If You are Going to Be a Christian, at Least be a Courageous Christian

This is a follow up OP to my previous two where I’d challenged some of the common Christian views, such as the immortally of the soul  and the origin of evil.

At UD, I also questioned the suppose holiness of Billy Graham-who recently passed away-and the comparison of him to apostle Paul as well as Graham’s confidence that he was going to go to heaven to be with the Lord here.

It looks like that pushed some of the true Christians over the edge  at UD and consequently I was challenged to admit as being a closet atheist or as Truth Will Set You Free called me a/mat (atheist/materialist)…

41 Truth Will Set You Free 

“J-mac @ 15: A/mats are cowards when they preach their a/mat faith as if it has some redeeming social value, which it doesn’t. Stop faking. You act and live as if life has ultimate meaning and value, but there are no such things in a/mat faith-based philosophy.

You are delusional, and you are the real coward. Stop lying to yourself. Embrace your a/mat nihllism.”

My response to this challenge was:

42 J-Mac 

“O’RLY?

Well, I think the only way out of this for you is that you are going to have to prove your claim…

I hope you live up to your name Truth Will Set You Free… Otherwise I’d suggest you change your name to Falsehood Will Set You Up…”

As expected, I never got a response with at least some proof why Truth Will Set You Free  and others would think I was a closet atheist…

Although this is not the first time I was accused of being an atheist, this time though it happened after I had taken some shots at the most cherished belief of the frequent contributors at UD, namely BA77, kairosfocus, Truth Will Set You Free, Barry, Dionisio and many others… namely the afterlife….

Here is my final comment on the challenge:

“So, it looks like the time has come for me to face the truth and make up my mind whether I should support the atheistic/materialistic views, like the view of material, soulless body, or the theistic views with the immortal soul that survives the death of the body and either inherited the heavenly realm or the fiery hell…

Ever since I have been challenged by Truth Will Set You Free and others I have been thinking about it for few days and it looks like I’m going to need help of all of you… Simply put, it is not an easy decision. So, please help me out to make the right one.

As you may remember that one of the reasons I question some theistic/ Christian believes is the teaching of the immortality of the soul.

In Gen 2:16 and 17 we read:

“16 God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”

So, according to the bible scripture, in God’s own words, the penalty for eating the forbidden fruit, which meant disobedience and sin, was supposed to be death. There is no mention of the survival of anything, like a soul, that was going to continue living in a spiritual realm, either in heaven or hell…

God said: “…You will surely die…” No hell, no afterlife, no nothing is ever said

After Adam and Eve sinned, one would hope that God would surly tell them all the details about their future regarding the continuation of their life as immortal souls…

And yet, nothing again:ì

Gen 3:19

“By the sweat of your face, You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.”
God said: “…You will return do the ground… because from it you were taken…”
So again, no word about the immortal soul continuing to live on in the spirit realm as the theistic/Christian teachings claim…

Instead, God clearly tells them that they are going to return to where they were before…
So, as you can see, if I were to accept the theistic/Christian teaching of the immortality of the soul, which continues after death, I would have to go against God’s own statements that are clearly the opposite to the beliefs of many Christians, including the many at UD, like Truth Will Set You free, BA77, ET, and many, many others…

However, this is not the end of the story…

When Satan convinced Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, what did he tell them the effect of the eating of the fruit would be?
Well read it for yourself:

Gen 3:1-5

“1 Now the serpent (Satan) was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden’? 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden. 3 But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, ‘You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die.’?”4 (Satan) “No! You will not die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God knowing good and evil.”

So, obviously you can see the real problem I would have if I were to accept the theistic/Christian teachings of the immortality of the soul that survives death.

I would not only be supporting Satan’s claim that the eating of the forbidden fruit doesn’t lead to death, but rather to being like God, I would also have to be forced to claim that God, yes the Christian God, is a liar… because he said if you sin, you will die…

So, if I decide to stick with theists and support the teachings of immortality of the soul, like the true Christians like, Truth Will Set You Free , BA77, KF and many others believe, I actually would have to claim that God is a liar and Satan’s claim when he said:

“No! You will not die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God knowing good and evil.”

was actually true…

So, please help me to make the right decisions.
If I stick with the beliefs of Truth Will Set You Free, BA77, KF and many others at UD, I’m going to be a hypocrite, and accuse God of lying. But if I support God’s statements and expose Satan as slander and lair, the true Christians at UD are going to continue to claim that I hide my true beliefs and you will call me an atheist/materialist… What should I do?

Truth Will Set You Free, BA77, ET, KF and others; what would you do if you were in my situation?

I think, I have no choice and I’m going to support God’s claims and oppose Satan’s falsehood even though I’m going to risk to be abused by you and called names like a/mat…

After all, if I can’t be true to myself, why even bother to breath? We agree at least on one thing: God is righteous and truthful even when hypocrites accused Him of being a lair….He will repay everyone in full…We can be assured of that…

I’m just wondering: Who is it going to be?
Am I going straight to hell?”

What do you all think? Did I do the right thing despite the possible consequences of being accused of being delusional and closet atheist? Am I a closet atheist? What do atheists think? Do I belong with you? Do I belong with true Christians like BA77, Barry, Dr. Egnor ,TWSYF and others? Do I even belong with the ID crowd?

180 thoughts on “If You are Going to Be a Christian, at Least be a Courageous Christian

  1. keiths: You obviously won’t find him explaining mountain formation, for instance, in terms of natural selection.

    It isn’t a book on mountain formation. It’s a book on consciousness.

    Dennett leaves the impression that consciousness is something almost magical that happens to us, as a consequence of natural selection.

  2. keiths:

    Compatibilism doesn’t assert that determinism is true. It just asserts that determinism, if it is true, is compatible with free will.

    KN:

    True, but if one doesn’t think that determinism is true, then compatibilism is just a fun little mental exercise and not a position worth putting any real energy into developing and defending.

    No, because having accepted compatibilism, you can go on to ask what difference it would make if the universe were not actually deterministic.

    keiths:

    In any case, determinism and free will are not inherently theological concepts, so it’s silly to dismiss them just because they’ve impinged on theological discussions in the past.

    KN:

    We disagree quite strongly on that point.

    As I see it, no one would have bothered defending libertarian freedom if it weren’t for the necessity of making sense of Christian theological concepts like creation ex nihilo and the imago Dei. And libertarian freedom is the best articulation we have of what the concept of free will actually means. Likewise for determinism — it’s just the Christian idea of predestination transposed into the framework of mechanistic physics.

    You’re missing the point, which is that the history of an idea is not identical to its content. Determinism and free will, as concepts, do not depend on theism, regardless of any historical entanglements they may have had. Each of them can be articulated in a non-theistic context.

    Take determinism, for instance. Laplace’s (apocryphal) comment to Napoleon — “Sire, I had no need of that hypothesis [God]” — makes sense to our ears. He was proposing a deterministic system, and determinism does not rely on theistic assumptions.

    If determinism were inherently theological, then Laplace’s comment would have been nonsensical.

  3. I’m inclined to disagree with the first part of your quote. It seems to misconstrue what Dennett means by “illusion”.

    However, I do agree with this part.

    quote
    fifthmonarchyman: Second, natural science, in the name of which Dennett puts forward his various theories, ultimately rests on the empirical evidence provided by conscious experience. Hence if conscious experience really were a “user-illusion,” it would follow that the foundations of empirical science are illusory.
    end quote

    Dennett seems to take the scientific image to be true and the manifest image to be illusory. But that ignores how the scientific image arises out of the manifest image.

  4. Neil Rickert: Dennett seems to take the scientific image to be true and the manifest image to be illusory.

    I think we have to be extremely careful in how we use the word “illusory” in describing Dennett’s view of the manifest image. What he wants to say is that introspection is a “user illusion”, in the sense borrowed from computer science: our self-awareness is not a reliable guide to the neurophysiological processes which generate that self-awareness.

    But that ignores how the scientific image arises out of the manifest image.

    FBB was Dennett’s attempt to show how the scientific image arises out of the manifest image. I think he gets most of the way there.

  5. Neil,

    The whole point of his [Dennett’s] emphasis on memes is to explain away culture as merely natural selection at work.

    He’s trying to explain it, not explain it away.

  6. Neil:

    It isn’t a book on mountain formation. It’s a book on consciousness.

    If by “everything” you don’t mean “everything”, then you’ve undercut your already dubious argument:

    He wants natural selection to explain everything. And that pretty much leaves it explaining nothing.

  7. Neil,

    Biological organisms are pragmatic. The pragmatism arises from the homeostasis of biological processes.

    The pragmatism of biological systems in turn leads to pragmatic decision making, which is the basis for intentionality.

    That’s what’s missing from Dennett’s overly broad use of natural selection.

    Homeostasis is essential for survival and reproduction, so it is favored by natural selection.

    What’s missing?

  8. keiths: Take determinism, for instance. Laplace’s (apocryphal) comment to Napoleon — “Sire, I had no need of that hypothesis [God]” — makes sense to our ears. He was proposing a deterministic system, and determinism does not rely on theistic assumptions.

    My understanding is that Laplace’s apocryphal comment was specifically with regards to whether divine intervention was necessary to push the planets into their orbits and get them revolving around the Sun. It might seem odd, but Newton actually thought that. Laplace’s innovation was to realize that gravitational attraction alone was sufficient to explain the formation of the planets and sun from a gas cloud (“the nebular hypothesis”). (Fun fact: Immanuel Kant arrived at the same realization independently.)

    However, when we look at Laplace’s argument for determinism, notice that it involves positing a being with the right epistemic access to the universe — Laplace’s Demon. The Demon occupies an epistemic role analogous to that of God in theological metaphysics: it (God or the Demon) has the right kind of knowledge to see that determinism is true.

    We, on the other hand, lack this knowledge. If we assert that determinism is true because we can conceive of a being for whom determinism would be known to be true, we’re allowing our metaphysical commitments to swing very far from our epistemological commitments. I find that deeply problematic and I’m curious as to why you don’t.

    To be clear, I don’t think determinism is true — but I also don’t think it’s false. I’m strictly agnostic about determinism, because taking a position either way would involve allowing metaphysics to swing too far free from natural science and from epistemology. Without those constraints, metaphysics is just whatever we want it to be, and that’s too mushy and loose to be interesting.

    To repeat a point I borrowed from Owen Flanagan, what we really want to know is whether our manifest image concepts of rational deliberation and choice, which seem to be required by transcendental argument for practical agency, are consistent with the sciences of mind. Free will and determinism are both red herrings as far as that goes.

  9. KN,

    However, when we look at Laplace’s argument for determinism, notice that it involves positing a being with the right epistemic access to the universe — Laplace’s Demon.

    No, it doesn’t. Laplace uses the Demon as an explanatory aid, but the idea that the universe is deterministic in no way depends on the existence of the Demon. Laplace obviously didn’t claim that the Demon was real, after all!

    Whether the universe is deterministic is independent of whether a being exists who can predict its future states.

    The Demon occupies an epistemic role analogous to that of God in theological metaphysics: it (God or the Demon) has the right kind of knowledge to see that determinism is true.

    Whether determinism is true (or false) is independent of whether anyone knows that determinism is true (or false).

    If we assert that determinism is true because we can conceive of a being for whom determinism would be known to be true, we’re allowing our metaphysical commitments to swing very far from our epistemological commitments.

    You have it backwards. The conceivability of Laplace’s Demon doesn’t make determinism true. But if determinism already is true, then Laplace’s Demon would be able to predict the future states of the universe.

  10. KN,

    To summarize my objections so far:

    1. Dennett is a compatibilist, because he believes that free will is compatible with determinism.

    2. It’s therefore contradictory for you to say both that Dennett gets it right and that compatibilism is a non-starter.

    3. Determinism and free will are not inherently theological concepts, because each can be articulated independently of theism.

    4. The history of an idea is separable from its meaning. The fact that free will and determinism have impinged on theological discussions in the past does not make them inherently theological concepts.

    5. Your reason for claiming that compatibilism is a “non-starter” is therefore invalid:

    In short: whereas compatibilism wants to show how both free will and determinism can be true, I think that neither is true. Both are shadows of God that we are better off without.

  11. Neil Rickert: It seems to misconstrue what Dennett means by “illusion”.

    What do you think he means by illusion? And how can you possibly have an illusion with out someone who is deceived?

    peace

  12. fifthmonarchyman: What do you think he means by illusion? And how can you possibly have an illusion with out someone who is deceived?

    He calls it a “user illusion” and compares it with computer graphic presentations that are intended to make things easier for the user.

    I don’t think most computer users are deceived by those graphic presentations. They might not know what are the underlying details, but they don’t think of themselves as deceived.

    My take is that Dennett is considering perceptual experience as a presentation that makes it easier for us to work with the world, rather than a presentation of how the world actually is. For perspective, I’ll note that I don’t believe that there is any such thing as “how the world actually is”. However, Dennett does seem to take it that science tells us how the world actually is.

  13. Neil Rickert: He calls it a “user illusion” and compares it with computer graphic presentations that are intended to make things easier for the user.

    Isn’t the argument that it’s the user himself that is the illusion?

    Neil Rickert: My take is that Dennett is considering perceptual experience as a presentation that makes it easier for us to work with the world

    I thought his take was that consciousness itself was an illusion. Are you saying that he equates consciousness with mere perceptual experience?

    Who exactly is doing the experiencing in Dennett’s view?

    and Was it not Descartes’ contribution to show that consciousness can happen even we are wildly misled by our perceptual experience?

    peace

  14. fifth:

    Isn’t the argument [according to Dennett] that it’s the user himself that is the illusion?

    No. If you actually want to understand Dennett’s thinking, why on earth are you starting with a book review by Ed Feser, of all people?

  15. Neil Rickert: “Consciousness” is a vague enough term, that it is hard to know what people take it to be.

    I agree. We do know enough to say that he takes it to be an illusion.

    peace

  16. I actually find Dennett’s views on consciousness to be quite insightful and plausible. It’s unfortunate that so many people feel free to opine on his views without taking the time to understand them, or even read his work for themselves — and much more unfortunate that a few people, like Ed Feser and Thomas Nagel, have no compunction at all about completely and deliberately misrepresenting Dennett. Just in case anywhere here would like to read Dennett’s views on consciousness for themselves, here (PDF) is a good place to start.

    On the other Dennett-related issue here, this turns on a somewhat technical issue involving semantics and pragmatics, but it’s worth getting into.

    What I want to say here is that compatibilists like Dennett and Harry Frankfurt are not really compatibilists. There is such a thing as changing the subject, after all. (Are Adam Smith and Karl Marx really disagreeing about the same thing when they talk about capitalism?) I’m increasingly of the suspicion that libertarians and compatibilists aren’t really talking about the same thing when they talk about free will.

    Dennett in his own way confirms this when he argues, in Elbow Room, that “could have done otherwise” is a red herring and snare in talking about free will (what Dennett calls “Austin’s frog at the bottom of the beer mug”). But for libertarians, this ‘could have done otherwise’ is precisely the point. It’s central to how Descartes thinks about the role of free will in giving us the possibility of avoiding mistakes, and it’s central to what Kant is trying to rescue in Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals.

    In other words, I don’t think it’s as cut-and-dried as “libertarians hold that free will and determinism are incompatible and compatibilists hold that free will and determinism are compatible.” I think that the most interesting and plausible views that are advertised as compatibilist, like Dennett’s and Frankfurt’s, actually are not — precisely because I don’t think that they are talking about the same thing as libertarians are. And I’m perfectly happy to allow the libertarian “ownership” of the idea of free will, since they came up with it in the first place.

  17. J-Mac: What? Please tell me you have more than just your unfounded assumptions…

    Nope…no unbounded assumption. I provided a clear and detailed explanation. That you have trouble understanding basic logic is not my problem.

    I don’t think you know who I am what I stand for…If you don’t have a very good arguments , please do not respond!

    Well, my point has nothing to do with what “you stand for”, whatever that means anyway. It has to do with the actual entailments of the Christian god-concept. Now, if you don’t actually adhere to any form of Christianity or Christian god-concept, well then…my bad. But if so, then you’re stuck with the same logical fallacies and contradictions noted.

    But that’s your pig and your farm…

  18. Kantian Naturalist: What I want to say here is that compatibilists like Dennett and Harry Frankfurt are not really compatibilists.

    This is puzzling. Okay, I’m not familiar with Franfurt’s view, but I do take Dennett to be a compatibilist.

    I’m increasingly of the suspicion that libertarians and compatibilists aren’t really talking about the same thing when they talk about free will.

    This too, is puzzling. That they aren’t talking about the same thing has been obvious for a long time. And only now you begin to suspect that?

    I think I first got into an online discussion of free will around 1992 or 1993. Someone else had brought it up. I gave what seemed to me to be a sensible reply — it turns out that I gave the compatibilist view, and my opponent was arguing for libertarianism. But it was already obvious that we were talking past one another. My opponent made a big fuss about determinism being incompatible with free will. My response was that free will was useless, if I could not use it to determine my own actions. And it went downhill from there.

    I usually try to avoid getting too deep into free will debates, because there isn’t enough common ground to make them useful.

    Here’s how I currently see the distinction. Compatibilists are attempting to give something of a causal description of what is happening. Libertarians are, instead, emphasizing a rather idealized abstract description of what they think “free will” ought to be.

  19. KN,

    I’m increasingly of the suspicion that libertarians and compatibilists aren’t really talking about the same thing when they talk about free will.

    Of course they aren’t! Libertarians are talking about libertarian free will, and compatibilists are talking about compatibilist free will.

    Hence the subtitle of Dennett’s book: Elbow Room — The Varieties of Free Will Worth Wanting.

    Libertarian free will is incoherent and unobtainable, and therefore not “worth wanting”. Compatibilism is the only viable basis for free will.

  20. KN,

    There’s an easy way to see your errors:

    1. Libertarian free will depends on “could have done otherwise”.

    2. Libertarian free will is therefore incompatible with determinism, which rules out “could have done otherwise”.

    3. Compatibilists hold that free will is compatible with determinism.

    4. Therefore, the free will that compatibilists are talking about cannot be the same thing as libertarian free will, which is incompatible with determinism.

    5. You claim that Dennett and Frankfurt aren’t really compatibilists, because the kind of free will they’re talking about isn’t libertarian free will.

    6. That’s silly, because by #4, compatibilist free will cannot be the same as libertarian free will.

    7. Therefore, we would expect Dennett’s and Frankfurt’s accounts of free will to differ from the libertarians. Otherwise they’d be libertarians, not compatibilists!

  21. Neil,

    Here’s how I currently see the distinction. Compatibilists are attempting to give something of a causal description of what is happening. Libertarians are, instead, emphasizing a rather idealized abstract description of what they think “free will” ought to be.

    No, the distinction is right there in the definition of compatibilism. Compatibilists think that free will is compatible with determinism. Libertarians don’t.

  22. Kantian Naturalist: Just in case anywhere here would like to read Dennett’s views on consciousness for themselves, here (PDF) is a good place to start.

    The link is broke

    peace

  23. Neil Rickert: Biological organisms are pragmatic.The pragmatism arises from the homeostasis of biological processes.

    The pragmatism of biological systems in turn leads to pragmatic decision making, which is the basis for intentionality.

    Dennett acknowledges his debt to Richard Rorty who claimed to be a pragmatist. And I think Rorty gets away with it!

    That’s what’s missing from Dennett’s overly broad use of natural selection.

    Well, I have to ask again. what else is there? NS (differential survival and reproduction) is the only source of bias. Admittedly it’s a bold claim that traces Bach back to bacteria. But alternatives?

  24. Alan Fox: Well, I have to ask again. what else is there? NS (differential survival and reproduction) is the only source of bias. Admittedly it’s a bold claim that traces Bach back to bacteria. But alternatives?

    The effect of a bias is for everything to slowly move in the direction of that bias.

    The bias from natural selection is toward extinction. If NS is the driving force, then life should be extinct by now.

    Instead, we see creativity in biological systems, acting in ways to avoid this extinction. I see that creativity as the important factor.

    Or to put it differently: I see natural selection as the problem, not as the solution. And I see the creative ways that biological systems deal with that problem as the real basis for biological diversity. In other words, I see natural selection as a “tail wags the dog” kind of explanation.

  25. Neil Rickert: The effect of a bias is for everything to slowly move in the direction of that bias.

    The bias from natural selection is toward extinction.If NS is the driving force, then life should be extinct by now.

    Apologies for late reply. Don’t understand that. Why should differential reproduction success lead to extinction? The more fundamental issue is (as I asked before) what other process leads to adaptive change?

    Instead, we see creativity in biological systems, acting in ways to avoid this extinction.I see that creativity as the important factor.

    But the creativity element is variation randomly appearing in the gene pool. You have your variation and selection picks the adaptations.

    Or to put it differently:I see natural selection as the problem, not as the solution.And I see the creative ways that biological systems deal with that problem as the real basis for biological diversity.In other words, I see natural selection as a “tail wags the dog” kind of explanation.

    Not sure if perhaps you see causal chains where I see interactive webs.

  26. Kantian Naturalist:
    keiths,

    (Hat-tip to Barry Arrington and Jack Krebs for drawing my attention to this comment that I’d not noticed earlier.)

    This is not quite my forte, but here’s how it seems to me. The first decision-point concerns what kind of concept “free will” is: is it a phenomenological concept, that we use to describe our felt experience of agency and responsibility? Or is it a posit that is invoked in order to explain that experience?

    As I understand it, Augustine invents the idea of free will because he’s trying to solve the problem of evil. He has a theological problem he’s trying to solve, given his metaphysical commitments to the existence and nature of God, he has doctrinal commitments specific to Christianity, and free will is integral to his solution. Descartes repeats this whole strategy and reconceptualizes free will in light of mechanistic physics. And that gives us the modern problematic.

    Descartes is quite clear that free will is the ability to initiate new causal chains without any prior causal dependence. In fact, Descartes points out that it is fundamentally the freedom of our will, much more than the rationality of our intellect, that shows what it means for us to be created in the image of God. It is as if every act of freely chosen action on our part is a tiny little counterpart to God’s act of creating ex nihilo.

    Given this historical backdrop, I regard the concept of free will as completely bound up with a lot of metaphysical and theological baggage. If we get rid of that baggage, I don’t see a viable conception of free will that’s left over.

    That said, when it comes to understanding what we do have, I think that neurophilosophers like Dennett and Pat Churchland have it pretty much right. We do have what Churchland calls “the neurobiology of self-control”, which we could specify more carefully in terms of how prefrontal cortex (and specifically ventromedial prefrontal cortex) can inhibit limbic system activity. If you want to call that “free will,” my objection is semantic: I don’t see what virtue there is in applying a concept that originates in theology and applying it to biology.

    On the converse side, I should add that I also don’t believe in determinism. I see determinism as also being, in a way, a “shadow of God”, as Nietzsche would put it: a concept that made sense within a theological worldview and that only seems to make sense without that worldview. Only an omniscient being — God, or Laplace’s demon — would be able to understand how complex systems (which are epistemically intractable to us) are just like simple systems (which are epistemically tractable to us).

    In short: whereas compatibilism wants to show how both free will and determinism can be true, I think that neither is true*. Both are shadows of God that we are better off without.

    *my emphasis

    Exactly!

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