Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Debate? - What Debate? by Bernardo

Different people have different requirements for what the universe is supposed to be like. If I present someone a certain interpretation of the universe, then this person might reject my interpretation because my interpretation does not meet the requirements for that person's universe. A person's requirements might include "The universe is naturalistic", "If the supernatural exists, we cannot know it", "The universe was deliberately created by a divine being with a plan", "God loves us", "People have souls", and "The Bible is true in a way other texts are not", just to give a handful of possible examples. Sometimes I refer to these requirements as "axioms" or "assumptions" – they are the starting point, the foundation onto which a structure of belief (a world view) can be built. These axioms may appear to be supported by evidence, but in truth people believe them because they "feel" true in the first place.

Obviously, atheists have certain axioms they like. Not all atheists like the same axioms, but they tend to be pretty similar axioms, when it comes to the purpose (if any) and nature of the universe and of the intelligent species in it. Christians also tend to like certain axioms. These axioms are not all the same (just think of the differences between the beliefs of a liberal Christian in the Northwest and a fundamentalist Christian in the South), but they do tend to include related axioms, and they do tend to not include many of the axioms shared by most atheists.

Here's where the fun starts: Many Christians seem to be convinced that their axioms are right, that their axioms are "truth". Similarly, many atheists seem to be convinced that the Christians' axioms are utter foolishness, and that any "reasonable, logical, educated" person would prefer the typical atheist axioms over the typical Christian axioms.

I believe that this approach leaves plenty of room for discrimination and prejudice and bigotry, but little room for empathy or real understanding. Besides, this approach is incorrect. It is incorrect because it seems to forget the fact (a fact that Christians AND atheists admit) that neither set of axioms is provable or testable. A reasonable person can look at the world we live in, study many things about it, and decide to be a Christian. The things we see in the world around us can fit into the conclusions one draws from the Christian axioms. Also, a reasonable person can look at the world we live in, study many things about it, and decide to be an atheist. The things we see in the world around us can fit into the conclusions one draws from the atheist axioms.


Anonymous said...

Hi Bernardo,

I'll be short but maybe elaborate later. I didn't believe in a God for a long time. Actually I graduated in 1973 so you can get an idea of the culture of California at that time. So I tended to be a open free kind of person. Do what you feel is right, don't harm anyone, etc.
I liked math alot. When I began college I took several philosophy classes. Not knowing at the time some of the great philosophers were great mathematicians! I kept thinking I was so weird to like math and philosophy. Anyway, I took the logic, ethics, religion, etc. classes, including womans rights. More importantly I sort of lived those philosophies out in my real life. At the time I thought I was right on. Those philosophies and living them out really didn't work in real life, I discovered. I can't be an Epicurean and just live for pleasure, it got boring after a while and I was looking for something else. I can't just be a independent woman disregarding mens importance. Sometimes it was nice to have a man open the door for me. So I would try out each philosophy and sort of 'wear it out' then go on to the next thought of the day. I drifted for a long time.

I can use the analogy of food. My love. I could eat taco bell daily. Yet eventually I would crave a good salad. I could dismiss the craving. But until I ate the salad I wouldn't feel complete inside. Somehow my body needs the ingredients of fresh natural food. It is then satisfied.

So too with living out the philosophies I still had some kind of need.

By the way are you familiar with the 6 blind men and the elephant?

Good night , Kathy

bernardo said...

In other words, you pragmatically followed philosophies that sounded like a good idea at the time, and those failed. Therefore, your lesson is, do not pragmatically try things that sound like a good idea. Instead, try crazy things that look like they have little reason for being valid. If something feels good, do not pursue it, due to the risk of that thing feeling not-as-good in the future if you do it too much.

I know that's not exactly what you mean, but that's what it sounds like.

And the analogy that the mind needs God like the body needs salad is not a good one. If something fulfills you, you can't claim that it is essential for fulfillment of all individuals, that anyone who does not have it could not possibly be happy and fulfilled. Yes, a belief in God gives the whole world an extra dimension, and yes, believing it in will probably make you a better and happier person, but the truth is, it might be all made up.

In that sense, it might be less like eating salad and more like drinking coffee or smoking, or watching too much TV: These things feel good, but some people have no need for them, and even some people who do like them stay away from them because they see those habits are not natural or honest, but really just a short-cut to feeling good. I don't think religion is quite that bad (I see it can be "part of a balanced diet", like Subway sandwiches or Frosted Flakes), but I'm sure you can understand why some people might. "Opiate of the masses", right?

No, I'm not familiar with the 6 blind men and the elephant.

Randy Kirk said...

I think what she found out was that the tried and true pragmatism of the Bible was better than the fad of the day.