For the record I’m starting to really hate the LJ post editor…

     joins in – the more the merrier as far as I’m concerned. πŸ™‚

>> me
> quintius_marcius

> Most of what follows is discussion, as requested. Remember that in my philosophy classes I have quite
> often found myself defending the  position of religious writers to prevent it from being summarily dismissed. I
> don’t know how many people went away thinking me religious myself.
>>  I’m a Materialist.
> Interesting. Most coherent justifications of materialism that I have come across end up being even more determinist than religion.

Yes, that is a serious problem I agree. The concept of a “wind up universe” is one that is hard to reconcile with my apparent personal free will. There are, of course, a number of possible resolutions to this (free will is an illusion, quantum mechanics, etc) but they all have their own problems.

> I agree that there is a fair amount of evidence for materialism – it just doesn’t link in at all well with my
> personal experience of existence.

I would be very interested to hear more about that.

> Thinking of the current state of neuroscience, one might just as well talk of the consciousness of the gaps.
That’s extremely well put. I have seen articles that refer to, for example, the lag between when we decide to do something and when we <i>know</i> we’ve decided to do something. I’m sure there are lots of other examples.

>> Problems with ideal goodness. Examples being the Epicurean Paradox or Leibniz’s’s Best of All Possible >> Worlds.
> Why would a God have to be good?

He wouldn’t. However, for those that assume his existence as a predicate the vast majority also seem to assume His perfect goodness so I addressed that.

> Or even able to be judged in human moral terms at all?

That question leads to ineffability and then hence to end of conversation. I prefer not to consider that as it cuts the topic rather short but yes, indeed, it could be true.

> The concept of an elect is that the people who do what “God” says get rewarded for doing so. This seems a
> fairly straightforward business arrangement to me. One might describe it as selling one’s soul…
Again, very well put. I must try and use that in an argument at some point. πŸ™‚

>> The existence of multiple contradicting religions.
> This is a good point, made well by Dawkins in particular. Certain types of God cannot coexist with other
> Gods. Have you considered the alternative, though? We only have Iahweh’s word that there is no other God
> but Him.

Actually, interestingly, for one of my previous posts I looked up the actual text of the Ten Commandments and the First Commandment is not what I thought it was (have no other God but me). In fact it is “You shall have no other gods before me” which, even allowing for problems in translation, implies to me the existence of other Gods.

Of course a number of other local Gods are referred to in the Bible – for example Beelzebub.

> The Romans were quite good at rationalising other people’s gods, but they also went so far as to have gods
> for each individual household. Personally I think that the evidence is much more in favour of polytheism than
> monotheism

That sounds very interesting.

> and that would make Pascal’s wager much more interesting.
Very much so.

>> The lack of any modern equivalence of historical miracles.
> 1. Cicero wrote the book on miracles before Jesus was born. 2. The Vatican would disagree with both him
> and you. Miracles should by definition be very rare. The existence of ufologists does not necessarily disprove
> the existence of aliens.
Okay, the lack of evidence of modern miracles as observed by reliable witnesses. The Catholic Church  has a group that goes out and verifies alleged miracles. While, yes, this is needed to beatify saints it is my understanding that this is almost always <i>post hoc</i>. I’ve never heard of an example of the Catholic Church saying that a living person has created a genuine miracle.

>> The lack of any scientific examples of the proof of the effectiveness of prayer. The incredible success of
>> science in explaining a number of phenomenon previously explained by religion leading to a drastic
>> reduction in examples of proposed Irreducible Complexity and therefore to the God of the Gaps issue.
> These two can probably be linked. For example, in a medical context it would be very difficult to distinguish
> between the power of prayer and the placebo effect.

Not at all. Why does the patient need to know that they are being prayed over? 3rd party prayer – not patient prayer.

> Could that actually be described as “faith healing”?

Hardly. Meanwhile the placebo effect is a very interesting thing in and of itself. A very good In Our Time on that a few weeks ago.

> Sometimes scientific explanations are simply a different way of saying that we don’t know why something
> happens.

Of course. In fact I would point out that why science is a great deal of “this is our best assumptions to date” and “we don’t know yet “this is in fact far more powerful than an intractable “this is and will always be right!”.

> Equally, some stories of the power of prayer are going to be good examples of people looking for patterns
> and explanations where there are none.
Indeed. People do that all the time. See recent episodes of the Derren Brown show.

>> I do not need an external source to be a moral person.
> Indeed. Does performing an act in hope of reward, whether in this life or the next, devalue that act in moral
> terms?

Personally I would say absolutely not. I view morality as objective and relative – I am interested in other people’s view though.

I think I’m right in saying (not having given it too much thought) that no act is so morally reprehensible that it can’t be justified by being required to stop someone who has a device that will kill every living person. Except maybe suicide but that’s a whole other argument…