Turning the Bible into Toilet Paper

I mentioned yesterday that I am in New Orleans this week to deliver a paper on homosexuality at the Evangelical Theological Society. Yesterday I came across an article that relates to the subject matter of that paper. In an interview with Details magazine, gay actor Ian McKellen says that he tears pages out of Bibles that he finds in hotel rooms. Some of the Bible pages are hung up in his bathroom as toilet paper. Here’s the exchange:

Interviewer: Is it true that when you stay at hotels you tear out the Bible page that condemns homosexuality?
Ian McKellen: I do, absolutely. I’m not proudly defacing the book, but it’s a choice between removing that page and throwing away the whole Bible. And I’m not really the first: I got delivered a package of 40 of those pages—Leviticus 18:22—that had been torn out by a married couple I know. They put them on a bit of string so that I could hang it up in the bathroom.

Interviewer: So did you?
Ian McKellen: It is in the bathroom, yes, but it’s too much of a curiosity to actually put to use.

What a futile enterprise. One would have to tear out far more than Leviticus 18:22 if one wanted to eliminate the pages that relate to this topic. One would have to tear out Genesis 1 and 2 where God first sets forth His creational purposes for male and female (Genesis 2:24). One would have to tear out Genesis 19 and Judges 19 where the first homosexual transgressions of that norm are manifest. Then one would have to tear out Exodus 20 and the command not to commit adultery (Exodus 20:14; cf. Deuteronomy 5:18; Matthew 5:27-28). One would then have to tear out every one of Jesus’ affirmations of Genesis 2 that establish the monogamous heterosexual union of a man and woman as the norm for human sexuality (Matthew 19:5; Mark 10:7-8). Then one would have to tear out Paul’s affirmations of the same (1 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 5:31) and his explicit proscriptions of homosexual behavior (Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:10). One would have to tear out the entire fabric of biblical theology to suppress this point.

One final note. Are biblical scholars who employ clever hermeneutical maneuvers to relativize the Bible’s teaching on human sexuality any better off than those who tear pages out of the Bible? I think not. And that’s the argument I will be making in my paper tomorrow.

McKellen’s protest is tragic beyond words. And it ought to evoke our compassion as much as anything. We should pray that McKellen would see the Bible for the treasure that it is (Psalm 119:97-104) and that he would see Christ for the treasure that He is (Philippians 3:7-11).

53 Responses to Turning the Bible into Toilet Paper

  1. Frank Gantz November 17, 2009 at 12:08 pm #

    This account is indication that even those outside the Christian camp understand that the Bible and homosexuality are not compatible. This action is deplorable, but more intellectually honest that the juggling done by some who want to cling to both Christianity and homosexuality.

  2. Mark November 18, 2009 at 2:09 am #

    I agree with Frank. At least the guy is intellectually honest. I have to put with this hoolah-hoop hermeneutics with some people at the school I go to just to justify their approval of something that is clearly condemned in the Holy Scriptures.

  3. D.J. Williams November 18, 2009 at 9:11 am #

    Say it ain’t so, Gandalf.

  4. Ben Mordecai November 18, 2009 at 12:28 pm #

    “I’m not proudly defacing the book, but it’s a choice between removing that page and throwing away the whole Bible.”

    I am completely unproud of wiping my butt with pages of the Bible that I don’t like, but unfortunately I am under moral obligation.
    -Ian McKellen

    This is sad. He can’t even admit that he is just so full of hatred for God that he has to soft-peddle it.

    Yet God can cause him to be born again and find repentance. Let’s pray that he does.

  5. Don Johnson November 18, 2009 at 1:37 pm #

    I think a Communist country accepted some Bibles and later they showed up as toilet paper, but the bleaching was cheap, so people could actually read parts from the TP, what a way to distribute the word of God.

    Also, I think it would be saddest if he was totally apathetic.

  6. Ron November 18, 2009 at 2:43 pm #

    I agree with you Dr. Burke. And maybe I’m being too critical… but is he flipping off the photographer in the picture? It would be consistent with his attitude if indeed that is what he is so slyly doing.

  7. Chris Carter November 19, 2009 at 3:14 am #

    Yep, political correctness reaches not only to art and statistics but to Scripture. One of the saddest parts of the whole situation is that if certain professed Christians hadn’t delivered trth without love we might not be in this mess.

    Ron: That depends on whether his ring-finger is straight. Since it’s not visible, I’m prone to think he hid it just to provoke this discussion.

  8. Polarbear November 19, 2009 at 10:59 am #

    What a sad depiction of a great actor. It did strike me though how on various topics believers like to do the same thing. We rip out pages that we don’t like or understand. Maybe not literally rip them out, but in our hearts and minds. We can try to justify certain behavior that we are are convicted about and if we can’t proof-text it, then we sometimes just “rip it out” and ignore it.

  9. Darius T November 19, 2009 at 11:40 am #

    “if certain professed Christians hadn’t delivered trth without love we might not be in this mess.”

    Could you explain what you mean, Chris? Maybe I misunderstand, but you appear to be falling into the false belief that if Christians just presented the Gospel with roses and tea, the world would believe. People reject the Truth no matter how “loving” it may sound. Christ came to make enemies just as He came to make friends. The Gospel forces people to make a decision… some are forced to reject, some forced to accept. No one is neutral. Blame Christ for Gandalf’s behavior, not Christians.

    That said, in some cases Christians would do well to present the Gospel while devoid of personal disdain for sinners.

  10. Lucas Knisely November 20, 2009 at 10:48 am #

    “People will hate you”, is a promise from Christ. When people revile Christians it is not an automatic indicator that the Christian is unloving, it is typically an indicator that the Christian is preaching the Gospel.

  11. Jon June 6, 2010 at 10:40 pm #

    The comments on this page are a cauldron of cliches.

    This is quite simple: people don’t believe in your God for lack of evidence. It has nothing to do with “how you present the message,” “hating God,” “hating you,” or anything else mentioned. It’s the message itself. Stop deluding yourself that we’re just poor ignorant heathens unaware of your precious truth; we know it and reject it. I don’t hate God, but I certainly despise anyone who would use religion as justification for murder such as clinic bombings, public execution of homosexuals, or the 9/11 attacks. Your holy book is responsible for many deaths. If you count yourself among the moderates who reject those actions, ask yourself what your book means when it says “shall be put to death.” I have never heard an argument against homosexuality except a religious text, and I’ve never heard a justification of that text on a rational basis without appealing to authority or revelation. If you can, please, enthrall Ian and me with your acumen.

  12. Ben Mordecai June 7, 2010 at 12:16 am #

    @Jon
    I’m sorry you find our comments so patronizing, but honestly we don’t see much difference between people despising the God of the book and despising God. It’s not a cliche, its actually a theological point. The natural, unconverted person is appalled by God. People deface things that they scorn. If I used your birth certificate as toilet paper, you couldn’t help but think that I hated you. Likewise if someone feels obligated to use the Bible as toilet paper then you shouldn’t be surprised to hear people accuse them of hating God.

    I want to take you seriously here, but your claims are outlandish.

    The Bible is responsible for [abortion] clinic bombings, public execution of homosexuals, and apparently the 9/11 attacks.

    Then you create a false dilemma that you must be either a moderate or you must condone the actions of murderers if you’re going to take the Bible seriously.

    I have to ask, do you know conservative Christians? Do you know anyone personally who has condoned the bombings or executions?

    There are fringe terrorist groups who adopt a Christian banner; sure. But if the Bible is to blame for that, then atheism is to blame for Joseph Stalin or Pol Pot, yada yada yada.

    Now to answer your question. What does “shall be put to death” mean? Answer: Shall be put to death. It’s not very enlightening, because it is not a very enlightened question. The better question is, “If the Bible says that homosexuals should be stoned, why don’t people who believe and want to obey the Bible
    stone homosexuals?” The answer is that the command was Israel’s theocratic law. Israel was in covenant with God and God gave them laws as a covenant nation. This was one of them. Israel’s theocratic laws applied only to Israel. We’re not Israel, so we don’t follow Israeli law.

    Also, if you don’t lack evidence why don’t you believe? You say it’s the message itself. You don’t believe things you don’t like?

  13. Jon June 7, 2010 at 7:03 pm #

    @Ben Thank you for the quick response though based on it I’m not sure how thoroughly you read my comment based on misstatements.

    The difference between judging hatred of persona via wiping one’s underside with the Bible and my birth certificate is simple: you believe I exist. I don’t hate God anymore than you hate unicorns. I was assigned an emotion toward a creature I don’t think exists; I corrected the assessment. Further, I think it ignobly presumptuous for anyone to tell me they know more about my feelings than I do. Wiping my underside with the Bible might be a sign I hate the Bible, maybe even Christians, but not unicorns or fairies or the God you may think it represents.

    If you can’t take me seriously, don’t waste your time presuming to know things I haven’t said and subsequently insulting me. Yes, I know conservative Christians who fully support abortion clinic bombings and, further if you would like to know how deep the valley runs, have called for the internment of all American Muslims because they “can’t be trusted.” But it wouldn’t matter if I didn’t know such people, because they exist and it’s well known to anyone who has taken even a minimal look at the issue. Yet again, I don’t presume to know you and would appreciate the favor returned. I know this is the internet, but that’s a general rule of respect; I hope you won’t take this as degrading, but it shows a lack of sophistication on your part.

    There’s a clear difference between the deaths caused by bin Laden and Stalin. UBL says he does what he does BECAUSE his religion demands it. Stalin did not say he did what he did because his atheism demanded it. This is hackneyed, so I’ll leave it here – the justification of murder using a certain principle proves the principle bad and not incidentals (colloquially, throwing out the baby with the bathwater). Stalin also enjoyed drinking milk, but you wouldn’t blame his career on that.

    Yet again with the presumptions, you’ve interpreted my question the way you want and then answered that instead of what I asked. I meant what I said – the Bible is ridiculous GENERALLY when it calls for death sentences, not only on the specific issue of homosexuality. I’ll assume your answer is general, then. If you’re not beholden to Jewish (not Israeli, but semantics) law, then drop this nonsense of injecting it into civil rights issues since it is justified only by religious texts. I asked for a rational justification of either a) the anti-homosexual platform without appealing to a holy text, or b) said text without appeal to authority or revelation. There’s no question here. You don’t even try.

    I stated clearly that I (and all nonbelievers) lack the rational evidence to believe in God and that my disbelief has nothing to do with all the points listed, and that now includes your addition of “I don’t want to believe” (again with the presumptions – how do you know I’m not a nonbeliever that wishes it was true but am just upset it isn’t?). You apparently misread that part. I say it’s the message itself because the message is unsupported. The message “the world is round” gets my full support. The message “take no thought for the morrow” does not.

    You also misrepresent me as having said that the Bible is responsible for 9/11 – I clearly said “I certainly despise anyone who would use religion as justification for murder such as … the 9/11 attacks.” That would be UBL. He’s a Muslim. I would assume you already knew this, but if you did it means you purposefully misrepresented my statement. And that would be presumptuous of me.

  14. Jon June 7, 2010 at 7:38 pm #

    @Ben

    I poorly worded the statement “This is quite simple: people don’t believe in your God for lack of evidence.” I meant that people who don’t believe in God do so because there is no evidence. On a second reading, I see how you probably read it as “people who believe in God do so because they have evidence.”

    Apologies for the poor wording; the error was mine.

  15. Mairiam August 24, 2010 at 11:47 pm #

    @ Jon

    Just remember that even if you don’t believe in God. He is still crazy in love with you and you can chose to ignore it all you want, but he is into you big time.

    I’m not so worried at this point about intellectually agruing God into your head. Clearly, it is closed. If you want to open it, CS Lewis and Lee Strobel are great reasoners for you to look into.

    I’m also pretty sure God isn’t overly worried about your head. He wants your heart. All of it. If he gets your heart– he’ll get your head and your hands too. I dare you to crack it open–tell him to show himself to you. If he is a unicorn, well, then you have nothing to worry about. But if God is there, man, are you in for a romance of a lifetime.

    He loves you with an undying love. He is reckless in his love. Get ready.

    XOXO

  16. Jon August 25, 2010 at 11:27 am #

    @Mairiam

    Thank you for the reply and the way in which you’ve worded it.

    Unfortunately for that issue, I find both Lewis and Strobel to be entirely unconvincing in their arguments over God’s existence (let alone YHWH over any other supernatural force). Aquinas is much better suited to convince me, because he’s able to complete a syllogism when neither Lewis or Strobel quite can, but his syllogisms are unsupported.

    In all seriousness, I’m looking at my bookshelf now and on it sits every word I could ever find that C.S. Lewis wrote (even a book of letters which were never published). His argument for God in Mere Christianity rests on the idea that men share a morality throughout the world and that it is an absolute morality. He then claims that if there is an absolute, objective then there must be someone not subject to the scale in order to have created the scale upon which to begin. This strikes me as obviously false and goes along with Lewis having a hard time with evolution – never quite accepting it, never quite denying it because the implications of both sides were pungent to him.

    I am not a psychologist, cognitive scientist, or expert on the mind in any way. But I do know that most Christians argue that there is an objective morality simply *because they want one*. That is, they’ll say, “if there is no objective morality, you are free to do whatever you wish. Ted Bundy murdering people can’t be ‘bad’ and Schindler saving people can’t be ‘good.’” But, of course, this has nothing to do with learning about reality, only what we wish reality would be. Lewis does a poor job on this. So, if there is not an objective morality, Lewis falls apart. Let’s take the converse.

    If there is an objective morality, then it is entirely conceivable for me that it arises not from supernatural dictate (more on that in a minute) but from purely physical observations which cannot be denied. Essentially, if there is an objective morality then I derive it from two laws of nature: the Law of Identity and the Law of Causality. The first establishes that a thing is itself, that a rock cannot be a leaf at the same time, that you cannot have your cake and eat it too. The second establishes that all events subject to time and forces are the result of a previous action not necessarily intelligent, that you must bake your cake before you can eat it. These two laws are the basis on which both the United States and the Constitution were founded, derived from the Enlightenment and the writings of John Locke, Thomas Paine, and others. From them we find that all men must be considered equal and that you can make no claim on me unless I am able to make the same claim on you, i.e. my rights end where yours begin. Immediately, all C.S. Lewis’ complaints on the derivation of an objective morality are answered. Why do we all agree that murder is wrong throughout the world? Because unless I am willing to accept it done freely to all including myself, I *cannot* do it to you. Same with theft, etc. Lewis is admirable in that he notices that it was not Jesus who first delivered the Golden Rule, men had been practicing it for millenia prior.

    The next problem with Lewis’ argument is the absurdity that results from believing that God is “outside” good and evil rather than subject to them. This is a famous philosophical problem: is what is good that way BECAUSE God commands it or does God command it BECAUSE it is good. If you believe the first, you must sit there and tell me that if God commanded rape without any justification other than “I want to watch” you not only would do it but you would be glad to and morally obligated. This is the stand Lewis takes. I find it impossible. If you believe the second, you must accept that morality exists outside of the commands of God.

    Lastly for Lewis, poor guy could never complete a syllogism, he has no argument for why (skipping all I’ve said so far and just assuming there is a God hypothetically) it should be the Christian one. He freely admits in his personal writings that it’s because that’s what his friends were rather than an intellectual convincing. In the book he says that Jesus must have either been a Lord, liar, or fool. Then he says since he doesn’t believe he can be a liar or a fool he concludes he must be a Lord. This really is laughable.

    As for Strobel, it’s quite the difficult task to filter out the emotional appeals, but I think I’ve managed to do it and his argument boils down to this: a man once rose from the dead and his name was Jesus which shows he was God. I’ll skip the fact that for every piece of evidence there can be applied to about two dozen other “messiahs” at the time. I’ll skip the fact that there are modern claims of resurrections in the Far East of people claiming to be God and literally thousands of eye witnesses *still alive* claim to have seen it but you reject their claims instead embracing a several-times-translated book. I’ll go right for the Bible and take its version of events as true. The Gospels tell us that all the graves in Jerusalem opened up and the dead walked the streets (Mat 27). Coming back from death seems to have been rather something of a banality. How is it that among thousands of dead walking the street you’re so eager to embrace *this one* as living? Strobel really, really wishes no one notices this.

    Lastly, I do not accept emotional appeals as you have suggested. To do so is morally bankrupt. Whose moral appeal should I accept when both you and the Muslims can make one and each of you promises hell if I don’t agree with yours over the other? Should I take it “on faith”? Then what is to stop me from taking on faith that the Westboro Baptist Church isn’t the true one? For that matter, what is to stop me from taking the idea that I can fly if only I’ll jump off a building on faith? We simply *must* apply a mental filter to things we wish to believe. I am here to tell you, Miriam, that there is absolutely nothing in my life which I take on faith and it is an INCREDIBLE weight off one’s shoulders. All the love and joy and beauty you feel in your heart is freely available to me, but instead of directing it toward a God which has never shown his face or even his hand, I give it to its rightful owners: the universe, my galaxy, my sun, my planet, my fellow humans, the flowers and trees, the animals. No, I do not worship any of these things. I do not think any of them divine. I find their mortality, like mine, to be wonderful and make them even more special to me. I, an atheist, have but one life to live. I must make all of it I can.

  17. Charlton Connett August 25, 2010 at 11:52 am #

    Jon,

    I submit that you may have misunderstood C. S. Lewis’ argument. His argument might be better recognized as the absolute reality of justice. That is: every man knows when he has been wronged. You don’t have to teach someone to be indignant when others abuse them. The absolute morality for which Lewis argues seems to derive from this universal recognition of justice and injustice.

    It has, admittedly, been years since I’ve read through Lewis’ arguments myself, and perhaps I am misstating his position, but from what I recall I was struck by the fact that he made his argument in the fashion of justice as opposed to attempting to state exactly what universal morality he was proposing. I think his position is significantly stronger when understood in the conceptual argument of justice as opposed to a single moral system. Moreover I think it rightly conforms to Scripture more effectively.

    I applaud your search, Jon, and I agree with you that Lee Strobel, while popular, is not that useful for serious apologetics.

    I personally prefer and have enjoyed historical apologetics over other arguments, and I think that if you read serious writers in that area you will find some fairly compelling arguments on the historical reality of Christ’s death and resurrection. May your search for truth be blessed.

  18. Jon August 25, 2010 at 12:01 pm #

    @Charlton Connett

    No, Lewis *specifically* argues that Right and Wrong (capital, e.g. entities) exist on an absolute scale and that they could not have come into existence short of divine intelligence. I don’t mean to be rude, but it seems as though you stopped on page 12 or so. Your reply is the equivalent of thinking Fahrenheit 451 is about a fireman who is good at his job.

    Do you have any recommendations of arguments for God’s existence? I thought I was done but I’m happy to expand the search. The only modern apologist worth mentioning is William Craig (I wouldn’t refer to him as “Dr.” because I’m unconvinced he has contributed to wider human knowledge and would point out that while this may be considered an insult to him, I consider my opposites an insult to real thinkers), but he employs cheap tricks which even I can see through (and confirm via real philosophers).

    Thanks.

  19. Jon August 25, 2010 at 12:02 pm #

    @Charlton Connett

    I meant i.e. not e.g. Sorry, I was in a hurry.

  20. Chris August 25, 2010 at 3:14 pm #

    Jon I wonder why you decided to post here. There is much I could say but without knowing your motivation for being here it’s difficult to know where to start.

    So while I am glad that this is an open forum for discussion… why are you here?

  21. Jon August 25, 2010 at 3:26 pm #

    @Chris

    “So while I am glad that this is an open forum for discussion…”

    Implying that you don’t approve of me posting here? Luckily, I don’t require or seek to gain your permission or approval to post a comment, so grant it or not as you choose. To be frank, a man who doesn’t know what he wants to say so says instead that he doesn’t know what to say doesn’t warrant much effort on my part.

    If you would like to discuss some topic be my guest to lead the path; I think I’ve replied to any question I’ve been asked on moral or spiritual issues.

    This is a blog, the point is to exchange ideas and spark conversation. The comments on this page before my first reply had gotten several things demonstrably wrong and so demanded correction. The topic has since moved away, but that’s because I’ve been asked further questions. If you would like to know “why I’m here” I would suggest reading the comments on the page top to bottom.

  22. Charlton Connett August 25, 2010 at 5:20 pm #

    Jon,

    I’m sorry, perhaps I misstated my thoughts on Lewis earlier. I do not mean to imply that C. S. Lewis did not believe in an absolute morality. He certainly believed in Right and Wrong. My point is that his understanding of absolute morality seems to derive from his understanding of the conception of justice. Moreover, I don’t recall him giving an exhaustive universal ethic (yes, parts, but not a full prescriptive ethic that has been fully embraced in all societies at all times). My point was only that his argument is not defeated in saying, “There is no universal ethic” because to do so you would first have to illustrate that there is no universal conception of justice, as that underlying principle makes the universal Right and Wrong basically a necessary development, but not the primary vehicle in itself.

    As far as particular apologists, I don’t know who you’ve studied. If you are dead set on believing that there is no God, that is, if you are committed to your position, then there is quite possibly nothing I, or anyone, could say or do to move you from your position. There are many very intelligent atheists who remain such after long and serious examinations of the evidence of apologetics. There are intelligent atheists who have become committed Christians after they examined the evidence of apologetics. Does this illustrate that the evidence is defective or is not compelling, or does it demonstrate that when a person is fully committed to a belief almost nothing will shake them from that position?

    Frank Herbert, in Dune, wrote a line that I often think about, in a paraphrased way. He said that it is impossible to teach someone who already knows. I tend to think about that often. When we are convinced that we know, then there is little room for us to actually learn anything new. This cuts both ways.

    Your statements have so far been rather dogmatic, Jon. My assumption is thus that you are committed to your atheism. I have seen otherwise intelligent people go through extensive contortions to avoid the logical force of arguments when those arguments go against a position to which they are strongly committed. I could tell you what I think is a rather humorous story about a fellow student in one of my philosophy classes who tried to argue that Anselm’s argument on God’s existence could be used to prove that a car was God, if a car was the greatest thing which he (the student) could conceive. No matter how I tried I could not get him to understand that that-than-which-nothing-greater-can-be-conceived is the logical postulation, not simply an argument to say, “Whatever the greatest thing you can think of is God.”

    Do not misunderstand me though. I am not claiming that my position is any less dogmatic. Certainly, my commitment to God colors how I think about arguments and the world. I think my position is the most logical, of course, but then everyone does. If you held that your position was less logical (or reasonable, take your pick) than another, why wouldn’t you change to the more reasonable?

    If you want to know what methodology of research I would recommend, I’d be glad to share. But it really wouldn’t be useful unless you are willing to divorce yourself from a philosophical commitment to atheism.

  23. Chris August 25, 2010 at 6:31 pm #

    Jon why you are so angry? I implied nothing! I wrote what I meant nothing more nothing less.

    If you can’t answer the simple question as to why you are here I see little reason to engage with you.

  24. Jon August 25, 2010 at 7:26 pm #

    @Chris

    You asked an impossibly vague question in a morally offensive way. What can I be except dismissive?

    Do you want to know why I’m on this blog? Do you want to know why I think I exist? Do you want to know what meaning I derive from life? Do you want to know where I think life comes from? All of these can be expressed as “Why are you here.”

    Better communicate your ideas and I’ll engage you more to your satisfaction. Until then, I have nothing to say.

  25. Jon August 25, 2010 at 7:31 pm #

    @Charlton

    You’ve put a lot on the table, and I’m happy to get you a reply within a day.

    In the meanwhile, may I ask why this thread which I last commented on in the early summer is several months later suddenly getting a slew of Christians calling me names? Is there some forum or something?

  26. Chris August 25, 2010 at 8:06 pm #

    “Do you want to know why I’m on this blog?”

    Yes exactly! But it’s not something you desire to answer. Very telling indeed!

  27. Jon August 25, 2010 at 8:10 pm #

    @Chris

    It’s amazing how you think I’m angry when you’re the one who’s actually being rude. If you had asked “why are you on this blog” to begin with I would have gladly answered it. Instead you asked “what are you here” which I couldn’t interpret. In light of the way you’ve treated me, I won’t talk to you any further. If someone else asks the question nicely, I’ll gladly answer. Or, if you want to ask it under a different name I would answer then. As it is, no, I don’t respect people who are rude and arrogant.

  28. Charlton Connett August 25, 2010 at 8:51 pm #

    Jon,

    Can you clarify where anyone has called you any names? And can you clarify what you mean by a “slew” of Christians?

    All I can see are Mairiam, Chris, and myself. (Within the last two months.) In rereading the posts, I don’t see where any of us called you any names. Mairiam said God is madly in love with you, Chris asked you why you are here, and I noted that I think you have misunderstood C. S. Lewis and seem to be committed to an atheistic world view. In fact, the only ones to respond to you more than once so far have been myself and Chris. I don’t mean to be critical of you, but you do seem a little defensive. Is there a reason for your apparent defensiveness, or are you not being defensive and I have failed to understand you correctly?

    Chris’s initial question, read in context was perfectly clear as well, I might add. Read in context he stated, “There is much I could say but without knowing your motivation for being here it’s difficult to know where to start.” (Note the use of the word, “motivation” thus indicating that his interest is in why you choose to be “here.” In context “here” must mean this particular forum as “here” would be strained to indicate anything else.) Only after he stated that did he then move on to ask you why you are here. Thus his question, rightly understood from the basic context is, “What is your motivation, or what ultimate (or basic) purpose do you have, for engaging in conversation on this particular forum?” To say that you could not interpret what he meant from the context of the question does not demonstrate that he failed to adequately express himself. (In any given exchange of information in a written form, there may be an incident of inadequacy in the conveyance of information on the part of the writer, there may be an issue of inadequacy in understanding the written information on the part of the reader, or both may suffer from inadequacy. To assume that the writer is at fault without first establishing the adequacy of the reader is premature.) From reading his original question to you and the following exchanges I think you have been overly dismissive in calling him rude. Then to say “in light of the way you’ve treated me, I won’t talk to you any further” is highly condescending of you.

    As to why there is significant activity on this thread despite its age, it is likely because whenever anyone posts a comment on a thread there is a link to that comment on the main page. I tend to look at the main page and read over most of the comments linked to from there, and post comments in threads where I feel I can contribute to the discussion. My assumption would be that Chris did the same thing. There is no Christian conspiracy at work here, unless you count the conspiracy between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in sovereignly directing the affairs of the whole world.

  29. Jon August 25, 2010 at 9:10 pm #

    @Charlton

    I meant “slew” as hyperbole. I didn’t insinuate that there is a conspiracy, I just didn’t know that comments get posted to any main page so I didn’t know what was going on and my day has been interrupted by three people, lol. I’ve been called angry, unwilling to listen to logic, “committed” meaning unreasonable, and evasive all AFTER Chris said, “So while I am glad that this is an open forum for discussion…” indicating (whether he likes it or not) that some part of him wishes the case were otherwise.

    “To assume that the writer is at fault without first establishing the adequacy of the reader is premature.” This is offensive. Flagrantly. I’m tempted to call off the discussion completely even though I really did like your last reply and wanted to take some time to write out a good response.

    You and I have been on relatively good terms so far out of a mutual respect for criticizing ideas rather than people. For example, you called my statements dogmatic rather than calling me a dogmatic person. While I disagree with that sentiment, I am not in the least offended by it because my ideas are free for criticism. You are now on razor’s edge of insulting my intelligence itself into question, which crosses a clearly understood line among educated people. You have already insinuated that I’m being defensive. That isn’t the case at all. The reason both of you think I’m “angry” or “defensive” (or any other term you’d like to describe my passion) is because whereas you seem to consider tone of voice the determining factor for whether something is moral, and I consider the idea itself being pushed.

    Further, the interest of having a conversation rather than a preaching would dictate one long reply each before making another. Otherwise, it is more of a show than a discussion. You now have two large blocks of text which will require an answer. In all seriousness, I don’t have the time to knock out more than one at a time.

    My original reply to this post was literally months ago. I have no idea how Mairiam came across it, but she put forward two apologists for me to read. I answered her that I find them unappealing. How about we’ll leave it at this – I find Chris’ comments absolutely unbearable. I can’t stand his idea of ethics or the way in which he thinks he knows my emotional state of being. He presumes to know me when he doesn’t, and he’s come quite close to dragging you in the bog. You’ll be happy to know my massage therapist says I’m carrying no stress at all these days. My passion is not defensive, angry, or mean. It’s honest, it’s fair, and it’s set directly against your side of things. That doesn’t make it vitriol. Vitriol is insinuating that your opponent lacks a proper literary background. I invite you to take a look at my bookshelf anytime, sir.

  30. Jon August 25, 2010 at 9:37 pm #

    @Charlton

    By the way, you fell short of actually asking, “What is your motivation, or what ultimate (or basic) purpose do you have, for engaging in conversation on this particular forum?” I would love to address this, so I really do hope someone asks it. My answer in brief I gave in summary above, which is that if you read my first couple of comments you can easily tell what my motivation was. One such motivation, as an example, was to correct the idea that by wiping your underside with a page from the Bible you therefore hate God. This was never challenged further so I stopped discussing it.

    I think we would all do well to bear in mind that Denny Burk wrote the piece which sparked several Christians to shout cliches. I merely corrected them. So, I suppose I’ve broken my promise after all. Oh well. That is my motivation, Chris, to correct the initial comments left on this thread which were an inaccurate description of what/how atheists think.

  31. Jon August 25, 2010 at 10:35 pm #

    @Charlton

    Alright, finally done for the day so I can sit down and write a worthy reply. Let’s be honest, my last two were an insult to the language. I swear, these hours are going to be the death of me.

    Lewis’ argument for God would be defeated by a proof of subjective morality because his argument rests on the *requirement* for an “igmoral” creature to produce some aspect (in this case, morality) of the universe. If you would like to refine his argument to “justice” instead of “morality” that’s fine but I have to ask for definitions before I can begin to address it. If you are saying that there is a *concept* of justice in the world, I would gently remind you that says nothing of its existence. “Life’s not fair,” seems to pretty easily disprove that notion empirically.

    “As far as particular apologists, I don’t know who you’ve studied.” Bah humbug, Charlton! You have to do better than this. Either someone has a proof of God or he doesn’t. This nonsense of “well, there are several and I don’t know which will work on you” is intellectual pedantry. You know full well that you as a Christian have an argument which “convinces” you. If there’s more than one, that’s fine too. Obviously it’s not all of them because you agreed that Strobel is the Christian equivalent of Dan Brown.

    “If you are dead set on believing that there is no God, that is, if you are committed to your position, then there is quite possibly nothing I, or anyone, could say or do to move you from your position.” You are absolutely right and this works both ways. Luckily, I’m not at all “committed” in the sense that I am unwilling to listen to arguments. I am a scientist. It is my job to find out the truth from trial, observations, mistakes, and corrections. I am joyously aware of how ignorant I am and take great pride in my pursuit to change that by some small amount before my time is up – hopefully as much as possible. It would probably help to assert that I am not a “strong atheist” in that I do not claim there is no God. I am an agnostic atheist, agnostic meaning without gnosis and atheist meaning without theism. Ergo, I do not claim to know whether there is a God but I live my life under the assumption there is not until such time that I can be shown otherwise. Half of these debates usually boil down to determining who has the burden of proof – given your past comments, surely we can agree you do.

    I do like Dune, but I haven’t read all of them. My Christian friends keep badgering me to finish. Sci-fi is that contrary genre that I hate to love but find myself falling for over and over. Ray Bradbury is my new favorite author.

    “Your statements have so far been rather dogmatic, Jon.” I have no idea what sense of the word “dogmatic” you mean. Atheism has no dogma. It has no Bible or pope or central tenants. It is not an idea; it is the rejection of an idea. This really is critical for you to understand if you’re going to talk with atheists. If by “dogmatic” you mean “fierce” then I quite agree but I don’t see this as a negative. If you mean “unsupported” then please point them out. Indeed, your position is dogmatic. You have a holy book.

    “If you want to know what methodology of research I would recommend, I’d be glad to share. But it really wouldn’t be useful unless you are willing to divorce yourself from a philosophical commitment to atheism.” If you hadn’t already said so yourself, I would have pointed out that you make the assumption that I am, “committed.” …In my view, you could learn a little about how to say what you really mean. ;) “Committed” sounds crippled…gives hints of “institutionalized.” “Unable to be reasoned with” would have been better, but I’m guessing you precisely didn’t say it that way in order to try and avoid offending me. I take that sort of passive aggressive language as stylistically dreadful, so it usually turns me off more than the thing which the other person is actually saying.

    That aside, I really don’t understand what in my comments has given you the idea that I’m “committed.” I said that I have purchased with my hard earned money every word I could find which Lewis had written. I said that I have read Strobel. I said that I have read Aquinas. Does that really sound like someone who wants to avoid the issue and not look at what the other side has to offer? If by “committed” you mean “as of yet unconvinced by any argument thus presented” then indeed I am. That hardly means I didn’t honestly work through them.

  32. Charlton Connett August 26, 2010 at 10:00 am #

    Jon,

    As a way of opening, I must say that you are the only person who has ever said that I could use work clarifying what I mean. (At least since 10th grade.) I tend to say exactly what I mean. I might posit, as I have previously, that you seem to have a bit of difficulty understanding things from reading context. That is when someone says, “dogmatic” you jump through all the potential meanings in order to say, “well you could mean ‘fierce.’” In context dogmatic would necessarily mean “fixed” or “absolute”. As to what I meant? From Webster.com, first definition of the term “dogmatic”- “characterized by or given to the expression of opinions very strongly or positively as if they were facts.” This would be the most natural reading of the term in the sentence where I used it. Note in particular that it focuses on the “very strong” expression of opinions.

    If I am going to have to work with such constrictions that you want me to make a point of absolute clarity in every post then there really would be no point in attempting a dialogue. A single typo on my part could lead to claims of ignorance or a loss of logical connection. It is on this basis that I made the previous point that you criticized Chris from a fault that was not his, but was in fact yours based from a clear reading of the text. However, working with the assumption that you actually are not going to be so pedantic (you may choose either of the following definitions for the term, they both make sense in context: “narrowly, stodgily, and often ostentatiously learned,” wherein being such would preclude the potential of any normal rational discourse for need of absolutely precision language, or “of, relating to, or being a pedant” where pedant would mean, “one who is unimaginative or who unduly emphasizes minutiae in the presentation or use of knowledge” or “a formalist or precisionist in teaching” wherein I would mean one who is overly precisionist) I will attempt to actually address your responses.

    (If the above seemed insulting, that was my point. Your discourse has seemed such to me, as though you are attempting to require a conversation that would need me to indicate exactly what definition I intend by each and every term and word used. I would certainly assume such a standard if I were using philosophical terms or words that could have multiple meanings and no clear context by which to determine the meanings, however, as of yet, that has not been the case. Allow me to further clarify the first sentence, lest there by any misunderstanding, my intent with the preceding paragraph was not to insult you, rather your discourse has seemed insulting to me, in that you are making broad assumptions, stating them as facts, and then utilizing them as verbal weapons with which to attack your opponent. I intend to illustrate my point in the following paragraphs.)

    To parse:

    I’ve been called angry,

    Christ specifically asked, “Why are you so angry?” His question was in response to your response to his initial question, which was, admittedly, a bit terse (read your last sentence in the first paragraph of your first response to Chris). However, I have no real intention of defending or apologizing for someone else. Therefore, I will simply agree, you have been called angry, by one person, one time. That seems hardly an assault worthy of debate, but it is so acknowledged.

    unwilling to listen to logic,

    Specifically Mairiam said you are intellectually closed to evidence regarding God. If you wish to assume this as an insult then that is an assumption you are certainly free to make, but it doesn’t make it true. For instance I am intellectually closed to listening to evidence for Buddhism’s claims. I don’t find that insulting to admit to at all, I have simply done enough reading and studying that I don’t find the claims persuasive, so I am now closed to additional argumentation.

    “committed” meaning unreasonable, and evasive [I am assuming that you intended evasive to go with this comment as I could not find a particular instance of anyone calling you "evasive"]

    I called you “committed” and I in no way said that made you “unreasonable” or necessarily evasive. I noted that I have seen committed people go to great lengths to avoid logical implications, but I did not say that made you evasive. Again context helps here.

    Here is what I said, along with a following statement that should give light to the contextual event surrounding the discussion: “Your statements have so far been rather dogmatic, Jon. My assumption is thus that you are committed to your atheism.” And, “Do not misunderstand me though. I am not claiming that my position is any less dogmatic. Certainly, my commitment to God colors how I think about arguments and the world.” Thus, any criticism that might be launched at you, or any insult that might be directed at you for being “committed” would also necessarily apply to myself, as I use the term in mirror application to myself.

    Note also that the term “committed” follows the placement of the idea of “dogmatic” thus “committed” in each situation must be read as a result of a dogmatic stance, or an indicative attribute of being dogmatic. Thus when I said you are “committed” what it would mean is that you have a strong rational attachment to your belief system. You are not “uncommitted” in the sense of someone searching for a new belief system or one who recognizes necessarily internal failings of their system and wants to find a way to shore up those failings. Your commitment expresses itself in the method that you state your positions with the force of facts, even while the position must necessarily be the conveyance of a matter of opinion. Thus it is dogmatic.

    all AFTER Chris said, “So while I am glad that this is an open forum for discussion…” indicating (whether he likes it or not) that some part of him wishes the case were otherwise.

    Chris’s statement in no way reflects your assumption here. He stated that he intended only what he said, nothing more. I will thus, in an effort of charity, assume he is telling the truth. Therefore, his statement means simply that he is glad this is an open forum, that you can be here for any reason whatsoever. In context his statement has even more meaning as it indicates that he is unable to ascertain the specific reason that you have chosen to engage in this forum (which you lately provided) because this forum is, in fact, “open”. Thus there is nothing sinister or malicious in his statement, to read such indicates an attitude on the part of the reader that is not present within the author.

    “To assume that the writer is at fault without first establishing the adequacy of the reader is premature.” This is offensive.

    Yes, as was your response, “You asked an impossibly vague question in a morally offensive way” to Chris. You assumed a level of moral superiority with that response, my intention was to indicate that you had no actual reason to claim such moral high ground as Chris’s question was clear and not deficient, as you indicated.

    You have already insinuated that I’m being defensive.

    I insinuated no such thing. I directly stated that I think you’re being defensive. =)

    That isn’t the case at all.

    So noted. I will try and read your responses with a charity that assumes you are not being defensive.

    The reason both of you think I’m “angry” or “defensive” (or any other term you’d like to describe my passion) is because whereas you seem to consider tone of voice the determining factor for whether something is moral,

    I break here only to take umbrage with your use of the word “moral”. One can be defensive and be moral. One can be angry and be moral. Tone is not necessarily indicative of morality. No comments made thus far have impugned your morality based on your tone.

    Further, the interest of having a conversation rather than a preaching would dictate one long reply each before making another.

    Depending on the circumstances, perhaps. If you make a brief comment loaded with assumptions which must necessarily be unpacked and addressed I may not add anything at all to my overall argument. To say that each side should only give a certain limit of information in an exchange is to impose arbitrary restrictions on dialogue. Without good reasons I will not accept such limitations. To say, “it seems preachy” is, to me, just whining about tone, which you have already noted is not necessarily indicative of morality, and I have agreed to such. Let us lay this red herring aside then and engage in actual conversation, however that conversation may necessarily take place, without restricting ourselves to say, “Oh I can’t post 1000 words because he only wrote a response of 50.”

    My passion is not defensive, angry, or mean. It’s honest, it’s fair, and it’s set directly against your side of things.

    It seems that this is part of the nature of being defensive. That is, to be defensive means to ward off attack, or to be set to protect against attack, or to be in a defensive position means being prepared or in a position to defend against an attack. To state you are not “defensive” but then to state that you are passionately set against my position is somewhat contradictory in terms. The assumption of passion indicates commitment, and a commitment to any position makes one necessarily defensive of that position. But again, to read you with charity I will assume you are “passionate” but not defensive, though I’m not entirely sure of the distinction.

    Perhaps you could elaborate or clarify your position? I’ll attempt to engage with you in the manner you choose.

    “As far as particular apologists, I don’t know who you’ve studied.” Bah humbug, Charlton! You have to do better than this. Either someone has a proof of God or he doesn’t. This nonsense of “well, there are several and I don’t know which will work on you” is intellectual pedantry. You know full well that you as a Christian have an argument which “convinces” you. If there’s more than one, that’s fine too. Obviously it’s not all of them because you agreed that Strobel is the Christian equivalent of Dan Brown.

    I did not initially offer a specific apologist because different people do find different arguments to be impressive. For instance, Dr. Stephen Jay Gould was not overly impressed with the Precambrian explosion, but he was with other challenges of the fossil record. None of the things which he admitted to find inexplicable were sufficient to move him from his intellectual position, but he did find some more awe inspiring than others. (You’ll have to take my word on this, or you could write and see if Dr. Kurt Wise would recount his discussions with Dr. Gould in this area. He is a young earth creationist who studied under Dr. Gould for his Ph.D.)

    However, I think William Dembski, Michael Behe, Ravi Zacharius, Norman Geisler, Irenaeus, Francis Schaeffer, Pascal, G. K. Chesterton, Josh McDowell, William Lane Craig, Philip Johnson, and Gary Habermas, and even Anselm, all give useful arguments for the evidences of Scripture or the necessity of God. Not every work published by any of these men is of equal weight (for instance I wasn’t particularly thrilled with Dr. Zacharias’s Jesus Among Other Gods as I found it was written at a popular but less thorough level. I enjoyed reading it, and I’m sure it was effective for its audience, but it is a question of who the audience is for each book.) In fact, I still hold that Anselm’s ontological argument is an effective and useful method of demonstrating the necessity of God’s existence. I don’t think Kant’s critique was effective at destroying the argument, though many modern philosophers would disagree with me.

    I will attempt to address your comments on Lewis in a future post.

  33. Jon August 26, 2010 at 10:17 am #

    @Charlton

    I propose that we drop talking about each other and return to more intelligent and appropriate conversation. Deal? Believe me, I would love to respond to your criticisms, but I’m restraining myself in the effort to move back toward discussion of ideas instead of people.

    As best as I can understand, you seem to accept Anselm’s ontological argument as proof that God exists. Do I really need to point out that including existence in something’s definition is circular logic? Just because you travel along the circle from point to point (i.e. like a line) that doesn’t mean it isn’t a circle.

  34. Charlton Connett August 26, 2010 at 10:33 am #

    A brief comment on justice:

    To say, “life is not fair” does not empirically prove justice is not real. It proves that justice is not experienced. That which is not experienced is not necessarily not real. Justice, as an idea, is testified to by the universal existence of the idea, not to the occurrence of the idea in life.

  35. Jon August 26, 2010 at 11:14 am #

    @Charlton

    Fine point, and I agree. The difference for me is that the concept of justice can be easily seen to arise from purely natural phenomena. If the cookie is mine then I have been wronged if you take it whether a deity says so or not. This is in contrast to the concept of an absolute morality which asks whether we can ever be objective. It is also in contrast to justice actually existing in the world which would give the first evidence ever for an outside force imposing on the universe – that is to say, if I steal your cookies and am immediately punished by an event for which we cannot assign a cause, we are suddenly moved to consider unnatural causes.

    By the way, half the reason I didn’t like the “dogmatic” being thrown around is that I’m actually very controversial in secular communities because I don’t agree with a subjective morality (as most do). I think there absolutely is an objective way to determine whether something is wrong and it is based on Identity and Causality, as I mentioned earlier.

  36. Charlton Connett August 26, 2010 at 9:22 pm #

    Jon,

    A circular argument is not necessarily wrong. For instance, I may say I have a wife because I am a married man. You may ask how you might know that I am married. I could tell you I am married because I have a wife. This is a perfectly circular argument, but it is not wrong.

    However, Anselm’s argument is not circular. His argument has to to with the necessary properties of a perfect being. He states that existence is a necessary property, for that which exists is greater than that which does not. Therefore, if God is a perfect being, possessing all attributes in a perfect sense, then he must also possess existence. His argument is not, properly speaking, circular.

    But, even if it was circular, so what? It isn’t like Anselm said, “I am positing that a flying spaghetti monster exists, therefore, because the flying spaghetti monster exists, there is a flying spaghetti monster.” He stated, “I posit that that-than-which-nothing-greater-may-be-thought necessarily exists, because other wise the thought that-than-which-nothing-greater-may-be-thought-does-not-exist is in fact a greater thought, which would be a contradiction in terms. Therefore, because that-than-which-nothing-greater-may-be-thought must necessarily exist only a fool can doubt its existence. That-than-which-nothing-greater-can-be-thought is God, for only God possesses all attributes perfectly, and is therefore that-than-which-nothing-greater-can-be-thought. Therefore, God exists, and that God is the perfect God of Christianity as he is posited and described in Scripture.”

    I have abridged and shortened the argument somewhat, but this is the gist of the argument. Whether it is circular is irrelevant, the question is whether or not it is logically cohesive and correct. That’s why I find the argument persuasive, I think it is in fact logical and cohesive.

  37. Jon August 26, 2010 at 10:22 pm #

    @Charlton

    For the same reason that you dismiss all analogies others use to show why this doesn’t work (i.e. a perfect spaghetti monster), your analogy of why you are married is wrong. In that case, you are married because you have a court document stating the government recognizes your marriage. You have a physical person who lives with you, etc. The question doesn’t at all bring into question whether a conceptual notion has an existing manifestation. I understand that you’re using that to …show why circular logic is acceptable, I guess?… but I still need to point that out. Just because you can find something which happens to be true using reason and then apply circular logic to it does not mean that circular logic is a valid method to determine things.

    Imagine if you were an alien visiting earth for the first time and you were told “a husband is a man with a wife” and “a wife is a woman with a husband.” You might well know what a man and woman are, but you would still have no idea what a wife or husband is. To actually learn this you would need to say, “a wife is a woman who has made a commitment of exclusiveness for sexual faithfulness and other aspects of life values to a man (who is then called the husband). This, in fact, is what makes a wife a wife, NOT that she has a husband.

    “But, even if it was circular, so what?” LOL. Then it isn’t an argument is what. It’s a proposition, not a supported conclusion. I had hoped you would move to the next level of argument, but apparently we’re stuck at square one. I would like to talk about how no human actually CAN think what a perfect being would be like (because that would require perfect thinking which we lack), but I refuse to go down that road until you address the horrendous fallacies in your last post.

  38. Jon August 26, 2010 at 10:27 pm #

    (By the way, do people other than yourself really take this seriously? I really don’t mean to sound crass, but I had learned this as, “Gee wasn’t this silly? What a con man!” I never dreamed I would find someone who not only believed it but argued it convinces him God is real. Do any modern apologists use this? I’m honestly curious where it lies on the scale of usual arguments.)

  39. Charlton Connett August 27, 2010 at 10:06 am #

    Jon,

    Most modern philosophers (that I have talked to and read on the subject) reject the argument because they accept Kant’s assertion that existence is not a predicate. Until Kant’s rejection the ontological argument was considered one of the strongest arguments there was. (Albeit, Aquinas rejected the argument.) The argument itself is still widely discussed. I’m rather surprised you were taught to disregard the argument without any real thought. I would say that anyone who teaches such is a very poor philosopher. Here’s a link to the wikipedia article on the subject, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ontological_argument.

    Obviously there is much more that could be said on the defense of the ontological argument, but, while brief, I think the wikipedia article is at least fair. Moreover it explains Kant’s method of rejecting the argument rather succinctly. His logic is hard to follow, and I don’t think it is persuasive, but you can read it and make that decision for yourself. They even mention that some have said it a circular argument, but that isn’t the most common critique of it, nor do I think it is the fairest critique.

    So, where in Anselm’s argument would you argue there is an error? For what reason do you find the argument flawed? Modern scholars often scoff at that which they think has been disproved. But, they also often mock at that which they cannot disprove in order to avoid having to address it.

    At this time I’m not going to bother defending the idea that a circular argument can be a valid argument, because that does not add to this discussion. However, I do reserve the right to readdress that point later, though I may introduce it in a different method, arguing for the necessity of logical feedback loops.

    As to the occurrence of the ontological argument in modern apologetics, it isn’t common. Hence why I noted that I still think it has impact, as opposed to the cosmological and historical arguments, which I also think have force, but which are far more common in modern apologetics. My point was not to say that the ontological argument is the only, or even necessarily the strongest argument, but only to indicate that I think it is still a valid argument, despite it’s critics. (Alvin Plantinga has given a version as well though, and he is a modern apologist, so some do still use it.)

  40. Jon August 27, 2010 at 10:14 am #

    “At this time I’m not going to bother defending the idea that a circular argument can be a valid argument, because that does not add to this discussion. However, I do reserve the right to readdress that point later, though I may introduce it in a different method, arguing for the necessity of logical feedback loops.”

    If you will not admit that circular logic is not a means to learn, then I have nothing else to say because you have proven yourself unable to be reasoned with. I will give you a simple example, and then I leave it up to you.

    “A horse is a man.”
    How can you know that?
    “Because a man is a horse.”
    But, wait, that’s circular!
    “Doesn’t matter, it’s logically coherent.”

    This is same argument as your “man is a husband if he has a wife because a man with a wife is a husband” except that you chose something which is true by reason and I chose something which is false by reason. The proposition is different but the supporting argument is the same.

    I refuse to acknowledge any points you make until you address this.

  41. Jon August 27, 2010 at 11:15 am #

    One last thing, I thought we were done with ad hominem, but you just…keep…insisting.

    “I’m rather surprised you were taught to disregard the argument without any real thought” is not only an ignorant statement but a false one a that. Yet again, you are directly insulting my intelligence rather than address the points I bring to bear. My exact quote was, “I really don’t mean to sound crass, but I had learned this as, ‘Gee wasn’t this silly? What a con man!’” This in NO WAY indicates that I didn’t seriously consider the argument before disregarding it as incredibly stupid, as you say. How DARE you insult my philosophy professors whom you don’t know? You show an utter lack of sophistication; you sound like a college freshman.

  42. Chris August 27, 2010 at 11:35 am #

    Charlton I admire your patience! I trust all is clear to you now.

    Thanks for your support! I appreciate it although it was unnecessary from my viewpoint. The truth always, always rises to the surface!

  43. Jon August 27, 2010 at 11:45 am #

    LOL!

    Seriously, this is one for the ignorant argument history books. Charlton argues that circular logic (a formal logical fallacy) is an acceptable means to gain knowledge while insulting my philosophy professors for not teaching me better. That alone is mind-boggling. But THEN Chris thinks that me refusing to move on unless he corrects this is an indication that Charlton is actually winning! All I can say is that I take it as quite a comfort that people on your side are the ones arguing in favor of formal logical fallacies and high fiving one another after my side refuses to move on until you address them. If that counts as a victory in your book, by all means take it.

  44. Charlton Connett August 27, 2010 at 11:47 am #

    Jon,

    If you want to terminate the discussion based on a point that is at best secondary, then so be it.

    As to your argument, “A man is a horse because a horse is a man” such an argument is logically coherent and demonstrates that you either do not know what a man is, or what a horse is, or that you intend something different by the argument than what would normally be meant. (Thus, while coherent, your argument is either false, or you need to clarify it.) A premise that is demonstrably false being used to support another statement that is demonstrably false is a failure in logic, not because the two premises are based off of one another, but because the premise is demonstrably false.

    The normal example of a circular argument would be, “That creation is good can be known from the excellence of God as its creator, whose excellence can be known from the goodness of creation.” Such an argument is perfectly coherent, but only those who are willing to agree to the two premises mutually stated will be persuaded from it. The argument is not logically invalid, it is simply not compelling.

    You may say, “I don’t find that compelling because I don’t think creation is good.” If I were to say, “but you see, creation is good because of the excellence of God.” Then you might respond that you don’t believe that God is excellent, or that the excellence of God necessitates a good creation. You could even say that I have assumed the excellence of God based on the goodness of nature, which you have disputed, therefore I must prove my point in another way. In other words you can take issue with one of the premises of the argument, and by doing so unravel the whole argument by requiring me to prove that premise by other sources, but simply saying that the argument is illogical is not an argument. (Now if I said, “peanut butter tastes good because God is good” you could argue that the conclusion does not logically follow, and you would have a point. In fact you could criticize this argument as illogical based on multiple points.)

    If you want to say that circular argumentation is a logical fallacy, then that is fine. Circular logic is a fallacy in that the only support given to the conclusion is a premise that assumes the conclusion to be true. That does not mean the conclusion is not true, or that the argument is wrong, only that in order to make the argument compelling additional information must be added. Not all fallacies make an argument false.

    You are perfectly within your right to say, “Wait this premise assumes the conclusion, I want additional proof of this premise before we allow it.” But, once a premise is proven, if the conclusion is inherent in the premise, and the conclusion necessarily reinforces the premise, then we have a logical loop that is both true and circular. Thus: If I can prove A exists, and then I demonstrate that by necessity A implies B, and that B implies A, and thus B is true and thus A is true then for all future references the logical argument A implies B and B implies A is a valid argument, and it is circular. I’ll acknowledge that this method is not purely circular, but my point is that a circular argument with recognizably true premises is valid, whether or not it is circular.

    You want proof that a circular argument can be a means of learning? The only way we can determine this is if we examine a specific circular argument that claims to be a means of learning. I have made no claim that there is such an argument. In fact I said I was willing to let the whole issue drop because I don’t think the ontological argument is circular, nor do I intend to utilize purely circular arguments. (I reserved the right to argue for logical feedback only because I don’t know if such events will arise. It is possible that we might discuss an argument where one of there might be such an instance, where two premises do mutually support one another or the conclusion indicates one of the premises which then leads us back to the conclusion, thus reinforcing it based upon its initial proof.)

    If you would like proof that I’m not a lone nut in saying that circular arguments are valid you may look here: http://www.philosophypages.com/dy/b2.htm#beg. Note that my argument has only been as to the validity of circular arguments (and only has been an argument of validity) not to the use of such arguments. Validity, soundness, and compulsion are not the same thing.

    But I’ll utilize your method of argumentation if it is what you are comfortable with: I refuse to acknowledge any further points you make until you either withdraw your statement that the ontological argument is circular, or you prove it is. Otherwise you have demonstrated that you are not capable of being reasoned with.

    (I don’t really care about the ontological argument if you don’t find it compelling. Unless you would find it compelling if it could be proven, I’m not particularly interested in proving it as true. The ontological argument is in fact a secondary issue. But this is the means of argument you have chosen, to stand on secondary issues wherein we might have some logical disagreement. Is it the method which you wish to proceed in?)

  45. Chris August 27, 2010 at 11:55 am #

    Jon for someone who thinks they are so smart you sure completely miss the point quite often.

  46. Jon August 27, 2010 at 12:02 pm #

    Charlton,

    Agreeing on basic matters of reason is not secondary. You have claimed that a method of knowledge is valid which allows the proof of literally anything. So long as a justification for a proposition can be considered justified by the proposition, any statement is true or false as you choose. Therefore, yes, we’re done.

    If I were you I would not have staked my claim on so terrible a plot as defending circular reasoning. That was your choice; discussion of the existence of God with you is therefore pointless. If you had admitted that circular logic is not a means to gain knowledge and then moved back toward the apologetics, I would have not only agreed to move on but I would have gained immense respect for you for recognizing and admitting a mistake. I go through that exercise daily – what I think explains today’s experiment often fails to explain tomorrow’s. This is standard procedure for me, so maybe I’m a bit too harsh in expecting it from others, but there it is.

    Anselm’s ontological argument begs the question, which is a formal fallacy. If you are not willing to recognize that reason is the tool by which we learn, then it is simply not possible to have a discussion on any philosophical matter whatsoever. This is not “secondary” but primary. It is the foundation upon which any conversation must be built. You wanted to discuss God. So did I. But you assumed his existence then tried to prove it. When I called you out on this you insulted me. When I called you out on THAT, you went back to the assumption. If you think of yourself as an intellectual, you really should be ashamed.

    I sincerely wish you the best in life. Honestly. I hope whatever you’re doing you’re enjoying it and have continued success. I will seriously look up the apologists you’ve listed and read them. I will read them critically but honestly consider their work and thoughts.

    I know Pascal better for his work on the Torricelli space. WL Craig has in public stated that he doesn’t understand why the burden of proof is not on the agnostic, so he’s out, sorry. And I know more about biology than Behe (I’m familiar), so I can’t do that one, either. But the others I will look up.

    Cheers!

  47. Charlton Connett August 27, 2010 at 2:39 pm #

    Jon,

    I’m writing this to quickly address one of your other comments: “How DARE you insult my philosophy professors whom you don’t know?” and “Yet again, you are directly insulting my intelligence rather than address the points I bring to bear.”

    I’m sorry, you really are presenting yourself as someone who is incapable of understanding either (or both) logic or normal expression in writing. My statement was, “I’m rather surprised you were taught to disregard the argument without any real thought.” Now one thing immediately jumps out: This statement doesn’t insult your intelligence. It says you were taught to to disregard the ontological argument without giving it thought. If you were actually taught the argument could be dismissed with, “‘Gee wasn’t this silly? What a con man!’” (Your words not mine) then you were taught to dismiss it without thinking. Whether or not you have thought about the argument is irrelevant to what you were taught.

    To argue I have insulted you is in fact an insult to logic. Unless you can demonstrate that insulting what someone was taught is an insult to the individual. Your argument is like a child being saying, “How dare you call me an idiot for being taught the thought of Santa Claus is idiotic!” No one insulted you, I only addressed your claim of how little you were taught to respect what is still a debated argument within academic circles. (You even admitted to not realizing the argument was discussed, again illustrating ignorance in the matter. Be aware “ignorance” only indicates a lack of knowledge, not an insult to capacity, ability, or desire.

    Now if you want to say I insulted your philosophy professor, again you have made a statement that I did not. I did not insult the man, I predicated my statement with an “if”. Moreover, my shock at how little you were taught would have to be stretched to be indicative of an insult. I’m equally shocked at how little the average student is taught of logic or economics in high school. Does that mean that I am insulting all high school teachers?

    However, I will stand by my statement that any philosopher who basically says that Anselm was a “con man” (your words, again) is a poor philosopher. Such a person treats a man who attempted to address a question within his own time and ability with so much sophistication that his argument is still discussed as no more than a huckster. This is neither philosophically correct, nor historically accurate. To insult those whom we disagree with because we do not like their arguments is childish.

    So, Jon, are you going to continue saying I insulted your philosophy professor? Or did you poorly articulate how you had been taught to think of the ontological argument? Are you going to continue to say I insulted you, or are you willing to acknowledge that my statement was nothing of the sort?

    At this time you are acting like a person who cannot be reasoned with. I can make assumptions as to why that might be, but that would be engaging in ad hominem attacks. You may want to try reading things twice, or illustrate the flow of your logic, if you want to lay charges at my feet again. I have better things to do than engage in argument with someone who is incapable (either by dint of ability or preference) of understanding basic written English.

  48. Jon August 27, 2010 at 2:49 pm #

    I hope that will count as your last word. Thanks.

  49. Charlton Connett August 27, 2010 at 2:53 pm #

    Jon,

    I’ll lay aside the fact that your last comment was basically an implicit insult toward my ability to think logically. I would highly recommend you read a little more basic philosophy, particularly in the use of terms and argumentation. I don’t mean this to be an insult, but you don’t seem to be able to grasp arguments as they are given and you are currently engaging in a straw man as a reason not to debate with me. I cannot commend this slip-shod use of logic. I do wish you the best in whatever you are doing, I simply hope that you become more adept at handling logic in the future.

    (By the way, WM Craig has given a very good reason for why the burden of proof should be on the agnostic. To simply dismiss him because you don’t like having the weight put on your shoulders demonstrates more about the weakness of your position than it does his argument. If you want to dismiss a philosopher it is better to actually engage his arguments than to attack his conclusion. Attacking the conclusion is a logical fallacy, in case you weren’t aware.)

  50. Jon August 27, 2010 at 3:01 pm #

    Charlton,

    You’re incredulous. I tried to say goodbye in a nice way that showed that I have no hard feelings toward you personally, and I valued some of what you had said because I would be willing to read your recommendations.

    You took that opportunity to completely ignore my sentiment and use Realpolitik to justify your rude behavior (even while continuing it).

    Stop trying to reignite the conversation; I’m big enough to let you have whatever last word you want because the transcript clearly shows you tried to argue in favor of a logical fallacy and refused to acknowledge your own mistake. Whatever you say beyond that is moot, in all seriousness.

    “I do wish you the best in whatever you are doing, I simply hope that you become more adept at handling logic in the future.” Oh how badly I wanted to sign off like this, too, Charlton! How badly I wanted to leave a snide little prick in my otherwise kind regards! But I decided to be a little better than that, more manly, more moral – I decided to leave you with an honest friendly goodbye. You ripped that up and threw it away; I’m really not sure how to leave you. I won’t reply to you again no matter what you respond. You’ve demonstrated incorrigible disrespect to me. Thanks.

  51. Donald Johnson August 27, 2010 at 4:40 pm #

    FWIIW, I do not accept Anselm’s argument that God exists, nor any other philosophical argument for this. I do believe God exists.

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