Why I Believe in God – Part 2

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In my earlier posting I wrote primarily about my personal journey as a Christian and why I am a believer rather than an atheist. In the course of my life I do not think atheism would have ever been a possible way to live – the questions of my life and heart would have been either silenced or bludgeoned into non-existence.

But there are other aspects worth writing about. One has to do with the reductionism of atheist thought. To view the world in a purely materialist fashion makes sense in a secular protestant mindset (I have written on this a defined my terms in a previous post). It is possible to see the world as existing in discreet, concrete terms – as self-existing. The problem is that it leaves so much of human experience unaccounted for, and undervalued.

Theories of knowledge, for instance, in a world of discreet materialism, are fairly straightforward, though boring. Materialist explanations of non-materialist experiences always border on silliness to me. It’s like reducing love to a chemical expression. If you like movies (though the rating is not what I would normally recommend) the independent film, Dopamine, has an artful explanation of love versus mere chemical reaction. What do we do with the encounter with Beauty? Materialist explanations not only sound contrived but manage to turn the experience of beauty into something of ugliness. This is why I earlier charged that atheism has produced no worthy art: it’s ugly and boring.

The very experience of Beauty has a way of drawing us beyond ourselves and towards the Transcendent. The number of conversions of which I am aware that involve an experience of Beauty extend far beyond those famous cases such as Dostoevsky and Bulgakov. One of the most profound I have heard came from the priest, Fr. Anthony Tregubov, an excellent iconographer, and late secretary and later priest to Alexander Solzhnetisyn (when he lived in Vermont).

I was reading earlier today in the theology of Fr. Pavel Florensky. His theology is deeply intertwined in the question of aesthetics and epistemology (Beauty and the Theory of Knowledge). I frequently think that if someone has had a true encounter with Beauty and can come away with a simple materialist explanation, they have either purposely diminished the experience, or have dismissed it in a way that protects them from the demands that Beauty would make.

I am sure that a materialist could respond to questions of Beauty that they are simply responses based on how we are “hard-wired.” If such an explanation is sufficient then Beauty has become as prosaic as digestion. There are experiences of Beauty that bring you to a complete stop – that render us powerless and speechless. We can be completely ravished by Beauty and find ourselves reduced to willing servitude.

On the other hand, to have lived life in this world and never to have experienced any Beauty of such power, is to have lived a poor life. The greater the saint, the more easily they are overwhelmed by such beauty – to the extent that every glance at this created world is itself a glimpse of God. No materialist account of human life has a place for such experience – at least not a place that has not rendered the experience as again as banal as digestion (though I venture that the saint even marvels at digestion).

When I was a child in second grade, my teacher was an artist. For whatever reason, she focused her attention on about three students in her class and gave us special attention (this is all probably illegal today). One thing she did for us was to take us on a private visit to the County Museum of Art (a deeply modest event compared to its existence today where it houses the largest Wyeth Collection in the nation). But we were children of the margin – not farm families nor city folk. My father was an auto mechanic, my mother a seamstress. The others were the child of a hog salesman and the manager of a trailer park. She took us to see art. Not the chalk drawings she dazzled us with on her blackboard in the classroom, nor our own feeble efforts in clay and finger-painting – but true art, wonderful, colorful and beyond anything we had known. Unlike pictures in a book it was the product of a human hand.

I remember aching with the experience. I wanted to be an artist (I never became one – seeming to lack the talent). But I have a daughter who draws with an absolute delight and intends on becoming an artist. She has no idea how I rejoice in her work and pray that she be transformed by the encounter with Beauty.

There is a vast human conversation – even a conversation I can have with a Buddhist or Hindu for that matter, despite the difficulties – that are simply foreign to the materialist account of reality. As a believer I also belong to the human race and the whole of its experience. I can at least take part in the conversation. Materialism and its concomitant brother, atheism, seem to have exempted themselves from the largest part of the human conversation.

Dostoevsky is quoted as saying, “God will save the world through Beauty.” He never quite said it that way – but the saying stands as true (I believe). I do not doubt that every assault on Beauty, every attempt to reduce it to less, to a mere process of the brain, and has diminished humanity and the eons of its encounter with this wondrous experience.

28 Responses to “Why I Believe in God – Part 2”

  1. religionandatheism Says:

    Father Stephen,

    You may find atheism’s art “ugly and boring” but only shows what your personal preference is. Not that God exists.

    You also seem to have some misconceptions about materialism. Not that I am a materialist. But nonetheless you have some misconceptions.

    Materialism isn’t “contrived”, it is an axiom that underpins all natural sciences, not necessarily all of life experience. Every modern medicine is produced from science which rests on materialist assumptions. Materialism is a category of thought.

    Atheism does not entail materialism, as you seem to be suggesting. Not all atheists are materialists.

    Atheists and materialists have not exempted themselves from the largest part of human conversation. They are part of all of philosophy, which includes theology as a subset, and stretches back far before the pre-Socratics. It is a cultural conversation that spans millenia and goes far beyond faith in any God.

    That something is beautiful is also no indication that God exists. I’ve addressed this in a comment on your Why I Believe In God – Part 1. See the part about unicorns.

  2. religionandatheism Says:

    Just to explain, incidentally: I submitted some of the previous comments as Blue Rat (a different blog), but it is the same person.

  3. Rob Grano Says:

    I’m reposting this from the ‘icons’ thread, as it seems apropos here….I wrote…

    As it’s a metaphysical issue, the existence of God cannot be either proven or disproven in a positivist sense, i.e., by logic or empirical evidence or a combination of both. The best that can be hoped for is a weighing of the evidence on both sides, and a conclusion being drawn. A decision either way requires some measure of faith. And then, even should one reason one’s way to belief in the existence of a Supreme Being, Christian theology states that this ‘God of the philosophers’ is not the Christian God, whose identity is known only by his self-revelation.

    The argument against atheism that seems most compelling to me is the moral argument: to quote Dostoevsky, “If there is no God, everything is permitted.” If there is no higher standard of good than the human, then human morality is completely arbitrary and there is only personal choice and the will to power. This does not mean that atheists cannot be good people; it means that their being “good” cannot be described as strictly rationalistic. They haven’t rationalized their way to the good, but presume it. As Alasdair McIntyre as summed it up, when it comes to ethics and morality, the only two real options, logically speaking, are Aristotle and Nietzche — either belief in an absolute Good, or nihilism.

  4. Blue Rat Says:

    Rob Grano,

    “If there is no God everything might be permitted” is not a good argument for the existence of God. Just because you would like there to be a higher moral authority than humankind’s doesn’t mean there is one. Why should there be a morality higher than mankind’s? Wishing doesn’t make it so.

    And it also does not follow that if there is no higher moral authority then the atheist “good” cannot be rationalistic. The non-existence of God doesn’t indict rationalism. In fact, it surprises me that some theists want it both ways: “Rationalism is wrong; there’s a god… without God you can’t have rationalism.” That isn’t logic.

    And so what about McIntyre saying this or that? It’s either apples or it’s oranges. What rot! There may well be no absolutes, that does not mean you have to believe in nothing (nihilism).

  5. fatherstephen Says:

    Bluerate,

    I do not mean any superiority – as a human being – belive me – I share nothing superior. But I just say, one that basis of this tiny conversation we have had, including its places for disagreement – if your you run into trouble or problems which you think I might possible be of help, do not hesitate to call me. May God bless [or anyone you like].

  6. Rob Grano Says:

    ‘“If there is no God everything might be permitted” is not a good argument for the existence of God.’

    I didn’t say it was. I said it was a good argument against atheism.

    ‘And it also does not follow that if there is no higher moral authority then the atheist “good” cannot be rationalistic.’

    It may, in one sense, be rationalistic (one certainly can reason about the good) but it can’t be purely rational in a scientific way. If two atheists, equally rational, come to starkly opposite notions of what the good is, what then? Who is there to judge between them, and on what basis?

    “Rationalism is wrong; there’s a god… without God you can’t have rationalism.”

    I’d rephrase it, “Rationalism is wrong: there’s a god…but without God you can’t have rationality.” Not quite the same thing.

    “There may well be no absolutes, that does not mean you have to believe in nothing (nihilism).”

    No one says you “have to” believe in nothing; you can express all manner of inconsistencies here, such as living like there are absolutes when actually there aren’t, assuming there are certain “goods,’ when rationalistically speaking you “know” no such thing, etc.

  7. Visibilium Says:

    I like talking about atheism because I get to talk about what really matters. Too many discussions with non-Orthodox Christians get bogged down in distractions like papal primacy or scriptural primacy.

    Fr. Stephen’s pastoral approach has the best chance of winning the hearts and minds.

    After all, Orthodoxy isn’t about proving or rationalizing or ratiocinating. The nonsense involved in proving things about God is so…medieval.

  8. bluerat Says:

    Rob Grano,

    To argue against atheism is by default to argue FOR God. Atheism merely says that God doesn’t exist. Just look at the etymology of the word. So to argue against the idea that there isn’t a God is to say that there is one. And Dostoyevsky’s argument doesn’t manage it for the reasons I’ve given.

    I think you’re conflating atheism with secularism or with humanism.

    If two atheists have different opinions on what is good what should we do? We should acknowledge that this is an intrinsic problem of human existence and that quick answers don’t come out of nothing. What would you do? Believe that God’s word is final? Which God and why? All religions believe their moral code is divinely sourced. The problem is that they frequently disagree.

    Why on earth can’t you have rationality without God? What is the argument for this?

    You don’t have to be inconsistent just because there are no absolutes.

  9. bluerat Says:

    Father Stephen,

    Thank you for your offer of help. I don’t need help. But if I do I’ll think of you and who knows, maybe I’ll come a-calling. Though if you’re ever in distress, don’t hesitate to contact me either.

    Though having been nice to each other, I can’t say I’m not a little perplexed as to why my arguments lead you to think I might be in need of help. Why single me out?

    Is it because I’m an atheist?

  10. bluerat Says:

    Here are some arguments for God that don’t make any sense:
    http://bluerat.wordpress.com/2007/07/27/some-stupid-arguments-for-god/

  11. BV Says:

    Materialism isn’t “contrived”, it is an axiom that underpins all natural sciences, not necessarily all of life experience. Every modern medicine is produced from science which rests on materialist assumptions. Materialism is a category of thought.

    I would argue that Materialism is NOT (and I say emphatically) the philosophical stance that underpins the natural sciences. Realism is what underpins the sciences. To define my terms: (1) Materialism – belief that all can be reduced to the “atoms and molecules” level. We dance to our genes, etc. (2) Realism – that a real, external world exists apart from my mind.

    The method of the sciences is to observe this real, external world, build a model which is based on the observed regularity of the real, external world, and then to falsify. What underpins all of this is the presumption that we model that which is real.

  12. Blue Rat Says:

    BV,

    I’m afraid I disagree. Being a chemistry PhD student with an interest in the philosophy of science, I’ve read and thought a lot about this. Here’s where I differ:

    You might say what you will emphatically, but what you call materialism is actually materialist reductionism (and extreme of which to which you allude is eliminative materialism – not necessarily a part of science’s underpinnings). Working with your definitions, I would say that both materialism and realism are part of science’s starting points; to assert materialism (as you’ve defined it) implies realism. It’s not an either/or situation.

    The way in which you describe the scientific process is the one advocated by Karl Popper. There are many others. Paul Feyerabend, for one, would disagree. I’m not sure we have the space for that debate here though.

  13. Blue Rat Says:

    Rob Grano,

    An argument against atheism is one for God by definition, since atheism is the position that God doesn’t exist. I’m not sure you really mean atheism in your comment above. Maybe humanism or secularism.

    How do you decide when two atheists have different views about morality? You might not be able to. Reality doesn’t owe us an objective moral law just because we would like one. In fact, it is dangerous to have lots of people with lots of different versions of how God told us to behave. They all claim they’re right and not a few are willing to get violent about it. It’s a silly road to go down.

    Why can’t you have rationality without God? Please explain.

    Finally, just because there may be no absolutes does not mean that the only alternative is inconsistency. Neither an apple nor an orange are absolutes. And they are not inconsistent with each other. Lack of absolutes does not lead to inconsistency. That just doesn’t follow.

  14. fatherstephen Says:

    Bluerat,

    I do not assume you need help – I offer help because I’m a Christian. But, be well.

  15. Michael Bauman Says:

    If God is but a metaphysical idea that holds no reality why the pulsating anger at God and His servants from so many unbelievers? Why the seemingly overwhelming need to convince us that we are wrong and irrational? God is or is not. Each of us has to choose and live with the consequences. One of the consequences of that choice is a divergent set of assumptions one brings to evaluating the phenomenal world and one’s own being. I certainly understand the desire to convice someone else of one’s own belief, a temptation that I am trying to rid myself of, but the anger only makes sense if one longs to believe but the sins of we poor servants unfortunately redound to our Lord in the person’s mind.

    The best antidote for such anger cannot be given on the web I fear but lies in the simple hearts of those who really love God and demonstrate that love in living. The Bible tells us clearly that our unknowing acts of kindness and mercy lead us to salvation, not our lofty thoughts. I fear for myself in that context.

    I believe, help my unbelief!

  16. David_Bryan Says:

    From Visibilium:

    “I like talking about atheism because I get to talk about what really matters. Too many discussions with non-Orthodox Christians get bogged down in distractions like papal primacy or scriptural primacy…Orthodoxy isn’t about proving or rationalizing or ratiocinating. The nonsense involved in proving things about God is so…medieval.”

    This is exactly what I’ve been thinking about today, though not necessarily in connection with the conversations that have been going on in this blog. My own time spent (wasted?) blogging about these very things has me wondering if I could make better use of my time elsewhere…

    Michael Bauman,

    “why the pulsating anger at God and His servants from so many unbelievers? Why the seemingly overwhelming need to convince us that we are wrong and irrational?”

    Not to speak for RandA/BR, but one reason that has been voiced to me by self-proclaimed atheists/agnostics is that theists, having based their lives on what amounts to an emotional (as opposed to rational) premise, are easily manipulated (especially in our western democracies) into “voting their beliefs,” thus imposing certain rules and regulations on the whole of a populace for no other reason than something that is taken for granted rather than objectively and empirically proven. Prohibition of alcohol and abortion, slavery, mandatory Christian prayer in schools, teaching Creationism over Darwinism, prohibition of gay marriage — these are some of the issues many contemporary atheists find so troubling, for Christians can be easily mobilized to enact laws for or against any of these things based on something an atheist sees as subjective at best, and silly at worst.

    Just my $0.02.

  17. BV Says:

    Blue Rat

    I’m afraid I disagree. Being a chemistry PhD student with an interest in the philosophy of science, I’ve read and thought a lot about this. Here’s where I differ:

    I too am a chemistry PhD student and I too read works on the philosophy of science. I don’t read that much phil of science; my interest is more where this meets theology.

    You might say what you will emphatically, but what you call materialism is actually materialist reductionism (and extreme of which to which you allude is eliminative materialism – not necessarily a part of science’s underpinnings). Working with your definitions, I would say that both materialism and realism are part of science’s starting points; to assert materialism (as you’ve defined it) implies realism. It’s not an either/or situation.

    But the previous poster said that materialism is an axiom that underpins science. For one, I disagree with the definitions offered of materialism. Perhaps we need more clarification on this point: I think Materialism is the emphasis of the “atoms and molecules”. In other words, in my mind Materialism is inseparable from Reductionism. Secondly, we must be careful about what we lay down as axiomatic. Knowledge, in my opinion, is an a posteriori business. And the basis for an epistemology is ontology. Knowledge is grounded in being, in my opinion. To tip my hand, I’m a critical realist.

    I think the question of what motivates science and scientific exploits is different than what underpins science. What motivates scientific discovery, in my opinion, is a belief in the rationality and regularity of the observed external world. We construct models on the basis of this regularity and then proceed to test these models through falsification.

    Interestingly, this is a point of connection between the rise of modern science and the Reformation (from Luther’s perspective). Luther’s Theology of the Cross is, in my opinion, brilliant. The point of his idea is that knowledge of God is also a posteriori – it comes through observation of the God who reveals Himself. The principle point of this revelation is the Person of Jesus Christ. Modern science also arose from the view that knowledge is obtained a posteriori through observation of this real, external world.

  18. Blue Rat Says:

    Michael Bauman,

    I think you mistake hearty argument for anger. I don’t have anger at anybody here, that’s for certain. Just because I write posts and try to keep up my end of the debate/conversation, doesn’t mean I’m hell-bent on destroying your beliefs at the cost of everything else and that I’m really angry.
    But I do think an interesting debate is still to be had about the existence of God. I don’t think mankind would be anywhere if its ideas weren’t constantly open to challenge. And I happen to be of the persuasion that God does not exists, or at the very least there really isn’t any good reason to suppose that he does.
    Apart from that metaphysical difference, I actually think it’s very likely that the people on this blog are very good, honest and decent people, and there’s nothing about that I’m attacking.
    I do find the implication that because I’m determined to support my views with various arguments I’m actually searching for the Lord, or I wish that I could believe in God quite condescending. I don’t wish any such things. I could give reasons for that as well.
    David Bryan seems to be concerned about religion also. I think that is a healthy concern and he identifies some good reasons to be concerned. Certainly I’ve not met a Christian who can offer a good rational reason for the belief in God – and I’ve met quite a few Christians. Of course rationality is not the only valid human experience, but one would hope that one’s views had at least a good rational basis if they are to be expressed, say, in the public sphere through voting. I think frequently religion does lead to nonsense policies, like prohibition on contraception, on abortion, on stem cell research, opposition to evolution, to gay marriage, and in many cases to the equality of women. Frequently religion has, for example, a strange aversion to sex. I think often it tries to suppress parts of human nature that really needn’t be fought. And that’s to mention just some of the ideas that are religiously-inspired. There are also a whole host of problems with having a religion institutionalised. The RC Chuch, for example, supported Nazism, slavery, colonialism, opposes the use of condoms in Africa to prevent the spread of AIDS, and actively protects paedophile priests (this is still going on). And much of stems from backwards doctrine, not from concern for humanity.
    Now, I’m not accusing the orthodox tradition of quite the same stuff – I simply don’t know enough about that branch of Christianity and its history. But I would say that the debate about the existence of God is worth having. So please don’t mistake my passion or determination for anger.

    And I would please ask everybody not to mistake atheism for humanism or secularism either.

    All the best to all and sundry.

  19. Blue Rat Says:

    Father Stephen,

    Thank you for your kind offer because you’re a Christian. May I reciprocate: don’t hesitate to contact me if you’re ever in trouble. I say that not because I’m a Christian but because I try to be a decent human being.

  20. Michael Bauman Says:

    Blue Rat, et. al Several things to consider:

    There is a difference between rational thinking and rationalism. Non-believers in my experience confuse the two.

    Just because people who profess a belief do stupid, hurtful and evil things does not invalidate the belief, only the ability of the person to live by it.

    The dichotomy between being “rational” and being “emotional” is false in the context because you have a a priori assumption against the rational foundation of tradtional Christian thought.

    If God exists, it is irrational and emotional to build a whole system of thought on the false assumption that He does not. Orthodox thought on the matters of abortion, homosexuality and a whole host of other issues you mention is quite rational, it merely has a vastly different foundation than does yours.

    That does not mean that all who claim to be Christian are Christian. In fact the ideas and assumptions upon which you base your conculsions are much more closely related to western Christian thought than Orthodox thought. Unfortunately, with admitted ignorance of the Orthodox tradition you come in swinging for the fences as if we were Protestant or Catholic, we are neither.

    The overall impression is of someone coming into a room and yelling, God doesn’t really exist and you’re morons for thinking so!!!!!, I don’t need your belief!!!!. If that’s not anger, its a pretty fair imitation of it.

    If you don’t want communion with God that’s your choice. Even so, if you conform your life to mercy and sacrifice, you may well enter the Kingdom before me.

  21. bluerat Says:

    Michael Bauman,

    “There is a difference between rational thinking and rationalism. Non-believers in my experience confuse the two.”

    I don’t. I’m fully aware of the difference.

    “Just because people who profess a belief do stupid, hurtful and evil things does not invalidate the belief, only the ability of the person to live by it.”

    And just because many Christians are kind does not mean God exists or that Jesus was resurrected. But an atheist who is a moral person shows that you don’t need faith in God to be good.

    “The dichotomy between being “rational” and being “emotional” is false in the context because you have a a priori assumption against the rational foundation of tradtional Christian thought.”

    I don’t have any a priori assumptions about whether belief in God is rational or not. It is up to people who claim that such belief is rational to demonstrate it. They haven’t.

    “If God exists, it is irrational and emotional to build a whole system of thought on the false assumption that He does not.”

    This is a non-sequitur. If transluscent space monkeys live on Pluto, would it be irrational to think they don’t? No. Because to date there is no information to suggest that such space monkeys exist. They might, but nothing points to this. And so it is with God. You can only do the best with what you’ve got. And you can’t prove a negative. Go and read Russell’s tea-pot analogy. It simply does not follow that IF God exists it’s irrational to do anything… The question is “Why should we believe that God exists?” and no good reason can be given for this. So it is silly to build systems of thought on the idea that he does.

    “Orthodox thought on the matters of abortion, homosexuality and a whole host of other issues you mention is quite rational, it merely has a vastly different foundation than does yours.”

    How rational is it to tell people that homosexuality is unnatural or against God? It can’t be against God if there’s not God for it to be against. And in any case, I was talking abou the pernicious effects of institutionalised doctrines, not the doctrines rationality. But you’re right to bring that up too. Traditional religious doctrines have frequently stood against rationally conceived human rights, like equality of the sexes, and freedom of sexuality. Why is God so interested in what people do between the sheets anyway? Hasn’t he got better things to take care of? Like worrying about genocide?

    “Unfortunately, with admitted ignorance of the Orthodox tradition you come in swinging for the fences as if we were Protestant or Catholic, we are neither.”
    I’m not treating you as a Catholic or Protestant. Like the Protestant and Catholics, you believe in God. And He is no more a rational or demonstrably true proposition than for any other denomination. If he were, I dare say a great deal more people would be Orthodox.

    “The overall impression is of someone coming into a room and yelling, God doesn’t really exist and you’re morons for thinking so!!!!!, I don’t need your belief!!!!. If that’s not anger, its a pretty fair imitation of it.”

    I’m not yelling. I’m not calling you morons. And as I’ve put already: I’m not angry. You make it seem like I’m some wild, flailing madman. Except that I’ve discussed and given my reasons for all the points raised so far. I’ve talked about various arguments for and against God, answered all your posts, talked about the harms of institutionalised doctrine, about morality, about rationality, definitions of atheism, about the axiomatic underpinnings of the sciences, about materialism and philosophy and theology. That seems pretty collected.
    I do resent being accused of being somehow wildly bent on shouting you down or calling you a moron. I’m doing no such thing. Now, if you have an argument to offer, or a point of discussion, fine. But don’t put words into my mouth to discredit me. That’s not very becoming.

    On your final point, if I “conform my life to mercy and sacrifice” and thus enter the Kingdom despite being an atheist, then it just goes to show belief in God is unnecessary. I’m glad to hear it.

  22. fatherstephen Says:

    Many thanks to all who have posted on this thread. I think disucssion has largely ended. My prayers for all of you. Listen to some music and enjoy the weekend.

  23. Michael Krahn Says:

    Father Stephen,

    I posted an article on Dawkins at Digital Journal that you might be interested in. The article can be found at:
    http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/210063/The_Dawkins_Defeat

    If you’d like to read more about Dawkins and The God Delusion visit http://www.michaelkrahn.com/blog/richard-dawkins

  24. kevinburt Says:

    bluerat,

    “And just because many Christians are kind does not mean God exists or that Jesus was resurrected. But an atheist who is a moral person shows that you don’t need faith in God to be good.”

    Depends on what you mean by “need” and “good.” Most atheists are not completely moral people and, to be fair, neither are most Christians. What this shows to Christians, is that all of them need God more, not less. How you define “good” is also different, to some degree, than how we would understand the concept. The term “good” is often tossed about quite blithely, as it if meant someone who keeps his lawn tidy and his gives blood. There are many things that are good, but the concept of goodness according to Jesus is not the goodness most atheists or Christians demonstrate.

    Whether or not it is needed… Well, some people would drive the speed limit even if there were no limits. However, as a general rule, limit signs are “needed” in order to ensure that more people drive safely. Some, of course, who believe in speed limit signs still disobey them. None of those facts would lead a normal person to crusade against the “needfulness” of speed limits. A person, similarly, may be “good” to some degree either with or without God. Whether he is either, he needs God to be good, and especially to be fully good.

    You’ve called no one a moron. In a kind gesture, you changed your own blog entry at “Blue Rat” from “Stupid arguments for God,” to “Inadequate arguments….” That was kind of you. But insinuating the stupidity of a person or what a person is doing, whether one likes it or not, may give the impression that you think them somewhat closer to a moron than to a genius. Your blog continues to assert that the people who believe there is an intelligent creator are not, themselves, intelligent. A moron is a “stupid” person, by definition, one who lacks intelligence. You might consider how you talk to people, and the “airs” that you carry with you in your dialogue, if you are concerned that they never question your condescending implications of their intelligence or character.

    “And [God] is no more a rational or demonstrably true proposition … If he were, I dare say a great deal more people would be Orthodox.”

    Now, on your blue rat site your #1 “stupid argument” for God was that “76% of people believe in him.” But, you seem to think now that if God existed, more people would believe in him (more than 76% or whatever the actual figure might be?). By some estimates, there may be as many as 750,000,000 Orthodox worldwide. I don’t know how large you think that number ought to be, but it seems a pretty big chunk, to me. I thought your point was good, that “numbers don’t make right.” Well, the inverse is also true: right doesn’t always make big numbers. Should we ask: if atheism were true, shouldn’t there be more atheists?

  25. kevinburt Says:

    Father,

    Sorry, I would not have posted if I’d seen your final thought on this thread. I think I posted as you were. By the way, speaking of music, thanks for posting the “music videos” over the past few days. Please post more in the future!

    Kevin

  26. bluerat Says:

    If atheists are imperfect and theists are imperfect, then obviously extra God in your life doesn’ make much difference in that regard.

    As for speed limits: people do speed. If there is no God everything is permitted? That’s right. It is. And many people get away with it.

    As for stupid, I’ve had a change of heart. I’ll change the title back to “Some Stupid Arguments…” for two reasons. Firstly, I’ve reflected on the title and of course the word stupid is attached to the arguments, not people. (And it’s “some” because by no means have I catalogued all the stupid arguments often presented). Stupid arguments then. And as for “intelligent” design proponents: I’m absolutely clear. It’s from ignorance or stupidity. So some choice is there. Which group the ID-ers belong to is entirely a matter of their preference. Some, I suppose, remain ignorant through no fault of their own.

    And I didn’t say “if God existed more people would believe in him.” What I said was (and you actually quoted this – it’s right there in front of you) that if God was a rational or demonstrably true proposition more people would believe in him. That’s different than just existing. And that’s utterly true. There would be more reason to believe in him then. You’re right that something that’s right isn’t reflected in big numbers. There’s hardly any causal correlation between what is factually accurate or true in any other sense and how many people believe it. And numbers of people don’t make facts either. So that there are few atheists is hardly an indictment.

    All the best.

  27. fatherstephen Says:

    The Last Word

    bluerat,

    Though there are arguments for the existence of God that fall within the rational sphere, none of them are obviously so overwhelming that they carry the day. On the other hand, there are non-rational arguments for many things that have validity in our lives.

    Orthodox Christians believe that rationality cannot of itself prove the existence of God because He transcends rationality. Thus to demand such a proof is ultimately for us to argue for something that is not the God we know and worship.

    We also, interestingly, believe that there could be no rationality without Him, but that is another theolgical question.

    It may be that if you establish what you consider the requirements for “proof” of God’s existence that you have defined them in a way that does not permit for such a demonstration. And I would say that throughout your arguments you have done nothing more.

    What do you do with an utterly transcendent being? Indeed, Someone, Whom the fathers refer to as “beyond being?” None of us can make a sufficient argument.

    On the other hand, just because He is such a God, does not mean that He cannot make Himself known. And that is the claim of Christianity, that He has made Himself known – but not that He has made Himself known in an “objective” way, such that any bloke who comes along can prove Him as though He were an object.

    If you only value objective, etc., then there is no point of discussion.

    One Orthodox theologian has said, “God cannot be known – but you have to know Him to know that.” I believe this is true, but that only a believer would actually appreciate its truth.

    Should you have such an encounter may God bless you. If not, may He bless you. Thanks for the postings.

  28. fatherstephen Says:

    I have turned comments back on – it was a nice break. Just a suggestion. Edit what you say, be more succinct. Don’t try to cover everything in one response. Responses become too long, too boring, too tiresome for other readers. Also, take turns to a degree. If you have something worth saying, say it. But when one person comes to dominate a thread, again it gets tiresome.

    Remember to be kind to everyone. You are all guests on my blog, and must observe the rules of the house – be kind. Though we had no flagrant violations, I’m saying it as a reminder.

    Conversations with others, particularly strangers to Orthodoxy are very helpful, for both them and me. But write in a helpful manner.

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