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Letter to an Atheist by Michael Patrick Leahy
Posted: 03 May 2007 11:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 631 ]  
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Here’s some Buddhist insight that seems relevant and might help explain why this dialog is going no where.  This discourse is from Thich Naht Hahn, a monk in the Zen tradition (and not a theist).

There are two levels of relationship between us and other beings.  In Christianity, we hear the expression “horizontal theology”.  This kind of theology helps us see and touch what is there around us.  Horizontal theology helps us establish links with what is around us including human beings, animals, vegetables, and minerals.  Our daily practice should help us get in tough with theses beings, because by getting in touch with them, we will be able to get in touch with God.

Getting in touch with God is symbolized by a vertical line and is called “vertical theology”.  These are the two dimensions.  If you do not succeed in getting in touch with the horizontal dimension, you will not be able to get in touch with the vertical dimension.  There is a relationship between the horizontal and the vertical.  If you cannot love man, animals and plants, I doubt that you can love God.  The capacity for loving God depends on your capacity for loving humankind and other species.

Let us visualize the ocean with a multitude of waves.  Imagine that we are a wave on the ocean, and surrounding us are many, many waves.  If the wave looks deeply within herself, she will realize that her being there depends on the presence of all the other waves.  Her coming up, her going down, and her being big or small depend entirely on how the other waves are. 

It seems as if the wave and the water are two different things, but in fact they are one.  Without the water, there would be no wave, and if we remove the wave, there is no water.  There are two levels and two kinds of relationships.  When we speak of cause and effect, we have to be aware on what level we are speaking.  Is it on the level of phenomena or the level of noumena?  It is very important not to mix up the two. 

Of course there is a relationship between water and wave, but this relationship is very different from the relationship between waves and waves.  This is very important.  When we say this wave is made of all the other waves, we are dealing with the phenomenal world.  We are speaking of causes and effects in terms of phenomena.  But it’s very different when we say that this wave is made of water.  By separating the two relationships we will save a lot of time, ink and saliva.

When you say that humankind was created by God, you are talking about the relationship between water and wave.  God did not create man in the same way that a carpenter creates a table.  All our Christian friends would agree with that.  The way God created the cosmos was quite different.  You cannot mix up the two dimensions.  You cannot consider God as one of the things that operates in the realm of phenomena.  There are many theologians who are able to see this.  Paul Tillich said that “God is the ground of being.”  The “ground of being” is the noumenal aspect of reality.  God is not a being in the phenomenal world.  He or She is the ground of all being.

We can talk about the phenomenal world, but it is very difficult to talk about the noumenal world.  It is impossible to use our concepts and words to describe God.  All the adjectives and nouns that we use to describe waves cannot be used to describe God.  We can say that this wave is high or low, big or small, beautiful or ugly, has a beginning and an end.  But all of these notions cannot be applied to water. God has no beginning or end.  God is not more or less beautiful.  All the ideas we use to describe phenomenal world cannot be applied to God.  So it’s very wise not to say anything about God.  To me the best theologian is the one who never speaks about God. 

Not being able to speak about God does not mean that God is not available to us.  I agree with Andre Gide who said, “God is available to us twenty-four hours a day.”  The question is whether you are touching God twenty-four hours a day.

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Posted: 03 May 2007 12:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 632 ]  
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[quote author=“waltercat”][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).

Waltercat: I went back and looked at your original post, and Bruce’s World was like our world except it allowed one contradiction, and your conclusion was that God did not exist in Bruce’s World. Forgive me if I failed to see that you were trying to say that if God did not exist in Bruce’s World that he did not exist in any world.  I did not understand that for one simple reason - you didn’t say it.

Nevertheless, let us move on.  I have an updated response to the concept that God cannot both exist and not exist.  Interestingly, my response is somewhat anticipated by Namaste’s post - in fact his post refers to God as the ground of being just like my last post did.  That is an important point.  There is a qualitative difference between setting up a logical contradiction such as “Jason is brilliant and Jason is not brilliant”, and dealing with the ontological issue - “God exists and God does not exist” (simpliciter, for all possible worlds).  In the Biblical view, God is the creator of rules of logic. This creation comes from his own nature, which consists of the ultimate logic/wisdom/knowledge/information. “In the beginning was the Logos (logic, word), and the Logos was with God, and the Logos WAS God.” All rules of logic flow from Logos/God. If God did not exist, there would be no logic, thus, there would be no language or thought from which to express the idea “God does not exist.”  The concept of “God does not exist” would itself never exist, unless God existed. So to have a situation in which “God does not exist” is not a logical problem, but an ontological one. The status of God not existing is simply undefined - it is not a thing that can ever come into existence by definition.  So the contradiction of “God exists and God does not exist” is meaningless, since without the existence of God there would be no logic to even form the basis for the statement or the idea to begin with. 

Now, your description of the timelessness of logic sounds very much like the Logos of the Bible. I think you are describing him without knowing what you are describing. And I think you have faith in him, because you believe (apparently upon no evidentiary basis whatsoever) that he exists in black holes (where you have never been), at the quantum level (where you have no special expertise), and before the Big Bang (where science cannot penetrate beyond the first fraction of a second after it occurred). That is faith.  The baptismal waters are waiting.

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Posted: 03 May 2007 01:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 633 ]  
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The point of the quotation I posted is this: 
You cannot capture “God” with your mental formations (ideas, concepts, logic, reasoning etc).  If Christians (and Muslems, and Jews) would quit talking about God and churning up diviseness and discord and worse, and simply ‘love their neighbors’, that would be heaven on earth.  Love the creator by loving creation. Period.

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Posted: 03 May 2007 02:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 634 ]  
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Hey Namaste—
    You just totally summed up my entire spiritual philosophy in one sentence.  Actually, I think you sum up my entire spiritual philosophy in just your screen name.  grin 
    Thank you for keeping it simple and getting to the heart of the matter.  For me, the point of spirituality, if you want to call it that, is living in harmony with the earth and the life that inhabits it.  Some religious people may say that this is not enough… that in order to be “saved” I must accept some saviour or another, or some God or another.  But I don’t expect to be saved.  I expect to live and to die.  And that is glorious enough for me.

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Posted: 03 May 2007 03:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 635 ]  
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[quote author=“woofy”] Some religious people may say that this is not enough… that in order to be “saved” I must accept some saviour or another, or some God or another.

That is a huge difference between religion and atheism - the latter makes no such demand on people. Going further, the difference between the Abrahamic religions and the others is the exclusivity of salvation.

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Posted: 03 May 2007 03:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 636 ]  
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I expect to live and to die. And that is glorious enough for me.

Amen!

To put it another way, the miracle isn’t to walk on water, the miracle is to walk on the earth.

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Posted: 03 May 2007 03:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 637 ]  
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[quote author=“Namaste”]The point of the quotation I posted is this: 
You cannot capture “God” with your mental formations (ideas, concepts, logic, reasoning etc).  If Christians (and Muslems, and Jews) would quit talking about God and churning up diviseness and discord and worse, and simply ‘love their neighbors’, that would be heaven on earth.  Love the creator by loving creation. Period.

Exactly, Waltercat makes an error in assuming that formal logic applies to the world rather than being a condition for unambiguous communication and propositional language.  It does not apply to the world, only to the way that we construct our descriptions of the world.  (The rules of logic specifically don’t apply in the quantum world, for example.)

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Posted: 03 May 2007 03:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 638 ]  
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[quote author=“burt”] (The rules of logic specifically don’t apply in the quantum world, for example.)

BULLSHIT!!!!!!

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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 04:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 639 ]  
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If Logic is the condition for unambiguous communication and propositional language (whatever that might mean) then, logic explicitly DOES apply to our communication about the quantum realm.

Logic certainly is a precondition for rational communication, and that is all that I have ever claimed that it is.


Burt,
Please explain the nature of the error that one would be making if he believed that Logic “applied to the world.”  In so doing, please explain what it would mean for logic to “apply to the world.”

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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 04:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 640 ]  
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[quote author=“Namaste”]The point of the quotation I posted is this: 
You cannot capture “God” with your mental formations (ideas, concepts, logic, reasoning etc).  If Christians (and Muslems, and Jews) would quit talking about God and churning up diviseness and discord and worse, and simply ‘love their neighbors’, that would be heaven on earth.  Love the creator by loving creation. Period.

You are right. Of course, the only way to get your point across is to talk about it, and that’s what this forum is about. But in my real life, I agree that actions are much more important than words, so your point is well-taken.

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Posted: 03 May 2007 04:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 641 ]  
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[quote author=“Bruce Burleson”]Waltercat: I went back and looked at your original post, and Bruce’s World was like our world except it allowed one contradiction, and your conclusion was that God did not exist in Bruce’s World. Forgive me if I failed to see that you were trying to say that if God did not exist in Bruce’s World that he did not exist in any world.  I did not understand that for one simple reason - you didn’t say it.

Well, there was an unstated (but very reasonable) assumption in my argument.  And given that I was trying to be exceedingly explicit, this is an unforgivable oversight on my part.

The assumption was as follows:  God is a necessary being.  That is, God’s existence is necessary; God exists in all possible worlds.

This actually is your view, since you thing that God is the very ground of being (and given all of the the other gobbledeegook you said in your most recent post).  Nothing can exist without God, on your view.

So God’s existence is necessary. You must agree with that.  Most Christian philosophers think that this is right:  God exists in every possible world.

But I showed you that, if there is a possible world in which a single logical contradiction is true (remember, we are JUST PRETENDING HERE.  There is no such world), then we can prove anything.  In particular, we can prove that God does not exist.  But, if in Bruce’s World God does not exist, then this implies that God is NOT a necessary being (since He doesn’t exist in all possible worlds).  And, since God is supposed to be a necessary being by definition, we know that if there is a world in which God does not exist, God does not exist, simpliciter.

So, the existence of a single world in which a logical contradiction is true is enough to prove that God does not exist, simpliciter.

Remember that, if God is the author of logic as you claim he is, then there is a world exactly like Bruce’s World (since God can create any world with any set of logical rules at all).  There is a world with one true logical contradiction.  Hence, if God is the author of logical rules, God does not exist.

Once again, NONE OF THIS MAKES AND DAMN SENSE.  But such is life when we are dealing with those who deny the autonomy of logic.

In the Biblical view, God is the creator of rules of logic. This creation comes from his own nature, which consists of the ultimate logic/wisdom/knowledge/information.

Let us get one thing clear.  God cannot be the creator of logic. For all of the reasons I have given above.  Furthermore, Logic cannot have been created, that doesn’t even make sense.  Logic is timeless in the sense of being uncreated.

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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 04:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 642 ]  
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Burt,
Please explain the nature of the error that one would be making if he believed that Logic “applied to the world.”  In so doing, please explain what it would mean for logic to “apply to the world.”

Waltercat:

I am making a meager attempt to explain this concept.  Please don’t take this as condescending.

There is a false sense of security in the world right now rested on a false dichotomy between logic/illogic.  It is affecting the ability to look at what burt is saying from a neutral perspective.  You’re being subjective, because you are failing to see that there is a possibility that the world does not operate logically.  Things that do not logically happen can be logically justified.

Cheers!

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Posted: 03 May 2007 04:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 643 ]  
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[quote author=“MDBeach”]
There is a false sense of security in the world right now rested on a false dichotomy between logic/illogic.  It is affecting the ability to look at what burt is saying from a neutral perspective.  You’re being subjective, because you are failing to see that there is a possibility that the world does not operate logically.  Things that do not logically happen can be logically justified.

Please don’t take this as condescending.

WHAT THE EFF .  . .  .No just kidding. :D

What would it mean for the world to operate logically?

What would it mean for the world to not operate logically?

I have never said that the world operates logically.  I don’t even know what that would mean.

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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 06:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 644 ]  
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[quote author=“waltercat”][quote author=“burt”] (The rules of logic specifically don’t apply in the quantum world, for example.)

BULLSHIT!!!!!!

 

I refer you specifically to Roland Omnes, Quantum Philosophy.  Omnes is a highly respected French physicist, one of the main people in the consistent histories and decoherence interpretation of quantum mechanics.  In this book he proposes a new take on some of the old philosophical principles: in particular, he notes that many of these principles have been derived by introspection on experiences of the ordinary world, yet it is known that they fail completely in the quantum world.  This raises the question: how can they be justified?  His solution is to start with the quantum world and attempt to deduce the ordinary world from that.  The book is historical and philosophical so the math required is minimal (except for a couple of chapters). 

More generally, I refer you to any of the work on the ERP experiment, Schrodinger’s Cat, delayed choice experiments, and so on.  They all show that ordinary logic (as in identity, contradiction, excluded middle) do not apply to quantum reality.  That’s why it is so hard to comprehend.

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Posted: 03 May 2007 06:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 645 ]  
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[quote author=“waltercat”]If Logic is the condition for unambiguous communication and propositional language (whatever that might mean) then, logic explicitly DOES apply to our communication about the quantum realm.

Logic certainly is a precondition for rational communication, and that is all that I have ever claimed that it is.

That is Bohr’s correspondence principle: we have to use classical language to talk about something that does not operate according to classical laws: we have to structure our communications according to the canons of scientific language, but the fact that quantum reality does not obey the ordinary laws of logic that are necessary for these communications places strong restrictions on what we can say.  We cannot, for example, say that an electron is either a wave or a particle because saying that (which is what a logical definition of an electron would require) leads to a contradiction.  (Physicists talk about electrons as particles, but that is a technical abuse of language—they don’t mean particles in the ordinary sense, but really just thingies that satisfy certain symmetries and are represented by the solutions of certain equations.)  In other words, when we talk about the quantum realm we have to be aware that even though we need to use logic to communicate in our language, that realm itself operates on laws that violate our logical principles. 

[quote author=“waltercat”]
Burt,
Please explain the nature of the error that one would be making if he believed that Logic “applied to the world.”  In so doing, please explain what it would mean for logic to “apply to the world.”

If one was a dyed in the wool Aristotelian, one would assume that natural kinds with essences existed in the world and obeyed the catagorical conditions of Aristotelian logic.  To qualify, however, logic does apply approximately in that it allows us to talk about the world using a language with stable identities.

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