Friday, November 12, 2010

John Loftus Has No Clothes

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Loftus is a former student of William Lane Craig who became an atheist a few years ago and has been involved in the selling of his own books.I can't criticize that. He also started the Debunking Christianity Blog. He is a fine intellectual but often stoops beneath himself and such is not the case again. He is doing analysis worthy of a small child. John can do much better and I don't know why he doesn't point his efforts toward show casing his intellectual acuity. The atheists community in general is on the war path about Prayer. I don't know but these things go in cycles. The big craze now is "disproving" prayer. This amounts to foolish wasted mocking of prayer which most atheists don't understand to begin with.

This time John has a gimmick. It's a big chart. you just can't argue against a guy with a big chart. The chart is pictured above. More than a gimmick, it's window dressing that functions as a vehicle for him to make the amputee argument. He's imparting programing to the acolytes so they will how to rationalize away answered prayers, when they hear apologists give examples. Then in the text he raises the amputee argument. What he's really saying is unless something is so obvious we can't question it we can always rationalize it away so we never have to accept answers to prayer.


Let's look at the explanation of the chart:

Debunking Christianity Blog


Believers all around the world claim that their particular god answers petitionary prayers. An answered prayer is a request that is granted while an unanswered one is not, okay? From my experience all that's going on is something called selective observation, where a believer counts the hits and discounts the misses. Scientific studies have shown that these prayers don't get answered any better than luck. So if believers really want to know if God answers prayer then here's what to do:
Right away we have the argument turning upon as shallow and inadequate definition. Praying for God to do something is a subset of prayer. This is not the definition of prayer it's the definition of "petition" which is a part of prayer. Prayer is soemthing atheist don't understand, communion, it's hanging out with God. Atheists can't conceive of doing that because they hate themselves and they don't believe God can love them, which is why don't believe in God. At least I think this is demonstrably true of the more virulent. Anyone who gave up a relationship with God is bound to be bitter and disappointed and fulfill, so when person says "I used to be a Christian, now I'm an atheist" he's issues. He thinks hes' wised up either becuase he didn't get something or he was never really "in the know." Nothing demonstates the shallow nature of faith faster than not knowing what prayer is. Notice the people who attack prayer in this way never attack the communion aspect becasue they don't understand it. They probably never had any communion with God so they don't know it's there. Of course shallow athiests who have no clue as to religious life in the first place just dismiss it as "imaginary friend time." To them the only bottom line can be "getting God to do things." Let's look at how Lofuts concieves of this:

He refers to the Christian concept of God as "their particular god" meaning he does not understand the most basic thing about Christianity, the concept of God. There is no such thing as "the particular Christian God." We don't have "a particular God" we have a concept of God, the only God there can be. Atheists misunderstand that because they think it means one personality as opposed to another. That's their concept of God, following fundamentalism, is just that of a big man in the sky, so this particular big man as opposed to any big man. They have no concept of the Ground of Being, or "that which nothing greater than can be concieved." All thinking alludes them. Another good index of a man's former belief or faith, there wasn't any. He did actually study with Criag and he's read books and knows names, perhaps this reflects on Craig's teaching that I would not know. Yet he does not get the basic concept concept of God. Not to put John down for this, since most Christians don't either. Truth be told John does understand this, he's just barking at the fundies.

Of course he dismisses prayer as "selective observation." Meaning whenever you get something your way you say it's an answer and when you don't then it's not but you ignore that based upon getting some answers. You would get some things your way anyway so it's not really answered. prayer. Of course atheist would have to think at 100% of all prayer must be answered. It would be interesting to see if that would cause them to admit there was an answered prayer. This is easy to answer I'll get that in a moment. Of cousre the chart above is all set up so that it's loaded agaisnt the believer. He's just doing the opposite of his accusations of believers. He's doing selective observation in reverse. He's saying answers may be ignored became some are not given. Notice he explains away any answer, got a raise but it was expected that doesn't count. So you expected it, what did you pray about it for? That's standard, no faith prayer, Atheists don't take into account the lack of faith. Any "failure" of God to give me what I want is God's failure not mine. It they donk't ever consider the impossiblity of answers. One delivery of an impossibility should prove prayer works. Then can't have that because they must deny the truth at all costs.


Keep track, okay, just like the examples in my study sheet. List the specific prayers you pray. Pray that they are answered within a specific time period--why not? Isn't that what you want? Keep in mind that you generally will only pray for things you expect can happen too. You do not pray that a mountain is uprooted and planted in the sea. So already your prayer requests are limited since you do not pray for the kinds of things Jesus told you could happen. Why? Because you live in a scientific era. Get. Point The.
But he's not keeping track. He dismissing answer, one can see that from the chart. He's explaining away every single answer. Of course the chart is loaded to show no success. How do I know because I did keep track. I spent years keeping a prayer journal. I got hundreds of answered prayers many of them impossible. I used to have a big list. Just a couple that come to mind:

(1) father had prostate problem, after prayer no trace of problem.
(2) sister prayed God would show me still loves me and has a use for me, next day in line at fast food joint stranger came up and repeated word for word exactly what my sister had prayed for me.
(3) father having heart attack ER guys watch vitals reversing and condition backs up and goes back to normal as they watch and freak out.
(4) father dead for 11 minutes (another time) comes back to life with strong rythmical heart beat his own doctor (not a bleiever) says "this is clearly a miracle."

Just a few off hand but John would have me dismiss and talk down each one because can never accept the possibility. In naturalism is nothing more than circular reasoning. We start with the assumption answers are impossible, any answer one seems to get is atomically wrong and must be discounted. Now he's just asking to keep your own bleief in check and remind your self each day that you don't believe in miracles. When you get an answer you should say "this is not an answer." O wow what do you know. The end of the month I have no answers Amazing! Not so amazing when you are predispossed to write off answers anyway.

skeptic:miracles don't happen.

Believer: what about this one

Skeptic: It can't be a miracle

Believer: why not?

Skeptic: Because miracles don't' happen.

Believer: that one just did

Skeptic: not a miracle.

Believer: how do you know

Skeptic: miracles don't' happen.

Then be brutally honest with the results. No fudging like horoscope readers regularly do. Was the prayer answered exactly as you prayed it, or not? No punting to what believers around the globe do, either. No saying, "well God knows best," or that "he didn't give me what I wanted but what I needed." Then see what happens. See how many times your prayers are answered, and of those prayers that are answered how many of them are truly out of the ordinary? I suspect if you really want to know if God answers prayers you'll find this an interesting exercise.
Let's talk about who is capable of being brutally honest. Is the atheist being brutally honest to say "I did get a raise after praying, but I would have anyway." Of course the atheist will never be brutally honest to admit that he had no faith, he prayed for something he didn't believe God would answer, thus should be no surprise that it wasn't answered. Is it a fair test if you "queer" the deal form the outset? When you do get an answer then you try your raddest to explain it away, if you can't you say but there is a rational explanation we will find it we look long enough. I've seen them wheedle and obfuscate long enough to know they will say anything to keep from admitting even one can't be explained. Forget "miracle" for "answer," they wont admit there's anything inexplicable.

here are just a few of the excuses I've gotten from them in response to Lourdes miracle:

The case was 1923 Charles Anne young seminary student dying of TB. The night he was dying, at the end, lungs decimated doctors gave no hope for him living any longer (to the day) he prays next morning lungs are like new (they were x-rayed). The X-rays still exist, they can be purchased form the Vatican I spoke with a member of miracle committee who swore to me this is real. But atheist will to anything to keep from admitting even one case (which is why it's so laughably to say keep a chart).

(1) you don't have the original X-rays
(2) I don't have to look it up or buy the X-rays because I know it can't be true
(3) X-rays are made up

this culminate in one of them saying "I wouldn't believe my own eyes if it saw it." That's real fair. I really trust this guy to keep a chart of answered prayers.

In addition to their own personal lack of honesty, most atheists or people who would turn to a site like DC to make a last dict effort to save their faith (which they are not seeking to save at that point--you don't turn to an organized bent on destruction of something to save it). Not in a relationship with God, in fact quite the opposites, cultivating lives of enmity with God, they expect a fair prayer test? sure. why? why should they expect would answer them especially piddling things like raises?

Pray for some miracles while you're at it, like for an amputee to have his limb grow back, or for your God to change a tragic accident the night before so that a carload of kids did not die in that car crash. Hey, why not? If God can foreknow your prayers then he could do that, just as you expect your prayers to be answered that no one was hurt as soon as you hear there has been an accident, even though it already happened.
Pray for limbs to grow. such a stupid gimmick and they never tired of it. They never never never get tried of it, even you I've produced a number examples of claims (a new pair of lungs is as amazing as limbs growing back--Jesus putting back on the ear in the garden).** I've produced a spiritual theory about why it wont happen much.* It certainly requires a lot of faith which these atheists work hard at not having. The stupidest thing is it does not disprove the miracle know of. It's not a disproof of anything. this is a pure example of atheists hiding in the gap. There's a gap. We don't know we don't have a good example of God doing this, but we have great evidence of God doing other things. This becomes nothing more than an excuse to ignore the examples we do have. This is a great example of atheist brain washing. What's he really telling them. Look what he's really saying. Keep a record of unanswered prayers, include stuff like amputees not getting limbs resorted. He's really saying load the experiment with pre set results. Pray a thousand times for something you know what happen then say "I got 1000 prayers declined." That really overshadows the one you got hu? You knew you wouldn't get them, then you rationalize the one's you do get as "that would have happened anyway." Be brutally honest now, find a good reason to ignore what God did for you. He doesn't say be brutally honest to accept what God does for you.

Then of course I have also presented good reasons why God doesn't answer prayers all the time or why there has to be zone in which prayers are qualified to be answered. These are actually part of my theodicy argument, but they also work here. They are my free will defense but they explain why God doesn't heal amputees (at not often). It's an interesting concept actually. I show that there are zones in which one can move and in those zones God is more likely to answer prayer. Part of that is faith, also God's timing, it has to fit in with other plans and there are other things we are not given to know about. The real issue why is everyone not automatically in the zone. The answer deals with what I said above about prayer in general, it's more about inner development than about getting stuff.

Voila:


Basic assumptions


There are three basic assumptions that are hidden, or perhaps not so obivioius, but nevertheless must be dealt with here.

(1) The assumption that God wants a "moral universe" and that this value outweighs all others.


The idea that God wants a moral universe I take from my basic view of God and morality. Following in the footsteps of Joseph Fletcher (Situation Ethics) I assume that love is the background of the moral universe (this is also an Augustinian view). I also assume that there is a deeply ontological connection between love and Being. Axiomatically, in my view point, love is the basic impitus of Being itself. Thus, it seems reasonable to me that, if morality is an upshot of love, or if love motivates moral behavior, then the creation of a moral universe is essential.


(2) that internal "seeking" leads to greater internalization of values than forced compliance or complaisance that would be the result of intimidation.

That's a pretty fair assumption. We all know that people will a lot more to achieve a goal they truly beileve in than one they merely feel forced or obligated to follow but couldn't care less about.

(3)the the drama or the big mystery is the only way to accomplish that end.

The pursuit of the value system becomes a search of the heart for ultimate meaning,that ensures that people continue to seek it until it has been fully internalized.

The argument would look like this:


(1)God's purpose in creation: to create a Moral Universe, that is one in which free moral agents willingly choose the Good.

(2) Moral choice requires absolutely that choice be free (thus free will is necessitated).

(3) Allowance of free choices requires the risk that the chooser will make evil choices

(4)The possibility of evil choices is a risk God must run, thus the value of free outweighs all other considerations, since without there would be no moral universe and the purpose of creation would be thwarted.


This leaves the atheist in the position of demanding to know why God doesn't just tell everyone that he's there, and that he requires moral behavior, and what that entails. Thus there would be no mystery and people would be much less inclined to sin.

This is the point where Soteriological Drama figures into it. Argument on Soteriological Drama:


(5) Life is a "Drama" not for the sake of entertainment, but in the sense that a dramatic tension exists between our ordinary observations of life on a daily basis, and the ultiamte goals, ends and purposes for which we are on this earth.

(6) Clearly God wants us to seek on a level other than the obvious, daily, demonstrative level or he would have made the situation more plain to us

(7) We can assume that the reason for the "big mystery" is the internalization of choices. If God appeared to the world in open objective fashion and laid down the rules, we would probably all try to follow them, but we would not want to follow them. Thus our obedience would be lip service and not from the heart.

(8) therefore, God wants a heart felt response which is internationalized value system that comes through the search for existential answers; that search is phenomenological; introspective, internal, not amenable to ordinary demonstrative evidence.


In other words, we are part of a great drama and our actions and our dilemmas and our choices are all part of the way we respond to the situation as characters in a drama.

This theory also explains why God doesn't often regenerate limbs in healing the sick. That would be a dead giveaway. God creates criteria under which healing takes place, that criteria can't negate the overall plan of a search.

Objection:

One might object that this couldn't outweigh babies dying or the horrors of war or the all the countless injustices and outrages that must be allowed and that permeate human history. It may seem at first glance that free will is petty compared to human suffering. But I am advocating free will for the sake any sort of pleasure or imagined moral victory that accrues from having free will, it's a totally pragmatic issue; that internalizing the value of the good requires that one choose to do so, and free will is essential if choice is required. Thus it is not a capricious or selfish defense of free will, not a matter of choosing our advantage or our pleasure over that of dying babies, but of choosing the key to saving the babies in the long run,and to understanding why we want to save them, and to care about saving them, and to actually choosing their saving over our own good.

In deciding what values outweigh other values we have to be clear about our decision making paradigm. From a utilitarian standpoint the determinate of lexically ordered values would be utility, what is the greatest good for the greatest number? This would be determined by means of outcome, what is the final tally sheet in terms of pleasure over pain to the greatest aggregate? But why that be the value system we decide by? It's just one value system and much has been written about the bankruptcy of consequentialist ethics. If one uses a deontological standard it might be a different thing to consider the lexically ordered values. Free will predominates because it allows internalization of the good. The good is the key to any moral value system. This could be justified on both deontolgoical and teleological premises.

My own moral decision making paradigm is deontological, because I believe that teleological ethics reduces morality to the decision making of a ledger sheet and forces the individual to do immoral things in the name of "the greatest good for the greatest number." I find most atheists are utilitarians so this will make no sense to them. They can't help but think of the greatest good/greatest number as the ultaimte adage, and deontology as empty duty with no logic to it. But that is not the case. Deontology is not just rule keeping, it is also duty oriented ethics. The duty that we must internalize is that ultimate duty that love demands of any action. Robots don't love. One must freely choose to give up self and make a selfless act in order to act from Love. Thus we cannot have a loved oriented ethics, or we cannot have love as the background of the moral universe without free will, because love involves the will.

The choice of free will at the expense of countless lives and untold suffering cannot be an easy thing, but it is essential and can be justified from either deontolgoical or teleological perspective. Although I think the deontologcial makes more sense. From the teleological stand point, free will ultimately leads to the greatest good for the greatest number because in the long run it assumes us that one is willing to die for the other, or sacrifice for the other, or live for the other. That is essential to promoting a good beyond ourselves. The individual sacrifices for the good of the whole, very utilitarian. It is also deontolgocially justifiable since duty would tell us that we must give of ourselves for the good of the other.

Thus anyway you slice it free will outweighs all other concerns because it makes available the values of the good and of love. Free will is the key to ultimately saving the babies, and saving them because we care about them, a triumph of the heart, not just action from wrote. It's internalization of a value system without which other and greater injustices could be foisted upon an unsuspecting humanity that has not been tought to choose to lay down one's own life for the other.


**There is were a couple of saints in the middle ages who were said to have done this. I don't have that info on my site. what I link to above is a page showing claims, although not good evidence, or resurrections from a whole skeleton of a person five years dead to life and flesh an blood again, I think is more miraculous than a limb growing back. the evidence is not good but the athiest claim is "we never hear of it." So now you have. We do hear of it, their little gimmick is untrue.

Catholic Answers
letter written byJohn Damascene, he forged a letter, exactly similar in chirography, purporting to have been written by John to the Isaurian, and offering to betray into his hands the city of Damascus. The letter he sent to the caliph. Notwithstanding his councillor's earnest avowal of innocence, the latter accepted it as genuine and ordered that the hand that wrote it be severed at the wrist. Thesentence was executed, but, according to his biographer, through the intervention of the Blessed Virgin, the amputated hand was miraculously restored.
same source, different post
If you want I can tell you about St. Anthony of Padua 1000 years ago:
St. Anthony is also the patron saint of amputees.
In Padua, a young man confessed to St. Anthony that he had kicked his mother. Later, in remorse at St. Anthony's remonstrance, he cut off his own foot. St. Anthony, hearing of this drastic action, came and reattached the amputated limb.


*Human body doesn't grow back limbs. This is the structure the body is given and when the structure is divided you are asking God not just to restore something to but actually traverse the laws and boundaries set for human organisms.

8 comments:

a-hermit said...

'Right away we have the argument turning upon as shallow and inadequate definition. Praying for God to do something is a subset of prayer. This is not the definition of prayer it's the definition of "petition" which is a part of prayer. "

That would be why Loftus explicitly says that he is talking about petitionary prayers....

Metacrock said...

I noted that (John's choice of words), alas, after I had published.

He still should have pointed it out more clearly, becuase atheists never deal with the other aspects. We hear so often "prayer doesn't work" but they never say "for what."

a-hermit said...

" I spent years keeping a prayer journal. I got hundreds of answered prayers many of them impossible. I used to have a big list. Just a couple that come to mind:

(1) father had prostate problem, after prayer no trace of problem..."


How many millions of others have prayed the same prayer and died anyway? If you're counting the hits and ignoring the misses, that isn't a reliable guide to what works.

Metacrock said...

How many millions of others have prayed the same prayer and died anyway? If you're counting the hits and ignoring the misses, that isn't a reliable guide to what works.

that has nothing to do with it. let's use some logic for a change. The fact that God doesn't heal most of the time does not cancel the times he does. that's why you have to go case by case.

on a case by case basis, if it is an outcome that we know nature would not produce on its own we should assume it's an answer. That most are not answered cannot in any sense invalidate the one's that are becuase each prayer has it's own unique warrant for being understood as valid.

a-hermit said...

The problem is that you have no way of demonstrating that it was the prayer and not some random, natural event which was the difference.

If I win a t the slot machine while wearing my lucky hat that doesn't mean the hat was responsible.

"The fact that God doesn't heal most of the time does not cancel the times he does. that's why you have to go case by case."

Except there is no consistent correlation between prayer and healing. You wouldn't accept this "case by case" approach if we were testing any other form of treatment, would you?

And I'm still left with the question (which you didn't answer last time I asked it) of why God would behave in such an apparently arbitrary and capricious manner. How does making His actions indistinguishable from random chance serve the purpose of your soteriological drama?

Metacrock said...

The problem is that you have no way of demonstrating that it was the prayer and not some random, natural event which was the difference.

I don't have to. I have reasons to think that and that's all I need. I don't have to prove miracles, they are rationally warranted.

If I win a t the slot machine while wearing my lucky hat that doesn't mean the hat was responsible.

Winning at a slot machine is not more than nature by itself would produce. An incurable disease disappearing over night is.

"The fact that God doesn't heal most of the time does not cancel the times he does. that's why you have to go case by case."

Except there is no consistent correlation between prayer and healing. You wouldn't accept this "case by case" approach if we were testing any other form of treatment, would you?


Obviously there is or you wouldn't be arguing about it. The only veriable that changes (Lourdes rules rule out drugs).

And I'm still left with the question (which you didn't answer last time I asked it) of why God would behave in such an apparently arbitrary and capricious manner.

answer by theodicy position


How does making His actions indistinguishable from random chance serve the purpose of your soteriological drama?

answered by the zone theory

a-hermit said...

"Winning at a slot machine is not more than nature by itself would produce. An incurable disease disappearing over night is."

I disagree. It's unusual, it's against the odds, and we may not fully understand why it happens, but it's not impossible.

"Obviously there is or you wouldn't be arguing about it. The only veriable that changes (Lourdes rules rule out drugs)"

Except we've seen that visits to Lourdes actually DECREASES the rate of cures, so the only correlation you can assert there is actually a negative one, which doesn't help your case.

"
answer by theodicy position"


Read the question more carefully, this one isn't answered by any theodicy. If there is some purpose behind these miracles, something to be learned, then we should be able to see some consistency, some pattern, some sense to them. But there is none; they are indistinguishable from random chance.

Metacrock said...

I'm going to answer this last comment in the main blog section as a new article.