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How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind

Antony Flew

EDITOR'S NOTE: For the last half of the twentieth century, Antony Flew (1923-2010) was the world's most famous atheist. Long before Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris began taking swipes at religion, Flew was the preeminent spokesman for unbelief.

However in 2004, he shocked the world by announcing he had come to believe in God. While never embracing Christianity—Flew only believed in the deistic, Aristotelian conception of God—he became one of the most high-profile and surprising atheist converts. In 2007, he recounted his conversion in a book titled There is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind. Some critics suggested Flew's mental capacity had declined and therefore we should question the credibility of his conversion. Others hailed Flew's book as a legitimate and landmark publication.

A couple months before the book's release, Flew sat down with Strange Notions contributor Dr. Benjamin Wiker for an interview about his book, his conversion, and the reasons that led him to God. Read below and enjoy!
 


 
Dr. Benjamin Wiker: You say in There is a God, that "it may well be that no one is as surprised as I am that my exploration of the Divine has after all these years turned from denial...to discovery." Everyone else was certainly very surprised as well, perhaps all the more so since on our end, it seemed so sudden. But in There is a God, we find that it was actually a very gradual process—a "two decade migration," as you call it. God was the conclusion of a rather long argument, then. But wasn't there a point in the "argument" where you found yourself suddenly surprised by the realization that "There is a God" after all? So that, in some sense, you really did "hear a Voice that says" in the evidence itself "'Can you hear me now?'"

Antony Flew: There were two factors in particular that were decisive. One was my growing empathy with the insight of Einstein and other noted scientists that there had to be an Intelligence behind the integrated complexity of the physical Universe. The second was my own insight that the integrated complexity of life itself—which is far more complex than the physical Universe—can only be explained in terms of an Intelligent Source. I believe that the origin of life and reproduction simply cannot be explained from a biological standpoint despite numerous efforts to do so. With every passing year, the more that was discovered about the richness and inherent intelligence of life, the less it seemed likely that a chemical soup could magically generate the genetic code. The difference between life and non-life, it became apparent to me, was ontological and not chemical. The best confirmation of this radical gulf is Richard Dawkins' comical effort to argue in The God Delusion that the origin of life can be attributed to a "lucky chance." If that's the best argument you have, then the game is over. No, I did not hear a Voice. It was the evidence itself that led me to this conclusion.

Wiker: You are famous for arguing for a presumption of atheism, i.e., as far as arguments for and against the existence of God, the burden of proof lies with the theist. Given that you believe that you only followed the evidence where it led, and it led to theism, it would seem that things have now gone the other way, so that the burden of proof lies with the atheist. He must prove that God doesn't exist. What are your thoughts on that?

There Is a GodFlew: I note in my book that some philosophers indeed have argued in the past that the burden of proof is on the atheist. I think the origins of the laws of nature and of life and the Universe point clearly to an intelligent Source. The burden of proof is on those who argue to the contrary.

Wiker: As for evidence, you cite a lot of the most recent science, yet you remark that your discovery of the Divine did not come through "experiments and equations," but rather, "through an understanding of the structures they unveil and map." Could you explain? Does that mean that the evidence that led you to God is not really, at heart, scientific?

Flew: It was empirical evidence, the evidence uncovered by the sciences. But it was a philosophical inference drawn from the evidence. Scientists as scientists cannot make these kinds of philosophical inferences. They have to speak as philosophers when they study the philosophical implications of empirical evidence.

Wiker: You are obviously aware of the spate of recent books by such atheists as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. They think that those who believe in God are behind the times. But you seem to be politely asserting that they are ones who are behind the times, insofar as the latest scientific evidence tends strongly toward—or perhaps even demonstrates—a theistic conclusion. Is that a fair assessment of your position?

Flew: Yes, indeed. I would add that Dawkins is selective to the point of dishonesty when he cites the views of scientists on the philosophical implications of the scientific data.

Two noted philosophers, one an agnostic (Anthony Kenny) and the other an atheist (Thomas Nagel), recently pointed out that Dawkins has failed to address three major issues that ground the rational case for God. As it happens, these are the very same issues that had driven me to accept the existence of a God: the laws of nature, life with its teleological organization, and the existence of the Universe.

Wiker: You point out that the existence of God and the existence of evil are actually two different issues, which would therefore require two distinct investigations. But in the popular literature—even in much of the philosophical literature—the two issues are regularly conflated. Especially among atheists, the presumption is that the non-existence of God simply follows upon the existence of evil. What is the danger of such conflation? How as a theist do you now respond?

Flew: I should clarify that I am a deist. I do not accept any claim of divine revelation though I would be happy to study any such claim (and continue to do so in the case of Christianity). For the deist, the existence of evil does not pose a problem because the deist God does not intervene in the affairs of the world. The religious theist, of course, can turn to the free-will defense (in fact I am the one who first coined the phrase free-will defense). Another relatively recent change in my philosophical views is my affirmation of the freedom of the will.

Wiker: According to There is a God, you are not what might be called a "thin theist," that is, the evidence led you not merely to accept that there is a "cause" of nature, but "to accept the existence of a self-existent, immutable, immaterial, omnipotent, and omniscient Being." How far away are you, then, from accepting this Being as a person rather than a set of characteristics, however accurate they may be? (I'm thinking of C. S. Lewis' remark that a big turning point for him, in accepting Christianity, was in realizing that God was not a "place"—a set of characteristics, like a landscape—but a person.)

Flew: I accept the God of Aristotle who shares all the attributes you cite. Like Lewis I believe that God is a person but not the sort of person with whom you can have a talk. It is the ultimate being, the Creator of the Universe.

Wiker: Do you plan to write a follow-up book to There is a God?

Flew: As I said in opening the book, this is my last will and testament.
 
 
Originally published at To the Source. Used with author's permission.
(Image credit: Skeptic.com)

Dr. Benjamin Wiker

Written by

Dr. Benjamin Wiker is, first of all, a husband and a father of seven children. He graduated from Furman University with a B.A. in Political Philosophy. He has an M.A. in Religion and a Ph.D. in Theological Ethics, both from Vanderbilt University. Dr. Wiker taught full time for thirteen years, first at Marquette University, then St. Mary's University (MN), Thomas Aquinas College (CA), and finally Franciscan University (OH). During these many years, he offered a wide variety of courses in philosophy, theology, history, the history and philosophy of science, the history of ethics, the Great Books, Latin, and even mathematics. He is now a full-time writer and speaker, with eleven books published including 10 Books That Screwed Up the World: And 5 Others That Didn't Help (Regnery, 2008); The Darwin Myth: The Life and Lies of Charles Darwin (Regnery, 2009); and Answering the New Atheism: Dismantling Dawkins' Case Against God (Emmaus Road, 2008). Some of Benjamin's books are also integrated into the Logos software. Follow Dr. Wiker at BenjaminWiker.com.

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  • Vicq_Ruiz

    If Flew went to his deathbed with the exact beliefs as set forth in this interview, will his eternal destiny differ in any way from what it would have been if he had remained a dedicated hard-core atheist??

    • Mark Hunter

      At best he was a diest.

      • Vicq_Ruiz

        deism is a position that is impossible to refute

        I quite agree with "Hitch" on that. Which is why I am glad to concede for discussion purposes any "proof of God" which can accommodate a deist's creator.

        It's the proofs of a more specific personal God (few of which have so far been offered on this site) that are refutable.

        • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

          Vicq, we're getting there. It's only been a week! :)

          • Mark Hunter

            All a Deist God does is create the universe and leave it. It can't be refuted in the same way that Russell's teapot can't be refuted. There is just no possible way to nullify that claim. What we have though increasingly is that the theistic God is acting more and more like a deistic God. There's just no non-internal interaction of that God with creation that anyone can point to. It's like the claim of the universal aether of the lat 1800's. Its properties kept disappearing until finally people said it doesn't exist. That deistic God was the God of Anthony Flew.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            The Catholic God may be personal- but He doesn't break his own rules either, He is rational, and therefore as close to deist as can possibly be while still being personal.

          • Mark Hunter

            "The Catholic God may be personal- but He doesn't break his own rules either" Sure he does. He raised the dead, he parted the Red Sea, he spoke from a burning bush, he turned water into wine, he caused a virgin to give birth. He produced at least two miracles for every person proclaimed a saint. Or do Catholics not believe in that any more?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I suggest you watch Catholicism by Fr. Robert Baron- or at least his interview on PBS.

            And don't forget- miracles are in their effects, not their causes. I may not be able to explain raising the dead, yet, but I know it has been accomplished by medical science for up to twenty minutes after initial "fatal" injury. I may not be able to time travel and watch Moses to know exactly where in the Red Sea or Reed Sea he crossed- but at low tide I know I can cross the sand reef to Oceanside at the mouth of the Tilamook Bay without problem here in Oregon. I may not be able to explain the trick of water into wine- but I know how to make wine myself.

            Explaining the cause doesn't remove the miracle- and all of these things may well be within God's physics. We don't know enough yet to rule it out.

          • Ignorant Amos

            >>"Explaining the cause doesn't remove the miracle"

            Seriously?

            Here is the problem. Throughout history, the masses have been convinced in the veracity of their religion because they took the tales of miracles as, well, miraculous. Or if you like, Aquinas' highest degree miracles. The tale of the resurrection for example. As a story in and of itself, not unique, but nevertheless understood by the ignorant as...

            "A miracle is a phenomenon not explained by known laws of nature, or an act by some supernatural entity or unknown, outside force. ... Many conservative religious believers hold that in the absence of a plausible, parsimonious scientific theory, the best explanation for these events is that they were performed by a supernatural being, and cite this as evidence for the existence of a god or gods. Some adherents of monotheistic religions assert that miracles, if established, are evidence for the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent God."

            The gullible understand this as the miracles of Jesus.

            ...all of which could be understood given the times and the fact that as is today, was then, not very well explained or not explained at all.

            Today though, some people are more educated. Things that could not easily be explained away in the past and deemed miraculous, are explained by science and nature today as natural phenomena or trickery. I recently watched the illusionist Dynamo walk on the Thames River, no one is calling that trickery as a miracle.

            And as you stated above, some folk have been resuscitated from what would've been considered in the past as being dead..science is great at this stuff. Blind people seeing, disabled people walking, terminally ill recovering. This would be understood under Aquinas' second degree miracle. God interfering with nature, but not in a manner nature on it's own could...or at least as those things were understood back in the days of Aquinas.

            Then the third degree of miracle as Aquinas see's it, alleviating drought, curing some ailment, saving one person out of 1000 when a cloths factory collapses... and the sort of things that tinkering with nature can produce on it's own.

            The miracles of Fatima cover all three degrees, particularly the miracle of the Sun. Either it happened, highest degree and ridiculous, or was a natural, albeit unusual phenomena, third degree miracle, but not a "real" miracle at all.

            As founding fathers of the US...

            Thomas Paine wrote “All the tales of miracles, with which the Old and New Testament are filled, are fit only for impostors to preach and fools to believe”

            John Adams, wrote, "The question before the human race is, whether the God of nature shall govern the world by his own laws, or whether priests and kings shall rule it by fictitious miracles?"

            Ethan Allen wrote "In those parts of the world where learning and science have prevailed, miracles have ceased; but in those parts of it as are barbarous and ignorant, miracles are still in vogue."

            Some religious "have suggest that God may work with the laws of nature to perform what are considered miracles."

            So not "real" miracles at all then?

            Nowadays though, it's all different...

            "Theologians say that, with divine providence, God regularly works through created nature yet is free to work without, above, or against it as well"

            ...that covers all bases, just in case some uppity scientific busybody disproves the traditional idea of what a miracle is with empirical evidence. Basically, a miracle is what the hierarchy says it is, end of. The church has no need to entrance the masses with hocus pocus to get them to toe the party line anymore. After all, every educated believer is their own theologian and free to interpret the theology at will, as long as they do it quietly.

            But it was nice to see you easily debunk those biblical miracles listed with a simple bit of rationality, good show.

            Now can you have a go with the miracle of Calanda? It's a cracking bit of subterfuge and conning the gullible?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Yes, seriously. I don't believe in that definition of a miracle- to me a miracle is merely a fortunate coincidence, and a curse is an unfortunate coincidence.

            The only difference between the supernatural and the natural is how much mankind knows.

          • Ignorant Amos

            >>"I don't believe in that definition of a miracle- to me a miracle is merely a fortunate coincidence, and a curse is an unfortunate coincidence."

            My point is that Christianity wasn't built on "merely fortunate coincidences", particularly, Roman Catholic Christianity.

            But miracles cannot be "merely a fortunate coincidence" in any case. My understanding is that God doesn't do coincidence. Doesn't everything happen for a purpose?

            Miracles are contradictory to coincidence, fortunate or not. Miracles are by and large, unique events. Coincidences are the opposite.

            "From a statistical perspective, coincidences are inevitable and often less remarkable than they may appear intuitively."

            But that is all academic. Ignorant believers throughout history have been conned into belief in an institution by the spin doctoring of events that were either made up and didn't occur, or that were natural events accorded supernatural explanation. What your definition of what constitutes a miracle is of no consequence apart from demonstrating that at least those ignorant had an excuse, you don't, if you think miracles are nothing more than mere coincidences. Try reading "Unweaving the Rainbow".

            >>"The only difference between the supernatural and the natural is how much mankind knows."

            Well that's a strange assertion. The supernatural is de facto unknowable and sensible people should give it no serious consideration outside of investigation. Once the supernatural has been proven by that investigation to have a rational explanation, it moves into the realm of the natural. It is science making this happen, not the supernatural or its adherents using the supernatural. The gods of the ever decreasing gaps throughout history bears this out. You don't believe thunder comes from the hammer of Thor anymore than I do, but at one time folk did. Science has helped us understand that the world was not created a supreme being in 7 days 6000 years ago as described in the book of Genesis. Even the Catholic Church has been forced to concede this point among many it once held as true in the past. It was either keep up with ridiculous notions in the face of human advancement or die of embarrassment. This trend will continue until the idea of the Christian god goes the same way as the many other obsolete gods throughout antiquity have went. All those deities that appear so ridiculous to you and I now that were at onetime given all the reverence your god once received, but is not so much getting these days.

          • Max Driffill

            I'm sorry but how do you justify that claim?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Because everything we now think of as natural, was once supernatural.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Doesn't "infinite regress" give Deists a headache?

            "An infinite regress in a series of propositions arises if the truth of proposition P1 requires the support of proposition P2, the truth of proposition P2 requires the support of proposition P3, ... , and the truth of proposition Pn-1 requires the support of proposition Pn and n approaches infinity."

            If everything that creates needs a cause, then what caused the cause that created the universe, and what caused the cause that created that cause...ad infinitum.

            While deism can be dismissed as surplus to requirement under Ocham's razor, I also like Hitchen's razor...which states -

            "What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence."

            A non interfering deist god is, to all intents and purposes, suspiciously similar to no god at all.

            Alhough, as you infer, a deist god is a lot more plausible than an interfering God with anthropomorphic qualities like Yahweh, nevertheless, extraordinary claims will still require extraordinary evidence.

            >>"What we have though increasingly is that the theistic God is acting more and more like a deistic God. There's just no non-internal interaction of that God with creation that anyone can point to."

            Evolution works so eloquently. From simple to complex...no deity required to confuse matters.

            Flew's IDer god proposition as evidence for a deist god. shot down easily enough with Ockham again then.

            BTW, I think it is theoretically possible for the celestial, or Russell's, teapot hypotheses to be falsified. Given that teapot's are material things and could hypothetically be put into an elliptical orbit. It's just not possible yet and was impossible at the time of Russell's philosophy. It was, like God is, a scientifically unfalsifiable claim.

            Certainly when Russell suggested the celestial teapot analogy, 1952, it was impossible to falsify. A better analogy in this day and age is Carl Sagan's Invisible dragon in my garage.

            In any case, I agree completely that...

            >>"What we have though increasingly is that the theistic God is acting more and more like a deistic God. There's just no non-internal interaction of that God with creation that anyone can point to."

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            It seems to me to be an infinite retrenchment to positions that present a deity or deities who have less and less testable impact on reality.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Precisely put Sir, and in the least required number of words necessary....as usual }80)~

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            You are too kind. :-)

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            Fair enuff.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          Most Catholics are rather agnostic-to-theist on a personal God, because belief in a personal God is more subjective than morality.

          It takes an experience like this to get to know a personal God, and I have no way to tell you how to duplicate it:
          http://www.scifiwright.com/2011/09/a-question-i-never-tire-of-answering/

          I can only say this; that the best way I know of to duplicate it is to stop denying that such experiences exist. That is as close as I or anybody else can get you.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            stop denying that such experiences exist

            I've discussed Wright's conversion with him on his own blog.

            And I don't accuse him of being a liar or having hallucinated it all.

            What seems clear to me is that some humans have an experience with a personal God. Some experience Christ, some the Virgin Mary, some Allah and some Krishna. Many never have such an experience

            If anything, this leads me to the conclusion that if there is a personal God, he is concerned about some and indifferent to others.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Which is what you would expect from a personal God, wouldn't you? After all, you are certainly concerned about some and indifferent to others in your own life.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            OK, nicely played.

            As I see it, the amount of difference in my life between "no God" and "a personal God who is indifferent to Ruiz" is of no consequence.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            The only consequence is being wrong about the existence of God, to being right- and thus open to more data later on.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ EpicusMontaigne

            Theodore, that's not Catholic teaching. That's, like, Calvinistic predestination junk.

            God cares about everyone. God loves everyone. God talks to everyone. Not everyone listens.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Thank you, Epicus. But I can't lead an atheist to the Catholic God- that depends on a personal opening to listening that atheists just don't have. I can lead them to the Deistic God, and then to the next step of a Calvinist God, which doesn't require them to listen.

            Baby steps.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ EpicusMontaigne

            Alright. I'm sorry for jumping on you. I just want people to get *why* God's awesome. Awesome gods don't ignore people.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            You can't explain to an atheist why God is awesome. They will reject anything you say without listening at the mention of the word "God"

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ EpicusMontaigne

            Not all. You just can't spout platitudes at them and leave it at it.
            Also, talking about them as if they were small children doesn't get them to listen either haha

          • TheodoreSeeber

            In my history, they would rather have, as one put it to me, "Separation of Church and Leo"- they don't want to even hear it at all.

          • Max Driffill

            Then why bother talking to us at all?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Myveryquestionsincethissitewasstarted-whybother?

          • Susan

            Theodore proceeds on the assumption that anyone who doesn't agree with him must be biased.
            That saves him having to make a case of any sort or consider the possibility of bias in his own assumptions.

          • Longshanks

            I think multitudinous experiences which have similar 'tones' or 'feels' to them while varying wildly in details such as cause, location, participants, deities, garb, ethnicity and gender point to an underlying similarity in those undergoing the experiences, not some outside force impinging on those 'touched.'

            Ie. god(s) manufactured by the brain, not the other way around.

          • Michael Murray

            You also get notorious atheists having these experiences

            http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/whats-the-point-of-transcendence

            Somewhat to the annoyance of some of atheists on the internet.

          • Longshanks

            I think you would be hard pressed to find a human who hasn't had something approaching at least one transcendent experience, barring illness/cerebral injuries/defects/imbalances.

            I'm not sure what you mean by saying "notorious athiest," or "the annoyance of some atheists." Those almost seem like loaded terms.

          • Michael Murray

            I'm not sure what you mean by saying "notorious athiest," or "the annoyance of some atheists." Those almost seem like loaded terms.

            Yes sorry it was an attempt at a joke. Sam Harris seems to be the atheist who most annoys other atheists -- hence the notorious atheist. I've seen him take a lot of flack over the years for his interest in Buddhism and most recently his support of gun ownership. At least over at Richard Dawkins site

            http://www.richarddawkins.net

          • Longshanks

            No need for apologies, I missed thrust of your joke, it's on me.

            To be sure, it's refreshing to hear/read Harris take on these questions seriously and honestly. I can understand the exasperation of atheists reacting to religious people grasping at anything that smells of the supernatural and running with it until they are either caught or hit a wall, but that doesn't mean we should ignore the things themselves, nor attack those who don't as apriori nutjobs.

            I admire Harris a great deal, and his gun stance is totally to the side, and I think, totally reasonable.

          • http://codephined.com Daniel Brooks

            I would contend that "most Catholics are rather agnostic[-to-theist]."

            To verify belief merely through an experience of the supernatural is not evidence of truth. This is condemned very clearly in Pascendi Dominici Gregis by Pope Pius X (on the doctrine of the modernists).

            Definitely worth a read.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Thanks, I will read it. I find my 1970s Catholic education as a child to be extremely lacking on such issues.

            My comment was based on the ordinary magisterium's condemnation of Absolute Assurance of Salvation (the Protestant Doctrine of Once Saved Always Saved). Not quite the same thing, but it does mean doubts about faith *must* be entertained.

          • http://codephined.com Daniel Brooks

            Ahh ok. Where I live that is a very prevalent doctrine...
            It flies in the face of Scripture, too. If St. Paul wasn't completely assured of his salvation how in the world can we be? Seems kind of arrogant to assume one altar call at a young age would seal their soul to heaven.

            God knows some days I'm not doing what I should be doing, I can only leave it up to His mercy :)

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Where I live, with a Baptist Church with delusions of megachurch grandeur just down the street, it doesn't even take an altar call. It takes praying the sinners prayer at a church-sponsored neighborhood picnic.

            Last time I attended, I very loudly followed their group sinner's prayer with a Confiteor.

          • http://codephined.com Daniel Brooks

            Yep same thing here. Not so much a big-city-sized megachurch but pretty big for our predominately Baptist mid-sized city.
            Ha! There ya go. Top it off with a Hail Mary.

          • Max Driffill

            Sam Harris doesn't deny that life altering experiences take place. He is most certainly right. That these experiences can be had in no way justifies the enormous edifices of theology that surround them, or imply any thing supernatural at all.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Depends on your definition of supernatural. By my definition, since we don't know everything yet, there are things still outside of natural explanation.

            Are you asserting that you know everything?

          • Max Driffill

            Clearly I am not asserting that. It is believers who assert something closer to that sentiment.

            The fact that we don't know everything yet, does not justify any belief in the supernatural. Supernatural events have simply not been demonstrated. Consider the following analogy. We don't know everything about biology, we haven't got an accurate inventory of all the species in the world. This in no way justifies any belief that bigfoot exists, nor does it justify the mountains of ink that his been spilled describing, authoritatively, bigfoot biology by those who think bigfoot is a real creature. We are in the exact same situation when we consider the supernatural. New evidence may come in that causes us to change our minds about that, but until then, the supernatural, like bigfoot, can be discarded as an explanation.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Believers believe in the supernatural precisely because they are NOT asserting that they know everything- they are asserting that there is still mystery and wonder in the world.

            People once thought that way about the giant panda. Or a trillion other species. Just because you don't know about something does not mean it does not exist.

          • Max Driffill

            However before we can sign on off something as existing in science, like say an Okapi, or a Giant Panda, and justify the expenditure of lots of effort and money, we actually have to have positive evidence that there is something to study. Its why you don't get grant money to study bigfoot, and "nessie. Its why Venkman, et al were fired from their university.

            Saying there is mystery in the world is not the same thing as justifying a positive claim that there are supernatural things in the world. Catholic doctrine is not couched in many mysteries, it has very concrete specifics about alleged supernatural phenomena. This is true of most believers. Consider all the rules and specifics Christian sects have about fighting demons.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            You get money to study by a rich person being interested in the same field, and sometimes the rich person gives you the conclusion to search for data for.

            There is plenty of money being poured into the search for Bigfoot- loads of Cable TV channels have a market for that research, so I don't see why you think there is a shortage of funds in that area.

            And I hate to inform you that Ghostbusters was fiction. A real university would have just insisted on publication twice a year.

            The reason Catholic doctrine has very specific allegations of certain phenomena is, gasp, those phenomena have been observed and documented, quite extensively.

          • Max Driffill

            "You get money to study by a rich person being interested in the same field, and sometimes the rich person gives you the conclusion to search for data for."

            Not in the ecology evolutionary biology department, nor in the Ornithology department.

            "There is plenty of money being poured into the search for Bigfoot- loads of Cable TV channels have a market for that research, so I don't see why you think there is a shortage of funds in that area."
            I don't want to burst any bubbles here, but Monster Hunters on Discovery isn't peer reviewed research. It isn't even decent amateur research. There is no bigfoot research, because the people who think there are bigfoots, tend to not be biologists, don't do research, There may be a market for bigfoot shows, but there isn't any real research being done on them.

            "And I hate to inform you that Ghostbusters was fiction. A real university would have just insisted on publication twice a year."
            I'm just happy you got the reference!

            "The reason Catholic doctrine has very specific allegations of certain phenomena is, gasp, those phenomena have been observed and documented, quite extensively."

            Such as?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            "Not in the ecology evolutionary biology department, nor in the Ornithology department."

            Both of which have great use in the pharmaceutical industry.

            Peer reviewed research is nothing more than elites agreeing with each other.

            As for the extensive documentation- there are whole libraries dedicated to theology. Go and educate yourself, as I don't have time to be your daddy.

          • severalspeciesof

            "Peer reviewed research is nothing more than elites agreeing with each other."

            Got evidence?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            A good piece of evidence on this subject is the lack of dissent on anthropogenic global warming. It appears that editors of peer reviewed journals are not accepting articles from dissenters.

          • Max Driffill

            "Peer reviewed research is nothing more than elites agreeing with each other."

            There is no other way I can respond to this but to say it is the purest and most unadulterated BS. Anyone that would say this is ignorant (which is correctable by simply going to your local college or university library and thumbing through a few months worth of any scientific journal) or being mendacious or blinded by the blinkers of ideology, or some combination of all three.

            "As for the extensive documentation- there are whole libraries dedicated to theology. Go and educate yourself, as I don't have time to be your daddy."

            Documentation? Of what precisely?
            There is also extensive documentation to be found in the New Age section of the library. Copious reams of the stuff. There are also numerous tomes detailing the very specific biology of bigfoot.

            Seriously just offer a couple of examples of some of these phenomena that have been extensively -gasp- documented.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            How many papers do you see in any scientific journal written by people WITHOUT college degrees?

            Talk about being "blinded by the blinkers of ideology"! At least the Catholic Church, when it finds a brilliant teenage girl, asks her to write down the "Story of Her Soul", and then after she dies at the age of 20, calls her a "doctor of the church".

            "Documentation? Of what precisely? "

            Of observations related to the supernatural.

            Yes there are, have you bothered to read the New Age stuff *before* dismissing it? Or have you even bothered to look into the extensive history of the snookum that you call bigfoot?

            No, of course you haven't. If it wasn't written by somebody with a degree, it isn't elite enough for you to bother with.

          • Max Driffill

            1. How many people without college degrees submit papers?
            The answer? Not many. But when a paper is methodologically sound, degreed or not, it can be published. Several smaller Ornithology journals will publish amateur ornithologists quite often. And it is amateur astronomers who discover most of the near earth objects (astroids, comets). There are many non-degreed folk in that group. So there I have exploded one of your canards.

            2. Theology is the study of claims of supernatural events. There is no sound documentation of supernatural events. There is no documentation, no accurate reporting say of any of the events of the last day of the life of Jesus. There are stories, that are endlessly parsed. There isn't even what we would call sound history (even by the standards of antiquity) surrounding the "events" upon which Christian theology is based.

            3. Have I availed myself of the reams of new age material found local bookstores?

            Actually my presumptuous friend, I have. In my post Catholic days I flirted for a few years with the New Age. I quite liked the ideas of Wiccans, and their tendency to like being outdoors. New Age ideas just aren't very convincing, and it was just a flirtation.

            4. And I have actually read quite a lot about bigfoot. All that has been written doesn't really impress me as a biologist. I was also quite skeptical of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker sighting a few years ago. It wasn't that I wasn't hopeful, but I just thought it unlikely. The initial reports were quite meticulous, but, I was waiting for replication. It never happened.

            Oh, and I have read a great deal of theology before dismissing it too.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            " smaller Ornithology journals"

            Which means, of course, the elites ignore it, thus making my point.

            There is plenty of sound documentation of supernatural events, you just want to ignore them because you are prejudiced against supernatural events, just as the larger more elite journals are prejudiced against non-peers.

          • Max Driffill

            "Which means, of course, the elites ignore it, thus making my point."
            Actually that simply isn't true. Ornithology is a science, like much of macro biology, where diligent and conscientious observers degreed or not, can make useful contributions. Birders tend to be highly trained observers and are consistently integral to the gathering of large scale population data yearly, and advance the science of Ornithology and ecology yearly.

            Astronomy can be done by anyone wiling to learn a bit about and who is willing to build or buy a decent telescope. Luckily for us, thousands of amateur astronomers from around the world turn their telescopes upward at the night sky and discover fresh new things for us all the time.

            There are sciences like molecular bio, medicine and advanced physics whose publications are dominated by degreed professionals, but so what. To advance the boundary of knowledge in those fields requires not only detailed knowledge of the subjects, but also the use of multimillion dollar equipment. To get at that equipment requires years of training.

            "There is plenty of sound documentation of supernatural events, you just want to ignore them because you are prejudiced against supernatural events, just as the larger more elite journals are prejudiced against non-peers."

            No there isn't plenty of sound documentation of supernatural events. There just isn't. There are plenty of credulous reports of allegedly supernatural events though. There is a difference.

            I am not ignoring these reports (I've read a large number in my time) they are just the opposite of convincing.

            But let me get a baseline here. Do you consider the resurrection of Jesus to be a well reported event?

          • Susan

            >Such as?

            Yes. Good question.

            Theodore provided no answer. He just insists that there are answers and that you should go look for them.

            Also, that you are not open-minded because you don't agree with him AND that you are too stupid to understand.

            Last piece of bait I'm chomping on
            .
            I swear. I mean it this time.

      • Peter Mueller

        Is deism really impossible to refute? It seems to me that all one need do is ask the question, "Why would self-sufficient, omnipotent, omniscient Being ever create anything at all?" Such Being would have no reason to create; It would neither need nor want for praise or service; would lack "self-expression" no more than anything else. There is only one reason why complete self-sufficiency would create anything outside of Itself; It is also omni-benevolent, and created solely in order to share Itself with others.

        • Longshanks

          Why would a hypothetical super-natural being do something? Is this an argument fully worth having?

          I mean this sincerely, and don't get me wrong, your question is echoed in my head too, but it doesn't seem to move from the category of 'interesting musings' to 'logical refutation.'

          This is an interesting read in the vein of that question.
          http://www.fullmoon.nu/articles/art.php?id=tal

          • Peter Mueller

            I think it's an argument worth having if one is a Deist. I admit that if one is an atheist, then it wouldn't be worth much; there's not much point in talking about what God is like when one doesn't admit that there is a God. Working from the premises of Deism, though, assuming that there does exist a First Cause of all that exists, who is omnipotent and omniscient, it logically follows that that Being is also omnibenevolent.

            Thanks for the article, which is indeed interesting. The character of "god" there appears to be a product of the universe, one being among many, who has evolved. I think Mormons believe something similar to that. For a Christian, such a being would be in the category "creature". "God", on the other hand, would be Being itself, the uncreated and unchanging source and ground of all existence.

        • primenumbers

          A being that is perfect cannot, by definition, have desires. A perfect being must also be changeless as any change would be to either increase or decrease perfection, thus be contradictory.

          There is no conceivable reason why a perfect changeless being would create anything. If such a being is perfectly rational (which they must be, to be perfect), they must always act rationally. They are changeless so cannot act, they are perfect so they lack the desire to act. There is no way such a being can create anything.

          • Randy Gritter

            A perfect being can act. Like dancers act and react to each other yet they can be perfect. If God was not a trinity but a unity and He did not contain within Himself an ability to act and react and love then this would be a problem. But once you have love then you will have the fruit of love. That fruit does not indicate that the love was deficient in any way.

          • primenumbers

            "A perfect being can act." - and therefore you can demonstrate that by showing us a perfect being that can do things. My argument is that any change would indicate a lack of perfection. We're not talking about acts like dancing, but the very nature of the being, hence your analogy is not applicable. "Like dancers act and react to each other yet they can be perfect" - God is not a group of dancers.

            "If God was not a trinity but a unity and He did not contain within Himself an ability to act and react and love then this would be a problem" - your statement really doesn't make much sense. Your trinity is a unity, the trinity aspect being a semantic trick rather than an actual three Gods.

          • Peter Mueller

            "A being that is perfect cannot, by definition, have desires." I agree, if you mean that a being that is perfect cannot, by definition, have desires -- for itself. It is possible that one who is perfect may desire on behalf of an other that is imperfect.

            "A perfect being must also be changeless." Agreed.

            "There is no conceivable reason why a perfect changeless being would create anything." I would amend this to: there is no conceivable reason why a perfect changeless being would create anything -- for its own sake. Unchanging, perfect Being has no need of anything outside of Itself, yes; but what of the possibility of caring for another without any prospect of return?

            To believe in love is to believe in God, and vice versa.

          • primenumbers

            " It is possible that one who is perfect may desire on behalf of an other that is imperfect." - What I'm showing is that there can be no desire to create. If God is perfect and self-contained, there can be no desire to go beyond that.

            ""A perfect being must also be changeless." Agreed." - and a changless being cannot introduce change. So not only does your God have no desire to create, he cannot change to create.

            "but what of the possibility of caring for another without any prospect of return?" - indicates a desire in God to want to care for another. We have already shown a perfect being can have no such desires.

            "To believe in love is to believe in God, and vice versa." - If you're going to suggest that God == Love then we can end this discussion now.

          • Peter Mueller

            "What I'm showing is that there can be no desire to create. If God is perfect and self-contained, there can be no desire to go beyond that." I'm afraid I don't follow you; why exactly is perfection a bar to creation? Perhaps you could clarify what you mean by saying God is "self-contained"?

            "A changeless being cannot introduce change". Why?

            "We have already shown a perfect being can have no such desires". No, we haven't. We have only shown that perfect Being can have no such desires for Itself; it has not been shown that perfect Being can have no such desires for another.

            And I admit that I do believe in the mystery that God is Love. :) I'm interested to know why you find that distasteful.

            Is it that you think altruism is impossible? If so, then your assertion that a perfect being would never create anything is consistent. May I ask, whether or not you believe in God, do you believe in the existence of love?

          • primenumbers

            " it has not been shown that perfect Being can have no such desires for another." - we're talking about a point in time where there is no other, so your objection is irrelevant.

            "And I admit that I do believe in the mystery that God is Love. :)" - because it's meaningless. Love is an emotion, not a being, love is something a being feels, it is not what a being is.

            "And I admit that I do believe in the mystery that God is Love. :)" - see my response to your objection above. Altruism needs a subject, and without a subject your objection is irrelevant.

          • Peter Mueller

            "...we're talking about a point in time where there is no other, so your objection is irrelevant." Ah. Thank you. I think I see where the disconnect is between us. As perfect Being, God is outside of any category, including the category of being. God is not one being among many, not even a super-duper being who exists along with us in the theater of the universe. God is, rather, the source and ground of all existence; anything that exists, exists because of and through God. This also means that God is not limited by time. He is outside of it, and every moment of it is "the present" to Him. If time is a number line and moments are points on that line, then God is the infinite plane in which the number line lies; he touches every point on the number line at once, as well as all points outside of it. So, it is meaningless to talk about "a point in time where there is no other" as time only began when God created. I ask again that you demonstrate that perfect Being cannot desire something for another.

            As to the mystery of God = Love, I doubt if I can do justice to it here. Briefly, love is not just a feeling, love is an action. To love is to will the good of the other as other, and to do so requires a subject and an object, a lover and a beloved. In Himself, God is subject, and object, and the love between them, and he created others solely so that they could be beloveds and lovers themselves. But if the idea of "God= Love" sets your teeth on edge, it would be sufficient for our discussion to simply say that God loves.

            Altruism actually requires both a subject and an object. For the purposes of our discussion so far, God is the subject, His creation is the object. You stated that God, being perfect, would have no reason to create anything outside of Himself. I suggested a reason, namely love.

            "To change can only be brought about through change. Changelessness cannot do anything because all acts are a change in the actor." God creates something, bringing it from non-existence to existence, making something out of nothing. How has God changed?

            There are only two explanations as to why anything exists at all. Either there is God, the First Cause, the Unmoved Mover, who set all things in motion; or there is an infinite regress of cause and effect, stretching in both directions, without meaning or purpose.

          • primenumbers

            " As perfect Being, God is outside of any category, including the category of being. " - I cannot accept that sentence as actually making sense.

            "God is, rather, the source and ground of all existence; anything that exists, exists because of and through God. " - you can say that, but I can't accept that "ground of all existence" doesn't make sense.

            "He is outside of it, and every moment of it is "the present" to Him. " - and the reliable method through which you come to know this is...? And does it even make sense?

            "as time only began when God created" - and now you contradict yourself because you said this. "when" implies time.

            "I suggested a reason, namely love." - you've just taken your altruism argument and replaced the word altruism with the word love. I respond with my same response as before.

            "How has God changed?" - he's changed his mind. He has acted.

            "There are only two explanations as to why anything exists at all." - in your limited imagination maybe. I think you're setting up a false dichotomy.

            "without meaning or purpose" - even with a God there is no meaning or purpose as both must come from an external source. Who gave God his meaning or purpose? If you reply that his meaning or purpose can be self-contained, then we can say exactly the same thing to a godless universe.

          • Peter Mueller

            "Source and ground of all existence" is the only reasonable starting point for talking about God. Try this. First, think of any thing that exists: a tree, a human being, a carbon atom. Then ask yourself, did that thing create itself, or is it contingent, dependent, upon something else for its existence? Obviously, it is contingent; it did not choose to begin existing. It is contingent, moreover, on a great many things. In the case of a human being like you or I, our existence is contingent not just on our parents, but on a planet that can support life, the existence of matter to be made out of in the first place, the laws that govern the interactions of atoms, etc. So now look at any of those things: did they create themselves? No, they are contingent as well.

            Keep following this chain of contingency back, and there are only two logical possibilities. 1) The chain is without beginning or end (and therefore meaningless), or 2) you eventually arrive at one entity which contains the reason for its own existence; one entity that is not dependent on anything else, but simply is. From this entity comes anything that exists.This, at the most simple level, is what is meant by "God".

            "...in your limited imagination maybe. I think you're setting up a false dichotomy." Very well, prove me wrong. The two possibilities I have stated are infinite regress or single source. Provide a viable third explanation of existence.

            Understanding God as the uncreated source of existence, some simple logical deductions follow. Such a source comprehends all and contains all that flows from it, but is not all that flows from it. Such a source is unlimited and perfect. Now, to put something in a category is to limit it (to say, "this is x" is at the same time to say, "this is not y or z"). Therefore, God is not in any category, not even the category of being; God is not "a being" but rather Being; God just is.

            God is also outside of time; for to be only in time, like you or I, is to be limited.

            As for love, do you not see that it is the same as altruism? To love is to will the good of another without regard for self. And your response remains answered, as I provided you with both subject and object.

            "...even with a God there is no meaning or purpose as both must come from an external source. Who gave God his meaning or purpose?" God does not have meaning or purpose, God is meaning or purpose. Again, He is by definition uncreated, perfect, unlimited, sufficient. If He were dependent upon anything else, then He would not be God, whatever He was dependent on would be.

            "If you reply that his meaning or purpose can be self-contained, then we can say exactly the same thing to a godless universe." No, you can't. Meaning or purpose implies an end or goal. A Godless universe (that is, a universe without one, uncreated source) can only be an endless chain of causation, without beginning or end, and therefore without meaning.

          • Michael Murray

            This just completely fails to understand modern physics. If you run time backwards the universe gets very small and dense. At some point, called the Plank epoch, quantum effects have to come into play and tear space-time apart. Before that we don't know what happened. We don't even know if before makes sense.

            Your argument just doesn't apply to the universe we live in.

            There are also logical flaws such as this statement:

            1) The chain is without beginning or end (and therefore meaningless), or 2) you eventually arrive at one entity which contains the reason for its own existence; one entity that is not dependent on anything else, but simply is

            Why would it be meaningless to have no beginning or end ?

            You are trying too hard to get the answer you want.

          • Peter Mueller

            "This just completely fails to understand modern physics. If you run time backwards the universe gets very small and dense. At some point, called the Plank epoch, quantum effects have to come into play and tear space-time apart. Before that we don't know what happened. We don't even know if before makes sense.

            Your argument just doesn't apply to the universe we live in."

            I would be obliged if you would restate the argument that you think I'm making, as I'm uncertain how you could arrive at the conclusion that it doesn't match our knowledge of the universe. To the best of our scientific knowledge, the universe (space and time and everything) began at a point 13.8 billion years ago (the first fraction of a second of which is called the Planck Epoch). This is in line with what I have suggested, that there is one source of all that exists (it does cast the idea of an endless chain of causation in a doubtful light, however). We may not know where quantum forces or matter came from, but surely you can see they must have come from somewhere, no? Suppose they came from some situation Z, which is hidden from our knowledge, and suppose situation Z came from situation Y, and so on; what I am saying is that either you arrive at a situation A which simply exists and did not come from anywhere itself, or there is no beginning at all. Those are the two options.

            "Why would it be meaningless to have no beginning or end?" Please re-read what I wrote. An endless chain of causation would be meaningless because "meaning" or "purpose" implies a goal or end, towards which things are or should be progressing. An eternal chain of causation, an endless series of reactions, has no possible end or goal, and is thus without any possible meaning. Please identify the logical flaw that you perceive.

            "Outside of time is also meaningless." Why, pray tell?

            If I use word games, then it should be simple for you to point out the particular semantics or logical fallacies in my statements. Please do so.

          • Michael Murray

            We don't know what happened before the Planck Epoch. You assumption that "surely they must have come from ..." is an extrapolation to the quantum world of things we observe in the classical world. These extrapolations usually don't work. Any claim about quantum theory staring "surely ..." is almost certain to go wrong.

            An infinite chain of causality just needs the nth thing to cause the n+1 st thing. It doesn't need a beginning or an end.

            Outside of time is meaningless because time is part of space. What is your theory of space-time which allows an outside ? How well does it fit experimental data?

            The logical fallacy is thinking you can do physics without learning the mathematics required.

          • Peter Mueller

            "We don't know what happened before the Planck Epoch. We don't even know if there was time in any sensible way before then." Pardon my ignorance, my understanding was that the Planck Epoch was the fraction of a second at the very beginning of time. Whether or not there was time before that, do you think it probable that time had a beginning?

            Not being an expert in particle physics (for which I crave your indulgence if you happen to be one), I ask you to bear with me; does quantum theory show that something can come from nothing? Otherwise, the principle that imperfect things or things in motion must have a cause is perfectly applicable.

            "An infinite chain of causality just needs the n-th thing to cause the (n+1)-st thing. It doesn't need a beginning or an end. This is simple mathematics. Totally ordered sets don't have to have maxima or minima." An infinite chain of causality is by definition without beginning or end, yes.

            "Outside of time is meaningless because time is part of space. What is your theory of space-time which allows an outside? How well does it fit experimental data?" You and I both think that there are things that exist that are not bounded by time and space, or else we could not have this conversation. What is "meaning", for example? Does it exist in space and time? What about "logic", which we are both supposedly using?

            More to the point, you appear to believe in something called "Truth", and you are trying to convince me that in regard to the subject at hand, you have it or are aligned with it, and that I in some measure don't or am not. Of what material is Truth composed? How much does it weigh? What are its dimensions? Where is it? When is it? How does it react to alterations in space-time?

            "The logical fallacy is thinking you can make arguments in cosmology without learning the requisite mathematics and physics at a high enough level." Pshaw. What we are talking about is accessible to anyone, with or without attaining some high level of mathematics or physics. We are discussing "why", not "how".

          • Michael Murray

            I ask you to bear with me; does quantum theory show that something can come from nothing?

            It raises serious questions about what "cause" means. There is no "cause" for particle decay that lets you predict when a given particle will decay. Causes only appear sensible at the particular scale of distance and energy we live at. Not at the fundamental level of reality.

            "Outside of time is meaningless because time is part of space. What is your theory of space-time which allows an outside? How well does it fit experimental data?" You and I both think that there are things that exist that are not bounded by time and space, or else we could not have this conversation. What is "meaning", for example? Does it exist in space and time? What about "logic", which we are both supposedly using?

            Ideas exist in people's heads. Heads, last time I looked, are inside space and time.

            Pshaw. What we are talking about is accessible to anyone, with or
            without attaining some high level of mathematics or physics. We are
            discussing "why", not "how".

            Pshaw indeed. You say

            Whether or not there was time before that, do you think it probable that time had a beginning?

            This is a question in cosmology not a "why". If there is no time during the Planck Epoch what does beginning mean ? Who cares what probability I assign to it ? I'm not a cosmologist and I don't pretend to be one. My opinion on a question like that is worthless. As is yours unless you are qualified.

          • Peter Mueller

            "Causes only appear sensible at the particular scale of distance and energy we live at. Not at the fundamental level of reality." I'm going to need you to explain this some more. How do you define the "fundamental level of reality"? Do you mean, very very very small particles, the smallest that we are aware of? Are the laws of nature suspended when things get small enough? However small you go, there's always the question of where they came from in the first place (or the laws, for that matter).

            "Ideas exist in people's heads. Heads, last time I looked, are inside space and time." So if we opened up someone's head, you could show me the ideas? What keeps them from spilling out? How big are ideas, anyway? How many ideas can fit in a head?

            "This is a question in cosmology not a "why"." Cosmology is the study of the origins and eventual fate of the universe. The best of our knowledge suggests that the universe began 13.8 billion years ago. I'm asking why it began, rather than just not beginning.

            "If there is no time during the Planck Epoch what does beginning mean?" Who said there was no time in the Planck Epoch? My understanding is that the Planck Epoch is the first instant of time, the first fraction of a second after the Big Bang.

            "I'm not a cosmologist and I don't pretend to be one." You and me both. However, what I'm asking is: why is there something rather than nothing? This is a question that you or I (or a cosmologist, or a street sweeper, or a lawyer, or a greengrocer) can grasp and entertain without any special training.

          • Michael Murray

            I'm going to need you to explain this some more. How do you define the "fundamental level of reality"? Do you mean, very very very small particles, the smallest that we are aware of? Are the laws of nature suspended when things get small enough?

            I mean you try to understand the behaviour of things by analysing the behaviour of their constituent parts. The most fundamental things (from which everything else arises) are not particles but quantum fields. Think waves if you like although that's not really correct. Sometimes those waves become concentrated and make things we think of as particles. That's also a crude approximation to what really happens.

            Nature doesn't obey laws it exhibits regularities which we try to understand. So yes the behaviour is different for quantum fields. Thinking of it as laws being suspended doesn't make a lot of sense.

            However small you go, there's always the question of where they came from in the first place (or the laws, for that matter).

            The question really is why does nature exhibit enough regularity that we can try to understand it. My only answer is: if it didn't we wouldn't be here worrying about it.

            So if we opened up someone's head, you could show me the ideas? What keeps them from spilling out? How big are ideas, anyway? How many ideas can fit in a head?

            If we opened up your computer could you show me the words you are reading ? If you use fMRI you can get someway to seeing people thinking in real time. If we understand how ideas are stored in the brain we could make some sort of estimate of how many ideas fit in a head.

            "This is a question in cosmology not a "why"." Cosmology is the study of the origins and eventual fate of the universe. The best of our knowledge suggests that the universe began 13.8 billion years ago. I'm asking why it began, rather than just not beginning.

            Sure but the answer is going to be informed by knowing what the universe actually is. With a bit of knowledge we can rule out "turtles all the way down" for example.

            Who said there was no time in the Planck Epoch?
            My understanding is that the Planck Epoch is the first instant of time, the first fraction of a second after the Big Bang.

            That's not correct. We know that if you go back far enough you get to the Planck Epoch. At that point quantum effects mess with gravity and as we don't have a theory of quantum gravity we don't know what happens. But almost certainly space-time as we understand it breaks down. So there is no time before the Planck-Epoch. What people call the big-bang is just an extrapolation backwards based on our knowledge of the rate of expansion. EZT or extrapolated time zero if you like. But you can't really do the extrapolation because there won't be any space-time before the Planck Epoch. So saying there is a big-bang is really incorrect.

            "I'm not a cosmologist and I don't pretend to be one." You and me both. However, what I'm asking is: why is there something rather than nothing? This is a question that you or I (or a cosmologist, or a street sweeper, or a lawyer, or a greengrocer) can grasp and entertain without any special training.

            If you want to bullshit over a beer with someone about the meaning of life, the universe and all that feel free. But common-sense suggests if you want to get a non bullshit answer it would be better to talk to people who know something. If you are happy with "turtles all the way down" or "42" then that's OK.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            So saying there is a big-bang is really incorrect.

            I think that is why Georges Lemaître did not call it that in the first place.

          • Michael Murray

            Indeed:

            Fred Hoyle is credited with coining the term Big Bang during a 1949 radio broadcast. It is popularly reported that Hoyle, who favored an alternative "steady state" cosmological model, intended this to be pejorative, but Hoyle explicitly denied this and said it was just a striking image meant to highlight the difference between the two models

          • primenumbers

            " "Source and ground of all existence" is the only reasonable starting point for talking about God. " - so what you've just done is to define your God as existing.

            When you say: "Therefore, God is not in any category, not even the category of being; God is not "a being" but rather Being; God just is" do you not realize you're just not making sense at all? To suggest that God is not in any category puts God in the category of "things that are not in any category" and hence is utterly contradictory. "God just is" - but what does that mean? Existence is a concept that we apply to things, not what things are.

            Your cosmological argument is flawed (not least) because you've just defined your God as existing and that it caused everything else to exist, yet you've still not demonstrated your God actually exists. If you're going to try to make a cosmological argument, I suggest you set it out formally as a new topic for discussion and we can discuss it for you.

            Can we get back to the original point that before your God created our universe, that there was no reason for a perfect and self contained being to create anything at all. You demonstrate above when you say "as time only began when God created" that there was some "when" before things like our universe were created.

          • Peter Mueller

            "...so what you've just done is to define your God as existing." No, what I have just done is to define God as the source and ground of all existence, the First Cause, IF such a Cause exists. The main point of our last few exchanges has been possible explanations of why anything exists at all. I have stated that I find the First Cause explanation more compelling than the Infinite Regress explanation, and have made the argument that what is fundamentally meant by "God" is that First Cause. You stated that you thought there might be another explanation of existence, but have not so far proposed any.

            "Your cosmological argument is flawed (not least) because you've just defined your God as existing and that it caused everything else to exist, yet you've still not demonstrated your God actually exists." Perhaps you are confused, as our discussion began with the Deist conception of God, and has worked back from there to the cosmological argument; the things that I have said about the nature of God (because you asked) are logical conclusions from God as First Cause, if there is a First Cause. As you have not conceded this, then I gratefully accept your offer of a reboot:

            I have proposed that there are only two possible explanations for why anything exists at all: either a First Cause, or an endless line of causation without beginning or end. I find First Cause to be the more reasonable, but I will put off explaining why until you agree that these are the only two possibilities. If you do not agree, please present a viable third explanation.

            I have already twice answered your objection about why perfect Being would create anything outside of Himself. As to your objection to timelessness, are you opposed to the idea of time having a beginning? If so, why? If not, how do you think that time began?

          • primenumbers

            Being a temporal being I know what we refer to as time through experience, but I'm also unable to say exactly what time is. Almost everything we think or conceive has in-built temporality into it though. So when you talk about a perfect being existing, that's using a rather different meaning of "exists" than we use normally. "Exists" has an implicit temporal aspect to it as everything we normally apply it to exists in time (other than concepts and ideas, and even then there can be temporal aspects). In other words, I fail to see how an atemporal being is a being at all. Without time we don't think, act or change. Without time there is nothing, Even you concede there is some meta-time for God when you say "as time only began when God created", "when" being a moment in your God's meta-time. So we can go with this meta time for God, or if you stick to timelessness then to me that's just like saying God doesn't exist as exist for things (rather than concepts and ideas) implies a temporality.

            So - I cannot accept "being" and "timelessness" - to me those terms are contradictory. I have a good concept of what being is, and it's inextricably temporal, and to exist means to exist in time and space or it lacks sufficient meaning for me. I don't have such issues with a non-physical being, something I can conceive reasonably well as existing in time and having thought, although the issue there is about interaction with any form of real world. If you can move from your insistence of timelessness to a meta-time for God, we can continue. If you insist on strict timelessness then the words we're using to discuss this have ceased having meaning for me.

            Cosmological arguments are very very dependent on the precise definitions of words and terms used in their construction. That is why I suggest you lay it out formally and I get your definitions and meanings before we begin. It's also taking us off track here which is why I dismiss the argument without going into detail. I've discussed cosmological arguments before with theists and hence really know that they need a proper forum where we can focus on where the errors in the argument lie.

          • Peter Mueller

            I think you and I agree on quite a lot. I agree that there is great difficulty in describing timelessness; being temporal beings ourselves, we find it almost impossible to express without using temporal terms. You’re right to say that when we usually speak of existence, we mean existence in time; which I guess also means existence in motion, existence in change. I think that you’re also right to say that God doesn't exist in the same way that things exist.

            To me, “God” is inseparable from “First Cause”. If there is a God, then He’s not a thing that exists, but the source of all that exists; including time and space, which would mean He’s not bound by them. I was trying to express this when I was saying that God is not “a being”, but rather Being itself, and that He is “outside” of or “before” time. “Being”, or perhaps what you would call the concept or idea of being, is timeless; “a being” is not. As you say, we do recognize the existence of things that do not change and are not bound by time and space, such as reason, goodness, logic, truth, beauty, etc.

            I see that a couple of articles about the cosmological argument have gone up since we started our conversation. Should we move to one of those threads to restart? I’ve already sort of given my version of the argument above, but I could try again.

          • primenumbers

            Yes, move over to one of those threads.

            "I think that you’re also right to say that God doesn't exist in the same way that things exist." - and that leads to the issue that any argument that starts with us, or the universe, or any normal thing existing, and leads through to God existing has just performed a rather major equivocation on "exists", rendering the argument flawed to anyone who is not pre-disposed to allowing "exist" to be meaningful for God.

      • crap_diem

        Christopher Hitchens never said that deism is a position that is impossible to refute. That's pure baloney!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=20602584 Mark Duch

      This being a Catholic site, I don't believe you find anyone who believes himself capable of judging Mr. Flew's eternal destiny.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        But we can hope. We can hope that hell is empty. I am scared that it isn't- and my main proof that it isn't is in fact atheism. But Deism? Deists are open to being wrong on the subject of the supernatural- open enough not to run screaming for Hell at the first sign of Purgatory.

        • Max Driffill

          Atheists, by and large are also open to being wrong on the subject.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Then you aren't a good example of an atheist. And neither is any other atheist I've ever met.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Then you aren't a good example of an atheist. And neither is any other atheist I've ever met.

            How do you know how many atheists you have ever met?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Usually by the ones who want to kill me.

          • Max Driffill

            I don't think I am a terrible example of an atheist ;).

          • Susan

            You're a lovely example, Max. :-)

          • Max Driffill

            Well that is all I need!

          • TheodoreSeeber

            You gave the definition that Atheists are open to being wrong. You are not open to being wrong. Thus, you don't fit that rule. :-)

          • http://www.RestatementOfTheObvious.com/ JonMarc

            No ad hominems, gentlemen. Keep it constructive and respectful or take a break.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            There seems to be an issue with notifications through disqus.

            But you are correct.

            What I should have said is if atheism requires being able to be wrong, I've never met an atheist that fits that definition.

      • http://www.facebook.com/kenton.forshee Kenton Forshee

        That would be disingenuous at best. Christians know that acceptance of Jesus as their "Lord and Savior" is a necessity for anyone to get to heaven where Christianity is concerned. If Anthony Flew didn't accept Jesus and was Deist as has been noted, then there is only one conclusion to draw. Therefore I find it strange that Christians would use Anthony Flew as an example since he wasn't Christian. Why don't you just use an atheist who became Muslim? It would be about as irrelevant to any Christian arguments.

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      Vicq_Ruiz, we'll never know. The Catholic Church makes no pronouncement of eternal damnation on any person, even Judas. This is because we simply have no idea as to the state of someone's soul at the moment of death.

      • Mark Hunter

        So it really doesn't matter that I've left the Catholic faith, married outside the Church, not attended Mass in decades (that still is a grave sin committed with full knowledge and consent and is thus a mortal sin) and I will die without confessing that sin. According to this Catholic site I'm heading to hell ( http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c1a8.htm ). You may not judge people but your Church has.

        • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

          Mark, I never said it "doesn't matter." Grave sin *does* matter, and it does put you in danger of eternal separation from God (i.e. Hell). But neither the Church nor individual Catholics are in a position to say with assurance whether any particular person is in a state of grave sin at their death. Therefore the Church never definitively pronounces that someone is in Hell--we simply don't know. In Flew's case, it's not clear whether his rejection of Christ was due to willful disobedience or if there was some other impediment for which he was not fully or partly responsible.

          • Meta-N

            Brandon Vogt

            You may not know the fate of an Catholic apostate, however the church does advise family/friends to shun the apostate. This issue was just raised on WETN (Catholic radio) on yesterdays afternoon show. The caller was in tears as the radio show host advised against attending an important event because the family member was an apostate.

            First post. My back ground, I've been raised from an early age with a naturalism world view. We all live in a natural world. It is a closed system. By definition, there is no super-natural interaction with the natural world.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            So, if confronted with being wrong about that natural world view, which would you choose? To be with God, or to run screaming from God? THAT is the question.

          • Michael Murray

            Another false dichotomy.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            And thus, since you can't even role play a Christian, I have my doubts about your ability to understand.

          • Meta-N

            TheodoreSeeber

            Naturalism is reality. It is the majority view of scientists worldwide. Naturalism is the reality espoused by old/new school atheists, agnostics, and humanists alike.

            If methodological naturalism suddenly stopped working; I can assure you the god hypothesis would be the last thing on my mind.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Naturalism isn't scientific or reality, it is a potential philosophical model, like all of science, or any other rational religion. It needs to be open to being modified in the face of direct observation.

          • Max Driffill

            If i was presented with solid evidence for the Christian god I would have no choice but to accept, provisionally that said being existed. I would not be under any obligation to worship said being though.
            If the Christian god were demonstrated to be a real being, and it had been responsible for all of the atrocities of the Old Testament, I would not worship it. My acceptance that it was a real being will have to do.

          • http://www.facebook.com/joewetterling Joe Wetterling

            Let's say that it is a wedding - that's often the case where this question comes up. My son, who is a baptized Catholic, has decided to get married in a non-Catholic ceremony and has not gotten dispensation to do so. As a Catholic, I know he is not actually getting married in that case. (Why? That doesn't matter for this particular point; what is in question is how and why I respond.)

            If I stand beside him at his wedding, I am given tacit approval to what is happening. I'm saying, with my physical presence, "I approve" and "this is true". But if it isn't (or even if I just think it isn't), then I'm lying by standing there.

            If I truly believe something damaging is happening to my son, I am obligated to step in - to act according to my conscience - as much as if I noticed he was stepping out into traffic or about to touch a live wire. It would be wrong to just stand back and say "oh well, its none of my business". Now, the wire may in fact be dead. That oncoming truck my be flashing a turn signal I don't see. Regardless of the truth, I would be remiss if I didn't act consistently with my conscience and the information I have.

            So I would have to act, and in this case, not stand there at the ceremony and act like nothing is wrong. It may hurt him when I throw him down to the ground away from that live wire or barreling truck, but my job is not to avoid causing him pain - its to protect him and to do what is right.

            Now, there *are* pastoral considerations. This is not a dogmatic statement - "you must not attending a non-Catholic wedding of a baptized Catholic". I may decide that if I don't, I may cause greater harm - and lose any chance in the future to talk about the faith with him, to be involved in his life and that of his children, etc. I may also decide that such a direct shock is the only thing strong enough to demonstrate just how important it is, if he doesn't think it is.

          • Max Driffill

            That these thoughts occupy you when you contemplate your son's happy day deeply saddens and troubles me. But it is educational to see how religion can so radically damage a family.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          Danger of eternal separation from God is not equal to actual eternal separation from God. You might end up confessing that sin in purgatory- and if so, it will be forgiven you.

          Just as moral assurance of salvation is not absolute assurance of salvation- for all I know, I may be addicted to some sin that will cause my soul to run screaming from the touch of Purgatory to hide in Hell.

          Nobody is absolute on this.

          • Longshanks

            TheodoreSeeber

            If you were to encounter an floating, seventeen thousand pound mass of perfectly al-dente pasta with mushroom vodka sauce and gigantic meat-ball-eyes on your way to work Monday, would you run screaming from His Noodly Appendage?

            I ask this because the ability and willingness to roleplay has above been stated as necessary.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Very likely I would, yes. In fact, if faced with the FSM *and being forced to live with them for all eternity, along with their nutty believers*, I would indeed choose Hell.

            Thus, for the atheist, choosing Hell is the *rational decision*- and the Freedom From Religion Foundation is trying very hard to make it real on Earth.

      • Vicq_Ruiz

        I thought I had allowed for that possible answer in the way I posed the question.

        Perhaps not. Let me rephrase:

        According to Catholic doctrine, does God distinguish in any way between a deist who recognizes an undefined Supreme Being and an atheist who recognizes nothing but the workings of chance??

        • http://backroomcatholic.com/ EpicusMontaigne

          Who can say? What's the disposition of his soul? Is he invincibly ignorant or not?

          • Mark Hunter

            So really all the religious accouterments don't really matter when one faces eternity.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ EpicusMontaigne

            No, they do matter. Religion helps to orient one's self towards God, to be better prepared for when you face eternity.

            Furthermore, the criterion for salvation is loving God. If you love God, you win. If you reject God, you lose. What happens in the moment when you're face to face with God is clearly going to be something between you and Him.

            But if He has a religion in this world, a bright lit-up path to Him, and you instead chose to wander through the woods hoping to eventually end up with Him (whether you think of it in those terms or not), maybe you do find Him. But wouldn't it have been easier to walk the path He laid out?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            The most that religion can do, is help you answer the question right.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            My point being that if I understand Christian doctrine correctly, it makes no difference whatever that an atheist comes to belief in an impersonal Creator of Everything.

            So why it's considered an important thing that Mr. Flew abandoned atheism I have no idea. His views as quoted in the interview are every bit as much a ticket to hell.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ EpicusMontaigne

            It can make a difference. Does someone who believes there's some deity have a better shot at accepting God when he finally sees Him than someone who doesn't believe there's some deity?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            It's worse than that. Does someone who believes there once was some deity have a better shot than someone who hates the concept of a universal morality so much that he'd run screaming away from said deity if he ever met one?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Or a ticket to heaven. Or neither, and he's still in purgatory, studying the universe under the school of the Angels.

          • stevegbrown

            The human heart has a thirst for what is true "really out there". One should focus on what does my heart ultimately desire? Will I ever see my loved ever again? That is a pretty important question. If I lost a daughter or son, I would certainly, in my heart of heats, want the assurance of someday seeing them again and not just the mere feeling/delusion. If the desire is not towards the real truth, then it is useless.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          No. God doesn't decide who goes to heaven and hell. The person themselves decide:
          http://www.ewtn.com/library/papaldoc/jp2heavn.htm

          God doesn't discriminate.

      • Vicq_Ruiz

        makes no pronouncement of eternal damnation.....because we simply have no idea as to the state of someone's soul

        This is the answer given by Catholics whenever I discuss, for example, the fate of my loving atheist parents, both of whom as far as I know were unbelievers to the end. (I heard this from my father's lips less than three hours before he died).

        It's not unreasonable for the Church to say "we have no idea". And yes, it's possible that my father or anyone else could have had a conversion experience in the last .0001 second of life.

        There is a question I have often asked Catholics and Protestants alike; "How will those in heaven feel about the suffering of their loved ones in hell?". (When the "Hell" topic opens up with an article or two, that will be the very first question I shall raise there).

        I've been given "we don't know the state of the soul at death" as an answer to that question a couple of times, and in that particular context I view it as nothing but evasive.

    • Fr.Sean

      Vic_Ruiz,
      We don't have the ability to judge another human being, but Flew took a step towards the truth, and I believe he demonstrated an act of humility. Jesus said; "I am the way and the truth and the life", thus i can't imagine a person who demonstrated humility and took a step towards truth would be lost.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      I once said that if an atheist could only believe enough to role play religion as a game, then that would be enough to get him into purgatory and on the road to heaven.

      I have no doubt that Deists and anybody less than a 6 on Dawkins spectrum of theistic probability, are as on their way to heaven as I am; I'll probably still pass them in purgatory, but I'll be waiting for them with open arms.

      • Vicq_Ruiz

        You would correctly infer from my posts here that I think there should be two "Dawkins scales", one defining "belief in a god" and the second defining "belief in a personal, revealed God".

        I would place myself as a 4 on the former and a 6 on the latter.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          I like both of them being the same- Deism is a 4 on the scale.

          But ALL Orthodox Catholics in the Church militant should be between a 2-4 on the scale, else they're committing the sin of presumption. The only people in the Roman Catholic Church who should be a 1 without sinning, are those in the Church Triumphant, who have become a 1 due to either convincing themselves of it in this life, or by spending time in the Church Suffering after they die.

          If you aren't in heaven, you shouldn't be a 1.

          • Longshanks

            "convincing themselves of it in this life"
            Amen, brother.

            Deism could not be a '4' on the 'belief in a personal, revealed God' scale. Deism has historically be the specific rejection of a personal, self-revealing god.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            On Dawkins scale of theistic probability, 4 is a better than even chance that the type of God being considered doesn't exist.

          • Longshanks

            My first reaction to your reply was doubt: maybe I had misread/misremembered dawkins' scale. Turns out I hadn't, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spectrum_of_theistic_probability

            I honestly don't know how you and others like you do it; that information took me, and I mean this literally, twenty six seconds to find....
            .
            4 is NOT >.50, 4 is defined as exactly .5, exactly 50%. The word he actually uses, which I imagine he either made up or is very archaic, was "equiprobable."

            So there's that. I imagine that stings a bit.

            Secondly, Vicq_Ruiz talks about 2 scales.
            One for how your rank yourself as a Deist, one for Theist.
            One for ranking your belief in a "god" vs. a "personal, revealed God."

            "Deism," capital D, as a commonly accepted tradition, is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deism . It is specifically about reject the claims of theists, so the two scales cannot, as you claim, be "both of them being the same- Deism is a 4 on the scale."

            Deism is NOT a 50/50 thinking about the existence of a personal god, it is about rejecting those silly notions in favor of the elegance of the universe by itself.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            You are correct, I misremembered. This would put Deism more of a 5 on the scale.

          • Longshanks

            No. You're fundamentally misunderstanding. Deism, as in the religious tradition of the enlightenment, is not "theism lite."

            Deism is an explicit rejection of theistic claims. That puts you at a 6. A deist lives his/her life as if there were no capital-G "God." They believe that reason leads them to a prime-move or a shaper, but one interested in humans. One unknowable and unrelatable-to.

            One desiring and effecting no revelation.

            If you want to put a Deist's views somewhere on a scale of Theism, it's gonna be towards the bottom.

            Cheers.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Knew there was a reason why I consider the "Enlightenment" to be the third most knowledge destroying event in human history.

          • Longshanks

            It took you until *just now* to understand what people were talking about when they used the term "Deism?" But you've been using it all along, this whole time, with the confidence and assurance of a veteran, someone not to be tripped up by the Dunning Krueger effect.

            Knew there was a reason why I don't have high hopes for conversations with people who believe "the 'Enlightenment' to be the third most knowledge destroying event in human history."

            http://religionvirus.blogspot.com/2008/12/one-catholic-priest-destroyed-entire.html

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Except, you just indicated that Deism was a knowledge destroying philosophy.

    • http://www.facebook.com/joe.zani.5 Joe Zani

      Yes, at least that's what I believe. I believe that God loves us all equally unless we reject God and never repent. In my book, God loves an Atheist who trully is convinced that his beliefs are the right ones just as Muslims,Jews, Catholics etc all have their beliefs and each is convinced that theirs is the right one.

    • Michael Murray

      It is true they are both in the sixth circle for heresy but I understand that the heat in the deist section is gas mark 5 whereas in the atheist section it is gas mark 7.

      • Vicq_Ruiz

        Just as long as it doesn't go to 11.......

  • Mark Hunter

    Here's an interesting article on Anthony Flew by Mark Oppenheimer which puts the conversion in a slightly different light.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/04/magazine/04Flew-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    He was a brilliant man in his prime but can we call a moratorium at going after older men and women who are perhaps not in full control of their faculties and exploit them to either a theistic or atheistic end.

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      Mark, your last paragraph insinuating that people "exploited" Flew for a theistic end is unfounded and unfair. The whole point in posting this interview was to circumvent the book controversy and let Flew speak for himself. In this interview from October 2007, the same month his book was released, he clearly had all his intellectual faculties and expressly repudiated atheism.

      Finally, your last paragraph is a textbook case of the ad hominem fallacy, discounting someone's claims and instead targeting their character (or, in this case, their age.) In the future, please engage the arguments instead of the person.

      • Mark Hunter

        Many people had concerns about Anthony Flew's state of mind in his last few years. He was clearly not in his prime, He didn't even write the book, Abraham Varghese did, Anthony Flew only allowed his name to be attached to it.

        I would say the same if atheists went after noted theists near the end of their lives and got them to refute their life of belief. It's just poor form. He was obviously confused, as many interviews demonstrate.

        Go after a Sam Harris, a Richard Dawkins (who still seems at the top of his game), Lawrence Krauss, etc.

        • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

          Mark, we're not "going after" anyone or trying to "refute their life or belief." We're merely sharing a first-person interview with a leading intellect of the twentieth century. You say "he was clearly not in his prime" but this interview, which took place after the book was written (but before it was published) suggests otherwise.

          Nevertheless, as I said before the book is simply ancillary to this interview. If you're interested in commenting, please engage this interview instead of the book.

          (One final note: your accusation that Flew only contributed his name to the book is baseless. Flew himself, before and the after the book, affirmed that its content and ideas were all his.)

          • Mark Hunter

            From the article "When I asked Varghese, he freely admitted that the book was his idea and that he had done all the original writing for it." Flew may have agreed with the book, but he didn't write it.

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            Mark, I'll let this be my last comment about the book, which is not the subject of today's post.

            Varghese's quote says nothing about whether Flew contributed his ideas to the book, or agreed with its content. If you know the publishing industry, you know it's extremely common for well-known authors, even young ones, to have ghostwriters put together a book around their own main ideas. The author provides the main content, outline, and trajectory. The ghostwriter writes the text. And then the main author reads through the draft, makes any necessary changes, and affirms the final text. The author then takes full credit for the content within, even if it's expressed in words that aren't wholly theirs. This is the case with hundreds of bestselling books every year and was true with "There Is a God" (with the added twist that Varghese was not a ghostwriter, but a listed co-author.)

            That fact, however, is irrelevant to the interview above, to Flew's conversion, or to the reasons for his his belief in God. Unless you can prove Varghese wrote something Flew *didn't* agree with--which no evidence suggests--then your accusations are baseless.

            (PS. This article offers a thorough response to Oppenheimer's criticisms: http://bvogt.us/10qagSV)

            If you're interested in discussing the interview posted above, please continue commenting.

          • stevegbrown

            Mark, There are countless famous people who had a ghost writer, writing for them. It should be no big deal; besides, Flew wrote an open letter to Dawkins stating plainly that he was of sound mind and fully agreed with Varghese's writing.

      • AshleyWB

        Brandon, you should learn to distinguish ad hominem from relevant questions about a person's mental state, which obviously has a major impact on their reasoning and decision making. The article Mark linked, from early November 2007, clearly casts doubt on your claim that he "had all of his intellectual faculties".

        I really cannot understand how any Christian finds something positive in this story. At best it adds nothing to the debate, and at worst unethical Christians exploited a sick old man to score cheap and useless debating points.

        Are we going to get any articles about the conversion of "notorious" Catholics? If so, I hope they are at least of sound mind.

        • Mark Hunter

          I would honestly be just as upset if someone when after a prominent Catholic in their dotage and convinced them to abandon their faith. It's unseemly, and unethical.

          • AshleyWB

            Agreed.

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            Ashley and Mark, I actually agree with you that Flew's mental capacities dipped around late-2009. But there's simply no evidence to think they were significantly damaged at the time of this interview (or the publishing of "There is a God.") This interview in no way depicts a man suffering from "infirmity" or "memory lapses." Flew is clear, coherent, thoughtful, and sharp throughout the interview.

            To me, the possibility of him being a "sick old man," at that time, whom others "exploited" and conned into rejecting atheism, is groundless conjecture.

          • AshleyWB

            The interview that Mark linked, which you seem to be ignoring or discounting, took place in August 2007. That's around the same time as the interview you published took place, and shortly before his book was published. Here's an excerpt:

            'But he forgot more than names. He didn’t remember talking with Paul Kurtz about his introduction to “God and Philosophy” just two years ago. There were words in his book, like “abiogenesis,” that now he could not define. When I asked about Gary Habermas, who told me that he and Flew had been friends for 22 years and exchanged “dozens” of letters, Flew said, “He and I met at a debate, I think.” I pointed out to him that in his earlier philosophical work he argued that the mere concept of God was incoherent, so if he was now a theist, he must reject huge chunks of his old philosophy. “Yes, maybe there’s a major inconsistency there,” he said, seeming grateful for my insight. And he seemed generally uninterested in the content of his book — he spent far more time talking about the dangers of unchecked Muslim immigration and his embrace of the anti-E.U. United Kingdom Independence Party.

            As he himself conceded, he had not written his book.'

            I have no idea why you refuse to consider clearly relevant evidence of significant memory loss.

        • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

          Ashley, I'm well aware what qualifies as an "ad hominem" attack and Mark's comments so far have been a textbook case. Instead of dealing with the claims Flew makes in the interview above, he maligns his age, frailty, or cognitive capacities. Yet all three are irrelevant to whether Flew's reasoning is true.

          You say, "I really cannot understand how any Christian finds something positive in this story." For Christians, and other theists and deists, the positive note in this story is the Flew exposed the inherent flaws of the atheist worldview and thereby came closer to Truth. It's also a positive example of someone willing to follow the evidence where it led him, even if the destination was uncomfortable--that's a good model for all of us, Catholics and atheists.

          • AshleyWB

            "the positive note in this story is that Flew exposed the inherent flaws of the atheist worldview"

            Of course, Flew did nothing of the sort. He makes some unsupported statements, and nothing else. Saying what you believe is not the same as justifying what you believe. And since he does not justify his statements, we cannot say how arrived at them so questions about his mental faculties are entirely relevant.

            "Finally, you describe Flew as "a sick old man""

            No, I offered it as a possibility. I said, "At best it adds nothing to the debate, and at worst unethical Christians exploited a sick old man to score cheap and useless debating points.".

            Unlike you, I'm not going to confidently diagnose the mental state of a man who's been dead for three years based on a couple of brief interviews. I do see infirmity as a possibility based on the memory lapses and other difficulties he had in the interview Mark linked, so I'm not going to rule it out. I also know that many people are willing to exploit the weak for their selfish goals, and I'm not going to rule that out either.

          • stanz2reason

            Flew exposed the inherent flaws of the atheist worldview, rejected them, and thereby came closer to the Truth.

            Brandon, he didn't expose any flaws. He examined the evidence, rejected outright most of what would be commonly attributed as religious belief, and in the remaining gray area was compelled evidence for god was stronger than evidence against.

            It's also a positive example of someone willing to follow the evidence where it led him, even if the destination was uncomfortable

            Bear in mind what he's saying here. In following the evidence he came to the conclusion that:

            "I do not accept any claim of divine revelation..."

            "God does not intervene in the affairs of the world..."

            "God is a person but not the sort of person with whom you can have a talk"

            These 3 are utterly incompatible with anything remotely resembling judeo-christian beliefs, nor any other religious tradition I'm aware of.

          • Mark Hunter

            "These 3 are utterly incompatible with anything remotely resembling judeo-christian beliefs, nor any other religious tradition I'm aware of." It almost smacks of desperation. Thomas Jefferson was derided as an atheist by many clerics for similar statements/

      • stanz2reason

        In fairness Marks argument was the person, or in this case the mental state of the person. After reading through the times article, while I don't think it would be fair to say he was without his wits, it does however seem his mental faculties were diminished enough to question though not dismiss his state of mind.

      • Nick Corrado

        Brandon, I'm afraid that was no ad hominem fallacy. There are times when the qualifications of a person are relevant to the argument they're making. In this case it is: we are to take Flew's testimony as an indication deism is rational, yet if Flew's reason itself is questionable, how can his testimony be reliable? Of course his ability to reason is relevant.

        I want to be clear, though, that this is merely testimony. Flew doesn't offer any actual arguments--he pointed to what got him to deism, but not any actual arguments, just assertions (e.g. "the origins of the laws of nature and of life and the Universe point clearly to an intelligent Source"). So it's wholly valid to ignore a bunch of assertions and instead question Flew's ability to offer reliable testimony.

        Calling ad hominem is in many cases not appropriate and a distraction to your own opponent's argument. Refer to http://plover.net/~bonds/adhominem.html or even several posts by one of your own writers, Dr. Feser (I would link one but blogspot is blocked at my current location).

        • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

          Nick, thanks for the comment! I agree that the ad hominem fallacy is often misattributed, and I've definitely been guilty in the past.

          But I believe it was properly diagnosed here. What we're concerned with here is Flew's conversion away from atheism, and the reasons he gives for it in this particular interview. We're much more interested in the three issues which led him to God--the laws of nature, life with its teleological organization, and the existence of the Universe--than Flew's perceived mental capacities. In other words, we care more about *what* he says rather than *why* he says it (both the "ad hominem" and "genetic" fallacies reverse those concerns.)

          Also, Flew *does* insinuate several arguments in this interview since each assertion suggests an argument. For example, his assertion that one reason he believes in God is because life has teleological organization implies that:

          1. If atheism were true, life would not be teleologically ordered.
          2. Life is teleologically ordered.
          3. Therefore atheism is not true.

          • Nick Corrado

            Brandon, I'm skeptical that Flew was attempting to insinuate any arguments. Sure, there's a logic behind his assertions, but he chose not to defend any of them--he stuck to listing reasons rather than listing the arguments you want us to discuss. And in the absence of any of those arguments to discuss, I can see why a person might stray from them to question Flew himself.

            But the deeper issue here, I think, is that if Flew's ability to reason is significantly impaired, there's not much reason to take a close look at his arguments anyway. And there seems to exist good reason to question Flew's ability to reason, good enough reason to examine it in detail. I'm hardly going to endorse that Flew was some sort of crazy old man when he was interviewed, but I can understand the skepticism there.

          • AshleyWB

            I'm trying to be kind here, but I don't understand how you could miss the point so badly. The complaint that Flew doesn't offer any arguments for his assertions cannot be answered by USING those assertions. That's what you just did. You took an unsupported statement made by Flew, and used it in an argument.

            That doesn't address the point that Flew offered no support for his claims.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Brandon, do you know of any evidence that life is teleologically ordered?

          • Max Driffill

            Before you can proceed to steps 2 and 3 you have to justify step one. Why should we find premise 1 at all compelling? Simply because former atheist turned weak deist says so?

      • stevegbrown

        I second Brandon's point. I've read that it was implied that because he was in his 80's he was taken advantage of. Chief Justice Marshall did some of his best juridical commentary while on the Supreme Court while in his 80's.

        • Mark Hunter

          I'm not saying at all that all elderly are in failing faculties. But some are, and there was plenty of indication that Anthony Flew wasn't he man he used to be.

        • AshleyWB

          Instead of talking about implications, why don't you read the article Mark linked, in which Flew clearly displays memory lapses? That's evidence, not implication.

      • physicistdave

        Brandon,

        Richard Carrier had detailed correspondence with Flew about this:

        For example,
        http://www.infidels.org/kiosk/article369.html

        and various other details in other posts by Carrier you can find via Google (it's way too late for me to post them all).

        Everyone can read Carrier's various reports on the correspondence for himself, but to me there is an open-and-shut case that Flew was exploited.

        I personally do not much care about deism one way or the other. I do care about people being exploited.

    • Longshanks

      I am immensely happy that Hitch stated specifically in advance that if his brain were to deteriorate to the point that he did start to accept nonsense, the person doing the accepting would not be him.

      As far as I can tell, he ran the race to the finish line.

  • Mark Hunter

    Dr. Wilker is a senior fellow at the Discovery Ins ( http://www.discovery.org/p/40 ) Strange it listed all his other affiliations, both current and past but didn't include that prestigious position. Note the original article ( http://www.tothesource.org/10_30_2007/10_30_2007.htm ) lists that affiliation. Dr. Wiker was also involved with the "Wedge Strategy" of The Discovery Institute that sought to sneak creationism in through the back door as Intelligent Design. For a Catholic biologist refutation of this approach read Kenneth Miller's excellent book "Only a Theory" which documents the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case.

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      Mark, that comment is another example of an irrelevant "ad hominem" comment. It's been removed.

      • Mark Hunter

        I don't agree that it is irrelevant as the associations of the Dr. Wilker are listed in the postscript to the interview and saying that the interviewer is a Senior associate of the Discovery Institute is factual, not an attack.

        • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

          I didn't say it was "an attack", only that it was irrelevant. You're needlessly focusing on Dr. Wiker's biography instead of the interview.

          • Mark Hunter

            You said the comment was ad hominem. An ad homenin comment is an attack on the person not the substance of the argument. Dr. Wiker being a member of a fringe scientific and religious group (it opposes evolution which the Catholic Church supports) is surely relevant to putting the interview in context.

            Besides, he has facial hair and Stalin had facial hair. Now that's irrelevant.

  • stanz2reason

    Does not accept claims for divine revelation, god doesn't interfere with the natural world, god is not a person that you can have a talk with, no mention of moralizing based on pre-existing dogma, convinced by making philosophical reference based on empirical evidence...

    Sounds like a reasonable position to take, I just disagree with his conclusion. I'd imagine most atheists would agree with much if not all of that, with the exception that our answer with regards to the examination of empirical data would be that we don't find the data convincing enough to support the claim. Out of curiosity, were we to draw a line with atheists on one end & catholics on the other, I'd wonder where commenters here would put him.

    I'd only mention one thing as a side note. Admittedly no complete sufficient answer has been put forth to address the 3 issues he pointed out ("the laws of nature, life with its teleological organization, and the existence of the Universe"), but it is possible they are 1 issue, rather than 3 (for instance say a clearer set of laws of nature allow for or even demand the creation & existence of an apparently ordered universe).

  • Mark Hunter

    Discussing the interview now. "I think the origins of the laws of nature and of life and the Universe point clearly to an intelligent Source. The burden of proof is on those who argue to the contrary."

    What is the contrary? Science freely admits it doesn't know why the laws of the universe are the way they are. There are ideas, even some theories, but nothing that has wide acceptance. There are many who wonder if there is any constraint places on fundamental constants that limits their values, but nothing has been found yet. It's not science that is saying they have the answer in this regard.

    Also, "life with its teleological organization" Does that mean that the fact that bacteria and fungi make up the vast majority of the earth's biomass reveal them to be the goal of life?

    • http://backroomcatholic.com/ EpicusMontaigne

      No, but it could mean that they are the foundation of life, built up in a pyramidal structure, culminating the human quest for happiness (which = God).

      • Mark Hunter

        So humans are the goal of evolution. And people call scientists arrogant. Bacteria were here long before we were and will be on earth when the sun dies. I wouldn't be willing to say the same about humans.

        • http://backroomcatholic.com/ EpicusMontaigne

          It only becomes arrogance when human beings equate being the end with being dominating. We are called to be stewards of the earth and not tyrants of it.

          Though I will say humans in and of themselves aren't the end of creation. Unification with God is the actual telos of the world.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Got evidence?

        • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

          Mark, I assume that you were being facetious, there, and know that Evolution has no goal.

      • Max Driffill

        This statement represents a fairly robust misunderstanding of both evolutionary processes and evolutionary history. They linked phylogenies of the biota do not form anything like a pyramid culminating in human beings. The path of evolution are branched, and contingent. That is not to say that there isn't certain amounts of progress (very specifically defined) or that there not good tricks that evolution seems to hit upon again and again (eyes for instance) but looking at the history of life on earth there is no reason to assume we were the point of evolutionary processes. Our species, in fact lingered at the edge of extinction for quite a long time. We are an animal species with a few enormously good tricks, but that doesn't justify the claim that we are the point of evolutionary biology (for one thing we are still evolving as is everything other living thing). For another thing a case could be made for a few other organisms to fill this role of "Universal Point." The beetles maybe? Or perhaps the ants?

  • http://exconvert.blogspot.com/ Kacy

    I'm willing to concede the possibility of a deist God, but what of that? Such a world would look very much like an atheist word, including the problem of evil, as pointed out be Flew.

    I'm reminded of these words attributed to Marcus Arulius:

    ""Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones."

    As others have pointed out, why does belief in the Catholic god matter, if God is really a diest God or if God is loving and just as the Catholics claim? Most atheists come by their atheism honestly, in pursuit of truth, and as Vatican II notes, such people are alright with God, just as the separated bretheren (Protestants) are alright with God. In fact this is the argument I'm reading from the Catholics regarding Anthony Flew. "He was honestly seeking truth, therefore he is (most likely) just fine with my God." Why isn't the same benifit of the doubt given to the average atheist?

    Isn't this just another example of how the Catholic Church liberalizes their standards to fit the times? In the days of Aquinas, Anthony Flew would have been condemned as a heretic, without a possibility clause attached. I'd be more impressed with the claims of the Catholic Church if I saw their theology and morality moving ahead of that of the secular world, but instead I see an embarrassing game of catch-up. This is why I cannot believe in a Holy Spirit working in a special way through the Church. Marx's dialectic is a much more convincing grand narrative.

    • Fr.Sean

      Kacy,
      The Catholic Church does not believe she is the only one who has a monopoly on revelation. The Church believes that different faith's have various amounts of truth. Muslims believe there is a God, Jews believe in the Hebrew Scriptures and the God of Abraham, etc. other Christians believe Jesus is the Son of God. we will be judged on how much revelation we've had, and how well we've adhered to it. (Luke 12) so somebody like Flew who took a step towards the truth (according to the Catholic faith) would be adhering to his conscience. all we can do is be honest with ourselves and listen to the voice of conscience. As Catholics we believe if one has an an opportunity to hear revelation and honestly seek the truth than they would be moving towards heaven.

      • Mark Hunter

        But the Catholic Church believes it has the fullness of truth. The other religions/denominations have a lesser version of it.

        Anthony Flew took such a small step towards it he is hardly different from Christopher Hitchens who admitted that he could not disprove a deistic God.

        On the positive side, that means if there the Catholics are right, We'll all get to meet Christopher Hitchens.

        • http://backroomcatholic.com/ EpicusMontaigne

          It's certainly possible. I like to think so.

          Catholics don't (or maybe shouldn't) try to convert people to "save them", because that's a very utilitarian look at religion, which is supposed to be a relationship with God.

          Catholics should try to convert people because we have the best friend in the universe, and we think you guys would get along great.

    • Mark Hunter

      I was raised Catholic a number of years ago and this watered down Catholicism was not what I was raised one. People were going to hell I was taught. Times change and that message has been watered down, at least by the Catholics. I still get it from the few fundamentalists I know.

      Note : The attribution of those words to Marcus Aurelius is probably apocryphal. Nonetheless they still are true. If you want a good read pick up Aurelius' Meditations. To me it's one of the finest of classical literature, right after De Natura Rerum

      • TheodoreSeeber

        http://www.ewtn.com/library/papaldoc/jp2heavn.htm

        People still go to hell if they choose to.

        • Max Driffill

          How am I choosing to go to hell?

      • Fr.Sean

        Mark,

        Thanks for your comment but it is important to distinguish between "what people may have taught you" and what the church teaches. i too have heard various statements people thought was part of what the church taught that wasn't part of her teachings. essentially, if you want to be specific always stick with church councils, they have never contradicted themselves and had to retract a former statement. The Document De Verbum also gives an clear understanding on how we are to understand the word of God. By the way, earlier you were commenting on whether or not you would save your soul if you are in an invalid marriage, in a state of sin etc. I'm sure you've heard the proverb, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step". if there is a God, and if Jesus is who he says he is than the only step you need to take at this point is to be objective about looking at the faith. Start with reading through the bible, perhaps Mere Christianity and "rediscovering Catholicism" by Matthew Kelly", or "Catholic and Christian by "Alan Shreck." I personally believe if Jesus is in fact the son of God and the Church teachings are true, and you approach the faith generally trying to seek the truth than i don't think you would have anything to worry about because you would be attempting to seek the truth.

        • Mark Hunter

          "The Saviour Himself is the door of the sheepfold: 'I am the door of the sheep.' Into this fold of Jesus Christ, no man may enter unless he be led by the Sovereign Pontiff; and only if they be united to him can men be saved, for the Roman Pontiff is the Vicar of Christ and His personal representative on earth." (Pope John XXIII, homily to the Bishops assisting at his coronation on November 4, 1958)

          I guess the priests of my youth listened to this fellow too much.

          • Fr.Sean

            Mark,
            Hey, I'm Impressed, you did a little research! I often think people misunderstand or perhaps unclear that "Jesus is the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the father but through me". The only reason anyone is able to save their soul is because Jesus has paid the penalty. A Muslim, a Jew a buddhist, if they attempted to adhere to their conscience is able enter into eternity because of what Jesus did for them. we are judged by how much revelation we've had and how well we've attempted to adhere to or have been open to the truth. The Pope is the successor to St.Peter, thus he has a responsibility to all souls, and anyone in need, because Jesus is the savior of everyone. Jesus is the door, Peter has the keys which fundamental entails that he is infallible when speaking from the chair of St.Peter. Thus I would suggest if you are trying to find flaws with the Catholic faith I would stick with Church councils or on any infallible statements made by the Pope. Homilies are not infallible statement so although i agree with his statement you quoted I'm sure if you diged deep enough you may be able to find something we may deem a misrepresentation of the truth. If you do feel you may be open to investigate the faith I would suggest those books i mentioned and the Catechism.

          • Mark Hunter

            So basically ignore what the popes say. Since there have been only two infallible stateents.

            As to following Chirch councils, I'm not sure. As a heretic the third cannon of the Forth Lateren Council cause me some concern ( http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/lateran4.asp ). Fortunately the Church's teaching on that issue has changed, I hope.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Mark,
            On the night of the last supper all of the disciples swore that they would remain faithful to Jesus, that they would not abandon him and in fact lay down their lives if needed. All eleven of the twelve completely abandoned him. they went into hiding and really didn't know what to do next. in fact a common theme throughout the gospel is the misunderstanding of the disciples. They just couldn't seem to understand. after the resurrection appearances, all of them except for Judas, for he had taken his own life, completely changed course. they went into the vary places they knew they could get caught and boldly proclaimed that he had arisen.(as a side note, something had to happen for it to have that much of an effect on their actions, going from hiding to the public where they knew they would eventually be apprehended by the religious authorities). nevertheless, the theme of failure and misunderstanding on the part of the apostles is a theme that runs through the gospels. even after the resurrection Peter still made the mistake of thinking gentiles had to be circumcised, until the apostles gathered to discuss the issue (you might say that was the first church council). the simple fact is a perfect message is conveyed by imperfect messengers, so the pope still conveys a perfect message, although he himself is imperfect. when the apostles gather though or the pope makes a statement from the chair of St.Peter we believe that message is protected by the Holy Spirit. The Pope may be inspired by the Holy Spirit when giving a homily but that particular homily is not infallible.
            Secondly I think you may have misunderstood that cannon cited earlier. When someone commits a mortal sin, with full intent of the will and full knowledge and makes no intent to repent they have in fact excommunicated themselves, and needs to repent. that Cannon was simply making it verbal. Moreover "anathma sit" basically means "they are separated" and has a different connotation than one has "condemned themselves". If one makes a heretical claim they've positioned themselves outside of the communion of the church and need to go to confession to be reunited. When one's action is in the public domain their may need to be a public response. The Church was attempting to keep the body of Christ together and any act of excommunication is always done to encourage the people to return.

    • http://exconvert.blogspot.com/ Kacy

      And I must apologize if that got too far off topic. I'm probably approaching this from a different place than most atheists. I doubted God's existance when I started doubting the historical claims of the Catholic Church regarding the Holy Spirit working through the Church. If you can convince me of this, I will believe in the Christian God again. Getting me to believe in an unmoved mover or supreme being first isn't very helpful for the reasons mentioned above. I'm interested in the why Catholicism argument. After all, Catholicism offers more than mere philosophical arguments. There are real historical arguments offered, from the perpetual virginity of Mary, to the resurrection of Jesus, to the Holy Spirit guiding the Church.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        Kacy, despite your atheism, if God exists you're going to heaven- because in purgatory *all* of that history will be revealed in truth. If God doesn't exist, it won't.

        Hell is no longer an option for you.

      • Fr.Sean

        Kacy,
        I would suggest reading the books i mentioned above, Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, "Rediscovering Catholicism" by Matthew Kelly, and "Catholic and Christian" by Alan Shreck. and obviously pray, even if you aren't entirely sure about God's existence. Faith is a gift, it needs to be nurtured, buy if you pray for it i'm confident you'll be led to a deeper understanding.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          And if you can't stand to pray, may I suggest the Litany of Tarski? It's a great start. This is my personal Catholic version:
          Lord, grant me the ability to believe that which is true, not believe that which is not true, and have the wisdom to admit when I am wrong.

          • Fr.Sean

            Good Prayer THeodore!

          • TheodoreSeeber

            This conversation, along with a few others and the fact that I have Knights in my council mourning the loss of children from the Church to Atheism, caused me to write this under the prompting of the Holy Spirit (it uses a slightly different version of the Catholic Litany inspired by a conversation I had last night with a fellow Knight struggling with despair, atheism, and suicide):
            http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/2013/05/the-chaplet-of-tarski-fatima.html

            It is my hope that The Chaplet of Tarski Fatima can be used by mixed Catholic/Atheist families, especially at the time of deaths in the family.

            I encourage anybody reading this discussion to reblog- no credit needs be given.

          • Fr.Sean

            Theodore,
            That was thought provoking and enlightening, it gives you something else to think about. My cousin was an atheist for about 20 years, her family was quite disappointed that she would chose to go against something that was so important to her family, so we just prayed for her thinking that was all we could do. She came back to the church and back to the sacraments and is very involved in her parish. I do think people sometimes have to investigate their doubts, almost as if that is a journey of faith itself. (think of agustine). Encoruage your friend to pray for their family member, and remember what the Bishop said to Monica "it is impossible for one to be lost over whom someone has cried such tears". I will pray for him/her.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Yes, this was also influenced by the fact I took my mother to see Restless Heart on Mother's Day (the third decade meditation was drawn directly from a line in the film, that was a translation of the same line of St. Ambrose from _Confessions_)

      • http://www.facebook.com/jean.spearing.1 Jean Spearing

        Kacy, I would love to engage with you in conversation about why Catholicism if you are interested. What specifically is it that you doubt about what the Church teaches? If you are truly an atheist, I would think first you have to come to an acceptance of God's existence, before you can understand the God revealed to the Church.

        You can contact me at jmspearing@yahoo.com

    • physicistdave

      Kacy wrote:
      >I'm willing to concede the possibility of a deist God, but what of that?
      Such a world would look very much like an atheist word, including the
      problem of evil, as pointed out be Flew.

      I agree. I think the evidence against the existence of God (basically the "problem of pain" and the "hiddenness" argument) is marginally stronger than the arguments for God's existence.

      But, who knows?

      What bothers me is the way this poor old man was ruthlessly manipulated by the fellow who actually wrote Flew's last book.

      Truly shameful.

      Dave Miller in Sacramento

  • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ NoahLuck

    A well informed, capable thinker changes his/her mind about God. Is this evidence? Yes, I suppose so. As far as I can tell, the evidence for theory A versus theory B from conversions should be proportional to the ratio (# who switch from B to A)/(# who switch from A to B). But I couldn't tell you what the constant of proportionality should be, nor even give a sensible range. It's probably an empirical question. Furthermore, this piece of evidence is not independent of the other arguments. It's basically a summary of the strength of other arguments. That means it's useful for people who don't want to or can't examine the arguments themselves, but for a person who does examine the arguments, counting conversion stories would be double-counting evidence.

  • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

    With Brandon, I ask people to refrain from personally attacking Athony Flew, and direct your comments only at his views, views that the younger Flew would have had no problem dismissing with logical analysis.

    • physicistdave

      But, OQ, what arguments are there to consider (for example, he horribly misrepresents Einstein’s views, views that Einstein was very explicit about)? Should we really argue with Flew’s view that, in his dotage he, for unexplained reasons, suddenly found Intelligent Design credible?

      When someone offers no serious arguments, what is there to talk about save his obvious mental problems?

      Incidentally, I read one of Flew's books decades ago and was unimpressed. He was never that bright or incisive and was never the world's most famous atheist: for example, George Carlin was a lot more famous and a lot more interesting.

      Dave Miller in Sacramento

      • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

        Well, I would definitely rather listen to a performance by Carlin. I miss him.

  • http://www.facebook.com/roger.hane Roger Hane

    Such very disappointing reasoning from Flew. The argument from ignorance, the argument from incredulity. He may as well believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    • Susan

      I don't see how it should be considered ad hominem to have legitimate concerns about Antony Flew's cognitive decline. From his biographical information, it seems that he was hospitalized for dementia just over a year after "There is a God" was published. This seems completely relevant. If my facts are wrong on that, I invite commenters to correct me.
      If Antony Flew is going to be paraded as a great mind that reasoned his way to "God", the possible (and eventually clinically diagnosed) deterioration of his brain should not be dismissed as irrelevant.
      I know people in their eighties who show no signs of dementia and I know a 57 year old who has been known to poop in her daughter's-in-law closet. Dementia is serious and often very sad business.

      Back to the article, it has been pointed out already that Flew offered no support for his assertions in this interview. The fact that he found himself a deist in his declining years can be used as nothing more than an argument from authority, which we all know is fallacious.
      On top of that, he specifically conceded deism, not christianity or any other Abrahamic tradition.
      This article confuses me. What can it possibly accomplish?

      • http://www.facebook.com/roger.hane Roger Hane

        Thanks, Susan. I was unaware of Flew's condition.

      • severalspeciesof

        I share Susan's views. Dementia is an insidious condition, often stealthily masked (I speak with experience on this as I have had two relatives diagnosed with such a condition) For added context see this article about Flew and his book written right after the book was published: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/04/magazine/04Flew-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=2& Wiker's interview of Flew has to be viewed through the lens of the knowledge that dementia may have already had an effect on Mr. Flew's reasoning skills.

  • Mark Hunter

    Just looking at the title. I wonder if for balance we could have and article about"
    How the World’s Most Notorious Catholic Changed His Mind"
    I hadn't thought of it before. Probably because we as a society are so used to associating atheism with all things negative.

    • Ignorant Amos

      Or even her mind....Mother Theresa for example.

      How Catholics lose the faith?

      1. By going to schools forbidden by the Church;

      2. by the neglect of their religious duties;

      3. by the reading of bad books;

      4. by worldliness and a wicked life;

      5. by intercourse with scoffers at religion;

      6. by mixed marriages;

      7. by becoming members of secret societies;

      8. by pride and subtle reasoning on the mysteries of religion.

      by Fr. Michael Muller, 1880

      Father Michael Muller must be spinning...especially on point number 5.

  • physicistdave

    Earlier in this thread, Brandon wrote:
    >We're merely sharing a first-person interview with a leading intellect of the twentieth century.

    Whew!

    Brandon,
    do you think many people had even heard of Tony Flew before his
    "conversion experience"? Had you personally heard of
    him before???

    I'm one of the tiny number of people who actually
    read a book by Flew decades before his days of fame from his
    "conversion": I read his God and Philosophy back in
    November 1981 (I'm obsessive enough to actually keep records on this).

    It
    was about the same time I read Lewis' Mere
    Christianity
    . Despite the fact that I was and am an atheist, I
    thought Lewis had much better arguments than Flew. And, Flew was very
    boring.., painfully boring.

    If Flew was one of the great intellects of the twentieth century, Miss Piggy must have won the Nobel prize.

    Any
    list of great intellects of the twentieth century would include
    Einstein, Kurt Godel, James Watson, etc. If you insist on including
    some philosophers, maybe Russell or even Wittgenstein. But Flew? I
    hardly ever heard him mentioned at all before he gained fame in his old
    age from his "conversion."

    I know this will be falsely labeled
    "ad hominem." In fact, I happened to have had an acquaintance who knew
    Flew personally and who claimed Flew was a very decent man; I will
    accept that judgment. I've nothing against the man Antony Flew, who
    was, I am sure, a swell guy: it is his book that I am critiquing,
    because it was pathetic. Critiquing a book is not "ad hominem" at all.

    If anyone doubts this, read God and Philosophy for yourself (assuming you have a masochistic streak!).

    Dave

    P.S.
    Incidentally, there are very few "atheist books" that are any good, for
    the simple reason that anyone whose main reason for writing a book is
    that he does not believe in God really has very little to say. If an
    author has something interesting to say, his non-belief in God will be
    only one part of his view of the world, not the centerpiece.

    • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ NoahLuck

      It's not a perfect measure, but a Google News search finds only one reference (from 1987) to Antony Flew prior to his conversion in 2004. After his conversion, the news about him explodes.

      • physicistdave

        Interesting, Noah. It's a sad end to the life of a normal, rather nondescript academic philosopher. Nothing wrong with not being famous -- few of us ever will be. But to become famous because of deep and embarrassing confusion as one's life is ending, ah, that is sad.

  • Pavel Chichikov

    The only reason I can think of to question Flew's assertions on the basis of a supposed mental failing, is that you have prejudged his conclusions.

    What sort of argument is prejudice?

    • physicistdave

      Ah, Pavel, old chap! We meet again.

      Have you actually read the very confused statements Flew made, fro example, in his letters to the historian Richard Carrier? He actually admitted to being misled! Wikipedia has links to the sources (no, don't trust Wikipedia, just follow the links to the sources).

      For whatever reason -- early stages of his early dementia, simply the ordinary effects of age, or whatever -- he was deeply confused.

      The evidence is conclusive.

    • Ignorant Amos

      Do you know anyone that has succumbed to dementia...Alzheimer's for example?

      • Pavel Chichikov

        Not that I can remember.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Well I have...most recently my grandfather. It's not nice and if ever there was one needed, another nail in the charitable and omnibenevolent Christian God hypothesis.

          The dementia manifests itself well before diagnosis. It's only with this hindsight that prior irrational behavior can be explained as a symptom of the oncoming dementia.

          I'm not saying this is the case with Flew's late life conversion and irrationality, but given the overall details, I invoke William of Ockham's Razor as it being the mostly theses.

          • Pavel Chichikov

            The atheist concept of God is apparently borrowed from some kind of soppy Holy Bathrobe sentimentalism.

            From the human point of view God is not necessarily benevolent - He's often a bastard.

            I like Lewis's thoughts:

            "My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and
            unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not
            call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was
            I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?"

            -- C.S.Lewis

            Your description of Flew's conversion as irrational is tendentious.

            It would be best if you attacked his argument, not his mental faculties. If he had decided that atheism is the correct position, would you have seen that position as evidence of dementia?

            Are there no atheists who suffer from dementia?

          • Ignorant Amos

            >>The atheist concept of God is apparently borrowed from some kind of soppy Holy Bathrobe sentimentalism.

            What concept would that be then? I'm an Igtheist as it happens and I've yet to get a straight answer on the attributes of god and a reasonable definition of what the word god means.

            There are as many concepts of god as there are believers.

            >>From the human point of view God is not necessarily benevolent - He's often a bastard.

            If you insist on anthropomorphically defining your god, then yes, the god of Abraham is not benevolent. As for being a bastard, that would be de facto.

            >>Your description of Flew's conversion as irrational is tendentious.

            Perhaps, but that would depend on how he came to convert.

            >>It would be best if you attacked his argument, not his mental faculties.

            His arguments have been debunked ad infinitum. If there is a particular detail of his confusion you'd like me to address, I'll have no problem in doing so.

            His mental faculties are key to this thread. If he was compos mentis when he converted that would posit a different slant to if he was no in command of all his thought processes and decision making abilities. That is my point.

            >If he had decided that atheism is the correct position, would you have seen that position as evidence of dementia?

            No, because he was a life long Atheist prior to his conversion. Now, if he'd been a life long Deist and converted to Atheism, I'd be forced to grant you the adverse position, that his dementia may have been a contributing factor in his ability to make informative decisions.

            Have you even looked into dementia to get an idea of what we are talking about?

            "Dementia is caused by damage to brain cells. This damage interferes with the ability of brain cells to communicate with each other. When brain cells cannot communicate normally, thinking, behavior and feelings can be affected".

            "The brain has many distinct regions, each of which is responsible for different functions (for example, memory, judgment and movement). When cells in a particular region are damaged, that region cannot carry out its functions normally."

            >>Are there no atheists who suffer from dementia?

            Yes...Anthony Flew was one.

          • Pavel Chichikov

            What proof would you accept for the existence of God?

          • Pavel Chichikov

            If you can debunk Flew ad infinitum, it would seem then that you share with God the attribute of infinity.

            On to omnipotence, omniscience...

          • Ignorant Amos

            Which god? Oh, I see, the capital 'G' god with the impossible attributes... no proof, that god is a logical impossibility.

            As for other all the other gods, there is an infinite number of alternative explanations I'd have to explore before accepting a god hypothesis.

            What proof would you accept for gods?.

          • Pavel Chichikov

            You won't answer?

            What proof would you accept for the existence of God? None?

            Then what you have is dogma.

            As for me, I am at least as skeptical as you are. I do not accept as conclusive the proof contained in any book, or the persuasions of any person, for something so important as the existence of God.

            But you will see for yourself.

          • Ignorant Amos

            >>"You won't answer?

            I have answered.

            >>"Then what you have is dogma."

            I see, yet another word you fail to understand the meaning of.

            >>"As for me, I am at least as skeptical as you are. I do not accept as conclusive the proof contained in any book, or the persuasions of any person, for something so important as the existence of God."

            So you are not a Roman Catholic then?

            What evidence would you accept that your God doesn't exist?

          • Max Driffill

            He did answer and fairly thoroughly.
            1. He thought the God with a capital G was not provable as it was logically impossible.

            I actually think that since the god of the Old Testament doesn't appear to have that combination of all logically inconsistent traits he could still be tested and addressed scientifically.

            2. There are numerous other god concepts besides the big G god, but they would have to be addressed individually to give a concrete answer to the question posed. So one answer won't do.

            Why don't you provide a definition of what you mean by god and then a sensible answer can be provided to what is essentially a vague question

          • Pavel Chichikov

            I think the omnipotence paradox is an intellectual game, without real world consequences.

            God is not a concept. God is not a being. God is the ground of being. But this is only language, and human language is not adequate to describe an experience which neither i nor anyone else can provide for you. You have to have the experience yourself, just as you have to die yourself. No one can do that for you.

            Don't accept it - fine. Suit yourself.

          • Max Driffill

            You can feel free to try to twist out of the logic arm bar you are in,but it is probably just best to tap out.

            "God is not a concept." Wrong. God is a concept. Even if it is a being, or the ground of being, it is also, very clearly a concept, in this case a set of concepts. These aren't my rules.

            "God is not a being." I think this is probably true. Gods seem highly unlikely.

            "God is the ground of being." This is a statement that sounds neat and if you are believer it probably sounds really profound, but it doesn't even have the merit of being a deepity. It is a fluffy statement that does no work, but sounds as if it does.

            "But this is only language, and human language is not adequate to describe an experience which neither I nor anyone else can provide for you. You have to have the experience yourself, just as you have to die yourself. No one can do that for you.
            Don't accept it - fine. Suit yourself."

            If the language of argument and evidence is useless to get people to accept this alleged profound truth, and human language isn't up to the task then we have yet one more reason to find fault with the God that arranged this situation to begin with. I mean, if true, it isn't as if the consequences for not believing are insignificant. If our intellect is capable of experiencing this thing, why is it incapable of explaining it?

          • Pavel Chichikov

            Fine. Die and see.

          • Max Driffill

            What a profound argument.

          • Pavel Chichikov

            It is the most profound you'll ever hear, and the most final.

            Often at Mass, as you may know, we pray for unbelievers. I'll pray for you, Max. You may need all the prayers you can get.
            If you end up scared witless, call on Jesus.

          • Longshanks

            It's really amazing to watch this unfold in real time.

            The decline from someone who sounds reasonable on a superficial level to a slavering cur of a man.

            Is this the way your god-man showed you how to live?

          • Pavel Chichikov

            As for the God of the Old Testament, you might want to speak to a biblical literalist about a strict literal interpretation. I'm Catholic. We don't do that. Haven't for about 1700 years.

          • Max Driffill

            Nor was I saying you were being a literalist. I was just noting that some version of the god of Abraham could be be examined empirically (at least in principle) whereas others cannot be.

            As to whether or not the Catholic Church is literalist/fundamentalist depends very much on the topic at hand and the priest or Catholic apologist speaking. Father Larry Richards for instance seems to have a lot of sympathy for the folks at the Creation Research Center. And Catholics freely and frequently make use of a literal Adam and Eve and the Garden, and seemed to believe in a very literal Flood. This seems like the very definition of talking out of both sides of one's mouth.

          • Pavel Chichikov

            Who's Larry Richards? Is he a priest or an apologist?

            Individual priests are not authoritative spokesmen for the Church. I'm not one either.

            Which Catholics?

            Have you read the Catechism? What is your knowledge of Catholicism based on?

            Read the Catechism. All of it. Then tell me what you think.

          • Max Driffill

            If Larry Richards, and Fulton Sheen are not spokesmen for the Church then it seems like EWTN should probably pull Richards' show off of their radio station, and stop rebroadcasting the sermons of Fulton Sheen.

            My knowledge of the Catholic Church is born of growing up Catholic, going to Catholic school, going through all the rituals of childhood Catholicism. I have not read all of the Catechism. Perhaps I will get around to it, after I have finished other more interesting reading.

          • Pavel Chichikov

            I don't watch EWTN. I have no television set. I have no idea what you've seen or how you've construed it.

            It is not a authoritative for the Church either. It's just a TV station.

            Many people have gone through a Catholic education in the past fifty years and come out of it with some strange ideas.

            I have no idea what your teachers have taught you, or how you may have understood whatever it was they said.

            Best wishes on your annihilation.

          • Pavel Chichikov

            Actually, it seems to be you who define God anthropomorphically. I referred to the human point of view.

          • Ignorant Amos

            The god of the bible is an anthropomorphic god. I assumed
            that that is your god.

            >>" I referred to the human point of view."

            Do you know what the word means.

            "In religion and mythology, anthropomorphism refers to the perception of a divine being or beings in human form, or the recognition of human qualities in these beings."

          • Pavel Chichikov

            God is not a being. I've said that before.

          • Ignorant Amos

            But according to the books...and according to interpretation of countless believers, he was/is.

            If God is not a being what is it? Why is it often defined as the supreme BEING? Why do the books invoke the attributes of a being?

            "Pascal Boyer argues that while there is a wide array of supernatural concepts found around the world, in general, supernatural beings tend to behave much like people. The construction of gods and spirits like persons is one of the best known traits of religion."

            Of course modern theology has been forced to abandon the 'man in the sky' concept...it is embarrassing. But there is no doubt about the fact that it is only the few that holds that God is not a "being", both today and more so in the past.

            The Catholic Encyclopedia is an exercise in mental gymnastics in trying to describe the nature and attributes. The non-being being, being a male.

            Just Google God images and you will see the being that most associate with the anthropomorphic God. Have a look at the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel to see what 16th century thought taught about the being of God and other supernatural heavenly entity's.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Creaci%C3%B3n_de_Ad%C3%A1n_(Miguel_%C3%81ngel).jpg

          • Pavel Chichikov

            You'll understand when you meet Him.

          • Ignorant Amos

            You can't help it can you? Those six words are filled with anthropomorphic innuendo.

            I have great difficulty in understanding the ridiculous attempts at defining this supreme being of yours that is not a being.

            You reckon I'm going to meet a non thing...how does that work exactly?

            Isn't it rather a sexist and misogynistic assumption that this no-thing is male. How do you know that?

          • Pavel Chichikov

            A reply seems to have been lost.

            In effect, if there is no proof that you would accept for God's existence, then what you have left is dogma.

            I am at least as skeptical as you are, and I am a believer.

            You will see.

          • Pavel Chichikov

            I'm really interested now. What proof would you accept?

          • Ignorant Amos

            I've already said...the god of the Bible is a logical impossibility, so no proof can be put forward for such a being.

            Example: omnipotence

            Can an omnipotent god manufacture spear that pierces everything and a shield that cannot be pierced?

          • Pavel Chichikov

            Manufacture? Beings manufacture things. Are you thinking of Ares, or Thor?

            This is sophomoric stuff.

            What proof would you accept for the existence of God?

          • Ignorant Amos

            Manufacture: the act or process of producing something.

            Unless you are suggesting your God never produced anything? [Rhetorical question]

            >>"This is sophomoric stuff."

            Ya don't say.

            >>"What proof would you accept for the existence of God?"

            I've answered, yet you refuse to state what evidence would convince you the non-existence of God.

            Somewhat hypocritical.

            Definitely

          • Pavel Chichikov

            I feel as if I'm trying to explain color to someone who can't see. But you will see, even if you have to die to see it.

          • Ignorant Amos

            >>"I feel as if I'm trying to explain color to someone who can't see."

            It is more akin to you being the person that can't see and you are trying to explain the spectrum of color that you can't possibly know of, but only told of, to an art critic.

            >>"But you will see, even if you have to die to see it."

            See what I mean? You can't possibly know that. Pure conjecture as usual.

          • Pavel Chichikov

            I have seen. So will you.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Pascal's Wager eh?

            Best ya hope you're not confronted with Allah on your day of reckoning then, because with 2.5 billion Muslims out there outnumbering you lot, they have the "argumentum ad populum" won hands down. They reckon they've all seen too, all seen and are convinced that Allah, he da man, and the infidel is destined to burn...that's all I can say.

          • Longshanks

            Wait, you're dead?

          • Pavel Chichikov

            You're very angry at Flew for betraying the cause. You're very angry at anyone who believes in God. You barely conceal your rage with contrived contempt and a patronizing tone.

            OK, I don't take it personally. I'm old and I've seen plenty of what the world can dish out, good and bad.

            Your life will fly past and then you will reach the last moment, and then you will see. It won't matter to you what you thought before. You will understand that at the same time you are utterly insignificant and utterly precious to One who loves you.
            He is imperturbable. You cannot hurt Him, and yet He is infinitely tender and gentle.

            You will be entirely free to accept or reject His love. And then you will decide. Your choice. Unless you are possessed by satanic pride, you will make the right choice.

          • mgcruss

            I recently was diagnosed with a mild case of possession by satanic pride (PSP) but an emetic seemed to clear it up. I recommend that for anyone thinking of approaching the pearly gates.

          • Michael Murray

            You cannot hurt Him, and yet He is infinitely tender and gentle

          • Pavel Chichikov

            I shared with someone Amos's paradox of the spear and the shield.

            She said: Superman argument. God doesn't do party tricks.

          • Susan

            Pavel,

            Would you explain how the paradox of the spear and the shield is connected to the Superman argument?

            >God doesn't do party tricks.

            Staffs into snakes? Water into wine?

          • Pavel Chichikov

            I'll have to ask the person who used the figure - what came to my mind is thinking of God as a creature, only more powerful, like Superman in the comic.

            What perhaps you're thinking of is God as servicable, a being who performs services and arranges matters to the satisfaction of His petitioners. A kind of cosmic Jeeves. If you will, a sort of super-animated slot machine, or a gigantic Randi.

            The miracles of Jesus of Nazareth are not amusing or useful tricks. They're signs of power, and symbols of intention and meaning. It's easier to understand if you read and understand poetry. Perhaps you could call the miracles metaphor in action.

            God turns water into wine all the time, but in this case the transformation is what the middle English mystics would have called a "showing."

            When you come into the Presence, what the Jews call The Glory, or The Place, you'll understand. God is not a being.

            What He is, is far beyond my power to describe, or anyone else's power to describe.

          • Ignorant Amos

            >>"She said: Superman argument. God doesn't do party tricks."

            Just the sort of asinine answer I would expect when there is no rational rebuttal.

            The big problem with your friends answer though, is that the Bible is brim full of "party tricks".

            Maybe she hasn't read all the scriptures by which she is supposed to be living her life and has missed them?

            John 6
            28 Therefore they said to Him, "What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?"

            29 Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent."

            30 So they said to Him, "What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform?

            31 "Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'HE GAVE THEM BREAD OUT OF HEAVEN TO EAT.'"

            Of course we now know that the Moses story is myth. But according to both testaments, God and God via Jesus did all sorts of party tricks...they were just called miracles.

            The Catholic church believes in the miracle of Fatima actually took place. Now there is a party trick of omnipotent paradox proportions if ever there was one. But seeing as we are all here commenting, the story is a bit rum.

            "The event was officially accepted as a miracle by the Roman Catholic Church on 13 October 1930. On 13 October 1951, the papal legate, Cardinal Tedeschini, told the million people gathered at Fátima that on 30 October, 31 October, 1 November, and 8 November 1950, Pope Pius XII himself witnessed the miracle of the sun from the Vatican gardens."

            What? "Pope Pius XII himself witnessed the miracle of the sun from the Vatican gardens."? Yeah, of course he did. [sarcasm]

            "This Fatima “miracle” has been described in many very different ways. Some claimed that the sun spun pinwheel-like with colored streamers, while others maintained that it danced. One reported, “I saw clearly and distinctly a globe of light advancing from east to west, gliding slowly and majestically through the air.” To some, the sun seemed to be falling toward the spectators. Still others, before the “dance of the sun” occurred, saw white petals shower down and disintegrate before reaching the earth (Larue 1990, 195—196; Arvey 1990, 70—71; Rogo 1982, 227, 230—232)."

            What it does show is the penchant the religious have for a certain type of divine omnipotence they often deny exists.

          • Pavel Chichikov

            A sign isn't a party trick.

          • Ignorant Amos

            A sign, a miracle, a party trick...you say tamato, I say tomato.

            What is a "party trick" in the context of your original comment?

            If you didn't want the inference of a display of Gods omnipotence described as a party trick, you should not have quoted your friends asinine remark.

          • Pavel Chichikov

            We are through communicating. You have the manners of a swine.

          • Ignorant Amos

            >>"You have the manners of a swine."

            Ah yes...the usual religio's tactic when a raw nerve is hit
            and their argument is found wanting and without foundation , with no reasonable rebuttal. Resort to name calling, throw the toys out of the pram, and run away. Brilliant.

            If you can't attack the argument, attack the man. It's called the argumentum ad hominem and if I had a tenner for every time I witnessed the fallacy, I'd be a millionaire.

            Person A makes claim X.

            Person B makes an attack on person A.

            Therefore A's claim is false.

            Which makes you that for which you accuse I, bad mannered and bad tempered to boot.

            Adios.

          • Michael Murray

            "I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it."

          • Pavel Chichikov

            When I've been in Russia I've had very amicable relationships with atheists and with believers. People respected one another, and learned from one another. I don't know what's wrong with Westerners - perhaps it's the breakdown of the family, so that people don't know how to relate to one another.

          • Ignorant Amos

            I'd look over it if I'd been my normal self, as you know how I can be, but I was really behaving myself here on their patch because I know how temperamental these folk can be.

            I've scoured my discourse with Pavel and for the life of me, can't see what his gripe is.

            Pavel, on the other hand has inferred to me as a raging, contemptuous, patronizing pig possessed by the Devil with no respect for him. Yet I let it slide because it brings nothing to the debate.

            The "party trick" analogy was brought to the table by his nibs, yet he blows up when I use it in rebuttal.

            Talk about demanding undeserved respect for ones un-evidenced beliefs. What is the point of this site if someone who challenges a comment gets the ad hom from an adversary who has problems defending their position?

            I see the T & C's okay, just a pity others don't, and if by challenging a posters comment with something they find attacks their beliefs is seen as contempt, then they really need to a reality check out of their own faith, because everything an Atheist will say to some theists about their religion is going to be harsh, that's the point of the place, isn't it?

            Perhaps I'd be as well taking the kitten mitt's back off and getting back to where the theist has a bit of gumption and thicker skin?

          • Michael Murray

            I'd look over it if I'd been my normal self, as you know how I can be, but I was really behaving myself here on their patch because I know how temperamental these folk can be.

            I was thinking about that this morning re WLC being recommended reading in the book list. We've all been very good and ignored that.

            You seem to have got some moderator support on this one at least from Daniel.

          • Ignorant Amos

            >>"I was thinking about that this morning re WLC being recommended reading in the book list. We've all been very good and ignored that.

            I didn't even notice that one. A clear case of the "enemy of my enemy is my friend" ideal. I wonder how many of the objective morality brigade know of this little ditty on "divine command theory" from Craig...

            http://www.reasonablefaith.org/slaughter-of-the-canaanites

            The problem with divine command theory is that once it is afforded as a defence, it can always be used as a defence. That isn't the case though, because while the Inquisition used it and Bush used it as part of his invading Iraq strategy,

            "President Bush said to all of us: 'I am driven with a mission from God'. God would tell me, 'George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan'. And I did. And then God would tell me 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq'. And I did."

            Peter Sutcliffe and many other murderers throughout history were not afforded the same...one has to ask "Why?". If it is good enough for the church and a president, why not... but wait a minute, that would blow objective morality out of the water, wouldn't it?

            "The theory is supported by the Christian view that God is all-powerful because this implies that God creates moral truths, rather than moral truths existing independently of him, which could threaten his omnipotence."

            Another example of a biblical event having to be re-interpreted to fit the moral zeitgeist of subsequent followers. Maybe it is just a simple case of Gods morals were not all that, or more precisely, those that invented God had morals that were not all that. Which makes more sense to me for why things like rape, slavery and pedophilia are not against Gods morals...they were common occurrences committed by ancient peoples. It is only in these modern times that such acts are now abhorrent.

            P.S. What's the procedure for block quoting here Michael?

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Pavel, I'm not sure what you expect, you're haven't given him very much other than a pretty obscure truism. We can get a better conversation out of both sides giving better answers.

            Thanks!

          • Pavel Chichikov

            I can't give him my experience, and neither can anyone else. We all have to go through with it, either now or later.

            But I do expect to give and get respect. Without that, there is nothing but two people shouting and sneering. Silence is much to be preferred.

            But I will offer this observation:

            All the omnipotence
            paradoxes – illustrated by the question: can God create a stone He cannot lift
            – may be wrapped together in this question: can God create an infinite series
            of numbers which is not infinite?

            The provisional
            answer – Lewis’s answer – is that the question is nonsense. It’s like asking if
            God can create a square circle. The object does not exist.

            However, the true
            and comprehensive answer is yes, God can create an infinite series which is not
            infinite. But to understand how, you would have to know God.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            However, the true and comprehensive answer is yes, God can create an infinite series which is not infinite. But to understand how, you would have to know God.

            Got evidence?

          • Pavel Chichikov

            I have seen mine.

            There's a story about a group of scientists who challenged God to create life before their eyes. They said they could do whatever He could do.

            So God took a handful of dirt and molded it until it became a frog.

            Now our turn, said the scientists. They rushed over to the mud, and were just about to begin, when God said:

            Hold it! You get your own mud.

            You get your own evidence.

          • Michael Murray

            You make the claim. You provide the evidence.

          • Pavel Chichikov

            I don't make a claim. I'm stating what I know. But if you would like to suggest a scientific protocol intended to prove the existence of God, please do.

            You will also have to persuade God of offer Himself as the object of the experiment.

            It's like the test tube demanding proof of the chemist.

            Goedel did write a theorem which was supposedly a proof, but if you're up to math on Goedel's level, please go ahead and critique it.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Pavel, it is generally fine with the non-religious that you believe whatever you want (as long a you don't bother us), based on whatever you call evidence. However, if you want to have non-believers come over to your belief system, you are going to have to produce evidence that is seen as such by those whom you would like to persuade.

          • Pavel Chichikov

            I'm not as keen on whether or not you come over to a belief system as you seem to think. I have no idea who or what you are.

            Die and see.

          • Pavel Chichikov

            BTW, for a polytheist version of the omnipotence paradox, see this:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teumessian_fox

          • Randy Gritter

            So when God does miracles it proves Christianity false? Then when He fails to do a miracle it also proves Christianity false?

          • Ignorant Amos

            I'm not saying God does miracles, I'm not saying there is even a God to do miracles. But the Christian can't have their cake and eat it.

            Saying that God doesn't do miracles[party tricks] to refute the omnipotence paradox, yet claiming God does miracles[party tricks] is a contradiction.

            The Bible is full of like contradictions. Individuals claiming God doesn't do miracles to show his power to the non believer...he is not a trick pony. Yet we see examples of this very thing God doesn't do all through the scriptures.

            Example...God and Moses , what double act.

            "The Biblical Plagues, were ten calamities that, according to the biblical Book of Exodus, Israel's God, Yahweh, inflicted upon Egypt to persuade Pharaoh to release the ill-treated Israelites from slavery. Pharaoh capitulated after the tenth plague, triggering the Exodus of the Jewish people. The plagues were designed to contrast the power of Yahweh with the impotence of Egypt's various gods"

            I'd assume an omnipotent God could've dispensed with that whole side show and just smote the Egyptians as was his forte, but no, Party Tricks-R-Us.

            Ironically, and one of the most despicable things about the ten calamities in Exodus, is that God, after each trick, hardens Pharaohs heart so as not to release the chosen ones in order to show him, Pharaoh, and the Egyptians, another party trick.

            "On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn — both men and animals —and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD"

            —Exodus 12:12

            Now exactly why the animals were dragged into the frame for is beyond me. And this wan't the first calamity in which the poor animals suffered either.

            You'd have thought a chosen people witnessing the ten calamities might have been somewhat impressed by their Gods ability, but not the Israelite's. All through the book they need party tricks to re-enforce their "faith".

            Now I don't believe any of it you understand, but if the cap fits, why won't the religious wear it. Even when I point out that the esteemed Rabbi Wolpe has had to preach the Exodus as most probably a 6th century BC myth about an alleged non event a millennia earlier, believers start shooting the messenger. Go figure.

            The sooner everyone gets the message that the Bible is theological myth the better for the world in general. But is getting there.

          • Longshanks

            Beautifully explicated:

            You will understand that at the same time you are utterly insignificant and utterly precious to One who loves you.

            The essence of the sadomasochism Hitch talked about.

            He is imperturbable. You cannot hurt Him, and yet He is infinitely tender and gentle.

            And yet...
            He so loved you that he needed to put your entire existence on a knife's edge to...what? Fulfill a longing to share existence? Why? It seems pretty selfish to force beings you made in your own image to be subject to this. Seems like something an abusive lover would do. Choose me, or else.

            Puts me in mind of a song.

            You don't speak.

            You don't judge.

            You can't leave.

            You can't hurt me.

            You're just here for me to use.

          • Ignorant Amos

            >>"You're very angry at Flew for betraying the cause.

            Igtheism is not a cause...neither is Atheism. I'm just wondering when the religious are going to learn the definition of the words they erroneously define.

            >>"You're very angry at anyone who believes in God."

            Nope, I get very angry when those that believe in God can't keep it to themselves and try and force their irrational nonsense into every facet of my and others lives. Especially when they are ignorant of the details of their own position.

            >>"You barely conceal your rage with contrived contempt and a patronizing tone."

            This is par for the course with religious of all stripes. They demand undeserved respect for their flavor of faith and when it isn't forth coming, they get all bent out of shape. They don't like it when the minutae of their faith is challenged so they project their own feelings onto the other side. It is classic, and I've witnessed it so many times I've lost count. My understanding is that this site was set up to so the Catholics could investigate the Atheist arguments and have their own challenged, maybe I was wrong?

            >>"OK, I don't take it personally. I'm old and I've seen plenty of what the world can dish out, good and bad."

            No doubt from the comfort of an armchair, although I could be wrong. I, on the otherhand, have seen the evils of religion up close and personal. I was born in the cauldron of Christian sectarian bigotry known as Ireland, Belfast to be precise. I also went there as a serving member of the armed forces. Trust me when I say, the bad always outweighed the good hundred fold.

            >>"Your life will fly past and then you will reach the last moment, and then you will see.

            I will see what? Everyone's life flies past them. Four score and twenty if we are lucky, it is what one does with those four score and twenty as far as the individual is considered.

            >>"It won't matter to you what you thought before.""

            Well it won't matter to anyone. Belief or none.

            >>"You will understand that at the same time you are utterly insignificant and utterly precious to One who loves you. He is imperturbable."

            Here is the believers problem. You start from a premise that is based on a circular argument. This results in an argument from false premise. This results in a false conclusion even if the answer is correct. Not just Christian believers, all deity believers have this problem. Try it for yourself with another religion if you don't believe me. Hinduism for example, a religion with a history that supersedes the Abrahamic faiths by millennia.

            >>"You cannot hurt Him, and yet He is infinitely tender and gentle.

            I cannot hurt an none entity. The none entity cannot hurt me...everyone is happy. As for being infinitely tender and gentle, give me a break and have a look around you Pavel. Does the world look like it has a nanny that is tender and gentle?

            >>"You will be entirely free to accept or reject His love. And then you will decide. Your choice. Unless you are possessed by satanic pride, you will make the right choice."

            Whatever.

          • Pavel Chichikov

            From the comfort of an armchair? Nah.

            About that spear and shield. The omnipotence paradox goes back probably to Aristotle and maybe Zeno.

            MERE WORDS

            If God made me an impassable
            shield

            Said Hector

            If God made me an
            invincible spear

            Said Achilles

            How could there be the
            both of these?

            Asked Socrates

            But Tiresias the onlooker
            said

            Show us both weapons

            Then summon the Lord
            to the court of a thousand

            Thousand, thousand

            Command Him to square
            the round circle, lift

            His own immoveable
            stone

            Aristophanes the
            comic poet

            Laughed at skeptics

            That which exists,
            exists by decree

            His will is the
            world

            That which you think
            with is also His

            Mind and spirit

            But make your own
            weapons, then pose the question

            Using mere words

            Pavel

            May
            29, 2013

          • Pavel Chichikov

            I'm one of the people who kept you from going up in radioactive dust. Not from an armchair.

            You're a stupid man.

          • Ignorant Amos

            >>"About that spear and shield. The omnipotence paradox goes back probably to Aristotle and maybe Zeno."

            Well, I took it from the "irresistible force paradox" found in the 3rd century BC Han Feizi book of philosophy. Therefore before Aristotle but after Zeno, not that it matters.

            Nevertheless, the paradox exists.

            "The paradox highlights cases where, in performing an action, an omnipotent being would be limiting its abilities (therefore rendering it very firmly not omnipotent); conversely if it was unable to perform such an action, it would also be proving itself not to be omnipotent. These logical contradictions have been pondered over for many years and often stump even great theologians, who usually just scream "does not apply" before running and hiding under the bed in case they disappear in a poof of logic. The paradox represents a reductio ad absurdum, with the conclusion that a truly omnipotent being cannot exist.

            What the religious resort to in reply to the paradox is illogical. And "MERE WORDS".

            You can argue all day long about what the definition of omnipotence is, and that your Gods "omnipotence is not necessarily bound by the laws of logic, physics or mathematics", but you will be playing a game of semantics. In which case you will also have concede to other deities the omnipotence of your definition.

            Christian philosophers posit...

            "Omnipotence, they say, does not mean that God can do anything at all but, rather, that he can do anything that's possible according to his nature."

            Which makes the word 'omnipotent' to be impotent as that definition applies to us all.

            Hebrews 6:18 says it is "impossible for God to lie."

            Yet we read in Genesis, "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."

            But we all know that according to the myth, Adam did eat of the tree of knowledge but didn't die on that day. Not just that he didn't die that day, he lived to the ripe old age of 930 years of age...if you can believe such a ridiculous notion.

            This leads us onto Gods omniscience, for a claim of the religious that God knows everything, he didn't know where Adam & Eve were hiding in the Garden of Eden.

            Another example of Gods not knowing everything or lying...

            "God promises to make Isaac's descendants as numerous as "the stars of heaven", which, of course, never happened. The Jews have always been, and will always be, a small minority." Genesis 26:4

            We'll just leave omnibenelovence to save the God figure further embarrassment, shall we?

            All "MERE WORDS" of course.

            In fact, all any believer in gods has as evidence for their favorite deity is "MERE WORDS", and in your case, contradictory and inconsistent words at that.

            Apologist scholars are at six's and seven's on the 3 O's issue.

            "However, if we were to insist that omnipotent meant God could do anything and everything at all, we would need to reject that description, because His word says He cannot! For example, God “cannot lie” (Titus 1:2), and He “cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:13). The Bible clearly shows that God cannot act contrary to His nature. But do these “cannots” mean He is not omnipotent—not almighty? Not if we let Scripture define its own terms!"

            Read that last bit again.

            "Not if we let Scripture define its own terms!"

            Epic fail and a classic example of Circular reasoning (also known as circular logic) or "PARADOXICAL THINKING" and it is a logical fallacy.

            This is why there can be no evidence that would convince me of the existence of the Christian god based on these attributes.

            To put it in the words of a recent master of philosophy...Homer...

            ”Could Jesus microwave a burrito so hot that he himself could not eat it?"—Homer Simpson

            Or was it something about a hotdog being to big to eat?

          • Pavel Chichikov

            The paradox is all in your mind. You are a solipsist.

          • Pavel Chichikov

            I've watched an atheist state pile up millions of corpses. The scale was rather tipped towards the bad. The believers, the sacred remnant, kept their heads and their faith.

            I saw what happens when Man forgets God. Magadan and Kolyma happen. Beating people to death with hot iron rods, or working people in gold mines at 50 below on 1400 calories a day happens. It takes about two weeks to kill someone that way.

            There's not nearly enough space here to go on.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            It has been addressed elsewhere on this site, but what you've set up is a definitional sleight-of-hand "party trick". The same as "a rock so heavy he can't lift it" or "a hotdog so big that he can't lift it".

            While Descartes says "Yes, God can do that", he's one of the few philosophers to hold that absolute omnipotence position (his reasoning was basically God transcends all laws, even axiomatic definitions).

            I'd recommend giving Peter van Inwagen's The Problem of Evil a spin, at least his portions on omnipotence. He describes omnipotence, not as the power to do anything (which is meaningless, as you're definitional refutation shows), but as having the power to do anything metaphysically possible. Here's a quick excerpt.

            Omnipotence is the power to do anything that is metaphysically possible. To say that God is omnipotent means that he can do anything such that his doing that thing is metaphysically possible. … Aquinas says that…”whatever implies a contradiction does not fall within the scope of divine omnipotence”. …Descartes [says] “God is able to do anything, including creating two mountains that touch at their bases and have no valley between them”

            He goes much deeper into the different kinds of omnipotence. I can email you a PDF of the book if you'd like.

          • Ignorant Amos

            This is the same as with the miracle enigma. While you are free to hold whichever definition of what omnipotent means for you, I am describing the definition that the ignorant masses understood it to mean throughout the history of the God to which it is being applied.

            Descartes proposal on what Gods omnipotence means, I contend, is the idea of omnipotence that the religious throughout history understood, or was told, to be the definition.

            But yet again we have an attribute of God that has been interpreted to suit.

            Jeremiah 32:17 Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee:

            "...there is nothing to hard for thee"...straight forward enough a concept when taken in the context of the author, the 7th century BC. It was a lot easier for God to do anything than it is now. Things were a lot simpler and easier to explain in ancient antiquity..."God did it"...see, easy peasy.

            Since then though, theologians have been concocting all sorts of mental gymnastics to explain such things as omnipotence. Not just that embarrassing attribute, but the other omni's that are fallacious in view of our knowledge subsequent to the assertions.

            At least Descartes has the gumption to use the wild card that is, God doesn't play within mans rules so logic for God goes out the window, which is fine and dandy, but it means that all gods must be afforded the same. That sticks in the craw of the one true religion, whichever one whose adherents believe that to be that is, so we are left with changing the definitions of words when necessary, or reinterpret the scriptures meanings or intentions. None of which believers have any problems with, better that than having to lose faith in the word.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            So you don't want a copy of the book?

          • Ignorant Amos

            I'm already aware of van Inwagen's writing on the subject.

            I've no need for the book. I understand the concept within. What I'm saying is that it is a concept borne out of trying to shore up faulty scripture.

            "...Sophisticated Theology™ is merely a thin veneer of fancy academic words brushed onto the usual cheap plywood of fairy tales. In the end, it still comes down to theologians making stuff up to buttress a shaky faith against the onslaught of science and rationality: the post facto rationalization of religion euphemistically called “apologetics.”

            http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/08/15/another-very-sophisticated-theologian-explains-why-animals-feel-pain/

            The book is available online for free at http://www.giffordlectures.org/Browse.asp?PubID=TPTPOE&Volume=0&Issue=0&TOC=True

            But thanks all the same for your generous offer.

          • Michael Murray

            "My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?"

            Why do people find Lewis so impressive? Honestly it's all argument by failure of imagination and lack of knowledge of science. Our sense of justice evolved as part of living in small groups of primates. Various other primates have a sense of justice. There are some nice examples here

            http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/ken_daniels/why.html#Discussion

            You'll need to scroll down a bit. You might like the rest of the book as well.

          • Pavel Chichikov

            Just So story.

          • Michael Murray

            Just So story.

            Wow what a devasting rebuttal. I'm completely gutted and off to confession for the first time in 40 years.

          • Max Driffill

            Its at times like this I am reminded of all the damage that Stephen J Gould has wrought.

  • yahoo

    It's really amazing how people avoid reading St Thomas' 5 reasons for the existance of God.

    • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

      What would Thomas have revised if he had lived after Darwin and known what we know about the real world, today?

      • physicistdave

        Maybe not much. His nickname among his contemporaries was the "Dumb Ox," you know, and many of his pronouncements (e.g., on the joy the faithful would experience seeing the suffering of the damned in Hell) betray a real sociopath.

        See
        Summa Theologica
        Question 94. The relations of the saints towards the damned
        Article 3. Whether the blessed rejoice in the punishment of the wicked?
        ( http://www.newadvent.org/summa/5094.htm )

        I think it is fair to say that the man's reputation is rather exaggerated because of his horrifying willingness to push the "party line."

        Dave

  • http://www.facebook.com/jean.spearing.1 Jean Spearing

    gees ...I wish I had those credentials

  • http://www.facebook.com/jean.spearing.1 Jean Spearing

    Not too long ago, I was debating the existence of God with a professed atheist and after many words, I saw intuitively that one can easily surmise the existence of God by virtue of the fact of the existence of the law. The reason is quite simple. Without a higher authority to whom one must give an account of one's life, there is no foundation on which to build a lawful and free society. One can impose laws by force, or by coercion, but then this requires a totalitarian form of governance, to some degree or another. But, in a free society where one answers to no higher authority than his/her own opinion, then there are as many opinions as there are human beings and therefore no consensus about what is or is not a just law. So the only restraint on human behavior is fear of getting caught or of shame for not conforming. Once again, one group imposes on another group. But when human beings are ruled by a common belief in principles (such as the Ten Commandments) that ought to govern their behavior, then they can find consensus if all adhere to those laws. These immutable laws have to have a source... otherwise they are inventions...opinions and can be contested. So there you have it...there is a God from whom the law flows and if all of society conformed themselves to this law, there would be peace between men and between God and man. It is the ONLY way there will ever be true and lasting PEACE

    • Michael Murray

      This is an argument not for the actual existence of gods but for why societies that believe in a god are more likely to survive over time.

      • http://www.facebook.com/jean.spearing.1 Jean Spearing

        Michael, it is a proof for the existence of God. Let us take pure Christianity authentically lived by every human person on earth, and pure atheism authentically lived (without reference to historical Christian influences). Take both of those to the extreme: one leads to destruction of humanity because the mindset 'anything goes...do what thou will to do...as long as you don't get caught...I only have one life...get all you can get now because there is nothing afterward..." grips society and escalates to confusion, contention, corruption, atrocities, holocausts, war, and ultimately anhilation of humanity...thus to death. The opposite is true if every human person acknowledges God, acknowledges and obey's His law. God only has ONE will, not 9 billion wills to match every person's opinion. So if every human person acknowledged and conformed themselves to that ONE will of God, there would be no confusion because everyone agrees with God's will, there would be no contention because everyone submits to his law, no corruption because every person knows it will be revealed in the end and they will answer for it; the same is true for atrocities and holocausts and war....if we all believed every other person was made in the likeness of God and is loved by God and we all truly loved God ourselves, we would never harm or destroy one another.....this all is taking Christianity to its extreme end of course. The logic is proof that there is a God; because if there is not a God, than man ultimately will destroy himself.

        • severalspeciesof

          Whoa there Jean... you have compared atheism (which in it's simplest form is an absence of belief) and holds no unifying premise of a 'philosophy of life', with a 'philosophy of life' that you then blanket the whole of humanity with to make your point. In other words, one can say the exact same thing of ANY religion in that if EVERYONE holds to those beliefs (and actually lives those beliefs), things would be grand...

          'Atheism' can't be pushed to the extreme in the way you are presenting it, because the examples you are presenting aren't 'atheism'. 'Anything
          goes' IS NOT atheism...

          • http://www.facebook.com/jean.spearing.1 Jean Spearing

            I am sorry but I disagree with you. Atheism is a state of mind or a state of being from which one forms a rule of life. The same can be true of Christianity. That rule of life (the law of which I speak) leads society to two totally different outcomes.

          • http://www.facebook.com/jean.spearing.1 Jean Spearing

            If every man makes choices to maximize their welfare, then true believing Christians believe it is their best interest to obey God, follow his law, and respect man and his creation. Where Christians get into trouble is when they are convinced, or convince themselves, that God's law is other than what it really is, or somehow doesn't pertain to them. In other words they delude themselves that an evil is a good or what is truly good, is bad for them. This confusion comes from several sources: concupiscence of the flesh, ignorance of God, lack of grace (wisdom), indoctrination by others, false information, and the good ol' hairy-legged guy called Satan.

            Atheists, not believing in a higher order or higher law, have absolutely no reason not to make up their own laws to their own benefit. Since there is no 'rule of law' founded in a higher power, the laws they create or adhere to, or follow, will be laws they believe are in their own interest to follow. If they see some benefit is skirting that law, that is exactly what they will do because they are rational economic beings maximizing their welfare, even at the expense of others.

          • severalspeciesof

            Atheists (in general, and in fact the majority of humanity) do believe in a 'higher' law beyond their own welfare. It's called the golden rule, something that even other primates seem to have a sense of... You seem to have a very dire view of base humanity...

    • physicistdave

      Yeah, Jean, because as we all know, historically religion has generally been a force for "true and lasting PEACE": the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Wars of Religion, the conflict between Islamdom and Christendom, etc.

      Yeah, yeah, I know, all that was not true religion. Maybe in a hundred and fifty thousand years or so someone will develop that true religion that will bring peace.

      "Repeat a lie often enough and it starts seeming to be truth."

      • http://www.facebook.com/jean.spearing.1 Jean Spearing

        Ok, I'm not going to discount history or deny it. But let me point out Thethat I was never speaking about history and making any claims about it in the first place. For that matter, I am not even speaking about Christians or atheists per se. What I am speaking about is the law and how it can affect society. My point is that, if law is derived from belief in a higher power to whom one must account for his/her life, there is within that person motivation to adhere to the law without any other motivating factor forcing them to obey the law. If every person in society believes in that higher power, in "God" lets say, and they agree about God's law (i.e Ten Commandments as an example), then this belief operates en masse on society for the good of all in society. However, if God does not exist, then there is no foundation for law except coercion of some sort or another, then people will do whatever they believe they can get away with doing. The extreme of this disbelief in infanticide, cannibalism, murder, corruption/theft, and dictatorial enforcement of one person's 'law'. That is to say, the strong dominate and force or destroy the weak.

        I also want to point out about the historical track record of (some) Christians - because they did not all behave badly...the point is that when a Christian does not live what he professes to believe, then he is not a Christian at all (that is to say he is a practical atheist who falsely professes belief in God). I am speaking -without direct reference to Christianity - of persons or a people who genuinely believe in God and believe and affirm his law and his sovereignty over them.

        • physicistdave

          Jean wrote to me:

          > But let me point out that I was never speaking about history and making any claims about it in the first place. For that matter, I am not even speaking about Christians or atheists per se.

          But, I was talking about Christians per se and pointing out that Christianity tends to induce incredibly evil behavior for the simple reason that the Christian God is an utterly inhuman monster who was going to torture all humans for all eternity, until He decided to let a few off the hook in exchange for the torture of His Son.

          This is and always has been the central teaching of Christianity, and it is truly monstrous.

          No, not all Christians are monstrous as a result: for most Christians, their basic humanity (usually) triumphs over the evil of their religion.

          But, let’s be honest: Christian torturers such as the infamous Torquemada are imitating the God of the New Testament much more closely than those Christians who do show compassion for all human beings.

          Compassion and sympathy are part of human nature, but the belief that the vast majority of the human race deserves eternal torture in Hell... that comes from Christianity.

          Dave

          • Jacob Neeson

            Christians don't believe that any majority of humanity belongs in Hell. Christians believe that they don't know.

            What about Christians who did Christianity right? Take just one: Blessed Mother Theresa. That's what the living out of Christianity really induces.

            "[T]he Crusades, the Inquisition, the Wars of Religion, the conflict between Islamdom and Christendom, etc." are the examples you give. Where in the teaching of Christ are any of these condoned? It's really a person's misunderstanding of his own human nature that induces selfishness and greed, "the root of all evil".

        • Ignorant Amos

          >>"My point is that, if law is derived from belief in a higher power to whom one must account for his/her life, there is within that person motivation to adhere to the law without any other motivating factor forcing them to obey the law."

          So how do you account for all the peoples of the world that had no one supreme law giver, or any supreme law giver at all?

          "The nations of the upper Orinoco, the Atabapo, and the Inirida, as Humboldt records, have no worship other than that of the powers of Nature."

          They seemed to do just fine until the Christians arrived with their corruptive God.

          " Originally, Indians had no terms expressive of the conception of a Supreme Being; such terms as they now possess have been framed to suit civilized, especially missionary, requirements"

          This contention is confirmed by Gumilla (II, 7),2 one of the early missionary fathers on the Orinoco, who writes as follows:

          " In three nations which will be mentioned directly they have a word indicative, after their fashion, of God: we trust that time and labor will also reveal, in other tribes, a name which until now they have furnished no sign of recognizing either by word or expression. Even in the said nations no outward ceremony of divine worship or adoration has been observed. Nor are the terms which express God in the different languages so particularized and indubitable as to convince us of their sure and certain signification."

          No need for god rules to co-exist then.

    • Max Driffill

      Where are these immutable laws? You don't find them in religion. Or anywhere.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jean.spearing.1 Jean Spearing

    With regard to my post below, it is interesting to note how many societies agree on the basic principles of law. For instance murder and stealing are wrong. Where does this intuitive sense in human beings come from?

    In my view, I believe that there is a direct parallel between the loss of the sense of God in society and the increase in corruption and wrong-doing. Why? Because there is no interior check on behavior once a person no longer believes he/she will answer to God. There are other restraints on behavior, such a person's intuitive need to feel as though they are 'good'. This 'good' however, becomes relative once higher law is discarded. This generation of atheists are really products of a Christianized culture in which 'the good' is inculcated into their world view from that culture itself. As time progresses and Christian principles are discarded by future generations, you will see society move more and more toward murderous cults, cannibalism or totalitarian control of the powerful over the weak. Freedom will no longer be perceived as a good. Cannibalism is already on the rise; just recently I saw where some Syrian rebels ate the hearts of the enemies they killed and where cannibalism is justified in Muslim schools. Some Chinese think a fetus is a delicacy. It's already coming.

    • Michael Murray

      With regard to my post below, it is interesting to note how many societies agree on the basic principles of law. For instance murder and stealing are wrong. Where does this intuitive sense in human beings come from?

      We evolved from primates that lived in small familial bands. It's not a huge leap, once we developed intellect, to get from there to The Golden Rule.

      • http://www.facebook.com/jean.spearing.1 Jean Spearing

        I didn't evolve from a primate. This claim is a theory and has not ever been proven.

        • Michael Murray

          Of course it's not proven. Nothing in the natural world is proven. The evidence for the descent of human primates from some form of primate midway between us and chimps is so overwhelming as to constitute what we popularly call the truth.

          You really should go and learn about evolution it's one of the greatest intellectual achievements any primate has made.

          • http://www.facebook.com/jean.spearing.1 Jean Spearing

            I know about evolution and do accept the science that is 'in' on it but much of it is theory that has not been proven, especially when it comes to the missing link and the source of the big bang. I also know that the more scientists learn about creation, the more they move toward acceptance that there has to have been some intelligent designer behind it all.

          • Andrew G.

            If you think that "missing link" is even a meaningful concept then you know nothing about evolution.

            The big bang is nothing to do with evolution.

            It is also not the case that scientists move towards acceptance of a designer; if anything, the reverse is true.

          • http://www.facebook.com/jean.spearing.1 Jean Spearing

            Andrew, I never claimed to know about evolution and in fact I was not the one who brought it up. I spoke about the law and made inferences about how the source of law affects the outcome of societies (the source being that the law either comes from God or is made up by man).

          • Andrew G.

            Jean, you said this:

            I know about evolution and do accept the science that is 'in' on it but much of it is theory that has not been proven, especially when it comes to the missing link and the source of the big bang.

            What is that if not "claiming to know about evolution"?

            That your 300,000'th (or whatever the number is) cousin is a chimp is a fact that's established beyond all reasonable dispute. In particular, the existence of specific ERVs shows beyond doubt that all humans and all chimps are descendants of a specific (and given a time machine, identifiable) individual hominid ape. Other ERVs give the same evidence for the relationships with other extant branches of the hominids.

            None of this requires finding any "missing links". We can and do prove these relationships based only on extant species without needing to consider fossils; the fossil record is a separate, independent line of evidence that leads us to the same conclusions, thus making the conclusion vastly stronger.

          • http://www.facebook.com/jean.spearing.1 Jean Spearing

            There is a distinction and it is this: I am aware of the theory of evolution and and its basic premises. I am not an expert on the scientific details of how it works.

          • Michael Murray

            And evolution was bought in to explain to you where our sense of morality comes from. Once you understand that it is not hard to see how things like The Golden Rule get codified into the laws we have today. No gods are required. So this is not a cunning attempt to avoid addressing your original argument. It is addressing your original argument. I also pointed out that your original argument at best showed that belief in gods might be useful. Not that gods exist.

          • http://www.facebook.com/jean.spearing.1 Jean Spearing

            did you even read the article at the top?

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Jean, there are two parts to understanding Evolution, the first is Common Descent and the other is the mechanism of Natural Selection. Common Descent is an observed fact, not a theory. The Theory of Evolution (what is still being refined) is about how Natural Selection worked to generate the species we see evolving as we trace Common Descent. There is no question that we have a line of ancestors that go through a common ancestor with chimps about six million years ago, and then keep going to cells at the beginning of life. (But the Theory of Evolution is not about the Big Bang.)

          • http://www.facebook.com/jean.spearing.1 Jean Spearing

            Common descent may be an observed fact, but no one on planet earth has seen a human being evolve from a monkey or a fish or whatever. There is still unsettled science here. And I do know Evolution and the Big Bang are two different things. But they both contain unanswered questions about the origin of man and the origin of the universe. Catholic teaching on these does not conflict with science and in fact affirms that which is already established in science about the origins of both man and creation. I am Catholic and I adhere to what it says. Here is a link that may help with that (I didn't read it all but trust the source to give you an authentic Catholic position):

            http://www.ewtn.com/library/humanity/evolutn.txt

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Jean that link goes to a paper from 1983 that cites an RCC position on the Theory of Evolution from 1959. Times and science have moved on and the evidence has become vastly more extensive, especially from DNA sequencing that was not available in the 20th century. I suggest to you look at this short statement by Kenneth Miller about Evolution and the RCC. Prof. Miller is famous for defense of both Evolution and being a practicing Catholic who believes that the truth in the science is not a problem for faith.

            I really appreciate what Prof. Miller has done to educate Catholics about the Theory of Evolution so that they will face the facts. However, I must point out that while you can keep the faith, you do have to drop the story of Genesis. Combining Evolution and genetic anthropology we can show that there never were a single starting pair of humans, but rather, that the breeding population was never below a few thousand (although that minimum was a close call for our species). No Adam and Eve means no Fall and no Original Sin, and thus no need to be redeemed.

          • http://www.facebook.com/jean.spearing.1 Jean Spearing

            Q. Quine, I am not a science student, nor am I an expert on the Catholic teachings on evolution. I provided a link from EWTN because I know EWTN would not post something in conflict with Catholic teaching. I admitted I did not read the article all the way through but thought it might give you insight into the fact that Catholic teaching does not contradict science on these questions.

            I think that all of these debates this morning about evolution and primates and worms and the Chinese are distractions from my initial posts and premises about law and whether it provides a proof of the existence of God. When people cannot challenge you on the central aspect of your claim, they will try to discredit you in bits and pieces by finding some minute fact that is out of order in some obscure way and attacking that, so as to lead you astray into discussions that have nothing to do with the original proposal at all.

            I am sorry if I refuse to surrender to that strategy to discredit my initial claim about the law and how its source impacts man's behavior by engaging in debate about unrelated topics. If you would first address my origin premise, then perhaps I will go further down these other roads. How can I expect to discuss God's creation with someone, with whom I have not even convinced that God exists. So let us start there first.

            As for what you said about Adam and Eve and the fall of man, here it is directly from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

            The Catechism of the Catholic Church

            # 375 The Church, interpreting the symbolism of biblical language in an authentic way, in the light of the New Testament and Tradition, teaches that our first parents, Adam and Eve, were constituted in an original "state of holiness and justice". This grace of original holiness was "to share in. . . divine life".

            # 390 The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents.

            # 399 Scripture portrays the tragic consequences of this first disobedience. Adam and Eve immediately lose the grace of original holiness. They become afraid of the God of whom they have conceived a distorted image - that of a God jealous of his prerogatives.

            # 404 How did the sin of Adam become the sin of all his descendants? The whole human race is in Adam "as one body of one man". By this "unity of the human race" all men are implicated in Adam's sin, as all are implicated in Christ's justice. Still, the transmission of original sin is a mystery that we cannot fully understand. But we do know by Revelation that Adam had received original holiness and justice not for himself alone, but for all human nature. By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state. It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice. And that is why original sin is called "sin" only in an analogical sense: it is a sin "contracted" and not "committed" - a state and not an act.

            # 411 The Christian tradition sees in this passage an announcement of the "New Adam" who, because he "became obedient unto death, even death on a cross", makes amends superabundantly for the disobedience, of Adam. Furthermore many Fathers and Doctors of the Church have seen the woman announced in the Protoevangelium as Mary, the mother of Christ, the "new Eve". Mary benefited first of all and uniquely from Christ's victory over sin: she was preserved from all stain of original sin and by a special grace of God committed no sin of any kind during her whole earthly life.

            # 417 Adam and Eve transmitted to their descendants human nature wounded by their own first sin and hence deprived of original holiness and justice; this deprivation is called "original sin".

            # 635 Christ went down into the depths of death so that "the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live." Jesus, "the Author of life", by dying destroyed "him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and [delivered] all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage." Henceforth the risen Christ holds "the keys of Death and Hades", so that "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth."

            Today a great silence reigns on earth, a great silence and a great stillness. A great silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. . . He has gone to search for Adam, our first father, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow Adam in his bonds and Eve, captive with him - He who is both their God and the son of Eve. . . "I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. . . I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead."

            # 766 The Church is born primarily of Christ's total self-giving for our salvation, anticipated in the institution of the Eucharist and fulfilled on the cross. "The origin and growth of the Church are symbolized by the blood and water which flowed from the open side of the crucified Jesus." "For it was from the side of Christ as he slept the sleep of death upon the cross that there came forth the 'wondrous sacrament of the whole Church.'" As Eve was formed from the sleeping Adam's side, so the Church was born from the pierced heart of Christ hanging dead on the cross.

            # 2361 "Sexuality, by means of which man and woman give themselves to one another through the acts which are proper and exclusive to spouses, is not something simply biological, but concerns the innermost being of the human person as such. It is realized in a truly human way only if it is an integral part of the love by which a man and woman commit themselves totally to one another until death."

            Tobias got out of bed and said to Sarah, "Sister, get up, and let us pray and implore our Lord that he grant us mercy and safety." So she got up, and they began to pray and implore that they might be kept safe. Tobias began by saying, "Blessed are you, O God of our fathers. . . . You made Adam, and for him you made his wife Eve as a helper and support. From the two of them the race of mankind has sprung. You said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone; let us make a helper for him like himself.' I now am taking this kinswoman of mine, not because of lust, but with sincerity. Grant that she and I may find mercy and that we may grow old together." And they both said, "Amen, Amen." Then they went to sleep for the night.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Well Jean, I hope you will see that when you present things to non-believers that contradict the known facts of the world, it does not get very far with us. You have a right to your own opinion that those things are true, so that is where it ends.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Jean: The godless and immoral Chinese people are eating fried fetuses. I was told it by someone so it must be true.

            Atheist: No, it's an urban myth Jean, try checking stuff out for yourself.

            Jean: Adam & Eve where real historical people made by God from mud and a rib. I was told so it must be true.

            Atheist: No, there wasn't two first humans, it's all about the Evolution of life.

            Jean: I don't like your tone and distractions from my original points. Your science is too hard...I like the catechisms far better...easier ya see.

            Atheists: Oh dear, another one bites the dust.

          • Ignorant Amos

            "How can I expect to discuss God's creation with someone, with whom I have not even convinced that God exists."

            The point of this website is to look at both sides of the debate, not to proselytize. Good luck with that one, you've no chance.

            "So let us start there first."

            No, let's not.

          • physicistdave

            Jean,

            Google the “Larson-Witham” study. The rate of unbelief among top scientists is overwhelming, and is about the same today as it was in 1900.

            You are getting your information from the same sort of people who spread the “Cannibalism is on the rise” story.

            I’m a scientist (Ph.D. in physics from Stanford), and I’ve known lots of other scientists. But, I’m not relying just on my personal experience but also on solid data – check out the Larson Witham study.

            Really: the people who are telling you that scientists are turning to faith or Intelligent Design are simply lying through their teeth.

            Dave

          • Max Driffill

            Clearly you don't understand evolutionary theory. At all. You used two terms that betray this fact as much an admission. Big Bang, and missing link. Also, as a biologist I can tell you that I know no biologist personally that would accept your last statement at all. That is an anecdote but it seems to be one that jibes with research on religious sensibilities on scientists.

        • severalspeciesof

          Jean, You are only one-third right... though linguistically, two-thirds right...

          • http://www.facebook.com/jean.spearing.1 Jean Spearing

            OK well you can see I didn't excel in the natural sciences. That doesn't mean I am wrong. I just heard an radio interview of an expert on debate (don't recall his name). He said the two sides must first agree on terms...understand the meaning of the terms used. So I took you to mean I evolved from a monkey when you apparently were saying I come from a species that is called a primate.

          • severalspeciesof

            None of us, here and now came from a monkey or anything else, other than two prior human beings. Evolution isn't some 'birth of a monster', a huge jump from one species to another. If there is one thing that creationists are right with, is the idea of micro-evolution. Evolution as a mechanism is micro. Maybe this visual will work: http://i.imgur.com/xWpvw.jpg and yes I understand this is getting way off target, but truthful knowledge can't hurt... ;-)

        • Max Driffill

          Your species certainly did. The evidence of this is so overwhelming that it would be perverse to deny it. Seriously. Evolution is as firmly established as heliocentricity as gravity, in short as well as any well understood phenomena.

        • articulett

          Yes, you did. It's a fact. Here, let Catholic Ken Miller explaiin it to you: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zi8FfMBYCkk

          This is considered "proven" as much as gravity is proven. The only people who don't "believe it" are people who are involved with fundamentalist religions (primarily fundamentalist Christians and Muslims) who believe that god will send them to hell unless they believe a particular "creation story".

          Unless gods, demons, or advanced aliens are dicking around with DNA to fool people, all life on earth descends from a common ancestor.http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=universal-common-ancestor

          http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/2013/02/07/meet-the-last-common-ancestor-of-bats-whales-sloths-and-humans/

          If you are interested in the truth, I suggest you get your science from scientists and not people who have a vested interest in a particular supernatural belief system.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Your ignorance of your own churches position on this is nothing but flabbergasting...

          The Church has deferred to scientists on matters such as the age of the earth and the authenticity of the fossil record. Papal pronouncements, along with commentaries by cardinals, have accepted the findings of scientists on the gradual appearance of life. In fact, the International Theological Commission in a July 2004 statement endorsed by Cardinal Ratzinger, then president of the Commission and head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, later Pope Benedict XVI, now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, includes this paragraph:

          "According to the widely accepted scientific account, the universe erupted 15 billion years ago in an explosion called the 'Big Bang' and has been expanding and cooling ever since. Later there gradually emerged the conditions necessary for the formation of atoms, still later the condensation of galaxies and stars, and about 10 billion years later the formation of planets. In our own solar system and on earth (formed about 4.5 billion years ago), the conditions have been favorable to the emergence of life. While there is little consensus among scientists about how the origin of this first microscopic life is to be explained, there is general agreement among them that the first organism dwelt on this planet about 3.5–4 billion years ago. Since it has been demonstrated that all living organisms on earth are genetically related, it is virtually certain that all living organisms have descended from this first organism. Converging evidence from many studies in the physical and biological sciences furnishes mounting support for some theory of evolution to account for the development and diversification of life on earth, while controversy continues over the pace and mechanisms of evolution."

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Yeah, Catholics acknowledge that evolution is very much a thing. We differ from atheists in believing that along the path to evolution God infused our ancestors with a soul, substantially (in the Aristotelian sense) changing their nature.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Is that what Atheists believe Daniel? And don't ya mean along the path OF evolution?

          I don't believe in the soul as per the duelist. If you mean consciousness, that is different. Where on the path did God do this infusing? Was there a generation that was born one day that had parents with no soul? You must be aware that evolution doesn't claim that a pair of non-humans gave birth to humans. So when, where and how did this soul infusing take place?

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            I said "where we differ from atheists", Amos. That means that there is a difference, so no, that's not what atheists believe.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Yes, apologies, this Disqus isn't all that user friendly. You should have been able to glean from the remainder of my comment that I understood your point. Care to comment on the important part of my comment?

    • physicistdave

      My wife is Chinese.

      Do you have a source, a real, legitimate mainstream news source, for the claim "Some Chinese think a fetus is a delicacy. It's already coming"?

      I think you just libeled over a billion people.

      Are you aware of the "blood libel" in the ancient world that claimed that Christians were sacrificing babies to their God? A certain logic there, you know: after all, Christians did claim that their God sacrificed His own Son!

      • Michael Murray

        There are some pretty appalling pictures on the internet and stories to go with them. I've no idea whether it's true or not. I had never heard of it until I read the post above.

        • Michael Murray

          I hope you are going to delete the offending original post then. I've flagged it for you.

          • http://www.facebook.com/jean.spearing.1 Jean Spearing

            Michael it was not my intention to indict the Chinese or to offend you or them. The premise of my comment above is to illustrate the outcome of two belief systems, one where society believes in God and one where society rejects a higher authority. So with that said, I do apologize to you and to your wife for having said anything offensive. It is not my aim to inadvertently insult or harm anyone. My heart and mind were elsewhere when I was writing.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Jean, you can check your theory. Go look at the crime statistics for modern countries against their percentage of religious citizens. See what you find. However, even if it went the way you stated, that does not say anything about the truth of belief in the supernatural.

          • http://www.facebook.com/jean.spearing.1 Jean Spearing

            Q. Quine, please give me a little more to go on. What are the statistics? Also, if you read through all of my posts, I already explained I am not speaking of the historical expression of Christian life, which I agree has fallen horribly short of its ideal. I am speaking about law and its origins and its impact on humanity only. I am using conjecture to draw conclusions of where the origins or lack of origin of law will lead: take two beliefs to their logical conclusions and assume that all human beings act and behave according to those beliefs all the time and without influence from other beliefs. What is the outcome of each? How will those two societies arrange themselves under the law? What forces uphold the law? How does the natural pre-disposition to save oneself manifest in these two situations? Where people believe in a sovereign creator to whom they answer, self-preservation leads them to obey the law on their own volition. Where people have no belief in a higher power, they are motivated to follow the law only in-so-far as they perceive it to be in their best interest to do so. Nothing else motivates them to follow the law.

            I believe that throughout history, every small or great sin of man perpetrated against man is rooted in the assumption or belief that the person will not have to answer for it. So when a Christian sins, he/she is acting as though he/she does not believe. Atheists are more honest in that they admit they don't believe...but they still behave the same. That is to say, we are all sinners, atheists, Christians, Muslims, agnostics, etc. That is precisely why we needed a savior.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Jean, I am glad you are curious about these matters. I recommend you read Matt Riddley's The Origins of Virtue and Sam Harris' The Moral Landscape to get a bigger view of the subject.

          • http://www.facebook.com/jean.spearing.1 Jean Spearing

            Thank you Q. Quine. But have you in turn considered the questions I posed to you?

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Yes, I have been considering the issues around the origins and implications of morality and ethics for many years. You seem to be asking what a society would be like if people believed specific things without evidence, such as a threat of punishment after death. That turns out to be a very complex question in real cultures because it depends on the percentage of those who harbor doubts, or expect to be forgiven, or don't cope well with the cognitive dissonance and other factors.

            When we look at the societies of, say, countries like Norway, Sweden and Finland, we see very low religious percentages, but still populations that do very well under their laws. On the other side, we have examples like the U.S. "Bible Belt" where Hell Fire and brimstone preaching is the rule, but the education levels are lower and the crime rates are higher.

            What makes people get along together is complex, but currently under study, which is why I suggest you read the books I liked for you.

          • http://www.facebook.com/jean.spearing.1 Jean Spearing

            Q. Quine, you make some very good points here. What you have done in your first paragraph is introduce the very real impact of the behavior of unbelievers on the society in question. Therein lies the answer to the historic outcome of Bible-believing vs non-believing areas. That is to say, Christians apparently are not behaving as though they believe. This is not consistent with the Christian model of which I speak.

            Keep in mind also that Norway, Sweden and Finland's cultures are derived from Christian roots that form their ideas or notions of what is good or bad for them and for society. These countries are not a good reflective examples of a purely atheist culture with no historical Christian perspective.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Remember, you proposed a theory based on what the people believed would happen to them in an afterlife. The Scandinavian countries may have a culture that was strongly shaped by religion, but most people there do not believe they are going to experience an afterlife, so their individual decisions are not impacted by a fear that their ancestors may have had.

            Also you can look at parts of Japan that are heavily influenced by Zen Buddhism (a form that does not have divine law) or parts of China during the widespread observance of Confucianism, also without divine law. An extreme case is the ancient people (6th century BCE) known as the Cārvāka who did not believe in the supernatural at all.

          • Ignorant Amos

            "Keep in mind also that Norway, Sweden and Finland's cultures are derived from Christian roots that form their ideas or notions of what is good or bad for them and for society. These countries are not a good reflective examples of a purely atheist culture with no historical Christian perspective."

            But by that logic one could point to their pre Christian morals and altruism as influential.

            You could retort that they were barbarians prior to Christianity...which would be wrong, but to which I would retort the barbaric practice of 2000 years of Christianity.

            Our moral compass didn't arrive with Christ no matter what you might think.

            Don't even go near the gods of the Old Testament lest your fingers get burnt.

          • http://www.facebook.com/jean.spearing.1 Jean Spearing

            On a side note, when I speak of a true Christian model, I am not really referring to a hell-fire and brimstone form of Christianity, although I admit I did frame the origin premise in that way. Catholicism teaches that fear of hell is the lowest form of faith that can keep one from condemnation. The highest form of faith is true love of God which is perfect love. Few have reached this degree of perfection. Most human beings in heaven have barely arrived there, and only arrived out of the goodness of God, through no merit of their own.

            A Christian that truly loves God, abides by the law out of that love for God, but also out of an acute awareness that God is good - so 'what hGod requires of me, must therefore be for my own good'. This person is motivated from love of God, but submits out of faith in God's goodness. All the same, they do so because of the inherent human need to do what is best for ones self. They simply believe that obeying God is for their own good.

            I am speaking above about two levels of Christian action: one acts out of fear of hell or punishment, the other acts out of love of God. There is a third and higher degree of faith: one acts out of fear of offending God because one so loves God that one does not want to offend him. This one has already given himself over to God in every aspect of his being, and so is no longer motivated by what is good or bad for himself. He is motivated only toward service to a God he has become so intimately familiar with, that he surrenders all to him without regard to cost.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            That is a good thing, and I suggest to you that people could be good to each other if they simply loved other people, even if they did not believe in any deities. (And I can assure you that I personally know some such good people. I suspect you do too, although they may not have told you about their lack of faith.)

          • Ignorant Amos

            "Moderator's note: Edited; inappropriate and off-topic"

            I've noticed quite a bit of it in my short time here. Some folk get pretty embarrassed to the point of getting prickly when erroneous details are pointed out.

      • http://www.facebook.com/jean.spearing.1 Jean Spearing

        I did not libel a billion people because I was not referring to a billion people. I also do not consider urban legends the final word on anything.

        http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/rights-so-divine/2012/may/10/chinese-cannibalism-infant-flesh-outrages-world/

        • physicistdave

          Jean,

          That’s my point: it’s an “urban legend.” If you track it down, it seems to be due to a goofy “performance artist” who was probably just pulling off a particularly disgusting prank.

          Part of my point here is that this tends to be what Christians are doing in terms of their religion in general: the physical Resurrection story probably came about in much the same way from people who uncritically accepted, distorted, and then passed on an initial story that involved Jesus’ spirit being "felt" by his followers not long after his execution – most of Paul’s comments on the Resurrection fit this model. I myself have “felt” the “spirit” of my late great grandmother, to whom I was very close, many times, in dreams, etc.

          I know it’s easier to just pass on a good story and declare that “Cannibalism is already on the rise...” but I am pointing out that this tends to spread disinformation, not truth.

          Dave

    • Ignorant Amos

      "In my view, I believe that there is a direct parallel between the loss of the sense of God in society and the increase in corruption and wrong-doing."

      That is why the prisons of the world are chock full of religious believers in God and that is why there is so much corruption and scandal among the clergy of the RCC? Yeah right.

  • TinimbangNgunitKulang

    Here we go again. So many dogs believing they can define their masters.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jean.spearing.1 Jean Spearing

      We can't know anything about God except what God chose to reveal to us...and he chose to reveal plenty. You simply have to look with the eyes of faith.

      • Michael Murray

        So what did your god have in his mind when he invented the nematode

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loa_loa

        • http://www.facebook.com/jean.spearing.1 Jean Spearing

          I admit I had to look that one up! I didn't know what a nematode is. My answer is that God probably didn't say anything about nematodes because he knew nature speaks for itself. One cannot look at the beauty and diversity of nature and not wonder about the mind of its creator. Nor can one look at the precision and order of the universe, of physics, of the laws of natural science, and the uniqueness of human beings without some wonder about the impossibility of it all being random.

          • Michael Murray

            So it doesn't concern you that this is a nematode that lives in the human eye ? That

            Common symptoms include itching, joint pain, fatigue, and death.[1]

            The Loa-Loa worm is just the tip of the iceberg. The natural world is full of things that are completely atrocious. There are wasps that inject neural toxins into spiders so they are alive but paralysed. They then lay their eggs inside them so that the baby wasp can eat the living but paralysed spider from the inside out. Did your watch Aliens? They got the idea for the aliens reproduction inside living human hosts from nature. The nature that you think sprang from the mind of your god. Aren't you worried about what that tells you about the mind of your god ?

          • http://www.facebook.com/jean.spearing.1 Jean Spearing

            First of all, I do wonder all the time about the mind of God; and I don't profess to understand Him entirely or know why he made things the way they are. It comes down to humility; accepting that I cannot possibly justify or condemn my creator. Who am I do do so when I cannot possibly get my mind around him or understand the reasons for these things in nature that seem abhorrent to me too. He is God and he is sovereign over his creation. What I do know about God is that He is love and he is good. When I say he is love, I use the word 'is' in its strongest sense. He IS love. He can only love. And all of creation flows out of his love. I know this from an honest view of his revelation in Scripture, from doctrines taught to me in youth, but most importantly from my own personal experience of God (and there have been plenty). Michael, if you do not believe in God, you have two choices before you. 1) Seek to discover whether you are wrong and humbly admit your error if you are wrong 2) Deny to the bitter end; close your mind to all other reasonings besides your own, and risk your soul in the end if it does truly exist. I cannot help a person who takes the position of #2 come to understand my perspective. But for those who take position #1, I will say this: lay down in your bed at night in the darkness, contemplate for a few minutes on whether God exists, and say with your heart: "If you are there God, please show yourself to me...because I am incapable of seeing". If you do this, I absolutely guarantee that sooner or later, he will answer your prayer. You will not have to study or philosophize or submit to anyone's else's point of view. You will experience Christ and you will never be the same.

          • Michael Murray

            Thanks Jean for your concern for me which I am sure is genuine. Just as you see me as a lost soul rejecting his creator I see you as someone suffering from a serious self-delusion. Yes you can create feelings in your own head if you try hard enough. That is not evidence of any supreme being.

    • Gail

      Some sad people may see the relationship as master and dogs, however, in the Judeo/Christian relationship with God, it is a family relationship, with God as Father & the Judeo/Christian persons as children of God's.

      Saint Therese of Lisieux (of the Child Jesus), (aka the Little Flower) offered up her suffering for unbelievers, (athiests), so that they might one day believe & know & love God. She knew God loved them dearly & wanted them all to know that.

      I hope this is okay to add, here is the url from where the quote below was found....
      http://www.plaything.co.uk/gallagher/pastoral/St_Therese_and_Atheism.html
      “Having known the painful ordeal of religious doubt and even the night of faith, Thérèse united herself in mysterious solidarity with non-believers. Convinced that all human beings have the right to know themselves loved by God, she wanted to reach them all”. -
      Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Secretary of State (1991).

      • Michael Murray

        Surely the painful ordeal of religious doubt is something suffered by believers not non-believers ? I can't recall ever having a problem with it.

      • physicistdave

        Gail wrote:

        >Some sad people may see the relationship as master and dogs, however, in the Judeo/Christian relationship with God, it is a family relationship, with God as Father & the Judeo/Christian persons as children of God's.

        Except, for some reason, this wonderful Father was going to send all of his human children to eternal torment in Hell... until he hit upon the sweetly paternal idea of sacrificing his First Son for all the others.

        Now it is only the vast majority of the human race that will suffer eternal torment on Hell.

        Kinda a dysfunctional Father, eh?

        Yes, I know it is really all our fault: Father intends to torture us forever, and we should worship Him in response.

  • jC

    To believe there is a God isn't enough . Atheists have it all wrong because they think that they will come to believe in the True Holy One through their intellect . God is Love , self sacrificing love . If they understand that as being part of themselves and is the way in which they act they understand God and don't even know it .Dumb huh ?

    • Michael Murray

      Atheists have it all wrong because they think that they will come to believe in the True Holy One through their intellect .

      Did you see the 20 Arguments for Gods Existence post on this site ? All that intellect. Dumb huh ?

    • physicistdave

      jC wrote:
      >Atheists have it all wrong because they think that they will come to believe in the True Holy One through their intellect .

      180 degrees wrong. Not at all.

      Through both our intellect and our normal human feelings, we retain enough sense of humanity to see that no sane Father sacrifices his Firstborn to assuage the anger He feels towards his other children.

      You know the story about Martin Luther and his wife, Katie? The story says that when Marty read the story to the family of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac, Katie supposedly responded, "I don't believe it. God would not do that to His son." To which Martin supposedly replied, "But, Katie, He did."

      No, a lot of us are atheists not because of an over-reliance on intellect but because of the sickening horror we feel at this whole narrative that God can only stand (some) human beings if he viciously tortured his Firstborn Son.

      The whole story honestly makes any decent human being want to throw up.

      Dave Miller in Sacramento

      • http://www.facebook.com/jean.spearing.1 Jean Spearing

        Dave, God does not think as man thinks. Look at it from another perspective. Go back to the old days and suppose there is a large family living out on the plains miles from the nearest town. Just about the time the young children come down with a deadly illness, a snowstorm sweeps across the plains. There is medicine available in the town, a new antibiotic that can save the children.The oldest son is healthy and strong. He might possibly make it to the town and back with the medicine. What father would not send his son to the town? Would this be insane? What does it say about his love for those other children? This is the story of God looking down on suffering humanity. He sent His son to save us.

        • severalspeciesof

          Jean, to make this analogy a bit more accurate you will have to state that this deadly illness was inflicted on this town by the very 'dad' you speak of...

          Yes, I am of the belief that if Christianity is taken seriously it truly means that evil and suffering are to be laid down at the foot of god, in order to look up at it and say 'father'. If your god is truly the uncaused cause at the beginning of ALL that is, from whence did evil and suffering come from? If you say us, then who created us? If you say satan, who created satan? If you claim free will as an out, it means that god has it so that our free will is such as to make incompetent decisions possible. To paraphrase Hitchens, your 'god created us imperfectly, but commands us to be perfect'. Which is something that any sensible person should go 'HUH?' at...

          At least Flew still had the sense to reject those notions...

        • physicistdave

          Jean wrote to me:

          >God does not think as man thinks.

          And Joseph Stalin did not think as normal humans do. Or Pol Pot. Or that insane German guy.

          That’s my point: we humans developed a sense of morality long before Jesus came along: no human society approves of routine murder, theft, adultery, etc. (Unfortunately, all human societies – most emphatically including Christian ones! – manage to come up with rationalizations for justifying murder, etc. against “aliens,” “heretics,” or members of some sort of “out-group”).

          Your God is evil (or would be if He actually existed).

          There is just no getting around it – you can try all you want to redefine words like “love,” “mercy,” “justice,” etc. But, however you try to change the meaning of words, the hard truth remains: your God intended to subject all human beings to eternal torture in Hell until He decided to accept the torture of His Son as an excuse for letting a minority of humans escape eternal torture.

          This is Hellishly evil.

          Saying that “God does not think as man thinks” no more excuses this than saying that “Stalin did not think as bourgeois men thought” excuses Stalin’s crimes.

          Come out of the darkness, Jean. You are a human being. You have the ability to feel natural sympathy and compassion for your fellow human beings. You can abandon the hatred at the root of Christianity. You can leave the evil behind.

          Dave

          • Jacob Neeson

            The god you describe would be evil, no doubt, but that is not the God of Christianity. The following is the God that Christians believe in. This isn't why we believe this and neither is it an attempt to convince you of why. It's just who we believe He is, which is in stark contrast to the straw-god (if you will) that you have described.

            God made us rational beings with free will. He gives each of us the choice to choose Him or to not choose HIm, Heaven or Hell. His judgment is simply giving each person exactly what the person's actions in life told God that he wanted: either selfless carrying out of God's will or selfish choice to do one's own will. We all sin constantly, so we naturally all show that we deserve hell, but Jesus came and offered His own life in atonement for the sins we commit so that we can have a second chance at choosing Heaven. Suffering and death are the results of sin, so that's why Jesus took on suffering and death. He took the punishment we deserved so that we can escape eternal suffering and death in hell. He rose from the dead though. The suffering was temporal, but the life He brought is eternal. We, like Jesus, are called to sanctification by enduring the temporary suffering of this life caused by sin, so that we can rise to eternal life that has no suffering.

            It's like a marathon. It's painful to run, but in the end you get to say you finished it, and that can never be taken away from you. A faulty analogy, but you get the point.

            You're point that morality existed before Jesus proves nothing. The Bible itself teaches morality before the time of Jesus.

            The fact that Christians are some of the worst at following their own laws only goes to show that they don't really want to follow them either. Why would they set rules they couldn't follow themselves? It's selfless sacrifice to act in cooperation with Christian morals rather than with our own desires. God isn't evil and the reasons that you gave for a wicked god were weak.

            Johnny Cash's mom isn't evil because he "shot a man in Reno." She told him not to play with guns in the first place.

            Also, God made mankind to live in paradise with Him. He did not intend to damn man. Man chose is for himself by his own sin. Then God bailed man out and gave him a second chance. That's not evil: it's loving. That salvation wasn't for a minority either. It's offered to every man, and if only a minority choose to accept, then that's not God's fault.

            I hope you come to understand what Christianity really is one day. Learning why is even more interesting, but for now just focus on the what. Anyone can misunderstand or lie and distort other people's to make their beliefs seem hateful, but that doesn't make their beliefs hateful. It only makes what they say a misunderstanding or a lie.

          • physicistdave

            Jacob wrote to me:
            >The following is the God that Christians believe in.
            [snip]
            >We all sin constantly, so we naturally all show that we deserve hell...

            That is really all that needs to be said about Christianity, isn't it, Jacob?

            You really do believe that the entire human race deserves eternal torture in Hell, and you worship a god who actually plans to do that (so you believe) to the vast majority of the human race.

            And with that, all of your talk of love and salvation turns into foul ashes in the mouth, doesn't it, Jacob?

            Because all of the supposed "Divine Love" is part of the intention of your Deity to subject the vast majority of the human race to eternal torment in Hell.

            Oh, Jacob, I do understand Christianity, all too well, the Christianity that you yourself have described.

            The Christianity that, two millennia ago, Tacitus said was known for its “odium humani generis..”

            Dave

          • Michael Murray

            Christopher Hitchens used to say that sometimes there isn't any need to argue with your opponent you just have to underline what they say. This is one of those times.

          • Michael Murray

            It's like a marathon. It's painful to run, but in the end you get to say you finished it, and that can never be taken away from you. A faulty analogy, but you get the point.

            Please do not insult the millions of people grieving over newborns with cancer, dead in earthquakes or tsunamis or suffering in some other appalling way that has nothing to do with human free will. Seriously. That's a really offensive thing to say.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jean.spearing.1 Jean Spearing

      In my own opinion, one comes to God through prayer and contemplation of God, and the desires of the heart (which incidentally is unspoken prayer). I think people fail to understand that Christianity is not a philosophy. Christianity is a lived expression of a relationship with a person, the Person of Jesus Christ. Rarely does a person come into this relationship solely through reasoning. More likely they come to have an 'experience of Jesus Christ' and then they believe. I was born/raised Christian and I always accepted what I was taught based on the 'better to believe and be wrong, than not to believe and be wrong' principle. But this was not enough to sustain faith and when the trials came, there was great doubt and fear. Then, I had a personal experience with Jesus Christ that wiped this all away. Now, you cannot beat out of me the impact of that experience...because one cannot deny what one has experienced for themselves. It is like meeting George Washington in person, and then someone tries to tell you George Washington doesn't exist. The fact is, YOU KNOW HE DOES EXIST...because you saw him yourself.

  • Teresa

    Cause and effect...?

  • http://twitter.com/amuchmoreexotic Ben

    I was really disappointed that all he's doing is restating the Intelligent Design argument here. It might be his opinion that life is so inherently teleological that it couldn't have resulted from a natural process, but there are plenty of models of how it could have done devised by actual biologists, not just some philosopher.

    • Jacob Neeson

      What makes the biology work? Where do the natural laws that these models are based on come from? That's his point. Sure, he makes a leap of faith, but it's no more of a leap than assuming science upholds itself. At least the agnostic admits he is unwilling to make any leap and the theist admits to his own leap of faith. Biological naturalism, as it is evident within those "models" you mention, claims to not be a leap of faith. Others have made the point that this is intellectually disingenuous.

      Basically, there can be no empirical evidence to prove that there is something or nothing behind the laws of nature, unless you take the fact that the laws exist to mean that something caused them.

      "Actual biologists" are fundamentally incapable of answering "Why do natural laws exist?" within their field, but since philosophy addresses that question directly, a guy who is "just some philosopher" is qualified to have his professional opinion be recognized. The biologist does philosophy when he tries to answer why, and it is generally poor philosophy since that's not his expertise.

      • http://twitter.com/amuchmoreexotic Ben

        Flew says "the integrated complexity of life itself—which is far more complex than the physical Universe—can only be explained in terms of an Intelligent Source" and opines that life couldn't have arisen without some kind of supernatural intervention. That's intelligent design. When he talks about biology, he's NOT making the philosophical point "why are there natural laws at all?". He's saying natural selection can't explain the properties of life.

        We know that the natural "laws" (more like principles) of biology come from the properties of the compounds which make up living things, plus the cumulative effects of natural selection. There's a huge amount of evidence in the peer-reviewed scientific literature.

        What makes biology "work" is just that organisms are complex machines, obeying the laws of chemistry and physics, and produced by natural selection. We can confirm this by our study of contemporary organisms. We don't yet have a definitive model of how life originated, which is not surprising because it happened 4 billion years ago so it's not easy to reconstruct, but we don't need God to explain biology.

        If there was something in biology that wasn't explicable as the product of natural selection, that might bolster the deist case (also the alien interventionist case). If Flew had had evidence that life couldn't arise by natural selection, he should have published it in Nature.

        There is a legitimate question as to where the laws of physics which underpin the chemistry and biology of life come from.

        "Sure, he makes a leap of faith, but it's no more of a leap than assuming science upholds itself."

        Science is the human study of natural laws. If there are deeper natural laws that explain why the laws of physics are the way they are, that doesn't mean "science upholds itself". It just means there are lower-level laws we haven't discovered yet. Science has only really been going for a few hundred years, so it's not surprising we don't have a full picture yet.

        It's a huge leap of faith to say that the answer is an anthropomorphic creator, who just happens to take an interest in the contingent product of 4 billion years of natural selection on one tiny planet in one galaxy among billions, and to share human ideas like "having a son" or "morality" or "sacrifice".

        Even if there is some reason why the laws of nature need a 'cause' (and to me that seems like a bogus attempt to apply everyday human intuition to intensely complex questions of cosmology), they could be generated by timeless, impersonal meta-laws of nature rather than Yahweh. Or they could have been designed by Allah or Zeus, in which case, we're both going to Hell anyway.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=17217731 Brad

    Clergy Project.

  • Ben

    So it turns out that Flew didn't write this book. He was conned into endorsing it at a time when he was suffering from dementia: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/04/magazine/04Flew-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=2&

  • Ben

    How disgusting to exploit the cognitive decline of an elderly man just to win a "famous" atheist convert.

  • Jill

    Dawkins was dismayed when his favourite philosopher turned against him.

    • Ignorant Amos

      I'm sure you have evidence for both those assertions. Was Flew Dawkins' favourite philosopher? Was Dawkins dismayed when he "turned against him" as you put it?

      Dawkins was disappointed at Flews reasons for accepting the premise of Deism. That he was convinced by the uncorroborated and demonstably debunked Intelligent Design assertions in Michael Behe's book for example.

      There was probably some pity that such an intellect could be so distorted by the onslaught of dementia.

      If you follow the comments made by Flew in his last few years, you will see his thoughts were all over the place.

      I can't understand why RC's are making such a big deal of this so-called conversion. Anthony Flew's views fly (pun intended) in the face of Catholic teachings. ID is a proponent of creationism, YEC when stripped down...which the RCC has moved away from along time ago. That is why Flew's support for it is so surprising and it is why this whole debate is so confusing. And it's why the support for Flew's conversion here is so entertaining.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bEPUn__hYso

  • Tess95

    12“Now, mortal man, tell the Israelites that when someone good sins, the good he has done will not save him. If an evil person stops doing evil, he won't be punished, and if a good person starts sinning, his life will not be spared.13I may promise life to someone good, but if he starts thinking that his past goodness is enough and begins to sin, I will not remember any of the good he did. He will die because of his sins.14I may warn someone evil that he is going to die, but if he stops sinning and does what is right and good — 15for example, if he returns the security he took for a loan or gives back what he stole — if he stops sinning and follows the laws that give life, he will not die, but live.16I will forgive the sins he has committed, and he will live because he has done what is right and good.
    17“And your people say that what I do isn't right! No, it's their way that isn't right.18When someone righteous stops doing good and starts doing evil, he will die for it.19When someone evil gives up sinning and does what is right and good, he has saved his life.20But Israel, you say that what I do isn't right. I am going to judge you by what you do.”

  • Tess95

    Ezekiel Chapter 3312“Now, mortal man, tell the Israelites that when someone good sins, the good he has done will not save him. If an evil person stops doing evil, he won't be punished, and if a good person starts sinning, his life will not be spared.13I may promise life to someone good, but if he starts thinking that his past goodness is enough and begins to sin, I will not remember any of the good he did. He will die because of his sins.14I may warn someone evil that he is going to die, but if he stops sinning and does what is right and good — 15for example, if he returns the security he took for a loan or gives back what he stole — if he stops sinning and follows the laws that give life, he will not die, but live.16I will forgive the sins he has committed, and he will live because he has done what is right and good.
    17“And your people say that what I do isn't right! No, it's their way that isn't right.18When someone righteous stops doing good and starts doing evil, he will die for it.19When someone evil gives up sinning and does what is right and good, he has saved his life.20But Israel, you say that what I do isn't right. I am going to judge you by what you do.”