|Mr. Setzer, you write|
Which starting point the atheist uses will depend partly on the nature of the audience he addresses. This statement is true in particular, but false in general.
The first step in any address, or discussion, is the definition of terms, and after that is the showing of their relationships.
Now if the subject is a rationally based one, such as physics or finance, then the audience's level of knowledge, ie. the definitions of certain terms and their relationships, may be presumed, and in this case will depend on the audience, and the address or discussion taken from that point forward, whereupon new definitions and new relationships will be presented, advancing the audience's knowledge to a higher level. But if the subject is a nonrationally based one, such as religion or reincarnation, then no address or discussion about it is possible since there are no meaningful concepts to discuss. Thus, in the case of nonrational subjects, the address or discussion never gets passed the point of the definition of terms. For this reason, all addresses and discussions of nonrational subjects begin and end at this point, and thus do not depend on the audience.
Mr. Funk, to my statement
This first question is dealing with Pascal's wager, or any argument for believing in the existence of the supernatural is: How do you define it?you respond,
It's a good place to start any discussion. I also doubt the discussion will end there.In the case of supernaturalism, it ends there, since there is no way to proceed from there as my reasoning clearly shows.
What happens when they define God, then tell you about some sensation they had whereby they perceived that God exists? Perhaps they say they saw him, felt him, or heard him. Unless you want to repeat "no you didn't:" to their (possibly honest/sincere) "yes I did," you'll need to move beyond that. 1) They can not define "god," they can only make a meaningless sound with their mouth and/or write down three meaningless letters in a string. 2) Sensing, seeing, feeling, or hearing are information pathways between reality and the mind defined by specific causal interactions and by the nature of these interaction can be generated only by existing things in the natural universe, and thus can not be used to prove the existence of a supernatural concept because they can be referenced only to things in the natural universe. 3) You can not move beyond this because there is no logical way to do so, and thus any continuance beyond this point devolves into abject irrationalism. You're not getting it here, kid.
I should also point out that Pascal's Wager is not Pascal's Proof - . . . It leans more toward the pragmatic side - . . . The purpose of the original argument is not that God exists, but that acting as if he does "makes more sense." That is false. If a notion is accepted as true on the basis of some line of reasoning, that line of reasoning, no matter what it is, is by implication being used as a proof and thus must be regarded as such. Therefore, Pascal's wager not a pragmatic argument, but an attempt to prove the existence of a god disguised as a cost/benefit analysis.
Your argument, despite how much I like it, may be a little misdirected.My argument is not misdirected, it precisely and correctly isolates the essential attribute of rational epistemological which is relevant to this question which is that concepts of the supernatural, not pertaining to the natural universe, are on principle undefinable, and thus unprovable.
Mr. Osborn, in your post #12 you proceed to construct a table for the cost/benefit analysis of Pascal's wager, apparently oblivious to the meanings of my post #3, that a "god" is not a definable concept. Further, you attempt to win the argument for atheism by pointing out that the probability is changed in its favor by raising the problem of not knowing which god to believe it. First, you fail to realize that your entire argument is based on undefined concept and therefore completely meaningless, and then go further attempting to introduce a multiplicity of undefined concepts for comparative analysis. Yeeeeech!
And others also continue writing as if the concept of a god is definable, Mr. Keer in Post #6, Mr. Marotta in Post #7, Pete in #16, etc. Doesn't anybody get it?
Mr. Stolyarov, you write in your post #10,
However, while your argument is true (I think), it will not persuade anyone who does not already share Rand’s (and your and mine) view on what concepts are definable – and it takes a lot of hard work to get people to adopt that view. That is true. But the argument for atheism is an essentially and irredeemably epistemological one and therefore there is no other way to do it.
My endeavor here is not to shake the believers’ faith . . . I aim to show that this particular move to persuade me to believe in God will fail . . .
You may say that you have convinced yourself not to believe in a "god" by Pascal's Wager, but your reasoning presumes the defineability and provability of concepts of the supernatural, and thus have by implication surrendered rational epistemology to mysticism. What good does it do to save yourself from the belief in a god in particular if you accept the basis for believing in all forms of supernatural in general?
Mr. Keer, you query in your post #6,
How do their [born again fundamentalists] mind work, I wonder?
I can tell you. They just believe whatever they damn feel like.
When reason and reality are surrendered as a means to knowledge, there are three possible replacements. Emotions, physical feelings and the authority of others. A mystic of spirit, such as a believer in a god, choses emotion as a standard of truth.
This standard regulates his thoughts in a very simple and straightforward manner: those thoughts which give him positive feelings he believes, those which give him negative feelings, he disbelieves.
For example, he feels the need to know how the universe began and what makes it evolve. Believing there is a god which created it and controls all its happenings fulfills this need and satisfies his need to know, giving him a feeling he likes, so he believes it. He feels the need for a purpose for his life, but doesn't know what it should be. Believing that god will supply this purpose fulfills this need, giving him a feeling he likes, so he believes it. He feels alone and insecure. Believing that his god is a universal protector and provider from who he can summon assistance makes him feel secure and he likes it so he believes it. There is injustice in the world which goes unpunished. He doesn't like this, especially the injustice to which he himself is subjected. Believing that his god will right all these wrongs gives him a feeling that justice will be done, and he likes this so he believes it. Etc. etc.
This is the process of emotion based thought. It has nothing to do with reality or reason, and is based entirely on the avoidance of negative emotions and the acquisition of positive ones, all by merely believing the necessary concepts to generate them. As long as he maintains his emotions as a standard of truth, merely twisting his thoughts in the appropriate manner guarantees his happiness. This creates a happy carefree state of mind which is virtually impermeable to any emotionally negative disruption, and which requires very little effort to maintain, providing him with all the happiness he could ever wish for practically for free. It also breaches all contact with physical reality and the clashes with it this causes make his life a living nightmare. So he laments if it wasn't for that awful physical level and the law of causality tying him to it, he could find eternal bliss. Which is why the mystics of spirit hate the physical level of existence and want to escape from it.
What he likes more that anything, however, is having his emotions in control of his mind because this is the key to way of existing. What he hates more that anything is reason, because this smashes his delusions and pins him to the actual truth, happy or sad.
Now you can see what trying to reason with somebody like this is going to be like. You can disprove the existence of god, and all supernaturalism, but no matter what you say or how clearly you say it, it isn't going to matter because he isn't going to like the way it makes him feel, and not just for the specific emotions he must surrender, but because the implicit acceptance of logic as a means to truth will knock his feelings out of control of his mind in general. Now you might think that there is some logical argument or some way of putting it to him that would get passed his emotions and make him see the truth, but when you realize that the truth of what you say doesn't mean anything to him, but how it makes him feel, it is clear that it will never happen. This is why reason is ineffective against a mystic. It also why trying to reason with him is a complete waste of time.
Now because they can not carry this state of mind to a full extreme without destroying themselves, as they sometimes do (Jim Jones, David Koresh), they must maintain at least some measure of rationality. So as long as he remains functionally alive a rational state of mind must coexist with this non-rational state, but because they must coexist he must vacillate back and forth between them, toward reason as his survival requires and toward emotion as circumstances permit.
Now this vacillation goes on in his mind all the time, and since he knows that it is the rational side of it that keeps him alive and the emotion driven side that destroys him, it requires a constant process of self-deception to block from his awareness the truth of his self-destructiveness. This continual lying steadily becomes an ingrained pattern of behavior that forms a psychological blockage which shields him from the truth. No matter how much damage he does to himself, or how many continents he and his brethren slaughter, he thus continues to deny reality and preserve his feelings. This is the source of the evasion in the mystics and the reason that it is wrong to treat their atrocities as honest errors of knowledge. It is true that they don't know any better alright, but only because they have lied to themselves to the point where they can't tell what the truth is anymore. All they have left of their minds in the ability to know how they feel, and as long as their doing god's work they feel like their doing the right thing.
That's basically how their minds work.
It's pretty sick, isn't?