The Inherent Subjectivism of God-belief

by Dawson Bethrick

 

 

 

The following was originally posted on my blog in this entry.

 

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Recent discussions with Christian visitors to my blog in the comments sections of Could the Christian God be Rational? and Another Response to David: The Anatomy of Legend and the Ruse of Revelation, confirm that ignorance and misunderstanding of the Objectivist rationale for rejecting theism is widespread. In this post I hope to shed some light on common errors Christian apologists might make in responding to Objectivist atheology. In future posts, I plan to interact directly with some more sophisticated efforts to answer Objectivist challenges to theism. In the present post I will focus on the comments which have been made on my blog, specifically to the effect that Christian god-belief avoids the charge of subjectivism.


In a comment dated 14 December 2008, David Parker asked:

 

You charge theists with metaphysical subjectivism based on the notion that existence should depend on some consciousness (human or divine). Now from reading some previous posts, I see that existence is defined as the sum of existents, which I agree with. But wait, if God exists then He does so necessarily and without dependence on any consciousness. So my question: How does that violate the primacy of existence if an existent, specifically God, is not the result of consciousness?

 

Similarly, Drew Lewis stated:

 

I believe that God exists objectively and based on no subjective cause. He didn't create Himself. I do believe that whatever else exists is created by Him.

 

In both cases, the objection here is that Christian god-belief is not subjective because it holds that the Christian god did not create itself. Now it’s well and good that a system of god-belief holds that its god did not create itself. Unfortunately, this does not sanitize god-belief from its inherent subjectivism. The Objectivist argument which I defend is not that god-belief is subjective because its god allegedly created itself. Rather, the argument is that god-belief is subjective because it ascribes metaphysical primacy to a subject (e.g., “God’s will”) over any and all of its objects, regardless of whether or not that subject is said to have created itself. That is where the root of subjectivism lies in the Christian worldview: in the relationship between its god as a subject and any objects distinct from itself.


To probe this matter, let’s ask some questions.

 

1. Is this god conscious?

 

Typically theists think of their god as a conscious being. It is supposed to know things, communicate, feel certain emotions (e.g., anger, wrath), desire things, issue commandments, plan things in advance, judge, etc. All of these activities presuppose consciousness because they involve conscious activity, so it would be strange if a theist denied consciousness to his god. The Westminster Confession of Faith says of the Christian god, among other things, that it is “most wise,” “most loving,” and “work[s] all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will.” So while Christianity’s formal declarations about the nature of its god may not explicitly state that it is supposed to be a conscious being, the fact that the faculty of consciousness is ubiquitously implied by many of the attributes ascribed to its god is unmistakable and undeniable. So in assembling an argument which addresses the claim that the Christian god is supposed to be a Christian god, the Objectivist is in no way mischaracterizing Christian theology. One only needs to go by what Christians themselves claim about their god.


Now let us ask:

 

2. What is the orientation between the Christian god as a subject of consciousness and the objects of its consciousness?

 

Since, as we saw above, the Christian god is supposed to possess consciousness, the question as to the orientation between the Christian god as a subject of consciousness, and its objects, is a fair question. In fact, it is one which theists should be prepared to address explicitly. To understand what this question is asking, let us identify the proper orientation in the relationship between man’s consciousness and the objects of which he is aware. The orientation which we have between subject and object is characterized by the primacy of existence: the objects of our consciousness hold metaphysical primacy over the subject of our consciousness. This means that the objects of our consciousness do not conform to our conscious intensions, but rather that the proper function of our consciousness is to conform to its objects. The primacy of existence means primacy of the object in the subject-object relationship. It is from this principle that we get our concept of objectivity.


Tom Porter clarifies the meaning of the primacy of existence principle when he writes:

 

The primacy of existence means both the absolute metaphysical independence of existence from cognition, and the absolute metaphysical priority of existence over cognition. It means the abject subordination of cognition to existence, the utter dependence of knowledge on its objects. (Ayn Rand’s Theory of Knowledge, p. 197)

 

According to this principle, then, an object is what it is, independent of what we know about it, or even if we don’t know anything about it. It is what it is, even if we are mistaken about it. An object will not alter or rearrange itself in order to conform to our errors or deficiencies in knowledge. To know an object, our cognition must conform to the object, both in our rudimentary awareness of it (e.g., I must turn my head to see the clock on the wall behind me) and in our identification of it (e.g., if both hands are pointed to 12:00, I would not insist that it indicates that it’s 4:30). In other words, to know an object, we need to gather information from the object itself. But the implications of the primacy of existence do not stop there. It tells us that objects do not conform to our conscious activity.


For example, suppose I see a stapler on my desk. My seeing the stapler does not bring the stapler into existence. It exists independent of my perception of it, my awareness did not cause it to exist. Now if I wish that the stapler be full of staples when in fact it has already run out, my wishing will not automatically reload it so that it is full again. Wishing does not have this power, and that is because the objects of consciousness hold metaphysical primacy over consciousness. If I want the stapler reloaded, I would have to physically reload it, and I could do this only if I have a set of staples to put into it. I could command that the stapler levitate itself to my hand if it is out of my reach, but will the stapler obey my command? No, it won't. Again, it exists independent of my conscious activity. I could imagine that the stapler is really an Asian elephant, but does my imagination turn the stapler into an elephant? No it does not: it remains a stapler all the same, and that’s because existence holds metaphysical primacy over consciousness, the objects of consciousness are what they are regardless of conscious activity. I could forget that my stapler is on my desk. But when I turn around, it’s still there. Why? Because it exists independent even of my forgetfulness, too. I could continue this experiment and test other conscious functions, but the result will always be the same: existence exists independent of consciousness. The primacy of existence cannot be defeated.


Now does this principle, the primacy of existence, characterize the orientation which the Christian god is supposed to enjoy between itself as a conscious subject and any objects in its awareness? It’s hard to see how a theistic believer would think so. A brief look at the Christian god’s career, as described in the bible, is sufficient to settle this question definitively. One need look no further than the opening verses of the book of Genesis, where we read that the god it describes “created the earth and the heaven.” Christians typically take this act of creation by their god to be comprehensive. For instance, Cornelius Van Til gives us the following statement:

 

Christianity holds that God is the creator of every fact... God’s thought is placed back of every fact. (Christian Theistic-Evidences, p. 88; quoted in Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings & Analysis, p. 378)

 

Christians usually describe their god’s creation of the universe as an act of will. Again we have Van Til, who wrote:

 

God wills, that is, creates the universe. God wills, that is, by his providence controls the course of development of the created universe and brings it to its climax. (“Apologetics,” 1959)

 

Elsewhere Van Til wrote:

 

We now know that the world exists simply because God wills it. (“The Election of All Men in Christ,” The Great Debate Today, 1970)

 

Or, as one source puts it:

 

Fact: God willed the universe into being. Fact: He willed the universe into being by simply speaking it into existence instantaneously. References: Psalm 33:6,9 Psalm 148:5 Hebrews 11:3 Thought: He did not have to speak in order to create, but He did. God could have just thought the universe into being. Instead, He spoke it into being. He used His word to create.

 

Similarly, apologist Douglas Wilson, in his article The Metaphorical Word, writes:

 

God spoke the created universe into being. God the Father "God-the-Son-ed" light, and there was light. God the Speaker Worded the heavens and the earth, and so they came to be.

 

In addressing the question What Do Christians Believe? Answering Islam’s Terrell Smith states:

 

God is Creator of everything, this vast universe. All was created by His Word. He spoke it into being. It is written: (Genesis 1:3) And God said... and it was so. His Word is powerful... God's Word spoke the universe into being. His Word is powerful beyond our comprehension.

 

Likewise, in answer to the question Can you explain why God created the universe? Christian author Mike Scott writes:

 

All things came into being through the will of God. It was God's pleasure that the universe and everything in it be created.

 

And lastly, Jack Cottrell, in his Sovereignty and Free Will, explains:

 

God's will is the final and exclusively determinative power of whatsoever comes to pass. The nature of any created thing is what it is because of an act of determination in relation to it on the part of God.

 

In terms of essentials, all these sources are in agreement: a conscious subject holds metaphysical primacy over its objects. Here we can see this clearly when the Christian god is said to create the objects of its own consciousness by an act of consciousness, either by simply willing them into existence, speaking them into existence, commanding them into existence, etc. It not only creates its own objects, it assigns them their identity as well: things are what the Christian god chooses them to be.


Additionally, it can alter the identity of anything it created at will as well. For instance, in the second chapter of the gospel of John, we read about Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding in Cana. Here Jesus, as the incarnated god of Christianity, turns water into wine by an act of will. The water, as the object of the Christian god’s consciousness, obeys the intensions of the knowing subject. Every object obeys its commands. The waters of the Red Sea part upon its command; a few fishes and loaves of bread are multiplied to feed thousands upon its command; the earth quakes upon its command; dead people rise upon its command, etc.


This is certainly not the orientation between subject and object which man’s consciousness has. Where man’s experience, characterized by the metaphysical primacy of existence, is that the objects remain what they are regardless of what he knows, thinks, wishes, desires, commands or insists on, the Christian god is said to be able control its objects by its own conscious activity. Thus in the case of man the objects of consciousness hold metaphysical primacy over the subject of consciousness (i.e., objectivism), in the case of the Christian god the subject of consciousness is described as holding metaphysical primacy over its objects (i.e., subjectivism). It’s completely irrelevant that Christians claim their god did not create itself. The subjectivism of their god-belief is inherent in the orientation it is said to have between itself and everything distinct from it. As Drew Lewis reminds us, “whatever else exists is created by Him.”


In conclusion, we see that the primacy of existence (objectivism) applies in the case of man, but in the case of the Christian god we have the primacy of consciousness (subjectivism). This is what Christians are asking us to believe: that on the one hand, objects do not conform to consciousness (e.g., wishing doesn’t make it so), while on the other hand objects do conform to consciousness (e.g., wishing does make it so). While the primacy of consciousness is unavoidable for us human beings (e.g., reality will not conform to any human being’s wishes), the Christian wants us to believe that there exists a consciousness which does hold metaphysical primacy over its objects (e.g., reality will conform to wishes). Reality has its constraints, constraints which conscious activity will not be able to alter or overcome. However, in the fake environment of the imagination, an individual can project a consciousness which does overcome these constraints. We can imagine a consciousness which even put those constraints in place to start with, “in the beginning,” and thus has the power to defy them or withdraw them altogether. In its essence, religion is the glorification of an imaginary consciousness possessing precisely this power.


The problem for Christians is simply that they do not want to admit that their god is imaginary. When you point out the fact that their god is only imaginary, they tend to retreat in silence. And there’s a good reason why.

 

 

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Interaction:

 

Drew Lewis’ response:

 

Dawson,

Thanks for the comprehensive explanation of the primacy of existence. Allow my to answer the questions you asked and point out some of the fallacious reasoning you're using.

Dawson asked:


1. Is this god conscious?

 

Yes, God is an objectively existent conscious thing.

 

Dawson asked:

 

2. What is the orientation between the Christian god as a subject of consciousness and the objects of its consciousness?

 

God is conscious of Himself and the things He has created. His consciousness of Himself follows His own existence. His consciousness of those things He has created depends on how you characterize it. He was conscious of them before He created them in a similar way to how a baker is conscious of the cookies he plans to make before he makes them. God's prior consciousness is obviously more in depth and accurate, but it is still within Himself, just like the baker. When He has created, He is then conscious of those things in a new way.

 

Now, for the fallacies.

 

Dawson:

 

Rather, the argument is that god-belief is subjective because it ascribes metaphysical primacy to a subject (e.g., “God’s will”) over any and all of its objects, regardless of whether or not that subject is said to have created itself. That is where the root of subjectivism lies in the Christian worldview: in the relationship between its god as a subject and any objects distinct from itself.

 

Fallacy: Straw Man or non-Sequitur

 

First, which statement do you mean to make? "any and all of its objects", or "any objects distinct from itself"? This determines which fallacy you've committed. It is definitely one or the other.

 

If it's the first, then you've constructed a straw man. Whatever someone may say about God creating "existence" or "reality", no orthodox Christian holds that "God's will" has primacy over "any and all" of its objects, because one of the objects that it is conscious of is itself. Any quote you may find, if you asked, no one would espouse the belief that you're arguing against. This is why it doesn't matter if you said it created itself. In order for Christian belief to be accurately characterized as you do, God would have to be conscious before He existed. That is obviously preposterous and that's why your argument is a straw man against some other belief besides Christianity or any other theistic belief I'm aware of.

 

That may not be the case, though, so what if you mean "any objects distinct from itself"? If that's the case, then your argument is simply invalid.

 

This could be your argument by this quote:

 

For example, suppose I see a stapler on my desk. My seeing the stapler does not bring the stapler into existence. It exists independent of my perception of it, my awareness did not cause it to exist. Now if I wish that the stapler be full of staples when in fact it has already run out, my wishing will not automatically reload it so that it is full again. Wishing does not have this power, and that is because the objects of consciousness hold metaphysical primacy over consciousness. If I want the stapler reloaded, I would have to physically reload it, and I could do this only if I have a set of staples to put into it. I could command that the stapler levitate itself to my hand if it is out of my reach, but will the stapler obey my command? No, it won't. Again, it exists independent of my conscious activity....

 

And so on.

 

Well, this argument is just a non-sequitur. It doesn't follow that just because one being lacks an ability, that all beings lack an ability. My question is, what is the logical connection between our inability to affect reality by mere will and God's? There is none, so the argument doesn't follow. It's literally just as good as saying that just because a picture of a car can't get you anywhere, this shows that a car can't get you anywhere. You can try to bring some other argument in if you want to argue that there's no God, but this argument just doesn't follow.

 

Dawson:

 

Reality has its constraints, constraints which conscious activity will not be able to alter or overcome. However, in the fake environment of the imagination, an individual can project a consciousness which does overcome these constraints. We can imagine a consciousness which even put those constraints in place to start with, “in the beginning,” and thus has the power to defy them or withdraw them altogether. In its essence, religion is the glorification of an imaginary consciousness possessing precisely this power.

 

Fallacy: non-sequitur

 

Again, this argument doesn't follow. The ability to imagine a world that has an all-powerful creator is not evidence that such a world must be imaginary. I can imagine a world in which Dawson Bethrick has a blog. Oh, look! That world must be imaginary! Do you really think this is a good argument?

 

Dawson concluded:

 

The problem for Christians is simply that they do not want to admit that their god is imaginary. When you point out the fact that their god is only imaginary, they tend to retreat in silence. And there’s a good reason why.

 

Fallacy: either non-sequitur or begging the question (circular reasoning)

 

If you're just restating the assertion above that the Christian God is imaginary as your conclusion, then it's just a reiteration of the same bad argument.

 

However, when people start a sentence with "the problem is", they are generally stating a premise to support their conclusion. If that is the case, then it is question-begging to use "god is imaginary" to conclude that Christianity is false or that belief in God is irrational or whatever. I can do the same thing by saying that atheists just don't want to admit that their naturalistic universe is imaginary. Hey, I can imagine such a universe right? It was good enough for you before.

 

December 28, 2008 1:28 PM

 

 

 

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My response to Drew Lewis’ criticisms:

 

Hello Drew,


Thanks for your responses. Unfortunately, it seems that you’re having a hard time understanding significant portions of my argument. Keep in mind that my argument is intended to establish the conclusion that god-belief (particularly Christian god-belief) is inherently subjective. It is not intended to conclude that your god does not exist. It seems I need to make this clear, even though my argument nowhere seeks to establish a conclusion which reads, “Therefore, the Christian god does not exist.” Please make a note of this distinction in considering my following points.

I asked: 1. Is this god conscious?


Drew: “Yes, God is an objectively existent conscious thing.”


Okay, so according to your god-belief, your god is conscious. Good! You had no difficulty with the first portion of my argument. The problems arise in your response to the second portion. Observe:

I asked: 2. What is the orientation between the Christian god as a subject of consciousness and the objects of its consciousness?


Drew: “God is conscious of Himself and the things He has created. His consciousness of Himself follows His own existence.”


Neither of these statements addresses the question I have asked.


Drew: “His consciousness of those things He has created depends on how you characterize it.”


This statement doesn’t address my question either, but how it is phrased is curious. Why would your god’s consciousness of those things it has allegedly created depend on how I characterize it? Is it really in my control?


Drew: “He was conscious of them before He created them in a similar way to how a baker is conscious of the cookies he plans to make before he makes them.”


This too does not address my question. And I should point out that statements like this can be made about anything we imagine. But in the case of an original creator, this statement is problematic. A baker who plans to bake cookies has seen cookies before, and the cookies he intends to bake are significantly like those he's seen in the past. He probably saw cookies well before he became a baker to begin with (for example, when he was a child). He is drawing from memory of things which have already existed and which he has perceived before. Moreover, the baker does not create cookies “ex nihilo.” He takes pre-existing materials and blends them according to his chosen recipe and bakes them accordingly.


Even more important, the orientation between a baker and the cookies he bakes is characterized by the primacy of existence. The cookies which he bakes (which actually exist) are what they are independent of the baker’s conscious activity. He could put a batch of cookies in the oven and forget to pull them out in time, consequently burning them. The baker would have to scrap them. He would not be able to wish them back to their desired state. But an all-sovereign and omnipotent deity could. Why? Because the objects of its conscious intensions conform to those intensions. Again, it's a question of the *orientation* presumed between the subject in question and its objects.


Drew: “God's prior consciousness is obviously more in depth and accurate, but it is still within Himself, just like the baker. When He has created, He is then conscious of those things in a new way.”


Again, this just skirts around the question which I have posed. You have already affirmed that your god is conscious. But the question now becomes: What is the orientation between the Christian god as a subject of consciousness and the objects of its consciousness? Is it the same orientation which we have with the objects of our consciousness? That is not what statements made by theists about their god indicate. Quite the opposite in fact. Their statements (and I quoted a number of them to confirm that my point is not misrepresentative of theism) clearly indicate that the orientation between their god as a subject and its objects is characterized by the primacy of consciousness - i.e., the primacy of the subject. Hence, subjectivism. But your statements, Drew, suggest that you do not fully understand this point.


I wrote: Rather, the argument is that god-belief is subjective because it ascribes metaphysical primacy to a subject (e.g., “God’s will”) over any and all of its objects, regardless of whether or not that subject is said to have created itself. That is where the root of subjectivism lies in the Christian worldview: in the relationship between its god as a subject and any objects distinct from itself.

Drew: “Fallacy: Straw Man or non-Sequitur. First, which statement do you mean to make? ‘any and all of its objects’, or ‘any objects distinct from itself’? This determines which fallacy you've committed. It is definitely one or the other.”


It is as you yourself had stated in your original comment, Drew: “I do believe that whatever else exists is created by Him.” This would presumably include stars, planets, dirt, flowers, oxygen molecules, riverbeds, starfish, raindrops, dust particles, etc. Even light itself is said to have been created by this supernatural being (indicating that it “created the earth and the heaven” in the dark). All these things and more would be objects of its consciousness, if it is aware of them. So there’s definitely no straw man argument on my part here. I’m simply going by what theists themselves say. I gave a number of quotes from numerous Christian sources to demonstrate that the position in question is not something I’ve concocted.


Incidentally, your statement logically leads to the problem of divine lonesomeness, to which I've yet to see a credible response by theists.


Drew: “If it's the first, then you've constructed a straw man. Whatever someone may say about God creating ‘existence’ or ‘reality’, no orthodox Christian holds that ‘God's will’ has primacy over ‘any and all’ of its objects, because one of the objects that it is conscious of is itself.”


You may want to re-read what I had stated in my blog:


Now it’s well and good that a system of god-belief holds that its god did not create itself. Unfortunately, this does not sanitize god-belief from its inherent subjectivism. The Objectivist argument which I defend is not that god-belief is subjective because its god allegedly created itself. Rather, the argument is that god-belief is subjective because it ascribes metaphysical primacy to a subject (e.g., “God’s will”) over any and all of its objects, regardless of whether or not that subject is said to have created itself. That is where the root of subjectivism lies in the Christian worldview: in the relationship between its god as a subject and any objects distinct from itself.

 

I don’t know how I could be more clear in stating that my argument is not that god-belief is subjective because it supposes that a consciousness created itself. But here it crops up in your response, as if you did not recognize this point. Please take note of it.


Drew: “Any quote you may find, if you asked, no one would espouse the belief that you're arguing against.”


So, it’s not your belief that your god created things like include stars, planets, dirt, flowers, oxygen molecules, riverbeds, starfish, raindrops, dust particles, etc.?


Drew: “This is why it doesn't matter if you said it created itself. In order for Christian belief to be accurately characterized as you do, God would have to be conscious before He existed.”


How so? I’m wondering if you’ve understood my argument at all, Drew. My argument is wholly compatible with the position that your god is eternal, uncreated, and existing independent of its own creative activity.


Drew: “so what if you mean ‘any objects distinct from itself’? If that's the case, then your argument is simply invalid.”


How so? Again, did you understand my argument and what it seeks to conclude? It simply seeks to conclude that theism (god-belief) is inherently subjective. Your own efforts to interact with my argument seem to proceed from a fundamental misunderstanding of what my argument seeks to establish.


I wrote: For example, suppose I see a stapler on my desk. My seeing the stapler does not bring the stapler into existence. It exists independent of my perception of it, my awareness did not cause it to exist. Now if I wish that the stapler be full of staples when in fact it has already run out, my wishing will not automatically reload it so that it is full again. Wishing does not have this power, and that is because the objects of consciousness hold metaphysical primacy over consciousness. If I want the stapler reloaded, I would have to physically reload it, and I could do this only if I have a set of staples to put into it. I could command that the stapler levitate itself to my hand if it is out of my reach, but will the stapler obey my command? No, it won't. Again, it exists independent of my conscious activity....


Drew: “Well, this argument is just a non-sequitur. It doesn't follow that just because one being lacks an ability, that all beings lack an ability.”


Here you are straw-manning my argument, for the issue is not a difference in mere “ability,” but in *orientation* between subject and object. Two different individuals can vary in ability (e.g., my ability to throw a football and an NFL professional’s ability to do the same), but still have the *same* orientation between subject and object.


Drew: “My question is, what is the logical connection between our inability to affect reality by mere will and God's? There is none, so the argument doesn't follow. It's literally just as good as saying that just because a picture of a car can't get you anywhere, this shows that a car can't get you anywhere. You can try to bring some other argument in if you want to argue that there's no God, but this argument just doesn't follow.”


Again, I wonder if you have adequately understood my argument. You say that “the argument doesn’t follow,” but what exactly do you understand my argument to be? My argument is intended to establish the conclusion that subjectivism is inherent in theism. Unless you believe your god has the same orientation between itself as a subject and any objects of its awareness *as human beings have*, then you’re missing the point. Notice the methodology of my exploration of this issue: first I asked if your god is supposed to be conscious. You affirmed that it is. So far no mischaracterization. Then I asked what orientation it has between itself as a conscious subject and its objects. Above you do not answer this question directly. But it is clear that you believe your god created the kinds of objects I listed. After all, you yourself stated: “I do believe that whatever else exists is created by Him.” That’s all my argument needs to work with, and I gave a whole slew of quotes which second the motion. It should be clear that the orientation between your god as a subject and its objects is not the same orientation that we have between ourselves as subjects and any objects of our awareness. The orientation which we have between ourselves as subjects is characterized by the primacy of existence: the objects of consciousness hold metaphysical primacy over us as subjects (this is the objective orientation between subject and object). But this principle does not apply in the case of your god: in the case of your god, the subject of consciousness is supposed to hold metaphysical primacy over its objects (this is the subjective orientation between subject and object). It is said to have created all objects distinct from itself by an act of will (i.e., by conscious activity); it is said to have assigned them their natures by an act of will; it is said to revise their natures by an act of will, etc. There is nothing apart from the god of theism, according to the theistic worldview, which can escape its sovereign control. This is the primacy of the subject metaphysics, i.e., subjectivism Q.E.D. No straw man here. No non sequitur, either. Not in the argument which I have presented. Sorry.


I wrote: Reality has its constraints, constraints which conscious activity will not be able to alter or overcome. However, in the fake environment of the imagination, an individual can project a consciousness which does overcome these constraints. We can imagine a consciousness which even put those constraints in place to start with, “in the beginning,” and thus has the power to defy them or withdraw them altogether. In its essence, religion is the glorification of an imaginary consciousness possessing precisely this power.


Drew: “Fallacy: non-sequitur. Again, this argument doesn't follow. The ability to imagine a world that has an all-powerful creator is not evidence that such a world must be imaginary.”


Here’s another mischaracterization of my argument. The object being imagined is not the world (it exists, and we perceive it; we don’t have to imagine it), but the invisible supernatural being which is alleged to have created it. Apparently you agree that people *can* imagine this. You do well. But here’s the question: how can we reliably distinguish between what theists call “God” and what those same theists may merely be *imagining*? As I have pointed out, it was the runaway imagination of a little boy scared out of his wits one night which led young Cornelius Van Til to a lifetime of devotion to mysticism. Here it is in his own words:


I can recall playing as a child in a sandbox built into a corner of the hay-barn. From the hay-barn I would go through the cow-barn to the house. Built into the hay- barn too, but with doors opening into the cow-barn, was a bed for the working-man. How badly I wanted permission to sleep in that bed for a night! Permission was finally given. Freud was still utterly unknown to me, but I had heard about ghosts and "forerunners of death." That night I heard the cows jingle their chains. I knew there were cows and that they did a lot of jingling with their chains, but after a while I was not quite certain that it was only the cows that made all the noises I heard. Wasn't there someone walking down the aisle back of the cows, and wasn't he approaching my bed? Already I had been taught to say my evening prayers. Some of the words of that prayer were to this effect: "Lord, convert me, that I may be converted." Unmindful of the paradox, I prayed that prayer that night as I had never prayed before. (Why I Believe in God)


You can deny the role of imagination in your god-belief all you want, Drew. That will not make it go away. And no, it’s not question-begging to point out that belief in imaginary beings such as god-belief enshrines is irrational. To insist that it is question-begging only indicates that you are not familiar with the issues raised in my arguments (as your current objections indicate).


Drew: “I can do the same thing by saying that atheists just don't want to admit that their naturalistic universe is imaginary. Hey, I can imagine such a universe right? It was good enough for you before.”


I don’t see how this move would at all be analogous. Existence exists. There’s no non-contradictory way to deny this. The universe is merely the sum total of what exists. The objects which I perceive are not created by anyone’s imagination. If steer my car towards a telephone pole going 80 mph, my imagination will not make the telephone pole stop existing or move out of the way. As I've stated before, the primacy of existence is undefeatable.


Regards,
Dawson

 

December 28, 2008 3:41 PM  

 

 

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