Jesus and Thoughtcrime

by Luke Muehlhauser on August 13, 2010 in Christian Theology

Christopher Hitchens is fond of pointing out that Jesus convicted people of thoughtcrime, and I’ve used this line myself. After all, the gospel of Matthew records Jesus as saying:

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment…

You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

One atheist author reacts:

Thank-you, Jesus.

No longer are we only responsible for what we can control- our actions. Suddenly, our very thoughts and feelings condemn us.

Responding to another commenter who leveled this charge against Jesus, Christian reader dgsinclair said this was an “Interesting reading of Jesus’ call for inner purity rather than just outward obedience to rules.”

That got me thinking.

One of my tools for testing my biases is this: When I hear a charge leveled against some view, especially when it’s a view I already disagree with, I check to see if the charge can be equally applied to my own view. This helps me to see more clearly whether the objection is valid.

So I asked myself: “Do non-religious theories of morality convinct people of ‘thoughtcrime’ in this sense?”

Yes, I think. Some of them do, anyway.

Jesus is hardly the only person to have said that people’s inner lives, not just their behaviors, are of moral concern. In fact, many theories – including desirism – argue that our inner character and motivations are of great moral importance. After all, our actions result from our inner character and motivations.

So perhaps it’s not fair to say Jesus convicted people of “thoughtcrime.” Or else, lots of moral theories convict people of “thoughtcrime.”

On second thought…

But maybe there is something special about Jesus and thoughtcrime. The Jesus of much Christian orthodoxy (especially Protestantism) condemns people to hell for having the wrong beliefs. According to large swaths of Christianity, the worst sin in the world is to lack certain propositional beliefs about Jesus and his role in salvation.

Right now, I can’t think of non-religious system that delivers such condemnation on people for having certain beliefs. Indeed, it’s not clear that beliefs are a matter of choice at all.1 Think about it. Can you choose, right now, to clap your hands? Yup. Can someone who wants to be a vegetarian train her desires away from wanting to eat meat by watching videos of animals being tortured in food processing plants every day? Yup.

But can you choose, right now, to believe you have a third hand? Nope.

We believe something according to how plausible it seems to us. We can’t choose to believe things that don’t seem plausible to us.

I could be wrong about that, and would love to see some research on the question. But either way, perhaps it is fair after all to say that the Jesus of much Christian orthodoxy convicts us of thoughtcrime in a way that no secular theory of morality I know of does.

What do you think?

  1. I mean to say it’s not clear that beliefs are a matter of choice under a compatibilist notion of free will. []

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{ 113 comments… read them below or add one }

Al Moritz August 13, 2010 at 4:18 am

One atheist author reacts:

Thank-you, Jesus.

No longer are we only responsible for what we can control- our actions. Suddenly, our very thoughts and feelings condemn us.

The Catholic Church has a commonsense interpretation of what Jesus says. That thoughts or desires like that creep up in your mind is not something that you can control, therefore not sinful. Onlty once you wilfully consent to them, it becomes sin.

So the atheist author’s comment is mistaken. You are indeed only responsible for what you can control.

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Kaelik August 13, 2010 at 5:00 am

That the Catholic Church recognizes that what Jesus is presumed to have said is actually insane, and that they have instead chosen to pretend he said something else is good on them. But it’s no defense of Jesus, who still said that you are a murdered if you are angry with your brother.

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Jacopo August 13, 2010 at 5:10 am

Sam Harris does say in The End of Faith that some beliefs are so dangerous we might have some reason to take pre-emptive action against them. His view, however, does not depend on the belief itself, but the actions that will be determined by holding them. E.g. believe truly and completely that the thing God wants you to do is kill unbelievers, then that is what you do, ergo people holding that belief are a threat.

However, it is only when those beliefs are likely to translate into actual action that this perspective condemns them. If someone looks at a woman and lusts after her, even thinks that they would like to rape her there and then – it would not be condemned itself if it did not lead to bad consequences.

It would be pretty difficult for anyone to properly condemn another on the basis of thoughts that did not affect the major focus of the great ethical systems – virtue theorists would find it hard to condemn thoughts which did not lead to the stunting of flourishing in individuals, deontologists would surely be happy with any thoughts so long as the person performed all their duties, and consequentialists would be happy if the thoughts and beliefs lead to no adverse consequences.

Although there would be other ways of reading Jesus as talking about spiritual purity, the ‘thoughtcrime’ angle is certainly defensible – and the guilty thoughts of many Christians in response to ‘sins in their heart’ implies they think the same way.

Indeed, there’s a cynical way of reading the whole situation as being an excellent way of sucking people into religion in the first place. If you designate as a ‘sin’ something which is inevitable, at least for many people – like having lascivious thoughts about others – then you have a way of trapping people into your own schema of salvation.

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Chris August 13, 2010 at 5:34 am

Thank you for pointing out that sincere belief is involuntary. I’ve had many a conversation in which this simple point is misunderstood or purposely ignored. Evangelicals think anyone can will a belief in Christianity into existence. That’s why they often use the terms “accept” or “reject” Christ instead of believe/disbelieve. And of course they can then feel that hell is just because it is a “choice.”

But if you read/hear Christian testimonials, it is so fricking obvious that they came to believe in Christianity involuntarily, through a series of events leading up to their conversion, and by the time they “choose” to “accept” Christ they already believed in him. Thus faith is involuntary and the only voluntary choices made, when you think about it, are works- saying the magic sinners’ prayers, going down to the altar, sticking your head in water, whatever- and we all know works do not contribute to salvation.

So it seems the common evangelical doctrine of belief through a voluntary act of will is incoherent. But this is always, always, always lost on them.

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Baal August 13, 2010 at 5:40 am

After all, our actions result from our inner character and motivations.

Our thoughts, like our actions arise from our inner character and motivations and in a sense seem to be a subtle mental action. A lot of the time our thoughts are used to rationalise our actions rather than causing them.
By observing and reflecting on our thoughts we can interrogate our character and motivations, bringing into the light what is often unconscious and consequently modify how we might otherwise act.
It seems to me that we have more responsibility to be self-aware and to act responsibly than we have for the emotions, thoughts and desires that arise from the mind, which are more like mental weather conditions than they are willed or chosen.
The Jesus of these sayings seems to believe that anger and lust are willed and the responsiblilty of the one who thus wills them.

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Al Moritz August 13, 2010 at 5:56 am

That the Catholic Church recognizes that what Jesus is presumed to have said is actually insane, and that they have instead chosen to pretend he said something else is good on them.

Nice try to twist things.

But it’s no defense of Jesus, who still said that you are a murdered if you are angry with your brother.

Did he?

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Zeb August 13, 2010 at 6:35 am

I think you are right Luke. And I think Christians who promote a ‘crime and punishment’ analogy for sin and salvation need to move on. I find the ‘spiritual physician’ analogy much more sensible, and equally compatible with scripture and Christian tradition.

On its face, Christianity is less mind controlling than Buddhism say, but Buddhism typically presents the central problem it is solving as a sort of disorder to be overcome rather than a crime to be punished or paid back, so it seems much less offensive. Personally I believe Christianity does prescribe the same level (and pretty nearly the same kind) of mind control as Buddhism, and it should be seen in similar disorder/recovery terms.

Doesn’t rationalism also condemn people for thought crime though? Granted it doesn’t name a punishment, much less an infinite one, and granted a rationalist could cast their condemnation in disorder/healing terms rather than crime/guilt terms; but without free will, how could we condemn people for having brains that don’t work a certain way?

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lukeprog August 13, 2010 at 6:43 am

Zeb,

How is it that you think rationalism condemns people for thoughtcrime?

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Thrasymachus August 13, 2010 at 6:52 am

Doxastic involuntarism (that beliefs aren’t a matter of volitional control) seems fairly clear to me. I don’t have an option in my mind to believe other from what I do just by force of will.

Yet we do want to hold people blameworthy for beliefs not acted upon. Suppose a racist (or, topically) homophobe who never acts on their internal belief that blacks or gays are subhuman animals. That’s plainly wrong. So thoughts can be crimes in that sense.

What makes them crimes in the manner in which beliefs are formed: it is wrong to be reckless or prejudiced or whatever else when forming beliefs. In the same way not all true beliefs are knowledge, not true ethical beliefs are virtuous. Some beliefs (like racism, homophobia, etc.) are so wildly and completely wrong that the *only* way someone can sincerely affirm them is if they are a bigot or careless or whatever else. So some really bad thoughts are sufficient to indict someone as a bad person.

So the stuff Jesus talks about is hyperbolic but defensible. It is prima facie wrong to be tempted to steal or cheat or whatever even if you never actually end up doing it (cf. Kant too). Of course, exclusivist/evangelical Christianity has thought crimes in a much more plainly Orwellian sense…

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Zeb August 13, 2010 at 7:12 am

Luke, maybe I should have checked wikipedia before, rather than after, using the term “rationalism”. :0

So what is the term for people who condemn the failure to keep thought rational? That condemnation is frequent in all kinds of intellectual discourse. I consider it thought crime because it identifies a certain set of thought as immoral or bad.

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Justfinethanks August 13, 2010 at 7:13 am

You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

What really strikes me about this passage is the assumption that lustful thoughts are only an issue for men and the heteronormativity.

Which leads to a another bizarre situation in Christian ethics: Allegedly, God only gives His thumbs up to heterosexual relationships. However if you are a man, you are allowed to daydream about banging dudes all day long without fear of divine condemnation, but if you think lustfully about women that’s when you make Jesus cry.

Is anyone else getting mixed signals?

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cartesian August 13, 2010 at 7:19 am

Hi Luke, hope you’re doing well.

You said:
“The Jesus of Christian orthodoxy condemns people to hell for having the wrong beliefs.”

I wonder what you mean by “orthodoxy” here. Maybe you mean scripture. Well, that’s a weird sense of “orthodoxy,” since there are many disagreements among Christians as to what scripture teaches, and no theologian would say “By orthodoxy I just mean scripture.” Rather, theologians would say “By orthodoxy I mean the bits of what scripture teaches which are essential to Christianity, namely (insert interpretation of scripture).” But, in any event, apart from the last chapter of Mark which is of dubious authenticity, I don’t know of any piece of scripture that teaches that God condemns people to hell for having the wrong beliefs.

Maybe by “orthodoxy” you instead mean the canons of the first seven ecumenical councils since they are, to my knowledge, adhered to by Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and mainline Protestants. (Maybe some Protestants get off the boat on the seventh because those Protestants are into iconoclasm, which was condemned in the seventh council.) Well, I’m almost positive that nothing is those councils teaches that people are condemned to hell for having the wrong beliefs, but you can check for yourself:
http://www.intratext.com/IXT/ENG0835/_INDEX.HTM

Maybe instead you mean something like the intersection of the great Christian creeds which came out of these councils (Nicene creed, etc.). Well, there it’s even clearer that “orthodoxy” in this sense doesn’t entail that people are condemned to hell for having the wrong beliefs.

I admit, though, that the Athanasian creed does pretty clearly seem to teach that, and lots of especially Protestants hold that creed pretty highly. The Catholic relationship with that creed is complicated, and the Eastern Orthodox have never widely used it or affirmed it. So it’s definitely a stretch to consider it orthodoxy. Here’s the creed: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athanasian_Creed

It’s understandable that you think this, though: you were raised by American evangelicals in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, and those are the Christians you still mainly encounter. It certainly is a widespread belief among those types of Christians, which explains a lot about their behavior and type of evangelism. But it’s hasty to conclude anything about Christian orthodoxy from such a small sample of Christians throughout history.

So perhaps you should scale back the objection a bit. This objection doesn’t stick against Christianity just as such (against orthodoxy, that is), but rather against one particular type of Christianity. But, on the bright side, this is currently a VERY popular and dynamic type of Christianity, so it’s still very worthwhile to raise this objection. It’s like when people object to Dawkins/Harris for attacking a peculiar type of Christianity. An appropriate response on their part is “I’m attacking a popular form of Christianity, one that many people believe.” So too are you here.

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G'DIsraeli August 13, 2010 at 7:35 am

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Tony Hoffman August 13, 2010 at 7:37 am

I’ve seen this quote before, which I think is supposed to be attributed to Gandhi although I’m not so sure:

“Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.”

I think this comes as close, in its pithy way, to laying down a defense for the prosecution of thought crime. I think it resonates with most people, and it closely parallels what I imagine would be the best defense of Jesus’s words — that a prior commitment to a certain pattern of thoughts leads to the generation of other thoughts. Although I’m not sure that a lustful thought could be attributed to a prior pattern of beliefs, so it might not be relatable.

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lukeprog August 13, 2010 at 7:37 am

Zeb,

Ah, okay. I actually have an upcoming podcast on this, on the ‘ethics of belief.’

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lukeprog August 13, 2010 at 7:40 am

cartesian,

You are correct. Thanks. I’ve adjusted the wording of my post.

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Zeb August 13, 2010 at 8:30 am

Luke, cool. Is that going out over the CPBD rss?

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Desperately Seeking August 13, 2010 at 9:24 am

As Luke seems to agree, there’s a difference between condemning the mental states that underlie or precede wrongful acts and condemning a failure to hold certain beliefs.

As to the first, Jesus’s moral psychology may be sound: perhaps we should worry a good deal about the early stages in the commission of wrongful acts.

As to the second, what beliefs did Jesus require of us? Above all and by far the most important, belief in the imminent coming of God’s kingdom. Then, based on this belief, we were to conform our behavior to its entrance requirements (such as a pure heart as well as avoidance of misdeeds).
What’s most striking abut this requirement of belief is its irrelevance to us today, since we know the kingdom did not come and we see that it now seems more distant than ever.

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Tony Hoffman August 13, 2010 at 9:49 am

What’s most striking abut this requirement of belief is its irrelevance to us today, since we know the kingdom did not come and we see that it now seems more distant than ever.

I’m sympathetic to the notion that (if there was a historical) Jesus was a mystical (not necessarily messianic) figure, and that the 2nd coming interpretation regarding the Kingdom of Heaven was piled on later. In this interpretation, The KOH is a state of awareness and being, not a heavenly afterlife. This would be consistent with a mental-state awareness regarding the quote in the OP, and would be more in line with a mystical religion and the “…beliefs become your thoughts…” quote above.

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Desperately Seeking August 13, 2010 at 10:40 am

That Jesus was a real man and not a fictional character made up by Paul, the evangelists, &etc. is less certain than it is that any Roman emperor, or Cicero, or Brutus, existed. It is, nonetheless, practically certain.

The notion a new kingdom might be instituted by God was widespread though far from universal among Jews from Daniel’s time on. That Jesus would latch onto such a notion is quite plausible. That he did latch onto it perhaps best evidenced by the facts that the man who baptized him forecast the bad trees would be cut down, and that Jesus’s early followers, on the evidence of Paul’s authentic letters, also believed in the coming of the kingdom in their lifetimes.

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Hermes August 13, 2010 at 11:37 am

I give a Jesus Christ like person existing a chance that is slightly better than not. That said, even discarding the mythic aspects in the religious record, who he was is certainly not what was recorded about him. The character titled Jesus Christ^^^ is what Christians know about, though, so that’s what they are stuck with not an entirely real person. Fictionalizing a real person was a common literary and propaganda technique.

^^^. Meaning for the words/titles ‘Jesus’ and ‘Christ’: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08374x.htm (not necessarily the best reference, there are others).

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Tony Hoffman August 13, 2010 at 12:32 pm

I don’t want to get sidetracked by the question of the historical Jesus. I was trying to make the point that Jesus’s declaration that one who lusts has committed adultery is consistent with an interpretation that sees the historical Jesus as being distinct from the messianic one whose message evolved in the Gospels. When one looks at what is presumed to be the Q document (basically a collection of sayings of Jesus), a very plausible interpretation is that Jesus preached an eastern-influenced mysticism. This also jives with an interpretation that considers the KOH to be a state of mind. (Look up each instance of KOH in the Gospels and read those passages as the KOH representing a state of mind – I recall those passages making more sense under that interpretation.)

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lukeprog August 13, 2010 at 12:37 pm

Zeb,

As always.

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Hendy August 13, 2010 at 12:57 pm

@cartesian:

Perhaps other scriptures imply condemnation for not having the correct deistic/theistic beliefs as well?

- John 3:18 is the most clear: “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

- John 5:24 puts forth a positive version but does not state what the consequences of non-belief are entailed to be: ‘I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”

- Galatians 1:9 could be only applicable to various gospels specifically concerning Jesus, though it could apply to something like the “gospel” of naturalism, atheism, Religion X-ism (non Christian): “As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!”

- 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 seems to speak of condemning those who do not believe after god has sent them the truth in order to reject satan in the end times, though sin might be an important component as well as non-belief? “For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.”

- Titus 3:10-11 condemns a “divisive” person who brings up “controversies and genealogies” (non-believer?): “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. 11You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.”

- 2 Peter 2: 21-22 seems to condemn (or at least hint at a pretty poor future) for those who have believed and then not believed: “It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: ‘A dog returns to its vomit,’ and, ‘A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.’”

Some of these are more explicit than others, but I think a reasonable case could be made for it at least appearing in more than Mark 16. I would say that there is a lot of room for “interpretation” regarding if condemnation is only due to “sin” (can a respectable, admirable, virtuous non-believer go to heaven?) or believing the right thing.

It’s a wholly separate question regarding what Jesus meant and what is preached now. You are right that the RCC does not proclaim any non-believer to be automatically damned. But is that what scripture says? What does way/truth/life and “only way to the Father is through me” mean, after all?

I think this often can get reinterpreted speculatively in ways like there being a post-death chance to see Jesus and bend one’s knee or something. I’ve heard something like this as well as believers saying that as long as non-believers have a virtuous desire for truth, they will be able to accept the truth of god when they die, but those who have formed their characters into immorality will kind of have no choice but to recoil from god.

But who the heck knows…

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Al Moritz August 13, 2010 at 1:23 pm

- John 3:18 is the most clear: “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

[. . .]

You are right that the RCC does not proclaim any non-believer to be automatically damned. But is that what scripture says? What does way/truth/life and “only way to the Father is through me” mean, after all?

Well, obviously Jesus can impossibly have meant those who without their fault do not know him, see also the following Wikipedia link:

http://snipurl.com/10mv61

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Hendy August 13, 2010 at 1:32 pm

@Al:

I don’t think we’re circling around the proverbial tribals in isolated jungles who go on oblivious to the rest of the religious debate scene. I doubt that’s what any Church (or even Jesus, for that matter) meant, either.

The question is about those who are aware of the ginormous movement called Christianity, who have sought out its arguments, listened to its apologetics, read it’s holy book, and considered the difficulty of the resurrection’s “four facts” and still emerged unconvinced.

Does John 3:18 and/or the way/truth/life declaration have any bearing on them?

Note that this was toward cartesian in reference to him saying:

But, in any event, apart from the last chapter of Mark which is of dubious authenticity, I don’t know of any piece of scripture that teaches that God condemns people to hell for having the wrong beliefs.

My citation of scripture was to illustrate where it might actually be implied that wrong beliefs = punishment/hell/not-heaven. I think I have given some quotes that make it questionable as to whether the destiny of non-believers is completely unknown.

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Hendy August 13, 2010 at 1:42 pm

@Al:

Your link makes the same point here via Pius IX:

He saw their situation as different from that of people “living in error and alienated from the true faith and Catholic unity … stubbornly separated from the unity of the Church and also from the successor of Peter, the Roman Pontiff,” namely those of whom the Second Vatican Council said, as quoted above: “They could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.”

There is, then, a distinction between the “inculpably ignorant” and those who reject the RCC.

Even better is this quote:

As indicated above, the Catholic Church rejects both Feeneyism and (by stating that “they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it”) the contrary notion that one can be saved while knowingly and deliberately rejecting the Catholic Church.

So, given that I was a fully orthodox, daily praying, daily-Bible-reading Catholic with a personal relationship with Jesus (so I thought)… I’m pretty much going to hell by this last quote, correct? I knowingly and deliberately have been convinced to see Christianity as probably false.

While I see some ability to say that other religions are seeking after truth (small t) and thus have some alignment with the Truth (big T), what about converts away from Catholicism or even Christianity? It seems that the message is pretty clear about those who knowingly reject Catholicism (or perhaps Christianity in general) as false?

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Al Moritz August 13, 2010 at 2:32 pm

Hendy:

Yes, the message is clear. However, I don’t think that this necessarily is an automatic verdict. Ultimately God is the judge, and I think that He will consider the reasons why you rejected the Church and what led you to the conviction that Christianity is probably false (not that this implies a free pass). And you may have some time to still change your mind, too.

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Márcio August 13, 2010 at 6:29 pm

Al Moritz,

“Ultimately God is the judge, and I think that He will consider the reasons why you rejected the Church and what led you to the conviction that Christianity is probably false.”

Romans 1:20 – “For since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and divine nature, so that they are without excuse.”

I’m 100% sure that God will not understand your “reasons” to think that He doesn’t exists and that christianity is false.

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Al Moritz August 13, 2010 at 6:59 pm

Márcio,

I’m 100% sure that God will not understand your “reasons” to think that He doesn’t exists and that christianity is false.

Are you talking to me? I thought from my posts it should be quite obvious that I am a believer. Oh well, an outcast among both atheists and believers, hehe ;-)

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Márcio August 13, 2010 at 7:51 pm

Al Moritz,

Ohhh!!!

I just wanted to point that for God, there is enough evidence of His existance and everyone is without excuse. We can have this confirmation in Romans 1:20.

This idea that one can go to God and say that there was not enough evidence to believe, are not a good idea.

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lukeprog August 13, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Al,

Do you have a brief article posted anywhere that gives your own spiritual journey – as intellectual or experiential as it might be?

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Hendy August 13, 2010 at 9:48 pm

@Marcio:

Ohhh!!!
I just wanted to point…

Ha! Classic case of “Oops — talking to an in-group member… better back peddle.” Also, make sure you stand at god’s side when you’re enjoying your certain eternal paradise when all the far-reaches-of-the-earth inhabitants try to get a free pass into heaven on the basis of never having heard about Jesus. Strongly suggest with 100% surety that god should make those no-excuse-having heathens burn forever.

@Al:

I concur. I have more faith in a loving god (even if hypothetical) than other believers (cough… Marcio) in that I can’t see how a loving being will send me to hell. I don’t buy the whole “non-believers reject god and thus their spitting in his face sends themselves to hell.” Lack of belief != spitting on divine countenance. I just have too many unreconciled objections; that’s all.

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dgsinclair August 13, 2010 at 10:11 pm

>> LUKE: The Jesus of much Christian orthodoxy (especially Protestantism) condemns people to hell for having the wrong beliefs. According to large swaths of Christianity, the worst sin in the world is to lack certain propositional beliefs about Jesus and his role in salvation.

Again, I think this is a bit of a misrepresentation of the issue, making it seem more complicated, and therefore more subjective and fraught with disagreements and misunderstandings than it really is.

It is really not so much about the details of one’s beliefs, but merely if one believes or not.

Jesus, as well as Protestantism, boil it down to this – you either ‘believe in the Son of man’ – that is, trust in his substitutionary death, or you don’t. Squabbles over what this means as far as works are concerned may follow such a statement, but let’s not overstate the complexity of the central issue with secondary but important considerations.

Sure, movements are guilty of making non-essentials into essentials (inerrancy, water baptism, holiness, membership), but that doesn’t mean that the central gospel is somehow complex and unclear.

>> LUKE: Indeed, it’s not clear that beliefs are a matter of choice at all.

Well again, Luke, you’ve touched on one of the two mysteries/paradoxes of the Christian faith to which the Bible ultimately appeals to mystery after some incomplete explanations – not incomplete because the Bible is so, but because our understanding is.

As Paul explains in Romans, even though faith is a gift from God (predestination), we have enough free will to be culpable. And even if we don’t – that is, if our original brokeness (sin) is merely confirmed by our own sinning, that does not make God unfair if we are judged as sinners, for we are that whether by choice or not.

This is why, in part, salvation is the gift of God – prevenient grace. While this doctrine may not appeal to the unbelievers sense of fairness, it certainly matches what science and yourself seem to indicate about determinism – just that Christianity, though it emphasizes such, does not exclude all role for free will (which, science has not really done yet, but materialists often do).

>> LUKE: perhaps it is fair after all to say that the Jesus of much Christian orthodoxy convicts us of thoughtcrime in a way that no secular theory of morality I know of does.

The problem with using ‘thoughtcrime’ with respect to God is that you are allowing the negative connotation of this word, associated with tyrants and brainwashers like the (atheist) Communists, to cloud the discussion.

Are you saying that hating is not morally bad? Would you not say that hate is something to be morally wrong, and that God, assuming he can see our hearts clearly, would have the perspective, and right, to judge us for such?

The difficulty, nay impossibility, in regulating the evil of our hearts should show us, not merely that God is some unreasonable tyrant – it should show us our Total Depravity – we can’t NOT do it.

This is why the gospel’s promise to give us a new heart and spirit is so necessary, if not appealing. Jesus is not trying to make God a thought police for the sake of controlling us with fear, but rather, is trying to liberate us by revealing the depth of our hypocrisy, brokeness, and need for redemption.

Additionally, as true as Jesus’ statement is, he often spoke in hyperboles to point out the fact that we often misunderstand the commands of God because we seek to excuse ourselves. His demands go beyond the possible on purpose as a dialectical device, not just an unreasonable command to be obeyed or else.

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dgsinclair August 13, 2010 at 10:21 pm

>> JACOPO: However, it is only when those beliefs are likely to translate into actual action that this perspective condemns them. If someone looks at a woman and lusts after her, even thinks that they would like to rape her there and then – it would not be condemned itself if it did not lead to bad consequences.

This is only true with civil justice, and I think this distinction is missed with supposing wrongly that Jesus’ is equating murder with hate. A better interpretation imo might be:

1. Jesus is emphasizing that outward religion that misses the inner person, like that practiced by the Pharisees, misses the whole point from God’s perspective.

Sure, in a sense, it is much worse to murder than to merely hate, but those who excused themselves before God using this argument, feeling that they are somehow good persons, Jesus might say, are not safe from God’s wrath because God sees the heart, and this is where true spirituality and moral uprightness ought to exist.

2. Jesus is revealing our inability to be pure in heart, revealing the need for inner transformation as part of spiritual life, not just outward religion. We can fool ourselves and others into thinking we are pretty good based on our actions, but God, who sees the heart, knows differently.

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dgsinclair August 13, 2010 at 10:24 pm

>> JACOPO: If you designate as a ’sin’ something which is inevitable, at least for many people – like having lascivious thoughts about others – then you have a way of trapping people into your own schema of salvation.

If it is revealing a real danger of judgement with regards to our guilt before God, what you cynically call a trap may be your only means of escape from our trap. I agree, it is very cynical if you miss such an opportunity by viewing it as a trap ;).

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dgsinclair August 13, 2010 at 10:38 pm

>> CHRIS: Thank you for pointing out that sincere belief is involuntary. I’ve had many a conversation in which this simple point is misunderstood or purposely ignored. Evangelicals think anyone can will a belief in Christianity into existence.

It is a relief to hear that belief is involuntary. This is why many Calvinist preachers preach man’s guilt, but then instead of preaching his responsibility to believe, they preach man’s total dependence upon God to *grant* faith, and instead demand what the sinner *can* do – call on God, out of real penitence, for mercy that they might be granted faith. In the times of Whitfield, men often groaned in agony over their sins for days before believing, God presumably waiting for a real depth of repentance to surface.

This model of preaching is even more humbling, and perhaps more accurate in experience, than merely telling people they have to merely make a choice.

Having lost and then regained my faith, I realize how dependent upon God I am for my faith.

However, in addition to our ability to call on God for mercy, we have many other possible responsibilities (opportunities) with regard to our unbelief that God demands, so just because believe is involuntary does not mean that we are powerless to do things that affect our belief or unbelief. We can:

a. forsake anger, bitterness, cynicism, hatred, and examine our emotional biases in order to seek the truth honestly

b. ‘break up our fallow ground,’ meaning get away from the business of the world and its pleasures, possessions, and pursuits, all of which ‘harden the soil’ (see the parable of the sower) and seek spiritual things earnestly

Even after we become Christians, to a large extent, our growth is dependent upon God, yet he asks us to participate in that growth through what have become known as ‘means of grace’ – that is, when I engage in spiritual disciplines such as prayer, bible study, good works, etc, my efforts don’t directly make me grow, they expose me to God who ‘gives the increase’.

In fact, as soon as I begin to think that it is merely my own effort, and begin to compare my progress with others who are ‘making less effort,’ usually spirituality begins to fade in me, and I become like the Pharisee who despised the publican because the Pharisee knew he did more spiritual disciplines.

So while I do participate and labor in my spiritual life, I can’t really claim full credit, because once I start doing that, I have ignored God’s very real role in responding to my efforts.

To use the biblical analogy, we break up the soil of our hearts, put the seeds of truth in, water them, weed our hearts, but God makes the seed actually grow. To claim that we actually made the fruit of the seed is claiming too much.

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dgsinclair August 13, 2010 at 10:40 pm

>> CHRIS: So it seems the common evangelical doctrine of belief through a voluntary act of will is incoherent. But this is always, always, always lost on them.

Yes, it is lost on most evangelicals, which makes them ineffective at preaching for conversion – and that’s just ONE reason. I think we need to return to the Calvinist model I mention above.

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dgsinclair August 13, 2010 at 11:32 pm

doh, forgot to click notify me.

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Andres August 13, 2010 at 11:51 pm

Luke, it is not accurate to say that Christianity condemns you for merely holding to false propositional beliefs.

The book of James talks about this:

James 2:14-24

“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. 19You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,”and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.”

This passage clearly points out that demons and fellow believers may hold correct propositional beliefs (in the case of the demons “God exists, Jesus is his Son, God is sovereign, etc.”) as well as other people may believe in God, but mere propositional content is not enough. The moral character of a believer seems far more important than the content of his/her beliefs. The story seems to be one of a mixed relationship, not an either/or one as you seem to imply.

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Andres August 13, 2010 at 11:56 pm

Also, isn’t it a main aspect of Christianity that in order to attain salvation one must hold certain beliefs (Jesus is the only savior, etc.) but just as importantly one must express *genuine* repentance?

It seems to me that it would follow naturally from:
Jesus was who he claimed he was

to

His message tells me I’ve fallen short of a higher moral standard,

to

There is nothing I myself can do to meet the requirements of that standard,

thus

I truly do fall short of the glory of God, and I recognize it. I feel that I must genuinely apologize to God and thank Him for his offer of salvation.

Again, it seems that in Christian theology the requirements for salvation are neither purely propositional (just holding certain correct beliefs) nor purely moral (must meet a higher moral standard) but rather a mix between the two that can’t be easily separated seeing as one naturally flows from the other.

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Al Moritz August 14, 2010 at 12:47 am

Hendy,

@Al:

I concur. I have more faith in a loving god (even if hypothetical) than other believers (cough… Marcio) in that I can’t see how a loving being will send me to hell. I don’t buy the whole “non-believers reject god and thus their spitting in his face sends themselves to hell.” Lack of belief != spitting on divine countenance. I just have too many unreconciled objections; that’s all.

Again, I had pointed out that what I said does not imply a free pass.

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Al Moritz August 14, 2010 at 5:08 am

@ Luke

Al,

Do you have a brief article posted anywhere that gives your own spiritual journey – as intellectual or experiential as it might be?

Not quite. I only say something about my intellectual faith background here,

http://snipurl.com/10n1vx

section “Background”,

and you can perhaps get a bit more of an idea what’s happening in my head from this post on Debunking Christianity:

http://snipurl.com/10nfwy

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Hermes August 14, 2010 at 5:14 am

dgsinclair, I didn’t read all of what you wrote to Luke but much of what you initially ‘corrected’ Luke on, Luke said but he did so briefly without the presumption that it was real. His brevity was probably just to state much of the obvious so as to frame his other comments.

Please keep in mind that nearly everyone here knows what Christian dogmas from various sects mean in excruciating detail, as well as what the general religious texts say. I can’t speak for Luke, but I’ve read the Christian book twice plus many hours of commentary. Repeating what we already know are Christian claims doesn’t further the conversation. In the words of a troop of modern philosophers;

Get on with it!

–Monty Python

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Hermes August 14, 2010 at 5:22 am

Andres: Luke, it is not accurate to say that Christianity condemns you for merely holding to false propositional beliefs.

John 3:16-21 states differently.

Note that it is not the responsibility of non-Christians to rectify the conflicts in Christian tests. Merely that they exist is enough to note that such contradictory proclamations can not be reliable even between the statements of the text itself.

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Andres August 14, 2010 at 5:35 am

That seems to be a rather cheap way to make a conflict appear out of thin air where there may not be one at all. That’s where exegesis comes in, you seem to throw a text around and declare “there, I’m done with it”. The truth is probably far more nuanced than that. I don’t know about you but when I see the two texts put alongside one another I don’t particularly think “well that settles it, the Bible says and means two different things at two different points in the book. Must mean the Bible ain’t true.” The first thing I think is to look up the original texts in Hebrew/Aramaic/Greek and see what the closest translation to them is. In the case of John 3:16 wouldn’t it be prudent to ask just what exactly “believe *in* Him” could mean?

It would seem odd to take that verse to say “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son so that *whomever believes there is a God* shall not perish but have everlasting life” The “believe in” part certainly doesn’t seem to mean “whomever believes there is a God” but rather something along the lines of “believes and trusts in”

Again, I’d ask just what the word for “believe in” in the original texts meant, then cross check with other verses that deal with salvation and see if there really is much of a conflict at all. Seriously, these texts are far richer and complex than the black and white caricatures atheist fundamentalists like to paint them as.

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Hermes August 14, 2010 at 5:59 am

Andres, the entire text I noted is quite clear (not just John 3:16 but John 3:16 through 21). I’ve had Christians quote it to me and cite it as a reference.

If you disagree with them, then they are the people you need to convince, not me. I’ve already stated what I think, and it’s not just the difference between the passages you quoted and the ones I referenced. It’s not my book just like the Bhagavad Gita is not my book. In both cases, it’s not my problem, it’s yours or theirs.

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Hendy August 14, 2010 at 7:44 am

@Al:

…free pass.

Absolutely. My point was more to suggest that Marcio’s “100% hell-bound” profession was almost certainly incorrect more than to suggest what my probabilities actually would be (or even that they are high). I do find it unlikely for the hypothesized loving being described to reject someone for lack of evidence. I don’t see a horrid difference between never having heard and simply not finding the story believable.

I was inspired to write a blog POST about my thoughts yesterday about all the talking past one another that occurs as well as the phenomenon of both sides having reportedly excellent reasons for finding their side convincing… yet neither side finding the other’s even remotely convincing.

It’s quite intriguing to me.

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Hendy August 14, 2010 at 7:56 am

@Andres:

Isn’t it fascinating that no objections to scripture based on simply reading them hold?

In any case, what does changing “believe in” to mean “believe and trust in” affect whatsoever about the verse? You dealt with 3:17 but stopped and didn’t continue:

…but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

What is your exegesis on that? How can you read this any differently than simply recognizing that it says those who do not believe [and trust] in Jesus stand “condemned already.”

As an aside, what’s with all the horrible Bible translations out there that completely spit in the fact of the apparently superior original meanings? What the heck was the job of the translators in the first place? Also, say you read the Hebrew… how would that give you access to what the writers meant?

Finally, given that one can’t criticize the Bible based on what it actually says… can believers have trust that they are comprehending anything remotely like the actual god they want to believe in or are they believing in a shade? I find the sword to cut both ways. If I’m criticizing an apparent strawman, believers are worshiping one.

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Josh August 14, 2010 at 10:32 am

I have no useful comments, but goddamn I love the picture at the head of this post. It’s hilarious for some reason.

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Al Moritz August 15, 2010 at 1:01 pm

@ Hendy,

I was inspired to write a blog POST about my thoughts yesterday about all the talking past one another that occurs as well as the phenomenon of both sides having reportedly excellent reasons for finding their side convincing… yet neither side finding the other’s even remotely convincing.

It’s quite intriguing to me.

I read your blog post and found it fascinating. The difference in perception about one another’s arguments may have to do with the basic intuitions that I mentioned in the discussion you also participated in:

http://snipurl.com/10ojw6

I am not sure if I find the other side only remotely convincing. Perhaps it is more correct to say that I find atheism almost convincing. Almost, but the argument from reason (I care less about the problem of consciousness), the fine-tuning argument and the problems in assuming eternal matter or eternal fields as origin of the universe, as opposed to an eternal God (I don’t buy into the ‘uncaused’ thing), ultimately make atheism for me unacceptable. I have discussed all these — the argument from reason only briefly — in the (already above posted) link:

http://snipurl.com/10n1vx

BTW, that the origin of life will be proven to have natural causes is basically almost a slam dunk by now (you mentioned that as an issue in your blog post). If you find my article too technical:

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/abioprob/originoflife.html

you may find the overview in Scientific American useful:

http://snipurl.com/10ok3g

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Hendy August 15, 2010 at 6:49 pm

@Al:

Thanks for all the links and glad you liked the post. I just started blogging so it’s fun to actually have people finding it (as well as people like Loftus willing to link to it!)… I look forward to reading your articles. I find that many of the most difficult questions (like the ones you mention) bring me to a state of “I just don’t know” rather than concluding that god exists. Either I don’t understand the arguments or I’m not sure what else.

I’ll perhaps post some thoughts on my blog in response at some point as I don’t want to steer this too far off of middle-finger-Jesus talk… Thanks for the dialog and look forward to continuing.

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Hermes August 15, 2010 at 8:22 pm

Al, having a deity of some sort being plausible doesn’t raise it to being probable.

It’s along that line that most of the arguments — frequently deistic, though I contend the pantheistic deities are given less respect than they deserve — are generated that are even mildly interesting.

Not the monotheistic Yahweh from the Abrahamic religions. That one has not raised to even the level of being plausible, except in one situation as I described in the Stardog thread back on the 14th and 15th. That entity is one of a troupe of trillions.

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dgsinclair August 15, 2010 at 8:27 pm

>> BAAL: By observing and reflecting on our thoughts we can interrogate our character and motivations, bringing into the light what is often unconscious and consequently modify how we might otherwise act. It seems to me that we have more responsibility to be self-aware and to act responsibly than we have for the emotions, thoughts and desires that arise from the mind, which are more like mental weather conditions than they are willed or chosen.
Spoken like a Buddhist. I agree that awareness meditation (I do Vipassana in addition to my Christian practice, as well as yoga) does bring to light our inner thoughts, which then resolve themselves as we observe and release them ‘downstream’ so to speak, and this is a powerful transformative method missed by most Christians.
They prefer the equally valuable method of exposing themselves to propositional truths which ’shine the light of truth into their hearts,’ revealing the ‘thoughts and motives’ of their hearts (cf. Hebrews 4:12).
>> BAAL: The Jesus of these sayings seems to believe that anger and lust are willed and the responsiblilty of the one who thus wills them.
I don’t think your interpretation is correct. I think it is equally plausible, and perhaps more consistent with the rest of scripture and the context of Pharisaical religion, that Jesus is pointing out that
a. outward religion does not purge the heart of evil, which is true spirituality in God’s eyes, and
b. the impossibility of true inner purity necessitates more than willed self-improvement, but a reliance on God to save and change us inwardly, hence his approaching sacrificial death on our behalf

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dgsinclair August 15, 2010 at 8:27 pm

>> ZEB: Buddhism typically presents the central problem it is solving as a sort of disorder to be overcome rather than a crime to be punished or paid back, so it seems much less offensive.
I think you are right about Buddhism, but I think that xianity uses BOTH approaches you mention. It’s just that its founding premise is that we can’t just start in with self-awareness and improvement, because we need more than to return to true self, true self needs regeneration – we need a spiritual rebirth, since improving a spiritual corpse is merely putting makeup on it.
>> ZEB: Personally I believe Christianity does prescribe the same level (and pretty nearly the same kind) of mind control as Buddhism
Mind control, in the negative sense, is for captivating and controlling. I believe both Buddhism and xianity are seeking to *liberate* via changing our thinking (though *men* may use religion to try to control).
The difference, I think, is that eastern religions, including Buddhism, seek to eliminate the self (ego), while Christianity seeks to redeem and renew it in order that it may love and serve God for whom it is made. In Christianity, our individuality is embraced (even though we aim for a ‘death’ TO the self will, not a death OF the self, in serving God), while in Buddhism, I think our individuality is downplayed as part of the problem.
>> ZEB: granted a rationalist could cast their condemnation in disorder/healing terms rather than crime/guilt terms;
If the rationalist is a determinist, then no, there is only disorder/healing, there is not guilt/punishment – and, might I add, not credit for effort or good deeds either, since that too is merely environmental or determined by biology.
I prefer the Calvinistic model that emphasizes predestination/determinism and free will in something akin to a 95/5 ratio.

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dgsinclair August 15, 2010 at 8:28 pm

>> THRAS: Suppose a racist (or, topically) homophobe who never acts on their internal belief that blacks or gays are subhuman animals. That’s plainly wrong. So thoughts can be crimes in that sense.

This is where atheists/communists/liberals go wrong – they fail to separate the role of civil law, which should only judge actions taken (though, for example, premeditation in murder may garner MORE of a sentence than accidental murder, the act is still comitted) from the morality of wrong thoughts, which I think the government has no right to seek to penalize.

But God certainly has the right to hold us accountable for our thoughts, seeing them clearly. But to give the government that right is giving it a power that does not belong to it, making it, in a sense, God.

This breach is the one all tyrants make, regulating and criminalizing thought and speech. While some speech, like slander or inciting violence, seem fine to outlaw, criminalizing moral outrage at religion (blasphemy laws) or supposed moral misconduct (homosexuality and hate speech laws) is the currency of religious and secular tyrants, respectively.

>> THRAS: it is wrong to be reckless or prejudiced or whatever else when forming beliefs.

Ethically and morally, perhaps, but not from a civil perspective. If you want to believe that religion is evil, you are welcome to your ‘discrimination.’ You may even write books about it or talk about it in public. You might even be right, as homosexual critics may be.

Heck, even black supremacists may be partly right – white men can’t jump – just ask Carl Lewis.

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dgsinclair August 15, 2010 at 8:30 pm

>> JUSTFINE: What really strikes me about this passage is the assumption that lustful thoughts are only an issue for men and the heteronormativity.

That’s because in the Judeo/Christian tradition, other types of sexual activities like homosexuality and bestiality are universally condemned – while there is one approved/intended form of sexual activity (hetero sex within marriage), there are specific types of hetro sex (lust, promiscuity) which are condemned, hence the need for clarifying statements.

No such clarifications are given for homosexuality because there is NO condition under which this is considered natural or moral.

Hence, your claim that Jesus forgot to mention homosexual lust does not mean that he allowed it, nor that it was infrequent, since all kinds of sexual activities including homosexuality and incest, are as old as man. He failed to mention it because hetero attraction is natural, but should be acted on properly, that is, aimed only at one’s spouse.

See Paul’s low view, even of hetero ‘attraction’ gone to lust in 1 Corinthians 7:35-37, where he is encouraging celibacy, but accedes to marriage if one can’t control their hetero attractions:

I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.

But if a man thinks that he’s treating his fiancée improperly and will inevitably give in to his passion, let him marry her as he wishes. It is not a sin. 37 But if he has decided firmly not to marry and there is no urgency and he can control his passion, he does well not to marry.

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dgsinclair August 15, 2010 at 8:30 pm

>> TONY: I think this comes as close, in its pithy way, to laying down a defense for the prosecution of thought crime

Again, i think this shows a lack of separation between God and state, giving the state powers to prosecute that only God deserves. Let’s limit the state to prosecuting crimes of action – such suggestions as that above, if you are talking about civil prosecution, are truly Orwellian.

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dgsinclair August 15, 2010 at 8:30 pm

>> DESPERATE: What’s most striking abut this requirement of belief is its irrelevance to us today, since we know the kingdom did not come and we see that it now seems more distant than ever.

Actually, the reason that the ‘non-born again’ can’t see the kingdom, and why the Jews of Jesus day could not, is because it is first, and still at this time, an invisible Kingdom that starts in the hearts of those who believe. I have already bowed to Him inwardly, which is why the KOG is ‘within’ me.

The outward manifestation will be at his return. While that may seem distant, if the KOG is within you, it is not distant at all.

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Al Moritz August 16, 2010 at 3:48 pm

@ Hendy:

Thanks for the dialog and look forward to continuing.

Thank you too, and I look forward to continuing as well.

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Al Moritz August 16, 2010 at 3:51 pm

@ Hermes:

Al, having a deity of some sort being plausible doesn’t raise it to being probable.

The arguments that I have mentioned are about strong probabilities (at the least), not about plausibilities.

It’s along that line that most of the arguments — frequently deistic, though I contend the pantheistic deities are given less respect than they deserve — are generated that are even mildly interesting.

Not the monotheistic Yahweh from the Abrahamic religions.

If the Argument from Reason is correct (and I think it is) then there has to be an immaterial component of the mind. This automatically then calls for a theistic God, not just a deistic one, since special creation of a ‘soul’ would be required, not just a deistic God as an initiator of the Big Bang.

And then, through the soul, God could interact with humans at will without a constant manifest suspension of physical laws as in a miracle. That physical regularity is the norm, and miracles in the form of physically manifest suspensions of the laws of nature are very rare, is a thing that for example the Catholic Church has always emphasized. It has always been very critical and inquisitive about miracle claims, while it does recognize certain miracles (even in the most miracle-dense time during Jesus’ stay on Earth, miracles were still comparatively rare). So the atheist myth that believing in the monotheistic Yahweh from the Abrahamic religions requires a worldview where ‘there is magic everywhere’ is plainly false.

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Hermes August 16, 2010 at 5:39 pm

Al Moritz: The arguments that I have mentioned are about strong probabilities (at the least), not about plausibilities.

Apologies. Not to be difficult. I’ve looked over this thread for well over 10 minutes and can’t find one. Did you mean something you brought up in one of the other discussions you linked to? A short string to where you bring up a strong probability (not a complete quote) and a link is fine as a reference.

As for any arguments using immaterial components of the mind, I’d have to be shown that immaterial components of the mind exist in some form or they are stuck as abstractions and not demonstrations let alone as evidence for a plausible argument. This is the case with anything, not only ones about deities existing. Note that I am not asking for a materialistic response, just that immaterial components (of anything) have not been demonstrated.

FWIW, I’m fine with souls existing but see direct evidence against an immaterial component. Since most people tie souls to some ethereal essence that is not tied to a body (even if it is material), in general I reject the word “soul” as it contains too much baggage. Reference: Stages of death.

* * *

Al Moritz: So the atheist myth that believing in the monotheistic Yahweh from the Abrahamic religions requires a worldview where ‘there is magic everywhere’ is plainly false.

The word myth is often maligned meaning false or absurd. Not when I use it. Myths as cultural truths that are not necessarily literal truths. While I do not agree with Joseph Campbell entirely (he gets into guru mode too often in public, but his non-pop books are more reliable), he does a good job of outlining the difference between ‘just a myth’ vs. myths/mythology.

As a separate issue from what I wrote above the break ( * * * ), I agree with the following and I think it addresses what you wrote in the above quote.

I draw out that theme myself here; Is the Christian Bible reliable as a guide to reality?

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Hermes August 16, 2010 at 5:58 pm

Additionally, speaking of myth superficially, I’m coming to the opinion that gods and demigods don’t fit the slot of magical beings like some magical beasts (unicorns, …), or magical people Jinns/Genies, witches, sirens, …, or chimeras of one sort or another. They’re more like forces, grunting out a blast of fury, even though people draw on those forces when they talk about magical results. The people channel magic from the deities in a mythic frame of mind; while in story mode.

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Al Moritz August 16, 2010 at 6:31 pm

Hermes:

Apologies. Not to be difficult. I’ve looked over this thread for well over 10 minutes and can’t find one. Did you mean something you brought up in one of the other discussions you linked to? A short string to where you bring up a strong probability (not a complete quote) and a link is fine as a reference.

Look at my post above from August 15, second link.

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Hermes August 16, 2010 at 6:59 pm

Thanks.

A cosmological argument, eh? Maybe I was too quick granting you a thank you.

[scans document] 18K words? About 30 pages? Good thing I don’t ask you to read my ~10K posts on WWGHA (2-3,000 pages?).

A question;

Is any of your argument based on positive evidence, or is it all analytical and by analogy?

If positive evidence is given (not necessarily matter), please give me a pointer to it — a couple words from the beginning of a paragraph, for example — so I can find the positive evidence and trace your claims back/forth from that.

If no positive evidence is given, I’ll be honest. I’m not going to read it. I’ve read too many long documents over the years that have no positive support and just won’t do it yet again. I could spend that time catching up on other things.

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Al Moritz August 17, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Hermes,

what do you consider as positive evidence?

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Hermes August 17, 2010 at 6:07 pm

I’m fairly open. Something that is not strictly analytical, but it may have an analytical component.

For example, describing a triangle can be done in strictly mathematical terms and the math can be analyzed for logical correctness. Yet, it can also be demonstrated by producing variations on things that are triangular, say, taking a sheet of paper and folding it or cutting it. The math of triangles can also be demonstrated through the arrangement of paper triangles.

Even though that example uses material items such as paper triangles for ‘things that are triangular’, if the example is good enough it does not necessarily require material.

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Hermes August 17, 2010 at 6:12 pm

Additionally, if something is asserted to be true it must be clearly true by the presentation of actual evidence demonstrating that it is true. If it is not asserted to be true, but likely, that requires a lower standard of evidence but it still requires evidence.

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Hermes August 17, 2010 at 6:14 pm

If your long argument does not include anything that can be considered positive support (as above) because it is not intended to be anything but analytical, I’m still interested.

To fill the gap, just provide an example here and I’ll see if I can tie that back to what you wrote in your larger document.

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Hendy August 17, 2010 at 7:23 pm

@Al:

Origins of life came up over at Faith Heuristic and Justin responded with some fairly strong words opposing an RNA world. I don’t have a clue what I’m talking about but simply posted your links for him to suggest that not everyone supposes that we’ll never find an answer.

He has responded with a plethora of Stephen C. Meyer statements and I wondered if you’d just like to comment over at the POST.

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Al Moritz August 18, 2010 at 4:21 am

Hermes:

A cosmological argument, eh? Maybe I was too quick granting you a thank you.

[scans document] 18K words? About 30 pages? Good thing I don’t ask you to read my ~10K posts on WWGHA (2-3,000 pages?).

If positive evidence is given (not necessarily matter), please give me a pointer to it — a couple words from the beginning of a paragraph, for example — so I can find the positive evidence and trace your claims back/forth from that.

You make a good point. The article did not provide a quick glimpse of what might be in there. Based on your comment, I have added a brief summary. You helped me improve my article, thanks!

A question; Is any of your argument based on positive evidence, or is it all analytical and by analogy?

If no positive evidence is given, I’ll be honest. I’m not going to read it.

You can decide from the summary if there might be anything that you might consider as positive evidence and if, based on that, you want to read the article or not.

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Al Moritz August 18, 2010 at 4:30 am

Origins of life came up over at Faith Heuristic and Justin responded with some fairly strong words opposing an RNA world. I don’t have a clue what I’m talking about but simply posted your links for him to suggest that not everyone supposes that we’ll never find an answer.

He has responded with a plethora of Stephen C. Meyer statements and I wondered if you’d just like to comment over at the POST.

Thanks for the link. Only one of his objections points to a substantial problem, in my view. I’ll reply there tonight or tomorrow.

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Hermes August 18, 2010 at 4:51 am

Thanks for the update … and glad to help!

[ looks ]

That’s a good intro.

Here’s what I’m currently thinking: It’s a claim, but what backs it? The paper is ~30 pages long, and looks similar to parts of a dozen other ones I’ve already read. What is my motivation to address it as something new?

To entice me to read it all and give it a proper earnest review and not just an unhelpful canned response, what specific item can you show that demonstrates that some sentient guide of anything (besides what humans and animals do) is more likely than not?

Also, does it address current research on similar topics? For example, moderately complex systems do self-generate. As such, that seems to be more likely than not and a sentient guide of some sort is not required or evident. Components such as the bacterial flagellum have been addressed as well, showing that a sentient was not required at that level either.

Both of those examples are just on the topic of biology, not all areas that we could mutually investigate as parts of reality.

Keep in mind that I’m looking for claims that are not only possible but probable, but I’m not even asking for a silver bullet proof (in the common, less rigorous, non-mathematical or philosophical sense of proof).

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Al Moritz August 18, 2010 at 5:44 am

Hermes,

That’s a good intro.

Glad to hear that.

Here’s what I’m currently thinking: It’s a claim, but what backs it? The paper is ~30 pages long, and looks similar to parts of a dozen other ones I’ve already read. What is my motivation to address it as something new?

To entice me to read it all and give it a proper earnest review and not just an unhelpful canned response, what specific item can you show that demonstrates that some sentient guide of anything (besides what humans and animals do) is more likely than not?

One example, as I argue in article, would be that a multiverse generator would itself have to a be fine-tuned machine in order to be able produce universes in sufficient variation so that our own universe would be a statistically necessary outcome.

And I throughly examine all other non-design scenarios.

Also, does it address current research on similar topics? For example, moderately complex systems do self-generate. As such, that seems to be more likely than not and a sentient guide of some sort is not required or evident. Components such as the bacterial flagellum have been addressed as well, showing that a sentient was not required at that level either.

The problem here is that in order for evolution to work, there needs to be a space (not necessarily ‘physical’ space) in which natural selection can work. A fine-tuned multiverse would have to evolve in such a space, but it does not exist on the cosmological level. The model of Cosmological Natural Selection that I discuss in my article is not really aimed at evolving such a multiverse generator, rather, also here an already existing generator evolves universes.

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Hermes August 18, 2010 at 6:52 am

Multiverses (cosmology): From what I’ve read, it’s more likely than string hypothesis (physics), but I’ll leave both in the plausible category as neither is positively supported enough to be considered probable. Then again, I’m neither a cosmologist or a physicist, so what I know about both is slim at best and probably 5 years or more out of date.

Speaking from that base ignorance, the multiverse hypothesis suffers from having some theoretical and experimental support, but does not have firm and specific positive support for it. That is why I have the tentative conclusion that it is not probable.

Point: If positive support were shown for the string hypothesis or the multiverse hypothesis or for the Loch Ness Monster, an honest person would have to consider that the supported hypothesis becomes more credible if not actually true.

Al Moritz: And I throughly examine all other non-design scenarios.

Showing that the competition can not be the only answer for all facts that are available is important, but that alone is not positive evidence for a position.

After all, if two people say that the moon was made by an insect — one that it was a dung beetle, and another that it was a firefly — if the dung beetle proposal is shown to be implausible that doesn’t increase the likelihood that the firefly is more plausible. Positive evidence for the firefly claim still has to be provided before it becomes a more credible possibility.

Additionally, if one detail — that the moon is a spherical object — is shown to be a fact by the beetle proponents, that fact doesn’t go away when the conclusion ‘thus a giant beetle must have rolled it into existence’ is shown not to be plausible let alone probable.

That’s important. Facts can’t contradict a plausible claim. If something is shown to be a fact, even if the conclusions people derive from that are still under discussion, the available facts can’t be discarded.

I hope that we are both in agreement that while we can have different lager conclusions or beliefs, we can’t have our own facts that are exclusive of someone else’s facts.

We live in one reality.

Al Moritz: The problem here is that in order for evolution to work, there needs to be a space (not necessarily ‘physical’ space) in which natural selection can work.

Well, evolution through natural selection is a fact as it has been demonstrated under observation. As such, I’m guessing that you don’t mean that evolution can not work but that you are talking about abiogenesis vs. some creation event.

Natural selection wasn’t directly what I was pointing to, though, but mainly I mentioned (as one example of many) the biological topic of abiogenesis. The link showing how fatty acids work to form a protocell along with RNA replication (Dr. Jack Szostak) demonstrates that topic.

Topping that off, I did give a casual reference to one structure that has had plenty of discussion; the bacterial flagellum. That said, natural selection is demonstrated as a driver at some point, likely very early in the abiogenesis stage.

So, I linked to a reference that covered that casually so we can acknowledge it and move on to your positive evidence that takes that and other facts about reality into account.

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Hermes August 18, 2010 at 8:17 am

(Note that I’m not bringing in all potential details, but only the few necessary to illustrate specific points. As such, none of what I wrote above is intended to limit the scope of claims or supporting details available to either of us.)

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Al Moritz August 19, 2010 at 5:07 pm

Hermes:

Well, evolution through natural selection is a fact as it has been demonstrated under observation. As such, I’m guessing that you don’t mean that evolution can not work but that you are talking about abiogenesis vs. some creation event.

The context in which I wrote concerned the multiverse.

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Al Moritz August 19, 2010 at 5:09 pm

Hendy,

He has responded with a plethora of Stephen C. Meyer statements and I wondered if you’d just like to comment over at the POST.

I just posted there.

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Hermes August 19, 2010 at 5:36 pm

Not that I’m too concerned about defects in the concept of a multiverse — I don’t care if it is in reality true or false — but why mention evolution and natural selection in reference to a topic that is in the field of cosmology and/or physics?

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Hermes August 19, 2010 at 5:49 pm

Al, if your paper is based on logic, reason, and conjecture but not positive evidence I’m fine with that but I will refrain from commenting.

On the other hand, if there is one section — say, a few thousand words at most — that you think stands on it’s own, I’ll take a look. Please do not pick a section that is primarily against some idea but instead promotes an idea — even if promoting the idea does not show directly that some deity is a ‘strong probability’.

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Al Moritz August 19, 2010 at 5:50 pm

Hermes,

Because you did:

Also, does it address current research on similar topics? For example, moderately complex systems do self-generate. As such, that seems to be more likely than not and a sentient guide of some sort is not required or evident. Components such as the bacterial flagellum have been addressed as well, showing that a sentient was not required at that level either.

In the context, I was just responding to the idea that evolution might play a role on a cosmological level as well (see Smolin’s cosmological natural selection, which comes up often; it is also metioned with enthusiasm by Dawkins).

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Al Moritz August 19, 2010 at 5:52 pm

“Because you did” of course referred to:

but why mention evolution and natural selection in reference to a topic that is in the field of cosmology and/or physics?

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Al Moritz August 19, 2010 at 6:11 pm

Please do not pick a section that is primarily against some idea but instead promotes an idea — even if promoting the idea does not show directly that some deity is a ’strong probability’.

Except for the idea that God designed the universe, I promote the idea to what extreme degree the laws of nature show apparent fine-tuning. Take, for example, the cosmological constant (for that, scroll down in the article 1/5 from the top).

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Hermes August 19, 2010 at 6:13 pm

Sorry if I introduced any confusion. If I did give the wrong impression, it was not my intent. I rarely use primarily biological terms outside of discussions on biology because they are rarely the right words to use.

(That said, there are legitimate uses outside of biology. The ones that come to mind are primarily mathematical.)

If you aren’t discussing biology, and do not require them in your paper, I’m more than glad to ignore them.

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Al Moritz August 19, 2010 at 6:18 pm

Sorry if I introduced any confusion. If I did give the wrong impression, it was not my intent.

No problem, don’t worry.

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Hermes August 19, 2010 at 6:18 pm

Al Moritz: Take, for example, the cosmological constant (for that, scroll down in the article 1/5 from the top).

Are you most confident of that part of your paper?

Does it stand alone on it’s own merits?

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Al Moritz August 20, 2010 at 4:03 am

Hermes:

Are you most confident of that part of your paper?

I am confident about the entire paper, otherwise I would not have written and published it.

Does it stand alone on it’s own merits?

Well, it is just the example of the one physical constant that exhibits the most extreme fine-tuning. Change it by a miniscule amount, and you end up with catastrophic consequences. (And reading just that passage has the advantage that it is relatively short;-).)

Buit even if that constant were no problem, there are many other constants that need to exhibit fine-tuning.

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Al Moritz August 20, 2010 at 4:07 am

“Fine-tuning” should read “apparent fine-tuning”. The latter is the observation, the former already a philosophical conclusion. However, as I point out in my article, using the term “apparent fine-tuning” consistently becomes awkward at the latest when it comes to “”apparently fine-tuned”, so I go with the convention there and simply use “fine-tuning”.

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Hermes August 20, 2010 at 8:20 am

Got it. You’re not asserting absolute certainty, just that it supports the idea that some sentience with an ability to do that function was involved (as you say) is a ’strong probability’.

Initial thoughts before I read that section;

* I’m fine myself with not knowing or promoting a potential conclusion if it is not clear what an answer probably or actually is. I am doubtful that any large claim without positive support will move from the possible category. ^^^

* I hope that your argument isn’t an argument from incredulity.

* Fine tuning itself seems to be a strange position to take in light of the vastness of space-time.

“I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.”

–Douglas Adams

* * *

^^^. That’s why while I don’t think omnimax deities exist — they are not credible at all — I see valid arguments for deist or pantheist style deities even though they may be logically and actually impossible to support or reject as no positive support for them can be offered.

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Hermes August 20, 2010 at 8:55 am

Another bit from Douglas Adams that’s appropriate;

Man the maker looks at his world and says ‘So who made this then?’ Who made this? – you can see why it’s a treacherous question. Early man thinks, ‘Well, because there’s only one sort of being I know about who makes things, whoever made all this must therefore be a much bigger, much more powerful and necessarily invisible, one of me and because I tend to be the strong one who does all the stuff, he’s probably male’. And so we have the idea of a god. Then, because when we make things we do it with the intention of doing something with them, early man asks himself , ‘If he made it, what did he make it for?’ Now the real trap springs, because early man is thinking, ‘This world fits me very well. Here are all these things that support me and feed me and look after me; yes, this world fits me nicely’ and he reaches the inescapable conclusion that whoever made it, made it for him.

This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in – an interesting hole I find myself in – fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!’ This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it’s still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything’s going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise.

Source: http://www.biota.org/people/douglasadams

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Hermes August 20, 2010 at 1:50 pm

I’m looking at your paper, starting here;

1.1. The argument of the apparent fine-tuning of the laws of nature

…and ending here;

(My addendum: it has now been shown that the cosmological constant, while being so small, is a positive number.)

That is about 3,400 words, or over 5 pages (words/600=pages).

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Hermes August 20, 2010 at 2:57 pm

Running commentary;

Initial: From your previous comments, I thought you were not talking about biology. Maybe I misunderstood.

* * *

Writing is editing.

Editing tip: Print your document, and go into a quiet room. With a highlighter and a pencil near by, read your document out loud. If anything doesn’t sound quite right, either correct it or highlight the awkward parts so you can look at them later.

You can try this on your computer, but I recommend that you first try this by printing it out on paper. For many people, the paper method provides better results. I use both, but only skip the paper method if the document is small or unimportant.

Nothing I write is worth a damn unless I give it time to cool off first, and I spend time cleaning it up by reading it out loud.

* * *
p1,s1 – We are? Never comes up. I don’t base my atheism on biological arguments or even cosmological ones. The only time those seem to come up is when they are introduced by theists or as passing comments about a specific fact.

p1,s3 – Yes, it is. There are theists, including Christian theists, that would agree with me on this.

p1,s4 – Evolution isn’t aboigenesis. Right?

p2,s1 – Not sure of the scope of that one. You could mean a variety of things. Clean it up and if needed, split it into multiple sentences.

p2,s2 – Anthropic ! biophilic. Unless this is to an audience that knows what your terms mean, define them or provide a glossary.

p3,sx – That’s fine.

p4,s1 – First half is speculation. I don’t think it is provable or examinable. The second half is contingent on the first.

p4,s2 – Overreaches and depends on s1.

p4,s3 – Yep.

p5,s1 – FWIW, I treat fine tuning arguments in the same category as statements like “Of course there is a god, look at that tree!”. Like the tree statement, the only time they get any consideration is when theists bring them up.

p5,s2 – Personally, I don’t care who promotes what. At most, it is a curiosity.

p5,s3 – On details, sure. In college I realized that my professors didn’t always know the answers. The better ones would, as appropriate, say where there were gaps or what was likely but not certain. As such, what one person says is informative at best and not a slam dunk.

p5,s4 – Clean that up. It seems to conflate a few categories needlessly. (Personally, I don’t require the cosmos being a multiverse or not, even if others do rely on it and you have to include it as a reference.)

* * *

I realize that you spent quite a bit of time on this paper, though if you want it to be convincing you have to correct those mistakes at a minimum and not repeat them elsewhere.

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Hermes August 20, 2010 at 2:58 pm

For the most part, ignore the last paragraph. Most of my comments were not about mistakes.

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Hermes August 20, 2010 at 3:26 pm

I think you can toss out nearly everything up to the section on quotes from experts, and then focus on integrating those quotes into the body of your actual document. You might even be able to toss out many of the quotes and provide summaries instead. If that would not work, you might be able to place them at the end of your paper as reference material.

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dgsinclair August 20, 2010 at 3:55 pm

>> HERMES: much of what you initially ‘corrected’ Luke on, Luke said but he did so briefly without the presumption that it was real. His brevity was probably just to state much of the obvious so as to frame his other comments.
Please keep in mind that nearly everyone here knows what Christian dogmas from various sects mean in excruciating detail, as well as what the general religious texts say.

Well, my impression was that either (a) Luke actually misrepresented Christian positions on the issues, or failed to address them in his article.

Also, despite whether or not you think my ‘standard’ answers were needed, they do directly address what he is saying, and I don’t see any argument against them.

In essence, I see some straw man argumentation going on, so his claims at Christian error on subjects don’t really address the orthodox positions.

Even more importantly, most sycophantic amens of Luke’s position made the graver error of confusing God’s right and ability to ‘judge’ our thoughts and civil government. This conflating of ‘church and state’ is not only anti-biblical, it lacks specificity.

Again, seeing Jesus’ emphasis on inner holiness as ‘policing thought crimes’ not only misses Jesus’ point (IMO), but it’s even more bogus to think that therefore Christianity teaches that the church or the government should be doing the same thing.

However, I do like his emphasis on challenging one’s own biases. But if you have a presupposition of naturalism (which many atheists do), I wonder if this too should be questioned seriously.

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Hermes August 20, 2010 at 4:05 pm

[deleted]

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Hermes August 20, 2010 at 6:14 pm

Al, I’ll stop for now, but I think you should drop all references to evolution and narrow your focus to atomic and particle reactions and why they are coherent in this universe. From there, you can look to see if the evidence shows that slight deviations would break that coherence.

That way, you don’t have to deal with life at all only the basics and with what we know not what is being speculated about.

After all, if a molecule can’t form except in very narrow situations, then you have a strong argument for the fine tuning argument and potential universes to allow for life.

That said, I don’t see (yet) how you get from we’re seemingly lucky to some sentient power made us lucky.

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Hermes August 20, 2010 at 6:53 pm

For reference, on the Earth itself, we are able to live on the top of the crust layer. That layer is about a few miles thick to about 50 miles thick. Everything else is molten.

If the Earth were an apple, the crust would be the skin on that apple. Everything else — from flesh to seed — is what the continents and the sea floor ride on.

We can pilot craft through the air or plow through the oceans and go below the surface — yet, few people live on the ocean and none live in the atmosphere.

To live elsewhere, off that skin of a skin, we need special containers to keep from dying. I’ve herd that someone on Mars could briefly walk around without a pressurized suit, though they won’t be doing it on a regular basis if they can avoid it mainly to avoid radiation exposure.

So. Big universe. Huge. One that we — ourselves — can’t easily explore and that for the most part will kill us dead within moments without us taking extreme measures.

But, can anything else live somewhere else but the crust of the crust? If not us, what? Besides sea creatures, there are some that can. Extremophiles; [1] [2] [3]. High radiation, dry, acid and base environments, high pressure. Life can deal with it. By mass, and possibly by numbers, the deep sea bed bacteria are the largest group on the planet.

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Hermes August 20, 2010 at 6:56 pm
lukeprog August 20, 2010 at 8:14 pm

extremophiles rule!

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Hermes August 20, 2010 at 8:35 pm

Makes me wonder if anything is on Titan, and if not, can we put something there? Our descendants might surf the methane waves, looking up with large eyes while Saturn rises high.

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Al Moritz August 21, 2010 at 4:27 am

Hermes,

thanks for you comments and suggestions. I’ll implement some changes.

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Al Moritz August 21, 2010 at 4:33 am

Hermes,

This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in – an interesting hole I find myself in – fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!’

I have dealt with the puddle-style argument in section 1.2 of my article, ‘Addressing two common objections’.

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Al Moritz August 21, 2010 at 4:37 am

Hermes,

But, can anything else live somewhere else but the crust of the crust? If not us, what? Besides sea creatures, there are some that can. Extremophiles; [1] [2] [3]. High radiation, dry, acid and base environments, high pressure. Life can deal with it. By mass, and possibly by numbers, the deep sea bed bacteria are the largest group on the planet.

My expectations would be that microbial life is very common in the universe, but advanced life rather rare. Let’s see what observations will bring us in the future.

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Hermes August 21, 2010 at 4:42 am

Al, I realize that you are addressing a wider audience. As such, I expect that you will take my comments as one data point among many.

That said, while the apologetic and counter-apologetic literature might emphasize some feature or idea, ask yourself if going over it yet again will enlighten or persuade anyone.

To me, that is like joining in on a Kirk vs. Picard argument in a bar. It might be fun for a few minutes, but it’s really not getting anywhere.

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Hermes August 21, 2010 at 4:43 am

Let me know if you want me to review that section again or some other part. Please try and keep it to a few thousand words.

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Al Moritz August 21, 2010 at 4:57 am

Hermes,

Al, I realize that you are addressing a wider audience. As such, I expect that you will take my comments as one data point among many.

That is exactly how I perceive it.

That said, while the apologetic and counter-apologetic literature might emphasize some feature or idea, ask yourself if going over it yet again will enlighten or persuade anyone.

Don’t worry, I have obtained positive feedback enough (and not just from theists). The article has also resulted in an invitation to give a seminar at a Christian college last February.

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Hermes August 21, 2010 at 6:47 am

Excellent. If I am not of much use right now, and if it is OK with you, I’ll stop monitoring this thread. (?)

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Al Moritz August 21, 2010 at 7:30 am

Sure, Hermes. Thanks again.

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Shallel November 3, 2010 at 11:11 am

44 “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father.
He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him.
Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
45 “But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me. -John 8

SCENE 1: Jesus dialogues with his disciples: The prayer of thanksgiving or the eucharist
One day he was with his disciples in Judea, and he found them gathered together and
seated in pious observance. When he [approached] his disciples, [34] gathered together
and seated and offering a prayer of thanksgiving over the bread, [he] laughed.
The disciples said to [him], “Master, why are you laughing at [our] prayer of
thanksgiving? We have done what is right.”
He answered and said to them, “I am not laughing at you. are not doing this
because of your own will but because it is through this that your god [will be] praised.”
They said, “Master, you are […] the son of our god.”
Jesus said to them, “How do you know me? Truly [I] say to you, no generation of the
people that are among you will know me.” -Gospel of Judas

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Michelle December 11, 2011 at 10:20 pm

Luke, you write, “But can you choose, right now, to believe you have a third hand? Nope. We believe something according to how plausible it seems to us. We can’t choose to believe things that don’t seem plausible to us.” There’s one point I think you’re overlooking, and it’s a big one. The notion that one has a third hand is unarguably less plausible than the notion that Jesus is God. Stemming from this logic is the idea (and Jesus’ own teaching) that we each should pursue God and attempt to know Him. “Seek and ye shall find.” No matter how much you look for an extra extremity somewhere on your body, I can tell you right now, you’re not going to find it, unless you suffer from severe delusions. The same, however, cannot be said for millions of people who find God through an honest attempt to know and love Him.

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Sherry January 16, 2012 at 10:45 pm

I am very offended by this picture. My Jesus would not lift his hand to finger anyone.
He is not offensive in that way. Really in no way. It’s only people who take offense with Him.. He is loving, kind, peaceful, etc. I have been healed twice in the past year and a half of terrible diseases.. I found out I had cancer and Hep C at the same time. Paying for my sins I thought. But I prayed earnestly to be healed and first He healed of the cancer. When the doctor did the surgery, he found none except dead cancer cells.. PTL…
Then I decided to start the treatments for the Hep C. I was on medication 3 months and my lab work started coming back negative. I asked to be sure if that meant I was Hep C free now. He told me yes. I have since come up the past 5 months free of Hep C. I had a 6 million count in my blood when I started.. Now I am healed by the blood of Jesus.. Thank You Jesus.. So please do not post such things of Jesus. It is offensive to me and others. Thank You..

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ilya Gorenkov January 26, 2012 at 9:31 am

The picture on top is discrase to God and Jesus. You all Have to repent your sins and come to jesus now. God bless You all.

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