Showing posts with label faith verses reason. Show all posts
Showing posts with label faith verses reason. Show all posts

"Doubting Thomas" Tells Us All We Need To Know About Christianity

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The lessons of the "doubting Thomas" story are not what you think. It does not offer any objective evidence that Jesus arose from the dead. It only offers us a story about a man named Thomas who asked and received objective evidence that Jesus arose from the dead. That's a huge difference. This story is no more to be considered objective evidence that Jesus arose from the dead than anything else we read in the gospel according to John. Yet, and this is the extremely important point, the story is told as if it's objective evidence Jesus arose from the dead! Let that sink in. 

The whole point of the story is that faith is a virtue not a vice. The lesson is supposed to be: "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." But to make that point the author uses story about a man named Thomas who saw what we did not, and cannot, see. We've never met the risen Jesus in the flesh, nor stuck our fingers in his side. So a story about Thomas cannot be our substitute. If this is supposed to convince readers then the author is asking us to believe based on insufficient evidence. If this actually convinces readers then they believe based on insufficient evidence. 

This is the case even if a man named Thomas actually met the risen Jesus in the flesh, and stuck his fingers in his side! The reason is because we don't know he actually did this, because we were not there to see him do it. The lesson is that faith, blind faith, unevidenced faith, faith in a mere story about a man we never met, by an author we never met, is something praiseworthy. 

By using this little bait and switch of his, the author of John's gospel is conning his readers. The gospels have been conning readers from the very beginning. No mere story about Thomas can be considered objective evidence for the rest of us. Period.

Why Faith? Reviewing Mittelberg's Book "Confident Christianity" Part 3

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Mark Mittelberg is a bestselling author, sought-after speaker, and the Executive Director of the Center for Strategic Evangelism, in partnership with Houston Baptist University. He wrote the book Confident Faith: Building a Firm Foundation for Your Belief (2013)—which won the Outreach Magazine's 2014 apologetics book of the year award. Yet, it appears his book has been flying under the atheist radar—so far. I aim to rectify that with a few posts offering my thoughts and criticisms of it.

The third important matter that comes to mind is to wonder what Mittelberg was thinking when he defined faith? He defines faith as "beliefs and actions that are based on something considered to be trustworthy--even in the absence of proof" (p. 2). According to Mittelberg then, if your conclusions (i.e., beliefs) and actions are located above the threshold of what is trustworthy, you have a reasonable faith. If they are located below that threshold, you have an unreasonable faith. His main polemical point is that everyone has faith. For if we base our conclusions on anything less than absolute proof we do so on faith.

Mittelberg brashly tells readers Richard Dawkins has faith because on his 1-7 spectrum of atheist probability Dawkins is only a 6.9! Dawkins's conclusion, he says, "is a belief that he holds in the absence of real proof...one that goes beyond what can be known with certainty." (p. 4) "Dawkins doesn't know there is no God...Rather he takes it on faith there is actually no God" (p. 4, italics from Mittelberg). Dawkins "exhibits what might best be described as a religious faith" Mittelberg says, because he can only say God "almost certainly does not exist" (p. 141, italics from Mittelberg).

The Debate Over Definitions of Faith

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The debate over faith is whether Christian definitions of faith make any sense (they don't), whether they are consistent with each other (they're not), and whether Christians do what their own definitions say they do (they don't). No, we emphatically do not have to use a word such as "faith" in the same way Christians use it, when the concept behind it is the debate itself. Although, if faith is trust, as they say, there is no reason to trust faith. If "faith is trust in a person", as they say, there's no reason to trust extraordinary miraculous claims such as the sun appearing as blood, or standing in the sky for a day, or that its shadow backed up a stairway, or it was eclipsed by the moon for more than an hour; nor that a virgin really had a baby in an ancient superstitious era where it was believed several important fetuses were birthed without sex, or that Jesus, Elijah and Moses really levitated before Peter, James and John, or that Zombie's came out of their tombs. There's no reason to trust these claims especially since they come from superstitious ancient people, such as prophets, apostles, priests, rabbis, sorcerers, shamans, and guru's, without having seen them for ourselves, or without being there to investigate them for ourselves.

Because of this sad state of faith, atheists and skeptics have come up with definitions of faith that make sense, are consistent with each other and describe what believers actually do. Here are some of mine:
Faith is an irrational leap over and beyond the available evidence.
Faith is an irrational leap over the need for evidence.
Faith is a mother of all cognitive biases.
Faith prohibits one's cognitive faculties from functioning properly.
Faith is the permission believers give themselves to accept bullshit as the truth.
Faith is trusting in a god who is believed as trustworthy based on faith that he is trustworthy.
Faith is an irrational leap over the probabilities. (OTF, p.207)
Faith is an attitude or feeling whereby believers attribute a higher degree of probability to the evidence than what the evidence calls for. (OTF, p.207)
Faith is an irrational, unevidenced, or misplaced trust in something or someone. (Unapologetic, p.152)
Faith is a cognitive bias that causes believers to overestimate any confirming evidence and underestimate any disconfirming evidence. (Unapologetic, p. 55)
Here are a few of Dr. Matt McCormick's definitions, from chapter 11, "The 'F' Word", in his book, Atheism and the Case Against Christ:

Faith vs Reason & the Role of Imagination in God Belief

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Believers argue faith is a means of acquiring knowledge. Non-believers maintain that the source of knowledge springs from evidence. Which position makes sense? I attempt to answer in the following brief essay.



Faith and reason are incompatible. There is no room in reason for faith, and there is no room in faith for reason. (1) They are diametrically opposed. Reason is the faculty by which man identifies and integrates the material provided by or ultimately provided by his senses. Its method is called logic, which is the art of non-contradictory identification. "Reason integrates man's perceptions by means of forming abstractions or conceptions," wrote Ayn Rand in "Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World"; she continued: "thus raising man's knowledge from the perceptual level, which he shares with animals, to the conceptual level, which he alone can reach. The method which reason employs in this process is logic—and logic is the art of non-contradictory identification." She defined: "Reason is the perception of reality, and rests on a single axiom: the Law of Identity. - "Philosophy: Who Needs It" p.62. Reasoning is validated by observing that knowledge is derived from conceptions and that conceptions, in turn, are derived from perception. Actual measurable concrete observed existents related by valid logic lead to objective recognition of the facts of reality .

Mysticism, however, is the acceptance of allegations without evidence, against one's own reasoning, often despite the presence of evidence to the contrary. Its method is called faith, which is a short-circuit and abrogation of the mind. It is the numbing of one's own perception of existence and ultimately the rejection of one's own right to live. "Mysticism is the claim to some non-sensory, non-rational, non-definable, non-identifiable means of knowledge, such as "instinct," "intuition," "revelation," or any form of "just knowing." Mysticism is the claim to the perception of some other reality—other than the one in which we live—whose definition is only that it is not natural, it is supernatural, and is to be perceived by some form of unnatural or supernatural means." - Rand, (ibid p.62)

If evidence is available to support a claim, then a validating appeal to reason alleviates need for faith, then there is no need to dispense with the requirement of evidence in order to accept the claim as true. Exclusively, if there is no evidence in support of a claim and acceptance of the claim as justified knowledge is desired, then only by dismissing the requirement for evidential support, and accepting the claim in spite of the lack of evidence by "faith" can the claim be accorded truth status. Essentially, the process of believing by "faith" is a method of self-deceit. The Christian depends on a mystical epistemology of "faith". However, the Christian would, if there were evidence to support her claim that 'god exists', have no need to appeal to faith. She could appeal to reason, and since reason is a method based on perceptually ascertaining reality, her knowledge would be validated. Faith would then necessarily be a fallacy.

In Hebrews 11:1 faith is described: "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." What is meant by "substance of things hoped for"? What is meant by "evidence of things not seen"?

Can such a thing as 'substance' originating from hopes actually exist? Only if consciousness can create, modify, or manipulate reality. But that is impossible, for consciousness is merely an awareness of existence. "If nothing exists, there can be no consciousness: a consciousness with nothing to be conscious of is a contradiction in terms. A consciousness conscious of nothing but itself is a contradiction in terms: before it could identify itself as consciousness, it had to be conscious of something." - Ayn Rand via Galt's speech in "For The New Intellectual" p.124

Rand's great insight that frees the minds of Humanity from the tyranny of Christianity, and indeed all religion, is that "Existence exists". Instantiated existing things cannot be 'created', for nothing comes from nothing; something cannot come from nothing. Conservation of Mass-Energy is fixed reality. Matter and energy may change form, but new matter does not suddenly appear from nothing as is predicated by Christianity. Living beings are manufactured by nature, using components, in the form of molecules, which already exist; our bodies put us together. That is why we eat regularly. Our bodies use nutrients consumed to foster the development of our tissues. Our bodies are not created. A pregnant woman is referred to as "eating for two" when she takes her meals. The nutrients she consumes are used both for her body, and for the body growing and being manufactured within her. No organism that ever lived, is living, or ever will live was, is, or will be created. Judging by that, the notion of 'hope' springing forth into 'substance' makes no sense.

Regarding ' faith as evidence of things not seen'? If something cannot be detected by sensory perception or instrumentation, then in what sense is evidence present? Information provided by our senses or instrumentation is necessary to claim that we have evidence. It may be objected that various phenomena that cannot be detected by the senses may still be admitted as evidence. In such cases, it is argued that the phenomena at question is inferred by other means and that employing logic and the Law of Causality empowers the reasoning mind to inductively infer modally following conclusions. I contest the contrary, that immaterial entities that cannot be detected by the senses or instruments exist, by noting that reasoning is based in the perception of reality. Mental constructs, objects of thought, with no corresponding reference to reality cannot be conceptualized. The nature of conceptual knowledge requires the knowing mind, the subject of thought, to generalize from shared attributes and traits an encompassing definition to supply meaning that can be used as the concept. Inductively inferring from pure rationalism or imagination circumvents the process of concept formation. The inability to conceptualize undetectable phenomena is fatal to the notion that inductive inference can justify acceptance of what can only be described as "the imaginary" as evidence. Those who disregard the necessity of using concepts in knowledge do so by committing an epistemological reversal. They give priority to their own consciousness as the subjects of thought while disregarding reality that entails the priority of objective existence. Information about existence is perceptually acquired. Assigning the subject of thought priority over objective sensory perceptions of actual existence is called subjectivism. Doing so in regards to metaphysical ontology, is referred to as metaphysical subjectivism and is the basis of all religion and superstition.

Is this what Hebrews 11:1 meant by 'evidence of things not seen'? Did the writer of Hebrews mean things that can be evidenced by appeals to our other senses or instrumentation? Or, did he mean imaginative thinking? I speculate to the later. But no amount of wishing will accomplish anything for anybody. In order to reach any kind of goal in reality, human beings must use their innate reasoning ability and do work in actual existence.

To assert the contrary, that faith is superior to reason, is to presuppose, by faith, a vast array of propositions. Circular special pleading and gross question begging may operate to sooth the emotional needs of the religious acolyte, but in so doing they commit the fallacy of the stolen concept. "First identified by Ayn Rand, it is the fallacy of using a concept while denying the validity of its genetic roots, i.e., of an earlier concept(s) on which it logically depends." - Leonard Peikoff "editor's footnote to Ayn Rand's "Philosophical Detection," - "Philosophy : Who Needs It". p.22 The advocate of faith over reason steals the conceptions of reality and causality while denying the genetic roots of existence. This they do to assert the primacy of their fantasy of a ruling consciousness. Thus faith is a method whereby Christian believers are able to deceive themselves.

What is the nature of god-belief. Is it distinguishable from imagination? Can the god believer describe a method whereby another person may reliably distinguish any difference between what they believe god to be and what they imagine as god? (2) Indeed, what is the difference between belief and imagination? Belief is defined as "any cognitive content held as true - a vague idea in which some confidence is placed - confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof ." Imagining is defined as "to form a mental image of something not actually present to the senses". From these, it is readily apparent that imagination plays the dominant role in god belief.

Invisible magic beings existing in other realms and communicating with people is surely just as vague an idea as it is an idea not susceptible to rigorous proof. God is defined, as an infinite, personal being that interacts with humans and nature, that is transcendent, omnipresent, supernatural, and immaterial. To be a personal being is to be finite, yet God is defined as infinite. To be transcendent is to be non-spatial, lacking dimensions or location and non-temporal, lacking duration. To be omnipresent is to be everywhere, but to be transcendent is to be nowhere. Supernatural means the negation of all that is natural and thus to not be part of nature and to lack any ability to interact with nature; it is to be other than matter, energy or fields. But God is defined as a being interactive with nature and thus must be matter, energy or fields. Special Relativity informs humanity that E=MC^2 and thus matter and energy are equated in proportion to C^2. Immaterial means to be other than material, other than matter or energy. By virtue of self-contradiction, God is certainly vague. God then is defined as a vague contradiction that has no location, no dimensions, no duration, no ability to interact with nature, no mass, and no energy. This is the ontological equivalent of nothingness.

Placing confidence in and assigning truth status to the ontological equivalent of nothingness as a personal being of infinite scope is the ultimate act of accepting something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof. Entirely such an action must take place by forming a mental image of something not actually present to the senses since there is nothing in nature that indicates that such beings as gods might exist or from which a concept of "god" may be formed. From these considerations, it is readily apparent that god belief stems from the subjective imagination.
(1) Anton Thron, Tindrbox Files: 22. Reason vs. Faith? Rights vs. Religion?
(2) Dawson Bethrick, Incinerating Presuppositionalism blog, My Chat with a Presuppositionalist

Postscript: The writings of Anton Thorn at "Objectivist Atheology" (http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Sparta/1019/Thorn2.html) and Dawson Bethrick at ""Incinerating Presuppositionalism" blog" (http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com) have been of great assistence to me in understanding the value and advantage of Objectivism. For whatever it may be worth, I strongly recommend their blogs and essays. The material in this essay is largely drawn on my understanding of their work. I thank them for their efforts, and acknowledge that by standing on their foundations, I am able to present a better quality of writing and ideas than I would be able to by my own reasoning.