesha, Isis, Allah), illustrating the very wide differences and innumerable ways such a figment of the cultural imagination are expressed.
    The 'go-to' argument that all other believers, except you, are simply praying to a false god is an extremely weak and jejune one.

    It is rather ironic the very last and remaining refuge available for the existent of Gods is in Philosophy.

    However, the epistemological and ontological foundations for the existence of a God is both fundamentally tenuous and highly speculative. As we slowly begin to intellectually understand and appreciate the tenuous nature of that relationship, Philosophy reminds us that at their foundation:
    "... religious ontologies consist of mentally represented assumptions about the identity and powers of stipulated supernatural entities and agencies. Such representations seem culturally specific and it is often assumed that their variability is unbounded." [Ontological argument: Philosophy: Britannica]

    Interestingly, the parallels between the Tridentine God of Christianity and Hinduism is hardly a co-incidence, but rather shows the borrowing of cultural ideas.

    "Brahma is the first god in the Hindu triumvirate, or trimurti. The triumvirate consists of three gods who are responsible for the creation, upkeep and destruction of the world. The other two gods are Vishnu and Shiva." [24 Aug 2009]
    The three separate but equal manifestations of the Christian God [Father, Son and the Holy Spirit] smells of cultural appropriation.

    And even more interesting, religionists say that the Christian God and Allah are just different cultural expressions of the exact same God. Yet Muslims categorically reject the idea that God had a son, Jesus. So which claim is correct?

    So if one were to apply the ontological argument for the existence of God, then philosophically, such argument veridically applies to not only the Christian God, but equally to the Gods of every religion people have expressed belief in. To do otherwise is to resort to special pleading.

    Whatever you believe is a matter for you, Tim. But please don't claim your version as the 'truth'. Because it is not.

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  34. Papalinton,
    I don't accept the ontological argument for the existence of God. At least, I have not seen a version of the ontological argument that I considered sound. Over twenty years ago as a Ph.D. student in a philosophy of religion class, I wrote a critique of a version of Anselm's second ontological argument showing which premise was wrong; the Professor initially thought that the premise I critiqued was true but after reading my paper he agreed with me that it was false. At one time, I thought the fine-tuning argument for God was valid; now I do not think so. I am interested in arguments, not whether I agree with the conclusion.
    I do think that there are sound arguments for the existence of God found in Muslim thinkers such as al Farabi and Avicenna, as well as by Jewish and Christian thinkers, as well as by "pagan" Greek philosophers. I think that I said this in an earlier post. In any case, I do not find this problematic in the least; nor do most Jews, Christians, and Muslims that I know of find this problematic.
    I have asked you several times, and you have refused to answer. What are the premises that you think form the foundation of an argument that refutes classical theism--the theism of al Farabi and Avicenna, Maimonides, Aquinas, Aristotle, and Plotinus?
    If all you are claiming is that one needs a lot more premises to get from classical theism to Christianity, then I agree with you but the OP and most of the blog debate was not about that topic; it was about the huge difference between classical theism and belief in Thor or Venus. If you concede that there is a huge difference, great. If not, what are the premises for your argument against it?

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  35. Papalinton
    Could you at least please retract your accusation "The go-to argument that all believers, except you, are simply praying to a false god." I am an evangelical Protestant, my wife is a Catholic and I have attended as many Catholic services as Protestant ones in the last several years, and I attended synagogue services most weeks for seven years which I learned a great deal from and which I consider genuine worship of God. So cut it out please.

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  36. Tim Finlay --- I wanted to share something with you in private. Could you send an email to the address when you click on my name? Thanks, EV

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  37. Geez Paps Feser did a whole series on what is wrong with the ontological argument....

    Why are here? You don't do yer homework....

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  38. Writing this is probably a waste of time, as few people will still be following the comments on this four week-old thread, but still, it's just occurred to me that another figure who could be a good choice for "Adventures in Old Atheism" is another filmmaker who influenced Allen profoundly (whilst also discussing the themes mentioned above in a distinct way), Ingmar Bergman. Perhaps it would be deceptive to classify him as an atheist, as most people call him an agnostic instead, but a look at the implications of a godless universe as explored in "The Seventh Seal", "Winter Light" and "The Silence" could be interesting.

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  39. "The loss of meaning and morality in a world without God is a longstanding theme of his movies."

    But how is Classical Christian Theism any less invented or changeable than atheism ? CCT is just another changeable world-view, that merely has a lot of detailed supernaturalist furniture. It has certainly done a great deal of harm, and it has no monopoly of benignity. That it is changeable, is proven by the antics of the current pope, with his reversal of doctrine regarding the permissibility of the death penalty. Apparently the Holy Spirit Who prevents the Church from falling into error was allowing the Church to fall into error for all its life until the present day; or else, having prevented the Church from falling into error until the present time, the Holy Spirit decided to allow it to fall into error in our days. So which is it ? Or does the principle of contradiction not apply to Catholic theology and doctrine ?

    CCT makes a lot of claims, but what of it ? Different Christian sects are incapable of agreeing on the moral and intellectual status of claims that are made by this or that sect: for example, one Christian's "most holy sacrifice of the Mass", is another Christian's "blasphemy and abomination of the Mass". They cannot even agree as to whether a putative Church is in fact a Church of Christ, or not. Apparently the Holy Spirit was taking a sabbatical at that time.

    Judgements as opposed and inconsistent and inharmonious as that, are made by people who are allegedly both Christians. How is disagreement as stark as that any different from the differences between atheists and Christians ? christianity, for all its claims of guidance by the Holy Spirit, in no way guarantees that different people will agree in one doctrine. It is a notorious fact that different people often disagree violently as to what constitutes true Christian doctrine; which is why they belong to different Christian sects, or go & form or join different Christian sects. how are Christians any less divided from each other than Christians and atheists, or Christians and members of any other religion or philosophy ? How is this prating of the Holy Spirit and His assistance any guarantee that Christians will agree in faith, when they manifestly so often do nothing of the kind ? That Christians sometimes do agree in faith, it's nothing, because it is to be expected that people who have more or less the same outlook will on occasion agree very closely in what they believe. There is nothing unusual in this. Members of political parties agree very closely in all sorts of things; does that mean political parties are assisted by the Holy Spirit, or founded by a God-man ?

    The incoherent trash of Christianity and its man-made doctrines and its man-made traditions is completely unnecessary to society; indeed. it is often mischievous, as the recent and continuing exposure of the rottenness in the CC's treatment of minors has shown. Even some of Christianity's own ecclesiastical personnel do not believe in its dogmas, even though they are allegedly revealed by God. So why should anyone else take seriously the maunderings of these personnel, and treat them as expressions of true and irreformable doctrine ?

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    1. "I see a post that can potentially make me think of the deeply existencial questions of my worldview, that is bad. I know! better attack christianity, just one of the diferent worldviews that are and whose truth or falsity is not exactly argued for on the post, so i can focus on not-existential questions until i forget this post original theme!"

      Boring. Papalinton did it before and i doubt that any of the theists here cares enough to do that again.

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