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What good reason is there to believe the Christian God exists? [The Debate Thread]


SkinWalker
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According to philosophy, we can know (to a reasonable degree of certainty of course) through reason, we don't need to simply perceive the lack of a special revelation (or denial of all alleged revelations) to be disconfirmation of the god hypothesis. Just out of curiosity, is anyone reading this thread a philosophy major or have a degree in it?

 

The atheist is either presuming lack of evidence is proof of absence or else is convinced by a philosophical exploration of the question, so I don't see there's any getting around it there. We would never give credit to a creationist who believed evolution was false, simply because he never met a scientist who could adequately convince him of it, especially if he had no understanding of science himself.

I'm not seeing an answer to either question here.
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You're not agreeing that answers exist, or you're saying I didn't provide them but should have?

 

If one is ignorant of a subject, and is not capable of becoming an expert in it, would it be right to declare that subject false or useless? I think we can agree that the answer is "no." There's far too much data in the world to be an expert on everything, and as such even the most brilliant minds must assume there is knowledge outside themselves that they nevertheless do not and can't hope to possess. Do we need indubitable certainty of everything to be able to take a position? I'm saying you're probably not an expert on evolution, but assume it to be true. A doubter of evolution who demands you "prove it to me," is he asking something reasonable or unreasonable? If you try, and fail to "convince" him he's wrong to doubt something you hold as factual (like evolution), is he justified in his continued skepticism? Is an appeal to popularity ("every educated person knows it's true") going to sway him?

 

I hope you can see the problem here and what I'm getting at. I'm not saying "the Christian God should be accepted on blind faith" (or "because a 2,000 year old book said so"). If we can appeal to evolution as an explanation for the belief in the Christian God, are we saying it's a false belief, or a true one? If we appeal to evolution and say it's given us false beliefs, might we also begin to wonder if everything else we believe is also false, and if it is, would we then begin to doubt that anything we can claim to know is possible to be known? We can't exactly step outside of our humanity to determine if we're being duped by our own brains, can we? As I see it, we can't, we can only appeal to "common" experience and devices we ourselves have created (neither of which are infallible).

 

Now then...

 

Do we lack free will? If everything is predetermined by naturalistic material processes, including mental processes that lead to things like "logic," then there's no way to know, if even what we're thinking right now is objective or real, right?

 

Everything is based in philosophy, there's no way around it. It just depends upon what type of philosophical foundations you're going for. If you're assuming Naturalism, you're never going to admit something like "God" could be real, unless it was a materialistic part of nature (and hence "God" isn't "God" but a physical object or a euphemism for nature itself).

 

The "Christian God" is something we can define, and it is not a material object or a euphemism for "the physical universe and its laws" (i.e. "nature"). A classic definition is that which nothing greater can be conceived (see Anselm, Thomas Aquinas). This rules out "God" being a physical object within the cosmos or a euphemism for something else. Hope that helps. If the argument is that I need to "show you" God as a physical object in my hand, then that's going to go nowhere, but then there are a lot of things you probably agree exist that can't be demonstrated this way, and even so it all assumes we have a common frame of reference that is also presumed to be objective (else, how do we know that logic itself is a delusion produced by physical processes)?

 

Science itself is an excellent tool, but it's based on philosophical assumptions, which in turn our based on thought processes, which are natural processes. If nature gave us nonsense, how could we ever be sure of anything? I'm curious how you would resolve that question, Achilles.

Edited by Kurgan
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Which specific questions do you want answers to? (i.e.: Does God Exist? Do humans have free will?)

 

Before we go on, do you have any degrees in philosophy or theology? Anthropology, perhaps?

Edited by Kurgan
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It shouldn't be too difficult to read a few posts up, Kurgan. Here, I did it for you (and it didn't even hurt):

 

Interesting. If there was no god, how would you know it? If the answer to the question of god's existence was unknowable, would you still be able to find happiness? Neither of these are rhetorical.

 

Before we go on...we won't be "going on". I've known you too long to think for one second that you're here to debate in good faith. My sole purpose for responding to your posts is to help new readers figure that as well.

 

However, if you truly wish to have a go at it, here's the deal: straight answers are going to be a currency between us. Each of us will have to maintain a balance with the other in order to "make a withdrawal". So...

 

No, I do not hold any degrees in philosophy, theology, or anthropology. I do hold both graduate and undergraduate degrees in Business. Course requirements for both included study in ethics/moral philosophy, law, history, and critical thinking - all of which I've continued to study outside of the classroom because I find them interesting. I've also completed coursework in anthropology and sociology and I continue to study those topics as well.

 

Straight answers balance: Achilles +1

 

Kurgan, before we go on, please operationally define "philosophy".

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Before we go on...we won't be "going on". I've known you too long to think for one second that you're here to debate in good faith. My sole purpose for responding to your posts is to help new readers figure that as well.

 

So you think I'm dishonest? I presume then you believe yourself to be honest, and you're hoping others will "side with" you for this. Am I missing your tone there? Resolving the question of God's existence and whether atheism is a good foundation for one's life won't be resolved in a single thread, and we both know most readers have already made up their mind before they read anything.

 

This is a debate thread, but where's the debate here? I just see people asking questions and commenting on what others are saying. I guess "debate" has a lot of different definitions. But you want something like that...

 

However, if you truly wish to have a go at it, here's the deal: straight answers are going to be a currency between us. Each of us will have to maintain a balance with the other in order to "make a withdrawal". So...

 

No, I do not hold any degrees in philosophy, theology, or anthropology. I do hold both graduate and undergraduate degrees in Business. Course requirements for both included study in ethics/moral philosophy, law, history, and critical thinking - all of which I've continued to study outside of the classroom because I find them interesting. I've also completed coursework in anthropology and sociology and I continue to study those topics as well.

 

Great. Full disclosure: I have a bachelors degree in Philosophy and a Masters in Theology (actually "Divinity" which adds courses more akin to pastoral ministry), accredited. That course work includes one in sociology and one in philosophical anthropology, but apart from a course taught by an anthropologist (on Islam), I didn't take any courses strictly on anthropology as a social science. That doesn't make me an expert by any means. I too have been known to dabble and study on my own outside of this, as many people do.

 

Kurgan, before we go on, please operationally define "philosophy".

 

It is not merely "the love of wisdom," but an actual field of study and discipline, (to quote dictionary.com a bible of internet debates) "the rational investigation of the truths and principles of being, knowledge, or conduct" which of course includes natural, moral and metaphysical respectively. Despite colloquial usage, it is not limited to laboratory work or "musings" on deep subjects.

 

Every human being with a functioning mind has a philosophy (or uses philosophy) whether they use those words or not, because everyone upon maturity functions with a view of motion, cause and effect, reality, right and wrong, how we know what we think we know, and contemplation of our existence. However, only those who professionally study and teach this discipline are properly known as philosophers.

 

By "straight answers" I hope you don't mean "short answers." ;)

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Now to answers those questions you said I brought up and should have answered:

 

Interesting. If there was no god, how would you know it?

 

One needs to come up with a definition (or definitions) of what "God" (or gods) is/are, and then ask if there is a way to discern that. So if I think God is defined as an immortal human being living on Mt. Olympus on earth, I can presumably search for such a mountain, and in the absence of such a mountain, conclude that it is reasonable (for now) to doubt this being's existence. If I simply presume this being is a trickster who can elude my detection, I would have to come up with another way to falsify this being, but the idea that I can be fooled, means it's still reasonable to doubt their existence, at least for now.

 

I've seen attempts to apply this sort of example to the Christian God, presuming that if the Bible says God "lives in the sky" and sounds like a "man" then if we go up in a spacecraft we can look around and if we don't see a man floating up there, we've disproven his existence. A less comical way of doing this is to examine the philosophical arguments given for God's existence as found in Doctors of the Church like Thomas Aquinas or Anselm of Canterbury. If we define "God" not as a magically powerful physical being residing in our universe but as "that which nothing greater can be conceived" (as Anselm did) then logically this "God" must exist (since we can't really imagine "infinity plus one"). These theologians and philosophers then discuss whether one can reason to the idea of the Christian God or if this merely posits a God akin to that of the Deists or some other conception. If we imagine "God" is a trickster who is fooling all of us, all the time, we can abandon rationality altogether since we can have no hope to know anything. The presence of those who have a differing opinions over God or deny the question entirely doesn't moot the discussion anymore than differing opinions (legitimate or not) on any other topic negates that topic (for example controversies amongst historians or scientists).

 

I find the arguments they present to be compelling, even if not exhaustive. They are not arguing for a "God of the gaps" (we don't know something, so therefore God must be responsible; God is hiding just over the next hill we haven't explored yet), but a God that can reasonably be said to exist, even without show magic tricks or elaborate myths told to give some moral lesson.

 

If the answer to the question of god's existence was unknowable, would you still be able to find happiness? Neither of these are rhetorical.

 

I think a person could find "happiness" of a sort, if we define it as physical pleasure. This sort of happiness requires no rational engagement. If we define happiness instead as satisfaction with truth, then yes, there too it is possible, but we have no way of knowing of that truth is really true or merely our perception of it. We can believe in universal truths and still be mistaken about them. Doing the right thing implies we know what the right thing is. But we can all "do our best" (what we think is our best). So yes, it's quite possible for atheists, I believe, to be happy. I would argue a greater happiness is possible for one who believes and follows the true God, but there I'm making a claim such a thing is possible. Most atheists I think would agree that a true believer might be deluded, but happy thinking he's chosen the best part. If God doesn't exist, then this "greatest happiness" is impossible, and its path merely a delusion. So the atheist has lost nothing, but the true believer "wins" if he's right. Otherwise both can be happy, but attended to in different ways. I believe that God does exist, and so the true believer has the greater happiness, but a degree of happiness can be had by others who do not cling to this deity. The atheist must admit that happiness exists for his "believer" brethren, even if he thinks the basis of this happiness is false (but if a relativist, he cannot deny, except for his personal preference, that this is legitimate).

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Now if we move beyond the question of "God" why the Christian God, specifically? Because to me (despite my personal bias), only the Christian God really makes sense, to a believer. Why?

 

Because there is no need to worship a Deist God. A Deist God requires our worship no more than an idol or a pantheistic universe "god" would. I own many possessions that I find useful or "like" but I don't "love" them. My computer or my books don't "love" me back like a person. So whether I were to fawn over them or not, makes no difference. My mother doesn't "need" my love to exist, but I do love her and that is the relationship that exists.

 

The pagan gods might literally need our worship to maintain themselves, but they exist as merely parts of creation, not its source and the author of its purpose (making them little more than "super" humans, much like the caricature of the "big man in the sky" who will destroy you if you don't keep him happy). A "God" who is merely the name for the physical world is also not worth worshiping, since no relationship is possible with something that lacks intelligence. Yes, even the primitive intelligence of a family pet still provides for a reciprocal relationship of a kind of love. So to "believe" in a God, to have a relationship of a worshiper of a deity, only makes sense, to me, in the Christian God, because this God is all powerful, but also willing to give us free will, and willing to enter the creation for our sake and foster a relationship, not merely be a judge and king who expects obedience (as for instance in the classical Muslim understanding of God; who also seems focused more on rewarding physical actions with physical punishments or physical pleasures). The pantheistic or monistic God would really be "me" (or me saying I'm the universe). So I'd be worshiping myself. That's self esteem, not a relationship.

 

Now there are certain Jewish, Muslim and other conceptions of God that are close to the Christian one, but I'm only positing the existence of one God. Multiple "gods" don't fit the definition of God (an infinite, all powerful and eternal being doesn't compete with other simultaneously infinite and all powerful eternal beings, and the Trinity doctrine is an ancient understanding of the oneness of God, not a multiplicity, as in classic paganism). If I can "make up" in my head an idea of God, that's fine, as long as it corresponds to the real God that exists. I can't say the real God doesn't exist, if I can just "make up" and guess what that God is like, anymore than saying a person isn't real if I can guess correctly what they are like before I get to really know them. Our knowledge of God is limited, but if God wishes to reveal Himself to His creation, then something of that God can be known. The atheist will point out that all religious experiences must be subjective, fallible and non-transferable. Fine. But some experiences of God can be more communal, even universal, as in the discovery of God through philosophical reasoning. Granted, a person can reason their way "out" of a belief in God as well, but I find such systems far less satisfying. One still attempts to come up with explanations for problems they've created, often substituting God-like solutions, which I think concede the point (like a universe that somehow "knows" us, created itself, and controls our very thoughts, including, presumably, rationality itself).

 

Now if we are to quibble about "which Christian" God we're talking about, I make no distinction between the "God of a Baptist," or a Methodist, or a Lutheran, because they are all the same thing (I'm here excluding henotheists like Mormons). There is no alternative, as if God were a subjective creation (if God is, then "God" is not God, as the atheist would have it). I think the "God" of Catholic and Orthodox thought, streaming from the biblical record (which is merely a "snapshot" in time of the testimony of the Church, not the end-all, be-all as fundamentalists would have it), is the norm of Christian thought. If you want to debate with an Open Theist or Foursquare Gospel person or Oneness Pentecostal, have at it, but they're johnny-come-lately. Different perceptions of God are not the same thing as different Gods (and as my motto says, there can be only one).

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So you think I'm dishonest? I presume then you believe yourself to be honest, and you're hoping others will "side with" you for this. Am I missing your tone there?
Yes, you are. My assertions was that you are not here to debate in good faith. In other words, your mind is already made up, you are closed to (new) evidence, and no amount of sound reasoning will persuade you.

 

Not the same thing as saying that you are dishonest (though some might argue that pattern of behavior I described above fits the definition of "intellectual dishonesty").

 

Resolving the question of God's existence and whether atheism is a good foundation for one's life won't be resolved in a single thread, and we both know most readers have already made up their mind before they read anything.
I guess I don't see why such a thing shouldn't be possible. In fact, something as substantive and "obvious" as the existence of a supreme being shouldn't require a great deal of evidence at all (as no other reasonable explanation should exist). To argue that one would need much more than a few bullet points on a single powerpoint slide seems like overkill.

 

This is a debate thread, but where's the debate here?
Great question.

 

Great. Full disclosure: I have a bachelors degree in Philosophy and a Masters in Theology (actually "Divinity" which adds courses more akin to pastoral ministry), accredited. That course work includes one in sociology and one in philosophical anthropology, but apart from a course taught by an anthropologist (on Islam), I didn't take any courses strictly on anthropology as a social science. That doesn't make me an expert by any means. I too have been known to dabble and study on my own outside of this, as many people do.
This is actually very helpful. In our past exchanges, it seemed to me that you had a vested interest in maintaining your position at all costs. Now I understand why.

 

It is not merely "the love of wisdom," but an actual field of study and discipline, (to quote dictionary.com a bible of internet debates) "the rational investigation of the truths and principles of being, knowledge, or conduct" which of course includes natural, moral and metaphysical respectively. Despite colloquial usage, it is not limited to laboratory work or "musings" on deep subjects.
I see "rational" in there, but just for clarity: how do you see concepts such as "logic" and "critical thinking" relating to "philosophy"?

 

By "straight answers" I hope you don't mean "short answers." ;)
Nope. Straight answer = not posting 15 lines of word-salad without addressing the question (especially if the question is in a quote box at the top of the post).
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