I had a conversation with an atheist friend of mine, I said a few things back but felt I didn’t really make a good point. Here’s what he basically was saying:
"Faith by its very definition is belief without evidence or in spite of evidence.
This is in contrast to reason which requires evidence. therefore by definition faith is unreasonable.
This does not mean all beliefs are unreasonable. Merely the ones which require belief without any evidence.
As Douglas Adams put it, when one man has a delusion they call him mad, when many people share a delusion they call it religion.
This is true of things which require faith, however many religions are about a little more than just faith. You do have a level of moral codes and other rules, the problem often lies when this are dogmatically followed.
I see dogma and indoctrination as an enslaver of humanity, a way to prevent people thinking critically, very often this is done to children by threats of physical abuse (torture in hell) This is no different to the way child abusers operate."
[quote=Atheist Canard 1]“Faith by its very definition is belief without evidence or in spite of evidence.”
Reponse: A strawman is committed when a person simply ignores a person’s actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position. That definition of “faith” is not the one used by the Church; therefore, it has no bearing on what the Church says about faith.
[quote=Atheist Canard 2]“I see dogma and indoctrination as an enslaver of humanity, a way to prevent people thinking critically, very often this is done to children by threats of physical abuse (torture in hell) This is no different to the way child abusers operate.”
Response: Given that your opening definition of “faith” and the following explanations are based entirely on a strawman, it would seem as if you have been enslaved by the dogmas and indoctrination of atheism.
The second half of your “argument” above is something akin to circumstantial ad hominem. Even if people “very often” threaten children with hell (which is an assertion that you cannot prove), those threats have no bearing on the truth or falsity of the Church’s claims. In fact, your “argument” is rather circular, since it also presumes the Church’s claims are false based on a biased sample. For example, you conveniently ignore all of those people who don’t threaten children with hell.
The last sentence in your “argument” is pure ad hominem, and unworthy of rational discussion (although it could be worth a smack to the back of the head).
The utter lack of substance to your “argument” is surprising given the assertion that atheism is reasonable. Perhaps there’s something wrong with that assertion as well?
Thanks. So far his comments have been about “morality” and “guilt trips.”
"Some moral values are different between groups, some are universal.
You also have individuals who have their natural built in moral mechanisms broken. Hitler, Stalin, etc are all examples of this. Sociopathy you know?
Human beings also seem to have the capacity through conditioning to ignore their internal mechanism. Historically religions have exploited these mechanisms (he died for you, exploits guilt and empathy) some even try to turn these off for certain tasks. Cults do this a lot."
"I would say that the best way to protect these mechanisms is to prevent the conditioning systems, especially upon the youth.
Education is a powerful inoculation against these kinds of conditioning mechanisms. Teaching people to think critically makes it much harder for them to be conditioned.
They are biological systems and they can be broken or distorted just as our other ones can."
Tell him that unless he can prove the non-God mechanism or reason (I like to call it the First Explanation) that accounts for all that exists, then his belief that the First Explanation is not God is every bit as much based upon faith as is the belief of any religious person.
Ask him for his evidence that the reason there is something rather than nothing does not involve God.
Like so many people, your friend just accepts the existence of matter, energy and the scientific laws that govern them as first principles. Well, why does the matter exist? Why does the energy exist? Why do the laws (an no other laws) exist? They cannot have material explanations, or else we can simply step back one more step and ask the same question, until at some point we must arrive at an explanation that is outside of the material world, outside of that which is to be explained.
Using the famous watch-found-in-a-field example, your friend makes the common mistake of thinking that, upon finding the watchmaker’s tools and diagrams, that those tools and diagrams prove that the watchmaker does not exist.
When you ask your friend for his evidence of a First Explanation that does not involve God, he will be quite unable to give it to you. Instead, he will make statements that are statements of faith. Atheistic faith, but faith nonetheless.
[quote=Atheist Canard 3]“Some moral values are different between groups, some are universal.”
So? A difference of opinion about something doesn’t mean there’s a difference of fact. If 10 students take a math test, and 5 of them say 2 and 2 are something other than 4, it doesn’t follow that 50% of the students have an equally valid answer.
[quote=Atheist Canard 4.1]“You also have individuals who have their natural built in moral mechanisms broken.”
“Natural built in moral mechanisms”? What does that even mean? Unless the term can be adequately defined, and then that definition substantiated, it is just a collection of words.
[quote=Atheist Canard 4.2]“Human beings also seem to have the capacity through conditioning to ignore their internal mechanism. Historically religions have exploited these mechanisms (he died for you, exploits guilt and empathy) some even try to turn these off for certain tasks. Cults do this a lot.”
Again, this is essentially meaningless. The entire “objection” is predicated upon the existence of an undefined, undemonstrated “internal mechanism” of morality.
But, let’s say for a moment that guilt and empathy are part of this alleged “internal mechanism”. What do the facts of Jesus Christ’s death have to do with them? If, in fact, Jesus Christ did die because of my sins, then guilt and empathy are appropriate responses. To not feel guilt and empathy for causing someone’s death would be an indication of a broken “internal mechanism,” which was decried as a bad thing above. Therefore, it is the atheist, not the Catholic, whose “internal mechanism” has been distorted due to aberrant conditioning.
Also, the dreaded mention of “cults” is just another circumstantial ad hominem.
[quote=Atheist Canard 4.2]“I would say that the best way to protect these mechanisms is to prevent the conditioning systems, especially upon the youth.”
“Education is a powerful inoculation against these kinds of conditioning mechanisms. Teaching people to think critically makes it much harder for them to be conditioned.”
The way to prevent these “internal mechanisms” from being conditioned is through conditioning via “education”? Presumably, this must be atheist education. So, IOW, we’ve got a large-scale circular argument based on the presumed existence of “internal mechanisms” which must be protected by the allegedly corrosive effects of religion.
Methinks your friend could’ve used some of that critical thinking instruction he mentions.
[quote=Atheist Canard 4.2]“They are biological systems and they can be broken or distorted just as our other ones can.”
So now morality is a biological system? How absurd. Which organ system controls morality? The circulatory system? Are we now talking about medieval medicine inspired by Galen?
Still, for the sake of argument, grant that morality is a biological system. The question again is, “So?” The truth of this implausible, undemonstrable assertion about morality being a biological system has no bearing on the truth or falsity of the Catholic faith.
“belief without evidence or in spite of evidence” - nonsense. So many supernatural events happened, he can’t deny them.
“indoctrination as an enslaver of humanity” - if you don’t want to believe, you don’t have to. It’s not slavery at all, I am free in what I am doing.
I admit it’s not the best idea to scare kids with hell, there are better ways of talking to them about religion.
“This is no different to the way child abusers operate.” - it is different. We talk about hell beacuse it exists, it’s our duty to warn others. And we warn because we love.
Your friend is right, quite frankly. “Faith” without “evidence” (or a fact) is not reasonable at all, rather it’s a nice thing we do on Sundays to make ourselves feel better about our impending deaths.
Faith, that is true faith, is a method of knowledge. This is where atheists fail (and really, where many Christians do too). True faith is something that is real, something that impacts the human reality. Let me make it clear: It is unreasonable to ask anyone, including yourself, to “believe” in something without a reason to do so. And simply “believing” in something because you don’t want to “go to hell”, or because it makes you “feel good” isn’t a real reason either.
Your friend should consider this (and perhaps you too, if you believe faith and reason are separable, incongruous, incompatible): Let’s say you are friends with a guy named Carlo. You and Carlo are good friends. You trust Carlo implicitly, because it is reasonable to trust him. That is, Carlo has proven to you, in distinctly human ways, he is a trustworthy person. Carlo always paid you back when he owed you money. He was always there for you when you needed him. He never lied to you. He always told you the truth about politics, about candidates for public office, about banking, about finances, about history, about industry. You trust him because it’s reasonable to do so. It’s reasonable to do so, because your experience with him has shown you this.
Now let’s say Carlo meets up with an old friend he hasn’t seen in a while, let’s call her Georgia. Carlo meets Georgia at an airport one day when they are both flying to different business meetings in the same city. They are both good friends so they begin talking about the old days, and about other friends you and Carlo both knew from before, but have lost touch with. Eventually, Georgia tells Carlo, “Remember Roberto, the guy who sat in the back of Biology class? The one always getting into trouble? He’s in Istambul now, helping the poor! Can you believe it?”
Now at this point Carlo has no reason to doubt what Georgia says about Roberto. Carlo knows Georgia, trusts her (just as you trust Carlo) so, even though he can’t verify Roberto’s situation himself (since there are no phones where Roberto is now, no computers, which Carlo and Georgia both laugh about since Roberto always loved being in constant touch!), and this is the most important point: CARLO BELIEVES WHAT GEORGIA TELLS HIM ABOUT ROBERTO, WITHOUT HESITATION.
Why? Why should Carlo believe what Georgia says? Because he trusts Georgia for the same reason that you trust Carlo. Because it’s REASONABLE to trust Georgia. For purely human reasons. Note, I’ve not said one thing about some kind of “mysterious God force”, not one mention of some kind of “metaphysical abstract”. This is humanity I’m describing. This is REALITY.
So when Carlo gets back home and tells you about Roberto, you believe him. Why? Because again, it’s reasonable, for HUMAN reasons, to do so. It’s reasonable to do so, for reasons any rational person can see. In fact, it would therefore, by definition, be UN-reasonable for you to doubt Carlo, simply because you can’t verify Roberto’s existence for yourself, physically. This is reality. This cannot be denied.
Thus we can see that “reality”, that is “knowledge” is not only conveyed to us by our 5 senses, directly. There’s also a form of knowledge, called “indirect knowledge”, that is EQUALLY AS VALID as “direct knowledge”: This is knowledge through a WITNESS, or mediation by a witness. It’s perfectly reasonable as I’ve demonstrated above to rely on such witness for the acquisition of knowledge. It’s perfectly reasonable to call knowledge gained in such a way a “fact”: It’s a fact that Roberto is in Istanbul. It’s a fact you accept without question, JUST AS IF you had gone to Istanbul and seen for yourself. The exact same level of confidence in the fact is achieved, as if you had gone and seen Roberto yourself, with your own eyes. Thus, you don’t need to go to Istanbul, see Roberto working with the poor, to believe it yourself. You believe it already, as if you had already been there.
This is the level of confidence that MUST be achieved for every human, to “believe” in anything. Thus, it’s not unreasonable for an atheist to say what he said above about “faith”; it’s simply unreasonable for him to deny that OUR faith can (and truly is) based on a reality as certain as if we had lived 2000 years ago with Christ.
It’s based on the mediation of a witness, trusted, for truly human reasons apart from the “religious”. Eventually, our faith grows from that, based in reality on our own experiences, but the true “seed” is this reasonable assurance of the method of knowledge that is, TRUE FAITH.
"But that is just it. I can. I can go and meet Roberto and visit him myself, I can speak with that woman and ask her about him. I can go to the place he works and ask if anyone know about him, or I can ask for pictures of the guy. Or hell, even google his ***
However this is a common claim. There are lots of people who exist in the world, his existence is consistent with the experiances of reality which we are all within. If the claim had been that Roberto could fly and leap tall buildings in a single bound… well that is a different matter.
The existence of a massively complex intelligent super being is an extraordinary claim, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Just like if I claimed gravity was an illusion and we are really all in the matrix. It requires a higher level of evidence since it is contrary to what is generally known and seen."
Frankly I’m not a good debater, and so far he has blown me away. But I’m not upset, I’m having fun chating with him, who knows what will come.
You might want to get your hands on the book: Catholicism & Reason. ISBN 0-9649087-1-9 I am in the process of reading the book now, and I got it in my local Catholic Book Store…and it does a very good job of “demolishing” atheistic arguments rather quickly in the first 10 or so pages of the book.