The Reason for God
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02-08-2015, 05:04 AM
The Reason for God
A friend told my wife that she needed to read this book. I know that she got most of the way through it but not sure if she finished it. I hadn't read of any of Keller's work so I checked him out for curiosity's sake and I came across a blog from John Loftus (he studied under WLC) and he pointed out, amongst other things, a part where Keller actually changed the wording of a quote to make it suit his arguement even more. So my hopes for this to be different kind of book fell slightly. So of course, it came up that I should read it because it WILL answer my questions and then this will crack the shell and therefore lead to me to the land of milk and cookies. So before I left for China, she asked me to read it since I will be here for 3 weeks. I figured that I would keep an open mind and read it. And I am also a sucker for a gorgeous gal. Big Grin

*sigh*

Note: This is more for me. If you want to discuss, I would like your input but if you want to evangelize, please go somewhere else.

I will leave the intro alone but needless to say, I found it not too impressive and it demonstrates that Keller has a porocial understanding on what skepticism and nonbelief is.

Chapter 1 has the boilerplate apologetic where Keller does the usual tactic of changing the English language to suit his fancy. An example:
Quote:"So what is religion then? It is a set of beliefs that explain what life is all about, who we are, and the most important things that human beings should spend their time doing." Chap 1 pg 15

There you have it folks, Webster and Oxford are wrong. Pastor Keller has set the record straight. See how he eliminated the superatural all together? How convenient. Everything is a religion then, eh, Tim? It is a religious belief that I want to protect my family from danger. It is a religious belief that I want to even protect other people's children. It is a religious belief that causes a soldier to die to protect his comrades. Facepalm

Throughout the chapter he makes several claims and does not provide any references to support them which irritates the crap out of me since I am the type of person who actually uses the bibliography to learn more. Especially about perspectives I don't agree with. My favorite one he did was on Page 13 where he quotes Professor Mark Lilla at U of Chicago. Cool, an apologist who actually names the antagonist so he can perhaps be fact-checked. I have to tip my hat to Keller in that regard since the names, locations, and situation in stories like this are usually omitted, if not fabricated (I'm looking at YOU, Chopra). He quotes him yet paraphrases him (i.e. he used ........ this type of.........writing...) and does not even tell us where the quote came from. COME ON TIM!!!! I want to see that the ..... was. Maybe it was important. The quote in a nutshell has Lilla (whose views are unknown but for this, he'll play the role of the evil atheist) saying that he was trying to "save" his student from christianity and who was recently saved at a Billy Graham crusade (the christian student was also described as "bright"). I was curious where it came from since if it actually was the context that Keller wants us to believe, then Lilla was being a really big dick. Do you know what seveal searches afforded me? Nothing. I found nothing outside of the fact that Mark Lilla is actually a professor at UoC. (To be fair though, the Great Firewall may be blocking some hits so if anyone can find it, I would be grateful) I mean, he had this rather detailed story but sheds absolutely no light as to where it came from or provides any context to the story. This is the kind of thing that really drives me nuts about apologetics. They always make the non-believer look like a complete asshole while making the poor christian look like a victim. Gee, this doesn't sound anything like "God is not Dead" with Hercules does it? Except as far as I am aware, Lilla wasn't pancaked by a car.

The guts of this chapter has Keller discussing 3 points that secular leaders are apparently using to try and control the divisiveness of religion. My curiosity bone is itching to see who and where this is occuring, but alas, the failure of a reference makes it hard to see his perspective. Dammit Tim, I am trying to work with you here and I am tired of punching strawmen. Angry

Point 1) Outlaw Religion
Keller opens this section by stating that in recent history, there have been attempts to control religion through force. Who you may ask does he use? ***Drumroll*** Soviet Russia, Communist China, the Khmer Rouge, and of course THE NAZIS!!!!! That's right guys, the Hitler grenade was lobbed on page 5. I think that is a record amongst apologists as far as I am aware. He goes on after sharing a quote saying

Quote:The 20th century gave rise to one os the greatest and most disturbing paradoxes of human history: That the greatest intolerance and violence of that century were practiced by those who believed that religion caused intolerance and violence.

Hmmm. Let's see if memory serves me here. Stalin was often accompanied by someone clad in the robes of the Russian Orthodox church and never did outlaw it as I recall. They also practucally made Stalin a diety. The Khumer Rouge used the diety "Uncar" to excercise control over the Cambodian people. I personally know several Chinese who were around when Mao was alive and it essentially was drilled into them using techniques that all religions utilize that Mao was divine. I mean, every day, one friend of mine said she had to go outside and say an incantation to Mao and his picture was on every shirt. The Nazis were very much christian and that is well documented and I do seem to recall ole Adolph saying that atheism was the biggest threat to national socialism. I also don't really recall Hitler ever saying that religion caused intolerance and violence. I do however, seem to recall him saying that the Nazis were doing god's work. Hmmmm.....why would that quote make Keller believe something that is historically inaccurate? (Isn't that also a religious belief per his definition, BTW?) Oh!!!! The quote was from Alister McGrath in his history of atheism (Laughat ) book. I wonder whether christians would like it if Sam Harris cited a history of christianity book written by Hitch. (Answer: they wouldn't)

This leads me to the observation of this section that is very dishonest. Keller completely and utterly ignores the centuries in history where religion had unfettered control of a country and also ignores the violence and intolerance that came with it. How could he possibly claim that he is not aware of this part of history? As far as body counts go, I think that christians are well in the lead. Very dishonest Tim, very dishonest.

2) Condemning Religion
Keller opens this by stating that religion can't be conrolled by the government and that religion isn't going away. OK, I agree with this, go on. Keller then asks whether we can socially encourage people through education and arguement to shy away from religions that claim to have "the truth" and to convert them to another belief? Wait what??!! This is rather a silly thing IMO because if one claim is incorrect and another is correct, education, arguement, and a heathy dose of skepticism for a claim will allow a person to sift through the myriad of ideas. The one with the facts on their side will emerge no matter what arguement you throw at it. If you have evidence for your idea Tim, present it for evaluation. Should be interesting since he hasn't changed the definition of evidence in the book. Yet.

He also discusses several axioms used by those who with to condemn religion in this chapter but one point really struck me as him completely missing the point of a skeptical approrach to a situation or claim (his discussion of the other axioms weren't much better). It is under the axiom titled "Each religion sees part of spiritual truth, but none can see the whole truth". He brings up the elephant and the blind men analogy as the typical way that this axiom is illustrated and points out that it actually backfires on the user because the user actually knows it is an elephant. He is actually criticizing the usage of this analogy but completely lost on Keller is the following:
1) Keller points out that the story is being told from the perspective of an observer of the whole situation. Obviously, the blind men represent the religions and the elephant god (so wouldn't that mean that the observer was god's god?). However, like with different religions the blind men can rotate positons, discuss, and will eventually come to some sort of concensus on what the object is. So through education, arguement, and being skeptical of answers that don't fit the evidence, they will eventually agree on something. Right or wrong, they will try to make the result fit the observations and refine it with discussion. Eventually, the people will figure out it is a damn elephant and agree on it. The fact that they have evidence before them allows them to make an accurate assessment with time. And all of this will happen independent of a distant observer. After all the blind men have no idea they are being watched in the analogy.
2)
Quote:by Keller: How could you possibly know that no religion can see the whole truth unless you yourself have the superior, comprehensive knowledge of spiritual reality you just claimed no other religion has? Chap 1, pg 9

OK, I see what he is trying to get at here but isn't this exactly what is said by christians? Christians think exactly this. They claim to see the elephant and tell the non-beleivers they don't . To quote Amazing Grace: "I once was lost, but now am found, Was blind but now I see." A bit of delicious bit of irony.

3) Keep Religion Private
Keller brings up the Declaration in Defense of Science and Secularism but he never really tells the readers what it was (he does provide a reference for it so good job Tim). However, unless I am mistaken, the real motive for this was largely out the idea that religions fight over moral issues and this idea is a way to not alienate people who want to legislate their own morals that may not represent the views of the majority. I am sure that the christians would be crying foul if Sharia was trying to be put forth. This is the section where Keller corrects Webster and Oxford for their erronious definition of religion. Keller then goes on to demonstrate that he doesn not know the difference between faith and a belief in addition to applying his new definition of religion by providing an analogy where the evil atheist (Ms A) is shown to be the cold, heartless bitch that she is while the religious Ms B is shown to be the better person. He then concludes this section with a rather insulting section of divorce that really lives in it's own little world that is not based in reality.

Christianity Can Save The World
I admit that when I saw this heading, I was really expecting a helping of ignorance and arrogance. Here Keller delivers splendidly. One quote:
Quote:Christianity not only leads its members to believe people of other faiths have goodness and wisdom to offer, it also leads them to expect that many will live lives morally superior to their own. Most people in our culture believe that if there is a god, we can relate to him and go to heaven through leading a good life. Chap 1, pg 20
*No reference/basis for this claim BTW*

So Tim Keller, a Presbyterian pastor in NYC, actually wrote that a nation comprising mostly of christians believe that one can get to heaven by just leading a good life. What the hell does this man preach in his church? If there is a christian church in the US that does not say that faith alone or faith and works are required I have never heard of it. I mean, this is a statement made by a pastor, that completely contradicts the bible. Jesus kind of layed the faith thing on pretty thick and faith has nothing to do with a good life so what the hell is he talking about? He never really addresses this statement which is rather perplexing. He finishes the chapter by talking about the things that early christianity had to offer. Like taking care of the poor and sick because those nasty Greco-Roman ideals. The doozy that he pretty much finishes up with is that it afforded women better equality. Huh? OK, so considering that the god of the OT who was a pretty mysogynist SOB is, in fact, Jesus just not in the flesh. Sooooo god changed his mind? Why didn’t he just say this stuff to begin with to Moses and not subject millions of women over the centuries to the nasty treatment under mosaic law called? Laws that were supposedly given to moses by god/jesus/holy spook (since after all they are the same thing). Also consider that jesus also allegedly said that a man can’t get divorced unless sexual immorality occured. I will give liscence that he was including women here but still, if a husband is beating the shit out of his wife, beating his kids, drinking the money away so that the kids are starving, divorce is still forbidden in this case by JC himself. And that is better than the OT how? Think of how many women have been silenced by 1 Timothy. How is this better? You have to ignore a ton of things to square this circle.


So in regards to chapter 1, I am not impressed. Keller so far has not impressed me with any apparent understanding of how people come to non-belief or what it would take to convince one to go back. So far, this book appears to be just another book that is only meant to keep people in the pews, make them feel better, and not actually try to convince a non-believer. The book so far is clearly, as all apologetics I have ever encountered are, aimed at people who are christians and don’t know much about the analysis of arguements or care to do so. We’ll see what the next chapter holds.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading.

"If we are honest—and scientists have to be—we must admit that religion is a jumble of false assertions, with no basis in reality.
The very idea of God is a product of the human imagination."
- Paul Dirac
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02-08-2015, 06:10 AM (This post was last modified: 02-08-2015 06:14 AM by DLJ.)
RE: The Reason for God
(02-08-2015 05:04 AM)The Organic Chemist Wrote:  ...
Keller opens this by stating that religion can't be conrolled by the government and that religion isn't going away. OK, I agree with this, go on.
...
If you made it this far, thanks for reading.

I did. Thank you.
It's highly unlikely that I'd read such a tome but at least I know of it it now. Cheers.

I would argue that state can control church...
Spinoza was able to publish from Holland precisely because the church there was under the thumb of the state. Likewise, why do you think the church of England is so emasculated?

In Murika? Maybe, because the church operates in a free market. But the idea of a state controlled religion is supported by the Stalin / Pol Pot argument.

Anyway, that's just a minor quibble.

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02-08-2015, 07:30 AM
RE: The Reason for God
(02-08-2015 06:10 AM)DLJ Wrote:  I would argue that state can control church...
Spinoza was able to publish from Holland precisely because the church there was under the thumb of the state. Likewise, why do you think the church of England is so emasculated?

In Murika? Maybe, because the church operates in a free market. But the idea of a state controlled religion is supported by the Stalin / Pol Pot argument.

Anyway, that's just a minor quibble.

I think that Keller is going for the state controlling the religion in an effort to stamp it out or make it a less threat to the government. In the case of Stalin/Pol Pot these religions were designed to terrorize and enslave while providing a tight control on the population. Keller's arguement was that the violence and intolerance of religion was the reason why these regimes tried to control it.
Quote:One way to deal with the divisiveness of religion has been to control or even forbid it with a heavy hand. Soviet Russia, Communist China, the Khmer Rouge, and (in a different way) Nazi Germany were all determined to tightly control religious practice in an effort to stop it from dividing society or eroding power of the state. page 5

From what I have read about Stalin and Pol Pot, that was never the only motive. They just wanted absolute control and that included the religious practices in addition to just about everything else. They used it as a method to subjugate the population. That is how I read it anyway.

"If we are honest—and scientists have to be—we must admit that religion is a jumble of false assertions, with no basis in reality.
The very idea of God is a product of the human imagination."
- Paul Dirac
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02-08-2015, 08:20 AM
RE: The Reason for God
Chapter 2 How Could a Good God Allow Suffering?

Keller begins the chapter by demonstrating that he fails to understand that just because someone believes that a good god wouldn't allow suffering doesn't mean that that person is angry at god. This is a mistake that he repeats throughout this entire chapter. While I am sure that there are non-believers who say they are agnostic/atheist due to anger, I have a very difficult time believing that this is anything other than an extreme minority. I have read many, many deconversion stories and I can't recall any that said that they were pisseed at god and therefore they didn't think he existed anymore. This very arguement of Keller's is entirely based on a fallacious ideal that those who came to disbelief because of the problem of suffering harbor an anger towards whatever god they came from.

Evil and suffering isn't evidence against god.
Well, Tim, we agree on something else. This section actually started pretty well as he was pointing out that to say that "if evil is pointless to me it must therefore be pointless" is a fallacious arguement. Sure, I agree. However, I have never heard anyone actually use this arguement but you never know. Throughout this chapter, Keller appears to not understand the difference between agnosticism and gnosticism. He repeatedly makes arguements that derive their foundation from the angle that the person says that they know that there was no reason or purpose for a particular event. Keller seems to not have a grasp of how skeptical thought functions. He distills negative events it to either an all or nothing scenario where the phrase "I don't know" is perfectly ok. While he is correct that suffering does not constitute evidence against a god, he immediately assumes that only HIS god is the one behind it.

Quote:With time and perspective, most of us can see good reasons for at least some of the tragedy and pain that occurs in life. Why couldn't it be possible that, from God's vantage point, there are good reasons for all of them? page 25

This again shows that Keller isn't at all interested in convincing me, he is trying to reassure christians. I can't really begin to answer the question he poses until he establishes that there even is a god and shows that he gives a crap. Even if there was a god established, the suffering could be two gods who are playing chess with humanity. It is just as plausible that Thor and Vishnu are toying with us to get back at Zeus. How does one differentiate? Without any method, they are all equally plausible and this is a concept that Keller simply does not grasp.

He continues:
Quote:If you have a god great and transcendendent enough to be mad at because he hasn't stopped evil and suffering in the world, then you have (at the same moment) a god great and transcendent enough to have good reasons for allowing it to continue. page 25

This statement really bothered me. In addition to not describing an atheist/agnostic in any way, it also forces the false dichotomy that there are only two options. What if something (not a god) created the cosmos as we know it and all the rules we see apply and this being hasn't looked in on the universe since it was made and literally everything was the result of the rules set up in the system and there is absolutely no motive at all? There would still be a "god" but no plan, no interaction, no knowledge of what was happening in one tiny corner of this cosmos. Unless you just pick one and assume the rest are wrong, they are all possible (even more options than this actually) and there is no way to differentiate. However, if you again take the theistic approach that you know what Keller is argueing, then there is a burden of proof on you. A burden that Keller never accepts, he just assumes he knows it's an elephant.

Evil and Suffering May be (If Anything) Evidence for god
Keller opens this section by quoting Lewis, which is a requirement in the apologetic scene. This segways into Keller assuming that all non-believers see the world as good and evil and basically spends the next paragraph or so saying that non-belief makes it more difficult for one to cope with some loss or whatnot. It was a bit ridiculous.

Comparing Jesus to the Martyrs
Here, Keller states that Jesus on the cross was more painful than what other martyrs endured such as the Maccabees. Cherrypicking one of the 7 last phrases of jesus to make his case, Keller choses the one from Matthew and doesn't look back. Saying that the forsaken cry was tantamount to bearing more pain than other martyrs who stoically went to their deaths, Keller says that this is because he WAS bearing more pain than being nailed to wood for 3 hours would have given him.

Quote:On the cross, Jesus suffered a three-hour long death by slow suffocation and blood loss. As terribly painful as that was, there have been far more excruciating and horrible deaths that martyrs have faces with far greater confidence and calmness.
Chap 2 pg 28

He goes on to tell a quick couple of lines about two martyrs executed in 1555 and how bravely they were burned to death. This is just stupid for several reasons. First, burning is very painful but much quicker and as the skin is burned, the nerves die. This doesn't happen during crucifixion. Also, what if Jesus was just more sensitive? Or just a coward? Or the 1555 story painted these two in a much better light than what realy happened? Also, this entire arguement posed by Keller hinges on the demenor portrayed in Matthew. What if that isn't what he said and it really was "It is finished" or any of the other alleged last words? This arguement is completely unfounded and utterly ridiculous. Keller literally says that Jesus suffered more then usual because he was suffering for everyone. However, the foundation of this arguement is complete nonsense. He can't even begin to say that without knowing what the actual last words were (assuming jesus even existed) and that he suffered far worse than any other crucified person. Neither point he knows for sure.

The Suffering God
Keller starts off by bringing up the trinity (which according to Ehrman wasn't even in any known text of John until nearly the 10th century and early church founders didn't reference, including Paul-Misquoting Jesus) and how that is the root for the inner agony that he was referring to in the last section. Incidentally, why are the last words according to John not OK for this arguement but this part is? Consider

Redemption and Suffering/Resurrection and Suffering
In the first section, Keller claims that Jesus dies a death unlike any death before or since. He then claims that christianity is the only religion that claims that god came uniquely and fully in human form . As far as I am aware, this is not true as Krishna was Lord Vishnu in the flesh born as the 8th child of a woman- As seen in the Bhagavad Vishnu. If there are any more, correct me. He then goes on to say the following:
Quote:Why did he (Jesus) do it? The bible says that Jesus came on a rescue mission for creation. He had to pay for our sins so that someday he can end evil and suffering without ending us.

Wait, I thought god was supposed to be all powerful and this is a limitation. So what would have happened if Pilate refused to kill Jesus? If god has limitations then he isn't perfect then is he? If he has limitless power, then he really didn't need to kill himself. So apparently god had to pay himself by killing himself to save us from his wrath that he caused in the first place by making a flawed system. This is like me saying that I will give myself 5 bucks so I don't spray raid on an anthill that is pissing me off but the anthill is there in the first place because I put the ants there. And the 5 bucks were the result of me impregnating one of the worker ants with myself. This is just silly and so is the whole atonement thing.

Keller then discussed the resurection part although he convinently leaves out the whole hell part. Come on, Tim. In this part, Keller also brings up one of the worst teachings of christianity IMO. This is the idea that this life's sufferings are all worth it because one day it will all be better.
Quote:This means that every horrible thing that ever happened will not only be undone and repaired but will in some way make the eventual glory and joy even better. page 32

This is one of the most awful teachings in christianity, IMO. Mainly because it instills this idea that if you're poor, miserable, abused, or whatnot, that it's OK because one day that score will be equalized. How awful. So the crackbaby that dies at the age of 4 due to neglect is in paradise so that makes it OK. Well that is if she was a believer......... otherwise, it's a baby BBQ time.

Keller continues with a Lord of the Rings reference that I am pretty sure was uttered by Frodo and not Sam as Keller says. He then switches into car salesman mode for the remainder of the chapter. Again, never establishing anything concrete, just happy-clappy stuff and concludes with the obligatory Lewis quote.

Chapter 2 was written better than chapter 1 because Keller stuck with theology and didn't muddy the water with verifiable facts. I guess he is largely writing to his audience which certianly isn't me. I can see why believers like this book so far because Keller is certianly puffing up the chest of the religion well. It works as long as you don't think too hard about it and not investigate. Skepticism is a nasty thing. To bad Keller doesn't know what it is.

Thanks for reading.

"If we are honest—and scientists have to be—we must admit that religion is a jumble of false assertions, with no basis in reality.
The very idea of God is a product of the human imagination."
- Paul Dirac
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02-08-2015, 12:42 PM
RE: The Reason for God
(02-08-2015 05:04 AM)The Organic Chemist Wrote:  My favorite one he did was on Page 13 where he quotes Professor Mark Lilla at U of Chicago. Cool, an apologist who actually names the antagonist so he can perhaps be fact-checked. I have to tip my hat to Keller in that regard since the names, locations, and situation in stories like this are usually omitted, if not fabricated (I'm looking at YOU, Chopra). He quotes him yet paraphrases him (i.e. he used ........ this type of.........writing...) and does not even tell us where the quote came from. COME ON TIM!!!! I want to see that the ..... was. Maybe it was important. The quote in a nutshell has Lilla (whose views are unknown but for this, he'll play the role of the evil atheist) saying that he was trying to "save" his student from christianity and who was recently saved at a Billy Graham crusade (the christian student was also described as "bright"). I was curious where it came from since if it actually was the context that Keller wants us to believe, then Lilla was being a really big dick. Do you know what seveal searches afforded me? Nothing.

I prayed, and prayed, and finally the almighty (Google) did answer. Big Grin

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/18/magazi....html?_r=0

Quote:I found it hard to conceal my bafflement, since Billy had not said much at all. You must be born again -- that was it. I felt a professorial lecture welling up in my throat about the history and psychology of religion. I wanted to expose him to the pastiche of the biblical text, the syncretic nature of Christian doctrine, the church's ambiguous role as incubator and stifler of human knowledge, the theological idiosyncrasy of American evangelicalism. I wanted to warn him against the anti-intellectualism of American religion today and the political abuses to which it is subject. I wanted to cast doubt on the step he was about to take, to help him see there are other ways to live, other ways to seek knowledge, love, perhaps even self-transformation. I wanted to convince him that his dignity depended on maintaining a free, skeptical attitude toward doctrine. I wanted. . .to save him.

I thought I was out of that business, but maybe not. It took years to acquire the education I missed as a young man, an education not only in books but in a certain comportment toward myself and the world around me. Doubt, like faith, has to be learned. It is a skill. But the curious thing about skepticism is that its adherents, ancient and modern, have so often been proselytizers. In reading them, I've often wanted to ask, "Why do you care?" Their skepticism offers no good answer to that question. And I don't have one for myself. When my daughter and I discuss her budding thoughts about the cosmos and morality, or when my students come to my office inspired or baffled by a book, something quickens within me. The Greeks spoke of eros, the Christians of agape and caritas. I don't know what to call it, I just know it is there. It is a kind of care. It is directed toward others, but also, perhaps, toward that young man lying on his bed, opening the Bible for the very first time.
That's the bit near the parts quoted in the book you read. It's a whole article, and this appears near the end of it.
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02-08-2015, 03:30 PM
RE: The Reason for God
(02-08-2015 12:42 PM)OddGamer Wrote:  
(02-08-2015 05:04 AM)The Organic Chemist Wrote:  My favorite one he did was on Page 13 where he quotes Professor Mark Lilla at U of Chicago. Cool, an apologist who actually names the antagonist so he can perhaps be fact-checked. I have to tip my hat to Keller in that regard since the names, locations, and situation in stories like this are usually omitted, if not fabricated (I'm looking at YOU, Chopra). He quotes him yet paraphrases him (i.e. he used ........ this type of.........writing...) and does not even tell us where the quote came from. COME ON TIM!!!! I want to see that the ..... was. Maybe it was important. The quote in a nutshell has Lilla (whose views are unknown but for this, he'll play the role of the evil atheist) saying that he was trying to "save" his student from christianity and who was recently saved at a Billy Graham crusade (the christian student was also described as "bright"). I was curious where it came from since if it actually was the context that Keller wants us to believe, then Lilla was being a really big dick. Do you know what seveal searches afforded me? Nothing.

I prayed, and prayed, and finally the almighty (Google) did answer. Big Grin

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/18/magazi....html?_r=0

Quote:I found it hard to conceal my bafflement, since Billy had not said much at all. You must be born again -- that was it. I felt a professorial lecture welling up in my throat about the history and psychology of religion. I wanted to expose him to the pastiche of the biblical text, the syncretic nature of Christian doctrine, the church's ambiguous role as incubator and stifler of human knowledge, the theological idiosyncrasy of American evangelicalism. I wanted to warn him against the anti-intellectualism of American religion today and the political abuses to which it is subject. I wanted to cast doubt on the step he was about to take, to help him see there are other ways to live, other ways to seek knowledge, love, perhaps even self-transformation. I wanted to convince him that his dignity depended on maintaining a free, skeptical attitude toward doctrine. I wanted. . .to save him.

I thought I was out of that business, but maybe not. It took years to acquire the education I missed as a young man, an education not only in books but in a certain comportment toward myself and the world around me. Doubt, like faith, has to be learned. It is a skill. But the curious thing about skepticism is that its adherents, ancient and modern, have so often been proselytizers. In reading them, I've often wanted to ask, "Why do you care?" Their skepticism offers no good answer to that question. And I don't have one for myself. When my daughter and I discuss her budding thoughts about the cosmos and morality, or when my students come to my office inspired or baffled by a book, something quickens within me. The Greeks spoke of eros, the Christians of agape and caritas. I don't know what to call it, I just know it is there. It is a kind of care. It is directed toward others, but also, perhaps, toward that young man lying on his bed, opening the Bible for the very first time.
That's the bit near the parts quoted in the book you read. It's a whole article, and this appears near the end of it.


Cool, thanks. Google is blocked in China. Coincidentally, the NYT is as well. Censored

"If we are honest—and scientists have to be—we must admit that religion is a jumble of false assertions, with no basis in reality.
The very idea of God is a product of the human imagination."
- Paul Dirac
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02-08-2015, 11:40 PM (This post was last modified: 02-08-2015 11:45 PM by jennybee.)
RE: The Reason for God
(02-08-2015 05:04 AM)The Organic Chemist Wrote:  A friend told my wife that she needed to read this book. I know that she got most of the way through it but not sure if she finished it. I hadn't read of any of Keller's work so I checked him out for curiosity's sake and I came across a blog from John Loftus (he studied under WLC) and he pointed out, amongst other things, a part where Keller actually changed the wording of a quote to make it suit his arguement even more. So my hopes for this to be different kind of book fell slightly. So of course, it came up that I should read it because it WILL answer my questions and then this will crack the shell and therefore lead to me to the land of milk and cookies. So before I left for China, she asked me to read it since I will be here for 3 weeks. I figured that I would keep an open mind and read it. And I am also a sucker for a gorgeous gal. Big Grin

*sigh*

Note: This is more for me. If you want to discuss, I would like your input but if you want to evangelize, please go somewhere else.

I will leave the intro alone but needless to say, I found it not too impressive and it demonstrates that Keller has a porocial understanding on what skepticism and nonbelief is.

Chapter 1 has the boilerplate apologetic where Keller does the usual tactic of changing the English language to suit his fancy. An example:
Quote:"So what is religion then? It is a set of beliefs that explain what life is all about, who we are, and the most important things that human beings should spend their time doing." Chap 1 pg 15

There you have it folks, Webster and Oxford are wrong. Pastor Keller has set the record straight. See how he eliminated the superatural all together? How convenient. Everything is a religion then, eh, Tim? It is a religious belief that I want to protect my family from danger. It is a religious belief that I want to even protect other people's children. It is a religious belief that causes a soldier to die to protect his comrades. Facepalm

Throughout the chapter he makes several claims and does not provide any references to support them which irritates the crap out of me since I am the type of person who actually uses the bibliography to learn more. Especially about perspectives I don't agree with. My favorite one he did was on Page 13 where he quotes Professor Mark Lilla at U of Chicago. Cool, an apologist who actually names the antagonist so he can perhaps be fact-checked. I have to tip my hat to Keller in that regard since the names, locations, and situation in stories like this are usually omitted, if not fabricated (I'm looking at YOU, Chopra). He quotes him yet paraphrases him (i.e. he used ........ this type of.........writing...) and does not even tell us where the quote came from. COME ON TIM!!!! I want to see that the ..... was. Maybe it was important. The quote in a nutshell has Lilla (whose views are unknown but for this, he'll play the role of the evil atheist) saying that he was trying to "save" his student from christianity and who was recently saved at a Billy Graham crusade (the christian student was also described as "bright"). I was curious where it came from since if it actually was the context that Keller wants us to believe, then Lilla was being a really big dick. Do you know what seveal searches afforded me? Nothing. I found nothing outside of the fact that Mark Lilla is actually a professor at UoC. (To be fair though, the Great Firewall may be blocking some hits so if anyone can find it, I would be grateful) I mean, he had this rather detailed story but sheds absolutely no light as to where it came from or provides any context to the story. This is the kind of thing that really drives me nuts about apologetics. They always make the non-believer look like a complete asshole while making the poor christian look like a victim. Gee, this doesn't sound anything like "God is not Dead" with Hercules does it? Except as far as I am aware, Lilla wasn't pancaked by a car.

The guts of this chapter has Keller discussing 3 points that secular leaders are apparently using to try and control the divisiveness of religion. My curiosity bone is itching to see who and where this is occuring, but alas, the failure of a reference makes it hard to see his perspective. Dammit Tim, I am trying to work with you here and I am tired of punching strawmen. Angry

Point 1) Outlaw Religion
Keller opens this section by stating that in recent history, there have been attempts to control religion through force. Who you may ask does he use? ***Drumroll*** Soviet Russia, Communist China, the Khmer Rouge, and of course THE NAZIS!!!!! That's right guys, the Hitler grenade was lobbed on page 5. I think that is a record amongst apologists as far as I am aware. He goes on after sharing a quote saying

Quote:The 20th century gave rise to one os the greatest and most disturbing paradoxes of human history: That the greatest intolerance and violence of that century were practiced by those who believed that religion caused intolerance and violence.

Hmmm. Let's see if memory serves me here. Stalin was often accompanied by someone clad in the robes of the Russian Orthodox church and never did outlaw it as I recall. They also practucally made Stalin a diety. The Khumer Rouge used the diety "Uncar" to excercise control over the Cambodian people. I personally know several Chinese who were around when Mao was alive and it essentially was drilled into them using techniques that all religions utilize that Mao was divine. I mean, every day, one friend of mine said she had to go outside and say an incantation to Mao and his picture was on every shirt. The Nazis were very much christian and that is well documented and I do seem to recall ole Adolph saying that atheism was the biggest threat to national socialism. I also don't really recall Hitler ever saying that religion caused intolerance and violence. I do however, seem to recall him saying that the Nazis were doing god's work. Hmmmm.....why would that quote make Keller believe something that is historically inaccurate? (Isn't that also a religious belief per his definition, BTW?) Oh!!!! The quote was from Alister McGrath in his history of atheism (Laughat ) book. I wonder whether christians would like it if Sam Harris cited a history of christianity book written by Hitch. (Answer: they wouldn't)

This leads me to the observation of this section that is very dishonest. Keller completely and utterly ignores the centuries in history where religion had unfettered control of a country and also ignores the violence and intolerance that came with it. How could he possibly claim that he is not aware of this part of history? As far as body counts go, I think that christians are well in the lead. Very dishonest Tim, very dishonest.

2) Condemning Religion
Keller opens this by stating that religion can't be conrolled by the government and that religion isn't going away. OK, I agree with this, go on. Keller then asks whether we can socially encourage people through education and arguement to shy away from religions that claim to have "the truth" and to convert them to another belief? Wait what??!! This is rather a silly thing IMO because if one claim is incorrect and another is correct, education, arguement, and a heathy dose of skepticism for a claim will allow a person to sift through the myriad of ideas. The one with the facts on their side will emerge no matter what arguement you throw at it. If you have evidence for your idea Tim, present it for evaluation. Should be interesting since he hasn't changed the definition of evidence in the book. Yet.

He also discusses several axioms used by those who with to condemn religion in this chapter but one point really struck me as him completely missing the point of a skeptical approrach to a situation or claim (his discussion of the other axioms weren't much better). It is under the axiom titled "Each religion sees part of spiritual truth, but none can see the whole truth". He brings up the elephant and the blind men analogy as the typical way that this axiom is illustrated and points out that it actually backfires on the user because the user actually knows it is an elephant. He is actually criticizing the usage of this analogy but completely lost on Keller is the following:
1) Keller points out that the story is being told from the perspective of an observer of the whole situation. Obviously, the blind men represent the religions and the elephant god (so wouldn't that mean that the observer was god's god?). However, like with different religions the blind men can rotate positons, discuss, and will eventually come to some sort of concensus on what the object is. So through education, arguement, and being skeptical of answers that don't fit the evidence, they will eventually agree on something. Right or wrong, they will try to make the result fit the observations and refine it with discussion. Eventually, the people will figure out it is a damn elephant and agree on it. The fact that they have evidence before them allows them to make an accurate assessment with time. And all of this will happen independent of a distant observer. After all the blind men have no idea they are being watched in the analogy.
2)
Quote:by Keller: How could you possibly know that no religion can see the whole truth unless you yourself have the superior, comprehensive knowledge of spiritual reality you just claimed no other religion has? Chap 1, pg 9

OK, I see what he is trying to get at here but isn't this exactly what is said by christians? Christians think exactly this. They claim to see the elephant and tell the non-beleivers they don't . To quote Amazing Grace: "I once was lost, but now am found, Was blind but now I see." A bit of delicious bit of irony.

3) Keep Religion Private
Keller brings up the Declaration in Defense of Science and Secularism but he never really tells the readers what it was (he does provide a reference for it so good job Tim). However, unless I am mistaken, the real motive for this was largely out the idea that religions fight over moral issues and this idea is a way to not alienate people who want to legislate their own morals that may not represent the views of the majority. I am sure that the christians would be crying foul if Sharia was trying to be put forth. This is the section where Keller corrects Webster and Oxford for their erronious definition of religion. Keller then goes on to demonstrate that he doesn not know the difference between faith and a belief in addition to applying his new definition of religion by providing an analogy where the evil atheist (Ms A) is shown to be the cold, heartless bitch that she is while the religious Ms B is shown to be the better person. He then concludes this section with a rather insulting section of divorce that really lives in it's own little world that is not based in reality.

Christianity Can Save The World
I admit that when I saw this heading, I was really expecting a helping of ignorance and arrogance. Here Keller delivers splendidly. One quote:
Quote:Christianity not only leads its members to believe people of other faiths have goodness and wisdom to offer, it also leads them to expect that many will live lives morally superior to their own. Most people in our culture believe that if there is a god, we can relate to him and go to heaven through leading a good life. Chap 1, pg 20
*No reference/basis for this claim BTW*

So Tim Keller, a Presbyterian pastor in NYC, actually wrote that a nation comprising mostly of christians believe that one can get to heaven by just leading a good life. What the hell does this man preach in his church? If there is a christian church in the US that does not say that faith alone or faith and works are required I have never heard of it. I mean, this is a statement made by a pastor, that completely contradicts the bible. Jesus kind of layed the faith thing on pretty thick and faith has nothing to do with a good life so what the hell is he talking about? He never really addresses this statement which is rather perplexing. He finishes the chapter by talking about the things that early christianity had to offer. Like taking care of the poor and sick because those nasty Greco-Roman ideals. The doozy that he pretty much finishes up with is that it afforded women better equality. Huh? OK, so considering that the god of the OT who was a pretty mysogynist SOB is, in fact, Jesus just not in the flesh. Sooooo god changed his mind? Why didn’t he just say this stuff to begin with to Moses and not subject millions of women over the centuries to the nasty treatment under mosaic law called? Laws that were supposedly given to moses by god/jesus/holy spook (since after all they are the same thing). Also consider that jesus also allegedly said that a man can’t get divorced unless sexual immorality occured. I will give liscence that he was including women here but still, if a husband is beating the shit out of his wife, beating his kids, drinking the money away so that the kids are starving, divorce is still forbidden in this case by JC himself. And that is better than the OT how? Think of how many women have been silenced by 1 Timothy. How is this better? You have to ignore a ton of things to square this circle.


So in regards to chapter 1, I am not impressed. Keller so far has not impressed me with any apparent understanding of how people come to non-belief or what it would take to convince one to go back. So far, this book appears to be just another book that is only meant to keep people in the pews, make them feel better, and not actually try to convince a non-believer. The book so far is clearly, as all apologetics I have ever encountered are, aimed at people who are christians and don’t know much about the analysis of arguements or care to do so. We’ll see what the next chapter holds.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading.

Interesting first part of your summary. I found Keller's quote re: "most people in our culture believe that if there is a god, we can relate to him..." rather interesting. It shows his inability to step outside of religion and analyze it for even a brief moment. Of course, we can relate to God--man created him in our image. God has human emotions--he gets angry, jealous, sadness, and has the ability to love.

Christianity was a little better for women in some ways during that time period, but you are right, it still was (and is) a very misogynistic religion.

I look forward to reading the rest when I am not so hopped up on midol and I can actually get some sleep Thumbsup Good stuff so far!
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03-08-2015, 10:24 AM (This post was last modified: 03-08-2015 10:28 AM by natachan.)
RE: The Reason for God
The God coming in fully human form is false. In some versions of Buddhism Siddartha Gutama (sp?) is the incarnation of a god. He is born already with the form of a toddler and says "this is my final birth." Heracles is also deified, after his death he rises to Olympus and becomes a god in his own right. And IIRC Horus was also human.

The "people see the universe as good and evil" is somewhat baffling to me. What makes him think this? This assigns intrinsic moral value to the universe and to the things in it. Something cannot have moral value without someone to do the valuing. I wonder if this man has ever talked seriously to an atheist or skeptic.

Edit: iPhone new autocorrect is terrible.
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03-08-2015, 01:13 PM
RE: The Reason for God
Chapter 2:

You are right, many Christians believe that in order to be an atheist, you must be pissed at God for some reason or you enjoy sinning freely or you are a bad, immoral person.

Keller: “If you have a god great and transcendent enough to be mad at because he hasn't stopped evil and suffering in the world, then you have (at the same moment) a god great and transcendent enough to have good reasons for allowing it to continue.” page 25

Good in the world, bad in the world--God did it. Very typical Christian thinking. Nothing happens without God’s involvement--including some pretty awful shit. I really hate when Christians say there is a reason why a supposedly *all loving* being allows pain and suffering in the world. If they took God out of things, they would see the world looks exactly as one would expect from a lack of involvement from a supernatural being.

I do agree with Keller's statement that belief can help you through loss (in the sense that it provides comfort--albeit imaginary comfort). One of the ladies I work with told me she bought a magic dragon for her granddaughter. I asked why it had to be a *magic* dragon and she said because it helped her granddaughter get to sleep at night believing that it protected her from the dark and monsters. This is really all religion is. So in the sense delusion can bring you comfort in times of fear, sadness etc.--then yes, I guess belief does provide that. Personally, I’d much rather live in reality. Reality is what I find comfort in.

Of course Jesus would have to bear the most pain (it was for all the sins of the world) and Jesus was the martyr of martyrs. It would make sense to weave the myth/legend/story this way. It also would gain more converts.

Keller: “On the cross, Jesus suffered a three-hour long death by slow suffocation and blood loss. As terribly painful as that was, there have been far more excruciating and horrible deaths that martyrs have faces with far greater confidence and calmness.”

Jesus wasn’t very calm when he cried out in a loud voice "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matt 27:46).

Christianity isn’t as unique as Christians like to think. Jesus was a demigod. Greek mythology, for instance, is full of demigods.

Here’s an interesting summary by Kersey Graves about The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviors.

http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/biblia...zar_16.htm
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03-08-2015, 11:38 PM
RE: The Reason for God
(03-08-2015 10:24 AM)natachan Wrote:  The God coming in fully human form is false. In some versions of Buddhism Siddartha Gutama (sp?) is the incarnation of a god. He is born already with the form of a toddler and says "this is my final birth." Heracles is also deified, after his death he rises to Olympus and becomes a god in his own right. And IIRC Horus was also human.

The "people see the universe as good and evil" is somewhat baffling to me. What makes him think this? This assigns intrinsic moral value to the universe and to the things in it. Something cannot have moral value without someone to do the valuing. I wonder if this man has ever talked seriously to an atheist or skeptic.

Edit: iPhone new autocorrect is terrible.

I hate to point it out but Hercules and Horus were not to my knowledge, ever claimed to be the godhead in the flesh. They were said to be the children of Osirus and Zeus. That is not what Keller is talking about and that is why I didn't mention them.

"If we are honest—and scientists have to be—we must admit that religion is a jumble of false assertions, with no basis in reality.
The very idea of God is a product of the human imagination."
- Paul Dirac
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