Letter to Vox Day IV

by Luke Muehlhauser on October 19, 2009 in Ethics,Letters

Vox Day is a Christian blogger and author of The Irrational Atheist. We have agreed to a friendly dialogue about the reasons for our beliefs, though we’ll try to avoid regurgitating all the usual arguments for and against the existence of God. First, read my first letter, Vox’s first letter, my second letter, Vox’s second letter, my third letter, and Vox’s third letter.

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Vox,

Holy crap that’s a lot of insults. I tried to count them but couldn’t. I can see that your readership is impressed and excited by your continuous stream of insults, but I come from a different tradition (analytic philosophy) that values clarity, argument, and evidence – not insults.

I agree we should leave the topic of evolution behind. But I’m sure our readers will remember that one of us gave argument and evidence for his views on evolution, and the other did not.

Thank you for finally explaining your view that Satan rules the Earth. But again, to just assume I should understand your views on Satan by way of vague references to children’s literature and a sci-fi novel is, I think, too optimistic. Christian teaching about Satan has a long, complex, and variegated history. I can’t just guess what your theological views are: I need you to tell me what they are.

And thank you for explicating your views on God’s moral arbitrariness. Again, I’m quite aware of the various Christian positions on this, but I can’t know which one of about a dozen possible views you defend! Your endless insults are especially unjustified given your admission that “Now, my view of God’s arbitrary goodness is not actually Nominalist…”

While I am interested in discouraging your highly numerous insults, I’m not interested in defending my knowledge of theology. I’m sure you know theology much better than I do, for as an atheist I consider it akin to the systematic study of imaginary fabrics.

So it sounds like we’re getting closer to an argument about whether Christian theism is justified. Vox, do you agree with me that even if the traditional theistic arguments establish theism, and even if Jesus rose from the dead, this still would not establish the truth of Christian theism?

Your next step was to say, roughly, that Christian belief is justified because the existence of evil provides better evidence for Vox Day Christianity than for any other worldview – that is, that Vox Day Christianity provides the best explanation for the evil we observe in the world.

If we’re going to argue about which worldview provides the best explanation for evil, it would be convenient if we could agree about the type of evil that exists in the world. For example, can we simplify things and argue over which worldview provides the best explanation for the suffering we see in the world, or the harm we see in the world? If not, I worry that we’ll disagree sharply about the nature of the “evil” we observe in the world, and thus have no common ground from which to argue about which worldview provides the best explanation for “evil.”

So if we can agree on that kind of strategy, my answers about a specific conception of “evil” will be irrelevant to our discussion. But I will answer them anyway, because you asked:

1. Do you believe in the existence of evil?

It depends what you mean by the term “evil.” If evil means “that which is against God’s will,” then I don’t believe in evil because I don’t believe God’s will exists. If evil means “that which opposes the intrinsic value of happiness,” then I don’t believe in evil because I don’t believe in intrinsic value. But if we can agree on a more inclusive definition of evil, such that evil means “that which thwarts more and stronger reasons for action than it fulfills,” then yes, I believe in evil (given certain qualifications about what the primary object of moral evaluation is, and so on).

2. If you believe that evil exists, is its nature objective or subjective?

Philosophers use the words “objective” and “subjective” in many different ways. For example, some philosophers use the word “objective” to mean “mind-independent.” But such a definition has the amusing consequence of transforming millions of truths we would normally call “objective facts” into non-objective facts. For example, it would mean that a news headline’s claim that “Thirty-three people were injured by a suicide bomber today in Baghdad” was not an objective fact. Why? Because “injury” is a mind-dependent term. If I cut your ear and you have an mental aversion to this cut, then I have injured you. But if I cut your ear and you desire the cut because I am preparing your ear for earrings, then I have not injured you. The mind-independent facts were the same in both cases, but the mind-dependent facts were different. So defining “objective” to mean “mind-independent” has some consequences that many philosophers have missed.

There are other definitions of “objective.” In ethics, one might suggest that a moral fact is objective if its truth is unaffected by everyone’s opinion on the matter. So on an objective moral theory, racism could still be morally wrong even if the Nazis had won World War II and brainwashed everyone on the planet such that everyone was racist.

My concept of evil is objective according to the second definition, but not according to the first. I think evil has to do with thwarting reasons for action, and as it happens desires are the only reasons for action that exist. So evil is dependent on desires, and desires are obviously not “mind-independent.” So my concept of evil isn’t “objective” in that sense.

However, racism would still be evil (desire-thwarting) even if everyone had the opinion that racism was morally permissible, and so my concept of evil is “objective” in that sense.

So it depends what you mean by “objective.”

3. If you believe the nature of evil to be objective, what is that objective basis?

Let me make some qualifications about what I said above. I consider desires – not acts or intentions or people – to be the primary objects of moral evaluation. So it is desires that are good and evil, and the goodness or badness of acts and intentions and people are derivative of the goodness or badness of desires. For example, a good act (philosophers would say a “right” act) is one that an agent with good desires would perform. A bad (“wrong”) act is one that an agent with good desires would not perform.

What is a good desire? A good desire is a desire that tends to fulfill other desires. A bad desire is one that tends to thwart other desires. (Because desires are the only reasons for action that exist.)

But do not confuse this with desire fulfillment act utilitarianism. It is not as though desire fulfillment has intrinsic value and should be maximized. I am not saying we should try to create as much desire fulfillment as possible. Rather, I am saying that each desire is a reason for action, and that a sensible definition of “good” is “such as to fulfill reasons for action, considering all reasons for action that exist,” and that a sensible definition of “bad” is “such as to thwart reasons for action, consider all reasons for action that exist.”

So let’s go back to my Triumphant Nazism example. My conception of evil is objective in this way: even if the Nazis had won and brainwashed everyone into having the opinion that racism was morally good, it would still be the case that racism was morally evil. Why? Because racism would still tend to thwart desires rather than fulfill desires.

What do I mean by “tend to thwart”? I illustrate this with a picture of knobs that control desires. Turn this knob to the right, and racist desires strengthen throughout the population. Turn this knob to the left, and racist desires decrease. To say that racist desires are evil is to say that turning this knob to the right thwarts more desires than turning this knob to the left. If we turn the knob to the right, many racist desires are fulfilled but the desires of minorities are thwarted. If we turn the knob all the way to the left, no racist desires are thwarted (because they don’t exist), and also the desires of minorities are not thwarted.

4. What is the mathematical equation you used to calculate the three probabilities for metaphysical naturalism, orthodox Christian theism, and desirism?

Vox, I explicitly stated in my last letter that “Obviously, these [probabilities] are very rough estimates, only meant to give you an impression of my beliefs.”

All I meant was that “I’m not very certain that desirism is true, I’m somewhat certain that metaphysical naturalism is true, and I’m very certain that orthodox Christian theism is false.” That’s all. No math involved.

To sum up, I hope we can step past insults and evolution and desirism and find a generic definition of “evil” we can agree on so that we can then more substantively argue over which worldview best explains the existence of such evil in our universe. Can we just go with “suffering,” or something like that?

Cheers,

Luke

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{ 91 comments… read them below or add one }

ayer October 19, 2009 at 6:22 am

lukeprog: “even if the Nazis had won and brainwashed everyone into having the opinion that racism was morally good, it would still be the case that racism was morally evil. Why? Because racism would still tend to thwart desires rather than fulfill desires…If we turn the knob all the way to the left, no racist desires are thwarted (because they don’t exist), and also the desires of minorities are not thwarted.”

But if all the minorities were brainwashed to believe racism was morally good, then they would agree with the Nazi desire for a racist “way of life” (like the Stockholm syndrome for hostages). Thus, by turning the knob all the way to the right, no minority desires are thwarted (because any desires in opposition to racism don’t exist)–indeed, minority desires are fulfilled, because the brainwashed minorities will desire racism as much as the Nazis; and also the desires of the Nazis are not thwarted.

lukeprog: “Can we just go with “suffering,” or something like that?”

I don’t think so, because an individual whose chose to secretly seethe with racist hatred toward minorities, even though he never manifested it in an outward way, would be committing evil even though no suffering resulted to the minorities.

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Rich October 19, 2009 at 6:48 am

Great letter, Luke. His sycophants were salivating at the thought of him withholding his ‘mercy; in his last letter. What a bunch of tools. I see 0_o has been correcting him in all his latest posts, his complete misunderstanding of IQ (funny, as he purports to have a high one) and logic in general. Good work, 0_o, beers for you my Ukrainian friend!

Love the link to the courtier’s reply – Vox is upset with PZ because PZ thinks he’s a pissant and wont grant him a debate (he is debating some other creotards this week, though)

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Kip October 19, 2009 at 6:55 am

I commend you for your patience, Luke. I would have given up long ago.

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Meatros October 19, 2009 at 7:11 am

Good post. I find Vox’s behavior shameful. He seems to know his stuff and to be a quality opponent – one can learn a lot by this debate – however his behavior is utterly juvenile.

Is this the new breed of Christian thinker? To take an ‘atheism sucks’ viewpoint and to be scornful and mocking?

It’s a sad day for Christian theism if it is.

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tyson koska October 19, 2009 at 7:11 am

Luke, very nice (as usual)… i chuckle when i read the obscure language he uses to deny is obscurantist tendencies… i can’t help but think that an overly-theistic mindset really does cause a kind of brain damage…

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Tap Dancer October 19, 2009 at 8:40 am

I believe this letter to be your downfall in the argument. You aren’t on the attack, you’re ‘desirism’ philosophy is, I think, quite easily assaulted from many different directions, and you spend everything before the questions complaining about Vox’s stylistic choices of writing.
Do you honestly think that this letter has furthered any discussion on the topic?

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Penneyworth October 19, 2009 at 8:58 am

ayer,
You are correct (about turning the knobs). I made this exact argument before, and was about to repeat it, but you beat me. Last time, Luke replied by saying that other, deeper, stronger desires are actually being thwarted by twisting the knob to neutralize the desires of the oppressed. Again Luke, how could you possibly know that? It sounds like you are just making desirism unfalsifiable, and what is really happening is that you are projecting your feeling of racism being wrong onto your moral theory of choice.

Also Luke, I beg you again for a coherent explanation of what it means for a moral theory to be the “correct” one. Does it mean that a majority of people will think it is a good code to live by? Something else? What then?

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ayer October 19, 2009 at 9:51 am

Penneyworth: “You are correct (about turning the knobs). I made this exact argument before, and was about to repeat it, but you beat me. Last time, Luke replied by saying that other, deeper, stronger desires are actually being thwarted by twisting the knob to neutralize the desires of the oppressed.”

Thanks, and you also make a good point. I have also noticed that desirism seems to assume the existence of “deeper, stronger” desires, i.e., the desires that a “truly good (or virtuous)” person would have. This is why the way Luke applies the theory appears to me similar to traditional “virtue ethics.” Of course, as a theist, I have no problem with the existence of objective “virtues” that are equivalent to “the good desires,” but for a nontheist it would seem problematic.

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Rich October 19, 2009 at 9:58 am

Desires are a problem, but difficult questions don’t have to have god as the answer. ‘We don’t know (yet)’ can be sufficient and honest.

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Patrick Henry October 19, 2009 at 10:37 am

To sum up, I hope we can step past insults and evolution and desirism and find a generic definition of “evil” we can agree on so that we can then more substantively argue over which worldview best explains the existence of such evil in our universe. Can we just go with “suffering,” or something like that?

Ever played chess? Chess has rules, evil has no rules.

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Euthyphro October 19, 2009 at 10:43 am

Luke:

Why is it that you can’t answer the questions Vox asked directly? If I asked you if you believed cake existed would you respond that it depended on whether I meant bunt or devil’s food? What if you knew that I considered pies to also be cake? Wouldn’t you still agree that cake existed, and then simply disagree with my categorization of pies?

If I asked if the recipe you used was batter-based or dough based would you tell me that some people use the word batter to also mean someone who swings a bat in baseball, and that if that is what I meant then you would disagree as you prefer a rolling pin?

If I then asked, if your recipe is batter-based what are the ingredients would you give me a recipe for key-lime pie instead of cake?

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Rich October 19, 2009 at 11:04 am

Euthyphro, I suspect he’s trying to avoid equivocation.

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Anonymous232 October 19, 2009 at 11:19 am

“I’m not interested in defending my knowledge of theology. I’m sure you know theology much better than I do”

Hmmm. What happened to you?

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revrogers October 19, 2009 at 11:25 am

Luke,
Your desirism theory seems to focus on the determination of “good” and “evil” as being decided by that which maximally or minimally affirms desires. But whose desires are being accomplished or thwarted? The desirism theory would seem to be a great moral theory for those occupying positions of power. The atheist Mao Tse-Tung had millions murdered in order for his political desires to be accomplished. He was not thwarted in his desires and thus his desires were “good”. He had enough power to insure that no one would thwart his desires to reform China. You might say that the desires of the murdered were thwarted. But why should Chairman Mao care about the desires of those he intends to rid China of? You need to provide a scientific metric which says that the desires of the majority should trump the desires of the individual. You also need to provide a scientific means of defining “thwarting”. If one has enough political and military power then that can serve as a means to achieve the “good” of one’s desires without being thwarted.
So if desirism is the moral theory I should consider,
(1) Why should I give any concern for the maximizing of others’ desires, especially if I have the power to gain my own desires independent of the contrary desires of others, and especially since I have a limited time of life for maximizing my own desires?
(2) How would you instruct someone in how to determine whether one’s desires has a greater or lesser probability of being thwarted, especially if one is more intelligent than others and has a means of gaining more and more power over the course of his or her life?

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Bob October 19, 2009 at 11:31 am

Holy crap that’s a lot of insults…….but I come from a different tradition (analytic philosophy) that values clarity, argument, and evidence – not insults.

You forgot to include “condescension”, “mockery”, and “snide,passive-aggressiveness” in that list of yours. You are an advocate of this type of discourse. You can’t be seriously complaining about Vox’s response in kind to your own rather snide second letter?

Turn this knob to the right, and racist desires strengthen throughout the population. Turn this knob to the left, and racist desires decrease. To say that racist desires are evil is to say that turning this knob to the right thwarts more desires than turning this knob to the left. If we turn the knob to the right, many racist desires are fulfilled but the desires of minorities are thwarted. If we turn the knob all the way to the left, no racist desires are thwarted (because they don’t exist), and also the desires of minorities are not thwarted.

That just doesn’t make sense. You suggest elsewhere that a “bad desire” is one that thwarts more and stronger desires than it fulfills. If a majority of people have a desire to pursue racist ideas against a minority then, obviously, the majority have more and possibly stronger (or equally strong)desires than the minority. According to you, this would make racism a moral endeavour.

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Euthyphro October 19, 2009 at 11:51 am

Rich-

He couldn’t possibly be trying to avoid the fallacy of equivocation. The word evil is always understood to be something immoral and wicked. Neither party disagrees with this use just like the rest of the English speaking world. Where they disagree is what things fall into the category of evil.

It is made even worse that the next two questions asked were meant to determine how the Luke chose to categorize it.

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Lee A. P. October 19, 2009 at 12:23 pm

I agree with Rich. No need to go into your own theories of morals. The point is that “Godidit” or “Godsaidso” and any explaination with God tells us nothing. You don’t even have to have an account of morals. Let him attempt to prove to you why bullshit supernatural chicanery exists. Thats the issue here. Why does Vox, and other theists, believe in a bunch of unseen magical supernatural beings and realms?

His explanations thus far have been “evil exists, supernatural bullshit exists and the devil rules the world. Therefore Jesus”.

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Eaglewood October 19, 2009 at 12:25 pm

uuummm…

Luke,
Did you not in the past three letters defend the idea that you knew a considerable amount about Christian theology? Why is it then when Vox starts talking about the writings of several well known theologians and how his views line up very well with those theologians, you decide to back off on debating Christian theology? Is this because you are on the ropes concerning the inherent evil nature of man, and wish to derail the idea that Vox may have a point?
Mankind left to his own devices will seek the lowest common denominator often to feed an ever increasing appetite for the next thrill. This is the nature of evil. No man starts off thinking he is going to commit some evil act, he is often swept into it simply trying to fulfill a desire that requires him to ramp it up a notch just to get the same level of fulfillment.

The fact of the mater is the two of you could debate until the end of time on what is or is not evil simply buy moving the goalposts to define subjective vs objective. Which is my concern that you may be doing. Basic Christian theology holds that man is fallen and has chosen the path outside of the rules and guidelines set forth by the Creator. A position you have emphatically rejected. You claim evil is based upon competing desires, but the question still remains: Who’s desire is the “good” desire, and who decides? You claim there are objective grounds in desirism, yet who decides that is in fact a universal objective desire? this will go round in circles as any Christian worth his salt would not argue your desirism argument but agree that evil come from the selfish desires of the heart, and that the Creator is the one who set forth the objective rules. Around and round we go, where it ends nobody knows.

There is no “gotcha” here. I know you think you are setting us Christians up for a “gotcha” moment, but it will never come.

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Rich October 19, 2009 at 12:33 pm

“He couldn’t possibly be trying to avoid the fallacy of equivocation. The word evil is always understood to be something immoral and wicked.” is evil the opposite of good?

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Eaglewood October 19, 2009 at 12:42 pm

“Why does Vox, and other theists, believe in a bunch of unseen magical supernatural beings and realms?

His explanations thus far have been “evil exists, supernatural bullshit exists and the devil rules the world. Therefore Jesus”.”

Not going to answer for Vox. But you are conflating magic with power. I would dare say that not one single atheist here or agnostic for that matter has had any dealings with the supernatural. Yet you have to equate that power with magic and parlor tricks to convince yourself that you are the “rational” one and not the theist.
There are countless people who have had experiences with the supernatural. For an inquiring mind that leads to investigation and discovery. For many the rational conclusion is that the supernatural exists, and many of those including myself have concluded rationally that Jesus is who He claims to be and have chosen to follow Him. If you come to a different conclusion that is fine by me. I can not make you see the things I have seen and felt. Hence free will.

Good luck, but I will conclude that the vitriol here is unwarranted. I hold no animosity towards your lack of belief in my Lord, I wish the feeling was mutual amongst the commenters here, but I am afraid it is as much a fairy tale as the unicorn.

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Sharkey October 19, 2009 at 1:15 pm

Eaglewood: “I would dare say that not one single atheist here or agnostic for that matter has had any dealings with the supernatural.”

I agree. In fact, I would strengthen your statement to:
“I would dare say that _nobody_ has had any dealings with the supernatural.”

Provide the evidence that lead you to rationally conclude in the existence of supernatural events, and we’ll go from there.

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Mr. Rodgers October 19, 2009 at 1:22 pm

Luke,
It appears Voxday’s tactical “insults” have worked, as I see the prevalent rate of your passive-aggressive comments have greatly diminished.

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Beelzebub October 19, 2009 at 1:53 pm

Mankind left to his own devices will seek the lowest common denominator often to feed an ever increasing appetite for the next thrill. This is the nature of evil. No man starts off thinking he is going to commit some evil act, he is often swept into it simply trying to fulfill a desire that requires him to ramp it up a notch just to get the same level of fulfillment.

My view of human evil follows more the “banality of evil” descriptor. The more educated, the more cultured, the saner and more secure the individual the less he will tend toward the kinds of acts a Christian will call evil. Human evil almost always springs from bad experience, bad emotion, dementia or insanity. Hitler committed his crimes because he had an insane desire to reinstate a mythical German state and an insane hatred of various peoples who he thought were oppressing Germans. We can find objective errors in his reasons; so it’s no good to just say that his desires were as valid as anyone else’s.

The Christian model of human evil is interesting as a religious conception; it recounts that we were once perfect, that we blew it, and that now our job is to strive to return to perfection.

The secular model of human evil is that we grew from amoral creatures, through human tribalism, and eventually to civilization. In it, we also strive for perfection; so Christian and secular stories end in a parallel path. However, the secular view is that the shadows of our amoral and tribal past contribute in counterpoint to our civilized present to produce our present-day capacity for immorality. To support this there are tons of studies of ape colonies that show vague parallels to human culture. I recommend “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors” by Sagan and Druyan.

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Rich October 19, 2009 at 2:01 pm

Morality affords first tribalism then society and so offers reproductive advantage. The evolution of it is unsurprising.

*high fives Beelzebub*

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tz October 19, 2009 at 2:46 pm

To quote a famous subtitle: “The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life”.

If racism tends to preserve your race at the expense of others, and evolution is both true and good, then racism cannot be evil. If “minorities” are competing for the same resources, they ought to be thwarted – and not just their desires. And it happens today (see the new DVD “Maafa 21″). No person, no desire, nothing to thwart.

Eugenics is part of evolution and follows directly and logically from it whether you want it to or not. Racism is probably the one thing you cannot possibly use to demonstrate morality or immorality unless you wish to preserve and favor racism in the struggle for truth.

Survival of the fittest, and minorities don’t fit as well. Evolution is true – except it doesn’t apply or we ought not apply it to human beings for some unexplained reason…

At least if you happen to believe in that sort of thing (as a pro-life Roman Catholic, I’m completely opposed to all this stuff, mainly because it is not true and not good in exactly the sense Vox explained – family and nationalism and patriotism are lesser goods but when put ahead of human dignity – and humans aren’t animals who “compete” to survive. We differ in kind, not degree.)

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mikespeir October 19, 2009 at 3:21 pm

My suspicion is that tz has no idea what Darwin meant by “Races.”

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revrogers October 19, 2009 at 3:27 pm

What is the morality of one tribal unit bashing in the the heads of other tribal units in order to form a society which fulfills the desires of the more powerful tribal unit and insures biological and ideological propagation? Consult the success and thus the supposed moral virtues of atheist Communist China.

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lukeprog October 19, 2009 at 4:33 pm

Hmmm… I definitely need to add some things to my Ethics F.A.Q. I can see things are still not clear.

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Lee A. P. October 19, 2009 at 5:02 pm

“But you are conflating magic with power. I would dare say that not one single atheist here or agnostic for that matter has had any dealings with the supernatural”

We have a world chock FULL of multi-media and man has NOT ONCE come up with irrefutable or even convincing evidence of the supernatural! PATHETIC! Your world view is absolutely fucking pathetic! Here lies a realm of reality that supposedly exists and exerts a TREMENDOUS and often ALL ENCOMPASSING influence over our day to day world and you guys have not ONCE provided half way convincing evidence of this world. SICKENING reasoning! PATHETIC! You should be ashamed.

In fucking FACT, you pathetic credulous bastards, EVERY instance of the supernatural has been BETTER AND MORE FULLY explained by NATURAL causes! NOT ONCE has a supernatural explanation been better explained by the supernatura than it has by the natrual. NOT ANYWHERE! EVE! But you fucking morons will CONTINUE to INSIST that hidden, powerful deity’s and angels and demons and cherubim ect. exist and are actively influencing the world! You guys are crazy, credulous, bat shit insane motherfuckers — at least when it comes to your belief in the “supernatural”.

Anyone can simply INSIST that crazy, unfalsifiable bullshit exists! Any stooge can do this! There is nothing special about claiming “Shit-Monsters exist and if you have not witnessed them then all I can say is that many people have! HA! Lots of people have seen animated monsters made of shit walk around and influence our reality!So there!”

You guys simply insist: “Silly stupid atheists! Demons and Michael the Archangel exists! Along with God and the talking snake! FOOLS!”.

Fundy Christian theists defend untenable bullshit based on supernatural claims, using God of the gaps and appeal to ignorance almost excuslively.

But by all fucking means, keep believing that reports of demon possession and witches in Africa are NOT due to a FUCKING OVERWHELMINGLY credulous and superstitious populous (not unlike the general population in Europe and the rest of the “civilized” world hundreds of years ago)! Keep believing that “the devil is at work powerfully in Africa” when you hear of reports of demon possession in a sadly superstitious and backwards land, like the pathetic, stupendously credulous cultists you fundy Christians are!

“Yet you have to equate that power with magic and parlor tricks to convince yourself that you are the “rational” one and not the theist.”

Real “magic” would not be anything that could be shown to happen via natural means. Parlor tricks are only “magic” in common parlance. “Tricks” are not the type of “magic” I am talking about when I speak of religious people putting all their faith in “magic”. What I mean is straight out of your ass, unexplainable, indefinable *POOF*, MAGIC! Which is EXACTLY what you guys believe in.

“There are countless people who have had experiences with the supernatural. For an inquiring mind that leads to investigation and discovery. For many the rational conclusion is that the supernatural exists, and many of those including myself have concluded rationally that Jesus is who He claims to be and have chosen to follow Him.”

ALL paths to discovery in the realm of the “super natural” have lead to NON-SUPERNATURAL explanations, OVERWHELIMINGLY, each and every time. You are the type of people to believe that the Salam trials were genuine and that many witches were justifiably put to death!

Either be a super naturalist or don’t. Do not try to co-equate naturalism and supernaturalism in any sort of compatabalistic way because to do so is to engage in an ultimate oxymoron.

When you accept a supernatural worldview then you can NEVER be confident that you are not being tricked by even more powerful supernatural beings! To accept confidence in one supernatural agent over the other is the ULTIMATE in blind faith.

Let us get over the nonsensical arguments over non-existant agents so that we may focus on the wealth of facinating unexplainable questions we have about the actualy, verifiable and wonderful reality that we live in.

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Beetle October 19, 2009 at 5:12 pm

First time commenter. I have been following this dialog and I just want to complement you Luke on your ability to respond so coherently. Vox Day xtianity is such a mess, and is blog writing so convoluted, I would have been totally flummoxed myself. Please keep up the good work!

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Lee A. P. October 19, 2009 at 5:33 pm

Vox’s worldview is such that if you do not accept supernatural bullshit, then you are simply not “in the know” and you just do not understand.

He will claim the same thing with regards to this exchange. Luke simply cannot understand just how and why Vox is defeating him. He just is. Cuz Jesus. And evil and the devil exists. Vox is simply on the right team. So there!

Housed in competent (but not wholly impressive or enjoyable) english prose, that is all that is there. “Wee! Supernatural crap exists you stupid athiest! Weee!”

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Touro73 October 19, 2009 at 5:36 pm

Very good letter. I wish I had your patience in dealing with this matter. I only fear that it won’t work towards the discussion, because you gave him to much space to steer clear of the subject and I am almost certain he will answer with more insults and vague descriptions. (After all he has to please his readers also.) But I will follow this discussion with a great deal of interest.

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Gr0\/\/UP October 19, 2009 at 5:39 pm

Being an intellectual lightweight cannot be discounted by whining.

Suck it up. Learn your topic – both sides – only then can you truly debate it’s merit.

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drj October 19, 2009 at 6:08 pm

Being an intellectual lightweight cannot be discounted by whining.
Suck it up. Learn your topic – both sides – only then can you truly debate it’s merit.

I am amazed by the sheer power of being slightly more articulate than the average person, while being a pompous, self-righteous, narcissistic alpha-male. People just eat it up, they follow you, they listen… they are drawn to the testosterone.

Such mindlessness is proof positive of our evolutionary heritage.

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rushmore October 19, 2009 at 6:34 pm

Beelzebub – you say: “The Christian model of human evil is interesting as a religious conception; it recounts that we were once perfect, that we blew it, and that now our job is to strive to return to perfection.”

This is a rather common misrepresentation of the Christian worldview. Atheism and virtually every other religion BUT Christianity are busily working to bring humanity to perfection through human effort and striving – whether in the name of God or man as God. True Christians are not ‘striving for perfection’ in that sense – instead they concede that they cannot save themselves; if Christians could save themselves Christ need not have given His life.

Rich: Enjoy high-fiving Beelzebub over his straw man. Let me know if you have a substantive point to make.

Lee AP: When you understand that you regularly rely on all sorts of evidence that do not qualify as strictly scientific, you might broaden your views a smidge. If you want some shard of the supernatural that you can put in a test tube and evaluate – well, good luck. But you may find benefit in thinking about the various sorts of non-scientific evidence that is available to anyone. Also it’s time for that Ritalin refill.

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Jeff H October 19, 2009 at 6:53 pm

lukeprog said: Hmmm… I definitely need to add some things to my Ethics F.A.Q. I can see things are still not clear.

Pphh, your moral theory is crap. If desires exist, why are there still monkeys around? Hmm? And how come we can’t find any desires in the fossil record?

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ayer October 19, 2009 at 6:56 pm

Lee A.P.,

Yikes.

“NOT ONCE has a supernatural explanation been better explained by the supernatura than it has by the natrual.”

Please check out William Lane Craig’s debates for his devastating (to atheism) presentation of the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. As Luke put it regarding the Hitchens debate, “Craig spanked Hitchens like a foolish child.”

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Anti-sasjack October 19, 2009 at 7:14 pm

drj

Being an intellectual lightweight cannot be discounted by whining.
Suck it up. Learn your topic – both sides – only then can you truly debate it’s merit.

I am amazed by the sheer power of being slightly more articulate than the average person, while being a pompous, self-righteous, narcissistic alpha-male. People just eat it up, they follow you, they listen… they are drawn to the testosterone.

Such mindlessness is proof positive of our evolutionary heritage.

————-

I’m even more impressed by the passive aggressive whinging, and non sequitur seque into evolution.

P.S. Nice Job proving Gr0\/\/up was right!

P.P.S. Please explain how being a jerk to others is ethical vis a vis the explanation of good that Luke provided.

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drj October 19, 2009 at 7:42 pm

Please check out William Lane Craig’s debates for his devastating (to atheism) presentation of the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. As Luke put it regarding the Hitchens debate, “Craig spanked Hitchens like a foolish child.”

Funny… I always walk away from the Craig debates over the resurrection, saying to myself “Seriously? THATS all he’s got?” Women at the empty tomb, therefore Jesus? C’mon…

His defense of the Kalam is admirable and impressive.. but his resurrection defenses just seem embarrassing.

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lukeprog October 19, 2009 at 8:19 pm

Beetle,

Thanks for the support!

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Chuck October 19, 2009 at 8:56 pm

Ayer,

That Craig wins most debates just says he is skilled at debating. It doesn’t make him right.

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Beelzebub October 19, 2009 at 11:56 pm


This is a rather common misrepresentation of the Christian worldview. Atheism and virtually every other religion BUT Christianity are busily working to bring humanity to perfection through human effort and striving – whether in the name of God or man as God. True Christians are not ’striving for perfection’ in that sense – instead they concede that they cannot save themselves; if Christians could save themselves Christ need not have given His life.
Rich: Enjoy high-fiving Beelzebub over his straw man. Let me know if you have a substantive point to make.

It can’t be a straw-man error because it wasn’t engaged in argument. I was just noting things as I see them. Perhaps Christians don’t believe humans can become perfect, but they do (many of them) attempt to be Christ-like. To me, that’s one of Christianity’s saving graces. There are a few Christians who actively discourage the improvement of Man, presumably because they think this is in opposition to the condition God set for man. They trot out the Enlightenment “New Man” ideology, the Reign of Terror, and then somehow Mao and Stalin, bada bing bada bang, concluding that any attempt to improve Man ever, ever is destined to fail — because God said we’re shit and that’s that. Sorry, I don’t buy it, and to be honest I prefer my Christians more optimistic anyway. Christian doctrines are hard enough to take as it is, but if you’re just going to be couch potatoes…

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Touro73 October 20, 2009 at 12:34 am

@Ayer

‘devastating presentation of the evidence for the resurrection’?
Did I miss something?
If so, can you post the link for that, because I’m really curious now.

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ayer October 20, 2009 at 4:27 am

“If so, can you post the link for that, because I’m really curious now.”

The debate with Hitchens is available by purchasing the DVD only, but Craig has debated the resurrection quite a few times, but this is a good one:

http://www.bringyou.to/CraigSpongDebate.mp3

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ayer October 20, 2009 at 4:33 am

drj: “Funny… I always walk away from the Craig debates over the resurrection, saying to myself “Seriously? THATS all he’s got?” Women at the empty tomb, therefore Jesus? C’mon…”

Funny how if his case is so absurdly weak, you would think at least one atheist opponent would be able to humiliatingly “spank him like a foolish child” (Hitchens certainly has debating skills, because he has spanked many opponents when debating political issues, etc.).

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Chuck October 20, 2009 at 5:01 am

That Craig wins most debates …

It’s like talking to a brick wall.

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drj October 20, 2009 at 5:25 am

Funny how if his case is so absurdly weak, you would think at least one atheist opponent would be able to humiliatingly “spank him like a foolish child” (Hitchens certainly has debating skills, because he has spanked many opponents when debating political issues, etc.).

I don’t think Hitchens has good debate skills at all. He’s had a few good showings here and there, but by and large he’s incoherent and off-topic in nearly every debate, and doesnt answer questions well. He can hardly even be counted upon to decisively beat Dinesh D’Souza in a debate. He’s not a robust debater, even though he can be quite entertaining.

I was scratching my head in confusion about his match up with Craig. Craig should be debating other philosophers (as he usually does)… not guys like Hitchens. It was really one of the worst pairings for a debate that one could possibly dream up.

While most, for some reason, seem to think Richard Carrier did poorly in his first debate with Craig, I think he illustrated quite well the weakness of Craig’s case.

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ayer October 20, 2009 at 7:16 am

drj: “While most, for some reason, seem to think Richard Carrier did poorly in his first debate with Craig, I think he illustrated quite well the weakness of Craig’s case.”

Actually, Carrier is among those who say he did poorly in his debate with Craig. As he said on his blog:

“As I had predicted, I didn’t win the debate”

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the bandit October 20, 2009 at 7:18 am

Luke, I looked over the Ethics F.A.Q., but did not see a subject heading in which this question might come up (though several attempted were “To be added…”), and I don’t think I fully grasp the moral system you are laying out, so I hope you don’t mind if I ask:

According to desirism, would premarital/extramarital sex be considered a moral good or a moral evil? If I were to apply my own reasoning, I’d figure turning the dial up on extramarital sex results in the fulfillment of lustful desires, sure enough, but inhibits a larger array of desires, i.e., not getting pregnant, avoiding STDs, destabilizing the family unit, childrens’ desires for both a mom and a dad, some partners desires for the act to indicate a long-term commitment, etc.; thus, it would be considered a moral evil. Is this correct?

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Todd White October 20, 2009 at 7:26 am

Luke,

I’m a person of faith, but I have to admit that you are demolishing Vox Day in this debate. Vox is simply not qualified to be an apologist for Christianity (both in terms of temperament and intellect).

I just offered this take on my blog…

If Vox Day won’t challenge the atheists on evolution, what’s the point of his book? Honestly, his book is called, The Irrational Atheist: Dissecting the Unholy Trinity of Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens. If Vox Day won’t challenge the Unholy Trinity on the topic of evolution – when those guys make their living advancing evolution – what fills the 320 pages of his book? Does he accuse of Richard Dawkins of peeing sitting down? Snore.

http://mustardseednovel.blogspot.com/2009/10/vox-day-drops-ballagain.html

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robwbright October 20, 2009 at 7:50 am

Luke:

In your (allegedly) Christian experience, did you ever actually experience a miracle – either for yourself or witness a clear case of one in another person? If you haven’t, then you have not even begun to experience true, full Christianity.

After all, Christ said:

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.”

If a person is not doing the works of Christ (including miracles, casting out demons, etc . . .) then that person is not believing the fullness of the gospel.

I read your post here:

http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=3377

It would appear that your entire “Christian” experience was based on feeling. You don’t trust the feelings and thus, you left.

I don’t trust my feelings, either. Following Christ is not about feeling and anyone who writes an entire book about it is off base. If you disagree (from a Christian perspective), then please find me chapter and verse where feeling towards God is emphasized as highly important.

Allow me to relate some of my Christian experiences – but first, please note that on three occasions, I have left the Lord for months or years because my pastor (and therefore God) was “too severe” – just as you seem to think Vox is.

But, again, Jesus Christ called people dogs, snakes, vipers, hypocrites, etc. . . God is both severe and kind. He is willing that none should perish but that all should come to the knowledge of the truth. If a person is off base spiritually, sometimes they need to be shook out of it – severity is sometimes the only thing that will work.

As to my experiences – my church has varied from 50-100 people for the last 30 years. We’re far from a “mega” church – most people will not “put up with” our church because the whole word of God is preached – and that includes reproof and rebuke where necessary. People get offended and leave – as I did three times. But I keep coming back because there is life in Jesus Christ.

As to my experiences – and I’m going to refer to the ones that are most vivid in my memory:

I have witnessed a woman’s leg grow approximately 1.5 inches in a matter of seconds while being prayed for. She had suffered with back problems for years because of the fact that the leg was shorter than the other one.

I have watched poison ivy disappear from a child’s face on two occasions immediately after the prayer of faith. That may seem a small thing, but you replicate it.

A wart that had been on my finger for months – right in the bendy part where it was really annoying – simply fell off after the prayer of faith.

My 5 year old daughter suddenly developed difficulty standing straight and walking and she was in severe pain. It had not improved for 2-3 days and it was extremely disturbing. My wife and I obeyed the scriptures and called upon the elders of the church to come and lay hands on the child. She was immediately improved and was entirely recovered within 24 hours.

A woman – my friend – who had been barren and her husband who was infertile now have two children. This is her testimony:

http://www.meigschristiancenter.com/testimonies/barbara_r_farley_testimony.htm

I could go on. . .

Now, Luke – without knowing me – if you will grant that my “experiences” actually happened, what is your explanation?

If you haven’t experienced more than good feelings as the pinnacle of your spiritual experience, then you haven’t experienced much at all of God.

And, BTW, you can psychologically stir up feelings of love towards a person by doing the same sorts of things that you did re: God.

Christian love does not necessarily involve feelings.

It does involve – always – keeping his commandments, regardless of feeling. See I John 5:2-3; John 15:10; John 14:15; II John 1:6.

Authority and submission are key in all of our relations and most important in the relation between God and man.

I would challenge you to find a church where miracles are performed regularly and see if you can disprove what’s going on. (and I’m not talking about false preachers like Benny Hinn and their mega churches – if there’s a LARGE congregation it’s not likely true Christianity – and that’s provable by scripture – Luke 16:15)

Unfortunately, people in the west are (metaphorically or actually) rich, fat and lazy and don’t receive very well. You’ll find far more miracles in poor countries. But there are churches like mine scattered around – if you dare to look and attend.

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Steveo October 20, 2009 at 9:04 am

Luke,
I’m interested in your concept of counting. What do you mean by counting? Is Vox evil because he thwarts your desire to count insults by presenting “innumerable” insults or is he evil because he thwarts your desire to increase supportive traffic to your blog and thereby risks your credibility?

Incidentally, I’ve counted the insults and there are c. (FYI)

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sam October 20, 2009 at 12:15 pm

if you will grant that my “experiences” actually happened, what is your explanation?

Satan granted them. It’s a sensible explanation of the data, given VDC’s expression that Satan rules the world (which I had heard from some Christians previously, but still there are many who do not hold to this). Of course, Satan also wrote the Bible and invented the fiction of Jesus. He’s the master of deceit, after all — how can trust a written work that’s gone through 2000 years of Satanic revisions?

VD’s assertion that Christianity is true because evil exists becomes something of a tautology if his definition of evil is based on the Bible.

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ayer October 20, 2009 at 1:17 pm

sam: “Satan granted them.”

Hmm, so you’re conceding the existence of the supernatural. Interesting position for an atheist to take.

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drj October 20, 2009 at 4:10 pm

Actually, Carrier is among those who say he did poorly in his debate with Craig. As he said on his blog:

“As I had predicted, I didn’t win the debate

Well, it was just my opinion… I feel Carrier is a little too self-deprecating there… his performance wasnt as polished, but I think he successfully assaulted Craig’s arguments enough to rob them of any “devastation” they may have had.

Also consider that when ever Craig is challenged on the probability of the resurrection, he is usually quick to agree with the unbeliever. The resurrection only becomes probable enough to consider plausible, given the acceptance of certain background information – namely, the existence of a theistic god who would intervene in the world through miracles. So apparently, the arguments for the resurrection are only devastating if one is already a theist, according to Craig.

(Pay no attention to the fact that he, in other debates, will sometimes try to use the resurrection as evidence that God exists..)

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Rich October 20, 2009 at 4:22 pm

robwbright : How come Luke’s experiences are ‘(allegedly) Christian ‘ or ‘ “Christian” ‘ but yours are simply ‘ christian ‘?

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ayer October 20, 2009 at 5:40 pm

drj: “The resurrection only becomes probable enough to consider plausible, given the acceptance of certain background information – namely, the existence of a theistic god who would intervene in the world through miracles. So apparently, the arguments for the resurrection are only devastating if one is already a theist, according to Craig.
(Pay no attention to the fact that he, in other debates, will sometimes try to use the resurrection as evidence that God exists..)”

Craig’s arguments for the existence of God (e.g., the kalam, which you rightly call “impressive”) are part of the impressive cumulative case that makes up the background information for the resurrection. The historical data for the resurrection also reinforces the theistic arguments. That’s why it is an interlocking “cumulative case” based on inference to the best explanation.

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molissa October 20, 2009 at 6:44 pm

I’m a 50+ year old woman who came of age during the era of hyper-sensivity to being offended, yet don’t read much in the way of insults or snittiness that should preclude conversation or even require comment. Chose to not be offended already.

Did not grow up with Christian theology, have only been exposed/explored for just over a decade, but was able to get pretty quickly by reading scripture and studying within context that Satan is prince of the world. It’s hardly a Vox view, rather a basic tenant of Christianity.

Probably missed this, but has a definition of desire been determined?

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drj October 20, 2009 at 6:55 pm

Craig’s arguments for the existence of God (e.g., the kalam, which you rightly call “impressive”) are part of the impressive cumulative case that makes up the background information for the resurrection. The historical data for the resurrection also reinforces the theistic arguments. That’s why it is an interlocking “cumulative case” based on inference to the best explanation.

Well, actually, I do think both the resurrection and the Kalam rely heavily on the same overburdened, overworked, worn out crutch of modern Christian philosophy – reformed epistemology. Without it, neither the Kalam nor the resurrection could even hope to surpass the ‘interesting hypotheses with many plausible (and even more parsimonious) alternate explanations.

In any case, the cumulative argument does not work here, since the plausibility of the resurrection accounts depend entirely upon the truth of theism. Now, the Kalam attempts to establish the truth of theism. But if you already believe in theism, you don’t need more evidence that a god exists in the form of resurrection arguments – so the resurrection argument is entirely irrelevant to the Kalam.

The only function the resurrection argument serves, is to forward Christianity as the most reasonable choice of theism, for a theist choosing between competing theisms.

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ildi October 20, 2009 at 7:13 pm

Euthyphro:

If I asked you if you believed cake existed would you respond that it depended on whether I meant bunt or devil’s food?

You’re starting the analogy off wrong. You believe only a certain type of cake exists; let’s call it angel food cake. You then say you’re going to prove that cake in general exists. However, you would deny that your “cake existence” evidence applies to other cakes such as German chocolate or red velvet cake. So, the question is first, which cake’s existence are you arguing for, and let’s see if that even flies, and second, what evidence is there for cakes in general?”

Most people would not care so much about whether there is evidence for the existence of a general cake if they didn’t first believe that either angel food, German chocolate or red velvet cake existed.

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lukeprog October 20, 2009 at 8:31 pm

the bandit,

I haven’t even thought about sexual morality under the scope of desirism. I don’t spend much time with applied ethics. I suspect it would be good to promote desires which lead to people having fulfilling sexual lives while being careful to avoid STDs, keep non-sexual relationships in tact, and raise healthy children.

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lukeprog October 20, 2009 at 8:31 pm

Todd,

Thanks for sharing your perspective!

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lukeprog October 20, 2009 at 8:34 pm

Steven,

I don’t recall saying that Vox was evil. Also, “evil” has very little to do with thwarting MY desires.

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lukeprog October 20, 2009 at 8:47 pm

molissa,

‘Desire’ has not been defined in the course of our letters, no. We’ll see if it comes up. I take a desire to be a propositional attitude to make or keep some proposition P true. It seems likely this attitude supervenes on a particular brain state.

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Todd White October 20, 2009 at 9:04 pm

Certainly, Luke. I should mention that while I am a “person of faith,” I am not a Christian. I have a different (and dare I say, unique) perspective, which I call “Spiritual Rationalism.” If you’re interested, I have a blog entry explaining the essence of “Spiritual Rationalism.” To the extent that you value “clarity, argument, and evidence,” you might find my defense of God and morality more intellectually fulfilling.

http://mustardseednovel.blogspot.com/2008/12/philosophy-of-heather-manning.html

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lukeprog October 20, 2009 at 9:24 pm

robwbright,

Yes, I experienced what I believed to be miracles.

I was far from a perfect Christian, but I did my best to live out the love of Jesus. I did mission trips, worked as a servant of the Kingdom in many capacities, tried to love others and surrender to God, and so on.

Re: your miracle stories. I don’t have the facts, so I can’t explain your story. But if “Jesus did it” is a good explanation for those phenomena, you’ll have to admit that “Krishna did it” is an equally good explanation for similar miracles that happen in a Hindu context, and “Allah did it” is an equally good explanation for similar miracles that happen in a Muslim context, and so on. There are also some serious theological and philosophical problems with the idea of miracles, which I’m sure I’ll write about eventually.

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Touro73 October 20, 2009 at 9:25 pm

@Ayer ‘The debate with Hitchens is available by purchasing the DVD only, but Craig has debated the resurrection quite a few times, but this is a good one:

http://www.bringyou.to/CraigSpongDebate.mp3

I thank you for the link, but i’m not convinced. Craig should consider a new career as stand-up comedian though, because he has got funny points of view and a stupid accent working for him.

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lukeprog October 20, 2009 at 9:31 pm

Craig is a superb debater. He’s in the right career for him.

Stupid accent???

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Touro73 October 20, 2009 at 9:36 pm

@ayer ‘drj: “While most, for some reason, seem to think Richard Carrier did poorly in his first debate with Craig, I think he illustrated quite well the weakness of Craig’s case.”

Actually, Carrier is among those who say he did poorly in his debate with Craig. As he said on his blog:

“As I had predicted, I didn’t win the debate”’

Well, he did perform poorly, because he couldn’t win from someone who believes in the great book of fairy tales.

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Touro73 October 20, 2009 at 9:42 pm

@ lukeprog “Craig is a superb debater. He’s in the right career for him. Stupid accent???”

Ok, i’ll take the stupid accent part back. (my accent is probably worse) But I can’t agree with the superb debater part, because most of his arguments don’t make sense. But I must admit he sure can make a point.

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sam October 20, 2009 at 10:05 pm

Hmm, so you’re conceding the existence of the supernatural. Interesting position for an atheist to take

There are a few potential responses to this:

1) Yeah, what of it? It’s not like you can refute it.

2) What makes you think I’m an atheist? All I’m doing is showing Christianity is wrong.

3) Conversely, I could just be posing a view to show the weakness the foundation of those who claim miracles justify their belief.

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Euthyphro October 21, 2009 at 7:00 am

Luke: “But if “Jesus did it” is a good explanation for those phenomena, you’ll have to admit that “Krishna did it” is an equally good explanation for similar miracles that happen in a Hindu context, and “Allah did it” is an equally good explanation for similar miracles that happen in a Muslim context, and so on.”

I don’t see this as a problem given the statements made early on in the Vox/Luke debate, or maybe it was in the comments on an earlier letter, that other gods admittedly exist in the Christian worldview.

ildi: “Most people would not care so much about whether there is evidence for the existence of a general cake if they didn’t first believe that either angel food, German chocolate or red velvet cake existed.”

Are you claiming here that Luke doesn’t believe the actions Vox would claim as evil exist?

Would it be easier to remove the connotation of the word evil and instead use the words “morally bad.” Do you believe in moral badness? Is badness in morality objective or subjective? If objective what is the basis of said objectivity?

Yes. Objective. God. (Christianity)

Yes. Objective. The tendency to fulfill other desires. (Desirism)

See its not that hard. Then the debate can focus on the actual ideas of the two debaters instead of obscure uses of the word objective. Luke can attack God as the objective base for morality, and Vox can do the same for “a tendency to fulfill other desires”.

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lukeprog October 21, 2009 at 9:15 am

That’s another of Vox’s unorthodox doctrines. Most Christians would say that the Christian God is the only God that exists. There is also the problem that other religions claim to worship an omnipotent God, and there cannot be two omnipotent beings… but then, Vox also rejects the traditional view of God as omnipotent and “the greatest conceivable being.”

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Euthyphro October 21, 2009 at 10:30 am

Luke: ‘That’s another of Vox’s unorthodox doctrines. Most Christians would say that the Christian God is the only God that exists. There is also the problem that other religions claim to worship an omnipotent God, and there cannot be two omnipotent beings… but then, Vox also rejects the traditional view of God as omnipotent and “the greatest conceivable being.”’

First, I’m not Vox, nor do I subscribe to his particular theological views. Second, this isn’t unorthodox at all. It is basic Christianity. There would be no such thing as spiritual warfare if God was the only being with spiritual power. Other gods, demons, evil spirits etc are strewn throughout the OT and NT. In Galatians Paul warns of anyone even an angel that might teach a gospel other than Christ’s, in the Ten Commandments God commands that we not worship other gods, and make no graven images. He goes on to say he is a “jealous” God, but if there are no other gods who is he jealous of; why say not to worship gods OR images if there are only images and not gods as well? 2 Chronicles talks of “so-called gods” and other lords. etc etc

As for other religions claims, there is only a problem if a person claimed they were both true. If I claim Christianity is true there is no problem with my also claiming that other religions are false.

Also Vox doesn’t claim that God isn’t omnipotent, he claims God is not omniscient.

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lukeprog October 21, 2009 at 11:32 am

Euthyphro,

Gee, and all along I thought Christianity was monotheistic. Vox is right, I’ve really misunderstood Christianity…

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mikespeir October 21, 2009 at 12:16 pm

“Also Vox doesn’t claim that God isn’t omnipotent, he claims God is not omniscient.”

Dang if that’s not scary! An omnipotent being that isn’t omniscient? Just to be on the safe side, I’d rather have it the other way around.

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Jake de Backer October 21, 2009 at 12:41 pm

Euthyphro,

I mean, ball park, what are we talking here? Like God and a few poker buddy god’s? A stadium’s worth? Or are they all bumping elbows up there from one side of the cosmos to the other?

Applying for God-ship,
J. de Backer

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Noel October 21, 2009 at 2:27 pm

lukeprog: Gee, and all along I thought Christianity was monotheistic. Vox is right, I’ve really misunderstood Christianity…

Don’t feel bad luke. With Vox’s recasting of Christianity as a henotheistic faith, he has effectively declared that most Christians misunderstand their faith. It seems, in fact, that the great majority of Christians for centuries have mistakenly considered themselves monotheists. Poor fools…

Riddle me this: If Christianity is poly- or heno-theistic, why did the church have such a bitter struggle defending its monotheism in light of the Trinity. If they already believed in many multitudes of gods, why such a fuss over convincing their critics that the Trinity did not violate monotheism? Why not just say, “Oh ya. And Jesus and the Holy Spirit are gods too. Together with YHWH, these three gods are the top dogs of the god-world.”

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ayer October 21, 2009 at 7:21 pm

lukeprog: “Gee, and all along I thought Christianity was monotheistic. Vox is right, I’ve really misunderstood Christianity…”

I think you are misunderstanding Euthrypho and Vox. If I am not mistaken, they take Greg Boyd’s position that these other “gods” are created by the monotheistic God (even if they are sometimes worshiped by humans), but are part of the spiritual rebellion led by Satan.

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drj October 22, 2009 at 4:20 am

Even growing up in Roman Catholicism, I would hear sometimes about other gods, from some folk, as if they are real beings.

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lukeprog October 22, 2009 at 5:42 am

drj,

Interesting.

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mikespeir October 22, 2009 at 5:51 am

I can’t see any general definition of “god” which disqualifies Satan. Why, considering the power he supposedly wields, if he were placed in, say, the Greek pantheon he would rank rather high. Is Christianity then polytheistic? Should we cede to Christians the right to redefine “god” for us so as to make their religion monotheistic? Why?

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drj October 22, 2009 at 6:14 am

I can’t see any general definition of “god” which disqualifies Satan. Why, considering the power he supposedly wields, if he were placed in, say, the Greek pantheon he would rank rather high. Is Christianity then polytheistic? Should we cede to Christians the right to redefine “god” for us so as to make their religion monotheistic? Why?

Its always interesting to think about the saints too. I think the Catholics have gone on and purged most of the more mythical saints from the ranks, but they originally came from Roman gods…. praying to a saint is a hold-over from that old polytheistic heritage.

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Euthyphro October 22, 2009 at 11:12 am

Luke: “Gee, and all along I thought Christianity was monotheistic. Vox is right, I’ve really misunderstood Christianity…”

You really have. Not only Christianity but what I wrote as well. Ayer didn’t have had any problem understanding. In fact he nailed it on the head. The other “gods” are part of the spiritual rebellion. In the bible they are often called false gods, or so-called gods. In English this is always with a lowercase to signify that they aren’t Gods at all.

None of that really matters. The original point was that there are other spiritual beings at work leaving no problem with accepting “Krisna did it.” In fact, as I said before, Paul warns of “angels” preaching a gospel other than Christ’s.

This is all very standard orthodox Christianity. I know Aquinas talked about demonology in his Summae, and I am sure if need be I could find the same in many of the church fathers. For one off the cuff, St. Anthony was famous for his trials with evil spirits. So this goes back at least as far as the time of Constantine.

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Lee A. P. October 22, 2009 at 3:44 pm

This is the typical extreme fundy crap I heard growing up. There are demons everywhere. They are gripped in invisible battles for our souls. All other religions are Satanic. Other religions are either false, or of demonic or Satanic origin. All other Gods are either false or of demonic and/or Satanic origin. You are either happily swinging from Jesus’ ressurected nut sack like a good little Christian are you are essentially a Satan worshipper weather or not you realize it.

It is a razor sharp dualism. An absurdly supersterstitious, ultra paranoid world view. There is Christianity and Jesus and everything else is part of a vast, all encompassing conspiracy to keep people away from Christianity and Jesus.

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Jake de Backer October 22, 2009 at 4:20 pm

Lee A.P.

That’s hilarious. I have heard the same thing. In fact, one of my closest friends married a girl he found physically “repulsive” because he felt “God sent her to him as a test to see if he was contrite about all the womanizing he engaged in as a teen and in his early twenties”. He has literally tricked himself into believing that demons were in possession of his mind and coerced him into pre-marital and absolutely loveless sex. And so the necessary punishment to be meted out is physical and sexual dissatisfaction for the rest of his life.

The delusions inhibiting otherwise normal, intelligent human beings is stultifying. Especially when considered contextually in the scale of just how many people do this to themselves everyday. He uses “the existence of evil” to validate his claim that we are all with demons inside. Everyone one of us.

A few years ago I moved back to the island I grew up on, and he told me that Satan was tempting me to go back there (by way of a great job offer, which, Satan, if you’re reading this, thanks) because he (Satan) knew that I’d be more likely to “follow him” in Florida than I would if I stayed up here with my friend and my other fundamentalist christian buddies.

Your post reminded me of a host of conversations I had with this guy and it amused me. Thanks for posting!

J.

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Lee A. P. October 23, 2009 at 10:02 am

Jake, it would be funny if it were not so sad.

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Jake de Backer October 23, 2009 at 10:38 am

Lee A.P.,

A little of both, perhaps. Certainly one more than the other.

J.

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sam October 23, 2009 at 1:02 pm

Hmm, so VD believes in Christianity in part because he believes (material, tangible) evil, which he defines by Christianity, exists and that Christianity gives the best accounting for this evil that it defines itself.

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Drew October 23, 2009 at 2:47 pm

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faithlessgod October 25, 2009 at 8:21 am

HI Luke

I have posted an analysis of this letter exchange at my site.

Note I have not read the comments on either site.

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