9.18.2004

"some of the finest hell raising gents"

RS, very nice. I guess I'd like to return the compliment. You're one of the best hell-diminishing gents I've talked to in a long time. [i guess since this isn't a direct conversation about theology but more about relating around the concept of theology, it doesn't need to be over on hydra. for those of you who are tired of this whole theology/anti-theology stuff and wish it would be confined to hydra, please excuse] But here we are, as John said, fencing. Or running track n field or something. So again pardon me if I don my mask.... A priori. Tough concept that would require a sentence to replace it each time. I don't mean to throw it around here and there to give anyone the false impression that I am more intelligent than anyone else. Let's be honest: I'm not more intelligent. And I use words like 'a priori' because I have trouble understanding concepts without using a particular vocabulary to describe them. Unfortunately, it seems most people believe that if you know a word and use it accurately that it makes you intelligent, whereas instead we should all be comfortable using "intelligence" as a vague term describing multiple kinds of mental adeptness. For instance, sure I am well read and can retain the things that I read, but this is only as much a function of intelligence as is John's ability to communicate with a client and design something that suits their needs or Jeff's ability to "read" a person and talk with them in such a way that they feel encouraged and not patronized. These are all types of intelligence. I'm terrible at some kinds of intelligence; I simply like to read and talk about what I'm reading in such a way that other people also gain the benefit of my reading. (Hopefully that relates to "teaching" because that's what I'd ultimately like to do.) In other words, I apologize if I am using words that confuse or give off an air of superiority. This is not my intent. I really enjoy thinking through different ideas with people and explaining my position on that idea in words that are both accessible to a large number of people at varying places in their education and that are true to the concept. I get annoyed when the technicality of a concept overwhelms my ability to communicate it in such a way that people unfamiliar with the integrates of that concept can understand it. So, again, take my word for it: I'm not trying to be pseudo-intellectual or trying to confuse an issue by using jargon. If I give off that impression, I am sorry. That goes for everyone, not just RS. Though I shouldn't put words in his mouth, I would say that John--who knows many more words than I do--is in the same boat. I just have a much harder time communicating effectively--a fault I hope to change for the better. As yet another aside, RS said in a recent comment:
I DO find believers to be mildly schizophrenic and generally creepy. Personally, I prefer folks who can toss around ideas and fumble like the hairless monkeys that we are without having to reference a 2000 year old book to see if we are getting it right--folks, who strive for rationality, are proud of their skepticism and try to make life better for themselves and for those who come after us and that is all.
I couldn't have said it better myself, which is why I (attempt) to retain relationships with people who call themselves atheists and agnostics as well as those who consider themselves religious. I believe the 2000 year old book I refer to demands that I do that, in part because those who believe in God and those who believe in Self share the same propensity for delusion. I for one will not make the argument that I am vastly different in form or understanding from Dawkins or Gould or Sagan (except they're smarter)--we are all committed to our particular belief systems and are all capable of being terribly deceived by our beliefs. We need not go back as far as the Crusades or even Stalinism to see that both vehemently religious and vehemently anti-religious people are capable of horrible atrocities. Actual argument. The above being said, it simply does not logically follow that because members of a belief system that we likewise believe dictate how we must perceive and act on that belief. Influence, yes; dictate, no. RS said:
I find Christianity to be a morally bankrupt system. It is based primarily on threats, fear, and intimidation.
I think what you probably meant to says is that you've found Christians morally bankrupt, persuaded by and resorting to threats, fear, and intimidation. And that argument I can't argue with, except to say that I know plenty who do not fit that description. And instead, even if I can only speak for myself, are motivated (on our best days) out of a sense of gratitude to God and a desire to make the world better for those we come into contact with at our own expense rather than a sense of fear and hate or self-righteousness. Here's where the "a priori" stuff comes in (sorry to use the term): I am not accusing those who proclaim that they have "tasted the Lord" and found him not good to be disingenuous, inexperienced, or unintelligent. To the contrary, I am assuming that you would not put up such convinced arguments in the face of insistent theists if you didn't have something to hang your counter-beliefs on. What I am asserting is that your belief about the meaninglessness or godlessness of the universe means that you must deal with evidence to the contrary by ignoring it or rationalizing it away. This is exactly the same "by faith" decision that a theist would make in the face of evidence denying God. My assertion is backed up by a claim such as the following in RS's comment:
if your particular god appeared to me right now, in the flesh.. no visions, mysteries or dreams.. just BAM. Appeared. Life for me would change very little.
Again, the convinced atheist or agnostic is not going to change their beliefs just because God appears. Their commitment to a godless universe is more binding than overwhelming experience or sheer logic. In short and to reemphasize the "hell" talk (whether or not it was meant literally), what I am saying is that honest agnostics and honest Christians are much more alike than those who do not honestly seek--those to whom the quest for belief in anything/nothing is a silly question, to whom doing anything for any other reason than to fill up themselves with consumer products or television doesn't make sense. For this reason we need to keep talking/arguing/calling each other names, lest the world be filled up with pointless movies and music and TV and internet sites about chasing after our market-driven desires to the benefit of some rich white man on one of the North American coasts. That does not, of course, mean that theists and athesists are on the same page or that agnosticism is a happy medium. What it does mean is that the real work of Hell (again, whether or not you believe in it) is numbness--a state of active dis-belief that cloaks itself as indifference or apathetic superiority. Only honest seekers, those who like Paul said are "running so as to win the race," are going to find answers to hang their beliefs on. Not necessarily ironclad answers in every case (though presumably if they are seeking truth, there will be some answers in some cases), but more certainty about what life is or isn't about than when they started their seeking. [Incidentally, the reason I no longer "smoke some pot, look at the stars, and find meaning in meaninglessness" is because it only dulled my senses and made it more difficult to distinguish what was the result of my own seeking and what was the result of the dampening effect of the drug on my brain. It's hard to seek when you're too high to read anything or seriously participate in abstract discussion.] I don't know about you, but if I'm on this earth for any reason, it's to stand against evil and stand for good. The biggest difference between seeking Christians everyone else is that we believe we're neither here on our own nor for our own (short-term) good. I think I've been taught and now believe my own--however imperfectly--that the greatest thing I can do is to sacrifice myself on behalf of He who has already sacrificed Himself for me.

6 Comments:

Blogger stu said...

good response, but you're still missing the point on some things.

1. "I find Christianity to be a morally bankrupt system. It is based primarily on threats, fear, and intimidation"

-did you read the sentence after that? sure i find christians to be this way but that is because their god is that way. i find YOUR GOD to be that way.

2. "if your particular god appeared to me right now, in the flesh.. no visions, mysteries or dreams.. just BAM. Appeared. Life for me would change very little."

your response-

"Again, the convinced atheist or agnostic is not going to change their beliefs just because God appears. Their commitment to a godless universe is more binding than overwhelming experience or sheer logic."

WRONG. if god appeared to me i WOULD change my belief because i SAW him. i can't believe you missed this. are you sure you're not high?

3. you said "What I am asserting is that your belief about the meaninglessness or godlessness of the universe means that you must deal with evidence to the contrary by ignoring it or rationalizing it away. This is exactly the same "by faith" decision that a theist would make in the face of evidence denying God."

what evidence? huh? you certainly haven't shown me any. like i said, god would need to physically appear before me in order for me to change my mind and if he did, i would.

erik, you are way to hung on philosophical jargon and seem to have a fetish for mind games. i suggest you get down from there before you hurt yourself.

9/18/2004 1:48 PM  
Blogger John McCollum said...

Erik--

I love you.

John

9/18/2004 8:13 PM  
Blogger Jeff Cannell said...

http://www.infidels.org/misc/humor/church_fun.html

I couldn't think of a better place for this to go.

Love to all!

9/18/2004 10:02 PM  
Blogger stu said...

Well, you know what they say, "Better the devil you know than the devi---" Ow! Hey, Quit pokin me! Ouch! Seriously, dude! I -- hey ---....

9/19/2004 6:53 AM  
Blogger stu said...

oh, i changed to my real name on blogger just to clear up any confusio- ow! -- i said quit--...

9/19/2004 7:05 AM  
Blogger e said...

to add to the confusion, this is a response to RS/Stu:

pt. 1: Yes, I understand what you said. But since you know Christianity through its adherents--this is the reality of your position especially since you don't believe there is any external reality to Christianity--what you mean is that what you see purported to be belief by the people who believe it and what those people actually practice tells you that they believe either in a capricious God or a super-sized version of themselves in heaven. In either case, you're still talking about Christians and how they have portrayed Christ/God to you--this was my point.

pt. 2: I'm quoting you exactly how you put it yourself. I'm not sure how else to interpret your comment. "Life would change very little..." in my language means "It would not change much." Right before this, you've posited God appearing to you directly--"BAM" is how you put it. So all I can infer is that: (a) God is there suddenly (b) you are non-plussed. This makes complete sense to me given your original quote and I'm not sure how to read it otherwise, i.e., the way you're "clarifying" in this comment.

pt. 3: There are plenty of "evidences" for Christianity. Several billion adherents including some of the most intelligent and well liked people in recent memory would be one "evidence." A Scripture consistent in its general testimony through several centuries would be another. The presence of the supernatural in individual human lives (revelation) would be a third. But committed atheists reject all these "evidences" by (for example) positing the indistinguishability of Christianity from other major religions or insisting that they've not had a revelatory experience and therefore such a thing must be reserved to a few kooks and not legitimate evidence. Yet these "refutations" do not address the core of the debate: the atheist and agnostic must take their position of a closed (i.e., material, natural, phenomenological) universe on faith. A "faith" that, at least I would argue, is analogous to Christian faith to the opposite.

Your final comment about jargon and mind games: as I've already explained, I am (a) endeavoring to not use jargon unless a suitable equivalent cannot be found and (b) attempting to be as straightforward as possible. I can only assume you say stuff like this because, instead of a discussion, you desire to make me feel stupid. And as I've already said, I don't need your help in that department.

I am sorry that you've felt like bolting from the blog world, though, again as I pointed out in this post, I understand your reasons for doing so. Thank you for continuing to add your comments. Hopefully we can persist in this dialogue in the future, where neither of us will use mindgames, rapidly change topics in order to deflect criticism, or make personal attacks to prove the superiority of our position.

9/21/2004 10:39 AM  

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