Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Epic Plan of Salvation

According to Christian theology, God is a perfectly holy, moral, just, forgiving, and loving God. Basically, omni-everything-good. He lives up in the perfect "universe" of heaven where everyone is always happy (except for one Satan person and about 1/3 of the angels). God was just so loving that he decided to make humans so that they could also experience the pleasure and joy that heaven brings. Well, that heaven-on-earth brings. (It's close. Or at least, it was. 'Til it became un-perfect.) Unfortunately, God hates it when people do things that are so not in his nature. Not even things like undisputed moral wrongs, but things that he just decides to be wrong. (Sorry, gay people.) He can't stand them so much that he won't allow anyone to be in his presence if they have but even the faintest hint of sin on them. (Sin being anything that God doesn't like. He's picky with his company that way.)

Unfortunately, because Adam and Eve got fooled by a really ingenious snake/Satan, we're all naturally sinners! (Yes, it's fair. Trust me.) Because of this, we can't be with God when we die because we've either all done wrong or are just inherently unworthy from birth. Due to the fact that God can't coexist with sin, nothing imperfect is allowed into heaven and in his presence. (Satan is the exception.) Naturally, it follows that all humans must go to hell and be tortured forever and ever, no matter how much or little flawed they may be or however good or bad they lived their lives. Yes, that means you.

BUT - God doesn't want you to suffer! It's true. Because he's a logical God, he did the best that he could to provide you a way out of your suffering. (A thoughtful guy, eh?) Dispel any notions you may have conjured up about what you might do if you were an all-knowing god in this situation, because Yahweh is going to blow your mind. Here it is: For the vast majority of humankind, men were bad. (All of them.) In order for them to be forgiven for their sins, they had to slaughter the most perfect of their cattle, sprinkle their freshly-squeezed blood upon the altar, and burn the body as a pleasing aroma to the Lord. (I know, it makes so much sense!) However, God, being the ultimate Planner that he is, knew that this wouldn't work forever. (Well, he originally thought it would but then came up with an even BETTER idea!) Because God is unchanging (...mostly), he couldn't just outright modify his requirements for forgiveness. (That would just be silly.) So he did the next best thing - find a loophole. Because he needed to nip sacrifices in the bud once and for all, he decided to make a physical copy of himself. (Starting to make sense?)

He would send himself down to earth to live a normal human life (minus all of that nasty sinning and inherited sinful nature). He'd show that it is in fact possible to live a perfect life while being mortal - proving that he was actually God and that we don't live up to his standards. (Whether it's easy to be sinless if you're the definition of non-sin is still up for grabs.) But get this: instead of wimping out and just forgiving everybody instantaneously, he decides to show how much he loves us. (And get around those pesky laws.) What's the loophole, you ask? Well, God requires a perfect sacrifice, but one animal can only pay the price for one (or a few) sins (but not all of them) but Jesus (being God) (and human) in his eternal nature could pay the price for ALL of our sins! Hallelujah!

God brutally whipped and beat his own son (who was actually him) beyond human recognition and killed him in a most gruesome manner to appease himself so that he could officially forgive everyone without going against the laws that he himself made so that we could all go to heaven. He took the punishment for our crimes against him! (Well, except the suffering in Hell forever part.) And, to top it all off, on the third day (or second, depending on how closely you listen to calendars), he rose up from the grave, came back to life, and floated away into heaven! (Yes, it is a sacrifice even if the sacrificee doesn't technically stay dead.) (And yes, it's still a sacrifice even when you know you're going to get it back.)

The best part about it all is that it's FREE! Yes, anyone and everyone can now go to heaven and spend the rest of eternity in the exclusive God Won't Torture You Forever Club! You don't have to do anything to be eligible for this wonderful forgiveness. Well, except believe. You have to believe that all of this happened just like it was said and on the basis of that belief (and not your knowledge of the evidence or lack thereof) will your eternity rest. It really makes so much sense when you think about an omnipotent God doing what will save the most amount of souls, considering all other possibilities. (Why would he settle for a second-best plan? Looking at the ratio of saved to damned, I'd say this scheme is first-rate.) How could you imagine doing anything differently? (Remember: your eternal soul depends on how you answer that question.)

You... do believe, don't you?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Were we created in the image of God?

This week's AiG newsletter talks about angels, something I don't care too much about, but I'd like to highlight a few things I find interesting.
Mankind has a unique spiritual aspect, and this spirit is uniquely made in the image of God. We should expect this image to have certain aspects of God’s characteristics since God is spirit (John 4:24).
The word "spirit" or "spiritual" is meaningless. What is a spirit and what makes someone spiritual? It's a vague and vacuous concept used by people of all religions (and even non-religions) and it never means the same thing to two different people. How does it help me to realize that God is spirit? Does that just mean that he isn't physical? I can think of a lot of things that aren't physical but don't fall under most peoples' definitions of spiritual - math, anger, logical absolutes, etc. Does it describe those things that have life? Does that mean that animals and plants are spiritual as well? In most cases I think it's just synonymous with "religious."
Often Christians describe the image of God as superior intellectual ability, such as reason and abstract thought, worship of God, language and communication with God, ability to make decisions, creative expression, immortality, emotions such as love, sadness, anger, and so on. These attributes show how separate man is from beasts and other physical entities...
That's funny, because animals are capable of most things on that list. Many animals can reason (at least rudimentarily), communicate with each other (through what some would call languages), make decisions (part of reasoning), creatively express themselves, and contain various emotions like the ones mentioned. The only attributes I can see non-human animals having is the ability to worship gods (and in that aspect, perhaps they are better off) and abstract thought (though it'd be tough to know if extremely intelligent animals such as dolphins are capable of this). And the jury is still out on immortality.

I suppose the moral of the story is this: contrary to what the creationists would like to believe, we're just not that much different from the rest of the animals. We're just a bit smarter and better suited for general purposes. If I was created specially by a god, I would expect nothing less than the ability to shoot lasers out of my eyes.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Complete and Utter Destruction of Modern Atheism

As I was watching some videos on YouTube, I came across one that attempted to show by metaphysics and knowledge justification that atheists are wrong. I didn't think it was very convincing, but it did cite as one of its sources an essay after which I title this blog entry. What surprises me is that the author Lenardos attempts to not only say that atheists have no justification for their beliefs about the universe, but also that they have been "destroyed," which seems more like "complete and utter crap." It baffles me to see articles like this, but in a world where people with no qualifications think themselves educated enough to speak on a topic without researching, this was bound to happen.

The entire essay is about 3700 words so I wouldn't expect anyone to read it, though I got through most of it without barfing. I will cite his major points and provide rebuttals as I think he rambles far too much for me to criticize every minor thing he says.
When one thinks of the modern day atheist, one may think of a rational person, perhaps a scientist, an empiricist; someone who deals with the hard facts found in the world around us, someone who does not accept unjustified beliefs.
Yes, that would be the goal. Unfortunately, imperfect as we all are, we can only strive toward this and we get closer all the time.
This paper will show that there is a disconnect between this image of the atheist compared to the implications of the basic elements that make up the atheists theory of reality. What I mean by this is: we are going to find that if any atheistic theory of reality is true, then there is no justification for any knowledge about a world around us.
So here we go, off on an intellectual journey. We'll see if my world gets blown to bits or if his arguments just fizzle out like that fire cracker you always got on the 4th of July while all the other kids' exploded and caused them great happiness.
Now, I am not saying that we don’t know about the world around us, I am just pointing out that the elements of any atheistic theory of reality do not allow for the justification of that knowledge. We must keep this in mind at all times. The question is not, can we know anything at all about the world; but, given any atheistic theory of reality, can we know anything about the world?
Well that would appear to be a fair question. In fact, it's a fair question if you replace the word "atheistic" with "theistic." Or "deistic." But let's see where he's going with this.
Here is a short list of necessary preconditions the atheist (or anyone for that matter) would need to support the above:
  1. sense perceptions that tell about the world
  2. the uniformity of nature
  3. inductive principle
  4. deductive principle
But we are not done yet, there is one more level, the very basic level: one’s theory of reality. One’s theory of reality is the glasses one uses to see everything else. It is this level that must have the elements to support the entire philosophical structure. If it does not, then the entire structure falls apart.
Up to this point, his logic seems to be sound. Or at least, I don't have any objections to it. Now here's the point where he starts to slip up.
In this paper we will examine the implications of all logically possible atheistic metaphysics, to see where they lead. I think you will be surprised. We will go step by step through all atheistic theories of reality. Not only will we show that the elements of all atheistic theories of reality are insufficient to justify sense perceptions, but all of them actively destroy the possibility for any justification of sense perceptions. The first thing we will find is that there are two main categories that all cosmologies fall into; they are atheism and theism (see chart 1)
The Theistic category says that one element of reality is the existence of God. The Atheistic category says that in the scheme of reality, no God exists. Since this is an antithesis, all cosmologies will have to fall into one of these two categories. In other words, there is no logical third option possible.
My first objection is his classification system. Why classify it according to belief in a God? Why do you think that is relevant at all? Why not according to culture or language or brain chemistry? All of those affect your perceptions of the world as well. Nevertheless, let's follow him down this path.

If everything is what it is by accident or unintentionally, then so is the way that every particle, atom and molecule interacts with every other particle, atom and molecule. There is no intent, reason or justification for them being as they are.
False. This is an equivocation. While it may be true that everything is what it is "unintentionally" (as intentions are typically thought of as coming from minds), that does not mean there is no reason or justification as to why they are as they are. It doesn't even matter if I don't know the reasons why things are as they are. I don't understand how oxygen and hydrogen react, but does that mean there is no reason for them to do so?
From a naturalist point of view, you can say things are what they are, but no justification can be applied to what or why they are. To do so would be to deny the basic concept of unintentionalism. So, there is no reason or possible justification for thinking that our sense perceptions give us information about the world around us. I am not saying that our perceptions don’t give us information about the world around us, I am just saying that the naturalist theory of reality does not allow for a justification that our sense perceptions do tell us about the world around us.
Now how do you make that leap? From "don't know why something is" to "no justification that your sense perceptions are accurate" is a non sequitur. Sorry.
Let me put it this way, given the elements of the naturalist’s theory of reality it is possible that our sense perceptions are telling us about the world around, but it is just as possible that they are not. We can never know.
Yes, it is true that our sense perceptions could be fundamentally completely wrong. I don't know why they would be, but it's possible, sure. Perhaps the question you should ask yourself, Lenardos, is, "do I have any reason to disbelieve my senses?" And not in an "oh, sometimes I can be wrong" kind of way but in a basic, conceptual way. Do you think that, largely, our senses are wrong about pretty much everything? The author seems to think they're OK, but also claims that I can't say that. So far he hasn't offered any real logical reason for me to believe him yet.
The next question is about unintentionalism. There are three possible positions here:
  1. Everything is what it is unintentionally
  2. Everything is what it is intentionally
  3. Some things are what they are intentionally.
The latter two require an intender be involved either in all things or some things. May I suggest that a cosmic intender might be a problem for any atheistic position? So we are left with just unintentionalism, everything is what it is unintentionally. So, here we are at naturism.
It depends on what scale you ask that question. It may well have been unintentional for whatever process brought about the universe as we know it today, but some things are what they are intentionally due to natural beings capable of intent.
Since we have now shown that the only logically possible atheistic cosmologies are negationism and naturism, and since we have shown that neither of these can offer a justification for sense perceptions, we have shown that if ANY atheistic worldview is true, there can be no justification for sense perception.
You are correct in that on some level, we must assume it to be true that our senses do function in a way that accurately represents the reality we live in. What you haven't demonstrated is the idea that I have no reason whatsoever to believe that my sense perceptions are wrong, or what the alternative is in that case. But you don't offer one and in fact don't touch on the theist's position at all.
So, where does this leave the modern atheist? Let’s see: There is no reason for the atheist, given any atheistic theory of reality, to believe that his sense perceptions are telling him anything about the world around him. The basic assertion that his sense perceptions do tell him about the world around him is an unjustified belief.
No reason to believe that my sense perceptions tell me anything about the world around me? How about the world around me? Is that not a good reason to believe one exists? Do you recommend I reject this reality that I experience and instead stare at a wall for hours trying to come up with some way to  prove that I exist in a universe? I admit that it could be all wrong. It could just be an illusion or a trick that my mind is playing on me or a trick a god is playing on me, but I have no reason to think so. I do have every reason to believe that the world I see is the world that I am a part of and to not do so would be both irresponsible and insane.

What irks me is that you trot out this idea that because I can't conclusively prove that my sensory inputs are perfect, I have absolutely no justification in my beliefs about anything. You have not demonstrated this point (nor have you come close) but you speak as though you have "utterly destroyed" atheism. I still fail to see how the concept of a god has anything to do with this discussion. One point I would bring up to him is one that he thinks he has answered in his paper:
Objection 1— “You are in the same boat as I am, you can't justify sense perception from your theory of reality either!
Answer— First, the assertion that I can’t justify sense perception from my theory of reality is unproven, before you can make that assertion you have to provide the argument for it.
Second, it wouldn’t matter if I was in the same boat as you. That does not further or change your position. Regardless of who is in the boat with you, you still remain in the boat. The atheist's failure to justify sense perception from the elements of his theory of reality remains.
This objection is known as “Tu Quoque,” or the “You too! fallacy.” It is a fallacious means of reasoning. It falls under the category of “fallacies of relevance,” for the reason I mention above.
My assertion wouldn't need to be proven because you have provided no justification for your own senses based on a deity. I assume you do think that you have done so because if you hadn't this essay would have been irrelevant. However, you don't attempt to prove your position because you couldn't. Because as I've already said, the concept of gods has nothing to do with the discussion at all. My assumption is that you believe that a god (and not just any god, but the one you came up with in your own mind or believe because of your faulty perceptions) wouldn't deceive you with this reality. While that may sound more convincing, it's actually less convincing. On top of the assumptions that atheists make (that the universe exists, that we can know something about it, etc), theists make another assumption that is that a god exists. Well done. You've now made the problem worse. You have to attempt to show that a god exists for which there is no evidence in this reality (much less in any other reality that could possibly exist that might apparently be real but we couldn't know because our senses are wrong) and as show the other axioms to be true as well.

And that's your problem, Lenardos. Believing a god to exist doesn't make your problems go away. It just makes you look more like an amateur philosopher that hasn't taken the basic introductory course that any good university should offer. It didn't take me half a second to see past this "destruction" of atheism - and that should say something. If I've got it bad, you've got it worse. Stop bickering over "you can't prove that reality exists" and do something constructive, like building houses for poor people.

Unless you think they don't exist.