“REASON’S GREETINGS”! from The Center for Inquiry Community of Southern Arizona. The text of the lecture will be available on our website: www.centerforinquiry.net/saz later this week. Question By a show of hands,.
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The Center for Inquiry Community of Southern Arizona
By a show of hands,
Who would rather I scrap this God, faith and religion lecture and talk about my real expertise:
Fungal toenails and bunions!
This is the third of six…free… two hour lectures in a course titled “No God, Now What?”
It was created by Jim Gressinger (retired newspaper publisher), Dr. Stephen Uhl (former Catholic Priest, now retired psychologist) and yours truly.
The goal of the curriculum is to make the case that Secular Humanism is a worldview that, if universally adopted, would make this world a much better place in which to live.
…hoping to rescue reason from minds run amok
Lecturer: Gilbert D.Shapiro
Lecture III of Secular Humanism Course: No God. Now What?
A priest, rabbi and atheist are asked when life begins: course titled “No God, Now What?”
The priest says, “At conception”
The rabbi says, “At birth”
And the atheist says,…………….
“When the kids leave and the dog dies!” course titled “No God, Now What?”
My intent in the next series of slides is to briefly address and highlight the influence of many Christians in our country. This singling out is because of their increasing numbers and their stated intent to place their theology into public life in various ways.
What is occurring in our culture that has prompted the need for a course titled,
No God. Now What? ?
1) Christianity, by far, is the religion with which most Americans identify (~80%)
2) 71% of Americans are absolutely certain God or some other universal spirit exists.
3) 17% say they are fairly certain.
4) 5% flatly do not believe.
Christians are scripturally directed to practice, proselytize and place the tenets of their faith into the public sector. They have certainly had their say on matters such as:
Gay rights, abortion, sex education, stem-cell research, end of life issues, the pledge of allegiance, prayer in schools, teaching creationism in schools, Bible courses, the dispensing of contraceptives, the public display of Ten Commandments etc.
In other words, many Christians do not see their religion (or their religious obligations) as being confined to their homes and churches.
For many, their goal is for America to become a Christian society or at minimum, a society based on Christian principles (?).
I am unaware of anytime in history when the co-mingling of state and religion has been successful at optimizing a society’s ability to best care for its citizens.
Disclaimer: of state and religion has been successful at optimizing a society’s ability to best care for its citizens.
Secularists are fully aware that not every Christian feels that their faith should reach over the boundary of the home and church.
The problem, as we see it, lies in the assertiveness, if not aggressiveness of those Christians who “want to take back America for Christ”.
Although it is to this latter group that this talk is primarily addressed, secularists would urge Christian moderates to challenge the thinking of their more fundamentalist and evangelical brethren.
Indeed, in his campaign for President, former Gov. (and Pastor) Mike Huckabee stated,
"[Some of my opponents] do not want to change the Constitution, but I believe it's a lot easier to change the constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God, and that's what we need to do is to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards,”
To wit: Pastor) Mike Huckabee stated,
Perhaps Mr. Huckabee should be reminded that the First Amendment of our Constitution separates (neutralizes)religion from state.
And perhaps he should be reminded that Christians have no reason or right to any higher moral ground than anyone else.
Starting especially with the Reagan administration and coupled with Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority (in the early ‘80s), and followed by Rev. Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition (1989) there have been overt (government condoned) incursions---some would say bulldozing--- of religion into an otherwise secularly based society. For example, former Surgeon General Carmona was not rehired primarily because he wanted public health policy to be guided by science, not faith.
As surgeon general, he was "muzzled" on scientifically based recommendations on matters such as stem-cell research, abstinence education, sexual health, abortion and emergency contraception. What was not stressed was that this administration's moral and ethical guideposts were uniquely religious. President Bush and many of his fellow Christians insisted their selective biblical interpretations on these and similar issues should be the underpinning of public policy. They assured us their dogma is true because their dogma giver is infallible.
They assumed entitlement to automatic respect and special dispensation from rational inquiry.
This mentality of "play by my religion's rules" was troubling to those of us who thought we were governed by a secular Constitution and its Bill of Rights, by which decisions are to be based solely on common sense for the common good.
Atheist and non-Christian U.S. soldiers have been unfairly and unconstitutionally proselytized and harassed.
Were it not for tight oversight by civilian investigators, our military would become a decidedly Christian favoring enterprise.
Watch for “ paramount.code words” in policy statements!
“The Center for Arizona Policy is one of the leading organizations in Arizona actively standing at the legislature and in the media for conservative, traditional views on these issues.“
“The Center for Arizona Policy is part of a state-based family policy council network. The councils are independent entities with no corporate relationship to each other but their purpose is uniform: to serve as a voice for the family and to assist advocates for family values in recapturing the moral and intellectual high ground in the public arena.”
Center for Arizona Policy paramount.
The Center for Arizona Policy is a nonprofit research and education organizationcommitted to protecting and defending the family by influencing policy, communicating truth, and equipping citizens to promote timeless family values.
Christians, who want to “Christianize” America, must understand that they cannot, at the same time, assert their ideas based on their theology and not expose themselves to investigation, inquiry and criticism (in those same two areas) by the secular community
To repeat: understand that they cannot, at the same time, assert their ideas based on their theology and not expose themselves to investigation, inquiry and criticism (in those same two areas) by the secular community
The secular community would urge Christian moderates to challenge the thinking of their more fundamentalist and evangelical brethren.
Switching gears understand that they cannot, at the same time, assert their ideas based on their theology and not expose themselves to investigation, inquiry and criticism (in those same two areas) by the secular community
Atheism & Secular Humanism: Is there a connection?
Atheism implies nothing more than disbelief in gods. It is basically a statement of what one is “not”.
Unfortunately, the terms atheism and atheist, have been negatively received (to say the least) by the public.
Secular Humanism connection?, is a philosophy that gets many atheists’ attention because of its positive approach to life.
Secular Humanism is a philosophy that upholds reason, ethics, and justice. It specifically rejects the supernatural and the spiritual as the basis of moral reflection and decision-making.
Like other types of humanism, secular humanism is a life stance focusing on the way human beings can lead good, happy lives.
The stance focusing on the way human beings can lead good, happy lives. Secular Humanist, after careful reflection and consideration, finds no compelling evidence for gods, angels, demons, karma and ancestor spirits but chooses rather to adhere to an ethical model based on our common humanity and on common decencies.
All people are considered as moral equals. All human beings have the inborn capacity for reason, courage, and empathy.
How can secularists, freethinkers, atheists, agnostics, non-believes, rationalists etc. challenge the religious (Christian) right’s stated intentions to infuse their particular brand of dogma into a nation governed by a secularly based federal Constitution?
Although there no sure-fire answers, our course on Secular Humanism provides two approaches for your consideration.
APPROACH #1: non-believes, rationalists etc. challenge the religious (Christian) right’s stated intentions to infuse their particular brand of dogma into a nation governed by a secularly based federal Constitution?
The first approach is expressed in the insightfully brief, yet probing question served up by author and atheist Christopher Hitchens:
What positive statements or actions, said or done by a believer, could not be said or done by a non-believer?
(He claims he has yet to receive
any answers that make sense)
Indeed, what are so unique about Christian principles? non-believes, rationalists etc. challenge the religious (Christian) right’s stated intentions to infuse their particular brand of dogma into a nation governed by a secularly based federal Constitution?
Aren’t positive statements and good actions (we call them “common human decencies”) beneficial in their own right? Don’t we all hold to them?
Why complicate the simplicity of those beneficial ideas with supposed divine inspiration?
I.e.: Why add God to the mix?
Indeed, good morality has been investigated thoroughly and has been determined to be the fruit of human growth and experience over many thousands of years.
Morality is determined by our biology and culture. Common human decencies (a secular humanist term) came first and were much later codified into various scriptures.
Were murder, stealing, adultery, lying etc not known as bad behaviors prior to the Ten Commandments?
Atheists do the right thing because it is the right thing to do. Do religionists really think they will “go wild” if their God is not watching their every move?
Do they fear they will all of a sudden murder those who work on the Sabbath, homosexuals, non-virgins on their wedding night or their disrespectful teenage children?
Fortunately, humans have always made moral judgments (absurd-dogma overrides) independent of divine dictates.
This gift from thousands of years of human development has kept most of us out of prison.
Secularists must also challenge, as I have noted before, the influence, incursion (some would say bulldozing) of public policy based on religious dogma.
We need to point out that research clearly indicates that secularly-based societies fare better is all categories related to standard of living parameters than do religiously-based ones.
Confirming this assertion and justifying approach #1 will be a large part of this course.
APPROACH #2: the influence, incursion (some would say bulldozing) of public policy based on religious dogma.
The second approach, it to challenge the theology itself. If the theology is found to be unsupportable then so too are its emanations, pronouncements and directives espoused in its name.
That will be the primary goal of today’s presentation.
THE SCOPE OF THIS PRESENTATION; the influence, incursion (some would say bulldozing) of public policy based on religious dogma.
Why are these three objectives important? the influence, incursion (some would say bulldozing) of public policy based on religious dogma.
Secular Humanism is predicated on the rejection of god, faith and religion. The purpose of this lecture is to justify those rejections.
Current worldwide dilemmas: the influence, incursion (some would say bulldozing) of public policy based on religious dogma.
A significant percentage of our population believes the unbelievable. Worse, they act on those bad beliefs.
Wishful thinking has replaced critical thinking.
God, faith and religion, on balance, have been divisive and repressive to local, national and international societies.
My personal beliefs: the influence, incursion (some would say bulldozing) of public policy based on religious dogma.
Atheistic to a personal God….credible evidence for such an entity is nil and credible evidence against such an entity is overwhelming and highly compelling.
Agnostic to the answer to the ultimate question as to whether or not there is a “force out there” beyond my ability to understand and/or beyond my capacity to ever contact.
I think it reflects a deserved humility “hardcore” atheists should seriously consider.
BACKGROUND; the influence, incursion (some would say bulldozing) of public policy based on religious dogma.
I was born in New York City in 1948. After receiving my Bachelors (French/’70) and Masters Degrees (French/education/’73) from the City University of New York, I completed pre-medical sciences at Columbia University.
I went on to graduate from the California College of Podiatric Medicine (BS/DPM ’78) and finished a two-year podiatric surgical residency in Chicago (’78-80).
In 1980, I assumed the 30 year old practice of a retiring Tucson podiatrist.
I joined the Center for Inquiry Community of Southern Arizona three years ago. I currently serve on its board and as one of its spokespersons.
Like many of you, I have found the need to search for the answer to (in my view) the ultimate question that anyone can ask:
What is it all about?
Perhaps it is better that I am not a highbrow philosopher or theologian. They, it can be argued, do not relate well to the common man.
Me, I deal with life (as a the answer to (in my view) the ultimate question that anyone can ask:podiatrist) from the ground up, relating to the common man’s most common complaint: His fallen and painful “soles”. I’m your man.
I rest my case!
So, you are going to listen to someone who has done his fair share of reading and research on the subject matter of God, faith and religion.
In the time allowed, I will offer to you what I have concluded are the best arguments to support the non-believer’s contention that God, faith and religion are, based on the most credible evidence, sadly but truly, nothing more than “houses of cards built on quicksand”.
This is not meant to be a mean spirited or sarcastic presentation.
This particular lecture’s timing, at this special part of the year for so many, is sheer coincidence.
It is certainly not meant to offend, insult or demean people whose right to believe and friendship I hold dear.
It is rather, meant to inform those who chose to attend (from whichever camp you may belong)…
….and to be of some comfort to those in the secular community who should welcome some much needed camaraderie (i.e. "talk from a kindred spirit”) at this time of the year!
So, lets get started! (from whichever camp you may belong)…
I am convinced that a most important skill anyone can possess is the ability to tell the difference between justified belief (knowledge) and unjustified belief (falsehood).
I think we can all agree that,
No amount of belief makes something a fact.
I grew up in a conservative Jewish home with wonderful parents who always respected my questioning of their deeply held faith. Despite our differing world views, they nurtured in me a pride for my Jewish heritage that I have maintained to this day.
While I admired this rich history (due in large part to “my people’s” resiliency and wonderful accomplishments…far out of proportion to their numbers), I quickly became convinced that the God to which they prayed either broke His word to his people or was non-existent.
My childhood home reflected conservative Jewish customs and values. For example, we ate “kosher”. Foods were specially prepared. Milk and meat products were eaten at different times and separate plates and utensils were used.. The solemnity of the Sabbath and multiple other holidays were respected. Social customs and traditions were upheld.
But, I rejected all of those restrictions. I found the rules to be capricious, arbitrary and often just plain weird. What’s wrong with eating milk and meat together?
Why celebrate the Passover when the holiday glorifies how God terrorized and killed innocent Egyptians to accomplish something he could have prevented in the first place or remedied in a much more civilized way?
My neighborhood in the Bronx was a spicy and flavorful salad bowl of Irish, Italian, Spanish and Jewish cultures. While I loved the diversity and richness of the various religious and ethnic traditions with which I was in daily contact, I couldn’t help but feel that God-belief was based on emotion, family tradition, and wishful thinking.
Critical thinking, on the other hand, in my neighborhood at least, rarely rose above “casual”. In other words, people in my neighborhood believed in God for generally psychological rather than for scientific or philosophical reasons.
On the hierarchy of justifications to accept ideas as true, “psychological” ranks close to the bottom!
Worth repeating: No amount of belief makes something a fact.
Early in the Bible, the Jewish God made a covenant (ie: agreement) with His “chosen” people. In return for their recognizing Him as their only God, He promised to love and protect them.
When I looked for answers to why this God was silent to His people’s cries during centuries of virulent anti-Semitism (including the recent Holocaust where one-third of Judaism was annihilated), the answers I received from fellow Jews were surprisingly weak if not incomprehensible:
I concluded that His lack of intervention was either a flagrant “Breech of Contract” or He did not exist. I saw no other possibilities.
A simple demographic calculation (concerning worldwide Jewry) spoke volumes to me. It was estimated that if there had been no murderous anti-Semitism, today’s worldwide Jewish population would now have reached about 200 million.
Reality check: There are currently about 14 million Jews in the world; --- ironically the same number as there was just prior to Hitler’s genocide!
Since God would “never break a deal”, I am only left to believe that He never existed.
Therefore, any other option but atheism would have been irrational and an insult to my intelligence.
There is a saying that “we are all born atheists”. Our religion is not determined by choice, but primarily by where, and to whom, we are born.
Indeed, if Pope Benedict XVI or Rev. Billy Graham had been raised in Iran, they very well, given their inclinations, may have become Ayatollahs!
It is in childhood when the circuitry for belief in the supernatural is hard-wired.
Fortunately, I was able to reverse or short circuit that wiring.
As we enter adulthood, our brains become modular.
Believers differ from non-believers by compartmentalizing into these modules both the rational/natural world and the irrational/supernatural world beliefs.
To wit: Believers who are engineers, architects, and doctors--- whose 9-5 job uses rational thought to make missiles, construct bridges and perform surgery--- can, often without missing a beat, enter at will, the irrational thought module to truly believe in virgin births, the raising of the dead, flying horses, and imaginary friends and foes.
Another reason why I am an atheist is that I have observed that Nature continues to maintain exquisite indifference to its creatures.
God’s attributes include being all: loving, powerful, good, present and knowing.
Well, is He or isn’t He?
He is definitely not delivering what He promised in the scriptures….namely, love and protection!
Indeed, the world goes on just like one would expect if there were no God!
I am therefore convinced that atheism is intellectually justified.
In Hebrew school we learned about Noah’s flood, Abraham’s almost sacrifice/murder of his son Isaac and God’s annihilation of entire societies because they did not worship in Him.
We read that God encouraged rape. As an adolescent, I bristled and was totally bewildered by God-endorsed mass murders of children, adults and animals.
I also observed that the Bible made claims about the way the world works that we know today are wrong.
God had a wonderful opportunity to educate his creation by filling His book with yet to be discovered truths about our earthly realities.
What a missed opportunity to show real prophesy! Surely He could have let it be known that the earth was not flat and that it orbited the sun and not the reverse?
My points have hopefully illustrated the validity of the observation that a main motivator for atheism is the Bible.
A second question from Mr. C. Hitchens: observation that a main motivator for atheism is the Bible.
Science states that humans have existed for 100,000 to 200,000 years; and according to young earth creationists, 6,000-10,000 years. Nevertheless, during those thousands of years, millions of mothers had suffered agonizing deaths in childbirth, people (and animals) had suffered and died from infections, diseases and trauma. Why did God let His creation suffer so miserably for so long before coming to the rescue ---5000 years ago for the Jews, 2,000 years ago for Christians and 1400 years ago for the Moslems?
And why did he then only show Himself to so few people in one sequestered part of the world? What did He have against His Chinese, European, South American and African creations?
And since He came back to supposedly save us, why was anesthesia and modern surgery techniques not discovered until only 100 years ago; antibiotics only 60 years ago?
Why have millions continued to suffer and be murdered in his name? Why is the world still in such a mess? I am unaware of any theist who has offered any rational answers to Mr. Hitchen’s questions.
ADVISORY: in one sequestered part of the world? What did He have against His Chinese, European, South American and African creations?
Clarity (precision in thinking and communication) is the foundation of purposeful thought. The alternative is confusion.
This presentation will be a straightforward criticism of God, faith and religion. In that “spirit”, there will be no subjects that are too sacred or holy to investigate or criticize.
For atheists, doubt, skepticism and rational inquiry are the engines that have advanced humanity.
Advisory#2: the engines that have advanced humanity.
WHERE DO WE START? the engines that have advanced humanity.
PART ONE: the engines that have advanced humanity.
GOD IS AN INCOHERENT CONCEPT
Any argumentation in support of Secular Humanism and critical of faith and religion will quickly devolve into an argument about the existence about our “local” god that we will title “God”. So let’s start there.
In Jim the engines that have advanced humanity.Gressinger’s first two lectures he laid out the arguments against the existence of this local “God”. (First cause, design, reason, morality etc.)
Implicit in that argumentation was the assumption that the members of the audience had a distinct and meaningful understanding of the entity in question---“God”.
But that “distinct and meaningful understanding” could not possibly exist because the term “God” is, at its core, an incoherent utterance.
Traditional descriptions of God the engines that have advanced humanity.: ( in monotheistic religions)
While there is a debate over how this “entity” should be spelled, I will use the capitalized “G”od ( or He, Him) to represent the local god of the three monotheistic religions: Christianity, Islam and Judaism, and the lower case “g”od to represent gods in general and those of other religions.)
(mono)Theism: spelled, I will use the capitalized “G”od ( or He, Him) to represent the local god of the three monotheistic religions: Christianity, Islam and Judaism, and the lower case “g”od to represent gods in general and those of other religions.) The belief in a personal god.
Agnosticism: The belief that knowledge of God (a god) is beyond human grasp and/or that God is an unknowable concept for humans.
Atheism: The disbelief in gods…based on lack of evidence.(non-believer)
The burden of proof to establish the coherency of any God concept is the responsibility of the (mono)theist. (believer)
reason concept is the responsibility of the (mono)theist. (believer):
the faculty that identifies, interprets, integrates, coherently and logically, the material provided by man’s senses.
It orders and makes sense of reality.
Rationalism: concept is the responsibility of the (mono)theist. (believer)Knowledge comes wholly from reason
The optimist: “The glass is half full”
The pessimist: “The glass is half empty”
The rationalist: “The glass is twice as big as it needs to be.”
A common question that we are all asked at sometime in our lives takes two forms:
“Does God exist?” and
“Do you believe in God?”
Most of us are primed to give a knee-jerk answer of either “yes”, “no”, or “I don’t know.”
In my view, however, the correct answer is………..
“I have no idea what you are talking about---and lives takes two forms:neither do you!”
“What is it for which you are claiming existence?”
Unless the believer can define the term “God”---and why his particular “God” is defined in that way, ---the question cannot (and therefore should not) be answered.
The Moslem, Christian or Jew is now obligated to present an intelligible description of this God.
Defining God is central to any argument for this entity’s existence. Otherwise stating “God exists” communicates nothing!
Because….. his particular “God” is defined in that way, ---the question cannot (and therefore should not) be answered.
Metaphysics his particular “God” is defined in that way, ---the question cannot (and therefore should not) be answered. and Epistemology:
Metaphysics: the study of reality (the state of things as they actually exist), matter, consciousness and causality.
Epistemology: the study of knowledge(justified true belief)………(reason and faith are associated terms)
Therefore: his particular “God” is defined in that way, ---the question cannot (and therefore should not) be answered.“Whatexists?” is a
“How does one know it?” is an epistemological one.
And in more general terms the question becomes:
How do we know what we know. And how do we know what we know we don’t know?”
Metaphysics his particular “God” is defined in that way, ---the question cannot (and therefore should not) be answered.:
The “Natural” and the “Supernatural” are metaphysical terms that describe differentrealities.
The essence of the difference is one of KIND and not one of degree.
The supernatural realm is considered independent from the natural realm. It, additionally, is able to communicate with the natural realm. ie: miracles
It is in this his particular “God” is defined in that way, ---the question cannot (and therefore should not) be answered.difference of framework where atheist and theist part company.
These staked out positions are sometimes referred to as “presuppositions”---fundamentals of existence that do not need further proofs.
Non-believers: his particular “God” is defined in that way, ---the question cannot (and therefore should not) be answered.science states that, to date, only the natural reality exists
Believers: faith reveals that both a natural and supernatural reality exist
The Natural Reality (material reality) is everything in our universe (and in other possible universes) including energy/matter, space and time and yet to be discovered “other dimensions”.
The Supernatural Reality (non-material) pertains to anything thatlies “beyond or outside (???)” of natural reality. It is a title and not a description.
And because the Supernatural cannot be described; and cannot be definitional; it borders on being a meaningless term.
The “Supernatural” can pertain to entities, events or powers regarded as beyond nature in that they lack clear scientific explanation.
Miracles, spells, curses, divination, the afterlife, ghosts, gods, resurrections, anointing, angels, spirits, the paranormal, ESP, leprechauns, unicorns and holy scripture (the Word of God) are all considered as representative of the “supernatural reality”.
Scientists do not conclude that the supernatural does not exist per se, but rather that it has yet to be proven.
While there have been many unexplained events, there has yet to be an occurrence that has been verified scientifically as “supernatural”.
Remarkable does not mean “supernatural”!
A sole survivor of a plane crash; a cancerous tumor that suddenly disappears and is inexplicable medically; the birth of a child; and the ability of ants to carry many times their own weight are all remarkable but hardly supernatural!
INEXPLICABLE does not equal Supernatural!
God is considered an “entity” or “being” existing in this Supernatural Realm and communicating with our Natural Realm.
So the first line of challenge by the atheist against the theist is a metaphysical one.
It respects the famous quote from the late Carl Sagan: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”
Question #1 for the theist: in this Supernatural Realm and communicating with our Natural Realm.
Describe this God which dwells in this Supernatural Reality?
The theist will describe that God existing in the supernatural reality means that He is “beyond” natural existence and exempt from the restrictions of natural laws.
The atheist will counter that this explains what this being is not---that it is not part of the natural universe. Granted,---but that description still does not tell us what this entity is!
Question #2 for the theist in this Supernatural Realm and communicating with our Natural Realm.:
How does one understand and/or communicate with any additional “existence”
outside or beyond “natural existence”?
To in this Supernatural Realm and communicating with our Natural Realm.repeat and emphasize:
When a believer makes claim his God exists, he is, at the same time, making a reality claim that there exists another reality (the supernatural) independentfrom our natural reality. He is also asserting that this “other” reality interacts with our natural reality.
Very few people realize what an extraordinary claim that is!
In my opinion, it is equally, if not more extraordinary, that the God-claim itself!
Natural existence is describable by natural law. that the God-claim itself!
Natural Law pertains to the presence of regularity (and regular irregularity) in the universe.
NATURAL LAW: Entities that the God-claim itself!behave according to specific causal conditions:
Examples: Given the right conditions pumpkin seeds will become pumpkins, not pears; dogs will not give birth to cats; and when I drop an apple on earth it will fall to the ground at a calculable and predictable acceleration.
NATURAL LAW: also pertains to the presence of certain limitations of living things:
A plant does not have the capacity to play poker just as man does not have the capacity for photosynthesis.
In the “Supernatural Realm” all bets are off…..because limitations of living things:that realm CANNOT BEDESCRIBED, EXPLAINED OR DEFINED.
We have no idea of what a “Supernatural Reality” is like.
By definition, it is unknowable to us because we have no way to communicate with it scientifically.
Right at this point it is important to anticipate the collective thoughts by some in the audience.
“But yes we do!....Holy scripture!!!
Surely the Bible etc gives us the assurance of that supernatural reality in which God dwells!
HOLD THAT THOUGHT!
From the collective thoughts by some in the audience.scientific standpoint: Mankind continues to have no interaction with the Supernatural Realm.
Since God dwells in that realm, man has therefore had no interaction with God.
The second challenge by the atheist is an collective thoughts by some in the audience.epistemological (knowledge)one.
To exist beyond the sphere of Natural Law means to exist beyond the scope of human knowledge.
And theists will collective thoughts by some in the audience.agree that God is a supernatural being that transcends RATIONAL human knowledge:
i.e.: Theists believe that God is mysterious, unfathomable and beyond RATIONAL human comprehension.
Indeed, “RATIONALLY unknowable” is the universal element linking together the various theist concepts of God.
This concept has profound implications.
If God is supernaturally and epistemologically transcendent (not of matter, time or space and unknowable), how would humans comprehend Him?
How can one know the RATIONALLY unknowable?
The existence of a supernatural/unknowable being constitutes the major point of controversy between theist and atheist.
Amazingly though, the theist is usually
unimpressed with this line of argumentation.
He will say (or boast) proudly,
“See, God transcends human understanding”!
But how can one the major point of controversy between theist and atheist.
possibly know that something exists
without some knowledge of what it is
that is existing or at least what is being called into question?
“To deny all the qualities of a being is equivalent to denying the being himself. A being without qualities is one which cannot become an object to the mind, and such a being is virtually non-existent.” (19th century philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach)
“To claim that a thing is unknowable, one must first know that it exists---but then one already has knowledge of it, to that extent.” Nathaniel Branden
REASON SAYS: denying the being himself. A being without qualities is one which cannot become an object to the mind, and such a being is virtually non-existent
If God is RATIONALLY unknowable, the concept of “God” is devoid of content and the word “God” becomes a meaningless sound.
To claim that god is incomprehensible is to say that one’s concept of god is unintelligible, which is to confess, therefore, that when one is talking about God…
one does not know what one is talking about!!!!!!!
Indeed, the theist is basically saying, “I will explain the concept of God by pointing out that it cannot be explained.”
The idea of claiming the existence of an entity that is unknowable is an insult to man’s intellect and furthermore renders God and theism wholly implausible.
Conclusion: unknowable is an
If knowledge of the unknowable is a contradiction,
knowledge of the supernatural is a contradiction as well.
Therefore, (mono)theism is excluded from the sphere of rational consideration.
REALITY CHECK: (Thank you Dr. John Patterson) unknowable is an
“The criteria that honest investigators use when comparing God-ly vs. God-less interpretations include the following: their predictive capacity, their explanatory power, the number of testable new branches of science and technology they lead to, the amounts of mystery and otherwise hopeless bewilderment they eliminate and so on.
So superior have the God-less interpretations of nature proved to be over the God-based ones that science has now come to the point where it no longer entertains any interpretations that carry even the slightest hint of supernaturalism.”
From Review of “Worlds of their Own” by Robert (& Lois) Schadewald
Based on the proved to be over the God-based ones that science has now come to the point where it no longer entertains any interpretations that carry even the slightest hint of supernaturalism.”complete absence of any verifiable human interaction---ever---with any reality other than natural reality, science can confidently (yet always provisionally) say that the supernatural realm has yet to be established and cannot and must not be used for investigative, explanatory, or belief purposes.
IMPORTANT OBSERVATIONS: proved to be over the God-based ones that science has now come to the point where it no longer entertains any interpretations that carry even the slightest hint of supernaturalism.”
It is not just that cows don’t jump over skyscrapers, it is that they physically can’t.
Science applies an empirical method of looking at the evidence in our physical world.
This provides additional observations that add to the incoherency of the monotheistic God concept
Upon examination, the scientific method results in ruling out all other paranormal claims.
The supposed miracles of the Bible do not have any greater claim on reality than do the claims of UFO abductions.
In fact, claims of UFO abductions may be more believable than the supernatural assertions of religion, because a visitation from another planet may not require violation of the laws of nature as do supposed Biblical miracles.
Divine Hiddeness: out all other paranormal claims.
A personal God that wanted loving relationships with human beings wouldn’t be so hidden. Why is God so stingy with the evidence?
Consider: Miracles that attest to supernatural power all happened in ancient, pre-scientific times, in which there existed no means of reliable verification.
(Thank you, Edward Tabash CFI/LA)
But alas, if it were only that easy! out all other paranormal claims.
Many theists will admit that while God may not be understood (ie: knowable) through rational thought, there is another pathway to certify His existence: FAITH
In Part two we will challenge faith’s claim as a valid and/or reliable pathway to knowledge of the supernatural.
PART II: out all other paranormal claims. REASON, NOT FAITH, IS THE
PATHWAY TO KNOWLEDGE
Summary of Part One:
By belief in a supernatural being, the theist commits himself to a metaphysical view concerning the nature of reality.
By belief in the unknowable, the theist commits himself to an epistemological view concerning the scope of human reason.
So………. out all other paranormal claims.
What reasons then does the theist have for belief in God?
What is his evidence? (And more importantly for the upcoming discussion,) What is the nature of evidence in general?
What does the theist mean when he claims to know God’s existence?
This is the question which brings us to the out all other paranormal claims. focus of this part of the lecture:
What is the nature of knowledge in general?
How do we acquire knowledge?
How do we distinguish “truth” from falshood?
The conflict between the theist and the atheist is at its core a conflict between faith and reason.
Epistemologically, is the essence of the controversy.
Reason and faith are opposites, two mutually exclusive terms.
There is no reconciliation or common ground.
Definition of core a conflict between reason: the faculty that identifies and integrates, coherently
and logically, the material provided
by man’s senses.
Definition of faith: unquestioning belief of ideas IN THE ABSENCE OF or IN SPITE OF, reason (evidence).
If reason is asserted to be the only pathway to knowledge, faith is then excluded from consideration.
If theism is based on faith,
then theism can not be accepted as rational.
BUT: faith is then
The theist’s contention is that faith transcends reason to gain knowledge inaccessible to man’s rational capacity.
Our goal now, is to confirm (by explanation and demonstration) the uselessness of faith as a guide to knowledge.
BELIEF: A mental acceptance of something
as true even though absolute certainly may be absent.
KNOWLEDGE: A correct identification or understanding of reality.
(a clear perception of “truth”…Webster’s)
It is by abstracting the immediately given concretes of his experience into concepts, and integrating these into still wider concepts, that man acquires knowledge and surpasses the ability of lower life forms.
The presence of an idea or belief in one’s consciousness does not constitute knowledge;………….. one can have false ideas or beliefs.
If man is to acquire knowledge (a correct identification of reality), he must have a method to distinguish truth from falsehood ie: beliefs (ideas) that correspond to reality from those which do not.
To qualify as knowledge, a belief must be reality), he must have justified: it must warrant acceptance by rational standards.
Three minimum requirements that must (all) be fulfilled before any belief can claim the status of knowledge.
VERY IMPORTANT POINTS; before any belief can claim the status of knowledge.
Therefore, to rationally demonstrate a belief is to show that it warrants acceptance according to the epistemological standards of human knowledge.
To accept a belief as “true” on the basis of reason is to accept it because it is capable of rational demonstration.
NOW CONSIDER that it warrants acceptance according to the epistemological standards of human knowledge. FAITH:
If faith is considered by theists as a valid and reliable method for gaining knowledge, it is obvious that reason and faith must differ in some way.
Theists will that it warrants acceptance according to the epistemological standards of human knowledge. depreciate reason by claiming its limitations or its undesirability in certain areas.
Faith, the theist claims, is another reliable method to gain knowledge.
But wouldn’t faith only be necessary that it warrants acceptance according to the epistemological standards of human knowledge. if reason were inadequate?
YES! that it warrants acceptance according to the epistemological standards of human knowledge.
The entire notion of faith rests upon and presupposes the inadequacy of reason.
The theist will counter that reason has its that it warrants acceptance according to the epistemological standards of human knowledge. limits: i.e.: some aspects of man’s reality cannot be comprehended by reason.
(Drum roll!!!) Here is where faith makes its grand entrance!
Faith is called upon where reason is said to fail, and faith is represented as a supplement to reason not as an enemy.
In the words of St. Thomas Aquinas,
faith “perfects” reason.
But, if the sphere of is represented as a reason expands, it diminishes the boundaries of faith.
So……., is represented as a
if reason were declared fully capable of understanding all facts, if no aspect of existence were decreed “off-limits” to man’s mind, the need for faith would be eliminated.
Now the critical role of the “unknowable” (from part one) comes into play.
The “unknowable” is admittedly where reason cannot tread;
it is therefore the sole province of faith!
Faith depends for its survival on the unknowable, the incomprehensible that which reason cannot grasp.
Faith cannot live in a natural knowable universe.
As Pascal (rightly) observed, “If we submit everything to reason, our religion will have no mysterious and supernatural element.”
An atheist has no use for the concept of faith because he would have to adopt faith at the expense of reason.
Theist’s response: humans have a reason, our religion will have no mysterious and supernatural element.”“toolbox” to understand our reality. Different tools (reason, faith, intuition, etc) are used for different purposes. The contention is that just as you would not use a hammer where a chisel is needed, one would not use reason where faith is needed.
Reason and faith are different, contends the theist, because they must accomplish different tasks.
Faith, the theist contends, finds truth beyond reason. reason, our religion will have no mysterious and supernatural element.”
Atheist’s answer: The theist has it all wrong! Reason is not one tool in the toolbox. It is the entire toolbox!!!
Reason does not permit an alternative method of acquiring knowledge. The principles of reason are intended to separate justified from unjustified propositions. If a belief cannot meet the requirements of reason, it is unjustified---without sufficient foundation---and must be condemned as irrational.
The theist is now obligated to demonstrate that faith not is capable of being a tool to acquire knowledge.
So what are faith’s epistemological (knowledge) credentials?
Arguments not for faith are divided into three stages:
It is in #3 where atheists direct the attack on the theist’s response.
Before the theist can bring faith to the rescue, he must convince us that something needs to be rescued.
He requires a victim to be saved.
He does this, not by touting faith primarily, but by arguing what reason cannot do.
Therefore the atheist must focus on a convince us that defense of reason as being the best argument against faith.
Rather than dealing with this or that theory of faith, a defense of reason cuts the ground from under faith by denying to it any possible sphere of influence.
Indeed, convince us that
faith cannot rescue us from the inadequacies of reason simply because
reason is not inadequate.
Our defense of reason will follow the principle of “Occam’s razor” (after the 14th century theologian William of Occam).
The principle of parsimony: “never multiply explanations or increase their complexity beyond necessity”.
The adaptation of Occam’s razor to the reason-faith controversy consists in demonstrating that faith,
as a supposed method
of acquiring knowledge,
is not necessary for explanatory purposes.
If reason is controversy consists in demonstrating that not inadequate, the door for faith is never opened---and the subject of faith should never arise in the first place.
But now the theist, in a last ditch (and hopeless) effort to justify his position, contends that:
“Man can controversy consists in demonstrating that know nothing”
---easily dismissed since someone uttering that sentence is stating a knowledge claim which according to his own theory is impossible!
“We must doubt every alleged instance of knowledge”.
---translates into the positive assertion that man can never attain certainty. But is this “principle” of universal doubt certain? If it is known with certainty, then at least one thing is beyond doubt, which makes the principle false!
The theist must assert doubt about a specific knowledge claim and not a general observation that because man is fallible nothing can be known.(Deal with the message, not the messenger!)
The source of confusion in the theist is the equation of knowledge and certainty with infallibility.
And this conveniently leads to the understanding that it is precisely man’s fallibility that generates the need for a
science of knowledge
---to help us to discriminate between justified and unjustified beliefs.
Principle: Man’s fallibility knowledge and certainty with does not invalidate his knowledge claims.
Indeed, if the theist wishes to attack a knowledge claim for which evidence has been provided, he must attack the evidence itself; he cannot merely appeal to human fallibility.
KNOWLEDGE: knowledge and certainty with
All knowledge is contextual.
It is based on an inverted pyramid wherein concepts become knowledge because they are formed and validated with the context of previous concepts and so on--- in a regression that ends with the primary concepts (or primary facts of reality which can not be further broken down or further analyzed).
Primary concepts knowledge and certainty with are implicit in all facts and all knowledge.
They require no proof or explanation but serve as the foundation for subsequent proofs and explanations.
They are fundamentally given and perceived (or experienced).
The “irreducible primaries” are: knowledge and certainty with
The theist responds with the expected statement that at the fundamental level the atheist (rationalist), nevertheless, must have:
These claims are summarily refuted since there isevidence for each one.
Remember: fundamental level the atheist (rationalist), nevertheless, must have
Once you have evidence for a belief, it becomes knowledge.
And that knowledge is based on reason not faith.
The case has now been made that fundamental level the atheist (rationalist), nevertheless, must havereason, not faith, is the valid and reliable
pathway to knowledge.
“…the history of empirical science establishes beyond reasonable doubt that it is quite possible to ‘prove’ (for practical as well as theoretical purposes) ‘all kinds of negatives’ despite what scholastics and philosophically inclined clerics and theologians would have us believe.”
(i.e.: Man can make a overwhelmingly strong case (proof?...not quite!) that the personal monotheistic God does not exist….G. Shapiro)
“Making this point in a most explicit way is important because without it no Atheist could logically justify going beyond the bounds of agnosticism and skepticism in order to more fully embrace the richness of a completely Atheistic worldview.”
(Dr. John W. Patterson)
PART THREE: because without it no Atheist could logically justify going beyond the bounds of agnosticism and skepticism in order to more fully embrace the richness of a completely Atheistic worldview.”
THE DANGERS OF
SPEAKING IN RELIGIOUS LANGUAGE
Christianity---our local religion--- and one which should not be taken any more seriously than any of the other thousands of religions that have propagated and percolated through this planet --- has its own unique vocabulary (“Christian-Speak”) which has become widely accepted in the United States as being meaningful to those outside the Christian faith.
It is not.
Non-believers, especially, because of the familiarity and pervasiveness of Christianity, have allowed themselves to be lured into issues and debates that employ words that are devoid of rational meaning.
Just as we have now understood that “God” is, fundamentally, a meaningless concept and faith is an “imposter” (as a valid and reliable pathway to knowledge), so too should we understand that there are many other “Christian words”, such as:
heaven, hell, sin, soul, messiah, righteous, grace, salvation, anointing, blessing, holy, angel, devil, saint etc. that are equally without coherent definitions that are equally meaningless.
Indeed, they have meaning only for Christians.
Many other religions have no such concepts.
Rationalists are troubled that much of our public discourse uses “Christian-speak”. This is unfair since much of that vocabulary is both meaningless and truly unintelligible.
We must try to loosen the grip of this language on our culture. Christians must understand that their language is but one of many religious languages in the world that should have no special significance outside of that particular religion.
Indeed, even within Christianity, the meanings of these words differ. For example, many believers think “heaven” is an actual place with specific features while others do not. And so it goes.
The various interpretations of meaningless words (what a concept!!!) have resulted in a multitude of different Christian “denominations” worldwide!
A common remark to pro-choice proponents and to those who support stem-cell research is, “But those fertilized eggs have been ensouled!” Again, the proper response should be, “I don’t know what you mean by ensouled.” Please explain.
And the same response should follow for all the aforementioned Christian words.
ADVICE: Never let theists feel that they are in control of the dialogue.
Is religious language meaningful? support stem-cell research is, “But those fertilized eggs have been
The word “God” is only meaningful if it actually refers to something real.
A ‘unicorn” or a “leprechaun” (while we can picture them in our minds) do not refer to anything real.
The same analysis cannot be applied to “God”. support stem-cell research is, “But those fertilized eggs have been
What possible image or understanding could one have of an entity which is an unknowable supernatural being? ……………Think about it!
An interesting association: Religion and support stem-cell research is, “But those fertilized eggs have been language acquisition
They may be analogized to some extent.
There are three similarities and one major (and telling) difference.
SIMILARITIES: support stem-cell research is, “But those fertilized eggs have been
MAJOR AND PROFOUND DIFFERENCE: support stem-cell research is, “But those fertilized eggs have been
ALL MEMBERS OF A PARTICULAR RELIGION ARE CONVINCED THAT THEIR RELIGION IS TRUE.
(“I am a Christian but I do not think Christianity is true” would be a contradictory and ridiculous statement because a religion is a set of truth-claims.)
But speakers of a particular language do not assert that their language is true while another is false!
We are all born atheists. God is an “acquired taste”. It is highly unlikely that a child raised in this 21st century, who was not introduced to the concept of God (by an authority figure) would spontaneously come to develop one.
Those who adopt a particular religion as “true” regard all other religions as false and therefore become atheistic to all religions except their own!
Atheists reject ALL gods religions.
From this presentation the following understandings should have been gained:
An important goal of secular humanism is to foster direct, respectful and productive interchange between believer and non-believer.
Too often we preach to our respective choirs and do not get the opportunity for rich interchange between opposing philosophies.
CFI and Tucson's secular community have been pleased that the Arizona Daily Star and Tucson Citizen newspapers have had the courage and editorial fair-mindedness to publish many guest opinions and letters to the editor reflecting the non-believer’s voice. Thank you!
This does not go unnoticed!
My atheism is well grounded both scientifically and philosophically.
I am responsible for my purpose and my destiny in this world.
When I die, until otherwise reliably informed, I will simply no longer exist--- just as I didn’t exist until 1948.
That is why I am thoroughly engaged in this world.
To think that there is any other reality awaiting me “on the other side”, albeit psychologically comforting, is at best wishful thinking.
As the saying goes…
“It is what it is.”
And lastly, I would love the other side”, albeit psychologically comforting, is at best wishful thinking.for once to hear a believer agree to change his or her mind if evidence were presented that justified a change in a cherished, “sacred”, long-held, belief!!! Now, that would be…… refreshing!
THANK YOU! the other side”, albeit psychologically comforting, is at best wishful thinking.