Author Topic: CS Lewis - Man or Rabbit?  (Read 375 times)

JoshuaD

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CS Lewis - Man or Rabbit?
« on: November 08, 2020, 07:05:43 PM »
Three page PDF, Full Text.

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If Christianity should happen to be true, then it is quite impossible that those who know this truth and those who don't should be equally well equipped for leading a good life. Knowledge of the facts must make a difference to one's actions.
 
Christian and a non-Christian may both wish to do good to their fellow men. The one believes that men are going to live for ever, that they were created by God and so built that they can find their true and lasting happiness only by being united to God, that they have gone badly off the rails, and that obedient faith in Christ is the only way back. The other believes that men are an accidental result of the blind workings of matter, that they started as mere animals and have more or less steadily improved, that they are going to live for about seventy years, that their happiness is fully attainable by good social services and political organisations, and that everything else (e.g., vivisection, birth-control, the judicial system, education) is to be judged to be 'good' or 'bad' simply in so far as it helps or hinders that kind of 'happiness'.
 
Now there are quite a lot of things which these two men could agree in doing for their fellow citizens. Both would approve of efficient sewers and hospitals and a healthy diet. But sooner or later the difference of their beliefs would produce differences in their practical proposals. Both, for example, might be very keen about education: but the kinds of education they wanted people to have would obviously be very different. Again, where the Materialist would simply ask about a proposed action 'Will it increase the happiness of the majority?', the Christian might have to say, 'Even if it does increase the happiness of the majority, we can't do it. It is unjust.'

What do you think of this?

Fenring

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Re: CS Lewis - Man or Rabbit?
« Reply #1 on: November 09, 2020, 12:15:58 AM »
Well, the argument seems fairly self-evident. If two people have different first principles and a differing interpretive structure of reality then they will of course not be able to agree on all things, including what is the Good life (which I will separate from 'happiness' in the sense of having pleasurable reactions to things). A few premises are required for Lewis' view to hold, of course:

1) That concepts affect reality substantially. One could, I suppose, argue that people will do what they are going to do inevitably, and that their individual ideas only appear to them to matter in how they live. Lewis would reject this premise, as would I, and would insist that we do have a will that makes use of ideas.

2) That our intellectual concepts are a relevant element to our 'concepts' from (1); meaning that conscious thinking is part of this, and it's not just instinctive concepts or what we might call 'internal metaphysics' that we know deep down but not with our heads. Lewis' argument would insist that it is also relevant what we know with our heads. Although incidentally he would certainly not insist that the only relevant truth is that which we know with our heads.

3) That there is a potential distinction between what people want (or what they think they want) and what is good for them.

It's not so many premises needed, but they are needed, because at the time Chesterton (and likely Lewis) was writing there were popular views of the form of "we don't really have free will, nor do our ideas really conform to a greater reality". Naturally Chesterton thought this type of argument was self-defeating and ultimately foolish, but strictly speaking it cannot be dismissed philosophically, so it does require making a point to insist that there is actually such a thing as will and as knowledge, and that they matter. We don't need to even get into the issue of moral realism vs nominalism, because even nominalists can believe that certain things are objectively correct, just not 'written in the stars' like on a stone tablet.

I think fundamentally there is an argument being made here that the full truth - or perhaps certain aspects of the truth - cannot be arrived at by pure reason alone. You could perhaps call this the moral incompleteness theorem; that no matter how smart or clever someone is, they cannot on their own strength deduce what Christians believe to be true. Some of it, yes, but not all, and not the most mysterious (and in their view most important) parts. So it is literally impossible that an atheist could bootstrap himself to a fully realized worldview that is the same as the Christian one; that is if, as Lewis says, Christianity happens to be true. And yeah, if Christianity is true then that is surely correct, since part of the Christian belief is that some of the mysteries are essentially unknowable to us and can only be revealed through revelation.

JoshuaD

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Re: CS Lewis - Man or Rabbit?
« Reply #2 on: November 09, 2020, 03:09:31 AM »
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but they are needed, because at the time Chesterton (and likely Lewis) was writing there were popular views of the form of "we don't really have free will, nor do our ideas really conform to a greater reality

This isn't unique to their time. We have a lot of bright people who subscribe to these false views.

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Naturally Chesterton thought this type of argument was self-defeating and ultimately foolish, but strictly speaking it cannot be dismissed philosophically, so it does require making a point to insist that there is actually such a thing as will and as knowledge, and that they matter.

They can't be dismissed, but I think they are clearly wrong.  The materialist philosophy tends to start from 1. the assertion that we should reject all dogmas, and 2. the scientific assumption that what we experience is a good indicator of truth.

From that, they believe they can build up the physical laws (and only the physical laws), and then conclude that we should reject the immediate and ever-present experience of free will.  A philosophy that started with experience and the rejection of dogma ends in a dogmatic rejection of immediate experience.  It is self-defeating.

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I think fundamentally there is an argument being made here that the full truth - or perhaps certain aspects of the truth - cannot be arrived at by pure reason alone.

Yea. It's also arguing against the Kantian idea that morality is the end purpose of religion.  Bishop Barron does a good job of talking about this from a Catholic perspective in this video


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We don't need to even get into the issue of moral realism vs nominalism, because even nominalists can believe that certain things are objectively correct, just not 'written in the stars' like on a stone tablet.

I like Chesterton's reply to nominalism:

"Then there is the opposite attack on thought: that urged by Mr. H. G. Wells when he insists that every separate thing is "unique," and there are no categories at all. This also is merely destructive. Thinking means connecting things, and stops if they cannot be connected. It need hardly be said that this scepticism forbidding thought necessarily forbids speech; a man cannot open his mouth without contradicting it. Thus when Mr. Wells says (as he did somewhere), "All chairs are quite different," he utters not merely a misstatement, but a contradiction in terms. If all chairs were quite different, you could not call them "all chairs."

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I think fundamentally there is an argument being made here that the full truth - or perhaps certain aspects of the truth - cannot be arrived at by pure reason alone. You could perhaps call this the moral incompleteness theorem; that no matter how smart or clever someone is, they cannot on their own strength deduce what Christians believe to be true. Some of it, yes, but not all, and not the most mysterious (and in their view most important) parts. So it is literally impossible that an atheist could bootstrap himself to a fully realized worldview that is the same as the Christian one; that is if, as Lewis says, Christianity happens to be true. And yeah, if Christianity is true then that is surely correct, since part of the Christian belief is that some of the mysteries are essentially unknowable to us and can only be revealed through revelation.

This is about where I am right now. I've come to believe that Catholicism has an accurate map of Natural Philosophy. They've beat me up for 20+ years. Every time I thought I was right and they were wrong, eventually I'd come to see that they were in fact right. It's astounding that people imagine religion is anti-intellectual. The Catholics' respect and knowledge of Philosophy is unparalleled.

But the revelation stuff is still too hard for me to swallow.  There probably has never been a story told that is more true, in the fictional sense, than the story of Jesus, but I don't know that I can believe that story is also historically accurate.

I can assent to the idea of the God-Man. I can see its function philosophically.  I can see that the natural philosophy that I believe to be true would break down without him. But if you put me on a truth serum and ask me if I believe the New Testament -- that Jesus is the Word of God and is God and the creator of everything, and walked the earth, raised people from the dead, died, was resurrected, and ascended bodily into heaven -- I would say no. I don't even comprehend how someone could believe that in the same way that they believe the sky is blue or that Kennedy was President in the 1960's.
« Last Edit: November 09, 2020, 03:14:05 AM by JoshuaD »

Aris Katsaris

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Re: CS Lewis - Man or Rabbit?
« Reply #3 on: November 09, 2020, 10:06:25 AM »
What do you think of this?

C.S. Lewis is one of the few Christians I can stomach, because he's one of the few Christians who gets it that the only proper reason to believe in Christianity (or anything else), is if you actually believe it to be **true**. And that there's a stark distinction between truth and falsehood.

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Here is a door, behind which, according to some people, the secret of the universe is waiting for you. Either that's true, or it isn't. And if it isn't, then what the door really conceals is simply the greatest fraud, the most colossal 'sell' on record. Isn't it obviously the job of every man (that is a man and not a rabbit) to try to find out which, and then to devote his full energies either to serving this tremendous secret or to exposing and destroying this gigantic humbug?

Yes, yes: Be a Christian, or be an atheist, or be whatever you think is true and proper. But whatever you believe, believe in it honestly, argue for the truth or combat the lie.

Christianity (and Judaism and Islam and so forth) are all false. Every atheist should be willing to just state this out right.

--

That having been said, C.S. Lewis also makes stupid assumptions, and strawmans his opponents by saying stupid stuff like "To the Materialist things like nations, classes, civilizations must be more important than individuals"

Fenring

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Re: CS Lewis - Man or Rabbit?
« Reply #4 on: November 09, 2020, 10:42:10 AM »
This is about where I am right now. I've come to believe that Catholicism has an accurate map of Natural Philosophy. They've beat me up for 20+ years. Every time I thought I was right and they were wrong, eventually I'd come to see that they were in fact right. It's astounding that people imagine religion is anti-intellectual. The Catholics' respect and knowledge of Philosophy is unparalleled.

Yeah, it's one of the big cons of the last century that 'religious people hate reason'. I think maybe this came about partially because of a few fringe groups, and partially because of a backlash against tradition, but the ignorance about the scholastic history of certain religions is astounding.

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But the revelation stuff is still too hard for me to swallow.  There probably has never been a story told that is more true, in the fictional sense, than the story of Jesus, but I don't know that I can believe that story is also historically accurate.

Do you mind if I PM you? But I'll write here that the distinction between a story having a true and important meta-narrative versus it being literally true is a relevant and actually crucial distinction in Catholicism in particular. For example the difference between the eucharist being an important symbol and it being the physical body of Christ is a make it or break it proposition; the actual religion hinges on this point, as it does on the incarnation. I'm making an intellectual point here, but there is another point I'd PM to you.

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I can assent to the idea of the God-Man. I can see its function philosophically.  I can see that the natural philosophy that I believe to be true would break down without him. But if you put me on a truth serum and ask me if I believe the New Testament -- that Jesus is the Word of God and is God and the creator of everything, and walked the earth, raised people from the dead, died, was resurrected, and ascended bodily into heaven -- I would say no. I don't even comprehend how someone could believe that in the same way that they believe the sky is blue or that Kennedy was President in the 1960's.

Belief is a funny thing. Do I remember at one point way back that you were studying Buddhism? If so, that system insists that mind is a deeper thing than the mere perception of colors and pleasures. To define belief requires not only that we expound on the sensory details we notice (empirical data) but also that we look to whether there is a disparity in our ideas versus our instincts; and whether there is another system in play altogether that affects the rest. Hume discussed belief and how a lot of ideas people have do not translate into material instinct; for instance a Buddhist who believe that baseball bats are as much an illusion as the rest of reality will still duck when one comes at his head. Does this mean his belief in Buddhism is weak, or even fake? Or does it mean that belief in this sense means something other than our heuristics from everyday life (look both ways, duck when something comes at you, fear spiders, etc)? And likewise, if there's a disparity between belief in the sense of everyday material training and what your heart tells you, might there not also be a disparity in different things your heart might tell you, where some things are born of fears, some of vanity, and others of what we might call the instinct for truth? To be able to have such a concrete connection between these avenues of belief such that one's concepts are also one's everyday material instincts is something that takes work; it doesn't just happen.

Fenring

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Re: CS Lewis - Man or Rabbit?
« Reply #5 on: November 09, 2020, 10:50:15 AM »
Yes, yes: Be a Christian, or be an atheist, or be whatever you think is true and proper. But whatever you believe, believe in it honestly, argue for the truth or combat the lie.

Christianity (and Judaism and Islam and so forth) are all false. Every atheist should be willing to just state this out right.

What most modern atheists don't understand is that sheer study and wealth of knowledge one needs to have to make declarations like this. Do you realize that religious scholars take umpteen steps to explain why their faith means something, why they should even believe it, what it means to even say they believe it, and what the evidence might be in either direction? But atheists have this anti-philosophical penchant for stating the belief in no god as if by having the opinion it is given weight. It's kind of like a crappy version of the democratic idea: my ideas count, and this is my idea, so it has to be taken seriously! Well historically speaking religious people absolutely did not assume their ideas needed to be taken seriously, but sought to prove it. I am all for debating the various sides of belief/evidence/life experience, but it has to be based on legitimate first principles. Unless every atheist is willing to undergo years of study and have a powerful understanding of the framework and basis of their own beliefs, they should perhaps have the humility to instead just be willing to state that it's simply their opinion, rather than to state that something they don't understand at all is false. The sheer ignorance behind the latter assertion is at least partially why every know-nothing joker thinks that every one of their dumb opinions is god's gift.

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That having been said, C.S. Lewis also makes stupid assumptions, and strawmans his opponents by saying stupid stuff like "To the Materialist things like nations, classes, civilizations must be more important than individuals"

I would be most interested to hear an argument in context of any of Lewis' statements being a stupid strawman. Actually I do think this charge is accurate with regard to Chesterton; he allowed himself to at times mockingly make a silly version of the opposition to make light of. But he was a journalist and his writing at least in part seemed to be designed to entertain and charm. Lewis seems to me to write straight to the point with no aesthetic agenda. But I think you deeply underestimate the intellectual depth of Lewis' thinking. Not saying I would agree with him about absolutely everything, but it's still pretty clear that even the things I think are iffy have a powerful weight behind them.

TheDeamon

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Re: CS Lewis - Man or Rabbit?
« Reply #6 on: November 09, 2020, 10:50:26 AM »
This is about where I am right now. I've come to believe that Catholicism has an accurate map of Natural Philosophy. They've beat me up for 20+ years. Every time I thought I was right and they were wrong, eventually I'd come to see that they were in fact right. It's astounding that people imagine religion is anti-intellectual. The Catholics' respect and knowledge of Philosophy is unparalleled.

Yeah, it's one of the big cons of the last century that 'religious people hate reason'. I think maybe this came about partially because of a few fringe groups, and partially because of a backlash against tradition, but the ignorance about the scholastic history of certain religions is astounding.

It's more than just "fringe groups" on the "hate of reason" front. But in that respect, as has been demonstrated very powerfully over this past decade, the Christian Faiths do not have a monopoly on people with dogmatic belief about a great many things, atheists included. They just lack a "proper deity" to serve as their proverbial totem of worship.

People are tribal, and they don't like things which challenge "their tribe" and sense of identity.

Fenring

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Re: CS Lewis - Man or Rabbit?
« Reply #7 on: November 09, 2020, 10:54:37 AM »
It's more than just "fringe groups" on the "hate of reason" front.

Most people are unreasonable at least a good chunk of the time, and yeah, tribalism is often more core than an actual religious conviction for some religious people. But when I wrote the quoted bit I meant specifically that only a few 'fringe' religions have an overtly anti-reason dogma that is not a bug but a feature. Others, like Judaism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc, have a very pro-reason dogma but obviously since they are populated by people will contain tons of stupidity and craziness in practice. But that's basically a tautology, as we may as well just agree that any group made up of people is going to be at least a little dumb and anti-reason in practice. What I was referring to is the demand of the dogma itself.

Aris Katsaris

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Re: CS Lewis - Man or Rabbit?
« Reply #8 on: November 09, 2020, 11:22:23 AM »
What most modern atheists don't understand is that sheer study and wealth of knowledge one needs to have to make declarations like this. Do you realize that religious scholars take umpteen steps to explain why their faith means something, why they should even believe it, what it means to even say they believe it, and what the evidence might be in either direction?

So, your argument is that you need to be a "scholar" before even making a declaration about what your beliefs are? Do you believe the same about Christians, that they aren't allowed to proclaim the truth of Christianity, unless they're a "religious scholar"?

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But atheists have this anti-philosophical penchant for stating the belief in no god as if by having the opinion it is given weight.

It has weight, not in an epistemic sense, but in a sociological sense: because the Christians primarily depend on peer-pressure to shut disbelievers up, and try to make disbelief in God a thing of shame, so every single one of us who speaks up about their atheism weakens religious oppression, because it weakens the peer-pressure and telling other atheists that they're not alone.

It's exactly because Christians (and other religions) don't depend on argument but on a community's peer pressure, that they're so annoyed by people stating their disbelief.

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Unless every atheist is willing to undergo years of study and have a powerful understanding of the framework and basis of their own beliefs, they should perhaps have the humility to instead just be willing to state that it's simply their opinion, rather than to state that something they don't understand at all is false.

Well, I have "undergone years of study" for Christianity, courtesy of the mandated Christian catechism classes through 12 years of school, plus my own investigation: and to HELL with humility. I hereby assert that Christianity is a FALSEHOOD, when it's not a deliberate LIE -- and what you're doing now is an attempt to shut up people up by forcing them to waste years of their lives studying the fairy tale before they can even join the discussion.

Note, that not a single thing here explains why we should believe Christianity is true -- you've just effectively said "Well, we have lots of reasons to believe it, we've spent *years* training the mental gymnastics required to so believe it", and assumed that the rest of us don't have even more reasons to disbelieve in it.

TheDeamon

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Re: CS Lewis - Man or Rabbit?
« Reply #9 on: November 09, 2020, 11:35:13 AM »
It's exactly because Christians (and other religions) don't depend on argument but on a community's peer pressure, that they're so annoyed by people stating their disbelief.

Honestly, I'm equally annoyed by the people who loudly and frequently declare their belief. So I'm holding the Atheist to a comparable standard?

I don't care about what your religious beliefs are, and I have no expectation of you caring about my own. So why make an issue of it in the first place?

Yes, there are Christians who make their faith a very prominent and obvious part of their life. Some seek to share it with everyone, many just go about their life and won't bring it up unless it becomes topical in some way and will back off quickly if asked. Meanwhile, certain groups of Atheists? They're as bad as many of the Baptists in the heart of the Bible Belt.

Fenring

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Re: CS Lewis - Man or Rabbit?
« Reply #10 on: November 09, 2020, 11:38:27 AM »
So, your argument is that you need to be a "scholar" before even making a declaration about what your beliefs are?

Maybe re-read what I wrote? What I said is that you have to be a scholar (actually I don't like that word, really, so let's say "you have to know a lot") to declare something false in a strong sense. I'm not talking about the agnostic "hey, that's just like your opinion, man" reaction to someone else's belief, I'm talking about stating definitively (as many atheists do) that it is objectively false. Yeah, to do that you better be able to back it up.

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Do you believe the same about Christians, that they aren't allowed to proclaim the truth of Christianity, unless they're a "religious scholar"?

Professing your faith =/= saying that someone else's belief is false. And of course there are different kinds of false; there's false in the sense of the objective facts you think are right are in fact wrong; there's false in the sense of you're fooling yourself about your own feelings or even thoughts; there's false in the sense of it is logically impossible for such a proposition to be true (i.e. it's incoherent or contradictory). I think anyone should be free to profess whatever belief they have; and of course legally free to tell anyone else's that they are wrong. But all I'm saying is that many people these days think that glibly saying "religion is dumb" is an actual argument, and don't even realize what it takes to make an argument in the first place.

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But atheists have this anti-philosophical penchant for stating the belief in no god as if by having the opinion it is given weight.

It has weight, not in an epistemic sense, but in a sociological sense: because the Christians primarily depend on peer-pressure to shut disbelievers up, and try to make disbelief in God a thing of shame, so every single one of us who speaks up about their atheism weakens religious oppression, because it weakens the peer-pressure and telling other atheists that they're not alone.

Yeah, religious people are the only ones who do this  ::)

See my above comment to TheDeamon. *People* do this, not religious people.

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It's exactly because Christians (and other religions) don't depend on argument but on a community's peer pressure, that they're so annoyed by people stating their disbelief.

ibid

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and what you're doing now is an attempt to shut up people up by forcing them to waste years of their lives studying the fairy tale before they can even join the discussion.

Lol? As someone who was a philosophy major I find your statement misguided. And I think you need to examine carefully that you're the one arguing with me that people shouldn't need to spend years studying difficult problems in life, in context of telling me that religious people hate reason. The irony is bursting at the seams.

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Note, that not a single thing here explains why we should believe Christianity is true -- you've just effectively said "Well, we have lots of reasons to believe it, we've spent *years* training the mental gymnastics required to so believe it", and assumed that the rest of us don't have even more reasons to disbelieve in it.

Was anything I wrote meant as some kind of argument for or against Christianity? The article cited in OP states what it would mean *if* Christianity were true; that's called a hypothetical premise. For the purpose of that type of argument it is irrelevant whether or not it is in fact true.

DonaldD

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Re: CS Lewis - Man or Rabbit?
« Reply #11 on: November 09, 2020, 11:38:43 AM »
I'm sure some atheists have as a tenet of their faith that they have a moral responsibility to convince other people to think the same way they do.  The internet is a huge place, after all.

TheDeamon

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Re: CS Lewis - Man or Rabbit?
« Reply #12 on: November 09, 2020, 11:46:27 AM »
I'm sure some atheists have as a tenet of their faith that they have a moral responsibility to convince other people to think the same way they do.  The internet is a huge place, after all.

Some of them go beyond that. Like one who decided to file suit in court because the local city council held a prayer session at the start of every meeting and he felt his religious rights as an atheist were being violated. Even though if he wanted to, he could request the chance to hold "an atheist prayer/vigil" at the start of a city council session if he wanted to do one.

There are atheists out there that the tenet isn't just convincing others to become atheists to. It is that they must completely expunge all demonstrations of faith from their presence everywhere.

Aris Katsaris

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Re: CS Lewis - Man or Rabbit?
« Reply #13 on: November 09, 2020, 12:14:49 PM »
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Do you believe the same about Christians, that they aren't allowed to proclaim the truth of Christianity, unless they're a "religious scholar"?

Professing your faith =/= saying that someone else's belief is false.

Actually, yes - these are the mental gymnastics I can't stand.

How you phrase a thing obviously affects the *tone* and the level of civility in a discussion.

But to proclaim yourself an atheist, means that you are also saying Christianity and every other theistic religion to be wrong. Same that if you say you believe in God, means that you're saying atheists are wrong.

C.S. Lewis understands this plain fact. And so many others go into mental gymnastics to argue that when you say X is true, that doesn't mean you believe opposite-of-X to be false.

---


Some of them go beyond that. Like one who decided to file suit in court because the local city council held a prayer session at the start of every meeting and he felt his religious rights as an atheist were being violated.

Good for him.

Even though if he wanted to, he could request the chance to hold "an atheist prayer/vigil" at the start of a city council session if he wanted to do one.

There aren't atheist prayers, since prayer implies beseeching a deity. But perhaps a Marxist should request the chance to offer his appreciation to Marx, if we're to treat theism and atheism equally? I'm sure you'd be absolutely fine with that.

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I don't care about what your religious beliefs are, and I have no expectation of you caring about my own. So why make an issue of it in the first place?

If homosexuality *actually* leads people to eternal suffering in hell, don't you feel that's something that would affect how you vote on gay rights?

If taking a photograph of you steals your soul and puts it in a box, shouldn't we legislate against cameras?

If the great god Huitzilopochtli demands blood sacrifice or the world will be destroyed, don't you think we should make sure to know how many people should be sacrificed to him? Or else we may end up sacrificing too many or too few.

Don't you see any way that a voting population may take stances based on their religion (or their atheism) that are wrong, because their religion (or their atheism) is false?

Fenring

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Re: CS Lewis - Man or Rabbit?
« Reply #14 on: November 09, 2020, 02:51:33 PM »
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Professing your faith =/= saying that someone else's belief is false.

Actually, yes - these are the mental gymnastics I can't stand.

I think you are confusing either what I'm saying or what you're saying. My statement is essentially definitional, not even really an opinion. There are multiple things that can be meant by professing one's faith, which can include not needing to comment on someone else's. It can also include an opinion on someone else's without making definitive factual statements, and yes, of course it can also include declaring someone else to be objectively wrong. But the profession of faith can be made on many levels, not just intellectual, whereas a definitive statement of the falsity of someone else's claim does require a strong intellectual component. Not sure how you can say I'm doing mental gymnastics when professing faith is literally not the same thing as just telling someone else they're wrong. And you are not even leaving out the potential for my profession of faith to include the possibility that you are are partially right but missing important elements. Disagreement does not have to imply total negation, as you seem to imply.

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But to proclaim yourself an atheist, means that you are also saying Christianity and every other theistic religion to be wrong. Same that if you say you believe in God, means that you're saying atheists are wrong.

I do not think this characterization is really representative of (a) most people who would call themselves 'atheist', and (b) not really meaningful in terms of assessing what is wrong in the profession of a diverging faith/belief. For example one of the biggest cons in the anti-religion faction is that the dumb religious people believe in a bearded man in the sky. Where is the bearded man, they ask, show us with a telescope. I'm only being slightly cheeky in how I phrase this, because I think in many cases it's not far off. So for an atheist to say a religious person "is wrong" when what they are calling wrong is this idea, means they're not even talking about the same thing, no less contradicting each other. By contrast, a person of a particular faith, when confronted with an atheist, might well ask what it is they do believe, why they do, and what life experience contributes to this worldview. It's the totality of it that must be examined, along with the implicit metaphysics, etc (it doesn't have to be phrased like that, but that's what it entails actually). It is entirely possible, for instance, for a Catholic or Buddhist to have a fairly high degree of alignment of belief, even though obviously there cannot be a 1:1 mapping (or at least so Lewis claims, and which I agree with). So the issue isn't right vs wrong; that's a very narrow and actually misleading way to see it. While there are obviously ideas a religious person would tend to say 'are wrong', that is not equivalent to announcing a priori "anyone who disagrees with me is wrong". That's what theological/philosophical debate is about: to determine what, if anything, the disagreement actually consists in.

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C.S. Lewis understands this plain fact. And so many others go into mental gymnastics to argue that when you say X is true, that doesn't mean you believe opposite-of-X to be false.

Yes, but the topic isn't just what the facts are, but rather our relationship to the facts. I didn't read the full doc that JoshuaD linked to, just the excerpt, but I've read plenty of other Lewis stuff, and I don't believe he would argue (or even accept remotely) that a religious belief consists of a series of truth-statements that can be listed as axioms, and these comprise the belief system as it exists in an actual human being's mind. Our thoughts are not a list of facts that can be written on paper, although obviously the formal logical apparatus comes into play to help. Socrates, I think, was acutely aware that the relationship between ideas, life practices, instincts, and even social awareness, have a very difficult to understand connection, and that you can't even really just say that X is someone's 'belief' and leave it at that. Not to change the topic and say we can't speak of beliefs in terms of fact, and Lewis does speak of fact, but be careful about strawmanning Lewis into saying things he isn't. I don't believe he would argue that the disagreement about facts such as he mentions in the quote can just be boiled down to some statements that logic can sort out neatly. In fact the Catholic belief, for instance, is that there are certain things our logic is not up to sorting out, and so there is a limit to how definite a claim one can make about these in certain regards, beyond certain basics. Ascertaining which sorts of things we can even be sure about, or which are subject to the weaknesses in our reason, is one branch of philosophy (and theology) that is non-trivial. So it's not just a "plain fact" as you suggest! That Lewis in a particular essay speaks of certain facts an atheist and believer wouldn't agree on, is to make a particular point: in this case I expect his point is to refute the "what's the point of religion anyhow, I can be a good person without it" argument, which is a popular one. He is most likely not making a statement about epistemology here, nor is he making a statement about what sorts of claims a Christian person makes as a profession of faith. For that you'd have to read a much longer work.

ETA - I should just mention I keep referencing Catholic ideas, despite Lewis having been Anglican, only because I don't really know much about Anglicanism compared to what I know about Catholicism. But on most of these topics I believe his intent was to communicate general Christian truths, and not strictly sectarian dogmas.
« Last Edit: November 09, 2020, 02:57:30 PM by Fenring »

JoshuaD

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Re: CS Lewis - Man or Rabbit?
« Reply #15 on: November 10, 2020, 05:03:21 AM »
C.S. Lewis is one of the few Christians I can stomach, because he's one of the few Christians who gets it that the only proper reason to believe in Christianity (or anything else), is if you actually believe it to be **true**. And that there's a stark distinction between truth and falsehood.

It's much more common than you have experienced.  Christianity properly understood seems to me to be that sword Jesus promised in Matthew 10:34, cutting away truth from falsehood, and with an apparent disdain for lukewarm conviction.

Here is a video I happened to be watching this morning, where a leader in the Catholic church talks about how disappointing it is that many people who call themselves Catholic don't believe in the essential teachings of the Catholic church.  Yes, there are people who are not philosophically inclined and are agreeable by personality, and those people might face some difficulties regarding conviction of the more fantastic claims of the Church. But I don't think it's fair to paint Christianity-at-large with that brush and characterize CS Lewis as an exception. CS Lewis is articulating the Christian view.

No doubt, the feel-good-free-love Christians exist, but I don't think they are a good or fair representation of the Christian ideas or of Christians in general. I won't go as far to call them a "straw-man", but I will say that you do yourself a disservice if you imagine that they are the primary line in Christianity; they are not.

Yes, yes: Be a Christian, or be an atheist, or be whatever you think is true and proper. But whatever you believe, believe in it honestly, argue for the truth or combat the lie.

Well, sort of. I think you're misrepresenting him a bit when you say "be whatever you think is true and proper."  I think a better rendition might be "profess to believe only that which you actually believe, and never stop being curious about the truth. If you do that, I think that will lead to you Christianity. If it sincerely leads you somewhere else, I think that is mistaken, but I do not presume to judge you."

Christianity (and Judaism and Islam and so forth) are all false.

I disagree.  I don't know if Christianity is perfectly true, but it's the best candidate I've seen, and it may very well be perfectly true.  Insofar as the other religions agree with Christianity, they share in that truth.

Atheism is not true. It's a really neutered and broken world view that devolves in the way Nietzsche outlined -- reducing morality to a battle of will and power.  This is both undesirable and false. There is Moral Truth that does beyond the super-man. There is more than just our personal preferences or our cultural preferences. Call it Dhamma (like I have done for the past 10 years) or call it God's Will. There is moral truth.

If your Atheism denies the moral truth, it is false. You can truly believe it or pretend to believe it, but it doesn't matter at all. The view is false.

If your Atheism acknowledges the moral truth (or, honestly, even the physical truth) you have to answer the questions of "how?" and "why?", and I don't see how one can answer those questions with a strong rejection of God. Reason doesn't lead there.

Every atheist should be willing to just state this out right.

I agree.

JoshuaD

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Re: CS Lewis - Man or Rabbit?
« Reply #16 on: November 10, 2020, 05:13:14 AM »
Do you mind if I PM you?

Sure, I sent you an email.


For example the difference between the eucharist being an important symbol and it being the physical body of Christ is a make it or break it proposition; the actual religion hinges on this point, as it does on the incarnation.

For sure. These fantastic claims are why I don't call myself Christian. I'm sold on the natural philosophy, but the Eucharist bugs me out.

At the risk of flooding the thread with excessively long youtube videos here is a really good talk by Bishop Fulton Sheen where he outlines that faith in the Eucharist is one of the most essential Catholic teachings.  I believe that he's right when he says that.

Belief is a funny thing. Do I remember at one point way back that you were studying Buddhism?

Yes. I have been a practicing Buddhist for 12 or so years. Buddhism is awesome and while I have come to be critical of some of its metaphysics, I still value its practical teachings.  After studying and my experience on the cushion, My view is that the Buddhists are sort of like construction workers: if you want to know how to build a house, go talk to them and they will give you really good stuff. If you want to know why wood acts the way it does on a metaphysical level, you might get some confused answers from them.

... for instance a Buddhist who believe that baseball bats are as much an illusion as the rest of reality will still duck when one comes at his head. Does this mean his belief in Buddhism is weak, or even fake?

I mean, yes, to a degree I think it does.  The great monk Thich Hanh Duc famously burned himself alive in protest and never appears to react to the flame with aversion.  Rightly applied or wrongly applied, that discipline arose from his deep conviction and practice in Buddhism.  I don't have anything approaching that level of belief or conviction when I sit. If a fly lands on my face I'm squirming like a three-year-old.

And likewise, if there's a disparity between belief in the sense of everyday material training and what your heart tells you, might there not also be a disparity in different things your heart might tell you, where some things are born of fears, some of vanity, and others of what we might call the instinct for truth? To be able to have such a concrete connection between these avenues of belief such that one's concepts are also one's everyday material instincts is something that takes work; it doesn't just happen.

I agree.

JoshuaD

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Re: CS Lewis - Man or Rabbit?
« Reply #17 on: November 10, 2020, 05:22:14 AM »
If homosexuality *actually* leads people to eternal suffering in hell, don't you feel that's something that would affect how you vote on gay rights?

If taking a photograph of you steals your soul and puts it in a box, shouldn't we legislate against cameras?

If the great god Huitzilopochtli demands blood sacrifice or the world will be destroyed, don't you think we should make sure to know how many people should be sacrificed to him? Or else we may end up sacrificing too many or too few.

Don't you see any way that a voting population may take stances based on their religion (or their atheism) that are wrong, because their religion (or their atheism) is false?

I agree with this sentiment. Our beliefs about things inform our actions. A person can't "leave their religion at the door".  My spiritual and religious beliefs directly inform how I organize my own life and how I act in the world.

That being said, this comes with a heavy responsibility to be sure that you're right, and you can largely do that with reason. 

Reason rejects the view that photography steals our soul. Reason rejects the view that there is a great God Huitzilopochtli. If you believe in these things, you are mistaken, and you would be doing harm if you acted upon those beliefs. 

We should not treat false ideas as equal to true ideas. Like these two examples, Atheism is a false and dangerous idea. I respect you and I believe that you believe Atheism to be true right now, but I would suggest that you get to work trying to tie that world view all the way down to its roots. I think you'll find it becomes unmoored in some ways that will make you (at least) very uncomfortable.

"Belief" cannot be a replacement for intellectual rigor. 

JoshuaD

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Re: CS Lewis - Man or Rabbit?
« Reply #18 on: November 10, 2020, 05:26:12 AM »
I don't care about what your religious beliefs are, and I have no expectation of you caring about my own. So why make an issue of it in the first place?

I can't imagine you really feel this way.

This whole forum is dedicated to people sharing their beliefs about things and the underlying principles which justify and unify those beliefs. You spend a ton of time here and you clearly care to understand what others believe and the reasons why they believe those things.

That is what religion is: exploration of the moral and metaphysical reality.

You definitely care about what people believe. This arbitrary fence around "religious beliefs" misapprehends what religious beliefs are.  They are not some meaningless myths without consequence. They are, in many ways, the the most central thing about any person you meet (whether they be buddhist or christian or atheist or ambivalent).

TheDeamon

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Re: CS Lewis - Man or Rabbit?
« Reply #19 on: November 10, 2020, 10:13:46 AM »
I don't care about what your religious beliefs are, and I have no expectation of you caring about my own. So why make an issue of it in the first place?

I can't imagine you really feel this way.

This whole forum is dedicated to people sharing their beliefs about things and the underlying principles which justify and unify those beliefs. You spend a ton of time here and you clearly care to understand what others believe and the reasons why they believe those things.

That is what religion is: exploration of the moral and metaphysical reality.

You definitely care about what people believe. This arbitrary fence around "religious beliefs" misapprehends what religious beliefs are.  They are not some meaningless myths without consequence. They are, in many ways, the the most central thing about any person you meet (whether they be buddhist or christian or atheist or ambivalent).

A religion is a structured system of beliefs held by a group of a people.

While I do find them to be of interest, as long as they are not putting people at risk of death(especially so if without their informed consent), I don't particularly care about it beyond that point.

The individual person might be a different case, but that's going to be an entirely separate matter from their religious preferences.

Fenring

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Re: CS Lewis - Man or Rabbit?
« Reply #20 on: November 10, 2020, 01:26:43 PM »
A religion is a structured system of beliefs held by a group of a people.

Although on paper this sounds virtually uncontestable, in actual reality it's neither a useful definition, nor is it in fact accurate in the case of many religions. Meaning - the core of it is not a system of beliefs, but rather the converse, the system of beliefs serves to try to explain in words what is a deeper relationship with...something. Trying to define that something might be what you'd call the system of beliefs, but the words used to express it are not the religion.

Aris Katsaris

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Re: CS Lewis - Man or Rabbit?
« Reply #21 on: November 11, 2020, 07:14:25 AM »
Atheism is not true. It's a really neutered and broken world view that devolves in the way Nietzsche outlined -- reducing morality to a battle of will and power.  This is both undesirable and false. There is Moral Truth that does beyond the super-man. There is more than just our personal preferences or our cultural preferences. Call it Dhamma (like I have done for the past 10 years) or call it God's Will. There is moral truth.

If your Atheism denies the moral truth, it is false. You can truly believe it or pretend to believe it, but it doesn't matter at all. The view is false.

If your Atheism acknowledges the moral truth (or, honestly, even the physical truth) you have to answer the questions of "how?" and "why?", and I don't see how one can answer those questions with a strong rejection of God. Reason doesn't lead there.

Without wanting to spend long pages detailing my thoughts on the subject, some of the key points of what I believe in, regarding morality:
- Yes, there is moral truth, the same way there is mathematical or geometrical truth.

- Just like mathematics & geometry deals with numbers & shapes, morality deals with actions & behaviours. People and cultures have evolved towards a better (though always biased and always heavily flawed) understanding of morality, much like they have evolved towards a better understanding of mathematics & geometry. In both cases that's a process of discovery, not of invention. (We invent notations & language to better describe and calculate the underlying thing, but we don't invent the thing itself)

- The existence of God or Gods is still not required for either of the above points to hold true.

- The very opposite, it's morality that makes the existence of an all-good omnipotent creator God (as e.g. proclaimed by Abrahamic religions) very hard to reconcile with our current universe. If there was any being that created our universe, or an omnipotent being that oversees it, that being would have to be a very amoral one. So the existence of moral truth is actually one of the arguments against the validity of the Abrahamic religions (and any other religions which proclaim such beings).

Fenring

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Re: CS Lewis - Man or Rabbit?
« Reply #22 on: November 11, 2020, 11:10:54 AM »
- The very opposite, it's morality that makes the existence of an all-good omnipotent creator God (as e.g. proclaimed by Abrahamic religions) very hard to reconcile with our current universe. If there was any being that created our universe, or an omnipotent being that oversees it, that being would have to be a very amoral one. So the existence of moral truth is actually one of the arguments against the validity of the Abrahamic religions (and any other religions which proclaim such beings).

Agreement about moral realism (i.e. morality is an objective thing, not just a convention) is actually a huge point of agreement between an atheist and theist, to the point where that's why I don't like those terms. They are very negation-heavy whereas in fact when examining each point of belief we might find there is significant overlap. The question is overlap about what, and meaning what. Here you are bringing up the problem of evil, which while not at all an outlandish argument, is one that has been well-addressed by religious thought for centuries. I don't mean to just shoot down your point of view, but it's one where if one wished one could find a treasure trove of explanations about why this point does not undermine the monotheistic one. Of course that doesn't mean it proves their side either! Just that the problem of evil does not appear to present a chink in the armor of Christian metaphysics. In fact you might even say it's a feature, not a bug.

Aris Katsaris

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Re: CS Lewis - Man or Rabbit?
« Reply #23 on: November 11, 2020, 12:59:59 PM »
Here you are bringing up the problem of evil, which while not at all an outlandish argument, is one that has been well-addressed by religious thought for centuries. I don't mean to just shoot down your point of view, but it's one where if one wished one could find a treasure trove of explanations about why this point does not undermine the monotheistic one. Of course that doesn't mean it proves their side either! Just that the problem of evil does not appear to present a chink in the armor of Christian metaphysics. In fact you might even say it's a feature, not a bug.

You keep speaking known things, as if any of us were somehow unaware of them.
I know it's the "problem of evil".
I know it has been "addressed" by religious thought for centuries.
I know there's a treasure trove of justifications and excuses about it.

The problem nonetheless still stands, and the explanations/excuses provided are woefully insufficient.

More to the point, even if they were somehow insufficient -- the problem wouldn't arise at all if you don't assume an omnipotent omnibenevolent god. You only have the "problem of evil", if the existence of such a god is the premise you can't allow yourself to do away with.

Between tomes of explanations vs the simple one-sentence explanation of "There is no god, or else he doesn't care about us." -- the latter wins by virtue of simplicity.

EDIT: Btw, my favourite excuse for the problem of evil is probably this one: https://slatestarcodex.com/2015/03/15/answer-to-job/

which I think was more formally stated 5 years earlier by a Christian philosopher at : https://people.ryerson.ca/kraay/Documents/2010PS.pdf (though I've only skimmed this, so am not quite sure if it's the exact same argument)
« Last Edit: November 11, 2020, 01:08:00 PM by Aris Katsaris »

Fenring

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Re: CS Lewis - Man or Rabbit?
« Reply #24 on: November 11, 2020, 02:25:46 PM »
The problem nonetheless still stands, and the explanations/excuses provided are woefully insufficient.

Funny you should say that, because as it happens I've always wondered why people pose the problem of evil as a proof of atheism at all. Like, it seems to employ so many premises that are unstated, have preconceived points of view baked in; and to the extent that even some religious people have an issue with the problem of evil (i.e. evil bothers them) it strikes me as just being a weird position to take. Formally it does have to be answered...but informally it always felt to me like "I don't like aspects of the universe so therefore there is no God." It's like...almost a totally aesthetic argument! And of course it assumes that one's present judgement is up to the task of assessing the quality of all of creation, or something like that. I mean I do think about these things too, it's just I guess I find it interesting that this is one of the chief arguments I hear against a God.

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More to the point, even if they were somehow insufficient -- the problem wouldn't arise at all if you don't assume an omnipotent omnibenevolent god. You only have the "problem of evil", if the existence of such a god is the premise you can't allow yourself to do away with.

I guess you're aware that this is circular? Rephrased, what you're saying is "I have an objection Y to the idea of X, and since X is inconsistent with Y therefore X is probably incorrect." All that does is say a priori that Y (your objection) is accurate, therefore anything it is meant to disprove is already disproven just by virtue of it being easier to retain Y.

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EDIT: Btw, my favourite excuse for the problem of evil is probably this one: https://slatestarcodex.com/2015/03/15/answer-to-job/

Heh, that's funny. It reads sort of like Voltaire, although obviously without being pointedly a dig against Leibnitz.

Just for clarity, though, you are aware that the Christians believe that God in fact did not create a world with evil in it, that this was introduced later on through a human act of will?

DonaldD

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Re: CS Lewis - Man or Rabbit?
« Reply #25 on: November 11, 2020, 02:44:26 PM »
"proof of atheism"

I think you meant "proof of the non-existence of an omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent god" here...

Fenring

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Re: CS Lewis - Man or Rabbit?
« Reply #26 on: November 11, 2020, 02:54:16 PM »
"proof of atheism"

I think you meant "proof of the non-existence of an omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent god" here...

I suppose the clause you quoted was a bit informal...but so long as "atheism" is defined in this context as "the position taken that there is no omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent god" then I suppose the statement stands. By and large this is probably roughly how it's meant. Atheists typically are of the position of primarily negating the core position of religious tradition, but are not stridently making a statement about other sorts of advanced beings, Q-like entities, or gods in the Greek sense. So yeah, I think my statements is (informally) ok...

Aris Katsaris

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Re: CS Lewis - Man or Rabbit?
« Reply #27 on: November 11, 2020, 03:38:54 PM »
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Funny you should say that, because as it happens I've always wondered why people pose the problem of evil as a proof of atheism at all. Like, it seems to employ so many premises that are unstated, have preconceived points of view baked in; and to the extent that even some religious people have an issue with the problem of evil (i.e. evil bothers them) it strikes me as just being a weird position to take. Formally it does have to be answered...but informally it always felt to me like "I don't like aspects of the universe so therefore there is no God." It's like...almost a totally aesthetic argument! And of course it assumes that one's present judgement is up to the task of assessing the quality of all of creation, or something like that. I mean I do think about these things too, it's just I guess I find it interesting that this is one of the chief arguments I hear against a God.

You can either ask us to use our reason to determine whether this universe was created intelligently by a moral agent, or you can ask us to abandon reason altogether.

The universe I see around me shows no evidence of being designed by a moral agent. It shows vast, profound, amorality. (It's not *cruelly* designed either... it just looks... not designed at all.)

You can argue "Oh, but a mere human is not wise enough to determine this.", well then too bad: human wisdom is all I have. God, if he exists, may feel to contact me personally, and after demonstrating his greater wisdom or intellect (perhaps by beating me in a game of chess), can perhaps tell me, "okay, Aris, I'm sorry to say this you're not smart and wise enough to understand my reasons, and for reasons that are again beyond your wisdom and understanding I won't be using my powers to expand your wisdom and understanding".

And perhaps I'll believe him or perhaps I won't.

However, right now, that's not what's happening -- you're not actually using some higher wisdom than mine, but rather asking that I abandon the wisdom I have. You want evidence for the lack of God, but when given evidence you say "Well, perhaps God wanted to make it look like the universe was not designed by an intelligence at all, but rather by random unthinking physical forces)

Well, yes, that's true. If a God wanted to, they could create a universe that looked like no moral agent designed it. Would you admit that the universe *looks* as if no moral agent designed it, even if you believe one did?

If you believe in an all-good creator of the universe, why do you do so, other than it's what your religion tells you to believe?

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I guess you're aware that this is circular? Rephrased, what you're saying is "I have an objection Y to the idea of X, and since X is inconsistent with Y therefore X is probably incorrect." All that does is say a priori that Y (your objection) is accurate, therefore anything it is meant to disprove is already disproven just by virtue of it being easier to retain Y.

You're being overly verbose again, to distract from simple things.

All I'm saying is that "Your version of God doesn't exist" is the simplest possible explanation to the "problem of evil".

Why don't you accept it as explanation? Why do you need volumes to find a *different* explanation? Only because you *want to*?

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Just for clarity, though, you are aware that the Christians believe that God in fact did not create a world with evil in it, that this was introduced later on through a human act of will?

Yes, yes, Adam and Eve ate a piece of fruit, and this broke the harmony between humanity and God, and thus we have tsunamis and cancer.

I am quite aware of all that bull*censored*.

Though you're forgetting the serpent, which was evil already, I suppose evil was introduced in the world twice, first by Lucifer's act of will and secondly by Adam & Eve's act of will.

Still doesn't actually serve as a reasonable explanation.