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Culture War Roundup for the week of March 4, 2024

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Christian Nationalism

Within my own circles this is rather a hot topic, but I've yet to see it discussed in this forum. Christian evangelicalism has had its own version of the culture war; to whit, how involved and in what manner should Christians (both individually and the Church) be engaged in society and politics. There are factions of "Big Eva" who seem to be moving more Left (see the recent "He gets us" commercial in the Super Bowl). There are those who think that the "third-way"ism of Tim Keller (taking a high road that transcends politics and culture war) is still relevant in these days (from my perspective, with echos of Martin Niemoller). And there are those who are actively seeking a more aggressive and explicitly Christian approach to governance and policy. For those interested, a useful taxonomy provided by the Gospel Coalition describes to a reasonable first approximation the different approaches that Christians have to our current moment.

I have had my own journey in the direction of Christian Nationalism (though I wouldn't...yet...apply that label to myself). While in college I was a pro-life Ron Paul libertarian, over the years I've become less individualistic as I've grown in my faith. I used to think of religion as a private exercise. I know recognize the centrality of community. I even have begun to entertain the idea that there may be salvific consequences for those who are under the authority of a Christian leader. If the unbelieving spouse can be sanctified by his or her believing counterpart, and an entire house can be baptized when the head of the house believes, could there not be salvation extended to a nation whose head of state is an orthodox Christian and whose government practices the precepts of the Word? (If you are interested in more of my ramblings on this topic, https://pyotrverkhovensky.substack.com/p/what-is-christianitys-role-in-culture and https://pyotrverkhovensky.substack.com/p/on-theocracy-and-redemption)

Christianity in America has enjoyed centuries of being a dominant culture. Many Christians, having grown up in a culture that was at least outwardly compatible with Christianity, have slipped into casual acceptance of cultural norms. They are in the world, and of the world. In many cases self-proclaimed Christians are functionally agnostic, with no significant lifestyle differences from Atheists. Do we really believe Christ is Lord or do we not? Do we not believe in divine judgement and divine mercy? Is Church a weekly therapeutic exercise or is it a place where we meet the transcendent and drink of the body and the blood? Christian Nationalism, at its core, recognizes the reality and consequence of a world in which Christ is Lord. There is no "third way", there is only God's way. (For a somewhat related essay on the reality of God, see https://pyotrverkhovensky.substack.com/p/christianity-and-culture-continued).

There is a common assumption among Christians that all sin is equally damning. Man can never follow the Law, and Jesus even makes it clear that the Law didn't go far enough (the Law allows divorce, and does not explicitly proscribe lust). At the individual level, this assumption is correct. Outside the atonement found in Jesus, we all stand condemned. Yet at the societal level, there are varying levels of alignment with God's will. Every single person in Nazi Germany was a sinner. Every single person in 1941 USA was a sinner. Yet it would be an unusual Christian who would argue that 1941 USA was not more aligned with God's will than Nazi Germany. Not all societies are created equal, and there are varying degrees of misalignment. If I look at a woman in lust, I am clearly sinning and am condemned; but at least my desires are in alignment with God's ideal. It is only the object of my desires that is inappropriate, as being attracted to my wife is not only not a sin, but is a key part of a relationship that is a representation of Christ's love for the Church. Same-sex attraction is more disordered as both the object and the desire itself are misaligned. Transgenderism is completely disordered: the object, desire, and self are all misaligned. Societies that venerate increasingly disordered behavior will inevitably sink into corruption and decay. Christian Nationalism, perhaps alone among contemporary strands of Christian thought, fully acknowledges these implications.

I'll probably be censured for this, because for some reason--- religion, despite ZERO proof, needs to be respected on this forum. This is pure fantasy and shouldn't even be brought up as a serious topic. It is like watching Harry Potter fans argue over what fanfic should be cannon. It is made up out of whole cloth and shouldn't be in a rational adjacent forum.

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I largely agree. To be clear, I am not a materialist/physicalist reductionist. I think that the hard problem of consciousness is a real mystery. But at the same time, I think that all organized religions, including Christianity, are extremely unlikely to be accurate models of reality although in many ways they are fascinating as historical and psychological phenomena. I do not wish the Christians here to be censored for being Christian, but I do often feel annoyed by them when they write long posts which are based on assuming that Christianity is true. It is the same way as I would feel if the forum had a significant subset of devout communists who frequently wrote long screeds that assumed communism was both workable and a good thing but rarely bothered to try to explain why they think communism is both workable and a good thing to begin with.

Yes, I bring this up because I am getting a bit peeved at the dozens of posts on here each day that are basically proselytizing. Extolling the virtues of Faith and poo pooing anyone who pushes back by telling them to be humble and that they need provide no proof of anything, and that you sir, would understand if you just had FAITH! It is madness.

All that said, you'll see in just a few years here that consciousness is not a mystery at all and that with enough recursive compute and long enough context window you'll see software becoming self aware. It may already be happening.

https://newatlas.com/technology/anthropic-claude-3/

It's not the self-awareness itself that is the big mystery, it's the qualia of self-awareness. The light might be on, but why does someone have to be looking out the window?

Yes yes we've all read blindsight. But this is just a clever metaphor you have here. If you make a thinking system complex enough consciousness is an emergent property. All it needs to do is to be able to reflect on itself. Not a tall order really.

If you make a thinking system complex enough consciousness is an emergent property. All it needs to do is to be able to reflect on itself. Not a tall order really.

Neither you nor anyone else here can support this statement with evidence, because the necessary evidence does not exist. This despite the fact that many, many people have affirmatively claimed that it existed, that they knew exactly where to find it and how to demonstrate it, were granted vast resources and many decades to confirm their claims, and had all their predictions uniformly falsified.

You, like many before you, are confidently asserting that the evidence supports you, when in fact zero evidence actually supports you, the version of your statement that made falsifiable predictions has been falsified, the version you employ here has been meticulously selected for unfalsifiability, and even this is only maintainable by discarding the strong contrary evidence via axiomatic reason.

To the extent that "facts" can be said to exist, the above is simply a fact.

And as I point out each time this comes up, none of the above is actually a problem. The problem is that you don't seem to recognize the obvious mechanisms of your own reasoning, the mechanisms underlying all human reason. What you're doing here is what everyone does when they reason about the world. There is no other way to do it. The problem is pretending you aren't doing what you very clearly are doing: accepting or discarding evidence based on pre-rational axioms, rather than through some objective, deterministic process-based assessment of the evidence itself.

You have adopted Materialism as an axiom. You discard as inconsequential all evidence that conflicts with or contradicts that axiom, as is proper, because that is what axioms are for. But the fact that you choose the axiom over contrary evidence demonstrates that the axiom is not itself the deterministic product of evidence, but rather is chosen by you for non-evidence reasons. If you can select or discard evidence for non-evidence reasons, why should others not do likewise?

What is the contrary evidence? Humans are thinking machines that are self aware and they exist. So clearly it is something that can be constructed. Shouldn't it logically follow that more thinking self aware machines can be made? If it exists, which it does, it can be created by us given enough resources.

What is the contrary evidence?

We can make choices, every minute of every day. We can directly observe ourselves and others making those choices, and have direct insight to the apparent cause of those choices, which appears to be individual will and volition. We can observe that the behavior of others is not perfectly or even mostly predictable or manipulable, and that the degree predictability and manipulability that does exist varies widely across people and across contexts. All of our experiences conform seamlessly with the general concept of free will, none of them conform with Determinism of any sort.

All long-term-successful social technology presupposes free will and attempts to engage it on its own terms. All attempts to engineer society along deterministic principles have failed, often repeatedly and at great cost. This is not an abstract question; it has innumerable direct and obvious impacts on the real world in every facet of human organization, cooperation and activity. There is a long history of actually testing determinism in the real world, and the results have been uniformly negative.

Humans are thinking machines that are self aware and they exist.

There is no evidence that humans are "machines", ie deterministic chains of cause and effect. This claim is not supported by any direct, testable evidence available to us, and is in fact contradicted by our moment-to-moment experience of making choices freely. Many predictions have been made on the theory that humans are machines, and all of those predictions, to date, have been falsified. Even now, you form the claim in a way specifically designed to be untestable, because you are aware that such a machine cannot now be made. You only believe that it will be possible to be made at some indeterminate point in the future, perhaps ten years hence; ten, twenty, fifty, a hundred years ago and more, your predecessors believed the same thing for the same reasons.

Materialists claim that there is no evidence for anything but materialism. Then they claim that our common, direct observation of free will can't be accurate, because it would contradict Materialism. But if our direct experience contradicts Materialism, that is evidence against Materialism.

You do not believe in Determinism because it has been directly demonstrated by evidence. You believe in Determinism because you are committed to Materialism as an axiom, and because any position other than Determinism evidently breaks that axiom. Beliefs are not generated by a deterministic accretion of evidence, but are rather chosen through the exercise of free will, by a process that is easily observed by anyone with a reasonable memory and a willingness to examine one's own thought-process dispassionately. As I said before, this is how all human reason works, how all beliefs and values are formed and adopted. The mistake is only in failing to recognize the choices being made, to allow oneself to believe that the choices are anything other than choices.

Shouldn't it logically follow that more thinking self aware machines can be made? If it exists, which it does, it can be created by us given enough resources.

It logically follows, provided one chooses to adopt Materialist axioms, and thus commits to ignoring all contrary evidence. Logical deduction from axioms is not evidence, though, and, as I mentioned previously, all attempts to actually demonstrate Determinism have failed. We do our actual engineering off free will, not determinism.

None of the above is a language game or a pointless abstraction, all of it can be directly and reliably demonstrated by universal, directly-observable experiences. None of it relies on supposition or interpretation. I reiterate that to the extent that facts exist, the above is simply factual.

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This does not answer the question. Just because you might be incurious about the experience of self-awareness and only thinking in terms of practical application, doesn't mean others aren't.

I'm very curious, I just don't find it mysterious. Like everything else in the universe it is based on real phenomena and understandable.

All phenomena that are in the universe are real by definition, yes. But you seem to believe that we're as close to understanding subjectivity as we are to understanding self-reflection.

It might be in principle understandable, or it might not be. In any case, I think the fact of the matter is that neither you nor I understand it. And neither does anyone else, as far as I can tell. You do not know how the physical universe gives rise to consciousness, nor do I. If you did understand it, you would be able to provide an explanation. "If you make a thinking system complex enough consciousness is an emergent property. All it needs to do is to be able to reflect on itself." is not an explanation, because there is no good reason to believe that it is true. Even if it were true, that would not necessarily explain consciousness, subjective experience. It would just add one more fact to what we already know about the correlation between physical states and self-reported consciousness, such as "if a person takes sleeping pills, they self-report losing consciousness and then regaining it at some point later". None of that necessarily brings us closer to explaining what subjective experience is or how physical reality gives rise to it (if it even does at all).

If you make a thinking system complex enough consciousness is an emergent property. All it needs to do is to be able to reflect on itself.

This is a gigantic assumption that you are making. As far as I can tell, there is no good reason to believe it.

Ah, but something acting self-aware and something being conscious are not necessarily the same thing. I can imagine a p-zombie that acts just as self-aware as any human, but has no subjective experience.

Even if we create AI that is indistinguishable from a human in terms of how self-aware it acts and how intelligent it is, that does not necessarily mean that we will understand whether it is conscious or not, even though we have access to all of its inner workings. I think the same is true of humans. Even if we manage to completely map a brain and learn to understand every minute detail of how that brain thinks, how it deduces new insights and so on, I do not necessarily think that that would bring us any closer to understanding why that human being is conscious.

To me, assuming that eventually, mapping the brain or creating human-level artificial intelligence will explain to us how consciousness works is just as unsupported an argument as any pro-Christian argument. Intelligence and consciousness might well be orthogonal, in which case no level of understanding how intelligence works will bring us any closer to understanding consciousness.

I find that to be a distinction without a difference. It could be that we aren't self aware and are just next token predictors with a large context window. If it is indistinguishable then that is the same as being as self aware as we can prove we are.

It is a distinction with a huge difference. I don't need to prove that I am conscious. It is self-evident to me. I am, currently, having subjective experience. The mystery is, why? Why is this subjective experience correlated with this physical body? Does the physical body give rise to the consciousness somehow? Many people assume that it does. After all, if the physical body is given certain drugs the self-reported consciousness will go away (deep sleep). So it seems as if there is some connection. Yet all the efforts of philosophers and scientists have brought us not even one millimeter closer to understanding why the consciousness exists. I think it is possible that in principle, the hard problem of consciousness is and always will be beyond the reach of science.

Yes they have, basically if you stuff enough compute into the prefrontal cortex you get consciousness, you damage or remove it and you lose it. It is all physical stuff we can understand.

basically if you stuff enough compute into the prefrontal cortex you get consciousness

There is not one shred of evidence for this.

It is all physical stuff we can understand.

Nope, philosophy and science do not understand why consciousness exists in the least bit. There has been literally zero progress on this front despite enormous efforts.

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Even if we create AI that is indistinguishable from a human in terms of how self-aware it acts and how intelligent it is, that does not necessarily mean that we will understand whether it is conscious or not, even though we have access to all of its inner workings. I think the same is true of humans. Even if we manage to completely map a brain and learn to understand every minute detail of how that brain thinks, how it deduces new insights and so on, I do not necessarily think that that would bring us any closer to understanding why that human being is conscious.

Speaking as someone who believes in the existence of a soul--if we fully mapped out a brain, then I think consciousness would by necessity have to be an emergent property of normal neuron behavior. That's not to say we'd necessarily understand consciousness, but we'd at least know that it somehow stems from neurons and physical matter.

The alternative is that consciousness has no causal effect on matter, in which case, how do you know that you're conscious? How does your brain receive the signal telling it about consciousness and the qualia of self-awareness?

Agreed. This forum's meta treatment of Christianity is very goofy. You can call trans people delusional and nothing will happen. You can call people in favor of covid lockdowns delusional and nothing will happen. You can even call people you're arguing against delusional as an ad-hominem and nothing will happen. But call religious people delusional and you should absolutely expect to get warned/banned.

You haven't gotten banned for it.

...try calling atheists delusional, and see what you get. Try saying that atheists are treated with kid gloves, and see what happens.

I didn't get banned for it, sure, but I sure did get warned for it. It was back on the old site where I said something along the lines of "Biblical literalism is delusional belief in fairy tales" and I got a warning from one of the mods who told me to use the term "superstitions" instead. I can't find the exact comment unfortunately since Reddit is horrendous to search through.

...try calling atheists delusional, and see what you get. Try saying that atheists are treated with kid gloves, and see what happens.

I just hope there'd be some consistency from the moderators. Outside of the mod team, you'd obviously get flak for being wrong, especially if your implicit belief was that Christianity was the alternative, but that's to be expected.

I just hope there'd be some consistency from the moderators.

Try it and see. Try calling atheists delusional or saying that they're treated with kid gloves. You might be surprised, and then you might not make such silly claims as your original comment.

Come on. We have recently had a thread about how faith healing is totally totally totally true I swear but the existence of atoms? No sir! I haven't ever seen an atom, therefore God. The leniency that religious people receive on this site is nowhere found in every other site where you would just be called a "bigoted religious nut", end of story. On one hand I'm in favor of the freedom of expressing every opinion, on the other end I see the rhetoric used by the religious and is dangerously similar to the Woke. This site keep reminding me that the Culture War is eternal and counterculture is just a temporarily embarrassed authoritarianism.

I wrote:

Try it and see. Try calling atheists delusional or saying that they're treated with kid gloves. You might be surprised, and then you might not make such silly claims as your original comment.

I don't think you've responded to anything I wrote in the slightest. Tilting at windmills; blinded by your own rage; incapable of even reading when the topic makes you too emotional.

blinded by your own rage; incapable of even reading when the topic makes you too emotional.

Now I understand. You're just here to troll. Thank you for letting me know.

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Alright, that’s enough. When you find yourself casting aspersions, it’s time to back off, not double down.

@bfslndr, something similar for you. You were doing fine until you started throwing accusations of trolling.

The leniency that religious people receive on this site is nowhere found in every other site where you would just be called a "bigoted religious nut

Eh, the willingness to go along with religious discussion without raising the 'uh this is fake tho' arguments is pretty common in general. I think it's in part because everyone's tired of making the same new atheism style arguments, in part because it just feels ... mean, they're enjoying their world and it makes them feel good and doesn't seem to have too many negative consequences.

Like if I saw OP and had no context on religious discussions on the internet, I'd reply with a standard argument for atheism on the grounds of physics, the cultural history of religion, the history of the universe, and how physics is a better ground for morals anyway. But ... everyone knows about that, and nobody cares, really.

I'm at this point too. In general as soon as I read "Christian" I try to avoid commenting, because I know since my teenage years all the tiresome arguments but sometimes I just slip... and then I remember why I shouldn't.

It is pretty wild with the religious claims on here recently. I mean, who doesn't believe in atoms? You can see them if you want! Their arguments never make any sense, because they can't.

I just hate to see so many interesting topics hit a hard wall of "Faith" where discussion beyond it becomes so attenuated it may as well be background radiation.

I don't get the point of your comment. I assume you're implying that you're not able to call atheists delusional, and that makes it symmetric? First off that's not true e.g. this post had almost 300 comments with no mod warnings that I could see. It uses the term "irrational" which is slightly less fighty than "delusional", but it's in the same ballpark. If you have an example of someone getting modded for decrying atheists as delusional then I'd like to see it.

Also, my point was that there should be broad consistency in using such terms across different topics, not just consistency if you're for or against religion. If someone can call trans people delusional and not get modded, they should be able to call religious people delusional as well.

I have been trying to get clarification on "slurs", but it hasn't been forthcoming. "Delusional" is an item of serious lack of clarity in the rules. Your cite really rested the entire "irrational" claim on, "The essential danger for people of any belief system is becoming dogmatic and therefore irrational." Which is pretty weaksauce and is probably ignored by most people, because it's just not really what people mean when they use the term. Here's an example that didn't even say delusional, just the weaksauce about kid gloves (c.f. unmodded).

I agree that there should be consistency, but I don't know that you actually agree. Most folks everywhere want their sacred positions protected.

Your cite about atheism and kids gloves doesn't really prove your point since the moderator clearly saw that you were flipping the script (without mentioning it in the post) to try to do a "gotcha". That and your belligerent attitude is what got you modded, not specifically the atheism and kids gloves aspect.

I sincerely do want consistency. The best policy would probably be a blanket ban on words like that for any large group of people. Calling trans people delusional might be how a lot of people genuinely feel on this site, but it doesn't add much light to the conversation.

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Many atheists are delusional.

“Atheism” is a weak label in that all it means is a lack of theistic belief. Plenty of people who lack theistic beliefs hold delusional beliefs.

Famously, Marxism was atheistic and antitheistic, and I think it is commonly believed here that Marxists were/are delusional about economics, among other things.

The atheists who supported injecting progressive politics into the movement to create “Atheism+” were delusional in my view, and many remain so in their beliefs that diverge from the actual science, say evolutionary psychology and gender differences (which is super ironic given how much we all love to criticize the religious for not accepting evolution).

Prelest describes someone experiencing religious delusions.

Trans and covid delusions are of a different nature than religious belief.

From what I can read on Wikipedia, prelest is just referring to a person thinking they're less sinful than humans normally are. It's an interesting word to be sure, but not particularly helpful when adjudicating the truthfulness or delusional-ness of religious claims.

If I'm misinterpreting something here feel free to clarify.

It's frequently applied in the sense that the person will belive they're a saint or God has given them specifically a mission or message. Not religious faith in general.

I don't think so. They are all unwilling to accept reality as it is.

What do you mean by "accept reality"? Above, you go on and on about how there's no evidence for religion and there is for science, etc., etc., but you've never told us what you're basing any of this on. Do you only accept scientific theories that you have confirmed through your own experiments? Or are you simply parroting "the truth" as you read it from people you trust, who probably also didn't conduct these experiments themselves but are merely relaying third-hand accounts via popular sources that you're simply trusting without verification.

So how do you know that trans people simply "won't accept reality"? What studies did you personally conduct on the subject? How many trans people have you actually spoken to? What PhD do you have to demonstrate that you have the kind of educational background that would allow you to even begin to understand all of this stuff? What empirical observations have you made that would allow you to contradict the various lefty doctors and psychologists who say that trans is totally a real thing and that we need to start transitioning kids at age ten? Or are you merely making assumptions about this based on pop-science combined with your own preexisting opinions?

Hm. There's definitively a sense in which Christians are being treated with kid gloves (due to, I'd wager, the conservative slant of the community as well as a perhaps somewhat outdated sense that such a person being willing to talk to and expound their beliefs to us is rare and precious), but the first two examples do seem to narrowly keep within our Overton window of permitted antagonism simply because they keep the assertions of delusion within the requisite "I think that..." container. (The last one might just have evaded attention as a barely-engaged-with leaf comment.)

I wouldn't feel particularly worried about saying that I think that Christians are indulging in a mass delusion as part of a larger post, though if I made that the only thing I say a modhat response would be quite justified. (Of course, I'd wish for the same in response to a COVID post saying only that.)

but the first two examples do seem to narrowly keep within our Overton window of permitted antagonism simply because they keep the assertions of delusion within the requisite "I think that..."

I haven't of this being a thing. If this is an actual rule then it's completely stupid. Subjectivity is implied through the nature of online communication. "I think that" or "In my opinion" or any variation thereof shouldn't be a shield against moderator action.

I don't think it's an explicit rule, but I get the sense that I've heard moderators speak approvingly of it as a principle before. Either way, it seems sensible to me: the goal of any rule against hostile language surely is to make sure that discussion continues being good (fewer people with different viewpoints are either made to leave, or provoked into not contributing as productively themselves), and an "I think [thing that pisses you off]" seems to usually induce less anger than [thing that pisses you off] presented as an unqualified/authoritative statement.

This forum's meta treatment of Christianity is very goofy. You can call trans people delusional and nothing will happen. [...] But call religious people delusional and you should absolutely expect to get warned/banned.

Examples? I've written and seen written posts that treat Christian beliefs with the same rough treatment as "I think [X] are just delusional, and [Y] are just confused and mentally ill", and none of them ran afoul of the mods. This thread has some examples of posters (including me) saying in passing that 'yup, the factual claims of the bible are unsupported and faintly ridiculous on their face, and I think bible-thumpers are just [insert euphemism for confused simpleton'].

We respect each others' beliefs regarding the supernatural (including the beliefs "It exists" and "It doesn't exist"), even when we know Our Beliefs are Objectively Correct and Their Beliefs are Objectively Wrong, because when we don't, Bad Things tend to happen.

Well one side has literally an orgy of evidence, while the other has zero. So they aren't both equally worthy of respect.

Naive empiricism is not a privileged metaphysical position. It too is based on the arbitrary assumption of the logical coherence of the universe, which is no less evidence free than divine grace.

Do you think it's air you're breathing?

Yes, I do.

Furthermore, if someone wishes to disagree, they can make an actual claim to the contrary and then defend it with something outside of their own head. Empty metaphysical non-arguments are deeply unimpressive.

Truth needn't impress.

But not to worry, I come prepared.

The only crowd I've ever known to take an interest in this sort of thing, outside of academic philosophers, are internet theists who've given up on ever winning an argument anyone else cares about. Imagine busting this out because you saw someone chortling at the idea that Star Wars lore is real, and you'll understand how it looks from the outside. The part where everyone gains so much epistemic humility that they quit snorting whenever someone brings up the will of the Force in a serious conversation just isn't coming.

I love Star Wars more than you probably suspect, but still I wonder which you think I am? Because I doubt your guess is correct.

You say this and yet most of the contemporary institutions this forum endlessly complains about are justified through philosophical frameworks that have direct lineage to that era of criticisms of logical positivism.

People say that epistemology doesn't really matter and then they go on to live in a world where they are morally beaten down on account of standpoint theory.

It's the darndest thing. People say reading Hegel doesn't matter because it's all airy nonsense and then go about their day making received assumptions that are almost totally down to his very specific view of the world being internalized by society.

In any case, I've never cared about popularity contests or ad hominems. I care about the truth and how people on every side of every argument are undeservedly certain of things they have absolutely no logical reason to believe.

Confident ignorance is objectively worse than doubtful error. Repent before Socrates.

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Yes I do. Because we can measure it and if you take it away we die. There is a ton less evidence of divine grace, zero in point of fact.

What makes you think you can correctly evaluate the amount or legitimacy of evidence for some metaphysical position when you make basic mistakes like stating one can measure a model?

Air does not exist, it's a concept that is linked to a specific theory and corpus of observations that could be (and indeed has previously been) falsified at any moment. You may as well say that phlogiston must exist because it's clearly released by any combustible. The map is not the territory.

In any case, making such peremptory statements about this topic without any knowledge of Kant or consideration for any criticism of positivism is futile. We can't discuss evidence if you don't even know what evidence is.

Quibbling about what “air” is and whether it exists in the same way as phlogiston, and then bringing up Kant and positivism, is almost a parody of trying to avoid the obvious point that if we suck all the air out of your lungs or put you in a room without oxygen you will die, 100% of the time. By “metaphysical” you seem to mean “made up and you can’t disprove it with your wimpy naturalism.”

In contrast, divine power resists all attempts to study it in the same way Bigfoot eludes capture and Santa avoids showing up on radar. People do try though.

It’s very brave to bring up falsifiability as a standard when religious claims almost always avoid it. Religious faith and reason cannot be reconciled because the former is explicitly based on believing things without sufficient evidence as a virtue. “We don’t have demonstrable evidence and that’s a feature, not a bug.”

Leaving aside the fact that Saint Thomas Aquinas and millions of Catholics disagree with you, the existence of mystery should humble all ontological viewpoints. Which is my point.

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Who is "we"? This is a thread about Christian nationalism.

We respect each others' beliefs regarding the supernatural (including the beliefs "It exists" and "It doesn't exist"), even when we know Our Beliefs are Objectively Correct and Their Beliefs are Objectively Wrong, because when we don't, Bad Things tend to happen.

Who is "we"? This is a thread about Christian nationalism.

Christian nationalism, which is hard to talk about because no one agrees what it means, is hardly guaranteed to impinge on Westphalian tolerance. The Peace of Westphalia enshrined cuius regio, eius religio (in other words, a state religion) but prohibited ius reformandi (the ability of the state to regulate religious observance).

In other words, the principle of Westphalian tolerance is fine with the state being overtly pastafarian and funneling tax dollars to pastafarian temples; it just can't punish people for converting to baptism, building baptist churches, or saying the church of the flying spaghetti monster is hogwash in their capacity as private citizens.

That's giving people a right to be wrong, which is different from respecting their beliefs.

at risk of a low effort warning for memeing.

https://imgflip.com/i/8imni1

K-On? Sir, I see you're a man of culture as well.

The vast majority of this forum is atheist/agnostic. Some are Christian. But the numbers have to be seen to be believed

Source: Tracingwoodgrains's First Annual Survey, N = 885

Agnostic: 23%

Other Atheist 13.6%

Atheist Humanist 27.8%

Atheist Antitheist 12.7%

Making the total non-believer population round nicely to 77%. A little bit more if you include those who put down things like "catholic but lazy, not really believing" or "Taoist".

A census of what percent of the US is atheistic is difficult to pinpoint. An atheistic secular Jew may decide when asked on a polling question that his religion as ethno-religion is more important then a discreet theological claim and thus when the pollster asks "what religion are you" he answers Jewish. Even though when later asked 'do you believe in a God" he responds with a clear no. So too may the no longer believing Catholic who raises their kid in the church and keeps their thoughts to themselves because their Catholicism is too intertwined with their ethnicity to be unwoven. There is no contradiction here, just note that how big or small you want atheists to appear does depend on what precisely you are asking.

But for the simple "what religion are you" question. "Atheist" got 2% in 2007 and 4% in 2023. Source: Pew Research 2023 National Public Opinion Survey

What makes this forum so outrageously non-representative compared to the US population as a whole is not only that 4% vs 77% number, but also that the First Annual Motte survey also asked "what religion were you raised in". 30% were raised broadly non-religious. Meaning the average Motteizen isn't just non-religious, they are someone who was immersed and walked away. They say there's no zealot like a convert and I think this applies just as well to deconversion.

So if this forum has 3x as many explicitly anti-theists as the atheist population of the US as a whole and population here is more atheistic by literally 15x as much then your question transforms into something a little bit different. It's not just 'why does this forum broadly...' but rather 'why is a forum of this specific belief breakdown treating religion with such respect'

And for that I return us to perhaps the source. In favor of Niceness, Community, And Civilization, by Scott Alexander

I seek out people who signal that they want to discuss things honestly and rationally. Then I try to discuss things honestly and rationally with those people. I try to concentrate as much of my social interaction there as possible.

So far this project is going pretty well. My friends are nice, my romantic relationships are low-drama, my debates are productive and I am learning so, so much.

And people think “Hm, I could hang out at 4Chan and be called a ‘fag’. Or I could hang out at Slate Star Codex and discuss things rationally and learn a lot. And if I want to be allowed in, all I have to do is not be an intellectually dishonest jerk.”

And so our community grows. And all over the world, the mysterious divine forces favoring honest and kind equilibria gain a little bit more power over the mysterious divine forces favoring lying and malicious equilibria.

Andrew thinks I am trying to fight all the evils of the world, and doing so in a stupid way. But sometimes I just want to cultivate my garden.

Or as Our Own Tracingwoodgrains brought up iwhen trying to explain this place in On Mottes and Mythologies

It’s pretty simple. I remember the kid I was, born into and seriously committed to a set of beliefs that I would need to seriously examine and step away from later in life. I remember just how rare it was to have a candid, good-faith discussion with people on the other side. I remember just how damaging the Arthur Chus both in and against my community were, how much unnecessary pain they caused. And if there’s any chance in an increasingly polarized world to build a space that allows that kid to honestly discuss his most controversial, difficult opinions and get sincere engagement and pushback instead of being shut down or mocked?

I will drag myself across broken glass to maintain that space, and all the Arthur Chus in the world aren’t enough to convince me otherwise.

That’s The Motte for you. It’s not perfect. It doesn’t always live up to the ideals Scott Alexander and others have championed. But it comes closer to being a working discussion ground for people who hold dramatically different beliefs than anywhere else I’ve found, and that’s just not the sort of thing you give up on.

What we've all participated in constructing here is a precious little creature. I take seriously the horrific implications of why treat them with respect at all.

The Thirty Years War became the benchmark to measure all later wars. The inhabitants of eastern France interpreted each subsequent invasion int he light of stories told about the Swedes and Croats who devastated their region in the 1630s. Soldiers fighting in the trenches along the eastern front of the First World War believed they were experiencing horrors not seen in three centuries. In his radio broadcast on 4 May 1945, Hitler's architect and armaments minister, Albert Speer, announced 'the destruction that has been inflicted on Germany can only be compared to that of the Thirty Years War. The decimation of our people through hunger and deprivation must not be allowed to reach the proportion of that epoch' For this reason, he went on, Hitler's successor, Admiral Donitz, had given the order to lay down arms. Public opinion surveys carried out in the 1960's revealed that Germans placed the Thirty Years War as their country's greatest disaster ahead of both World Wars, the Holocaust, and the Black Death. - Peter Wilson, The Thirty Years War: Europe's Tragedy, pg 5-6

I find this forum to be a civilizational candle in the dark in these ircivilizational times. And that means taking the religious among us here seriously. If we are excessively demure to them then that is only a reason to expand that sensibility to others, not to deny them that environment in the first place. There is enough vitriol on every other website and in every other which side are you on boy shibboleth seeking interrogation-conversation. If you J'accuse this place of taking people who hold unsubstantiated beliefs ridiculed in greater rat-dom and engaging with them with seriousness of tone and tenderness of heart then I take your accusation in stride.

Yes. It is.

Very noble sentiments. But it is equivalent to deeply discussing bigfoot or high fantasy novels as if they were true with a capital T. It seems like a waste of time and I feel as though a lot of good conversations have been hijacked recently by zealots air dropping faith based arguments all over the place. If one more solution to the world's ills or fractious politics is proposed as "have you heard the good news about our lord an savior JC" I'm going to scream.

Shoot, 100ProofTollBooth managed to shoehorn an entire sermon on the benefits of following Christ into an entirely unrelated thread about drug use in Portland Oregon.

  • -11

You can minimize threads and move on if you don’t want to talk about religion, like I do with the endless circlejerking about artificial-not-very-intelligence.

I think if an idea or ideology is put forward on a public forum, and it has no basis in reality, it should be challenged rather than ignored or accepted. This is how good theories and ideas push out the incorrect ones, since clear demonstrable practical application responsible for all of the scientific miracles of the 500 years isn't enough.

The reason people circlejerk about AI is that it is going to be the defining feature of our lives going forward. It actually exists and is getting more powerful by the day.

I share your assessment of religion, but as others have already alluded to, I come here to see views I won’t hear anywhere else. If that means reading some % of what I think is obviously on its face nonsense then so be it.

You’ve said many times that pushback is not allowed—do you have some examples in mind?

If the criterion is “don’t post in a rat-adjacent forum views you aren’t prepared to change” then I think religion is far from the sole offender.

I've personally been advised by mods and others that pointing out that religion has no proof and makes no sense is "boring and played out", and "this isn't the place for militant atheist rhetoric ", "we don't want to relitigate the new atheist wars of 20 years ago here" when I merely point out the absolute absurdity of it all.

Meanwhile people proudly declare they are Christian Orthodox and write entire screeds of facile navel gazing nonsense, presented with nothing interesting or actionable, zero proof except their own personal feelings. Great works detailing their personal journey of early indoctrination, loss of faith, and reawakening even stronger over and over again on this forum.

What do you want to happen? It seems obvious to me it can’t be easily singled out as “the bad thing you aren’t allowed to post about” so posts like that will crop up.

You want to just freely reply that religion is nonsense over and over? To me that’s as tedious as someone posting “but that’s sexist” or something every time someone on the forum is sexist. It might be true but it doesn’t really add anything to the discussion. My suspicion would be that’s what mods mean when they say “it’s tired and played out.”

If people were writing nothing more than “Jesus is Lord” then sure but what I see is people writing fairly lengthy and thought out posts. I may disagree strongly but that’s why I’m here. And I would hope someone responding has more to say than “but there’s no evidence tho.”

Curiosity goes a long way. You mention it makes no sense on a rationalist adjacent forum, but I wonder what some of these people would say if you genuinely asked if (a) they generally consider themselves rationalists and (b) if so how do they think about that in the context of religion.

If, as I think, the point of this place is to have discussions you can’t have anywhere else, that line of conversation seems more in keeping with this place than rehashing the Great War.

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This meme raises the question succinctly. The bald bipeds beasts that bestride the Earth in 2024 are really into lying, scheming, manipulating, and cheating.

They are clever, and have won great victories in the competition of Man against Nature. They are clever, and have created terrible weapons in the competition of Man against Man.

The rationalist project is that science and reason get used to build utopia. Are we actually headed towards global thermonuclear war, or towards a Lebanese style multicultural kakistocracy? The rationalist project has failed because it refused to engage with human greed, selfishness, and delusion.

The discussion moves on to the theory of second best. What is possible within the limits of human nature? If space aliens turn up and their space ship is an ant heap with monoclonal genetics, they will diagnose our problems easily enough. The scientist who values truth and refuses to sell out, is a nerd and doesn't get the girl. The scientist who monetizes "truth" and sells it to the richest corporation marries and has a mistress and propagates his anti-science-and-reason genes into the next generation. That is the diagnosis, but it offers no treatment.

One idea is bringing up children to believe in God. A God who commands scrupulous honesty and always is watching, even when all humans present are in on the scam and bought or compromised.

That probably gives the interstellar ants a good laugh. Humans have such a complicated relationship with self-awareness. What happens when the children brought up to believe in God work out that God is a pro-social myth? Some of them retain the honesty in worldly affairs that they were brought up with, and work to promote and preserve the pro-social myth. This involves an attitude adjustment from telling the truth because God commands it, to participating in the lie and the cover-up because society depends on the prosocial myth. But that is rare. Most fall into these two camps. Those who blurt out the truth in front of the children, as though the God they no longer believe in was watching, ready to punish them for telling the lie that He exists. Those who revert to instinct and seek reproductive success by lying, scheming, manipulating, and cheating, while also believing that they are choosing a variety of behaviours for themselves, not simply following their genetic programming.

Do you have an alternative idea? The rationalist project implicitly assumes that man was created by God with a divinely granted capacity for good. The rationalist project implicitly denies that man is an evolved creature, whose self-defeating duplicity is enforced and created by human genetics. The rationalist project, in as much as it ignores the true horror of being an evolved creature, is just another high fantasy. What is there left to discuss?

The rationalist project has failed because it refused to engage with human greed, selfishness, and delusion.

What on earth are you talking about? Have you even browsed the Sequences?

Opening with a forwards from grandma style meme that wouldn't look out of place in a kevin sorbo movie is not a good start to this ramble to nowhere.

"The rationalist project implicitly assumes that man was created by God with a divinely granted capacity for good. The rationalist project implicitly denies that man is an evolved creature, whose self-defeating duplicity is enforced and created by human genetics" * Citation Badly Needed*

I'm sorry you have such a low opinion of the human race. Hopefully you'll live long enough to see that we're still on the upswing. Although for many believers--- the apocalypse is always delayed, never canceled.

The rationalist project has failed because it refused to engage with human greed, selfishness, and delusion

This is just not true, they have engaged a lot with human "greed" and "selfishness" (coordination failures), and "delusion" (bias, politics mind killer). Maybe they're wrong, but they're definitely engaging with it.

There was plenty of lying, scheming, manipulating, and cheating in times and places when theistic faith was most ascendant. Do you think Renaissance Italy, the Holy Roman Empire, the Abbasid Caliphate, and the Ottoman Empire had none of that? Members of the Sicilian Mafia all consider themselves scrupulous Catholics. You may say they are not, in fact, good Catholics (and I would agree, and AFAIK so does the chief of the Catholic Church), but convincing them that God is watching them would not stop their crimes, because they already believe that. People usually think their behavior is either righteous or at least justified by the circumstances; the thought does not become "I better not not burn down that store, God would punish me"; it becomes "Let's burn down that store, it's what anybody would do in my place, actually it's a pretty good idea, God will be happy I'm not a pushover".

If "discussing bigfoot or high fantasy novels as if they were true with a capital T" prevented a continent from being bled dry for three decades....

I'd definitely be interested in seeing how demographics have changed since then.

Well, but at the same time it's a pretty common pattern for adherents of a larger and milder ideology to be defensive of a narrower circle of extremists: you'd be hard-pressed to get Muslims to oppose Islamic extremists, FOSS adherents to denounce Stallman, normie medieval Christians to shun anchorites, or standard leftists to shun Antifa. There are many reasons for this - extremists provide an ideal to aspire to (if you were willing to dedicate everything to the idea, this is how far you could go, isn't it romantic?), show that your ideology is feasible even when taken to the extreme, make your own version of it look like a reasonable compromise (and if everyone more extreme than you is cut off, then eventually you will be the extremist), and serve as an important counterweight to the outgroup's dangerous extremists ("A monster, but our monster"). I figure that outspoken Christians can serve as this for our much larger set of secular rightists - they probably are united in thinking that the West was better off back when everyone was unified in Christian morality, and so they look up to the religious with admiration even as they lament that in their own blackened hearts they can no longer muster genuine belief.

Just in case no one gets around to schooling you, I'd like to register that this is because your attitude is as cringeworthy as it is off-putting and most of us have learned not to bother trying to reason with someone talking the way you are now.

I will confirm that your phrasing is quite antagonistic. Please don’t do this.

The person to whom I was responding was being intentionally inflammatory while also making it clear that he is not interested in having an open discussion. How then am I to respond? I could overlook his derision (directed at me and mine) and try to explain something to him, except that he's also indicated that he won't consider what I have to say.

Meanwhile, I don't want him to confuse people refusing to cast pearls before swine with his opponents declining to respond out of fear.

Yeah, it’s hard to engage productively with a comment like his. The question is—what are you hoping to get out of the exchange?

Edit: just saw your edit when I posted this, will respond

Apologies for the delay.

I agree that he probably wasn’t looking for a serious discussion. Sometimes providing that is still worthwhile, on the off chance your opponent decides to break the mold. Also, it looks really good to the audience.

If the goal is to make the existence of disagreement clear, rather than the substance…well, there’s not really any nice way to dismiss someone out of hand. The best you can do is probably emphasize your reasoning.

I think you’re laughably wrong, but I don’t want to recreate the early atheist flame wars, so I’ll leave it at that.

It’s still not great. Fundamentally, you’re still announcing that he’s not worth your time, which is going to rub people the wrong way. The more politely you do so, the less pushback you’ll get.

Let's notice that your response made about anything else would be considered antagonistic and uncharitable. The amount of tip-toeing needed when talking about religion reminds me of the same attitude needed to talk with the woke: I need to pass every thought to a language censor to avoid their little preciousness to be offended. This, plus the obvious one-sided moderation about certain topics, plus the obious one-sided moderation in favour of certain persons, plus many posts that triggered my Gell Mann amnesia, plus the fact the we see always the same posters and many good posters stopped posting a while ago, all of these just tell me that TheMotte is past the echo-chamber point of no return. It was fun until it lasted. Let's enjoy the waning.

The witches have formed a quorum. It is really really tiring to see the most engaged threat in the culture war roundup being various religious people arguing menuta and trying to convert or shut down any pushback with sermons, bad math, and clumsy obfuscation.

Who even talks like this, "Schooling you"? I won't say what kind of impression of a person that leaves in my mind.

I agree, by abandoning reddit they finally can have their mask off moment.

You gotta admit it’s a hilarious arc for a forum spun off from an atheist blog spun off from another atheist and explicitly antitheist blog to become a safe haven for the devout.

Maybe you want a religion more like this one, Skoptsy, they had an NPR story about them a few months ago, and now it is trending on reddit.

here were two kinds of castration: the "lesser seal" and the "greater seal". For men, the "lesser seal" meant the removal of the testicles only, while the "greater seal" involved either removal of the penis or emasculation (removal of both penis and testicles). Men who underwent the "greater seal" used a cow-horn when urinating. The castrations and emasculations were originally performed with a red-hot iron, called the 'fiery baptism'. However, the skoptsy later transitioned to using knives or razors, with the iron serving only to stop the bloodflow. They also twisted the scrotum, destroying the seminal vesicles and stopping the flow of semen.

In women, the Skoptsy removed the nipples or the whole breasts. Occasionally, they simply scarred the breasts. They also often removed the labia minora and clitoris. They did not use anesthetics.[2]

The operations were generally performed by elders. During the operation, they said the phrase "Christ is risen!"

Religion has no place in the future of human thought.

  • -19

Did you know that one time an atheist did something bad? Atheism has no place in the future of human thought.

"Schooling me"?

No religion embraces reason, otherwise it would cease to exist.

  • -21

I posted on this forum because I did want to hear a non-Christian perspective on Christian Nationalism (good, bad, and ugly), so I appreciate your response. I hope that non-Christians can find the topic interesting, in the same way that I find discussions on GamerGate interesting despite not being a gamer.

EDIT: To respond to your larger question about the appropriateness of religion in a rat-adjacent forum, I believe rationalism is an incredibly useful tool for uncovering knowledge. I believe rationalism is downstream of Truth: in the beginning was the Logos (the Word), the Word was with God, and the Word was God. If I'm understanding you correctly, you conclude that there is no God because it doesn't follow from rational principles; without God I don't think there is such a thing as rational principles. Or, to put it crudely:

Jesus is Lord -> 2+2=4 -> everything else that follows.

Starting with 2+2=4 can get you quite far, but it won't uncover all knowledge and it would be futile to ask it to prove or disprove revelation.

You literally couldn't help it. This is what I am talking about.

Yes, religion gets treated with a certain courtesy, just like communism, remote viewing, gender politics, conspiracy theories, Austrian economics, and any number of other subjects which one or more people find insane.

Calling for any of these topics to be disallowed flies counter to the classical-liberal spirit of the forum.

I don't call for them to be disallowed. People should be free to say what they think. My only point is that vociferous pushback against baseless/evidence free claims should be encouraged rather than guarded against.

In the scientific field, predictive power is generally taken as evidence of correctness. I think part of the reason that even some of the non-religious posters around here are so sympathetic to religion is because they recall all of the religious conservatives making directionally-accurate predictions about the results of political progressivism a decade or two ago. Perhaps they don't think it is correct, but they do see that it has insight.

I think part of the other reason (for the non-religious posters) is that they are familiar, either in their personal lives or via the field of social studies, with the fact that religion is very good for people. There's a whole host of research that shows this, and of course it is often apparent from observation as well. Does this mean religious claims are true? By itself, not necessarily – but, again, it seems to suggest insight.

And then of course there's the fact that more than a few of the posters on this board (including myself) are Christians, and there are probably some of other religious persuasions here as well, so it makes sense that they would treat religion as a serious topic, because they – like most people, including I suspect most rationalists – think that it is serious. Certainly it has serious influence.

Yeah, but this is better explained by “traditionalism” getting some key things right that we’ve moved too far away from in modern society. The religious can say “we told you so” on some current societal ill, but that’s picking winners and ignoring losers on the track record of religion overall on any given issue.

Also you have to consider that the progressivism most of us here strongly dislike is highly compatible with certain strains of religion, and indeed its worse aspects are directly comparable to those of a religion (so to with Marxism and other ideologies that seek power beyond the level of their epistemology).

Religion being so kooky while it tries to defend traditionalism is arguably making it harder for secular traditionalism to appeal to the youths. See also: the Republican Party.

The supposed pragmatic benefits of religion (typically cherry-picked to hell) are not very relevant to the epistemic status.

Nope, Christian nationalism won't amount to much. At most it could get a seat at the table at the evangelical coalition, but evangelicals are far, far less culturally relevant than they were 20 years ago. It'll be nothing more than a fringe position.

There are 3 main issues:

  1. The Christian part. It's clear a lot of people want some form of "cultural Christianity" without the actual religious superstitions, but all attempts to create something like that have been failures. A lot of Christians do genuinely believe much of what's written in Bible either literally or semi-literally. But this places them at odds with younger generations that demand some actual evidence. Despite tons of trying, nobody on this forum or anywhere else on the Internet has been able to come up with a compelling argument for a deity. At best they ramble on about goofy metaphysics that’s either unfalsifiable, or merely haranguing about definitions. None of it’s particularly persuasive.

  2. The nationalism part. A lot of Christians see their religion as more of a passive thing, not something that demands extreme fervor that a pugnacious nationalist movement would require. Again, born-agains and evangelicals might be willing to go along with it, but there's a whole bunch of less committed Christians who take part as more of a habit or because it’s just a social gathering. They're not going to want to sign up to be Soldiers of Christ.

  3. The combination of the two. Christianity is not a naturally aggressive religion. Sure, people will ignore tons of contradictions if politically convenient, e.g. the Crusades happened. That said, it comes at a cost of things being generally more difficult to be pushed in that direction. There will always be an undercurrent of people saying things like “hey the Bible tells us to Love Thy Neighbor, not Love Thy Neighbor Unless They Vote Against Trump”. There’s a reason white nationalists have long flirted with Paganism and Norse stuff, as it’s much more consistent to be aggressive when your god is Thor. On the other hand, much of Christian morality boils down to being servile, of always turning the other cheek. It’s not a natural fit to any degree.

A lot of Christians do genuinely believe much of what's written in Bible either literally or semi-literally. But this places them at odds with younger generations that demand some actual evidence. Despite tons of trying, nobody on this forum or anywhere else on the Internet has been able to come up with a compelling argument for a deity. At best they ramble on about goofy metaphysics that’s either unfalsifiable, or merely haranguing about definitions. None of it’s particularly persuasive.

yawn

Sure, the metaphysics is very silly. Arguments like the unmoved mover are, I think, essentially just word games. That said the world is replete with evidence. Ask in faith and ye shall receive. Apply a commandment in your own life and your life will improve. Miracles will not usually benefit those who are entirely unready for them, so until then the only evidence is more general (and easily explainable) statistical evidence to do with longevity, life satisfaction, marital/family stability, etc. among practicing Christians.

To be more clear, there are already some precepts you know to be true and yet do not live by. What makes you think that more such knowledge/evidence would be helpful? Some have gotten their lives in order when faced with literal miracles, but most continue to live as they did, inventing new reasons to doubt what they saw, and deeply wounding their own souls in the process.

Apply a commandment in your own life and your life will improve. Miracles will not usually benefit those who are entirely unready for them, so until then the only evidence is more general (and easily explainable) statistical evidence to do with longevity, life satisfaction, marital/family stability, etc. among practicing Christians.

None of this is proof of a Christian deity, nor that the claims of literalists or semi-literalists are true. At best, it's proof that the Bible can teach some helpful lessons about how to live your life, but that's hardly a high bar. A fairy tale about trolls and gremlins could do the same.

Some have gotten their lives in order when faced with literal miracles, but most continue to live as they did, inventing new reasons to doubt what they saw, and deeply wounding their own souls in the process.

There is no evidence of supernatural miracles ever having occurred. If you have some evidence, then please share it, as this sounds like a fun avenue of debate.

None of this is proof of a Christian deity, nor that the claims of literalists or semi-literalists are true. At best, it's proof that the Bible can teach some helpful lessons about how to live your life, but that's hardly a high bar. A fairy tale about trolls and gremlins could do the same.

Sure, it's not proof, at least not at the beginning, but it's evidence, however weak. In the beginning the evidence is more "the Bible teaches useful lessons" but I'm confident that as you actually apply that evidence you'll get more and more evidence actually pointing to the Bible being literally true. Eventually the heap of evidence, or a singularly impressive piece of evidence, will constitute proof.

Fairy tales do often teach good moral lessons, so in this sense as you follow the lessons better you'll see increasing evidence of both those moral principles and of God. I don't really see any issue with this. The bible will generally serve you better but it doesn't have a monopoly on truth.

If you truly do zealously follow some fairy tale about honesty or whatever, you'll cultivate other virtues alongside honesty, and those other virtues will tell you when it's time to look for moral truth elsewhere.

There is no evidence of supernatural miracles ever having occurred.

I think you mean no sufficient evidence. Evidence exists for essentially all hypotheses.

If you have some evidence, then please share it, as this sounds like a fun avenue of debate.

In my own life the strongest proof is the aforementioned mechanism of increasing moral intelligence. You have your own habits which you know to be sins; I claim that the way mortality has been designed, you have the power to conquer those habits, and doing so will improve your life. No belief in God required, but if you consistently do so I do think that you, like me, will begin to feel the hand of God helping you along and giving you strength to continue in your efforts. This is easy and undeniably worthwhile to test, and has quick results.

As far as physical proof, here are some miracles I've seen. I've essentially never earnestly prayed for something without either getting it, getting a clear response along the lines of "this isn't something you should ask for," or in one case both.

I have performed bayesian analysis on my own prayers in the past. Eventually the results were clear enough that it felt disrespectful and counterproductive to continue testing, rather than putting that effort into increased praying.

As far as tangible proof available to all, I've pontificated in the past about why we probably shouldn't expect to see that. In short, greater understanding leads to greater accountability, and you don't actually need greater understanding to tackle your current sins.

I had to break the news to maybe 200 people over the past 6 months that their cancer was fatal. Including maybe a dozen children.

I had to clean out the suppurating wound in a patient who had a mandibulectomy for a orofacial carcinoma. When I removed the bandages, coated in pus, he could have played a flute both ways. I suppose his incoherent prayers and moaning were of no avail because they ended up directed simultaneously to heaven and hell. Then again, that ward has poor cellular reception.

I have heard earnest praying and fevered pleas for divine aid. It was never forthcoming.

What facile excuses for miracles you recite. If that's the standard of evidence you deem acceptable for the sweeping claims of Christianity..

What sin did a two year old child with ALL commit, such that she wasn't worthy of a miracle while your remission from UC was? Wrong deity I presume? The post-office does a better job directing mislabeled mail. Do you think a "fast" done by your family outweighs the RCTs showing that prayer, both direct and directed, is useless?

Thankfully I have not had too many cases of people thanking the Lord/Allah/Ram for their cures, or I'd have gone to jail for strangling them. Most of them are far more genuinely grateful for the actual miracle that is modern medicine, and by God we've got more to show for it.

What sin did I commit, getting ulcerative colitis and spending months in agony? What sin did anyone commit to experience any amount of suffering at all?

You stand upon others' graves and claim that their suffering was for naught. I stand upon my own experience and disagree in the strongest terms possible. Each moment of life, even when experiencing some of the worst pain imaginable, is still better than even. In our very worst, most agonized moments, God has seen fit to grant us greater and more meaningful pleasures than the pain which we experience. It's simply a matter of being able to recognize it. I have spent hundreds of hours in physical agony, but relative safety and calm, so I've had time to think about this and know it better than most.

The true tragedy is not the dead children, who have been taken to heaven and will be reunited with their family eventually, but the parents and siblings forced to cope with their absence for decades afterwards, lacking any knowledge that their child is okay. I promise you that that kid is okay, though, and that all of this will eventually work out to everyone's benefit. There are greater joys meant for humanity which we must be prepared to receive.

To be clear, I have seen miracles far greater than the ones I've shared. The greatest, to me, is the miracle of my own conversion and moral growth, but there have been plenty of others. I'm glad I didn't share them--you would probably be calling me a liar directly, rather than just insinuating it. I've already told you that I don't think I deserved any cure for my UC, but that the timing of it does indicate its miraculous nature. And I've already told you that even such miracles don't outweigh RCTs for me, but that they did give me confidence enough to continue investigating, including by conducting my own trials.

Given that we've already discussed all of this, and that I've already addressed each of your points in detail, I'll choose to interpret the substance of your comment as a result of your anger at the problem of suffering rather than as deliberate bad faith argumentation. I understand--it's certainly a problem I grappled with as well. Next time you do experience serious pain, I encourage you to slow down and experience just one instant of the pain at a time. It soon becomes clear that no matter the severity of the pain, a single instant of it is really quite tolerable, easily outweighed by the simple joy of other sensory inputs. The real trouble comes when our brains run ahead and try to experience all of the suffering at once, both feeling the pain of the instant and dreading the countless instants to come.

The same is true of all suffering. It may feel unjust, it may feel like God has unjustly condemned us to suffer agony for nothing, but the pain teaches us, and God has also unjustly granted us countless joys to pad life out and outweigh even the worst of our pains.

The true tragedy is not the dead children, who have been taken to heaven and will be reunited with their family eventually,

Isn't that very much disputed within Christianity? In addition the kids he speaks of are almost certainly Hindu and/or Muslim. I am guessing almost none of them are baptized. And then even if the kids get in because they were too young to actively choose, will the parents who are also most likely Hindu and Muslim be reunited with them?

Catholics:

"Likewise, whosoever says that those children who depart out of this life without partaking of that sacrament shall be made alive in Christ, certainly contradicts the apostolic declaration, and condemns the universal Church, in which it is the practice to lose no time and run in haste to administer baptism to infant children, because it is believed, as an indubitable truth, that otherwise they cannot be made alive in Christ. Now he that is not made alive in Christ must necessarily remain under the condemnation, of which the apostle says, that "by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation." That infants are born under the guilt of this offense is believed by the whole Church."

"The Roman Catholic view is that baptism is necessary for salvation and that it frees the recipient from original sin. Roman Catholic tradition teaches that unbaptized infants, not being freed from original sin, go to Limbo (Latin: limbus infantium), which is an afterlife condition distinct from Hell. This is not, however, official church dogma."

The Orthodox:

"And forasmuch as infants are men, and as such need salvation; needing salvation, they need also Baptism. And those that are not regenerated, since they have not received the remission of hereditary sin, are, of necessity, subject to eternal punishment, and consequently cannot without Baptism be saved; so that even infants ought, of necessity, to be baptised."

or the Protestants:

"Since we must make judgments about God’s will from his Word, which testifies that the children of believers are holy, not by nature but by virtue of the gracious covenant in which they together with their parents are included, godly parents ought not to doubt the election and salvation of their children whom God calls out of this life in infancy. "

The Baptists would back you up however:

"We do believe, that all little Children dying in their Infancy, before they are capable to choose either Good or Evil, whether born of Believing Parents, or Unbelieving Parents, shall be saved by the Grace of God, and Merit of Christ their Redeemer, and Work of the Holy Ghost, and so being made Members of the Invisible Church, shall enjoy Life everlasting; for our Lord Jesus saith, of such belongs the Kingdom of Heaven. Ergo, We conclude, that that opinion is false, which saith, That those little Infants dying before Baptism, are damned."

In other words aren't you assuming the best possible case for your argument here? What if you are right about God existing, but that those kids will never be reunited with their families, either because they will go to Limbo/Heaven as they were too young to choose Christ and their parents are Damned, through not being Christian? Would you still maintain that pain is worth it? Or that you are correct but that they will be reunited with their parents in Gehenna being as neither was saved, and suffer even more torment?

Your argument could be true for Christian baptized kids born to Christian parents and false for everyone else.

I'm just making a claim without arguing every single one of my positions from first principles. Of course if I'm wrong about my religion then I'm wrong about my religion, that goes without saying, and therefore my claim that kids go to heaven wouldn't be correct. If I were wrong I'd have to rethink essentially every belief I have.

Given the quality and good faith (or lack thereof) of the comment I was responding to, spending hours crafting a full dissertation on all of my beliefs would just be a waste of time.

edit: to answer your question, though, my own experience was that very great pain was very tolerable. This doesn't make it good or mean there are endless lessons to be learned from it, or even that any amount of pain is "worth it." SOME amount is useful to learn certain lessons though.

I think I should have been more careful with how I worded my original comment, given how people seem to be interpreting it.

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What sin did I commit, getting ulcerative colitis and spending months in agony? What sin did anyone commit to experience any amount of suffering at all?

The answer to this question becomes mu when you recognize that the Universe has no particular regard or disdain for you, it simply is.

You did not commit any "sin" in order to come down with ulcerative colitis. It boils down entirely to mechanistic interactions between your genes and the environment, and the way it moulded your body/immune system in a defective manner. While genes and environs are certainly components in what can be considered one's moral predilections, being Mother Teresa herself is no recourse from an agonizing death.

The only place where sin approaches a meaningful concept is when it comes to things that are the outcome of behaviors that are (nominally) amenable to intervention. A thief has sinned and loses his hand for it. A child with a Philadelphia chromosome has probably cried a little too often, but I wouldn't call that warranting a death sentence or the misery of chemotherapy.

All efforts to reconcile the stochastic distribution of boons and curses dished upon us with a belief in an Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omnibenevolent Creator are, well, rather moot when you recognize that there's no reason (or grossly insufficient reason) to assume one exists.

And taken at face value, a Creator who knows with omniscience everything a conscious being will go through, including that it will inevitably sin and be punished for it (infinitely so, depending on which doctrine of Hell you adhere to), is prima facie disgusting to me. It certainly conflicts with any reasonable definition of benevolence, though attempts to torture them into reconciliation have been a pastime for theologists for aeons.

It would be akin to me "torturing" a sorting algorithm for putting 1 before 3 in an array, when I know with ~100% confidence it will make that decision every single time.

That is the relationship between a 3-O God and every poor bastard down here.

To be clear, I have seen miracles far greater than the ones I've shared. The greatest, to me, is the miracle of my own conversion and moral growth, but there have been plenty of others. I'm glad I didn't share them--you would probably be calling me a liar directly, rather than just insinuating it. I've already told you that I don't think I deserved any cure for my UC, but that the timing of it does indicate its miraculous nature. And I've already told you that even such miracles don't outweigh RCTs for me, but that they did give me confidence enough to continue investigating, including by conducting my own trials.

I would call you deluded, rather than a liar. It is a common enough delusion, but there is no more polite way of phrasing it.

You do not recognize the sheer magnitude of the empirical, physical, metaphysical and ontological claims you make if you think any amount of "moral growth" should sway your opinion one jot.

Given that we've already discussed all of this, and that I've already addressed each of your points in detail, I'll choose to interpret the substance of your comment as a result of your anger at the problem of suffering rather than as deliberate bad faith argumentation. I understand--it's certainly a problem I grappled with as well. Next time you do experience serious pain, I encourage you to slow down and experience just one instant of the pain at a time. It soon becomes clear that no matter the severity of the pain, a single instant of it is really quite tolerable, easily outweighed by the simple joy of other sensory inputs. The real trouble comes when our brains run ahead and try to experience all of the suffering at once, both feeling the pain of the instant and dreading the countless instants to come.

I have suffered plenty of pain. I put more stock in painkillers than your approach, not that I am calling it useless. Meditation and other techniques do help. They just don't help as much as fentanyl when you've broken your hip or are choking on your own secretions.

Religion is the opiate of the masses. I can't ding it too much on those grounds, I prescribe plenty of opioids myself. But what it also happens to be is a sheer refusal to take the universe as it is and a distraction from efforts at making it better.

No deity has pulled Mankind out of Malthusian Hell, we've dug up the rendered corpeses of our primordial ancestors and burned them, smelted steel and split atoms till we are in spitting distance of a Heaven on Earth, of our own making. Or we could all die after we build a Molochian monstrosity trained, in part, on this very conversation. But we live and die by our own, human hands, and God certainly hasn't been swiping in often enough for me to give him any credit.

The same is true of all suffering. It may feel unjust, it may feel like God has unjustly condemned us to suffer agony for nothing, but the pain teaches us, and God has also unjustly granted us countless joys to pad life out and outweigh even the worst of our pains.

Taken to its logical conclusion, any attempts at alleviating it is cheating God and his ward out of a valuable life lesson, though what that might entail to a child with appendicitis is questionable.

Not all suffering is bad. But I have seen far too much needless suffering to remotely privilege that claim. And when it has come to mitigating it, I assure you that even Jesuit clinics will hand out medication instead of just thoughts and prayers. When a child with ichthyosis vulgaris comes out of the womb and lives a short, yet excruciatingly painful existence before inevitable death (which can only be drawn out for a while, not remedied till the normal age at which we're supposed to die), I struggle to think of any mitigating factors that might make their short time on this Earth a net positive.

You do not know pain. Pray that you never have to.

Damn dude. If you want to move to the US I'll make it happen for you.

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Please talk to me directly, or create a blog somewhere rather than pretending you're actually responding to me.

The answer to this question becomes mu when you recognize that the Universe has no particular regard or disdain for you, it simply is.

I wasn't actually asking you, and you know this. You have no privileged position as a doctor and the bearer of bad news to accuse others of ignoring people's suffering. The problem of suffering is the same no matter the degree of suffering.

I put more stock in painkillers than your approach

My approach isn't a way to deal with pain, it's a way to understand it. It's a test you can perform yourself which will grant you evidence one way or another regarding the veracity of the rest of my claims. If you think I'm right or wrong, say so, but don't pretend that I was giving you pain management tips.

I don't have anything against painkillers, but the fact that God didn't grant us the ability to dull our own pain at a whim means that pain-without-painkillers is a problem which must be addressed.

And taken at face value, a Creator who knows with omniscience everything a conscious being will go through, including that it will inevitably sin and be punished for it (infinitely so, depending on which doctrine of Hell you adhere to), is prima facie disgusting to me. It certainly conflicts with any reasonable definition of benevolence, though attempts to torture them into reconciliation have been a pastime for theologists for aeons.

We've already been over this, but, like you, I suppose I'll have to pretend to be talking about this for the first time and pretend to have never heard any counterarguments from you.

Agency is extremely important. If one cannot choose then they lack agency. If one's choices lack consequences, then they cannot choose. I prefer being free to choose, even when that means making harmful mistakes, to being locked in to a life of unwilling righteousness. I prefer being created, even if that means occasionally being punished for sin, to not being created.

Whether sin should be punished at all is its own question. I find punishments for sin to be quite merciful so it's easy for me to understand them as corrective rather than punitive. They provide immediate consequences to actions which might otherwise become habit and lead to a greatly diminished capacity for joy in the long run.

Taken to its logical conclusion, any attempts at alleviating it is cheating God and his ward out of a valuable life lesson, though what that might entail to a child with appendicitis is questionable.

Only if you're also assuming that no other principles exist. "Pain teaches us lessons" doesn't preclude things like "helping others teaches us lessons," "pain-lessons have diminishing returns," etc.

Taken to its logical conclusion, I don't think it's ethical to prevent literally all of the suffering of any single person--at least unless some other method is discovered for teaching the same lessons. That's all.

You do not know pain. Pray that you never have to.

lol

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but the pain teaches us, and God has also unjustly granted us countless joys to pad life out and outweigh even the worst of our pains.

Who is “us” here exactly?

Countless humans and sentient creatures have not been granted “countless joys” to outweigh their suffering. Your theology deals with this moral inequity by saying god will make up for it in the afterlife.

Only problem there is the lack of evidence for said afterlife.

As I said, the simple pleasures of existence, rational thought, and physical sensation outweigh physical pain.

There are plenty of other joys, but just one or two of those are sufficient to outweigh pain.

"us" is everyone and virtually everyone has been granted such gifts or has died very quickly after birth.

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What sin did a two year old child with ALL commit

What sin did Job commit?

Going for herbal and dietary remedies for pancreatic cancer, especially a variant that was amenable to evidence-based medicine.

(I'm aware.)

Please speak plainly and explain what you're aware of.

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He's referring to Job from the Bible, not Steve Jobs.

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Wow!

"I've essentially never earnestly prayed for something without either getting it, getting a clear response along the lines of "this isn't something you should ask for," or in one case both."

That is an amazing superpower!

Guess all those parents of millions of sick and dying kids just didn't measure up. They and their parents were undeserving of God's grace. You must be one of God's true Chosen!

I'm really happy to break this to you--all kids go to heaven. They all get God's grace, and in fact everyone does.

As far as superpowers, getting everything I asked for would be one thing, but all I claim is to know beforehand when one of my requests is inappropriate. This has more to do with a correct understanding of God than any spiritual sensitivity or righteousness on my part.

They all get God's grace, and in fact everyone does.

There are a whole bunch of Christians who disagree with you on this. Some have even posted here.

"Grace" is a broad term which refers to more than just salvation. I think pretty much all Christians would agree that everyone has access to God's grace.

But more importantly, it's not like I'm claiming that all Christians are correct about everything.

Lucky you, to know the true mind of God...This is really trending towards the absurd, even for religious nonsense.

Exactly what is your claim? I've been recording these things for years and have advance predictions written down.

I think your miracle evidence is confused, but in lieu of that I'll point somewhere else - many intelligent Muslims and members of other faiths have similarly seen personal miracles from their god(s) and used them as evidence for their faith. Their arguments are very similar to yours. Which is weird, right?

No. Why would God ignore their prayers? I'd expect people of other faiths to have somewhat fewer prayers answered because they have less understanding of what to ask for, but that's all--they're God's children too.

The other types of claims give me more pause. It's clear that some people believe (to some extent) that they've genuinely been visited by angels or dreamt of a message from their god, etc. When I hear the actual account though, it's generally fairly easy to dismiss it as a hallucination, a fabrication, or simply a normal dream.

Right, but then your miracles are evidence for 'any entity or process that intervenes in the world to help humans', not 'God specifically', because by that logic it isn't evidence for the Muslims when "Allah" appears to do it.

When I hear the actual account though, it's generally fairly easy to dismiss it as a hallucination, a fabrication, or simply a normal dream.

I think there are some rather sophisticated claims of Buddhist, Hindu, and Islam miracles, and many unsophisticated and obviously false Christian miracle claims. This means the distribution of miracle claims on plausibility is as far as I know similar for different religions, so if you're arguing that this is evidence for Christian God over others I don't think that's true, although I'm not sure if that's the argument you're making or not.

The thing is Christianity, I think, claims that a significant number of instances of angels visiting people / God speaking to people / observable divine intervention happened. It's weird that it just stopped, and all we get now isn't easily falsifiable.

Also, I think you're just getting lucky generally. You pray a lot, sometimes something like it happens, you count the few pieces of strong evidence that prayer works and discount the larger number of weak evidence that it doesn't.