Questions and Food for Thought

Bernard, perhaps it might help if we thought about these questions and their possible implications:

1.    Would you describe your “distaste” as having negative or positive connotations for you personally?  For either, does that suggest you must already have in mind a bar or gage for what is positive or negative?  If such arises from a narrative, world-view, faith (as explicated by Olthuis), how does that not touch upon and explain the distaste?

2.    Would you prefer that most people share this distaste?  Would it be a better world in your estimation if they did?

3.    If we were to consider what most people think are positive changes in history, the end of slavery, equal rights, child labor laws, the defeat of tyrannous regimes, and the like, can you think of a single example in history where the impetus, the spark, the reason cited for the necessary changes was a person’s, group’s, or culture’s “distaste” for the status quo?  Did a significant person or group advocating change ever say, “I have no reasons, I just personally have a distaste for…(whatever)”  If you cannot, is it possible your view (if adopted by enough people) may not have the theoretical and philosophical resources to bring positive change to a culture if need be?   If so, would that matter to you?

4.    When an atheist asserts that he doesn’t believe in God, and that he believes God doesn’t exist, whether or not religious people believe otherwise, putting aside your distaste for such statements, do you at least recognize that if we were to step into that person’s shoes for a second, and really believe like he did, that such a belief is entirely reasonable and logical?

5.    Is it possible that if one believes such assertions (in #4 above) to be false (or distasteful) because only empirical statements can meet that test (we can only say things like “The earth is flat whether or not you agree.”), that such a view stems from a narrative/ faith/ world-view and thus, is itself, privileging itself over assertions like those in number 4?  In other words, it has set a bar that other assertions must meet to be true.

6.    Here is a quote again from Eric Reitan’s book, “Is God a Delusion?”  If Eric has a point here, do you still think you would have your “distaste” for the assertions like those in number 4?

 “The main point I want to make in this chapter is that Dawkins and Stenger are just wrong about this. When it comes to God, absence of scientific evidence is simply not a reason for disbelief because belief in God is different in kind from belief in Santa, orbiting chinaware, or space lobsters.”

And I would invite all to chime in on their reflections regarding these questions and the possible implications.
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22 Responses to Questions and Food for Thought

  1. Hi Darrell

    Briefly:

    1 – no connotations as such.
    2 – absolutely neutral about people sharing my tastes, except where it impinges upon my ability to indulge my own (I don't mind what movies you prefer, unless the two of us are trying to decide which one we should both attend).
    3 – I don't know what was in people's heads. If we were to consider, proportionately speaking, do secular states do better at achieving the sorts of things I value, that's extremely hard to answer. I don't know. Would it matter to me if my world view led to outcomes for which I have distaste? Yes, of course. Do I think pragmatism is a fair guide to truth? No.
    4 – Yes, I think both theists and atheists can hold their views both reasonably and sincerely. I suspect you are one such.
    5 – I don't believe 4 to be false.
    6 – Eric's point underpins my distaste exactly. Because neither position can be shown to be less reasonable, to believe is to dismiss an equally reasonable point of view.

    Does that help any?

    Bernard

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  2. Darrell says:

    Hi Bernard,

    1.“- no connotations as such.”

    You argument now seems to be that you have no reasons for your agnosticism, true? So this means that you can’t use the word “distaste” right? In normal usage and context, it always means something negative, right? So can you think of a better word that captures what you mean?

    Also, if you don’t know whether or not this is a negative or positive “feeling” or whatever it is you are talking about, then how can you discuss it? How do you articulate it? How do you explain why you are agnostic if someone asks? Do you just remain silent? How would you then know it wasn’t narrative driven? Even to that question, you would simply have to remain silent, right?

    2 – “absolutely neutral about people sharing my tastes”

    But my question wasn’t about your “tastes” in general. It was about this (remember we need to find a new word) “distaste” you feel that leads to your agnosticism.

    3 – “I don't know what was in people's heads.”

    But I wasn’t asking you to read minds. The people and groups in history who were involved in positive cultural change wrote stuff, gave speeches, and made it fairly clear why they thought the status quo needed to change. Are you aware of any who cited their “distaste” as the foundation of their reasoning? If not, can you speak to the other question about resources?

    “Would it matter to me if my world view led to outcomes for which I have distaste? Yes, of course.”

    But why? You just said (#2) you were neutral about whether or not others shared your tastes and you can’t even tell us if this particular (what word are we going to use?) has negative or positive connotations. What would you tell people? “Please share my (what word?) I want this (whatever) outcome, but I don’t know why and I don’t know if I feel good or bad about what it is I want you to share—I just know I want this outcome.”

    4 – “Yes, I think both theists and atheists can hold their views both reasonably and sincerely. I suspect you are one such.”

    But you missed my point. I said if we were to “step into that person’s shoes…” If you did, you would realize that the other person’s (the theist of atheist) view could not be true if my belief is true. If so, our disagreement with the other person would not be a difference over taste but a difference over significant issues. Thus, the charge of what you feel (some word?) as noted in your response below to Eric’s quote melts away, right?

    5 – “I don't believe 4 to be false.”

    Well, like I said, or “distasteful.” Same question.

    6 – “Eric's point underpins my distaste exactly. Because neither position can be shown to be less reasonable, to believe is to dismiss an equally reasonable point of view.”

    Shown how, empirically? Here again is how your agnosticism is narrative driven. You are assuming that because neither belief (atheism or theism) can be established or proven empirically, that they both then must be on an equal plane as far as reasonableness. Why would we have to think that true?

    I already established with the post on philosophical category errors why it is entirely reasonable to believe in God over Santa Claus or why empirical standards do not apply to metaphysical questions. And Eric’s point has nothing to do with what you are suggesting here. In fact, he is saying the very opposite. He is saying it is unreasonable to make the assertions that Dawkins and others like him make.

    So, back to you.

    RonH, by the way, if the comments here tie into the discussion you already have going with Bernard, please feel free to join here as well, especially if you think this current exchange helps.

    JP, I would be interested to know what you think about Bernard’s assertion that this “distaste” he feels in the idea of choosing between two reasonable beliefs (atheism and theism) has no negative or positive connotations for him.

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  3. Hi Darrell

    Sorry, I misunderstood what you meant by connotation.DIstaste has this connotation – I don't like how it makes me feel. So there's the guage or benchmark, if you like. How does it make me feel?

    You're right, I am assuming atheisim and theism are on an equal plane wiht reagrd to reasonableness, by thich I mean I know fo no argument that would compel a person to accept one is more likely than the other. I may have misunderstood you here, because I thought we agreed on this. Do we not?

    Bernard

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  4. Darrell says:

    Bernard,

    You left a lot unanswered as to the other questions. Would you mind addressing those? Especially Eric's quote and my response.

    So you know it has a “negative” connotation, right? So if someone were to ask, “Why do you suppose it makes you “feel” that way?” Again, you run into the same problem, right? All you can say is, “I don’t know-it just does.” So how are to communicate regarding your agnosticism?

    “You're right, I am assuming atheisim and theism are on an equal plane wiht reagrd to reasonableness, by thich I mean I know fo no argument that would compel a person to accept one is more likely than the other. I may have misunderstood you here, because I thought we agreed on this. Do we not?”

    Well, I do as I explained below in a recent post.

    (From this post: http://byzantinedream.blogspot.com/2013/01/again-we-all-live-by-faith.html)

    “As an aside, something to keep in mind: The matter of all faiths (comprehensive world-views/philosophies) being ultimately unfounded by appeals to evidence and facts alone, is not the same issue as to then how do we know which one is correct (and such an issue and question assumes so much by the way!). That is another question and matter. The first assertion no doubt can lead to the next, but everyone wants to jump there before they sit for a moment and take in the fact that their own faith, their own world-view, sits on an equal plane with other narratives in the sense that it is an interpretation of the facts and evidence—it is not a one-to-one direct correlation between our gaze of the universe and TRUTH. Of course that is what we want, that one-to-one correlation so we can say, “Look at me—I’m right and everyone else is wrong—because I have all the facts and evidence on my side (or the “right” reading of the Bible—“it clearly says…”). It is the fundamentalist temptation, for both the secular and religious, whether it is a “reading” of nature or the Bible or other text.”

    “Finally, because all narratives sit on this equal plane, it should not necessarily lead one to conclude that one cannot then ever know which one is true or truer than another. Because to conclude such could only mean that one had a-priori set up a bar (had in mind) for truth that no narrative can reach. Any such bar could only be constructed or arrived at by some other faith, some other world-view or philosophy.”

    And you do seem to conclude such and thus fall under this same critique. But I’m just repeating myself again.

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  5. JP says:

    Hi All,

    I think there's something very much understated here in the discussion about morality, to wit the role of emotions and feelings in making moral decisions.

    When I think of one of our favourite moral questions – say hurting kids for fun – my reaction is clearly emotional. Call this as you will – moral feelings, moral sensibility, taste/distaste, whatever. But, what I definitely don't do is ask first whether this is right or wrong and, second, decide on a course of action.

    What I don't do either is try to reason it out from first principles (the basic assumptions Ron is talking about). It's not like that at all. Of course, reason is useful – in most non-trivial cases, we need to balance out different moral drives and try to find what action will satisfy most our moral “sense”, so to speak.

    To be clear, I would not argue something like this: “we should not do A because A is wrong” or “we should not do B because its wrongness can be deduced from some assumed basic truths”.

    Now, if it were possible to define objective moral facts (something I still don't get, but let's say it's possible) and if we could find out what they are, why should we care? Unless we have a strong desire to obey these prescriptions, that is – but then we wouldn't be moral, only obedient. Again, lacking this desire, why should we care what these truths are? For the sake of argument, suppose we find out that torturing children is actually Good. Would anybody here start doing it?

    Remember that the position of those who claim the existence of moral truths is that it wouldn't matter what we actually think or feel about them. It wouldn't matter if these truths contradicted our deepest feelings. Then, moraltruthers must accept the possibility that these truths would turn out differently from what they actually believe. What then?

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  6. Hi Darrell

    I read the excerpt you provided and am still not entirely clear. Are you saying you think theism is a more reasonable conclusion than atheism, for example. I know you believe it to be more true, but I am interested in whether you think it is demonstrably more true, such that a perosn like myself who doesn't buy the argument is being unreasonable?

    With regard to the point you make of stepping into the other's shoes, if I understand you right then I accept that entirely. Others, believers of all stripes, do indeed see religion not as a matter of taste, but rather one of truth. Of course. And I don't think they're wrong to do so. After all, it may be there is a God, and what's more, that he's letting you know, in which case you'd be nuts to disregard that, wouldn't you?

    With regard to tastes, I in part know why I have the tastes I do, and in part it's a mystery. Consider an expert wine taster, who can pick the flavours apart to exquisite degree, so justifying their taste. But still, at the end of the day, the fact they feel like a reisling and not a pinot noir still has a whiff of 'because that's just what I feel like right now' about it.

    Despite this personal element, one can learn a great deal about wine by listenign to such experts, because while we migh tnot ultimately share their tastes, our own tastes will be moved by this expert dissection. Literary analysis works like this too.

    Bernard

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  7. RonH says:

    Hi Bernard…

    The thing about taste is that it is precisely the sort of thing I would never presume to force on another person. If I know you can't stand Riesling, it would be downright rude of me to serve it to you just because I really enjoy it. Ye Olde Farm Road Cannibal has a taste for college kids who've wandered away from their broken down truck. You don't share his taste, but that doesn't stop you from imposing your taste on him. How do you justify that action?

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  8. RonH says:

    Hi, JP…

    Emotions are key in making moral decisions, true, but I don't think they're the whole story. Ideas derived from principles become incorporated into a society's culture to provoke the emotions behind moral decisions. The principles do indeed become internalized, but they are hardly innate (as anyone with children knows). Not so long ago, people thought nothing of treating dark-skinned individuals as subhuman or even mere property. Now, most civilized folk instinctively recoil at the thought — but that is a fairly recent development in human history (and note well that people instrumental in bringing about this shift — men like Wilberforce or King — did so primarily through appeals to common Christian beliefs).

    I'm not sure I follow your thinking in the latter paragraphs of your comment. Moral truths aren't “things” that hover around out there in the world waiting to be discovered, like Planck's constant or the speed of light. They are answers to the question “How ought we to act?” But this goes to teleology, since you can't answer that question without some notion of purpose. A person behaving immorally is essentially using themselves contrary to their purpose, like a primitive jungle-dweller beating coconuts with a rifle to split them open, rather than using it to hunt food. “Um, you're only doing that because you don't understand what that thing is for.” Behaving morally isn't about obeying a set of rules. It's about realizing what your true nature and purpose is, and acting in accordance with that. The understanding of that nature and purpose of course is part of the narrative…

    It is without teleology that morality is reduced merely to a set of rules. Or tastes.

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  9. Hi Ron

    We've done this before, so perhaps my answers remain unclear on this point. If somebody has a taste for punching you in the nose, and you have a taste for not being punched, then I respectfully submit that you would impose your tastes in this case.

    being punched makes me uncomfortable, so does seeing pain that I can stop. In both cases I intervene, for exactly the same reasons.

    Bernard

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  10. Ron

    On your answer to JP, teleology may not help here. What if it turns out our purpose really is to torture children? Would you do it then? This is the puzzle objective morality appears to raise. Was it Socrates who asked, 'is a thing good because God approves of it, or does God approve because it is good?'

    Bernard

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  11. RonH says:

    Hi, Bernard…

    No, I would not impose my taste because for me this isn't a matter of taste in any sense I use the word. Tastes are subjective, I cannot expect someone else to share my tastes, there are no significant consequences if they don't, and I can see no justification for imposing my tastes on someone who doesn't share them. (Tastes also have nothing to do with teleology.)

    Your phrasing this issue in terms of taste is quite confusing to me. On the one hand, you would not force a wine or movie on me that you knew I wouldn't enjoy. On the other hand, you would possibly resort to force to stop the Farm Road Cannibal (can this become the morality problem's equivalent of the consciousness problem's zombie?). And yet you appear to use the same word in both instances. How do you determine when you impose your taste and when you don't? Do you not think it is… distasteful… to want to impose your tastes on others while not wanting them to impose their tastes on you?

    As for teleology… Purpose, like morality, isn't a thing out there that we have to discover like the speed of light. Your question, as I use the terms, makes no sense to me. To say “would you do this thing you find revolting if you found out that it was your purpose to do it” is self-contradictory, because if it were my purpose to do the revolting thing then I wouldn't find it revolting. Using the rifle to smash coconuts is “wrong” in the sense that a rifle's purpose is not to smash coconuts but to hunt food. If you teach this to the jungle man, he will most likely not only begin using the rifle to hunt, but will probably stop smashing coconuts with it lest he render it unsuitable for its true purpose.

    Ultimately, this runs us into Christian theology, and you will find my answers unsatisfying outside the context of my narrative/assumptions. In Christianity, purpose and morality aren't abstract concepts… they are Personal, and we are a reflection of that Person. Suffice it to say that the notion of morality being a list of rules God stuck to the fridge “Just Because I Said So” is quite crude and not held by any serious Christian theologians I know of.

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  12. Hi Ron

    'If it were my purpose to do the revolting thing, then I wouldn't find it revolting.' So, those who don't find it revolting, your madman in the woods, what is his purpose, I wonder. If how we feel is a good guide to what our greater purpose is, then how is this substantively different from simply allowing our feelings (tastes) to dictate our actions?

    Sometimes, with regard to tastes, there are significant consequences of not imposing one's tastes, and that is where the distinction lies.

    I don't like to smoke, it's not to my taste. I'd rather others didn't smoke either, but wouldn't impose that taste on them, until they were smoking next to me in a small room. So the consequence is the thing here. I'd stop a small child from trying to smoke, the consequence for me being how I would feel were I to consider myself in part responsible for their future health problems.

    Preference or desire might be a better word than taste. The aspect I wish to highlight, in contrasting it with belief, is that it makes no claim about how the world is, only a claim about how being in the world makes me feel.

    One can, in principle, extend this to one's models of the physical world. I like scientific models because of a personal preference for the ability to anticipate and indeed manipulate the world. I wonder if there would be any way of convincing a person who did not have this preference that scientific models were in any sense true.

    Maybe the argument by miracle? If the world does not exhibit the features described by a model, then the ability of that model to generate novel and accurate predictions is somewhat miraculous. An interesting thought (to me, at least).

    Bernard

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  13. JP says:

    Hi Ron,

    I was commenting on the claim I have seen often made, here and elsewhere, that, under objective morality (OM), it wouldn't matter one bit what people think or feel. Some action would still be Good even if everybody felt strongly otherwise. Given that claim, the questions I raised follow quite naturally.

    Now, you are saying something quite different. If I get your idea of purpose right, you're claiming a combination of two things: (1) we have a purpose and (2) we're somehow “geared” to accomplish it (or something like that).

    (1) alone would raise the same questions I raised about OM. Why, for instance, should we try to accomplish our purpose?

    With (2), this becomes more interesting but there's still something not quite clear about it. You seem to imply that acting according to our purpose is something like following a path of least resistance. For example, you say that finding something revolting is correlated with this thing going against our purpose. In this case, aren't you simply saying that we're better off acting according to our nature? (Without any mention or need of purpose at all.)

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  14. JP says:

    Hi Ron,

    One more thing…

    To be clear: if there existed some human-like species on another planet, somewhere, but whose purpose was different, it could be Good for them to torture children, right?

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  15. RonH says:

    Hi, Bernard…

    I think “desire” is a word that seems to fit better with what you're talking about. It has a broader spectrum of intensity than “taste”. Saying you have a taste for imposing some of your tastes on others sounds quite bizarre to me. I will admit that always acting in accordance with your desires (whatever they may be) is certainly consistent. However, I suspect this can lead to problems as it scales up to larger groups of people. Desires themselves can be implanted by societal narrative, and may persist for a while after the narrative has changed. The desires implanted by Christianity in particular have served civilization well. If Christianity continues to fade in the “secular West”, one wonders how long the positive desires it inspired will continue and what desires might replace them.

    A minimalist assumption set such as yours is appealing to me in many ways. But one reason we make assumptions is because they allow us to “do more work” — and sometimes that's precisely what we need. This isn't really an argument against your agnosticism, of course; but it does speak to why I find a richer assumption set to be more to my… er… taste. 😉

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  16. RonH says:

    And as regards purpose and morality, JP and Bernard…

    By purpose I'm talking about the purpose of humanity in general, which according to Christianity (my understanding of it, at least) is to reflect the image of God into the physical world. This has a great many aspects… art and creating, parenting, loving. We don't all do this very well all the time (especially individuals like the Farm Road Cannibal). This individual failure to reflect God's image is accounted for in the Christian story, and commonly called “sin” (Chesterton referred to it as “the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved”). But the whole point of the Christian story is to account for why we are the way we are, and point to a way we can become more than we are. It is Good News. We are children of our Father and we carry His DNA, if you will, though we have a lot of growing yet to do.

    Our nature isn't entirely evil, but it isn't entirely good either and so is not always reliable. The project of how to know which is which (and what to do about it) is what Christianity is, and it calibrates against the Creator that started the whole thing. Any system of assumptions which does not include objective good and evil is useless here. It cannot suggest how we can be better, since “better” cannot be defined in any meaningful way: there is only desire.

    This is a huge discussion all on its own, under development for thousands of years. If you're genuinely curious about this (and not just trying to play “stump the Christian”), you're better off reading some people who can explain it better than I can. For an engaging and quite readable take on the “big picture” of Christianity as I see it, try Simply Christian by N. T. Wright.

    Oh, yeah… If Christianity is true, I do not see how it would be possible for an alien species to have as part of its purpose the torture of children. If you can produce such a species, I will have serious theological problems. (As an aside, the novel The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell is one of the more interesting and serious attempts to think about what the implications for Christianity might be upon first contact with an alien species. Really well done, and quite disconcerting. I suspect you fellows would enjoy it.)

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  17. Hi Ron

    I understand that your notion of what is good or evil flows naturally from your religious belief. The hypothetical case poses: what if you were to discover that your religious belief was wrong, that there was a God, but it was a God who had indeed created you for the purpose of torturing each other. So, the madman in the woods is the good man, and you are the one who is sinning. Would this revelation sway you? Which is simply to ask, is your notion of goodness grounded in the approval of a God (in the objective realm of purpose) or is it grounded in your personal moral compass? The notion of sin you explain tells us the two need not be in sync, were you to find you were the one out of step, which way would you leap?

    Bernard

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  18. RonH says:

    Hi, Bernard…Well, your hypothetical still requires a bit of unpacking. How would I come to discover that Cannibal God was real? If irrefutable, empirical evidence for Cannibal God were revealed, this would defeat my Christianity, certainly. But I would not then suddenly develop a… er… taste for cannibalism. I suspect I'd take my chances in Cannibal God's hell (where we only can eat chicken, beef, and pork?). Of course, all of us here would be in the exact same predicament.

    I can't really think of any way I could be persuaded that Cannibal God were in fact real, otherwise. His existence seems highly unlikely, given how so few people are really into cannibalism. If he exists and wants cannibalism for all of us, he's rather inept. Perhaps I could escape his notice.

    I don't understand this line of questioning. For me, purpose and moral compass are two sides of the same thing. We have some of the desires we do because of our design (the image of God). We have other desires as well because part of our design involves self-determinism, and we can therefore choose to act against our design. If you're asking me if it's possible that I choose Christianity because it aligns with my moral compass… well, of course. I don't know why I'd choose to believe something seriously at odds with my moral compass. I'm not sure what this proves. I turn to Chesterton once again: “If it be true (as it certainly is) that a man can feel exquisite happiness in skinning a cat, then the religious philosopher can only draw one of two deductions. He must either deny the existence of God, as all atheists do; or he must deny the present union between God and man, as all Christians do.” I take the latter approach. Perhaps you are right, and I do so only because it aligns with my desires. I don't think so, but if I'm wrong… so what?

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  19. Hi Ron

    Chesterton misses the third possibility, perhaps deliberately. That there is union between God and man at this point, because God too enjoys the skinning.

    If it is possibly the case you act only because it aligns with your desires, then you and I act for exactly the same reasons, and the existence or otherwise of objective truths becomes somewhat irrelevant. That's the point the hypothetical tries to make, I guess. That when we dig down, it's not at all clear what work the belief in objective truth is doing. If you would oppose the objective truth of a cannibal God, (and so would I) then objective truth isn't really the guide to your behaviour. Often people offer the existence of objective moral truths as an advantage of religious belief, and this case seeks to question whether the advantage is real.

    Bernard

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  20. RonH says:

    Hi, Bernard…

    It wouldn't be much of a union, since most people don't enjoy the skinning. Once again, it's a moot point because we all fall to that possibility (except the Farm Road Cannibal himself, who falls to the dude with a chainsaw — and where's his god then?) 😉

    (Actually, in the full Chesterton quote the third possibility he cited was to deny the cat.)

    One work the belief in objective truth is doing is forming the moral compass of the one who believes in it. Desires don't spring from within us fully-formed. Some do, but many (most?) of them are cultivated in us by our communities… humanity at-large, if you will. Much of human history has been quite savage and bloody. Things we take for granted as being repulsive today weren't always so. Why is that? At some point, folks stood up and said “This is wrong”. That appeal is always to something absolute. When they say “This is wrong”, the rest of their society will ask them “Why?” and they must give an account if they want to sway others. Appealing to religious belief is extremely effective in this regard. Eventually, they no longer have to say “This is wrong”, and when they do nobody questions it. A great many of these questions simply cannot be settled by appeals to science. Indeed, any number of nasty notions in the 20th century were advocated in the name of science and had to be opposed by people saying “This is wrong”.

    Religious belief is an extremely effective substrate for civilization. Christianity has been a more effective substrate than most — possibly the most effective (since it gave birth to modern science and modern democracy). Even if it is entirely false, I think one is hardly justified in saying it doesn't do any “work”.

    And, just possibly, it works so well because it is true.

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  21. RonH says:

    Oh, and just to clarify: one point Darrell makes over and over is that many of these desires you feel which we all share, we do so precisely because we have a common Christian cultural heritage. That a modern western Christian and a modern western agnostic both find cannibalism revolting is not nearly so hard to explain as why anyone at all does.

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  22. Hi Ron

    The claim of Christian superiority may or may not hold, it seems to me to be very hard to establish without viewing the world first through an ethnocentric lens. Consider aboriginal cultures in Australia, who developed a subtle and sophisticated system of checks and balances that allowed their cultures to survive for tens of thousands of years. A more civilised culture than the Christian alternative? How on earth would one answer that? Certianly much longer lasting. Even putting Islamic and Christian histories head to head makes for an almost impossible call (although racists of all stripes would doubtless disagree with me).

    You've argued, I think very sensibly, to show some caution when attributing historical causation, and I'd suggest it's still an excellent rule. If you relaly are interested in the effect of CHristian belief on culture, however, I would suggest the diversity between US states provides as good a modern laboratory as you'll find.

    And absolutely, many of my desires do indeed flow from Christian (and Greek, and Maori, and Buddhist, and modern Western secular….) traditions. No matter what one's beliefs, it would be foolish not to learn from all that has gone before.

    As per my comment in the other thread, I am very wary of this argument that if believing something is true turns out to be useful, then that is grounds for believing it's actually true (as opposed to believing it's a useful belief). I think there are compelling counter examples, we often spin stories to our children to enhance their life experiences (Santa) without counting that enhancement as evidence of the truth of the story. And, when different people find contradictory beliefs enhance their lives, we are left, by this standard, endorsing contradictory truths.

    Bernard

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