04 November 2009

LFACC - Who & Whether questions of God

In Letter from a Christian Citizen, Douglas Wilson raised many interesting points. This post will deal with the point of atheism towards Muslims and towards Christianity. [page 13-15] Here is how Wilson describes the issue:

You [Sam Harris] advance an argument that might be called an argument for partial atheism: “The truth is, you know exactly what it is like to be an atheist with respect to the beliefs of Muslims” (7). But I am afraid that this is a false analogy entirely. You say, “Understand that the way you view Islam is precisely the way devout Muslims view Christianity. And it is the way I view all religions” (7). Well, no, not exactly. And well, actually, no, not at all.

Suppose we are considering a phenomenon that is, by most accounts, inexplicable as an unsupervised occurrence—three of us attend a sophisticated party uptown, and half way through the evening at the party we find a trout in the punch bowl. At this point, the three of us divide into three schools of thought. I think that Smith, a practical joker, put it there; our friend Murphy thinks that Jones, the avant-garde performance artist, put it there; and you think that it has simply shown up as the result of natural forces. My central point is not to interact with the truth or falsity of your naturalistic position—except perhaps through the use of this absurd example of the punchbowl—but rather to show that you are arguing for something completely different from what Murphy and I are arguing. We all have an explanation but your explanation is of a different kind altogether.

The differences between two of us (between Murphy and me) concern who put the trout in the lunchbowl. The difference between the both of us together and you is over whether someone put a trout in the punchbowl. And who and whether represent different questions entirely. Quite apart from who is right and who is wrong about this, it is important to note that we are not disagreeing in the same way or over the same kind of issue at all.

So when an atheist says "you understand why I don't believe in your god when you understand why you don't believe in other gods", atheist is missing a point. Both christians and muslims believe in a god, they are just disagreeing on whose version of god is true. We, atheists, cannot see any evidence to support ANY god. Wilson is right that who and whether are two different questions. However one of these questions (whether there is a god) must be answered first before asking which god to believe.

The sticky point is the burden of proof. From a pure logical angle, the burden of proof is with the claimant. There is no way for anyone to disprove anything which is only in the mind of the claimant. However, I can also agree that there is NO way any religion can prove the existence of a god which will/can intervene with the natural laws.

The demand of the proof is that it must be objective, repeatable and observable. For any miracle to be "repeatable", it is no longer miracle. When under a certain condition, a miracle *always* happens, then it is no longer miracle. It is just a scientific observable data. Millions of miracles are happening everyday everywhere, e.g. calling someone up using your mobile phone, life saving operations in the hospitals etc. They are no longer in the realm of religion.

Since there is no way religious people can demonstrate their imaginary god, we have to settle to other means of resolving the issue.

For me, if anything needs a creator, the creator also needs a creator. Since it is impossible, the conclusion I have is there is no creator. This settle the "whether" part. The rest flows logically and simply. The "who" does not worth asking.

The origin of universe and then the origin of life are unsolved questions. But I refuse to substitute "god" as a solution because, as pointed out above, that begs the question who created god, and who created the creator who created god,...

Even if a creator were to exist, the chance that the creator would be interested in human's daily activities is non-existence. The jump from a cosmic god to a personal god as claimed by the religious is another huge mental gymnastic no rational mind can perform.

The fact that Wilson pointed out this difference in Sam Harris' Letter to a Christian Nation does not prove anything.

I will discuss other parts of Wilson's book in the future.

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