Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Living in different worlds

I've been having very interesting and thought-provoking (for me, at any rate) discussions with this Poor Unhappy Soul. His responses have been intelligent, reasoned, reasonable and displayed none of the whining despair you might expect of a tortured soul ;¬). In fact, I get the feeling that in the real world we'd get on pretty well, especially if we steered clear of certain topics.

I've just been doing a bit of research to prepare my latest response to him (this time to a comment on his own blog - sorry, I'm not linking to it, but I have linked to his blog in the post that led to the earlier discussion - please take note of his content warning if you're likely to be offended by bad language etc). I've found some absolute knock-down arguments in favour of my point of view.

The thing is, though...

Well, the thing is, we don't actually live in the same world. And because we don't live in the same world, neither of us is going to be able to convince the other that our point of view is correct, unless one of us agrees to cross the divide and come into the same world.

I have the same trouble with some of my atheist friends in real life. If you accept the basic premise on which their arguments are founded, then the arguments are logical and often impossible to fault. If you don't, there is no way any reasonable person could hang onto those same arguments. And they see my arguments the same way.

The basic premise that underpins my view on absolutely anything in life is that God exists. I live in a world which was created by a loving God. He made me and everything around me, and He loves me, despite everything I can do at times to make myself unlovable. I don't reject the evidence of science, but I see its findings through the filter of God's Will. I live in a world where I have been given many great gifts, but the greatest gift of all is the love of my Creator and the fact that I have been given the grace to seek His face. And the greatest reward for me will come not in this life, but after I die, and in a form that I can't begin to understand fully now.

An atheist lives in a world with no God. I've never inhabited that world, and I can't really understand it or see what it looks like. What I do understand is that some of the views that I legitimately hold in my world will never make sense to the atheist in his world, because they start from the premise that God is at the centre of everything. He would have to come to my world and accept my basic premise to accept my arguments, but without the gift of faith, my world is closed to him.

And so on topic after topic, after an interesting and lively debate, we end up agreeing to differ. I finally realised, after a good hour of research on a particular topic this evening, that my arguments would never stand up if looked at through PUS's filter. Looked at through mine, they are the only arguments that I could validly hold.

So sorry, PUS, this is my way of saying I'm too tired to argue pointlessly tonight, but I'll be back for more when my batteries are recharged.

Your blog or mine?


Josh said...

You could always try Saint Anselm's ontological argument, if you haven't already. It probably won't win an atheist over, but the look on their face when they try and counter an extremely logically tight argument is worth the price of admission. It goes like this:

God is that than which nothing greater can be thought.

Something that has extension, reality, is greater than something that is a thought alone.

Therefore, God being that than which nothing greater can be thought, God exists.

It doesn't get any tighter than that. This is from St. Anselm's proslogian. A very concise, and and consequently difficult, text.

Ma Beck said...

An atheist lives in a world with no God.
Nah. God is still in his world, though he sees Him not. :)
I really do "live and let live" with regard to personal spiritual belief or unbelief.
I pray for conversions of my non believing friends, and I answer their questions about the faith as best I can, usually insufficiently I'm sure. It's not the faith that's lacking, it's my ability to convey it. In the end, we are still able to have many good days because our humanity is our common ground. Now, a nonbeliever thinks it comes from out of nowhere and I think it comes from God, but although we disagree on the details, the fact is that we're both still human life, moving toward the end with blazing speed. If I am wrong, I have tried to live within a moral code of "Love God above all" and "Love neighbor as self" and I have wasted a couple of hours each Sunday morning, though I wouldn't exactly call sitting in a beautiful building listening to the music of the ages and praying ancient texts and attempting (poorly) disciplines and mortifications of self a waste, though I can see why some might.
If they are wrong, they might go to hell for eternity, though there are certainly many factors at play, including invincible ignorance and the incalculable mercy of God. At any rate, I stand to lose the least, and that's an understatement. But that's not even why I believe. I don't believe out of fear - I believe out of love. I believe because I have experienced the mercy and love and interference of God in my life. They can't change my experience and resulting belief, and I can't change their not realizing their own experiences, and resulting unbelief. But the Holy Spirit sure can, so I pray.
I can't beat people over the head to make them believe, nor is that a Christian practice.
God gave men free will for a very good reason.
They MUST be allowed to use it.
Other than that, you're right - we just avoid certain topics or INSIST on manners and civility when they are discussed, and I certainly think Drac (and many others, my work-wife included) are highly capable of this.
I don't respond to many comments, just because I find them offensive or hostile or something of that nature. But good old PUS has never been that way, thankfully.
Damn, I sure can ramble.

newhousenewjob said...

As usual, Ma, you put it so much better than I do. Of course, 'they live in a world without God' is shorthand - what I mean is that their world view is coloured by the fact that at the centre of it is a belief that there is no God. And that belief informs all of their other opinions about the way the world works, just as my belief informs all of my opinions. It's a bit like saying a person born blind lives in a world without colour - the colour is still there, but the blind person can never really experience and understand it.

Until I became friendly with an atheist in my early twenties, I never understood the strength of their belief that God didn't exist and the corresponding hostility that a lot of atheists have to a belief that He does. (I should add, out of fairness, that a lot of people who believe in God are equally hostile to those who don't - and I think that hostility is pointless and counterproductive on both sides.)

To someone with such a firm belief, St Anselm's ontological argument starts from a false premise - you're starting from a definition of something that you believe doesn't exist in the first place. Without wanting to detract from what is an absolutely watertight argument if you accept the original definition of God, it's a semantic exercise which depends on you accepting the initial definition. In fact, it kind of proves the point I was trying to make - what seem like indisputable facts and clear logic to me can be disputed if you don't accept the existence of God in the first place.

The whole thing about faith is that God's existence can't be conclusively proved through logic to someone who doesn't believe in it in the first place, and if you do believe, then the logic isn't necessary. As one of my friends said to me, "I really want to believe, and I've tried - but I just can't." There's nothing reason can do about that - but there's plenty that prayer can do.

Ma Beck said...

Yeah, I think many people would say, should Jesus Himself descend on a cloud, "Mass hallucination."
Hell, many people DID say that at Lourdes when the sun danced.
You're right, of course.
For those who believe, no proof is necessary.
For those who do not believe, no proof is sufficient.
Ah, Watson, it seems we are at an impasse...
Guess we'll have to wait and see what happens when we die. And that's something we can all agree is going to happen, and in the blink of an eye.
I remember being a toddler in the swing in Atlanta like it was yesterday. Now, I'm 35. My life is half-over already. Wow.
As Groucho said, "Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana."
(My husband was talking to a guy at work who had a 'near-death experience' recently. The guy was out for like 12 minutes - dead, while they did CPR. Joe asked him if he remembered anything. The guy replied that now he was certain there was an afterlife, though he didn't see God's face, he knew He was there. But --- the guy said, what really struck him was the fact that he "realized you didn't have to be a church person to go to heaven."
I don't know, I wasn't there...

newhousenewjob said...

Interesting. Of course, going to church isn't a sufficient condition, but is it a necessary one? I don't think it is, because the Catechism says the statement that "outside the Church, there is no salvation" is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and His Church (para 846-848). It says more than that, of course - but that's probably a topic for another post some other time...

Dracunculus said...

Sleepy dragon... having to prop up Mrs Dracunculus who is in for medical tests and results back tomorrow plus dealing with partially laminitic pony.

So here goes a half bottle of wine and tired dragon demolishing St Ansalem (with a bit of help from Ansalem's contemporary Gaunilo of Marmoutiers).

Ansalem's argument goes (as close as my mediocre and very rusty Latin can translate it): It is possible to conceive of a being nothing greater than which can be conceived. An unbeliever could conceive of such a supreme being, except he would deny its existence, But a being that does not exist in the real world is, by fact it does not exist in the real world, less than perfect. Therefore to be perfect such a being must exist.

Therefore God exists.

Quite frankly, bum.

The trick here is the assumption that "existence" is more perfect than "non existence", (I refer you the works of David Hume and Immanuel Kant for detailed arguments against the ontological argument in this regard). However the very same argument can be used to prove the non existence of God.

It goes like this ...

1) The creation of the world and of human beings is the most amazing thing imaginable

2) The merit of this achievement is the product of the quality of itself and the ability of the creator of the achievement

3) If the creator was disabled in some way, the achievement would be more impressive

4) There is no greater disablement than not existing

5) Ergo if the universe is the product of an existent creator = we can conceive of a greater being, specifically one that doesn't exist

6) An existing God therefore would not be a being greater than which a a greater cannot be conceived because an even greater God would be a God that does not exist.

7) Therefore, God does not exist.

(incidentally, Gaunilo's original counter argument of a perfect island became the primary plot premise of the book and then the 2001 film "The Beach" starring Leonardo De Caprio and Tilda "White Witch of Narnia" Swinton)

I must be tired... I'm spouting film trivia :)

Be well my friends


Dracunculus said...

Oh and as to my blog or yours... I'm easy. But I could do with the traffic :-)

Off to bed now... will try to post something more coherent tomorrow.

"Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus"


newhousenewjob said...

I wouldn't dream of tickling you while you sleep, Drac :¬)

I think you just proved my point. I start from one premise, you start from another, and each of us builds up our logical arguments on that starting premise. So whose premise is correct? That's the point at which logic can't help us, and faith, or belief, or opinion, or whatever you want to call it, comes in. As Ma said, I can't make you believe what I believe, and I'd be wrong to try to deny you your free will.

Oh well, I can but pray - and you have to admit, you weren't overcome by swarms of locusts or rivers of blood last weekend...

Hope all goes well with Mrs Drac's tests - I hope you won't object to me praying for her as well.

Dracunculus said...

"The whole thing about faith is that God's existence can't be conclusively proved through logic to someone who doesn't believe in it in the first place"

It can't be proved through logic at all, regardless of what you believe or don't. However I'm an atheist based on the weight of the physical evidence rather than philosophical argument; quite simply in my world there is no need for God because there's an adequate explanation for physical phenomena which work without a god. Truly an atheist lives in a world in which there is no god.

Of course as someone who holds to the scientific method should new evidence come to light I will have to revise my position. It would have to be real evidence though, something verifiable; the sun "dancing" doesn't cut it (as quite clearly everyone else would have seen it, not just some people in a town in France).

Prayers are OK too. Does your god do ponies or do I need to speak to Epona for that one?

(Actually that brings up another interesting question for Theists; how do you know you're worshipping the right god? Isn't it equally plausible that Epona is the right one and that when you die you're going to be met by a large white mare?