Thursday, July 28, 2016

When it comes to pain, do the numbers count?

C. S. Lewis says no. 

We must never make the problem of pain worse than it is by vague talk about the ‘unimaginable sum of human misery.’  Suppose that I have a toothache of intensity x, and suppose that you, who are seated beside me, also begin to have a toothache of intensity x.  You may, if you choose, say that the total amount of pain in the room is now 2x.  But, you must remember that no one is suffering 2x; search all time and all space and you will not find that composite pain in anyone’s consciousness.  There is no such thing as a sum of suffering, for no one suffers it.  When we have reached the maximum that a single person can suffer, we have, no doubt, reached something very horrible, but we have reached all the suffering there ever can be in the universe.  The addition of a million fellow-sufferers adds no more pain.”

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Does "Every event has a cause" entail determinism?

Does "every event has a cause" entail determinism? This article by Anscombe suggests that this is not so.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Could I have done otherwise if determinism is true?

If any kind of determinism is true, soft or hard, you could not have done otherwise given the actual past. It is possible that you could have done otherwise if antecedent conditions had been different, given the actual past, you could not have done otherwise from what you did.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Enhanced privacy: a solution to the bathroom debate?

I have seen bathrooms at a Starbucks in Seattle which had all toilets with doors all the way to the ground from top to bottom. There were no male urinals, The restroom was coeducational, but all the stalls had enhanced privacy. This might be the answer to the bathroom issue.

Is punishment a criminal's right?

Notice that the punishment is the criminal’s right. He deserves it. And, we might add, he deserves it and no more. He cannot merely be a means to someone else’s end, as Lewis put it, nor can he be the test-case for societal progress. Punishment must be just.


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Sleakes' defense of interactive dualism


If Physicalism Then Determinism

   Suppose we assume a naturalistic or physicalistic world-view. If we do, then the physical world is a causally closed system. And everything else that exists, at least in space and time, is a necessary consequence of the state of the physical. Now it seems as if we don’t choose the state of the physical, since the physical is determined and determined only by other physical states. Nor are we responsible for the necessary consequences of the physical. But if our actions are the necessary consequences of the physical, then we are not responsible for our actions either.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

C. S. Lewis's Meditation on the Third Commandment


Once when I was working for a Methodist church in Phoenix, in 1980, we had some people in the church who were supporters of the Moral Majority. I wrote a piece for the church's newsletter which essentially quoted this essay as a critique of Falwell and company.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Are advocates of religious views more likely to use violence than nonreligious ones?

Religions are amongst the possible comprehensive views of the world. But there are nonreligious views that have comprehensive views of reality. Those who want to make sure others have the same comprehensive view as oneself might be inclined to use violence. But I don't see any reason to expect more violence from advocates of religious worldviews as opposed to nonreligoius ones.

Lawsuit Forces Christian Mingle to Include a Gay Dating Option


Two forms of determinism

Determinism is the view that, given the past, the future is inevitable. The idea can be developed in two different ways. One is in terms of the laws of nature. Given the laws of nature, and positions of the basic particles at some moment in the past, the laws of nature, according to natural law determinism, guarantee where all the particles in the universe will be at some point in the future. This would be an atheistic or materialistic version of determinism. Given the way the particles are in the world at, say, Jan 1, AD 1500, a perfect calculator could determine where the particles would be in when  that Christ was born in Bethlehem, when he died by crucifixion on a cross outside of Jerusalem, when Hitler would slaughter the Jews as WWII came to a close, when the Broncos beat the Panthers in the 2016 Super Bowl, when Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump won their primary races in 2016, and that Omar Mateen would shoot all those people in the gay bar. 

The other version of determinism is religious in nature. God, before the foundation of the world, creates the world and predestines every event.Thus, God predestines, before the foundation of the world, that Christ would be born in Bethlehem, that he would die by crucifixion on a cross outside of Jerusalem, that Hitler would slaughter the Jews as WWII came to a close, that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump would be nominated in 2016, and that Omar Mateen would shoot all those people in the gay bar. 

If either form of determinism is true, is it Omar's fault that he killed all those people, or is he just a victim of circumstance? And what does that mean for people convicted of murder. Do they deserve a penalty because either God or the laws of nature, guaranteed that they would commit murder, while people like Abraham Lincoln and Mother Teresa were predestined or determined to do good? What happens to moral responsibility? 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Should women be silent in church

Should women be silent in church?

This author says yes, this author says no. 

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Giving reasons for our hope

I Pet 3:15-16  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who slander you will be put to shame by your good behavior in Christ.…

I wish there were something in the atheist Bible that said 

 Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the atheism that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.

But Richard Dawkins, the atheist pope, has not said this. (Just kidding). But I can at least quote this important verse to my fellow Christians. 

I do think there is a difference amongst atheists. It's not as if you can convert people on the other side by debating. Changing one's religious views is a long process considering more factors than you can put into a single discussion. But sometimes minds are changed in subtle ways that lead up to a big difference later on. 

Even where I think intellectual dishonesty is at work, I am not inclined to announce this sort of thing, simply because I am skeptical of my or anyone else's ability to psychoanalyze the thought process of my opponents. Keith Parsons, for example, can be harsh, but I have seen him influenced by serious Christian thinkers to adopt a less strident position than he had taken before.

I prefer not banning people, as you know, and recommend as a substitute for this, knowing what to ignore. But I will tell you that my blog is dedicated to the idea that real constructive dialogue is possible between believers and nonbelievers. Those who think otherwise, whether believers or nonbelievers, can post somewhere else.

Some notes on the issues of sexual conduct I have been discussing

The modern latitudinarians speak,
for instance, about authority in religion not only as if there were no
reason in it, but as if there had never been any reason for it. Apart
from seeing its philosophical basis, they cannot even see its historical
cause. Religious authority has often, doubtless, been oppressive or
unreasonable; just as every legal system (and especially our present
one) has been callous and full of a cruel apathy. It is rational to
attack the police; nay, it is glorious. But the modern critics of
religious authority are like men who should attack the police without
ever having heard of burglars. -G. K. Chesterton Orthodoxy
The Bible was written to suppress people---Larry Flynt

Let me clarify my position on these issues somewhat better. My original comments on this issue was occasioned by Richard Carrier's sexual harassment issues, but also in response to some issues in the recent history of the atheist community, such as Elevatorgate.

I mentioned that a more liberal view of sexual conduct is often a selling point for atheism. I did not mean to suggest that people who are atheists are atheists because they want sex. That would be the Christian version of the Ultimate Bribe Argument. The atheist version of the Ultimate Bribe argument is that although theists present rational considerations on behalf of their religious beliefs, we can be sure that these rational considerations are not the real reasons they believe what they do. Rather, it is because they get something that cannot live without emotionally, namely the hope of eternal life. The Christian version of the UBA says that atheists don't want to think of their sex life as morally wrong, nor do they want to go through the difficult and painful process of repenting of their sexual sin and observing limits to their sexual conduct, so they look for any excuse they can to deny the truth of Christianity, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that supports it.

 But I think a lot of people think that a more liberal sexual ethic is an important side benefit of atheism, one that liberates a person from the guilt they might feel if they have failed to satisfy what they believe Christianity requires of them. While eternal life is a motivating factor for some Christians, sexual freedom is a motivating factor for some atheists. But if these arguments are pressed far enough, they become discussion stoppers. Any attempt on either side to offer an intellectual reason for believing one way or the other can be stopped just by saying "I don't care what you say, I know why you REALLY think what you do." I realize that these explanations are appealing to people who can't see any intellectual value in their opponents' position. And I think we do have to be aware of the ways in which nonrational considerations might affect our beliefs, and that we might be less rational than we think we are. But in thinking about what our opponents believe, all we have are possible psychological explanations.

What I said was that we shouldn't be too terribly surprised if the atheist community has a problem with sexual harassment. Some have suggested that these problems have arisen because atheist communities are more sensitive to sexual harassment and take it more seriously than others.

But I think there is another possible explanation. Possibly secularists, in overreaction to the sexually restrictive character of the world's leading religions, have, as it were, fallen off the horse on the other side, and are not willing to recognize that sex, like every other type of activity, must be guarded by ethics, and that in this area as in others, there are times when we would very much like to do what would really be highly unethical and wrong. The Orthodoxy quotation, though it concerns a somewhat different matter, suggests the direction of my complaint. To read some people of a secularist persuasion, there is no possible reason why any reasonable person would ever want to have moral rules restricting sexual behavior. Thus, sexual behavior gets a pass even when it does harm in a way that other conduct does not. The exception seems to be a requirement that the parties consent, but even here the complexities of what really constitutes consent is simply not recognized. 

In C. S. Lewis's Essay "Have We No Right to Happiness," Lewis points out a blind spot that modern people have concerning sex:

“After all,” said Clare. “they had a right to happiness.”
We were discussing something that once happened in our own neighborhood. Mr. A. had deserted Mrs. A. and got his divorce in order to marry Mrs. B., who had likewise got her divorce in order to marry Mr. A. And there was certainly no doubt that Mr. A. and Mrs. B. were very much in love with one another. If they continued to be in love, and if nothing went wrong with their health or their income, they might reasonable expect to be very happy.
It was equally clear that they were not happy with their old partners. Mrs. B. had adored her husband at the outset. But then he got smashed up in the war. It was thought he had lost his virility, and it was known that he had lost his job. Life with him was no longer what Mrs. B. had bargained for. Poor Mrs. A., too. She had lost her looks—and all her liveliness. It might be true, as some said, that she consumed herself by bearing his children and nursing him through the long illness that overshadowed their earlier married life.
You mustn’t, by the way, imagine that A. was the sort of man who nonchalantly threw a wife away like the peel of an orange he’d sucked dry. Her suicide was a terrible shock to him. We all knew this, for he told us so himself. “But what could I do?” he said. “A man has a right to happiness. I had to take my one chance when it came.”
Lewis goes on to add: 
Clare, in fact, is doing what the whole western world seems to me to have been doing for the last 40-odd years. When I was a youngster, all the progressive people were saying, “Why all this prudery? Let us treat sex just as we treat all our other impulses.” I was simple-minded enough to believe they meant what they said. I have since discovered that they meant exactly the opposite. They meant that sex was to be treated as no other impulse in our nature has ever been treated by civilized people. All the others, we admit, have to be bridled. Absolute obedience to your instinct for self-preservation is what we call cowardice; to your acquisitive impulse, avarice. Even sleep must be resisted if you’re a sentry. But every unkindness and breach of faith seems to be condoned provided that the object aimed at is “four bare legs in a bed.”
Let's start with Richard Dawkins. Remember his comments downplaying the sexual misconduct of even Catholic priests? Or his Dear Muslima comments about Rebecca Watson's complaints about how men pursued sex at atheist conventions. Watson, to be sure, is anything but an advocate of traditional sexual ethics. She objected to the way in which such sex was pursued. Yet, somehow by making these complaints Dawkins implied that somehow she was trivializing the suffering of women living under Sharia law, or suffering female genital mutilation.

Or consider Darrel Ray's denial that sex addicts exist. That people pursue sex compulsively, even when it harms themselves, their families, and their careers, seems as obvious as can be, and to deny this seems like a great occasion for the Strait answer: 

I got some ocean front property in Arizona.
From my front porch you can see the sea.
I got some ocean front property in Arizona.
If you'll buy that, I'll throw the golden gate in free.

I am certainly not suggesting that Christians don't have blind spots when it comes to sexual issues. Chief amongst these has been the tendency in Christian groups to make sexual compliance a litmus test for spiritual success, and the mistaken idea, very prevalent until recently, that same-sex attraction is always repairable.

However, traditional sexual ethics facilitates a stable atmosphere for childrearing, eliminates the need to market oneself throughout life as a sexual partner, and prevents people with money and power from taking using that power for sexual benefit. Even from a secular standpoint, these goals need to be taken seriously. 

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Could God be mistaken?

If the Christian God exists, doesn't he get to decide what is right or wrong? Or could an existing God be mistaken about, for example, whether gay relationships are right or not.

Consider the following scenario: God created the world, and decreed that marriage was the only proper place for sex, and that marriage was a relationship between a man and a woman. But, he got it wrong, and gay was really OK.

Is that scenario even possible? 

Mormon polygamy

 A Mormon believes that God spoke first in the Bible, then in the Book of Mormon, Doctrines and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price, and now though the Prophet, Seer and Revelator of the Mormon Church. Mormons actually believe that in the time of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, God allowed plural marriage, but Prophet, Seer and Revelator William Woodruff claimed to have heard from God in the late 19th Century that plural marriage had to stop. Of course the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints does not believe that Woodruff really heard from God on this, and so they continue to practice plural marriage.