How to Find God

When asked what it would take to convince him that there were a God, Tyrrell McAllister writes in reply:

I don’t know, but my imagination is limited. Nonetheless, I am certain that an omnipotent and omniscient God, unburdened by my limits, could think of something.

If there is a God, then I want to believe that there is a God. I sincerely hope, and strongly believe, that, if there is a God, then it would be possible for some evidence to convince me.

I confess that my limited imagination cannot picture in detail what that evidence would be. But that doesn’t worry me too much, because I can’t currently imagine a lot of things that actually exist or will actually happen. That is obvious. I can see that what I can now imagine is too paltry an image to possibly be a perfectly accurate and complete picture of reality.

That my paltry imagination doesn’t contain something is only very weak evidence that that “something” doesn’t exist. (In this case, the “something” is evidence that would convince me of God’s existence.) Here, this weak evidence is overwhelmed by the fact that it is even harder for me to imagine what could possibly stop God, if he existed, from finding a way to convince me.
The arguments that you and your commenters make above about post-modern epistemology and peoples’ obstinate immunity to all evidence doesn’t help me to see how God could be unable to convince me. I am not a post-modernist, and I don’t believe that I am immune to all possible evidence. Therefore, were God unable to convince me, it seems to me unlikely that it would be for the reasons that you have given.

Brother, I sympathize more than I can say. It was when I reached a point in my atheist pondering when I realized that no miracle, no evidence, nothing whatsoever I could see with my eyes could possibly convince me of the existence of God that I came to myself, and realized my method of inquire was grossly inadequate. It was a thought prison.

If you are not a modern or a postmodern thinker, and you are looking for evidence in the existence of God, allow me in all humility to suggest two things.

First, I suggest the use of reason.

On the one hand, use your reason to contemplate the world if it were as the atheist modernistic worldview claims it to be. That is, a universe of infinite intricacy and beauty which came into existence for no reason and will be consumed by entropy, decay, and death for no reason.

In such a world, all human accomplishment is ultimately vain. It matters nothing if men walked on the Moon during the Nixon administration. From the point of view of a world in a galaxy swimming somewhere lost in the immensity of the supercluster in Corona Borealis one billion light years away, no astronomer of that world will even know our galaxy existed, or our star, or our world or anything we do on it. And even if that astronomer were to learn of our galaxy, and give it a star catalog number, or learn of our world, he also will pass away, and his world, his starsystem, his galaxy, his cluster, his supercluster. It all dies sooner or later, and even long-lived stars go out.

In such a world, there is no truth, since the methods in the human brain for comparing ideas with reality are biological machines as subject to malfunction or mischance as any other quirky computer or rusting clockwork, with the added uncertainty that the human brain was not designed by a computer programmer or careful clockmaker, but is the unintentional byproduct of mindless natural processes, merely strings of chemical and neurological reactions leading one to another like a row of dominoes toppling.

In such a world, there can be temporary or pragmatic reasons for just and moral behavior, but no eternal reason, no deliberate reasons, no reasons that really make sense.

In such a world, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. There is no meaning to anything, no fit nor proper emotional response to anything our senses perceive, and a man who likes torture porn is no better and no worse than a woman who likes to see her baby smile.

In such a world, you are living your life inside a coffin. Now, this may be a large coffin, and certain things like love and family and rewarding work or temporary artistic experiences may distract you or please you for a certain time, but that time will pass and those things will fail and die, and you will be in the coffin whether you distract yourself from that horrible reality or not.

There are two and only two possible reactions to waking up and finding yourself prematurely buried in a coffin, in a world with no justice, no truth, and no beauty.

One is to distract yourself with game and toys until the oxygen runs out. This is called hedonism. This is the preferred method of the modern mind, and it is the reason why our society is rapidly becoming uncouth, indecent, and unlivable. The modern world is not a place to raise kids. The celebration of sexual perversion, the abundance of drugs, the ubiquity of porn, and the heedless spending of money we don’t have both on a personal and national level are all the logical side effects of hedonism. It is by nature a short term and self defeating way to live.

The other is stoicism, a manly resignation to the inevitability of death, and resolution to die bravely and serenely, without uncouth displays, complaints, or regrets. This is the method preferred by the ancients.

Now, I submit to your candid judgment that both of these options are deadly to human nature. For better or worse, we are not designed to be able to thrive, to find meaning, to find joy, in a world where everything we do is vain, where truth is propaganda, justice is brutality, beauty is porn.
Hedonism is fundamentally a self-degrading and self-destructive path, and destructive of progeny. Hedonists have no need of marriage, and they expose or abort their infants. Stoicism is a far nobler creed, and has much to recommend it, but it also holds self-destruction, suicide after the fashion of Socrates or Cato of Utica, to be admirable. Stoicism has neither the means nor the motive to resist tyranny.

The attempts to live in such a world inevitably make us stupid, selfish, and unhappy.

We are stupid if there is no truth, because then we live in a cloud of vague ideas not subject to critical examination. When all ideas are equal to all others, we have no reason to care whether they make sense or not.

A world without truth is merely a battlefield of increasingly irrational competing ‘narratives’ that is, propaganda labyrinths, and the only rational response is to use peer pressure or the force of the law to get all men to cease questioning political correctness, either by ruling discussions out of bounds, or using hate speech codes, or declaring opposition to political correctness to be a psychopathology.

If you see the social and political discourse around you degenerating into exchanges of emotionally overheated bumpersticker sloganeering, this is because the culture accepts the postulate of truthlessness.

We are selfish if there is no justice, for then our desires for our immediate good have equal weight, or superior, to the claims of the poor and needy, or the claims of those not of our family, clan, bloodline, nation, or faction.

If there is no justice, there is no way to weigh one claim against the other, and the strong will take what they want and the weak will suffer what they must.

And if there is no beauty, there can be no joy.

Ugliness can be endured by those with a sick, sneering attitude, who secretly or openly are pleased at the disquiet ugliness imposes on others, and their pleasure comes from marring beauty, rather than making it: the pleasure of the graffiti artist is to deface the art of the architect.

On the other hand, contemplate the world as it would be if the world were as the Christian teaching describes.

In such a world, Beauty both natural and supernatural exists around us and within in, rapturous and transcendent and sublime, because it springs shining from the hand of that great artist who designed the worlds and filled them.

When a Christian looks at the rings of Saturn, which are of no possible use to any man, and are invisible before the invention of the telescope, he can be grateful for the sublime beauty he sees, and, if his world view is correct, there is indeed someone to whom to be grateful, so the emotion is not meaningless, not selfish.

In such a world, the justice that men all crave and few or none receive on Earth is assured in the next life, and no criminal escapes, except through that same abundant mercy for which we also hunger and thirst.

In such a world, not only is there such a thing as Truth, the Truth is not a thing but a person, who seeks to woo you as ardently as a passionate young man would woo his bride.

In such a world, there is a clear and cogent reason for believing in the equality of man and the sacredness of human life.

There is a clear and cogent for believing in the dignity of marriage, in obedience to magistrates, in the ‘just war’ theory.

There is a clear and cogent reason for believing that the mind of man and the laws of nature operate from the same laws of logic, and that the one is valid and able to contemplate fruitfully the other.

There is a reason, in other words, if God exists, for believing that the study of the physical sciences reveals real truths to the minds of men. Without God, there is no reason for that belief, merely a hope; and no one can account for that hope.

In sum, a dispassionate examination of the Christian and the Atheist worldview shows that the one model or theory explains what it attempts to explain and the other does not. In that case, it is like preferring the heliocentric to the geocentric model. One model ends in absurdities and gaps and ad hoc explanations and therefore must be rejected. And I mean the atheist model. It does not explain Man. It does not explain truth, justice, or beauty.

Now, a common objection to raise at this point is to say that there are many other options aside from atheism and Christianity. There is Judaism, for example. There are countless denominations within Christianity, and there are pagan beliefs, and primitive tribal beliefs, and the sophisticated theologies and philosophies of Buddha, Confucius, and Lao Tzu.

As a practical matter, whatever is good and useful in pagan and prechristian belief has been adopted into Christianity and made workable. Stoicism, for example, is a hard, practically impossible, doctrine to follow. Martyrdom, however, is something any saint can do.

As a historical matter, various heresies and perversions of the Church either contain some good but not all the good of the Church (for example, they have the Bible but not the sacraments) or they have grotesquely perverted the good. For the Mohammedan heretics to call their craven suicide-murder bombers ‘martyrs’ is very nearly a perfect Orwellian reverse of its real meaning, a gross perversion, and abominable attempt to slather an enormity in the prestige of sanctity.

As a theological matter, none of these differences of denomination are widely significant not when compared with the nullity of atheism, and pagan or New Age beliefs, like Judaism or Islam, are either earlier world views that find their full completion in Christ, the way Newton was completed, but not contradicted, by Einstein, or they are partial versions, or inversions, trailing after Christ, the way classical music was followed by modern atonal music. A man who seeks to flee from the vacuous moral and mental abyss of modernism, and to find truth, beauty, and justice will find more of it in Christianity, more clear and more pure, than elsewhere, albeit these others have their merits as well.

Thus, reason leads to Christ the moment reason ceases to place obstacles in the way. The process of apologetics is almost never to persuade the listener that God exists, that he created us, suffered and died for us, was raised from death and conquered it and lives in us and grants us His life. The process is usually limited to dismissing or dispelling specious arguments against God, such as arguments that portray God as comical, or cruel, or logically absurd, or as a silly superstition, or as an abortive scientific problem. Once those arguments are exploded, the heart is open to receive the Holy Spirit.

Therefore the use of reason is crucial to leading men to God, by proving that the godless world is cruel and foolish and superstitious, leads to horrors from which all honest men recoil, or leads to stupidity, injustice, ugliness and death. That is, the use of reason is to show a model which lack God is a model that does not describe the world we see around us, and does not describe Man.

This last point is most significant. The most striking thing about modern theories and modern philosophies is how painfully easy they are for a student of philosophy to refute. All he need do is look to see if they refute themselves.

Any philosophy which, if it were true, would eliminate the possibility of a philosopher honestly coming to believe it refutes itself by its own terms. Any philosophy which eliminates the philosopher is false.

A few notorious examples will prove the point.

Hume pronounces a withering empirical skepticism which, if it were true, would lead the philosopher with no reason to believe empiricism, withering or not, nor any other theory of epistemology, since epistemological theories by definition are non-empirical.

Marx claims that the economic theories believed by men are the mechanical and thoughtless by product of their modes of production and the operation of inhuman forces of history. If true, then his theory (including the statement that men believe theories because of modes of production of the societies in which they happen to live and be conditioned), is also believed only because of the modes of production of the society in which Marx happened to live and by which he was conditioned, and therefore his theory is not objective nor true.

Skinner is likewise conditioned to respond to stimuli by repeating the slogans of Behaviorism, but he does not believe them, because there is no internal reality to man.

Logical Positivism is the metaphysical theory that all metaphysical theories are meaningless, including their own.

Freud’s theory of sexual repression springs from his diseased subconscious forces of which he is, due to his own sexual repressions, unaware. And so on and on.

Each of these philosophies makes a simple error. By ignoring the supernatural, they attempt to explain Man as a natural phenomenon, that is, as a beast who talks, as a robot programmed by his environment, as by product of molecular, chemical, and evolutionary forces and processes.

But Man, if he is just a beast or just a robot, cannot be a philosopher, and cannot invent a philosophy. If Man is a beast, his words are merely cries and calls, and his thoughts merely reactions. If Man is a robot, he has no thoughts properly so called, merely programming.

By eliminating the free will, all these naturalistic theories are deterministic, and if your philosophy is determined by nonhuman chemical, evolutionary, psychological or economic factors, then your thought is in vain, not free, not true.

Thus reason tells us that the atheist worldview is inadequate, self-contradictory, misleading, false, impractical.

The only real alternative of the apparent many options is either Christianity or something leading to Christ, or else is a heresy or perversion whose only good was borrowed from the Church, so that any partial good found in these pagan, Jewish, or heretic thought is perfected in Christianity.

So much for reason.

The second thing I suggest is that you seek God in the only fashion, using the only instrument, the subject matter admits of.

God is not a proposition of geometry or philosophy, to be proved by logic alone, nor a proposition of science, to be proved by empirical test. God is a person. The only instrument able to seek Him is you, your whole person, your whole being, your whole life.

Therefore I recommend that the only logical way to find God is to live your life like a Christian for a decade, or a year, or a month.

Pray five prayers a day, like a Muslim, or fifty and five, like a Catholic, and keep the feasts and fasts, read the Bible and meditate on it, listen to homilies and sermons, and, above all, act like a Christian should act.

Give away all you own to the poor, or, if that is too hard for you, give away a tenth.

Feed the hungry, slake the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner in jail. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those that hate you.

And I do not mean promoting socialism and call that charity; nor believing in a  glorious but lawless leader’s ability to lead us to utopia and call that hope; nor having the opinion that vices, if only we indulged in them to the utmost, if only no one voiced disapproval of them, would lead us all to peace and joy and lasting happiness, and call that faith. That is not living a Christian life. That is, in naked truth, death and the culture of death.

Pray and give alms and live as Christ for a time, and you may not find God. But God will come looking for you.

If you honestly want to know why we believe what we believe, do what we do, be as we are, and you will see.

In closing, I might suggest the slackers, Pharisees, hypocrites and Laodiceans among the Christian Church also live as Christ commanded us for a month, or a year, or a lifetime, so as to cease bringing scandal to men like Mr McAllister. You are a bar and a stumblingblock to your brother who is blind, my fellow insincere Christians, and by your laxness and lack of zeal you push your brother into hellfire, and his blood is on your hands.

70 Comments

  1. Comment by Andrew Brew:

    Thank you, John. Very clear, as always.

    And I accept the rebuke.

  2. Comment by Zach:

    Thanks for this, Mr. Wright. A good reminder for those of us trying to follow Christ. I heartily endorse the second point; faith is a principle of action, and there must be a “leap to faith,” as Kierkegaard put it. I have heard that Mother Theresa lived most of her life without confirmation from God (the good Catholics may correct me on this), a “dark night of the soul”. So no one can promise that light will come even with extensive effort. It’s been my experience, though, in my work as a lay minister and missionary in the LDS faith, that the answers come sooner, and they come when a person is willing to take a few steps into the darkness. That willingness to step comes from the hope that God is real, and the confirmation comes that He is love, and He is power, and He is wisdom. Faith rises from that willingness to hope in the face of doubt.

    Anyway, I’m not trying to gild the lily here. I’m just saying that stepping into a Christian life is the surest way to meet Christ, just as Mr. Wright said.

  3. Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

    First, I suggest the use of reason.

    On the one hand, use your reason to contemplate the world if it were as the atheist modernistic worldview claims it to be.

    This is not in fact an appeal to reason, but to consequence; you assert that, if X were true, then that would be Very Bad, and therefore, X is false. Then, your assertion of badness is not in fact accurate; so even as a fallacy the argument fails.

    In such a world, all human accomplishment is ultimately vain. It matters nothing if men walked on the Moon during the Nixon administration.

    Sez you! Of course it matters.

    From the point of view of a world in a galaxy swimming somewhere lost in the immensity of the supercluster in Corona Borealis one billion light years away, no astronomer of that world will even know our galaxy existed, or our star, or our world or anything we do on it.

    Well? Who cares about them?

    In such a world, there is no truth

    Of course there is truth. You make wild assertions.

    merely strings of chemical and neurological reactions leading one to another like a row of dominoes toppling.

    Again that snuck-in adjective, the infamous ‘merely’! What is ‘mere’ about it? If you saw a picture of great beauty, would its beauty be diminished when you learned that it had been produced by the ‘mere’ application of mathematical rules? If not, then why do you assert this when it comes to thoughts?

    In such a world, there can be temporary or pragmatic reasons for just and moral behavior, but no eternal reason, no deliberate reasons, no reasons that really make sense.

    Euthyphro. The theist is just as vulnerable to this criticism.

    In such a world, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. There is no meaning to anything, no fit nor proper emotional response to anything our senses perceive, and a man who likes torture porn is no better and no worse than a woman who likes to see her baby smile.

    Again, sez you. You merely assert this as fact, making no argument.

    • Comment by John Hutchins:

      It is amusing that you complain Mr. Wright is asserting things without argument and do so by assertion. If there is truth then explain it, don’t assert it.

      • Comment by John C Wright:

        I would be happy to answer any questions or to argue any controversial point in more detail, if the questioner were serious, not merely giving vent to an eructation of emotion.

        • Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

          Mr. Wright:

          I would be most interested to have you expand upon (or point me to an expansion upon, by you or by another) one paragraph in your essay which appears to be no more than an assertion…..

          The only real alternative of the apparent many options is either Christianity or something leading to Christ, or else is a heresy or perversion whose only good was borrowed from the Church, so that any partial good found in these pagan, Jewish, or heretic thought is perfected in Christianity.

          I have always responded to Pascal’s wager and to like arguments with the “many alternatives to Christian belief and to atheism” rejoinder, and have noted that one element in which Christianity appears to be unique is the doctrine of eternal punishment for unbelief, and for unbelief alone among man’s sins.

          And it is that doctrine which stands between me and Christianity like a thousand mile high granite wall. For if it is true, not only are both my (loving, and unbelieving) parents in eternal torment even as I write these words, but I am also to acquiesce – no, to delight! – in the “justice” which placed them there.

          • Comment by The OFloinn:

            I have noted that one element in which Christianity appears to be unique is the doctrine of eternal punishment for unbelief, and for unbelief alone.

            You have noticed something in error, or at least failed to understand what you noted. It is more like becoming eternally lost due to your unbelief in the roadmap.
            St. Augustine indeed compared this to a man traveling to a town by following the high road and another by cutting off across the fields. Both men might still get where they were going, but the latter is more likely to lose his way.
            Recall that Jesus said, “I am the way…” and the analogy to a road becomes more clear. “Belief” means “to put one’s trust in” something. The obstinate refusal either to check the map or to ask reliable guides for directions gets more people lost.
            No one gets to hell by accident.

          • Comment by John Hutchins:

            “For if it is true, not only are both my (loving, and unbelieving) parents in eternal torment even as I write these words, but I am also to acquiesce – no, to delight! – in the “justice” which placed them there.”

            I could point out quite a lot of things on this subject. However for the sake of brevity, harmony, and so forth I will not bring up many of them, perhaps a disservice to you assuming this is a legitimate concern but a service to pretty much everyone else.

            That said; torment for sin is the natural state of one that has not had their sins remitted by Christ. The torment is eternal in nature but that doesn’t actually mean that it is necessarily endless. The details of being judge according to man in the flesh but living according to God in the spirit is something of a point of disagreement as to its nature (and existence) but it is clear from many other scriptures that ones actions in life are more important at the time of judging the ones beliefs; though accepting correct beliefs is also at some point needed. Salvation is certainly possible for unbelievers.

            Furthermore, I know of nothing in scripture that has anything about delighting in the the punishment of the unrepentant. Christianity is all about the infinite grace of Christs atonement being able to save all. For God so loved the world that He sent His Son [..], not to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved (John 3:16-17). We are to love our neighbors as ourselves and to love God above all and we are ourselves only saved by the grace of Christ and not by any merits of our own; How can we claim to love our neighbors if we are also supposed to delight in their torment? How can we claim to love God who loved the world such that He sent His Son to atone for our sins and whose arm of mercy is stretched out still if we wish others to be in torment? How can we hope to understand the grace that is there to save us if we would deny that same grace to others?

            Clearly you are not familiar with Jonah (let alone Christ). I suggest you read the whole story instead of stopping at the whale as it is highly instructive in terms of delighting in the punishment of the wicked (or unbelieving or whatever). We will rejoice with the coming of our Lord and the destruction of spiritual Babylon, not because the wicked will then be punished but because we will see our God and know Him and He will wipe our tears away, tears which very well could be for those that have decided not to accept the grace of God. Those that chose to remain in Babylon are subjects of our greatest concern and we are to do everything in our power to see that they also rejoice in the Good News, they are our neighbors and our brothers and unlike Cain, we are to be our brothers keeper.

          • Comment by Chris:

            I’m sorry if this is what you’ve been led to believe that Catholic Christians think about the fate of your parents. It is a disturbing thought regardless of your personal beliefs.

            Anyone with faith in Christ knows that it is an unearned gift and is therefore in no position to judge another, including those who do not appear to share that same faith. We cannot say that any individual is definitively damned because none of us truly knows another’s heart. What we do know is that God desires all people to be saved and has provided the means of that salvation through His Son. If God spared nothing to save us we can’t assume that He rejects those who disbelieve Him out of hand. Indeed, in our catechism it states, “Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience—those too may achieve eternal salvation.”

            Salvation comes through Christ, and knowledge of Christ is the only sure path to Heaven, but I suspect there are many people who, through no fault of their own, do not consciously know of Christ but who seek Him nonetheless.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      I will allow anyone else who wishes to answer this, but, as for me, sad experience tells me that Dr Andreassen is immune to reason, and has no skill at debate.

    • Comment by Christopher:

      I. This is not in fact an appeal to reason, but to consequence; you assert that, if X were true, then that would be Very Bad, and therefore, X is false. Then, your assertion of badness is not in fact accurate; so even as a fallacy the argument fails.

      On the contrary, this is an appeal to reason for Mr. Wright is explicitly stating that in such a worldview, there is no reason for purpose, this is because to the core of the specified worldview, there is no reason for existence.

      The appeal to reason is justified because it appeals right to the very beginning and not to what you stress as consequence, it asks of why matter was to be, why existence was to be to ultimately find that there is no purpose, and as such all acts such as entropy and decay, death and destruction have no purpose whatsoever.

      Firstly you stress that ‘if X were true, then that would be Very Bad’, but you do not seem to grasp what Mr. Wright explicitly stated. If X were true, you cannot say that it would be Very Bad, because such measurements cannot come to be. Secondly, Mr. Wright explicitly stated that if X were true, then these characteristics cannot be explained, and have no purpose, therefore if X were true, all is void.

      II. Sez you! Of course it matters.

      Firstly, why does it matter? Ponder on the propositions that the atheist worldview offers:

      I. There was no beginning. There would be no God to the atheist.

      II. Existence is merely related to survival within the limitations of the time period.

      II. a. Morality that was established
      would be merely subjective to
      local conditions to govern society.

      II. b. All is a struggle for Power.

      II. c. All achievements are merely
      temporal in their existence.

      III. The End is inevitable, and when it comes, all will be eradicated.

      III. a. All works and achievements will
      be destroyed, everything would
      be annihilated.

      III. b. All moral behaviour will be
      meaningless, for Justice is absent.

      Ultimately, since there is no Eternal beyond the material for the atheist, all will be forgotten and void. Why achieve mastership over crafting the perfect sword, when in the end it’s the equivalent of sitting 24/7 in front of a television and filling your mouth with Doritos?

      Why would it matter? There is no eternal, your acts are merely a accidental blip in time, to inevitably be annihilated by forces beyond your control? Does it matter because it matters to you? Are you then saying that the interest and importance is merely subjective rather than objective? Even if you were to stress that it was subjective, it in the end, still becomes irrelevant, meaningless, and void. How can you bring meaningless into a meaningless world? You simply just cannot do such.

      III. Well? Who cares about them?

      Ironically, you are reflecting the polar opposite of Mr. Wright’s statement. Rather than reflecting it, look at what is being said, it’s an emphasis upon the Human role within the universe in the atheist worldview, a meaningless empty nothing.

      IV. Of course there is truth. You make wild assertions.

      Pray tell, what truth? That 1+1=2 or 2+2=4? Only such Truths can reflect an absolute Truth. Just like how the Universe cannot be eternal and its existence depends upon a higher cause. It is particularly that such small Truths exist that prove a greater Truth exists. For truth such as 1+1=2 cannot exist unless there is a greater Truth.

      V. Again that snuck-in adjective, the infamous ‘merely’! What is ‘mere’ about it? If you saw a picture of great beauty, would its beauty be diminished when you learned that it had been produced by the ‘mere’ application of mathematical rules? If not, then why do you assert this when it comes to thoughts?

      Mathematical rules cannot grasp nor produce works of Beauty and Truth. Nature itself demonstrates this, is it of no reason to you to see that Men of all creatures can explicitly transform and achieve such things that no other creature can? Man’s capacity to master the atomic bomb may have involved mathematical rules, but it was not solely mathematical. Man’s drawing of the Mona Lisa may have mathematical measurements, but the smile of the individual is beyond the mere mathematical contortions. Since you demolish man to a mere machine, pray tell how such a machine can go beyond its limitations and utilise abstraction in the environment it dwells in? What makes man so unique to be subject to mathematical forces?

      VI. Euthyphro. The theist is just as vulnerable to this criticism.

      Pray tell, how? When the Theist looks to God first, and himself second?

      VII. Again, sez you. You merely assert this as fact, making no argument.

      The argument is simple, the lack of an absolute measurement dictates that there cannot be a uniqueness of such actions. Measure the smile of a baby to the Absolute Good, it’s beautiful, and why? Simply because Man is created in the image of God. What about a man who likes torture? To measure it against the Absolute Good one see’s merely that it’s a violation of another who is created in the image of God. To measure also, the act of violence itself is degrading to one’s self, created in the image of God. Pray tell, what is your opposition, how can you justify that the baby smiling and the individual who delights on torture are not the same?

      God Bless.

      • Comment by John C Wright:

        I. This is not in fact an appeal to reason, but to consequence; you assert that, if X were true, then that would be Very Bad, and therefore, X is false.

        Andreassen does not voice any objection to the argument as it stands, and so he pretends (not very convincingly) that I made a different argument entirely, a consequentialist argument and argues against that.

        The argument as it stands runs (1) life has meaning (2) the atheist model does not allow the possibility that life has meaning, whereas the Christian model does (3) therefore the Christian model is more robust than the atheist model.

        Whether or not the model is true, I do not here address: I am only pointing out that one model is ‘robust’ that is, it accounts for the phenomena to be accounted for, or tries to, and the other does not nor tries.

        It is also a separate question whether the major premise, ‘life has meaning’, is true, which here is presented as an axiom, without support. Had anyone asked me to support that point, I would have supported it, or tried to.

        The assertion that mine is secretly some sort of consequentialist argument is no honest misunderstanding or misinterpretation.

      • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

        If X were true, you cannot say that it would be Very Bad, because such measurements cannot come to be.

        As I note later, I dispute this. Atheism does not preclude an objective morality or objective truth.

        Ponder on the propositions that the atheist worldview offers:

        Straw men. None of these are necessary to an atheist worldview.

        For truth such as 1+1=2 cannot exist unless there is a greater Truth.

        Assertion. I might as well say that your greater truth cannot exist without a still greater, and so on. These are mere word games, offered without grounding.

        Pray tell, how? When the Theist looks to God first, and himself second?

        Because ultimately, the theist cannot offer any reason outside himself for looking to his god.

        Mathematical rules cannot grasp nor produce works of Beauty and Truth.

        Have you looked at the Mandelbrot fractal recently?

        Since you demolish man to a mere machine, pray tell how such a machine can go beyond its limitations and utilise abstraction in the environment it dwells in?

        Again with your ‘mere’. What makes you think a machine cannot abstract? Nothing can go beyond its limitations, by definition; but you have not established that “cannot abstract” is a limitation of the reference class “machine”.

        • Comment by Christopher:

          I. As I note later, I dispute this. Atheism does not preclude an objective morality or objective truth.

          Atheism does not prevent Objective Morality or Truth? How so when to the Atheist there is no God? What is the Absolute Objective to the Atheist?

          II. Straw men. None of these are necessary to an atheist worldview.

          I take it you never read the argument, since I’m pretty certain that the absence of God is a necessity to the worldview of an atheist. Nor is it a straw man argument, because it ponders upon the exact reality of what an atheist worldview entails and contains. You either begin with an infinite or finite universe, then you proceed with your existence and then your demise. The universe will ultimately end, and then what to the atheist? Nor do you offer refutations, detailed explanations are required rather than just one sentence.

          III. Assertion. I might as well say that your greater truth cannot exist without a still greater, and so on. These are mere word games, offered without grounding.

          Not an assertion, but a reality observed dating back to Aristotle, a reality supported by logic and reason. Secondly, you seem to advocate infinite regression in the proposition of the Ultimate Truth. God is absolute and unchanging, God is the unmoved mover, and as such God IS Truth. To argue that these are mere word games is to undermine philosophical thinking as nothing more than word play.

          IV. Because ultimately, the theist cannot offer any reason outside himself for looking to his god.

          Pray tell, how so? Are you to suggest that when a theist approaches God on the issues, that the theist is merely addressing his own mind? What about the everyday religious man? Are you then proposing that the human population as a whole suffers from schizophrenia? When those mere commandments go contrary to his Will?

          V. Have you looked at the Mandelbrot fractal recently?

          The Mandelbrot fractal is part of creation, it’s part of God’s creation, just like the Golden Ratio.

          When I stress Mathematical rules cannot grasp nor produce works of Beauty and Truth, that is exactly what it means, they cannot grasph (sentience) nor produce (they are of creation only to function).

          Human beings are beyond mere mathematical function, primarily because again, mathematics is limited to it’s role and function. How does the alphabet function in a merely mathematical function?

          VI. Again with your ‘mere’. What makes you think a machine cannot abstract? Nothing can go beyond its limitations, by definition; but you have not established that “cannot abstract” is a limitation of the reference class “machine”.

          Machines simply cannot abstract, if they could, why is the human being the only one capable to such large degrees? What is particularly special of the human being to your accord? Why is the beaver limited to dams? The whales to swimming in the oceans? Why is man capable of splitting atoms, discovering gravity, create masterpieces such as Mozart’s Requiem and Coronation Mass? Why is it that birds can build nests and sing but not go beyond these limits? Machines simply do what they are told to do, they output what was input, you cannot input sentience into a machine, nor craft a machine with sentience.

          • Comment by John C Wright:

            To argue that these are mere word games is to undermine philosophical thinking as nothing more than word play.

            As best I can tell, this is exactly Dr Andreassen’s position. At least, certain comments he has left here in the past lead me to that believe that is his belief. Why he continues to argue philosophy, when he regards the discipline of philosophy as worthless, is a puzzlement.

          • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

            absence of God is a necessity to the worldview of an atheist

            Well, I will give you that one. However, I deny the others:

            There was no beginning.

            Not required for atheism, and anyway seems rather irrelevant to the question of morality.

            II. Existence is merely related to survival within the limitations of the time period.

            This doesn’t even seem to make sense, but in any case, not required for atheism.

            II. a. Morality that was established
            would be merely subjective to
            local conditions to govern society.

            Why should that be so? Not required for atheism.

            II. b. All is a struggle for Power.

            You appear to conflate ‘atheism’ with ‘Nietzche’. Please don’t.

            II. c. All achievements are merely
            temporal in their existence.

            That does not have to be the case. It may be a contingent fact about the universe we in fact live in; but one could perfectly well be an atheist and believe in, for example, a steady-state universe.

            III. The End is inevitable, and when it comes, all will be eradicated.

            Again, nothing in atheism as such requires a universe finite in time.

            III. a. All works and achievements will
            be destroyed, everything would
            be annihilated.

            Same again.

            III. b. All moral behaviour will be
            meaningless, for Justice is absent.

            Nope.

            In this flood of straw men, I admit that I missed the “God doesn’t exist” one. You appear to be talking about nihilism, not atheism. They are separate concepts.

            Not an assertion, but a reality observed dating back to Aristotle, a reality supported by logic and reason.

            As Mr Wright is fond of asking, at what time and place, by whom, and with what instrument, was this “observation” made? Or alternatively, from what axioms does this deduction follow? Please give the “logic and reason” which supports the assertion; merely saying that they exist is not very persuasive.

            Secondly, you seem to advocate infinite regression in the proposition of the Ultimate Truth.

            I am not advocating that; I put it forth as a reductio ad absurdum of your assertion. If one truth depends on another, why shouldn’t that truth depend on a third, and so on? It is just simpler to say that truths are truths and don’t require support.

            God is absolute and unchanging, God is the unmoved mover, and as such God IS Truth.

            What is the use of this assertion? Why do you think it will be persuasive, or even illuminating? What does it even mean? I remind you that we were discussing the statement “1+1=2″. Why does your god enter this discussion?

            Are you to suggest that when a theist approaches God on the issues, that the theist is merely addressing his own mind?

            No, I am saying that deciding to follow a moral code is itself a moral judgement. When you say “I am going to approach my god”, you are making a decision, no? Well, what reason do you have for making that decision? Only that, in your own judgement, it is the right thing to do.

            Machines simply cannot abstract

            Again with the assertions.

            What is particularly special of the human being to your accord?

            Computing power and self-reference.

            Why is the beaver limited to dams? [...]

            Why is the human limited to requiems and cathedrals? You demonstrate that a particular machine – I take it the beaver is a machine in your usage? – has a particular limit; this does not show that all machines are so limited.

            Machines simply do what they are told to do, they output what was input, you cannot input sentience into a machine, nor craft a machine with sentience.

            More assertions. Perhaps you should first define ‘machine'; usually beavers are not included in the category.

            When I stress Mathematical rules cannot grasp nor produce works of Beauty and Truth, that is exactly what it means, they cannot grasp (sentience) nor produce (they are of creation only to function).

            Please define ‘produce’. The Mandelbrot fractal is produced by a particular mathematical rule, as I would ordinarily use the word. Perhaps you have a different sense in mind.

            • Comment by The OFloinn:

              absence of God is a necessity to the worldview of an atheist

              Well, I will give you that one.

              But it would be well to keep in mind what sort of being God is and what would necessarily follow from his absence. God is not “a god”, that is a being among beings, even a “supreme” being. In particular, not a Mighty Dude in a colorful Spandex suit. Thors and Zeuses may come and go with little impact on the fabric of space-time, but Existence Itself is a very different kettle of fish. An atheist may disbelieve in Zeus with carefree disregard; but to disbelieve in Existence requires greater care.
              + + +
              The Mandelbrot fractal is produced by a particular mathematical rule, as I would ordinarily use the word.
              This is not an error you could make if you spoke Latin like a proper humanist. The closest we can get in English to the instrumental case is to say something like, “The Mandelbrot fractal is produced by means of a particular mathematical rule…” The rule is an instrument, and an instrument must be wielded by someone; say, Benoit Mandelbrot or other mathematician. You may, if you like, say the set is a final cause of the rule – i.e., it is a telos inherent in the algorithm – but you must hold to final causes to say that.
              In any case, absent Mind, there is no beauty in the set. An equation has no ‘regard.’ If we insist that the Mandelbrot is inherently beautiful, then, since beauty is one of the transcendentals, interchangeable with uttermost being, it is one of those ‘huiusmodo’ things that contribute to Thomas’ Fourth Way, which concludes to the existence of God.

              • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

                Look. If you’re going to claim that existence exists, or that truth is true, please just do so in the straightforward words. What the devil is the purpose of inventing another word, one which has all kinds of additional connotations, for these concepts? What does “God is existence” add to the discussion?

                If your god is merely and only existence, then there is nothing to discuss; existence exists, done. But you claim far more than that; you claim that your god has awareness, that it created physical things, and that it loves you. When you say that in denying your god I am denying existence or truth, you are trying to sneak in all these wild additional claims by the back door. Please stop doing so, and start calling things by their right names. If you want to discuss existence or truth, discuss the buggers. Don’t sneak in your god under those names.

                • Comment by The OFloinn:

                  But it is not simply an arbitrary re-labeling. The term “God” does not refer to a supreme being in a brightly colored Spandex suit and cape that is merely substituted for Existence Itself.

                  You see, further conclusions follow from the first. You don’t conclude to the existence of a necessary being whose essence just is to exist — or that there must be an unchangeable changer or uncaused cause, etc. — and say Done! There are further consequences that follow.

                  For example, the unchangeable changer must be purely actual. This means that there can be only one. This means that it must be the first cause (i.e. “principle”) of all goods and powers. But since one cannot give what one does not have, the principle (first cause) of intellect and will must possess something that is analogous to the known powers of intellect and will; hence, “aware,” a “person,” et al.

                  Further, as the source of all goods, it is all-good, and the love follows. Love being a transcendental, i.e., love being the existent apprehended as desirable, it is convertible with the existence. So if God is Existence itself, then God is Love or the Good.

                  If you prefer, you can leave off using the G-word to reduce your anxiety until the effort reaches the point where it is sheer vanity to avoid the term. The attributes start to pile up.

                  All those physical things you mention possess the attribute of existence. For all such things, their essence (what they are) is distinct from their existence (that they are). But since a thing cannot give what it does not have, something that does not exist cannot give existence to anything. In particular, it cannot give existence to itself. Since ‘creation’ is the joining of an essence with an act of existence, nothing can create itself. It must receive its existence from another. Since this cannot regress to infinity (or else nothing would presently exist) there must be some existent (“a being”) whose essence just is to exist. That is, it is Existence Itself. (If it could talk, it would call itself “I AM.”) Hence, it is inescapable that all physical existents/beings are created by the first cause/principle of existence. In fact, this applies to non-physical existents as well.

                  Naturally, if one wishes to shut down Reason at some point and say “It just IS! Done!”, you may. One need not proceed beyond the owner’s manual for the car to the principles of mechanics, thermodynamics, etc. The car works. Done. But that is a matter of one’s will, not of reality.

        • Comment by Christopher:

          I. As I note later, I dispute this. Atheism does not preclude an objective morality or objective truth.

          Atheism does not prevent Objective Morality or Truth? How so when to the Atheist there is no God? What is the Absolute Objective to the Atheist?

          II. Straw men. None of these are necessary to an atheist worldview.

          I take it you never read the argument, since I’m pretty certain that the absence of God is a necessity to the worldview of an atheist. Nor is it a straw man argument, because it ponders upon the exact reality of what an atheist worldview entails and contains. You either begin with an infinite or finite universe, then you proceed with your existence and then your demise. The universe will ultimately end, and then what to the atheist? Nor do you offer refutations, detailed explanations are required rather than just one sentence.

          III. Assertion. I might as well say that your greater truth cannot exist without a still greater, and so on. These are mere word games, offered without grounding.

          Not an assertion, but a reality observed dating back to Aristotle, a reality supported by logic and reason. Secondly, you seem to advocate infinite regression in the proposition of the Ultimate Truth. God is absolute and unchanging, God is the unmoved mover, and as such God IS Truth. To argue that these are mere word games is to undermine philosophical thinking as nothing more than word play.

          IV. Because ultimately, the theist cannot offer any reason outside himself for looking to his god.

          Pray tell, how so? Are you to suggest that when a theist approaches God on the issues, that the theist is merely addressing his own mind? What about the everyday religious man? Are you then proposing that the human population as a whole suffers from schizophrenia? When those mere commandments go contrary to his Will?

          V. Have you looked at the Mandelbrot fractal recently?

          The Mandelbrot fractal is part of creation, it’s part of God’s creation, just like the Golden Ratio.

          When I stress Mathematical rules cannot grasp nor produce works of Beauty and Truth, that is exactly what it means, they cannot grasph (sentience) nor produce (they are of creation only to function).

          Human beings are beyond mere mathematical function, primarily because again, mathematics is limited to it’s role and function. How does the alphabet function in a merely mathematical function?

          VI. Again with your ‘mere’. What makes you think a machine cannot abstract? Nothing can go beyond its limitations, by definition; but you have not established that “cannot abstract” is a limitation of the reference class “machine”.

          Machines simply cannot abstract, if they could, why is the human being the only one capable to such large degrees? What is particularly special of the human being to your accord? Why is the beaver limited to dams? The whales to swimming in the oceans? Why is man capable of splitting atoms, discovering gravity, create masterpieces such as Mozart’s Requiem and Coronation Mass? Why is it that birds can build nests and sing but not go beyond these limits? Machines simply do what they are told to do, they output what was input, you cannot input sentience into a machine, nor craft a machine with sentience.

          You also seem to have avoid those previous questions asked.

          God Bless.

          • Comment by The OFloinn:

            There is atheism of the sort that Nietzsche, Sartre, Camus and others pursued remorselessly to its logical conclusion; and then there is post-modern Atheism-lite. Nietzsche looked into the abyss and found the abyss looking back. The post-modern looks into the abyss, says “Whatever”, and goes off to play a video game.

            • Comment by Christopher:

              I suppose that is how one addresses the principles of atheism, but the principles of atheism would fundamentally remain the same for the Nietzcheian, Sartreian and Camusian as with the post-modern. How they address, however, does not alter the fundamental core of atheism itself that:

              The universe is infinite/finite and that to them there is no God, that there is life which ultimately must be a struggle to survive given the chaotic nature of their environment, and an ultimate death and destruction of the individual and the universe as a whole.

              Nietzsche is the correct atheism, because it’s a life without Truth, without Beauty, the post-modern attempts to fight this with indifference by subjugating himself to hobbies that will keep his mind off of what he believes.

              God Bless.

  4. Comment by The OFloinn:

    Anyone interested in the implications of the Early Modern re-imagining of the world for such things as Mr. Wright has described, Mary Midgley’s book Science as Salvation is an admirable summary.
    + + +
    Euthyphro. The theist is just as vulnerable to this criticism.

    Not really. Only certain mistaken kinds of theism. Cf. http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/10/god-obligation-and-euthyphro-dilemma.html

  5. Comment by John C Wright:

    This comment was from a Mr John Venlet, who, due to gremlins in our systems, was unable to register and leave a comment. Rather than let the comment go unsaid, I here post it in his name:

    Perhaps Tyler would be interested in reading Miguel de Unamuno’s “The Tragic Sense of Life,” which I am currently reading. While it may not locate God for him, it could very well provide some guideposts to sight along while conducting his search. From de Unamuno: “Every rational conception of God is in itself contradictory. Faith in God is born of love for God–we believe that God exists by force of wishing that he may exist, and it is born also, perhaps, of God’s love for us. Reason does not prove to us that God exists, but neither does it prove that He cannot exist” and this: “Not by the way of reason, but only by the way of love and of suffering, do we come to the living God, the human God. Reason rather separates us from Him. We cannot first know Him in order that afterwards we may love Him; we must begin by loving Him, longing for Him, hungering after Him, before knowing Him. The knowledge of God, and this knowledge has little or nothing of the rational in it. For God is indefinable. To seek to define Him is to seek to confine Him within the limits of our mind–that is to say, to kill him. In so far as we attempt to define Him, there rises up before us–Nothingness.”

  6. Comment by TheConductor:

    Like Mr. Andrew Brew, I thank you for the rebuke. It is incumbent on as Christians to continually remind each other where and how we can do better and grow in faith – because we CAN always do better.

  7. Comment by Sylvie D. Rousseau:

    Congratulations for your essay. Again, a few awesome pages to add to your eventual book on apologetics. Thanks so much.

    I intend to link to that article at a couple of places, so I want to signal a few typos — not consequential but you might like to correct them (additions or replacements suggested between brackets):
    – and the only rational respon[se] is to use peer pressure
    – a clear and cogent [reason] for believing in the dignity of marriage
    – the way Newton was completed, [commas] not contradicted, by Einstein
    – the[y] way classical music was followed by modern atonal music
    – horrors from which all honest men recoil, [and] to stupidity, injustice, ugliness and death.
    – only because of Marx’s [definition of] modes of production
    – springs from his disease[d] subconscious forces
    – That is not living a Christ[i]an life.

  8. Comment by The OFloinn:

    All this “machine language”… The weird thing is that it was undermined in physics about a century ago, it still rides high and proud in the biosciences, where it always had less justification to begin with. The whole machine metaphor stemmed from the industrial revolution, during which men, thrilled with their success at machinery, imagined that nature was like their artifices, the error of Dawkins and Behe alike. An earlier age, when hydraulics was cutting edge imagined the nature was governed by humours. A later age, enthralled by computers, imagines that nature is like a computer and throws about words like “information” as a substitute for “spirit.”

  9. Comment by Howard:

    How to find God? God is not lost. God is not hidden; look around you. If God is not manifesting as all ‘things’ — rocks, trees , water, animals, people, ideas — then they exist independent of God. Curious, spurious? thought, eh?
    On another hand, if we are the ones lost, in fact or in imagination, what to do?
    Why not diligently explore the path(s) proposed by the supposed attainers, whether Moses, Buddha, Christ, Sai Baba of Shirdi, Sri Ramana Maharshi, or any of that same cohort of thieves and asassins who first steal your heart and then destroy your limiting ego.
    They all say the same thing, ” See God in each ‘other’ as in yourself — and behave accordingly.”
    If the Kingdom of Heaven is within, guess where the King resides?
    In everyday life, follow the Platinum Rule, or the Diamond Suture [which connects the apparent separate] — Do no harm; but if you must do some harm [for example, slapping a child's hand away from the handle of a pot of boiling water], do as little as necessary, and if necessary, repair the harm done [hug the child and gently explain why you did what you did].
    Remember, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ urges the masochist to behave as a sadist. Hillel’s formulation, ‘Do not do to others what you find hateful if done to you,’ is ambiguous and also inadequate.
    The Dalai Lama has it right, when asked what his religion was, he replied, “My religion is kindness.” If God is Love, you find God in kindness — whether you’re looking for God or not. Surprise for the Atheists!

  10. Comment by robertjwizard:

    I. As I note later, I dispute this. Atheism does not preclude an objective morality or objective truth.

    Atheism does not prevent Objective Morality or Truth? How so when to the Atheist there is no God? What is the Absolute Objective to the Atheist?

    There is an unquestioned assumption here that there is some school to which atheists belong. As if because the term atheism has an -ism on it, there must be a coherent school of thought to which all members of the class “atheist” adhere to.

    This is not true by any stretch of the imagination.

    And nothing said in this discuss, from Mr. Wright’s post to any commentary has shown this to be the case. Namely, that these beliefs, the worldview is necessary qua atheist.

    For instance you ask: what is the Absolute Objective to the atheist? Now, I happen to be an atheist, and the Doc is an atheist. I can assure you would get closer to garnering our respective positions knowing that we are both bipeds than you ever would knowing we are both atheists.

    Although I do recognize the fun and the advantage of taking the supposed class’ weakest arguments possible, ascribing them to every member of supposed class and running with it.

    The absolute objective to this atheist is reality, the law of identity – that to be is to be something, to possess a nature, an identity (and, as a corollary that causality is merely the law of identity applied to action), or to put it neatly, A is A.

    Of objective Morality, in a teeny, tiny nutshell, merely apply the same rules to man. What he is determines what he ought to do.

    The Doctor considers this word games, cranial ejaculation, non-measurable, etc. I would think most modern atheists would bow to Christ in a heartbeat before joining my brand of atheism.

    There is no “spokesman for atheism”. And please to god don’t let the doctor be it!

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      All good points. Speaking as an ex-atheist, and one who could make a coherent argument for the position, I will attest that that particular brand of loudmouthed god-hating lovers of vice and self-indulgence who speak loudest in favor of atheism are in no way the spokesman for it.

      As for whether atheism allows for objectivity in morals, I would argue that it does only to a degree and only for a limited set of moral imperatives. I expound on this point here:
      http://www.scifiwright.com/2012/12/moral-absolutism-in-an-atheist-universe/

    • Comment by John Hutchins:

      robertjwizard,

      It is very rare that the spokesman for any set of people is the most desirable person for the job. Often it is the people that speak the loudest and most outrageously that are seen as representative of the entire class. There are some that take the Westboro Baptist Church (or perhaps something very like it) as being the definitive version of Christianity (see Ruiz above), probably because they are the most vocal about the subject. If one reads news articles from the last few years then it would appear the spokesperson for Mormonism is a lady that grew up Mormon, stopped following it in her early twenties, didn’t come to church at all for over a decade, sort of returned some five odd years ago but clearly doesn’t believe in most of it and has major disagreements with LDS policy in pretty much every case where there is a policy; I have no clue why or how she got appointed by the media as the spokesman of the faith. (Edit: I also know that Catholics also have many similar spokesman, those that disagree with the Vatican on everything but are somehow held up as representing Catholicism) Basically, praying to God that the doctor not be the spokesman could easily leave the inhabitants of reddit (or something similar) as the representative spokespeople, God does have just that kind of sense of humor.

      “A is A.”
      Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh?

      • Comment by robertjwizard:

        It is very rare that the spokesman for any set of people is the most desirable person for the job.

        Oh, that is so true of the modern atheists.

        As for Mormons. You guys have Marie Osmond – you win, case closed.

        “A is A.”
        Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh?

        Was that a question? If so it was not my referent. I got it from Ayn Rand, it’s basically a version of the law of non-contradiction.

        • Comment by John Hutchins:

          This:
          ” the law of identity – that to be is to be something, to possess a nature, an identity (and, as a corollary that causality is merely the law of identity applied to action), or to put it neatly, A is A. ”

          When compared with Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh usually translated as “I AM that I AM ” and more especially the meaning given to that name of God once Jewish thought and Greek thought fell in love with each other leads to the question of what exactly do you see as the difference between “I AM that I AM” and “A is A” in terms of the absolute objective?

          • Comment by robertjwizard:

            Hi John. I’m afraid I don’t specifically know. I have been asked this question before and have meant to hunt down some commentary of Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh. I know where it comes from in the Torah and similar in Revelations, but would need much more study before feeling comfortable answering. Simple Biblical reading does not reveal enough.

            Offhand I would find it hard to think there is any relation. It seems that God is saying he is the one absolute, that he alone is being. A is A as an axiomatic statement of the first principle of being doesn’t seem to contradict this for even God would not be what he is not. Although that wouldn’t even seem applicable since he alone is being, thus I could understand an interpretation of A is A as being another way of saying I am that I Am.

            In fact from the person I got it from, Ayn Rand, she relates the axioms of Existence and Identity (which is A is A) as being the same fact, not two separate facts. The two concepts merely are abstractions of the same indivisible fact. One day I plan to do a parallel study of her thought and Jewish theology because I think there are striking similarities.

            If you know any good commentary on Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh I would be happy to read it.

            • Comment by John Hutchins:

              “If you know any good commentary on Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh I would be happy to read it.”

              Jewish theology is something that I am looking for something good to read as well; I know what Catholics have to say about it and I know what some LDS commentators have to say about it but I don’t actually know what the Jews themselves say about it as much.

              • Comment by robertjwizard:

                I found a couple of sources. Unfortunately I went to Barnes and Noble last night thinking I would find something as I have never been in the religion section there. While someone may be happy to see how the religion section has grown over the years (note also the shrinking of the philosophy section), the religious section was a joke. Besides Bibles the shelves were filled, mostly, with Chicken Soup for the Soul level religious books. It was mostly crap – much like the philosophy section.

                I did find a comic/graphic novel called BATTLE POPE. What a cool concept. That wasn’t in the religion section, however.

                I had forgot about a course from Yale that I was supposed to start here,

                http://oyc.yale.edu/religious-studies/rlst-145#overview

                The course is an actual Yale course and the teacher is pretty good from the two classes I did. You can also get the transcripts from that same page under course materials.

                The book for the course is The Jewish Study Bible, which I own, it has commentary on passages plus a couple big appendixes on certain subjects.

                From Google books there is this link

                http://books.google.com/books/about/Early_Jewish_Exegesis_and_Theological_Co.html?id=CZGJt4pwGfcC

                It also has a number of related books below that. I didn’t look to see if any of them are free.

                And then there is the entry for Names of God at the online Jewish Encyclopedia here

                http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/11305-names-of-god

                Unfortunately, it does have a couple of paragraphs on Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh half way down, but it was none too helpful.

                I am not too confident I am going to find much exegesis on this subject from the aspect we are considering. Maybe one of our Catholic fellows knows whether Aquinas ever expounded on such a thing since it involves an Aristotelian with the name of God.

                Hope that helps!

    • Comment by The OFloinn:

      There are two primary schools of atheism.
      The first school of atheism holds that everything is due to random chance. Atoms just happen to bump into one another and create temporary concatenations of Stuff that soon dissolve into the primordial chaos. This school included such deep thinkers as Nietzsche, Sartre, Camus, et al. There cannot be an objective morality because if it’s all just clucking, why is one cluck ‘good’ and another cluck ‘bad?’

      The second school of atheism holds that all things are determined. There are inexorable laws of physics and everything that happens is predestined to have happened from the very beginning. We might call this Calvinist Atheism. It is held by many shallow thinkers like Dawkins, Meyers, et al., often scientists and fanboys of Science!™ with a dab hand at philosophy. Morality may be objective. Since it is the inevitable result of the laws of physics masquerading as the all-powerful Evolution, it is what it is. But it cannot be an objective morality. Since it is the inevitable result of the laws of physics masquerading as the all-powerful Evolution, it is not something that people do but something that is done to people. (We need deponent verbs in English!)
      ++++
      In addition to these two schools, there are what we might call “cafeteria atheists,” who pick and choose their dogmas as it suits their fancy. Your humble correspondent has seen the self-same commboxers elsewhere arguing from determination on one thread (where the subject is free will) and from chance on another thread (where the subject is the First Cause). This non-school is perhaps the largest body of atheists, and includes most non-thinkers. These have not thought much about the matter one way or the other, and simply wish to sit at the Kool Kids table.

      A large subset consists of those who confess an objective morality, but have essentially picked the pocket of Christianity (We are speaking primarily of the West here. There are probably ex-muslim atheists and ex-Hindu atheists elsewhere.) These are the ones that Nietzsche sneered at as “English flatheads,” i.e., the Anglophone atheists:

      When one gives up the Christian faith, one pulls the right to Christian morality out from under one’s feet. This morality is by no means self-evident: this point has to be exhibited again and again, despite the English flatheads. Christianity is a system, a whole view of things thought out together. By breaking one main concept out of it, the faith in God, one breaks the whole: nothing necessary remains in one’s hands. …

      When the English actually believe that they know “intuitively” what is good and evil, when they therefore suppose that they no longer require Christianity as the guarantee of morality, we merely witness the effects of the dominion of the Christian value judgment and an expression of the strength and depth of this dominion: such that the origin of English morality has been forgotten, such that the very conditional character of its right to existence is no longer felt.
      — Nietzsche, The Twilight of the Idols

      IOW, of’ Crazy Fred thought that atheism was contaminated by too much Christianity. (He thought the same of science, art, and, well, just about anything else. Everything was infested with Christian Chooties.)
      ___________________
      Irrational natural explanations are no less irrational for being natural.
      — Brandon Watson

  11. Comment by Christopher:

    I. There is an unquestioned assumption here that there is some school to which atheists belong. As if because the term atheism has an -ism on it, there must be a coherent school of thought to which all members of the class “atheist” adhere to.

    I’m not addressing the classes of atheism but the reality of the atheist system, that there lacks an Objective Truth and Morality, that Objective is that which stems beyond the realm of matter. How atheists approach these issues of which are classes within the systems of atheism is irrelevant. Atheism prevents Objective Morality because it cannot justify an Objective Morality, nor can it justify an Objective Truth, whether you’re a positivist atheist, a nihilist or any other form.

    II. The absolute objective to this atheist is reality, the law of identity – that to be is to be something, to possess a nature, an identity (and, as a corollary that causality is merely the law of identity applied to action), or to put it neatly, A is A.

    When you say ‘to this atheist’ are you then speaking rather of an absolute objective an subjective objective?

    III. Of objective Morality, in a teeny, tiny nutshell, merely apply the same rules to man. What he is determines what he ought to do.

    Which in the end is subjective to the individual and at the total sum of all is Moral Realtivist which translate as no morality whatsoever.

    God Bless.

    • Comment by robertjwizard:

      I’m not addressing the classes of atheism but the reality of the atheist system,

      There is no “the atheist system”. Although later you say “systems of atheism” so you are unclear on this point. Your definition of Objective Truth and Objective Morality is merely that which is ordained by God. Surely God left us some clues to truth and morality other than “I made it” and “I said so”. I assume Objective Truth and Objective Morality would have natural manifestations that arise by the nature of the entities involved if there were a God. Or do you claim that ultimately all truth and all morality are hidden behind the wizard’s curtain?

      When you say ‘to this atheist’ are you then speaking rather of an absolute objective an subjective objective?

      No, I was still on the point of there not being “the atheist system”; specifically I was contrasting myself with the doctor. But I grant the wording was a little rancid.

      To save you time on ever having to wonder that again, the closest my philosophy approaches would be Objectivism.

      Which in the end is subjective to the individual and at the total sum of all is Moral Realtivist which translate as no morality whatsoever.

      That is one awkward sentence. So are you saying that man has no nature? That he determines his own nature? Man has no way to discover his nature? What?

      So you would reject my view that since man’s tool of survival is his reason (a significant part of his nature) that this means he ought to use his reason?

      Would you reject this on the grounds that it is merely subjective, that one could just as easily say he survives by bending his toes while walking, and thus he ought to roll his eyes at humorous jokes? Or do you object that man is the being possessing reason? Or do you grant that man is such a being, but that doesn’t mean he ought to use it? Do you counter that that being his nature, nothing follows?

      That if his most essential nature entails not a single ought in his actions, then no fact of man’s nature demands any oughts whether of body or mind? That no fact of man’s nature objects to him proceeding on whim on any path that may strike him at the moment? But, God, in defiance of the nature he instilled in man renders edicts in contradiction, in parallel, in reverse, in accord with, irrelevant to, that nature?

      That, again, there is nothing to observe about man, nor any other entity in existence and on the same grounds, that demands some courses of action and abhors others, but all is to be answered behind the curtain.

  12. Comment by Christopher:

    I. There is no “the atheist system”. Although later you say “systems of atheism” so you are unclear on this point. Your definition of Objective Truth and Objective Morality is merely that which is ordained by God. Surely God left us some clues to truth and morality other than “I made it” and “I said so”. I assume Objective Truth and Objective Morality would have natural manifestations that arise by the nature of the entities involved if there were a God. Or do you claim that ultimately all truth and all morality are hidden behind the wizard’s curtain?

    Firstly, to the ‘atheist systems’, my apologies, as I am suffering from ill health at the moment, my sentences and words tend to get garbled. That should be many classes within atheism. Secondly, it is not ordained by God but is God. God is Truth, God is Morality. Thirdly, to the statement that ‘all truth and morality are hidden behind the wizard’s curtain’, again God is Truth and Morality, and given of what we can understand that man is created in the image of God, we can grasp God as such, and that our human nature is naturally Good before the fall of man.

    II. No, I was still on the point of there not being “the atheist system”; specifically I was contrasting myself with the doctor. But I grant the wording was a little rancid.

    However I stress that even within the confines of atheism, the core principles remain regardless of whether you see positivity in an absolutely nihilist existence. Or whether you believe whether or not the universe is infinite or not. The core is the absence of God, and logically with this absence alot of the universe’s properties have to be altered upon this stance.

    Without God, the universe must logically be infintie, and as such must be core.

    III. That is one awkward sentence. So are you saying that man has no nature? That he determines his own nature? Man has no way to discover his nature? What?

    The sentence seems fine: Morality to you would be subjective, which means to the collective sum of humanity (I should have included humanity in the sentence) this is a collective subjectivism, which is logically moral relativism, which in the end means morality is absent.

    To the atheist, if morality is subjective which would mean ultimately that morality is asbence, man’s nature is nothing more than mere oppertunist, animalistic and barbaric. This is because to the subjective moralist, there is no reason to condemn murder only on the grounds as one sees fit. When man no longer sees fit to condemn murder… Well…

    IV. So you would reject my view that since man’s tool of survival is his reason (a significant part of his nature) that this means he ought to use his reason?

    In such a worldview, what is the benefit of reason in comparison to raw emotional output? The sloth is equal to the master swordsman. Ultimately, atheism has to lead to Nietzche, else you would be merely rebelling against your natural purpose (in accordance with your worldview, i.e. the absent of an eternal Truth).

    V. Would you reject this on the grounds that it is merely subjective, that one could just as easily say he survives by bending his toes while walking, and thus he ought to roll his eyes at humorous jokes?

    In the atheist worldview, what would the benefit of reason be? Why pursue mathematics? It’s no different from gluttony afterall by the atheist worldview. This is because of exactly how Mr. Wright brought to question the comparison of the smile of a child and a man infatuated with torture.

    VI. Or do you object that man is the being possessing reason? Or do you grant that man is such a being, but that doesn’t mean he ought to use it? Do you counter that that being his nature, nothing follows?

    Interesting question, but I think that would be on the hand of the atheist to support man possesing reason within an atheist worldview. Reason is a rare gift, unique to only human beings, which one can attribute to man being created in the image of God, in the atheist worldview there needs to be some logic to establish that reason can exist despite the prevalence of determinism such as the fellow Doctor on this posting. Reason is bound to Free Will in a sense.

    If in the atheist worldview, man is ought to found supporting of reason, why use it? The benefit and end is vain, meaningless, cold and void. As to nothing following, well unless there’s an afterlife, and with the universe’s eventual destruction, nothing can follow, unless you mean something else?

    I’ll have to end here sadly, I’m not feeling all too well.

    God Bless.

    • Comment by robertjwizard:

      Ah, well your responding by telling me what I think is certainly enough to bore me to tears. I say A, you say I say B – mighty fruitless.

      Hey, tell me what I must believe when I respond with the following.

      Reason is bound to Free Will in a sense.

      They are the same faculty, the same fact.

      It’s no different from gluttony afterall by the atheist worldview. This is because of exactly how Mr. Wright brought to question the comparison of the smile of a child and a man infatuated with torture.

      This is only by the rhetorical trick of creating a monolith of atheism containing easily defeated arguments and the worst examples. You guys are merely beating up the weakest kid in the schoolyard and claiming it to be the greatest bully. This is why you keep repeating yourself and talking as if I said nothing at all – as if I was nothing at all (is that I consequence of my being an atheist? is it necessary that I think I am nothing?).

      You guys have your line, your mantra, your walking orders. Enact Robot-voice: “There is only one atheism, all atheists think alike, what they say is to be ignored, they know not what they say, nor what they do. Atheism is Materialism no matter what is said. Keep conflating the two at all costs. Ignore anything to the contrary. The atheist is not really a person, ignore what he says – keep repeating party line, over.” Keep talking past any resistance, any reasoning, any talking… all the way to where you stare ahead repeating your prayers while you tie my hands to the post and light the fire and smile and praise God while my screams fill the night air, and you thank God for his wisdom in helping you set my soul free of demonic bondage. And you snuggle warmly to your pillow that night, a smile on your face and a lilting sigh of contentment in your conscience, and dream cute dreams of playing with baby Jesus in the manger.

      Reenact Robotic (or fanatical) Voice: “Example of atheist dog is wrong. Christians have never hurt another human. Fear of retribution keeps us in line. Ignore what he says, repeat line. Tell him he is a whim-ridden subjectivist who can’t tell any truth from a pile of crap no matter what he says, repeat line. Oh no , need more material from Mr. Wright to feed to atheist dog. Subject starting to recognize repeating pattern like a dog who gets a bone every Friday.”

      If you have nothing better to do than ignore whatever I say and repeat Wrightisms, just submit to my mastery over you and move along.

      • Comment by John C Wright:

        You are giving atheism a bad name. This is all straw man. No one said the things you put into quotes and put in our mouths.

        Would you like me to take your position and argue it for you? I can do a better job. I was an atheist for 35 years, and philosophically inclined, and I did not have to resort to rhetorical tricks like this.

        You are supposed to be arguing that since reason is an objective faculty, that therefore any moral code reason deduces from first principles is objective. Then argue that, in questions of life and death, a moral code cannot take the identity of the actor into account, therefore any conclusion which would be immoral if applied to the man being done by would alike apply to the doer. Argue that while causes the end of the man’s consciousness, his awareness that he is mortal prevents him from making life at any price be his core value, since this value is ultimately vain.

        And so on. Don’t stoop to sloppy ad hominem or strawman arguments, or you will add to the modern tendency to appoint the loudest and stupidest atheists as our (pardon me, your) spokesmen, rather than the people who have a rational reason not to believe in supernatural things.

        And why accept the premise of my argument anyway? Suppose it were true that without God, there is no firm and logical reason to believe in the objectivity of moral codes. If it is true that there is no God, it would merely follow that moral codes are not objective, or, at least, not perfectly objective. This does not defeat any argument from self-interest, such as Utilitarians and Objectivists make. It does not deflate the role of reason as the arbiter of moral judgment.

      • Comment by The OFloinn:

        Reason is bound to Free Will in a sense.

        They are the same faculty, the same fact.

        They are related, but are not the same faculty, contra Nietzsche. The Will is the appetite for the product of the Intellect. Hence, “intellective appetite.” This is analogous to the emotions being the sensory appetites for the products of sensation. Sensation produces perceptions; Intellection produces conceptions. The former are singular and concrete; the latter are universal and abstracted.
        The Will is free to the extent that the Intellect is imperfect. When something is known with certainty, such as that 1+1=2 in standard notation, the will cannot withhold consent. But when something is known imperfectly, such as that this bill will improve health care, consent is not determined and the will is free (has “play” or “wobble.”)
        So the two are related; but are not the same faculty.

        • Comment by robertjwizard:

          I’ll have to respectfully disagree. I do not consider Nietzsche a philosopher, so I don’t remember much about him. Although, like much of what he says, I am pretty sure he contradicted whatever he said two sentences later. Good poet though, he had quite the flair.

          When I say free will and the reason are the same faculty I do not mean they are the same thing. I mean that free will designates a condition of the reason, namely that it is not automatic. That man’s basic choice, his basic freedom, is to use his reason or not.

          I certainly reject the notion that free will exists as a phenomena separate from reason. As if there were a faculty that thinks and a separate faculty that wills.

          I am not sure if we actually disagree or if my wording made you think of something different.

          • Comment by The OFloinn:

            I would say that the intellect is a condition on the will. The triumph of the will over the intellect is a Late Modern thing, as natural as breathing. It’s Pure Nietzsche (and his epigones like Rand and Derrida), whether people realize it or not.

            This diagram http://home.comcast.net/~icuweb/WAW0010.GIF shows the six faculties of the rational-animal anima. The intellect and will are at the far right. The intellect reflects upon the images of the senses, including the imagination and memory, and abstracts concepts. The will is an appetite for these concepts and stands in relation to the intellect just as the sensitive appetites (emotions) stand toward the imagination. If you like, you could say that the reflective and concept-forming intellect plus the desiring will together form Reason. Discussion is here:
            http://home.comcast.net/~icuweb/c02003.htm#1

            The Aristo-Thomist emphasis on the primacy of the intellect over the will (you cannot desire what you do not know) leads me to suppose that if Vulcans had a religion, they would be Catholic.

            • Comment by robertjwizard:

              I would say that the intellect is a condition on the will.

              If you mean by this that the intellect is regulatory, I certainly agree. But I believe we are talking past each other here. When I say free will is a condition of man’s reason, I do not mean the opposite of your phrase above. I mean condition as attribute, as a characteristic, for surely man’s reason is not automatic and he can fail to use it as a condition on the will, or the appetites or desires. He can choose to ignore his reason and blindly follow whims.

              The triumph of the will means nothing more than advocating this last, the triumph of the passions over and in defiance of reason.

              Which makes your reference to Rand baffling since she hits you repeatedly over the head with a meat mallet on reason over will (she calls it whim). That was her endless, repeating motif in ethics – reason over everything – feelings, urges, passions, any and all alternatives and choices. How did you miss it? It is one of the single biggest complaints against the philosophy, the insistence on the unrelenting use of one’s reason in every single issue, every single choice, the tool of reason being logic.

              Which leads us to…(and this is friendly jesting)

              …leads me to suppose that if Vulcans had a religion, they would be Catholic.

              Until such time, they will be Objectivists.

            • Comment by Sylvie D. Rousseau:

              “The triumph of the will over the intellect is a Late Modern thing, as natural as breathing. It’s Pure Nietzsche…”

              I agree Nietzsche illustrates the quintessence of voluntarism. But the real philosophical and cultural origin is this enemy of philosophy: Martin Luther. Cf. Jacques Maritain Three Reformers. Luther, Descartes, Rousseau (There seems to be an online copy at archive.org but I was not able to open it)

              • Comment by robertjwizard:

                That sounds about right. Was it not Luther who said a Christian should tear the eyes out of his reason?

                I believe Duns Scotus was a voluntarist as well.

                • Comment by Sylvie D. Rousseau:

                  Luther did say some things like that, but it is obvious not only in his rants that his “reform” is all based on sentiment and not on rationality.

                  As Mr. Wright expounded well in his essay above, there is much more good old common sense and rationality on the Catholic side and it is no coincidence that most of Plato and Aristotle’s doctrines, the core of philosophia perennis, fit so well and are so useful to Catholic theology.

                  Maritain said a few words about nominalism (Scotus) and Augustinianism quarrels being known by Luther (Luther was an Augustinian monk). But he was not a good representative of Augustinianism either; he was just a bad philosopher, and of course a bad theologian.

                  • Comment by The OFloinn:

                    I recollect that Luther engaged once in a formal debate (in the medieval mode) with a loyalist theologian (Eck?) Anyhow, the other guy wiped the floor with him, reducing him to incoherent rage. His hatred of philosophy might be related to the humiliation. Or vice versa.

                    • Comment by Sylvie D. Rousseau:

                      Luther probably did not come to despise reason and philosophy because of the debate with Eck. The argument was on theological grounds, on grace and salvation, the real core of the problem in the 95 theses. The claims on the administration of indulgences were legitimate, but the real problem was Luther’s reinterpretation of the underlying doctrine. There was no philosophical problem to discuss and both parties were up to the job if Eck was even more brilliant than Luther was. Most likely, Eck was able to win thoroughly because he was objectively right and Luther wrong.

                      According to the Catholic Encyclopedia article, Luther was “sullen and crestfallen” after the debate, but ready to submit. The last temptation which he had yet to face was his personal popularity and the support of the princes, who were not really interested in doctrine but took an active part in the schism to loot the Church’s temporal possessions and usurp the power of the bishops.

                      But Luther himself was interested in establishing a doctrine of salvation by faith “only” where the works of Christian life are unimportant. In mere Aristotelian or Stoic ethics (in order to be good, one must do good) this makes no sense, to say nothing of Christian morals.

                      It was once his un-rational decision of the will was made that he had to “reform” the Church. His method of imposing his unorthodox doctrine was to discredit the whole of philosophy and big chunks of theology as well as parts of the Revelation to make his doctrine true (=rational) in his own eyes as well as to others.

                      Luther’s “reform”, was in fact a very important step in the abandonment of reason which is one of the three things needed for the advance of what Hilaire Belloc called the Modern Attack on faith. The other two things are cruelty and slavery – ancient or new forms like totalitarianism, for example. Both need the abandonment of reason, and now they advance mostly unquestioned.

    • Comment by robertjwizard:

      I’ll have to end here sadly, I’m not feeling all too well.

      I left you a rather scathing mocking in response to this post of yours that is in moderation. Perhaps you are not well, but I got the distinct impression that you were talking right past me as if I had not said a thing. So have a laugh at the original response if Mr. Wright deigns to accept it. And I will attempt to answer you as if you were not intending to walk right through me.

      Secondly, it is not ordained by God but is God. God is Truth, God is Morality.

      This is one of those statements that seems to make perfect sense to the one saying it, but means nothing to those outside the system. I literally do not know what that means.

      Without God, the universe must logically be infintie, and as such must be core.

      Must be core? Why would the universe have to be infinite without God? What does that have to do with what I said? I said I was not advocating a subjective morality.

      Morality to you would be subjective,…

      And thus the sentence that earned you your mocking. It is mere presumption on your part, or a need to have any atheist in some sort of unfavorable molding. It is assertion on you part. Morality is not subjective. Morality is an absolute of which man has no choice. He has no choice because he has no choice about his nature. He is a creature of an unalterable, specific nature and specific needs, and a specific, unalterable means of survival. He lives in an absolute reality that is not open to his wishes and whims, but must be obeyed. What he is determines what he ought to do.

      I merely reiterate my example of his reason. Reality, both the reality of his immutable nature and an immutable universe of laws dictates what his primary duty is. And that is to think, to use his reason. This is not subjective, it is not for some men and not others, it is not some days but not others, it is not when one feels like it, it is objective and absolute. It is not chosen by him, man, but demanded by the nature of the world.

      So much for the necessary subjectivity of the atheist.

      In such a worldview, what is the benefit of reason in comparison to raw emotional output?

      In the worldview you keep on insisting on? I wouldn’t know, that is not my worldview despite your insistence that it must be. But in my worldview the question is ludicrous. Show me a discovery in any field that was made by raw emotional output. Did man learn to store his stock seed by raw emotional output? Invent the wheel? Mathematics? Morality? Reason is man’s means of survival – so your question may as well be the following; what is the benefit of walking along the path of the cliff rather than plunging yourself headfirst into the rocks below?

      The sloth is equal to the master swordsman.

      Not if you were being attacked by sword-weilding killers! You see what an absurd little straw-man you make?

      In the atheist worldview, what would the benefit of reason be? Why pursue mathematics? It’s no different from gluttony afterall by the atheist worldview. This is because of exactly how Mr. Wright brought to question the comparison of the smile of a child and a man infatuated with torture.

      It may be so according some atheistic views. The benefit of reason? What is the benefit of breathing? Your questions are absurd on their face. Mr. Wright speaks hyperbole. As if there were nothing in reality to point out why the enjoyment of torture porn is vice and the smile of a child is precious. As if reason would not give you an answer, but fear of punishment in the afterlife explains it.

      The entire argument hangs on emotional responses and bypasses reason altogether. You would think that theists would believe God gave them reason for a reason – apparently not.

      Gluttony is a vice, it is the following of whim and the rejection of your reason in favor of being guided by feelings. Leaving aside the obvious physical dangers of gluttony, there is the danger of practicing the shunning aside of your reason, of your conscience as a policy. It is the softening of the mind, and thus a weakening of one’s power of survival, it is a slow form of suicide. I hold that man’s life (that means life as a rational being) is the standard, and by that gluttony is vice. And that is an absolute.

      Mathematics, for one who has an interest in it, is a rational, productive pursuit that has obvious benefits both for the person who studies and for mankind in general. Many of our modern, life-enhancing technologies would not exist were it not for the study of mathematics.

      If in the atheist worldview, man is ought to found supporting of reason, why use it? The benefit and end is vain, meaningless, cold and void.

      Again there is no “the atheist worldview”, not in a single monolithic sense. Again I understand the strategy of picking the darkest, dumbest, version and proclaiming it the only one.

      Why use it? The question resolves to why live? Why not die now? Why not commit suicide right this minute? That is how I view your question of: why use reason? Since the atheist doesn’t believe in an ever after, he cannot value life at all, not a moment of it, and it may as well not exist at all. The benefit of reason is life.

      You argue that since a man may die at 90 and if there be no afterlife, why live through one’s 20’s, 30’s or any other length of time? Since it is not eternal (and since hell is probably pretty populated, many a Christian should hope it is not as well) there is no reason to value it, any of it. It is absurd. Many an atheist would agree with your argument and have said so – life is absurd. Life is not absurd, but some people’s reasoning is.

      I do not agree. You use your reason to live, because life is the value, that is what reason is for, just as wings are a bird’s means, a dog’s nose is his, echolocation a bat’s. Life is the value because there is nothing else.

      Your demand of what I must believe is fallacious because your presumption of what the necessary premises are are incorrect.

      • Comment by The OFloinn:

        Secondly, it is not ordained by God but is God. God is Truth, God is Morality.

        This is one of those statements that seems to make perfect sense to the one saying it, but means nothing to those outside the system. I literally do not know what that means.

        The statement that “If I is a z-ideal, then C|I is totally ordered iff I is prime” also makes perfect sense to the one saying it, but means nothing to those outside the system. The problem is not the intelligibility of the statement but the ignorance of the one who has not studied (in this example) rings of continuous functions.

        The idea derived from Aristotle (Metaphysics ii http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/metaphysics.2.ii.html ) is that Truth, Goodness, and Beauty are ‘transcendentally one’ in the sense that each is Being as apprehended via a different modality.
        …….o Truth is Being as known to the intellect
        …….o Goodness is Being as rightly desired by the will
        …….o Beauty is Being as rightly admired
        and so on. But that which is known and that which is desired is one and the same thing. “Identity” from identitatem “sameness.” So truth and goodness are convertible.

        Once you have allowed yourself to see the truth that reason leads you to (even if you do not like the conclusion) that which reason grasps is as Good and Beautiful as it is True. For example, when a mathematical proof leads you to the conclusion aforesaid, you apprehend that the theorem is not just real, but is good and beautiful. Something which is not real can be neither admired nor desired.
        Mathematicians speak of a beautiful proof quite often, but to the layman such theorems are neither known nor admired or desired. Even scientists have been known to speak of the beauty of a discovery in physics. Darwin also extolled the beauty of “this view of life.”

        The convertibility works both ways. That which is good also exists, and that which exists is also good. (But note that:

        “it is good to the extent and in the way that it exists, and it exists to the extent and in the way that it is good. Hence, something that exists per accidens will only be good per accidens. A clearer and perhaps more obviously acceptable example might be that that which exists per accidens (an ens per accidens ) will also be one and the same thing per accidens (unum per accidens ). This brings us close to the Quinean principle of “No entity without identity”, and makes the whole doctrine of the transcendentals a little less bizarre.

        IOW, the very term identity itself equates oneness with existence. The convertibility of the transcendentals is related to the well known principle “A is A.”

        Hope this helps.

        • Comment by John Hutchins:

          The OFloinn,

          It would appear that you and robertjwizard both agree on the points that you have brought up. What you have not explained is why Mr. Wizard has to also believe that it is God, and that God is necessarily the same as the Christian God and etc. I mean using some broad definition of God you could probably get Mr. Wizard to agree with you that it is God but he would then likely object to smuggling in everything else that is believed about God.

          • Comment by The OFloinn:

            One reasons first from experience: there is change is the world, there is an ordering of efficient causes, things come into and pass out of being, there are gradations in the transcendentals, there is finality in nature and these take us to several conclusions: there is an Unchangeable Changer, an Uncaused Cause, a Necessary Being, an Ultimate Ground of Goodness, Being, etc., an Intelligence.
            Now it doesn’t stop there. From these first conclusions, others follow like toppling dominoes.
            Once you have an Unchangeable Changer, you have a Being of Pure Act (BPA). [If it were not pure act, it would be a compound of potency and act. But if it possessed potency then it could be other than what it is. If it could be other, it would be changeable, contrary to hypothesis. Modus tollens]
            There can be only one BPA.
            The BPA cannot be material.
            The BPA is beyond space and time.
            The BPA is eternal.
            The BPA is simple; that is, not a compound of matter and form or potency and act.
            and so forth and so on, up through
            The BPA is all power-full; that is, full of all powers; hence,
            The BPA possesses something analogous to intellect and will; therefore
            The BPA is a rational being — we can now say “He” — which in combination with prior theorems concludes
            He comprises three hypostases [Subject of intellect and will, object of intellect, object of will. Plotinus reached a similar conclusion among the higher pagans.]
            Various other conclusions follow from one or more of the five. The totality begins to add up to what the Christians [and Jews and muslims] have called God.
            At this point one realizes what Thomas meant when he added “…and this all men call God” to the end of each of the five ways. It wasn’t a blind leap; it was a summary of what followed.
            + + +
            Further conclusions stem from the testimony of eyewitnesses to the ministry of Jesus, preserved in what the Orthodox call “The Holy Traditions” and the Catholics call “The Bible and the Traditions.” (The Bible is one of the Traditions, albeit the most important one and was assembled based on those Traditions.) But here the good doctor could undoubtedly not follow.

            • Comment by John Hutchins:

              I am fairly certain that each of us are nearly equivalent to an atheist in the others system, as has been repeatedly argued by philosophers and bloggers on both sides. I don’t know that it would be productive or helpful to get into it (again).

            • Comment by robertjwizard:

              Heh, I may drive you mad because I am confused all over again.

              The BPA is beyond space and time.

              This BPA we come to name as God who is Truth and is Morality. How does God exist beyond space and time and yet be Truth and Morality? Truth and Morality exist in space and time, so must not the BPA, God, exist simultaneously beyond space and time and within space and time?

              I don’t need to waste your time. If you want to tell me to open up some Aquinas, I’ll consider that a valid response.

              • Comment by The OFloinn:

                Since the BPA is Existence Itself and Existence can neither come into nor go out of existence, the BPA must be eternal. But if it is eternal it cannot be in time, since time is the measure of change in changeable being and the BPA is the unchangeable changer, etc. [Eternity is not "a very long time," but an entirely separate sort of duration.]
                Ditto, space is the extension of material bodies and the BPA cannot be material, since all material things are subject to change.

                Truth, Good, Beauty do not exist within space-time. Instantiations of them do. True things, good things, beautiful things. But being material they are imperfectly trustable, beautiful, and good.

                A particular instance of the triangle may be cut in green felt, drawn in white chalk, or displayed in phosphors on a screen. We can easily define what it means for a triangle to be good. Lines are straight, angles are closed where they meet, etc. But material triangles are in a sense Fallen: they do not achieve the good. Every physical triangle falls short of perfection. The lines may have thickness, the corners may not be closed, the lines wiggle slightly, or break down into zig-zag pixels, etc.

                But you may be thinking of truth, beauty, etc. as things, which they are not, although they infuse all things. God is Existence Itself, yet things within space-time exist. No big deal. That God is to be seen in his works is no more mysterious than that Shakespeare is to be seen in his. While Shakespeare is not a character in Hamlet, his spirit infuses the play, the meter of the words, the very thrust of the play. Sometimes an author can be teased out of a work by the simple frequencies of word choices!

        • Comment by robertjwizard:

          The idea derived from Aristotle (Metaphysics ii…

          That does help, thank you.

      • Comment by John C Wright:

        Well, I wrote a scathing mockery of your scathing mockery, and now I wish I had not. I get the impression that you and I know what a real atheist is like, a man of reason, and that everyone else in this discussion thinks of Christopher Hitchens the socialist drunk or Phillip Pullman the whim-worshipping death eater.

        If anything I said implied that I cannot tell the difference between atheist of the rational sort (you) and member of the Political Correctness Cult who are atheists in name only (Hitchens, et al), I deeply and humbly apologize.

        I had the distinction in mind, and you can see hints of it in what I wrote, but I should have emphasized it.

        • Comment by robertjwizard:

          I deeply and humbly apologize.

          And I. Hopefully anyone should see that I simply lost it on the guy. I didn’t even take into consideration that he was ill which he told me.

          Although telling someone you believe X and they merely repeat you believe Y, is a sure way to unhinge me! But that is no excuse for my post.

          You did bring up a good point. I put restrictions on my arguments that cause them to be less than they otherwise would be. First I try to avoid the name Ayn Rand whenever possible since it has the same effect as bringing Darth Vader to a dinner party on Cloud City. Same with using the name Objectivism or using quotes from its corpus.

          Coupled with what I could add cosmologically, almost any argument I do make raises a thousand more questions than I could ever answer. OFloinn thinks my naming free will and reason as the same faculty is a Nietzschean argument probably never having heard of Darth – I mean Rand’s argument. Mr. Hutchins wants to know the relation between A is A and Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh (which, as I mentioned to John, is a fascinating prospect for study). Not a detraction from either of those two fine gentlemen mind you.

          It puts me in the unfortunate position of attempting to make my argument while also not fully stating it. And since my views are so outside the mainstream (I’d probably have problems on an Objectivist forum by this point) , any attempt to be fuller in my arguments raises more questions and demands even more explanation to where I would have to explain the entirety to become clear on a single point. I really don’t know how to avoid speaking in mere assertions without getting in very deep. Perhaps I am not skilled enough.

          • Comment by John C Wright:

            I really don’t know how to avoid speaking in mere assertions without getting in very deep. Perhaps I am not skilled enough.

            It is a question of time and interest. I, at least, love philosophical discussions. I have only one across two guys ever who I ran out of patience with, and in both cases, it was because they were just fucking liars, and whenever they were losing an argument, they would meet a demand for evidence with a fucking lie. Please pardon my language, but as a philosopher, a lover of truth, I feel about such things as a art lover feels about a counterfeiter. In both cases, the fucking liars (pardon my language) just fucking made shit up (pardon my language) about what I was thinking inside my own head, a matter of data to which I had access and they did not. And neither of them expressed the slightest shame or embarrassment or any normal sense of right and wrong. Both deeply hate God and neither was willing to shut up about matters of theology where they were fucking amateurs (pardon my language).

            Aside from those two men, I love talking philosophy on any level and at any length. It is my main preoccupation and love of my life.

            In a case like someone like yourself, who has read at least some of the same authors as have I, and tended bar as have I, I have a lot of sympathy to hear any philosophical speculations you have the time and interest and patience to lay out. But, if you don’t have the time, that is also cool with me. I feel like we are cut from very similar cloth.

            • Comment by robertjwizard:

              We both come from Lutheran homes as well.

              Some of it is a matter of time, I have infinite interest in it. I also hide from the wife how much time I spend on this instead of writing fiction. With that I should get something done before she wakes up… But first,

              I was watching a program tonight called Mankind Rising. It was your basic evolution type show on the Discovery Channel. It started from 4 billion years ago, the first cells, the first division and on and on. At one point I turned to my wife and said, “you really gotta have some sympathy for religious people who simply can’t swallow so many miracles!”

              If I were to judge just on the incredible outrageousness of godless evolution or Creation, both blow my mind equally. It actually makes more sense to have a god, or God, starting the process, the first cells, and intervening along the eons. The fundamentalist version should be told in a clown suit, the strictly evolutionist story is staggering in its statistical improbability.

  13. Comment by Sylvie D. Rousseau:

    God is Morality: I have issue with this assertion.

    God is Goodness, which is a transcendental like Being, Truth, Beauty, Oneness. Morality consists in the love of Good built in our will, actuated by doing good and avoiding evil in order to become good. But I don’t think Morality is a transcendental properly speaking. God is not Morality: he does not have to choose between good and evil, this makes no sense.

    God is Love though, but I think Love is here synonym of Goodness, self-giving generosity. In us creatures, Love is a tendency toward our perfection or the perfection and happiness of those or that which we love. In our relation to God, it is returning his Love.

    If I am mistaken, it would be because my only source is Maritain’s Introduction to Metaphysics. I did not read directly Aristotle or Aquinas or other Scholastics on the subject.

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