Thursday, May 6, 2010

I'm Pretty Sure That's Not How We Determine Truth

Every now and then I run into gotquestions.org and boy, do I ever! Will Agatha get the Castle running again? Will Othar Tryggvassen really kill her? Will Maxim ever know luff?

Oh, wait, religious questions. All right, then.

Question: "With all of the different religions, how can I know which one is correct?"

Answer:
There is no doubt that the number of different religions in the world makes it a challenge to know which one is correct. First, let’s consider some thoughts on the overall subject and then look at how one might approach the topic in a manner that can actually get to a right conclusion about God. The challenge of different answers to a particular issue is not unique to the topic of religion. For example, you can sit 100 math students down, give them a complex problem to solve, and it is likely that many will get the answer wrong. But does this mean that a correct answer does not exist? Not at all. Those who get the answer wrong simply need to be shown their error and know the techniques necessary to arrive at the correct answer.

There's one problem with that scenario: the correct math answer has nothing to do with belief. I don't care how sincerely you believe 1 + 1 3, hold up one finger, now hold up another and now count the fingers: you have two up. Jesus is god and the rest of you are spending eternity in a pit of fire is a little less . . . um . . . real. Yes, that's the word I'm looking for.

How do we arrive at the truth about God? We use a systematic methodology that is designed to separate truth from error by using various tests for truth, with the end result being a set of right conclusions.

Systematic methodology, huh? In relationship to your imaginary friend? Do continue.

What systematic approach should be used? First, we need to establish a framework for testing various truth claims, and then we need a roadmap to follow to reach a right conclusion. Here is a good framework to use:

1. Logical consistency—the claims of a belief system must logically cohere to each other and not contradict in any way. As an example, the end goal of Buddhism is to rid oneself of all desires. Yet, one must have a desire to rid oneself of all desires, which is a contradictory and illogical principle.

Understanding Buddhism fail. Hey, look, Buddhism is wrong as long as I define Buddhism as something it totally isn't! Guess what else! The sky is not blue because I have redefined "blue" to mean "the color of my skin". I win!

2. Empirical adequacy—is there evidence to support the belief system (whether the evidence is rational, externally evidential, etc.)? Naturally, it is only right to want proof for important claims being made so the assertions can be verified. For example, Mormons teach that Jesus lived in North America. Yet there is absolutely no proof, archaeological or otherwise, to support such a claim.

The pot just called- it wants you to stop throwing kettles through its glass walls.

3. Existential relevancy—the belief system must conform to reality as we know it, and it must make a meaningful difference in the life of the adherent. Deism, for example, claims that God just threw the spinning world into the universe and does not interact with those who live on it. How does such a belief impact someone in a day-to-day manner? In short, it does not.

Why? Why must the belief system make a meaningful difference in the life of the adherent? I can see no reason why that would be a qualification for truth. My, your or anyone else's reaction to the truth is irrelevant, it's still the truth. I don't care how it makes you feel, the truth is the truth. Anyway, it's not like Christianity changes too many people, if that's the standard you're using.

But how does one go about applying this framework in the pursuit of God? A step-by-step question/answer approach is one of the best tactics to employ. Narrowing the list of possible questions down produces the following:

1. Does absolute truth exist?
2. Do reason and religion mix?
3. Does God exist?
4. Can God be known?
5. Is Jesus God?
6. Does God care about me?

I'd add a question to that list: How do you know any of this? Eventually, you're going to retreat into "because the Bible tells me so" at which point I will proceed to introduce you to the Church of the Heterodyne, as evidenced by Girl Genius. (If you're going to worship something, you may as well worship mad scientists!)

1. The "answer" to this is pure sophistry, but I will say this: it's not so much whether or not absolute truth exists, but whether or not you know it and how you know it. "The Bible" is not helping you out here. There are too many contradictions in the Bible, too many history inaccuracies/impossibilities to be the source of absolute truth.

2. This leads us to the next question of whether reason/logic can be used in matters of religion. Some say this is not possible, but—why not? The truth is, logic is vital when examining spiritual claims because it helps us understand why some claims should be excluded and others embraced. Logic is absolutely critical in dismantling pluralism (which says that all truth claims, even those that oppose each other, are equal and valid).

For example, Islam and Judaism claim that Jesus is not God, whereas Christianity claims He is. One of the core laws of logic is the law of non-contradiction, which says something cannot be both “A” and “non-A” at the same time and in the same sense. Applying this law to the claims Judaism, Islam, and Christianity means that one is right and the other two are wrong. Jesus cannot be both God and not God. Used properly, logic is a potent weapon against pluralism because it clearly demonstrates that contrary truth claims cannot both be true. This understanding topples the whole “true for you but not for me” mindset.

Clever, but no. I have been seriously stressing over my skin lately (adult acne SUCKS). It looks horrible. This is true to me. Yesterday, the cashier at the Dollar Store asked me what I do to make my skin looks so nice (to be fair, she never sees me without makeup). I was dumbfounded. Clearly, true for me is my skin looks horrible, but simultaneously, true for her is that my skin looks amazing. Belief is like that. Of course, belief isn't truth, either.

3 gets proven with the old "something can't come from nothing therefore goddidit" argument that Ray Comfort has been beating to death for years now. Yawn.

Wait, 3 also includes a pantheistic religion fail.

Now, this conclusion says nothing about what kind of God exists, but amazingly enough, it does do one sweeping thing—it rules out all pantheistic religions. All pantheistic worldviews say that the universe is God and is eternal. And this assertion is false. So, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and all other pantheistic religions are ruled out as valid belief systems.

Nice. You so rarely see someone misunderstanding pantheism on the internet! (Hint: Most religions have a creation myth. If you have a creation myth, you don't believe the universe is without beginning. Asshat.)

4. All archeological evidence confirms the New Testament! The New Testament proves the New Testament! First of all, no, all the archeological evidence does not prove the New Testament, and this argument is asinine in this day and age:

to the multiplicity of the accounts (nine authors in 27 books of the New Testament)

Go to google and type in any made up scenario you think no one on Earth could be interested. No matter how bizarre or obscure, you will find 50 websites devoted exclusively to it, as well as porn specifically for it. (See also: Rule 34) In fact, there's probably a whole line of t-shirts for sale at Cafe Press. Just because lots of people are interested in something, that does not mean it is true, or sane, or the sort of thing one should expose children to. Effectively, most of the New Testament could be nothing more than fanfic. (Seriously, have you ever read Paul? Now there's a Marty Stu if I've ever seen one.)

5. When it comes to Jesus, one finds a very curious thing about Him—He claimed to be God in the flesh. Jesus own words (e.g., “Before Abraham was born I AM”), His actions (e.g., forgiving sins, accepting worship), His sinless and miraculous life (which He used to prove His truth claims over opposing claims), and His resurrection all support His claims to be God. The New Testament writers affirm this fact over and over again in their writings.

Now, if Jesus is God, then what He says must be true. And if Jesus said that the Bible is inerrant and true in everything it says (which He did), this must mean that the Bible is true in what it proclaims.

And if wishes were horses, I'd have been trampled a long time ago.

6. This same Bible proclaims that God cares deeply for mankind and wishes all to know Him intimately. In fact, He cares so much that He became a man to show His creation exactly what He is like.

A douchebag who kills fig trees for not producing figs out of season and backtalks his momma? Hokay. I suppose that's nicer than all the genocide and incest in the Old Testament.

I'll get back to pondering the really important questions in life: Any plan where you lose your hat is?








16 comments:

  1. Will Airman Higgs ever get back to his nap? Will Oggie ever become a great-great-great-great grandpa? Will Tarvek ever stop being such a d-bag prat?

    The questions are truly endless.

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  2. And gotquestions.org doesn't answer any of them! so frustrating.

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  3. And to answer your final question: A bad plan. It's a bad plan.

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  4. I love the automatic assumption of monotheism.

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  5. Other than the occasional exhortation to "Burn, Witch!", polytheists must feel so left out.

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  6. The Met has an exhibit of different paintings, tapestries, etc. of scenes from the Ramayana right now. It's really interesting, especially not knowing much about Hinduism.

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  7. You simply must read the Bhagavad Gita. It's fantastic! Especially if you read it from the point of view that the gods are aliens. (Makes more sense that way.)

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  8. 3. Existential relevancy—the belief system must conform to reality as we know it, and it must make a meaningful difference in the life of the adherent. Deism, for example, claims that God just threw the spinning world into the universe and does not interact with those who live on it. How does such a belief impact someone in a day-to-day manner? In short, it does not.

    So, um, I believe Michael Jordan was the best basketball player in NBA history. This has no impact on my daily life. Does that mean that my belief is somehow incorrect?

    I believe that there are extraterrestrial intelligences, but they're so far away and technology is such that we'll probably never meet. This doesn't impact my life in any way, shape, or form. Does that mean that my belief is wrong? Does it mean that those aliens in the Andromeda galaxy or whatever have suddenly ceased to exist?

    In general, creating a component of, "It has to change your life," and attaching it to belief is a bad idea on every possible level. People believe things all the time without letting it change them because most things that we believe in don't actually matter much to us in our day-to-day lives.

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  9. So, um, I believe Michael Jordan was the best basketball player in NBA history. This has no impact on my daily life. Does that mean that my belief is somehow incorrect?

    Yes, although I agree with you. Even though Michael could not play the way he did with today's rules, nor could Larry Bird (Bird was a very dirty player).

    I believe that there are extraterrestrial intelligences, but they're so far away and technology is such that we'll probably never meet. This doesn't impact my life in any way, shape, or form. Does that mean that my belief is wrong? Does it mean that those aliens in the Andromeda galaxy or whatever have suddenly ceased to exist?

    Yes.

    I also believe that there was a rabbi named Yeshua in the early first century, that became the Yeshua of the Bible. This belief really doesn't affect me. So that means Jesus does not exist.

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  10. I think Beamstalk may have won an internet!

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  11. *************************************************
    how about I believe in WHATEVER I want - even in the FLYING SPAGHETTI
    MONSTER! - and you have nothing to say!
    *******************************************************************

    let me show you the end results of this particular *ONE-DIMENSIONAL SCIENTIFIC MODE*
    of thinking that is called *CRITICAL THINKING*, which is completely divorced from
    any human objectives...

    this style has been perfected by dawkins, pz, randi and the other *NEW ATHEISTS*
    **
    THE BOOBQUAKE - 911!
    ***
    hey, atheists don't even BELIEVE IN BOOBIES!!!
    they thought BOOBIES had no effect... WRONG!

    see, I just want to make it clear to the rest of you:
    jen is unable to see that there is a CONFLICT BETWEEN EROS & SCIENCE....

    http://www.blaghag.com/2010/04/in-name-of-science-i-offer-my-boobs.html

    http://www.blaghag.com/2010/04/quick-clarification-about-boobquake.html

    see how we take a term and convert it into its AUTHENTIC POLITICAL DIMENSION - THAT
    OF LIBERATION - not just merely harmless expression...

    Visit for the BOOBQUAKE:

    http://dissidentphilosophy.lifediscussion.net/philosophy-f1/the-boobquake-911-t1310.htm


    why do you waste your time with such nonsense as *atheism*? Who are you trying to convince of your delusion?


    turn to MARXISM...

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  12. So... I can't help but notice it's been over a week now and I was still haven't been "destroyed without mercy", for which I received my FINAL WARNING at least 3 times...

    is God lying to you, again, Mr. Markuze, or just Nostradamus?

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  13. No, no, Big A - didn't you see? We have nothing to say. So you can't respond to DM, not even to point out that he makes no sense at all or that his ravings are absolutely divorced from reality as the rest of us know it. BECAUSE HE SAYS SO. IN CAPS!!! ***WITH ASTERISKS***

    I'm pretty sure that in his world, he has offered us an absolute choice, and we are quaking in fear of his knowledge and authority. It's entirely possible, in fact, that we've already been utterly destroyed - possibly by the immanent power of his superior mind - and we just don't know it yet.

    Over here in reality, of course, life continues apace. At this point, I think a yawn (combined, perhaps, with a veiled look of boredom) is the only appropriate response to his... input. Because, frankly, it is boring.

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  14. mr mock...


    if I told you that everything you know and believe is FALSE...

    how would you like that?

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  15. Aren't words wonderful things? You can define them to mean what you want, and then use them to create any kind of world you want, and prove that it's true.

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  16. DM,

    If you told me that everything I know and believe is false...

    How would that be different from what you've been doing so far? (Also, since you didn't answer earlier, would you mind telling me what you hope to accomplish by leaving your responses all over the place? I really am puzzled by this.)

    Just to give you a real answer, though: if you told me that everything I know and believe is false, I'd probably be curious: How so? What, precisely, do you think is mistaken about my worldview? How well do you understand what my worldview actually is?

    To put that another way, I probably wouldn't like or dislike it especially. I'd be curious, but not especially concerned.

    ...Look, I don't know you from Adam. I have no particular reason, aside from basic humanity, to care about your physical or mental well-being. I don't have any idea what you're like in person. I know your name and the city where you live, but only because other people have looked them up (and just to keep things even, I'm in Dallas, TX, in the U.S.).

    So anything I say about you is pure speculation, based on one of two things: the content of your posts, and the fact that you paste them, over and over, all over the place. And frankly, the only reason I comment on you at all is because I'm intensely curious about why you do that. Seriously. I'm not even trying to hurt your feelings in the hopes that you'll go away - even if I were so inclined, it wouldn't work.

    Whatever you're like in person, your online behavior is extremely unusual, perhaps unique. It's also intrusive and obnoxious. I don't know whether you're aware of this. I don't know if you're trying to make some sort of point - but if you are, I don't understand what it is. All I can do is guess.

    ReplyDelete

Comments are for you guys, not for me. Say what you will. Don't feel compelled to stay on topic, I enjoy it when comments enter Tangentville or veer off into Non Sequitur Town. Just keep it polite, okay?

I am attempting to use blogger's new comment spam feature. If you don't immediately see your comment, it is being held in spam, I will get it out next time I check the filter. Unless you are Dennis Markuze, in which case you're never seeing your comment.

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Forever in Hell by Personal Failure is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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