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Author Topic: rational arguments in support of theism.  (Read 806 times)

Posts: 48

but you are the music while the music lasts...

« on: 27/04/10 @ 09:22 »

Jumping off from the Nietzsche thread (which i'll reply to in due time; the current topic is pretty salient in my mind now owing to a mini debate in the general section of a work related forum)

You mentioned that you believe in a God of some sort and that this belief is based on 'rationally decided possibilities'.

This is fascinating.  Recently i was pointed to C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity by someone else.  I don't have time to go into Lewis now, but i find him pretty unconvincing (he is a fantastic abuser of false dichotomies).

I'm an atheist.  I'd like to explore this a bit, for one, to see if my beliefs add up.   I'm not looking specifically to convert or anything, and i'm pretty sure you're not looking to proselytize, but this could be very interesting.

So, what are these 'rationally decided possibilities'? 
and what is your conception of God?

Man, when I was young I shoved my ignorance in people's faces. They beat me with sticks. By the time I was forty my blunt instrument had been honed to a fine cutting point for me. If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you'll never learn.
Gareth Southwell
Sr. Member

Posts: 257

« Reply #1 on: 28/04/10 @ 00:21 »


Firstly, by "rationally decided possibilities" I definitely do NOT mean to imply rational proof, merely that certain possibilities are rational options. So, in some cases, there may be insufficient proof to claim conclusively that something is the case, but equally their rational possibility is not ruled out.

For this reason, my concept of God - or gods, 'it'/'them', the Absolute, or whatever term you want to imply - is OPEN. This is not to avoid being shot down by trigger-happy sceptics, but merely because, for me, this is the only rational attitude to maintain. Actually, I take that back, there are 3 viable positions: (1) openness, (2) faith in a tradition, (3) knowledge. I guess my position is somewhere between (1) and (2), with elements of (3). By (2) I simply mean that I am interested in religious traditions, accounts, metaphysical systems, etc. This is an important aspect, because we judge the possibility of God partly by the credibility of those who profess (2) - it's not impossible that an impressive and rational person who has (2) is deluded, but their stature and sincerity is a swaying factor.

However, for most people not born into a tradition, (2) is not enough - it takes a lot simply to sign up for something when you're use to being free and non-committed. Therefore we need (3) also. However, the traditional arguments for God - in my view - are all inconclusive. Rationally, they leave it open. This is not to say that they aren't possible pointers toward truth, but they're not enough to convince anyone who isn't already leaning that way. So, you need experience. This doesn't need to be supernatural or revelatory - though it can be - but merely to suggest that materialistic atheism is not the whole picture. For instance, it might be a physical sensation, a coincidence, a strange dream - any number of things. Once again, this isn't to say that such things are conclusive - often, they're not - but (to take William James' point) it comes down to the individual: some people need a lot of convincing, some don't, and some will never be convinced. What convinces you that there is no God? Might you change your view? Under what circumstances? Answers to such questions will be different for everyone.

Anyway, that's what I mean by "rationally decided possibilities": there are possibilities that are not compatible with materialistic atheism, but which ARE compatible with certain strands of religious belief.

As for my concept of God, as stated above, (1) dictates that it is silly to define this without (3) or very good reasons to adopt (2). I don't really think (2) is enough on its own, and this is one reason why I've found discussions with atheists to be hard, for either religion simply does nothing for them, and they don't see the point in it, or else they want to shoot you down. Therefore, when you don't present a nice definable target, they think you're woolly and get bored!

However, so as you don't think I'm being slippery, I'll have a go:

1. I don't believe in a God who reveals Himself through one tradition or belief system. Why? It seems much more likely that cultures the world over have always reached out to whatever they conceive the divine to be, and that a comparative study of religions reveals a lot more similarity than is often supposed. So, man meets God halfway, and frames the divine using his own cultural reference points.

2. I believe in the possibility of direct experience of/communication with God. In other words, I am not a deist, simply believing that some cosmic force set everything going but then simply retreated behind the scenes. Such a God seems a bit pointless to me, for you may as well just have the laws of nature. So, there must be some mystical element - however, this would also include (e.g.) Wordsworth's view of physics.

3. I don't believe that "everything works out for the best" or that "God has a plan" in the sense of there is a reason for all the suffering in the world. As with Ivan in Dostoevsky's "The Brothers Karamazov", I don't see the point in a God who would consider the death of an innocent a price worth paying for the realisation of a greater good. However, the problem of evil is extremely difficult: either you reject the traditional notion of God, or you accept some other unpalatable possibility. Personally, I go for the "God thinks we're ants" option. A truly cosmic consciousness might not even be aware of our existence (unless, you know, the ants held up a big sign saying "Hello" maybe...).

4. I think there is enough circumstantial evidence to make reincarnation a possibility worth investigating. Also, Plato, Socrates, Pythagoras, Plotinus, etc., all thought it likely, so who am I to argue?  Grin As with other things of this ilk, there are always counter-arguments and possibilities, but I think there are a handful of cases where the claims for knowledge are 'interesting'.

5. Given the above, I suppose I must also admit a belief in some form of subtle energy, or whatever you want to call it. Whether this can be explained in traditional scientific terms, I don't know, but I think that - from direct experience - there is more to the makeup of the biological organism than current Western knowledge admits. I mean something like the Taoist notion of "chi", as used in acupuncture, martial arts, etc. Of course, this in itself does not entail a religious belief, merely an unorthodox scientific view, but it does fit in with aspects of the above.

Is that enough for now?  Grin

« Last Edit: 28/04/10 @ 00:27 by Gareth Southwell » Logged

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