Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Arguments For Atheism.

What follows is what I consider the most devastating and conclusive reasons for not believing in a God or following a faith based Religion. To clear up some initial confusion the arguments are addressed to a supernatural, prayer answering, universe creating God of the Bible or the Koran. Needlessly to say if a belief in Zeus or Apollo suddenly became prevalent we would have many similar arguments to hand. Beliefs in the supernatural are as old as our species itself. Belief in the supernatural is evidenced across all cultures at all times. Cargo cults, witchcraft, shamanism, voodoo, and polytheism. In the history of our species, Christianity and Islam are juvenile, relatively speaking (no pun intended). They stand atop the jittering poles of our earlier past and primitive polytheistic beliefs. It is of course an accident of both history and our psychology that the monotheisms have come to dominate our cultural and political climate. If history has taught us anything it is that everything is in a state of flux and uncertainty. The beliefs of today may not be here tomorrow.


1. The Argument from Improbability.

This argument comes courtesy of Professor Richard Dawkins and it features in his much maligned book the God Delusion. It has cross pollination from old arguments such as the one from infinite regress. Its also rests heavily on Darwin’s theory of evolution by means of natural selection. In it he re-positions Fred Hoyle’s argument over a metaphorical Boeing 747. That is to say that the universe is so miraculous that for it to have arisen by chance would be equivalent to a whirlwind passing through a scrap yard and assembling a 747. This is the stock creationists argument against evolution. Dawkins is of course a tireless supporter and educator of Darwin’s theory. He believes (correctly I would add) that it gets rid of the need for a God in a designer sense. However he goes further than simply saying that the theory contradicts the biblical (or any) creation myth but rather its very principles--(that nothing complex can arise before passing through various intermediate stages.) demonstrate that the concept of a God which is capable of designing a universe or listening to prayers is highly improbable. Firstly though I will list the four ways in which Darwin’s theory undermine organised faith based Religion and belief in God.

1. It contradicts the Genesis account of creation. No honest interpretation of the bible on this issue can yield a “poetic” “metaphorical” account of creation. The commentators in this country who protest that they can coexist with belief in God and evolution are in a minority. Something like 44% of Americans are Creationists and millions in the Muslim world are such as well. Scientists like Francis Collins or Alistair McGrath have this dualism not because of a enlightened reading of scripture but as a consequence of secularism and science acting in a pincer movement nullifying religious orthodoxy.

The conclusion is sound. The stark choice of the fundamentalist is this. Either our holy books are the inerrant word of God or they are not. If the bible falls at this very first hurdle on a mistake of some magnitude-- then what if?-- What if Jesus is not the son of God? What if there is no God?

2. Natural Selection leaves God with nothing to do. As Laplace remarked “I have no need of that hypothesis”. Once life gets going natural selection is perfectly capable of explaining the complexity and diversity of life. Scientists like McGrath and Collins wish to have their cake and eat it. They support evolution yet think God has guided it. There is plenty of evidence for evolution, but no evidence for God.

3. Natural Selection explains our existence much better than any religious story. It can account for morals (good and bad) our emotions and yes even made enormous strides in helping us understand our art our music.

4. It can also help us understand Organised Religion and belief in the supernatural. This would fall into the Dennett account of Religion as a sort of Darwinian by product of human thinking. Things like the intentional stance, design stance, memes, brains built to follow what their parents tell them etc.

Dawkins ultimate conclusion is simply this. Complexity can only arise through gradual incremental steps. The process is natural selection. So the conjuring into existence of a complex supernatural deity without any explanation, neither design or evolution is the mirror opposite of the creationists straw man when they say that the universe could not have arise by chance. Dawkins coolly reasons that if God is as they claim to always have existed and is not either designed or evolved then it is statistically improbable that such an entity exists. This is so because it is either built by a higher more complex entity (thereby starting an infinite regress) or it evolved into its complexity or it always existed-- in essence its supernatural. Its statistically improbable that a hippopotamus could always have existed without any kind of explanation whether design or evolution. It is even more improbable to the point of being impossible that a God could always of existed. This works well as a argument against deism but its even more harmful against a monotheistic God. Because whatever probability we assign to a deistic God we must assign a higher rating of improbability to a Christian God or Islamic God with its obvious provincialism and idiosyncrasies


Interestingly not a single critic or commentator has ever dealt with Dawkins’s death blow to God. Theists posit that an eye or a brain, or a universe is so complex that it must be designed. So they invoke a designer or God to do the explaining. The problem is of course where did the designer or God come from. We have no direct evidence for God, at best its all inference- inference tainted by the colour of human wish thinking. However natural selection is the only explanation of life that we have. It demonstrates that both chance and creation are failures as explanations of life. God Complex as “he” is, would have to be more complex than the universe he is supposed to have created as such would need to be explained. The theists have two responses to this. It more or less amounts to the same thing, Faith.


1. God has all ways existed. This is the same when creationists say that the world could not have come about by chance. (the faith card) but why cant the universe have just existed? Its a much more plausible, parsimonious explanation. The only thing that’s been observed that creates living complexity is natural selection.


2. God exists outside time and space, is supernatural and hence not subject to rational scientific inquiry. Once again no evidence for this belief of the supernatural. It cant be proved or disproved so its not even a scientific hypothesis. So science is moot to questions of God. This form of reasoning however is subject to the most appallingly ridiculous form of reductio ad absurdum. That is to say that once we grant the supernatural and divorce it from evidence and scientific inquiry, any kind of bullshit metaphysical enterprises can be entertained. We can say for example that belief in fairies or leprechauns is not subject to scientific verification. We can grant that a chocolate bar represents the living body of a dead God and that science cannot say nothing on this belief. Or that a belief in the resurrection of Elvis is perfectly legitimate representation of reality even though any kind of evidence is lacking. We have the perfect antidote to this thinking which has been around for some time- Russell’s teapot, Sagan’s invisible dragon etc.

2. Odds on your Wrong, Religion as Gods Multiple Choice Exam.

Sam Harris hilariously points out (though I think he refashioned it somewhat from Bertrand Russell) that statistically speaking each religious person should consign themselves to the fact that they are most likely going to hell. There are many such religions on offer and each of them make incompatible claims about reality. To start with we have the three monotheisms of which we all know. We also of course have offshoots like Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witness. We also have Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism even the newcomer Scientology. Even if we were to discount most of the above and stick with the main three, the religious believer has a one in three chance of being wrong. The odds are not in your favour. The religious may be tempted to say, they may all be wrong but it does not mean that one cant be right. True but consider they are all based on the absence of evidence and have plagiarized (ineptly) each others scriptures. Further what evidence is actually offered is muddled and contradictory it would be best to be somewhat “agnostic.”

This argument also address a rather glaringly obvious point. Religion like which football team you support is largely an accident of birth. (If indeed you support football at all) Although some recent polls out of America suggest there is some fluidity between believers leaving their parents church to another one. The point remains that Christians beget Christians and Jews beget Jews. This is especially apt in Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan were Islam is rigidly enforced and to leave it, the individual puts their life at risk.

Although this argument is not QED that religion is not a valid, truthful enterprise. At the very least this should give enormous pause to people when they make the most egregious public pronouncements. Anyone inclined to Religion should be an agnostic of the kind that says “I don’t know if its true but I hope it is” and keeps their inherited Religion to themselves.


3. Hume’s Arguments on Miracles.

This is a extremely useful tool in assessing the claims of people in regards the supernatural or the metaphysical. It teaches us to ask what is more likely the case. That the natural order of the world has been suspended and a miracle has taken place or is it more likely that the person espousing it is under either a delusion or is lying? His superb corollary to this argument is particularly neat. In order to grant the existence of miracles the reasons supporting them would have to be so great that it would be miraculous to not believe that they had occurred. In other words it would be an act of faith to believe that Jesus was not the son of God, or that Muhammad didn’t fly up to heaven on a winged horse.


4. Ethical Viagra. Or the Moral Necessity of Atheism.

There is a number of formulations that this argument takes, two I will focus on which are distinctly different.1. Belief in God and a practicing of what a holy book says is essential to the maintenance of civil society, what Daniel Dennett humorously referred to as a kind of moral Viagra. 2. The moral commands of say Jesus are so good, so original, so ethically true that it could only have come from a supernatural source. This is similar to the C.S Lewis line that only a madman or a devil would say such things as Jesus did, unless he was the son of God. I’m less familiar with Islam but I think they bite the bullet and would state that the commands of the Koran or the Hadith are irrelevant to (secular) morality. In other words it does not matter if it promotes a better more compassionate society or a happier one. I have not seen any arguments advancing Islam as a good set of codes on which to base society on a secular level. They state that Allah commands them to follow the commands and their duty is to surrender their will and action to them. Irregardless of what they might think or feel.

It would seem to me that even the most die hard Christian fundamentalist at least attempts to throw secular reasons (even if they are an after thought) to their moral commands. For example they would argue that Homosexuality is not a healthy expression of sexuality because you have the risk of contracting HIV. Or that the equal rights given to homosexuals undermine the family. This is progress of sorts but it reveals two telling things. Christianity has to “stoop” to the secular level in making its ethical claims. This informs us that no one except the religious right accepts “Because God says so”. Secondly their claims are empirical in nature and our open to scrutiny. Secular ethics are based on happiness and suffering and marry their views to reality and to evidence. Islam on the other hand is in the kind of political and self righteousness ascendancy that characterised Christendom before undergoing the Renaissance and the Enlightenment.

So the idea that “belief in God and a practicing of what a holy book says is essential to the maintenance of civil society” is an empirical question. We should expect to find that Atheists are completely immoral or at least show more correlations with things like murder, rape, theft etc.

We should be able to look at people who are religious and who are not and see if are differences. I’ll mention two studies. Firstly a study by Gregory S Paul in the journal of Religion and society found a forceful correlation in strong theistic beliefs, a creator god with higher rates of homicide, early adult mortality, abortion and STD. The county that has rates of theistic belief concordant with second and third world rates of belief is the USA. Countries that are more secular as in Europe come out much better, interestingly the north west in America-the less religious part approach European numbers. (http://moses.creighton.edu/JRS/2005/2005-11.html)

Secondly from the 2005 UN reports show that countries that are less theistic or more atheist are healthier and progressive on areas such as life expectancy, higher levels of education, equality and homicide rates. Secular Norway which has topped the UN human development poll numerous times, along with other secular nations coming in the top 10. At the very least this tell us that health and wellbeing is not predicated on a nation being religious.

I would argue that we could place these findings on the shelf along with the vileness of the Koran or the Bible as well as the historical degradations and ongoing malaise that Religion causes. We need only ask ourselves could any biblical command on ethical behaviour could not have come about except by divine revelation? Or that there is no good secular reasons for not killing or stealing say. I and everyone else could offer up numerous reasons why we should not murder, not once would I feel the need to mention God. Many times in many cultures men like Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius or the Buddha have uncovered ethical truths in more depth and with less cant or supernatural nonsense than Jesus. This necessarily entails that we reject the dogma “because God says so” our acceptance of ethical teachings is decided by our own intuitive 21st century morality. Even fundamentalist Christians cherry pick the Bible when it comes to morality. Islam though it seems to me as I have already said operates on a different level.


In other words any reasons for behaving ethically should be open to anyone at any time. They should be discoverable by everyone including Atheists.. This comes close to Christopher Hitchens’s wager “name me an ethical statement or an action that could only have been performed by a religious person” his final remark though sets the scene for his “Moral necessity of Atheism” “give me a immoral statement or action that could only have been performed by a person of faith”


5. The Foundational Texts are Contradictory, Inauthentic and Incoherent.

The Koran as Ibn Warraq points out is a plagiarism of the Bible and Torah. That it was composed long after the death of Muhammad. Written on a host of diverse material such as stone, leather, bone and scattered across parts of Arabia. These diverse and contradictory accounts were brought together and pulped into a single“authoritative” text and the others were considered heretical. The Bible is host to one long howler of historical, scientific and mathematical errors. The apostles cant seem to display a coherent account of the life and death of Jesus. The findings of Gnostic Gospels such as the Gospel of Judas cast further doubt on the historicity of the Jesus narrative.

The final point I would also add is that when evaluating the claims of biblical writers or eyewitness. Hume’s caution applies of course to this. What personal investment or ulterior motive could they have in attempting to propagate miracle stories? How reliable can the eyewitness be? How much personal testimony is there and how much of it collaborates or contradicts itself? The force of testimony diminishes when the testimony becomes second, third, forth, five handed ad nauseam.

The New Testament writers cant even get the details of the Crucifixion right. In Matthew we are lead to imagine the bizarre spectacle of the dead of Jerusalem raising from their graves and going into the holy city and “appeared unto many” like something of the Michael Jackson thriller video. None of the other accounts Mark, Luke or John have this event. You wont of course find this event in any history book.


Best and be Well

Michael Faulkner.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

That's it?!!
Graham Veale

Mohamed said...

Does the Koran say Torah and Gospel corrupted?



Some people have said that the Koran says that the Torah and Gospel are corrupted and its no longer a book of guidance. They say "Islam" says so. Some Muslims even have said that anyone who still follows these scriptures is no longer a believer but a disbeliever and will go to hell. Indeed some Sunni/Shia scholars claim that any follower of islam who does not believe that the Jews and Christians are infidels is an infidel himself! However when asked to provide their evidence from the Koran they are mute and confused. This is because what they say and the Koran are complete opposites. Lets look at the Koran and what it say:

Let the People of the Gospel judge by what God hath revealed therein. If any do fail to judge by (the light of) what God hath revealed, they are (no better than) those who rebel. (Surah 5, Maida, verse 47)

But why do they come to thee for decision, when they have (their own) Law before them?- Therein is the (plain) command of God; yet even after that, they would turn away. For they are not (really) people of faith. (Surah 5, Maida, verse 43)

Then is it only a part of the Book that ye believe in, and do ye reject the rest? But what is the reward for those among you who behave like this but disgrace in this life? - And on the Day of Judgment they shall be consigned to the most grievous penalty. For God is not unmindful of what ye do. (Surah 2, Baqara, verse 85)

Say: "O People of the Book! Ye have no ground to stand upon unless ye stand fast by the Law, the Gospel and all the revelation that has come to you from your Lord...." (Surah 5, Al Ma'idah, verse 68)

If only they had stood fast by the Law, the Gospel, and all the revelation that was sent to them from their Lord, they would have enjoyed happiness from every side. There is from among them a party on the right course: But many of them follow a course that is evil. (Surah 5, Maida, verse 69)

Of the people of Moses there is a section who guide and do justice in the light of truth. (Surah 7, A'raf, verse 159)

2.41 And believe in what I reveal, confirming the revelation which is with you, and be not the first to reject Faith therein, nor sell My Signs for a small price; and fear Me, and Me alone.

2.89 And when there comes to them a Book from God, confirming what is with them,- although from of old they had prayed for victory against those without Faith,- when there comes to them that which they (should) have recognized, they refuse to believe in it but the curse of Allah is on those without Faith.

2.91 When it is said to them, “Believe in what God Hath sent down, “they say, “We believe in what was sent down to us:” yet they reject all besides, even if it be Truth confirming what is with them. Say: “Why then have ye slain the prophets of Allah in times gone by, if ye did indeed believe?”

Here the Koran clearly states the Koran confirms what is with them, meaning the Jews and Christians. Clearly this is not stating scriptures ofthe past but what they have possession of. As I did my research about this subject some time ago I was looking for where this evidence of the tampering and corruption is mentioned. How can God say the previous scriptures are corupted then order them to follow them. It even attacks those who refuse to follow it and says its a confimation of the scriptures they have with them.

Whats more the Koran seems to indicate its a confirmation of the previous scriptures.

To thee We sent the Scripture in truth, confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety: so judge between them by what God hath revealed, and follow not their vain desires, diverging from the Truth that hath come to thee. To each among you have we prescribed a law and an open way. If God had so willed, He would have made you a single people, but (His plan is) to test you in what He hath given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to God; it is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which ye dispute; Surah 5 Verse 48

It even uses the previous scripture as evidence for the validity of the Koran:

And if thou (Muhammad) art in doubt concerning that which We reveal unto thee, then question those who read the Scripture (that) was before thee... (Surah 10, Jonah, verse 94)

Muslims who follow Sunni/Shia Islam say these verses are concerning the originals. But these scriptures have not changed since the days of the prophet. In fact they are the way are today long before the prophet. So what scriptures was the Koran talking about. They then point to this verse as evidence.

2.79 Then woe to those who write the Book with their own hands, and then say:"This is from God," to traffic with it for miserable price!- Woe to them for what their hands do write, and for the gain they make thereby.

This is then used to support the tampering of the scriptures. However upon close examination, I see they failed to look at the verse before it and after it.

2.78 And there are among them illiterates, who know not the Book, but (see therein their own) desires, and they do nothing but conjecture.

So the Koran is saying those poeple were making things up but never said the Book itself has been tampered since those people never knew the book. It was confusing at first but then the next verse explained it:

2.80 And they say: "The Fire shall not touch us but for a few numbered days:" Say: "Have ye taken a promise from God, for He never breaks His promise? or is it that ye say of God what ye do not know?"

This is not in the Torah but its refering to the Talmud. The supposed "oral" traditions the Rabbis say was passed down to them.

The Rabbinic tradition arose from the Pharisaic tradition after the destruction of the Second Temple in AD 70. In general, it moved away from traditional Judaism's emphasis on an earthly future for Israel toward the concept of reward in the life to come.[4] Gehinom (Gehenna), according to rabbinic literature, is a place or state where the wicked are temporarily punished after death. “Gehenna” is sometimes translated as "hell", but the Christian view of hell differs from the Jewish view of Gehenna. Most sinners are said to suffer in Gehenna no longer than twelve months.Those who are too wicked to reach paradise are sometimes said to be punished forever.[5] Other accounts reject the idea that a merciful God would punish anyone forever,[6] in which case those too wicked for purification are destroyed (see annihilationism)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gehenna

Also in the Talmud:

Sanhedrin 57a . A Jew need not pay a gentile ("Cuthean") the wages owed him for work.

3.75. Among the People of the Book are some who, if entrusted with a hoard of gold, will (readily) pay it back; others, who, if entrusted with a single silver coin, will not repay it unless thou constantly stoodest demanding, because, they say, "there is no call on us (to keep faith) with these ignorant (Pagans)." but they tell a lie against God, and (well) they know it.

Sanhedrin 106a . Says Jesus' mother was a whore: "She who was the descendant of princes and governors played the harlot with carpenters." Also in footnote #2 to Shabbath 104b of the Soncino edition, it is stated that in the "uncensored" text of the Talmud it is written that Jesus mother, "Miriam the hairdresser," had sex with many men.

4.156 Quran
That they rejected Faith; that they uttered against Mary a grave false charge;

The famous warning of Jesus Christ about the tradition of men that voids Scripture (Mark 7:1-13), is in fact, a direct reference to the Talmud, or more specifically, the forerunner of the first part of it, the Mishnah, which existed in oral form during Christ's lifetime, before being committed to writing. Mark chapter 7, from verse one through thirteen, represents Our Lord's pointed condemnation of the Mishnah.

Also:

The Schindler's List Quote

The Talmud (i.e., the Babylonian Talmud) text of Sanhedrin 37a restricts the duty to save life to saving only Jewish lives.

The book on Hebrew censorship, written by Jews themselves (Hesronot Ha-shas), notes that some Talmud texts use the universalist phrase:

"Whoever destroys the life of a single human being...it is as if he had destroyed an entire world; and whoever preserves the life of a single human being ...it is as if he had preserved an entire world."

However, Hesronot Ha-shas points out that these are not the authentic words of the original Talmud.

In other words, the preceding universalist rendering is not the authentic text of the Talmud and thus, for example, this universalist version which Steven Spielberg in his famous movie, Schindler's List attributed to the Talmud (and which became the motto of the movie on posters and in advertisements), is a hoax and constitutes propaganda intended to give a humanistic gloss to a Talmud which is, in its essence, racist and chauvinist hate literature.

In the authentic, original Talmud text it states that "whoever preserves a single soul of Israel, it is as if he had preserved an entire world" (emphasis supplied). The authentic Talmud text sanctions only the saving of Jewish lives.

The Koran tells us about this and condemns this:

5.32 On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person - unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land - it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. Then although there came to them Our apostles with clear signs, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land

"According to the Talmud, Jesus was executed by a proper rabbinical court for idolatry, inciting other Jews to idolatry, and contempt of rabbinical authority. All classical Jewish sources which mention his execution are quite happy to take responsibility for it; in the talmudic account the Romans are not even mentioned.

"The more popular accounts--which were nevertheless taken quite seriously--such as the notorious Toldot Yeshu are even worse, for in addition to the above crimes they accuse him of witchcraft. The very name 'Jesus' was for Jews a symbol of all that is abominable and this popular tradition still persists...

The koran tells us:

4.157. That they said (in boast), "We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of God.;- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:-

The Talmud then say:

Rosh Hashanah 17a. Christians (minnim) and others who reject the Talmud will go to hell and be punished there for all generations.

Sanhedrin 90a. Those who read the New Testament ("uncanonical books") will have no portion in the world to come.

Shabbath 116a. Jews must destroy the books of the Christians, i.e. the New Testament.

The koran responds by:

And they say: "None shall enter Paradise unless he be a Jew or a Christian." Those are their (vain) desires. Say: "Produce your proof if ye are truthful."Nay,-whoever submits His whole self to God and is a doer of good,- He will get his reward with his Lord; on such shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. The Jews say: "The Christians have naught (to stand) upon; and the Christians say: "The Jews have naught (To stand) upon." Yet they study the (same) Book. Like unto their word is what those say who know not; but God will judge between them in their quarrel on the Day of Judgment. 2.111-113

“Non-Jewish property belongs to the Jew who uses it first” - (Babba Bathra 54b)

“If two Jews have deceived a Non-Jew, they have to split the profit” - (Choschen Ham 183,7)

“Every Jew is allowed to use lies and perjury to bring a Non-Jew to ruin” - (Babha Kama 113a)

“The Jew is allowed to practice usury on the Non-Jew” - (Talmud IV/2/70b)

The koran then says:

4.160. For the iniquity of the Jews We made unlawful for them certain (foods) good and wholesome which had been lawful for them;- in that they hindered many from God's Way;-
4.161. That they took usury, though they were forbidden; and that they devoured men's substance wrongfully;- we have prepared for those among them who reject faith a grievous punishment.

Note: The Torah forbids the Jews from the devouring of Usury ("neshek").See the Old Testament Ex. 22: 25;
Le. 25: 36-37; De. 23:19-20; Ne. 5: 7/10; Ps. 15: 5; Pr. 28:8

The Koran then says:

4.162. But those among them who are well-grounded in knowledge, and the believers, believe in what hath been revealed to thee and what was revealed before thee: And (especially) those who establish regular prayer and practise regular charity and believe in God and in the Last Day: To them shall We soon give a great reward.

http://www.revisionisthistory.org/talmudtruth.html

As for the Gospel

Jesus is reported to have said “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” and “I am in the Father, and the Father in me” (John 14:9-10); but in the same passage he shortly goes on to add: “At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.” (John 14:20) Again, while Jesus does proclaim “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30), he also prays for his followers, “that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.” (John 17:21) Whatever the nature of the “oneness” Jesus is claiming exists between God and himself, it is apparently something that is supposed to hold between God and all Christians – in which case it can hardly be the relation of numerical identity.

Likewise, in the two New Testament passages where Jesus is said to have regarded himself as “equal with God” – John 5:18 and Philippians 2:6 – the Greek word translated “equal” is isos, which means “on the same level” or “of the same rank,” never “identical.” The claim that Jesus was God did not become Christian orthodoxy until the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE. The orthodox reading of these passages seems natural today only because they are read through the lens of what “everybody knows” about Jesus’ claims to divinity; few would find incarnationism in the texts unless they first brought it there.

An objector may point to the opening lines of the Gospel of John, which apparently identify the “Logos” with God (John 1:1) and the “Logos made flesh” with Jesus (John 1:14). Of course these lines were not spoken by Jesus, and so do not show that Jesus himself claimed to be God; but in any case, what exactly are they saying? The relation between God and the Logos seems to fall short of strict identity; the Greek, literally translated, says something like “the Logos was with the God, and God is what the Logos was” – an awkward construction clearly trying to express a subtler relation than identity. The term “Logos” is borrowed from Greek philosophy, where it means a thing’s abstract rational nature; the Logos that is “with” God and is what God is, is not God but God’s nature. To say that Jesus is the Logos made flesh, then, is simply to say that he is a physical embodiment of God’s nature. This hardly makes him identical with God, since all human beings are supposed to be created from God’s spirit (Genesis 2:7) and in God’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27).

Indeed the New Testament authors clearly understand Jesus as offering everyone the opportunity to be sons (and daughters) of God and to partake of God’s nature:


“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. ... And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.” (Romans 8:14-17)

“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him.” (1 John 3:2)
As the New Testament authors understand Jesus’ message, being the “Son of God” is evidently not a status that Jesus claims for himself alone, but one that is open to all Christians;

http://praxeology.net/unblog02-04.htm

Clearly this has no basis in the Gospel, the Koran reiterates this:

People of the Book, do not go beyond the bounds in your religion, and say nought as to God but the Truth. The messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, was only the messenger of God, and his word that he committed to Mary, and a spirit originating from Him. So believe in God and His Messengers, and say not 'Three'. Refrain, better is for you. God is only one God. Glory be to him-that He should have a son! To Him belongs all that is in the Heavens and in the Earth; God suffices for a guardian. (4.171)

"And they say, The All-Merciful has taken unto Himself a son. You have indeed advanced something hideous. As if the skies are about to burst, the earth to split asunder and its mountain to fall down in the utter ruin for that they have attributed to the All-merciful a son; and behaves not the All-merciful to take a son. None there in the heavens and earth but comes to the All-Merciful as a servant" (Maryam 19:88-93)

There is nothing, absolutely nothing about corruption or tampering of previous scriptures. The Koran states that the Talmud is NOT the word of God and says the Christian priests are NOT following the Gospel but indeed they hide and conceal and take things out of context and following vain desires:

"They (i.e. Jews and Christians) changed words from their contexts and forgot a good part of the message given to them, and you will continue to find them -except a few among them- bent on new deceits…" (5:13)

There is among them a section who distort the Book with their tongues: (as they read) you would think it is a part of the Book, but it is no part of the Book; and they say, 'That is from God,' but it is not from God: It is they who tell a lie against God and (well) they know it! (3,78)

The Koran is here to support and confirm the previous scriptures. A reminder to many not to abandon the scriptures and follow men. The scriptures must be read as a WHOLE and not in isolation.

Then is it only a part of the Book that ye believe in, and do ye reject the rest? But what is the reward for those among you who behave like this but disgrace in this life? - And on the Day of Judgment they shall be consigned to the most grievous penalty. For God is not unmindful of what ye do. ( 2,85)

graham veale said...

To deal with your arguments in reverse order.
5) I have no idea how this counts against the existence of God. What relevance would this have to Plato or the Stoics? Furthermore, I find some of the claims a little strange. How, precisely, does the Gospel of Judas cast doubt on the canonical Gospels. If the Bible contains some errors, why should I believe that it is all erroneous?
4) On atheism, or on your atheistic/Zen construct, what is morality? Where does morality get it's authority? What exactly is the value of the person?
Of course an atheist can live a moral life - by which I mean a life of objective value. Can you say the same?
3) Again, I'm not sure how this counts against the existence of God. It does not even argue against the possibilty of miracles, merely their knowability. In any case, Hume was mistaken (the point is relatively uncontroversial). The prior probability of an event depends on your background beliefs.
2(c) I believe in the equal value of all human beings. I believe that humans have rights, and that we are better off without slavery. If I had been born in a different continent or time, I may not have held these beliefs. Does that mean I am not justified in holding them now?
2(b) Very few religions believe that lack of knowledge of those religions consigns a person to Hell. And in any case, what has this to do with Plato's God?
2(a) There are a bewildering number of ethical, economic and political theories available. Does that mean that my judgments on politics and ethics are probably wrong? You can't make an assessment until you examine what I believe, and then why I believe it (and what I believe takes priority).
1) Possibly the worst argument for atheism, as it assumes that a mind (a) Must be embodied and (b) is a collection of thoughts. First(a) is controversial, and substance dualism would provide good reasons to doubt (a). Second, on substance dualism a mind HAS and GENERATES thoughts, and is not an ordered collection of thoughts as in assumption (b).
We know from direct experience and observation that minds create order. Order may also spervene on other ordered states of affairs. So we can leave the order of our universe unexplained, or postulate something analogous to a mind to explain it.
Notice we are only trying to explain order on this argument. The objection "who created the mind" does not work as minds generate order, whilst being in themselves quite simple.
To undermine this argument you must provide reasons for the implausibility or incoherence of an unembodied mind. (That would be quite an achievement, given it's repeated use in Western philosophy). Dawkins misses this point altogther.

Graham Veale

graham veale said...

Mohamed
Are you arguing from a Sufi position that we can all share in the divine essence?

Graham Veale

Mohamed said...

I am not Sufi just letting you know the Koran is one thing "Islam" i another. The same with Judaism and Christianity. Scriptures are one thing man made orthodoxies are another. The Koran supported the previous scriptures unlike what sectarian Sunni/Shia claim, they are political movements that emerged after Muhammad.

Michael Faulkner said...

Hi Graham.

Thanks for taking the time to respond to my arguments.

I’ll take you comments from last to first.

Ironic indeed that you find the most persuasive argument the least convincing. Needless to say I believe you completely misread what I wrote, your attempt to tackle it through the realm of philosophical mystification has completely fell flat. It is a little like trying to win a game of rock scissor paper by thrusting a paper tiger not just at a razor sharp scissor but careening wholesale into a flame thrower. Philosophy has nothing to do with my 1st argument-the argument from improbability. It is a science based argument. Your explanation rests on a false analogy between the functioning of our minds and the mind of God. This is shamelessly anthropocentric and hubristic. Also its not about order its about explanation of facts. God cannot be used as a explanation as of course he cannot or we cannot explain its existence (given that it did exist), this comes before we even try to use it to explain away the world. Compared to Darwin’s theory of Evolution it is a weak argument indeed with its paucity of evidence.


Let me attempt to mount a counterargument that would overturn my own. Firstly we would need to unequivocally discover God (I talked about what this might be like) or for God to revel himself and subject himself to scientific inquiry. Well that sets the bar pretty low don’t you think? Other than that if we were to discover some proof for the supernatural ie disembodied spirits etc. The central problem as Dawkins rightly notes is that complexity ( a sentient entity) only arises gradually (by Natural Selection or by another incremental process) and does not simply magic into existence or indeed has always existed.


2. A few remarks. I think your in a minority when you claim that most Christians or Religious people (monotheists) say they (non believers or people who don’t know-Catholic limbo dogma ring a bell?) don’t go to hell. Even though its progress of sorts not believing in the reality of hell and that the rejection of Jesus say will facilitate entry into that charming dimension. I don’t think a person could claim to be a proper Christian if they fudged on that issue.

Your first remark (2C) is a telling give away. You signal the importance of background and culture and upbringing which is of course my point exactly.

For 2A.

Consider this. It is my faith that I’m a competent neurosurgeon, my hands are kept steady by a unseen divine force, I have complete confidence in my ability to operate on your brain tumour even know I have no formal training whatsoever. I have faith in the Koran and the Imam who tell me the world is six thousand years old, I believe that this should be taught in schools. I believe in the efficacy of astrology predicating the future.

“There are a bewildering number of scientific, medical and psychology explanations available. Does that mean that my judgments on science and medicine are probably wrong?

Yes, if you don’t know what your talking about or what your doing.


“You can't make an assessment until you examine what I believe, and then why I believe it (and what I believe takes priority).”

I give cursory assessment to people who say the earth is flat, six thousand years old, or that the holocaust never happened. Likewise I’ve assessed (properly) and dismissed those who claim that they have given their heart to Jesus or think the Koran is the perfect word of God.

Let me finish with a general reply.

First my arguments are against a God and Religion. I realise of course this is “philosophically sloppy” but irrelevant to the aim of which I was writing. We could of course go from here to eternity defining words like GOD, Faith, Religion, Religious experience, Doubt, Belief. Hume’s caution is quite useful in consideration of a creator God who punishes, performs miracles, listens to prayers etc. I deployed it as a bulwark of scepticism against miracles something Religion has profited well from.

You are attempting to get me into the “no objective basis for morality” argument. I think what I originally wrote stands well to meet this charge. I may address the question more directly in the future. All I will say to reply to you is why do we need authority more specifically a divine authority? Bertrand Russell in his Why I’m not a Christian does well with this argument. For society to function I do think we need say Hobbes leviathan not a God but an effective criminal justice system.


“If the Bible contains some errors, why should I believe that it is all erroneous?”

All Erroneous is a straw man. We are talking about a book that is either the perfect word of God or inspired or at the very least God would have had to give his seal of approval to it. Either the bible is an ordinary book or it isn’t. Either what happened in the NT is factually true or it isn’t. saying it contains some errors is understatement of understatements. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence or extraordinary historical accuracy, textual cogency, scientific validity and ethical insight and originality.

I’m afraid the claims of the monotheists have set the bar so high that rather than jumping and honourably failing to surmount, it ignominiously knocks itself in the face so puny is its attempt to offer up a book that a God could have had something to do with.

Best.

Mike.

PS.

Mohamed have you read Ed Husains the Islamist by any chance? just read it and am going to do a review shortly.

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