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I made a request of the CF board here:
http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=24885689

"Starting from:

1. I desire to have my beliefs about reality be accurate

Does anyone know of a book, article, or website that makes the case for methods of arriving at accurate beliefs, and then shows how these methods lead to belief in a deity ? I'm looking for something in the manner of Sense and Goodness Without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism by Richard Carrier, if anyone has ever read that."

After some recommendations, I settled on Christian Apologetics by Norman Geisler. My thoughts about part one are here:

http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=24927091


Comments ?
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I desire to have my beliefs about reality be accurate

How do you accomplish this? What is your method?

Finally, what are the untestable assumptions you must make to use your method?

Bryan
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Finally, what are the untestable assumptions you must make to use your method?

My basic experiences exist. I cannot doubt that I am experiencing sensations that I interpret as being generated by the movement of my fingers and their contact with the keys on my keyboard. I can doubt my interpretation of those experiences, but I cannot doubt nor test those experiences themselves.


How do you accomplish this?

I accomplish this by looking at what conclusions of different methods tell me about interpreting my experiences. Reliable methods should tend to converge on similar or identical results, in the same way I check for errors in adding a column of numbers by adding top to bottom and then bottom to top.


What is your method?

My method is amateurishly summed up by the concept of testing my answers or interpretations vs experiences.

I do wish I was more articulate and / or more edumucated to spin this out in more detail without forcing you to ask more questions. A more detailed summary of much of this can be found in the part under "Everyone Should Adopt a Basic Empiricism" at http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/rea.html or http://richardcarrier.blogspot.com/2006/11/epistemological-end-game.html . If you feel this is too much of a copout (and I would tend to agree, as I should be able to defend my thoughts entirely on my own), continue to ask me more questions and I'll try and answer.


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A more detailed summary of much of this can be found in the part under "Everyone Should Adopt a Basic Empiricism"

I scanned it, but it's too late for me to dig into it today, too tired.

But briefly, experiences are a good starting point. You could say we can't be sure even about that, but the "Matrix" worldview seems pointless, better to assume we are actually experiencing things that really exist.

More tomorrow hopefully
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I went over to AF and read your digest of Part One. Interesting stuff, and I appreciate the summary. I do have some comments:

Rationalism and Empiricism...

In the defining of terms there may be no suggestion that one be utilized in favor of the other, but we do seem to choose, or place varying degrees of value during the process.

If we had to pick, reality would seem to be lost at the expense of having chosen between Rationalism and Empiricism. Understanding comes through a blend of the sensory process and the "knowing" process... they are inextricably related.

Experientialism would seem to be the "stored for future reference" conclusion that one would draw after ruminating over the inputs of rationalism and empiricism.

Pragmatism“Pragmatists contend that one cannot think or even feel truth, but he can discover it by attempting to live it.” This would merely add emotional feelings to evidentialism, as far as I can see.

If you can't feel truth, it would not seem that Pragmatism is attempting to inject emotion. I probably don't understand it well enough, because I don't see how one would attempt to live something that they neither knew nor felt.

OTOH...

Emotional feelings do not add accuracy to testing the truth of beliefs.

That would seem to be the case, if you were arguing from a purely clinical, scientific view. I would be very careful, however, to not eliminate all input that had an emotional aspect. If emotion is a huge part of how we are, we won't find truth without it.

The most meaningful part of our existence lies in our relationships with each other. And those are interpreted in large part through emotion, and the conclusions deliver truth as solid as any other. Perhaps an example is in order.

My wife and daughter accompanied a long time friend to China where they were to meet and bring home her adopted daughter. My wife and her friend are caucasian, my daughter was often mistaken in China for being chinese (I'm Filipino).

So they go to meet Meg. They each take turns greeting her with smiles and warm hugs. Within minutes, Meg has figured out which of the three of them has committed to being her Mom. It wasn't my wife, who is as emotive as anyone, nor was it my daughter who looks physically familiar...

A valid truth was discovered by a child in a short amount of time. No scientific studies.
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But briefly, experiences are a good starting point. You could say we can't be sure even about that, but the "Matrix" worldview seems pointless, better to assume we are actually experiencing things that really exist.

Also I acknowledge that if I am in a "Matrix," the picture I develop will be of the presented world, not the real one.
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If we had to pick, reality would seem to be lost at the expense of having chosen between Rationalism and Empiricism. Understanding comes through a blend of the sensory process and the "knowing" process... they are inextricably related.

Agreed. I would argue, however, that however much an idea is rational and appealing to me, empirical data that shows that I'm wrong will overrule it.


I probably don't understand it well enough, because I don't see how one would attempt to live something that they neither knew nor felt.

I'll try and sum it up better when I get home and look at it again.


I would be very careful, however, to not eliminate all input that had an emotional aspect. If emotion is a huge part of how we are, we won't find truth without it.

Valid points; for assessing relationships between people and enjoying them, emotions play a huge role. I enjoy emotions and would not even consider attempting to eliminate them as an input. An example of what I was trying to say: Deciding whether the lottery ticket is a winner or not based on how happy either outcome would make me would be ridiculous.
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...however much an idea is rational and appealing to me, empirical data that shows that I'm wrong will overrule it.

Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.0.1)
em·pir·i·cal [em-pir-i-kuhl]
–adjective
1. derived from or guided by experience or experiment.
2. depending upon experience or observation alone, without using scientific method or theory, esp. as in medicine.
3. provable or verifiable by experience or experiment.

I-75 between Chattanooga and Atlanta has become a speedway. You're routinely passed if you're coasting along at a mere 75 mph.

Repeatedly driving past the State Trooper at speeds greater than the speed limit, but less than ten mph over the speed limit and experiencing his grace (no ticket) does not overrule the existence of the posted law. But I could choose, based on empirical I-75 evidence, to believe that the truth of the law had changed...

and truth escapes again. <g>
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Repeatedly driving past the State Trooper at speeds greater than the speed limit, but less than ten mph over the speed limit and experiencing his grace (no ticket) does not overrule the existence of the posted law. But I could choose, based on empirical I-75 evidence, to believe that the truth of the law had changed...

Only if you had an incorrect premise that observations of actual speeds would enable you to derive the law governing those speeds. You could try this method and get a result, but then the actual empirical direct observation of the law on the books (or the signs on the side of the highway) would override your previous results. Your example illustrates my point.
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Only if you had an incorrect premise that observations of actual speeds would enable you to derive the law governing those speeds.

How can we test our premise, then, that through the use of Rationalism, Empiricism, Experientialism, and multiple other isms we can find the truth that governs our reality?

Your example illustrates my point.

Interestingly enough, I believe that in a way it illustrates one of mine as well.

If instructions for healthful living existed that improved both the quality and quantity of life,
then people who followed those precepts for whatever reason would benefit.
Choosing to not believe that instructions exist
would not invalidate them.

http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=23219815
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1Apocalypse said: Repeatedly driving past the State Trooper at speeds greater than the speed limit, but less than ten mph over the speed limit and experiencing his grace (no ticket) does not overrule the existence of the posted law. But I could choose, based on empirical I-75 evidence, to believe that the truth of the law had changed...

benjdm said: Only if you had an incorrect premise that observations of actual speeds would enable you to derive the law governing those speeds.

1Apocalypse said: How can we test our premise, then, that through the use of Rationalism, Empiricism, Experientialism, and multiple other isms we can find the truth that governs our reality?

Wow. You pack a lot more assumptions into your questions than I realized. Your initial experiment is flawed, in that the experiment assumes that what the troopers allow IS what the law allows. This is what I was pointing out. If looking up the actual speed limit was not allowed and one was trying to derive the value experimentally, driving fast and getting several tickets on clear sunny days would give you an upper bound. You might even make an educated guess that the speed limit would be a round number, depending on what information from other states was or was not available. When going to court with the ticket, you could claim to be going different speeds and gauge the judge's reaction. For example, if you got ticketed for 84MPH, and said 'But I was only going 74 MPH !,' the judge accepted your value, and you still got fined, you could move the upper bound down to at most 73MPH. I'm sure there are many more experiments you could do to get to this value.

'The truth that governs our reality ?' That's a pretty large and ambiguous concept. I am looking for ways to evaluate the truth-value of propositions about reality.

If instructions for healthful living existed that improved both the quality and quantity of life, then people who followed those precepts for whatever reason would benefit.

Of course.

Choosing to not believe that instructions exist
would not invalidate them.

http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=23219815


Of course. I read your post and am quite struck by it. You claim an experimental verification of the existence of God's instructions and then in the next breath:

Not scientific "proof" of God; that. like a scientific "proof" of love will always shrivel beneath a dissecting microscope.

Why bother claiming an experimental verification if you are then going to claim God cannot be experimentally verified ? There is ZERO effort to overcome confirmation / expectation bias by doing things in this manner. Disconfirming evidence is dismissed by saying 'proof will always shrivel beneath a microscope' while confirming evidence is proclaimed. This is a good example of why I asked for the reading recommendations.

Love can quite easily be scientifically verified by the behavior of the people who are feeling it, just like anger can, and depression, etc. It can't be quantified too well, just like any other emotion, but that is to be expected by our understanding of emotions and mental processes in general.
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You pack a lot more assumptions into your questions than I realized.

Oops. This is probably part of the disconnect:

'The truth that governs our reality ?' That's a pretty large and ambiguous concept. I am looking for ways to evaluate the truth-value of propositions about reality.

I thought the search for truth was similar enough to the search for propositions about truth/reality for them to be discussed simultaneously... that the methods for one would be applicable to the other. Perhaps not...

and then in the next breath:

It's probably a function of where I was breathing. AF. A discussion with none other than Kazim. I was lobbing out food for thought while dodging in anticipation.

Maybe on this board I can say "Here is some proof that there is a better way to live, and here's a group of folks who were told in an unconventional way to follow these instructions despite the prevailing medical wisdom. Their faith was stronger than the critique, and here in part are the long term results."

Your initial experiment is flawed, in that the experiment assumes that what the troopers allow IS what the law allows. This is what I was pointing out. If looking up the actual speed limit was not allowed and one was trying to derive the value experimentally...

I'm really not trying to belabor the question, but in the context of your search,
unless we have foreknowledge of the "value"... some idea of the standard,
wouldn't "searching for ways to evaluate the truth-value of propositions about reality "
involve "deriving the "value" experimentally"?

-1A
trying to understand...
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If you can't feel truth, it would not seem that Pragmatism is attempting to inject emotion. I probably don't understand it well enough, because I don't see how one would attempt to live something that they neither knew nor felt.

I looked at pragmatism again. Perhaps the author's first criticism helps:

"First, the results or consequences of an action do not establish what is true but simply what happened to work. But success is not truth and failure is not necessarily falsity. Even when given or desired results are attained, one can still ask of the view or action, "Was it true?" The truth question is not settled but is still open after the results are reached."

In my words, that means live as if it were true. A pragmatic test would assume that living well meant the 'worldview' you were living by was true.
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I'm really not trying to belabor the question, but in the context of your search, unless we have foreknowledge of the "value"... some idea of the standard, wouldn't "searching for ways to evaluate the truth-value of propositions about reality "involve "deriving the "value" experimentally"?

Most definitely. But I think we can both agree this is not an easy task. The propositions in your thought experiment were 'the human invented speed limit law on I-75 is X.' I outlined some ways I could go about discovering the truth value of these propositions.


Maybe on this board I can say "Here is some proof that there is a better way to live, and here's a group of folks who were told in an unconventional way to follow these instructions despite the prevailing medical wisdom. Their faith was stronger than the critique, and here in part are the long term results."

Directly, that would be a test of lifestyle impact on longevity, I think. (It might not even be that depending on the controls. But let's just say the experiment was well-designed.) If we were going to expand the proposition to 'instructions for living contained in holy book X lead to living longer than the general population' you would run into a bunch of problems right there. Many of the instructions would probably be disconfirming for most holy books. (The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster includes instructions to drink grog to fight global warming, for example. I doubt drinking grog leads to living longer. The Gospel of the FSM also suggests eating healthy amounts of carbohydrates and proteins which would lead to living longer. If I wished to evaluate the merit of the FSM's instructions I have to do so in a an intellectually honest manner and include both the confirming and disconfirming evidence in my evaluation.)


I thought the search for truth was similar enough to the search for propositions about truth/reality for them to be discussed simultaneously... that the methods for one would be applicable to the other. Perhaps not...

I just think when it gets phrased like that it sounds like 'intellectual noodling.' Technical term :) It is also vague in that I don't know what it means.

When I'm referring to the truth value of a proposition, I mean the inherent predictions involved in the proposition being fulfilled or not. 'I have a wife' would involve expectations of certain experiences. Nagging monologues, depleted bank accounts, great dinners, visual and auditory experiences of her, a general feeling of contentment and completeness, etc.

That would be the 'ground level' detail of method.
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Pragmatism then, acknowledges that what works might not be true while what fails might be true.
Your distillation defines a pragmatist as one who lives by accepting what seems to work as true. Makes sense.

I also understand better the "truth value of a proposition".

Thanks.
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Back in the original post about the book I made over at AF (http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=24927091) I said:

"I desire my beliefs about reality to be accurate so that I can best influence reality by my actions. To do this, I want to use reliable tests for truth to come to these beliefs."

This is a bit abstract and doesn't put any emotional meat behind why this is important. So I'm going to give an example.

Assume two parents. For the contexts of our decisions in this hypothetical, we both value our children's welfare more highly than anything else.

Person A is me. I hold beliefs generally consistent with atheism and metaphysical naturalism.

Person B believes in an eternal afterlife spent in heaven or hell. Going to heaven or hell is conditional. Children who die young enough will automatically go to heaven, as they have not yet reached the age of accountability (say, 7 yrs old.) I'll call these beliefs 'B'-ism.

In both of our cases, we believe it is considerably less than assured that all of our children will adopt our belief systems.

Person A / me:

"I intend to teach my children to be skeptical and think critically. Their conclusions will be their own. I believe my children's lives will be likely to be better by my teachings, as they will be more likely to arrive at true beliefs, allowing them to make better decisions. I am not going to indoctrinate my children to believe 'B'-ism because I don't believe it to be true."



Person B:

"I believe 'B'-ism to be true. I estimate my chances of my children meeting the conditions to go to heaven to be 50%. If I kill my children before they turn 7, they will automatically go to heaven. Eternal consequences are infinitely more important than finite ones. Therefore, I will drown my children before they turn 7."


Both parents are making decisions with the exact same goal. Both parents would also completely agree about the observable effects of all the actions involved. Both are honestly making the correct decision in the context of their beliefs to maximize the welfare of their children. Where it gets really interesting (to me, anyway) is if you look at A's actions in the context of B's beliefs or vice versa. Both parents are then taking pretty close to the worst possible action in the context of valuing their children's welfare. Person A is quite likely going to send their children to hell for all eternity and person B is going to end the children's only lives well short of when they otherwise would have ended.

I can't be sure I'm right, ever. But I will always have to decide how to act. That is why an intellectually honest attempt to arrive at true beliefs is important and why I am so hard on Mr. Geisler. It is also why I am so critical of many religious beliefs, or more specifically, the lack of good reasons to arrive at them.
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An intellectually honest attempt to arrive at true beliefs should receive no condemnation from any venue.

I would propose that the attempt be emotionally honest as well.
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I would propose that the attempt be emotionally honest as well.


What do you mean by emotionally honest ?
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I suppose I'm referring to those episodes of which we (the middle majority) are only peripherally aware... where some prominent folks, after having "arrived", ask:

"Is that all there is?"

I'm sure you've read in autobiographies or news tidbits about folks who've pursued their dreams... whether they mean to be the best rapper at the top of the charts, achieve some scientific advancement, win some sporting event or medal, or reach the pinnacle of commonly defined business success, and having attained their definition of success, having chased and caught their "truth"... wondered:

"Is that all there is?"

It would seem that a truth can leave you empty
if your definition of truth lacks "emotional honesty".
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So, in request to another debater over at Ship of Fools (a UK based Christian forum) I am now reading Tokens of Trust: An Introduction to Christian Belief by Rowan Williams. (Supposedly, I am misunderstanding what they mean by 'God' and this book provides a better conception.) It's tough slogging but I think I'll post a write-up when I'm done.

Anybody else reading anything ?
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Anybody else reading anything ?


I read a couple of chapters from "The God Delusion", a group at church was discussing it. Ch. 3 and 4 I think.
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Supposedly, I am misunderstanding what they mean by 'God'

Can you elaborate, or give me a link to the thread?
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benid25

This one is powerfull stuff. Not head, but action.

http://www.amazon.com/Chasing-Dragon-Jackie-Pullinger/dp/0892831510
Amazon.com: Chasing the Dragon: Books: Jackie Pullinger,Andrew Quicke

MS
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I read a couple of chapters from "The God Delusion", a group at church was discussing it. Ch. 3 and 4 I think.



What did they say about it?
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What did they say about it?


About what you'd expect from a group of Christians who are into discussing philosophical issues concerning faith . . . a collective yawn.

But Dawkins is still my favorite atheist
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Can you elaborate, or give me a link to the thread?

I think starting here will give you enough context. The exchange is between Dafyd and me (benjdm). There are quite a few posts you have to skip from others.

http://forum.ship-of-fools.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=2;t=010136;p=3#000103

(you'll have to cut and paste the above link, it looks like.)
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I can't figure out what he's getting at, sorry.
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I can't figure out what he's getting at, sorry.


Then neither one of us understand the .true. Christian standpoint, I guess. :) Or at least not the standpoint of 'philosophically informed theologians.'
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Anybody else reading anything ?

Yes:

http://www.adventistbookcenter.com/Detail.tpl?sku=0828018278

Not yet through, but he's talking about the big bang with it's results (Shouldn't our sister planets exhibit more similar characteristics?) Mars and it's environment, the disputed historical presence or absence of oxygen in the Earth and Martian atmosphere during the period of time when organic molecules were to have coalesced (an anaerobic environment would have been essential otherwise oxidation would have denatured "the beginnings"), our inability to find organic life anywhere else...

-ff
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http://www.adventistbookcenter.com/Detail.tpl?sku=0828018278

It gives me a cookie error - I can't open it up.
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It gives me a cookie error - I can't open it up.

I've had that problem too:

http://tinyurl.com/3cpbta
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Yikes!

On the home page, http://www.adventistbookcenter.com/
try George Javor in the search window.

Sorry.

-ff
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On the home page, http://www.adventistbookcenter.com/
try George Javor in the search window.



Seems like more of a supporting than opposing viewpoint...I read my fair share of those too, of course.
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Sorry. Took the question out of context and thought it was "Whatcha readin' now?".

Earlier this summer I'd read Harris' The End of Faith.
Borrowed a copy at Church from a friend.


-ff
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Someone at another blog talked about Brian McLaren. Last time I took my kids to the library I borrowed the one book of his they had at the library: The Story We Find Ourselves In: Further Adventures of a New Kind of Christian.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_McLaren


Impressions as I read or part 1 of a multi-part review-


From the preface:

As with A New Kind of Christian, this book has plenty to turn some readers into critics. If you think that you might be such a reader, please know that I'd rather not disturb you. My preference would be for you to return the book unread to the store where you bought it for a full refund.

Ummm....no? What the heck?


The story is told in the first person, as a pastor (Dan) who is asked by another pastor (Neo) to pick up a woman coming to his area for cancer treatment. The woman (Kerry) tells her story growing up as the daughter of a minister (lot of clergy-types in this book) who lost her creationist faith during her college education. Telling her parents about this gives an interesting quote:

But they weren't ugly or harsh about her loss of faith, and she never felt that their love for her was threatened by her rejection of almost everything they stood for.

Rejection of almost everything they stood for? Sheesh. It's not like she became a drug dealer or a murderer or a prostitute or something. She did, however, end up becoming a biologist.

The story then goes into Kerry meeting Neo, who talks to Kerry about theology. For the daughter of a minister, Kerry seems pretty naive. Neo gives fairly standard liberal Christian theology about God. The sheer chutzpah involved in the following left me with my jaw on the floor (referring to creation narratives):

Kerry interjected, "Well, I'm glad you acknowledge that your story isn't the only one, the only way, if you know what I mean. Because I think we're way beyond anybody claiming to have the only truth."

"Actually," Neo replied, taking his turn with the binoculars, observing the honking and thudding still ongoing in front of them, "if you get a feel for this story we find ourselves in, I think you'll come to realize that it has room for all the other stories too. It doesn't exclude them, or mock them, or despise them. I believe it's the story in which all other stories can find themselves too."

...

"Wow," Kerry said. "I wondered what you meant earlier when you said that even other religions have a place in the story. So you see other religions as...part of creation, because they are creations created by creative creatures."

Neo chuckled and said, "That's a bit better than I said it, really."


It seems to me that he is claiming that saying 'other religions are created fictions' is different than saying 'my religion is the only truth.' My mind boggles.

He takes shots at naturalism several times. From the preface:

...a powerful global economy (including an entertainment industry with too little conscience) that reduces every sacred thing into a profane commodity, and every sacred person into a materialistic consumer (and thereby threatens to remove the sacred from out lives much more effectively than scientific naturalism ever could).

From later on:

As they resumed their descent, Kerry asked Neo how he would contrast his Christian version of the creation story with the alternatives presentd in other religions. "Hmmm," he said, pausing to think for a moment. "There's a very popular story that says the universe came into being by itself, and that everything that has happened has happened by accident. In this story, which arose most forcefully in modern Western civilization, there is no God, no Being beyond our beings, no Creator. In this story, we can be at the top of the food chain and every other chain; no one is around-as far as we know-to challenge our claim to being the Supreme Beings. There is much in this story to flatter our pride, and this story probably has fueled technological advancements more than any other. It explains so much. In fact, you could say that this story seems to explain everything about everything except one small detail."

"Which is?" Kerry asked.

"Which is human experience-joy, sorrow, outrage, grief, hope, longing, wonder, love-the awareness that you're alive and that you're going to die and that both of those facts matter to you and mean something to you. And certainly you'd have to include overtly spiritual human experiences as well. So, even though it explains so much, this secular story marginalizes so much of human experience, and in the end, I think that this secular version can become a dangerous perversion of the true story.


Once again Christianity is the true story, contradicting his earlier denial, and once again the cardboard cutout of a skeptic just lets it go.

Finally, and this is admittedly projection, I'm also amazed that the skeptics have not asked the first and most important question that I would have asked. When Neo starts telling all this, no one asks him HOW he knows this. Or at least no one has yet.

Another scientist (supposedly with a Ph.D. in ornithology) and skeptic, even more cardboard cut-out and much less thoughtful, is just AMAZED at Neo's biblical interpretations after his previous night of drinking and womanizing:

"Marciel tells me you're a man of God," Glenn said, almost mocking, but not quite. "Every Sunday she invites me to La Aventura. She says you're a tour guide by day, and a spiritual guide by night. She says you can give me a guided tour of God."

Neo smiled. "There's a certain crossover of skills, I suppose. But the way I see it, you're already doing God's work yourself. You just might not realize it."

"Heck, no, I don't think so. I certainly wasn't doing God's work last night," he said, laughing. "I bought me a bottle of tequila down at the Havana Bar, and a young chica from town helped me finish it. I think we did a little of the devil's work last night."

...


Insert some wildly liberal Biblical interpretations by Neo...

There was a long moment of silence. Glenn broke it. "This is amazing, most reverend Neo. I mean, I've always made fun of those stories before, but now, listening to you, I realize what a philistine I've been. They're...awesome."

The book got thrown across the room around this point (page 57 of 198.)


To be continued.
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The book gets much, much worse as I go on. I had to start skimming around page 130.

Everyone who hears Neo's message is gobsmacked and won over, with no apparent criteria beyond 'does it seem plausible to me.'

Neo continues his story with an interpretation of Noah, and the analogies flow:

"As I told Kerry last week, there are a number of ancient versions of the story. I think it reflects one of the greatest fears of ancient people. You move from being hunter-gatherers and animal herders to farmers who gather around cities, and where do you settle? In the fertile, flat river valleys, where the best farmland is. And when the floods come, your whole world is destroyed. Water seems to represent a kind of archetypal chaos, and the ancient Jews seem to realize that if we live apart from our true story as creatures in God's creation, creatures who are free to learn and grow and advance but always need to respect their limits as creatures in God's creation, if we disconnect from our story and promote ourselves to autonomous, godlike status so we can write our own story in our own way, apart from God, apart from moral limits, then a flood of chaos overtakes us."

Kerry said, "It's a little bit like Glen's coffee a while ago. When it's in the cup, it's good, it's OK. But when it spills out of its limits, we have a mess. And so human beings get out of control. We get out of our story. I think I have a name for episode two."

...

"Crisis."



Seriously, if you're going to import that much stuff, why even bother with the bible? You could do it with Tolkien or Dr. Seus or anything.

Of course, all of this is so amazingly well asserted that no one can resist its charms.


Glenn pretended to hit his forehead with his hand. "Wow. I never thought religion...or whatever you call this...I never thought all this talk about God or the Bible could have anything to do with me and my life's work. This is...amazing. And kind of disturbing too."

"Why do you say disturbing, amigo?" Kerry asked.

"I dont know," Glenn answered. "It's just that I've been pretty successful at keeping all this stuff relegated to...you know...fairy tales, myths, superstitions, ignorance. But in this light, I feel kind of ignorant myself. Note the date and time, my friends. This doesn't happen often."

...

Glenn continued. "You know, I've never really thought much about this stuff before. I mean, I always saw religion as a bunch of doctrines that people argue about, or rituals that they use to keep themselves from feeling lonely or small in the big bad universe, or dogmas and scare tactics that they use to keep the unruly masses in line. I never...I never thought of religion as a story of the universe before. And I certainly never considered whether it could be the true...uh, I mean, a true one." Then, turning to Neo, with a big smile, he said, "Thanks, Neo. You've messed up my whole life."


It continues to get worse from there. Kerry asks to be baptised in an emotional scene, her son comes to visit and after one visit to the church becomes a believer...no one feels any need to challenge any part of HOW the pastors know any of these things. One night watching infomercials or a couple of spam emails would bankrupt all of these characters.

50 more pages to go, if I can make it.
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I read the book based on discussions from thinktoomuch.net - a very interesting blog. Hugo is trying to convince me that McLaren is spinning stories making claims about subjective experience, not stories making claims about objective reality. (See the post at http://thinktoomuch.net/2008/02/23/meh-and-lah-reloaded/ )

McLaren is making claims that are supposed to compete with 'scientific naturalism.' As a naturalist, I definitely know what kind of claims I am making, and they are claims about objective reality. I can't find anything in the book that supports the idea that McLaren is presenting his story as a myth or whatever. I do find many things that support the contrary.

What Nietzsche said in 9 words - "Faith means not wanting to know what is true" - McLaren demonstrates in 198 pages. Heck, he even has the narrator of his story get fired as pastor of his church because his story is considered heresy compared to the stories his congregation / board of directors believe. Apparently, accepting another's story uncritically is good except when someone else gets people to accept a different story uncritically first.

Part of the question of who the intended audience is gets answered on page 164:

"Neo, how will you know if you're getting off track, going too far, or maybe not going far enough? Or how will you know if you're on the right track, for that matter?"

Neo started to answer, then stopped, and then said, "I hope that friends like you will consider what I say, and see how it squares up with Scripture, and common sense, and church tradition, and that internal discernment from God's spirit. If you see anything that's wrong or bad, Dan, I hope you'll tell me." I assured him I would, and he continued, "But there's a problem: new paradigms in science can never be justified based on the criteria of the old paradigm, and I imagine that the same is true in theology. So I don't expect folks who are hapy with their current version of the faith, whether carried in a system or a story, to be very interested in what I'm saying."

"I don't think you should just listen to people like me," I said. "You should pay attention to people like Kerry and Kincaid, people who are new to the story, who don't have a lot of preset categories. You should see what effects your telling of the story is having on them. And I'd say the effects are good...very good."


I don't see how Kerry, who was the daughter of a minister, could possibly be considered someone who was new to the story. But in any case, it's nice to finally see SOME justification for the story. The bible says so, plus common sense, plus person plausibility (internal discernment), and church tradition. Somehow, one is supposed to accept those things together as reliable (giving religious beliefs) AND accept that where those things produced results contrary to science, those things together were not reliable (avoiding 'fundamentalist' beliefs.) The mind boggles.

The part where the characters dance around the concept of hell was pretty entertaining.

In conclusion, I guess I would say I see McLaren's religion as a very small improvement over fundamentalist religion. McLaren's is like 2+2=6 instead of the fundamentalist 2+2=55, but in both cases the answers are obtained by looking at the minutes display on a digital clock. Sure, if you're going to use a completely untrustworthy method to get your answers like (looking at the minutes display on a digital clock / scripture, tradition, plausibility, and common sense), it's better if you happen to get close to being right. But much, much better would be (getting your answers via addition / reducing your fundamental ignorance via solid science, math, etc.)
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To be continued.

Laudable and brave.

On a personal note, I'd like to offer a perspective on this critique:

It seems to me that he is claiming that saying 'other religions are created fictions' is different than saying 'my religion is the only truth.' My mind boggles.


Maybe the book isn't saying 'my religion is the only truth'.

I'm of the opinion that all truths, all stories are (since none can claim full understanding) to some degree created fictions. In Christianity, it's the 'seeing through a glass darkly' thing. While each story can trace an ellipse about the nidus of Truth, none can claim 'only truth' status. Humanism, for example, rotates about the truth "Love your neighbor as yourself." which is also the summation of Christian law. (Gal 5:14)

Maybe Neo and Kerry are referring to 'the story' not as 'the Christian story' but the Truth around which all other truths have orbit.

-ff
I probably have to read the thing...
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Last week I saw that the Tuesday night book discussion group at the local library would be discussing Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. So I picked up a copy and just finished reading it last night. Every 25 pages or so for the first half of the book I just had to put it down in horror - the 'circumcision', the abuse...

I'm assuming (heh) that the people in the book discussion group are more typical and don't debate worldviews and such as much as we do here. If I'm right, it will be interesting to see what they take away from the book.

It was an excellent book, by the way. Horrifying but excellent.
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Cloistered in my day-to-day shell, recognition of the author escaped me... a quick Google brought up this link:

http://bluestarchronicles.com/2007/02/05/the-infidel-ayaan-hirsi-ali/

The intro helped. She is to whom the note pinned to the chest of a murdered Van Gogh was addressed; the member of Dutch parliament who is openly critical of Islam.

A snip from the above link:

She also describes how horrified she felt as an adult after Sept. 11, 2001, reaching for the Koran to find out whether some of Osama bin Laden’s more blood-curdling statements — “when you meet the unbelievers, strike them in the neck” — were direct quotations. “I hated to do it,” she wrote, “because I knew that I would find bin Laden’s quotations in there.”

And there were consequences: “The little shutter at the back of my mind, where I pushed all my dissonant thoughts, snapped open after the 9/11 attacks, and it refused to close again. I found myself thinking that the Quran is not a holy document. It is a historical record, written by humans. . . . And it is a very tribal and Arab version of events. It spreads a culture that is brutal, bigoted, fixated on controlling women, and harsh in war.”


It raises the question "What theological document is without the fingerprints, and hence the bias of humans?"
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It raises the question "What theological document is without the fingerprints, and hence the bias of humans?"

Hey! We can agree on 'none' for an answer to this!


The book group was not particularly diverse. I think I was the only person under 50 and one of only two males out of the fifteen or twenty who were there. I was pleasantly surprised by the character of the group when I did make my few comments. When they were talking about the passages from the Koran and what it would take to change things, I pointed out that it would take the same thing it took to get to where we are with Christianity - Muslims would have to reject vast swathes of the Koran just as Christians today reject vast swathes of the Bible. No one took umbrage or challenged this statement.

When talking about the movie she made with Theo van Gogh, I was able to contribute by pointing out that it was on youtube for anyone who wished to view it (no one knew it was there.)

All in all, though, the themes of the discussion were more on sympathy for the author and other oppressed women in Islamic cultures and on cultural isolation vs. integration for immigrants than anything else. Her brief comments from the book on becoming an atheist - leaving the world of faith for the world of reason, I think she called it - were not brought up. Consistent with many people in my relatively secular area, lack of religion and atheism seemed no big deal. In fact there were several comments suggesting taking any religion too far was a bad idea.
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