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Who needs a fool-proof proof of God?

June 23, 2009

So, the writers at Nine Moons decided to update (it must be a holiday — yes…Father’s Day was Sunday, so that makes sense). Our question (since 9Moons has a fascination with polls)?

To witness what event would have the greatest capacity to convince an atheist of the existence of God? Why?

This was most certainly an amusing post, and I wish there were more answers for me to read. It’s interesting that some people gave generic proofs that didn’t necessarily point to any specific formulation of God, while some others pointed out these generic proofs. Some gave generic Christian proofs that didn’t necessarily validate Mormonism…while others went straight for the jugular and went for the Book of Mormon historicity + God validator (e.g., appearance of Jesus Christ to the Nephites).

But then others pointed out that even these could conceivably not be convincing. I mean, tons of people see babies being born without thinking that points to God, much less any particular kind of God. And of course, the retreat to skepticism (the philosophical kind) can rear its head in any case. But then some went as far as to claim that  “Anyone who could watch Christ rise from the dead and then deny the existence of God would be beyond delusional.” Despite this one being recognized as one of the poorer proofs (very plausible deniability as toward its relation to God.)

I was thinking about posting something (or…just staying quiet and waiting for more posts), but I was…proud…I will say proud…to read Seth R’s comment.

Question misses the point.

Proving the EXISTENCE of God has never been a really important issue between religious people and atheists. It’s actually an almost irrelevant sideshow.

It’s just stupid modern religion and equally stupid modern atheism that has fooled people into thinking this debate was ever about empirically establishing the existence of a God.

Even if you prove God exists, why should I worship him?

Thank you!

The red herring is suggesting this is all about the existence of god, when this is a tremendously irrelevant distinction. Rather, what is more valuable is making the concept of God relevant to someone’s life. The people who probably flipped out at my saying God’s existence is “tremendously irrelevant” may take for granted that proving God’s existence would make him relevant, but this is a tremendous leap. Supposing that the deist construction of God exists, for example, we have no reason to pay him any mind. We have no reason to act functionally different after acknowledging him…in fact, there is no relevance whether we ignore him or worship him.

At the same time, let’s suppose that there is no God. It is not false that a belief in a nonexistent thing could inspire and whip people up to action. This is because subjective motivations can (and may) be stronger than objective motivations in certain instances.

So, the question is…how do we engineer these subjective motivations? How do we inspire belief? Or more importantly…why? Pascal isn’t doing too well for us here. I think this is a tough question, but magnitudes easier than trying to find an omnipotent needle in a vast and mostly empty (or dark) universe haystack.

Some say that it is chosen. Or at least, that it has an element of choice. Yet, I’m not so convinced. I guess it fits into another category of arguments that personally are intuitive and obvious to me, but not to most others (gee, I should get that checked out :D), but I think that belief requires inclination or some kind of compelling cause, and somewhere in the chain, you are not choosing. So, of course, you have gungho free will of actions, but then you have to ask, “But why do I prefer certain actions over others? Why do I have those preferences or inclinations? Why do I default to thinking x instead of y?” And at some point, you come to a reason that is not chosen, or may not be forced.

So, the question is: how do you incline people to theism, if they are not so inclined? Because what I would argue is the similarity between the theists arguments of how to show there is a god and the equally stupid atheist arguments of how to show there is not a god is that both sides have an amazing ignorance for the inclinations of the other side. The theist (at least MCQ) is certain, “Anyone who could watch Christ rise from the dead and then deny the existence of God would be beyond delusional” and yet he speaks from a framework of inclinations that is personally convinced by these things. The atheist might say something in response like, “Anyone who couldn’t see the holes/fallacies in the claim of so-called miracles and the connection to the supernatural would be beyond delusional,” but he speaks with the same fallacy, not even pretending to understand the framework of the other side, or having any clue of how to get from T to A (or A to T). But people do go from T to A, or A to T…we just don’t know how to reliably repeat it. That is the question.


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  1. You ought to check out Terry Eagleton’s “Reason, Faith and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate.”

    It’s basically a withering attack on the new atheists (mainly Hitchens and Dawkins). Highly amusing writing, and a thoughtful look at what religious thought is for. Seeing Dawkins and Hitchens roasted is a bonus. I managed to read about 30 pages of it in the bookstore (it sucks not having pocket-money for books). But I liked where it was going.

    I’m not really sure that Eagleton is truly a theist or deist. That part is left a bit ambiguous. But I share his contempt for “Ditchkins” as he collectively terms the current standard bearers of the “new atheism.”

    As I recall, you never cared much for Hitchens or Dawkins either. So you might enjoy it. Eagleton’s deeper points about what belief seemed pretty good to me.

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