10/9/08

Professing Professions

I tend to forget to mention here when I post relevant essays elsewhere.

In case anyone is interested, I am posting a five part essay which serves as a, from the horse’s mouth, introduction to Atheism, Brights, Freethinkers, Humanism, Naturalism, Rationalism, Skepticism, Philosophical, Skepticism and Universism.

The posts will consist of a basic introduction, definitions, ethics/morals, science and concluding musings.

The posts begin here: “…Professing Themselves To Be Wise, They Became Fools…”, part 1 of 5

32 comments:

  1. "I use the term secular generically to mean a worldview that is materialistic, where the supernatural is negated."

    This is a very narrow definition, for not all secularists are materialists (e.g. Charlmers).

    "they proclaim that anyone who disagrees with them is wrong, they portray themselves as the intellectual, rational, enlightened, scientific, and philosophic while everyone else is ignorant and superstitious"

    Again, not true. See Graham Oppy's arguing about Gods. But I don't see how you can fault those who do hold such a position, since you see those (secularists) who disagree with you as also ignorant and "fools", do you not?

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  2. Let us consider the statement, “An Atheist has no specific belief system.” Obviously, this is a very specific belief; if for no other reason than the negation of it would appear to disqualify one form American Atheists dogmatic definition of what it is to be an atheist.

    You interpret the statement: "an atheist has no specific belief system." to mean "one is required to be without a specific belief system to be considered an atheist." But read in context, it pretty clearly means something else: "you cannot infer the specific belief system of a person based solely on the knowledge that they are an atheist."

    Also, it is neither necessary nor sufficient for someone to believe that statement to be considered an atheist. It is a statement about atheism, not a statement of atheism.

    There is only one statement of atheism that I can think of: "I don't believe in god." Notice that my previous sentence was a statement about atheism, and therefore atheists and theists alike are free to decide whether they believe it or not.

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  3. "Again, we find an authoritarian rejection of authoritarianism. If you cannot be a humanist unless you abide by their definition of what it means to be a humanist then you would be cast out of their authoritarian system—deemed a secular heretic."

    Yes, labels and hence language are so very authoritarian.

    {snip}"Is this justice? Is this moral?"

    No. The universe doesn't give a damn.Which is why we have courts and prions and police.

    "Also, note something else that is being openly admitted, namely, naturalism leads to ultimate despair as it claims that the universe is devoid of general purpose and indifferent."

    You do know that some of us care what other human beings care about us, not what the universe does? Unlike the universe people can give feedback.

    "We may begin by asking precisely what critical inquiry has proved that naturalism is absolutely true. "

    Scientific theories are impossible to prove absolutely true... unless they are true by definition. In the case of naturalism, the only alternative is supernatural... except that is defined as something breaking physical laws. However, physical laws can never be broken, so if they are, the laws were incomplete and hence the phenomena is natural.

    "We may ask, as has already been stated above, what ultimate accountability is there if there is no supernatural?"

    There is none.

    "Yet, the hypocrisy is in isolating the supernatural as the cause of misery."

    Strawman. He simply says "a great deal of misery for humanity and needs to be rejected and replaced with critical inquiry, accountability, and science."

    "After all, secularism of all sorts, especially atheism, have caused tremendous amounts of misery and have done so in the name of politics, territory, material goods/resources, racism, sexism, wealth and poverty, science, atheism, etc., etc., etc."

    Secularism is a political position. Secular motives is not. Please stop conflating the two.

    "In that case, there would be no reason to believe that a random mixture of chemicals in our brains could be trusted to produce any of the things that are sought by rationalists."

    cough optical illusions cough

    "Evolution is not interested in fact and truth but only in survival and reproduction."

    Amazingly, understanding reality is a survival trait.

    'Moreover, since a person with a differing chemical makeup may disagree, we could not condemn them for their particular bio-chemical makeup."

    Yes we can.

    "But we are also told that we ought to believe what we will, while striving to allow all to believe what they will. Apparently we are to let others believe what they will while pointing out just how wrong, just how irrational, they are if they disagree with us. We also encounter a stalled moral system in which we can do what we will, while striving to allow all to do what they will. But what if our will is to hinder others? What if it is the will of others to hinder us?"

    We agree than? Those people are nuts? Why is it I find myself agreeing with fanatics when it comes to mush-wushy faiths?

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  4. radical_logic;
    The “while everyone else is ignorant and superstitious" remark is meant to be a likewise retort to secularist’s negative portrait of theists as exclusivists—I am merely saying ditto.

    Samuel Skinner;
    “The universe doesn't give a damn.Which is why we have courts and prions [sic] and police.”
    Sir, you are assuming that the person gets caught. If they do not then they simply got away with it. As you said about ultimate accountability “There is none,” this is one of atheism’s consoling delusions. There is no ultimate justice in atheism—atheism makes evil even worse.

    I was going to ask you for evidence that “physical laws can never be broken” but you refuted yourself in stating “if they are…” I think I get it—natural laws cannot be broken and therefore the supernatural does not exist but if the natural laws are broken then the supernatural still does not exist. If you witnessed a miracle you would just say, “What a fascinating happenstance,! Would you look at that! The outworking of natural laws in a manner previous unexpected—that’s kinda neat!” Your absolutely materialistic worldview would make you deny evidence of the supernatural—I would promptly dispense with it.

    With regards to causes of misery you quote the quote, “needs to be rejected and replaced with critical inquiry, accountability, and science." You dismissed ultimate accountability and has science not caused misery?

    Understanding reality is not necessarily a survival trait. I might run away from a rabid chinchilla because if it bit me I could contract rabies or because I think that it is not particularly attractive—either way I survive, fact do not matter.

    Just how do you condemn those with particular bio-chemical makeup? “Yes we can” is a mere assertion.
    aDios,
    Mariano

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  5. Mariano,

    you wrote:

    I was going to ask you for evidence that “physical laws can never be broken” but you refuted yourself in stating “if they are…”

    Results of scientific investigation are provisional.

    This seems to be something religious people cannot grasp.

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  6. For some reason, “… professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” is stored in my memory as “… professing themselves to be wise, they made themselves fools.”

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  7. Mariano said: "radical_logic;
    The “while everyone else is ignorant and superstitious" remark is meant to be a likewise retort to secularist’s negative portrait of theists as exclusivists—I am merely saying ditto."

    You haven't addressed my post.

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  8. Mariano "...you are assuming that the person gets caught. If they do not then they simply got away with it. As you said about ultimate accountability “There is none,” this is one of atheism’s consoling delusions. There is no ultimate justice in atheism—atheism makes evil even worse."
    But Hitler (suicide) and his victims (Jews who really should've been Christians by now) are in the same place, depending of course on your interpretations of scripture. Worse, had he repented, he'd be kicking it with JC on the heavenly dance floor. Those two options are ultimate justice, how exactly?
    The atheist universe, being godless and uncaring, has no ultimate justice. The Christian one (again, depending on interpretation. You guys really should get together and decide whose Truth is the Truth and whose Truth is heresy) redefines "justice" as "believes something different than me".

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  9. If you witnessed a miracle you would just say, “What a fascinating happenstance,! Would you look at that! The outworking of natural laws in a manner previous unexpected—that’s kinda neat!” Your absolutely materialistic worldview would make you deny evidence of the supernatural—I would promptly dispense with it.

    There is no doubt that we can explain some things naturally. And there is no doubt that there is some stuff for which we have no explanation at all. I think that we can agree on that.

    But theists also believe in a third category: the supernatural. So my question is: how do you distinguish between the unexplained and the supernatural? You seem to think that there is a meaningful difference. To take you seriously, I would think that you would have to have some way of distinguishing. So please tell me (I really would appreciate an answer to this): if I encounter something that I cannot explain with natural laws, in which cases should I say "I do not yet have an explanation" and in which cases should I say "This was a genuine supernatural event."?

    For example: Bob has cancer. His doctors tell him that it is terminal. Bob doesn't believe them. Every week at church, Bob's fellow churchgoers pray over a glass of water that Bob then drinks. After 3 months, he goes back to the doctors and is found to be in remission.

    Was this a miracle? What process would be used to make this determination? Who is qualified to make the judgment? How would they defend this claim to a skeptic?

    The only thing that I can come up with is the scientific method. If repeated experiments that isolate the supernatural part (the prayer) from the natural part (the water, Bob's genes, the group support) demonstrate improved cancer rates, I would definitely accept prayer as a supernatural explanation. But that's the only method that would be convincing to me (that I can think of right now). Are there other approaches that would convince you? If so, what are they?

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  10. You guys really should get together and decide whose Truth is the Truth and whose Truth is heresy

    ZING!

    Of course, they all think their own revelation is from God, while the other guys revelation is from Satan.

    But how do they know?

    Because of the Holy Spirit, which always points them to the Truth. The other guy claims he is guided by the Holy Spirit also, but he is deceived, by the great deceiver, Satan.

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  11. So my question is: how do you distinguish between the unexplained and the supernatural?

    We see the power of reduction at work with this question. Kuhlmann has distilled the conflict to its pure ingredients.

    How we approach problems exposes us. It reveals to the world our essential personality.

    Question:

    What is the cause of this child's leukemia?

    Scientist: I don't know, but I shall work hard to find the answer and a cure.

    Religious person: The child suffers because Eve ate an apple.

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  12. Kuhlmann, you silly fellow, *you* are supernatural!

    But you own shallow anti-rational pseudo-scientific pseudo-philosophy, you are supernatural. Either admit this or admit that you have no thoughts, nor knowledge, nor ability to think, nor ability to acquire knowledge and that we have no obligation to take you seriously: for if you will not admit the first thing, then you are admitting that you're just making meaningless noise.

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  13. Though, for clarification, let me point out that what I said applies even more strongly to "unbeguiled" and the like.

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  14. Ilíon wrote:

    But you own shallow anti-rational pseudo-scientific pseudo-philosophy, you are supernatural.

    And then tells me that I am supposed to "admit that".

    Well, I will need a translation.

    No matter how many times I read it, I cannot make any sense of it.

    Perhaps one of the moderators could jump in and clear up what this guy is getting at.

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  15. Ilíon,

    You may think that you have found a clever way to avoid atheist's questions, but there's a big problem with your approach. Y'see, you believe that I am supernatural, and therefore have thoughts. And your belief is not contingent upon what I have to say on that topic. No matter how hard I try to deny that I have thoughts, I still have them in your eyes. To say that you can disregard everything that I say because I am wrong about one topic is to commit the ad hominem fallacy. So, you can't blow me off that easily.

    So, please, I would appreciate an answer to my question. In light of your response that even I am supernatural, I'll put it another way: What isn't supernatural?

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  16. Ilíon: "Kuhlmann, you silly fellow, *you* are supernatural!

    [By] you own shallow anti-rational pseudo-scientific pseudo-philosophy, you are supernatural. ... [minor touching upon the underlying inescapably fatal flaw of 'atheism'] ...
    "

    Kuhlmann: "You may think that you have found a clever way to avoid atheist's questions, but there's a big problem with your approach. ..."

    Kuhlmann, I don't do clever ... I leave that for the 'atheists' and other sophists. Rather, I do rational and logical.


    Kuhlmann: "Y'see, you believe that I am supernatural, and therefore have thoughts."

    Not at all; you have it exactly ass-backwards.

    I know that you are a rational being -- even if you do wish to embrace irrationality to protect certain silly and erroneous illogical beliefs.

    To get to the heart of the matter, I know that *I* am a rational being; and I grant that you and all other humans beings I encounter are also rational beings, for they appear to be rational beings and I have no rational basis to doubt that they are. That I may not be able to convince you to admit that you are a rational being does not even begin to touch upon my bedrock knowledge that I am a rational being.

    Likewise, with you and with that fellow over there. You know that *you* are a rational being; he knows that *he* is a rational being; and you both grant that the other and I are likewise.

    Now, the existence and workings of reason/rationality not only cannot be *explained* atheistically, but is, in fact, *contrary* to the bedrock assumptions of atheism, that is, 'naturalism.'

    Now, since reason/rationality is not (and cannot be) "contained" by naturalism, it follows that reason/rationality is supernatural, and it follows that all rational being are "supernatural."

    Don't forget -- as I know that someone will, for 'atheists' seem driven to "misunderstand" -- I said: "[By] you own shallow anti-rational pseudo-scientific pseudo-philosophy, you are supernatural."


    Kuhlmann: "So, please, I would appreciate an answer to my question. In light of your response that even I am supernatural, I'll put it another way: What isn't supernatural?"

    Silly man! Anything which cannot be fitted within the "natural" (whatever that term means) is ipso facto "supernatural." That is but what the term 'supernatural' means, after all.

    Whether you personally are an 'atheist,' or are but playing devil's advocate, is irrelevant. The silly pseudo-philosophy called 'naturalism' is the point from which 'atheists' begin ... and end -- for as soon as anyone admits that 'naturalism' does not and cannot account for the totality of reality, he has admitted that 'atheism' is false (and that, 'atheists' will not do).

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  17. Scaredy: "ilion=kook"

    Ilíon: "Scary Jesus=fool"

    Now, the thing is, a kook really can't help being a kook; but a fool *chooses* to be a fool.

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  18. Does anyone else find it a pertetual source of amusement that fools seem to imagine that their attempted insults have meaning?

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  19. Yeah I'll have to admit I am a fool. And heck, I might even be a kook.
    I like you Ilion.

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  20. ilion said,
    The silly pseudo-philosophy called 'naturalism' is the point from which 'atheists' begin ... and end -- for as soon as anyone admits that 'naturalism' does not and cannot account for the totality of reality, he has admitted that 'atheism' is false (and that, 'atheists' will not do).

    While I might not have stated it in exactly this manner, this in fact, is the bottom line issue.

    Philosophical Materialism is a man-made and man-imposed constraint on reality. It has nothing to do with actual reality; what is does is declare, "there exists nothing that I cannot detect with my senses or my sense extensions". This cannot be proven either empirically or intellectually. It is a belief that is necessary for a particular worldview, but is not justified empirically or logically.

    The Atheist views reality through the darkened prism of Philosophical Materialism. It is the prefilter to observations concerning reality, and since it is philosophical rather than empirical, it results in a philosophically starved view of reality.

    In terms of unexplained phenomena, there are two possibilities: First the phenomenon might be purely physical, yet uninvestigated to date, thereby remaining unknown, albeit material.

    Second, the phenomenon might be non-material, non-physical and therefore leave no material tracks, thereby remaining unknown due to the inability of material sensors to detect non-material entities.

    The idea that non-material phenomena can be "trapped" with material evidence is false. Again non-material existences cannot be expected to leave material tracks. So demanding material evidence for the non-material is non-rational.

    That is not to say that non-material interferences with material existences such as the laws of physics cannot exist. It merely says that if such transient singularities occur, the non-material tracks won't exist; only the deviations in the material world - material tracks - will remain. The non-material source for the interference cannot be proved, but only inferred. And inferences are not proofs.

    Also there is no reason to believe that if non-material entities exist, there is any means by which to influence them by using material "causes". Material causes produce material effects; nothing more is known, empirically. To expect more is to step outside the material world.

    Since the transient singularities that might indicate a non-material reality are mostly spurious and non-repetitive, empiricism is impotent to investigate them and as a result, materialism as the definitive limit to reality cannot be proven, empirically.

    Materialism is not a rational result of an empirical investigation, and is likewise not justified as a truth statement which results from a valid syllogism. Materialism is a personal choice of a philosophy, a man-made belief, which is used as a worldview filter.

    If one wishes to honestly discuss the possibility of non-material reality, then the pre-filter which requires material evidence for the non-material realm must be discarded.

    Atheists are rarely willing to drop the materialism prefilter for the very reason that ilion stated: to do so obviates their belief that "no God" is a rational belief based on the concrete knowledge that nothing else can exist beyond the material realm.

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  21. Stan: "While I might not have stated it in exactly this manner, this in fact, is the bottom line issue."

    To coin a phrase: let a thousand flowers bloom. ;)

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  22. Stan, you're overstating the case here: Philosophical Materialism is a man-made and man-imposed constraint on reality. It has nothing to do with actual reality; what is does is declare, "there exists nothing that I cannot detect with my senses or my sense extensions".
    A more accurate rendition would be that there is nothing sensible to be said about what cannot be detected with anyone's senses or sense extensions.

    Second, the phenomenon might be non-material, non-physical and therefore leave no material tracks, thereby remaining unknown due to the inability of material sensors to detect non-material entities.
    A phenomenon that leaves no material tracks is an unobserved phenomenon. What can be said about, or concluded from such a non-observation?

    That is not to say that non-material interferences with material existences such as the laws of physics cannot exist.
    The laws of physics aren't material.

    Since the transient singularities that might indicate a non-material reality are mostly spurious and non-repetitive, empiricism is impotent to investigate them and as a result, materialism as the definitive limit to reality cannot be proven, empirically.
    I find this very problematic. When you say "mostly spurious", and "non-repetitive" here, what data set do you have in mind that allows you to draw apparently confident conclusions about their frequency and nature? And, what sure-fire, iron-clad, bullet-proof and irrefutable logical test do you use to distinguish the spurious singularities from the rarer non-spurious ones?

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  23. Great comments, points and questions from one and all, I must say.

    unBeguiled;
    I was surprised to hear you claim that the “Results of scientific investigation are provisional. This seems to be something religious people cannot grasp.” My experience has been the exact opposite with atheists constantly singing the “Thus Saith Science” doxology while theists understand that the “results” and particularly the “interpretations of data” are tentative.

    “ZING!”??? but are you not an adherent of the premiere “No one can speak for anyone else” worldview. Are you not an adherent of the “Atheism has the only truth while theists have revelation from (the metaphoric) ‘satan.’”

    Let us reconsider this one again—Question:
    What is the cause of this child's leukemia?
    Scientist: I don't know, but I shall work hard to find the answer and a cure.
    Religious person: I don't know, but I shall work hard to find the answer and a cure and do so based on the very scientific methods in the very scientific fields that were largely established by religious persons.

    radical_logic;
    I am just not sure is you can refer to my definition as “very narrow” simply because you can think of one secularist to whom it does not apply. I am employing a generalization for the purpose that generalizations are made, in order to succinctly generalize.

    Modusoperandi;
    The Bible states that God does not want anyone to perish and that He assures that everyone has the opportunity to be forgiven.

    kuhlmann;
    I understand your point and have seen it expressed ubiquitously—it goes something like this:
    We cannot come to supernatural conclusions until we know absolutely everything that there is to know about absolutely everything that there is to know.

    When may I expect this to occur? This is an argument from a faith based belief in future human omniscience.

    All we have thus far is, “Nobody knows, but here is the best guess thus far and the guess in materialistic.”

    I understand that since God created the material realm we should only expect material causes for material effects—this is one of the premises upon which religious people established the methods and fields of science.

    Apparently, when we do not experience miracles—absolute materialism is validated. And when we do experience miracles—absolute materialism is still validated. It seems that you are arguing from your own brand of faith—faith in absolute materialism (reductionism, perhaps).

    No wonder Jesus said that even if some people see someone raised from the dead they will still not believe.

    Yet, people have experiences with God which occur outside of labs and beyond microscopes and telescopes. If I was an unbiased observer I might say that it was a “God of the gaps” vs. an “Atheism of the gaps” argument.

    The greatest miracle has already occurred and that is the creation of the universe in the first place.

    I do not understand why atheists deny that any claim of the miraculous actually occurred. Why not state, “I am an atheist and I believe that Jesus actually resurrected after being dead for days even though I do not yet understand the natural coincidinc that caused it.” As far as I can tell, in such cases atheists disregard supernatural stories that have some validity to them and simply tell naturalistic stories that have no validity to them.

    aDios,
    Mariano

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  24. Mariano "Modusoperandi;
    The Bible states that God does not want anyone to perish and that He assures that everyone has the opportunity to be forgiven."

    So the Hyper-Calvinists (and to varying extents other believers of the various versions of predestination) are all wrong. Have you told them this? They will be ever so grateful.

    "When may I expect this to occur? This is an argument from a faith based belief in future human omniscience."
    I suspect that it's more based on the consistent string of past faith-based failures. Thor was quite annoyed to discover that, not only did he not have anything to do with lightning, he didn't exist at all. He hit the bottle pretty hard after that. Dionysus gave it to him.

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  25. I do not understand why atheists deny that any claim of the miraculous actually occurred.
    Nobody is saying that claims of the miraculous don't actually occur. They do. Frequently. The proble is whether any of those claims are valid. Basically, none of the claims (none that I've heard anyway) are credible.


    ... As far as I can tell, in such cases atheists disregard supernatural stories that have some validity to them and simply tell naturalistic stories that have no validity to them.
    Can you give a ferinstance of supernatural story with some validity?

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  26. MaskedMarauder "Can you give a ferinstance of supernatural story with some validity?"
    How long have you been visiting this site? All the contributors here follow ancient Egyptian polytheism. Obviously.
    Some of the stories in their Book o' the Dead are both supernatural and totally true (as well as the Book o' the Dead II: Electric Boogaloo). More than that, they're capital "T" True, inerrant and literal. Just make sure to use the One True exegesis, or some of the stories will sound primitive, uncivilized, fictional, quasi-fictional and/or silly.

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  27. So we agree then, atheists hold to a faith based belief in future human omniscience and therefore declare all inferences to the supernatural as being fallacious.

    aDios,
    Mariano

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  28. So we agree then, atheists hold to a faith based belief in future human omniscience and therefore declare all inferences to the supernatural as being fallacious.
    It all depends on how you define "we". That certainly isn't what any skeptic or atheist I know would say, except on April 1. Perhaps its what some Christian sects believe, but they believe a lot of strange things.

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  29. Modusoperandi;
    I suppose that you will have to take that up with Hyper-Calvinists.
    2nd Peter 3:9, “God does not want any to perish, but wants all to come to repentance.”
    aDios,
    Mariano

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  30. Mariano: "...you are assuming that the person gets caught. If they do not then they simply got away with it. As you said about ultimate accountability “There is none,” this is one of atheism’s consoling delusions. There is no ultimate justice in atheism—atheism makes evil even worse."

    ModusOperandi: "But Hitler (suicide) and his victims (Jews who really should've been Christians by now) are in the same place, depending of course on your interpretations of scripture. Worse, had he repented, he'd be kicking it with JC on the heavenly dance floor. Those two options are ultimate justice, how exactly?

    The atheist universe, being godless and uncaring, has no ultimate justice. The Christian one (again, depending on interpretation. You guys really should get together and decide whose Truth is the Truth and whose Truth is heresy) redefines "justice" as "believes something different than me"."

    Mariano: "Modusoperandi; I suppose that you will have to take that up with Hyper-Calvinists.
    2nd Peter 3:9, “God does not want any to perish, but wants all to come to repentance.”
    "

    I hope I've correctly identified the context of Mariano's statement to ModusOperandi.

    Isn't it amusing, in an oddly twisted sort of way, that 'atheists' so frequently want to "argue" (the scare-quotes really are necessary) about points of interpretation of Christian doctrine -- while, of course, also so frequently refusing to get it right -- *before* and in place of admitting that atheism is false?

    Isn't it amusing, in an oddly twisted sort of way, that 'atheists' so frequently want to "argue" (the scare-quotes really are necessary), as MO does here, that there is no such thing as truth?

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  31. .

    For anyone who wishes to read further, I posted a decent summary on this topic:

    http://religiopoliticaltalk.blogspot.com/2009/05/metaphysical-naturalism-or.html

    .

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