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How Dawkins got the wrong end of the stick about Aquinas

St Thomas Aquinas was not proving the existence of God as you would a piece of furniture. He was testing whether the concept of God made philosophical sense

By on Tuesday, 3 April 2012

St Thomas Aquinas is depicted in a painting at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington (CNS photo)

St Thomas Aquinas is depicted in a painting at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington (CNS photo)

I was challenged by one of the commenters on the last post to point out one of the mistakes that Professor Dawkins makes in his book The God Delusion. Looking at the section on Aquinas, it is clear to me that Dawkins has largely misinterpreted what the saint is saying.

First (recalling from memory) Aquinas puts the question about the logical possibility of the existence of an all-good God co-existing with evil in the world, and concludes that as evil does exist, then an all-good God cannot exist. This of course was the great question that troubled St Augustine in his Manichean days, but the solution is an easy one, once one can grasp that God’s existence and the existence of evil are not the same thing. Indeed, evil is a privation of good, and so God can co-exist with evil, as evil does not “challenge” the fullness of God’s goodness.

Then Thomas goes on to ask “an Deus sit?” You can see the English translation here, but for the original Latin look here.

But what does “an Deus sit” mean? It literally translates as “If God be?” As opposed to “If God is?” sit is subjunctive, not indicative. So, I think this question is not “Does God exist?”, but more “Is it logically possible to think about God?” or even “Does the concept of God make philosophical sense, or is it nonsense?”

One thing is clear that though Aquinas uses the word demonstrabile, he does not, as far as I can see, use the word “proof”. And Fr Coplestone was most particular about this point – the five ways are ways, not proofs.

Think about it: God’s existence cannot be proved in the way the existence of a piece of furniture can be proved. If it could, then God would be shown to be an existing thing in the world, and thus he would not be God. God’s existence is not in the same category as the existence of existing things in the world. God’s being rather is the condition of possibility of the existence of all other beings in the world. But God himself is not part of, or in the world.

Aquinas surely understands this as he says at the end of each of the five ways that these lead to what people call God or understand to be God (“et hoc omnes intelligunt Deum… quam omnes Deum nominant”). They do not lead to God himself. For human understanding cannot comprehend God, who transcends all human understanding.

The mistake that Dawkins makes is that he does not understand that the word exist or is can be used analogically, and must be used analogically of God. His refusal to believe in God makes sense if by God you mean a character like Zeus or Mercury – they clearly do not exist. But God, understood as an absolute necessary being, the ground and precondition of all being, cannot be disproved in this manner.

I am not a philosopher, and only have my seminary training to go on, and I am pretty sure that what I have written here will outrage atheists, and cheese off believers in equal measure! I also know very little about Aquinas, being an Augustinian sort of person… but that is what I make of reading Dawkins.

  • Barry Lyons

    Aquinas believed in the existence of angels. Such nuttery immediately disqualifies him as a serious person worthy of intellectual inquiry. Really, if the man was a basket case about believing unseen ethereal creatures with wings, what does that say about his broader intellectual purchase on life? Not much, I’m afraid.

  • Oconnord

    “to question the value of philosophical arguments is to enter into a philosophical argument! ”
    It is an excellent point but it’s also pedantic and annoying. If I were to say I had no interest in soccer, which is true, do you think I’d become interested by an in-depth lecture about Beckham’s dead ball skills.
    Or would my eyes just glaze over.

  • http://cumlazaro.blogspot.com/ Lazarus

    1) Even if belief in angels were false, it wouldn’t mean that the rest of his beliefs were. (Do you think you might have some false beliefs? If you do, should we immediately assume that the rest of your beliefs are false?)

    2) I know St Dawkins has instructed you to engage in ridicule, but do you have to be so single minded about your methods? Couldn’t you leaven your ridicule with a little reasoning occasionally? For example, Aquinas argues his case for the existence of angels in Ia q50 ff. Go on, try a rational argument for once: you might enjoy it!

    3) I expect a 19th century Barry would have enjoyed laughing at quantum mechanics. But such is the fate of fools: always to follow the fashion rather than the truth.

  • Oconnord

    You missed the point, I said replace God with Mupu.

     “you will find all of ‘Mupu’s’ attributes being peeled off and replaced by those of God:”

    The whole point is that God can be replaced by anything that you grant the same powers. So I could say.. You will find all of “God’s” attributes being peeled off and replaced by those of Mupu:

    As I said before I’ve little interest in philosophy, to me it seems like mental masturbation. It’s enjoyable, can make you feel good but ultimately doesn’t result in anything tangible.

    “Superannuated atheist”, that is witty! Kudos, cutting and amusing at the same time. But why so much caterwauling from the religious about atheism and secularism if we are a spent force? Why the rise in the ranks of “no religion”?

  • Oconnord

    “Well, for one, the only reason you have an idea of a monotheism at all is because of the original monotheist God in the Old Testament”
    True but I have read many fantasy novels which describe, in depth, a “Creator”. Some of which I find more plausible than the god you refer to.
    So why should I believe in the god of the OT rather than any of them.

  • http://cumlazaro.blogspot.com/ Lazarus

    ‘As I said before I’ve little interest in philosophy’
    Who’d have thought?! 

    I’m not sure that anyone’s said you’re a spent force tout court. A certain variety of atheism -that typified by the ‘know nothing’ Dawkins-ites here- is certainly a spent force intellectually. (But then you’ve just admitted that yourself.) That doesn’t mean that your foolishness isn’t dangerous politically or socially.

  • Barry Lyons

    And if I say there’s an invisible elf on my shoulder, it is not up to YOU to disprove its existence. It’s up to ME to prove its existence. And so it goes with man’s most famous fictional creation, god.

    Dawkins wins, and religion loses — again (and again, and again…) I mean, come ON, people. We’re talking about a system of thought that encourages the belief in angels. ANGELS!! Yikes! That ANY believer or ANY theologian supports a belief in angels points immediately to the intrinsic and irrevocable nonsense of Catholicism.

    Sure, point to an argumentative flaw by Dawkins if you think you see one, but you can’t fault his general understanding of the world: there is no supernatural realm (no angels; we don’t have ethereal “things” in our bodies waiting to be released at death) no transformative acts with regard to inert matter (a wafer is a wafer is a wafer) and no irruptions of natural law (corpses don’t get up and chat; unseminated women can’t give birth, snakes can’t talk, water doesn’t part on command, etc.).

    And, once again, people: the contest is still on. I know for a fact that Lazarus is an atheist — of a kind. Ditto for every other believer reading these blog responses. Yes, I’ll say it again: YOU, dear believer, are an atheist (of a kind). The first person who gets back to me with an explanation of what I mean and how it is that I know that every believer is an atheist (of a kind), will win a free copy of my book, “Letter to a Prohibitionist” (nice reviews at the American arm of Amazon). I can be reached at: lettertoaprohibitionist[at]gmail.com.

  • Barry Lyons

    Great reply, Jonathan. Excellent!

    But I’d rather not award you a free copy of my book (see contest in the above response to Lazarus) because I know you already know the answer, being the nonbeliever secularist that you are like I am. I want to give my book away to a believer who can figure out the answer.

  • Barry Lyons

    Jonathan West is correct. It’s not a “rhetorical trick” at all. Please tell us why you don’t believe in Zeus.

  • Barry Lyons

    Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris have already demolished the silly “atheism leads to totalitarianism/fascism” argument. Harris discusses this in “Letter to a Christian Nation” (love that book; its structure was the inspiration for my book, “Letter to a Prohibitionist”) and as for Hitchens, you can turn to Chapter 17 of “god is Not Great”.

  • http://cumlazaro.blogspot.com/ Lazarus

    1) If we were arguing about middle sized dry goods (or elfs), then it might be reasonable to put the onus of proof on those arguing for their existence. (On the other hand, Descartes thought that the only way we could prove the existence of the external world was through the existence of God: perhaps we should be asking you to demonstrate the existence of your shoulder or to point out the flaw in Descartes’s Meditations…? Be careful where you go with radical scepticism: it quickly gets out of hand.) But in any case, we’re not talking about such beings, but the existence of something which is the principle behind such beings rather than one itself. Now, you’ve (also) invented a metaphysical principle: roughly, that there is nothing beyond what is scientifically verifiable. On your own grounds, I’m not going to believe in that until you prove it. (But remember that you can’t rely on that principle in your own proof.)

    2) Your drivelling on about us all being atheists is a little tiresome. To the extent there’s anything behind it, Justin Martyr (2nd century AD) got there first:

    ‘Hence are we called atheists. And we confess that we are atheists, so far as gods of this sort are concerned, but not with respect to the most true God, the Father of righteousness and temperance and the other virtues, who is free from all impurity. But both Him, and the Son (who came forth from Him and taught us these things, and the host of the other good angels who follow and are made like to Him), and the prophetic Spirit, we worship and adore, knowing them in reason and truth, and declaring without grudging to every one who wishes to learn, as we have been taught.’ http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0126.htm

  • Jonathan West

    So why don’y you believe in Zeus. Or even, why are you not a Muslim?

  • Jonathan West

    Not similar, but have similarities. Right. Got that.

    I don’t say they are all the same. The beliefs of the various religions are different and mutually conflicting. Their interpretations of mystical experiences are naturally also conflicting, since each interprets mystical experiences within the framework of their own religion. 

    And yes, the various beliefs have emerged by a process of historical succession, and some have emerged in opposition to others. That’s exactly the point. Religion in general has no means by which these conflicting idea can be resolved.

    Historically, the only way to resolve such differences of belief have been war or schism. And sometimes both. I don’t think anybody is likely to go to war over conflicting interpretations of relativity.

  • Jonathan West

    Your comment is entirely non-specific. It could have been written without ever having read the chapter. Would you like to try again, this time actually engaging specific points in the chapter?

  • Jonathan West

    That won’t do at all. You can’t just ignore other religions if you’re going to find a way of demonstrating the truth of your own. 

    As for “the intervention of God in Jesus Christ”, we can certainly take a look at that. Let me first say that although the evidence is not all that strong as compared to major historical figures of the time such as Augustus Caesar, I’ll accept that there could have been an itinerant preacher at around that time, and moreover that some of his teachings may have been captured in the gospels, albeit probably with a considerable degree of distortion since they were written decades after his death.

    The first question to ask is whether the life of Jesus is an intervention of God, and what evidence there is for that proposition. And in essence, you believe it because the bible says so. I don’t see that you have really much in the way of independent confirming evidence.

    Then there is the question of the accuracy of the Gospel accounts. They weren’t written as history, they were written as liturgy. Mark’s gospel (probably the first to be written) fits extremely neatly as a set of readings to be used in synagogue worship through part of the Jewish liturgical year. The start of the Gospel fits the theme of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) has Jesus healing the sick, the Feast of Tabernacles coincides with Jesus telling harvest parables, and the transfiguration story fits the Festival of Dedication, in which Jews celebrated the time when the light of God was restored to the Temple. Mark (writing after the temple was destroyed in AD 70) offers Jesus as the new temple, the new meeting place between God and human life. The crucifixion and resurrection fits with Passover.

    Matthew expanded this theme so that the entire liturgical year could be covered with Christian readings. He provided additional readings (either by expanding Mark’s stories or providing entirely new material) to cover the period from mid April to early September omitted by Mark.

    The one major Jewish festival not covered by Mark’s Gospel was Pentecost/Shavuot, which falls within this period. Matthew has Jesus go (like Moses) up a high mountain. Moses returned with the Ten Commandments and the Law. Jesus made the Sermon on the Mount, which is an eight-part commentary on the Beatitudes, found in Psalm 119. For the Jews, Pentecost was a 24-hour liturgical celebration, and Psalm 119 was written in eight parts, each part to be read as part of each three-hour section of the celebration. Each of the sections of the Sermon on the Mount was designed to accompany it.

    Matthew fills out the period without major festivals by adding a genealogy, a birth narrative, an expanded baptism story, an expanded temptation story, and a more dramatic resurrection story, complete with earthquakes and the dead rising from their tombs.

    So, we’re not looking at the gospels as reliable history, they were written by people with an agenda. (For instance, if the dead really had risen from their tombs at the time, I think a few other accounts might have mentioned it.)

    The gospels can certainly be taken as evidence that people believed that Jesus was the son of God, but that isn’t the same as evidence that he actually was.

  • Jonathan West

    Hindus have accumulated experience in a different direction. Whose accumulated experience is right? And how can you tell?

  • Oconnord

    Foolish? Well thank you sir! As the tradition role of a fool was to mock the absurdities of the high and mighty I’ll take that as a compliment.

    I do notice you haven’t explained why you can’t replace God with any other deity with the same powers.

  • http://cumlazaro.blogspot.com/ Lazarus

    Shabby attempt at dodging the argument, but still…

    On p113 (First ed) Dawkins announces that the argument from improbability proves that God doesn’t exist. His argument appears to be along the following lines. There are certain features of the world the existence of which appears to be improbable. (Eg: photosynthesis on p121). The theist then postulates the existence of God as an explanation of this improbability. 
    Dawkins comment on this is that, ‘However statistically improbable the entity you seek to explain by invoking a designer, the designer himself has got to be at least as improbable’ (p114). The reasoning behind this appears to be (Dawkins is a sloppy arguer) that: a) that such features (as the result of the ‘accumulation’ of small changes) are not that improbable after all (pp121-2); and b) that, even if they were, because of his nature, God himself is even more improbable (apparently on the ground that he is extremely complex -p125- and thus himself in need of particularly strong justification.) 

    Now, let’s grant all Dawkins’s arguments here, however underdeveloped they are in reality. At best, they would disprove the soundness of the argument from improbability. But to disprove one argument in favour of the existence of God is not to disprove the existence of God. (The elementary mistake in logic shown in my original comment.) Therefore Dawkins has not demonstrated that God does not exist or even that he probably does not exist.

  • http://cumlazaro.blogspot.com/ Lazarus

    Shabby attempt at dodging the argument, but still…

    On p113 (First ed) Dawkins announces that the argument from improbability proves that God doesn’t exist. His argument appears to be along the following lines. There are certain features of the world the existence of which appears to be improbable. (Eg: photosynthesis on p121). The theist then postulates the existence of God as an explanation of this improbability. 
    Dawkins comment on this is that, ‘However statistically improbable the entity you seek to explain by invoking a designer, the designer himself has got to be at least as improbable’ (p114). The reasoning behind this appears to be (Dawkins is a sloppy arguer) that: a) that such features (as the result of the ‘accumulation’ of small changes) are not that improbable after all (pp121-2); and b) that, even if they were, because of his nature, God himself is even more improbable (apparently on the ground that he is extremely complex -p125- and thus himself in need of particularly strong justification.) 

    Now, let’s grant all Dawkins’s arguments here, however underdeveloped they are in reality. At best, they would disprove the soundness of the argument from improbability. But to disprove one argument in favour of the existence of God is not to disprove the existence of God. (The elementary mistake in logic shown in my original comment.) Therefore Dawkins has not demonstrated that God does not exist or even that he probably does not exist.

  • JabbaPapa

     Theology is many things Araujo, and whilst I would disagree with your description of it from a formal point of view, I canot deny that you have touched upon the essence of it.

    I’ll just say that rationality is clearly compatible with theology.

    But of course, rationality is not required to obey the specific rules of positivist materialism, for example, nor those of any other particular sect of philosophy.

  • JabbaPapa

     Religion in general has no means by which these conflicting idea can be resolved.

    Atheism in general has no such means either.

  • http://cumlazaro.blogspot.com/ Lazarus

    Oh, apologies! I thought you’d expressed lack of interest in any further philosophical argument…

    Well, you start off with the five ways (Ia q2), and from that you prove that God (or let’s say, Zeus) exists, but also that he’s (eg) a supremely perfect (fourth way) and a necessary (third way) being. You then march on through the following quaestiones and discover he’s immutable, eternal, good etc. So at the end of it, you might insist on calling him Zeus, but you’d be talking about God and not the bearded guy who went around bonking nymphs. (As I said elsewhere, I expect God wouldn’t mind too much.)

  • JabbaPapa

    Religion, though it is a collective experience, is based on the personal relationship with the divine. This personal relationship includes personal circumstance, including cultural and geographic circumstance.

    This is a non-problem from the mystical point of view — which transcends the existence of accident — and provides relationship with God.

    This is the nature of prayer ; the nature of the Eucharist ; the nature of Faith ; the nature of spirituality — not your hair-splitting about materialistic details.

    Caholicism is truthful — and (speaking personally) it both defines and enriches my personal relationship with God.

    Your fairly single-minded obsessive fascination with one single ontological question, notwithstanding the seminal nature of that question, is blinding you to the far vaster question of the nature of our personal and collective relationships with God.

  • JabbaPapa

    That won’t do at all. You can’t just ignore other religions if you’re going to find a way of demonstrating the truth of your own.

    … unless your religion happens to be Dawkinsite NuAtheism, right ?

  • John Byrne

    theroadmaster wrote:
    “..historical evidence as e.g.presented in the Bible through eye witness accounts of His [Jesus'] Life”

    The Gospels were all written many years after the death of Jesus and of those who knew him.

    theroadmaster then wrote:
    “..we cannot overlook the dark side of  this discipline [science]”

    The decisions to make and to use nuclear bombs against Japan had nothing to do with science. These were purely political decisions.

  • Jonathan West

    The argument from improbability against complexity is valid in principle, but Darwin described how life overcomes this by the gradual accumulation of small changes, each of which is not unreasonably improbable. Quite apart from its scientific implications, Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection was a philosophical discovery of shattering magnitude, because with respect to the complexity of life, it undermined the Teleological Argument by demonstrating the falsity of its initial premise.

    If it were not for the periods of geological time over which these changes have been able to accumulate, then the creationists’ argument against a natural cause for the existence of life would be entirely valid.

    I don’t think that we would have any point of disagreement in this so far.

    What Dawkins then goes on to say is that God, as defined by the religious, has vastly more capability and complexity than any mere living thing. All that omniscience and omnipotence! That huge complexity is even more inherently improbable than the complexity of life. Therefore, those who would believe in God are in the same position the creationists imagine they put atheists in when they ask about the complexity of life. How did all that incredible complexity come about? 

    But with God, the definition provided by the religious doesn’t allow for the gradual development of complexity over time by a process analogous to natural selection, not least because God is defined as being eternal and outside time. So, the creationists’ question hits full-on when applied to the issue of God’s complexity.

    Theologians try to get round this by defining god as immaterial, or by defining God as being simple by virtue of being just one substance (presumably an immaterial substance, whatever that might be other than an oxymoron). But this won’t do for anybody who is less than moderately gullible. Whatever the physical or immaterial substance, there is still incredible complexity (one might even say irreducible complexity) involved in the capabilities God is posited to have. If you believe in God and your belief is to be rational, then you need to find an answer as to where this complexity came from.

    I await Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith’s response.

  • JabbaPapa

     And if I say there’s an invisible elf on my shoulder, it is not up to
    YOU to disprove its existence. It’s up to ME to prove its existence. And
    so it goes with man’s most famous fictional creation, god.

    oooooh deary me, the bloody “burden of proof” tedious atheist fallacy once again in all of its dusty “glory” …

    YOU are claiming that religious beliefs are fallacious ones.

    This is YOUR positive claim.

    YOU must prove its validity.

    NOBODY has claimed that you have an invisible elf on your shoulder. Not even yourself, in case you hadn’t noticed.

    NEWSFLASH : being an atheist does not provide you with an infinite supply of “Get Out Of Burden Of Proof Free” cards… but if you attempt to play such a card (that you might have printed out for yourself, for use in your trolling of Catholic websites), then do not act surprised when people point out your intellectual cowardice and smugness to one and all.

  • TreenonPoet

     And despite the Church’s history, you fell for it?

  • JabbaPapa

     Well hey, nobody is forcing you to believe Dawkins’ laughably inaccurate decriptions of various religious questions, nor his utterly ludicrous commentary as based on his false understandings.

  • JabbaPapa

     Next time, just write down “I do not understand the meaning of the word ‘indoctrination’”.

  • Oconnord

    You save prove but it is based on  teleological reasoning. How can they be proofs when they are based on the assumption that objects have a special purpose.

    For example doesn’t the fifth way say:

    “We see that things which lack knowledge, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result.”

    That is one hell of an assumption.

    I think you’ve gotten me to make an actual philosophical point! Well done.

  • Oconnord

    Say.. rather than save in the first sentence…

  • JabbaPapa

     I want to give my book away to a believer who can figure out the answer.

    This is laughable — “the answer” ZOMG !!! — quite apart from the fact that this is yet another of these idiotic atheistic clichés that I would guess a good 2/3rds + of members in here to have already encountered on multiple occasions, the sheer arrogance of your presumption that this “answer” seems apparently to provide some kind of extraordinary insight into truthfulness(tm) is flabbergasting !

    Besides — what makes you think anybody is interested in owning a copy of this book in the first place ?

    Well — Jonathan West seems to want one. At least he’s posted the proper “answer” to your idiotically manipulative cliché !!

    Disqualifying him by virtue of your prejudice, shifting the rules when the actual result is unlike the result that you were looking for — are these reflective of the basic methodologies of your atheism ?

    He wants a copy of your bloody pulp fiction — I doubt that anyone else does.

    YOU announced a contest.

    YOU announced a free copy.

    Now either fulfill your stupid atheistic principles by sending him the bloody thing, or stop coming in here to bother us with your obvious double standards.

  • http://cumlazaro.blogspot.com/ Lazarus

    Well, I hope Father Lucie-Smith won’t mind my offering my tuppenceworth first!

    First, your argument here is rather better put than Dawkins does it himself in ch4: indeed, I’m not sure it’s precisely what he does argue in that chapter  -but put that aside for the moment.

    Second, Dawkins needs to provide an explanation of what he means by ‘complexity’ here. (Remember that the burden is on him as the advancer of the argument to clarify any lacunae or obscurities in his reasoning.) The features that the sort of design arguments that Dawkins focuses on are features where parts of a material substance work together to serve a function. Now that clearly isn’t what we’re talking about in the case of God. So the suspicion here is that we’re talking about two different things: a difficulty in explaining complex features of material entities and their functioning together (which is solved by the postulation of an intelligent designer); and a difficulty in explaining how God effects that intelligent design (which is solved, to the extent that it is, by something else entirely).

    Third, turning to those difficulties in explain the nature of God, the fact that we can’t explain all the nature of God (and Catholicism certainly doesn’t claim we can) doesn’t mean that we can’t say something about him. (Analogously, we may know that someone into your house without knowing all the details of who did this and how it was done.) If the five ways and analogous arguments work, then we may know that God exists and certain of his properties without knowing all of them.

    Fourth, the Catholic position is that God is simple: Ia q3 (and Ed Feser has a good post on this here http://edwardfeser.blogspot.co.uk/2009/11/william-lane-craig-on-divine-simplicity.html). It’s intellectually dishonest of Dawkins not to address this sort of argument: he should know that the dogmatic position is that God is not complex: he needs more than a few throwaway lines to deal with this.

    I’d make two overall remarks. First, I’m certainly not claiming (and neither I take it is Father Lucie-Smith given his favourable reference to Russell) that there aren’t decent arguments against the existence of God, but merely that Dawkins hasn’t made them. The fact that one can construct a plausible argument by building on the meager hints within his text is not an answer to the charge of his intellectual bankruptcy. Second, at best, this argument deals with only the fifth way of Aquinas (and possibly not even that). The fact that if one makes a certain sort of argument, one raises specific difficulties within that argument may well be a reason to drop that argument, but, as I’ve argued previously, the disproof of a specific argument is not disproof of that argument’s conclusion.

  • JabbaPapa

    OK, it’s conceivable that you do not actually understand the rhetorical trick yourself, and are just repeating it by virtue of having learnt it by rote.

    The trick is that you propose that one blatantly false proposition should be positioned as equivalent to any real question concerning any real issue.

    Rhetorically, you fabricate your obvious falsehood to include as many superficial characteristics as possible with the real question that you wish to destroy, but without including any actual characteristics relevant to that question.

    Example : who was the best President of the USA, Donald Pleasance in Escape from New York, or Richard Nixon ?

    The only requirement of the trick is to convince someone to accept the false comparison in question — but once they have done so, and start to respond to your false comparison as if it were real and cogent, then they have already conceded defeat.

    The reality is that the question itself is a lie.

    Accepting any validity of the question is to accept the validity of a lie. Which is the handiwork of Satan, the Deceiver.

  • http://coracaoconfiante.blogspot.com/ Araujo Ferreira

    schisms came more from political context than faith itself among Christianity. But religion has a way to acomodate different points as u can see in the evangelical movement (where each church has its own thoughts) or the coexistence among catholics and orthodox, or even catholics and anglicansm they are not fighting each other right now, are they? wars of religion (although it is a contradiction as christian faith teaches to love the enemy) are rare, not the rule. U may say there are correlations between religions tensions, and violence along history, ok, but not causation. but if u make the same correlation for atheism, proportionally, they were much more violent, as u can see in the history of comunism. there were moments (lots of it) of deep religion and peace. Were there moments of deep atheism and peace? Or the only real experience was catastrophic?

  • Araujo Ferreira

    Ok, I agree.

  • Araujo Ferreira

    well, as a christian I have no committment to hinduism, let them explain themselves. I am talking about my experience. But I lived for a time in India and I can say that the hindu vision of the world has some interesting points, that do not necessarily conflicts to christianity. From the point of christianity, by revelation we complete the schemes and make clearer some points encopassed by all religious search. We do not deny what is positive in them. We complement and explicit. Of course, from our point of view. But I can defend only my own ; )

  • JabbaPapa

    There appear to be no limits to your nihilistic destructiveness.

    Your suggestion that the history of the Catholic Church should implicitly be viewed as a negative has no foundation in objective rationality.

  • JabbaPapa

    The argument from improbability against complexity is valid in principle

    Not when no actual probabilities based on any actual data exist.

    What numerical value(s) exactly would you ascribe to God ?

  • theroadmaster

    The Catholic Church has never claimed to encapsulate in any creed or doctrine all that there is to know about God. The Good Doctor, Thomas Aquinas even realized that our human minds had limits, and could 
    not possibly comprehend the full dimensions of the Intelligence behind our universe.  He demonstrated that we can catch telling glimpses of the nature of the wisdom of God, by discerning purpose and order within our Natural world.  Thus we can apply both Reason and Faith to achieve this.
    The recent research by some scientists in recent years, investigating the phenomenon of the “near-death experiences” of thousands of people across the globe, would tend to suggest that there is a strong possibility of the survival of part of our “personality” after our spirit has left our bodies.  They all commonly experience the presence of a white light which emanates from a being of pure spirit and also their deceased relatives and friends.  Some may call this the “soul” and others may prefer the “mind”, but it does leave us with some very interesting findings that Science cannot easily dismiss.
    As regards my attitude to the intervention or lack of it by God in our world, I am not a deist in any sense, as I believe God has made himself present as attested by Eucharistic miracles or Church-sanctioned Marian apparitions around the globe over the centuries.  My point relates to the laws of Nature e.g weather systems, physical laws e.g gravity.  They operate as their Creator intended them and thus are also revelatory as to His intentions.

  • JabbaPapa

    I have never suggested that “atheism leads to totalitarianism/fascism”, not in this forum nor in any other forum.

    This does not mean that a particular totalitarianism nor a particular fascism cannot be defined by atheistic creeds.

    Nazism is so defined.

  • theroadmaster

    I mean’t that God cannot be summoned in person by Scientists, just like we cannot mutter some incantation and expect Him to appear as a genie would in fairy tales.  Our Creator is at work in our world through the laws of Nature that He created but that is His will at work and not dependent on man.  Your confused reference to the Eucharist bears no direct relation to my main point, as the priest through the special words of consecration, invites Our Lord to transform the elements of bread and wine into His Body and Blood.  It is not a whimsical or arbitrary thing that someone can will but requires a rite.

  • TreenonPoet

    Wiktionary defines ‘indoctrinate’ as “to teach with a biased , one-sided or uncritical ideology” or “to brainwash“. How does my usage conflict with that?

  • theroadmaster

    The first of the gospels written by one of Jesus circle of disciples was written in around 60-70 A.D by St Mark,  which was just some 30-40 years after the crucifixion of Our Lord  This is analogous to someone writing about their experiences of WW11 during the 1980′s.  It is not inconceivable that Mark would have his Master’s life and work still fresh in his mind.  The gospels are remarkably consistent despite some minor omissions regarding the details of the life and death of Jesus.  
    Scientists unfortunately got involved in research in the past which promoted the aims of tyrannical regimes.  One can think of the German rocket scientists who progressed the technology to make possible the V2 rockets which the nazis used with devastating effect over parts of Britain or those who invested their time in IG Farben producing nerve gas agents such as Sarin.  One may call them “rogue” scientists but one cannot evade the horrific nature of these dark endeavors.

  • Honeybadger

    Wow! Here’s me thinking that ‘nuttery’ is a home for befuddled squirrels!

    You are something else, aren’t you? Nuttier than squirrel poo!

    LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL!

    Here’s the proof, bub! Why, in the name of sanity, are you ‘discussing’ (ha!) things that you clearly don’t believe in, have no interest in, and diss and invalidate - to within an inch of our life - those of us who DO believe in God?

    Why don’t you shut your piehole, go away and bother some other faith – such as Islam – and see how you get treated!

  • Honeybadger

    Barry Lyons should go to the National Elf Service to get his head examined… for magic mushrooms!

  • Honeybadger

    Squirrel poo dressed as troll!

  • Honeybadger

    Zeus is my cousin’s pet dog!

    Woof!

  • Honeybadger

    Flying Spaghetti Monster, Green Teapots…

    What next? You believe in the Phoneless Cord!