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comment by user-inactivated
user-inactivated  ·  357 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Why Evangelicals—Still!—Support Trump

Man, I don't know if I want to jump into this very active thread or not, but I don't feel like starting something else, so here I am. This isn't directed at you madmatt112 or anyone else in this thread, I'm just chewing the fat here.

    faith cannot be reasoned and reason cannot be taken on faith.

While not exactly focusing on the same thing you're talking about, I think one of the important things for people to remember (both religious and non-religious) is that we're often tempted to make conclusions that fit our world view and then seek ideas and evidence to confirm it after the fact. If we're all being honest with ourselves, we all do it to varying degrees and frequencies, for any number of reasons. It's easy, it's comforting, it feels good, just to name a few.

One of the things that can make religion particularly prickly, and I'm mostly talking with revealed religion in mind, is that the belief system often intertwines law, philosophy, spirituality, and metaphysics in such a way that whether or not certain concepts are believable are wholly contingent on whether or not you accept and believe other concepts in the same philosophy.

For a super stripped down example, if someone from an Abrahamic Religion was asked whether or not they believe animals have souls, they'd probably answer "no." The logic might flow something like this. Man was created in God's image, so only man has a soul. Evidence of a soul is the ability to know, recognize, and come to God, and therefore exhibit Godly attributes like wisdom and knowledge. Humans are the only animals on the planets to embrace science and the arts to such a massive degree and this is proof God has given us souls. Therefore only humans have souls.

What that logic relies on is A) souls exist, B) God exists, and C) metaphysically the two are aligned in that particular and specific way. Since we don’t know for certain any of those three points, all we can really know for certain is that only humans have significantly higher cognitive abilities. The spiritual hows and whys are then taken on faith. Where it gets interesting though, where it gets challenging, is that because our religious faith helps to form our morals, that world view affects how someone views animals and therefore how they treat them. Combined with other religious beliefs and cultural beliefs, that means that we can run the whole spectrum from “deforestation and factory farming is okay” to “I need to embrace veganism because as a child of God I’m a steward of the Earth.”

What I’m trying to get at, is that it’s important to examine our faiths and how it affects us and to notice and reduce the blind spots that our faiths create. The more we rely on faith alone to influence our behavior and the more gaps we allow it to have, the more we run the risk of having compromised morals.

As a somewhat related aside, one of the other challenges that we have to contend with is that religion often reinforces and rewards the behavior of finding proof in subtlety and nuances. As a result, a positive feedback cycle can often be created, in that we find nuances to reinforce our world view and we adjust our world view to look for more and more nuances to reinforce and justify our beliefs. We end up looking for that needle in the haystack, so focused on the needle that we forget about the haystack, the tree it’s sitting under, the forest the tree is in, and the fact that it’s the middle of a December night and we’re standing in a random forest in Washington trying to find a needle.

Me personally? I've read up on a ton of religions over the course of my life. I love learning about them. They're absolutely fascinating and colorful and inspiring. For each one though, I've found stuff that I've found weird, uncomfortable, confusing, and sometimes silly. Yes, even my own. I'm not going to say anything particular about any religion, partly because my reactions are shaped by my experiences and world views, but more importantly I try to go out of my way to not disparage the beliefs of others unless there is an issue of deep and immediate concern. That said though, for every person out there (religious and secular), if we don't find things about our own beliefs that brings up hard questions, there's a pretty good chance that A) we're not as well versed in our beliefs as we think or B) we're not looking at our beliefs, our lives, and our selves objectively.

Understanding others and understanding ourselves fundamentally, both in a religious and in a secular sense, comes from asking questions, doubting our own preconceived notions, and challenging ourselves to dig further and learn more. Sitting idle isn't gonna take us anywhere. (Edit: That's one of the things that's wonderful about this website in particular. I have participated in and watched many challenging, insightful, and sometimes frustrating conversations.)

So to make a long story short, there can be reasoning found in faith, but we need to be really careful with that reasoning and how we wield it. This applies both to religious and secular beliefs.

kleinbl00  ·  357 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    For a super stripped down example, if someone from an Abrahamic Religion was asked whether or not they believe animals have souls, they'd probably answer "no." The logic might flow something like this.

An axiom is "a statement or proposition that is regarded as being established, accepted, or self-evidently true." If we both accept the axiom, we can both debate and discuss that which flows from the axiom. Important to note: there are no axioms in science. Nothing is assumed. And when debating with someone who doesn't hold the same axioms you do, shit falls apart real quick. Watch:

    Man was created in God's image, so only man has a soul. Evidence of a soul is the ability to know, recognize, and come to God, and therefore exhibit Godly attributes like wisdom and knowledge. Humans are the only animals on the planets to embrace science and the arts to such a massive degree and this is proof God has given us souls. Therefore only humans have souls.

Axiom, so (false) axiom. Axiom, and therefore axiom. Biased observation therefore conclusion.

If you're buddhist, man isn't created in God's image. there's no reason to assume that image has anything to do with soul. Your definition of "soul" is proprietary therefore your definition of wisdom and knowledge are, too. "to such a massive degree" is a choice - if a chimp can get ants to climb on a stick we aren't the only tool makers and to wrap it all up in a "therefore only humans have souls" only serves to demonstrate how dependent on your framework your "reason" truly is.

extra_nos  ·  357 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I have spent many years studying both Theology and Philosophy and am currently finishing my MA in Systematic and Philosophical theology from the University of Nottingham. Your observation about axioms is spot on. Wittgenstein described many religious arguments as playing word games. Two individuals can argue all day long, but if their definition of a term is not the same or at the very least agreeable, then there is no definite conclusion to be had.

American evangelicalism has one of the weakest systematic theologies and is built primarily upon fideism. One must give up outside thinking and enter the circle of cohesive thought to know anything at all. This goes against historical Christianity which in fact relies on eyewitness account and outside data for its conclusions. It is also common for evangelicals to assume things about Christian doctrine that Scripture does not necessarily reveal. Animals and souls for instance. The Imagio Dei does not inherently imply that animals are without souls. And in fact, if one believes in the fall, he believes that man has rejected the Imagio Dei.

The problem is not necessarily religion or Christianity but is the circular reasoning and fideism adopted by American Evangelicalism.

kleinbl00  ·  357 days ago  ·  link  ·  


user-inactivated  ·  357 days ago  ·  link  ·  


extra_nos  ·  356 days ago  ·  link  ·  

In addition to the books, I produce and co-host a podcast with Drs. of Theology, History, and Philosophy. We did a series on apologetics that touches on a lot of this.

extra_nos  ·  357 days ago  ·  link  ·  

During undergrad trained under Dr. Rod Rosenbladt and Dr. John Warwick Montgomery. They both apply analytic philosophy to Christian thought. Dr. Montgomery wrote a book called Tractatus Logico Theologicus Despite its name, it is straightforward to read and is an excellent place to start in regards to the philosophy of Christian thought. I work for 1517 one of his publishers, enter code "hubski" at checkout for 15% off.

Other Suggestions:

- C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity, and An Experiment in Criticism

- For Systematics the best reformation one is Philip Melanchthon's Loci Communes

- Modern lay level systematic Called to Believe by Dr. Steve Mueller (I studied systematics under Mueller, keep in mind this book is written for students who want to work in the church)

- Philosophy: Ayer Languge, Truth, and Logic Wittgenstein Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

This is only the tip of the iceberg haha. What I tried to come up with is the intersection of faith, reason, and a basic look at a historical/systematic approach to doctrine.

user-inactivated  ·  356 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Bro, thank you both for the list and the podcast link. You've made my day.

extra_nos  ·  356 days ago  ·  link  ·  

No problem. I love making the podcast, and nearly every episode has a handful of book recommendations. We have covered the basics of Christian doctrine, Apologetics, and we have some great episodes on figures in church history. We are in our third year now, and this month I became the director of the 1517 podcasting network which I am launching in April.

Anytime you want more reading hit me up.

user-inactivated  ·  357 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I pretty much agree with everything you just said here. I think one of the difficult things for us to do, is appreciate the perspectives from other people. I don't mean appreciate like we would a gift, but appreciate as in understanding the nature of something. It's very easy for us to have a kneejerk reaction where because we outright reject someone else's axiom, we are tempted to find their perspective completely without merit and unworthy of consideration.

In some instances, this is really true. If the axiom that someone holds is completely toxic that the logic that stems from it is additionally toxic, we should reject the logic. Sometimes though, it's not true. For example, even though I'm not a Buddhist and I don't believe in Karma, I am still capable of appreciating the concept of Karma, how it feeds into their notions of spiritual development and morality, and how it can and cannot inform my perspective of any statement they have to make where Karma might be a core concept in that argument.

If I metaphorically plug my ears and say "Lalala! Karma is dumb! Reincarnation is wrong! The progress of the human soul is linear and only goes in one direction! You're wrong!" I've put a severe hampering on the conversation and possibly the relationship of the person I'm conversing with. Where as, if I say, "I don't believe in Karma the way you do, but I see why you object to the idea of factory farming when you view the subject through the lens of your belief" all of the sudden the conversation goes better and I find myself looking at an old argument, through a new lens, potentially deepening my understanding of said argument and my personal position on it.

This applies in a lot of areas, not just religious, from personal relationships to public policies.