Posted by: Dan | November 7, 2007

Theology and Falsification

Given the article in the NY Times on Ex-Atheist Anthony Flew, I thought it appropriate to reprint the essay which made him famous as an atheist philosopher: Theology and Falsification (1950).

Flew was a precocious 27 when he delivered the paper at a meeting of the Socratic Club, the Oxford salon presided over by C. S. Lewis. Reprinted in dozens of anthologies, “Theology and Falsification” has become a heroic tract for committed atheists. In a masterfully terse thousand words, Flew argues that “God” is too vague a concept to be meaningful. For if God’s greatness entails being invisible, intangible and inscrutable, then he can’t be disproved — but nor can he be proved.

The essay, below the fold:


Let us begin with a parable. It is a parable developed from a tale told by John Wisdom in his haunting and revolutionary article “Gods.” Once upon a time two explorers came upon a clearing in the jungle. In the clearing were growing many flowers and many weeds. One explorer says, “Some gardener must tend this plot.” The other disagrees, “There is no gardener.” So they pitch their tents and set a watch. No gardener is ever seen. “But perhaps he is an invisible gardener.” So they set up a barbed-wire fence. They electrify it. They patrol with bloodhounds. (For they remember how H. G. Well’s The Invisible Man could be both smelt and touched though he could not be seen.) But no shrieks ever suggest that some intruder has received a shock. No movements of the wire ever betray an invisible climber. The bloodhounds never give cry. Yet still the Believer is not convinced. “But there is a gardener, invisible, intangible, insensible, to electric shocks, a gardener who has no scent and makes no sound, a gardener who comes secretly to look after the garden which he loves.” At last the Sceptic despairs, “But what remains of your original assertion? Just how does what you call an invisible, intangible, eternally elusive gardener differ from an imaginary gardener or even from no gardener at all?”

In this parable we can see how what starts as an assertion, that something exist or that there is some analogy between certain complexes of phenomena, may be reduced step by step to an altogether different status, to an expression perhaps of a “picture preference.” The Sceptic says there is no gardener. The Believer says there is a gardener (but invisible, etc.). One man talks about sexual behavior. Another man prefers to talk of Aphrodite (but knows that there is not really a superhuman person additional to, and somehow responsible for, all sexual phenomena). The process of qualification may be checked at any point before the original assertion is completely withdrawn and something of that first assertion will remain (Tautology). Mr. Wells’ invisible man could not, admittedly, be seen, but in all other respects he was a man like the rest of us. But though the process of qualification may be and of course usually is, checked in time, it is not always judicially so halted. Someone may dissipate his assertion completely without noticing that he has done so. A fine brash hypothesis may thus be killed by inches, the death by a thousand qualifications.

And in this, it seems to me, lies the peculiar danger, the endemic evil, of theological utterance. Take such utterances as “God has a plan,” “God created the world,” “God loves us as a father loves his children.” They look at first sight very much like assertions, vast cosmological assertions. Of course, this is no sure sign that they either are, or are intended to be, assertions. But let us confine ourselves to the cases where those who utter such sentences intended them to express assertions. (Merely remarking parenthetically that those who intend or interpret such utterances as crypto-commands, expressions of wishes, disguised ejaculations, concealed ethics, or as anything else but assertions, are unlikely to succeed in making them either properly orthodox or practically effective).

Now to assert that such and such is the case is necessarily equivalent to denying that such and such is not the case. Suppose then that we are in doubt as to what someone who gives vent to an utterance is asserting, or suppose that, more radically, we are sceptical as to whether he is really asserting anything at all, one way of trying to understand (or perhaps to expose) his utterance is to attempt to find what he would regard as counting against, or as being incompatible with, its truth. For if the utterance is indeed an assertion, it will necessarily be equivalent to a denial of the negation of the assertion. And anything which would count against the assertion, or which would induce the speaker to withdraw it and to admit that it had been mistaken, must be part of (or the whole of) the meaning of the negation of that assertion. And to know the meaning of the negation of an assertion, is as near as makes no matter, to know the meaning of that assertion. And if there is nothing which a putative assertion denies then there is nothing which it asserts either: and so it is not really an assertion. When the Sceptic in the parable asked the Believer, “Just how does what you call an invisible, intangible, eternally elusive gardener differ from an imaginary gardener or even from no gardener at all?” he was suggesting that the Believer’s earlier statement had been so eroded by qualification that it was no longer an assertion at all.

Now it often seems to people who are not religious as if there was no conceivable event or series of events the occurrence of which would be admitted by sophisticated religious people to be a sufficient reason for conceding “there wasn’t a God after all” or “God does not really love us then.” Someone tells us that God loves us as a father loves his children. We are reassured. But then we see a child dying of inoperable cancer of the throat. His earthly father is driven frantic in his efforts to help, but his Heavenly Father reveals no obvious sign of concern. Some qualification is made — God’s love is “not merely human love” or it is “an inscrutable love,” perhaps — and we realize that such suffering are quite compatible with the truth of the assertion that “God loves us as a father (but of course…).” We are reassured again. But then perhaps we ask: what is this assurance of God’s (appropriately qualified) love worth, what is this apparent guarantee really a guarantee against? Just what would have to happen not merely (morally and wrongly) to tempt but also (logically and rightly) to entitle us to say “God does not love us” or even “God does not exist”? I therefore put to the succeeding symposiasts the simple central questions, “What would have to occur or to have occurred to constitute for you a disproof of the love of, or the existence of, God?”


Responses

  1. So, according to the essay, if God does not heal the child, then He does not exist? But what of all the cases where children are healed and that prayer has been involved? To use the same stream of logic, then it must mean that God exists in the lives of those people.

    Perhaps the Presbyterians have got it right after all. God predestines each human being to well or woe. Those who e perieince His well being acknowledge His existence (according to this stream of thought in the essay), but for those who experieince woe, God is not there – this is classic predestination.

  2. So, according to the essay, if God does not heal the child, then He does not exist? But what of all the cases where children are healed and that prayer has been involved?

    It is impossible to tell the difference between that, and all of the cases where a placebo heals sick people (or children). There are a great many illnesses, even very serious ones, that are healed in up to 30% of patients, when all the doctor does is give them a pill full of sugar. And even for diseases that are a bit more difficult, and placebos (or no treatment) only work 0.1% of the time, that is still one in a thousand patients. If such a disease occurs just as rarely (per year), and there are 6 billion people, then there will be 6000 “miracles” per year caused by placebos (or no treatment). So “God’s miracles” and nothing at all, are indistinguishable.

    There was a Templeton-funded study conducted a few years ago that showed just that, other than perhaps that the only effects of prayer are psychological, for both the person praying and the person being prayed for.

  3. The study:
    Long-Awaited Medical Study Questions the Power of Prayer:

    NY Times (March 30, 2006) – Prayers offered by strangers had no effect on the recovery of people who were undergoing heart surgery, a large and long-awaited study has found.

    And patients who knew they were being prayed for had a higher rate of post-operative complications like abnormal heart rhythms, perhaps because of the expectations the prayers created, the researchers suggested.

  4. There’s an exquisite ambiguity on several levels in the parable that kicks off Flew’s essay.

    It’s not clear whether the jungle clearing that the explorers discover contains an organised garden or a random selection of plants. It is said to include both flowers and weeds, suggesting that these are growing wild. On the other hand, there’s something about the spot that, one must assume for the parable to work, seems unusual to the explorers, for otherwise they would simply regard it as merely a slightly surprising variation in the landscape they are traversing. Evidently the place has features peculiar enough that the skeptic is willing to join the believer in various schemes aimed at discovering whether there is a gardener. If there is no identifiable garden to begin with, why even entertain the notion there might be a gardener?

    This ambiguity mirrors the difference between the way the atheist sees reality as the outcome of the accidental interaction of forces (with no teleological meaning), and the reading of the world by God-believers who consider that the world of being is sustained by a Supreme Intelligence.

    The whole enterprise of building electric fences and whatnot so as to catch the gardener in the act is ridiculous and unworthy of self-respecting explorers, if there is no evidence to begin with, of that formal order which makes a “garden”. But if there is such order present, one has sufficient grounds to suspect there must be a gardener, even if all attempts to capture the gardener end in failure.

    The evidence for the existence (or non-existence) of a gardener then, is in the garden.

    Applying the parable as a symbol of the physical universe, there is currently no consensus amongst mankind as to whether the universe exhibits the features of an ordered “garden” or a “wild place” where things have come together as they are on a purely random basis.

    If the mystery that confronts our explorers is merely the presence of an unusual collection of plants in a jungle clearing, then they had best set about analyzing the natural processes that caused this result. They won’t dream of searching out a gardener, knowing they will find an explanation in the fertility of the soil, etc. At this point the parable breaks down because the story relies for its effect on the “clearing” being a special place. If the same processes are occurring in the clearing as occur in the surrounding jungle, then the clearing symbolizes nothing.

    But if the clearing symbolizes, say, human civilization, then it has another level of meaning. Human civilization is comparable to a clearing in the jungle, for whereas nature in general is governed by physical and biological laws, the human world through the power of intellect manipulates and rearranges things into forms desired by human beings. Human beings inherently are “gardeners”.

    Now suppose that the garden of our parable is a community of people, a village. The flowers and plants represent the individual members of the community. The question is, how did this community learn to organise itself? The “believer” says that there must be some Educator or Leader (i.e. gardener) who guides the community. The skeptic will point out that the village has a chief and a council of elders, and school teachers, and these people ensure the survival of the community. The believer will ask, “but who is teaching the chief and the elders?” So the explorers set up trip wires and video surveillance so as to try and see the arrival of the mysterious outsider whose influence keeps the village going. No luck, of course.

    But being intrepid explorers, they settle down for a while in the village and learn the language and study the history of the place as known to the elders. They learn that the village owes its success to following the precepts handed down to them from Prophets of the past, who were villagers themselves, but who possessed unusual wisdom.

    It turns out, the invisible Leader will never be caught entering the village because he is within it all along. He guides the villagers through the power of their own minds and hearts, and his guidance has always been most powerfully evident in the teachings of the revered Prophets.

    Interestingly, these figures of exceptional wisdom, all confirm that their wisdom is not from themselves, but from their Ultimate Leader, who is invisible, intangible, and eternally elusive.

    Go figure!

  5. John,
    As eloquent as ever, but I’m not 100% certain what position you’re taking. You say (among other things):

    The evidence for the existence (or non-existence) of a gardener then, is in the garden.

    As you mention, all indications are that the present “garden” is explainable by a world in which we posit that gods do not exist. No gardener is there to be found, and physics, chemistry, and biology appear to form much more accurate explanations.

    The clearing as human civilization however: I couldn’t agree more. Human beings are capable and active in engineering change, by design, and we possess intelligent agency. The oddity is that many people detect such agency where none appears to exist. For instance, the garden before our arrival… Clearly there was no such gardener, any more than there appears to be intelligent agency in world surrounding us.

    But you attribute the design, or agency, to a gardener within the community itself. There is equally no way to distinguish between “a person with God within him” and “a person with his own wisdom within him.” You say as much in your final full sentence, “Interestingly, these figures of exceptional wisdom, all confirm that their wisdom is not from themselves, but from their Ultimate Leader, who is invisible, intangible, and eternally elusive.”

    I can only infer that you, myself, and Anthony Flew of so many years ago, are in agreement – that a world with such a God, and a world in which God is a social and psychological phenomenon (but not real), are indistinguishable.

  6. Dan, your response came back remarkably quickly. Not sure I can keep up with the pace!

    It was intentional on my part not to take a position that was 100% clear. I wanted to introduce a range of ways of looking at the subject in a manner that was open to further development.

    The following is an attempt to sketch out a more explicit position. I don’t regard this as definitive by any stretch of the imagination, for the issues at hand are highly difficult to approach.

    It may indeed be that my understanding is close to yours in regard to an existent God being almost indistinguishable from a God who is merely a symbol.

    It seems to me that there is a kind of unsolvable X in our understanding of the universe. There is a riddle at the heart of all things. The universe exists and life has appeared within it because a realm of being has seemingly appeared out of nothingness, and this realm of being gives rise to the possibility for order to form out of chaos, in ever-increasing complexity. Certain fundamental principles in the nature of mathematical laws seem to drive the whole process forward. This underlying algorithm behind the order of things, where does it emerge from? So far as we can determine, everything within the universe interacts in cause and effect relationships. What is the Cause of all causes? The atheist answer is “nothing”, or in other words, the question is impossible to answer and therefore meaningless. The theist offers the word, “God”, as a symbol for this impossible-to-explain conundrum. It is truly bewildering to think about, or, as Baha’u’llah expressed it: “Every attempt to attain to an understanding of His [God’s] inaccessible Reality hath ended in complete bewilderment, and every effort to approach His exalted Self and envisage His Essence hath resulted in hopelessness and failure.”

    I submit that modern day atheism can be seen as a variation on a theme that is central to the thinking of the great religions. For instance, in Judaism the name of God is not allowed to be spoken because the human tongue is utterly unworthy to do so. This indicates the complete holiness, or transcendence, of God. A certain moral vision flows from this acknowledgment. The “meaning of life” is impossible to pin down in anything that we might like to give allegiance to. Only “God” is worthy of our highest allegiance. Love for God stands both for love of everything and love of no one thing. This concept challenges all forms of “idolatry”, that is, all “worship” of, or fixation on anything less than the mysterious X that lies behind the existence of all existence. This vision puts into perspective lesser loyalties like nationalism, family, career, etc. And this moral attitude rings true to existential experience.

    Therefore I think that atheists are doing a useful service by challenging gods which are really figments of the human imagination, including conceptions of God held by some religious groups that are virtually anthropomorphic.

    Where my understanding differs from that of the atheist is that I think the above-mentioned “X” stands for a nothing (no thing) that is not less than everything — but greater than everything. This is a night-and- day distinction.

    Is there an Intelligence that pre-exists the appearance of intelligent beings in the universe? Is there such a thing as knowledge in the absence of creatures capable of knowing?

    The narrative used to justify denial of a Higher Intelligence behind the universe is that human beings have emerged out of the assembly of bits and pieces of matter over millennia to the point where the human brain has come together as a computer of superb efficiency. I accept this narrative but I find it incomplete. The process is said to have occurred not because there is any intelligence deep down driving it, but just because the very nature of things according to the laws of probability must tend to deliver such results here and there in the universe. But when one says, “the very nature of things … must tend to deliver such results”, this indicates to me that there is an “intelligence deep down driving it”. In this respect, I find an anti-teleological view of evolution to be self-contradicting.

    I conclude that the existence of an algorithmic structure in the universe capable of generating life is a sign that intelligence is built in right from the start. In this sense knowledge (or the capacity for knowledge to appear) was present at the Big Bang (or whatever), long before intelligent life appeared on earth or any other planet.

    Religion considers that wisdom/intelligence in the form of the Divine Logos, is pre-existent, not merely a property of contingent beings. I find this to be a convincing idea.

    The greatest proof of the idea is the uncommon wisdom demonstrated by the founders of religions, who have claimed to speak, or in some sense to actually be in themselves, the Divine Logos. They appear to tap directly into a realm that comprehends the realities of things. Their claim to superhuman wisdom is verified by their profound influence on the advancement of civilization.

    If intelligence is inherent in the universe and not just in the structure of the human brain, then a fortiori, intelligence must be present in the “nothingness” from which the universe emerged.

    And assuming that there are other universes, I assume that they too are sustained by the One Creator.

    Mankind is not the pinnacle of life. We are subject to an intelligence greater than ourselves.

  7. Studies can say what they like about prayer, but ask the people who pray themselves. Again, If God does not exist to those that say He does not heal, then He must exist to those who say He does heal. It’s the logic that I’m questioning – it is flawed.

  8. John,
    I think I see your point, especially in the search for higher meaning, causation, and/or significance to the question of existence at large. Of course I have no answer for that – in fact I’m not entirely sure that there is a single such Meaning Of Life. Life just is, and we are left to create both the question (where did we come from) and the answer (in this case, from God), to address our existential angst.

    That’s just my take on it though – and in the end, none of us can prove to another that our take is any better than the next.

    Stushie,
    “Studies can say what they like about prayer, but ask the people who pray themselves.”

    From just asking the individuals, all you get are anecdotes and just-so stories. From those, you develop superstitions – not facts.

  9. John Bryden wrote:

    “I conclude that the existence of an algorithmic structure in the universe capable of generating life is a sign that intelligence is built in right from the start. In this sense knowledge (or the capacity for knowledge to appear) was present at the Big Bang (or whatever), long before intelligent life appeared on earth or any other planet.”

    As I have repeatedly pointed out elsewhere, this position is essentially indistinguishable from classical Deism, and as such is also functionally indistinguishable from atheism. I wholeheartedly agree that a Deity that is truly omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent (“OOO”) would clearly have the power to create a universe with a sufficiently comprehensive set of natural laws as to produce all of the characteristics of nature that we can currently observe or infer. However, this contracts the temporal field of action of such a Deity to the instant of creation, after which the Deity quite literally (and necessarily) absents Itself from Its creation. Indeed, it must do so, as to intervene at any subsequent instant would imply a fundamental contradiction between its stated qualities (omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence, or “OOO”) and its later actions.

    Therefore, the consequences of the actions of a Deism Deity (“DD”) — i.e. our universe as we observe it — would be literally indistinquishable from a universe in which such natural laws simply existed in and of themselves, and the DD therefore “softly and silently vanishes away.” Furthermore, if one truly believes in the underlying actions and motivations of a DD, one must perforce be committed to pure naturalism in all things, including human ethics. That is, if the DD really is OOO, then It is certainly capable of constructing a universe in which morality/ethics flow “naturally” from purely natural processes, and therefore must have done so (or, if not, must be capricious, if not outright malevolent).

    Personally, I find the concept of an OOO DD logically absurd, theologically pointless, and morally bankrupt (as did Darwin, Huxley, Russell, and most philosophers and scientists who have thought deeply about these topics). Instead, it seems most likely to me that nature and natural processes are sufficient in and of themselves to bring about all of what we can observe around us, except for human morals/ethics. These, as T. H. Huxley, G. E. Moore, and others have clearly explained, are entirely our own responsibility, one that we neglect at our peril.
    –Allen
    *********************************
    Allen D. MacNeill, Senior Lecturer
    The Biology Learning Skills Center
    G-24 Stimson Hall, Cornell University
    Ithaca, New York 14853
    *********************************
    phone: 607-255-3357 (Allen’s office)
    email: adm6@cornell.edu
    website: http://evolutionlist.blogspot.com/
    *********************************
    “I had at last got a theory by which to work”
    -The Autobiography of Charles Darwin
    *********************************

  10. Hmm, just submitted a comment, and it disappeared. What’s up?

  11. Problem solved. The spam filter is a finicky thing.

  12. Thanks, Dan!

  13. I think this thread is becoming a very nice seg-way into a discussion of the hyperactive agency detector and theory of mind. :-)

  14. Dan, I agree that assertions about ultimate meaning are impossible to prove in present day conventional terms, although I entertain a conjecture that a consensus might emerge in the future that is well-disposed to belief in God. For my part I can only do my best to explain how I see things and compare my thoughts with others’ views. The present discussion is valuable in this respect. I don’t see it as a debate in this case, because there is an area of overlap between your views and mine.

    Allen, thank you for kindly taking the time to give some detailed and cogent comments in response to my thoughts. In very brief and simple terms, the concept about God that I have in mind is different from the deist God that you mentioned, in at least two respects.

    (1) Rather than being the initiator of the universe literally “at the beginning”, God is the eternal sustainer of the universe, outside of time.

    (2) This God reveals His will historically through the mouthpiece of His chosen prophets.

    When God is considered as the constantly active Sustainer of all things, then natural laws appear at the highest level rather as emanations from the “personality” or infinite attributes of God, rather than fixed entities in themselves. If physical laws are not absolutely determined but in some very high sphere are flexible, this opens up the possibility for them to be varied on occasion in accordance with the Creator’s wishes. In principle, even “miracles” are admissible within such a scheme of reality. This concept seems to me compatible with allowing for a Creator who is constantly involved with the creation. The action of the Creator in revealing His will to humankind through the Prophets demonstrates that He is not a remote absentee landlord. The stability of physical laws shows that the Creator is not capricious.

    I accept a view of ethics along naturalistic lines inasmuch as “the command of God” is equivalent to “things as they are”. I agree that morals and ethics are our own responsibility to determine and act upon, but my reading of history suggests to me that the educating influence of the Prophets cannot be not be overlooked in any full account of the advancement of moral reasoning / civilizational development. (By Prophets I mean Krishna, Buddha, Zoroaster, Abraham, Moses, Christ, Muhammad, Baha’u’llah, and others.)

    A couple of supplementary thoughts…

    * The temporal field of action of a God who is outside time is impossible to fathom. Categories of past and future do not exist in that realm.

    * Re the nature of physical laws, I was interested to read a recent letter to the editor published in New Scientist that alluded to a proposal from Paul Davies that the laws of physics are “flexi laws”. Evidently Charles Saunders Peirce (1839-1914) had a similar idea. I know nothing more of it than what is outlined in the brief letter to the editor, but phrases mentioned in the letter seem to gel with what I’m suggesting, i.e. “flexi laws of physics” and “physical laws as processes rather than products”.

    Do you see any advantage in the ideas I’ve outlined?

  15. Correction. I carelessly inserted a double negative into one of my statements that reverses the intended meaning. The corrected version of this statement is: “…the educating influence of the Prophets cannot be overlooked…” Apologies for any confusion arising.

  16. […] 10th, 2007 by Dan On Theology and Falsification, the discussion came down to the overriding questions of the Universe’s origins. John […]

  17. Yes, some people who pray get better.

    But claiming this is “proof” of God’s existence, is illogical.

    If anything, it proves the power of the human mind.

    Especially when combined with those who do not pray, and simply believe they will recover or, as Dan pointed out, those who believe the sugar pill is going to rid them of their cancer.

    I imagine there are far more people who pray, and still die, then those who pray and live.

    How do you explain that?

    Does God choose?

    And if God chooses, what is the criteria?

    We know good people who pray still die, so being good, and faithful isn’t necessarily on the list.

    We also know evil people survive illness, so being evil doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to die. (See Dick Cheney as an example).

    How does God decide which prayers to answer, and which ones to ignore?

    There is no logical answer, only rationalizations.

    However, I will say that I don’t think belief in God is necessarily a bad thing, regardless if God exists or not. I think for many people, if not most, belief in God gives gives them some semblance of hope in a world that makes very little sense.

  18. stushie: Studies can say what they like about prayer, but ask the people who pray themselves.

    Recently a Wiccan teacher won the lottery, and credits his Wiccan gods for the victory. Do you believe him? Do you believe Hindus who report crying statues and otehr such miracles?

    stushie: Again, If God does not exist to those that say He does not heal, then He must exist to those who say He does heal. It’s the logic that I’m questioning – it is flawed.

    An entity cannot both exist and not exist. That is flawed logic. Now, if you’re saying that someone who believes in God thinks that God heals, when it is not actually true, then you are talking about delusion. Believing in something does not make it true.

    John Bryden, I have just two words for you: Gap Theology

  19. Ivy — I don’t see where “Gap Theology” appears in my ideas. A “God of the gaps” — I understand — indicates a God brought in to explain this or that particular phenomenon that hasn’t yet been explained in terms of “natural” causes. To the contrary, I fully accept that all phenomena arise from natural causes. But I propose that what is meant by “God” is the ultimate Cause of all causes; the origin of being itself. I’m not suggesting any gaps exist within the chain of causation. No “missing links” where God must have stepped in. As I see it, God is outside/beyond the system of nature and does not inhabit some gap within it.

  20. You’re missing the point.

    People who are not healed by prayer insist that God does not exist. If this is accepted, then the converse must also be true

    i.e. People who are healed by prayer insist that God exists.

    If we accept or reject that God exists purely on people’s experiences of answered/unanswered prayer, then we are basing our beliefs/non-beliefs on hearsay.

    Belief/non-belief in God is a personal choice, not a logical conclusion. Science cannot prove or disprove that God exists. And, strangely enough, faith cannot do it either.

  21. Stushie,
    “If we accept or reject that God exists purely on people’s experiences of answered/unanswered prayer, then we are basing our beliefs/non-beliefs on hearsay.”

    Yes, exactly. Which is why we discount people’s anecdotes and look at the data. People can lie, or be delusional, or otherwise in error. Data and evidence don’t lie.

    You’re also exactly right that science cannot prove/disprove the existence of god(s). Nor can it prove or disprove the existence of fairies, gremlins, or the tooth fairy.

    Missing the point? No, I understand what you’re saying perfectly, and you’re trying to sell me a fairy tale.

  22. I’m not trying to sell you anything Dan. You make up your own mind. You believe/disbelieve what you want to – it isn’t going to make a blind bit of difference to the existence/non-existence of God.

    Your fairy tale is just as legitmate as my own one. I choose to believe in God because of my own experiences with God. You choose not to because of your own experieinces of not experiencing God. it’s that simple.

    As I am a presbyterian, may I comment that your logic perfectly matches predestination…some are given the ability to believe, others are not.

  23. Selling or not, you’re still arguing for the fairy tale. What’s funny is that to you, not believing in things that aren’t there is the fairy tale. You choose to insist that believing in things that aren’t there is a logical alternative. That’s a symptom of psychological delusion, not of rational thought.

    I can’t rationally believe in something that’s not there, can I?

  24. A faith is essential for human beings. Some of us believe in God, some believe in other things. But think, if there is no faith in something or somebody there is no hope. And I think, many people overcome serious diseases just thanks to their faith in God. I mean they faithfully believe that God will help them. They think positively and it helps them.

  25. Susana,

    And I think, many people overcome serious diseases just thanks to their faith in God. I mean they faithfully believe that God will help them. They think positively and it helps them.

    There’s two parts to that comment. Belief that a god or gods helps them, and a thought that optimism and hope helps. It seems that you confuse the two: I wholeheartedly agree that the latter is correct, as there is abundant information to support the conclusion that our psychological status effects our bodies health. As described in the above comments however, there is no discernible evidence for the former.

  26. “I can’t rationally believe in something that’s not there, can I?”

    So, what you are saying is that nothing believeable exists outside of what’s contained in your rational mind?

    You know everything?

    Wow!

    Be careful with this one: if you claim to not knowing everything that is rationally believeable, then you leave room in your mind for the possibility that God exists.

    However, if you claim to know everything, then that is psychologically delusional.

    So which is it: you know everything or not?

  27. “So, what you are saying is that nothing believeable exists outside of what’s contained in your rational mind?”

    That’s not what I said, Stushie. If you’re going to be a moron, and put words in my mouth, then I’m going to have to ask you to leave.

    Nor did I say that I know everything. I’m merely saying that I don’t believe in gods, fairies, unicorns, or other such things. If you choose to rationalize such things, that’s fine, but note that the presence of something undetectable is indistinguishable from the nonpresence of something undetectable. I don’t have any evidence of unicorns, nor do I have any evidence of gods. Why should I believe in one but not the other?

    And please, address what I’m actually saying, instead of addressing what you imagine that I’m saying, or you’re gone.

  28. Before I go, I find it incredible that when logic is actually applied that it becomes a burden to you and your belief/non-belief system. You find it easy to castigate those with beliefs, rather than respect them for their independent choices.

    In the end it’s about free will and free speech, but if we choose to oust those who disagree, then free speech no longer exists in the world we are cultivating. We become gods of our own blogs in a delusional cybernetic universe.

    Goodbye…and thanks for all the fish.

  29. Sure, I suppose that logic could be a burden, in a sense. What do you do if you have a belief that you’re unwilling to question, despite the obvious conclusion that it makes no logical sense, and yet you want to appear logical to others? That’s a real dilemna. Do you question your beliefs, or settle for being illogical and irrational?

    Who’s being persecuted here? Who’s being censored, or not allowed to speak? Am I deleting anyone’s opinions? Clearly, no, Free Speech is alive and well here on this blog. This is just a discussion. I suppose that I am castigating you for being irrational and illogical, and for putting words in my mouth, but persecution and censorship?! Don’t be ridiculous.

  30. […] where did they acquire this knowledge? Where did the Bible itself come from? “God” told them? Where is this “God?” Is belief in God just in our […]

  31. Perception is projection – we have our own internal map of how things are and we project that onto “reality” (whatever that is) and hence filter what we see and how we experience reality.

    Even “rational” philosophers and scientists cannot avoid this (see the work of Kuhn and Feyerabend, for example).

    And if Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem can be applied to fields other than mathematics (as many assert), or it is accepted that the existence of God should be considered via the application of mathematical logic, then isn’t this question one that is likely to fall within the realm of Gödel’s theorem?

    These comments might appear as trite soundbites on first reading. Please read two or three times if this is your reaction. If this is still your reaction, then fine, but appreciate that I condensed what I could have taken pages and pages to write.


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