By way of mine, Alex’s and Maritza’s previous exchange, titled OSC’s Come and enter her thoughts, I found what could only be described as a bait-and-switch, an act whereby some certain group was lambasted for holding to the use of a word (namely faith) which they hadn’t ever used. The bait-and-switch, for reading, comes in a variety of forms, occurring in sales, legality and even in the world of professional wrestling. Although methinks it’s the use of baiting in politics which would best suit the sort of open air trickery which has been used thus far:
In lawmaking, “caption bills” that propose minor changes in law with simplistic titles (the bait) are introduced to the legislature with the ultimate objective of substantially changing the wording (the switch) at a later date in order to try to smooth the passage of a controversial or major amendment.
Rule changes are also proposed (the bait) to meet legal requirements for public notice and mandated public hearings, then different rules are proposed at a final meeting (the switch), thus bypassing the objective of public notice and public discussion on the actual rules voted upon.
Despite the mockery being directed towards who would be commonly described as conservative Christians, the contributors over at midoriskies then took refuge in the definitions of nominal or compromised Christians, such like the folks who I enjoy writing to over at Jim Gordon’s donewithreligion. The conclusion to our conversation I’m happy to share is something a little bit different, however. As Alex, confident in their atheism despite our many exchanges, soon replied with an impassioned wave of misunderstandings. Even errors so plain they were easily redressed by simply rereading our conversation thus far. Therefore the remainder of our exchange isn’t an issue of me knowing their atheism, or they having an in-depth understanding of my Christianity, rather we were just in need of clarity, honest communication, which it’s my hope will someday reach their heart (despite what appears to them as a gruff style of mine). Let’s enjoy.
Alex first replies: OSC, you keep claiming that we are being insulting to you, yet you are being more insulting than anyone else here! You are also making a great many unwarranted assumptions about our meanings and motivations.
Do you suppose that I talk about your god using such phrases as “your god” to be deliberately insulting and disrespectful? Far from it! I use such phrases to indicate that I do not share in your beliefs and to highlight the importance of being clear which god we are talking about. There is more than one god believed in by humans! Using the word ‘god’ as a name conveniently ignores this point.
You assume that I am not open to having my mind changed, but it seems to me that you are the one refusing to change your mind. You will not even acknowledge the importance of differentiating between when we use the word ‘faith’ to mean ‘trust’, and when we use it to mean ‘belief without proof’, and you keep insisting that our examples used to show the difference are insulting! Has it not occurred to you that, in showing difference in meaning, one might use more extreme examples in order to avoid any ambiguity? Of course there is a difference between believing in a god or gods and believing in unicorns! The belief in one is normal (proof or not), while the belief in the other is so unusual as to be ridiculed.
Frankly, I’m getting sick of the way you keep taking a word or statement or idea of mine, and taking it to a ridiculous extreme. When I say ‘proof’, I most certainly do not mean it in the mathematical sense! I mean it in the everyday sense of “I believe in gravity because I can clearly observe its effects” or “We think Mr. Green killed Mr. Body because traces of blood matching Mr. Green’s were found at the scene”. Neither of these things is proven beyond all doubt. For example, if Mr. Green were found to have a twin, that would throw doubt on the conclusion that he is the murderer. But (in the absence of a twin) it is proven to a reasonable standard of evidence. When I say I want evidence of God (oops accidentally capitalized that–oh wait, any word used in the manner of a name gets a capital), I mean I want reasonable evidence.
I want something that shows that the existence of a deity is the most likely explanation for what we observe. If I come across as cynical when I ask for this, well, it’s because I am. When I ask people for this, they tend to do one of three things: tell me they have evidence but never show it to me, tell me straight out that they can’t prove their god’s existence and I just need to have faith, or offer me ‘proof’ on a level that would be vastly insufficient to convince them of something they don’t believe in (e.g. aliens, magic, Zeus). For example, they might tell me about a ‘miracle’ in which someone recovered to a greater extent than expected from an illness they were receiving good medical care for, or that someone they prayed for experienced spontaneous remission of a condition that is known to have rare spontaneous remissions. Someone spontaneously regrowing a limb during a faith healing, however, would be highly convincing, as long as there was sufficient evidence to rule out fraud (regardless of whether or not real miracles occur, people do try to fake miracles, for various reasons, which makes this caveat necessary).
I don’t have a copy of Turek’s book, nor have I ever read it. It was suggested as part of a “you read this book, I’ll read a book of your choice” offer, but the other person didn’t follow through. I am open to making a similar deal with you. Suggest to me the one book that you think makes the best case against atheism and/or for Christianity, and I’ll read it (and blog about it), if you read a book of my choice.
But honestly I’m starting to doubt your sincerity. Your comparison with asexuality is not only not valid (absolutely no one uses asexuality to mean that! whereas many people use faith the way we do), but is also incredibly insulting and offensive. Asexuals already have enough problems getting people to acknowledge our existence without being compared to pedophiles for absolutely no reason! Asexuality has nothing whatsoever in common in common with pedophilia, and this comparison is on an entirely different level than, for fucks sake, using a random thing that most people think isn’t real to illustrate that ‘faith’ can be used to mean ‘belief without proof’. I suppose you think you’re trying to make me feel the way you feel, but all you’re accomplishing is getting me to see you as close-minded and unwilling to consider others’ point of view.
If you go for the book deal, I will go out and get the book and start reading it, just to show my sincerity. And if you likewise take steps to show your sincerity, then I will continue reading it. But if you don’t give me some indication real soon here that you are actually willing to consider my viewpoint, that you are willing to debate sincerely and fairly, then I’m done with this conversation. Said indication need not involve going for the book deal. Just do something other than twisting my words and insulting me and other commenters on my blog.
My reply begins by way of quoting Alex, however, the vast majority of my message turns into a reconstruction of our conversation, tracing back the details so to show whatever Alex believes just happened, didn’t actually happen. Doing so would probably be impossible in an in person conversation, though by use of an online exchange it’s as simple as rereading our points in order: ‘Frankly, I’m getting sick of the way you keep taking a word or statement or idea of mine, and taking it to a ridiculous extreme. When I say ‘proof’, I most certainly do not mean it in the mathematical sense!’
You really have to read the reply carefully Alex, honestly to write about clarifying ambiguity only to so badly misunderstand a point isn’t the best way by which to spring clean your assumptions. Let’s walk through the above step by step:
(1) You wrote: ‘In any case, I have had more than one Christian tell me straight out that they have no proof of their god’s existence. It then follows that their faith in their god is of the “belief without proof” type, though they might also have faith in the sense of trust.’ (OSC: So, certain believers you have come into contact with use “proof” in the above fashion).
(2) Due to which I replied: ‘The above would be mathematical proof, Alex. There are an array of things you’re reasonable to believe without having “proof” as so defined in the mathematical sense of the word.’ (OSC: My reply, defining furthermore how believing people would use the word “proof” given the context).
You’re surely aware by now my explanation with regards to how “proof” was being used didn’t have anything to do with how you defined proof (you’re irrelevant insofar as the above point is concerned), therefore when you wrote “When I say ‘proof’, I most certainly do not mean it in the mathematical sense!” you were just flailing in the dark, attacking an accusation nobody actually made against you. Puts your many accusations in perspective wouldn’t you agree? For when you write things like: ‘OSC, you keep claiming that we are being insulting to you, yet you are being more insulting than anyone else here!’ yet also are inclined to read a technical argument as an attack against you, your reaction only goes to show you’re not capable of judging when someone is actually attacking you in print (since when nobody is attacking you you have delusions they are).
You will not even acknowledge the importance of differentiating between when we use the word ‘faith’ to mean ‘trust’, and when we use it to mean ‘belief without proof’, and you keep insisting that our examples used to show the difference are insulting!
Again you have to read the replies, Alex:
(1) Maritza began by writing: ‘Religion isn’t always about facts. It’s based on faith, so it’s funny how some religious people try to establish their religion as “logical and factual” when it really isn’t. Religion can never be proven, so the choice is yours to follow it or not.’ (OSC: Undermining the views of “logical and factual” believers after having used her own definition of faith in place of their definition).
(2) Due to which my reply read: ‘So, Maritza is choosing to belittle a specially selected group of believers who do write faith to mean trust! Writing “logical and factual” means of course that that particular section of the believing population claim to trust based upon reasonable pre-conditions and evidences, hence their faith in God (oops capital letter 😛) is indeed a trust based belief. Maritza first applies her use of faith (blind belief), then continued to belittle a believing group who aren’t using her definition. Imagine a reply of mine that read like so: “Asexuality means being sexually attracted to toddlers, so it’s really funny when Alex Black says they aren’t into little kids.” You’d first reply “That’s not how I use the word asexuality! Why are you bashing me with a definition I don’t even use?” To which I (AKA Maritza) replies: “Well, I know some people who do use the word that way.” It’s irrelevant if others use the word in that sense because I’m using the slur to undermine you (who clearly doesn’t use it that way).’
(3) With which my reply clarified their use of the word even further: ‘To illustrate a difference in meaning would mean isolating said difference. So, let’s do that. According to Maritza (and very probably yourself) Religion is based upon their definition of faith (belief without proof/evidence), that’s claim one, having faith in a friend is unlike the faith one has in their religion/God (claim two), but why is one sort of belief justified and the other not, because supposedly the unjustified faith is akin to believing in something absurd or clearly untrue (i.e. unicorns!) So, is the claim “belief in religion is akin to belief in unicorns” being made, or perhaps it’s that they’re saying “belief in God is not unlike believing in unicorns”.
Well, clearly since your original post is in relation to Christianity, Judaism and even Islam the challenge is “To believe in God is akin to belief in unicorns”, because each of these belief systems largely consider their religion a set of facts and duties as dedicated to humanity by God wherein They reveal various truths about who They are. Rather than having faith in the religion the sorts of believers which are fair game for attack have faith in the God (i.e the source of their religion) who is revealed by way of Their revelation to humankind. So, an earlier poster most certainly went so far as to compare God to a unicorn, not to say they were one (a consequence being belief in God is painted to be as credible as belief in unicorns).’
Now, to “acknowledge the importance of differentiating” is simply what the above has done (and does thoroughly so). After having read the above you replied: ‘Of course there is a difference between believing in a god or gods and believing in unicorns! The belief in one is normal (proof or not), while the belief in the other is so unusual as to be ridiculed.’ I’ve actually shown you in what way belief in the two differs, you didn’t interact with the material however.
(1) ‘You rightly expect to find an elephant in your room when someone says they’re in there, you don’t however expect instant confirmation if the same person says there’s a flea or fly in the room. So to say “I can’t see the elephant, thus neither the elephant nor the fly is here!” isn’t in any way accurate.’
(2) ‘Now, your category error shouldn’t be made into a believer’s problem, right? Just because in your mind you have classed God (so it would appear) as a “mystical unicorn”, or mistakenly believe they are somehow analogous, that’s your mistake (not their problem). The inference from apparent lack of evidence for God to atheism is fallacious. “I see none” therefore “there is none” is clearly faulty.’
Much like your use of the No True fallacy (which is universally recognized as a fallacy) you also don’t realize an inference from apparent lack of evidence for God to atheism is also fallacious (hence a difference that need be addressed). It’s fair to say you don’t understand simply due to the fact you’re continuing to refuse to interact with the material one way or another. Nevertheless, another reply of yours read:
‘If I come across as cynical when I ask for this, well, it’s because I am.’ You’re disagreeing (or avoiding) really uncontroversial points, even avoiding things you can get a handle upon (the arguments) in favour of things you’re clearly incapable of grasping (my character). In print it’s clearly hard to grapple with a person’s character, there’s a lack of tone, gestures and many good natured things which may make a reader more comfortable. You continued: ‘But honestly I’m starting to doubt your sincerity. Your comparison with asexuality is not only not valid (absolutely no one uses asexuality to mean that! whereas many people use faith the way we do),’
A cynic doubts somebody’s sincerity?! Stop the presses. 🙂 To be a cynic is not to be a sceptic, perhaps you knew that, perhaps you didn’t, because when you write: ‘I mean I want reasonable evidence. I want something that shows that the existence of a deity is the most likely explanation for what we observe. If I come across as cynical when I ask for this, well, it’s because I am.’ Now, wanting reasonable evidence is the mark of a sceptic, not a cynic, cynics are more like universal killjoys who believe everybody is a slave to self interest. So to say you doubt me is funnily enough an autobiographical statement about how easily you (a cynic) view people as being this, that or whatever. With regards to my comparison between how a person could use or misuse a word like asexuality hereafter: You believe a point of logic is invalid because nobody uses the word like that (AKA it’s not happening in the culture), you do understand logic doesn’t work that way, right? A person could give you a logically valid example without ever entering into what’s going on in the culture (it’s applicable regardless).
In answer to your book challenge, you’ll perhaps be disappointed to read I’ve probably read more material on atheism than yourself (Dawkins, Hitchens and the majority of popular authors included). And considering much of their material is simply to restate David Hume or Russell or even internet blogs (in the case of Dawkins’ horrendous God Delusion) I’m imaging whatever material you added into the mix would be less than moving. Although I’d happily hear who you’d recommend, as they’re I’m sure someone I’d enjoy interacting with. The fact that writers for atheism appear to not make their case means either their readers are not receptive, or that they’re simply not making a compelling case. Similarly if a person you’re speaking with isn’t convincing. However, considering how you persist in avoiding conversations or threatening to remove yourself because you wrongly imagine you’re under attack, it appears to be the problem isn’t in the defender of the faith. In fact, to claim or try to attach yourself onto the blind belief definition of faith as the prime definition of faith (as Maritza did by applying it to “logical and factual” believers) is so dogmatic and obstinate as to be marvelled at.
Once again, you may extract yourself from the conversation any time you wish, you’ve already done so in two conversations of ours earlier when you felt discomfort or accumulated too many fallacious ideas. When my replies actually interact with your ideas the entire thing collapses, that’s not to say it’s me doing anything, rather the ideas are just so plainly faulty that they’ve already been in disrepair for hundreds of years. You refuse to define who is and isn’t Christian, wrongly define atheism and attach yourself to a non-Biblical, inaccurate definition of faith so that you and like minded posters can bash believers you dislike with a definition they don’t hold to! Just extraordinary. About feelings hereafter, your favorite topic, 😛 it’s not that any individual (least of all myself) is under attack, even in earlier messages the attack is against a certain type of believer in a very general way, not an attack on any one person, rather to insult a human face wouldn’t be done by either Maritza or yourself.
Rather if I write anything about bashing or vilifying it’s due to how surprised I am that your small community, a community of gentle souls who are so easily offended, are so quick to write in a broad brush and offensive way! It’s something else to read you yourself write things like you’re part of an ignored or unfairly malign community only to then ignore and unfairly malign a community. But with regards to me no, no I’m not at all offended, just rub some dirt on it and it’ll be fine. Concerning God and reasons to believe in God, because you’ve written: “I mean I want reasonable evidence. I want something that shows that the existence of a deity is the most likely explanation for what we observe.” Considering your wording (wording I’m rather pleased with) I’m adding:
1. God is the best explanation why anything at all exists.
2. God is the best explanation of the origin of the universe.
3. God is the best explanation of the applicability of mathematics to the physical world.
4. God is the best explanation of the fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life.
5. God is the best explanation of intentional states of consciousness.
A brief warning, using a “God of the gaps” criticism of the above isn’t viable.
Seemingly unable to defend their misdirected reply, Alex simply explains their book challenge, which brought me into reading from one of the weakest salesmen atheism has produced, Hemant Mehta: Actually, I was going to suggest Hemant Mehta’s “I Sold My Soul on Ebay”. It’s basically an account of an atheist who was raised Jain going to various Christian churches. The “soul selling” is a humorous take on how he auctioned off the ability for someone to send him to a church of their choice.
Making use of rather technical points, Alex can make an impressive tangle to work the knots out of, which takes care, patience and interest, thankfully I’ve had each while sharing views on their blog, even going so far as to have further exchanges with Black, ultimately climaxing in our exchanging book recommendations and their going offline. Nonetheless, I didn’t reply to Alex’s final message in the above, instead I went off to buy myself a copy of I Sold my Soul, as I’ve also done with the writer Jim Gordon, since I’ve purchased their recommendation of “The Misunderstood God”, by Darin Hufford. Ironically, I’m finding it a source of misunderstanding, as opposed to clarity on the subject of God. Nevertheless, Alex I hope is doing well, enjoying many conversations with believers in person, instead of merely internet back and forth. They’re fearfully and wonderfully made, in need of not simply the love of the world, but God’s love. Best wishes in your studies, Alex, you are to me but a stranger, still, you’re a stranger in my prayers. There neither you nor I are strangers to the Lord, who loves you dearly.
― T. C. M