"What embitters the world is not excess of criticism, but an absence of self-criticism." - G.K. Chesterton

Friday, March 09, 2007

"Why I am not an Atheist" - Ravi Zacharias

I just today happened across an address given in two parts by Ravi Zacharias entitled "Why I am not an Atheist". Part 1 and part 2

Both parts are really worth a listen, as Ravi seems to touch on many of the points we discuss here and bring a well articulated presentation of the Christian perspective.

Let the disagreements begin!

Labels: , , ,

22 Comments:

Blogger Matt M said...

Can Man live without God?

Yes.

Next question. ;-)

10:29 AM

 
Blogger Alex said...

Prove it! ;-)

10:38 AM

 
Blogger Matt M said...

Simple:

I am a man.

I live without God.

Therefore: man can live without God.

10:39 AM

 
Blogger Alex said...

Wrong:

Your are a man.

You believe there is no God.

Therefore you prove you can live without believing in God.

You have failed to prove you can live without God, for to accomplish that you would first need to prove his absence which you have not demonstrated.

Now stop bickering with me and listen to the rest of it! ;-)

10:44 AM

 
Blogger Matt M said...

Then it's a meaningless question.

Can Man live without the fifty invisible elephants dancing the conga?

I'm listening - why is it that few people seem to understand the distinction between an atheist committing a crime and committing a crime in the name of atheism?

10:48 AM

 
Blogger Matt M said...

Besides, under Zacharia's definition I'm not an atheist.

It sounds like he's kicking the stuffing out of a strawman.

10:52 AM

 
Blogger Alex said...

Then it's a meaningless question.

As far as you and I are concerned it truly is a meaningless question. Any answer we give to it will be based on a priori knowledge.

why is it that few people seem to understand the distinction between an atheist committing a crime and committing a crime in the name of atheism?

Why would you consider those examples a crime? Those who commited those acts were the holders of the law of the land at the time. What law were they breaking in institute such measures?

10:56 AM

 
Blogger Alex said...

Why do you shy away from the term agnostic? It would seem a more acurate description to me.

10:58 AM

 
Blogger Matt M said...

Aren't you forgetting International law?

Besides, I was using crime in a rather general sense: synonymous with horrific act, etc.

10:59 AM

 
Blogger Matt M said...

I'm agnostic in the sense that I don't believe in any certain knowledge - but, to all extents and purposes I'm an atheist, in that I have no religious beliefs.

11:00 AM

 
Blogger Alex said...

Aren't you forgetting International law?

International law is determined by those who have the power to enforce it. Had Hitler succeeded with his vision he would have been the holder of the law. Would that make him right in doing what he did? But yes in the technical sense he did violate the currently established international law.

Besides, I was using crime in a rather general sense: synonymous with horrific act, etc.

In accordance with your own personal view. The hardened anti-semite would have felt differently. Who's right?

I'm an atheist, in that I have no religious beliefs.

In my mind you are an agnostic who inclined towards disbelief based on something other than pure reason.

Just as I am an agnostic inclined towards belief based on something other than pure reason.

But for the guy on the street the terms Atheist and Christian will do.

11:17 AM

 
Blogger Matt M said...

Would that make him right in doing what he did?

Laws aren't the arbiter of right and wrong, merely the enforcement of historical and cultural standards.

In accordance with your own personal view. The hardened anti-semite would have felt differently. Who's right?

Depends who you ask.

In my mind you are an agnostic who inclined towards disbelief based on something other than pure reason.

Nobody is inclined to anything based on pure reason. Except maybe AIs devoid of emotion.

11:23 AM

 
Blogger Matt M said...

He does the meaning side-step thing as well - meaning is an attribute of perception, nothing more. It is as meaningful as the perceiver feels it to be.

11:25 AM

 
Blogger Alex said...

This is getting rather silly! It's moments like this that I long for a nice camp fire with a quality cigar. Then at least we could finally settle this as all things must be settled... that is, with a good old fashioned fist fight! ;-) Or at least a staring contest...

Laws aren't the arbiter of right and wrong

Then who is?

Depends who you ask.

I'm referring to those who gave glad approval of said act. Obviously those who organized such a horror approved of the situation. Not sure what you are getting at with this "depends who you ask" stuff.

Nobody is inclined to anything based on pure reason.

Shouldn't that be enough to give you pause in your affirmation of the atheistic belief? I know it does me with my theistic bias.

meaning is an attribute of perception, nothing more. It is as meaningful as the perceiver feels it to be.

You are more than a machine Matt. You are conscious by virtue of a nature within you that transcends the elemental parts that create your whole. Life will be meaningful to you regardless of what someone tells you about how your world view denies that fact. As I see it though, if there was no God there would be nothing. The fact that there is something, let alone a something we call "us", speaks to a something that we originate from. I find it rather silly that we can talk about there being a lack of God, when by theistic reckoning if there was no God nothing would be. So to even have the conversation the atheist must jump into a stream of thought already in progress and begin making assertions based off of realities that the theist would deny ever being possible without God. There is a sort of parasitic nature to the atheists arguments that leech off unsubstantiated assumptions that they have no answer to.

Anyway, ya, your life is meaningful Matt. But I think it's more meaningful than you realize.

11:53 AM

 
Blogger Matt M said...

I used to have great staring contests when I was at school. Not sure how I'd do with all that smoke about though.

Then who is?

On an individual level - you. On a social level it depends whether the society is authoritarian or democratic, and what it's traditions are.

Not sure what you are getting at with this "depends who you ask" stuff.

A rejection of objective standards of right and wrong. There's only personal preference and intersubjectivity.

Shouldn't that be enough to give you pause in your affirmation of the atheistic belief?

It does. As I've said above, I don't believe in any certain truths - I just find atheism more likely than theism.

You are more than a machine Matt.

Prove it. ;-)

As I see it though, if there was no God there would be nothing.

Why?

12:20 PM

 
Anonymous moe said...

yes around the fire with your geetar and cans of propane.....mmmm fire

12:59 PM

 
Blogger Alex said...

Not sure how I'd do with all that smoke about though.

Ohhh, good point. Guess it'll have to be the fisticuffs then.

On an individual level - you. On a social level it depends whether the society is authoritarian or democratic, and what it's traditions are.

This view then allows you to define moral reality in whatever direction you fancy, so long as you are smart enough to avoid confrontation with those who disagree with you and have the power to stop you. If you are into porn, great. If that leads you to a desire for porn that involves violent situations, no prob. All involved are consenting adults — it's all just a bit of fun. right?

You have nothing to say on the moral statement that viewing another human being purely as an object of your own selfish desire is wrong. Forget about what it would take to convince or otherwise stop a person from engaging in said activity. All I'm illustrating here is you have no moral ground to stand on. You seem to be fine with that and I applaud you for your honesty. However, I think you will find it rater hard to live that idea out in practice.

You will continue to bounce along being plagued by these impulses that make you feel certain actions are wrong and striving to construct a reality where what you believe is right will prosper and what you believe is wrong will wither. The problem is you are not an island. The world will swirl around you and many other ideas of right and wrong will war against you. Will you not ever question that what you 'feel' is right is the right position? Indeed you cannot even voice the question, as there is no answer. But you cannot help it. You will continually evaluate your own feelings and positions against others and measure the comparison against some standard that is neither your impulses or the opinions of others. There will also be this nagging feeling in the back of your mind that you are not as 'good' as you 'ought' to be. The standard you use to measure values is a standard that you yourself are incapable of meeting.

Of course it is 'possible' that you will not feel this standard weighing upon you. However, that is a scary place to be. To be in that position you will be of the opinion that you are the ultimate. You are perfection. You will feel that you can do no wrong because it is you who defines what is wrong.

I hope your not that guy Matt.

Prove it. ;-)

Prove you are.

Why?

Because that's my position. If there is a God, He is necessary. In the same way the Atheist will claim the opposite, not because it can be proven, but because that's what the ideology demands.

As I think you and I both realize these discussions do not change people by proving anything. The question of God is decided on other grounds; grounds that are largely beyond the grasp of reason. It's a bit frightening to realize how little reason has to play in these matters that shape the whole of how we view the world.

1:57 PM

 
Blogger Crushed by Ingsoc said...

Matt, you are an agnostic. An Atheist believes in the efinite non existence of God. Having no religous beliefs means you have not made a choice between the options because you have seen no evidence either way.
Not an unreasonable position, in many ways.
Don't argue too much- it's Friday night and I have a date (I posted on her actually)- bit I don't want to miss out on this debate too much, as I'm finding it interesting,
Yours in the fight againist Reality Control.
Crushed By Ingsoc.

3:05 PM

 
Blogger Matt M said...

Alex,

All involved are consenting adults — it's all just a bit of fun. right?

If they are consenting adults, what is the problem?

You have nothing to say on the moral statement that viewing another human being purely as an object of your own selfish desire is wrong.

I'd say it's unhealthy rather than wrong - then I'd proceed to argue my case, looking for common points of reference with the other person. If we don't have any, then I'd just leave them to their porn.

In that situation all I'd be trying to do is convince them that they'd get more out of life by changing their behaviour. Maybe I'm wrong though - maybe they're perfectly happy as they are. That's what I'd find out through arguing my case and hearing what they have to say.

However, I think you will find it rater hard to live that idea out in practice.

As opposed to? If I couldn't change our pron-watching friend's mind, do you really think you'd get further by insisting that you're right, no matter what he (or she) thinks?

You will continue to bounce along being plagued by these impulses that make you feel certain actions are wrong...

I don't feel plagued by them - they're an inherent part of my life and outlook. They're part of what makes me me.

...striving to construct a reality where what you believe is right will prosper and what you believe is wrong will wither.

That's how I look at life. Building a better world, as they say.

The world will swirl around you and many other ideas of right and wrong will war against you.

Everyone's in this boat - no matter what they believe in.

Will you not ever question that what you 'feel' is right is the right position?

Of course. Morality is a complex blend of emotion and reason drawing on social tradition - the more I learn about the world, the better I'm able to interpret the "moral" impulses. It's quite possible that as my life develops, and I gain a better understanding of the world, my position on a whole range of issues will change, hopefully becoming more consistent and coherent.

and measure the comparison against some standard that is neither your impulses or the opinions of others.

Hasn't happened yet. Perhaps I'm a late developer?

There will also be this nagging feeling in the back of your mind that you are not as 'good' as you 'ought' to be.

We normally fall short of our own standards, it's true.

Of course it is 'possible' that you will not feel this standard weighing upon you.

I know how I want to be - an idealised version of how I'd behave and feel. But that's nothing to do with religious beliefs. Most people have an idealised version of themselves - and it's not always pretty. Even the sadist wishes he or she were better at inflicting pain.

To be in that position you will be of the opinion that you are the ultimate.

I am - in the sense that no-one else is more me than I am.

Prove you are.

Well... all my actions could be carried out by a sufficiently complex machine - that, for me, is enough to entertain the possibility. Though, as the philosophical zombie concept shows, we may never be able to prove it either way.

As I think you and I both realize these discussions do not change people by proving anything. The question of God is decided on other grounds; grounds that are largely beyond the grasp of reason. It's a bit frightening to realize how little reason has to play in these matters that shape the whole of how we view the world.

Amen to that.

3:10 PM

 
Blogger Matt M said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3:14 PM

 
Blogger Alex said...

If they are consenting adults, what is the problem?

Do you not feel the least bit dirty even saying that?

I'd say it's unhealthy rather than wrong - then I'd proceed to argue my case, looking for common points of reference with the other person. If we don't have any, then I'd just leave them to their porn.

Sure, that's all you can say. Not the enforcement of such and such is not an issue I'm probing here. I am only exploring to what degree you or I can make moral judgments. I can appeal to the character of God as revealed in His word. You can not voice moral judgments at all. You can express your opinions but that's really as far as you can go.

Of course at this point you will voice your objection that I must rely upon interpretation of the revealed word of God. It's a good point and one that must be taken into consideration. One man armed with a perceived "word of God" can wreak unspeakable horrors if left to his own speculative interpretation. So where does one in my position go? Well basically the same route you would take with a few added ingredients.

The final authority for me the revealed word of God. Then you have the reflections of many brilliant minds down through history, followed by the application of reason and lastly personal experience.

I never have and never will advocate a type of stupid "because the bible said so" sort of stance. We were given minds for a reason. We'd all be better off if more people chose to use them. (myself included much of the time)

do you really think you'd get further by insisting that you're right, no matter what he (or she) thinks?

Again, I am not hear dealing with what one would need to do to affect change in another's life. All I am dealing with is ones ability to call a spade a spade. One world view allows for it. The other does not. However, if you were to ask of me how I would go about trying to change our friend it would involve first meeting them where they are at. Second ascribing worth to that person. Third I would attempt to show them the heart of God. When we as humanity see the reality of what we were made for there is a transformative quality present. When we become vulnerable to each other and invite each other in on our lives, when we love more than we feel the object of our love deserves lives are changed.

Now that being said there is not always time or the opportunity to engage people in this way. More often than not when blatant evil is being committed swift justice takes priority over facilitating a change of heart. My point is arguing ones point will seldom change ones behavior. Loving someone beyond what they have known and pointing them to their true identity has been the beginning of life change for untold numbers.

I am not advocating that "having God on my side" will help me win an argument. I advocating that God is the foundation for there even being an argument.

Everyone's in this boat - no matter what they believe in.

True, but not everyone has a compass.

6:39 PM

 
Blogger Matt M said...

Alex,

Do you not feel the least bit dirty even saying that?

No. Why should I?

Don't get me wrong, I have no desire to participate or watch such pornography - but if people want to do it, and others want to watch it, where's the problem?

I can appeal to the character of God as revealed in His word. You can not voice moral judgments at all. You can express your opinions but that's really as far as you can go.

I have my opinions, you have your opinions (about God's opinions). I can't see where there's any substantive difference between us - in fact, from the sound of it, you agree with this.

We both have reasons for making moral judgments, we simply use different terms to justify them. The outcome is pretty much the same.

So - do we both agree that the other person is capable of acting morally, even if we quibble about specific details?

My point is arguing ones point will seldom change ones behavior.

I disagree. What you call helping someone to find their 'true' self, I call changing someone's perception of the world, normally by making it more consistent and coherent. If part of someone rejects their current behaviour, and you can find and build upon that, you have a way of changing their behaviour.

The power of psychotherapy is often exaggerated (both Lewis and Russell do so), but it still has an incredible power. What you call finding God, I call cognitive behavioural therapy. Sometimes it works (in the sense of blocking unwanted behaviour), sometimes it doesn't.

True, but not everyone has a compass.

We all have a compass. We just disagree about what it's made of.

7:27 AM

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home