Das Trilemma vom C.S. Lewis

English version: the trilemma of C.S. Lewis.  Comments are welcome there at any time!

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C.S Lewis war zweifelsohne der größte christliche Apologet des letzten Jahrhunderts. Obwohl die Tragweite einiger seiner Ideen bestimmt übertrieben wurde, glaube ich wirklich, dass man wahrheitsgemäß von ihm sagen kann, dass er eine rationale Art von Christentum verteidigt hat, die weder das Intellekt noch Emotionen vernachlässigt.

Einer seiner berühmtesten Argumente war das sogenannte Trilemna über die Person von Jesus von Nazareth.

Unter der Voraussetzung der Zuverlässigkeit der Berichte über Jesus Behauptungen, Gott zu sein, ist es irrational, Jesus nur als einen weisen Lehrer unter vielen zu betrachten. Nein, gemäß der Sachen, die er über sich selber gesagt hat, könnte er nur der Herr von allen Dingen, ein Lügner oder ein Wahnsinniger sein.

Während manche Feinde des christlichen Glaubens keinerlei Problem mit den zwei letzten Möglichkeiten haben, haben die meisten Skeptiker versucht, das gesamte Argument als ein falsches Trilemma zu verwerfen: Jesus könnte sehr wohl ein großer Mann sein, der nur bezüglich seiner Göttlichkeit unrecht hatte.

Obwohl diese Antwort für mich einige intuitive Plausibilität besitzt, denke ich nicht länger, dass sie gültig ist.

Zur Jesus Zeit sahen Juden Gott als den Schöpfer des Himmels und der Erde an, der radikal anders und seiner gesamten Schöpfung extrem überlegen ist. Nach einer langen und allmählichen Entwicklung während der Zeit des alten Testaments betrachteten sie schließlich Gott als das ultimative Wesen, das verantwortlich für die wundervollen Eigenschaften der von ihnen beobachteten Natur war.

Es ist wahr, dass im Laufe der Geschichte nicht wenige religiöse große Menschen (moralisch) einzigartig waren, sogar wenn sie glaubten, mit nachweislich abwesenden übernatürlichen Kräften ausgerüstet zu sein, und es bedeutet keineswegs, dass sie geistesgestört oder unehrlich waren.

Aber es heißt noch lange nicht, zu behaupten, das für die Existenz von allem verantwortliche Wesen zu sein.

Stellen Sie sich vor, Sie würden über die folgenden Wochen bemerken, dass Sie anfangen, den Gedanken immer ernster zu nehmen, dass Sie der Schöpfer der gesamten Wirklichkeit sind, die dennoch real und kein Traum ist.

Wäre es keine gesunde Reaktion, sofort zur psychiatrischen Abteilung des nächsten Krankenhauses zu gehen?

ImageSo glaube ich, dass es trotz all der Herausforderungen, die seit der Zeit von C.S: Lewis formuliert wurden, keine überzeugende Antwort gegeben hat.

Selbstverständlich beruht dies auf der Historizität der göttlichen Behauptungen von Jesus. In zukünftigen Posten werde ich auf die Frage eingehen, ob man daran glauben kann oder sogar soll.

 

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Complementarianism, egalitarianism and the differences between men and women

There is a huge debate raging in the Evangelical community about the place and role of women.

Egalitarians believe that men and women are not only equal but dispose of the same abilities in every respect.

Complementarians believe that men and women are equal but different with respect to their skills and roles.

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I don’t share the belief in Biblical inerrancy of both camps and don’t base my thinking on culturally conditioned statements one can find in Scripture.

Nevertheless I am a complementarian.

Since this might shock many people, I reproduced a great post of Mike Patton explaining this:

The most common understanding of both Complementarianism and Egalitarianism goes something like this:

Complementarians: Do not let women be pastors over men.

Egalitarians: Do let women be pastors over men.

or…

Complementarians: The husband is the leader of the family.

Egalitarians: The husband and wife co-lead the family, with no priority.

or…

Complementarians: Wives submit to your husbands.

Egalitarians: Husbands and wives are to practice mutual submission.

While I think that these are characteristics of both groups, they are not foundational characteristics that define each group. In other words, I don’t think that they are helpful in defining what it means to be a complementarian or egalitarian and they serve to cause a great deal of misunderstanding that leads to emotional bias that is very difficult to overcome once set.

In fact, I am going to say something very radical here and then explain. Here it goes:

It is possible to be a complementarian and believe that a women can serve in the position of head pastor over men.

Did you get that? Reread it. Reread it again…

Complementarianism is not first defined by it view of the roles of men and women in the church, family, or society.

Here is what Complementarianism is:

Complementarianism is the belief that men and women have God given differences that are essential to their person. Men and women are ontologically (in their essential nature) equal, but often, functionally, take subordinate roles (like the Trinity). These differences complete or “complement” each other. Due to these differences, there will be some things that women are predisposed and purposed to do more than men. As well, there will be some things that men are predisposed and purposed to do more than women. Therefore, there are ideal roles for both men and women that should be celebrated, exemplified, typified, and promoted in the church, family, and society. To deny these differences is to deny the design of God and thwart his purpose.

Here is what Egalitarianism is:

The belief that God has created men and women equal in all things. Men and women are ontologically and functionally equal. The way the sexes function in the church, society, and the family is determined by individual giftedness, not role distinctions according to the sexes. Therefore, each person should be judged individually when being placed in a particular position. We should exemplify this reality by overcoming the stereotypical placement that has traditionally been a part of societies in human history, thereby giving freedom to individuals to follow the path that God has uniquely created them for, whatever that may be. In doing so, we should no longer educate or indoctrinate according to any of the former stereotypes, including those of basic masculinity and femininity.

These, in my opinion, are the foundational tenants of each position without giving examples on how this plays out in the family, the church, or society.

The case I am making here is that in order to be a consistent egalitarian, one must deny virtually all differences that typify men as men and women as women. It is not just about getting women behind the pulpit or the concept of mutual submission in the family. It is much more complex and, in my estimation, more difficult to defend with sensibility.

I had a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary who was an Egalitarian (he left because of this—I won’t mention his name). I loved this guy. Still do. Great teacher, thinker, and Christian. In fact, I had him come speak to our pastoral staff at Stonebriar to challenge us on why he became egalitarian and to defend his position. I wanted the staff to understand the “other side” from a very able defender. During his presentation, he painted himself into this very typical corner that I find most all egalitarians end up. 

He was advocating a foundational principle of egalitarianism: there are no essential differences between men and women other than reproductive stuff. We were all quite taken aback. Every example we brought up, he shot down by giving a counter-example in the form of an exception. His basic argument turned on finding exceptions to everything. Whether it was that men were less emotional, more aggressive, more one tracked in their thinking, less tender, more competitive, unable to nurture as well as women, or even liked the color blue more, he brought up exceptions that he believed neutralized the “pattern”. Finally, I thought I had him. I said “What about physicality? Men are stronger than women.” He would have none of that. He then brought up examples of German women who were stronger than men! We could not stump the guy!

The problem is that in order to defend egalitarianism consistently, he had to deny all of the common sense distinctions that people have made about men and women since the dawn of time. I won’t get into the science or psychology of this issue as there are many very good resources that do this. To me, it is rather bizarre that one would actually be inclined to produce evidence to prove that men and women are different!

I am of the opinion that many egalitarians would have been appalled by Peter who said that women are the weaker of the sexes (1 Pet. 3:7) siting every exception to this rule and bemoaning this stereotype until Peter cried “uncle.”

Complementarianism says that men and women are different by design. We are different and God did it. It is that simple.

However, most people would not be willing to go as far as my former professor. They realize that sustaining a proposition that men and women have no essential differences is a battle that cannot really be sustained in real life (only theoretical ideology). Men and women are different. Even most egalitarians that I know would give me this. Hear this again. Most egalitarians that I know would admit, when push comes to shove, that there are some essential differences between men and women. Most would even say that there are essential differences that go beyond reproduction and physicality. But I would argue that these people are not really egalitarians, at least in the way I have defined it. They would be complementarians because they would have given up what I believe to be a central driving tenant of egalitarianism and embraced the central tenant of complementarianism: men and women are different by design and their differences complement each other.

Now, having said this, I believe that it is theoretically possible to be a complementarian and yet not take a traditional complementarian stand on the issue of women in ministry. In other words, someone could believe that men and women are different by design yet not think that these differences have any bearing on women in leadership in the church. They may be convinced that the Bible does not really teach that women should not teach men, and yet be complementarian in other issues and, broadly, in their theology of the sexes.

I am interested and committed to complementarianism for more than just the women in ministry issue. This is just one application. But (and here is where I get in trouble with fellow complementarians), I don’t think that it is the most important issue in this debate. Neither do I think that it is the most “damaging” issue.

You see, when people are truly committed and consistent egalitarians, they have to defend their denial of essential differences. In doing so, they will advocate a education system in the home, church, and society which neutralizes any assumption of differences between the sexes. In doing so, men will not be trained to be “men” since there is really no such thing. Women will not be encouraged to be “women” since there is no such thing. The assumption of differences becomes a way to oppress society and marginalize, in their estimation, one sex for the benefit of the other. Once we neutralize these differences, we will have neutered society and the family due to a denial of God’s design in favor of some misguided attempt to promote a form of equality that is neither possible nor beneficial to either sex.

We will have troubled men and women groping to find their way and feeling pressured to repress their instincts and giftedness. We will no longer be able to train up men and women in the “way” they should go since there is no “way” they should go. Women can act masculine and men can be feminine. Men can retreat in the face of responsibility because, in truth, they don’t have any “responsibility” other than the one that they choose. This is to say nothing of the implications this has on the issues of homosexuality and gay marriage.

But in a complementarian worldview (even one that allows women to teach men in the church), men are taught to be men and women are taught to be women. They both have defining characteristics. Masculinity and femininity find their place and are exemplified and celebrated. Men protect women from physical danger and take their positions of leadership seriously, without trepidation or fear that they will be seen as power mongers. And women support this. Women take up their positions of nurturing and supporting the emotional well-being of the world. And men support it. No role distinction is seen as inferior because in a complementarian worldview both are seen as essential and of equal importance. Only in complementarianism do we not define the rule by the exceptions and bow to the least common denominator. Only in the complementarian worldview, in my opinion, can freedom to be who we are supposed to be find meaning.

The true spirit of complementarianism is that God has intentionally created men and women with differences and we are to celebrate this in every way. The true spirit of complementarianism is never domineering (that is a sinful corruption). The true spirit of complementarianism provides no shame only freedom. The true spirit of complementarianism speaks to God in appreciation.

When we attempt to neuter this design, we have lost much more than authority in the pulpit.

Complementarians, while I believe that the Bible teaches the ideal that women should not have authority over men in the church, let us promote the true spirit of complementarianism then simply defending its particular applications.

I believe that female preachers and pastors can be really great and are an enrichment for the Church. I do hope that the Church of Rom will allow them to become priests over the next decades.

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However, I do believe that (statistically speaking) men and women are both psychologically and biologically different and that there are therefore some types of work which are (statistically speaking) more appropriate for females than for males and vice-versa.

I am convinced that if a man and a woman apply for the same position, there NEVER should be any discrimination.

However I believe that endeavors such as Gender Mainstreaming (aiming at erasing all differences between the sexes in society) are profoundly stupid and noxious.

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My position lies on empirical grounds and is shared by many French (and to a lesser extent German) secular people who are extremely skeptical of the gender ideology.

Moralische Entrüstung und göttliche Genozide

English version: Moral Indignation and Divine Genocides. Feel free to comment there at any time!

Moralische Entrüstung und göttliche Genozide

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Ich hatte einen interessanten Emailaustausch mit Andy, einem bekennenden Atheisten aus Nordrhein-Westfalen.

Wir haben uns vor allem über Metaethik unterhalten aber in diesem Post will ich auf spezifische Sachen eingehen, die er über in der Bibel erwähnten Völkermorde geschrieben hat.

“Wenn du dir manche Rechtfertigungen für die Völkermorde im alten Testament anschaust, z.B. die von fundamentalischen Christen wie Paul Copan z.B., dann findest du übrigens exakt die gleichen Rechtfertigungen wie die, die die Nazis hatten – Copan sagt das die Feinde der Israeliten von Grund auf Böse waren, das nicht ein einziger von ihnen nicht böse war, das die Israeliten sie töten *mussten* weil sie sonst getötet worden wären etc. pp. Und genauso wie die Nazis über die Juden gelogen haben, so bin ich mir sicher dass das alte Testament über die Kanaaniter lügt, bei den Lügen der Nazis ist dies leicht zu zeigen, bei den Lügen im alten Testament ist dies schwieriger weil es keine Quellen gibt ausser solche die von den *Tätern* geschrieben wurden (stell dir vor die Nazis hätten den zweiten Weltkrieg gewonnen – dann würden wir heute auch überall lesen das die Nazis der Welt einen Gefallen getan haben weil die Juden von Grund auf Böse waren und unser aller Untergang geplant hatten…)”

Ich bin Andy sehr dankbar,. seine Meinung auf eine solche Weise geäußert zu haben, denn es wirft viele interessante Fragen auf.

In den Büchern von Josua und Samuel wird es berichtet, dass Gott hebräischen Soldaten angeordnet hätte, ein ganzes Volk zu vernichten, wobei es ausdrücklich betont wird, dass Frauen, Kinder und alte Männer dazu gehören.

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Nun gibt es mehrere Möglichkeiten:

1) die wortwörtliche Interpretation unserer europäischen Bibel ist wahr und historisch und

1.a) Gott hat wirklich ein Blutbad eingerichtet

1.b)  Gott hat das gar nicht gewollt, vielmehr haben die alten Israeliten ihren mörderischen Nationalismus auf Ihn projiziert.

2) die wortwörtliche Interpretation unserer europäischen Bibel ist falsch, wir sollten den Vernichtungsbefehl als eine volle militärische Niederlage der Feinde ansehen

3) die Eroberung von Kanaan und die damit verbundenen Genozide sind eigentlich nie passiert. Erst viel später wurden die Moses und Josua zugeschriebenen Bücher von mehreren unbekannten Autoren geschrieben.

3.a) die Autoren dachten wirklich, dass die Völkermorde passiert wären und fanden das gut. Sie haben aber viele falsche Daten und mündliche Traditionen verwendet.

3.b) die Autoren wollten eine mythologische oder symbolische Geschichte ihrer Ursprünge schreiben und hatten keinerlei die Absicht, sorgfältige Historiker zu sein

Wahrscheinlich gibt es andere Möglichkeiten, woran ich nicht gedacht habe.

Ich würde nicht Paul Copan als einen Fundamentalisten bezeichnen sondern als einen konservativen Evangelikalen, der die Doktrin der biblischen Irrtumslosigkeit verteidigen will.

Er hat mir gesagt, dass er solche Befehle als schrecklich ansieht,obwohl sie aufgrund der tragischen Umstände durchgeführt werden sollten.

Da er aber auch seinen Glauben an die Güte Gottes nicht aufgeben will hat er in seinem Buch hauptsächlich versucht, 2) zu verteidigen. Ich gebe ihm Recht, dass die berichteten Vernichtungsbefehle in dem alten nahen Osten manchmal hyperbolisch oder symbolisch sein könnten. Dennoch gibt es viele Fälle, wo man davon ausgehen kann, dass sie ernst gemeint waren, wie Thom Stark in seinem Buch gezeigt hat.

In diesem Zusammenhang finde ich es sehr merkwürdig, dass Copan nur mit 4 Seiten auf ein Buch geantwortet hat, das mehrere hunderte Seiten umfasst und sich danach kaum mehr darum gekümmert hat.

Ich bezweifle sehr, dass es nur an dem aggressiven und respektlosen Ton von Thom Stark in der ersten Version seines Buchs liegt. Danach hat er sich bei ihm entschuldigt.

Da Copan aber sich bewusst ist, dass 2) dubiös sein könnte, hat er auch geschrieben, dass dieser von Gott angeordnete Genozid eigentlich gerecht gewesen wäre. Der beliebteste evangelikale Apologet William Lane Craig hat mehrmals versucht, den Völkermord weiss zu waschen und ich bin auf seinen letzten Versuch eingegangen.

Aber nun muss man die Tatsache betrachten, dass die Eroberung von Kanaan eigentlich historisch äußert unwahrscheinlich ist, und dass die in der Bibel beschriebenen Massaker nie geschehen sind.

Ich weiß ehrlich gesagt nicht, ob 3a) oder 3b) wahr ist. Die Autoren wollten vielleicht wirklich die historischen Ursprünge ihres Volks dokumentieren und haben sich geirrt.

Aber es besteht auch durchaus die Möglichkeit, dass die Autoren eine symbolische Erzählung beabsichtigten, die später als Historie missinterpretiert wurde.

In beiden Fällen glaube ich, dass es sich um menschliche kulturbedingte Gedanken über Gott handelt und sehe die kanonischen biblischen Bücher an auf die selbe Weise wie Bücher außerhalb des Kanons.

Und genauso wie moderne christliche Autoren sich irren können, können auch uralte biblische Schreiber sich irren.

Das Fundament meines Glaubens ist Gottes Vollkommenheit, die immer der Maßstab sein sollte, um jeden religiösen Text zu evaluieren.

Und nun will ich beschreiben, wie eine gesunde und gerechte moralische Entrüstung bezüglich solcher Texte aussehen sollte.

Evangelikalen tendieren sehr stark dazu, nur die schönen Seiten der Bibel zu betrachten, während sie die hässlichen Texte ignorieren oder weginterpretieren. Und sie würden sagen: die Bibel stellt uns auf eine konsistente Weise Gott als vollkommen gut dar.

Das ist zweifelsohne eine Art von Selbsttäuschung.

Aber militante Atheisten begehen den selben Fehler, wenn sie behaupten, die Bibel würde uns auf eine konsistente Weise Gott als ein moralisches Monster darstellen.

Wie Thom Stark in seinem Buch “The Human Faces of God” (die menschlichen Gesichter von Gott) beschrieben hat haben die unterschiedlichen Autoren der Bibel keineswegs dasselbe Gottesbild in Bezug auf die moralische Natur von Gott.

Wenn 1a) oder 3a) richtig sind dann gibt es einen krassen Kontrast zwischen dem Befehl kein Lebewesen in den kanaanitischen Städten zu ersparen und der Verkündigung des Propheten Ezechiel, dass Kinder nie wegen der Sünden ihrer Eltern bestraft sein sollten.

Nun hätte ich den folgenden Ratschlag für intellektuell ehrliche Atheisten: anstatt zu behaupten, dass der Gott des alten Testaments ein psychopathisches Monster ist wäre es besser, folgendes zu sagen:

“Das alte Testament zeigt uns widerspruchsvolle Gottesbilder. An manchen Stellen wird er als barmherzig und liebevoll dargestellt, während er an anderen Stellen als ein psychopathisches Monster beschrieben wird. Dies zeigt uns, dass das Judentum, Christentum und Islam keine offenbarte Religionen sein können, weil man daraus kein widerspruchsfreies Gottesbild ableiten kann.”

Dies wäre viel redlicher und wirksamer als die Behauptung, das alte Testament wäre fast völlig schwarz, denn das kann man leicht widerlegen.

 

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Do we have a soul (according to the Bible)?

My regular readers know well that I am no fan of Biblical inerrancy at all.

Yet many doctrines of Conservative Evangelicals I disagree cannot, ironically enough, be found in the Bible but are read into the text based on traditions.

Dr. Glenn Peoples is an extremely bright and insightful Conservative Evangelical philosopher and theologian who is willing to challenge what many of his fellow Evangelicals take for granted.

His brilliant post is really worth being read and reread.

I agree with him that the Bible does not teach the existence of a soul able to existing separately from the body.
I would, however, quibble a bit with his use of the word “materialism” which most often mean that all mental phenomena can be successfully reduced to the brain and its working.

The Biblical view is certainly compatible with emergent dualism according to which the mind is a strongly emergent phenomenon which cannot be identified with the brain processes giving birth to it.

Such kind of considerations have led many people to reject the doctrine of eternal conscious torment and conclude that the Bible teaches conditional immortality.

Über den antiweissen Rassismus und aussergewöhnliche Behauptungen

English version: On anti-white racism and extraordinary claims.   Feel free to comment there at any time!

In einer anderen Post wies ich auf die riesigen ethnischen Spannungen hin, die in Frankreich stattfinden.

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Zuallererst will ich ganz klar über meine Absichten sein.

Ich glaube, dass jeder seine Mitmenschen so behandeln sollte, wie er selber behandelt werden möchte. Deshalb denke ich, dass alle Arten von Diskriminierung gleich bekämpft werden sollen und zwar ohne Bezug auf die Identität des Täters und des Opfers.

Nun würden nur wenige selbsternannte Antirassisten dieses Prinzip ablehnen (zumindest in der Öffentlichkeit).

Aber sie würden sagen, dass der Rassismus fast immer nur von weissen Menschen stammt, und dass rassistische Handlungen gegen weisse Personen extrem selten sind und im Vergleich zum umgekehrten Phänomen vernachlässigt werden können.

Leider zeigt die alltägliche Erfahrung von vielen in französischen Vororten lebenden weissen Menschen, dass nichts von der Wahrheit entfernter sein könnte.

Wenn ein Gang von Skinheads das Haus einer schwarzen Familie belagern würde und dem Ehemann sagen würde: “Wir werden deine schwarze Hure ficken!” habe ich keinen Zweifel, dass die Geschichte auf der ersten Seite der wichtigsten Zeitungen erscheinen würde.

Aber nachdem eine weisse Familie durch die selbe Qual ging wurde die Geschichte von sogenannten antirassistischen Organisationen weitaus ignoriert und weg erklärt.

Es ist nur einer unter vielen Fällen von anti weissem Rassismus auf dem französischen Territorium. Die Täter sind am häufigsten junge Araber von der zweiten und dritten Generation sowie eine kleinere Anzahl von Schwarzen, die glauben, dass ihre begründete Wut gegen vergangene und gegenwärtige Missbräuche und Diskriminierung von der französischen Gesellschaft ihnen das Recht gibt, alle weisse Menschen zu hassen.

Psychologisch gesehen ist es eine grauenvolle Form von kollektiver Strafe, dem Konzept, nach dem die Missetaten eines Individuums die Strafe seiner gesamten Familie, Klan, ethnischer Gruppe, Religion und sogar Rasse rechtfertigen.

Westliche Liberalen scheinen, völlig unfähig zu sein, zu anerkennen, dass Menschen mit europäischer Abstammung auch Opfer von der selben Art von verdorbenen Logik sein können.

Interessanterweise, wenn Juden Opfer von grausamen gewalttätigen Missetaten durch einen ethnischen Gang mit einem moslemischen Hintergrund sind, aüssern sich ziemlich schnell Politiker und Intellektuellen über die Verbrechen.

Aber wenn nicht-jüdische weisse Personen über die selben schrecklichen Erfahrungen berichten, durch die sie gingen, sind sie die meiste Zeit ignoriert, wegerklärt oder minimiert.

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Ich denke, dass es interessanterweise mit den epistemologischen Prinzipien “Ausserordentliche Behauptungen erfordern ausserordentliche Beweise” und “das Fehlen von Beweisen ist der Beweis des Fehlens” zusammenhängt, die ich kritisch untersucht habe.

Für westliche Liberale ist die Behauptung, dass der anti-weisse Rassismus genauso ein Problem wie der Rassismus von weissen Leuten darstellt, wirklich aussergewöhnlich.

Deswegen können normale Beweise nicht akzeptiert werden, um die Realität des Phänomens nachzuweisen.

Deshalb sollten seriöse Journalisten nicht darüber berichten.

Und wenn es nicht in den normalen Zeitungen gefunden wird, kann es höchstwahrscheinlich vernachlässigt werden.

Denn ganz bestimmt beschreiben normale Zeitungen die Wirklichkeit auf eine fast objektive Weise, und diejenigen, die dies verleugnen, sind spinnende Verschwörungstheoretiker und weisse Supremacisten.

Tragischerweise hat das viele unter der Situation leidende weisse Menschen dazu geführt, ihre ganze Hoffnung auf rechtsextreme Gruppierungen zu setzen. Dies ist der Grund, warum sehr viele französische Wähler für die faschistische Leiterin des Front Nationals, Marine LePen, wählen. Sie werden von anderen politischen Parteien ignoriert und verleumdet aber von Rechtsextremisten willkommen geheissen, die ihre Probleme ernsthaft betrachten.

Es ist selbstverständlich, dass dies eine explosive Situation ist, die einen Teufelskreis des Hasses fördert.

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John Loftus, probabilities and the Outsider Test of Faith

John Loftus is a former fundamentalist who has become an outspoken opponent of Christianity which he desires to debunk.

He has created what he calls the “Outsider Test of Faith” which he described as follows:

“This whole inside/outside perspective is quite a dilemma and prompts me to propose and argue on behalf of the OTF, the result of which makes the presumption of skepticism the preferred stance when approaching any religious faith, especially one’s own. The outsider test is simply a challenge to test one’s own religious faith with the presumption of skepticism, as an outsider. It calls upon believers to “Test or examine your religious beliefs as if you were outsiders with the same presumption of skepticism you use to test or examine other religious beliefs.” Its presumption is that when examining any set of religious beliefs skepticism is warranted, since the odds are good that the particular set of religious beliefs you have adopted is wrong.”

But why are the odds very low (instead of unknown) to begin with? His reasoning seems to be as follows:

1) Before we start our investigation, we should consider each religion to possess the same likelihood.

2) Thus if there are (say) N = 70000 religions, the prior probality of a religion being true is 1/70000 p(R), p(R) being the total probability of a religious worldview being true.

(I could not find a writing of Loftus explicitly saying that but it seems to be what he means. However I could find one of the supporters of the OST taking that line of reasoning).

 

Objective Bayesianism and the principle of indifference

 

This is actually a straightforward application of the principle of indifference followed by objective Bayesians:

In completely unknown situations, every rational agent should assign the same probability to all outcomes or theory he is aware of.

While this principle can seem pretty intuitive to many people, it is highly problematic.

In the prestigious Standford Encyclopedia of philosophy, one can read in the article about Bayesian epistemology :

“it is generally agreed by both objectivists and subjectivists that ignorance alone cannot be the basis for assigning prior probabilities.”

To illustrate the problem,  I concocted the following story.

Once upon a time, king Lothar of Lorraine had 1000 treasures he wanted to share with his people. He disposed of 50000 red balls and 50000 white balls.

Frederic the Knight (the hero of my trilingual Christmas tale) has to choose one of those in the hope he would get one of the“goldenen Wundern”.

On Monday, Lothar distributes his treasures in a perfectly random fashion.
Frederic knows that the probability of finding the treasure in a red or in a white ball is the same: p(r) = p(w) = 0.5

On Tuesday, the great king puts 10% of the treasure within red balls and 90% within white ones.

Frederic  knows that the probabilities are   p(r) = 0.10   and    p(w) = 0.90

On Wednesday, the sovereign lord of Lorraine puts 67% of the treasures in red balls and 33% in white ones.

Frederic knows that the probabilities are p(r) = 0.67 and p(w) = 0.33

On Thursday, Frederic does not know what the wise king did with his treasure. He could have distributed them in the same way he did during one of the previous days but also have chosen a completely different method.

Therefore Frederic does not know the probabilities;   p(r) = ?  and p(w) = ?

According to the principle of indifference, Fred would be irrational because he ought to believe that p(r) = 0.5 and p(w) = 0.5 on the grounds it is an unknown situation.

This is an extremely strong claim and I could not find in the literature any hint why Frederic would be irrational by accepting his ignorance of the probabilities.

Actually, I believe that quite the contrary is the case.

If the principle of indifference were true, Fred should reason like this:

“I know that on Monday my Lord mixed the treasures randomly so that p(r) = p(w) = 0.5
I know that on Tuesday He distributed 10% in the white ones and 90% in the red ones so that p(w) = 0.10 and p(r) = 0.90
I know that on Wednesday He distributed 67% in the white ones and 33% in the red ones so that p(w) = 0.67 and p(r) = 0.33
AND
I know absolutely nothing what He did on Thursday, therefore I know tthat the probabilities are p(r) = p(w) = 0.5 exactly like on Monday. “

Now I think that this seems intuitively silly and even absurd to many people. There seems to be just no way how one can transform an utter ignorance into a specific knowledge.

Degrees of belief of a rational agent

More moderate Bayesians will probably agree with me that it is misguided to speak of a knowledge of probabilities in the fourth case. Nevertheless they might insist he should have the same confidence that the treasure is in a white ball as in a red one.

I’m afraid this changes nothing to the problem. On Monday Fred has a perfect warrant for feeling the same confidence.
How can he have the same confidence on Thursday if he knows absolutely nothing about the distribution?

So Frederic would be perfectly rational in believing that he does not know the probabilities p(r) = ? and p(w) = ?

Likewise, an alien having just landed on earth would be perfectly rational not to know the initial likelihood of the religions:
p(Christianity) = ?     p(Islam) = ?     p(Mormonism) = ? and so on and so forth.

But there is an additional problem here.

The proposition “the religion x is true one” is not related to any event and it is doubted by non-Bayesian (and moderate Bayesian) philosophers that is warranted to speak of probabilities in such a situation.

Either x is true or false and this cannot be related to any kind of frequency.

The great science philosopher Elliot Sobert (who is sympathetic to Bayesian epistemology) wrote this about the probability of a theory BEFORE any data has been taken into account:

Newton’s universal law of gravitation, when suitably supplemented with plausible background assumptions, can be said to confer probabilities on observations. But what does it mean to say that the law has a probability in the light of those observations? More puzzling still is the idea that it has a probability before any observations are taken into account. If God chose the laws of nature by drawing slips of paper from an urn, it would make sense to say that Newton’s law has an objective prior. But no one believes this process model, and nothing similar seems remotely plausible.”

He rightly reminds us t the beginning of his article that “it is not inevitable that all propositions should have probabilities. That depends on what one means by probability, a point to which I’ll return. The claim that all propositions have probabilities is a philosophical doctrine, not a theorem of mathematics.” l

So, it would be perfectly warranted for the alien to either confess his ignorance of the prior likelihoods of the various religions or perhaps even consider that these prior probabilities do not exist, as Elliot Sober did with the theory of gravitation.

In future posts, I will lay out a non-Bayesian way to evaluate the goodness of theory which only depends on the set of all known facts and don’t assume the existence of a prior probability before any data has been considered.

As we shall see, many of the probabilistic challenges of Dr. Richard Carrier against Christianity kind of dissolves if one drops the assertion that all propositions have objective prior probabilities.

To conclude, I think I have shown in this post that the probabilistic defense of the Outsider Test of Faith is unsound and depends on very questionable assumptions.

I have not, however, showed at all that the OST is flawed for it might very well be successfully defended based on pragmatic grounds. This will be the topic of future conversations.

“Sinful” homosexuality and the Golden Rule

GalactingExplorer gave us a nice summary of how the principle “hating the sin while loving the sinner” can be perceived by homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals who are confronted by Conservative Christians.

“I feel like something needs to be said about hate-speech. I don’t mean Westboro Baptist Church picket signs or the crazed ramblings of TV show hosts trying to blame natural disasters on a small minority of the U.S. population. I’m talking about the polite words, the “loving” phrases that may Christians use that they may not realize are extremely hurtful and cruel to the recipients. I want to talk about all the ugly messages and meanings that are often conveyed through this speech that many probably aren’t even aware of.

Let me be clear that the purpose of writing this is not that I can’t handle hearing anything negative or that I’m trying to avoid getting my feelings hurt. Although I think those are valid reasons to avoid offensive language, this isn’t just about me. I can handle a little rudeness. My real interest is being able to clear the way for a more open dialogue between Christians and members of the LGBT community. This dialogue will not be possible until people on both sides learn how their language is impacting their fellow human beings. I want a conversation that inspires understanding, good-will and trust. Instead, so many conversations breed defensiveness, hurt, and anger. If you are a Christian and you are really interested in being welcoming and accessible to your gay, bi, or trans peers, please listen. This is for you.

Note: in this installment I am focusing on the LGB of LGBT . There will likely be other articles in which I will spend more time addressing more trans-specific issues.

“Love the sinner, hate the sin.” This phrase has long since worn out its welcome in the LGB community, but it is still commonly used by Christians hoping to voice their objections to homosexuality in a loving, non-threatening way. It seems the most popular go-to phrase for religious people to make their convictions known without lumping themselves into the group of hate-mongers. “I cannot betray what I believe, but that does not mean I am unloving about it.” But to someone like me, “love the sinner, hate the sin” is the opposite of loving. If good will and dialogue is to open between LGB folks and Christians, and especially for those that straddle both groups, this phrase needs to be permanently retired. Here’s why.

1) However kindly and respectfully you treat us, I promise you, there is someone else who has used that exact phrasing as a shield behind which to bludgeon us. It is more common than you might think. As a result, it’s hardly surprising that many of us have a reflexive recoil reaction to those words. However, if the sentiment itself were a good one, then a few extremists misusing it shouldn’t be reason enough to abandon it. Unfortunately the sentiment is not good. It is toxic.

2) The word “hate” is loaded with negative meaning. LGB folks are at high risk of hate-crimes, hate-speech, and hate-group fueled harassment. We are told that “God hates fags” and were possible treated with hatred by our families, friends, or communities. And you want to introduce the word “hate” into a conversation about us that is supposed to be loving? It doesn’t matter that your hate is directed at our “sin”. We can all agree to hate evil acts, but remember, many of us may not believe that our orientation is evil. You are targeting an important and meaningful part of our identities and telling us that you hate it. Imagine being told by a supposed friend or colleague “I hate Christianity.” Does it make you feel startled, uncomfortable, defensive, and uneasy? Yeah, we feel the same way when you do that to us. Hate never feels loving.

3) Why don’t you start hating your own sins instead of mine? I know, I know. Every time I bring this up, most Christians will insist that they do hate their own sins and will hurry to assure me that they are an imperfect sinner too, and they have sins that they struggle with. But that’s generally where the conversation ends. They may pay lip-service to the idea of treating all faults equally, but in honestly, they generally have no desire to talk in depth about these alleged sins. Indeed, I generally don’t want to hear about your pet sins because I recognize that it is personal and it is not my place to force you to face whatever private demons you have in your life. I would appreciate the same respect in return. Saying “I’m a sinner too” does not give you free pass to be everyone else’s personal sin police. Instead of focusing on homosexuality as the #1 sin that needs to be hated vocally, why don’t you spend that time hating your own sins in private? Start with the sins of judging and pride (and if those accusations make you feel defensive because you don’t feel you are guilty of them, now you know how it feels when Christians accuse me of sins that I do not believe are wrong.)

4) These words make a major assumption that the LGB person you are talking to is actually engaging in homoerotic activities. This is not necessarily true, and it is insulting and degrading to reduce a person soley to a stereotype of their assumed sexual habits. I had people telling me how they loved me but hated my sin long before I ever engaged in some form of homosexual activity. So that begs the question: is it just being attracted to someone of the same sex that is the sin? Is it loving them? Kissing? Just existing as a gay person? Or do you honestly assume that when I say “I’m gay” I am having sex every night? Regardless, inferring and judging my actions based on my orientation is pretty much as insulting and ignorant as meeting a Hispanic person and asking them which part of Mexico they’re from.

5) We really don’t need to know whether or not you approve of our identity or relationships. It baffles me why people feel the need to comment on some personal part of my life uninvited, even in a “loving” manner. Trust me, I am aware that there are plenty of people who believe that homosexual acts are a sin. I’ve heard it before. Not a single gay person can really get away from it in this country. So why do you feel the need to tell me “I love you, but I really don’t agree with what you are/do?” I do not immediately feel the need to de-convert Christians when I find out they are religious. I don’t make disparaging comments to my friends about their husbands or wives simply because I do not approve. I would never tell someone “well, I think blacks are inferior, but I still like you.” So why has it become socially acceptable for Christians to single us out for disapproval? It is disrespectful and uncalled for. We don’t need your opinions on our lives, we just want your respect. And respect, by the way, is worth a hell of a lot more than passive-aggressive “loving”.

I know that Christians have a need to be a little defensive around the topic of homosexuality since there are many loud voices in the religious community that have sullied Christian beliefs with hate. Many Christians just want a way to state their beliefs while simultaneously distancing themselves from these extremists. But if there is to be healing and unity, LGB people need Christians to back away from the dogma a bit. How about you set the doctrine aside and just focus on love and respect? I promise, it will be a lot more fruitful than “loving the sinner and hating the sin.” And didn’t Jesus say that you will know what is good by their fruits?”

 

Homophobia, tolerance and progressive Christianity

I largely agree with this and feel ashamed I had lots of prejudices against gay people in the past (even as I was an atheist). This stemmed from the fact I did not know one personally.

Now I have a question to all my fellow Christians.

How would you react if an anti-theist went to you and told you:

“Look, I love you very much as a person but I hate your god virus called Christianity. While I cannot pray, I really hope you will be cured very soon”  ?

I would feel very offended and would want to see strong evidence that my progressive Christianity is a harmful delusion.

If Conservative Christians want to assert that homosexuality can be likened to pedophilia, they have a heavy burden of proof.

As far I can tell, they have lamentably failed in that respect if one considers lifelong committed gay relationships.

Now I would be thankful if everyone participating in this discussion will treat his or her opponents with respect.

I hope there will be a vivid conversation but I don’t want my blog to turn into a battlefield.