Monday, January 27, 2014

Interpretation and truth, where are the discussions?

I had it pointed out to me this morning, from someone who read my post yesterday about the one fact that almost all Christians seem to miss, that there's a pretty good reason to suspect that I'm right. The behavior in typical churches (Universalist churches are necessarily excluded from this observation) seems to support my contention.

I've been to a number of churches, but I haven't been to all of them, of course (there are about a dozen within two miles of my home, by road, so there are obviously way too many to visit them all). The number I've been to is probably about 12-15 over the years, which probably doesn't constitute a representative sample, but I'm not making a hard-line case here so much as just pointing out an observation I've had that seems to indicate what I was talking about yesterday. (I also checked with several friends who indicate that their experience with non-Universalist churches has matched mine in this regard, which may raise the total number of churches visited to nearly 50, though obviously this doesn't constitute good data.)

No church I have ever been to devotes any significant amount of time to teaching rival interpretations (and certainly doesn't call those "the truth"), asking the congregation present for spirited debate or to choose the one they think is the most truthy--hence the exclusion to the Universalists.

Indeed, every not-Universalist church I've attended for long enough, perhaps a dozen sermons will do it in many cases, eventually takes time to makes the point that one doesn't get to choose about "the truth." One shouldn't be a "cafeteria Christian," I've heard it called. "The truth," they say, "is the truth," and that doesn't leave open room for choice or discussion.

Of course, as I pointed out in the post yesterday (and, according to the comments, was apparently completely  missed), jumping from interpretation to "the truth" is exactly where I think Christians are missing the fact about the interpretation. The point is that none of them can know that they are right, yet the vast majority of them speak and act as if they do know this. (I'd say that they do know it, as they esteem the situation, but I'll get the "evidence-free assertion!!1" card laid on me again for saying something like that.) To keep it relevant to things I talked about in other recent posts, I think that faith is exactly the mechanism that makes this jump for them.

I think if Christians were being honest about the observation that their understanding of the Bible is an interpretation, without jumping the gap (by use of faith) to "the truth," then we'd see churches more and more frequently teaching various interpretations--noting that they are all just interpretations of what might be the truth--and inviting their members to believe whatever they want from among those.

Interesting questions arise here:
  1. Other than Universalists, are there Christian churches or denominations that preach this way? Which ones?
  2. Is it a stable model outside of the small groups of people who want their religious experience to be Universalist to preach this way?
  3. Do the pastors of the churches that do not teach this way know that they're just teaching an interpretation, or do they think, via faith, that they are teaching the right interpretation? How do they know?
  4. If I'm right, does this reveal a primary way that faith is pretending to know what you don't know, or what?
Let me know what you think in the comments.

86 comments:

  1. I heard a sound snippet on NPR from the Grammies last night, where a woman on stage said something along the lines of, "It doesn't matter what you call him, we all worship one God."

    I hear a sentiment like this pretty often -- especially among casual acquaintances who assume that I go to church but don't want to presume too much. I hate the sentiment (of course), because it seems to insist that we all acknowledge, let alone worship, some kind of god or gods. So it pushes me right out of a the circle it's trying to encompass everyone with (thank you very much).

    Which is really my one observation on these posts -- that in my experience, I think the religious give themselves full points for "trying" to get their imagined god's dictates correct. I think that the concept of god is so fuzzy (and inconsistent), and the competing claims so difficult (impossible) to reconcile, that the believer's mind has to boggle.

    I remember in college a religion course raising a Christian distinction that Jesus largely taught through parables, whereas the Old Testament and Koran emphasized rules. I could quibble over that, but I think the point is that the way that (protestant) Christianity is often taught (with a sermon, based on a New Testament story) it invites grappling and interpretation. I would even go so far as to acknowledge that a well-educated, liberal-minded pastor does a great deal of good by introducing and guiding a conversation around human morality -- at some point, the Bible story is just an idea starter, with the hard moral calculus done with the congregation following along.

    Anyway, that's my experience standing alongside and talking with your average church goer. These online apologists and religio-political leaders are a different breed altogether, and I think they're the ones who (as the reaction to your previous post indicate) most fear the truth of your observation.

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  2. Haven't you read Thomas Kuhn? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Structure_of_Scientific_Revolutions. Are you denying all sociology of knowledge?

    While I share your frustration with Christians who deny they are interpreting when they read, we should all be aware that we are all interpreting whenever we see. When you close one eye you don't see a blind spot. If you vision is impaired your mind continues to interpret and construct a field of vision before you that is more a product of your mind than a product of your eyes.

    Human communities create all sorts of cultures of thinking that interpret evidence into intelligible wholes. Mathematics itself is simply a massive exercise in interpretation. If there are apples on my desk my trained mind interprets that there are 4 of them. 4 is an interpretation based on an sighting. An expert on fruit might in fact correct my interpretation and note that 3 are apples and one is an odd pear.

    To pluck a quote from Damon Linker:

    And yet no one would suggest that we judge the coherence or accuracy of particle physics by asking a vaguely informed non-scientist about it. Why, then, do critics of God think it sufficient to dismantle the untutored intuitions of non-theologians?

    So yes, there is a positivism among Christians that imagines there is no interpretation. The irony I'd suggest is that for many that positivism followed philosophical developments in the west that also lead to scientific positivism overturned by the likes of Thomas Kuhn.

    If you want to have some fun do some analysis of how Christian New Testament writers quoted Old Testament writings. Same for the old synoptic question. Why did these authors feel at such liberty to interpret texts and events in different ways? They weren't positivists and they weren't embarrassed by the fact that they were interpreting.

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  3. “I had it pointed out to me this morning, from someone who read my post yesterday about the one fact that almost all Christians seem to miss, that there's a pretty good reason to suspect that I'm right. The behavior in typical churches (Universalist churches are necessarily excluded from this observation) seems to support my contention.”

    No one fears you, Dr. Lindsay, as Cal suggests. The skewering you got is because you got it wrong. Everyone knows that the Bible needs to be interpreted, just as all literature and communication should be interpreted because they, too, may contain both figurative and literal speech. So, what is the argument you made in your previous post? Because there are different interpretations of the Bible, God does not exist? That would be like saying that since there are different interpretations to quantum mechanics, quantum mechanics does not exist. Or maybe you are wondering how we know the truth if Christians interpret the Bible differently? The issue of interpretation was known centuries ago, although you act as though it is something new. Have you ever heard of the phrase “In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas”? This phrase may have originated as early as the 1500’s by Archbishop of Split (Spalato) Marco Antonio de Dominis. Translated, that means "unity in necessary things; liberty in doubtful things; charity in all things". There were disputes even then, and an appeal was made for unity and love. This is nothing new. All pastors who went to seminary were taught to exegete the Scriptures via hermeneutics.

    Here is another fact that you are missing. Christians agree mostly on the essentials (read more here http://christianity.about.com/od/christiandoctrines/a/basicdoctrines.htm). What Christians consider essentials do not differ much from Christian denomination to Christian denomination. What differs much are the non-essentials, topics such as Molinism, Arminianism, Calvinism, Annihilationism, Young Earth Creationism, Old Earth Creationism, Theistic Evolution-the things that many atheists (and even Christians) like to nitpick over, but when ultimately questioned, Christians will agree that belief in the resurrection of Jesus, who claimed to be God, is the most important belief. So, while Christians may never get to the heart of Arminianism vs. Calvinism, YEC vs. TE, it is not as important as the most central belief to Christianity.

    Should churches teach all the beliefs? While I think it would be nice to (and I went to a church that had one course in comparing some of the different doctrines), there is nothing that says it is necessary; it may only be your personal opinion that it is necessary. Certainly public schools do not teach all views (such as Intelligent Design) either. I have seen many churches touch up on some of the beliefs, but the lessons are not exhaustive because it would be a huge undertaking-similar to a college course (these topics are offered in theological seminaries) and churches already focus on the essentials and having a relationship with God.


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    1. Do you think some (or your) interpretation of Christianity is the truth?
      How do you know?

      Do you know there is a God to have a relationship with?
      How do you know?

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    2. 1) How do I know? I ask the experts that study in detail the historical writings and literary styles, the historical cultures and the historical evidences how they know their interpretation is the truth. I then take those varied responses, evaluate them the best I can and arrive at a conclusion that seems to make the most sense given my ability to think clearly on the subject and given my prior life experiences that don't necessarily apply to anyone else, but just might apply to millions.

      2) How do I know? This has been answered many times over throughout history. If none of those answers are satisfying to you, that's fine as far as that goes, but please stop asking the question as if you are the first to ask it. Instead, go read up on the answers already given.

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    3. Steve, are you Graceus too or just answering for him?

      1. What do you make of the experts that have studied the same regarding other takes on Christianity (or other religions) and come to very different conclusions about which interpretation is true? The Catholics, for instance, have been studying it for a longer time than any Protestants, and the Orthodox Church may be longer still. How do you know that those interpretations aren't right?

      I get the feeling that "creedal" Christianity means some vaguely agreeable kind of intersection of all of the different interpretations, but how can one be sure that such an intersection doesn't leave out something important (since all sets involved in the intersection are required to contain at least the same, but in general more, articles as the intersection itself)? Tom Gilson seems to think so, since he said that he wanted to defend "creedal Christianity" and then noted that he will have to make at least one foray into evangelical Protestantism specifically to make his case.

      How do you know?

      2. None of those answers satisfies any rigorous epistemology that stands uncontested. Don't play games where you suggest that I haven't done sufficient reading to pose this question to you. A child that has never read a page in her life could pose this question to you with an equal amount of force, so it's an irrelevant distraction.

      How do you know?

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    4. Pardon my misspelling of "credal" in the previous reply.

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  4. Just answering the questions as me. I'm not him.

    >> "How do you know that those interpretations aren't right?"

    I can only speak about what I know, not about what I don't know. I don't know a lot. What I don't know, doesn't invalidate what I do know. Refer back to (1) for how I came to know what I now know.

    >> "None of those answers satisfies any rigorous epistemology that stands uncontested."

    My answer is similar to the one I just gave. I've lived my life through experiences, I've read, I've studied and I've come to know certain things through people that have come before me. This is essentially a repeat of my response in (1) above. My lack of knowledge about other things doesn't invalidate the knowledge I do have, James. I don't know how else to say it.

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  5. I haven't the time to lay it all out. Do you have a specific question?

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    1. Sure: how literally should the Bible be taken?
      Why not more or less?
      How do you know which is right?

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  6. >> "how literally should the Bible be taken?"

    As literal as it was intended to be. For the answer to "how was it intended to be?", see my original comment in (1).

    >> "Why not more or less?"

    Because both approaches, by definition, miss the mark of how literally the Bible should be taken.

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  7. Steve: "Because both approaches, by definition, miss the mark of how literally the Bible should be taken."

    Sigh. And how do you know how literally the Bible should be taken?

    Really. Seriously. Please take a deep breath and think about the question. Really think about it.

    6 Day Creation. Adam and Eve. The global flood. Jonah in the fish. Jesus rising into heaven.

    Some of those stories, all written down by men, I assume you don't take literally. Others, you take literally.

    But why?

    If the reasons you give are good enough for you, why aren't they good enough for all those others who disagree?

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  8. >> "But why?"

    I explained above in my comment (1). Is there something wrong with what I've outlined there?

    >> "If the reasons you give are good enough for you, why aren't they good enough for all those others who disagree?"

    Ask those people why they aren't good enough for them and I'm sure they will tell you. All I need to be concerned with is why those reasons are good enough for me, right?

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  9. Steve: "I explained above in my comment (1). Is there something wrong with what I've outlined there?"

    I asked why you take some stories literally, and why you don't take others literally. You've said that you base this on the interpretations of others, leveled against your own "prior life experiences." But that seems odd to me, because I doubt very much that you have experienced anything like the fantastical stories I mention. So, if you're comfortable with appearing aggressively gullible, then I leave you to your answer.

    Steve: "All I need to be concerned with is why those reasons are good enough for me, right?"

    Again, if you're comfortable with being seen as a subjective realist, the equivalent of "it's true for me," then I see no reason to take your thoughts seriously. I thought you were trying to defend your beliefs, not your right to have your own beliefs without insisting they correspond with any other reality.

    I don't have any questions for you, then.

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  10. >> "So, if you're comfortable with appearing aggressively gullible, then I leave you to your answer."

    I appear to be a lot of things that aren't true and most of the time is usually doesn't bother me. If I can rationally justify the necessity of God, then the gullibility factor goes way, way down on issues that would otherwise appear to nonsense.

    >> "Again, if you're comfortable with being seen as a subjective realist, the equivalent of "it's true for me," then I see no reason to take your thoughts seriously."

    I think you're misunderstanding me. I'm very much a realist, and not of the "it's true for me" kind.

    I've stated before (on this blog, I think) that The First Way is a rational, realistic approach that gets you to God. This would be one of those reasons that I would cite for why it's good enough for me. You'd have to ask *others* why it's not good enough for them. I won't pretend to know the answer.

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  11. Steve: "If I can rationally justify the necessity of God, then the gullibility factor goes way, way down on issues that would otherwise appear to nonsense."

    I asked you about how your interpretation of the Bible, and asked you about how you interpret some of the more fantastical claims in that document, and you cited 1) people who study the Bible, and 2) your own experiences.

    Unless you want to tell us now that you experience anything like the events I mentioned, you are interpreting the Bible based on other people's interpretations. This makes you appear incredibly gullible. I can't think of any other word for someone who would accept other people's claims in spite of his own experiences. Unless, of course, you want to tell us that you experience what went on in the Bible.

    Steve: "I'm very much a realist, and not of the "it's true for me" kind. / I've stated before (on this blog, I think) that The First Way is a rational, realistic approach that gets you to God. This would be one of those reasons that I would cite for why it's good enough for me."

    Yes, but actually you're just granting yourself a free pass there.

    The First Way may be many things, but it is not a path to anything resembling knowledge. It is a path to metaphysics, to speculation, and to unresolvable conjecture. And it is certainly not "real," not in any way that I understand the term.

    I have no patience or time for those who say they believe in their God for metaphysical reasons. That is because their God is, by definition, meaningless. And so is their claim, and any claim to knowledge or norms based on their meaningless God.

    You should ask yourself this question: Why is your God meaningless? Why would your God be meaningful in one realm (the Bible, where he darts about with cunning and vigor, talks to people, fights in battles, moves an ocean, intercedes on his favorite's behalf, impregnates Mary, runs around Jerusalem for 33 years, performs feats to astonish, etc.) and meaningless in yours? What other kind of thing behaves this way? In your experience, which you say you rely on, what else has been portrayed by people as one thing, but appears very different when you investigate it? Anything? Anything at all?

    So, you want to claim rationality, and reasons, and something that is realistic. I think you are borrowing on these words without any collateral. I think you are holding an empty hand, and insisting you have 5 aces.

    I predict that you will never, ever, actually put your cards on the table, but nevertheless keep on insisting that your meaningless hand matters, and that you somehow win. Sorry, but there are better things to do than humor that delusion.

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  12. >> "...and you cited 1) people who study the Bible, and 2) your own experiences."

    I cited more than just that. I also cited historical evidences. The minimal facts surrounding the resurrection event can justify the conclusion that it occurred as reported. From there the gullibility that you associate with the other stories goes way, way down.

    >> "The First Way may be many things, but it is not a path to anything resembling knowledge."

    It's no less a path to knowledge than any other argument is a path. I'm happy to be on that path. If you where the argument goes wrong, then by all means, please speak up.

    >> "I have no patience or time for those who say they believe in their God for metaphysical reasons."

    Suit yourself, Cal. I would have responded to the rest of your comment, but I don't see the point now.

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    1. To borrow a page from another's book, Steve, do you think there were really witches in Salem, Mass., during the Witch Trials there?

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    2. I haven't looked into that one very closely. What do the various experts say about the event?

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    3. Let me get this straight.
      You aren't sure if there were really witches in Salem, MA, in 1692?

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    4. On the plus side, Steve is playing the "aggressive gullibility" card with the consistency of someone who takes a hit on 21, every time.

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    5. Steve: "I also cited historical evidences. The minimal facts surrounding the resurrection event can justify the conclusion that it occurred as reported. From there the gullibility that you associate with the other stories goes way, way down."

      Let me get this straight. The "fact" that supernatural stories were written down and shared means that you're not gullible for believing them? I think you are mistaking "something written down" with a historical fact.

      Lots of things are written down. Lots of people are selling stories. Those who believe the story tellers, even though the stories fly in the face of their own experiences and without any means of corroborating or checking them, are aggressively gullible.

      Which is your choice. That's who you are. But let's not dress that up and start using terms like rational, reasonable, justified, facts, real, etc. in relation to those things you believe out of gullibility.

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    6. James,
      >> "Let me get this straight. You aren't sure if there were really witches in Salem, MA, in 1692?"

      I'm not aware of the details surrounding the events to know what was reported, what evidence there is to support what was reported, how strong it is, what testimony we have and from whom, etc, etc. That's what I'm saying.

      As far as witches go, I wouldn't go along with the witch reports even if everything checked out. I could potentially accept some other kind of being that better fit my metaphysical understanding of reality.

      I appreciate the opportunity to clarify.

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    7. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    8. You realize that there's better historical evidence for witchcraft in Salem in 1692 than there is for the resurrection of Jesus, right?

      Why the double-standard?

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  13. Cal
    >> "The "fact" that supernatural stories were written down and shared means that you're not gullible for believing them? I think you are mistaking "something written down" with a historical fact. "

    I think you're mistaking what I said with what you imagined I said. What I meant by minimal facts are the historical facts accepted by the majority of experts that study this stuff. If you have a problem with those facts being accepted, take it up with them, not me.

    *deleted original because I messed up the phrasing.

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    1. A majority of Christian thinkers, not historians, just so you're clear on that point. And even among them there is serious contention. How many, for instance, accept the rising of the saints in Matthew?

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    2. Steve, the supposed "minimal facts" approach is appallingly deceitful. I am not surprised, however, that you would fall for it.

      That's because there is not a living Historian who accepts any supernatural claim as being a historical explanation for anything in the Bible. I think you are, as are all "minimal facts" proponents, confusing the term Historian with Christian (New Testament) Scholar. They are not the same, though I understand why apologists would very much like to borrow (steal, really) the credibility found in the (soft science) of History.

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    3. >> "And even among them there is serious contention."

      No. I'm making reference to the facts accepted by the majority of scholars and experts, even someone like Bart Ehrman. Google is your friend.

      >> "I am not surprised, however, that you would fall for it."

      Your complaint is with the scholars and experts, not me.

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  14. Steve, do you think that "then something supernatural happened" is a Historical explanation?

    I have to ask -- where did you go to high school, and if you went to college, which one? I am curious how one of the most basic facts about History could have eluded you. (You don't have to be specific -- I'm just curious if you can characterize your educational background.)

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  15. >> "Steve, do you think that "then something supernatural happened" is a Historical explanation?"

    Yes, it could be if the evidence supported such a conclusion. That answer could only be possible within the context of metaphysical view of reality that allows a "yes" answer. If your metaphysical view doesn't allow it, then the answer is a firm "no" every time. My metaphysical view allows it as a possibility, and in some unique cases I think that answer is justified.

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  16. Me: "Steve, do you think that "then something supernatural happened" is a Historical explanation?"
    Steve: "Yes, it could be if the evidence supported such a conclusion."

    No, you are confusing theology with the study of History. Stop pretending that History entertains supernatural explanations -- it makes you like look a rube.

    Steve: "That answer could only be possible within the context of metaphysical view of reality that allows a "yes" answer."

    Yes, and lead may eventually be turned into gold if one's metaphysics accepts alchemy. This somehow doesn't make lead turn into gold, though, does it?

    Let's stop putting lipstick on this pig you call metaphysics, shall we? I imagine you think it sounds fancy and makes you seem sophisticated, but all it appears to be doing for you is making you appear aggressively gullible.

    What does your metaphysical outlook actually do for you? Because its only purpose, as far as I can tell, is provide you with some smoke-screen cover to dignify the fact that you prefer the inconsistent words of men over the consistency of reality.

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  17. >> "No, you are confusing theology with the study of History".

    I think you are confusing an inference from the study of historical facts - which is what I'm doing - with theology. They are different. Feel free to disagree.

    >> "Because its only purpose, as far as I can tell, is provide you with some smoke-screen cover to dignify the fact that you prefer the inconsistent words of men over the consistency of reality."

    Citation please. Where does reality conflict with my metaphysical view? I've never seen or heard about this necessary conflict.

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  18. Steve: "I think you are confusing an inference from the study of historical facts - which is what I'm doing - with theology. They are different. Feel free to disagree."

    Right. You are doing theology -- your premise is that God exists. Which kind of turns the historical approach to your belief on its circular head, doesn't it?

    Please feel free to cite the University History course that teaches "and then God showed up" as part of it's curriculum. Because anyone who teaches that gets escorted out to the theology department off campus, where the rest of the loonies hang out.

    Steve: "Where does reality conflict with my metaphysical view? I've never seen or heard about this necessary conflict."

    Your metaphysical view holds that supernatural things occur (like I mentioned happening in the Bible) to other people, and other people tell you that they occurred. But these supernatural things do not ever, ever happen in any way that you can yourself observe or examine. Somehow this does not seem like a conflict to you. My head, as they say, is assploding.

    Your "metaphysical view" = Aggressive Gullibility.

    What's hurting you, I think, is that you hang out with (among others) online apologists who all come together to try to convince yourselves that this is respectable, and not patently ridiculous. But when you venture out from that cocoon, you do indeed appear ridiculous now, don't you?

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  19. >> "Please feel free to cite the University History course that teaches "and then God showed up" as part of it's curriculum."

    Never said I could do that. Would never say I could do that. Did say I was answering the question as you posed it.

    >> "But these supernatural things do not ever, ever happen in any way that you can yourself observe or examine. "

    Not true as I've explained before and will not bother repeating. For someone who has no patience for metaphysical conversations, you sure do like to discuss it. Maybe your head actually did assplode. Is that treatable?

    Your "metaphysical view" = Inconsistent view of reality

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  20. Me: "But these supernatural things do not ever, ever happen in any way that you can yourself observe or examine."
    Steve: "Not true as I've explained before and will not bother repeating."

    You did? Where?

    Near as I can tell you've been defending the rationality of your beliefs by:

    1) Metaphysics! (This has been shown to be meaningless);
    2) History! (This has been shown to be mischaracterized, and should be called "believing what others tell me others saw" or "believing stories I can't check");
    and now:
    3) I observe and examine stuff like the stories in the Bible!

    So, you have stuff that we can examine like in the Bible? Awesome. What is it? How can we check it out, too?

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  21. >> "You did? Where?"

    For starters, the First Way and the other Ways can be examined rationally. Next, the life experiences of others that came before me can be examined rationally. Next, others that study and know things better than I do can be examined rationally. Next, my own person life experiences can be examined rationally.

    So far all you've done is make a boat load of assertions. You've never once explained how I must be wrong. Very telling.

    >> "1) Metaphysics! (This has been shown to be meaningless);"

    You're pretending to know this in the face of reasoning that doesn't rely on pretending. Suit yourself and keep on believing, Cal. But remember, you'll need metaphysics to explain to me how my conclusions must be wrong.

    >> "2) History! (This has been shown to be mischaracterized, and should be called "believing what others tell me others saw" or "believing stories I can't check");"

    Nice oversimplification. I'm comfortable working with the more accurate characterization of the term.

    >> "3) I observe and examine stuff like the stories in the Bible!"

    You do know that historians think the documents are reliable? Go complain to them please.

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  22. Steve,

    You've got nothing to say.

    You insist that your metaphysics are meaningful, but cannot show how. You say its an "oversimplification" to say that the stories of the Bible are stories told by people that can't be checked and that violate your own experience, but you cannot show why. And you cling to the notion that Historians confirm that any supernatural event described in the Bible is considered reliable.

    If it weren't for your haughty attitude and boastful ignorance I would feel sorry for you. Instead, I just find you tedious, and entirely predictable.

    But by all means continue bloviating. Your inability to defend any of your assertions so far just continues to underline how badly your system of beliefs makes you think, and act, in a pathetic attempt to make those beliefs seem respectable.

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  23. Speaking of nothing to say...the ad hominem language you rely on for rhetorical points isn't an argument so it does nothing to rebut anything I've said thus far. I've asked for arguments and all I get is the gentle chirping of crickets playing in the background of your repeated assertions.

    Talk to you later, Cal.

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  24. >> "Your inability to defend any of your assertions so far just continues to underline how badly your system of beliefs makes you think, and act, in a pathetic attempt to make those beliefs seem respectable."

    As a hypothetical, let's suppose this is true for a moment. Show me how this is an *objective* problem for any human being such that it ought to be corrected.

    When replying, please don't mention anything metaphysical because you'll be (a) implicitly arguing that metaphysics are meaningful and (b) implicitly arguing that you can show how it's meaningful through the medium of rational discourse -- thus undermining every assertion you've made so far.

    Good luck.

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  25. Steve: "Speaking of nothing to say...the ad hominem language you rely on for rhetorical points isn't an argument so it does nothing to rebut anything I've said thus far."

    Two things:

    1) You have made no argument that would require rebutting.
    2) Don't confuse my insulting you with an ad hominem -- I insult you because I find your behavior here to be an affront to discourse, and that is worthy of ridicule. But you've made no argument, really, and I certainly haven't discredit what you say because you say it. You made yourself seem ridiculous all on your own.

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  26. Steve: "As a hypothetical, let's suppose this is true for a moment. Show me how this is an *objective* problem for any human being such that it ought to be corrected. / When replying, please don't mention anything metaphysical because you'll be (a) implicitly arguing that metaphysics are meaningful and (b) implicitly arguing that you can show how it's meaningful through the medium of rational discourse -- thus undermining every assertion you've made so far."

    I hold you and your silliness in contempt. You appear to not understand what metaphysics are, why they are meaningless to our (and really, any) discussion, and that you are the only one who here who is bringing metaphysics up (because, I suspect, you think it makes you seem "smart,").

    And then you go one step further and imply that I can't have any meaning (nuclear!) without allowing your unjustified presuppositions (which you think are immune because you wave your "metaphysics!" wand).

    I hope you are proud of the mess you can make of things, all while demonstrating that you have no way whatsoever to justify your ridiculous beliefs.

    As I wrote before, and despite your silly attempts to change the subject to something new again, "You insist that your metaphysics are meaningful, but cannot show how. You say its an "oversimplification" to say that the stories of the Bible are stories told by people that can't be checked and that violate your own experience, but you cannot show why. And you cling to the notion that Historians confirm that any supernatural event described in the Bible is considered reliable."

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  27. >> "You have made no argument that would require rebutting."

    I referenced several that you can look up yourself if you would care to do that. Saying they are meaningless arguments about the nature of reality is not a rebuttal.

    >> "You appear to not understand what metaphysics are, why they are meaningless to our (and really, any) discussion, and that you are the only one who here who is bringing metaphysics up (because, I suspect, you think it makes you seem "smart,")."

    Okay, I'll bite. What are metaphysics and why are they meaningless views of reality?

    >> "And then you go one step further and imply that I can't have any meaning (nuclear!) without allowing your unjustified presuppositions (which you think are immune because you wave your "metaphysics!" wand). "

    I'm not asking you to accept my views of reality. I'm asking you to answer without resorting to a metaphysical view of reality of any kind because that would undermine your assertion that, to quote you, "they are meaningless". Can you do it?

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  28. >> "I insult you because I find your behavior here to be an affront to discourse, and that is worthy of ridicule."

    How is my behavior worthy of ridicule? I'm honestly answering questions and explaining in plain English. If you want more than that I cannot give it to you and I will stop now. I understand that you don't agree with me - which is fine - but where do you get off saying my *behavior* is worthy of ridicule?

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  29. YOU: What does your metaphysical outlook actually do for you? Because its only purpose, as far as I can tell, is provide you with some smoke-screen cover to dignify the fact that you prefer the inconsistent words of men over the consistency of reality.

    ME: Citation please. Where does reality conflict with my metaphysical view? I've never seen or heard about this necessary conflict.

    YOU: Your metaphysical view holds that supernatural things occur (like I mentioned happening in the Bible) to other people, and other people tell you that they occurred. But these supernatural things do not ever, ever happen in any way that you can yourself observe or examine.

    ME: Not true as I've explained before and will not bother repeating.

    YOU: You did? Where?

    ME: For starters, the First Way and the other Ways can be examined rationally.

    YOU: You have made no argument that would require rebutting.

    ME: I referenced several that you can look up yourself if you would care to do that. Saying they are meaningless arguments about the nature of reality is not a rebuttal.

    ......................................

    I await your rebuttal explaining why the various "Ways" are invalid arguments.

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  30. Steve: "I await your rebuttal explaining why the various "Ways" are invalid arguments."

    I didn't say they're invalid. I said their not worth rebutting, and if I haven't said it before I'll add worthless. They are as important and valid as arguments for solipsism, and qualia, and whatever else you want to talk about that might distract from the fact that you have no meaningful defense of your beliefs -- you just believe them because they seem true to you. Guess what, they don't seem true to me. Now where can you point to to resolve this -- how do you propose to show that I'm wrong that the First Way is commits the fallacy of composition, or whatever (I really couldn't care. Seriously, I just don't)? That's right, you can't demonstrate to me that I'm wrong that the First Cause is a misguided presumption. So why should I care?

    You don't seem to realize that your "arguments" do no work for you, except possibly confuse others and provide you with a veneer (among whom I'm not sure) of respectability for being an aggressively gullible person.

    You want to, I think, really, really, rally claim that your God exists. But none of your supposed "arguments" demonstrate this claim in any what that is meaningful, and the rest of your references boil down to the fact that you prefer to be aggressively gullible.

    For maybe the first time in your life, I ask you to answer the question: what does a metaphysical argument "do?"

    Seriously. Try and think. Take some time. What do your metaphysical arguments actually do for you? Imagine, for an instant, if you thought the First Cause doesn't demonstrate that your God exists. Then what would be different? Anything?

    Do you have any idea, can you possibly imagine, why I couldn't care less if you think the First Cause works for you?

    Because I can declare it doesn't work for me, and nothing -- nothing else happens.

    So why should I care that you like it?

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  31. >> "I didn't say they're invalid. I said their not worth rebutting, and if I haven't said it before I'll add worthless."

    I didn't need to read any further than this.

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  32. I guess all it takes to resolve a disagreement is to say that someone's view is "worthless" and "commits the fallacy of composition, or whatever" and "it doesn't work for me".

    Applying that same principle, let me say this: naturalism as a view of reality is worthless because it doesn't work for me.

    I guess that resolves everything and I presume you will accept it just as readily as you expect me to accept your reply.

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  35. Declaring that a propositional truth, even if granted as true for the sake of discussion, "doesn't work for me" and is "meaningless" could not be further from the truth.

    If the various "Ways" are true descriptors of the way reality exists - it matters greatly. Why? Because I am rationally justified in taking those truths and putting them to work where it is appropriate to do so - like when I'm asked to explain why I believe God exists and how I know it, and subsequently why I believe the recounted stories in the Bible are true and further why I don't believe in the recounted stories of the numerous pagan gods.

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  36. Me: "I didn't say they're invalid. I said their not worth rebutting, and if I haven't said it before I'll add worthless."
    Steve: "I didn't need to read any further than this."

    Which is another of saying you can't answer my question: what does your metaphysics do for you? Why aren't your metaphysical musings worthless -- what do they allow you to do that someone without them cannot?

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  37. Steve: "Applying that same principle, let me say this: naturalism as a view of reality is worthless because it doesn't work for me."

    Except that it does. You see, you're already a naturalist -- just like me. In fact, every religious believer in the world is a naturalist (if they weren't, they'd be dead).

    But your problem isn't just that your a naturalist (gasp, how dare I!), but on top of that you're ALSO a supernaturalist (whatever that means). And that means you have some justifying to do. So far, lots of bluster, and no responding to my direct questions.

    As a reminder:

    You insist that your metaphysics are meaningful, but cannot show how. You say its an "oversimplification" to say that the stories of the Bible are stories told by people that can't be checked and that violate your own experience, but you cannot show why. And you cling to the notion that Historians confirm that any supernatural event described in the Bible is considered reliable.

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  38. >> "what does your metaphysics do for you?"

    If you read my last comment immediately above, you'll find your answer.

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  39. Steve: "Declaring that a propositional truth, even if granted as true for the sake of discussion, "doesn't work for me" and is "meaningless" could not be further from the truth."

    I don't know what you're trying to say. A proposition is either true or it is not. If your god's existence is a proposition, you should be able to show that it's true. Why can't you? If it doesn't work like a proposition, why are you bringing it up as a proposition?

    Steve: "f the various "Ways" are true descriptors of the way reality exists - it matters greatly. Why? Because I am rationally justified in taking those truths and putting them to work where it is appropriate to do so - like when I'm asked to explain why I believe God exists and how I know it, and subsequently why I believe the recounted stories in the Bible are true and further why I don't believe in the recounted stories of the numerous pagan gods."

    It seems like you're spinning your wheels, trying to find a way that it matters to you, to anyone.

    It sounds like the best you can come up with is that the "Ways" arguments matter because without them you wouldn't be able to keep pretending that the stories in the Bible are true.

    Which is why I keep telling you that your supposed metaphysical arguments are worthless. Not only are you having trouble explaining what kind of work they can do, the best you can come up with is that they allow you to remain aggressively gullible. (That's actually worse than worthless.)

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  40. >> "And that means you have some justifying to do. So far, lots of bluster, and no responding to my direct questions."

    The rational arguments have been established for centuries. Where is your defeater that renders them invalid so that I cannot rely upon them? *crickets*

    As a reminder:

    YOU: You have made no argument that would require rebutting.

    ME: I referenced several that you can look up yourself if you would care to do that. Saying they are meaningless arguments about the nature of reality is not a rebuttal.

    -- and --

    If the various "Ways" are true descriptors of the way reality exists - it matters greatly. Why? Because I am rationally justified in taking those truths and putting them to work where it is appropriate to do so

    ...........................

    I await your defeaters that show I have no rational justification. If you can do that, I will seriously reconsider my views about the existence of God.

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  41. >> "If your god's existence is a proposition, you should be able to show that it's true. Why can't you? If it doesn't work like a proposition, why are you bringing it up as a proposition?"

    See the link below. Of course these are brief summaries of the longer arguments themselves. You need to show that they are *necessarily* wrong (offer a defeater). As I said above, if you can do that, I will seriously reconsider my views.

    http://web.mnstate.edu/gracyk/courses/web%20publishing/aquinasfiveways_argumentanalysis.htm

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  42. >> "Which is why I keep telling you that your supposed metaphysical arguments are worthless."

    Not worthless if the arguments are valid. They are as far as I am concerned and it's YOUR job to *show* me they are not. Until that time, if it ever comes, I remain rationally justified to accept their validity and can use this truth as an explanation for how I know God exists.

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  43. Steve, your last thee comments are a kind of insistence without consequence. You insist that the arguments matter. You insist that that an argument that is not defeasible is rational. You insist that it is my job to chase rabbits for you.

    None of that is true. I am not yours to command. I am merely pointing out that you have failed throughout this thread to show us that you're metaphysical musings are worth something -- anything.

    As I will keep on pointing out, the only work your metaphysical musings allow you to do is keep on pretending that it's respectable to be aggressively gullible.

    Again, you will not answer (because, I suspect, you cannot answer honestly without fearing a loss of face) this:

    You insist that your metaphysics are meaningful, but cannot show how. You say its an "oversimplification" to say that the stories of the Bible are stories told by people that can't be checked and that violate your own experience, but you cannot show why. And you cling to the notion that Historians confirm that any supernatural event described in the Bible is considered reliable.

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  44. >> I am merely pointing out that you have failed throughout this thread to show us that you're metaphysical musings are worth something -- anything.

    This is false. I've explained in plain English what it's worth - how it works for me (ha!) - and the fact that it doesn't work for you does nothing to change my position. Belittle me all you want, but it does nothing to defeat my reasoning process. You'll need reasoning to defeat faulty reasoning and you haven't offered me anything.

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  45. How is it all meaningful? Here's a reminder for you:

    If the various "Ways" are true descriptors of the way reality exists - it matters greatly. Why? Because I am rationally justified in taking those truths and putting them to work where it is appropriate to do so - like when I'm asked to explain why I believe God exists and how I know it, and subsequently why I believe the recounted stories in the Bible are true and further why I don't believe in the recounted stories of the numerous pagan gods.

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  47. I don't need you to chase rabbits for me, Cal, because I'm not in need of any more rabbits. As far as I am concerned, I have all that I need. You are the one that keeps asserting that I need more rabbits, that I *must* have more of them, hence the reason I keep asking you to go find them and present them to me. I'll wait here.

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  48. Steve: "f the various "Ways" are true descriptors of the way reality exists - it matters greatly. Why? Because I am rationally justified in taking those truths and putting them to work where it is appropriate to do so - like when I'm asked to explain why I believe God exists and how I know it, and subsequently why I believe the recounted stories in the Bible are true and further why I don't believe in the recounted stories of the numerous pagan gods."

    Steve, as the above nonsense indicates, you truly have nothing to say.

    I think that you are actually incapable of grasping the questions I pose to you.

    I think that you imagine that jumbles of words, like the ones you wrote above, and your other comments, and some magical phrases like "metaphysics!" and "propositional truth!" provide you with an appearance of respectability. But you are just making yourself look like an more of a dolt with each passing comment.

    You try and change the subject, you ignore my questions, you make bald-faced and obviously malformed assertions, and you dig yourself deeper, and deeper, and deeper.

    Look through all of your comments (yikes -- there are so many!). Why won't you find a real answer in there, anywhere, to the questions I have asked so many times? What is it about your beliefs that makes them seem so impossible for you to defend?

    Why can't you answer my questions -- the ones I keep copying and pasting back in, over and over again?




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  49. I've answered the "how is it meaningful" question several times, Cal. You say that my reply is not good enough without actually telling my why - because you don't want to chase rabbits - and so I shrug my shoulders in reply.

    I didn't answer all of your questions, like the one you asked me about my educational background, because I didn't think some were relevant.

    Do you have anything else to add?

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  50. For example, you've never once explained why this is somehow invalid or illegitimate.

    >> ME: "I am rationally justified in taking those truths and putting them to work where it is appropriate to do so - like when I'm asked to explain why I believe God exists and how I know it"

    That would be an answer to one of your questions. But before we can even get to why this might be legitimate (or not), you have to deal with the legitimacy of the "Ways", because my response if founded upon them.

    But you can't even be bothered with that. You insist it's all meaningless as if that renders my reply a non-answer to your question. And so I shrug my shoulders in reply to you because you clearly don't get it. You could, but that would mean chasing rabbits.

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  51. Steve: "I've answered the "how is it meaningful" question several times, Cal. You say that my reply is not good enough without actually telling my why - because you don't want to chase rabbits - and so I shrug my shoulders in reply."

    I've tried to explain that metaphysical arguments are speculations -- we can't "test" one over another, and hence they seem meaningless. When pressed to explain what work your metaphysical claims do for you (what impact do they have on reality), you have pretended that the argument is about validity, etc., thus ignoring my question.

    It seems that you can't explain to me what work your metaphysics does with the exceptions that it allows you to believe both in an imaginary God and the stories in the Bible, despite your experiences telling you that fantastical stories like that do not happen in real life. You seem to think that "meaningful" is best defined as "seems right to me," and "allows me to be aggressively gullible." But that hardly seems like the stuff of apologetics, so I am asking you if you have anything else to justify your bluster here.

    Steve: "I didn't answer all of your questions, like the one you asked me about my educational background, because I didn't think some were relevant."

    I explained why I asked the question, and that you could speak in generalities. Still, if it makes you uncomfortable I can understand that.

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  52. Steve: ""I am rationally justified in taking those truths and putting them to work where it is appropriate to do so - like when I'm asked to explain why I believe God exists and how I know it"

    I didn't respond to this because it's so clearly not an answer to why your metaphysical musings are meaningful -- to what "work" they do.

    Above, you just say that you're rationally justified because it's appropriate (holy circular assertion), and then you just come clean and admit that it allows you to be aggressively gullible -- or, more accurately I think, appear (to whom I'm not sure) respectable while being aggressively gullible. I didn't respond because I thought your answer was embarrassing enough for you without me calling any further attention to it. But since you asked, that's why.

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  54. Oops...

    >> "It seems that you can't explain to me what work your metaphysics does with the exceptions that it allows you to believe both in an imaginary God and the stories in the Bible, despite your experiences telling you that fantastical stories like that do not happen in real life"

    It allows me to think an *actual* God exists. Do you not know what a rational argument does, Cal? This is what the argument sets out to show. You haven't challenged the argument so what else am I to do? Nothing.

    And about my real life experiences. I've never physically experienced the tallest mountain on earth but you could give me a rational argument that it *must* exist and I would be justified in concluding it actually does exists.

    You do know there is a tallest mountain on earth, right? How do you know this, Cal?

    Conclusion: I don't need to experience some things directly, physically, to know they must exist.

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  55. Steve: "You do know there is a tallest mountain on earth, right? How do you know this, Cal? / Conclusion: I don't need to experience some things directly, physically, to know they must exist."

    Um, we know mountains exist, Steve. Because, you know, they exist in a way that's meaningful.

    Wow. You're not only bad at rationality, you're even bad at something as meaningless as metaphysics, too.

    Sooo, what we've got, after all this, is that you just super, duper insist that God exists with your eleventy rationality just because.

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  56. >> "Um, we know mountains exist."

    Agreed. And from that you know a tallest mountain must exist.

    Likewise, we know that only some actual thing can causes change, and that the chain of causality is uninterrupted. And from that we know there must be an actual first mover that powers the change.

    Welcome to the First Way, Cal. You're getting it now. Keep going.

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  57. Couldn't tell if you were being sarcastic about the meaningfulness of a tallest mountain, but in case you were serious, yes that fact is meaningful in virtue of what it is to be the tallest mountain. What were you expecting?

    Likewise, God is meaningful in virtue of what God is and you are meaningful in virtue of what you are.

    Which brings up a question since you value meaning so much: What are you, Cal, and why do you have any meaning to your existence? Cal exists...so what?

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  58. Steve: "Welcome to the First Way, Cal. You're getting it now. Keep going."

    I am familiar with the First Way. That is why I said it is a meaningless argument. How may times do I need to point this out to you?

    Arguments ≠ Reality

    Arguments = Arguments (some of which correspond to reality)

    You seem enamored with an argument that (flaws aside) has no correspondence with reality. The only reason I can imagine is that you think it makes your belief, which can't be justified, seem somehow respectable. But it doesn't. It just makes you seem confused, and eager to fooled into believing things that aren't justified.

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  59. Steve: "Couldn't tell if you were being sarcastic about the meaningfulness of a tallest mountain, but in case you were serious, yes that fact is meaningful in virtue of what it is to be the tallest mountain. What were you expecting?"

    I was being sarcastic.

    Steve: "Likewise, God is meaningful in virtue of what God is and you are meaningful in virtue of what you are."

    Wrong. I am meaningful by virtue of the fact that I exist (in reality). God is meaningless in that he is either imaginary, or that were he to somehow "exist" he does not interact with reality. This is obvious to even a child.

    Steve: "Which brings up a question since you value meaning so much: What are you, Cal, and why do you have any meaning to your existence? Cal exists...so what?"

    I know that I exist. I do not need to pretend there is a God in order to ponder this fact.

    Why do you think you need to pretend that God exists?

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  62. 0) The following is an argument
    1) Arguments ≠ Reality
    2) The First Way is an argument
    3) The First Way ≠ Reality (from 1 and 2)
    4) This argument ≠ Reality (from 1 and 2)

    Nice job, Cal.

    >> "Arguments = Arguments (some of which correspond to reality)"

    I very much agree. I've referenced several arguments. You need to provide a reason why an argument doesn't correspond to reality. So far you have *not* done that regarding any of the "Ways. As I said before...very telling.

    >> "God is meaningless in that he is either imaginary, or that were he to somehow "exist" he does not interact with reality. This is obvious to even a child. "

    You're kidding, right? The conclusion is exactly the opposite. God *must* exist as the first mover. At some point you're going to have to grapple with the actual arguments because every time you say things like this you show yourself to be a fool who cannot read.

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  63. I clearly messed up the reference on 4, but you get the point I hope.

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  64. Steve, regarding your number thing (1 to 4) I don't know what you're trying to say.

    Steve: "You're kidding, right? The conclusion is exactly the opposite. God *must* exist as the first mover. At some point you're going to have to grapple with the actual arguments because every time you say things like this you show yourself to be a fool who cannot read."

    You're a train wreck. No one cares about your little argument. That's because (not only is it asinine in obvious ways, but that's beside the point) IT'S MEANINGLESS. How many times do I have to ask you -- what does your argument do? What work does it do?

    Arguments are maps, they're not the terrain. You're like a fool, pointing at his map, trying to say that because his map says so we're standing on the moon.

    As long as you keep on trying to make this about your little pet, meaningless argument, I will keep on pointing this out:

    You insist that your metaphysics are meaningful, but cannot show how. You say its an "oversimplification" to say that the stories of the Bible are stories told by people that can't be checked and that violate your own experience, but you cannot show why. And you cling to the notion that Historians confirm that any supernatural event described in the Bible is considered reliable.

    That is your contribution to this comment thread, and to apologetics. You should be so proud.

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  65. >> "I don't know what you're trying to say."

    We agree! That's what I meant when I said, "you show yourself to be a fool who cannot read".

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    1. It could be interpreted as "you show yourself to be a fool who cannot write cogently" too, Steve.

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  66. You could be right, James. It seems cogent to me but Cal isn't explaining why it's not cogent to him. That's been my complaint for a long time.

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  67. So, Steve, you have no answer whatsoever to my question of how it is that your metaphysics are meaningful then? None?

    After all these comments, you still can't quite get around to responding to that question?

    I wonder if it's because metaphysical arguments are like opinions. I wonder if that's what it is.

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