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REPLY #25a TO
"RELIGION"



Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.

Italicized/emphasized comments
prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.

My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text and are prefaced by my initials (MB).

This is the first of a five-part reply. Select the "Go to next reply" link at the end of each part to read the next part of the reply.



Your facts are non-existent and your logic is in error because it consists only of a simple statement with no support.
(R) My facts are not non-existent, however much you'd like them to be.
(MB) Your facts are non-existent since you haven't presented any which support your idea that God exists and you have admitted that you have none to present. The best argument you've made in support of your position so far is that it can't be proven that God does *not* exist -- and the illogic of that argument has been demonstrated many times in previous replies.
    I would truly like for you to have some facts to present in support of your case. That, at least, would give us something substantive to debate. As it is, the case for God is being made primarily by distortions of what is said in rebuttal, by drawing irrelevant, incorrect or non-sequitur conclusions from peripheral arguments, redefining words and concepts to fit flawed arguments, and by brushing aside contradictory evidence (which is then claimed "not to exist") while restating the same basic claim.



(R) I've presented many facts which clearly show your attempts to portrait all religious believers as narrow-minded, ignorant, superstitious fools, with beliefs inferior to your own, as nothing more than bigoted efforts to discredit all those with religious beliefs based on your own biased view of a few of them.
(MB) Untrue. You have made many such claims, but none have any merit. I challenge you to find even one sentence where I have made any such claim for "all religious believers". Rather, it is you who have attempted to project my views about the shortcomings of particular beliefs upon the whole of the population who have any religious beliefs. At the same time, you have repeatedly attempted to discredit those who do not believe in your God by branding them all with your own particular negative connotations of "atheism". This continues even through this reply despite it having been demonstrated that you're even a bit shaky on the definition of "atheist".


(R) I've also demonstrated your ridiculous maxims, which you claim to be "the basis of logic," to be entirely incorrect.
(MB) I'm sure that philosophers the world over will have their thinking revolutionized overnight by your "demonstrations". Might as well head on down to the library right now and start throwing out Hume, Kant, Nietzsche, Mill and all the rest, eh?


(R) My logic and reasoning is based on a premise (God exists) which, like many basic premises, can neither be proven or disproven.
(MB) A "basic premise" that can neither be proven or disproven and for which there is not even the first shred of evidentiary support is totally, completely, and absolutely meaningless. To build any sort of philosophy around such a premise is equally meaningless. To hold that philosophy up as being "just as good" as any other is ludicrous.


(R) Support for this premise is simply not available. But it is no less logical than your own unproved and unprovable basic premise.
(MB) Why do you think that all premises are equal until support for them reaches the level of absolute proof? Actually, it's only the ones that involve questions of God that produce that sort of argument, isn't it? After all, you have previously stated that you consider the premise "All men are created equal" to be superior to any contrary premise. Since neither side of that question is provable, either, how can you justify the rationale used to support your beliefs there with that used concerning questions of God?


Substitute anything you want for "God" in your statement and it would make the same amount of sense and have just as little validity.
(R) Let me restate my position, to make sure we're talking of the same statement: "It is impossible to either prove or disprove whether or not God exists, there is no conclusive evidence to indicate one way or the other whether or not He does, it is equally reasonable and logical to conclude He does as it is to conclude He does not, and neither belief has any inherent superiority over the other."
(MB) You can restate it a million times if you want and it will be no more correct on the millionth repetition than it was the first time. Your position, as stated here, consists of four parts -- not all of which are correct. Because of that, your attempt to progress from one to the next to the next in order to justify a conclusion just doesn't work. Let's break it down:


(R) 1. "It is impossible to either prove or disprove whether or not God exists"
(MB) This is incorrect. Disproof is impossible since a believer can simply define a new set of conditions for God if any given set is refuted. Proof, however, is certainly possible even though it might be difficult. God could make an appearance on Earth, he could perform some feat that would be impossible to deny, or there could be some sort of evidence to demonstrate that there is something in the universe (to include the universe itself) which would not have been possible in the absence of God. Any of these things would constitute proof and wouldn't even require God to be omnipotent.


(R) 2. "There is no conclusive evidence to indicate one way or the other whether or not He does"
(MB) This is true. But, evidence does not have to be conclusive in order to give a degree of support to the belief in question. Unfortunately, the belief that God exists is not supported by *any* evidence -- conclusive or otherwise -- and it has been admitted that there is none.


(R) 3. "It is equally reasonable and logical to conclude He does as it is to conclude He does not"
(MB) Absolutely untrue. This applies equally not only to the question of whether or not God exists, but to questions of whether or not *anything* exists. Since any question of existence is a binary decision with no indeterminate states (in other words, the answer must either be "Yes" or "No"), it is clear that the only way for both possible states to be equally reasonable and logical is if it was possible for both to be true (or false) at the same time.
    While the actual existence of the thing in question has a clear answer, our current understanding of that answer can certainly be incomplete. This means that our conclusions about the answer will rest somewhere between the absolute extremes of "Yes" and "No". Just where those conclusions rest is based upon the weight of evidence which supports an answer which tends to either extreme. In logic, these are known as the positive and negative existential claims. The burden of proof always resides with the positive existential claim. Therefore, conclusions about any question of existence always begin at "No" and progress towards "Yes" only through the accumulation of supporting evidence. Finally, we come to:



(R) 4. "Neither belief has any inherent superiority over the other"
(MB) The negative existential claim always begins as the more reasonable and logical of the two until supporting evidence accumulates in favor of the positive claim. In other words, it has inherent superiority until refuted by the evidence. If the preponderance of evidence comes to support the positive claim, it becomes the more reasonable of the two. If it doesn't, it won't and the negative claim remains superior. If there is no evidence at all in favor of the positive claim, it has no chance becoming reasonable or logical and the negative claim remains superior.


(R) That about sums it up, I reckon.
(MB) Yep, I reckon that it does.


That fact alone shows your claim to be unworthy of serious consideration. If "Shiva", "Ra", "Odin", "Zeus", "Coyote", "Ta'aroa", "Harvey", "the Great Green Arkleseizure", or "the old guy sleeping on the grate in the park" can all be substituted for "God" in your statement and give it the same validity, the statement becomes meaningless since all of those possibilities can't possibly be correct. If only one of them is correct, it must be shown which one and why it is. If this can't be done, then the statement is nothing more than a waste of time.
(R) We have three categories here...
(MB) There's only one category here: substitutions for "God" in your claim. But, for the sake of argument, let's look at how you want to divide them up.


(R) ...the first of which is various deities. If someone were to make a statement similar to mine, but substituting "Shiva" for "God," I would agree with them -- just as I would if they changed the words a bit more to make it say it is just as reasonable to believe there is no God.
(MB) The question of what is "reasonable" has been addressed above. However, your willingness to agree with somebody who wished to substitute "Shiva" for "God" in inconsistent with your previously expressed notions about God. Shiva and God are not the same entity. One can not be freely substituted for the other if all that is claimed for the nature of each of them has any validity. The only way to logically engage in such free substitution is to acknowledge that neither deity exists. This means that any claims which invoke either of them are equally meaningless.


(R) Only if they claimed their beliefs to be inherently superior to mine would I take issue with them.
(MB) And, how would you go about doing that? Would you expect a believer in Shiva to accept your "logic" that God and Shiva are equal ideas? How would you convince that believer that he should accept your God?


(R) The second category, that of fictional characters, would be easy to refute. It would only be necessary to point out that Harvey or the GGAS are fictional, and by definition do not exist -- which makes it quite illogical and unreasonable to argue that they do.
(MB) Here we have to go back to your hazy, and oft-revised, definition of "fiction". You have yet to show why God is any less fictional than is Harvey or the GGAS. None have any support for their existence outside of their depictions in a book.


(R) And of course the final category, that of the old man sleeping on the grate in the park, would only require us to go to the park and observe him. We would just say, "Yup! There he is!" and that would settle the question of his existence.
(MB) The question was not "Does the old man exist?". Clearly, he does. The question was about whether or not one could substitute him for "God" in any statement ascribing the creation of the universe to a given entity and make any more or less sense. The fact that you can see the old man does not prove or disprove that he might actually have been responsible for the universe.


(R) Now, just in case I've chosen the wrong statement to look at, let's consider the statement "God created the universe." Once again, I would have no real problem with someone who said Odin (or chance) was responsible, as long as they didn't claim their belief to be superior.
(MB) How can anybody support such a claim without holding that their claim is superior to any competing claim? While you might expect me to believe that you think that making such a claim is OK, I seriously doubt that you actually consider God and Odin (or chance) to be equal ideas. After all, you are adamant in your defense of God while only paying lip service to any other deity.


(R) As for Harvey or the GGAS, it is intuitively obvious that they don't exist, and therefore, could not have created the universe.
(MB) That is not intuitively obvious. You only infer it from your arbitrary definition of "fiction". In this case, however, I would share your inference. I would also include God among any list of fictional characters whose non-existence is intuitively obvious.


(R) And with the old man, the same argument applies as in your claim to have created the universe -- he's a human being on the planet Earth, and any claim by you, him, or anyone else that he created the universe would be either an untruth or a delusion.
(MB) How do you know for sure that the old man is a human being? Could he not be an all-powerful deity who is only presenting the outward appearance of a human being? What excludes the apparent old man from being the object of the same sort of "could be" scenarios that you use to bolster your belief in God?


(R) Really, with both of my statements, there are only two possible positions, keeping in mind that God is defined only as a Being whose exact nature isn't relevant at this point.
(MB) Why must we define God that way? Why isn't his nature relevant at this (or any other) point in the debate? Must we trivialize or generalize our depiction of God into another version of meaninglessness?


(R) In the first statement, dealing with God's existence, the two possible positions are either He does exist, or He does not. With the second statement, to do with Him creating the universe, the only possible answers are either He did it, or it happened by itself by chance. The multitude of choices your attempting to exhibit simply aren't there. There are only two positions, and yes indeed, only one of them can be correct.
(MB) This is far too simplistic. It assumes that there is only one God, that he is all-powerful (or, at least, powerful enough), and at least infers that your preconception of his nature is correct. As such, you have unnecessarily limited your possible conclusions.
    In reality, there are several possible positions. God exists, or he does not. He created the universe from the use of omnipotent powers, his creation of the universe is the extent of his powers, he was created along with the universe, he was created by the universe, or the universe came into being on its accord with no help from God. There are also the polytheistic versions of these positions which would also include the idea that the entity we call "God" is actually only one among many and may not be the actual Supreme Being (if any such being exists). Such a "God" may only have created our galaxy or our solar system and may only be equivalent to a mid-level manager in a larger, corporate universe. Alternatively, he may not have created anything at all, but might just be in charge of what goes on in his neck of the woods.
    You can't treat all of these positions as being equals. Once again, that's where evidence comes in. That's the only way we can pare down the cacaphony of claims and settle on anything approaching a legitimate theory.



(R) Since we've now examined the various possibilities for the phenomenon you tossed up, tell me again why my claim isn't worthy of serious consideration, or if it's not, why your virtually identical claim is.
(MB) I think I've dissected your claim sufficiently (for now, anyway). Because it presents nothing but confusion and paradox and offers no hope for a solution, it should be removed from serious consideration until such time as there is any evidence to support it.
    My claim that everything in the universe (including the universe itself) arises through the operation of a finite set of natural laws of science can hardly be considered to be "virtually identical" to yours. My claim is specific enough to be meaningful and it can be tested by observation and experiment. Yours is general and generic to the point of meaninglessness and is not subject to verification by observation or experiment.



Now, since I've answered your challenge, how about answering mine?
(R) You haven't answered my challenge.
(MB) Your "challenge" was in two parts. The first -- to show you something that could not have been created by God -- is logically impossible. This is especially true given the arbitrary definition of God as being an all-powerful being. The second -- to show you where your facts or logic are in error -- has been accomplished (even if you won't admit it).


(R) You haven't described anything which couldn't have been created by God,
(MB) As I just said, that's a logical impossibility. It is very possible, however, to describe something that could only have been created if God exists. Yet, you refuse even to speculate about such a thing. Not a good sign.


(R) ...and although you've attempted to ridicule my logic and show it to be in error, as usual, you've failed.
(MB) In your opinion, of course. I have shown not only that your logic is in error, but that your views about basic premises are also flawed. I have shown that you rely on arbitrary terminology that is subject to changes in its meaning and connotations. You even vacillate on what you mean by "God" depending on how tortured an attempted argument becomes.


(R) I'm more than willing to admit I can't answer your challenge,
(MB) That is hardly a surprise. However, it is disappointing that you refuse even to make an attempt -- even one that would be pure speculation.


(R) ...however, I'm also certain you can't answer mine.
(MB) Again, that is hardly a surprise. I know that I have done so, but I also know that you will reject the sum total of my answer out of nothing more than an overriding need to maintain the presuppositions that are the core of your beliefs. In the end, it may come down to the final statement made by another individual with whom I debated a similar question at considerable length a few years ago. He said:
"NO! You're wrong! I won't believe what you say even if you PROVE it to me!".




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