Internet Goosing the Antithesis

Saturday, April 09, 2005

"God on Trial" post-mortem and insights

Matt Slick has come and gone, and the "God on Trial" show is now available on the Hellbound Alleee site (see links to the right). All in all, it was a good show, although we didn't get nearly into as many issues as I wanted.

I'm glad I did this show with Slick, if only because it led me to a major realization regarding materialist arguments. As you know, there is only one objection that Christians have against TANG, which I personally call Frame's Objection (because he used it against Martin) - the objection that "God is unchanging, logic is part of God's nature", etc.

Well, Slick brough it up during the show, and I expected it, and had my standard rebuttals ready... but I didn't expect him to use the Bible in order to try to validate it ! After a few moments of confusion, I realized that he was only pushing back the problem - that his passage in the Bible is also made by God, and thus just as subjective as his own belief. That's where we really got him and demonstrated that his whole god-belief was circular.

But the more important insight I have after thinking about all this is that, Frame's Objection is in fact not even relevant ! It has absolutely no relevance whether God is "unchanging" or not. The fact is, all that we materialists argue is that Christian standards are subjective (which implies that "God _could_ make it so that X"). Subjectivity has nothing to do with changing or unchanging (i.e. "God _did_ make it so that X") : it has to do with originating from a will, in this case God's will. Whether God is unchanging or logic is part of its nature or not, the fact remains that anything that comes from it is wholly subjective.

So it turns out that Christians have absolutely no relevant objections to TANG at all !

And of course, the Christian has zero guarantee that he is not being deceived by God, Satan, or any other boogaboo in his religion. If God wishes to delude all Christians and implant in them that he is unchanging (when the Bible neatly disproves this, let alone the act of Creation itself, which implies change), then he can perfectly do so. Only the materialist, self-contained universe escapes total, complete skepticism.

Trying to "define God as unchanging" is just as meaningless as defining an anarchy as socialist or capitalist, as philosophers from both sides are wont to do. Once you accept the premise of anarchy, you cannot impose a specific conceptual framework on it. Same for "god" - once you accept the premise of a Sovereign or Creator being, anything goes.

Slick also demanded "moral absolutes" and believes that scientific laws are "absolute". That's ridiculous, of course. One of the main strengths of science, unlike religion, is its falsifiability. The fact is, scientific laws are not "absolute", and neither are values. What I think this illustrated more than anything is that Slick, and most Christians, want easy answers, they need absolutes where there can be none, and are desperate to accept any simplistic moral standard in order to hold those absolutes.

Alison, for her part, was particularly irritated that Slick declares the Ten Commandments his standard of morality, and then proceeded to outright deny one of the ten commandments when questioned. The mind boggles... Also, according to his reasoning about "murder" (which he claims is the real translation of "thou shalt not kill") depending on law, the Holocaust was perfectly A-OK, which I guess aligns perfectly with the Christian standard that "whatever genocide God commits is A-OK".

My only regret was that I didn't apply his rationalizations to the issues I wanted to discuss - the Flood, the murder of the Egyptian firstborn, the recent tsunami, the Holocaust, and so on. Slick believes that this book, justified circularly, gives him a moral standard that justifies mass murder, genocide, and injustice. Isn't that something ?

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At 4/09/2005 10:39 PM, Blogger Hellbound Alleee declaimed...

Here's what Matt did. Franc said morality existed within context and Matt said no! It's Absolute! Never mind that his "absolute" ten commandments are not all valid, and should be called the Five or six commandments. You notice he will not bring them up again after I called them into question. When I bring up one instance in the bible that I find seriously immoral (and disgusting), he yelled "CONTEXT!" So, his Absolute moral standard bible MUST be taken in context.

Which I gave him. He thinks that since the communnity murdered (with God's command) innocent people, it's okay because in places like the US, "we" kill out citizen lawfully. Since it was a lawful stoning and annihilating of a man, his wife, his children, and his livestock, then it's ok. I guess he must be pro-choice.

It's one instance where I was speaking emotionally, sure. Butit's something he surely must realize: it's issues like that that lead THINKING people away from the faith. He seemed pretty shocked that I was actually placing judgement on the bible all by my little self. His answer? "Well, everyone has a right to their opinion." That's right. A puny, mortal human places her judgement upon actions in the bible using her standards of morality. It can be done. I do say this to as many people as I can: don't let anyone tell you that you can't do the same thing. Unless you have really low moral standards for your God.

At 4/09/2005 11:21 PM, Blogger Paul Manata declaimed...

I'll give you guys this... Franc's voice is the best part of the show! lol! I always laugh when I hear him.

...okay, back to the hating eachother and wanting to see eachother in arms distance...

At 4/09/2005 11:25 PM, Blogger Bahnsen Burner declaimed...

I enjoyed listening to the show, Franc. Matt Slick sure does make quite a case study. His boisterous, heavy-toned manner suggests that he’s trying to compensate for something. But it’s clear that he wants to talk down to people who don’t believe in his invisible magic being.

There were a few points that I wanted to comment on:

I believe at one point Matt said that the bible affirms that its god is “objective.” Where does the bible say this? I don’t find the term ‘objective’ anywhere in any of my bibles.

When Matt explains the doctrine (he cites Romans 1:18-32) that the Christian god “sends a strong delusion” to deceive people, he says that some people “don’t want to serve the creature rather than the Creator.” How can something that is perfect, infinite, immortal and complete be “served”? Why would a biological organism – which must act on its own behalf in order to exist – need to act in order to serve a being that has NO NEEDS WHATSOEVER? Even if it had any needs, it could magically zap what it needs into existence just by wishing it. It’s premises like this which the apologist glosses over in his attempt to make “larger points” which assume them, that are the most questionable, and yet he never attends to their inherent incoherence.

At one point, Slick cited “archeological evidence”. But no archeological evidence has ever been found that serves as evidence of miracle-working. He’s apparently not willing to acknowledge this. Does the discovery of the ruins of an ancient Daoist temple serve as evidence of stories that speak of Daoist monks levitating inside that temple?

On several occasions, Slick emphasized the importance of definitions. I agree: definitions are extremely important. So why doesn’t the bible define its terms? Major blank out. Matt came back to his theme of the importance of definitions on the matter of justifying “moral absolutes.” Did he give a definition of ‘morality’? I don’t think he did. But regardless, I don’t find the terms ‘moral’ or ‘morality’ in any of my bibles, so it’s hard to see how one could argue that the bible defines these terms if it does not even contain them. He must have sought outside the bible for such definitions. And if the bible does not define these terms, how can one say the bible is “authoritative” on these matters? Again, blank out.

Matt’s response to TANG completely missed its point and made its point at the same time. He missed the point by trying to clarify the logic is mental or conceptual in nature. That does nothing to confirm the supernatural basis he wants to claim for logic. But then he makes TANG’s point by coming back to his notion of an “absolute mind” which means a supernatural mind that has sovereignty over everything, including logic! And yet this plays right into TANG’s hand. He seems unsure whether to say that the laws of logic are a creation, or that they’re absolute and fixed. But clearly, if the Christian god did not create the laws of logic, then their necessity must be independent of god.

He says that he’s never seen an atheistic refutation of TAG. But in 2002, I did write a refutation of Matt’s own version of TANG and I did send him the link to my refutation on Halloween Day, 2002 (how fitting!). You can find it here. To my knowledge, he never responded to it (I’ve not seen any response to it on his CARM website; perhaps he has one elsewhere?).

One of his more basic problems is his ignorance of how the laws of logic have their basis in nature, namely in the subject-object relationship. He speaks of them as if they had no relationship to what we perceive. This just forces the question: What’s so important to the Christian about the laws of logic if he doesn’t see their relevance to the world around us?

I enjoyed the exchange regarding the ten commandments and Slick’s attempt to defend the discarding of the commandment about keeping the sabbath. Clearly Christians want to have their cake (affirm the 10 commandments) and eat it (pick and choose when they apply), too. I’ve never read in any of the discourses attributed to Jesus that he was exempting his followers from obeying the commandment to keep the sabbath on the basis that acceptance of Jesus was somehow to serve as the rest it intended, so I chalk Slick’s “explanation” here to opportunistic rationalization. But in giving us this explanation, Slick missed the point you were trying to make, which I’ll summarize with the following syllogism:

Premise 1: The moral code of a god that does not change, also does not change.
Premise 2: The discarding of a moral absolute that was once established, constitutes a change in that moral code.
Conclusion: Therefore, any moral code that discards what it had once established as absolute, cannot have come from a god that does not change.

Slick repeatedly pointed to his “masters in divinity” degree and his 25 years of “research” (indoctrination?). Was this supposed to be one of his arguments? What practical use would that have in a market-based economy? May Matt Slick get what he deserves, but that’s exactly why he’s a Christian – he doesn’t want what he deserves.

Anyway, the highlight of the show was when Alison would come up close to the microphone and speak intimately to the audience. I felt like she was speaking right into my ear, with her hand cupped over. It was quite erotic, to be honest. I just might have to listen to this show again! Hellbound Alleee just might be habit-forming!

At 4/09/2005 11:31 PM, Blogger Bahnsen Burner declaimed...

By the way, speaking of the 10 commandments, Chad Inman recently published a pretty good essay on how they are not the basis of American law. He makes some very good points.

At 4/10/2005 12:15 AM, Blogger Hellbound Alleee declaimed...

Thanks, I'm glad you liked my voice.
Sometimes shows bother me a bit afterward, and this one did, because we never had a Christian on before.

Something bothers me a lot about what Matt said 1 gazillion-and-two times on the show. If this God is immutable, unchangeable and absolute, etc etc etc, then it does not do anything. This is not even a deistic god. This is an idol, pure and simple. A God that does not change does not act. It has no power over anyone.

So what the pogo-jumpin' Jesus does Matt need with prayer? A prayer to an unmoveable immutable god is a prayer to a statue. Wait...a statue does change the environment it's in by collecting moss and pigeon poo. So it's not even a statue.

At 4/10/2005 12:18 AM, Blogger Hellbound Alleee declaimed...

...oh, and we've heard the "Franc's voice is funny, therefore God exists" argument before. Unfortunately, the argument is

Franc's voice is funny, therefore he is a French-Canadian.

I wonder sometimes about Americans. They seem to giggle about voices like they giggle about sex. It's too much for their brains.

At 4/10/2005 12:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous declaimed...

I thought he was doing it on purpose. He sounds like kermit the frog

At 4/10/2005 12:59 AM, Blogger Bahnsen Burner declaimed...

HA wrote: "Something bothers me a lot about what Matt said 1 gazillion-and-two times on the show. If this God is immutable, unchangeable and absolute, etc etc etc, then it does not do anything. This is not even a deistic god. This is an idol, pure and simple. A God that does not change does not act. It has no power over anyone."

Exactly. A deity that does not change is utterly inert. An immutable being is a being that cannot act, for action is a form of change. So Matt simply puts his god in a straightjacket and basically says to it "Don't move!" He wants it to obey his wishes just as he wants the rest of us to obey its wishes. It's time to eliminate the middle man and see whose wishes are being promulgated here: the theist's own.

HA wrote: "I wonder sometimes about Americans. They seem to giggle about voices like they giggle about sex. It's too much for their brains."

Well, put it this way: we're easily entertained.

But seriously, Franc's voice is not far off from my own. I know that because I've done lots of recording (since the early 80's) and I know what my voice sounds like.

I suppose Christians who take the chance to listen to the show would probably love Matt Slick's voice: overbearing, condescending, completely closed to two-way conversation, constantly seeking to control and berate. Yep, at least in this he is consistent, for that's how he comes across in his writings!

At 4/10/2005 1:19 AM, Blogger Hellbound Alleee declaimed...

I don't know why someone would have a problem with Kermit the Frog. Anyway, it's pretty typical of how a lot of Christians try and argue:

"You voice funny! I no have argument! Look! Sparkly! *Drool* Worship me God! Now!"

At 4/10/2005 2:30 AM, Blogger Paul Manata declaimed...

Okay, finished listening to it. I thought you guys did pretty bad.. stumbleing all over the place, stuttering, giggleing, asserting, etc.

At 4/10/2005 8:53 AM, Blogger Francois Tremblay declaimed...

I guess the argument changed now. It's

1. You guys stumbled.
2. Therefore God exists.

Or more specifically

1. You guys don't have dozens of years of debate experience in defending sky-pixies that pop everything from nothing, so you sound novice.
2. Therefore God exists.

At 4/10/2005 11:11 AM, Blogger Francois Tremblay declaimed...

I note that no atheist has commented on the entry itself, especially the idea that the "intrinsic part of God" objection is a complete red herring. I think that's pretty important isn't it ? Or do you see some flaw in my argumentation ?

At 4/10/2005 3:20 PM, Blogger Aaron Kinney declaimed...

Paul said:

"Okay, finished listening to it. I thought you guys did pretty bad.. stumbleing all over the place, stuttering, giggleing, asserting, etc."

So Paul has nothing to say about your actual arguments, only about your composure and verbalization. He assigns the term "bad" not to your points but to your stuttering or giggling.

Ad hominem.

At 4/10/2005 6:09 PM, Blogger Aaron Kinney declaimed...

Matt Slick keeps saying that Gods will is unchanging because it says so in the Bible. In other words he says "God is unchanging because he told me so!"

This reminds me of a Happy Days episode.

Fonzi: I met a swell girl. Shes a virgin!

Ron Howard: How do you know?

Fonzi: She told me so!

Ron Howard: How do you know that shes telling you the truth?

Fonzi: Virgins dont lie!!!

At 4/11/2005 11:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous declaimed...

I listened to the show, I'm an atheist and I think you guys did not do that well in the debate. While I don't accept Matt's arguements, I believe he is the better oral debater and that he presented his ideas in a more convincing manner.

Also, some of what you were trying to say was not relevant to the debate. The debate was about morals yet you went on asking Matt about how he knows God is absolute/unchanging/whatever. You were trying to get him to admit that he knows it because the bible says so and that the bible must be true because its the word of god, and thus trying to catch him in a circular arguement. But Matt's beliefs about God was not the topic of the debate---the debate was supposed to be about Christian vs atheist basis for morality.

You tried to say that you get your morality from Reality. But I am not sure this makes sense. You can observe objects and learn, for example, how gravity works. But morality and ethics are not objective. You can't obtain your morality from observing Reality. Morality is judgement---judgement of what is right and wrong---of what should be done and what should not be done. This is not objective and cannot be determined solely from observing Reality.

By the way, the arguement goes:

1. You guys stumbled.
2. Therefore you lost the debate.


At 4/11/2005 1:53 PM, Anonymous francois_tremblay declaimed...

"But Matt's beliefs about God was not the topic of the debate---the debate was supposed to be about Christian vs atheist basis for morality."

And the Christian "basis" for morality is God. So God was definitely the "topic of the debate" !

"You tried to say that you get your morality from Reality."

I didn't "try" to say it. I did.

"But I am not sure this makes sense. You can observe objects and learn, for example, how gravity works. But morality and ethics are not objective."

Wrong. Morality is a type of causal fact. If you argue that causality is objective, then you cannot claim that morality is not.

At 4/11/2005 3:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous declaimed...

"Wrong. Morality is a type of causal fact. If you argue that causality is objective, then you cannot claim that morality is not."

I have no idea what this means.

Morality is not causal. Take the moral statement "It is wrong to kill human beings merely for pleasure." The truth or falsity of this statement cannot be determined by observing Reality. How can you show that this moral statement is objectively true (or false)? We can observe reality and learn how things work (like gravity), but how can we determine objectively that "killing for pleasure is wrong"?


At 4/11/2005 3:36 PM, Blogger Bahnsen Burner declaimed...

Skeptic Dave wrote:

"By the way, the arguement goes:

"1. You guys stumbled.
"2. Therefore you lost the debate."

Seems I remember Alison saying that the broadcast was not supposed to be a debate, but a discussion. Alleee, is that correct?

At 4/11/2005 7:45 PM, Blogger Francois Tremblay declaimed...

It was not a debate. It was supposed to be a discussion.

"Morality is not causal."

Once again, wrong. Listen to our show "Introduction to Moral Issues", where we explained this. Morality is causality that applies to human action. Actions have consequences that we can predict and measure, and this is the basis of moral judgment.



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