Probably No God?


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Probably No God?

  1. 1. Liturgy Worship that works – spirituality that connects Blog About Archives Contact « Thomas Merton O antiphons » Search for: There’s probably no God? Published on December 14, 2009 in liturgy and spirituality. 56 Comments Search » Tags: atheism, atheists, bus ads, faith, new zealand, spirituality, twitter. Translator   By N2H Recent Posts now for something completely different Earthquake updates Find Week starting September 12 My Our Father gift to thepowered by FreeFind VaticanThis searches the whole site -the other box on this page Christchurch earthquakesearches only the blog section ironic Fathers Day gospel? Satan and the churchCOMMENTS POLICY The New Zealand solution to Missal translation What age communion? follow Liturgy on twitter Mary Margaret Douglas tells New Zealand is following other countries in having an “atheist bus the story of Jonah campaign”. Atheists are raising $NZ10,000 to mimic the UK campaign Week starting September 5 Special Sundays and place “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your be a fan on Facebook Church of England logo life” on several buses in major New Zealand cities. Approximately 12 Meteor Shower buses in Auckland, 8 in Wellington and 4 in Christchurch will feature the persons of the feminine sexBlog links ads for 4 weeks. Television presenter Mike Hosking caught organiservirtual chapel online Recent Comments Simon Fisher on the hop with his first question “why bother?” Hosking,photos Mike Crowl on now forhumor who thinks there probably is no God, cannot see the motivation or something completelyterms of use purpose for the campaign – and Fisher reacted as if he had never differentprivacy policy Christy on Christchurchlink to this site thought of this most obvious of questions. That was soon followed by Jo earthquakesite map Kelly-Moore, the Vicar of St Aidans, in Remuera, clearly running circles Bosco Peters on now for something completely around Fisher’s weak points. different Brian on My Our Father gift to Rather than fear, or tut-tut, this campaign, I welcome the opportunity for the Vatican some serious dialogue. One of my followers on twitter interestingly Mike Crowl on now for pointed out that Fisher’s language echoed the Alpha course. Alpha may something completely different be OK for introducing people who have no idea about Christianity to it – Becky Carpenter on but please can we not stay at the level of alpha – please can we move on Christchurch earthquake Milly Hopkins on Earthquake towards kappa or further. The website of the NZ Atheist Bus Campaign, updates over which (rather than the soundbite TV debate) they have full control – Audrey on Christchurch does not appear to give an adequate definition for “God” which the site is earthquake Xenaclone on Christchurch dedicated to stating “probably does not exist”. The discussions, which I earthquake am welcoming, may help Christians to move beyond rather simplistic Kathy Pozos on My Our Father gift to the Vatican definitions of God (alpha) towards the classical definitions in which God i s n o t m e r e l y “a supernatural being” alongside other beings Archives (”supernatural” or “natural”) – as if adding God to this coffee cup results September 2010 in now having two “objects”. And with the rather regularly trite comment August 2010 July 2010 that atheists believe in merely one less god than Christians do… Hence, June 2010 Christians and other theists, may be enriched by this discussion into May 2010 deepening the expression of their faith, revisiting the apophatic tradition April 2010
  2. 2. March 2010(alongside the more common kataphatic approach) of Christianity, February 2010emphasising the transcendent nature of God (alongside God’s a t- January 2010Christmas-time-particularly-appropriate immanent nature). December 2009 November 2009Let’s have some nuanced discussion, rather than the popular Richard October 2009 September 2009Dawkins approach of pitting the best of science against the most August 2009simplistic, childish, flat-earth theism, where every few sentences Dawkins July 2009drops a clanger demonstrating his lack of reading of any theist up to June 2009 May 2009beta, let alone kappa! Let’s acknowledge the great damage that bad April 2009religion and bad theology and bad spirituality have done. But I don’t see March 2009Dawkins giving up sex or money just because of the great damage that February 2009sex and money have done in human history! And let’s not pretend that January 2009 December 2008Stalin, Pol Pot, and Mao Zedong are particularly good exemplars of the November 2008USA version of this campaign which had the slogan: “Why believe in a October 2008god? Just be good for goodness’ sake.” Are those atheists an explanation September 2008 August 2008of what “good” means in a world without a god? Can you be good for July 2008goodness sake? Or do we need help to be good? And might being good(for goodness sake) be a sign of God – rather than a denial? Fisher’s  s l i g h t o f h a n d w i t h o u t a n y e x p l a n a t i o n , t h a t “atheism” means September 2010“humanism” certainly needs justification. It seems to me that it is belief in M T W T F S SGod and the sacredness of God’s creation that leads to valuing human   1 2 3 4 5life – it will take a lot more than a tweet-length bus slogan to convince 6 7 8 9 10 11 12me that atheism naturally leads to people caring for others as a 13 14 15 16 17 18 19consequence. 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30  There’s also a need to tidy other definitions: « Aug    Theist – believes in GodAtheist – believes there is no GodAgnostic (type A) – believes it is not possible to knowAgnostic (type B) – “I don’t know…”Also the word “belief” can do with some clarification. Belief in God as asolely cerebral affirmation is a relatively new usage. “I believe in God” isoriginally more about trust, about commitment – in the sense of I believein democracy, I believe in the All Blacks. Certainly “I believe in Jesus” hasnothing to do with the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth which is acceptedby all but the most extreme of scholars – yet popularly, and amongstsome young people, they equate belief in Jesus alongside belief in thetooth-fairy, or at this time, Santa.Alongside the atrocities of religion, let’s also list off some of thepositives: art, music, science, technology, literature, genetics (Dawkinstake note), the concept of the Big Bang (a real shock originally mockedby atheists), Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Dante, Shakespeare,Mozart, Bach, Beethoven,…Alongside the need to clarify the definition of “God”, we are invited toclarify the nature o f “God”. “Now stop worrying and enjoy your life” isbased on an impression of an almighty punishing ogre in the sky. AsKelly-Moore made crystal clear in the TV interview, nothing could(should!) be further from a Christian perspective of God, a God who islove.So, in summary, let’s not react against these ads – they are a wonderfulopportunity not only to deepen our own reflection, but to clarify themisunderstandings between us. Atheists can be prophets, challengingthe idols that Christians present. And just as God does not agree with alldone in God’s name – however frequently and fervently God’s name isrepeated – so God is not absent from atheists’ lives – however frequentlyand fervently denied.
  3. 3. If you like the image above, you can drag and drop it into your own blogpostor use the following HTML<a href=”” mce_href=”” title=”bus ads”><imgsrc=”” You can also produce your own (you can give your version in thecomments below)Comments policyIn passing, spend four minutes listening to Johann Sebastian Bach’s JesuJoy of Man’s DesiringJesu, joy of man’s desiringHoly wisdom, love most brightDrawn by Thee, our souls aspiringSoar to uncreated lightWord of God, our flesh that fashionedWith the fire of life impassionedStriving still to truth unknownSoaring, dying round Thy throneThrough the way where hope is guidingHark, what peaceful music ringsWhere the flock, in Thee confidingDrink of joy from deathless springsTheirs is beauty’s fairest pleasureTheirs is wisdom’s holiest treasureThou dost ever lead Thine ownIn the love of joys unknown56 Responses to “There’s probably no God?” Feed for this Entry Mike Crowl December 14, 2009 at 4:01 pm It’s a surprising cop-out by the atheists who are promoting this ad campaign both here and abroad that they can’t actually come out and say, There IS not God. Probably? What are they afraid of? Bob December 14, 2009 at 6:10 pm If they say there is no God, then they are making a conclusion. A conclusion that they can not backup with anything concrete. They will make fool of themselves by publicly and officially stating this. It seems/is very arrogant and they don’t want that. This is a PR thing. So these days they prefer to redefine ‘atheist’ as a lack of belief in God … it’s not a belief that they believe that there is no God … so my car is an atheist too, for it lacks any belief including belief in God. good luck in trying to educate them that atheist is a belief.
  4. 4. Peter Carrell December 14, 2009 at 6:55 pmHi Boscoit was Mike Hosking not Mark Sainsbury!Stuart December 14, 2009 at 9:40 pmBosco – not entirely sure I followed all of your post but thank you. Ithas certainly given me more to think about personally – at a timewhen my core faith is being thoroughly challeneged anyway.Interesting to note that in the UK the campaign has had little impactfrom what I can tell.But like you, I welcome the discussions it creates even though I don’thave all the answers.Ian December 14, 2009 at 9:56 pm‘There probably is no bus, now get off your mat and walk’Being a part time London-dweller, I saw these busses. I call it anaspect of living in a secular state.The ‘New-Atheism’ discussion is one that, at best, irritates me due toit’s lack of proper scholarship (Dawkins). But a lot of believer rise tothe bait, and get into these silly discussions which really lead no-where.It’s all nonsense to me.Tim December 14, 2009 at 11:48 pmWell said. The way I read it is that saying “there’s probably no God” isthe opposite assertion to “there is a God”, not “there is God” – theindefinite article making all the difference. We have long exceeded theidea of God as “a being” or indeed an anything and now lean towardsmore conceptual attempts-at-understandings (how does “the sum ofall experience” float your boat?).God is not some superman, whose existence needs proven orotherwise; yet God is meaningful!Tim December 14, 2009 at 11:50 pmSo these days they prefer to redefine ‘atheist’ as a lack of belief in GodI’m not sure which `they’ we’re talking about here, but in my limitedexperience, atheists like to think of the term in two strengths-of-argument: weak = “no belief in God” (eg failure to see evidence);strong = “belief in no God”.
  5. 5. RuthNH December 15, 2009 at 12:35 amI could be open-minded and have a rational discussion about religionand God, but this is impossible with most atheists. It is their “I’m rightand you’re wrong” mentality that prevents it. So much time, effort,money being put to trying to debunk and destroy others’ beliefs. Andthe thing that bothers me the most is the mocking, using such termsor comparisons as “flying spaghetti monster” or comparisons to Santaand the tooth fairy. I am a Christian, but I’d never go out of my way tomock another person’s religion and be offensive. Have a discussionabout the negative vs. positive aspects of religion through out historyand present time? I’m there. Use sarcasm and an intense, almostobsessive desire to stop me from believing? Not interested.Greg December 15, 2009 at 2:18 amInteresting to see what’s going on – faith wise – halfway ’round theworld.I agree with @Mike above. Why stick the “probably” in the phrase? Areeven the atheists trying to hold out some hope?Bear in mind, some of the most interesting discussions I’ve had withatheists have also included some form of the following conversation:Me: “One of the problems I see is that we’ve devolved the world intoso many shades of gray and choose not to recognize that there areabsolutes related to right and wrong.”Atheists: “But there are no absolutes since there is no God.”Me: “So, you don’t believe there are any absolutes?”Atheists: “Absolutely!”To be fair, I’ve only gotten that last answer once or twice.But, I do get into the quick discussion that simply by stating there areno absolutes is an absolute statement – thus negating the wholeargument.MadPriest December 15, 2009 at 2:34 amOh, how boring. I expect a lot more from New Zealanders than blindlycopying what everyone else did last year. Where’s your imagination?And how about something a bit more culturally specific like “THERE’SPROBABLY NO BILBO BAGGINS.” Or would that be a heresy too far inyour neck of the woods.Paula December 15, 2009 at 4:13 amI have heard it said, “there is no true atheist”
  6. 6. Cynde Jackson Clarke December 15, 2009 at 7:34 amGreat topic! I’ve been doing a lot of reading so that I am able toeducate others when faced with this kind of discussion or positionrather than just saying I believe because I just do.and Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring is my FAVORITE! so are CelticWomen!!!!Bosco Peters December 15, 2009 at 7:46 amThanks, Peter, that publicly gives away how little TV I watch (Iwatched this on the linked clip – not on a box) Corrected the postnow.Meg Underdown December 15, 2009 at 7:52 amThe reason for the probably, as I undersfand it, is that the AdvertisingStandards Agency in Britain insisted on it. This might have been sothat it was not too offensive or polemical!morgan December 15, 2009 at 8:55 amIt’s interesting that people are assuming it’s the Christian God. Fromwhat I’ve been reading they’re more looking at it from the point ofview of addressing there probably being no god. Meaning any god.The signage is all-caps which is misleading.Ron Gordon December 15, 2009 at 9:03 amI recently attended a humanist funeral and was struck by two things:The attempt to rubbish the opposition. I’ve attended many Christianfunerals and can honestly say I’ve never heard atheist beliefs beingtrashed.I was interested to hear things that self-respecting atheists shouldnot believe. The minister gave the departed what he called a ‘blessing’he addressed the deceased as if he continued to exist.He quoted the ‘Jacobean poet’ John Donne saying that no man is anisland…any man’s death diminishes me…send not to ask..for thee.Which could have just about been acceptable if he was referencingone of Donne’s poems (Holy Sonnets perhaps) but of course he wasquoting from one of the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral’s sermons.Matthew Holloway December 15, 2009 at 9:08 am
  7. 7. Hi Thomas, your article reads: “Television presenter Mike Hoskingcaught organiser Simon Fraser on the hop with his first question “whybother?” Hosking, who thinks there probably is no God, cannot seethe motivation or purpose for the campaign – and Fraser reacted as ifhe had never thought of this most obvious of questions.”That’s a rather uncharitable view of events Thomas. And presumablyyou mean Simon Fisher.Of course assuming that silence means you’re right isn’t sensiblethinking, and it reminds me of what creationists viewed of Dawkinsanswer to a question about increase in information in the genome “I agree with @Mike above. Why stick the “probably” in thephrase? Are even the atheists trying to hold out some hope?”Your use of the word “hope” is an interesting one. Why would hopehave anything to do with it? Atheists don’t bend the world to what wehope it might be, that’s wishful thinking.Instead “probably” is about being intellectually honest about the limitsof human knowledge. To say there certainly is a Christian God orcertainly isn’t a Christian God, or there certainly are Unicorns or Zeus(or certainly aren’t) would be a position of faith.So there’s no evidence that distinguishes the Christian God fromZeus, Scientology’s Xemu, Wotan, or a million other gods that peoplehave felt in their lives.For an explanation of the campaign see this writeup here Peters December 15, 2009 at 9:54 amThanks Matthew for correcting my Fraser to Fisher (& doing so byyour giving me a new name also LOL!) – I’ve corrected the post.As to your “teapot atheism” & “going one god further” in your ownpost linked here – that is exactly the populist, simplistic approach ofDawkins that I hope this campaign will allow us to move a bit deeperthan. It is very “alpha”. Let’s move towards “kappa”. I have alreadyhighlighted that “belief” is more than “acknowledge existence of” –and that God, unlike your teapot analogy, is not an “object” that canbe added to another to increase the number of objects by one.Greg II December 15, 2009 at 10:14 amI have had a number of quite interesting discussions with followers ofDawkins.It has not been difficult to develop an argument, based on theirpremises, that they rely on blind faith for their position. It is upsettingto them when they recognize the end point of their logic — but theycannot refute it and do not try.As the discussion progresses it is usually interesting to find they do
  8. 8. not admire Dawkins as much as one might expect. They recognize theweakness of his position and recognize he is a bit of a wild-hairedideologue.That aside I believe there is money to be made. Church schools couldsell space on the side of their buses. It is a way to earn money andshow tolerance that reflects a deep faith. The pitch to the atheistswould be that given it is a matter of probability, they might as wellhedge their bet by displaying the sign while making a donation.Matthew Holloway December 15, 2009 at 10:26 am@Bosco PetersWell the ‘teapot analogy’ isn’t at all about whether the Christian Godcould be added to or subtracted from like an object, but rather it’s astatement about human judgment and how we have distinct andcontradictory ideas that we must choose from. These ideas may besupernatural or not, hence a physical teapot in orbit around the sunwhere some people say it doesn’t exist and some people say it doesexist.So the ‘teapot analogy’ isn’t about how gods operate and whetherthey’re divisible but rather it’s a statement about how humans acquireknowledge in a sea of competing ideas.If someone were to say they’re “sitting on the fence” when it comes tothe issue of the existence of unicorns it would sound odd to usbecause there’s no evidence for unicorns. Yet we don’t say we’reagnostic about unicorns, we just say they don’t exist. Atheist aboutunicorns more accurately fits how most people feel about the idea ofunicorns.So the ‘teapot analogy’ is more about how we as humans acquireknowledge, and whether we are ‘agnostic’ about unicorns or ‘atheist’about unicorns when we don’t have any proof. It’s not aboutsupernatural effects.Now we may consider whether religion is different to other ideas likeunicorns or celestial teapots. It seems that you may think it isdifference because you’ve talked about spiritualism (and pleaseexcuse me if I’m wrong on the following, I don’t know if you dobelieve this and I’m new to this website).If your view on spiritualism is that the various religions are merelyglimpses of a Christian God, or perhaps that the Christian God is thewrong name for some underlying spirit/ghost, then how do youresolve competing ideas in religions (homosexuality, abortion, theother hot topics!) or manufactured religions like Cargo Cults orScientology? Isn’t it true that humans are capable of feeling spiritualwhen there’s nothing there, or do you think Cargo Cults andScientology are taping into something?The teapot analogy is aboutMostly it’s theCertainly you can “increase the number of objects by one” when ywhatpeople believe in.
  9. 9. Matthew Holloway December 15, 2009 at 10:29 amHere’s a good video of Simon Fisher talking about the campaign, December 15, 2009 at 10:33 am@Bosco PetersHmm… Looking a the OP it is headed up with the name Thomas,however clicking it takes you to another post though. No where in oraround the OP does it credit you as the author. It’s an easyassumption to make. I made it myself.As for the ‘alpha’ and ‘kappa’ labels I’ve always thought the Alphacourses where a blight on the Church. They just feel to cultish. :/christy December 15, 2009 at 10:39 amWake ppl, there is a God. I am sorry if you do not believe. I do, nothingcan chance that. Alto of my views have changed throughout my life,but one thing has ALWAYS remained the same and that is my faith…faith in God & His very real existence. I dont think something asmagnificent and intriguing as the Human being could have come outof no where… Think about it, if there is no God, then there would beno ethics… no morals… no feelings (happiness, love, etc). Therewould not be anything. God is love, God is peace… God is everything.Just my opinion.Bosco Peters December 15, 2009 at 10:47 amAh, Morgan, I see – it looks to some like Thomas Merton wrote thispost? Well that should help increase its popularity The previousand next posts are just put up there automatically by the wordpresstheme (Matthew has exactly the same on his site that he links fromhere). The author of this site is not that far from the post – see “about”tab.Bosco Peters December 15, 2009 at 11:05 am@Matthew I hope you might explain what you mean by “supernatural”and “spiritualism”.The teapot and the unicorns are (possible) physical objects you candetect and analyse using scientific methods. You can add a teapot tothis cup & now have two “objects”.“Feeling spiritual” is a feeling – able to be detected and analysed byscientific methods.God is neither physical. Nor an “object”. You cannot use scientific
  10. 10. methods to detect or analyse God. You cannot add God to this cup &now have two “objects”. God is not in the category of teapots andunicorns. There is no analogy.Jean Paul Datuin December 15, 2009 at 1:04 pm“There’s probably no God” means they’re unsure if there is one. Whatare they afraid of? The truth?Mike Ardern December 15, 2009 at 1:18 pmmid-Atlantic, April 1912, : “That was probably not an iceberg. Sorelax and enjoy your dinner and dancing”John Sobert Sylvest December 15, 2009 at 1:37 pmIt is true that the “New” atheists engage but a caricature of authenticbelief. And they, in turn, offer us naught but a caricature of a morephilosophically rigorous atheism.Those of us who subscribe to a radically incarnational view of realitycertainly want to affirm that humankind can indeed be good forgoodness sake. We can and do pursue truth, beauty, goodness andunity because such a pursuit is its own reward. Of course, we alsoview our existential orientations to these intrinsically rewardingvalues as transcendental imperatives. We believe that humans canrecognize and realize these values without the benefit of specialdivine revelation. So, we acknowledge the possibility of an implicitfaith even as we maintain that, with an explicit faith, believers canmove more swiftly and with less hindrance toward these values onlife’s transformative journey.I enjoy natural theology, metaphysics and philosophy butacknowledge that beyond our evidential, rational andpresuppositional arguments, which, at the most, establish thereasonableness of faith, it is our existential experience of God thatgifts us with a confident assurance in the things we hope for. Beyondour abstract speculative formulations and cognitive propositions, it isour participatory imagination that best engages reality, not justreligiously but also scientifically and philosophically and relationally.This imagination is shaped and formed by liturgies of the mall, themarketplace, the stadium and our worship, where we learn (andfinally decide) to most desire one Kingdom or another.So, we do not even want to deny that one can live a life of abundanceand realize life’s great values without an explicit belief in God (evenas we have our own faith-based interpretations of why this may be soand Who makes this possible). Neither would we deny, however, that alife of faith is a life of SUPERabundance, enabling us to journey moreswiftly and with less hindrance along The Way.
  11. 11. Matthew Holloway December 15, 2009 at 1:57 pm@Bosco PetersAgain Bosco you seem confused about what the ‘Teapot Atheism’ isactually about.It’s not about supernatural beliefs such as gods (Zeus, Thor, etc.) ortrying to measure them scientifically. Like you, I agree that there’s noway to objectively detect and analyse any gods.Teapot Atheism is instead a statement about how we decide anythingin life and what the default position is. Are we all agnostic aboutfaeries, or do we just say they don’t exist until it’s proven otherwise.As religion seems to be a touchy subject, imagine if I said that there’san dinosaur in my garage but I wouldn’t let you see it. Would you beagnostic about the dinosaur or would you simply say it doesn’t existuntil shown otherwise?Now what if the dinosaur is a dragon? December 15, 2009 at 2:29 pmWow… Just noticed that they managed to get the $20,000 they wereafter.morgan December 15, 2009 at 3:20 pmRegarding the use of the word ‘probably’;They’re using that word because they’re being honest. They can’t be100% certain. No one can. That’s where science comes in. But in thisarea there’s no way to use science to test for God.I think anyone that claims with 100% certainty when it comes to faithis either delusion or arrogance.I don’t know with 100% certainty that God is real, but I have faith thathe is.I think it’s commendable of them for using ‘probably’ where they are.It suggests there’s hope for them and that should they find faiththey’re open to it.Bosco Peters December 15, 2009 at 3:27 pm@MatthewWith respect, I do not think that I am at all confused about theepistemological methodology of the Teapot Atheism analogy. I ammerely highlighting that whilst it is applicable to your other objects:faeries, dinosaurs in garages, dragons, etc. It is totally inapplicable toGod as God is not an object. “Existence” is not predicated of God inthe same sense as it is predicated of, for example, a teapot.
  12. 12. To use other examples: the number three or beauty are in twodifferent categories again. In what sense do you understand thenumber three existing? Or beauty existing? Or are you atheistic aboutthose as well. What epistemological methodology do you use to testfor or deny the existence of three or beauty? And before you startputting God in the same category as three or beauty, may I stressagain that the apophatic tradition and the insistence on thetranscendent nature of God means that placing God alongside threeand beauty may be helpful pointers but they are merely signposts andnot the destination.Using your single Teapot Atheism methodology epistemologically youcannot prove* that anything exists beyond your individual experience of it – youmay be a brain in a vat being fed data to give the illusion (cf. theMatrix)* that these other 6ft columns of protoplasm with interesting resultsto stimuli that you encounter all around are persons in the sense thatyou perceive yourself to be* that the laws of nature will in the future be anything like you haveperceived them to have been in the past (yes they always have in thepast – prove that therefore they will in the future)* that your friend/partner/spouse actually cares about you/loves you* that you have any freedom (limited though it be) to type the letter sor to choose the letter pYou will need to convince me that you actually live by Teapot Atheismand use that solely as your epistemological methodology for all ofyour life – not merely blog discussions.Bob December 15, 2009 at 4:12 pmHi Matthew,“As religion seems to be a touchy subject, imagine if I said that there’san dinosaur in my garage but I wouldn’t let you see it.”Except that in the case of The Holy Bible, it contains testimonies andeye witnesses accounts of many people stretched across thousands ofyears (long before The Birth of Christ).The teachings have been embraced and defended with/by many livestill today.Would you die to defend your belief that there is a dinosaur in yourgarage?Atheist arguments really have not progressed much. Same olcomparing silly thing with God.On the other hand, Theist argument has. Check out Kalamcosmological argument: December 15, 2009 at 4:54 pm
  13. 13. And a good discussion about the teapot: The Canterbury Atheist December 15, 2009 at 5:19 pmThis as far as I’m aware is the only time the 25% (and growingpercentage) of Kiwi’s who have no superstitious beliefs have everbothered to unite and say “we are here and an integral productivepart of society.” and open debate on religions role in the newmillennium.More so now we have religious zealots threatening our way of life andsafety of our fellow citizens.Reminder to all it’s not atheists who fly planes into buildings crying“Dawkins is great.”Reminder to all the most peaceful and prosperous nations on theplanet are the most atheistic.The message is appropriate – the more definitive ‘There is NO God’having been banned by the bus companies as too controversial.For those that get upset about the message – how do you know whatGod it is the advert is referring to for staters?One imagines if the adverts say said there is probably no “Zeus” or“Apollo” you would agree.It could be one of the thousands of Gods and not the one you happento subscribe to – the chances are very small given the number.I have offered $1000 to anyone who can give me a definition of God(refer my blog for conditions) and no one has even come close togiving me a coherent explanation.On the weekend I had a Seventh Day Adventists knocking on my doorand a flyer for The Alpha Course placed in my letter-box – soadvertising ones beliefs or lack of them is a two way-street and notone of you has a problem when it is the superstitious who areadvertising their hocus-pocus rather than atheists who say they don’tbelieve or need it.Have a good Northern Winter Solstice (a.k.a Christmas)I’m getting naked all day on the 25th.Peace to all mankind.Paul.John Sobert Sylvest December 15, 2009 at 5:43 pmGood examples, Bosco.In one’s anxiety to annihilate metaphysics & God-talk, one does awaywith natural science and common sense. So, scientism, logicalpositivism and radical empiricism have all been consideredphilosophically bankrupt.We cannot prove empirically and demonstrate logically 1) common
  14. 14. sense notions of causality 2) the existence of other minds overagainst solipsism 3) reality’s intelligibility over against anepistemological nihilism 4) “first” principles like noncontradiction andexcluded middle 5) a rational and ordered cosmos 6) and so on.This type of skepticism is indefensible because one ends up sawingoff the epistemological branch where one’s own ontological eggs arenested. We all, then, move forward with a fundamental trust inuncertain reality. In other words, we believe these things in order toknow more things. For some, this trust remains nowhere anchoredand paradoxical (cf. Hans Kung). For believers, it is justified in God aswe believe in Him in order to know even more. This is not so much away to think about any part of reality, in particular, but a way ofinterpreting the whole of reality, in general. Science was largelybirthed in the cradle of Christianity and stillborn elsewhere (cf.Stanley Jaki).In the much more philosophically rigorous arguments, one’s conceptsare carefully disambiguated and divine attributes are deliberatelypredicated (univocal vs equivocal vs relational). As you point out, inour attempts to increase our descriptive accuracy of a God-concept,we must be clear whether we are proceeding through a) affirmation[kataphatically] or b) negation [apophatically]. Terms used to definethe reality (not existence) of God employ only negative properties,hence such attributes are not logically impossible to coinstantiate inour arguments (God’s goodness and omnipotence). This not onlyguarantees the conceptual compatibility of any attributes we employin our conceptualizations of God but avoids any absurdities ofparodied logic (unicorns and faeries). This is not something that canbe explicated and made accessible in this space but for any who wantto dig deeper, look here.In the end, proofs regarding primal realities like God-concepts andself-subsisting quantum vacuum fluctuations yield only Scottishverdicts, unproven. The arguments are not unreasonable though.They are eminently reasonable. One has a great deal of epistemicwarrant in leveraging one’s fundamental trust in uncertain reality intoa trust in One who grounds that trust. Such a belief is what is knownas a 1) forced (not to choose is to choose), 2) vital (regarding ourmost insistent longings and ultimate concerns) and 3) live(philosophically reasonable) option. God is not an object of our finitesenses but the ground of reality: primal being, primal cause, primalground, primal goal, primal destiny, primal law, primal value.In Christianity, we meet Him in the concrete lived experience of JesusChrist and His followers, who have articulated the truth we haveencountered in creed, celebrated the beauty in liturgy, preserved thegoodness in codes and laws and enjoyed a fellowship in authenticcommunity. It’s more so a participatory reality than a cognitive thing.It’s like knowing one’s hometown even if it is difficult to draw adetailed map for someone else. Sometimes, it’s like knowing yourbeloved but not being able to put into words the reasons for yourlove with its just-because-ish-ness. Being in relationship to Jesus andHis church is a reward in itself, just like the intrinsic rewards one getsfrom pursuing truth, beauty, goodness and unity, which is why weascribe such attributes to God and call them divine.One can pursue and realize some truth, beauty, goodness and unitywithout a belief in God and many apparently do. I can only say that myrelationship to God is very much like that and that I suspect we are all
  15. 15. articulating and celebrating these realities best we know how. Life isgood, ain’t it?Chris Rigby December 15, 2009 at 5:54 pmIf as you argue: “God is neither physical. Nor an “object”. You cannotuse scientific methods to detect or analyse God.” Then one has to askwhat the relevance of god is?If he is unmeasurable then he can have no physical effect on theworld and is thus as pointless in our daily lives as a supernova in aremote galaxy.If you argue that he has a “personal” or “emotional” effect on theworld (in the case of inspiring people to be good). Then the actualconceptual definition of god is irrelevant as the same effect could beachieved with any number of conceptual falsehoods that we could telleach other to inspire decent behavior.To use one of your earlier examples. If the existence of god can haveno measurable effect other than behavioral in it’s followers, then hemight as well be “Santa” or “the tooth fairy” as any “protagonist” in themythological story is interchangeable to achieve the same socialresult.And throughout human history this is seen to be the case as societymixes and matches to the god(s) or godess(s) of the time.The actual existence or non-existence of such a being is irrelevant byyour argument and only the story and the results matter.Why don’t we just drop all the silly mythological stories to justifydecent behavior and just progress down a humanist path without theun-needed lies and fear?Chris Rigby December 15, 2009 at 5:57 pmAlso in reply to your argument against the teapot“I am merely highlighting that whilst it is applicable to your otherobjects: faeries, dinosaurs in garages, dragons, etc. It is totallyinapplicable to God as God is not an object.”Then I think you really need to define the “god” we’re talking abouthere. Or your defense of _any_ religion is identical and the argumentthat any religion is false or true becomes meaningless.By your argument if any non-entity god is defensible we might as wellbe worshiping Zeus or Hecate for all the difference it would make.Chris Rigby December 15, 2009 at 6:02 pm@Bob“Except that in the case of The Holy Bible, it contains testimonies andeye witnesses accounts of many people stretched across thousands ofyears (long before The Birth of Christ).”
  16. 16. And yet, isn’t it strange that in a time of mass media, omnipresentcameras and communications technology there is a rather longrunning absence of any visual evidence or eye witness testimony?You would think that if god had spent most of his time burningbushes and leveling cities like he did in the old testament we wouldstill be seeing such behavior today? Yet in a time when we are un-precidentally connected and able to collect evidence and measurethings beyond our ability to ever do before, suddenly god has gonevery quiet hasn’t he?It all seemed to happen around the time the bible was written thennothing since? Seems awfully suspicious to me.If God really does care about us and want us to be good, why hide?Why not provide evidence? No Christian has ever really answered thisone to me satisfactorily. If god really is “working in mysterious ways”by hiding from us… then isn’t that a bit crap? I mean that’s reallyrather setting people up to fail.And lets not even get started on the “Problem of evil” in a world withan infinitely good god.John Sobert Sylvest December 15, 2009 at 7:37 pmMost human knowledge does not advance from strict formalargumentation. Especially realities like truth, beauty, goodness andlove are not proved through syllogisms. So, too, with God. If Godcould be reduced to a mere object of sense-perception, then, inprinciple, by mere definition, we’d not be dealing with God.Still, through various apologetics – evidential, rational,presuppositional and existential – arguments have been devised forGod. The arguments are numerous. Any given one of them, alone, asa strand, cannot really do much heavy epistemic lifting. Takentogether and wound as individual strands into a cable, the individualarguments form quite a strong and resilient cable of belief. This isanalogous to a cumulative case approach in legal theory where one isweighing the preponderance of the evidence, or seeking an evenhigher level of proof, beyond a reasonable doubt. This does not resultin a final, unequivocal proof, which is why, with integrity, we refer to itas faith.This faith is not unreasonable. It is at least equiplausible vis a visother putative accounts of primal reality. Here we can apply anequiplausible principle, which impels us to choose the most life-giving and relationship-enhancing existential response, whenconfronted by two equiplausible accounts requiring pragmatic ormoral action. For example, if we are in a dark yard and see somethingon the ground that could be either a snake or a stick, we shall treat itas a snake and leave it alone. Or, we may encounter an uncertainuniverse and wonder if it is friendly and decide that one with God is amore beautiful and life-giving notion. Now, beauty does not lead in atruth-conducive manner directly to truth. However, as scientists, wedo recognize its truth-indicative nature, which often leads indirectlyto truth via symmetry, elegance, parsimony, simplicity and so on.Humankind has found the cumulative case for God very compelling,
  17. 17. overwhelmingly so, this despite the theodicy problem of reconciling agood God with evil. This is resolved thru formal arguments byemploying only negative predicates (mentioned earlier). But, in theend, any good theodicy will retain an element of mystery, which is torecognize that it will remain not wholly satisfactory. Jesus did notcome and answer any of the questions posed in Job or the psalmsabout suffering. At least, He did not deal with same propositionally.Instead, He responded by suffering with us and affirming reality andGod’s goodness.Many accept the notion that God, in His utter fullness, had to shrink inorder to make room for creation. Many process theologians view Godas participating in reality’s unfolding with us as free co-creators. Infact, reality’s probabilistic rather than deterministic nature makesroom for our freedom. True love requires true freedom. True freedomallows for love’s rejection, which is evil. From this perspective, thequestion changes from “why is there evil” to “what am I going to doabout it.” At any rate, I believe that if the cosmos was any lessambiguous for us and any seemingly less ambivalent toward us thatour belief in God would come very close to being coerced, therebylimiting our freedom of response and resultingly diminishing ourlove. Again, as it is, humankind finds the cumulative case for God tobe quite compelling despite theodicy issues. One could argue we’revery close to being compelled the way things are.John Sobert Sylvest December 15, 2009 at 8:14 pmWe know from semiotic reality, in biosemiotics and the coevolution oflanguage and the human brain, for example, via Baldwinian evolution,that there can be a downward causation without the violation ofphysical causal closure. This is to recognize and affirm that a tacitdimension in reality can be ineluctably unobtrusive yet utterlyefficacious via an implicate ordering. By analogy, we do not need tolocate divine causal joints to reasonably interpret reality as beinginfluenced by God via a divine matrix which controls the initial, limitand boundary conditions of reality. The classical distinctions betweenprimary and secondary causality are not only as viable today asyesteryear but are even more understandable in terms of modernsemiotic science.Imagine a rock flying into one’s yard over a neighbor’s fence andbreaking a window and inflicting other physical damage. We can onlyexamine its effects. We may wonder if it was thrown by a child or anadult or a lawn mower or a baseball pitching machine and rule out allof the above possibilities based on known physical parametersregarding the velocity, acceleration, mass of the object and so on. Weare employing, then, an apophatic approach, increasing ourdescriptive accuracy by saying what the CAUSE was NOT based oneffects as would be proper to other known causes. Analogously, forthe cosmos as a whole, God would be such a cause for that effect (thecosmos) as would be proper to no other known causes. And we wouldpredicate of this God all manner of apophatic attributes (not this, notthat) and analogously suggest, via kataphatic attributes, only what heis LIKE via metaphor.To wit, God is non-contingent, non-dependent, not subject tocontingent laws, not natural, not logical law (a number, a
  18. 18. mathematical truth, a Platonic form or some other abstraction), notspatiotemporal, non-finite, not deficient in any sense. Again, oneneeds to look at this definition to see how it is immune to parody andlogically valid as a modal argument.Interestingly, some would say that this God would be unrecognizableto folk theologians and the average believer, which may be true. It is,however, the God of the early church fathers, classic medievalphilosophers, mystical theology and modern day theology, Whomordinary folk access existentially through prayer, liturgy andcommunity, even if not via formal construction. The average believeris employing kataphatic metaphors, of course, along with someconcrete historical experience of Jesus and church community.Bosco Peters December 15, 2009 at 10:04 pmIt is interesting so far in this very good discussion, and thank you allfor your positive contributions, that those arguing for atheism appearto be following certain pre-set lines, rather than actually engagingwith the material in this thread. Those arguing for theism areresponding to specific points made. No theists here have so farpresented an exclusivist position, as it is termed in Philosophy ofReligion, yet that is assumed in the arguments presented by atheistshere. No theist has so far distracted the thread as atheists have bytalking about different religions, rather than focus on the question athand, “There’s probably no God?”Thanks John for raising this thread from the alpha level of God beinga “supernatural being” that I was wanting to move away from as Imentioned at the start, towards kappa and beyond, also for the linkwhich adds the Ontological Argument, recently interestingly revivedby Gödel and others, to the Cosmological Argument mentioned above(also recently revived, as noted there). I think, John, Paul in a commentabove was offering $1000 you might like to claim ☺ (although he didswitch from seeking a “definition” to wanting an “explanation” –whatever an “explanation of God” might mean).@ChrisI do not think I need add anything to John’s response to your idea thatonly that which is measurable can have a physical effect on the worldand thus have a point in our daily lives. As to your inability to find asingle Christian who can explain why God “hides” – that, surely wouldbe covered in the most basic apologetic text you must have turned to?CS Lewis’ Screwtape Letters Chapter 8 surely must be known to manyChristians that you have turned to – to pick just the first simple verywell-known text that springs to my mind.If there are new points not covered in the comments above, I hopepeople will continue to add them. Otherwise, thank you all again forthe positive tone of this thread, and let us hope that this quality ofdiscussion continues when the actual advertisements are run.Bob December 16, 2009 at 7:35 amAttention atheists, please research the kalam argument and William
  19. 19. Lane Craig. It explains how the latest cosmological scientific theoriesare in support existence for a cause for the whole physical universe. using play on words and old fallacious arguments. If you’rereally interested to know the truth, then start digging into philosophyand modern scientific findings. Read from both sides or you will justbe fooling yourselves.morgan December 16, 2009 at 12:16 pm@BoscoAre you censoring the posts? There was another post addressing theuse of the word “probably” that I posted after the comment aboutthem having crossed the $20,000 mark.I’ve got a screen capture of it with the “awaiting moderation” bannerso I know it was posted okay.Bosco Peters December 16, 2009 at 1:55 pmIn relation to some of the comments, it is worth being reminded thatthe concept of the “Big Bang” was first proposed by a priest, GeorgesLemaître, when the scientific community presumed that the universewas eternal (steady state). So much so that, while Fr Georges calledhis proposal “the hypothesis of the primeval atom”, others mocked hisidea, with Fred Hoyle sarcastically calling it his “Big Bang” theory. Ithas only been a little over four decades that atheists have had toagree with theists that the universe had a beginning and have beenscrambling ever since to make sense of this – every theory I have seenhas tended to require more complicated acts of faith than the elegant,simple acceptance that God is.@MorganI don’t know what you thought I would find in your post contrary tothe comments policy (linked from my original post) – I only run thissite voluntarily, by myself, & in spare moments – because it is such apopular site it receives a lot of spam (over 10,000 currently). I thoughtthat was all well explained in my comments policy. Doing a search for“probably” I managed to find it and it is now on the site.morgan December 16, 2009 at 2:11 pm@boscoCool. For those that missed it the post was back here.John Sobert Sylvest December 17, 2009 at 3:00 amI’ve met quite a few atheists over the years, all who’d rejected gods
  20. 20. whom I would never choose to worship either. Patti Lao-W o o d December 17, 2009 at 10:39 am Thanks John Sobert Sylvest. I empathize with Atheists to some degree, the god that many Christians promote is not the one Im familiar with either. My God cares not a jot whats advertised on the side of buses – Hes more concerned with what inhabits/inhibits the passengers. Gandhi said something like ‘Of Jesus I have no doubts but of his followers I have my concerns’. I have the greatest respect for many a great thinker/ orator on the things pertaining to our faith – but unlike Christ, their data is questionable. Sorry Bosco – that was rattling around in my head and I had to get it out morgan December 17, 2009 at 12:31 pm @John Sobert Sylvest Do you chose not to worship them for the same reasons? i.e. a lack of evidence for their existence in the first place? Patti Lao-W o o d December 17, 2009 at 6:12 pm My point was that some atheists are as such, because some christians are the worst manifestations of the things pertaining to the Christian faith. Atheists are no threat to any faith – its zealous christians that worry me. The God I worship is the God of gods…its not complicated. Other gods must exist or who is God the God of…? According to Scripture there are other gods but our focus is on the God of them all. Newer Comments »Leave a Reply Name (required) Mail (will not be published) (required) Website Submit« Thomas Merton O antiphons » Powered by WordPress and K 2 Entries Feed and Comments Feed