Can Atheism Be Carried Into Practice?

I was listening this afternoon as I drove along to a broadcast on EWTN in which the presenter, Al Kresta, was talking to EWTN host and Catholic psychologist Ray Guarendi about the 3 years he suffered horribly from clinical depression in the early 80’s. His episode of acute depression – for which he was twice hospitalized – was triggered in him by an encounter with a book by an atheist, entitled The Illusion of Immortality. Reading it in preparation for writing a book of his own, Kresta was suddenly overtaken by profound despair. He reflected that the reason the text – which regurgitated arguments he had long before encountered and defeated to his own satisfaction – had such an impact upon him was that the author seemed like a good guy who was simply sincere about his atheism, in a way that most atheists are not.

As Kresta spoke, his offhand phrase “the horror of the atheist notion of reality” hit me really hard. I began almost to weep at the image of that notion, carried through (in the imagination only) to reality – treated, i.e., as if it were really true (as if that could even happen). This feeling, of horrified tears at being perched for the first time in my life at the edge of a precipice that verged upon an abyss of pain without bottom, persisted throughout the conversation between Kresta and Guarendi. I could feel a boundless ontological void opening beneath me, unlike any I had ever suspected.

It was the horrible vacuum in which nothing can have any meaning, purpose, or point, and nothing is therefore worth anything; in which, i.e., nothing can be about anything, or for anything; in which nothing is any good.

I suddenly realized that, on a visceral level, I could not ever have been atheist. I had rather been ever a theist trying to figure out theism; what theism meant, and what it must then mean to be theist. And I could not but conclude that almost everyone – even the most vocal of our atheist interlocutors – is in the same boat. This perhaps is why atheists seem to care so much about the question of theism. If they were confident in their atheism, then theism should seem to them to be as absurd, and as little worthy of their time and attention, as the notion that there are fairies in the bottom of the garden.

If atheists really believed that theism is false, they would never trouble themselves to argue against it.

I realized that life as we inherit it from our parents must of course be crammed full of hope, thus of confidence, and so of courage to essay life’s adventures. What is a baby, after all, but an entirely pure exercise – and, indeed, an exertion – of ontological hope? What is the energy and enthusiasm of youth, if there be no hope? But I saw that in the absence of God, there could be no such thing as hope.

Or, therefore (obviously) as innovation, effort, or natural selection. No hope → no will to live → no life.

No babies.

What could it be like to live as a thoroughgoing atheist under the firm conviction that life has no meaning or purpose or order whatsoever, so that everything that happens, or that one does, is pointless, stupid, useless, and a total waste? I saw for the first time what it would be like to believe such an absurd impossible notion, all the way down. It was a vision of Hell.

So I doubt that there are really very many atheists, properly so called – such as the apparently honest author who so appalled Al Kresta. There are rather, at most, theists who have decided to rebel against God, but who have not at all abandoned the nexus of notions upon which only the notion of rebellion might make some sense. I.e., they try to behave properly (by their own lights), and thereby admit in practice that God is real, so that it can make some sense to try to behave properly – when, in the absence of God, there could be no reason to behave in any way at all.

Can atheism be carried into practice? Can anyone honestly believe, all the way down, that nothing matters at all? I don’t see how.

How could you muster the juice to write a book in support of atheism if you believed honestly and all the way down that nothing you might do could possibly matter?

On the fundamental Pragmatic criterion of truth, then – that, i.e., what cannot possibly be carried into practice cannot possibly be true, or perhaps even coherent logically – atheism must be false. Show me an atheist who doesn’t care about anything, and I’ll begin to think otherwise.

But, why would any such person care to make himself evident to anyone else?

I’ll wait. I’m a theist, after all, and faithful; so, I can wait forever.

It will be interesting to see whether any atheist readers of this post care enough to respond. On their professed atheism, they could have no possible motivation to do so.

I’ll wait.

30 thoughts on “Can Atheism Be Carried Into Practice?

  1. Can atheism be carried into practice? Can anyone honestly believe, all the way down, that nothing matters at all? I don’t see how.

    As a nihilist, for me it’s a consoling thought that there is a void beyond socialized human conventions that can’t ultimately be known, and that nature operates by laws that don’t care about human pretense. When you grow tired of human societies and drama – the woods are the best cure. Or perhaps contemplating a rock floating through space in darkness. The fact that life might be a complete accident, and that humans don’t matter in the greater scheme of things, makes life all the more precious. Because you only get one shot. The fact that nothing matters at all for the universe, makes it all matter even more as a human being. The relative meaning and joy I receive and perceive in nature and through other human beings, is enough. I don’t really care if they matter in an, ultimate, ontological sense. That’s up to God himself (in such a case). Existential angst comes only from thinking. Just accept that you can’t know it all and you will be free. If you don’t leave room for the unknown in your psyche, you will be blinded by false light.

    • Dear Raven, these tautologies — do they really represent part and parcel your state of mind on the subject? Nothing matters, so life matters more? A nihilist who experiences joy? A void that can be located?

      The existentialists — my extensive reading of them 30-40 years ago was entirely a waste of my time — saw nothing, comprehended nothing, reached no conclusions of any worth — the sum total of their contribution to humankind was nil. Reading any of them is akin to looking at a Jackson Pollock “painting.”

      But they all agreed in one respect: that man is the measure of man, and it was down to them, those with the supposed pre-eminence of vaunted ratiocinatory and rhetorical abilities. What egoists! Who could ever be taken in by those scam artists?

    • Thanks, Raven, for an honest comment. I appreciate the risk you took in posting it.

      It seems to me that your thoughts on this topic do not quite cohere without contradiction.

      Which is no surprise, for it is impossible to carry sheer nothing into practice.

      E.g.: “Nothing matters at all” simply cannot be squared with “it matters for a human being.” If nothing matters at all, then it *can’t* matter for a human being. To see this, substitute for “matters” any property you like:

      Nothing is at all massive, but some things are massive for a human being.
      Nothing is at all radioactive, but some things are radioactive for a human being.
      Nothing is at all sad, but some things are sad for a human being.
      Nothing is at all important, but some things are important for a human being.

      You see the problem, right? The nihilist stance you have taken, insofar as you have bravely explained it to us, simply can’t make sense. It won’t hang together. If nothing is *at all* x, then nothing can be x for any human being; because if something was x for some human being, then it would be false that nothing is at all x.

      So, there is a problem at the root of your nihilism. That means your nihilism is not a stable place of rest for you. And this is clearly to be seen in the fact that despite your nihilism you do value some things, like the woods, and like the thought that there is something that transcends the stupidities of quotidian life among foolish humans, which on the one hand consoles you, and on the other somehow makes the whole human project worth your continued efforts, once you return from the wilderness.

      You still love things. On a strict and thoroughgoing and consistent nihilism, it should not be possible for that to happen. On strict nihilism, you should not even be able to suffer the *illusion* of loving some things.

      Re the wilderness versus sordid human society: I speak as one who knows the contrast well, and who sympathizes with your experience on that score.

      Keep talking to us. You might some day find that it helps you arrive at a higher, deeper, and ultimately more satisfying – more peaceful – resolution of the predicaments that beset you, and us, and all men.

      May God bless you, and keep you, and make the light of his Face to shine upon you, and bring you peace.

      • To be honest, I wasn’t entirely honest, because my mind keeps oscillating between theism and nihilism. On the one hand I find arguments for classical theism sound, and agree with the notion that God is Being itself. I just don’t take the extra step and personalize it, because I don’t like anthropomorphizing the divine. And that’s where my nihilism comes from – because ultimately – God can’t be known (according to apophatic theology itself). That’s why the nihilist part of me doesn’t want to make ultimate metaphysical assertions, because a sound mind would accept its limits.

        “It seems to me that, as Richard has pointed out, your thoughts on this topic do not quite cohere without contradiction. Which is no surprise, for it is impossible to carry sheer nothing into practice.

        E.g.: “Nothing matters at all” simply cannot be squared with “it matters for a human being.” If nothing matters at all, then it *can’t* matter for a human being. To see this, substitute for “matters” any property you like:

        Nothing is at all massive, but some things are massive for a human being.
        Nothing is at all radioactive, but some things are radioactive for a human being.
        Nothing is at all sad, but some things are sad for a human being.
        Nothing is at all important, but some things are important for a human being.

        You see the problem, right?”

        I was trying to make a distincion between inherent ontological meaning, and subjective expertiental meaning. I am agnostic about the former but embrace the latter. Things matter for human beings, but I don’t find it relevant if they matter on the metaphysical scale. What do I know about that? Supernatural metaphysical axioms do not seem necessary to be able to construct a good life. You can care about human life still be metaphysically nihilistic.

        “You still love things. On a strict and thoroughgoing and consistent nihilism, it should not be possible for that to happen. On strict nihilism, you should not even be able to suffer the *illusion* of loving some things.”

        I do cherish things, but accept that love might be an illusion. For sure, I hate some things as much as I love other things. In fact, my hatred for some bad things stem from a love for the good, beautiful and true. I certainly think there has to be a place for hatred in society as an expression of love. So what do we even mean by love?

        I think that “love” (noun) refers to the condition in which one’s happiness depends on another’s.

        Therefore “to love” (verb) must mean to act in a manner consistent with this condition prevailing.

        So we can put “I love you” in operational terms and say that it means “I promise that if you test the hypothesis that my happiness depends on your own against my actions, you will not find it untrue”.

        That would be an emprically testifiable account of love. This would be a working definition, without metaphysical bagage.

        To sum up, I guess my position is that if God is unkowable, there is room for nihilism even in a theistic worldview (which rests on faith anyway). Since faith isn’t empirically verifiable, I don’t see any personal need for it either. It’s enough to strive for the good. because if God is goodness, if you do good, you must automatically do his work. So what’s the need for belief? I don’t want to put beliefs into my mind that I don’t need to carry in order to be a good person.

      • … ultimately, God can’t be known (according to apophatic theology itself). That’s why the nihilist part of me doesn’t want to make ultimate metaphysical assertions, because a sound mind would accept its limits.

        OK, but that’s not nihilism. It’s just philosophical caution. Nihilism is a metaphysical assertion far, far more sweeping than theism. If you want to accept the limits of your knowledge, you’ll want to avoid nihilism: the claim that nothing matters or means anything is empirically falsified, by every instance of thought. So, sticking to it is a tough row to hoe; it can’t actually be hoed, no matter how hard one tries.

        Apophatic theology is constituted entirely of cataphatic assertions of knowledge about God. *Any* proposition about God is cataphatic. That doesn’t mean apophatic theology is wrong, it just means that – like cataphatic theology, or any other system of propositions or doctrines – it has its limits.

        When apophatic theologians say (cataphatically) that God is unknowable, they mean, not that we cannot know him, period full stop, but rather that we cannot know him in his essence, and nor can we comprehend him in his immensity. This follows straightforwardly from his infinity and our finity. But from the obvious fact that we can’t know God perfectly it does not follow that we can’t know him *at all.* If that were true, human beings could have no notion of God in the first place. There would be then no such thing as religion, worship, or theology. In particular, we couldn’t and wouldn’t assert such things as that we can’t know him perfectly. None of that stuff would have occurred to us, and in that respect we’d be just like the other animals.

        Supernatural metaphysical axioms do not seem necessary to be able to construct a good life. You can care about human life still be metaphysically nihilistic.

        So saying, you have asserted a metaphysical proposition, and so taken a metaphysical position. It is not possible to abjure metaphysics altogether. It behooves us therefore – if we are going to be careful in our thinking, which is to say both thorough and consistent – to get metaphysics right. You are of course correct that it is possible to get on in life without thinking carefully.

        Since faith isn’t empirically verifiable …

        Have you verified the truth of this statement empirically, by examining all the occasions of cosmic history? Have you demonstrated that it follows logically from necessarily true premises? If not, then you have no basis for asserting it, right?

        I mean, sure, it might be *hard for you to see* how to verify faith empirically. But there are some empirical data you can examine. E.g., eucharistic miracles, the Shroud, miraculous healings, on and on. Not to mention conversion to holiness and health of formerly diseased minds.

        … if God is goodness, if you do good, you must automatically do his work. So what’s the need for belief?

        While it is fundamentally good, Nature – in particular its human department – is subject to error in the ascertainment and enactment of the good. Nobody pursues evil for its own sake. The pursuit of evil is founded upon a misprision about the nature of the good. The pursuit of power, e.g., is the pursuit of a good; but it can be pursued in the wrong way, for the wrong reasons, to wrong ends, and inordinately. So for the pursuit of all goods. People intend to do good, but they fail. That’s why the road to Hell is paved with their mistaken and therefore vicious intentions.

        Spirituality (in all religions) is work aimed at improving the apprehension, ascertainment, and understanding of the Good. Ditto for classical philosophy. There’s no guarantee that the project will succeed; we are in the wrong universe for guarantees. But the likelihood of failure in seeing and doing the good is fantastically greater if we are not even trying to improve our understanding of it. And a failure to see and do the good is eo ipso a success in doing evil. So …

  2. I am no longer an atheist, but I went through a period in which I was. I’ve always felt that most atheists don’t really understand the implications of it. The way you phrased it, “nothing can be about anything”, is a good way to describe it. Mine was a private atheism because I didn’t care to talk about it, but I went down the abyss you’re describing here and it took a long time to come back up. During that time I saw everything as absurd, including the atheist evangelists. It never made sense to me why they should care what other people thought, and especially how they would get emotionally invested in it. The real implications of atheism are that absolutely everything is meaningless; every scientific achievement, all developments in society, anything that makes you happy, or sad, or anything that makes anyone else happy or sad. All I knew at that time was that I had some desires, but the goings on of the world were irrelevant, I just tried to get the few things I wanted out of the moving mass of matter and material around me. There wasn’t a point to living, and though I hate to admit this, I reached a point where I didn’t care if others suffered. Suffering under a truly materialist worldview is just a process, something that only matters to the person experiencing it, but not to anyone else.

    The only way I got out of it was through a persistent sense of curiosity, because I did like learning about things as a way to deal with boredom. Studying physics for fun led to another thought, and another question, and to many books which eventually led me back to belief (it’s a long story).

    While I don’t think most atheists have come to a recognition of what it really means, I do think in our consumerist society many have extracted the apathy that comes with atheism, but are caught up, in an almost Pavlovian sense, in seeking after cheap thrills and material gain. The atheist evangelists serve a function to swoop in whenever someone Googles atheism in order to give them a set of things to get emotionally invested in. This keeps them as functional in within a system, but also keeps them separated from their humanity in that they never truly confront the existential reality of their own existence.

  3. Atheism as a theology cannot be carried into practice–it goes against our nature, such that it is repulsive to our souls probably literally. It takes effort to comprehend (in the sense of hold and take into oneself) it, because our souls are repelling it with vigor. I think this also explains why many (so called) atheists seem stressed, because there’s a spiritual tension created by trying to hold onto the belief.

    This would explain why a long-term stable configuration is indifference to religion. There is no tension because unnatural beliefs are not being held, but neither is there any fruit because they have not sought nor accepted the easy yoke. Indifference is a barren field. We must freely choose God, or freely reject Him; the lukewarm get “vomited out”.

    The most honest Atheist I ever met was of the indifferent variety. His stance on baptism: “You can splash me with your water if it makes you feel better.” He was neither angry nor passionate, it just didn’t matter.

    That’s it for the theological angle.

    I think the atheism we mostly encounter today is ideological (read: political). It is concerned primarily with how other people govern their lives, which in previous posts and threads here and elsewhere we’ve established is the domain of politics. A common misconception is that religion is exclusively an institution and so atheism is a rejection of religious bureaucracy. That seems to me to be why most atheists are concerned with individual liberty and its restraint under a religious schema. It’s a recapitulation of the Enlightenment and the death of Monarchy in the west. Christ is the last King to overthrow and they can’t seem to find a way to do it. Nor will they be able to so long as they keep thinking the Church is merely a political entity; and if they ever acknowledge it’s more than a political entity they’ve ceased to be atheists.

    • What you’ve picked out here is the fact that the only way to be an atheist in practice – in other words, the only way that atheism can make the slightest practical difference in the way you live – is to be a cafeteria atheist. You have to pick and choose from the body of atheist doctrine, that hangs together (within its own terms) with unimpeachable logical coherence, the few doctrines that you like, while leaving the rest incoherently behind. E.g., you accept the notion that morals are entirely relative, without accepting that moral notions at variance with your own are no problem at all.

  4. As I was reading this I was reminded of a similar experience I had to that of you and Kresta. A few years ago in college I read a few books that were strongly advocating for a dismal pessimistic outlook which was inherently anti-theistic even if not explicitly so. It took about a year for the arguments, which, to my mind, were well presented, to solidify in my mind. When I saw what was being argued for more clearly, I began to recoil in despair. On and off and to varying degrees of intensity it seemed that a dark force, a malevolent spirit, was haunting me. Time has alleviated most of these spiritual battles, thanks be to God! If anything the trial has made me stronger spiritually. I pray for all of those who go through similar dark nights of the soul.

    • On and off and to varying degrees of intensity it seemed that a dark force, a malevolent spirit, was haunting me.

      As I listened to Kresta talking with Guarendi, that notion struck me forcibly. It seemed obvious to me that Kresta was at that time under demonic attack, precisely because he was then engaged in research supporting what might have been an enormously effective book on apologetics. And indeed, he sought help from his Christian fellows at the time, who insisted that he had to go through some sort of exorcism. But he found that whole notion incredible, and the process they put him through did him no good. So even yesterday, in talking with Guarendi, he was dismissive of the notion of demonic involvement in his crisis.

      To me, listening, and familiar as I am with the writings of several Catholic exorcists – one of whom I know personally – demonic involvement was the very first thing that came to my mind. Hell (literally), knowing what I know, it is obvious to me that demons are involved in exacerbating essentially all the evils that men suffer.

      Evil is their *job,* for crying out loud. How could they *not* be involved?

      Kresta was evangelical at that time. By no means would I want to discredit the power of any spirit – evangelical or Catholic or what have you – to contend with the demons. I feel quite sure that we must, all, have some such power, inhering in us as mere persons. So I feel quite sure that such projects of evangelical exorcism as Kresta encountered have badly damaged the forces of Hell. God bless them – no, us – all. Luke 9:50. Nevertheless, I wonder whether Kresta might not have enjoyed a better outcome, had he been fortunate enough to have fallen under the purview of a priest experienced in exorcism. Of which there were, in the early 80’s, admittedly very few. Exorcism is a much more ordinary thing among Catholics these days – and, indeed, among all the churches – than it was then.

      Still: there is – there must be – a reason that the central rite of the Satanists is – explicitly – an inversion of the Catholic Mass. What that reason is, I am not altogether sure. But I am sure that there is a reason that the Satanists do not invert instead, e.g., a Joel Osteen thing (would it be quite accurate to call a Joel Osteen thing a “service” or a “liturgy”?). The Satanists don’t seem to care much about Anglican masses either, for that matter. Interesting.

      I do not mean to suggest that Anglican or Lutheran masses – or perhaps even Osteen things – are without salvific effect; that, i.e., they are throughly false and profane. On the contrary. Luke 9:50. In the magic books of the first few centuries AD, the name of Jesus was more often invoked in spells than any other. It works!

      Still, and despite the fact that inasmuch as the Logos subsumes and integrates all terms, therefore *any* name truly and honestly invoked is an implicit invocation of the Name, nevertheless it is the consecrated host of Catholic masses that the Satanists try to obtain and then profane, by pissing on it or whatever. So stupid. But, indicative.

  5. God is, ergo to be God-like (via faith) is to be, ergo to be is to be God-like. Where there is no God, there is non-being. The only remaining ambiguity is to what thoroughness this non-being is consciously realised. It can be realised to a meagre degree in a life of petty sin and thoughtless selfishness, it can be realised thoroughly in the will-to-power of the Nietzschean whereby love disappears behind pure ego-will, or it can be realised totally in the suicide.

    Most atheists are alive only because they realise non-being in a meagre way; they have decided to live without taking their principles to their logical ends, stopping before things become too serious due to emotional sentiment (like the commenter above) or a lack of knowledge.

    • Yes. They get along by means of unprincipled exceptions. But this is just a way of saying that they don’t truly mean what they say they mean; for if they *did* truly mean it, they’d carry it into practice, and themselves into nonbeing. It is, i.e., a way of saying that they are not really atheists at all, when push comes to shove. There are no atheists in foxholes.

  6. An honest atheist could only admit that the only rational purpose of brief existence could be the pursuit of pleasure (as demonstrated with their apparent concern that pain and suffering must be alleviated at all costs). On that basis, morality, when stripped of the remnants of mere tradition, should amount to asking oneself ‘what can I get away with?’. Anything else can only be BS.

    • The cool thing is that reality is set up in such a way that if everyone operates on the singular moral principle that one ought to get away with as much as possible and damn all, the entirety of traditional morality cooks out of the resulting stew. Robert Axelrod was all over this with The Evolution of Cooperation.

      The moral of Axelrod’s experiments? It’s all game theory; i.e., it’s all math. Morality *really is a law.* So, you can’t get away from GNON. The most you can do is beat your head against that mountain.

      The mountain always wins. Crime really does not pay. Ever. All that stuff in Proverbs? True. Don’t even worry about it. Just go with it.

      The moral of *that* story? There really is a mountain out there. Atheism is false to mathematical fact.

  7. Your argument is based on the equation of atheism with a kind of absolute nihilism, as if to be an atheist required having no values at all. But that’s just stupid. That’s not what atheism is. Consider, if atheists were simply without any values at all, they would be inert lumps and (as you yourself point out) would not be making arguments against you.

    Your ironclad logic concludes that atheism is impossible to hold, so the fact that there are people who call themselves atheists requires explanation. Either they are confused about what they believe (that’s your position) or you are confused about what they believe. I’d bet on the latter.

    And as usual, you are begging the question. If all value, goodness, truth, whatever has to come from god, then yeah, pretty hard to operate without god. But atheists for the most part do not deny the reality of goodness etc, they deny that their nature is that of creations of some supreme transcendental agent.

    • Hi a.morphous. I am *so happy* to hear from such a reasonable, intelligent and suadable interlocutor as you. Man, oh man. Your reasonable sort lends atheism (&c.) a good repute. There are those of all parties who spew incoherent nonsense incorrigibly, of course. But such as Club Schadenfreude suggest almost that atheism is just simply insane.

      Maybe it is. But it is not so simple to tell that atheism is nuts as it would be if such crazed maniacs as Mr. Schadenfreude and his barbaric ilk were its only defenders. Sheesh.

      Once again, I laud you for your relative civility. And, again, as usual, for your courage in entering the lists here, where you are bound to find yourself outnumbered and, so, in all likelihood, somehow outmaneuvered.

      OK, on to the substance of your useful comment, for which I thank you. I.e., my old friend: on to the outmaneuvering! ; )

      Your argument is based on the equation of atheism with a kind of absolute nihilism, as if to be an atheist required having no values at all.

      Not quite, albeit quite close. If there is no God, then – taking “God” to denote (among other things, and as he has always been taken to denote) the Absolute – no values can be absolute. Rather, all values must be relative, and pertinent only to and within and for subjects of experience – and, outside them, quite moot (in just the same way that the insane delusions of a madman are moot to everyone else, except in respect to what they tell us about the character of the madman himself).

      I take it that you can see that this is obvious, right? An absolute good would be good no matter what any creature thought, whether in agreement or disagreement. This, in just the way that 2 + 2 = 4 no matter how Junior does his sums.

      In that atheist and so pervasively relativist case, we might value some things more or less than others, but our evaluations could not be anywise veridical, except in respect to what they revealed about us. They could not, i.e., have anything to do with any part of reality *other than us, ourselves.* Our evaluations would then all be hallucinations, strictly speaking.

      Atheism then does not entail that there are no values. It entails rather that, there being no absolute truth of any sort, so there can be no veridical value judgements; so that all value judgements – i.e., all apprehensions of value – are strictly *false.* They are as veridical as nightmares. Like nightmares, they do happen; but, like nightmares, they signify only the character of the dreamer, and nothing about the rest of reality.

      E.g.: Raven and I like the woods more than the city and its foolishnesses. But on atheism, we are in that liking neither right nor wrong. Our evaluations are substantively vacuous. No matter what we think about the woods or the city, we are thinking empty nonsense.

      … atheists for the most part do not deny the reality of goodness etc., they deny that their nature is that of creations of some supreme transcendental agent.

      In this they are at one with theists. I know, right? Amazing. But true. On theism, goodness etc. are not creations. On the contrary, they are aspects of the divine nature. They are necessary and eternal, like the truths of math.

      Necessary truth – of any sort, whether moral or mathematical – is one of the big problems for atheists. They can’t do without it if they want to propose that they are able to talk any sense whatever. But they can’t tolerate it either, because there is no way to get necessary truth except in virtue of a necessary Fact. Which, all men have always called God.

      Atheists want to keep the truth of math – and the possibility of correct moral judgement – but get rid of any standard of evaluation of truth. They are cafeteria atheists.

      • [reposting since the original seems to have not gotten through]

        no values can be absolute. Rather, all values must be relative, and pertinent only to and within and for subjects of experience – and, outside them, quite moot (in just the same way that the insane delusions of a madman are moot to everyone else, except in respect to what they tell us about the character of the madman himself)…In that atheist and so pervasively relativist case, we might value some things more or less than others, but our evaluations could not be anywise veridical, except in respect to what they revealed about us. They could not, i.e., have anything to do with any part of reality *other than us, ourselves.* Our evaluations would then all be hallucinations, strictly speaking.

        This is just another version of the same basic false dichotomy. According to you, values are either absolute (and thus public and universal) or they are private and pertain only to an individual. But in reality, we are social animals who share a great deal with each other, including values. We don’t share them because they descend from some absolute source, but simply because that is the part of the nature of social being. And of course we don’t share them perfectly, and frequently disagree.

        The point is: this is how real human values work. They are shared (partially) because lives are shared, not because they are “veridical” to anything. They vary across cultures and can come into conflict, but you need to to have at least local partial agreement in order to have a civil society. Values are neither handed down from a universal source of moral truth; nor are they private to individuals.

        E.g.: Raven and I like the woods more than the city and its foolishnesses. But on atheism, we are in that liking neither right nor wrong. Our evaluations are substantively vacuous. No matter what we think about the woods or the city, we are thinking empty nonsense.

        What a weird statement. If you like the woods, and I prefer the city, why do either of have to be right or wrong? Why should preferences be empty nonsense, just because they are preferences? Are you saying that theism requires that all personal preferences must be standardized to some central authority of value to avoid being nonsensical? That’s pretty crazy!

        Necessary truth – of any sort, whether moral or mathematical – is one of the big problems for atheists. They can’t do without it if they want to propose that they are able to talk any sense whatever. But they can’t tolerate it either, because there is no way to get necessary truth except in virtue of a necessary Fact. Which, all men have always called God.

        Atheists have no problem with necessity, they just disagree about its scope and nature. For them, it is the religious who avoid the acceptance of necessary truths. *So much* of Christianity is devoted to elaborate ways to dodge the acceptance of death and finitude, despite their necessity given the kind of beings we are.

        There are many ways to approach the ultimate ground of things, and many names to use for this inherently unnameable thing, the One Necessary Fact. Being or Tao sound to me like good names, if one has to give it a name. “God” does not, because it connotes a supernatural agent, its a projection of human attributes onto something incomprehensibly inhuman.

      • A.morphous: it did indeed not get through. The second try was the first we’ve seen of it. Thanks for the comment. I’ll respond as soon as I can.

      • *So much* of Christianity is devoted to elaborate ways to dodge the acceptance of death and finitude …

        Dude, you don’t know much about Christianity! Death is central to the whole thing. For Pete’s sake, we Christians put a statue of a man dying at the focal point of our churches; and our central rite is a participation of his death. Christianity shoves death in the face of the Christian at every moment. So far are we from dodging it, that death is something we look forward to, with glad anticipation; indeed, we seek it. We rehearse and prepare for it every week. And Christian spirituality consists largely in killing the worldly self.

        Sheesh. I thought this was all pretty obvious to even the most casual observer, but I guess not.

        According to you, values are either absolute (and thus public and universal) or they are private and pertain only to an individual. But in reality, we are social animals who share a great deal with each other, including values.

        If our evaluations of value are not veridical – if the values we apprehend in things are not really out there in reality prior to our evaluations, which is to say, absolutely, so as then to be ascertainable, more or less – then they have *nothing to do with reality.* They are illusory. We can share illusions, but that doesn’t make them veridical. It makes them shared madness.

        For example, we share the value of human life that convinces us both that murder is evil, so that the only thing we then natter on about in respect to murder is what, exactly, constitutes murder (versus manslaughter, inadvertent death, justified killing (as in just war and just prosecution of justice), and so forth). If murder is not evil in fact, no matter what we think, then our conviction of its evil is just … nuts. Fortunately, game theory demonstrates that murder, like all defection, is indeed evil: indeed, mathematically so. Notice then that the very notion of defection in a game – the very idea of cheating, the very notion indeed of games, of rules (so of policies and protocols and customs and positive laws) – presupposes that cheating and defection are evil. What does this tell us? It tells us that you can’t even have game theory unless there is absolute evil. You can’t have a game – you cannot, i.e., have a society – except under the presupposition that cheating is evil, and abhorrent, because it leads to suboptimality. Look then at that notion of optimality. It is a notion founded upon an evaluation, no?

        We share values then, more or less, and operate upon them coordinately so as to be able to effect society, on the presupposition that it is wrong – *absolutely* wrong – to cheat each other in respect to those values. The whole thing hangs upon that presupposition.

        So, yeah: the fact that values are intersubjective, even if only approximately congruent to each other, does not vitiate my position. On the contrary.

        We could not possibly feel that it is more or less right to do this or that – as we all of us, always do – if we honestly thought, all the way down, that in reality prior to our evaluations or acts there was no such thing as right or wrong. All value systems whatever presuppose the objective existence and pertinence of value. This, in just the way that all animal motions whatever presuppose the objective existence and pertinence of natural law.

        To put it another way: as our visual system presupposes that our apprehension of light is truly informative, so our system of moral and aesthetic evaluation presupposes that our valuations are truly informative: that they are, in short, more or less *true.* If they do not correspond to any prior reality, they can’t be either true or false: they can be rather only nonsense.

        If you like the woods, and I prefer the city, why do either of [us] have to be right or wrong? Why should preferences be empty nonsense, just because they are preferences?

        Preferences are not empty nonsense only on account of the fact that they are preferences, but rather on account of the fact that there is nothing in reality that makes them veridical. If there is absolutely nothing in the woods that merits Raven’s preference for them, then in his preference for the woods Raven is insane. He is responding to something that is not really out there. He is hallucinating.

        Are you saying that theism requires that all personal preferences must be standardized to some central authority of value to avoid being nonsensical? That’s pretty crazy!

        On the contrary; I’m saying that sanity requires that all personal preferences must be standardized – i.e., more or less congruent with – some central authority of value. Think about this. If preferences *don’t* need to be standardized to some central authority of value – to some reality that is real no matter what anyone thinks about it – then *of course* they are all just nonsense. How could they be anything else?

        The central authority you abhor is *reality.* If there is no such central authority, then everyone is just making shit up, all the time. Your problem then is not with theism. Your problem is with obdurate reality. Some have called that reality GNON. Others have called it the Lógos. The ancient Israelites called him Memra. The Chinese called him the Tao.

        … the One Necessary Fact. Being or Tao sound to me like good names, if one has to give it a name. “God” does not, because it connotes a supernatural agent, it’s a projection of human attributes onto something incomprehensibly inhuman.

        If Being or the Tao do not *do* anything – if they are nowise active, and thus nowise agents – then, well, they just can’t matter, at all, can they?

        They are not in that case factors of anything. So, no need to think about them, or worry about whether our acts agree with them. They are *utterly moot.* So we can proceed with effecting our Will to Power without the slightest worry about the evil or good we might do.

        Not.

      • Christianity is obsessed with death to be sure; I should have acknowledged that. But that obsession is based around a denial of its actual nature. In Christianity, the unimportant part of us dies, while the more important part is thought to be eternal. Everything is organized around this polarity; the elevated, sacred, eternal and pristine soul vs the finite, gross, dirty, mechanical, and eventually dead body.

        I’m not going to try to argue you out of this polarity, which is certainly a powerful metaphor, it would not be so persistent if it did not have something in it true and useful. However, I reject it; it does more harm than good. As you say “Christian spirituality consists largely in killing the worldly self” – that is exactly what is wrong with it, there’s nothing wrong with the worldly self, and it is in fact the only self we have. To be dedicated to killing that self is to be anti-life.

        If our evaluations of value are not veridical – if the values we apprehend in things are not really out there in reality prior to our evaluations

        So if I prefer fish and you prefer fowl, only one of us can be right, because there is some “verdical” absolute value in play? That’s just nonsensical. It’s not how values work.

        If values must be “out there” in “reality”, where is the value-haver? Is he not part of reality? How does he know about these values, how does he maintain contact with reality from his perch in not-reality, the not-out-there, the in-here? Your metaphors betray your confused dualism (a common affliction and not unique to you, of course).

        On the contrary. Think about this. If preferences *don’t* need to be standardized to some central authority of value – to some reality that is real no matter what anyone thinks about it – then *of course* they are all just nonsense. How could they be anything else?

        They are what they actually are, you know, the actual preferences of actual humans, which vary. You seem to be saying again, that in all matters of difference in preferences, at least one of the parties must be in error. Again, that’s just crazy. You are reductio-ing your own position. Which I guess saves me the trouble.

        The central authority you abhor is *reality.* If there is no such central authority, then everyone is just making shit up, all the time.

        I feel extremely well grounded in reality, while you appear to be completely deranged. My reality is not a central authority and doesn’t require one.

        People do indeed make shit up all the time; it’s how the mind works. That doesn’t mean they have 100% freedom to do or construe however they like, the mind’s inventions get tested and evolved by their utility in dealing with the world; but it means cognition and moral judgement are creative acts, not conformance to some external order.

        You, OTOH, think material reality is so woefully insufficient by itself that it requires an external central authority to function. You can tell by all those past statements about how you don’t see how minds can be composed of “dead billiard balls” or whatever bad metaphor you have for the actual material reality we inhabit. You have split reality into dead matter and an animating and supervisory spirit, which seems like an impoverished view to me, but I don’t expect to argue you out of it.

        If Being or the Tao do not *do* anything – if they are nowise active, and thus nowise agents – then, well, they just can’t matter, at all, can they?

        Surely you are familiar with the Taoist term wu-wei, which roughly means non-doing. The Tao is not only not an agent, Taoist writing are generally anti-agency and skeptical of purpose. If the Tao matters, it matters not as an agent, but as something else.

        Excuse me while i go celebrate Thanksgiving, an entirely made-up holiday for an entirely made-up country, centered around such finite and limited gifts as food, family, and friends.

      • Christianity is obsessed with death to be sure; I should have acknowledged that. But that obsession is based around a denial of its actual nature.

        That presupposes that Christianity is wrong about the nature of death. It begs the question. Only if Christianity really is wrong about death can the Christian approach to death be based upon a denial of its actual nature. If Christians are right about death, then everyone else is denying its actual nature.

        Thus if you want to be credible in saying that Christianity is based upon a denial of the actual nature of death, you are going to have to explicate and demonstrate that nature, and then (what I think is far less likely) show how Christianity disagrees with it. If you can’t, then all you are doing is saying, “I’m not Christian; but not for any reason I can adduce.” Or, no, even less: all you are then doing is saying is, “I disagree with you, but not for any reason I can adduce, other than I just don’t like what you say.”

        In Christianity, the unimportant part of us dies, while the more important part is thought to be eternal. Everything is organized around this polarity; the elevated, sacred, eternal and pristine soul vs the finite, gross, dirty, mechanical, and eventually dead body.

        Dude, you *really* don’t know much about Christianity! That’s the *opposite* of Christian doctrine about the afterlife! In fact, it is the Gnostic heresy. Haven’t you ever heard of the Resurrection of the Body? It’s right there in the Creeds. Christians believe that the dead will be raised to bodily life that is everlasting, and way *more* bodily than anything we’ve yet known here below.

        After all, our central assertion is that God *became a human body.* Think, man, think. How does that impugn the body?

        As you say, “Christian spirituality consists largely in killing the worldly self” …

        All spiritual disciplines, of all religions, are more or less ascetic. Their methods are intended to free us from what ails us, so that we may more fully live. To kill the worldly self is to let the true self come more to life.

        … there’s nothing wrong with the worldly self …

        You disagree here with all the spiritual traditions of our species, which agree unanimously that there is something dreadfully wrong with the quotidian worldly self, and do their best to recall us to our true selves.

        So if I prefer fish and you prefer fowl, only one of us can be right, because there is some “veridical” absolute value in play?

        If there is nothing absolutely good for either of us either in fish or fowl, then yes, obviously neither of our preferences for either one can have anything to do with anything that is real in fish or fowl. I’m perplexed that you are having such a hard time seeing that this is so.

        Take a different example. Say that I prefer fentanyl, while you prefer coffee. Do you really want to suggest that my assessment of the relative values of fentanyl and coffee is as accurate – which is to say, as veridical – as yours? Or are you willing to admit that, despite our preferences and regardless of them, fentanyl is lethal for humans, while coffee is roborative? That, i.e., fentanyl is, absolutely, much worse for humans – including for me, the one who prefers it – than coffee?

        Note that bothersome word in the preceding sentence: “worse.” Fentanyl is lethal, while coffee is roborative. To say that fentanyl is worse for us in fact (and not just in our private notions) than coffee – that it really is worse, rather than only “worse” – is implicitly to say that there is such a thing as worse, and so as better; as, that is to say, such a thing as the act of evaluation to begin with, that can be more or less correct.

        If there is nothing out there to evaluate, that really is either worse or better, then whence the act of evaluation? What in that case could an evaluation mean, or therefore indicate? What could it be about, other than itself? Nothing.

        If values must be “out there” in “reality,” where is the value-haver? Is he not part of reality?

        Well, of course he is. But if the values he apprehends in the world are not truly aspects of that world, then his apprehensions of value in that world are apprehensions of *things that do not truly exist.* He is in that case hallucinating. Again, I don’t see what’s so hard about this.

        Perhaps the source of your difficulty is indicated by your scare quotes around the term ‘reality.’ As if there is no such thing, really. As if the central authority you abhor is just obdurate reality.

        NB: To say that there is no such thing as reality is to say that the reality is that there is no such thing as reality. The statement is autophagous. If there is no reality, then everything everyone says is false. Including the preceding sentence.

        It’s reality or nothing. Choose. You must; you have no choice but to choose. But then, I suppose you have chosen; your nom de plume, and all that you have over these many years here written, suffice to indicate your choice. Reality is definite; you choose formlessness, and thus irreality: nothingness. OK; good luck with that. But I am sad at this realization. You seem like a nice guy, withal, and I have grown fond of you over the years, you rascal; I wish you would choose otherwise, and come with us.

        How does he know about these values, how does he maintain contact with reality from his perch in not-reality, the not-out-there, the in-here?

        This is a non-issue. If values are real, evaluations can proceed. If not, not. There is no special difficulty about this. Confer: if light is real, and there is someone who can see, then vision can proceed (and can differ or err); if not, not. Likewise, if sound is real, and there is someone who can hear, then audition can proceed (and can differ or err). Again, if nutritional value is real, and there is someone who can eat, then ingestion can occur (and can nourish, or not). Or again, if beauty is real, and there is some aesthete who can appreciate it, then edification can occur (and can soothe and salve, or not). &c.

        The problem of solipsism you here adduce arises only if we proceed on the basis of the notion that values are *not* real. In that case, the evaluator really does have a problem understanding how his evaluations make any contact with reality.

        Pro tip: it is an insoluble problem. They cannot. There is no way to contact what does not exist.

        … the mind’s inventions get tested and evolved by their utility in dealing with the world …

        Sure. And people differ and err in their evaluations, and generally learn from their mistakes, thanks to painful feedback from the world. But if their evaluations were in respect to values that *simply do not exist outside the mind,* there could be no such feedback, no? How do you obtain input from something that does not exist? If fentanyl were not worse for us than coffee – really, objectively, absolutely, factually worse for us – then nobody could be injured by fentanyl, and there could be no problem with it, and so no preference against it could possibly arise, other than by happenstance or madness or nightmare.

        The very notions of injury, disease, ill health, and so forth – all these presuppose the existence of absolute values, that are prior to our apprehensions and evaluations. This in just the same way that “no” presupposes “yes,” or that -1 presupposes 1.

        Natural selection, e.g., presupposes a principle of selection: the good of robust health and reproductive success vis-à-vis environmental conditions. Absent any principle of selection, it’s all just stuff happening for no reason, that nobody could possibly understand. I.e., the death of thought.

        Again, there is no special difficulty here. It is all just plain common sense.

        You have split reality into dead matter and an animating and supervisory spirit …

        On the contrary. Haven’t you been reading me all these years? I’m a Whiteheadian; and, so, an Aristotelian, and thus a Thomist. I don’t think matter is dead. I think material entities are animated by spirits who act so as to form themselves to be what they then are. It is the materialists who think matter is dead, and then twist themselves into pretzels trying and failing to explain how utterly dead matter can be alive.

        You seem to be stuck in the Cartesian split between inanimate mindless matter and lively mind. I’m not (nor, I doubt, was Descartes – shall have to revisit him re that (guys like him are not so stupid as their later acolytes and critics like to think – mea culpa on that score (I here now bet $1,000 that I can read Descartes as a Whiteheadian: anyone care to take me up? (Hm: might be hard to specify the winning conditions, either way, other than by proving out the project …)))).

        Go ahead and show us how to build a mind out of mindless stuff. Take your time; we can wait. But beware: minds trained for decades in the philosophy of mind have concluded that it is more likely that their own minds do not exist, than that they are constituted of mindlessness. “I think,” they say, “but I am not, and do not therefore think.” Make such sense of that as you can.

        Descartes was way smarter than those guys.

        Other philosophers of mind who are of a saner and more realist cast generally end up Christian, like Descartes, or at least Platonist.

        Surely you are familiar with the Taoist term wu-wei, which roughly means non-doing. The Tao is not only not an agent, Taoist writings are generally anti-agency and skeptical of purpose. If the Tao matters, it matters not as an agent, but as something else.

        Yes, I am fully aware of wu wei, having practiced it – consciously, and intentionally (contra the naïve and rather silly notion that it consists in non-doing, simpliciter (and *obviously,* since inaction is impossible to living creatures)) – as singer, whitewater boatman, martial artist, and woodsman. And, indeed, as writer. It is not inaction, nor is it purposelessness; for, these are not in fact possible to us, who are natural agents ordered to teloi – *by the Tao.* It is to act in congruence with the Tao, and in no way to disagree with him. Again, if the Tao is not in any way acting – if, i.e., there is in him no tendency, no flow toward this and away from that – then he’s nothing. He is not nothing. In no other way might our wu wei be possible.

        Excuse me while I go celebrate Thanksgiving, an entirely made-up holiday for an entirely made-up country, centered around such finite and limited gifts as food, family, and friends.

        Sorry, no. You can’t give thanks to what does not exist. If you are thankful for your life, with all its wonderful (and absolutely valuable) appurtenances – gifts, as you say (from whom?) – such as friends, family, food, and so forth, then you have to be thankful *to someone.* That’s how thanks *work.* They are *essentially* social. You cannot – you ontologically cannot – give thanks without actually giving them. And in order for you to give, someone must be out there to receive. Else, your “thanksgiving” celebration, wonderful as it surely is, is really nothing more than a party. Nothing wrong with a party. But let’s not call it by a name that signifies something different altogether; a party that is worshipful, and religious; which is to say, ordered toward the Ultimate: a familiar liturgy.

        The Greek for Thanksgiving is eucharist: literally, “good grace.”

        Happy Thanksgiving, a.morphous. I am grateful to God for you. Despite yourself, you do grace my world. Thanks.

      • Dude, you *really* don’t know much about Christianity! That’s the *opposite* of Christian doctrine about the afterlife! In fact, it is the Gnostic heresy. Haven’t you ever heard of the Resurrection of the Body? It’s right there in the Creeds. Christians believe that the dead will be raised to bodily life that is everlasting, and way *more* bodily than anything we’ve yet known here below.

        I confess to a very limited understanding the doctrine of the resurrection of the body, but from what I can gather the bodies thus resurrected are not actual, physical bodies, but something immortal or “glorified” that is nevertheless called “body”.

        That makes zero sense to me. That’s OK, religions don’t have to make sense. It doesn’t really contradict my main point, which is about the Christian attitudes to *actual* bodies here on earth, not imaginary immortal bodies that await us in the sweet hereafter.

        [ I am going to try to drop this point because I have no interest in arguing against your faith. It seems pointless, faith definitionally is not founded on logic or argument. This thread was originally about you misattributing certain attitudes to atheists; let’s stick to that. ]

        … there’s nothing wrong with the worldly self …

        You disagree here with all the spiritual traditions of our species, which agree unanimously that there is something dreadfully wrong with the quotidian worldly self, and do their best to recall us to our true selves.

        I’m drawn towards Dzogchen Buddhism these days, which says something a bit different: the problem is not with the self, which doesn’t even really exist, but in wrong attitudes towards the self (including believing that it is immortal and eternal). The worldly self is not to be fought against as you said, instead enlightenment consists in accepting its true nature as something insubstantial. We already know our own nature, so it’s mostly a process of dropping wrong ideas.

        If there is nothing absolutely good for either of us either in fish or fowl, then yes, obviously neither of our preferences for either one can have anything to do with anything that is real in fish or fowl. I’m perplexed that you are having such a hard time seeing that this is so.

        I can’t even parse that properly. And it seems like you are trying to sneak in preferences with the phrase “good for either of us”. The point was that my good is not necessarily your good.

        Fentanyl is lethal

        Fentanyl is lethal in high doses, but it’s also an approved and prescribed medical drug used for pain management. Not sure that matters for this argument, except maybe it shows that even fentanyl is not evil-in-itself, instead whatever moral valence it has depends on context, and preferring it to coffee is something people do when they need it, and are perfectly justified in doing so.

        If there is nothing out there to evaluate, that really is either worse or better, then whence the act of evaluation?

        I really don’t see why you are having such a hard time grasping my point, which is very simple and shouldn’t be controversial. You seem wedded to your misleading metaphor of “out there”, so let’s just stick with it. “Out there” is material facts, rocks, light, electrical vibrations. The molecules are “out there” and have no innate moral valence. When a person or other agent interacts with the world, they can apply value judgements to it, based on their personal wants, needs, and beliefs. Because these differ from person to person, so do their value judgements. But the values aren’t “out there”, and neither are they really “in here” (that is, entirely subjective) because they are a product of interactions between an agent and their environment.

        Complicating this story is the fact that agents do share much in common and are social beings who live in a world which needs some convergence on values.

        Reality is definite; you choose formlessness, and thus irreality: nothingness

        I thought you were an appreciator of the *Tao te Ching*:

        Imagine a nebulous thing
        here before Heaven and Earth
        silent and elusive
        it dwells apart and never varies…
        not knowing its name
        I call it the Tao
        — (ch 25, Red Pine tr.)

        So Taoists and others believe that indefiniteness (aka nebulosity) is an inherent, irreducible, and foundational quality of the world. I myself am not so sure about that, but given that we have no access to reality except through our very imperfect perceptual and cognitive machinery, even if reality *was* perfectly definite it would make no practical difference to us, since we can’t access that definiteness.

        So sorry, reality for us is definitely indefinite.

        I don’t think matter is dead. I think material entities are animated by spirits…

        If the material entities weren’t dead, they wouldn’t need to be animated by something external to them.

        It is the materialists who think matter is dead, and then twist themselves into pretzels trying and failing to explain how utterly dead matter can be alive.

        You seem to be stuck in the Cartesian split between inanimate mindless matter and lively mind. I’m not.

        Um, did you read what you just wrote? Sorry I can’t keep up with the contradictions; on this point we appear to be doomed to talk past each other.

        (I here now bet $1,000 that I can read Descartes as a Whiteheadian)

        You still owe me $500 from the last bet you made, so I’m not taking up any new ones. And that was over a much more decidable question.

        Go ahead and show us how to build a mind out of mindless stuff.

        I don’t know how to build one, but I am surrounded by them, every animal nervous system on the planet is built out of proteins and other machinery that are themselves mindless. The great mystery has been dissolved by cybernetics. Not that we know yet how to build a mind, but cybernetics, computation and neuroscience make it a matter of science and engineering, not an insoluble metaphysical mystery.

        You I’m sure won’t accept that. If you will, consider it part of my faith; if you get to believe in angels and glorified bodies and the miracle of the Resurrection, why can’t I believe in the miracle of producing mind from matter? That seems to require a much shorter leap of faith.

        You can’t give thanks to what does not exist.

        Sure you can, it’s the most common thing in the world.

        That’s how thanks *work.* They are *essentially* social. You cannot – you ontologically cannot – give thanks without actually giving them. And in order for you to give, someone must be out there to receive.

        This may be your strongest point yet, or at least the most thought provoking. It’s true, thanks are directed, from one agent to another. However – there is no requirement that the receiving agent be *real*; humans have powerful imaginations. So no, there doesn’t have to be anyone to receive. Gratitude is an attitude and it may be taken towards the existant and the imaginary. Certainly as an atheist I find myself taking attitudes towards God all the time, mostly without thinking, because doing so is part of received cultural baggage. That doesn’t mean I believe in his reality.

        I will grant that these imaginary agents like God are such powerful forces in human thought that they almost might as well be real. God may be no more than the idea of God in the human mind, but that alone gives it a certain agency. That’s about as theistic as I can manage.

      • … from what I can gather the bodies thus resurrected are not actual, physical bodies, but something immortal or “glorified” that is nevertheless called “body.”

        No, they are actual physical bodies. That’s why they are called bodies. The body of the risen Christ is the index of what they are like. He had wounds, hair, etc., walked, ate, took up space, and so forth; *and* he could tunnel through walls, appear and disappear, teleport, and so forth; also ascend.

        It doesn’t really contradict my main point, which is about the Christian attitudes to *actual* bodies here on earth, not imaginary immortal bodies that await us in the sweet hereafter.

        You are responding to a widespread and quite inaccurate caricature of the Christian approach to the body, and to matter more generally. Other religions generally understand the material world as such to be essentially defective. We understand it to be essentially good, but accidentally defective, and so corrigible. We think that the divine plan of salvation involves the resurrection and renewal *of the whole cosmos.* Our central rite is a meal; we understand marriage and reproduction as holy; the heavenly banquet anticipated and participated by our central rite is a wedding feast; and so forth.

        That Christian asceticism involves mortification of the Body of Death does not make it unlike other religions; for, *all* serious spiritual work, in all the serious religions, involves askesis. Askesis alone does not imply that Christian doctrine abhors the body. On the contrary, it involves healing the body: the spiritual food of our eucharist is *medicine.* Askesis is just purification: getting rid of spiritual error, disease, and wickedness, into which we so easily fall, and back into right relation to reality – to the order of being (including material being), properly construed, and purged of our misprisions.

        The worldly self is not to be fought against as you said, instead enlightenment consists in accepting its true nature as something insubstantial. We already know our own nature, so it’s mostly a process of dropping wrong ideas.

        That’s the basic idea. The true and original nature of the worldly self is not evil. God made it, after all. But the defective, diseased self – the self that is ordered improperly first to merely worldly goods, rather than properly first to the Ultimate Good, and so to reality – is beset by evil. It is corrupted by wrong ideas. It is that corruption which must be left behind. That’s the killing of the merely worldly self.

        It comes down to getting over attachment to the self, as if it were dispositive. Compared to reality, the self is indeed insubstantial. Our fundamental prayer asks God to give us supersubstantial food: the Bread of Heaven. Our true bodies – our resurrection bodies – are going to be supersubstantial: far *more* substantial than our present bodies or selves.

        Your objections to the Christian attitude toward the body are founded upon fundamentally pagan – which is to say, Gnostic – presuppositions. You object to doctrines that Christian orthodoxy rejects as heretical or simply incoherent, but which are ancient and still extremely influential.

        You are not alone in this, unfortunately. Many who call themselves Christians share in those Gnostic presuppositions. There are, and have always been, and I suppose always will be, many heretics in the Church.

        Fentanyl is lethal in high doses, but it’s also an approved and prescribed medical drug used for pain management. Not sure that matters for this argument …

        O for Pete’s sake. Of course it doesn’t matter. I cannot help but begin to think that you are missing the point willfully. OK, let’s try again. Joseph Rosenbaum thinks torturing boys is OK, while a.morphous thinks it is horribly evil. Are either of them *correct*? No; according to a.morphous, they just have different preferences. He thinks that when a person interacts with the world, he can apply value judgements to it, based on his personal wants, needs, and beliefs; and because these differ from person to person, so do their value judgements. He thinks then that there is nothing inherently wrong with child molestation; that torturing boys is just something people do when they need it, and they are perfectly justified in doing so. But because there is nothing inherently good or bad about torturing children, he and Rosenbaum arrive at their different preferences for no reason. A.morphous would object to the torture of his own son, but not because that torture was inherently wrong; indeed, not because of anything, but as a brute and unintelligible fact, that has no moral valence outside the skull of a.morphous.

        Can you bring yourself to miss the point again?

        Wait a minute though: what is this nonsense about “perfectly justified”? If there is nothing inherently good or bad, then justification is an empty category; so then is injustice. So much for the whole SJW Leftist commie project. After all, there is nothing inherently unjust about capitalist oppression. Rather, some people simply prefer it, while others do not.

        So sorry, reality for us is definitely indefinite.

        *For us* reality is indefinite. Such is temporality: it is incompletable, so temporal creatures are always in the process of becoming definite. But however inscrutable the fundamental reality and source of being must be to any finite intelligence, indefiniteness cannot be the foundation of all things, for in that case every being would be fundamentally indefinite – which is to say, that it would be throughly indefinite; i.e., that there would be no such thing as things. We find in fact that there are 10K things. So the foundation of all things must be definite.

        Nemo dat quod non habet: you can’t pull definite things out of absolute indefiniteness. This in just the way you can’t pull intelligence out of absolute mindlessness, or life out of absolute death, or order out of absolute chaos.

        There exists a Being undifferentiated and complete,
        Born before heaven and earth.
        Tranquil, boundless,
        Abiding alone and changing not,
        Encircling everything without exhaustion.
        Fathomless, it seems to be the source of all things.
        I do not know its name,
        But characterize it as the Tao.
        Arbitrarily forcing a name upon it,
        I call it Great …

        Tao Teh Ching, Chapters 25 & 4: translated by Gi-ming Shien & Eugene Rose
        aqi Christ the Eternal Tao, by Hieromonk Damascene

        “Undifferentiated” denotes what classical Christian theology calls divine simplicity. Christ the Eternal Tao is totally worth the time of anyone interested in either Taoism or Christianity. It is pretty obvious from its arguments that Taoism is a protoevangelion.

        I don’t think matter is dead. I think material entities are animated by spirits…

        If the material entities weren’t dead, they wouldn’t need to be animated by something external to them.

        I didn’t write that the animating spirits of things are external to them (that you read me that way indicates that you probably *are* stuck in a Cartesian split – or a Gnostic split – between inanimate mindless matter and lively mind). They are not. But nor are they internal, like a homunculus, a ghost in the machine. The soul is rather the form of the living body; the spirit is its life; the life is one thing, which is an integration of a material matrix with its formal specification. It’s all in Aristotle with his 4 sorts of cause: formal, final, material and efficient.

        … every animal nervous system on the planet is built out of proteins and other machinery that are themselves mindless.

        That they are mindless is your presupposition. Your Cartesian presupposition. What is it like to be extensive? Well, given the evidence of our own extensive existence – the only evidence we can have about what it is like – it would seem that extensive existence is like being aware.

        The great mystery has been dissolved by cybernetics. Not that we know yet how to build a mind, but cybernetics, computation and neuroscience make it a matter of science and engineering, not an insoluble metaphysical mystery.

        You do not seem to have read very much in the philosophy of mind. By no means has the Hard Problem of consciousness been solved. On the contrary. Read anything by David Chalmers.

        … if you get to believe in angels and glorified bodies and the miracle of the Resurrection, why can’t I believe in the miracle of producing mind from matter? That seems to require a much shorter leap of faith.

        It doesn’t. Angels, saints, and so forth are trivial inferences compared to your faith, and immensely more likely. Show how you can get something from nothing. That’s what you’ll have to do in order to believe in your faith without making a basic error of reasoning. I can say that on account of the fact that ex nihilo nihil fit is a sine qua non of reason.

        You can’t give thanks to what does not exist.

        Sure you can, it’s the most common thing in the world.

        No, sorry. It is impossible to operate on nothingness in any way whatever. This is a corollary of ex nihilo nihil fit. If you are giving thanks to what does not exist, you are engaging in crazy talk. If you feel grateful to what does not exist, you are suffering insane delusion.

  8. John Cleese will title his latest routine “There Is No Hope” yet wonder why his familiar Britain is in a suicidal free fall and a demonic mob cacophony.

    • On strictly worldly terms, and calling only upon worldly resources, there is and never has been and never could be any hope. This is the reason of the ultimate despair of all pagans, that has its noblest instances in Stoicism, Advaita and Buddhism. The most that paganism can do is to bear the world as virtuously as may be, so as eventually to be rid of it honorably – which is to say, without having surrendered and given up to sin and evil.

      Cleese is a formidable guy, but so far as I know he is not a believer. So, under the terms of his own merely worldly perspective, he is correct: there is no hope. How could there be, when by his lights it is all up to such weak reeds as he?

      It is that secular, merely worldly perspective that has infected and diseased the West these last 500 years. It is the reason of our present turpitude, lassitude, vicissitude, desuetude.

  9. Read a couple of my posts if you will. Here’s something: This will be short and to the point. I’ve referenced Pinocchio before. There’s a very important message there, and I wonder how much Walt Disney knew how hard he hit the nail on the head.
    In the movie, Pinocchio, in not following the words of his “maker,” the clock maker, and his conscience (Jiminey Cricket), who wanted the best for him, he found himself with a lot of other kids/teens that were rebelling against what they also knew was right. And as they listened to the wrong voices, the wrong “influences”, it became more difficult to do what was right. They were “becoming” part of a different life. A wrong life.
    In the movie, something I didn’t catch in my youth (I wished I had.), these kids/teens were turning into donkeys. The more lost they became, the less they could talk, and probably, understand. There’s another term, and it starts with Jack…, but I don’t want to distract. But that was the point. They were travelling the road of destruction. And that, I believe, was the message Walt Disney shared.
    It’s kind of like this, as I understand. It’s where your heart is. It’s a daily walk. What choice do you make, daily? Is having a nice car more important than honesty with your family? Is having more, even top quality health insurance, more important than telling the truth? It’s a choice. All of life is. Daily. And with most, perhaps all, prayer. I believe, prayer is part of the road. But that is for each person to discover. I am just one person.

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