Kelly Rants against Javed Akbar over Atheist Anxiety

Okay, here’s another post linking to a story over at Atheism Sucks. Yeah, I know I’ve done a couple of them recently, but the guys over there have raised some very good issues that deserve further comment and discussion. This time they’re taking issue with yet another rant by the Rational Response Squad’s Kelly. It’s over a letter to one of the papers by Javed Akbar of Markham, which states that much of the shrillness of recent atheist polemic comes from anxiety. Akbar points out that according to the atheist polemicists and ideologues of the past, religion should have died out by now. This has not occurred, and so the venom of Dawkins, Dennett and co against religion is a result of their anxiety over religion’s continued persistence. This has provoked an angry response from the RRS’ Kelly, which is duly dissected and discussed by the good folks at Atheism Sucks here at http://atheismsucks.blogspot.com/2008/01/kelly-has-another-irrational-outburst.html.

Continuation of Religion Despite Atheist Predictions 

In fact, Akbar is entirely correct about the predictions of the end of religion and the emergence of global atheism by atheist ideologues and their failure to materialise. Alister McGrath, in his book, The Twilight of Atheism, lists a number of such predictions, noting that they haven’t occurred. Indeed, Corliss Lamont, one of the pioneers of modern Humanism, was cautiously looking forward to the emergence of a global Humanist order by the end of the 20th century in his 1949 Humanism as a Philosophy. Lamont stated that ‘there is at least the possibility that within the next few decades and before the close of this century the human race will emerge onto the lofty plateau of a world-wide Humanist civilisation’. 1 Clearly this has not occurred, and the emergence of religious fundamentalist regimes and movements across the world, from radical Islam to militant Hinduism and elsewhere, has seriously threatened the secularist project.

Secular Ideological and Scientific Challenges to Humanist Tenets 

I suspect, however, there are other reasons for the vehemence of contemporary atheist polemic deriving not just from the continued persistence of religion and the failure of global secularism, but also from secular developments in philosophy and politics which are in opposition to the assumptions of Humanism itself. These attacks on Humanist assumptions are the increasingly pessimistic view of the value of humanity and its survival; and the questioning of the assumption of human rationality and intentionality by the natural sciences themselves.

Corliss himself was an optimist, stating that ‘despite the appalling world wars and other ordeals through which humanity has been compelled to pass during the first hal of the twentieth century, I believe firmly that man, who has shown himself to be a very tough animal, has the best part of his career still before him.’ 2 However, the increased concern over the ecological crisis, the continuation of political tension and the proliferation of nuclear weapons amongst dangerously aggressive and unstable states, and the rise of technologies that have the potential to eradicate humanity, such as the feared ‘grey goo’ of nano-technology, have all cast severe doubt on humanity’s ability to survive. For example, a few years ago the British Astronomer Royal, Sir Martin Rees, published the book Our Final Century? discussing the various threats to humanity’s survival. Rather than sharing Lamont’s confident optimism, there is now considerable pessimism over humanity’s ability to survive.

This pessimism even extends to the value of the human species itself. Humanity’s responsibility, or perceived responsibility, for the current ecological crisis has resulted in some misanthropic views, which at their most extreme look forward to humanity’s extinction. While James van Praag in his ‘What is Humanism?’ states that ‘the world is a human world’, many would now object extremely strongly to such an anthropocentric viewpoint. 2 When Martin Rees was discussing his book when it was first published, at the Cheltenham Festival of Science a few years, one member of the audience remarked that it might be a good thing if humanity became extinct and was replaced by intelligent machines as they might be kinder to the environment. Other philosophers have expressed similarly negative views about humanity.

From a scientific viewpoint, the assumptions about the innate nobility of humanity from a purely biological viewpoint have also been attacked. While previous generations mistakenly viewed humanity as at the top of an evolutionary ladder, evolutionary scientists argue that humanity is no better designed or further evolved than many of the other creatures with which humanity shares the Earth. Furthermore, developments in neurology, such as Libet’s experiments that apparently show that the decision to move arises in the brain before the conscious decision to move has been made, and similar experiments have led to many neurologists and philosophers questioning the existence of consciousness and free will. The result of this has been a reduction in humanity’s status as a biological, thinking organism. Humanity is increasingly viewed as merely another creature on the Earth, rather than one possessing an innate intellectual and moral superiority and dignity. Bernard Phillips in his article, ‘Zen and Humanism’ argued that just as Humanism battled for human independence against the divine, so it has also fought to preserve the human against the darkness and brutishness of nature. In his view, this has meant defending the importance of the humanities against encroachment by the natural sciences. 3 Yet humanity is increasingly seen merely as another part of nature, with the differences between humanity and the other creatures increasingly minimised.

Humanism also assumed that the human condition could be clarified and improved through the natural sciences. This is certainly true to a large extent, but the fact that science itself is increasingly seen as a source of problems, rather than their solution, through the creation of devastating new technologies and weapons, such as nuclear power, industrial pollution and health scares over new technologies, such as the preservatives in food, have cast severe doubt on the ability of science on its own to provide solutions for humanity’s problems.

Furthermore, contrary to expectations the social sciences have not followed the path founders of Humanism, such as Dewey, expect it to. Dewey believed that the social sciences of the early 20th century were in the same position as the natural sciences before they discovered experimental control. He therefore looked forward to a time when the social sciences would catch up and adopt the same methodology of the natural sciences. For philosophers such as John E. Smith, the fact ‘that this has not happened says a great deal about the human species and the social sciences’. 4 Despite expectations, humanity is still different from other parts of the natural world, and cannot be studied using the same methodology of the natural sciences.

Thus, the confident Humanist assumption that science would preserve and enhance human dignity while providing solutions for its problems has come under severe attack as science itself has acted to deny or minimise humanity’s uniqueness and value, while producing threats of its own.

Decline and Challenges to Membership of Atheist Organisations 

In addition to these secular, ideological challenges to Humanist assumptions there have also been decline and challenges to the membership of atheist organisations themselves. While atheism was illegal and subject to suspicion, as it was in Britain up to the 19th century, the various secular and Humanist societies gained their membership through offering mutual support to those whose beliefs placed them outside contemporary society. With the acceptance of atheism within Western culture, and the drastic decline in religious observance, many people who have no religious beliefs simply don’t feel the need to join a specific, secularist or atheist group or organisation. As a result, until recently atheist groups in Britain were in decline.

There may even be an additional factor in the contemporary distrust of ideologies as inherently divisive and destructive. Since the Fall of Communism and the Labour Party’s reinvention of itself as a more centrist party far less concerned with the communal ownership of property – indeed, as an active supporter of free market economics – many political commentators have viewed this as the ‘post-ideological age’. Political ideologies are now viewed by many with distrust as alienating people from each other and causing hatred and conflict. When Premier Blair took power he included amongst his minister several former Conservative ministers as part of a policy of using suitable talent regardless of formal party allegiances. It’s possible that the distrust and apathy many people now feel towards political ideologies also extend to the religious sphere. Now one of the atheist criticisms of organised religion is that it is divisive and supposedly the source of conflict. However, if all ideologies are so considered, then atheist and Humanist organisations themselves become subjects to the same distrust and apathy as specifically ideological institutions artificially creating division because of beliefs. 

This decline in membership of atheist groups paradoxically had the result of making some secularist organisations more receptive to the membership of people of faith. A few years ago I found amongst the periodicals in the local library a copy of the British New Humanist magazine. This featured an article arguing for the inclusion of people of faith in Humanist societies. Interestingly, the front cover was a cartoon parodying the painting of the wreck of the Medusa, with Humanists shown as the shipwrecked sailors on the raft.

Such a policy of inclusiveness is intensely controversial considering the bitter hostility to religion and the supernatural by most atheist and Humanist organisations. Corliss Lamont criticised the religious Humanists, who were largely Unitarian ministers, who signed Roy Wood Sellars original Humanist Manifesto against the supernatural in 1933. I got the distinct impression that part of the controversy now raging in Internet Infidels was over the inclusion of religious liberals and moderates onto the site by the managers. Kurtz included an article by himself in his book on Humanism, ‘Is Everyone A Humanist?’ as a deliberate attempt to preserve it as a distinct ideological movement against its appropriation by other ideologies, such as Roman Catholicism, when Pope Paul VI declared ‘Christianity is a Humanism … centred on God’ and the claim of Marxism to be the only real Humanism. 5 The attacks by the New Atheists on religion as a whole can be seen not just as an attack on religion for its own sake, but also as an attempt to guard Humanism and secularism against religious encroachment.

Conclusion: A Crisis Mentality in Modern Atheism 

Thus, despite Kelly’s rants to the contrary, Javed Akbar and the guys at Atheism Sucks are right: there does seem to be a sense of profound crisis amongst Secularists and Humanists, derived in part from the continued existence of religion despite expectations to the contrary. This is only part of the reasons for the sense of crisis, however. Other factors include the challenge to Humanist notions of humanity, rationality and dignity from science itself and Humanism’s failure to define or defend the human from challenges, real and perceived from science, and the problematic nature of science itself through its abuse by humanity through war, or the deleterious side-effects of its processes, such as pollution. There is even the problem that the greater acceptance of atheism, and the growth of secular society, has meant that many atheist organisations have experienced a decline as otherwise secular individuals felt no need to join them. And despite the attempt to define atheism as a lack of belief in God, rather than a positive disbelief, the post-ideological condition of contemporary society may mean that all ideologies, including secularism, are subject to the same suspicion as sources of ideological division and hatred. And some atheists clearly feel threatened by the inclusion of religious liberals amongst their membership.

In contrast to Kelly’s denials, therefore, organised atheism is experiencing a crisis due partly to the persistence of religion, and secular and scientific challenges to the assumptions of previous generations of secularists and atheists. Hence the bitter attacks on religion by Dawkins and co as they attempt to preserve organised atheism from this continued challenge to their perceived rationality.

Notes

1. Corliss Lamont, Humanism as a Philosophy (1949), p. 349, cited in John E. Smith, Quasi-Religions: Humanism, Marxism and Nationalism (Basingstoke, MacMillan 1994), p. 18.

2. Lamont, Humanism as a Philosophy, p. 349, in Smith, Quasi-Religions, p. 18.

2. James Van Praag, ‘What is Humanism?’ in Paul Kurtz, The Humanist Alternative: Some Definitions of Humanism, p. 44, cited in Smith, Quasi-Religions, p. 31.

3. Bernard Phillips, ‘Zen and Humanism’ in Kurtz, The Humanist Alternative, p. 160, cited in Smith, Quasi-Religions, p. 35.

4. Smith, Quasi-Religions, p. 43.

5. Smith, Quasi-Religions, p. 37.

36 Responses to “Kelly Rants against Javed Akbar over Atheist Anxiety”

  1. Feyd Says:

    Excellent stuff Beast.

    There’s so many reasons to see atheism as a failing movement, especially from a global perspective.

    Granted Christianity is still in decline in western Europe, albeit at a decreasing rate. And church attendance is falling in North America. But in South America, Africa and Asia the Chruches are expanding rapidly. Overall Christianity is forecast to gain substantially as a percentage of the worlds population by 2025. While atheism is forecast to fall, not just as a percentage of the earths growing population, but even in raw numerical terms!

    You mention the humanists hatred of the supernatural – sadly for them but happily for us there is reason to suspect God is loosening the boundary between our world and the spirit world, making a direct personal relationship with Jesus easier to enter into as well as increasing the frequency of encounters with Angels. Other less specifically Christian encounters are increasing in frequency.

    As you’ll know there is growing recognition of the reality of the supernatural in main stream science.

    Recent studies have suggested the more higher education one has the more likely one is to believe in the paranormal!
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10950526/

    There’s an excellent summary of the extensive peer reviewed literature on the paranormal by Jerome at Richard Dawkins .net :
    http://www.richarddawkins.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=8308&st=0&sk=t&sd=a&hilit=Scole&start=25

    Sceptic organisations have been dismayed to find some of their investigations into para normal phenomena have yielded results which support a supernatural explanation. And they’ve been caught trying to suppress these positive results!
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Committee_for_Skeptical_Inquiry#Controversy_and_criticism

    All that said I’d still say the vast majority of folk who try to sell supernatural services or artefacts are fraudulent. And also I don’t think most Christians should deliberatly seek out the supernatural at all outside of sacraments (I don’t myself anyhow)

    But all this evidence must be very worrying for hard core atheists. The case against the strong atheist position is so overwhelming one could almost feel sorry for its advocates. Yet they have an easy solution – simply abandon their commitment to their absurd ideology. If they fear loosing friends they don’t even have to make a public statement. Just gradually divert their energies to other less destructive causes. If they find God eventually speaks to them in some way or other so much the better, but if not at least they will be spending their time in more productive ways and will be less likely to suffer the depression and anxiety that atheism often brings!

  2. beastrabban Says:

    Hi Feyd – thanks for the comment and the links about the paranormal.

    Yeah, Jerome over the Dawkins Forum certainly knows his stuff. A few decades ago Sir Alister Hardy set up a laboratory to research religious experience from a scientific perspective, and he concluded it was actually very, very common. The Hungarian-American folklorist, Linda Degh, in her book on contemporary legends, Legend and Belief makes the point that supernatural experiences are actually extremely common in contemporary society, but people don’t like talking about them because of the contemporary mindset which says that these experiences must be the result of delusion or mental aberration.

    As for the problems some atheists have in relinquishing it in public, the awesome Metacrock said on his blog that after arguing with some of the people on various atheist forums they called him to tell him that they were now convinced that there was a God, but didn’t want to admit this in public on the forums. I can understand why. Whatever their beliefs, people naturally value their friends, and those who help them with advice and support for theirr worldview. And clearly a lot of them were quietly convinced but didn’t want to cause a public disturbance by announcing their new conviction.

  3. homoeconomicusnet Says:

    The thing is whether you think atheism is the concern or whether you think that religious belief matters more than the facts. Can we really say that a religious belief that the world is 6000 years old has to be respected or can we point out the evidence suggests that is a tad wrong by a margin of billions?

    As to being depressed or anxious – well my experience is that is not connected to cosmology but other factors.

    And I agree that secularism does not have to be open just to atheists. The concern is that no one belief can take away the rights of another to a different belief. The freedom of religion and none.

    Myself, how I am not concerned about watching membership renewals rise and fall for religious or secularist groups. My concern is that religion has no privileged access to the public sphere compared to other groups. Faith is not a substitute for lack of evidence.

  4. Feyd Says:

    You’re welcome Beast.

    On mainstream scientists who consider spiritual experiences to be real, another good example is the Royal College of Psychiatry which has a group with thousands of members who explore the effect of encounters with spiritual entities on the mind. Even when a patient is clearly mentally unbalanced, their default position is not to assume the mental imbalance came first and caused delusions, but to assume that the spiritual experience may have been real and the psychic trauma it generated sufficient to unbalance the mind.

    http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/college/specialinterestgroups/spirituality.aspx

    Its very good to hear about Metacrock. There’s been semi official studies that took place on the larger sites like Internet Infidels which suggested it was far rarer for atheist to convert to theism than the opposite – this did make me briefly question the value of internet evangelism, but I guess I’ve always had faith that once the Holy Spirit wills it our efforts will start to bear abundant fruit. Clearly those studies didn’t use robust methodology and its great to hear the other side of the story. I’ve often found its strange that atheists can persist in the face of such overwhelming evidence, but perhaps its unreasonable to expect too much from rational argument. No matter how overwhelming the evidence we present, the best person to cleanse atheists of their unbelief is always Christ Himself. But at least we can hope our efforts will encourage a few to take that all important first step of praying to Jesus with an open heart.

  5. Rich Says:

    The best person to ‘cleanse’ people of unbelief would presumably be an omnipotent deity. If he wanted you to know, you’d know!

    With regard to atheism being on the wane, I don’t think so. We have decent long term numbers of religiosity now and the decline is long and sustained. We have enough longitudinal data now to run a fisher-pry. In a few generations, I suspect religiosity would be the minority position.

  6. Feyd Says:

    Thanks to you Beast I’ve been spending time where I should have been working looking at Metacrock’s awesome site. By chance he’s just done a huge blog about the empirical evidence for the supernatural and there isnt even much overlap with what you’ve wrote, or the evidence outlined by Jerome.

    I guess there’s just such a vast abundance of strong evidence for the supernatural that different folk can independently write long articles and not have much chance of saying the same things!

    Homo economicus,

    If you don’t like religion in the public sphere I guess you’re not happy with national leaders like Tony Blair expressing how their faith influences their decisions.

    You’re right instinctive / faith based modes of thought is no substitute for evidence based thinking – sometimes the two go together , sometimes faith provides better answers.

    This is what we’d expect as faith puts us in touch with God who’s wisdom vastly surpasses our abilities as mortals.

    Systems of social organisation which have grown organically and incorporate tradition and faith are superior to those derived by reason and empirical science alone. This is the verdict the West’s finest minds like Goethe and Wittgenstein, the lesson from 20th century history, the results from recent noble prize winning studies in economics and other disciplines.

    The tyranny of reason is coming to an end, a new age of faith is dawning. And the world will be a far better place for it!

    Rich

    Yes there ‘s a huge quantity of data out there , and plenty of it does indeed track a decline in religiosity in the West especially over the last 4 decades.
    But its only second rate analysts who expect the decline to continue for long, there is already abundant data pointing to contrary emergent trends.

    Prospect is a small publication but hugely influential as its elite readership consists largely of directors and politicians. Its considered one of the best available public sources for analyses and long term forecast. Here is an article that discusses how Europe is likely to become more religious as the twentieth century advances.
    http://www.prospect-magazine.co.uk/article_details.php?id=7913

    About the only good news for atheists is that Christianity is expected to decline in Australia and the US, at least over the next 40 or so years. But in the US Christianity is falling from a very high base, and the decline is offset by growth in paganism and other religions, so atheism is not significantly rising except among the young. Actually recent Gallup polls have tracked a steady increase in atheists status as by far the most despised minority in America.
    I don’t believe that atheists should be discriminated against but Im afraid by being so militant about their absurd and harmful ideology they are turning folk against them.

    Australia is the only large region where atheism is currently growing at an appreciable rate. Did you know South Korea and China are soon set to overtake the US as the lead exporters of Evangelists? At least there will be somewhere nice and sunny for them to do their preaching!

  7. MDS Says:

    Rich writes,

    “The best person to ‘cleanse’ people of unbelief would presumably be an omnipotent deity. If he wanted you to know, you’d know!”

    I love it when atheists claim to have arrived at their lack of belief through logic and reason, then proceed to employ nothing but fallacious arguments to prove their case. Take your statement above–you presume that because God does not act in a certain prescribed manner, that he therefore does not exist. There could be any number of reasons why God does not make himself immediately and unequivocally known to all, but the fact that he does not is certainly not logical proof of non-existence. Try again.

    “With regard to atheism being on the wane, I don’t think so. We have decent long term numbers of religiosity now and the decline is long and sustained. We have enough longitudinal data now to run a fisher-pry. In a few generations, I suspect religiosity would be the minority position.”

    I’d like to see these numbers that show religious belief in a sustained decline.

    Atheism has never won widespread appeal, and never will, primarily because it fails to adequately answer the most basic fundamental question of existence: “Why am I here?” The best answer atheism can muster is that there is no purpose to existence, other than to merely exist–there is no higher meaning or purpose for human kind than there is for bacteria and cockroaches, and religion is simply a man-made delusion to escape from this grim reality. Even if this were an absolute fact, this bleak outlook could only appeal to the most cynical of people, while the majority of the population would be happy to persist in their so-called “delusional god-beliefs” if it meant giving their short lives some worthwhile meaning.

    Michael

  8. Rich Says:

    Micheal, I just advocated a best way. By Best (a nebulous term) I meant most effective – and I believe this would get you 100% believers instantly.

    Then you flail against a strawman of your own making for a while.

    “Why am I here” is again a nebulous question.
    If you want to know “what is the meaning of life”, I can sort of answer that one:

    Category error. The sentence makes syntactical sense, but no ontological sense. It gives attributes where there are none.

    So seem to be suggesting that atheists don’t have “some worthwhile meaning” in “their short lives”, which is ridiculous.

  9. Rich Says:

    Some meta-data on religion polls:

    http://www.pollingreport.com/religion.htm

  10. Rich Says:

    This is also a good website, which mirrors the growth of Islam claims made above:

    http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_tren.htm

    My personal view is I’d rather have Christian nonsense then Islamic nonsense, as Christianity seems touched by the enlightenment / reformation.

  11. MDS Says:

    Rich writes,

    “Micheal, I just advocated a best way. By Best (a nebulous term) I meant most effective – and I believe this would get you 100% believers instantly.”

    Not so. Some people would still refuse to believe, despite the overwhelming obviousness. I think a good portion of the neo-atheists fall into this category, due primarily to the impetus of their “de-conversion”, which is not reason as claimed, but a deep seated hatred for religion.

    Then you flail against a strawman of your own making for a while.”

    Ah, yes–the Straw Man rebuttal: the neo-atheist equivalent to “Nuh uh!”

    “Why am I here” is again a nebulous question.
    If you want to know “what is the meaning of life”, I can sort of answer that one:

    Category error. The sentence makes syntactical sense, but no ontological sense. It gives attributes where there are none.”

    Since ontology deals with the very subject of the nature of existence and being, finding meaning in existence would certainly seem to make ontological sense.

    “So seem to be suggesting that atheists don’t have “some worthwhile meaning” in “their short lives”, which is ridiculous.”

    That’s not what I’m suggesting at all. What I’m suggesting is that atheism as an ideology cannot provide any meaningful answer to the question of the purpose of existence beyond what you choose to define for yourself. For example, you may feel that you purpose for existing may be to troll the internet for Christian weblogs, spouting nonsensical rhetoric about the syntactical / ontological validity of statements about the meaning of life. This purpose may serve to satisfy you on a subjective level , but it doesn’t answer the question in any objective sense.

    Michael

  12. Rich Says:

    “Some people would still refuse to believe” – They can’t refuse. He’s omnipotent.

    “purpose of existence” – Category error.

    This well water, it tastes funny.

  13. MDS Says:

    Rich writes,

    “Some people would still refuse to believe” – They can’t refuse. He’s omnipotent.”

    Ah, that’s right. I forgot about the neo-atheists denial of free will.

    ““purpose of existence” – Category error.”

    A Category error consists of ascribing a property to a thing which cannot logically have that property. Yet you argued that it was “ridiculous” to suggest that atheists don’t have “some worthwhile meaning in their short lives”, therefore it must be possible to ascribe meaning to existence, and no category error is committed.

    Michael

  14. beastrabban Says:

    Hi Homoeconomicus – thanks for your comments. To answer a couple of the points you raise, firstly religious people generally don’t believe things without evidence. As you’re probably aware, there’s an enormous amount of literature which presents a rational case for religious belief. As for Young Earth Creationism, that’s generally speaking a minority position amongst Christians. I’d say it was a separate issue from religious belief as a whole.

    Hi Feyd – thanks for the post. I’m glad you found the stuff at Metacrock’s great site interesting.

    Regarding the supposed decline in religion, Rich, MDS and Feyd are right: religion in the West might be in decline, but globally it’s expanding. Also according to Prospect while the number of observant religious people will remain a minority, there will be a considerable number of ‘believers without belonging’ who don’t go to church, mosque, synagogue or temple, and the number of atheists is expect to decline after a peak about mid-century.

    Regarding the statement that if God wanted you to know Him, you’d know, well, St. Paul clearly states that everyone instinctively knows God but that some suppress it. I think that’s pretty much the case in that there is an innate instinct in humanity for religion and the numinous. This does not mean that humanity unaided does not need divine revelation – it’s a matter of Christian faith that the fallen nature of humanity means that people by their own efforts cannot know God. Furthermore, God preserves human free will by giving them the choice whether to believe or not, rather than forcing the issue by making it overwhelmingly obvious. Thus the fact that not everyone believes in God is not proof that God is not omnipotent.

  15. Rich Says:

    Even if we have freewill, it’s because it’s given, presumably. I’m sure god could violate that, if he wanted to. Do you understand ‘omnipotent’? Or is there something omnipotent *can’t* do?

    You don’t understand, Micheal. My life has meaning, given to it by me and perhaps other lives I touch. That doesn’t mean that “the enterprise of life” has meaning. What is the meaning of stone? What is the meaning of my pet rock? There is clear conflation, due to the ambiguity of language employed.

  16. Rich Says:

    “St. Paul clearly states that everyone instinctively knows God but that some suppress it.”

    God could fix this! I wasn’t trying to prove/disprove the omnipotence of god.

    I said:

    “The best person to ‘cleanse’ people of unbelief would presumably be an omnipotent deity. If he wanted you to know, you’d know!”

  17. beastrabban Says:

    Even if we have freewill, it’s because it’s given, presumably. I’m sure god could violate that, if he wanted to. Do you understand ‘omnipotent’? Or is there something omnipotent *can’t* do?

    Yes, I certainly understand ‘omnipotent’ , Rich. And the point is that God does not violate people’s free will.

    Now God clearly does give people the opportunity of knowing Him through the innate instinct for religion and revelation, but people also have the free will to reject Him.

  18. Rich Says:

    “innate instinct for religion and revelation” – that’s not really free will then, is it? Its pre-programming. And i’m nore sure people do have a “innate instinct for religion and revelation”.

  19. beastrabban Says:

    “innate instinct for religion and revelation” – that’s not really free will then, is it? Its pre-programming. And i’m nore sure people do have a “innate instinct for religion and revelation”.

    Nope, it’s not pre-programming. It’s part of the human constitution, which humans can act on, just like humans also have an innate idea of right and wrong.

  20. Rich Says:

    Oh, we didn’t know right from wrong until we ate that apple…!
    Let us not forget that god authored all of this, with full knowledge of what will happen and so while from our perspective we may have free will, from his perspective we don’t, he authored the future with an atomic precision, presumably.

  21. beastrabban Says:

    Let us not forget that god authored all of this, with full knowledge of what will happen and so while from our perspective we may have free will, from his perspective we don’t, he authored the future with an atomic precision, presumably.

    Nope – read Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy – knowledge of the future does not equal predestination. God knows the future and plans accordingly, but this does not deprive people of free will.

  22. Rich Says:

    You’re a Dune fan. Think Maud’dib. He picked a pathway, but still became trapped. But this is because his view and authorship limited was limited. Knowledge doesn’t equal predestination. But knowledge and complete authorship does.

  23. beastrabban Says:

    Knowledge doesn’t equal predestination. But knowledge and complete authorship does.

    No, it doesn’t, Rich. It means that God has far greater control over events than the objects of the universe, but unless you’re a Calvinist it does not necessarily mean that God predestines everything.

  24. MDS Says:

    Even if we have freewill, it’s because it’s given, presumably. I’m sure god could violate that, if he wanted to. Do you understand ‘omnipotent’? Or is there something omnipotent *can’t* do?

    Of course I understand omnipotent, but you’re fallaciously assuming that because God *can* do something, he *must* do something, or that God cannot choose to limit himself. I have the power to throw myself in front of a moving bus, but I choose not to. Doing so would certainly not be in my best interest, or the interest of my children.

    “You don’t understand, Micheal. My life has meaning, given to it by me and perhaps other lives I touch. That doesn’t mean that “the enterprise of life” has meaning. What is the meaning of stone? What is the meaning of my pet rock? There is clear conflation, due to the ambiguity of language employed.”

    Special Pleading, Rich. You cannot assert meaning for *your* life while simultaneously denying the possibility of meaning to existence in general.

    Michael

  25. Feyd Says:

    Rich,

    God’s doesn’t have complete authorship – he has he’s given us free will, thus limiting Himself from controlling all our choices. In the final analyses predestination does in a sense exist, but certainly not in the nightmare sense outlined by Augustine.

    As it says in Scripture:

    1 Timothy 2:3
    God our saviour, who will have ALL men to be saved.

    1 Corinthians 15:22.
    For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall ALL be made alive.

    Colossians 1:20
    and through him to reconcile to himself ALL things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.

    Even those who have died will out accepting Christ’s forgiveness are not abandoned:

    1 Peter 4:6
    for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are
    dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the Spirit.

    God will allow us to reject His love, but only for so long. As the prophet Isiah said:

    Rom 10:20
    I was found by those who did not seek me;
    I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.

    Ultimately, we are predestined for union with each other and with God in an ocean of infinite love. Folk can choose to reject Christ in this life if they wish, thus adding to the hardships they must endure and prolonging their journey. But the sins of all will in time be cleansed by the blood of Christ. And bathed in the blissful love of God, even the deepest of hurt, bitterness or guilt will be washed away.

    This is the final destiny of all creation. And it will be accomplished with the individual, or against him.

  26. Rich Says:

    Sorry, I don’t take scripture* as an authority.

    *Any faiths, not just yours.

  27. Rich Says:

    I didn’t say god must do anything. I said :

    “The best person to ‘cleanse’ people of unbelief would presumably be an omnipotent deity. If he wanted you to know, you’d know!”

  28. Rich Says:

    So you think God hides knowledge from himself? Maybe we are like God’s TV. That would at least make some tragic, macabre sense.

  29. MDS Says:

    Rich wrote,

    I didn’t say god must do anything. I said :

    “The best person to ‘cleanse’ people of unbelief would presumably be an omnipotent deity. If he wanted you to know, you’d know!”

    I know what you said. But God accounts for his gift of free will, and will not violate it–to do so would contradict his own will.

    So you think God hides knowledge from himself?

    ??? How do you conclude that God choosing to limit himself equates hiding knowledge from himself?

    I think perhaps it is you who does not understand omnipotence.

    Michael

  30. Rich Says:

    If he knows every action that will occur and makes everything, then there is no free will. It is, predestined. I think his foreknowledge, not authorship would be limited, or does he ‘bang out bad ones’ on purpose?

  31. beastrabban Says:

    If he knows every action that will occur and makes everything, then there is no free will. It is, predestined. I think his foreknowledge, not authorship would be limited, or does he ‘bang out bad ones’ on purpose?

    Rich, I’ve seen this argument used recently on Loftus’ and co’s Bebunking Christianity site. It’s been strongly critiqued by Metacrock, for basically the reasons Feyd and MDS state. While Christianity states that God is omnipotent, it also states that the world is not entirely under God’s control. Now for Calvinists God really is the micromanager you seem to believe Him to be, but this is a view unique to Calvinists. One can see Him as creating types of things, but supporting the physical laws that allow individual beings to come into existence without personally intervening to define their individual characteristics. In which case, your argument that God has somehow individually shaped each person according to a specific destiny falls.

  32. Rich Says:

    manager, is probably the wrong term, because it’s too present tense.
    He is the ultimate planner, and it all follows his plan meticulously.

    You are limiting him in some regard.

  33. beastrabban Says:

    manager, is probably the wrong term, because it’s too present tense.
    He is the ultimate planner, and it all follows his plan meticulously.

    You are limiting him in some regard.

    If you mean that this view of God is limited compared with that of some Calvinists, possibly, though it’s entirely in line with some of the Church Fathers, like Irenaeus.

  34. Rich Says:

    Calvinism, while it has its own problems, has a congruence with omnipotence that I can’t see in your faith. But a less than / chooses not to be omnipotent god is at least interesting.

  35. beastrabban Says:

    Rich – neither Feyd, MDS or myself have said that God is not omnipotent in the sense that God is the reality in which, to quote St. Paul, ‘we move and speak and have our being’. God supports reality, which depends on Him. That’s the standard Christian position. Beyond that, many Christians consider that God is omnipotent in that His power is not limited except by His own decision not to intervene in the cosmos in the sense you seem to envisage, making everything in it His puppets. If you want me to write more to clarify the issue, I’ll willingly write a blog post on it. 🙂

  36. Rich Says:

    Does he actively choose not to know? is he self limiting?

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