Monday, June 11, 2007

Two arguments on the existence of non-existent.

I have been a privy to numerous debates online regarding the existence of a magic man in the sky. And it is interesting to watch the tactics and arguments used by the credulous believers of one faith or another.

One argument I recently saw was rather amusing. A man who likes to think of himself as a deep thinker, in reality he is rather superficial, demanded that his opponent, for arguments sake, accept that their is a deity. From that premises he then set out to prove that a deity, in fact, exists.

It didn’t seem odd to him that he wanted his opponent to accept the conclusion in dispute as the very premise for the arguments used.

I thought of a court room situation where a prosecutor comes in and addresses the jury informing them: “That for the sake of argument you are to accept that the defendant is in fact guilty. I will then show you that from the premise you have no other choice but to conclude he is guilty even if no other evidence is offered here.”

Prosecutors would have a field day with that sort of argumentation. Of course such tactics are forbidden in a court of law. One would have to be a blithering idiot to lose a debate that starts with your conclusion as the premise for the arguments.

There was a second argument I found rather bizarre. And to explain why I need to lay some groundwork. This individual has frequently made statements about the nature of of his deity. You might hear him speak of the “love of God,” “the law of God”, the “judgement of God,” etc. He will make claims that without this God there is no such thing as morality for instance. All these things imply vast knowledge about this deity.

Yet the typical theist, when in a debate, will resort, as did this individual, to the incomprehensibility of God. God, we are told, is beyond our puny human comprehension. His ways can’t be understood with reasoning and rationality. It requires faith because he is so far beyond our ability to understand that the brain fails us.

I could almost accept this if the individual making the argument would remain consistent. If the deity is beyond human comprehension then any assertion about his is contradictory. It is basically a claim to know that which you state can not be known.

You can’t tell me he is comprehensible and claim that the Bible is his book, that his name is Jesus, that he is a trinity of three persons in one, or any thing similar. You can not claim to comprehend that which cannot be comprehended. You can not assert you know his will and claim to me that he unknowable to puny humans.

Also consider what a consistent application of the concept of an incomprehensible god would mean for the theist. If you can not comprehend the deity then you know nothing more about his alleged existence than does the atheist.

An atheist is merely someone who has no reason to accept the conclusion that their is a deity. The believer who argues an incomprehensible god is actually saying that there is no reason to accept that their is a deity as well. If he is truly incomprehensible then we can say nothing about him. If utterly incomprehensible we couldn’t even assert he exists. We can only assert that we have a theory he exists and no evidence to substantiate it.

The moment evidence is assert the concept of the incomprehensible deity flies out the window. And that is why the “incomprehensible” argument is rarely offered at the beginning of the debate. It normally is used toward the end of the debate when the theist is backed in a corner. Because once he plays that game he has conceded the debate except he is never honest enough to admit that is what has happened. The atheist can make no statement about the nature of a deity. He can assert nothing positive about him. The man who claims god is beyond human understanding is making the same claim. The only real difference between them is a relatively minor one.

I, as an atheist, never assert anything is beyond understanding or unknowable. I don’t do so because to claim something is unknowable is to claim to know something about it. There is a subtle, but important, difference between that which is unknown and that which is unknowable. Whether there is other intelligent life in the universe is unknown but unknowable. The first is describes something that is unknown but knowable. The second describes something which can never be known.


Blogger Publius II said...

As you've not named or cited where you heard these arguments used, I cannot confront what you say you heard directly.

Instead I'll comment on what I think you've misunderstood the arguments to be.

Starting with the first argument, that the premise is given, and then argued for a positive conclusion from that very premise. Of course you're correct that it would be idiotic to do so, if that's really what was being said. But I have my suspicions that it was not. I've heard a similar tactic used which I think is probably what you've actually heard, but misunderstood. In fact, it's used by both evolutionists and creationists equally, if not more so by evolutionists.

The way the argument goes is, that you give your starting hypothesis, and then make objective predictions about the way things should be at present based on that premise of a past occurrence. Then allowing the listeners hear that your predictions are exactly (or close to exactly) the way reality really is. So then what you've done, is simply shown that the premise fits with reality, based on plausible predictions from the premise.

Argument number 2 about the "incomprehensibility" of God, is completely mis-stated, and under your definition, then I too would agree with you. But at no time in the history of Church doctrine has it ever been understood that God is completely incomprehensible. In fact, it has been emphatically proclaimed that the God of the Bible CAN be understood, and that's what the Bible is, and explanation of the God who created us. It's an autobiography of God, so to speak. And therefore, it is not that God is incomprehensible, it is simply that he cannot be FULLY understood, because He is something more than our experience and our existence can encompass. Despite the fact that we can never FULLY know the Creator, we CAN certainly know Him intimately because He himself has revealed Himself to us threefold. 1) We know certain aspects about Him through Creation (ourselves and the world) much like you can get a glimpse into an artist, by observing his or her artwork. 2) We know an immense deal about Him through the Bible, which we believe He has personally inspired, for the very purpose that we might more fully know Him. 3) He has been revealed through the person of Jesus Christ, who is Himself one with the Creator.

Despite all this, we still do not FULLY know Him, and so he is said to be BEYOND our intellect and beyond our grasp for that reason. It is by no means that he is "incomprehensible."

June 11, 2007

Blogger Ethereal said...

Why is a a deity that is only explained in a book is beyond human comprehension?

I had a debate with a christian anachrist that loves to quote jesus and yet, when I bring points about jesus never abandoning the laws of the old testament, he says that it's not of god. Ultimately, he just says that he believe in love.

He just fill in the blanks, just like publius here. Beyond this talk of love and god, the believer will fill in the gaps of the debate with "love" and "love of god".



June 12, 2007

Blogger Publius II said...

Robert, unfortunately I wasn't able to make heads or tails of what you were trying to say. Was there a specific point in what I said that doesn't make sense to you?

June 12, 2007

Blogger Ethereal said...

Yes, The argument that somehow your deity is incomprehensible. I disagree with your agrument because your deity does not exist and is not incomprehensible. The only reason to a believer that a deity could be understood because the deity is no other than the person making the projection of the deity. In other words god was created in man's image.

June 13, 2007

Blogger Publius II said...

I did not argue that God is incomprehensible. If you go back and read what I wrote, I'm arguing that God is NOT incomprehensible. In fact, I argue that God is in fact, VERY comprehensible.

Now, you assert that God was created by man, but unfortunately simply asserting such an idea doesn't do it. Now if you said, "I don't believe that God exists, because I don't WANT to believe God exists, because that would mean that I am accountable to someone other than myself," now that would be a believable statement. But simply asserting that God doesn't exist, simply doesn't hold water.

I can assert that the moon is really made out of swiss cheese until I'm blue in the face, but ultimately it doesn't matter what I assert, because the black and white truth of it is something altogether different.

June 13, 2007

Blogger Ethereal said...

He does not exist. You have made the assertion that your deity exist, and now, you have to prove to me that it does. You cannot prove a negative.

We all know that the moon is not made of swiss cheese, the same can be said of your god, your god does not exist, the evidence to support it is that the evil people of that time (god's chosen people, the jews) went around and killing people all because some god told them to do so. My point has been made. God was made in man's image as NGZ explain clearly.


June 14, 2007

Blogger Publius II said...

Nothing was "explained" as you say. It was simply asserted. You have people asserting that God doesn't exist, with no real argument supporting the assertion.

On the other side, you have people asserting that He DOES exist, and we have Scripture and History to testify to that fact.

June 14, 2007

Blogger GodlessZone said...

I did not send you to the source because they are email exchange between a prominent Christian and an atheist.

I find it odd that Publius is arguing I have “completely mis-stated” the views in question since I don’t believe he was privy to the email discussion to which I refer. But he does believe in divine revelation so maybe Jehovah slipped him a copy.

June 16, 2007

Blogger Publius II said...

The reason I can say it is completely mis-stated, is because I think you're referring to an old and well established doctrine. If my clarification the subject is NOT what was being discussed, then we can discuss it further.

But as I said, I was only guessing at what was actually being argued, based on common arguments that used quite frequently.

June 16, 2007

Blogger "Nike" said...

Hey if you get a chance, read the what is written in the following link. I am curious as to what you think about it.

July 08, 2007

Blogger IKnowLittle said...

I agree with publius, robert. You don't seem to be in full awareness of the things you are saying. Apparently you believe that because we have plenty of evidence of God and you don't you believe he DOESN'T exist?
As publius said, you can call the moon cheese all you want but we've been there and have proof that it is not.

August 13, 2008

Blogger GodlessZone said...

The previous commentator has at least given an honest pen name to himself - "Iknowlittle".

Allow me to address what he said. He claims that he has "plenty of evidence of God" and I don't, so that is why he I say he doesn't exist. To be precise Mr Knowlittle, I say I have no reason to believe he exists. And your claim to private evidence is worthless.

If I said I had private evidence that you are a killer does that make you a killer?

Your last bizarre statment is quite strange and somewhat incoherent. I don't say the moon is anything but the moon. The bad analogy you make is more applicable the other way around. You woulld be the one with private evidence that the moon is made of cheese. You are claiming the miraculous and supernatural and then refusing to offer evidence. You merely offer assertions.

August 13, 2008


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