Imagine yourself as an asthmatic little boy, don’t miss my drift here I’m not trying to be mean! Imagine yourself as the young boy from the movie Signs: starring, Mel Gibson. Good movie by the way, I’m kind of craving another viewing as we speak! Back to the topic at hand, it’s dark, you’re starting to walk through the corn field with nothing but a small flashlight because your dog got startled and ran off. It’s really eerie and kind of quiet. All you hear is the wind lightly shuffling the leaves all around you. As you look straight ahead about three rows in front of you, eyes adjusting, you can barely make out some kind of obscure figure, it looks as if you may not be the only one walking around on two legs rather than four! Suddenly, you are blinded by a beam of light and….

Well, then I appear. Pull up a chair my friends because there is nothing wrong with being a skeptical person in light of having considered all of the available facts about a matter. I’d like to illustrate why arguing for a position of faith is a little bit like sending a beam down from a spaceship and sucking people into the portal, so to speak! The spaceship of course represents the realm that is not known to us fellow earthlings, yet it doesn’t stop us from wondering, am I right?

In light of my previous arguments about how faith is clearly differentiated from knowledge, I’d like my believing friends to consider why Theism must argue from the top-down, rather than from the ground-up? Theism implores everyone to simply accept the authority of the Bible, as well as its divine claims, and it does this without bridging the gap. That is the margin for doubt that I’ve been arguing for. So it is that I must challenge my believing friends in this regard: Why is this the case and how much could be at stake here?

Once again, if we ourselves are not able to speak from a position of clear certainty then how does this illustrate the necessity for belief in the God of Theism? Also, does this not increase the potential to plug in the actual knowledge that has been gathered in the world and misuse it to identify an unknown source? Namely, God? It is this observation that I am making right now that brings many serious thinkers to depart with faith.

As much as we respect the people that have labored hard to argue for the truth claims of Theism, we would rather suspend judgment about these matters than to take a shot in the dark. The fact is that in the absence of reasonable certainty and clear validation of a truth claim, the potential for erroneous reasoning increases substantially. This is why science and many other forms of knowledge remain neutral endeavors. This is where we find our balance on the scale of weighing the evidence.

Please don’t be offended by my last statement, rather, I’m asking many of you to truly consider if this is in fact the case about Theistic claims across the board? I’m even talking about the work of giants like William Lane Craig and Alvin Plantinga. When arguing from the top-down all one needs is a book full of many extraordinary claims and some brilliant minds to start creating a cohesive picture of what is going on. The endeavor of Philosophy. Beautiful illustrations such as can be elaborated by the likes of C.S. Lewis. I’m not sitting here and telling you that I don’t admire the contributions and thoughts of these brilliant minds.

What I’m asking is this: Is it possible to have a book full of unsubstantiated, yet extraordinary claims, and it is possible to create a structure that ignores the knowledge gap and shoots for the stars? If one cannot be presently certain and erase all doubt about the God question then how many other possibilities are there? It seems to me and many other skeptics that the possibilities are endless in this regard because we are then not remaining grounded within the world we are standing in. It’s a little too risky for me to take such a leap into abstract ideas in light of what I and many other endeavors of knowledge do not yet know. Thank you for your time friends, and please consider what I am saying!

The difference between faith and knowledge is twofold. 1) Faith usurps a careful pursuit of the truth in which it may very well be more justified to suspend judgment based upon present conditions. 2.) Faith fails to utilize uncertainty as a tool to more closely come to terms with what is and is not actual knowledge.

Margin For Doubt (Part 2)

Another thing I must caution you guys about. We’ve just spent a considerable amount of time sharpening the wedge. When you take a strike at that next block of wood it may not require near as much force this time around! Go ahead, choose your target, line yourself up, and watch that piece of wood fall apart before your very eyes!

What other things widen the gap?

  1. The way knowledge itself is defined within religion stems primarily from authority. This authority source, namely God, is said to be the spring of all knowledge and truth. God would never tell a lie, he would never be misinformed, he states things about himself that are unquestionably awe inspiring and worthy of praise. However, this view of God and his authority is assuming that the people who wrote down the texts of the Bible or any other holy book in fact had undeniable encounters with an existing deity.

Let us grant that this is true, all well and good if people encountered such things! It’s kind of a cool idea right? How do such stories help us establish these facts in the present? Also, on the flip side of this coin humans have learned to be appropriately skeptical about these kinds of claims in our modern day. We’ve learned not to be so gullible because the vast majority (if not all) of these claims are dubious and clearly false. So why is it that a wise and all-knowing God would expect human beings to know how to automatically discern factual miracles from other dubious and false ones?

My conclusion in this regard is that if in fact there is an all-knowing deity that wants to cultivate my belief on this basis, then this being is purposely making it difficult for me and many others within and outside of religion to do so. For lack of a better term I’m going to label these miracle stories as claims that create logical hurdles based upon the present conditions that humans exist in. It only gets worse when we see how much the broad category of these existing claims vary and contradict one another throughout the religions.

  1. What if strange phenomena is actually occurring throughout the world? Instances of rapid healing of certain injuries after prayer, or even just unexpectedly apart from prayer? What if some people actually have been documented to be speaking in a foreign language that they did not previously know during times of heightened worship and prayer? What if the power of chi does create fire as we’ve curiously observed in certain videos circulating online? What are we to make of these kinds of things? Well, there’s no denying that many religions seek to use this type of phenomena to validate their own view of God and inspired texts. The problem once again occurs with this issue of favoritism and bias. One is automatically being asked to accept the bias of just one set of religious claims.

Considering the overall scheme of things it very well may be that the most open minded and sober judgment to apply in these cases is that the source of such phenomena among varying religions and even apart from religion is unknown. In fact, it is not known if it is appropriate to label such things as supernatural! This again is assuming that we have verified a realm in which immaterial divine beings dwell. So far, no such way of validating these claims exists. This varying phenomena, if it does turn out to be undisputedly true throughout the world could be the result of certain capacities that we humans didn’t know we had. Do you see what I’m saying? If the source is unknown, truly unknown and unverified, then it is justified to consider that such phenomena may be an interesting natural occurrence within this world and not necessarily from any other. Limited knowledge paired with objectivity allows these possibilities.

  1. Finally, the other way in which knowledge is defined within religion stems from a top down process that would appear to not be as careful or concerned about validation from the onset. Let me try to illustrate my point a little better. Knowledge within religion starts with God, not us, not the predicament that we as human beings find ourselves in. Not our own individual lives in which we must reason about fact and fiction everyday apart from any regularity or awareness of a supernatural realm. Remember the block of wood illustration? One side of this circle is unknown by us personally as well as by the world collectively. The other side of this circle does encompass all of the knowledge that we have gathered personally and collectively.

Accepting divine authority and inspiration automatically usurps a careful pursuit of the truth in which it may very well be justified by present conditions to suspend judgment about God and supernatural realms. Why would anyone want to start by assuming what is not yet known and confirmed? I’ll let you decide.

Margin for Doubt

Close your eyes if you will and imagine something with me. It’s the faint sound of metal grating against metal. Remember that wedge we were using in my last post to split up those monster blocks of wood? I have a friend in the shop doing a little iron sharpens iron dance. Be sure to protect your eyes friends, the sparks are starting to get intense!

Uncertainty is a razor. The only way it gets dulled is if it hits a hard wall of knowledge. At this point the razor must submit to what is true and valid in this life. We have a friend named William of Ockham to thank for that! Look him up. All of that being said, I want to examine some key kinds of questions that appear to sharpen this margin for doubt in the world.

In direct correlation to the question of God these are some key things to consider. Observations mind you, that exist very much within this margin for doubt.

  1. A key component for Christianity is the acceptance of miraculous divine claims and authority. All well and good, but wait, this is an equally key component for Islam and Judaism. In fact, divine claims in and of themselves are a key player in almost every form of religion imaginable. As human beings that are limited in knowledge and discernment does this in any way justify us to simply pick and choose in hopes that we are banking on the right set of divine claims? What justifies us (in the present) to have bias or favoritism in this regard? Especially since the pursuit of knowledge is one that should alleviate this temptation as much as possible, do I make a good point here?
  2. If it follows that we must in fact level the playing field in regards to divine claims then what kind of outlook should we have on the world? Should we only accept the assumptions that are common within one region? Shouldn’t we instead broaden our scope and realize that no human beings from any particular part of the world appear to have a leg up in regards to this pursuit of truth? It would appear that all human beings are in the same boat. This calls for a reassessment of methodology does it not?
  3. Since there is such undeniable variety in regards to religious claims, and again if you agree that there is no justifiable reason to favor one set of them over all others, then does this not automatically appear to increase the probability for error by quite a lot? Variety as well as contradictory statements within this category of divine claims would seem to justify a suspension of judgement in this regard. One is justified to doubt when assessing this broad situation.

A majority of Christians that I know possess a belief that stems from a few vague statements in Romans 1. It is the contention that all human beings possess some kind of internal awareness and accountability toward the one true God. What are the factors that appear to surround this belief? Divine authority and inspiration. This contention does not appear to take any other facts about our world into account. Objective observations about other people and their cultures is key. This is how I have set out to logically negate the notion that human beings possess some kind internal awareness or consciousness of God.

This is asserting something very interesting about all human beings. It asserts that people are without excuse because the God of Christianity is objective within creation as well as within the collective human conscious. 1) How is an invisible undetected being in any way objective? One of the vaguest notions I’ve ever read is the quote from Romans 1:20 where it says, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

Take just a moment to ponder this verse with me by surveying every other competing body of beliefs. What is the more objective stance to take? 1) Romans 1 teaches that all human beings are distinctly aware of the one true God so that about sums it up, (consequently humans are just being dishonest) or, 2) The fact that there are literally thousands of other competing religious ideas negates this notion that all human beings are somehow aware of the Bible’s God.

I go with option number two. I do this because it is clear to me that such variety is far more likely to stem from a collective demonstration that human beings are agnostic and undefined about religion. Each culture puts its own unique spin on how to picture, define, and worship invisible divine beings. These beliefs are for the most part rather ancient and uninformed by science and other modern forms of philosophy and critical thinking. You may perceive this last statement as a bias, but I hope to have demonstrated above that the more open minded stance is one that considers the broad scope of divine claims over simply a regional set of claims. Science has a methodology and religion appears to only be built on a he said, she said kind of basis. It stems from authority, not a helpful methodology that employs a margin for doubt and the use of Occam’s razor law.

Stay tuned, as I have more relevant information to add into this wedge, that is the margin for doubt and error!

The Wedge Between Faith & Knowledge

I hope you guys aren’t hungry! There’s going to be a lot of talk about a wedge within this post. If you’re chopping wood I’d like you to grab a black permanent marker and draw one fat line straight through the middle of the circular face of your next wooded victim. On one half of the circle write unknown, on the other half I want you to write the word knowledge. Now, as you plant your wedge directly over the top of that middle black line I want you to understand that this wedge is called, the margin for doubt. Go ahead, let the wood chips fly!

This margin for doubt is also what we Agnostic Atheist’s call a very relevant knowledge gap. In fact, the gap itself does not contain knowledge. It contains uncertainty. This uncertainty is a surprisingly useful tool. It does a pretty damn good job at splitting logical blocks of wood into either probable or improbable information based upon reality. If you don’t believe me, then use that unbelief to prove me wrong!

All joking aside, in discussions about the existence of God, if one admits that they are not completely certain that such a being exists then they are actually exposing their own margin for doubt. Logically, this person has just been honest about their own intellectual blindspot. So where does one’s faith or confidence about what is not seen factor into this discussion about human knowledge? Well, it would appear to only function as a conviction or a state of mind.

Since faith is not acknowledged by the agnostic Theist as a form of knowledge then the next question becomes: Are you not truly justified by such conditions to suspend judgement and simply acknowledge that God is not a factually known reality? If you can do this, then are you not justified to level out your own playing field and take a noncommittal stance in regards to faith? This will sound almost radical to some folks who are deeply committed to their faith position.

I probably sound a little bit like a devil trying to lure you away from the fold. Just know that I’m not actually doing that to you! In fact, what you choose to believe or disbelieve based on the evidence and what you actually know is your prerogative, not mine! All that I am illustrating here is that the question of God rests on the unknown side of that block of wood. It is not connected to what you admittedly know within this world. The knowledge side.

Now, for some people this is okay. Whoop-dee-doo, nice little mind game, Kalvin! Just keep in mind that what I am advocating is very much in line with how people do science, math, and philosophy. These methods for knowledge haven’t laid much of a bedrock at all have they? I don’t know. You be the judge!

Acknowledging The Tension

The title of this blog post is relating directly to the tension I must acknowledge every day. I have openly distanced myself from religion. It’s not a secret that I’m quite an outspoken person in this regard. I was outspoken as a Christian and I am outspoken as an Atheist. Some of you have to be wondering, why? Why all the trouble? I’m not trying to cause trouble for the sake of trouble by the way.

I choose to be outspoken about these things because part of being a truth seeker is the desire to be challenged by other good thinkers. I do this not to demean and attack people on a personal level. I strive to be very careful and delicate in this regard, so if I have ever offended anyone personally with the things I’ve said and shared, private message me and I’ll apologize.

I am also trying to gently combat a silent stigma that exists between those who believe and those who don’t. Rather than assuming that I have become apathetic in my search for the truth, that I’ve been led away by sin, that I just want to bash religion as a kind of vengeance toward my past, let me just share what I really think and how I truly feel.

It is true that I get quite critical sometimes, but I try to be critical about things that are understandably difficult to talk about within and outside of religion. I think it is better for people just to know what I think and where I stand on many of these matters. To be silently indifferent is to avoid talking and reasoning about these things.

So am I trying to make everyone into an Atheist just because faith didn’t work out for me? My actual attitude in this regard is that I just want people to have well thought out positions concerning what they either believe or don’t believe. If you think I’ve made some good points and I end up helping you in your own ultimate position, great! If not, that’s fine too. I just want to live in a world that thinks and cares about these issues in a far more compelling way!

So, if you’ve been reading my posts and enjoying the conversation, thank you! I really appreciate your support no matter what position you personally take. Feel free to create your own WordPress blog and get into the conversation. If you like my posts, I’ll like yours! Haha, see what I did there? Take care!

Lack of Belief Series (Part 2)

Lack of Logical Congruity  (No bridge for fairness and therefore absurdity stands)

Another such incongruity that exists within the Christian conception of God is displayed in the doctrine of eternal conscious torment. In other words, human beings are consigned to an eternal hell. The Bible itself sets out to describe the limitedness of the human condition. Humans are said to be finite creatures and therefore the scope of our actions is not able to touch or reach beyond the world we find ourselves in right now.

Here is my argument:

  1. Human beings have definite or definable limits. We are finite beings.
  2. God is defined as being unending or eternal in his very nature. Therefore, unlimited existence.
  3. Eternal torment is not congruent to our present state of affairs. This would appear to exploit our limited condition mercilessly.

Human Beings

God

Limited in knowledge, ability and scope

Confined by geography/region as well as by what and who we are consciously aware of

Limited access to all information that could be gained and confirmed

Varying religions are a strong external evidence that human beings do not possess internal knowledge and awareness toward one specific God or set of beliefs

All knowledge, all ability and scope

Unconfined and aware of all things

Unlimited access to all information & has the ability to make it plain (undisputable)

Objectively appears to not manifest undisputedly across all cultures and time periods. Contributing to mass variety and confusion

Eternal Conscious Torment

This should in the very least demonstrate a clear inability to connect with what we actually know about the human condition. Absurdity builds from here. Just take time to imagine how this would appear to be fair and just in any sense of what those concepts illustrate? If this does not match what we can objectively gather within the world then this God and this set of beliefs need not be accountable to anything that we can illustrate in this life. This is in fact what this doctrine claims at the end of the day. It claims no need to be brought down to earth for any kind of questioning or critique from what is actually known in the present.

Lack Of Belief Series (Part 1)

Lack of belief occurs when doubt about a matter has been strongly justified from multiple angles. I’m going to set out to illustrate why a lack of belief occurs toward the Christian conception of God as well as within Theism in general. I plan to do this in a series of posts and my arguments will not necessarily be ranked from what I personally think are the most to least convincing. They all have their own merit in my mind.

These arguments of course are not dealing in the plausibility of God’s existence, they grant this for now in order to illustrate the logical problems that ensue.

Lack of Logical Congruity  (No bridge for fairness and therefore absurdity stands)

Argument from Incompetence & Contradiction

a.) God creates a world, is said not to will evil and is all-wise

b.) God creates humans that deviate from his will not to do evil

c.) Since God is all-wise then he knew this would occur

d.) Therefore, God wills evil and contradicts his own desires!

(Calvinism accepts these contentions and this conclusion, it is assumed that God is still good in light of this. So it is that even if humans do not sit well in this regard, tough luck, we do not have a say in this matter. God’s goodness becomes arbitrary and based upon his own whims and desires. Allow me to illustrate below:)

Argument from Incompetence & Contradiction (type 2)

a.) God creates a world, is said not to be evil and is all-wise

b.) God creates humans that deviate from his implied goodness

c.) Since God is all-wise then he knew this would occur

d.) Therefore God wills evil and contradicts his own implied goodness

(This argument is unable to differentiate God’s implied goodness from this alleged notion that he is not evil. Good and evil become arbitrary in this scenario.)

Knowledge Unites

Knowledge, however little of it can be gained, should not incite distrust and division. Distrust and division appear when there is a lack of relevant facts to go around. It sends humanity scrambling into many different corners. Ladies and gents take your posts, our region of the world interprets things in this way. After all, we all have families, cultures, and long standing traditions at stake here!

So what kind of things unite humanity? What kind of things dispel myth and promote an honest quest for the truth? I think part of the answer may be found when we as human beings are willing to lay everything out on the table. All of our most precious ideas and ways of coping are up for reassessment based on what we either know or do not know.

Knowledge unites the world, and no I am not referring to a one world order. I am referring to the mutual respect that forms when vastly different people don’t try to have a leg up on the other. Though in order for people to realize that they do not have a leg up is to have a strategy in place to level many people out in the pursuit of knowledge and truth. This is why I advocate a state of mind that carefully utilizes reason and doubt wherever it is justified.

Potential Objections (Faith vs. Knowledge)

1) Absolute certainty is untenable. This is realistic and I have therefore critiqued my own language in my third post. I now advocate undisputed certainty. The kind of certainty that is established across the spectrum of human religion and knowledge. So it is that the kind of certainty I am advocating is whatever can be considered the bridge between certainty and uncertainty. Notice how generous and fair this language becomes in relation to the question of God’s existence.

Any kind of objector to my argument is not justified to label my position as radical skepticism. Also, it must be remembered that I am not arguing from a position of certainty. This is specifically what I lack. Anyone that agrees that one cannot be one-half or three-fourths certain about a matter must honestly admit, as I have done, that they are uncertain.

If you agree that uncertainty is the result of our human predicament. That it is in fact directly related to the knowledge that humans lack, then you are justified to doubt. Justifiable doubt works like this. It is a kind of intellectual openness to other valid options besides Theism. Theism remains unjustified due to its inability to bridge the gap between certainty and uncertainty.

2) I am certain that God exists due to an inward witness of the Holy Spirit. This correlates very much to how Calvinism seeks to function. If one claims this then they are in fact contradicting their previous claim of not being completely certain. If one cannot be completely certain then it must relate to their admission that objectivity trumps subjectivity every single time. Since objectivity does trump subjectivity then there must be room for doubt as to whether an unseen Holy Spirit is in fact functioning within one’s subjective experience.

3) God purposely has not established this kind of knowledge in the world. We just need to believe! You must understand then that this lack of relevant knowledge in the world is directly correlated to the vast amount of confusion on how to define God within religion as well as why Agnosticism and Atheism is growing everywhere. Doubt, as well as openness to other perspectives is justified when there is nothing to bridge the gap into certainty.

4) This argument is not conclusive proof that there is no God. I agree, and that was not the purpose of this specific argument. The purpose of this specific argument is that due to the human knowledge problem paired with the untenability of using faith to justify one’s position, then logically one is justified in their uncertainty, which can also be understood as justifiable doubt.

After considering my arguments another question to leave you with is this: What is a more reliable and consistent pursuit, faith or reason? Do you now agree that there is a difference? I advocate reason not because I want to outsmart my friends in intellectual arguments. I advocate reason because it is the most careful, open, and brutally honest pursuit when trying to discern what is either fact or fiction. Starting one’s pursuit without fear of where the truth will ultimately lead is noble and it undoubtedly has consequences. Reason, much like many religions will appear to divide many people. On the other hand, to look at this another way, reason is the resolve to acknowledge the truth wherever, and I mean wherever it is found. This is why endeavors like science, mathematics, logic, and philosophy have established the kind of renown and respect that they have today. These forms of knowledge work and they work like a smooth running engine! Knowledge unites humanity.

Knowledge unites and so does uncertainty. These two items are best friends. It is because this is how we can logically weed out reliable claims from unreliable ones. It gives each side a fighting chance and when lines of verification are no where to be found, especially when looking at the issue from multiple angles, then uncertainty and openness to other perspectives is justified. Please, please consider the value of uncertainty which can also be understood as justifiable doubt.

Stay tuned as I have more carefully thought out positions to come.