response to Shagbark (3 of 4)
|April 20, 2012||Posted by Joseph Keysor under Blog|
I asked “If there were a God, would he be obligated to prove his existence to people who mocked and despised him?” Shagbark’s response was:
If there were a God, it wouldn’t much matter what we thought he was obligated to do.
That is correct. And he would not be obligated to reveal himself in a manner agreeable to atheists, but could (and does) reveal himself in different ways than you might expect.
“If you should come to believe in God, what changes would this require in your life?”
There may be a God. This wouldn’t require any changes in my life unless I knew something about this God.
If you strongly believed there was a God, you would continue life as usual, and make no effort to find out more about him? To learn what was pleasing to be him and should be done, or displeasing to him and should not be done?
“What would it be like to live forever and never die?”
Depends on the life. It could be very nice. But if you aren’t changing, then you’re not alive; and if you are changing, eventually you’re someone else. No person alive now can live forever in any meaningful sense.
It could be wonderful (in heaven) or it could be horrible (in hell). And who says people in heaven cannot change? If there is a new heaven and a new earth, they will have many things to do, many places to go, many fascinating people to meet.
As to it being impossible for people to live forever in any meaningful sense, we know of course that you have no means of verifying that empirically. It is merely your personal opinion, and might be wrong.
“If atheism is correct, are all of our deepest aspirations for meaning, love, significance, purpose, and hope futile and vain?”
No. Again, the question is strange: How can anyone who needs to posit a God to dictate meaning, significance, and purpose, claim to believe in meaning, significance, or purpose? It is precisely because such a person cannot believe life as we know it has meaning, significance, or purpose, that they must invent a God to define such things by fiat.
The question isn’t strange in the least. If we live here on earth for a short time and only and then cease to exist – and that in a cosmos that just sort of happened somehow with no higher purpose – then all of human life must inevitably be vain and pointless, a brief moment nullified by death.
It is your question assumes that people posit God to meet their own needs. But if God does exist independently of us, and is not a human construction – then your question misses the mark. Is it not rather that you must deny God because you cannot (or do not want to accept) life’s higher purpose?
“Pascal says that people disbelieve in God not because of their reason, but because of their passions.”
Pascal said that not because of his reason, but because of his passions.
If God does not exist and Pascal invented one to meet his needs, you made a good response. If on the other hand there is a God, and people want to reject or avoid God not because of reason and logic but because of their feelings, then your response was clever but, again, wide of the mark.
Pascal did say by the way that his belief in God did not come from reason, reason being inadequate in this area. While God is above reason, he is not contrary to reason. Our reasoning powers are small, weak, and limited, and very far from being the final adjuticator of what is or is not real. He also identified human passions as not the cause of belief in God, but as hindrances to belief (since human passions are usually or always misguided and selfish in their natural state).
“Who decided that your belief in the non-existence of God should be the default position?”
If there is a default position, it would be not having thought about the matter, or not having a belief one way or the other.
So we agree that atheism is not the default position then.
“Who laid down the law that atheists don’t have to prove their position ‘because you don’t have to prove a negative’?”
This one is scary. So you believe that atheists should be required to prove their position? What happens if they don’t?
Scary? A question on a blog stating that it isn’t right for atheists to claim “We don’t have to prove our position” frightens you? Or maybe “scary” is purely rhetorical, for effect, and you aren’t scared at all. Anyway, I would say what should happen if an atheist is unable to prove his position is this – he should have the integrity to admit that his position is based on something other than pure disinterested logic and unbiased examination of the facts. If he doesn’t want to do that he is of course free to continue deluding himself with fantasies of rationality.
“If I am accused of a crime, and I present a solid alibi, isn’t that proving a negative (‘I did not commit the crime’)?”
The implication of your using this example, is that you believe that people should be presumed guilty until proven innocent.
1. A complete failure to recognize and address the point. Atheists have been known to say that theists have to prove their position, but atheists don’t, because all they do is deny the existence of God and it isn’t necessary to prove a negative. I believe that is a bogus argument and a tricky evasive tactic.
It is, at times, necessary and possible to prove a negative. For example, if I am accused of a crime, and I present an airtight alibi proving I could not have been at the crime scene, this proof of a positive (“I was in some other place”) also proves a negative (“I did not commit the crime”). This has nothing at all to do with presumption of guilt. Do you claim that if someone is accused of a crime he didn’t commit that he should do nothing to try and disprove the charge?