Who wants to help me in my current debate?
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27-08-2012, 02:23 PM
RE: Who wants to help me in my current debate?
Thanks for all the replies. @Ghost, this really is a debate that I need to 'win.' I am still finding my new philosophical footing. If I cannot give a clear reason to them for why this 'mystery' explanation an unacceptable answer, I am not sure that I am really giving myself a clear reason; And clear reasons are the only reasons adequate to uproot your entire life over.

I think my current tack may get me to the end of this argument in time.. I am insisting that if I cannot question any article of their faith, they must provide real, rational reasons to accept the faith as a whole. Without those reasons, firstly the choice to believe it is completely arbitrary, and secondly it is more parsimonious to not believe at all than to make this host of rationalizations to support the singular belief in a real God.
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27-08-2012, 04:13 PM
RE: Who wants to help me in my current debate?
Hey, JOren.

I don't think I grasp the distinction you made there. Could you elaborate on what it means for you to "win" this argument?

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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27-08-2012, 06:06 PM
RE: Who wants to help me in my current debate?
The distinction is that I need to not only explain why I believe what I do but also explain why I can not believe what they do. I an not just accepting a new set of beliefs, I am rejecting a previous set. they are trying to say that their ideas are worthy of belief, and I need to be able to say why they are not. I understand burden of proof, but remember that I am uprooting my whole life here. I may lose my marriage over this. some burden of explanation falls to me. in this way, o need to win.
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27-08-2012, 06:40 PM
RE: Who wants to help me in my current debate?
Hey, JOren.

Sorry. I think the sticking point for my brain was the word win. What I was discussing was the zero sum argument. In that sense, you don't have to make them Atheists so this isn't zero sum. You don't have to "win". But what I'm now understanding, and please correct me if I'm wrong, is that for you, or for them, or for you both, saying, "I believe X," isn't sufficient, because there is still a need to explain why you no longer believe in the Orthodox Church.

Tell me if this is a decent analogy. Your mom thinks that chicken soup is really good for you because it boosts your immune system and makes you healthy. You've decided to stop eating chicken soup in lieu of, oh, say, pop tarts. Your mom is like, "Dude, fine you're eating pop tarts, but why in God's name would you stop eating chicken soup?! It's important for you to be eating it!" So now you have to explain to your mom why you're no longer eating something she believes is not just good for herself, but for her son too.

Something like that?

Based on what you've written, it seems that this mystery thing is the keystone. I have to admit that I'm unfamiliar with it so I can't offer any specific counter arguments. At the end of the day, is not, "It's just no longer sufficient for me," sufficient? I don't know, I'm asking.

Is it possible to recognise that it's important to them, a la, "I know that it's important to you and I'm not trying to get you to abandon it, but I need something more/different/other than that, OR, I'm being called by this other thing and I feel that I have to answer that call." Something like that?

As for the marriage, brother, that's rough. It's tough to renegotiate a relationship when something fundamental changes. I'm sure she's scared to watch you change. She could very well be frightened about what that means to your marriage. Just keep the lines of communication open. You've loved each other to this point, make sure it's clear that you plan for the love to continue.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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27-08-2012, 10:17 PM
RE: Who wants to help me in my current debate?
If somebody believes in mysteries, then they haven't grasped the importance of skepticism. They have on one level, of course, because they don't accept other religions despite the fact that they could defend their own wacky beliefs by appealing to mystery. But they're purposely putting up a double standard that protects their own faith while excluding all others.

Informing someone, a person who simply leans on faith or on mysterious beliefs without evidence, about what skepticism is and why it's important may change hearts, but it won't happen all at once. These arguments are never won with a single debate or in a single day, at least not that I've ever heard.

It just doesn't matter how strong your argument is... if a person wants to live in denial, there's nothing you can do to personally prevent that or fix it. As Thomas Paine wrote, "To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead".

My girlfriend is mad at me. Perhaps I shouldn't have tried cooking a stick in her non-stick pan.
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28-08-2012, 01:16 PM
RE: Who wants to help me in my current debate?
(27-08-2012 04:18 AM)J0ren Wrote:  First, hello everyone! I am a newly opened mind. I am still in the throes of casting off my previous delusions, and my friends and acquaintances are desperately trying to get me to change my mind (even though that is not looking very plausible).

For the past 10 years, I have been an Eastern Orthodox Christian (mostly similar to Catholic, sans any Pope and with a much better track record as regards causing atrocities in the world). Orthodox Christians, like all christian sects, pride themselves on having the 'fullness of the truth.' By this, of course, they mean that everyone else is some degree of wrong. Unlike everyone else though, they actually get some reasonable claim to being closer to 'original christianity' (whatever that is) than anyone else. Basically, the Eastern christians never opened their theology up with rationality to realize how rotten it is. So, they have never had to change their beliefs. They mostly rely on 'mystery' (as in mystical) as the answer for everything that does not make sense. Virgin birth? Mystery. Trinity? Mystery. Transubstantiation? Mystery (really - there is no theology of transubstantiation in the eastern church because they simply assert that the bread and wine 'mystically' become the body and blood of Christ, and leave it at that. No explanation for why the molecules do not change). And etcetera... Anyway, I can't see how to argue with this. They have managed to make their religious belief system self-consistent by deflecting any and all potential problems with 'mystery.' God is a mystery too, so pointing out that free will, omnipotence, omniscience and a host of other things are logical impossibilities just gets ignored. It seems that they have successfully crafted an unfalsifiable Christianity to go with their unfalsifiable God.

How do I even argue with this? Not only do they stick to their argument from ignorance, they even rationalize why they think all these things SHOULD be 'mysterious.' Some of these people mean a lot to me, and even though I know I cannot convince them that I am right, I would at least like to be able to communicate to them why it seems obvious to me that this answer is bullshit.
Hi J0ren,

Honestly, I don't think it's likely you will change anyone's mind who believes that every unexplainable thing can be dismissed with "God works in mysterious ways" or something similar.

But, here is something maybe a little different you could try to see how far it gets you:

Tell them to imagine that there is no God, but only Satan and ask if they would be able to tell the difference. Examples:

Why does God require us to have faith?
With God: He works in mysterious ways.
With only Satan: He hides from us so we won't know the truth.

Why is there so much suffering in the world?
With God: Original sin has led to this imperfect human condition and imperfect world.
With only Satan: He toys with us and enjoys our suffering.

How can there be only 1 God with 3 persons in it?
With God: God is too complex for our limited minds to understand.
With only Satan: This is just a lie spread by Satan to make his fabrication of himself as God seem more mysterious.

Why did God "inspire" the Biblical writings, but not see to it that they are consistent and accurately represent his true, loving nature?
With God: We cannot fully know or understand God's plan. It is a mystery.
With only Satan: The Bible was all written by humans because, with only Satan, there is no God to have inspired it.

I'm sure there are better examples, but the point is, if there is some being out there with some god-like powers, we could easily be fooled into thinking it's a god if that being had a mind to fool us. When we excuse things by saying it's "a mystery" or "too complex for our limited minds" we would be making this fabrication even easier for that being. And that being could be an evil being just as easily as a good one. Maybe it will help them see the danger in excusing everything so easily. Or, at the very least, maybe it will help you to be more comfortable with not doing so yourself.

"Religion has caused more misery to all of mankind in every stage of human history than any other single idea." --Madalyn Murray O'Hair
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28-08-2012, 01:56 PM
RE: Who wants to help me in my current debate?
J0ren,

Next time, I should probably read the whole thread before I post. Having done so now, maybe this is more what you are looking for. (Forgive me if this insults your intelligence - that's not my intention, but I got the idea that maybe you haven't gotten this far yet in your atheist thinking. My apologies if I'm wrong about that.)

Since you come from an Orthodox Christian background, then I assume we are discussing the Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omni-benevolent God. In my mind, although you still won't convince stubborn believers, that God is easily disputed with logic.

Omni-benevolence is probably the easiest of the three to disprove. There are many scriptures that alone contradict that concept. But there is also directly observable things like children with cancer, babies born with various disabilities, earthquakes, tornadoes, existence of evil, etc. that contradict omni-benevolence (assuming omnipotence is true for the moment). If a god is omnipotent, then he could prevent all of this, but hasn't done so. Believers will try to argue that his reasons are a mystery and there is likely some higher purpose that we don't understand that explains this. But really? An omnipotent god could surely reach that very same higher purpose without the suffering, evil, etc. After all, by definition, an omnipotent being can do anything. So there are 2 possibilities: God chooses to allow the suffering, disasters, evil, etc. when he could just as easily accomplish the same purpose without all that (so much for omni-benevolence) or he is not capable of stopping those things (so much for omnipotence).

Once one dismisses the three omni's as logically impossible all together, one has to accept at most a less than perfect being as "God" (if one still insists there is a god at all). But now that being could be nothing more than another species in the universe who happens to have higher powers than humans. That goes back to the line of thinking in my previous post. Or it leads to the idea that there is no such being at all (which is more likely in my mind).

One counterargument I have heard to this thinking involves free will. It claims that God could reach the higher purpose without the suffering, but he would have to take away our free will in order to do so. He wants us to have free will and our free will brings about our own suffering because of our bad choices. So he doesn't prevent the suffering. But this leads to the idea that one cannot have free will without the suffering. So then what about Heaven? If one cannot have free will without suffering than would Heaven have no suffering or no free will? Somehow either seems less than the Heaven I was told about... By this thinking, technically we could have both free will and not suffer if we make all the "right" choices. But, if that's the only path to an absence of suffering, is that really free will? And, with true free will, there would be no guarantee we would follow that path and so no guaranteed absence of suffering. I was always told Heaven was guaranteed lack of suffering. I'm not sure the concept of free will in Heaven was ever discussed, but I don't see how it would be Heaven without it - acting like a preprogrammed robot to do God's will for eternity. That sounds more like slavery, itself a form of suffering in the lack-of-free-will variety.

This is just one of many trains of thought that forms the basis for why I cannot believe as theists do. So maybe this is the type of thing you are looking for?

"Religion has caused more misery to all of mankind in every stage of human history than any other single idea." --Madalyn Murray O'Hair
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28-08-2012, 07:33 PM
RE: Who wants to help me in my current debate?
(28-08-2012 01:16 PM)Impulse Wrote:  Why does God require us to have faith?
With God: He works in mysterious ways.
With only Satan: He hides from us so we won't know the truth.

Any belief can be rationalized if you feel free to just make stuff up.

My girlfriend is mad at me. Perhaps I shouldn't have tried cooking a stick in her non-stick pan.
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29-08-2012, 02:33 PM
RE: Who wants to help me in my current debate?
Thanks for all the replies, again. This is kinda helping me iron out exactly where in their defenses I need to poke at. @Impulse - the coincidence between your name and 'Next time, I should probably read the whole thread before I post' is just too funny not to point out; but both your posts are helpful. The free will vs heaven is particularly good. That thought has come to me before but I never really laid it out as an argument against the free will theodicy.

@Starcrash - the Thomas Paine quote is great. I have tried to get them to pin down exactly how ANYTHING other than reason can lead to any type of understanding or truth. I get wonky answers about their experience of God, and reply that everyone in every religion feels the same way, and they can't all be true. They have literally renounced reason; 2 of the 3 priests that I am in dialogue with have admitted up front that rationality (they call it rationalISM, as if it was its own religious belief or something) leads to atheism.

So I guess it is the co-incidence between their rejecting rationality and accepting 'mystery' as an acceptable answer that really leaves me in a pickle as far as arguments go. I think the rejection of reason is probably the cornerstone of their ability to maintain these beliefs, so I will try and point out what a hazardous, dubious and literally irrational choice that is.
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29-08-2012, 02:42 PM
RE: Who wants to help me in my current debate?
@Ghost - The chicken soup analogy isn't quite right, because they very much are NOT ok with the fact that I am eating pop tarts. It is terrifying for religious people that someone they care about leaves the faith. They are probably pretty sure I will be tortured for eternity for this. The cognitive dissonance between them wanting good for me and their God wanting to punish me is almost palpable (also VERY amusing!). I guess at some point you are certainly right, though; Because it is exceptionally unlikely that I can win this argument in the common sense, I will need to steer it around to being a zero sum argument. 'Live and let live,' if you will.
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