Friday, April 2, 2010

Thoughts on Christianity

As Vox Day detailed in his book The Irrational Atheist most of the “arguments” put forwards by the new atheists are simply logically fallacious.

We see some of the same above, such as the claim that Christianity cannot be true because Christians do bad things. When it is pointed out that atheists have not only done equally bad, but even worse things, the special pleading is made that Christians ought to be better because they have the holy spirit inside them.

Arguments such as Craig’s Kalam formulation are dismissed because Craig would remain faithful even if the evidence was against him. Of course the logical implication of that is that Craig hasn’t found the evidence inadequate yet. Moreover Kalam is a logical argument, P1, P2, and C1, so an attempt to refute it cannot revolve around discrediting the source. That’s ad hominem.

The first proposition is unassailable, simply because if we don’t assume causality then all discussion ceases, it is the second proposition that is the weak point in the argument, because while we currently assume that the universe has a beginning, we cannot prove it. Craig’s arguments against an infinity reached by successive addition doesn’t take into consideration set theory where a set can contain an infinite number of values (for example all real numbers) without achieving that point by cumulative addition. Incidentally the person who introduced me to that criticism was a biblical creationist. However if proposition 1 is true, and we must assume that it is, and proposition 2 is probably true, which at the moment we generally assume it is, then the conclusion, that the universe had a first cause, is also probably true.

We can construct similar arguments based around morality, or teleology, which make it reasonable to infer a moral intelligence behind life.

Whilst showing that it is reasonable to propose a moral intelligence that created the universe, that doesn't automatically lead to Christianity.

What we then have to ask is what religious tradition deals with a creator god and specific historical events?

A creator god is necessary because of the first step. Obviously a god who is the universe cannot logically be the creator of that universe. That leaves out all pantheistic religions like Hinduism, as well as godless religions like Buddhism and atheism. The classical religions like those of the Greeks and Romans must go too. In their mythology the gods were born from Khronus and he in turn came into being at the moment of creation, hence he could not be the first cause.

We're now down to a relatively short list of theistic religions with transcendent deities. Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. I will treat Judaism and Christianity as two parts of the same tradition, although I'm sure most Jews would disagree with me.

Specific historical interventions are lacking in what I see of Zoroastrianism, that is Ahura Mazda doesn't seem to do very much. Whilst Zoroaster seems to have had many valuable insights, he doesn't appear to have the same miracle working power as Moses and Jesus.

In Judaism, whilst God doesn't act capriciously, the Biblical writers testify to specific actions and predictions attributed to YHWH. Where we are able to test them (and that is a limitation in any historical work) they seem to hold up well.

Christianity is rooted in the historical evidence of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, and the theological interpretations placed on that evidence by Jesus and his apostles. Again within the limitations of historical inquiry the evidence seems to hold up well.

Islam is rooted in the revelation of Allah to Mohammed. However he makes specific claims about Jesus that are contrary to those recorded in the Bible. Since the historical evidence about Jesus goes back to the late first century and early second century, whilst Mohammed was writing in the seventh, this leaves me somewhat sceptical of his claims.

Since Mohammed did not claim to be writing his own recollections, but rather what Allah was dictating, this would lead me to regard his claims of authority as somewhat dubious.

Based on this brief assessment I would have to say that Judeo-Christianity has the best claim to be objectively true. If it is not then another form of theism, possibly one not revealed to humanity, is the next most likely.


bethyada said...

Craig’s arguments against an infinity reached by successive addition doesn’t take into consideration set theory where a set can contain an infinite number of values (for example all real numbers) without achieving that point by cumulative addition.

I suspect this is a problem with how we interpret set theory.

Mathematics applied to reality is modelling. Not everything possible in maths relates to the physical. Physical sets are not infinite even if we create infinite mathematical sets. We are probably equivocating on the word "set" here. Physical sets can be composed of a number of the same things, such as a group of people. That we can conceive an infinite of numbers between 1 and 2 does not mean that 1.4267508 represents anything. I would say that this is a result of continuity of numbers, rather than a set of events.

Duke of Earl said...

Thank you.