Fourteen rants about religious argumentation - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 288 Old 06-18-2008, 03:39 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm getting increasingly frustrated with a very basic lack of logical knowledge present in religious discussion (not particularly on MDC, just everywhere). Can I rant a little, for the benefit of... well, if nothing else, my nerves? I hasten to point out that this post is not directed at any particular MDCer, and that the 'you' is general.

1. Objectivity is not a sliding scale, and being secular does not in any way make you less biased than being religious. It goes like this: (completely) objective or (completely) subjective. Not 'a leetle bit objective', or 'more objective than you'. Just because majority opinion, a popular trend or the law of the land happens to be on your side doesn't make your opinion objective or anyone else's subjective. 'Everyone knows' or 'it's just common sense' is not a valid logical argument.

2. If you agree with the premises and there is no flaw in the reasoning, you have to agree with the conclusion. You cannot say 'I agree that all men are mortal, and that Socrates was a man, but I just can't bring myself to agree that he was mortal'.

3. 'Illogical' is not an insult to be hurled about lightly; it means something specific. If an argument is illogical, it must be possible for the person accusing it of being illogical to demonstrate the flaw in the reasoning. Disagreeing with the premises is different; a logically valid argument with incorrect premises is unsound, but is still logically valid.

4. Just because you're not aware of your worldview doesn't mean you don't have one. Not knowing why you believe what you believe does not make you more open-minded than someone who does.

5. More intellectual sins have recently been committed in the name of 'open-mindedness' than perhaps any other phenomenon. Mutually contradictory statements, cannot, by definition, be true. A worldview which denies the existence of logic is self-refuting. 'True for you and true for me' applies to a like or dislike of licorice, Pre-Raphaelite art or jazz, not to facts and logical argumentation.

6. Telling someone you 'respect' her religion invites the question 'Then why don't you follow it?'. Generally, this will be because you don't believe it's true. Why then would you respect something you believe is false? Do you respect the statement 'Bananas have polka dots'? I would rather have you tell me honestly you think my religion is bogus, than make yourself feel better by assuring me you respect it when you don't. If by 'respect' you simply mean 'I'm not planning to hurl rocks at your head', well.... kudos?

7. Please don't tell me your religion is compatible with mine as a precursor to giving me literature. Mine is not compatible with yours, and if you knew anything about my religion you would know this. (See 4, 'Mutually contradictory statements...'). Knowing nothing about my religion is not evidence of your tolerance or open-mindedness, so the point becomes rather moot. If you think my religion is wrong/incomplete/not as good as yours, say so and we can go from there!

8. If you do believe 'true for you and true for me', state this at the outset of a debate so I can save my own time. Don't lose every argument you start and then, at the end of 15 pages, play the 'Well, it's all in how you think of it' card.

9. It is meaningless in logical debate to refer to a belief as wacky, backwards, medieval, harsh or outdated. If something is right, what does it matter if it's any of those things? The issue is about right or wrong. If I'm wrong, show me how with logic; if I'm right, admit it rather than trying to cloud the air with terms like 'puritan'.

10. Similarly (see 9 and 2), just because a belief is not cozy and pleasant is no reason to reject it. The fact that children die of cancer is harsh, but simply refusing to believe that children die of cancer is not an intellectually acceptable solution. 'I don't want to believe in a god like that' is a statement of feelings, not a reflection on the validity or soundness of an argument.

11. Religious belief differs from no other type of belief--scientific, medical, linguistic. All beliefs are dependent on presuppositions, and subject to universal logical laws. Just because a belief is regarding the metaphysical realm does not excuse it from the rigors of ordinary argumentation. As such, it is no more 'bigoted' or 'insensitive' to point out logical inconsistencies in a religion than it is to point them out in any other belief system. If you call someone a bigot for saying A is wrong about religion, make sure you never make insensitive statements such as 'No, Queen Elizabeth wasn't born in France' or 'I think you're wrong about fish being warm-blooded'. (If you think this is 'harsh', see Point 9).

12. Saying 'moral judgments are evil' is ironical. Not just in a token 'heh' way, but in a 'your argument makes no sense any more' way. You may, and probably do, think that my original moral judgment is a very 'big' judgment whereas yours was just a little, technical judgment, but that simply compounds the problem. Think about it.

13. Just because a form of my religion is prevalent in your culture does not mean you know anything about it. Please don't tell me all about my religion (whose fundamental text you have not read) on the basis of your nasty next-door neighbor who you think was Methodist, and the fact that you give Christmas cards with Santa on them. Pretend I'm something 'trendy' like Wiccan or Zen Buddhist and admit that you know nothing about my religion, or that all you know about it is based on stereotypes and media factoids.

14. Occam's Razor is not a logical law, it is a principle which is sometimes useful and sometimes not. Treat it as such. Ditto for Godwin's Law...

That is all...

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#2 of 288 Old 06-18-2008, 07:31 AM
 
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That is one of the best rants I have heard. All very good points.
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#3 of 288 Old 06-18-2008, 12:15 PM
 
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You have a very logical and philosophical mind. Religious argument typically does not follow the rules of logic. My DH teaches an ethics course and he constantly has to remind students to follow the rules of logic. He has a list of things that they must avoid in all discussions because it is a philosophy course not a theology course. Much of what he says is very much in line with your rant. We have had the discussion that discussions on theology and religion do not follow logic. If they did, then people just might talk themselves out of there own religion.
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#4 of 288 Old 06-18-2008, 12:19 PM
 
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You know I usually don't agree with you, but you're spot on with this one.
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#5 of 288 Old 06-18-2008, 02:34 PM
 
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I disagree with 6. I respect many religions for a variety of reasons. Sometimes those reasons have to do with believing that their beliefs are true or valid. Other times it has to do with other things... how they live, the kind of people the members of that faith I am aware of are, how the leadership addresses issues within the church and on a broader scale. I can respect a religion without agreeing with it's articles of faith.
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#6 of 288 Old 06-18-2008, 03:07 PM
 
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Smokering,

I give you mad points for having enough guts to lay it all out. I share many of the feelings too.

I have been avoiding this part of the forum as of late for many of above reasons.
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#7 of 288 Old 06-18-2008, 03:18 PM
 
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I disagree with 6. I respect many religions for a variety of reasons. Sometimes those reasons have to do with believing that their beliefs are true or valid. Other times it has to do with other things... how they live, the kind of people the members of that faith I am aware of are, how the leadership addresses issues within the church and on a broader scale. I can respect a religion without agreeing with it's articles of faith.
Yep, 6 doesn't work for me either. Respecting it or, more clearly said- your right to practice it, doesn't mean I have to take it as my own.

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#8 of 288 Old 06-18-2008, 05:15 PM
 
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I too disagree with #6. You can have respect for someone and their beliefs and their right to believe it without believing it. You really can't compare it to anything else though because spiritual belief is such a class of its own.

I agree with the rest. I LOVE #1 That gets to me the most like "how dare you say something is wrong!" that argument just makes no sense. In order to believe one thing you in essence are saying another is wrong. It's time to own being human, people!

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#9 of 288 Old 06-18-2008, 05:43 PM
 
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Originally Posted by magstphil View Post
I too disagree with #6. You can have respect for someone and their beliefs and their right to believe it without believing it. You really can't compare it to anything else though because spiritual belief is such a class of its own.
I don't exactly disagree with #6, but I think Smokering may be misunderstanding the intent of some people who make the "respect" comment. They may just mean that they respect the right of any person to his own religion, and will avoid doing anything to unfairly belittle it. It does not have to imply any respect for the religious beliefs themselves; it can come down to showing proper respect for one's enemy, just for the sake of being civilized.
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#10 of 288 Old 06-18-2008, 06:26 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Wow, I came online this morning expecting to be banned.

#6 is a little snarky, perhaps. I do think, however, that 'respect' is a word that gets bandied around rather wildly as a convenient PC-ism... vaguely along the same lines as 'Not that there's anything wrong with being gay' or 'Some of my best friends are black'. The word can mean (colloquially) any number of different things, from 'I believe in freedom of religion' to 'I think your faith is like, way cool, but it sounds like too much hard work so I'll just stand by and watch', to 'Your religion seems kinda ethnic and picturesque, so if I say I don't like it I'll come across as backwards and racist'... and no doubt, some nobler sentiments too, but I'm a cynic.

Because of this I think the word is largely meaningless, and I'd prefer it if people said exactly what they meant. There's nothing wrong with being polite and saying 'Jewish, eh? I love the traditions surrounding Shabbat, it seems so peaceful' or 'Oh, you're Reformed? I don't agree with your theology, but I did read Luther's Table Talk and thought it was hilarious'. Or, if this is what you mean, 'Well, I respect your right to worship as you choose'. Or heck, even 'You know, I have to say I can't see how that doctrine of yours fits in with the concept of predestination. Can you justify that Biblically?' Personally I'd even rather 'Your religion is evil and stupid' than a fake 'respect', but I'm nasty and combative; I guess keeping one's mouth shut would be a politer option in such a circumstance!

I certainly agree one can respect elements of another religion--I have great admiration for say, the bravery of those whose religion requires them to dress 'funny' or distinctively in an image-conscious world. But respecting their religion as a whole? Totally different kettle of fish which would call my own faith into question.

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#11 of 288 Old 06-18-2008, 07:42 PM
 
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I give you mad points for having enough guts to lay it all out. I share many of the feelings too.
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#12 of 288 Old 06-18-2008, 07:42 PM
 
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well, I suppose it would be nice if people knew enough about faiths outside of their own to be able to say those things, but I find that most people are pretty well insulated against beliefs that differ from their own. I'd much rather "I respect your religion" than most of the things I hear.

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#13 of 288 Old 06-18-2008, 07:53 PM
 
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well, I suppose it would be nice if people knew enough about faiths outside of their own to be able to say those things, but I find that most people are pretty well insulated against beliefs that differ from their own. I'd much rather "I respect your religion" than most of the things I hear.
Good point, I agree! My only real issue with "I respect your religion" is when it's used in a snarky self-righteous way, like "I respect your religion because I'm so amazing and tolerant but I really think you're an idiot and your beliefs are stupid."
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#14 of 288 Old 06-18-2008, 07:58 PM
 
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well, I suppose it would be nice if people knew enough about faiths outside of their own to be able to say those things, but I find that most people are pretty well insulated against beliefs that differ from their own. I'd much rather "I respect your religion" than most of the things I hear.
"I respect your religion" is probably nicer than some things but how can you respect a religion that you know nothing about. A lot of people's "respect" comes from information that was gained from assumtions or misinformation anyway. I have run into people that don't know enough about their own religion to show it proper respect so how in the world can the even begin to respect other religions.

Something nice and more accurate would be, "I respect your right to worship or believe whatever you want." I have a hard time respecting religions that are illogical. Maybe I am just too vulcan.
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#15 of 288 Old 06-18-2008, 08:06 PM
 
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Good point, I agree! My only real issue with "I respect your religion" is when it's used in a snarky self-righteous way, like "I respect your religion because I'm so amazing and tolerant but I really think you're an idiot and your beliefs are stupid."
: Oh how true.

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#16 of 288 Old 06-18-2008, 08:07 PM
 
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Wow, I came online this morning expecting to be banned.
You had better not! So many here make sport out of taring down and spitting on other people's faith. What you said is tame in comparison.

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#17 of 288 Old 06-18-2008, 08:27 PM
 
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I'm getting increasingly frustrated with a very basic lack of logical knowledge present in religious discussion (not particularly on MDC, just everywhere). Can I rant a little, for the benefit of... well, if nothing else, my nerves? I hasten to point out that this post is not directed at any particular MDCer, and that the 'you' is general.

1. Objectivity is not a sliding scale, and being secular does not in any way make you less biased than being religious. It goes like this: (completely) objective or (completely) subjective. Not 'a leetle bit objective', or 'more objective than you'. Just because majority opinion, a popular trend or the law of the land happens to be on your side doesn't make your opinion objective or anyone else's subjective. 'Everyone knows' or 'it's just common sense' is not a valid logical argument.

2. If you agree with the premises and there is no flaw in the reasoning, you have to agree with the conclusion. You cannot say 'I agree that all men are mortal, and that Socrates was a man, but I just can't bring myself to agree that he was mortal'.

3. 'Illogical' is not an insult to be hurled about lightly; it means something specific. If an argument is illogical, it must be possible for the person accusing it of being illogical to demonstrate the flaw in the reasoning. Disagreeing with the premises is different; a logically valid argument with incorrect premises is unsound, but is still logically valid.

4. Just because you're not aware of your worldview doesn't mean you don't have one. Not knowing why you believe what you believe does not make you more open-minded than someone who does.

5. More intellectual sins have recently been committed in the name of 'open-mindedness' than perhaps any other phenomenon. Mutually contradictory statements, cannot, by definition, be true. A worldview which denies the existence of logic is self-refuting. 'True for you and true for me' applies to a like or dislike of licorice, Pre-Raphaelite art or jazz, not to facts and logical argumentation.

6. Telling someone you 'respect' her religion invites the question 'Then why don't you follow it?'. Generally, this will be because you don't believe it's true. Why then would you respect something you believe is false? Do you respect the statement 'Bananas have polka dots'? I would rather have you tell me honestly you think my religion is bogus, than make yourself feel better by assuring me you respect it when you don't. If by 'respect' you simply mean 'I'm not planning to hurl rocks at your head', well.... kudos?

7. Please don't tell me your religion is compatible with mine as a precursor to giving me literature. Mine is not compatible with yours, and if you knew anything about my religion you would know this. (See 4, 'Mutually contradictory statements...'). Knowing nothing about my religion is not evidence of your tolerance or open-mindedness, so the point becomes rather moot. If you think my religion is wrong/incomplete/not as good as yours, say so and we can go from there!

8. If you do believe 'true for you and true for me', state this at the outset of a debate so I can save my own time. Don't lose every argument you start and then, at the end of 15 pages, play the 'Well, it's all in how you think of it' card.

9. It is meaningless in logical debate to refer to a belief as wacky, backwards, medieval, harsh or outdated. If something is right, what does it matter if it's any of those things? The issue is about right or wrong. If I'm wrong, show me how with logic; if I'm right, admit it rather than trying to cloud the air with terms like 'puritan'.

10. Similarly (see 9 and 2), just because a belief is not cozy and pleasant is no reason to reject it. The fact that children die of cancer is harsh, but simply refusing to believe that children die of cancer is not an intellectually acceptable solution. 'I don't want to believe in a god like that' is a statement of feelings, not a reflection on the validity or soundness of an argument.

11. Religious belief differs from no other type of belief--scientific, medical, linguistic. All beliefs are dependent on presuppositions, and subject to universal logical laws. Just because a belief is regarding the metaphysical realm does not excuse it from the rigors of ordinary argumentation. As such, it is no more 'bigoted' or 'insensitive' to point out logical inconsistencies in a religion than it is to point them out in any other belief system. If you call someone a bigot for saying A is wrong about religion, make sure you never make insensitive statements such as 'No, Queen Elizabeth wasn't born in France' or 'I think you're wrong about fish being warm-blooded'. (If you think this is 'harsh', see Point 9).

12. Saying 'moral judgments are evil' is ironical. Not just in a token 'heh' way, but in a 'your argument makes no sense any more' way. You may, and probably do, think that my original moral judgment is a very 'big' judgment whereas yours was just a little, technical judgment, but that simply compounds the problem. Think about it.

13. Just because a form of my religion is prevalent in your culture does not mean you know anything about it. Please don't tell me all about my religion (whose fundamental text you have not read) on the basis of your nasty next-door neighbor who you think was Methodist, and the fact that you give Christmas cards with Santa on them. Pretend I'm something 'trendy' like Wiccan or Zen Buddhist and admit that you know nothing about my religion, or that all you know about it is based on stereotypes and media factoids.

14. Occam's Razor is not a logical law, it is a principle which is sometimes useful and sometimes not. Treat it as such. Ditto for Godwin's Law...

That is all...
Wow. Just. Wow.

Oh to be so articulate!

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#18 of 288 Old 06-19-2008, 04:47 PM
 
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I would rather hear "I respectfully disagree ..." than "I respect," myself. It has the same "trying not to be a boar about our differences" thing with the bonus of an implication, at least, of a certain level of rudimentary knowledge regarding what's being spoken of.
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#19 of 288 Old 06-19-2008, 08:53 PM
 
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Actually, # 1 is the one that troubles me the most.

And I am not sure I see what is meant by #5 and #6.
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#20 of 288 Old 06-19-2008, 09:56 PM
 
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this would be fine if religion and spirituality was based on proven facts and events... but doesn't the unknown nature of religion and the requirement of faith necessitate the recognition that there is no single answer and therefore debate can happen with all of the things you mentioned?

from your posts i see you as a spiritual/religious person, but these complaints seem to totally fly in the face of that. or perhaps they are arguments for why there has to be one true faith and that all religious debate should be done with the purpose for finding it/convincing people that yours is it.

many people just don't see it that way. i personally find debate a great place to explore my own beliefs, see how deeply I hold them and find out about others' beliefs. maybe i am misunderstanding, but it seems that from your perspective i shouldn't be willling to learn unless i will admit that their religion is right. (?)

i suppose i just don't partake in discussion enough to understand this...

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#21 of 288 Old 06-19-2008, 10:05 PM
 
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doesn't the unknown nature of religion and the requirement of faith necessitate the recognition that there is no single answer...?
No. The unknown nature of any question means that the answer to that question is unknown, not that all answers are equally correct.
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#22 of 288 Old 06-19-2008, 11:28 PM
 
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No. The unknown nature of any question means that the answer to that question is unknown, not that all answers are equally correct.

or that any of the answers are correct...
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#23 of 288 Old 06-19-2008, 11:37 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Well, there are two ways to 'explore' religion--the phenomonological approach, which says 'Eastern Orthodoxy practices this' or 'This is what Reformed Baptists teach about theodicy', and the apologetic approach, which involves debating or defending religions or aspects of religions in order to determine which is correct/internally consistent/logical.

The former (phenomonological) is simply a matter of research and being interested in what other people believe. The latter asks the next obvious question--is what they believe true? Approaching the question with the philosophy 'Religious truth is inherently unknowable' eliminates any serious engagement with arguments (particularly presuppositional ones); but more to the point, it begs the question and is self-refuting. 'Religious truth is inherently unknowable' is itself an expression of religious opinion.

Similarly, assuming it is inherently, fundamentally 'religious' to divorce belief from logic, or that logical beliefs are epistemically equal to illogical ones, or that all religious thought is irrelevant to real life, or that religious knowledge differs in kind from any other kind of knowledge (mathematical, scientific, etc)... well, that simply isn't true, and tends to presuppose a materialistic or physicalistic worldview. Which is fine, as long as you are a) conscious of it and b) able to defend it in debate.

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or that any of the answers are correct...
Indeed, but there's a difference between 'None of the currently-formulated answers are correct' and 'It is impossible for there to ever be an answer, because the subject is inherently unknowable'. Any valid, sensical question has an answer.

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#24 of 288 Old 06-19-2008, 11:50 PM
 
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Personally I'd even rather 'Your religion is evil and stupid' than a fake 'respect', but I'm nasty and combative; I guess keeping one's mouth shut would be a politer option in such a circumstance!
Many times I respect other people's Faith and the way they make their religious observances a part of their lives. For example, I respect Muslims for observing their dietary laws and religious dress in public settings, as I also have my own dietary laws and religous standards of dress in public, even though the specific details of my observances are different.

Yes, I disagree with parts of Muslim and Christian theology, and agree with other parts. But I have full respect for both religions and the people who practice them.

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#25 of 288 Old 06-19-2008, 11:57 PM
 
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Somebody likes to read about Propositional Logic and Elementary Symbolic Logic.

:

I took those courses too - but it's hard t oexplain to people sometimes, what a truly 'valid' argument means.

I feel your frustration.

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#26 of 288 Old 06-20-2008, 12:03 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Smokering View Post
Indeed, but there's a difference between 'None of the currently-formulated answers are correct' and 'It is impossible for there to ever be an answer, because the subject is inherently unknowable'. Any valid, sensical question has an answer.

Here is where I get stuck....we are talking about the supernatural, right? Why, then, must the answer be knowable by human minds? While I am sure there is truth, why must the supernatural truth be knowable to natural minds?

But I am UU, and we are notoriously more interested in the questions than the answers
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#27 of 288 Old 06-20-2008, 12:05 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Yes, I disagree with parts of Muslim and Christian theology, and agree with other parts. But I have full respect for both religions and the people who practice them.
What exactly do you mean by 'full respect', though? It's such an amorphous term. You say you agree and disagree with various parts of the religion, which makes sense; so saying you respect some parts of their religion is accurate. But you're extending that respect to the rest of the religion--ie, the parts you disagree with. Does that mean you respect ideas you think are blasphemous are wrong? I can't wrap my head around that. Can you define exactly what you mean by 'respect' for me? Upholding the treligions' civil right to exist? Accepting the fact that others believe it although don't? Or...?

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#28 of 288 Old 06-20-2008, 12:15 AM
 
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I respect the individuals who practice and beleive in other religions. I respect their rights to hold religious ceremonies and have their institutions.

I respect that the "blasphemous and wrong" beleifs are valid to some individuals, and those people aren't "stupid and wrong" for beleiving in them. I respect that the religion itself is valid.

I guess for me the focus is that I treat the individuals with respect even when I disagree with some of the Theology.

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#29 of 288 Old 06-20-2008, 12:27 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Here is where I get stuck....we are talking about the supernatural, right? Why, then, must the answer be knowable by human minds? While I am sure there is truth, why must the supernatural truth be knowable to natural minds?
Well, are you saying the supernatural is unknowable to human minds? Because that in itself is a statement about the supernatural--we know it's unknowable (or impenetrable or 'not for human minds' or however you like to put it). So that doesn't wash. I'm not sure of the relevance of your question, though. Are you contending that supernatural knowledge is impossible; and if so, on what grounds?

I can't think of any reason why all supernatural knowledge must be comprehensible to humans, but I believe that, because of logic, some supernatural knowledge is available.

The thing is, if you believe that logical laws are universal--and if you don't, there's no point us having this discussion, because what I type as A you may read as not-A, or A and not-A at the same time and in the same sense--then statements about the metaphysical can be examined in order to find out if they can be true or not.
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I respect that the "blasphemous and wrong" beleifs are valid to some individuals, and those people aren't "stupid and wrong" for beleiving in them. I respect that the religion itself is valid.
Are you using 'valid' to mean logically valid; or what? Because logical validity is not subjective; therefore, by definition, something cannot be 'true for you but not for me' (as I said in my original rant). Do you apply the same respect to non-religious beliefs with which you disagree--for instance, if someone said 'I believe all men are rapists', 'I believe formula is healthier for babies than breastmilk' or 'I believe that umbrellas don't exist', would you respect these statements and recognise them as 'valid' for the persons believing them? If not, why do you consider religious belief inherently worthy of respect when non-religious belief is not?

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#30 of 288 Old 06-20-2008, 10:45 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Smokering View Post
Well, are you saying the supernatural is unknowable to human minds? Because that in itself is a statement about the supernatural--we know it's unknowable (or impenetrable or 'not for human minds' or however you like to put it). So that doesn't wash. I'm not sure of the relevance of your question, though. Are you contending that supernatural knowledge is impossible; and if so, on what grounds?

I can't think of any reason why all supernatural knowledge must be comprehensible to humans, but I believe that, because of logic, some supernatural knowledge is available.

The thing is, if you believe that logical laws are universal--and if you don't, there's no point us having this discussion, because what I type as A you may read as not-A, or A and not-A at the same time and in the same sense--then statements about the metaphysical can be examined in order to find out if they can be true or not.
I don't know if logical laws apply to the metaphysical. Maybe they do, and maybe they don't. Even if logical laws are universal in the natural world, isn't it extrapolation to assume the same in the metaphysical world?

How do Christian apologists reconcile miracles and logic?
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