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Letter to an Atheist by Michael Patrick Leahy
Posted: 03 May 2007 02:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 616 ]  
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[quote author=“Occam’s Razor”]Bruce, why not stop fucking about and just say God is ‘magic’?

When we were kids anything improbable, inexplicable or counter-intuitive could be explained away as ‘magic’. Let’s be honest, that’s what religion comes down to in the end.

If God doesn’t reveal himself to you in some way that is real to you, don’t believe him. As Jesus said, “if I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me.” John 10:37.

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Posted: 03 May 2007 02:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 617 ]  
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[quote author=“Bruce Burleson”]I think this is where I will make my stand - my Alamo.

And where I make my stand is in refusing to make a fool of myself in public on someone else’s terms. Those would, for example, be the terms dictated by John the Baptist.

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Posted: 03 May 2007 03:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 618 ]  
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[quote author=“Bruce Burleson”][quote author=“waltercat”]Texas beer sucks.  Come to California and buy me a beer.

This statement is DEEPLY offensive to me. It strikes deep in my Texas heart. You have absolutely lost all credibility with me. I am tempted to terminate this relationship. That being said, what is your favorite California beer? (Oregon beer is better).

When I was a student at University of Texas in Austin there was a drinking establishment called Shultz’s that served pitchers of Lone Star beer.  In the bathroom, just above the urinal, was a sign somebody had put up, a warning perhaps: “Shultz’s does’s sell beer, they rent it.”  Now days (too many years later) I prefer a good dark ale.

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Posted: 03 May 2007 04:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 619 ]  
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[quote author=“burt”]When I was a student at University of Texas in Austin there was a drinking establishment called Shultz’s that served pitchers of Lone Star beer.  In the bathroom, just above the urinal, was a sign somebody had put up, a warning perhaps: “Shultz’s does’s sell beer, they rent it.”  Now days (too many years later) I prefer a good dark ale.

A Longhorn among us! I was there until my sophomore year. Austin and the rest of TX has some pretty good microbreweries now, with many good dark ales. The taste does tend toward dark as one ages, nes pas?

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Posted: 03 May 2007 04:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 620 ]  
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Bruce, you are crossing bridges before you get to them, and so I’m attacking your concept of the afterlife, not what you do in this one.  Discussions of god usually come down to either a personal interpretation or mindlessly spewing church doctrine, neither of which have anything to do with the price of tea in China.

As for the beer, that depends on the beer.  Unlike my infidelity, my tastes have changed, and although I may be easy, I’m not cheap.

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Posted: 03 May 2007 05:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 621 ]  
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[quote author=“Skipshot”]Bruce, you are crossing bridges before you get to them, and so I’m attacking your concept of the afterlife, not what you do in this one.  Discussions of god usually come down to either a personal interpretation or mindlessly spewing church doctrine, neither of which have anything to do with the price of tea in China.

As for the beer, that depends on the beer.  Unlike my infidelity, my tastes have changed, and although I may be easy, I’m not cheap.

Do you concur with Burt and Bruce (to avoid the first person pronoun) that the progression of taste in beer is from light to dark as we get older?

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Posted: 03 May 2007 05:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 622 ]  
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I go for taste; color is irrelevant.  My taste now is with Belgian-stlye - light and dark.

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Posted: 03 May 2007 06:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 623 ]  
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[quote author=“Bruce Burleson”][quote author=“burt”]When I was a student at University of Texas in Austin there was a drinking establishment called Shultz’s that served pitchers of Lone Star beer.  In the bathroom, just above the urinal, was a sign somebody had put up, a warning perhaps: “Shultz’s does’s sell beer, they rent it.”  Now days (too many years later) I prefer a good dark ale.

A Longhorn among us! I was there until my sophomore year. Austin and the rest of TX has some pretty good microbreweries now, with many good dark ales. The taste does tend toward dark as one ages, nes pas?

Seems like, although I do go for Corona, too.  smile

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Posted: 03 May 2007 08:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 624 ]  
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[quote author=“Bruce Burleson”]
[quote author=“waltercat”] But suppose God did have the power to create a universe where the law of non-contradiction did not hold.  So, in this universe, it could be the case that both A and NOT-A are true.  So, in this universe, logical contradictions (which is what “A and NOT-A” is) can be true.  However, we have a problem because, from a logical contradiction, it is possible to prove anything whatsoever.  Thus, we could prove that God does not exist.  We could also prove that God does exist.  We could prove that God is subject to the laws of logic.  We could also prove that God is not subject to the laws of logic.  If logical contradictions can be true, then we can prove any damn thing we please. ANYTHING GOES.

I think this is where I will make my stand - my Alamo.

Okay, Davy.  (I’m sure you want to think of yourself as Sam, but if you are thinking of yourself as at the Alamo . . .)

Why do you assume that God could not create a universe in which one “logical contradiction” (as we would understand that term in our universe) could hold true, but another “logical contradiction” could not?

Well, I have made no such assumption.  Rather, I have put forward argument after argument that demonstrate that God cannot do it.  He can’t do it because logical contradictions cannot be true (and they undermine the possibility of rational discourse). 

But why not let’s throw logic (or at least some of it) out the window, since you asked us to.  This will be interesting.  We’re going to pretend to throw logic out the window (since we cannot actually do it).  One interesting question is, “are there any constraints on this game?  Can we imagine anything we want?”  And, since we are explicitly going to imagine that a logical contradiction is true (which it can’t possible be), I don’t see that there are any constraints on our imagining.  Once we’ve dispensed with logic, anything goes:

Why could an omnipotent God (if he exists) not create a universe in which both “Jason is brilliant” and “Jason is an idiot” hold true, but “God exists” and “God does not exist” not both hold true? You seem to be saying that if there is one logical contradiction (as we understand contradictions in this universe) in a system, then ANYTHING GOES. But why does this have to be the case?  Why can’t God create a system, and brains to understand the system, in which there is one “contradiction” but not another?

I’ve explained why He can’t do it.  But since we are throwing logic out the window (well, actually, we can’t throw logic out the window, it’s not logically possible to, but we’re pretending), I’ll give this to you:  God can (he can’t really—we’re just pretending) create a universe where only one contradiction is true.  And that contradiction is “Jason is brilliant and Jason is not brilliant.”

Now we have to do some housekeeping before we move on.  First, we need to make sure that both occurrences of the name ‘Jason’ refer to the same individual (if there are two Jasons, we don’t have a contradiction).  It would be nice to be able to point out a particular person whom the name refers to, but this is only an imaginary (not even possible) world we’re talking about, so, unfortunately such a person does not exist.  However, we can stipulate that in this imaginary world,  both occurrences of the name ‘Jason’ will refer to one and the same individual.

Second, we must ensure that we aren’t playing on a pun of the term ‘brilliant.’  If the statement were to read, “Jason is very smart and Jason is not shiny” we would not have a contradiction.  So, let’s stipulate that the term ‘brilliant’ means the same in both of its occurrences. (We can do the same for ‘is’, in case you’re worried about that.)

We should also insist that each of the two component statements of our contradiction (“Jason is brilliant” and “Jason is not brilliant”) are to be true at the same time.

Now we have a genuine contradiction: “Jason is brilliant and Jason is not brilliant.”  And I have done a brilliant job of explaining why such a statement cannot possible be true.  But we’ve thrown that out the window here and are pretending that such a statement can be true.

So, the world we are imagining is one in which a single contradiction, “Jason is brilliant and Jason is not brilliant,” is true, but no other contradiction is true.  In particular, the statement, “God exists and God does not exist” is NOT true in this word.

Fine, none of this makes much sense, but so be it.  As I’ve indicated, I’ll give this one to you, since we’re just pretending.

However, we’re not finished.  Since I’ve been so generous, it’s now time for you to give something back.  And what I want will not be hard for you to give. Indeed, given your previous statements concerning the extent of God’s power, it will be very difficult for you not to give it.

Here is what I want:

I want you to grant that it is possible for God to create a world that is very much like our actual world (and very much like the pretend world we pretended to envision above). In this new imaginary world (which I am going to call “Bruce’s World”), all of the laws of logic hold that hold in the actual world.  In fact, Bruce’s World is exactly like the actual world (with respect to logical rules, natural laws, facts, etc.) except for one point:  in Bruce’s World, there is a single logical contradiction that is true.

Again, it is important to remember that we are just pretending to imagine.  Bruce’s World is worse than a fiction; it is a logical fiction, which means that it cannot possibly exist.  However, Bruce Burleson (the actual one, the one that likes Texas beer) must believe that Bruce’s World is possible.  In particular, Bruce believes that it is possible for God to create Bruce’s World since, according to Bruce, God can do anything (including the logically impossible).

So, the single logical contradiction that is true in Bruce’s world is “Jason is brilliant and Jason is not brilliant.”  This statement has the logical form of a conjunction.  It is a compound statement which is a conjunction of two atomic statements.  The two atomic statements are “Jason is brilliant” and “Jason is not brilliant.”

We can use the capital letter A to represent the statement, “Jason is brilliant”  And we can use the symbol ‘&’ to represent the logical relation of conjunction (which is what an “and” statement is).  The symbol ‘~’ will represent the logical operator of negation.  Thus “~P-” will be read as “it is not the case that P.”  So, since"Jason is not brilliant” is equivalent in meaning to “It is not the case that Jason is brilliant,” we can represent the statement “Jason is not brilliant” as follows: ‘~A.’

The entire conjunction “Jason is brilliant and Jason is not brilliant” thus becomes:

A & ~A.

Now, since I have stipulated that the logical rules that apply in Bruce’s World are the same as those that apply in the actual world (with the exception that we are pretending that Bruce’s World allows that single logical contradiction), we know that, in Bruce’s World, we can prove any statement whatsoever.

How do I know this?  Well, I know it because I know that in the actual world a logical contradiction can be used to prove any statement whatsoever.  That is what I was getting at when I said that if we abandon logic, then anything goes.  And since we’re pretending that the same logical rules apply in Bruce’s World that apply in the actual world (with that one exception), we know that in Bruce’s World a logical contradiction can be used to prove any statement whatsoever.

But How does it work, you might be asking yourself.  How can a logical contradiction be used to prove any other statement whatsoever?  Well I’ll explain, but my explanation will assume some basic understanding of logic (If you lack such understanding, I’m sure you can figure out how to educate yourself).

Suppose a person living in Bruce’s world wants to prove the following:  “California beer is better than Texas beer.”  Let us use the letter ‘C’ to represent this statement.  This statement is incredibly easy to prove if we have access to a logical contradiction.  Here is how it works:

Premise 1:  A & ~A

(note: all that we have done here is assume the truth of our logical contradiction from above, namely that Jason is both brilliant and not brilliant.  Since we have stipulated that this will be true in Bruce’s World, we know that, in Bruce’s World, Premise 1 is true.)

Derived Line 2:  A   _______       Justification: Simplification of premise 1

(note: the logical rule of simplification allows us to go from a conjunction (e.g., P & Q) to one of the conjuncts (e.g., P).  The motivation for this rule is that if we know that “it is snowing and it is cold” then we know that it is cold.  Thus, if I know that Jason is brilliant and Jason is not brilliant, then I know that Jason is brilliant.)

Derived Line 3:  ~A   _______       Justification: Simplification of premise 1

Derived Line 4:  A v C   _______   Justification: Disjunction Introduction from line 2

(note: the rule of disjunctive introduction (DI) allows us to go from some statement we know is true to a disjunction of that statement and any other statement whatsoever.  A disjunction is an ‘or’ statement.  Thus ‘A v C’ should be read ‘A or C’, or, in other words, ‘Either Jason is brilliant or California beer is better than Texas beer.’  The motivation for DI is that if we know that ‘P’ is true, then we certainly know that statement ‘P or Q’ is true.  We are using the inclusive ‘or’ here.  On this interpretation of ‘or’, an ‘or’ statement (otherwise known as a disjunction) is true when either or both of the disjuncts (the statements that make up the disjunction) is true.  Thus, ‘P v Q’ is true when either P is true or Q is true or both P is true and Q is true.  Given this definition of the disjunction operator (‘v’), we know that if statement P is true, then ‘P v Q’ will be true as well)

Derived Line 5:  C     ________     Justification: DS from lines 4 and 3

(note: The rule DS is disjunctive syllogism.  This rule allows is to go from a disjunction and the falsity of one of the disjuncts to the truth of the other disjunct.  So, if we know that ‘P v Q’ is true, and then we find out that P is false, we can conclude that Q must be true.  Remember that we are using the inclusive sense of ‘or.’  If we know that either Obama will win or McCain will win, and then we find out that McCain did not win, we know that Obama won.)

And that does it.  We have our conclusion: C.  California beer is better than Texas beer.

This method is completely general.  It doesn’t matter what statement we use for C, here.  It can be any statement whatsoever, and we can use the same method to prove it.  Thus a logical contradiction can be used to prove any statement whatsoever.

Now I want to demonstrate that, in Bruce’s World, it is possible to prove that God does not exist.

Let the letter G stand for the statement: “God exists.”
So, the statement ~G will mean: “God does not exist”


Premise 1:  A & ~A     _______       note: our contradiction again
Line 2:      A           _______     justification: simplification of 1
Line 3:    ~A           _______     justification: simplification of 1
Line 4:    A v ~G       _______     justification: DI from 2
Line 5       ~G         _______     justification: DS from 3 and 4


So, in Bruce’s World, we know that God does not exist. 

Now, we have shown that, if Bruce is correct that God can do anything, then we know that God can create Bruce’s World.  Hence we know that God can create a world in which He does not exist.

But of course this doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.  And the reason is that it makes no sense to believe that God is the author of logical laws.

God is not the author of logical laws.  He is subject to them.

 

You lack imagination.

NO. I lack ignorance of logic.

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What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don’t want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price.
-Ivan Karamazov

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Posted: 03 May 2007 09:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 625 ]  
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[quote author=“waltercat”]Now I want to demonstrate that, in Bruce’s World, it is possible to prove that God does not exist.

Let the letter G stand for the statement: “God exists.”
So, the statement ~G will mean: “God does not exist”


Premise 1:  A & ~A     _______       note: our contradiction again
Line 2:      A           _______     justification: simplification of 1
Line 3:    ~A           _______     justification: simplification of 1
Line 4:    A v ~G       _______     justification: DI from 2
Line 5       ~G         _______     justification: DS from 3 and 4


So, in Bruce’s World, we know that God does not exist. 

Now, we have shown that, if Bruce is correct that God can do anything, then we know that God can create Bruce’s World.  Hence we know that God can create a world in which He does not exist.

But of course this doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.  And the reason is that it makes no sense to believe that God is the author of logical laws.

God is not the author of logical laws.  He is subject to them.

Bravo.  You have proven to me that you understand completely the laws of logic that God has chosen for this universe. I personally could never have written what you wrote. I’m not much of a logician.

As an aside, I like the idea of “Bruce’s World.” Can I turn that into a movie?  Can I call myself “Bruce Almighty”?  Talk about a contradiction.

Above I have only quoted the very end of your proof.  You spent a lot of time getting to the conclusion that God can create a world in which he does not exist.  When I read this, I thought “that’s absolutely right - that’s what hell is.” (Bruce’s World may not be such a hot place, after all - oops, it IS a hot place).  But then you disappointed me by saying that this doesn’t make any sense.  Why not?  I followed your logic, and I agreed with your conclusion. God can create himself out of existence in some worlds.  Why? Because he is the author of logical laws. Your simple assertion that “that doesn’t make any sense” is not much of a proof.  That sounds like a conclusory statement to me.  You need about another page of proof to support your conclusion that it makes no sense for God to create a world in which he does not exist.  I think you proved that he can. He can make a world in which even the rules and processes that are used are different, and which make no sense to our brains but would make sense to other brains. 

By the way, I didn’t reply to your response to my three boulder speculations - in each one of them God created a boulder that he could not move and still remained omnipotent.  In each of them, there was a circumstance in which God could not move the boulder, and in each of them, there was a circumstance in which God did move the boulder. If you wanted add more assumptions and restrictions to the paradox, you should have done so before I expended all my brain power coming up with solutions.

My ultimate argument is one of authority, which I realize carries no weight around here, but is an argument, nonetheless. Scripture says that “God is in heaven, he does whatever he pleases.” I may not understand or even be able to speculate about how he does that.  But that is the authoritative inspired statement, which Jesus endorsed, and which has contributed to producing a phenomenon known as “faith” in me.

The Alamo wall is still unbreached.  I anticipate a violent attack from Santa Ana very soon.  Until then, it’s almost Miller Time here in Texas.

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Posted: 03 May 2007 10:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 626 ]  
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Bruce, you are making even less sense than usual.  You talk as if God can exist in some worlds and not in others.  This makes no sense whatsoever to me.  Since, of your view, God exists outside of space and time, either God exists (simpliciter; for all worlds) or He does not exist (simpliciter).  If there is a world in which God does not exist, then GOD DOES NOT EXIST.

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What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don’t want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price.
-Ivan Karamazov

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Posted: 03 May 2007 10:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 627 ]  
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[quote author=“Bruce Burleson”]By the way, I didn’t reply to your response to my three boulder speculations - in each one of them God created a boulder that he could not move and still remained omnipotent.  In each of them, there was a circumstance in which God could not move the boulder, and in each of them, there was a circumstance in which God did move the boulder.

Wrongy Dongy.  Go back and read my post.  In none of them was it the case that God could both make a boulder that he cannot move and move the boulder.  PERIOD.  End of story.

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What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don’t want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price.
-Ivan Karamazov

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Posted: 03 May 2007 11:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 628 ]  
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You can read my review of Christopher Hitchens’ new book, God is not Great, online at:

http://www.lettertoanatheist.com/hitchens.html

Comments welcome.

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Posted: 03 May 2007 11:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 629 ]  
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[quote author=“waltercat”]Bruce, you are making even less sense than usual.  You talk as if God can exist in some worlds and not in others.  This makes no sense whatsoever to me.  Since, of your view, God exists outside of space and time, either God exists (simpliciter; for all worlds) or He does not exist (simpliciter).  If there is a world in which God does not exist, then GOD DOES NOT EXIST.

In your example, you were considering the realm of “Bruce’s World”, and you came to the conclusion that God did not exist in that world.  You did not consider the case of multiple worlds.  God may exist outside space and time, and then inhabit a world that he created, and not inhabit another world that he created.  Then he would exist in one world and not another, so that one world would have no knowledge or evidence of him.
In the case of his existence for all worlds, we are not talking just about whether any run of the mill logical contradiction could exist, but we are talking about the ground of all being.  This is not really an issue of logic but an issue of being, of existence itself (if we assume that God is the creator).  I am going to flounder for awhile as I try to capture the language that expresses my thought, but the existence of God Himself, simpliciter, is of a different nature than the existence of anything else.  It is a special case.  It’s not “Jason is brilliant and Jason is not brilliant.”  So I’m not sure that the language and structure of logic is even the tool that can be used here.  I’m going to have to switch to California beer for this one, so I’ll come back later. 

Do the rules of logic (as you know them) exist/apply in a black hole?  Did the rules of logic exist before the Big Bang?  Do the rules of logic apply at the quantum level in the same way they apply elsewhere?  Where did the rules of logic “come from”?  Are they simply a consequence of existence?  Inquiring minds want to know.

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Posted: 03 May 2007 11:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 630 ]  
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[quote author=“Bruce Burleson”]In your example, you were considering the realm of “Bruce’s World”, and you came to the conclusion that God did not exist in that world.

No, I came to the conclusion that God does not exist.

Since God, on your view, exits outside of space and time (that is, outside any particular universe), then when we are talking about the existence of God, this is what we must mean (God exists, simpliciter).  God, if He exists, does not exist solely within the universe, He is above, beyond, behind, etc. the universe.  So, when talking about the existence of God, it is senseless to understand that as tying His existence to a particular universe (even this one).

You did not consider the case of multiple worlds.

No, I very much did indeed very explicitly consider the existence of multiple worlds, yes.  That was the entire point of Bruce’s World; the consideration of a different world other than this one (and also the original world that you described).

Do the rules of logic (as you know them) exist/apply in a black hole?

Yes.  Never been, but yes.

Did the rules of logic exist before the Big Bang?

The rules of logic are timeless.  Thus it is senseless to speak of them as coming into existence.

Do the rules of logic apply at the quantum level in the same way they apply elsewhere?

Yes.  Things behave very strangely at the quantum level, I am told.  But nothing defies the laws of logic.  For example, suppose an electron could be two places at once.  Is that a violation of the laws of logic?  No, it isn’t.  There is nothing about logic that rules out the existence of a single object being in two places at one and the same time (there may be certain rational ordering principles that prevent us from using the term ‘object’ to something that can be in two places at once.  But that kind of principle is not a logical rule; it is more like what Wittgenstein called an aspect of the grammar of the word ‘object.’  But this is far too distant a digression to concern ourselves with).

Where did the rules of logic “come from”?  Are they simply a consequence of existence?

They are not a consequence of anything.  Again, they are timeless; to speak of them as coming into existence is senseless.

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What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don’t want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price.
-Ivan Karamazov

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