Saturday, September 06, 2014

In Answer to a Refutation (Aug. 1986)

Note: This is the second part of my response to Robert Shearer's refutation of my previous essay all of which is posted below.

I sincerely appreciate R.E. Shearer taking the time and effort to write his refutation to my essay entitled "Refuting Secular Humanism." It has given me the opportunity to see how many of my ideas were unclear and could be easily misunderstood. I would now like to expand on some of my ideas, clarify others, and refute the arguments brought up in Shearer's paper entitled "Refuting Thomas' Refuting Secular Humanism."
One of the first things that Shearer brings up in his paper is my use of the "dangling preposition." In response to this I ask — Is it not the author's privilege to create his own style of writing? Perhaps "dangling prepositions" are my style, then again maybe I just goofed. But this is not an important issue here so I will drop it.
I would like to begin by clearing up a few points about my idea of faith. In my first paper I was trying to point out that faith is a necessary thing and all people are compelled to have faith in something. Since I was limiting my discussion to science and religion, this statement was not sufficiently supported. I will expand on it with the following two points; 1) There are other things that you can have faith in besides science and religion, some examples are - money, democracy, communism, the overall goodness of man, the overall rotteness of man, and so on. 2) You can have faith in more than just one thing and in varying degrees as well.
Shearer is not happy with my attempt at defining faith as an antonym of doubt. I admit that it is difficult to come up with a working definition of a term like faith, but my point is that when you put your faith into one idea you are at the same time denying the opposite of that idea. Shearer argues that this statement is invalid and cites an example of an indecisive motorist trying to get on a freeway. This argument does not work because though it is true that the motorist can change his belief in the blink of an eye, he cannot hold, let us say, a positive and negative belief of the same idea at the same time, unless of course he is for some reason mentally unsound. But all of this seems hardly relevant to the theme of the paper and might prove to be, as Shearer stated, "space eating rhetoric."
My next point under attack is that a person who denies God is leaving a large gap in his faith and must find something to put his faith into. Shearer claims this statement to be a fallacy and cites an example where he says that "...greed has sufficiently taken the place of faith."
This is actually an example of someone placing their faith in money, thus the faith is still there misdirected as it is.
My statement that "blind faith is not good and should be accompanied by reason" is not very clear since blind faith = faith - reason. It would be better stated as blind faith is not good, faith should be accompanied with reason. Therefore I assume that when Shearer talks about "...reason accompanying blind faith..." which doesn't make sense, he means reason accompanying faith. Shearer rejects my idea that science requires a certain amount of faith to be believable and uses gravity for his example. I don't doubt that the law of gravity works whether you believe it or not (Arthur Dent may disagree) but think of the scientists who are using faith everytime they make a hypothesis. Everything cannot be empirically proven to the full satisfaction of everybody so there are many things that must be taken on faith. Very few people have actually seen an atom, or even a germ for that matter, but they have enough faith in science to believe that they are there. He also rejects that "blind faith is not good and should be accompanied with reason" but I feel that his idea of blind faith is similar to the idea of common sense and it could very well be defined in that way. My idea of blind faith is an ignorant kind of faith that can be very dangerous. It occurs when people stop thinking for themselves and just believe what they are told. I believe that it was faith suach as this that was a major factor in Hitler's Nazism.
I enjoy Shearer's sense of humor in his next argument, but I don't feel he has made a very serious attempt to refute or understand C.S. Lewis' ideas. It was not the definition of opposites but Lewis' sense of right and wrong that eventually led him to become a Christian. In his argument, Lewis is comparing the 'good' world to a straight line and the 'screwed up' world to a crooked line. He then asks - How is it that we consider the world we live in to be the crooked line? Where did we get our sense of what the straight line should look like? It would make more sense if we, being a part of the world, called it the straight line the way it is now, but we don't.
Shearer states that "Deities were invented by the ancients to explain all sorts of natural phenomena for which they did not understand." This is very true, but if Shearer will study these deities and religions more closely he will be able to see the difference between the deities who were products of the people (Zeus, Odin) and the people who are products of their God (Jews, Christians, Muslims).
Shearer then asks if " will finally reduce the number of gods to zero...", I am afraid that it cannot however what would be tragic is if the number of people believing in God were reduced to zero. But I can assure you that this will never happen during my lifetime.
I was very much surprised by Shearer's next statement "...a person who thinks he can reason everything out without a faith in something not only has 'thought about it enough' but has accepted the limits of his thinking and ignores the rest." I personally am offended by the idea of a limit to my thinking and could never accept such a limit. (To think there is a thought that I could not think) I don't claim to be able to answer all of the world's problems but I would not shrug my shoulders and quit thinking about it. And to ignore the rest!? Where do you think the word 'ignorance' comes from? This is the kind of thought that is often used against believers and here it is now being used as an excuse to deny God.
I still believe that the question why is an important question. It is also a disturbing question. It is always present, it can't be ignored, and it can't be shrugged off as being insignificant. The situation for which why is asked might be insignificant to your or even to everybody, but the question why will still be there. It is disturbing because we don't always have an answer for it and though we may not need the answer we still feel insecure in our ignorance. Faith in God does not mean that you stop asking the question why (or any other question), such a state of consciousness is reserved for those with the infamous 'blind faith'.
I had asked what the consequences of of a complete faith in science are. I will rephrase that to say what are the consequences of having no faith in God? The answers that I gave, and which I still stand by, are not meant to imply that this iw how people behave and act, but that these are the ultimate realities that they will have to face if they really believe what they think they do. I will change my first one to say that man has no immortal soul.
Shearer asks "...what makes him think that life has meaning anyway, and what is it if there is?" I've tried to explain a little of what I think in "My Philosophy", also, C.S. Lewis had a good argument that I might not have explained clearly in my first paper. He asks if life has no meaning then how is it we were able to find out that it has no meaning? He then uses the analogy that if no one had eyes we would not know that it was dark and dark would have no meaning. But we do have eyes and we can see that ther is darkness, we also have something about us through which we can perceive meaning.
I notice that Shearer likes to quote Tolstoy. Here is another quote from Tolstoy... "If the thought comes to you that everything that you have though about God is mistaken and that there is no God, do not be dismayed. It happens to many people. But do not think that the source of your unbelief is that there is no God. If you no longer believe in the God in whom you believed before, this comes from the fact that there was something wrong with your belief, and you must strive to grasp better that which you call God. When a savage ceases to believe in his wooden God, this does not mean that there is no God, but only that the true God is not of wood."
An important and often asked question that Shearer brings up is "how much sense does it make that a good and just God allows so much suffering in the world?" God does not allow suffering in the world, we do. As I explained in "My Philosophy" we are the ones that make evil in the world through the choices that we make with our free will. For God to end all suffering on Earth, he would first have to take away our free will and force us to obey his laws, but he is not going to do that. Instead, God has provided us with the means to end all the suffering on our own through the teachings of Jesus Christ. If everyone lived by Jesus' teachings there would be no more suffering on earth. As it is though, even the people calling themselves Christians don't follow Christ's teachings. Only a few people have ever come close to following Jesus' example - Gandhi, Marting Luther King Jr. to name a couple.
Shearer's next statement is what inspired me to write "My Philosophy" because I could see that he was becoming prejudiced and starting to categorize me with all of the other stereotypical evangelists and bible-thumpers that he has been exposed to. As it is I do not believe that God manipulates everything. He set life into motion and does not need to manipulate everything. And as I have stated before, I believe that man has free will. I ask Shearer to justify how he can conclude that man has free will and choice if everything that man does and thinks is the result of chemical reactions in the brain following the particular DNA structure in his genes?
In Shearer's conclusion, he states that "A man of God must hide his head in his faith that God has a reason for all things..." A man who believes in God does not hide his head in his faith, rather he rejoices in his faith. The only thing that he must believe is that God loves him. If God does have a reason for and/or divine answer for everything he has not told me and I am free to contemplate what I will.
Shearer continues to say "The secular humanist is not shackled to this or any answer; he has a choice of answers and is free to create his own reasons and act on them as he sees fit." Would you consider it being shackled to an answer if that answer were the truth? Once a person has the true answer why would he want to choose another one? A person who creates his own reasons is not interested in knowing the truth. He reasons would be different from someone else with different perspectives on life and until he can take into account everybody's perspective he will be far from knowing the truth.

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