The Enlightenment’s Unskeptical Disciples

“The only way, really, to pursue a godlessness in good conscience is to forget history.”

– David Bentley Hart

In context, I found this a deeply penetrating statement about the condition of the current discussion between theists and materialists. What is that context? I highly recommend the full talk, but it can be summarized as follows:

The claim was never true, but it was (in some ways) understandable that Enlightenment thinkers would believe that a society liberated from all belief in transcendence would achieve new heights of prosperity and morality–that enough education, or the right social programs, would do what religion could not.

Now that we are living in the wake of the bloodiest century in all of human history, it takes a deep lack of curiosity (or downright willful ignorance), to believe that a godless society is the unqualified good to be zealously pursued that so many proclaim it to be.

Hart points out that Nietzsche’s fear of the “last men”–of those who have no deep truth to speak, no rational basis for morality, and therefore no meaning in their lives–now seems rather quaint. This idea has gone from a horrific and seemingly wild proclamation to a banal, almost tedious, observation the facts.

The fact that so many, from the New Atheists to an all-too-large group of theists, have such a distorted, shallow view of what it is that Christianity actually claims is only the most recent evidence that ours is an age which has become so used to living without transcendence that far too many of us don’t even understand the meaning of the term.

And we can’t, of course, correct the problems sparked by the naivety of the Enlightenment thinkers simply by insisting that their view of reality was perfectly correct. And, whether they realize it or not, this is exactly what Dawkins and his fans are doing–unreflectively buying into Enlightenment propaganda as if it were a new and established truth they’d discovered themselves. So far, we’ve seen no sign that this group is even remotely aware of the connections between their own ideas and the mass slaughters of the twentieth century.

I, for one, think there are very good reasons to dismiss materialism as false. But, if it is true, it is a catastrophic truth–a bearer of death and oblivion. Those who speak as if it were, in some unspecified way, a glorious triumph have simply ignored the facts.

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65 responses to “The Enlightenment’s Unskeptical Disciples

  • john zande

    “I, for one, think there are very good reasons to dismiss materialism as false.”

    Really? So far you haven’t 1) explained what falsifying materialism actually means, and 2) failed to present a single piece of verifiable evidence to back yourself up….

    • Debilis

      We’ve had this conversation before. I simply don’t accept your claims about what I haven’t done here.

      But I’d like to point out that this (rather clearly) was not the point. Rather, the point was that materialism is terrible. The question of whether or not it is true is for another time.

      • john zande

        It is perfectly clear that you are simply unable to provide any examples. The reason being, of course, you have nothing to show.

        Now, if you have no evidence why persist down this obviously erroneous path? Clearly you’re deluding yourself, and i have to ask, what possible purpose does that serve?

        • Debilis

          If you find that to be perfectly clear, then you didn’t look over the blog, as I suggested. Rather than declare victory over a side-point on the grounds that I want to stay on topic, go see what I’ve actually written.

          And, rather than play armchair psychologist, please do address the actual argument that was made.

          I’ve asked for any reason or evidence you have to suppose that empathy is the entire basis of morality. I think it is pretty clear that it is not. It is also clear that it is an appeal to emotion. It answers “why should one be moral” with “because you feel this emotion”.

          But I’ve been told that refusing to believe things based on emotion is key to being a materialist atheist.

          As such, this topic is exactly what you’ve been requesting: an example of something that materialists can’t explain.

          The only thing that puzzles me is why you haven’t addressed this. I suppose I could play armchair psychologist as well and throw out accusations of projection. But I’d rather just ask you to respond to the topic at hand.

        • john zande

          [personal comments removed]

        • Debilis

          I’ve edited out the ad hominem, which, unfortunately means removing the entire comment.

          If you don’t feel that your statements are being addressed, I see no reason why you should want to remain.

          Of course, I’d say that your argument has been directly addressed, and would simply refer back to my last statement.

        • john zande

          I have answered you on a number of occasions. You, rather oddly, keep sidestepping the answers given. So again (adapted from Existential Atheism:

          We must judge each action in terms of how it affects others, by evaluating how we would like or dislike this action’s affect on us, if it was performed by someone else. This requires intelligence, because, first, it requires predicting the CONSEQUENCES of an action by projecting it into the future, and second, it requires simulating how these consequences will be received by others, an ability known as EMPATHY.

          So the simplified answer is that an action is desirable if it’s consequences are desirable. Desirable by what standard? The standard is “improvement versus degradation”. On the continuum that goes from maximum suffering to maximum wellbeing, moving toward wellbeing is improvement, and moving toward suffering is degradation. If an action leads to suffering and degradation, it is “immoral”. If it leads to increased wellbeing, it is “moral”.

          This clearly isn’t hedonism, and it also isn’t utilitarianism. So far, it’s “Act-Based Consequentialism”, but we’re not there yet. Act-based consequentialism isn’t practical, because if we had to sit down and contemplate the consequences of each action in order to decide if it’s right or wrong, we wouldn’t have time to get anything done, especially in a life and death situation. Evolution required us to have a quick way of simply knowing if what we’re about to do is right or wrong. This is called a Rule-Based Consequentialism, and it differs from rule-based moralities because it’s based on act-based consequentialism. So unlike the hard-coded rules of religion, act-based consequential morality is based of consequences, so it can EVOLVE if we observe that the LONG TERM consequences are different than predicted. This is how stoning children and slavery evolved to be immoral. Another advantage over rule-based morality is flexibility. There are always situational exceptions to moral rules, and a rule-based morality fails to account for them or offer any guidance. A consequential morality (combining act-based and rule-based consequentialism) gives good guidance even for exceptions. For example, it is wrong to lie, because it reduces trust which reduces cooperation which degrades society. If I lie, then others can lie to me, which is detrimental to all. But is it ALWAYS wrong to lie? No, it’s good to lie to save your life, or someone else’s life. That doesn’t make it ALWAYS ok to lie, nor ALWAYS wrong to lie – it depends on the circumstances and consequences. A rule-based morality can’t resolve this exception, but a consequence-based morality does it perfectly.

          Who decides what’s right or wrong? The answer is the group does, over time. In the past group meant tribe, today it means culture. Cultural evolution is the process that decides what’s right and wrong, using act-based consequentialism, and then teaches these conclusions as rules, creating rule-based consequentialism.

          Morality is based on improvement from suffering to wellbeing, and is therefore universal and objective.

        • Debilis

          I don’t recall sidestepping anything.

          Rather, I remember asking something to the effect of “what is the rational reason why we must judge all actions based on how we would like to be on the receiving end of it?”

          You claim here that it is because it allows us to predict consequences. Indeed, it helps–though not as much as you seem to think.

          I’m glad that we’ve finally gotten to a standard. There is quite a bit here that hasn’t been in any of your other answers. Unfortunately, this all seems lifted from Sam Harris’ version of consequentialism.Harris himself admitted that he had no reason why people ought to seek well being–he merely took that as axiomatic.

          Really, what is the logical reason why someone should care whether an act is a move toward wellbeing or suffering?

          If it is simply because that person feels empathy, this is an appeal to emotion. If it is simply because that person can predict that others will suffer if she does this, that simply assumes that suffering is bad.

          None of this is a rational argument.

          Nor is it enough to say that this view is more practically applicable, or more flexible in its details than other forms of consequentialism. I agree with much of that, but it is beside the point. The question is over whether or not it can offer a logical reason why someone should promote wellbeing in the first place.

          But I also object to the idea that society decides what is right and wrong. Almost all great moral reformers have championed ideas that the group initially rejected. It strikes me as nonsense to say that opposing Jim Crow laws, for instance, was immoral in 1950, but moral today.

          This idea that a vote determines morality also leaves the door open for the idea that something other than wellbeing could be made the goal of right and wrong. Indeed, I can’t think of any culture that takes that as the absolute goal in its moral pronouncements.

          That being the case, the idea that the group decides what is right and wrong necessarily means that promoting wellbeing is not the basis of morality–and vice versa.

          But, if you simply want to define morality as the promotion of wellbeing, we’ve still not received an answer to the question “what is the logical reason why someone should be moral?”.

          There are quite a few other problems with consequentialism (that apply to the version you describe here as much as rule-based consequentialism). If you feel that this wasn’t direct enough engagement, I’ll get into those as well. But the point is that none of this is a logical reason why anyone should do anything without first accepting the premise “we should promote wellbeing”.

          But that was the premise I’ve asked to see a secular support for.

        • john zande

          “None of this is a rational argument.”

          And there you go. It’s impossible to talk to you like an adult because you will invariably dismiss all contradicting evidence. You are, of course, a fundamentalist, so i really shouldn’t be surprised.

        • Debilis

          Actually, I’m not a fundamentalist (by definition), but I fail to see what that has to do with anything. It seems like an ad hominem.

          But two things strike me about the issue here:

          First, it’s more than a bit ironic to get the complaint that I’m dismissing evidence from a New Atheist. Dismissing evidence is the basic MO of that group–and no one from it will even venture to give a standard of evidence by which they make these (arbitrary?) dismissals.

          Second, I have given a standard, and the evidence you’ve presented is off-topic by that standard. If you have a better one, please share. But simply attacking me personally doesn’t refute my points.

          Rather, this seems like an excellent of Arthur Schopenhauer’s observation of mismatched debates:

          “If he lacks mental power, he will be embittered, and led into dishonest tricks, and end by being rude.”

          So, either address my actual arguments, or leave. Mocking me establishes nothing.

        • john zande

          Ha! Nice try. I’m still waiting for you to actually present something tangible.

        • Debilis

          This doesn’t answer what I’ve just said.

          I’ve pointed out that the “evidence” you’ve mentioned is evidence for something other than what I was discussing. And I have no idea why you should demand that I now present something “tangible”.

          Is pointing out a logical fallacy tangible?

          If so, I have. If not, I have no idea why you should demand something tangible.

        • john zande

          The request for something tangible flows across all your posts which i comment on. You have never offered up a single shred of evidence for your worldview, yet i, time after time, fulfill my duty and produce HARD EVIDENCE to back up my statements.

          So, tell me: are you ever going to produce some evidence for analysis?:

        • Debilis

          I haven’t once, let alone “time after time” seen hard (or even soft) evidence for your statements. But set that aside, it isn’t the point.

          As another aside, I’ve put forth quite a bit by much higher standards than what you’ve called “hard evidence”. See the side links for details. But also set that aside, this is another off-topic issue.

          Getting closer to the point is the fact that demanding tangible evidence is rather silly here. If you are insisting that all evidence is tangible, is it really any wonder that you only ever find the tangible?

          If you’re going to start from that assumption, all that is left is to give up the pretense that you’re actually looking for anything other than the tangible.

          And that is one of the problems I opened this topic to discuss. The arguments of the New Atheists show a complete inability to see past their own cultural blinders.

          It is no wonder that they conclude that their culturally absorbed, metaphysical assumptions are the correct ones. They’ve assumed this from the beginning.

          So, though the demand for tangible evidence is off topic, it illustrates my point rather well.

        • john zande

          … and again you simply evade a request to present your evidence. In fact, 194 words just to avoid it! Three bulleted points would have been fine: “My evidence is…”

          Clearly you have no evidence. If you did you wouldn’t waste 194 words just to, once again, sneak past what is a rather simple request….

          Why even keep this blog alive if you have nothing? Doesn’t make any sense to me.

        • Debilis

          You keep saying this as if you’re surprised.

          Let me make it clear for you, then: I have no intention of presenting evidence for your off-topic demands. If you go to a topic where this is actually germane to the subject, I’ll be happy to do so. In fact, I’ve done so there, if you’d care to have a look.

          But, here, the topic is about the cultural blindness of the New Atheists. The fact that everyone attempting to debate with me is avoiding that topic leaves me without any reason to change my opinion.

          So, is this demand that we move to a new subject tacit agreement that the group is unable to see beyond their cultural assumptions?

          If not, it is (by definition) avoiding the challenge that has been made. And, in that case, I feel no need to present evidence.

        • john zande

          …. And another 143 words just to avoid actually presenting 3 bulleted point form examples of your evidence. This is getting rather pathetic, Debilis. If you don’t have anything, just admit it. There’s no shame in that. I’m not going to belittle you. I don’t want to hurt your feeling.

        • Debilis

          Rather than count my words, I suggest you read them.

          If you want an answer to your challenge–go to a topic where it is actually relevant, and make it there.

          I notice also, that you’ve avoided answering the on-topic challenge I’ve made. I’ve been given no response except a kind of patronizing cyber-bullying that is neither intimidating nor logically sound.

          If you want an answer, you need to actually go through the button-clicking labor of finding the appropriate topic. It really isn’t hard. I’ve categorized the posts for a reason.

        • john zande

          … and another 91 words just to avoid answering!

          Don’t you ever get tired of evading rather simple requests to support your position?

        • Debilis

          Apparently not.

          If you enjoy counting words, you are free to continue to do so.

          But I’ve supported my position. On this topic, my position is that the New Atheists rarely, if ever, question their own cultural assumptions. This, in spite of the fact that they ostensibly claim to cherish doubt and questioning.

          The sketch of past cultures offered some evidence for that. But, if you’d like more, I’d reference the New Atheist literature itself–and the lack of both argument for or reservation about, the cultural views it presents. Hitchens even admitted directly that he was incapable of doubting his atheism.

          But, of course, you want me to defend some off-topic position of mine. I suppose I could respond by asking you to defend your views on abortion, the two-party system, moral ontology, and whatever else comes to mind.

          Instead, I’ll point out again that, if you really are interested in an answer, as opposed to some kind of rhetorical victory, you can click a few links and be at a place where your demand is on topic.

          So, I’m answering a great deal that is on topic. I’ve never avoided relevant challenges.

          But, was that enough words for you to complain about? Here’s a few more, just in case.

        • john zande

          You’ve supported nothing! All you’re doing is avoid answering a patently simple request for your espoused proof for your supernatural theistic worldview.

          Now, as you asked, my position on abortion is quite clear: Something cannot be considered “alive” until it can “die.” Human Life begins at the moment its twin, death, also springs into existence. Without death there is no life. The former begets the latter. The latter assigns meaning to the former. One delineates the other, and fortunately the definition of death is not in dispute. Death is when electroencephalography (EEG) activity ceases. That’s it. That’s death. It follows quite naturally therefore that the onset of defined human life is when foetal brain activity begins to exhibit regular and sustained wave patterns, and that occurs consistently around week 25 of pregnancy. Only after something can die can it be considered alive, and to argue anything to the contrary is patently absurd. Further to this point, “life” never emerges in the foetus. Life began on earth 3.8 billion years ago and hasn’t been interrupted since. “Life” does not magically spring forth at conception, or at any phase through the foetuses development. The egg and the sperm are already parts of the living system; a system that began 3.8 billion years ago. A foetus was never inorganic and suddenly became organic. As such, EEG activity is the only means we have to determine legal issues regarding human life and abortion… and EEG activity switches on in a permanent and sustained way at around week 25.

        • Debilis

          I’ve avoided supporting off topic positions, yes. I’ve been very up-front about that. I’m not sure why you keep pointing this out as if it were some hidden scandal.

          I didn’t actually expect you to attempt to answer the question on abortion. But, if you’re this insistent, let me see if I can tie this back to the actual topic:

          I don’t see any “tangible evidence” for the idea that a thing can’t be considered alive until it can die. As you’ve insisted on “tangible evidence” for my view, it is only fair that we agree that this isn’t presenting evidence.

          The same goes for your defining death as the cessation of EEG activity (actually, that is in dispute). There’s no tangible evidence that it is this, and not some other event that constitutes death. Nor is there tangible evidence that a new form of life isn’t emerging in the womb simply because the molecules out of which that life is constructed were organic.

          At least, I’ve been presented with no tangible evidence that there is no difference between a cell from a body and a living organism.

          As such, I don’t think you’ve presented any tangible evidence at all. What you’ve presented is a series of deductions based on your metaphysical perspective on the biological facts.

          That’s fine, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve never denied the value of metaphysics by demanding “tangible evidence”. But I do want to point out that you’ve presented no tangible evidence for any position on abortion here.

          How does this relate to the topic? Rather simply: the demand for tangible evidence is itself a symptom of a metaphysical view (scientism), that was championed in the Enlightenment, and is uncritically accepted by the New Atheist community.

          The group in general tends to confuse the metaphysics they’ve read into certain facts with the facts themselves. That is, they’ve demanded the right to interpret science for the rest of us, declaring that things like life and death are defined by physical experimentation when the are not.

          This isn’t tangible evidence, then. It is metaphysical extrapolations from the tangible evidence. As such, it makes no sense to demand tangible evidence of others.

        • john zande

          “I don’t see any “tangible evidence” for the idea that a thing can’t be considered alive until it can die.”

          -Well, yes there is: EEG activity. That’s rather “tangible.” It delineates “human life.”

          “The same goes for your defining death as the cessation of EEG activity (actually, that is in dispute). There’s no tangible evidence that it is this, and not some other event that constitutes death.”

          -Evidently you don’t know what you’re talking about. In 1979, the Conference of the Medical Royal Colleges, “Diagnosis of death” declared: “brain death represents the stage at which a patient becomes truly dead.” This was updated in the 1980s and 1990s to state that brainstem death, as diagnosed by UK criteria, is the point at which “all functions of the brain have permanently and irreversibly ceased.” Further still updated in 1995 (to present), “It is suggested that ‘irreversible loss of the capacity for consciousness, combined with irreversible loss of the capacity to breathe’ should be regarded as the definition of death’

          I think that’s pretty clear, don’t you?

          “Nor is there tangible evidence that a new form of life isn’t emerging in the womb simply because the molecules out of which that life is constructed were organic.”

          -Bwahahahaa… What? My goodness, Debilis, no offense meant, but do you practice being silly? By your reckoning here, Abiogenesis occurs a billion-billion-billion times a day! I’m sorry, but you’re just dead wrong. The foetus was NEVER inorganic and suddenly becomes organic. Life began on earth 3.8 billion years ago and hasn’t been interrupted since.

          “As such, I don’t think you’ve presented any tangible evidence at all. What you’ve presented is a series of deductions based on your metaphysical perspective on the biological facts.”

          -Seriously, listen to yourself. Listen to the nonsense that comes out of your mouth (or tips of your fingers). I flood you with indisputable MEDICAL AND SCIENTIFIC evidence and you dismiss it as “metaphysics”… That’s hilarious! Please, tell me, where’s the “metaphysics in EEG readings? Where’s the “metaphysics” in describing the sperm and egg as organic? Where’s the “metaphysics” in defining complex human life as commencing the moment its twin, death, becomes a reality?

          Please, following the medical definitions of death above, demonstrate to me how the foetus (before week 25) is a “human life.” Demonstrate to me, with evidence, how something that cannot be switched “Off,” is (in your mind) “On.” I believe to meet this request you’ll have to present solid evidence for the human soul, for that is the ONLY thing that might render my scientifically confirmed position obsolete. So, Debilis, can you present me evidence for the human soul?

        • Debilis

          Where is the “tangible” evidence that EEG delineates human life? I didn’t see that.

          Yes, I’m aware that many medical conferences have declared this. I’m not even disagreeing with it in principle. I’m simply pointing out that EEG scans exist and that conferences have said so aren’t evidence that EEG activity is the defining characteristic of life.

          There is, however, evidence (not “tangible” evidence, but evidence) that you aren’t reading my claims very closely. I never made any claim that a fetus is constructed through abiogenesis. I agree that this is not the case. I didn’t even claim that organic material is different from life. I merely pointed out that you haven’t provided any evidence that it is no different.

          And, in fact, I’m not sure why you’d claim this anyway. You’ve just been arguing that EEG readings measure the existence of life–so it is hard to see why you’d now be saying that all organic material is life.

          So, I completely accept the medical evidence presented. I’m merely pointing out that it isn’t remotely evidence for the position you took.

          And this is a standard problem with the New Atheists–the assumption that evidence for a scientific claim is evidence for the metaphysical, political, and moral extrapolations they make from these claims.

          Unfortunately, when one tries to point out the difference, one is simply accused of not accepting the science, then mocked for that. I notice this is exactly what is being done here, in fact.

          So, there’s no metaphysics in EEG readings. There is however, (bad) metaphysics in the statement “EEG readings exist, therefore life is EEG activity”.

          The same could be used for almost any perspective. A fetus satisfies the conditions of the basic definition of life (composed of cells, organized in structure, etc). Does this mean that whatever extrapolations one can make from that (i.e. “abortion is murder”) have been supported with tangible, biological evidence?

          I’d say not, but this is exactly the line of reasoning I’m being given.

          So, let me reiterate: I’m not opposing the science; I’m trying to point out what is science, and what is a philosophical tack-on.

        • john zande

          “You’ve just been arguing that EEG readings measure the existence of life–so it is hard to see why you’d now be saying that all organic material is life.”

          -If you read, you’ll see a defined “human life.” That is, after all, what we’re talking about, but you made the mistake of also saying “life,” which I pointed out to you NEVER springs forth in the foetus at any point.

          “Unfortunately, when one tries to point out the difference, one is simply accused of not accepting the science, then mocked for that. I notice this is exactly what is being done here, in fact.”

          -Oh, don’t play the victim, princess. I hope you’re mildly more intelligent than Sarah Palin who plays similar games. Screaming “victimization” when you’re being annihilated in a debate is not very adult.

          “So, there’s no metaphysics in EEG readings.”

          -And yet you called it metaphysics, but now have to backpaddle as I showed you the error in your ways

          “So, let me reiterate: I’m not opposing the Science”

          -Oh yes you were! You wrote: “The same goes for your defining death as the cessation of EEG activity (actually, that is in dispute).” I rather effectively demonstrated to you how wrong you were, and now, again, you’re forced to do a midair pirouette and say that wasn’t what you were talking about.

          So, where are we? I have stated my case with evidence. You have presented nothing. To advance your position you must present to me, as requested, evidence for the human soul. Only this will render my position obsolete. Should you fail to do so we shall consider this debate over and the Pro-Choice position correct based on medical, legal, scientific, human rights, and moral grounds.

        • Debilis

          This strikes me as simply personal attacks and demanding that certain claims are correct. There is no mention of the issues I pointed out earlier, and a deep misunderstanding of what I’ve actually claimed in the passages which did receive a response.

          How so? Let me explain:

          There’s no response to the challenge that the definition of human life you’ve chosen is unsupported by “tangible evidence”. I agree that EEG readings exist; I’m not even arguing with the idea that they be used to delineate the human life span.

          Rather, I’m arguing with the completely unsupported claim that there is “tangible evidence” that they define human life–as opposed to some other process.

          Of course, you seem to agree that they don’t define “life” but only “human life”. Of course, other animals have EEG readings, so this strikes me as a little odd. I’m aware that their readings would be different, but so would any number of biological tests.

          Where is the “tangible evidence” that it is having a particular EEG pattern, and not particular morphological features, that is the defining characteristic of a human life?

          I’ve not seen any at all in this argument.

          As for misunderstanding, I’m not “playing the victim” (much as you try to make me that by throwing out insults). Rather, I’m pointing out the errors of comprehension in the responses I’m getting.

          That is, because so many atheists have trouble differentiating between science and the (often wild) metaphysical extrapolations they make from science, they seem to think that anyone who rejects those extrapolations is rejecting the science.

          I was pointing out that this is a total non-sequitur. That isn’t “playing the victim”; it’s making a logical point.

          And, as the same mistake is being made, it seems that I need to make the point again. Your definition of death, whether it is true or false, is not supported by any “tangible evidence”.

          To simply insist that you’ve “demonstrated” otherwise is simply to dogmatically assert those non-scientific extrapolations, and demand that I’m somehow opposing science simply because I don’t see any scientific support of the metaphysical claim.

          That isn’t my being a victim, and it isn’t my changing what I meant. It is what I’ve been saying from the beginning (your position isn’t actually scientific at all–it is an extrapolation not based in “tangible evidence”).

          That was the point of mentioning that the standard biological definition of life applies to a fetus. Does rejecting the idea that this should be applied to abortion make you anti-science? If not, I don’t see any reason to cry anti-science at those who reject the same approach regarding EEG readings.

          And, to get back to the actual topic, this is one of the more obvious problems with the constant demands for “tangible evidence”: Those making the demand insist that their non-scientific extrapolations are, somehow, tangibly evidenced by the science from which they’ve extrapolated.

          The New Atheists claim to speak for science in much the same way that fundamentalist preachers claim to speak for God. If the evidence doesn’t support the extrapolation being made, it is anti-science to say that it does.

  • keithnoback

    And yet you are quite happy to pursue the language of alienation as well, and advocate for the re-stigmatization of those who do not see the obvious correctness of your particular philosophy. What are we then to do with those who bear the message of death and oblivion, nail them up? Nail some sense into them? Perhaps you’ve got the lessons of the enlightenment wrong in much the same way as Hart’s got Zarathustra wrong.

    • Debilis

      This seems to assume a great deal about my personal motivations. Have we met offline somewhere? I’m not sure how you could know that this is my meaning.

      You’re free to disagree with Hart. I disagree with him on many points. But I’m not remotely promoting disdain for those who believe in materialism, I’m simply opposing those who believe that it is a good thing.

      Surely, I’m allowed to do this? Claiming otherwise would seem to undercut the entire democratic process.

      • keithnoback

        I expect you won’t cry the next time Dawkins and Co. proclaim religious belief catastrophic and a source of death and oblivion? I’ve seen this style of conversation plenty of times, in bars. Usually it ends up with somebody getting hit. That’s the problem.

        • Debilis

          I haven’t yet–and they’ve made the accusation enough times.

          In fact, if you read over my post, I think you’ll find that my writing on this subject is more civil than Dawkins’ or Hitchens’. I haven’t made up derogatory terms (parallel to “faithheads”) to describe those who disagree, and I’ve not recommended that materialist be “ridiculed with contempt”.

          There is a popular idea being promoted, which I consider to be deeply harmful to humanity. If I could be shown to be wrong, I’d happily silence myself.

          So long as no one can do that, however, I feel a bit like a gay-rights activist being told that I shouldn’t ever say that opposition to marriage equality is hurtful because “usually it ends up with someone getting hit”.

          I see nothing immoral with saying “this idea is dangerous, and here’s why”. It is only wrong if it degenerates into “and we should mock, exclude, or oppress those who believe it”.

          If that happens here, I would very much appreciate your voice of correction; it should be stopped. But, until that time, it is as great a problem to be silent about destructive ideas in one’s culture simply because it might cause conflict.

        • keithnoback

          You’ve a political bent, my friend, likely due to growing up in a post-Enlightenment world. Salam malekem.

        • Debilis

          I suppose the case could be made that all people have a political bent of some kind or another. But I’m more often accused of not being interested enough in politics.

          Either way, I don’t understand why a product of a post-enlightenment culture would have a more flawed approach than an enlightenment or a pre-enlightement thinker. My knowledge of history seems to indicate otherwise.

          Personally, I feel that we should be rigorous toward ideas, and tolerant toward persons. This is what I’ve tried to do in this blog. I attack materialism–not materialists.

  • katachriston

    Reblogged this on Apologetics on Fire and commented:
    The undeniable and inevitable connection between ideology and action. No tradition, worldview or philosophy exists in a perfect vacuum of theory. Every idea that captures the heart, has its fountain and emission.
    “Keep your heart above all that you keep. For out of it flow the issues of life” – King Solomon.

  • Jason B. Ladd

    You have rightly said: materialism is terrible. I think materialists have failed to consider the consequence of what follows, which is the meaninglessness of life. Materialism leaves no room for ultimate meaning in eternity, and if there is no ultimate meaning in eternity, then meaning in this life is merely an illusion. Even this comment thread becomes meaningless. The fact is, ideas have consequences, and this century has shown us the consequence and the outworking of atheism on a global scale. Thank God materialism is false. Great post.

    • Debilis

      With all the debate around this blog lately, an encouraging comment is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

    • Arkenaten

      Materialism leaves no room for ultimate meaning in eternity, and if there is no ultimate meaning in eternity, then meaning in this life is merely an illusion

      On what grounds do you have the gall to consider a non-theist life meaningless?

      What in your world view is the “ultimate meaning”?

      On what evidence do put forward a belief in an eternity?

      consequence and the outworking of atheism

      And can you list anything negative that is as a direct result of atheism?

      • Jason B. Ladd

        Arkenaten, I did not say that a non-theist’s life is meaningless;I said that all life is meaningless if there is no meaning in eternity. This is not gall; it is respectfully submitted on logical grounds. “Ultimate meaning” was referring to a state of finality where something like the concept of justice will remain in force even after death. If the meaning in life simply disappears after death, then it does not matter what we do in life. Morality then would be a convention–a subjective agreement that most of us decide to follow for whatever reason. The Big Bang theory is good evidence for eternity and suggests that there was a time before time, and this timeless state is eternity. The direct result of the theology of atheism is the philosophy of humanism and the economy of communism. One puts man above all things, and the other puts the state before the man. When combined, you end up with the bloodiest century in history. When God is dead–when man is not accountable for his evil and has no reason to be good–we kill each other all the more quickly. Respectfully submitted.

        • Arkenaten

          This is such apologetic claptrap it defies any sense of rationality.
          There is no possible way for you to speculate on what happens after death other than the breakdown of tissue.

          For you to espouse such diatribe and think for an instant it will be afforded any credence whatsoever by any other than similarity inculcated Christians is laughable in the extreme.

        • Jason B. Ladd

          Arkenaten, I presume that by contributing to a public forum that you wish to have some influence on your audience. I don’t see how you will meet that end by labeling others’ honest inputs as pompous, presumptuous, and laughable. I wish you the best. Seek the truth, and you will find it. -Jason

        • Arkenaten

          .Arkenaten, I presume that by contributing to a public forum that you wish to have some influence on your audience. I don’t see how you will meet that end by labeling others’ honest inputs as pompous, presumptuous, and laughable. I wish you the best. Seek the truth, and you will find it. -Jason

          I don’t recall using any if these adjectives in my reply to you, however, they do seem to fit the description of the topic rather well.

          I have no desire to “influence my audience” regarding my personal views on the pompous nonsense of religion, and I am not so presumptuous to believe I would be able to. That would be a laughable suggestion in the first place.

          I would recommend you also seek the truth for rummaging in that little book you consider holy will only glean lies. May you find the path to the light.

  • Arkenaten

    I, for one, think there are very good reasons to dismiss materialism as false.

    Okay, this seems like a straightforward unambiguous statement.
    Now, in as equally straightforward and unambiguous fashion, please tell us what those reasons are.

    • Mark Hamilton

      He has been for the length of this blog. Specifically:

      The argument from the mind, the cosmological argument, the argument from science, and the argument from morality.

      There they are, thousands of words on each reason laid out in as straightforward and unambigous fashion as he can muster. I’m suprised you’ve missed them: you’ve commented on your fair share.

      • Arkenaten

        These are not straightforward answers at all, any more than you would be able to offer a straightforward answer for a herbivorous Tyrannosaurus Rex being on Noah’s Ark.

        • Mark Hamilton

          Firstly, what is and isn’t straightforward is a matter of opinion. Secondly, truth is usually not straightforward in any case. The straightforward truth is that the sun goes around the Earth, or that the rich are superior to the poor, or that time moves at the same pace regardless of speed. Finally, you asked for his reasons. There they are. If they’re too complicated for you then say so, or if you think they’re lacking in something then critique them, but don’t try to claim that he has given no reasons or arguments at all.

        • Arkenaten

          He has at all times been obtuse, obscure, evasive, intransigent and only on ne or two occasions answered a direct question.

          Not a single person( non believer) who has tried to engage him had been able to elicit a straight forward answer.
          If you think you are smart enough then wonderful. I mean, you have the same god-indoctrinated mentality, so why don’t you go ahead and explain his theism to me – and every other person who has asked him, because sure as shit I have not a damn clue what he is talking about.

        • Mark Hamilton

          If you don’t understand his arguments then I suggest brushing up on basic reading comprehension. It’s not in some strange code or secret language. The problem is that you want to grill him about his specific religious beliefs, while he wants to discuss individual reasons and arguments in favor of theism over materialism. Since this is his blog, I think he has a right to refuse to answer personal questions if he doesn’t wish to.

          Whats especially ironic is that the first sentence of your comment could be equally well applied to yourself in most cases. It seems to be a vicious cycle. He writes a post making a specific argument. You ask him questions about scripture or his own specific theology, or whether he believes in the Nicene creed. He refuses you answer your questions (which is his right, just as it would be your right to refuse to answer questions on any topic you didn’t feel like discussing on your own blog), and then he askes you to engage with the content of his post. You refuse to let your own questions go unanswered. He refuses to engage in a discussion that he believes is off topic. Round and round it goes.

          It should also be noted that I’ve seen him have productive discussions in the comments with several “non believers,” Funnily enough it seems that you usually get in fights with them as well and assume they must be Christians because they don’t agee with you.

        • Arkenaten

          Of course it his right. But it also my right to ask him to clarify his position. And if he wishes to blog in an open forum and encourage discussion – this is why he has comments open I presume – but then blatantly refuses to
          answer simple, straightforward questions it indicates to all who pose such question that his position is one of he couldn’t give a shit .
          And, for the record, I answered his damn questions…twice,
          His actions strike me as a form of mental instability, cognitive dissonance perhaps,as the reason that he balks at every challenge.

          And even more hilarious is a young Young Earth Creationist, (who believes in Veggie Tyrannosaurus’s and Allosaurus’s who later grew sharp pointy teeth because a man of dust and his spare-rib wife sinned and a couple of Polar Bears and Penguins that must have had Genetic GPS’s fitted all lived merrily on the Ark), defending a position that he doesn’t exactly agree with, or is also just too plain dumb to understand, so he hides behind Debilis’ dress and whines, Nya, Nya, Nya at the rotten atheist.

          Sheesh!

        • Mark Hamilton

          “His actions strike me as a form of mental instability, cognitive dissonance perhaps,as the reason that he balks at every challenge.”

          Another gem for the unintentionally ironic comment wall. It would be a decent explanation for why you always inevitably resort to insults and characitures in any protracted discussion. Why prove that someone is wrong when you can mock them instead? Apparently you feel that as long as you can make fun of a person then you don’t have to engage with what they’re saying.

        • Arkenaten

          I do not have to prove anyone wrong. If the argument is wrong ( as in false, fallacious, or erroneous) then the argument will do that for them, as do his and as does yours.

          That you have refused to even acknowledge my offer that you explain his brand of theism is suggests you don’t understand it and hence are not even bothering to acknowledge, Hell, you could even do your own blog post if you were scared to write here.

          I honestly believe you are merely making noise for the sake of it.
          Like him, you are not really interested in truth.

          I have engaged with him as I have with you.
          When your foundational belief is challenged you both merely hide behind you sky daddy god.
          There is no rational argument with one who defends himself with make believe and merely pulls tongues at reality.

          Explain to me how T- Rex changed from a herbivore to a carnivore. I dare you to offer a rational explanation that me and a child will understand.

          Do that and I’ll give Debillis and his arguments the benefit of the doubt.

          Lets see how intelligent you are, Mark.

        • Mark Hamilton

          No, you don’t have to prove anyone wrong. I don’t have a problem with that. What I have a problem with is your constant refrain that Dibelis has provided no reasons or no arguments in favor of theism when he clearly has. Over and over I hear you cry “You have no evidence! Let’s see yoru reasons!” yet when the evidence and reasons are shown to you you simply change the subject to “Why won’t you answer my personal questions about your beliefs!” If a person refuses to be sidetracked then you devolve into mockery. If mockery doesn’t work then you switch to a new question that has nothign to do with the orginal issue.

          I haven’t refused any offers because I have nothing to give. How should I know what his specific theological beliefs are? I’ve never met the man. As for myself, I couldn’t care less how you feel about Young Earth Creationism, and I don’t have any desire to argue with you about it.

          I’ve shown that you were blowing smoke when you asked for reasons as if this whole blog wasn’t devoted to them. If you think that I make noise for the sake of it, realize that I think much the same of you. If we both think the other person is just making noise then lets stop the noise now. I’m done with this thread. You can mock me all you like. My work here is done, and any reasonable person can judge for themselves whether reasons for theism have or haven’t been presented on this blog.

        • Arkenaten

          I haven’t refused any offers because I have nothing to give. How should I know what his specific theological beliefs are?.

          .

          Sorry!! I nearly spat my tea over my keyboard.
          You berate me for almost all the comment stating that he has explained reasons for theism and then you state you have NO IDEA WHAT HIS SPECIFIC THEISM IS.
          WTF!

          Are you on some sort of drugs or medication? Because maybe you should be.

          You wont answer the T-Rex question because you can’t.
          It is that simple.

          Have the humility and honesty, for once to acknowledge this.

        • Mark Hamilton

          Why would I need to know his specific theological beliefs to recognize that this entire blog is filled with and devoted to arguments in favor of theism? He’s given many arguments in favor of theism. I could care less whether he’s a Presbyterian or a Baptist or a Unitarian. His arguments are valid regardless.

        • Arkenaten

          Nobody is saying he is not giving arguments to demonstrate his devotion to theism. And nobody doubts the passion he argues for his position.
          What everyone has been saying, and now, even you, his highly impressionable YEC Wingman, is that they do not make any sense!
          And in that case,how the hell can they be valid.
          You are nuts.

          RFLMAO.

        • Mark Hamilton

          Actually, you have said that. Or do you deny repeatedly stating that he has “No argument” or “No evidence”?

          And apparently your rebuttal to all of his arguments is that “They don not make any sense.” I’m sorry if you can’t make sense of them. They are perfectly sensible to me. What is your exact problem with them? Can you tell me what’s wrong with the moral argument, for example, or the argument from the mind?

          But that would require actually haven’t a real discussion, instead of throwing around insults and changing the subject. So I kind of doubt that will happen.

        • Arkenaten

          Actually, you have said that. Or do you deny repeatedly stating that he has “No argument” or “No evidence”?

          Now, I realise that anyone who believes in vegetarian T-Rex’s might not have a really firm grasp so I shall type slowly….for your benefit because I realise you read slowly.
          He has no argument, and he has no evidence.This is not the same as him not being able to present an argument. It simply means, Mark, that the argument is crap and the evidence is nonsensical.
          I understand that you may not have picked up on the more subtle nuances – you being a biblical literalist an’ all, but there you have it.
          If I could type in crayon I would….just for you because I am so understanding.

          However, I defer to your higher intellectualism and humbly ask for you to explain his theism and his arguments and demonstrate his evidence…as they make perfect sense to you. And you will also make every other non believer who has visited and commented very happy.
          So, please, feel free, the floor is yours.

          Well, uf ythey make perfect sense to you thn please, explain them.

    • Debilis

      What is more ambiguous is why someone would seize upon a side comment that was expressed as personal opinion while ignoring the entire topic of discussion.

      If you’d like to know more about them, read more of my blog–or some other material on the subject. This post is dedicated to a different issue.

  • paarsurrey

    “Enlightenment thinkers would believe that a society liberated from all belief in transcendence would achieve new heights of prosperity and morality–that enough education, or the right social programs, would do what religion could not.

    Now that we are living in the wake of the bloodiest century in all of human history, it takes a deep lack of curiosity (or downright willful ignorance), to believe that a godless society is the unqualified good to be zealously pursued that so many proclaim it to be.”

    Correctly said.

    • Arkenaten

      He doesn’t mean <strong< your god, you silly person. He is referring to Jesus. meek and mild, Saviour and Messiah, crucified for your sins and raised from the dead by Himself after the 3rd day.
      These Christians care less about what you believe than the atheist. In fact they are all convinced you are going to spend an eternity in the fiery pit of Hell because you refuse to acknowledge Jesus of Nazareth as the one true god, Creator of the Universe.
      Surely you know this to be the truth, Paarsurry?
      A Muslim sucking up to a Christian, even if it only making complementary remarks about a post or scathing remarks about Materialism and Atheists is like making friends with a Scorpion.

      At some point you are going to get stung. It is in the nature of the religious.

      • paarsurrey

        Hi our wise Arkanaten

        I have pointed out in my previous comments to Fide Dubitandum that Jesus is not a god or son of god. I concur with him if he means by God the One-True-God Allah Yahweh.

        I have no problem with him or you if you keep with reason and truth.

        We have to co-exist in this world peacefully.

        The nature of the Atheists is evident from you comments.

        Be with reason and truth.

        Thanks for visiting my blog; my angry friend!

        • Arkenaten

          Yes you have pointed it out to him on several occasions. I have also noted his very circumspect responses.

          I concur with him if he means by God the One-True-God Allah Yahweh.

          lol…he doesn’t. This is the point you are missing, blinded by your desire to see atheists in such a bad light.

          I have no problem with him or you if you keep with reason and truth.

          Except that the core demands of each of your religions is based on lies. His more so as it demands that all non believers ( in Jesus) will go to hell.

          Remember the Scorpion, Paarsurry and watch that tail!

        • paarsurrey

          I concur to whatever I am convinced to be truthful;
          I don’ t bother if the writer is an Atheist or Theist.

          Thanks for informing me

      • Frank Morris

        “At some point you are going to get stung. It is in the nature of the religious.”

        Apparently it is the entirety of the nature of the anti-religious, if you are any example.

        Have you ever actually made a rational point rather than an attempt at stinging comments?

        I don’t believe you are going to burn for eternity in hell, but I do believe you show the true colors of New Atheism with every post.

        • Arkenaten

          Ah, my own personal Troll.I am flattered.,
          True Colours, eh?
          You mean pointing out the lies that the religious have been touting since forever?

          You need to take a secular course on bible studies , Frank. Expand your horizons.

          Maybe study a bit of secular archaeology too.
          Do you a power of good.

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