Letter to Vox Day V

by Luke Muehlhauser on October 29, 2009 in 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, Vox’s third letter, my fourth letter, and Vox’s fourth letter.

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Vox,

We agree that a rational demonstration that someone is wrong – about the facts of evolution or their own knowledge of theology, for example – can be taken as an insult. Your continuous implications that I am ignorant or stupid sounded like insults to me, but perhaps you only meant to rebut my factual claim to have some understanding of Christian theology.

Then again, maybe not. I thought the purpose of our dialogue was to get at the truth, but you seem proudly preoccupied with your self-described role as a “Cruelty Artist” bent on orchestrating my own “self-evisceration” (self-disemboweling) which is a “more perfect beauty” than “any collection of dabs of paint on canvas.”1

In any case, I am not motivated to defend my theological knowledge. I have read many books on theology and taken many courses. I have spent hundreds of hours reading the Bible and popular commentaries. But if you still think I am ignorant, well… that’s your own judgment.

What bothers me is your insistence that I am ignorant merely because I was unable to guess your theological positions – for example regarding Open Theism, God’s non-omniscience, and Christian polytheism. You insist this is all “mainstream Christian theology” that I should have known you would defend, but I think most mainstream Christians would disagree. Moreover, you present the debates over Open Theism and so on as happening within mainstream theology, so even if someone was the world’s greatest expert on mainstream theology he still could not have known which of the positions within mainstream theology you happen to defend.

But I keep saying all that and you keep insisting on my ignorance, so I don’t think we’ll get anywhere on that point.

Now, about desirism. Desirism is not the topic of this debate, so I have begun to answer your objections in a more appropriate place: my Desirism F.A.Q. See questions {3.20}, {3.21}, {3.22}. When I have time I will also add responses for {3.23} and {5.31}. If you’d like to discuss desirism further, I’d be happy to do so – over there.

Third, I must thank you for being much clearer about what you mean ever since I charged you with obscurantism.

Okay, back to evil.

I said that whether or not I believe in “evil” depends on the definition of “evil.” You replied that the truth value of a proposition does not depend on the meaning of its terms. I’m not sure how to respond to such a claim except with further examples that should illuminate the issue.

Consider meta-ethical philosopher Stephen Finlay, whom I interviewed earlier this month. Finlay argues that moral terms have a relative meaning, but that their meaning is relative to the values of the agent, not the speaker (as in common moral relativism). So Finlay believes that evil exists and that we can make true claims about it.

But many people (myself included) would say that such a notion does not refer to “evil” at all. They would say that Finlay does not, in fact, believe in evil… according to such-and-such a definition (an objective definition, for example). So whether evil exists does depend on the definition of evil we are using, and it will not suffice to say that our question concerns “any kind of evil.”

In my last letter, I wrote that:

I hope we can… find a generic definition of “evil” we can agree on so that we can… argue over which worldview best explains the existence of such evil in our universe.

Let’s say we argue over which worldview best explains the existence of evil. Our arguments will not meet each other if you are arguing that Christianity has the best explanation for  “that which opposes the Christian God or is inferior to his plan” (aka evil) while I am arguing that naturalism has the best explanation for “desires that tend to thwart other desires” (aka evil).

In fact, if you made such an argument you would be arguing in a circle, since the Christian definition of evil presupposes the truth of Christianity. (In contrast, desirism’s definition of evil is compatible with either naturalism or Christianity, but that is irrelevant.)

That is why I proposed that we find some phenomenon in the world that is very similar to our concepts of “evil” but which we both agree exists. Then we can argue about which worldview offers the best explanation for the given phenomenon, and you would (finally) have an opportunity to offer some justification for thinking Christianity is true.

I suggested the term “suffering.” We could define suffering as “pain; anguish; privation of joy.” I think we both agree that such suffering is a prominent feature of our world, and it is similar to what each of us means by “evil,” so perhaps we could compare the explanatory merits of our respective worldviews with regard to suffering.

If you agree with my suggestion, please run with it. Show me why your Christian theology offers a good explanation for the suffering we observe in the world.

Otherwise, please offer another path forward for our discussion, which I think has been quite exciting so far.

Cheers,

Luke

  1. In the comments to your last letter, at 6:28 AM on 10/23/09, you wrote: “I am not mean-spirited, I am a Cruelty Artist. There is nothing mean, or petty, or small about my art. There is a more perfect beauty in the orchestration of a metaphorical self-evisceration than there is in any collection of dabs of paint on canvas.” []

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{ 59 comments… read them below or add one }

Penneyworth October 29, 2009 at 8:17 am

I can’t believe you just used such a classic Christian apologetic technique. “Desirism isn’t the topic of this debate…” SRSLY? You just did the exact same thing vox did with his refusal to discuss evolution. When someone presents you with a powerful argument, the dumbest thing to do is to say “That’s not what we’re talking about here lol!”

Your reference to item 3.22 in the faq does not cut it. It contains unsupported assertions about what desires are more malleable, and it equivocates concepts of abuse.

You told vox basically to go discuss the problem in your sea of comments rather than just discuss the issue directly in your letters. That is some low-down, christian-style cop out tactics. You can’t get away with that, lewk.

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Lee A. P. October 29, 2009 at 8:37 am

Desirism is not the topic at hand. The topic is about reasons for believing in invisible super natural beings. Desirism is a huge derail. That is a seperate discussion and if Vox wants to discuss it, he can go to the link. I did not see Vox inviting Luke to debate evolution elsewhere.

I think it was perhaps a mistake for Luke to bring up desirism. It seems he could not help himself because it has been his pet subject for the last several months. But whatever. The atheist need not exaplain anything about morals. the burden of proof is on the theist to explain why he believes a load of invisible crap like Gods, angels and evil demon monsters whose evil demon monster leader, Satan/Lucifer apparently “rules the world”.

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Meatros October 29, 2009 at 10:33 am

The topic of the discussion is what justifies Vox’s belief in Christianity, given god exists. It is not evolution or desirism.

If Vox attempts to take the discussion to desirism, then he’s doing EXACTLY the same thing he has chastised Luke for (ie, attempting to engage in an evolution debate).

So far Vox has yet to make a sensible case for Christianity. At best, all he’s done is insult Luke.

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lukeprog October 29, 2009 at 10:56 am

Penneyworth,

I did NOT do the same thing as Vox. Vox still hasn’t backed up anything he said about evolution. I am actively responding to Vox’s criticisms of desirism – just, on another page one click away. Both Vox and I have been trying to get back to the core of our debate, and this is a good way to do it.

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the bandit October 29, 2009 at 11:49 am

If the discussion pendulates on the best definition of evil — whence we can discern which worldview best explains its existence — then I should think the systematic dismantling of your preferred definition would be very much on topic, only irrelevant now because it has been demonstrated useless in the face of logic, common sense, and/or application. =/

You continue to equate hours of exposure to understanding. There’s a correlation, of course, but in your case certainly not one visible to my eyes (a mainstream Christian) in light of your statements regarding (mainstream or not) Christian theology within this discussion. =/

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Nate October 29, 2009 at 11:58 am

say luke… what about people who desire to suffer? Would be ethical to provide it for them?

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Penneyworth October 29, 2009 at 11:59 am

The letters are about both of your beliefs. Rejection of evolution is extremely significant; that’s why it came up in your conversation. He brought it up, but then copped out by saying “we’re not talking about this thing that we were just talking about.” Would it have helped the argument for him to have pointed you to some creationist blog to go argue there? In the same way, desirism is very significant to your belief system. You brought it up, and now you want to marginalize it right after he presents a strong argument. And your faq does NOT directly address his nazi objections. Saying that you will continue this exchange in the comments of your faq is disingenuous. Meet him head on! Explain how desirism addresses his specific objections! Get at truth!

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ATC October 29, 2009 at 12:08 pm

I don’t think evil and suffering are one and the same. Suffering can be an effect of evil, but is not evil in itself, no?

For instance, raping a woman would be evil, and the woman would suffer as a result in various ways, but the suffering is a result of the act, not the act itself.

Of course, I may be misunderstanding things, too.

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Eaglewood October 29, 2009 at 12:29 pm

ATC

I agree suffering in of itself is not evil. it is only a symptom or effect of evil. But even that is is not necessarily an effect of evil. The pain and suffering that a woman goes through to birth a child is quite intense and real but it is for a good thing. Propagation of life. that is just one instance where suffering is not from evil, so suffering is not a good definition of evil.

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Anon232 October 29, 2009 at 12:36 pm

Luke has not provided any definition of his own for evil. He evaded Vox’s question. What’s up with coming up with an agreement on the definition? There is no agreement and none can be arrived at. Luke and Vox are coming from different belief systems. Also, suffering isn’t evil. Not the same thing at ATC has pointed out.

Perhaps this discussion has reached an endpoint, which is Luke’s attempt to salvage some kind stalemate instead of defeat. If this is the case, then the challenge was never one that Luke should have attempted.

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lukeprog October 29, 2009 at 12:41 pm

Anon232,

I explicitly said that an evil desire is “one that tends to thwart other desires.”

I also stated that though suffering isn’t the same as evil, the concepts are similar.

How am I ‘defeated’ when Vox has yet to give any reason at all to think Christianity is true?

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Anon232 October 29, 2009 at 1:04 pm

“I also stated that though suffering isn’t the same as evil, the concepts are similar.”

By definition Evil is an adverb or noun, while Suffer is a verb.

Evil can cause Suffering. Not the other way around. Not sure how the concepts are similar.

Can we try Happy?

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Silas Reinagel October 29, 2009 at 1:15 pm

As Vox’s case for Christianity rests on his belief that the Christian account of evil best explains what we witness in our world, and since Luke’s conception of evil seems to hinge on desirism, then it seems unavoidable that the discussion will revolve around the definition and implications of Luke’s view of evil.

Luke seeking to avoid the question of his present belief in evil by laying aside his own definition in favor of a more “neutral” one seems to be either a move born of cowardice or an attempt to throw a red herring in order to avoid real discussion of the issue.

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Eaglewood October 29, 2009 at 1:25 pm

Luke,
You made a huge deal about your views on desirism in your previous letter. In this letter you make the claim it has nothing to do with the discussion after Vox demonstrates why he believes your position (which you claimed only 30% probability on being correct)is not based in logic. Whether you intend it do be or not that is a fighting withdrawal.

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Chuck October 29, 2009 at 2:12 pm

Luke is just looking for common ground, folks. The concept of suffering is something (presumably) both parties can agree upon.

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Justus October 29, 2009 at 2:42 pm

“In contrast, desirism’s definition of evil is compatible with either naturalism or Christianity, but that is irrelevant.”

This is not irrelevant. If I had to pinpoint one of the fundamental reasons for my Christian faith it would be that: Humans, for all talk of us being rational beings, are very much irrational beings. Maybe rationalizing, but not rational. In emotional, professional, social, emotional, or any other matter, we continually prove our inability to know or understand much less act in a way that will fulfill our true and ultimate desires (love, acceptance, redemption, harmony, etc.). So far as I understand it (and I spent months at Alonzo’s blog) desirism is fundamentally flawed because, especially on a personal level, there is no rational or reasonable evidence that would guide one in understanding the tangled web of their desires, and which desires should be trusted or rejected in the present in order to fulfill long-term, ultimate desires.

Aristotle understood that humans were often most happy when they sacrificed for Arete. Buddhism understands that desire is shrouded by delusion. But it is Christ that declares “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.”

Trusting our desires can be the very root of evil, and only once that is understood can one understand Christ and what following him in faith (Christianity) really means (Gal 5:24, 1 Pet 2:24, Rom 6:11-14, Rom 7:4-6, Rom 8:12-13, Rom 12:1-2, 2 Cor 5:15,17, Titus 2:11, Eph 4:22-25 ).

Christianity not only identifies the problem of evil (what is the Adam/Eve narrative if not a story of the deceptiveness of desires?), which arguably other religions and philosophies also do, but then offers a compelling prescription that was not only persuasive enough to those that experienced Christ and evaluated the evidence he presented first hand (often to the point of death), but has left a witness (through the Bible) that has remained insightful, powerful, and effective, standing the test of time for over two thousand years.

As for proof, I have a question: Long-term surveys consistently show that Christians experience fuller, more rewarding, happier lives than a comparable non-Christian control group. Anyone that knows how clinical trails in life sciences work would know that such a study would count as enough evidence for the FDA to approve a new drug, but would it count as evidence to you?

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Chuck October 29, 2009 at 3:21 pm

I guess you missed the new research then. New studies show that once you remove people who self-identify as “doubters”, the athiests are just as happy as the Christians. It turns out that what matters isn’t actually belief, but rather how certain you are of what you do or don’t believe.

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lukeprog October 29, 2009 at 3:42 pm

Eaglewood,

There is no withdrawal. Unlike Vox in response to my criticism of his views on evolution, I responded directly to Vox’s arguments. (Not in this post, but one click away!) Seriously, how do people not see this? It seems people are desperate to see me “retreating” when in fact it is Vox who has said nothing at all yet to back up his long list of claims concerning Christian doctrine. He said explained what his views are but has not yet given us any reason to think they are true.

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lukeprog October 29, 2009 at 3:44 pm

Justus,

You’re asking would it count as evidence that Christianity makes people happier? Sure. I think I’ve read that other surveys show the important variable is strong belief and a close community, not Christianity in particular. But I don’t know; I haven’t studied that subject. But whether or not a worldview makes people happier has nothing to do with whether or not it is TRUE. A drunk man may be happier than a sober one.

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ayer October 29, 2009 at 4:11 pm

lukeprog: “There is no withdrawal. Unlike Vox in response to my criticism of his views on evolution, I responded directly to Vox’s arguments. (Not in this post, but one click away!) Seriously, how do people not see this? It seems people are desperate to see me “retreating” when in fact it is Vox who has said nothing at all yet to back up his long list of claims concerning Christian doctrine. He said explained what his views are but has not yet given us any reason to think they are true.”

Wrong. Vox gave as the primary reason he embraces Christianity its explanation of evil; thus the discussion of what constitutes evil is the fulcrum of the debate. And since desirism is your explanation for evil (or “suffering”) then it was entirely appropriate for you to explain it at length, as you did in the earlier letter. To claim now that it is a diversion is a clear retreat. It should have been the core of your most recent letter, not a link to a faq (which really didn’t address Vox’s critique).

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ATC October 29, 2009 at 4:44 pm

Eaglewood,

Good call on some suffering being the result of good and not evil.

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tz October 29, 2009 at 5:18 pm

At least the Catholic position (including St. Augustine) not only does not define suffering with evil, but with the opposite. A form of mystical inversion. Christianity is about the passion and the Cross. Were you to ask me how the greatest act of good in the history of the universe was accomplished, I would just tell you to go watch “The Passion of the Christ”.

Here is where some protestant denominations part company.

Colosians 1:24:

Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church

Or in what Jesus said – he suffered, his followers will suffer too.

The catechism of the catholic church has a concordance:
http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/L2.HTM

Particularly relevant is the fall:
http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_P1C.HTM#O

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John Quincy Public October 29, 2009 at 5:35 pm

“But whether or not a worldview makes people happier has nothing to do with whether or not it is TRUE.”

Luke, I’ve been having a lot of personal sport with this desirism thing over on Vox’ site for a number of reasons my own. But you do you seem like a decent bloke on the whole so here’s the rub: You are not going to find the “TRUTH.” If you dedicate to that, lose yourself in the passion for correctness, on this issue then you will leave the Faith of Atheism eventually. No matter what the current pet or fad ethical system may be.

The best you can do in such a case is step back and start hodge-podgeing a workable system together until you can hopefully integrate all the random points. Not unlike science chasing Newton, Quantums, and now GUT’s and Theories of Everything. But in the end you will always know it to be hollow.

Whether Christianity, Buddhism, Desirism, or what have you, you will always need to *trust* that you have the right answer. You’ll always need a little Faith. I strongly advise you not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good unless you find cheer in empty roads.

Don’t let your desire for “TRUTH” keep you from fulfilling other desires such as being at peace with yourself, the world, and what steers it through the heavens.

My quiet advice on deaf ears,
A former Christian, a former Atheist, a tortured Agnostic still seeking “TRUTH.”

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Josh October 29, 2009 at 7:07 pm

Ayer,

“since desirism is your explanation for evil”

I think you got that wrong… Luke’s explanation for evil, so far as I can tell, basically is “the universe doesn’t give a crap”. Desirism may be what Luke uses to DEFINE evil, but it doesn’t explain it.

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pete October 29, 2009 at 9:09 pm

Suffering is not evil by either Christianity or common perspective. The NT speaks much of chasening, pruning the vine, and the refining fire. Further one may suffer as an act of love for another.

In the secular realm one may willingly suffer in a job if it pays really well so that they may reap the benefit of goods and services purchased with the income. This would not constitute evil.

So a very poorly thought out example. But you weren’t really trying to find a good example that all religious perspectives think were evil. You were really just trying to set up for the common and silly ‘why would God allow suffering’ gig.

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Conversational Atheist October 30, 2009 at 12:07 am

I posted a very brief writeup of my thoughts regarding the debate between you and VD.
My entry is here: Vox Day vs Common Sense Atheism

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faithlessgod October 30, 2009 at 1:01 am

Vox has not made any argument for his position, only made assertions. Now his position is based on an argument from evil and so what evil is he has made crucial to his argument. If his conception of evil is unsound then even if he eventually provides a logical induction or deduction to his conclusion (still waiting on this) to be a chrisitan, his argument still fails. Vox still has to show this premise is sound as well as the reasoning that leads to his conclusions. So far all he has presented it is just based on a vicious circularity.

Now all Luke needs to show is that Vox’s conception of evil is false. It seems the conversation has evolved here so that Vox can avoid showing given such a premise that his conclusion is stronger than any other, which Luke has already attacke3d and Vox has avoided dealing with too.

That is focusing on desirism is just another avoidance strategy for Vox, it makes no difference whether desirism is correct or not for this debate which is what are the rational grounds as to why he is a christian.

How about Vox provide reason and evidence that Satan rules the earth and from this concludes that god exists and that the cristian version is the best of the competition – without assuming all this in the first place (in which case he has no argument).

All Luke needs to do is focus on the actual assertions and claims that Vox has made and repeatedly ask for reason and evidence to support any and all of them. I do not think Vox can remotely suceesfully answer any of that, hence his unfounded arrogance as a default avoidance strategy together with any specific ones he can grab as offered by his opponents.

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Dr strange October 30, 2009 at 3:31 am

Vox was right, you didn’t answer the question. He asked you if you believed in evil and you started talking about definitions. The question was not ‘do you believe in evil according to definition x?’ the question was ‘do you believe in evil?’ not only that but it is hilarious how you attempt of faulting vox for not wanting to argue something that had nothing to do with the topic when here you are declaring something that is directly relevant to the subject to be irrelevant, right after he showed you exactly how ridiculous your concept of derism is. The irony is startling. My guess is you will call the topic of evil irrelevant once you’re unable to coherently support that as well.

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sam October 30, 2009 at 6:24 am

Vox is bootstrapping. From what I understand of his views, he pretty closely ties evil to the Bible. If it’s against God’s will in the Bible, it’s evil. Then he claims the Bible is the best explanation of that evil. It then becomes a game of Vox sticking to the Biblical definition religiously, even if it leads to conclusions such as all witches should be burned at the stake or all homosexuals should be stoned. Vox is admirably consistent, but he’s also smart enough to know that “I believe in Christianity because I believe in (material, tangible) [Christian-defined] evil” is not an answer because it’s not a reason he’s giving; it’s a description.

Luke did answer the question of whether he believes in evil, though he didn’t answer it in the most concise way.

There’s enough variation in mainstream theology that it’s unreasonable for Vox to expect Luke to know his positions solely from knowledge of Christianity. As to Vox’s charge that Luke didn’t investigate Vox’s opinions very thoroughly, I’d agree.

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sam October 30, 2009 at 6:42 am

the topic of evil irrelevant once you’re unable to coherently support that as well.

Vox brought it up. It’s relevant to why Vox believes in Christianity. Had Luke answered with a simple “yes” or “no”, Vox would have toyed with the lack of specificity.

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sam October 30, 2009 at 6:48 am

I thought the purpose of our dialogue was to get at the truth

You *really* didn’t investigate Vox very much before you sent that letter, did you?

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ayer October 30, 2009 at 7:06 am

faithlessgod: “it makes no difference whether desirism is correct or not for this debate which is what are the rational grounds as to why he is a christian.”

I quote from Luke’s introduction to his first letter to Vox: “We have agreed to a friendly dialogue about the reasons for our beliefs.” Note: the reasons for OUR beliefs. Luke has to shoulder his share of the burden of proof, in this case for desirism.

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C.D. October 30, 2009 at 7:54 am

Absolutely ridiculous that Luke thinks Desirism is “off topic” after spending an entire segment of his letter detailing it. Desirism is obviously Luke’s belief system. It’s game for critique just as Vox’s beliefs are (which we have already covered). I don’t know who gave the impression that this debate was just about critiquing one person’s beliefs. That is completely absurd…as are Luke’s attempts to derail the convo and accuse Vox of not answering irrelevant questions. Luke you need to confront criticism to your belief system head on and not be a coward by posting watered down responses on a FAQ page.

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sam October 30, 2009 at 8:04 am

I’m thinking Luke was going on this being a discussion of theism/atheism. Desirism is irrelevant to the statement, “I believe at least one deity exists.”

If this is just a general discussion of “beliefs”, then it’s hard to see how one can claim Luke’s earlier focus on evolution was off-topic.

At any rate, I don’t think Luke will abandon a defense of desirism, nor will Vox complain about being referenced to an answer.

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Anon232 October 30, 2009 at 9:40 am

“All Luke needs to do is focus on the actual assertions and claims that Vox has made and repeatedly ask for reason and evidence to support any and all of them.”

Well, Luke already conceded that Vox is better than him in theology, thus an opportunity lost. And Luke didn’t really defend desirism at the same level of Vox’s argument. Luke provided the groundrules where he assumed evidence to be true for arguments’s sake so they can discuss the reasons for their beliefs, which has now been made off-topic by Luke.

Quote “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.”

Vox needs gets us back on track since Luke dropped the ball.

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sam October 30, 2009 at 12:55 pm

Apologies Anon232, that’s absolutely correct. Luke began by stipulating all the theistic arguments are correct, and all atheistic ones fail. His issue was that even if one concedes all that, how one gets from that to Christianity. So it was never about theism/atheism per se, but about religious belief-sets generally.

Which does indeed get back to it being quite puzzling that Vox claims he believes Xianity because he believes in (Xianity-defined) evil.

I find far more entertaining his argument that Xianity can be falsified, and yet “never has”. His examples of falsification (one amounting to genocide and the other a piece of evidence that he knows if it turned up would be impossible to verify) leave a lot to be desired, however.

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Justus October 30, 2009 at 1:40 pm

Luke, JQP somewhat makes a similar point, but if you only allow yourself to believe what you can confirm to be true by way of scientific inquiry, and spend all your time in a quest to prove the unprovable, you are destined to give up quite a bit of time better spent elsewhere, and losing much of your self in the process.

To go back to evolution, instincts are seen across the animal kingdom as hard-wired responses that benefit the survival, thriving, and reproduction of species. Science has shown that humans are wired for belief in the supernatural, that those that have faith live better quality lives, and that those with faith reproduce at a higher rate.

For many (myself included), strong belief and a close community, with first-hand experience of the good life it can bring, can serve as personal evidence, enough so to view faith as something real and serious. And once someone is open to the supernatural, interesting things can happen.

I am sorry if you have never experienced strong belief, or if you were betrayed by your community, but it is not a matter of being drunk, because faith is not a temporary condition. It is more a question of how best to follow your instinct.

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Chuck October 30, 2009 at 5:06 pm

And yet, this study suggests there is no God-shaped hole.

“But the real meat of this study is its findings on life satisfaction and emotional well-being. Prof. Galen makes the point that previous studies, which often found that higher religiosity is correlated with greater life satisfaction, are methodologically flawed. They treated all the nonreligious as a single group, lumping together strong atheists with people who are doubters, who are unsure, even some who are weak believers. This study clearly differentiates among those groups by correlating people’s confidence in their beliefs – from those who are absolutely certain there is no god to those who are absolutely certain there is – with their self-reported levels of happiness and satisfaction in life.”

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Lee A. P. October 30, 2009 at 5:29 pm

It is funny that those who are rabid religionists/supernaturalists have these huge problems with the scientific worldview EXCEPT for the studies that show religion in a good light. Then, SUDDENLY they are on board with science! The WEALTH of findings from various scientific disciplines that paint the flaws and inconsistencies of religion are to be taken with the utmost skepticism! That is when we start talking about the limits of science! It is a win-win no matter what! Glory!

As far as those studies are concerned, like all studies, more follow up studies are to be done and I wonder if there is a happiness difference between any of the main religions (Christianity vs. Islam, vs. Janis vs. Mormonism act.) and what we can draw from that. Certainly it has been shown than belief can be beneficial and can cause happiness weather true or false. We have ALL been aware of happy but deluded individuals. We ALL are aware of the saying “ignorance is bliss”. Virtually ALL children growing up in trailer parks are HAPPY if their biological needs are met. They know no different.

For now the quote that “that is no more to the point than the fact that a drunk man is happier than a sober man” rings true. The studies say nothing for the truth of a particular religion.

Luke, do Scientologists not seem very, very happy on the whole? You hang out with them a lot! 

Christianity, ultimately, can be seen as a very hateful and absurd worldview. When taken literally you have to deal with the fact that most people who ever lived are going to be tormented in hellfire forever.

It is a supernatural worldview whereby people put their beliefs in really strange and crazy things like beings called “angels” who are in some sense immaterial but in another, seemingly material, since they supposedly have wings in order to fly. One is asked to believe in a multitude of very strange and crazy things.
The theist can never understand or grasp just how totally bazaar, sometimes hateful and stark raving retarded their worldview is and so instead they poke wholes in the deficiencies of empiricism. Ok! You got us! There is a lot of crap we cannot be 100% certain about! This does NOT mean the trinity or penal substitution is NOT absurd. The religionists seems drunken with belief an, perhaps some of the happiness that accompanies it, and are therefore immune to the crys of the rest of us.

If “God” is real, and if she is all good and if I have ANY faith at all, then it is that this all good God has yet to fully reveal herself and that ALL of the world religions fail DRASTICALLY in revealing this all perfect deity.

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Justus October 30, 2009 at 5:46 pm

Lee, I don’t know if anger or ignorance fuel the comment above, but you ignore so many historically dominant Christian positions on faith, science, theology, and practice that I can only laugh. If you could only for a brief moment resist your desire to lump all of Christianity along with the current crop of crazy evangelical fundamentalists, you might actually learn something.

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Lee A. P. October 30, 2009 at 5:58 pm

Faith, science and “practice” I can believe, since those are flakey religious type things to begin with — but exactly what are the dominant “scientific” Christian positions? Christianity has had to budge for science not the other way around.

About 50% of voters in this country believe in Genesis literallty. 10%+ or so are non-believers. So most Christians in this country are literalists. I can hardly be asked to keep up with the various sorts of liberal Christian beliefs out there. I can imagine we agree on most things accept you guys hold out faith for a magical deity and the magical undeadening of Jesus base on the limits of human knowledge and other such gaps or whatevr other sort of flakey liberal beliefs. congratualations on not be a literalist nutjob! I still disagree!

Liberal Christians always want to act as if they are the majority for some reason.

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lukeprog October 30, 2009 at 6:57 pm

Lee,

Scientologists DO seem very happy and successful. The staff at Celebrity Centre have all taken a happy pill called Scientology.

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Lee A. P. October 30, 2009 at 7:01 pm

There is a new celebrity center just down the street from me here in Nashville. Literally less than a mile away. I filmed some “Anynonmous” members who protested there but I did not think it interesting emough to post on the web.

They already have caused controvery with their security harming innocent protestors.

I am virtually sure their ultimate goal is to get a huge coutnry music artist to join even if it is just one.

[/offtopic]

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John Quincy Public October 31, 2009 at 5:00 am

Chuck: Thanks for providing that.

Luke: Here’s the part Chuck found inconvenient to quote:

“Rather than a straight line of rising satisfaction linked to increased religious belief, the survey found that the highest life satisfaction was found on both ends of the spectrum – the confident atheists and the confident theists. The happiness and emotional stability of these two groups were statistically equivalent, exceeding that of the general population. It was the doubters and the seekers, the people in the middle who weren’t sure either way, who were worse off.”

This is exactly’ Justus point and mine to you. So long as you maniacally seek what can not be found you will be miserable. Choose to believe the religion of Christ or the religion of Dawkins — or any other — and you will find some peace.

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John Quincy Public October 31, 2009 at 5:15 am

“The WEALTH of findings from various scientific disciplines that paint the flaws and inconsistencies of religion are to be taken with the utmost skepticism!”

Which religion are you making a point of here in your bigotry? Christianity? Buddhism? Atheism?

And what of that science that Justus mentions that support that we are built, in part, for religious experience? Does this pose a problem for you?

It’s an interesting note that Luke determines that Racism, that is genetically justified bigotry, to be an evil desire within desirism. If we are genetically built for religion then this too would be similar genetically justified bigotry and so evil.

“Virtually ALL children growing up in trailer parks are HAPPY if their biological needs are met.”

Interesting. Is this more genetic bigotry on the concept that the poor tend to be religious? Or is this the traditional bigotry against those of predominantly Scottish and Irish genetic lineage? I think it safe to say that Desirism concludes that this is evil on your part Lee.

“When taken literally you have to deal with the fact that most people who ever lived are going to be tormented in hellfire forever.”

This is a generally common misunderstanding about what sheol is. Sheol being “nothing.” That is, that those who die simply cease to exist. If this then is the basis of your claim of hatred in Christianity then how much worse the Religion of Atheism in which everything is consigned to sheol regardless.

“who are in some sense immaterial but in another, seemingly material, since they supposedly have wings in order to fly. One is asked to believe in a multitude of very strange and crazy things.”

So, so-called angels are of the same dualistic nature as photons. I agree with that. Physics, specifically quantum physics, is truly a head trip.

“If “God” is real, and if she is all good and if I have ANY faith at all, then it is that this all good God has yet to fully reveal herself and that ALL of the world religions fail DRASTICALLY in revealing this all perfect deity.”

I hear ya brother. I’m still waiting to hear from physicists to reveal precisely what happened in the Great Inflation. Odd, they keep telling me its beyond the bounds of measurement. Supposedly it has to do with the limits of human knowledge.

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John Quincy Public October 31, 2009 at 5:17 am

Lee: In a separate post as it’s an aside. I’m right down the street from you. Might be interesting to get a beer sometime.

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Jeff H October 31, 2009 at 8:23 am

Just one comment to make:

“It’s an interesting note that Luke determines that Racism, that is genetically justified bigotry, to be an evil desire within desirism. If we are genetically built for religion then this too would be similar genetically justified bigotry and so evil.”

This is a specious analogy. Considering that people are able to change their minds about their religious beliefs (and indeed, evangelistic efforts on the part of many religions are based on this fact), just because someone is genetically predisposed to believe in religious claims, does not make it equal to racism. Black people cannot change their minds and become white.

Think of it this way: some people are also genetically predisposed to have high blood pressure. Does this mean that doctors are bigoted for saying that high blood pressure is a “bad” thing?

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Lee A. P. October 31, 2009 at 8:35 am

JQP, I am not a “desirist” like Luke.

I am aware that some Christians believe in annihilation but there is also scripture contradicting annihilation as well. Some of it is from that Jesus guy.

As far as the QM stuff, I think you are falling into the same trap as Deepok Chopra and the people from that movie “What the Bleep”. Which is “QM is strange and crazy therefore virtually all the crazy shit I believe in is true and contained in QM”.

I guess the difference between us is that I don’t fill the gaps of human knowledge with “God”. I do not even know what that word means as there is no coherency to it it. It is gobbeldygoop.

I would love to share a demonic intoxicating drink with you any time. Seriously.

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John Quincy Public October 31, 2009 at 9:37 am

Jeff H: “This is a specious analogy.”

Hardly. Many people harbor genetic bigotry against some race or another without ever having seen them, or in many cases based solely on their lineage despite common appearance. Simply note Micks, Scots, Poms, Krauts, and Ashkenazi jews. For extra credit you can bring in others such as Kenyans and Australian aborigines.

Even if we are to take your claim at face that our host did not mean at all what he wrote and that he instead meant “unchangeable characteristics” then bigotry against religion is not evil but, perhaps, a caring response for someone prey to their genetic predispositions. In which case a man of reason would turn the same barbs on our host for moving from the Religion he was raised with to the Religion of Atheism.

To do otherwise is ignorance. A supposed hallmark of bigotry; also a genetic predisposition of the human race.

“Does this mean that doctors are bigoted for saying that high blood pressure is a “bad” thing?”

Wrong analogy. If the doctor then desired to treat his patient in ill manner then yes it would be the same thing. After all, those of African descent are only genetically predisposed to a higher melanin content.

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John Quincy Public October 31, 2009 at 9:49 am

Lee: “I am aware that some Christians believe in annihilation but there is also scripture contradicting annihilation as well. Some of it is from that Jesus guy.”

Of course. It’s almost like Christians are individuals rather than a mythic monolithic group.

“Which is “QM is strange and crazy therefore virtually all the crazy shit I believe in is true and contained in QM”.”

You misunderstand. I mean to point out that “strange and crazy” is not a refutation of its truth or utility.

“I guess the difference between us is that I don’t fill the gaps of human knowledge with “God”.”

I suppose the proper off-the-cuff answer would be: I guess the difference between us is that I don’t fill the gaps of human knowledge with “no-God.”

But that would be erroneous since I fill no gaps in my knowledge by attempting to count deities. Be it zero, one, or a passel of them. Nor have I any desire to change your opinion on whatever count you have Faith in. After all, as seen earlier, people are happiest when they are horribly certain about the counting of divine creatures in the universe. I have no desire to frustrate your happiness. Ironically, this is the same warning I gave our host about seeking “TRUTH.”

Hit me up on gmail as ratspleen and we’ll work out the details on the demon rum. Cheers!

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Lee A. P. October 31, 2009 at 10:54 am

But we have very good evidence for the weird and crazy stuff in QM — even empiracle evidence and not so much for demons and angels and holy spirits and holy farters. If anything, QM shows that the ole close minded materialist scientists will go where the evidence leads, even when the ramifications are totally bazaar like with QM.

I’m open to any good evidence for “God” and I guess that’s why I still keep up with apologetics and I’ve even bought some of those “QM proves God” books. I’m just waiting for them to stop being so incredibly lame.

I am agnostic all across the board. About everything. But in practical terms I guess I fall into atheism by default.

What bars to you like around here? Melrose? Is the 12th South taproom any good? For some reason I have never been there though I live in the neighborhood.

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Chuck October 31, 2009 at 10:55 am

JQP,

I certainly didn’t find it “inconvenient” to quote that part. I figured anyone who was interested would just follow the link!

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John Quincy Public October 31, 2009 at 11:38 am

“If anything, QM shows that the ole close minded materialist scientists will go where the evidence leads, even when the ramifications are totally bazaar like with QM.”

Interesting thing about science. It’s the methodical application of being consistently wrong. Can lead be turned into gold? Sure, Glenn Seaborg pulled it off in 1980. Most people still think it delusional. Just as important as repeatable answers is knowing that they are subject to revision later.

We’re agreed on the QM books however; horrid things.

As for the rest I usually haunt Layla’s or Paradise on Broad. Never been to the Taproom, I figure it’s worth a try. I’ll be back in town late this evening or tomorrow if you want to set something up after that.

Chuck: “I certainly didn’t find it “inconvenient” to quote that part.”

Just tweaking your nose with the color commentary.

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m hawk October 31, 2009 at 2:36 pm

“Christianity has had to budge for science not the other way around.”

Lee A.P. Can you provide an example of this?

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Jeff H October 31, 2009 at 4:00 pm

Hardly. Many people harbor genetic bigotry against some race or another without ever having seen them, or in many cases based solely on their lineage despite common appearance. Simply note Micks, Scots, Poms, Krauts, and Ashkenazi jews. For extra credit you can bring in others such as Kenyans and Australian aborigines.

I really do not see what this has to do with anything. Whether or not people are racist based on lineage or appearance makes no difference. As far as I’m aware, a primary argument against racism, sexism, etc. is that the people cannot change who they are. That is what I was bringing up.

Even if we are to take your claim at face that our host did not mean at all what he wrote and that he instead meant “unchangeable characteristics” then bigotry against religion is not evil but, perhaps, a caring response for someone prey to their genetic predispositions. In which case a man of reason would turn the same barbs on our host for moving from the Religion he was raised with to the Religion of Atheism.

First off, I didn’t really claim anything about what Luke said. My comment was about your analogy, not about any sort of defense of Luke’s statements or about desirism. I also made no defense of bigotry against religion – I only pointed out that it is not analogous to racism. At any rate, I reject the statement that atheism is a religion, but I think that is probably off-topic anyway.

Wrong analogy. If the doctor then desired to treat his patient in ill manner then yes it would be the same thing. After all, those of African descent are only genetically predisposed to a higher melanin content.

I think you’re misusing the term “predisposition.” A black person is genetically hardwired to have higher melanin content (barring abnormalities such as albinism). There is no way around this for them. On the other hand, a person may be predisposed toward religion – but this is not a necessity. Christianity is not hardwired into their DNA. This is evident by the fact that many people can, and do, change their minds about religion. In a similar fashion, with the proper eating habits, exercise regimen, etc., a person predisposed to high blood pressure can keep their BP at an acceptable level. Not every person predisposed to high BP will have high BP; not every person predisposed to religious susceptibility will be religious. Every person who has genetic traits of high melanin production will be black.

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John Quincy Public October 31, 2009 at 7:04 pm

“I really do not see what this has to do with anything. Whether or not people are racist based on lineage or appearance makes no difference. As far as I’m aware, a primary argument against racism, sexism, etc. is that the people cannot change who they are. That is what I was bringing up.”

And I thank you for conceding the argument. For if their is no discernable difference in appearance between Micks and Poms then the racism that desirism decrys has only to do with the genes they cannot alter. Not with how those genes may or may not express. It is based solely on the fact that they exist.

“At any rate, I reject the statement that atheism is a religion, but I think that is probably off-topic anyway.”

Many people do without thinking about it. Atheists mostly, since their religious dogma is that their religion is not, in fact, a religion. I’ve seen numerous Christians state this also: “It’s not a religion, it’s the truth.”

No matter. It’s a trivial thing to prove my statement false. Provide empirical evidence that the count of gods is zero. Alternately, if you prefer High Church Atheism as fit to wear the Big A label, simply provide the empirical evidence that we know everything. Barring either of these proofs then Atheism is just a Faith with it’s own doctrine and dogma for what created the universe and what created man.

“I think you’re misusing the term “predisposition.” A black person is genetically hardwired to have higher melanin content (barring abnormalities such as albinism). There is no way around this for them.”

That’s an incredibly racist thing to say. There is a very large range of pigmentation of those whose ancestry is borne in part from the “dark continent.”

Even further there are numerous “odds based” diseases such as high BP and Cholesterol that do not respond to dietary and exercise regimines. These then are no less genetically predisposed than the single quantity of pigmentation you claim of blacks. All these conditions can be altered by chemicals regardless.

So if it is not bigotry from the doctor, even when the patient can’t change, because their is medicine that can assist; or may tomorrow. (Yay, science!) Then it is not bigotry if we treat black’s poorly; after all they could simply take medication. (Interesting aside: Google it, they’ve been able to do just such in mammals since the late 80′s at least.)

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Jeff H November 1, 2009 at 7:27 am

I’m sorry, John Q. Public, but you’ve completely lost me. I have no idea what you’re trying to argue anymore. Racism isn’t bad? Black people should just take medication to become less black?

At any rate, I still don’t see how racism and bigotry against religion are analogous. One is based on physical characteristics and/or lineage, and the other is based on social upbringing and is changeable. Like I said, it’s not like Christianity is hardwired into someone’s genome. At best, it’s a predisposition to think in a certain way. But our brains are malleable, so I don’t see how it would be wrong to convince someone to be skeptical of their beliefs. Is it bigotry to tell children that Santa Claus does not exist?

Of course, please let me know if I’m misrepresenting what you’re saying. Like I said, you lost me up there.

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John Quincy Public November 2, 2009 at 10:19 am

“Black people should just take medication to become less black?”

No, your statement has been that it’s not equivalent to other genetic predispositions, once expressed, because those can be altered by lifestyle or medicine. The melanin content of skin can be increased or decreased through medication; so your objection fails. Further, it puts paid to your statement that they can’t change who they are. They most certainly can.

And since, via the study quoted previously, those with Faith, be they Atheist or Christian, are more well adjusted and content than doubters?

Then your proposal to induce them to be skeptical in their Faith (Again: Atheist of Christian) is to induce mental anguish in their life. Now, I’m certainly open to the idea that mental abuse or torture is poppycock; otherwise, yes, it’s “bad.” But, as science shows and has been quoted in this very thread, that is what such a proposal amounts to.

While you are correct that the particular religion in question is undoubtedly a social characteristic you err in failing to note that we are genetically predisposed for religious belief. From the research I’ve seen on this issue we are genetically predisposed to this in the same way that we are genetically predisposed *not* to be con-men. By default and in majority we are built in just such a manner.

As a side-note: It is an interesting that con-men lack the functioning circuitry for trust reciprocation in social exercises; this leading to their profession. Though I’ve not seen research since on this angle, it is my belief that such underlies the genetic end of Cluster B personality disorders. After all, we are built for a modicum of trust; a thing Faith in any particular count of deities requires. Even if that count is zero.

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Rich November 2, 2009 at 3:54 pm

Vox Watchers, don’t forget commentary exists here:

http://www.antievolution.org/cgi-bin/ikonboard/ikonboard.cgi?s=4aef71196314c738;act=ST;f=14;t=5752;st=210

and is free from standard creationist moderation/deletion.

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