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Old 07-26-2009, 02:28 PM   #67
Samuel Dravis
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Originally Posted by Achilles View Post
I guess I'm still not seeing it.

Christians believe that jesus was the son of god, born of a virgin, who died for our sins and was resurrected after three day to ascend into heaven.

That part alone hits every single branch on the way down out of the superstition tree.
I'm not sure you've quite understood the point I was trying to get across. Those are religious concepts, but not necessarily superstitious ones. As per my definition, they do not arise from fear, misunderstanding of biology, etc. They are taught to a person and incorporated into their lives, like any other cultural phenomenon.

One can believe in the virgin birth without being superstitious because it is taught to one as something given. --Well, is it possible that you could have a virgin birth? But that was never in question; it happened, and that's that. Sort of like criticizing Zeus' ability to fire lightning bolts by saying, "No one can do that; it's ridiculous to even think about it." You'd have missed the point at any rate.

Well certainly there are all manner of things that I cannot rule out. We have yet to observe omnipotence or omniscience in nature. That doesn't mean that they don't exist. But that also means that we don't have good reasons to think that they do.

So if one were to suggest that we should accept those claims without observing them in nature, then they must remain supernatural constructs until such time that we can move them into the "natural" column.

And, obviously, the burden of proof is on the person making the claim in the mean time.
I have absolutely no clue what "evidence for the omnipotence" of God in nature is supposed to mean. There is a religious mythology which includes a God which can do anything it wants, i.e, omnipotence. The closest thing I can come to within that religion is the existence of the universe - often a favorite among theologians - but that is obviously not scientific evidence of any sort. But this sort of investigation is the wrong direction to look in.

God is often said, for example, in Psalms to be almighty. There's a tendency to take this at face value, though, which would be simply wrong. Reading the whole of Psalms, you discover it is a book of praise from ancient times, similar to how a supplicant might address their Emperor. "Oh almighty Caesar, with such purply robes and esteemed forehead...."

And we're to take such a thing as if it were to mean that Caesar is an omnipotent being? Not only that, but we want to find evidence for the hypothesis that Caesar is an omnipotent being? You see my point.

Incidentally, St. Anselm was guilty of this exact mistake when he formulated his ontological argument. The Psalms were written long enough before he came around that he was able to pass over (accidentally, I'm sure) what was actually being said in them and create metaphysics where there was none.

As per above, I'm still not seeing it.

Locomotion is rampant throughout the animal kingdom. Many species are capable of bi-pedal locomotion. There is a naturalistic explanation for why it is that you can walk, run, waltz, tango, break-dance, etc. Surely it is amazing in the same way that our opposable thumbs allow us to efficiently utilize tools. You are right to say there is nothing "unnatural" here.

But where is the rationale for omnipotence? Where do we see vestigial parts in the evolutionary chain of history? We don't. It's...supernatural. One "being" alone allegedly possesses this trait (depending on who you ask) and we have absolutely zero evidence that any of it is true.

You're saying that christians don't have to believe in the supernatural to be christians. My question is, how in the heck can you still call them christians if you take away all the christian doctrine? What is left?
You're treating Christianity as if it were something other than what it is: religious teaching. I'm sure you know how people come to believe in it as well as I do. Why equate that with information gleaned from more modern rationalistic methodologies?

There are two ways to treat any subject of knowledge. Either you can look at it subjectively, i.e, in this case through the eyes of the believer, or objectively, i.e., study what causes people to say what they do in order to understand what it means for them to say it.

You ask what the rationale is for God's omnipotence. Here's the objective treatment: that's how it is in Christianity. You can poke around and find reasons why this is so from a nearly unlimited supply of theologians, the influence of Aristotle on Christian thought in the middle ages, interpretations of Biblical passages, from the history of the Jewish people and their religion, from how their culture was in antiquity and how it changed through time.

Now compare this with your "looking for evidence of omnipotence". You're interested in getting to the truth of the matter, undoubtedly. But if that's so, then your questions should not ignore your knowledge of modern-day religion as a long-running historical and sociological phenomenon. Doing so would be similar to making the mistake Anselm did: extracting a word from natural discourse and divorcing it completely from the original context, and then becoming confused at why it was so hard to justify.

I agree with you completely that Christians believe in the supernatural. I just don't see that belief in the supernatural entails superstition. Modern Christianity has changed so much - I'm sure others would say, "insulated itself against criticism" - that belief in it does not necessitate belief in magic or what-have-you. The common idea that "nothing bad can ever really happen to me as long as I believe in God" is not contradicted by getting into a car accident.

Surely an omnipotent being would be able to do something to convince you, Mr. Dravis. Even my skepticism doesn't go that far.
I'm sure it could persuade me. But it couldn't prove to me that it was God, in the sense that doubt would be logically excluded. Once you start proving/giving evidence for things, doubt always enters the equation as a matter of conceptual necessity in English.

I understand but these are all horrible reasons for belief. They are understandable reasons, but that doesn't excuse that they are horrible reasons.
Horrible reasons for what? Yes, they're quite horrible reasons for believing in something. Touchyfeely nonsense, that would be. But my point with those paragraphs was that a religious conviction does not necessarily arise from reasoning, nor is it necessarily dependent upon reasoning. It's just something that people do.

As such, I direct you back to your own source:

"a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation"

Unless I'm missing something, christianity is superstition per your source and your argument above.
My personal experience with being Christian when I was younger fit none of the above. I was taught religion, that's it.

Okay, and how is this not special pleading?
I did give you reasons not to consider religion and religious statements as if they were some sort of science. Just the way both ideas are learned should demonstrate that they're obviously not.


Per my arguments above, I maintain that you might be missing the point. The argument is not that superstition is a necessary component of christianity. The argument is that christianity is itself superstition. Their is no duality to separate and contemplate individually.
Okay, I'm just trying to make this clear again: I am not, and have not, attempted to argue that all of Christianity is unsuperstitious.

I merely disagreed with the label of superstition for Christianity because a social practice is not necessarily superstitious, even if it includes supernatural elements. I attempted to show how this is possible by giving you a different idea of how people "learn" their religion, or are converted into it. The reasons people may enter into a religion may not fit the definition of being superstitious. They do not have to be ignorant of science or logic, they do not have to be afraid of the unknown, they do not have to trust in magic or chance, they do not have to have a wrongheaded idea of causation-- and they can still accept something like Christianity. Why? Because it is not necessarily a replacement for the other ideas we may already have. It's a way to live your life-- something additional.

People accept these mythological stories and they provide background and direction to their lives. They don't necessarily expect those beliefs to come to any actual difference between the course of their life and that of an atheist's.

Again, I am open to seeing arguments to the contrary, but in the mean time I maintain that if you attempt to remove the superstition from christianity you will find that there is nothing left after you are finished (you may have some nice stories promoting securlar humanism, but that's it).

Thanks for the interesting discussion, Mr. Dravis.
I'm not interested in removing the supernatural from Christianity, I'm merely pointing out that belief in Christianity is not necessarily superstition. Thanks to you, also.
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