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Challenging 'A Letter to a Christian Nation'
Posted: 29 July 2007 05:09 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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I've recently converted to Atheism from mainstream Christianity after reading books by Dawkins, Harris, Dennet, and others. My best friend, still a Christian, agreed to read along with me. After reading 'A Letter to a Christian Nation', he spent a month or two writing a very long paper on the book. I've uploaded the paper to the following url:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/215550/A-Comm ... ian-Nation

I wanted to invite some of you to read his paper and offer comments. I would really appreciate the feedback before I discuss this with him. Be forewarned, this paper is very long. With that said, he's a good writer and a highly intelligent individual. Let me know what you come up with.

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Posted: 30 July 2007 03:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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The author of this critique fails to present a self-consistent argument.

He begins by claiming that Harris’ definition of morality “clearly sets him up to hit a home run in his argument that follows” yet the author immediately engages in the exact same “tactic” by proposing that morality is “obedience to God, regardless of how that manifests itself in human happiness or suffering.”

Thus, he attacks Harris’ definition as being one based on the presumption that there is no God, and provides one based entirely on the assumption that there is a God, and further that this God is accurately represented by the words of the Bible.  This is no counter-argument to what Sam harris’ book address in detail already.  Just a re-iteration of the same.

In the next paragraph, he violates his own definition by claiming that “‘Morality’ is often (but not as a rule) relative and complicated, and sometimes subject to its cultural environment as well as the individual conscience.”

Well, which definition is it?  Is it the rigid obedience to God or is it a cultural norm? 

Having failed to even set-up a consistent premise for the remainder of his paper, I give the author no more of my attention.

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Posted: 30 July 2007 10:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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If you want to read a real intelligent reply to Sam Harris’ book, Letter From a Christian Citizen was a slam dunk.


By the way, I am not saying your friend’s paper wasn’t intelligent because I don’t have the time to read it right now.

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Posted: 30 July 2007 10:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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[quote author=“blessedmommyx5”]If you want to read a real intelligent reply to Sam Harris’ book, Letter From a Christian Citizen was a slam dunk.

I read it and I would more properly describe it as a dribble.

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“We have it recorded in a book called the Bible.”

To be blunt, the Bible records all manner of silly shit.

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Posted: 30 July 2007 11:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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[quote author=“dlsmith”][quote author=“blessedmommyx5”]If you want to read a real intelligent reply to Sam Harris’ book, Letter From a Christian Citizen was a slam dunk.

I read it and I would more properly describe it as a dribble.

I ordered it and the other one ‘Counterpoint’.  I don’t want to be considered one-sided in my views.  Somehow, I’ve got the feeling that they will dodge the real issues regarding the proof’s (or lack thereof) of God’s existence and concentrate on the more philosophical issues.  We’ll see.

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Posted: 30 July 2007 12:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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I ordered it and the other one ‘Counterpoint’. I don’t want to be considered one-sided in my views. Somehow, I’ve got the feeling that they will dodge the real issues regarding the proof’s (or lack thereof) of God’s existence and concentrate on the more philosophical issues. We’ll see.

Douglas Wilson comes from the Reformed Presuppositional approach.  You can see this basic approach in the Bahnsen/Stein debate.  Basically they would say the atheist needs to give a non-circular argument in their materialistic worldview for why one should trust one’s rational and/or ethical views.  To Wilson the atheist needs to first give their ontological basis for their objective stance for rational and morality.  To Wilson he wants to first see why the atheist holds to their pressupositions before even addressing the ‘real issues’.  Its not as if Wilson wants to ignore them its that he doesn’t want to grant the atheist anything that they haven’t shown to be valid.  Basicaly the presuppositional viewpoint wants to first understand the ground the atheist can hold to and be consistent with that ground.  Once the atheist does this then they will debate the ‘real issues’.  Wikipedia has something, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presuppositional_apologetics on the presuppositional argument.  You might want to check out Van Til, Gordon Clark, John Frame, and Greg Bahnsen to learn more about this view.

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Posted: 30 July 2007 12:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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I recalled that there was a thread about this book, but no substantial support was ever offered for it, even by the person who posted the thread—presumably the author himself.

http://www.samharris.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=5693&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=0


One interesting tidbit: If you look at the bottom of the 3rd post, which is mine, you’ll see the banner I posted from the book publisher’s website, Canon Press (a Christian-themed publisher). At the time I posted, the image depicted a huge gathering of baby chicks. Actually, if I remember right, it may in fact have been marshmallow  baby chicks. . .  which I found extra amusing, since impressionable baby chicks are a great metaphor for impressionable children, while the marshmallow implies mere fluff :mrgreen:.

They’ve since changed the banner. Instead of baby chicks, there is now a little sand castle, sitting perilously close to the lapping ‘waves of reason’. I’m not exactly sure how this does the image of Christianity any greater service, since sand castles are not known for their longevity.  Perhaps their website designer is an atheist just having a little fun wink.


http://www.canonpress.org/designimg/CanonPressHeader.jpg

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This way to the Unasked Questions—->
<—- This way to the Unquestioned Answers

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Posted: 30 July 2007 02:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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[quote author=“fletch_F_Fletch”]

Douglas Wilson comes from the Reformed Presuppositional approach.  You can see this basic approach in the Bahnsen/Stein debate.  Basically they would say the atheist needs to give a non-circular argument in their materialistic worldview for why one should trust one’s rational and/or ethical views.  To Wilson the atheist needs to first give their ontological basis for their objective stance for rational and morality.  To Wilson he wants to first see why the atheist holds to their pressupositions before even addressing the ‘real issues’.  Its not as if Wilson wants to ignore them its that he doesn’t want to grant the atheist anything that they haven’t shown to be valid.  Basicaly the presuppositional viewpoint wants to first understand the ground the atheist can hold to and be consistent with that ground.  Once the atheist does this then they will debate the ‘real issues’.  Wikipedia has something, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presuppositional_apologetics on the presuppositional argument.  You might want to check out Van Til, Gordon Clark, John Frame, and Greg Bahnsen to learn more about this view.

Unclear how a Presuppositionalist argues?  Here is the basic schema:

“Let us make the following bold assertion: P

If you don’t believe P, this can only be because you reject proposition Q.

But Q is a proposition that everyone agrees with and furthermore

If Q then P (that is, P follows from Q).

You see, P follows from a proposition that everyone accepts.

No.  I won’t argue for the claim that P follows from Q.

What?  You say that you reject ‘If Q then P’?  You think that P doesn’t follow from Q? Well that can only be because you reject my fundamental assumptions.  In particular, to deny that P follows from Q is to deny a fundamental part of P. 

You see, it follows from P that If Q, then P.  So to reject ‘If Q then P’ is to reject P.

But since this argument concerns whether P is true, to reject P is to beg the question.

I say that P follows from Q.  If you think otherwise, you have to argue for that.”


See, here is how it works:

Let us make the Bold assertion P:  Jesus rose from the dead.

If you don’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead that can only be because you reject the laws of logic.

And of course nobody denies the laws of logic.

But, did you realize that the laws of logic imply that Jesus rose from the dead?

What?  You don’t believe that the laws of logic imply that Jesus rose from the dead?  That can only be because you reject my basic assumptions.  In particular you reject the claim that Jesus rose from the dead. 

You see, the claim that Jesus rose from the dead contains, as a necessary part, the fact that Jesus’ resurrection is required by the laws of logic.  It’s no wonder that you can’t see this, since you’re an atheist.

In any event, to reject that ‘Jesus rose from the dead’ follows from the laws of logic is necessarily to deny that Jesus rose from the dead.

But since this argument concerns whether ‘Jesus rose from the dead’ is true, it begs the question to deny that Jesus rose from the dead.

I say that the laws of logic imply that Jesus rose from the dead.  If you believe otherwise, you have to argue for that claim.

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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: 30 July 2007 02:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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If you don’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead that can only be because you reject the laws of logic.

And of course nobody denies the laws of logic.

But, did you realize that the laws of logic imply that Jesus rose from the dead?

Interesting I never heard a presuppositionalist make any arguments remotely like this.

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Posted: 30 July 2007 03:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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[quote author=“fletch_F_Fletch”]

If you don’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead that can only be because you reject the laws of logic.

And of course nobody denies the laws of logic.

But, did you realize that the laws of logic imply that Jesus rose from the dead?

Interesting I never heard a presuppositionalist make any arguments remotely like this.

Obviously it was a caricature.  But a useful one because it reveals an important truth.  Namely, the poverty of the presuppositionalist form of argument.

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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: 31 July 2007 01:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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Hey Waltercat considering you are a professor in philosophy you may want to get your name out there and debate John Frame or Douglas Wilson, they are always up for a debate and I know I would enjoy watching the exchange.  In fact Frame debated your idol Michael Martin.  I do know Wilson has asked to debate Harris and has debated Hitchens.  Just a thought.  If you do debate a ‘presuppositionalist’ can you please start out with your previous post?

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Posted: 31 July 2007 03:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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[quote author=“fletch_F_Fletch”]Hey Waltercat considering you are a professor in philosophy you may want to get your name out there and debate John Frame or Douglas Wilson, they are always up for a debate and I know I would enjoy watching the exchange.  In fact Frame debated your idol Michael Martin.  I do know Wilson has asked to debate Harris and has debated Hitchens.  Just a thought.  If you do debate a ‘presuppositionalist’ can you please start out with your previous post?

First, I am a nobody.  I doubt that they would want to debate a nobody.

Second, Please access your humor module and have a good laugh at my caricature of presuppositionalism.

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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: 31 July 2007 09:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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First, I am a nobody

I about cried when I read that.  You are a somebody to me.  You need to stop listening to the Smiths and various other emo artists and believe in yourself because that is the place to start. 

Now I do get disapointed when the other side of you, as seen in your last reply to Selinus, comes out.  But seriously you are sharp and I would love to listen/read a debate between you and Wilson. 
 
Besides Douglas Wilson is a simple pastor who holds no doctorate degree, in fact I think he only has his masters.  It may be in philosophy but he probably got it at the University of Idaho, which certainly isn’t an ivory tower for intellectual thinking.  As a professor who has a doctorate I’m sure he would be up for the task and find your arguments worth the task.

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Posted: 31 July 2007 01:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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[quote author=“fletch_F_Fletch”]. . . I about cried when I read that. . . .

Me too, at least figuratively. I can’t remember waltercat ever being trounced successfully as long as he’s been hanging out here, and I can’t imagine such a record to change dramatically in any other venue. Just my $.02, Jason.

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

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Posted: 31 July 2007 03:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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Waltercat writes:
First, I am a nobody. I doubt that they would want to debate a nobody.

WalterC, you are one of the most competent, interesting, patient, and intelligent posters on the entire site (Not to mention humorous).  I’ve learned so much from your posts.  I look to you as the voice of reason and seek out your words.  You are not a “nobody.”

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Posted: 31 July 2007 04:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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Though I feel that I rarely live up to the above comments, I do thank all of you for the votes of confidence.  Maybe I oughtn’t be so humble.  (HA!  That last part was supposed to be a joke.)

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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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