Monday, January 4, 2010

Choose your own analogy.

When watching people use analogies to explain certain situations, I wonder if they think the analogy covers all situations, or only that particular one. If it's only one particular situation, does the situation they're analogizing then fall apart if the analogy comes into conflict with another situation?

For instance, I see a lot of atheists or agnostics say that if God does confront them after they die, they'll tell God they had no belief because they had no evidence. The Christian says balderdash! For there is plenty of evidence, and they use Intelligent Design or the complexity of life (possibly combining the two) or our morals or even a Bible quote to point to how we're drowning in evidence.

Then, when confronted with the difficulty many have in reconciling a loving, good, and powerful God with the existence of evil, I see another comparison pop up: sometimes it involves trying to help a frenzied animal stuck in a trap, but other times it involves a child. If you have to allow a painful test to be performed on your two year old child, the child could very well see the test as an "evil" act, but you know the test is for a greater good: to save the child's health or life. We should then approach God in the same way: we are the two year old child, and God is the one with the omniscient perspective. So long as there's a possibility that some greater good will come out of whatever evil we see or experience, God can still be considered loving and good.

I see a conflict between the idea of we're without excuse because of the evidence, and we should suddenly give God the benefit of the doubt because we're like the two year old child. In the first case, one is pointing to what they feel to be concrete evidence. In the second case, the only evidence the child has is the very painful test, which leads to the child disliking the parent. If the child screams at the parent, or lashes out at the parent, no one tells the child that s/he has plenty of evidence to believe the parent is right. Rather, we understand that the two year old is incapable of comprehending the purpose behind the test, and thus don't blame the child for his/her behavior. They're simply reacting according to what's happening to them -- reacting based on the evidence they have. Therefore, if we're incapable of fully seeing the grand picture, how can we then be held accountable for the inability belief in a God with attributes such as loving, good and all-powerful, based on the claim of a lack of sufficient evidence?

I realize that, in most cases, analogies are not meant to apply across the board, and are useful for describing the viewpoint in certain situations. But in the case of God, this is Someone who has consistent behavior. This is Someone who is claimed to have inspired a book that is seamlessly woven together without any contradictions. Shouldn't analogies used to elaborate on God not clash with other situations involving God?

13 comments:

Boz said...

good post, I liked it.

Sarge said...

Great post.

I can't remember which, but one of the early "church fathers" (odd, that: "The Church" seems to have a plethora of fathers, but a very serious want of mothers. Is there an opposite of parthenogenisis?) said something about The Heathen being like insane people in a burning house. Force must be used "For Their Own Good" bot for the crazies and heathens.

Have you noticed that any corolary to their analogies doesn't seem to penetrate their circular logic and apology?

Lorena said...

The thing is that god only exists in metaphors and word puzzles. If you remove their ability to explain him through language and figures of speech, then believers are left with nothing.

Also, since they don't even hear our analogies, they don't know that we are using the same devices to contradict their arguments.

atimetorend said...

I think Lorena's comment makes a great point, metaphors and word puzzles are how people describe God, so they take on greater importance and get misused. Now granted God is often described as ineffable, which can provide justification for relying on analogies. But maybe the complexity of the analogies can obscure the logic implied, or that fact that logic is not being employed.

OneSmallStep said...

Sarge,

**(odd, that: "The Church" seems to have a plethora of fathers, but a very serious want of mothers.**

Based on how the early church fathers described women, it's not odd at all. ;)

**Force must be used "For Their Own Good" bot for the crazies and heathens.**

Wasn't this the same justification used in the Inquisition for torturing people? "Mild" pain here to spare them major pain in the afterlife?

**Have you noticed that any corolary to their analogies doesn't seem to penetrate their circular logic and apology?**

In many -- but not all -- yes.

OneSmallStep said...

Atimetorend,

**Now granted God is often described as ineffable, which can provide justification for relying on analogies**

And I can understand the use of the analogies. I just find these two big contradictions.

Xander said...

Even thought you don’t believe it, one of the disciples refused to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead until he put his fingers into the wounds. Jesus showed up and said poke away...paraphrased of course. Jesus isn’t walking around doing that now, or the whole second coming thing is really misinterpreted.

I know physical proof isn’t reading about someone else getting physical proof of the act. I just think it is interesting that it is mentioned in the Bible. I don’t think many former believers just chucked their faith without praying for everything they could think of so they could believe. Not sure how you would go about even praying for physical proof.

I don’t think I use analogies to explain God, but maybe I do. I don’t really pay attention to it.

OneSmallStep said...

Xander,

**Not sure how you would go about even praying for physical proof.**

I know that people to have criteria as to what they'd consider legitimatize proof. I'm not sure I could ever make a list, because many things that could've been considered proof 500 years ago are now explained by a natural, scientific process today. So who's to say any proof one might request today wouldn't be "easily" explained in another 500 years?

Xander said...

But what would you consider as proof? In order to believe, what would you need to see?

Boz said...

Xander said: "But what would you consider as proof? In order to believe, what would you need to see?"

Firstly, proof is for mathematics and logic. I'll answer your second question.

-

(1) What isn't good enough

There would have to be some event or phenomenon that could only be explained by the existence and actions of the christian deity.

I can't say "It would have to be XXXXX", because it could be a million different things. It's easier to give examples of what does not persuade be to believe in the existence of the christian deity.

"miraculous" cures can be explained otherwise. The placebo effect works very well for some people. The spontaneous remission rate for all types of cancer combined is about 1/10,000 to 1/100,000. Even if something is unexplained, that doesn't automatically mean that the christian deity did it.

biblical prophecy about jesus is hard to accept, given that we only objectively know about 5 things that he ever did. "Jesus said X Y Z" can never be accepted, give how and when the gospels were written.

philosophical arguments (teleological, cosmological, ontological, etc) can't say much about things that exist.

-

(2) different deities

Even if a supernatural/divine intervention was detected, there have been thousands of different deities throughout human history. It could be one/many of these, or a divine entity that has never before been described.

-

(3) attributions

even if the christian deity is shown to exist, that doesn't demonstrate the existence of angels, heaven, hell, etc.

Did jesus really walk on water, or was that just added to the bible to make him look cool? Does the christian deity want us to stone disobedient children? or rape victims? even if the christian deity is somehow shown to exist, We will still not know the answers to these questions.



(sorry for the rushed post, happy to discuss further)

OneSmallStep said...

Xander,

To clarify, what I meant was that I'm not sure I could make a list of the criteria people have. I wasn't referring to me, persay.

There are all sorts of proofs that people provide as to what would make them believe. As for me, in believing the Christian God -- the conservative one more than the liberal one -- a big part is the problem of evil. And free will isn't a sufficient answer for me. Concepts such as love, mercy , compassion, justice get attached to God, and yet the behavior doesn't match how we define those words.

Or that I can't see a difference between a Christian and a non-Christian. All religions have their good people and their bad people. The good people claim to have been changed by their encounter with their God. Yet all these Gods are different.

The Bible. I can't believe it's inerrant or infallible. For liberal Christians, that would be fine.

Xander said...

I understand. Sometimes, I look at the words and wonder too. I just have to stop and see what I am basing the meaning on. What is love? What is evil? What is mercy? Is the standard that I base that on always constant or is it changing. Stuff like that.

I have seen some evil people claim Christianity, so I hear you. I know wonderful people who don’t know God. The title, sadly, has little to do with one's actions.

I was in a discussion and some of the atheists said it would take something major like the rapture in order to believe. I am just curious what would change someone's beliefs. Most Christians will tell you that nothing will cause them to stop believing, with the exception of Jesus not being real, but I don’t by that. For me, the ultimate test is will you recant your beliefs if it would result in death. Most people cant say that they would.

OneSmallStep said...

Xander,

**For me, the ultimate test is will you recant your beliefs if it would result in death. Most people cant say that they would.**

I think most people sincerely believe that they would. But believes mean little until put to the test.

For instance, I feel that I'm a person who couldn't randomly murder, or take joy in cruelty towards others, or steal. However, it's easy for me to say that, given my current circumstances: I have a job, I can afford my home, I'm upper middle class, I have food. I can afford to be moral because it won't cost me much. Same with the Christians you know -- they can afford to hold onto their beliefs because it doesn't cost them much (I'm assuming these aren't Christians living in a place like China).

But you put me in a different situation? Who knows. I believe I'd do the right thing. But there are tons of people in those situations who also believed they'd do the right thing.