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Raising children as Christians is a liberation not indoctrination

You can raise your children as Christians but ultimately, it’s up to them if they attend church as an adult

By on Wednesday, 15 May 2013

A baby is baptised Photo: PA

A baby is baptised Photo: PA

Following on from my blog of April 24 on Richard Dawkins and not “indoctrinating” our children with our own religious beliefs, Geoffrey Sales, a devout (and very knowledgeable) Baptist, has written very sensibly on the same topic in his recent blog post on All Along the Watchtower. Indeed, he is so obviously more reasonable on this vexed topic than the famous evolutionary biologist that I think it is worth reproducing what he says.

He relates that he has five adult children, three of whom are active Christians, one who is an occasional attendee “and the fifth, the youngest girl, well, she just can’t see the point.” All the young Sales children “got dragged off to chapel twice on Sunday.” They also had morning prayers at home and “they went along to Bible study on Thursday when they were old enough.” Sales asks, “Did they complain? Yes. Did we take any notice? Yes. But we explained that this was what we did and that we thought it was good for them. But we also made a promise, which was that if, when they reached 16, they didn’t want to come, they could stop.”

The rationale for this, he explains, was that if they decided at 16 not to carry on with any religious practice and then changed their minds later – as can happen – “they’d know what it was they were going back to.” He relates that the three oldest were baptised in due course (Baptists believe in adult baptism) and have continued in their faith; the youngest boy goes to church “on high days and holidays”, while the youngest girl “has always gone her own way on these matters.”

Many Catholic parents will recognise this scenario: some children take on the faith for themselves as they grow up; some rebel and then return, often when they have children themselves; yet others “just can’t see the point”, as Sales says. He concludes, “That’s all you can do as a parent. You can show them the way, but for the rest, it is God who gives the increase. “Sales then poses the critical question: “If we had not done this, then I wonder what chance there would have been that three to four of the children would be Christians? Those who think we should have given them a choice need to think instead of wobbling with the brain. What choice would they have had if no-one had taken them near a church? How would that have been a choice? No more than the rest of us can children choose what they do not know exists.”

He concludes, “Not giving your child the experience of something which has helped to shape our world and culture for so long is to deprive them of a real choice and to imprison them in your choices.” He also raises the question, “How many out of five children of atheists would somehow end up in church, and how they’d get there or have some understanding of it?” Sales adds, “Those of us who are Christian parents have a responsibility to bring our children up in the faith…This is not going to mean you brainwash them…Rather it is about having an informed choice – one that is not just formed by the prejudices of the modern media.” Or, one might add, formed by the prejudices of a particular Oxford professor.

The Russian poet, Irina Ratushinskaya, was raised an atheist in the then Soviet Russia. She became a Christian, by her own account, because her teachers repeated the mantra that there was no God so often that it led her to think the opposite: there must be a God if the authorities were so keen to deny His existence. Mind you, I somehow think it might have been easier to come to faith under that grim and oppressive ideology than in the West these days, where everything is relative, nothing is objectively true and where “wobbling with the brain”, to quote Sales’s own ironic phrase, suggests a pseudo-tolerance: the wish to present to young people a smorgasbord of different intellectual and spiritual sensations – just as long as they don’t commit the ultimate sin of conversion to Christianity.

  • TreenonPoet

    Thank you for the apology.

    Re. 1(a): I am not going to spend the rest of my days endlessly refuting every attempt to show that no original human pair existed. If any attempt managed to pass scrutiny by the scientific community, then I would give it some attention, but given the logic of the arguments against an original human pair, I don’t think that that will ever happen.

    Re. 1(b): (i) I don’t care how many theologians support an incorrect assertion – it remains incorrect. (ii) Realistically, complex hypotheses are often refutable in a couple of sentences. As already discussed, some major works can be dismissed by pointing out that they rely on the premise that God exists. (iii) I am not surprised that you find reflections on the nature of the mind problematic because it seems to me that you are anticipating support for non-existent phenomena (aspects that support an after-life, differences from other apes that could not be explained by evolution, or free will, perhaps).

    Re. 1(c): (i) If the soul is capable of carrying on in existence beond the death of the body, then Feser’s definition of what the soul is is inadequate. But if he was to extend the definition to allow for any meaningful existence beyond the death of the body, then he would be simply be ‘begging the question’. (ii) A mobile phone is not defined as something that causes a bomb to explode – its definition gives it a meaningful existence after it has been used to detonate a bomb. (iii) The issue is not difficult. Making it difficult by obfuscation prepares the stage for word tricks, but that is all that they are.

    Re.2(a) Once again you pretend that the arguments for the existence of God are not fallacious, but missing some context that would make them coherent. The arguments on the BBC site are not satisfactory summaries. I am not as good at analogies as you, but “2*2=16″ is not a good summary that is missing the extra “2*2*” for simplification. Simplifications might be necessarily vague, or approximate, but not wrong. No; it is clear to me that the arguments are fallacious. It is highly irresponsible of the BBC not to point this out, but then religious teaching is allowed to be highly irresponsible, isn’t it?

    Re. 2(b) (i) See previous paragraph. (ii) It is well within the intellectual capacity of many 16 year olds to understand some formal logic and fallacies. Logic, apart from some basic digital computer logic, is missing as a topic from the old curriculum, and (so far) from the proposed new one. If the Cosmological argument is formally expressed, it would be clear if an attempt was made to doubly define the symbol G as both the first cause and as the God of the Christian Bible. No wonder the Establishment suppresses the teaching of logic!

    Re. 3: (i) A proof of the will of God implies the existence of God to have such a will. Purported miracles are not a proof even of the will of God. Nor are they proof of the authority of Christ or of the Church. Your assertions are completely unfounded. Is that how this Catholic version of reason works? (ii) ‘Initially’ is not a statement of faith because the initial condition may be the only condition. (iii) In true theological fashion, you hypothesize about what might be if God existed. You are begging the question again. The assumption that God does not exist is scientifically reasonable for reasons that I have already given in other comments and for other reasons. You degrade the word ‘proof’.

    Parts of your comment show insight, but if your comment is generally representative example of Catholic intellect, then Catholicism is indeed intellectually contemptible.

  • TreenonPoet

    If a condition of the discussion is that I must come to agree with you, then it is not a discussion.

    Indoctrination is not a necessary component of education. Teaching about doctrines is fine, but to teach that one doctrine is the absolute truth is miseducation. For as long as the beliefs of agnostic atheism (that we don’t know, but the chances are there are no deities) continue to be true, it is not doctrine. If the belief persisted after something was discovered that showed that either a deity exists, or that there is a high probability that one exists, then agnostic atheism would earn its “…ism” suffix because it would no longer correspond with the latest knowledge, and it would become wrong to teach that it was still true.

  • TreenonPoet

    The more unsubstantiated attributes you ascribe to your god, the more improbable it becomes. Take the notion that mankind is made in the image of God, and ignoring any contradictions implied by that notion. Whatever image mapping is suggested, that notion rules out an elephant-like god and a tyrannosaurus-like god. Even if one limited the number of equally feasible images to the number of species, past and present, on this planet, the probability of any one image being the right one would be in the order of 10^-8 (i.e. 0.00000001). Of course, this does not account for the number of other equally feasible images. The odds are not altered by what is written in the Bible, or what someone claims has been supernaturally revealed to them. If one takes a second attribute (not related to image) which your god is claimed to also possess, its probability must be multiplied by the probability for the image attribute to obtain the probability of a god existing with both those attibutes. It is not necessary to compute exact probabilities to realise that the probability of a god existing with all the claimed attributes is close to zero.

  • TreenonPoet

    Please quit this “has been pointed out” habit. You use it in places to state a fact when the other person already knows that fact, to make the other person appear ignorant and, with the addition of “multiple”, to make the other person appear stubborn. In other places you use it to state your opinion to make out that your opinion is fact and that the other person is ignorant for not knowing that fact.

    How would one know that transcendental reality was reality without it being verifiable and falsifiable? Usually, independent affirmation by two people is sufficient, but obviously there are cases that demand a more sophisticated investigation, or even an investigation that we don’t yet have the resources to carry out. There is no reason to claim that, just because a supposed miracle could not be investigated in the time available, it must have been caused by deity X. Such claims tend to illustrate the propensity of religites to make stuff up to boost their own faith or the faith of followers.

    You yell that I have not addressed any of Lazarus’ objections despite written evidence to the contrary. I may not have addressed them to your satisfaction, but I can assure you that I did the best I could to address them in one of the short time slots that present themselves. I am sorry if you did not understand my points, but Lazarus appears to have understood them, even if he does not agree with them, so I do not think that they are incomprehensible.

  • TreenonPoet

    The book came long after my schooldays. Nothing in The God Delusion is wrong about what we were taught. Are you going to tell me that we were not really taught what we were taught because that was an invention of Dawkins?

    The book has helped a number of people to loose their religious faith. Are you going to tell me that they did not believe what they believed because the belief turned out to be an invention of Dawkins?

    If Dawkins did not attack your personal god, lucky you, but he certainly got it right with the personal god of some of my aquaintancies, including a lady who believes in an inerrant Bible – old and new testaments – though according to you she does not believe that because the god described in the Bible is a Dawkins invention.

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    Nothing in The God Delusion is wrong about what we were taught

    Everything concerning God in that book is a gross caricature of the catechetical teachings.

    One remains aware, of course, that the catechism of youth in the 1950s to 1980s was often perfectly caricatural itself.

    The book has helped a number of people to loose their religious faith

    In other words, the book is objectively satanic in nature.

    a lady who believes in an inerrant Bible

    Biblical inerrancy is a complex topic, which IIRC you’re not fully informed of, though I may be thinking of someone else instead.

    Biblical literalism is of 19th century Protestant origin, and it is blatantly erroneous.

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

    Well, have to say that as far as I can see you’re talking complete mince as we say up here, but guess that’s just my contemptible intellect showing through! (‘Parts of your comment show insight’ -blimey, the cheek of the fellow!)

    I’m not quite sure how one can break through the skein of conceit you’ve produced, all of which seems to be directed at saving yourself the trouble of reading anything other than beyond children’s level summaries. A more sensible person would simply leave you to wriggle in your own closed belief trap at this point, but I don’t think anyone’s ever accused me of being sensible…

    So, a parting question.

    Let’s just take the ontological argument (not one that many Catholics would accept as sound by the way, but the point here is not its soundness but the adequacy of the GCSE treatment of it). That’s summarized as:

    ‘God can be defined as “that than which nothing greater can be conceived”. Therefore God (like unicorns) exists in the mind.

    It is not possible to think of any being greater than God (as God is “that than which nothing greater can be conceived”). Therefore God must exist in reality.’

    Here’s a link to the Internet Encyclopedia of philosophy http://www.iep.utm.edu/ont-arg/ and the Stanford Encyclopedia articles http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ontological-arguments/ on the ontological arguments including Anselm’s (both only undergraduate level).

    Given the complexity of both articles and the difficulties they highlight in the interpretation of Anselm’s arguments, how could anyone come to a rational judgment on the soundness of the arguments based solely on the summary provided on the GCSE site? (And yet you do claim, on the basis of those summaries alone, that it is clear that the arguments are fallacious.)

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

    Since you’re taking my name in support of your argument against Jabba, forgive me for barging in.

    I’d characterize our arguments pretty much on the following lines:

    Me: I don’t think that there is a scientific proof of the existence of God, and you’re not taking seriously the metaphysical proofs that are offered.

    You: There is no scientific proof of the existence of God, and I’ve read a children’s version of the metaphysical proofs and they don’t work.

    Me: I agree there isn’t a scientific proof of the existence of God. Reading a children’s version of metaphysical proofs isn’t taking them seriously.

    We’ve been around this track a few times….

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    Your lengthy post is devoid of anything even vaguely representative of probabilistic mathematics.

    It is not necessary to compute exact probabilities” = “TreenonP hasn’t the foggiest clue what he’s ranting on about”

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    How would one know that transcendental reality was reality without it being verifiable and falsifiable?

    Sorry, YOU get to shoulder the burden of proof for YOUR claims.

  • TreenonPoet

    From wikipedia:-

    Probability (or likelihood) is a measure or estimation of how likely it is that something will happen or that a statement is true. Probabilities are given a value between 0 (0% chance or will not happen) and 1 (100% chance or will happen).

    I demonstrated what I believed in mathematical terms as requested (using the a formula which exactly matches the formula for independent probability given in the wikipedia article linked to).

    Please tell me what exactly is wrong with that, rather than presenting yet another ad hominem attack.

  • TreenonPoet

    So you think my only source of what I think is your proof is children’s versions of your arguments or something along those lines? The reason I linked to them was their relevance to religious indoctrination. I have already told you that I have read some (though not much) theology and found all that I have read flawed. In most cases, I was directed to what I read by a religite who was convinced that there lay an indisputable argument but whose confirmation bias may have obscured the fallacies. Nowhere have I observed this confirmation bias more starkly than in the case of the Lund document I mentioned in an earlier post on this thread.

    What you seem to be trying to do is to redefine the word ‘proof’ to make it support your belief. The same sort of trick is widely used with the word ‘truth’ (to the ridiculous extent that an untruth can be described as a truth!). This devaluation of the English language is also irresponsibly pursued by the BBC on their RS revision pages here. This is yet another component of religious indoctrination, though it is also of use to other obscurers of truth. Please don’t tell me that 16 year olds are not yet ready to understand the useful meaning of ‘truth’.

    The constraints on a ‘metaphysical’ proof are the same as on a scientific proof. A logical error is no less an error because it has nothing to do with empirical science. Ultimately, the question of the existence of God has to be answered in terms that are compatible with science because science is what describes the real world we live in, where the negative effects of religion are felt. By admitting that there is no scientific proof of the existence of God, you are admitting that anything done in the name of God is fraudulent. Religious organisations are perpetrating a mass fraud against innocent children.

  • TreenonPoet

    I waded through the the fist piece you linked to (the IEP article on the Ontological Argument). Its length is not so much related to complexity as to the amount of detail (such as the historical information). Any difficulties in interpreting Anselm’s arguments are a separate issue from whether any particular interpretation stands up to scrutiny. (If one intrepretation did stand up to scrutiny, it might be charitable to assume that that was what Anselm really meant to say.) The piece correctly finds faults in all the versions of the argument that it presents, yet is strangely reluctant to condemn the last version, instead hinting that the criticism itself may be flawed, but not saying why. (The criticism is similar to an argument that I have sometimes made, though not as a response to the Ontological Argument, and I have never received what I would consider to be a valid refutation of it.) One cannot recommend an argument on the basis that any refutation of it seems valid, but the criticism may be flawed in some way that has not yet been discovered.

    Thus, the Ontological Argument is flawed. The BBC is morally and factually wrong to state that it gives proof that God exists. If the argument is considered worth mentioning at all, then the most important aspect about it (that it does not work) should be mentioned.

    In answer to your question, if the BBC’s version of the Ontological Argument is considered to be a representative summary, then the argument can be dismissed (for example, on the basis that the deity named ‘God’ here is not shown to be the same as the other beings also named ‘God’ on those pages). If the BBC’s version is not representative, then the BBC’s version can still be dismissed, but one would have to deal with other versions when confronted with those versions (but not when confronted merely by claims that a flawless version exists discoverable by reading theology extensively).

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    I demonstrated what I believed in mathematical terms

    No, you have gratuitously deployed some extremely specious “reasoning” to attach some random quantities to some entirely extraneous claims of your own invention. For instance, the perfectly ludicrous implicit claim that the Incarnation can have been random — based on a complete lack of any kind of support whatsoever, and certainly NOT Scriptural, the Incarnation having been a deliberate Act of God.

    If your pseudo-”probabilistic” method were coherent, I could just as easily use exactly the same numbers to support the claim that the likelihood that you are a human being is next to nil, because “even if one limited the number of equally feasible living individuals to the number of species on this planet, the probability of any one species being the right one would be in the order of 10^-8 (i.e. 0.00000001)”, and from there start claiming that I do not believe you to be human.

    Your post violates the basic principles of probabilistic mathematics, in other words, by failing to establish any meaningfully coherent framework of mathematical reference.

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    What you seem to be trying to do is to redefine the word ‘proof’ to make it support your belief

    Only someone not having understood the written word can have come to such a conclusion — NO, he jolly well is NOT !!!

    The constraints on a ‘metaphysical’ proof are the same as on a scientific proof

    This is a nonsensical position, or at the very most it is only true in some systems of metaphysics that are based on positivist materialism and such, except that these are certainly not the be-all and end-all of metaphysics.

    A logical error is no less an error because it has nothing to do with empirical science

    This is a non sequitur — you are now trying to shore up your position with a reference to logic, except that the question as to whether logic corresponds with reality or not is itself a long-debated metaphysical question. In the material sciences, many perfectly logical theories turn out to be false when they are tested empirically in comparison to the contents of reality. The notion that logic is necessarily associated with truth is itself the result of a logical fallacy, in other words.

    Logic is actually a tool of human thought, and NOT a structure of outside reality.

    Ultimately, the question of the existence of God has to be answered in terms that are compatible with science

    This claim of yours has never been supported by any actual evidence.

    It is simply a doctrine belonging to your belief system.

    The reality of it is that the question of God is not a scientific question, for reasons that have been pointed out to you repeatedly.

    False claims by you that the definition of “scientific evidence” must necessarily obey the doctrines of your own belief, and that those understanding the phrase in its more conservative and accurately scientific meaning are trying to “change” the definition do nothing to support your position.

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    FWIW, I find the classical ontological argument to be flawed by the inherent limitations of human rationality in the first place, as they have been described in modern linguistics — many mediaeval and renaissance thinkers, Montaigne notably, were already very wary of the notion that logic corresponded with reality, and modern linguistics have pretty much trashed that notion.

    These questions are involved with the centuries-long Quarrel of the Universals, which could be very briefly described as a quarrel about what reality is made of — things, ideas, or words. It is intrinsically involved in the simultaneously broader and narrower metaphysical question of the relationship between the soul, the intellect, and reality.

    Modern Linguistics generally reaches the same dead end that the Quarrel of the Universals led to, except that it establishes that language, and therefore thought itself, is made not of things nor ideas, but words.

    Which leaves the problem of the relationship between the soul and reality exactly back at the starting point, because the material nature of words cannot explain the existence of either consciousness or reality, and the procedure whereby new words are learned – though it seems simple and easy to us – cannot be demonstrated as being a product of the words themselves, leading straight back to the concepts of immateriality and transcendence as the explanation of consciousness and understanding.

    The modern basis of ontological argument, therefore, is one the one hand Descarte’s cogito ergo sum ; on the other, the inescapable proposition that consciousness itself is transcendental, and therefore so is either reality or our relationship with reality, so that the source of transcendental consciousness must itself be transcendental ; hence divine ; hence God.

    Denials that consciousness is transcendental run immediately afoul of the inability of modern linguistics to explain how material mechanisms provide consciousness and understanding, as these (as well as perception itself) appear to transcend the limitations of the psycho-neural mechanisms involved, logic included.

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

    I think there’s two separate issues here about the Bitesize website. First, are these being presented by the BBC as sound arguments? Second, are they (in any version) sound arguments?

    1) Taking the first point, I think you’re missing the context. religious studies as an academic subject (as opposed to philosophy and theology) tends to abstract from truth claims: it’s very much based on asking what people believe and why. So these arguments are being presented as ‘what people say’ rather than what is a sound argument. (If you look at the tests presented on the website http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/rs/god/ you’ll get a feel for the purely descriptive rather than critical nature of the syllabus.)

    If it were moving into a critical mode, you’d certainly have to do much more than present the sort of summaries presented here.So it’s not fair to say: ‘The BBC is morally and factually wrong to state that it gives proof that God exists’. The BBC is right to state that they are ‘used’ to give such a proof: whether successfully or not is a different matter (but that’s something the GCSE syllabus, at least at the revision level considered in the website, doesn’t seem to be tackling.)

    As a general point, religious studies as an academic study in the UK is pretty much a division of anthropology: it doesn’t go round asking how good religions are, but simply studying what they are. (And this needs to be contrasted with theology which does investigate truth claims.)

    2) I’ve already made clear my reasons for claiming that the summaries are, as examples for critical consideration of the arguments, inadequate. (I detect an acceptance of that claim now!) You go on to say: ‘but one would have to deal with other versions when confronted with those versions (but not when confronted merely by claims that a flawless version exists discoverable by reading theology extensively).’

    I don’t think a ‘flawless’ version does exist: I don’t think that’s the way philosophy generally works. (So equally, I can’t think of a flawless argument for naturalism, reliance on induction, the nature of causality etc.) But if you’re going to assert that (eg) naturalism is true, I’d expect you to be familiar with the literature and to have done the (philosophical) equivalent of ‘reading theology extensively’ or else to admit that you’re basing your views on faith. (I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with basing your world view on faith. If you are a working scientist, for example, it’s perfectly reasonable to say that you simply don’t have the time or the inclination to investigate the philosophy of science. But then you shouldn’t pretend that you have any expertise on it or expect those who have to take you seriously.)

    You are confronted with an extensive literature in philosophical theology. (It’s there.) By all means ignore it, but then intellectual integrity should demand that you admit this and that your views are based on little more than a hunch. I have all sorts of hunches about quantum physics. But I don’t go shooting my mouth off about them because I realize they are based on nothing more than a profound ignorance. I still don’t know why you think it anything other than shameful to keep attacking Catholicism while admitting that your knowledge of it is little more that a child’s.

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

    1) On the BBC website, see above.

    2) ‘The constraints on a ‘metaphysical’ proof are the same as on a scientific proof.’ Well, no. Certainly, there are constraints of logic which are shared, but then you have not shown that any of the actual arguments used to argue for the existence of God are logically flawed. The terms ‘metaphysics’ and ‘science’ are of course slightly imprecise, but the essential problem here is the methodology of the natural sciences cannot itself be used to prove the methodology of the natural sciences without being circular. (A more local version of this general problem is that of the problem of induction. http://www.princeton.edu/~grosen/puc/phi203/induction.html ) The investigation of what our understanding of the world requires (including our scientific understanding) needs metaphysical arguments. So, eg, the ‘second way’ of Aquinas’ five ways is an argument based on the nature of causality: given that causality exists, God must exist. That’s not a scientific argument but it is a rational one which obeys the laws of logic. (The point you made earlier about whether the First Cause is identifiable with the God of the Christian bible is a red herring. a) Eg: Having demonstrated the existence of God (S Th !a q2) Aquinas then moves on to consider his nature. b) Some of the aspects of God’s nature (eg the Trinity) are admittedly only known by revelation, so the proof of those is not natural theology but the arguments for the reliability of the sources of revelation, chiefly, the Church.)

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    Finally !! Someone who speaks English !! :-)

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    Yeah well, guess which “participant” in the discussion has suddenly vanished from it.

    The intellectual cowardice is, indeed, infantile.

  • TreenonPoet

    The error in your second paragraph indicates that it is you who does not understand probability. If you were speculating about an Earthling called TreenonPoet and did not know anything about which species this Earthling belonged to, nor about which era it belonged to, then the probability of any guess being true would be in the order of 10^-8. The moment you are fed facts that rule out certain species, the probability of your guessing correctly increases.

    You do not have any relevant facts about incarnation having been a deliberate Act of God, only speculation, and how you think this implies that mankind was created in the image of God I have no idea.

  • TreenonPoet

    What a cop-out! You deem your arguments to be exempt from scrutiny because scrutiny inevitably involves the application of logic, even if only implicitly. There is no point in my demonstrating the logical error in your remark about logical theories turning out to be false because you could argue that your remark does not have to be logical.

  • TreenonPoet

    you have not shown that any of the actual arguments used to argue for the existence of God are logically flawed

    You don’t think so? Well, ignoring my attempts, do you reject those presented in the IEP article that you linked to in another comment, and which I agree with?

    The terms ‘metaphysics’ and ‘science’ are of course slightly imprecise

    Agreed. I often use the word ‘science’ when I really mean the application of rational thinking in the manner that underpins science. Since some here seem to think that rational thinking is that which corresponds to Catholic thinking, I am also uneasy when I write about rational thinking. I would agree that there is a circularity in using rationality to verbally defend rationality. The reason that this does not give licence to religites to use circular arguments is that without rationality, there would be no way to assess the arguments even if circularity was allowed.

    A more local version of this general problem is that of the problem of induction

    Science does not try to prove the uniformity of nature. Nor does it claim to know for certain that nature is uniform. But it can reach conclusions based on the assumption that nature is uniform (i.e. the assumption is a caviat). Not only have these conclusions been useful, even if they are only approximations of reality, but one has to ask what sort of useful conclusions could be drawn if it was not assumed that nature is uniform. That, to me, is the reason for making the assumption. I disagree with the inference stated in the Princeton article you linked to that what we are rationally entitled to believe depends on what sort of beings we are, and not just on the available evidence and argument, though I may be misunderstanding what it means by ‘rationally entitled’.

    Having demonstrated the existence of God (S Th !a q2) Aquinas then moves on to consider his nature

    Can you name one characteristic of the postulated first cause that rationally leads to any one of the characteristics attributed to the biblical God (where rationality is limited to mathematical logic, not religious logic)?

  • TreenonPoet

    For all its detail, the IEP article could have been reduced to little more than a paragraph if its sole intention was to show that none of the versions of the Ontological argument that it quoted demonstrated what they claimed to. It does not matter that each version had some merits, nor that each version had some flaws that were peculiar to it. If one valid argument defeats all the versions, then that is sufficient. It does not matter how many complex works of obfuscation are created to try to make light of the fundamental flaw (for example, by suggesting that everything is flawed), the person presenting the argument is not obliged to read them.

    Likewise, if you were to stumble on a valid fundamental criticism of quantum physics (rather than a hunch) that had not previously been thought about, physicists would take notice (and would not put you under house arrest for the rest of your life, nor deem your criticism blasphemous).

    My knowledge of Catholicism and other religions may be limited, but I know how badly organised religion has damaged my life and is damaging the lives of others and myself. In my case, I know exactly how it has done this. But my main concern is about how it can cause damage in the future. It is not shameful, but my duty, to do what I can about the problems that I, even with my limited knowledge, can see.

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    You have failed to understand the nature of my objection (in fact, you go so far as to accuse ME of the very flaw that I’m denouncing), which simply confirms that you do not understand the basic principles of probabilitistic mathematics.

    Anyway I was right, your “explanation” of the “mathematics” WAS good for a few laughs !!!

    how you think this implies that mankind was created in the image of God

    Hint — this is not necessarily a claim about physical shape.

    And the more persuasive mystical explanation of mediaeval theology of the literalist reading is that Adam was made in the shape of Jesus Christ (God), God Himself existing outside of time in the first place. Consequence preceding cause. Furthermore, there is nothing in Scripture that claims that Adam and Eve were the only living humans (its contents suggest in fact the exact opposite), even assuming that their existence must be taken literally. It simply states that these two individuals were created by God in His image.

    Do look up the word “image” in a philosophical dictionary BTW, particularly its rendering imago.

    I’ve not read the following, only skimmed it, but it appears to provide a decent introduction to the related philosophical questions :

    http://www.ditext.com/sellars/psim.html

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

    1) On the IEP article on the ontological argument, the point of any academic treatment is not simply to provide ‘the answer’, but to enable it to be understood and engaged with. Essentially, it’s the difference that Plato characterized by distinguishing between ‘doxa’ (true belief) and ‘episteme’ (knowledge). The aim of academic study is to provide understanding and reasons (knowledge) not simply a correct belief (here, that the ontological argument is valid/invalid).

    As it happens, if I had to jump one way or the other, I’d probably guess that the ontological argument was invalid. But really I’d echo Elizabeth Anscombe’s judgment: ‘[I have] thought harder about Anselm’s argument than I did before. But I still think that I haven’t thought hard enough. I don’t know whether Anselm’s argument is valid or invalid—only that it is a great deal more interesting than its common interpretation makes it.’

    Why does this matter? It matters because you took a very, very simple abbreviation of a load of arguments for the existence of God as representative of those arguments; and on the basis of those abbreviations claimed i) the BBC (and by implication all academics associated with the study of religion) were being intellectually dishonest; and ii) that they were sufficient to show you that belief in God was unreasonable. i) I’ve dealt with elsewhere, but essentially the charge is unreasonable given the nature of the religious studies syllabus (anthropology rather than theology) and its level (for sixteen year olds)

    On ii), the point of the IEP article (and I’ve got to remind you that both articles are only undergraduate encyclopedia articles: if you were even only an undergraduate dealing with the ontological argument in a philosophy of religion course in a philosophy or theology department you’d be expected to come up with something more than this) is that to understand that just this one argument requires far, far more than the BBC website gives. So when you roundly declare that you’ve found the proof fallacious, you’re guessing. You may have a true opinion. You may not. You certainly don’t have knowledge.

    I know next to nothing about quantum physics. I suppose if you gave me a claim about some fundamental aspect of quantum physics, I could toss a coin and guess whether it is true or false: I might even be right -I would have ‘doxa’. But left to my own devices, I certainly couldn’t even articulate a serious claim in the field, let alone prove it. You, as you admit, don’t have much knowledge of Catholic theology. At best, you are making guesses about its truth; at worst, you are making points that display such a lack of knowledge that they border on the incoherent. (A lot of your criticisms of Feser, for example, simply misunderstand the nature of Aristotelian metaphysics on which they rest which makes it extremely difficult for you even to engage with his views.)

    2) I take it from all this that you simply have made you mind up: religion is intellectually trivial and you’d no more waste your time on it than I’d waste me time learning Klingon. Fair enough. But then that leaves the mystery of why you spend so much time attacking something you don’t understand. I had suspected something of the sort, but I take it that motivation is now explained by your saying, ‘how badly organised religion has damaged my life and is damaging the lives of others and myself. In my case, I know exactly how it has done this’. OK. Now this is something I understand and sympathize with. We all have a history, and I can accept that, if you’ve been damaged by something, you might hate it. But then you ought to reflect on that. Was it Catholicism that damaged you? How was it the religion rather than the people involved in it? In any case, the critique you should be engaged in is of a different nature from one which tries to pretend that religion is intellectually negligible: you should be focusing on why and whether it is harmful. (In principle, it seems quite possible for something to be harmful and true -unless, that is, you’ve adopted the Catholic belief that, at its deepest level, there is a relationship between goodness, beauty and truth!)

    Of course organized religion can be harmful. So can atheism. So can motor cars. (Personal experience of all these.) Give one’s own history, one or other of these trivial truths can take on an importance out of proportion to their objective significance. Much of our lives should be spent in sifting through that difference between what has happened to me and what is the wider significance of those personal experiences. But the first step in wisdom is being honest with yourself. If you hate Catholicism because a Catholic hurt you, then at least admit that motivation to yourself rather than pretending that a quick skim of a kid’s website shows you that Catholics have contemptible intellects.

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

    1) On the ontological argument, see what I’ve just posted above. In sum, I’m not sure! (But that’s the point: it’s not as easy as going to the BBC website and saying, ‘Look, it’s idiotic!’)

    2) On the problem of induction, you’ll forgive me (I hope!) if I don’t try and formulate a defence of it here. The relevance of bringing it in is that it shows what the current state of play is in in a metaphysical area separate from theology. Crudely: ‘Of course proofs of God’s existence look like much more needs to be said, that’s just how all fundamental questions like this (eg the nature of induction) look!’ But you’d (rightly) look askance if I started to appear on scientific discussions shouting out, ‘You’re all imbeciles because you believe in induction when no one can prove it to me’ (and then giving them links to GCSE sites). That’s exactly analogous with what you’ve been doing here.

    3) Yes, his goodness. (Roughly, the status of First Cause requires it to be supremely good.) If you want to pursue this (and the other attributes of God, you’ll find Aquinas’ account in the Prima Pars here http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1.htm). But this has to be read against the background of Aristotelian (and indeed neo-Platonist) understandings of causality, and then against the modern literature on metaphysics (ie both an historical study to understand what Aquinas means and why, and a modern study to see what to make of whether it is true. I say this not to obfuscate, but simply to head off any temptation you might have to snatch at a couple of words here and there and dismiss them as bunkum.)

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    You, as you admit, don’t have much knowledge of Catholic theology. At best, you are making guesses about its truth; at worst, you are making points that display such a lack of knowledge that they border on the incoherent

    Quite.

    The most frustrating thing with Treenon is that he displays a far greater degree of intellectual ability and coherence on ANY other subject I’ve seen him discuss so far *except* religion generally, and Catholicism specifically. (and *yes* that’s a back-handed compliment)

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

    Yes, I agree. I don’t think Treenon is stupid and I don’t think atheists in general are stupid. But there is a variety of atheist -or at least a mood of atheism- which wants to pretend that all Catholics are. Well, some of us are: you don’t have to be smart to be a Catholic or even a saint. But it’s just silly to pretend that the system of Catholic theology is intellectually negligible. As I’ve said here before, a major stage in my journey into the Church was having atheist academics recommending that I read Aquinas, not out of historical interest, but simply on the ground that he was worthwhile grappling with intellectually.

  • TreenonPoet

    You have failed to understand the nature of my objection (in fact, you go so far as to accuse ME of the very flaw that I’m denouncing), which simply confirms that you do not understand the basic principles of probabilitistic[sic] mathematics.

    If I am accusing you of the very flaw that you are denouncing, then I am not guilty of that flaw. The only way that you would not be guilty of the flaw would be by having facts to back up all the attributes you claim for your God. Then it comes down to your claim (in other threads) that facts have been ‘revealed’ to you.

    I am well aware that the ‘image’ of God need not refer to topology. Although the Bible gives a number of clues to suggest a close mapping of most physical characteristics (and this is still believed by some today), it is obviously unlikely, so believers are bound to interpret ‘image’ in a different way – for example, in mental terms (but this still presents a huge field of possibilities). I allowed for this in my phrase ”Whatever image mapping is suggested”. I find the binitarian view even less persuasive. Your argument about the image only applying to Adam and Eve still leaves the field of possibilities wide open. Even if we could trust what the Bible says about Adam and Eve, it does not say much, and it is clear that there was not a complete mental mapping. (It also contradicts the claim that everyone is made in the image and likeness of God.)

    I think your strongest argument is about the philosophical meaning of ‘image’, though I don’t know why the Bible would be so obscure. If the image is not an attribute of God, then I chose a bad example, but it does not affect my argument about probability as there are plenty more attributes to choose from, such as the degree to which a deity monitors the universe. The most common value attributed to God in this respect is that he ‘sees’ everything, including our innermost thoughts. You might say that this is a consequence of perfection, in which case the relevant measure is the degree of perfection, although this opens up a can of semantic problems.

    Suppose five androids P, N, U, D, and M are discussing the mystery of their creation…

    P: I believe that we were created by a perfect creator.
    N: I believe that we were created by a creator, but not a perfect creator because we disagree on some things.
    P: But that is perfect for the joy of debate.
    U: I do not believe we were created by a creator.
    D: Well, given that none of us have the facts to enable us to decide who is right, I would say that there is a probability of 0.5 that U is right. Whether or not P is right about us being created by a creator, P chooses one specific degree of perfection from the huge field of possibilities, so the probability that he is right on this is near to zero.
    M: No, P is right. There is a perfect creator, and he is male and he wants androids to worship him (which I define as a perfect thing to want), and he has chosen the perfect android, me, to convey all of this to you.

    Why should the others trust M?

  • TreenonPoet

    Regarding 1 and 2: I have commented on the article about the Ontological Argument, I have commented on the article about Induction, and I have linked to where I commented on Feser. None of those comments relied on links to the BBC site. The BBC site is very relevant to the topic of religious indoctrination because such indoctrination is more effective when the victims are young. I think that you must at least agree that either the BBC’s versions of the arguments are representative or they are not. If they are representative, then my criticisms of them also apply to the fuller arguments. If (as you suggest) they are not representative, then the BBC are at fault for misrepresenting the arguments. Either way, the BBC presents the arguments in a way that suggests that they demonstrate the existence of God, both by the preamble and by the lack of any warning that the arguments are, at least, disputable. (I would put it more strongly.)

    By the time students become mature enough to consider what you might call ‘grown-up’ arguments, the damage may have already been done. The student may have already been convinced of the existence of God, and may absorb the grown-up arguments as confirmation of this if the arguments are not studied too closely. The student may be wavering, but having been primed in one religion and deprived of sufficient training in logic, be persuaded by the arguments.

    Out of interest, I searched the BBC’s GCSE Bitesize pages for ‘induction’. One reference was to the induction of staff. The other eleven were all to electromagnetic induction!

    Regarding 3: (Your “link http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1.htm)” has an unwanted closed bracket at the end.) Following the link, I could not see the justification for ”He [the first cause] intends only to communicate His perfection”. There seems to be a conflation of ‘perfection’ in the sense of goodness and ‘perfection’ in the sense of the reality necessary to bring things about. You might as well say that everything that happens is good (however bad it seems) because that was what was intended. It is not a very useful definition of ‘goodness’ but, more importantly, it attributes certain human-like qualities (and gender) to the purported first cause.

  • TreenonPoet

    I must apologise for two ambiguities in my post. I was half-aware of the first one when I wrote it, but I forgot to reword it. Instead of ”if its sole intention was to show that”, I should have written something like ”if its sole intention had been to show that”. (The other was in ”how badly organised religion has damaged my life”. Perhaps I should have inserted a hyphen linking ”organised” and ”religion”.)

    Regarding 1: Your argument seems to correspond to the object of my criticism of the last part of the IEP article. Any logical refutation of an argument might itself be logically flawed, but until the refutation is shown to be deficient, then the refuted argument should not be used. There is a comparable tactic used by creationists to try to smuggle creationism into science education on the grounds that there is a controversy that students should be aware of. You might as well say that there is a controversy about whether the Earth is flat.

    You make out that I am dabbling out of my depth in a specialist subject; that I lack the knowledge. Similar criticisms are often made of Richard Dawkins. These claims are not sufficient defence against the criticism of fairly obvious flaws, or against statements based on personal experience, however limited, of things you suppose one does not know about. Neither is it sufficient to attempt the sort of diversion in part 2 of your comment.

    Regarding 2: It was not Catholicism that damaged me, but religious attitudes and, in particular, Christianity. I wonder why you omitted to mention what I stated my main concern was, rather than concentrate on my history? I shall only say that your diagnosis of my motive is wrong. It does not help address the issues under discussion.

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    If I am accusing you of the very flaw that you are denouncing, then I am not guilty of that flaw. The only way that you would not be guilty of the flaw would be by having facts to back up all the attributes you claim for your God. Then it comes down to your claim (in other threads) that facts have been ‘revealed’ to you.

    What on EARTH has this to do with probability ?

    I am well aware that the ‘image’ of God need not refer to topology.

    … which destroys the very basis of your pseudo-mathematical argument then.

    it does not affect my argument about probability as there are plenty more attributes to choose from

    Abstract properties or attributes, including transcendental ones, cannot accurately be modeled by mathematical probability.

    This is an actual problem in computer programming, providing real difficulties that can only be overcome by deciding on the contents of certain input by fiat.

    This includes some cases whereby dividing values by ∞ provides other values than 0, divisions by 0 provide multiple variable possibilities based on their coherence with reality rather than with the maths, or divisions by 1 providing values different to the value being so divided.

    The results in these cases are provided NOT by any underlying probabilistic features of the software programming, but by the programmer’s abstract understanding of the abstract values to be analysed or generated.

    If we take the proposal God = ∞ or God > ∞ ; it is blatantly obvious that such a proposal is inherently and implicitly incompatible with probability as such.

    Whatever other attributes you might come up with in any sort of limitative manner will be flawed by the same necessity of the nature of God.

    though I don’t know why the Bible would be so obscure

    Not being a Protestant, I have no interest in limiting the Question of God to sola scriptura, and therefore find this to be a non-argument.

    Suppose five androids P, N, U, D, and M are discussing the mystery of their creation…

    This story is pointless — the proposal is that God created Reality itself, which Creation being the Zero Cause of all First Causes.

    These androids are discussing the Second Causes leading to their existence.

    I would say that there is a probability of 0.5 that U is right

    There is NO basis for this nor any other such statement of “probability”.

    There is a perfect creator, and he is male and he wants androids to worship him (which I define as a perfect thing to want), and he has chosen the perfect android, me, to convey all of this to you

    This is a total caricature, and cannot possibly be taken seriously.

    1) God is not “male”, though Christ is

    2) Androids self-identifying as “androids” cannot logically posit that they were not artificially created, even IF one were to accept the dubious science-fiction concept that such artificial creations would be capable of abstract thought in the first place

    3) The Revelation is neither man-made nor android-made

    Faith in God has multiple possible second causes, and no singular cause is universal for all of the Faithful, beyond the original Zero and First Causes of the Creation and of the Revelation itself.

    Your androids parallel is flawed in that it posits that it is a discussion between entities the causes of whose existence are explicitly posited in the text. It is an intrinsically false parallel.

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    You make out that I am dabbling out of my depth in a specialist subject;
    that I lack the knowledge. Similar criticisms are often made of Richard
    Dawkins.

    Dawkins’ errors are far worse than yours. You, at least, have *some* understanding of the vocabulary.

    Nevertheless, presentations made for the ears of ordinary schoolchildren do not constitute any serious basis for the discussion of the origin and nature of the underlying serious theology, but they necessarily represent a deliberate simplification of those contents to engage the interest of those having no a priori interest in theological or philosophical discussions.

    Nor would one expect a short text on quantum mechanics devised for the entertainment of visitors to a Science Museum to be taken and used as the basis of scientific discussion of quantum mechanics as such.

    So it’s less the lack of knowledge causing the problems here, than the insistence that some simplified dumbed-down version of it should somehow form the basis of argument, whereas the actual bases of the theological positions in question are to be found elsewhere.

  • Tridentinus

    According to your reasoning, a blind man should not believe in anything he can’t hear, smell, touch or taste.

  • TreenonPoet

    It is possible for the blind man to build up a mental ‘picture’ (to use the word loosely) of his environment derived from the senses he does have. Such a picture is not a worthless representation of reality, even if incomplete. The picture is based on facts determined through the other senses. If he was told that there was definitely quicksand at a certain place and he had no reason to distrust this, he might always take the long way round and never find out that it was a lie. The blind man could not be expected to check everything he was told, but if he passed the information on, he should say that he had not checked it himself and was only going by what he had been told.

    Children should not be told that God definitely exists. It might disadvantage them for the rest of their lives. It ought to be easy for teachers to check, but if the teachers themselves have been indoctrinated, they may block rational argument. (I know two such teachers well.) Daily worship in school assemblies is obviously part of an indoctrination attempt.

  • TreenonPoet

    A short text on quantum mechanics devised for the entertainment of visitors to a science museum should not be knowingly wrong, even if it has to be vague or sketchy to be short. The BBC present a short version of Anselm’s Ontological argument. It is debatable whether this short version is actually a misrepresentation of Anselm; it depends on what you consider would be naturally assumed. However, there is one flaw (at least) that undermines both. Both define ‘God’ only in terms of greatness. There is only so much that can be deduced about a being that is the greatest imaginable. Other claims are made about the God of the Bible which cannot be derived from this greatness. (For example, I can imagine a being that has greater power than one that has ceded some power to mankind. If you argue that such a being would have enough power to wrest the power away from mankind, that still does not mean that it currently has the greatest possible power.) Thus, the definition of ‘God’ in the Ontological argument is insufficient to describe what one might call the General Purpose God.

    That one can use the above criticism against what Lazarus emphasizes is a children’s version of the argument does not mean that the argument is as weak as a child’s intellect. If the children’s version is a misrepresentation, one only has to check whether the criticism applies to either of Anselm’s versions.

    The BBC site might be criticised for not making it clearer that there are other versions of THE Ontological Argument. If you redefine God as an unlimited being, the parallel criticism applies. The supposedly immature criticism does not go away.

    How do I know that Aquinas does not magic the problem away? Because however skillfully he applies his obfuscation, he cannot make two different things equal (different definitions of God). In a conversation that I linked to earlier, I showed how it can be apparently proven that 2=0. Of course, it is a trick. This does not require the deep theological insight that you demand (putting aside the question of whether ‘serious theology’ is an oxymoron).

  • TreenonPoet

    Since it would destroy your faith if you were to accept my reasoning that the probability of any deity existing is, at best, extremely small, I should not be surprised at your responses, and it seems that this branch of the thread is going nowhere.

    By the way, I took the ”everyone is made in the image and likeness of God” from the Catholic Catechism.

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    Since it would destroy your faith if you were to accept my reasoning

    ???

    I disagree with the *method* of your reasoning, and whatever conclusions that you may draw from that reasoning remain your own affair. The classical axiom “right reason leads to right conclusions” has been destroyed by modern linguistics, but this does not mean that flawed methods of reasoning cannot be disagreed with, whether formally or logically.

    I take note of your failure, in any case, to address any of my counterpoints — I wouldn’t mind it if you simply stated your disagreement with them, but that’s not what you’ve done.

    By the way, I took the ”everyone is made in the image and likeness of God” from the Catholic Catechism

    It’s irrelevant to the points that I made where you took the description of the doctrine from.

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    A short text on quantum mechanics devised for the entertainment of visitors to a science museum should not be knowingly wrong

    A short text on quantum mechanics devised for the entertainment of visitors to a science museum will *inevitably* be inaccurate, and if its author is a quantum physicist, then that author cannot fail but be aware of this fact.

    The BBC present a short version of Anselm’s Ontological argument. It is debatable whether this short version is actually a misrepresentation of Anselm; it depends on what you consider would be naturally assumed. However, there is one flaw (at least) that undermines both. Both define ‘God’ only in terms of greatness. There is only so much that can be deduced about a being that is the greatest imaginable

    Well yes I agree, but this is NOT the objection that’s being made, both Lazarus and myself having expressed our own serious doubts as to the validity of the classical ontological argument …

    The objection is towards your approach to the underlying theology that forms the framework of the argument in the first place.

    A quantum physicist who were aware of the contents of a short text on quantum mechanics devised for the entertainment of visitors to a science museum is unlikely to take seriously arguments presented to him concerning quantum mechanics on the basis of that short text by someone with only a child’s understanding of General Physics.

    viz. your : “putting aside the question of whether ‘serious theology’ is an oxymoron” … you see, this sort of childish commentary simply can NOT be taken seriously.

  • TreenonPoet

    I is irrelevant whether you or Lazarus accept or reject the Ontological Argument. My point is that a schoolboy could argue that God does not seem to be that great at getting His message across (and can no longer be silenced for such heresy). The ontological argument can be defeated without much knowledge, and no amount of theological obfuscation can change that, just as no amount of mathematical obfuscation can change the fact that two does not equal zero.

    Whether or not you think that theology is a serious subject, I fail to see what is childish about the accusation. Obviously many take it seriously, but many take football seriously. From my perspective, there is something very childish about those pursuits. In theology, I note the lack of formality, the proliferation of fallacies, the lack of consensus about basic tenets, the lack of useful results (except where the issue is really philosophy, rather than theology), and so on.

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    I is irrelevant whether you or Lazarus accept or reject the Ontological Argument … The ontological argument can be defeated without much knowledge

    Well, you continue in your failure to address any actual objections, instead deciding to focus on some far easier non-objections.

    Pointlessly.

    In theology, I note the lack of formality, the proliferation of
    fallacies, the lack of consensus about basic tenets, the lack of useful
    results

    False, false, false, false …

    As I said, impossible to take seriously.

  • TreenonPoet

    Your objection was towards my approach to the underlying theology that forms the framework of the argument in the first place. My approach is basically to ignore the theology, and I attempted to explain why. In what way is that not addressing your objection?

    Lack of formality: Compare the use of ambiguous language with the languages used in formal methods, such as Z Notation.

    Fallacies: The equivocation in use of the word ‘God’ and ‘soul’ already discussed are examples.

    Lack of consensus: Whether the couple represented by the names Adam and Eve existed an example.

    Lack of useful results: I meant useful outside theology and the teaching of religion. Rather than just writing ”false”, you could have referred to a result that you consider to be useful. I am not aware of any.

    If you prefer a trite response:
    True, true, true, true.

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    My approach is basically to ignore the theology … In what way is that not addressing your objection?

    The objection is that you cannot discuss theological concepts on the basis of ignoring theology.

    This should be blatantly obvious.

    Lack of formality: Compare the use of ambiguous language

    This is just an a priori value judgment, based on the false assumption that only the language of material analysis or positivist logic (etc) is “formal” — not so, and theological language and vocabulary is not actually very ambiguous ; you are perhaps confusing it with the language and vocabulary of mysticism. Mysticism and theology are two very different things. Ditto theology and religious education. Ditto theology and Bibliology. etc.

    Fallacies: The equivocation in use of the word ‘God’ and ‘soul’ already discussed are examples

    I may have missed that point, but I would suspect (from past experience) that you may have been attempting to misapply some methods of material analysis to immaterial and/or transcendent concepts ? Any failure to do so is unsurprising, and would in fact artificially create precisely the equivocation that you suggest. The equivocation would then be an artefact of a misapplication of the wrong methodology.

    Lack of consensus: Whether the couple represented by the names Adam and Eve existed an example

    This is foolish, whatever the individual beliefs and interpretations existing in individuals concerning Adam and Eve, there is a great deal of theological consensus over the specifically theological contents of the Garden of Eden story.

    Furthermore, your interpretation here is flawed by your apparent lack of training in the scientific methodologies deployed in a proper literary analysis — the existence of multiple interpretations of specifics found within texts is a completely normal phenomenon, and a complete non-problem analytically.

    The existence of multiple interpretations is preventative of the formation of literary and theological consensus concerning those multiple interpretations and the corpus of previous analyses not in the slightest.

    Lack of useful results: I meant useful outside theology and the teaching of religion

    This gratuitous exclusion of theology and religion from the field of “usefulness” simply demonstrates the fallacy of your position. If your position were accurate, no such exclusion would be necessary.

    There is therefore no need to demonstrate usefulness elsewhere, given that you have implicitly recognised the usefulness in these fields. I do not need then to demonstrate the usefulness of theology in philosophy, literary studies, History, sociology, politics, psychology, cultural studies, anthropology, and so on and so forth …

    If you prefer a trite response

    No, but I do prefer to address arguments, even false ones, rather than blank statements.

  • TreenonPoet

    Regarding your first point: One can discuss why theology should be ignored.

    Regarding the merist of theology: An extract taken from here reads:-

    What
    anti-Theists refuse to admit is not the existence of a First Cause in an indeterminate sense, but the existence of an intelligent and free First Cause, a personal God, distinct from the material
    universe and the
    human mind. But the very same reason that compels us to postulate a First Cause at all requires that this cause should be a free and intelligent being. The spiritual world of
    intellect and
    free will must be recognized by the sane
    philosopher to be as real as the world of matter; man knows that he has a spiritual nature and performs spiritual acts as clearly and as certainly as he knows that he has eyes to see with and ears to hear with; and the phenomena of man’s spiritual nature can only be explained in one way — by attributing spirituality, i.e. intelligence and
    free will, to the First Cause, in other words by recognizing a personal
    God. For the cause in all cases must be proportionate to the effect, i.e. must contain somehow in itself every perfection of being that is realized in the effect.

    Firstly, I should say that I do not consider myself to be an ‘anti-theist’. Just because I disagree with certain views expressed by theists does not mean that I oppose all theists in all respects. I suspect that, in the extract, the term is intended to be a derogatory way of referring to atheists – suggesting that they are all unreasonable by being prejudiced against a group of people just because those in that group hold some views that the atheist does not agree with. Indeed, the link for ‘anti-theist’ leads to an article on atheism. Even semi-formal methods (1) avoid the use of different names for the same thing and the same name for different things, and (2) do not use emotionally loaded names.

    Secondly, the ‘explanation’ given for the phenomena of man’s spiritual nature is claimed in the extract to be the only explanation. The explanation is not a proper explanation, but a massive complication. There is a much more parsimonious explanation of what is normally understood by spirituality, but in the extract ‘spirituality’ is not used in the sense normally defined, but is defined as “intelligence and free will”. Since there is no evidence that free will is anything but an illusion, the ‘first cause’ pseudo-explanation would suggest that the first cause was delusional, but since any one characteristic of an effect does not have to be proportional to any one characteristic of the cause, the pseudo-explanation collapses anyway. The fallacies could hardly be more tightly packed.

    Thirdly, despite its fatal flaws, do you suppose all Catholic thelogians agree with the extract?

    Finally, the claimed result of the particular extract, that the fisrt cause is definitely God, is of no practical use outside of religion. Not only does it not enhance understanding, but it diminishes it because there is the complication of a person-like first cause (whose creative action was not caused) to consider, and it does not make a single prediction. Its flaws make it useless to philosophy. The particular extract happens to have nothing to do with history, sociology, or anthropology. The only relevance to psychology is the interest in why anyone would write such a thing, not in the result (given that the ‘God’ it speaks of is not connected to any god having an ongoing influence over people). Cultural studies would focus on the belief, rather than whether the belief was true or not. The statement of the result is hardly of literary interest. I would concede that the result could (though should not) have an influence in politics, but would only be useful to those intent on deception (for example, as part of a justification for theocracy, which would not necessarily be a genuinely religious purpose).

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    The online Catholic Encyclopedia is not only GROSSLY out of date, but it is also a very imperfect expression of Catholic doctrine in the first place, devised as it has been in the modernist atmosphere of 19th century colonialism.

    Also, it is irrelevant to posit discussion of First Causes after I have explicitly claimed them to be resultant from the Zero Cause.

    Furthermore, that text does not constitute theology, but catechesis.

    Even semi-formal methods (1) avoid the use of different names for the same thing and the same name for different things

    Oh good GRIEF !!! “anti-theist” is not just a fancy name for atheist, any more than “agnostic” might be.

    Rationality is NOT based on misunderstanding vocabulary, and then gratuitously claiming it to be “ambiguous”.

    There is a much more parsimonious explanation of what is normally understood by spirituality, but in the extract ‘spirituality’ is not used in the sense normally defined, but is defined as “intelligence and free will”.

    Ludicrous, you are simply reading your own prejudice into a text that is in any case flawed.

    Double Jeapordy.

    And Spirituality is any any case NOT “defined” in this extract as being “intelligence and free will“, you’re just inventing this out of thin air.

    The reason why Spirituality is not defined in that manner is because it isn’t just “intelligence and free will“.

    Spirituality is centred upon the Soul, rather than upon either of these things.

    Since there is no evidence that free will is anything but an illusion

    No evidence therefore exists to support your own claim — you continue to propose some extremely gratuitous claims about what does and what doesn’t constitute evidence.

    the ‘first cause’ pseudo-explanation

    Thank you for clarifying that you have no comprehension of the discussion topic.

    Thirdly, despite its fatal flaws, do you suppose all Catholic thelogians agree with the extract?

    No, and not “despite” its flaws, but because of them.

    You appear to have some paranoid idea, BTW, that theology constitutes some kind of bizarre monolith that all Catholics must be subjected to … like slaves. Pathetic.

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    Verbiage.