Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Some tweaks to my fable

And some snarls to my yarn...




The Jolly Nihilist said...




If you would permit me, Rhology, I wish to make a few tweaks to your fable. Rather than a universe that was not specially created, let us transport this fable into a universe that was specially created by the god of the bible.
Your entire synopsis of Slate the enslaved human can remain the same, except for the additional fact that, for his entire life and until his death from that nasty infection, Slate was a devout Muslim.

Your entire synopsis of Reginald the independently wealthy human can remain the same, too, except for the additional fact that, on the evening preceding his peaceful death in his sleep, Reginald repented sincerely for his cruel ways and accepted Jesus into his heart. If you were to venture a guess, to which eternal fates might you expect Slate the enslaved human and Reginald the independently wealthy human to be subjected?


Rhology said...



More moral implications? What difference does it make to you?
The story would need to be further tweaked if we were swapping it over to a Christian universe - both Slate and Reginald are sinners, rebels before a holy God. However horrible Reginald's sins, Jesus died on the Cross, taking the punishment for them, and Reginald receives as a free gift the righteousness of Christ.

Slate, OTOH, refused to repent and so bears his own sins, which for his own part are also great, before the judgment of God, and God gives him what he desired - rejection of God.

The Jolly Nihilist said...


Which ultimately means that one’s actions in life are irrelevant and have no actual moral implications. Reginald could have killed 500 million people and, in addition, poisoned the water supply of a children’s school, but the only action of his that would matter, vis-à-vis ultimate consequences, would be his final-evening repentance.


Rhology said...


Ignorant strawman, JN. Why not just ask me if such and such would be the case, if you don't know?
And in point of fact, no, that is totally wrong.
1) Reginald's sins DO matter - the punishment for them is borne by Christ on the Cross.
2) There are degrees of reward in Heaven and degrees of punishment in Hell (Luke 12:47-48, 1 Corinthians 3:10ff).
3) God uses the actions done in life to lead His people to repentance. God uses means. He doesn't !!zap!! people.

Now, if you want to talk about irrelevant actions, I know about this atheistic nihilism thing I'd like to discuss.

31 comments:

Rhology said...

Stupid Blogger formatting... mutter mutter.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

I understand that, on your worldview, Reginald’s actions, whether they take the form of the fable you laid out or my more extreme form, wherein he was responsible for hundreds of millions of deaths, objectively matter, inasmuch as, on Christianity, there is an objective moral code to which humans are held. The point is, in my original response, I talked about a sincere repentance on the night preceding Reginald’s death and you responded thusly: “However horrible Reginald's sins, Jesus died on the Cross, taking the punishment for them, and Reginald receives as a free gift the righteousness of Christ.”

I increased the horribleness (on the Christian view) of the sins, but this seemed entirely appropriate to me, especially inasmuch as, long ago, we discussed the case of Jeffrey Dahmer, who, prior to his murder, reportedly repented and turned to Jesus. With respect to Dahmer, you once said, “On a related note, I believe it is documented on better-than-urban-legend grounds that Jeffrey Dahmer converted to Christianity shortly before his death. If that is true, if he placed his faith and reliance on Jesus Christ to forgive him of his sin and give him eternal life, he is my brother in Christ and will spend eternity in heaven in the presence of Jesus. I am a great sinner, Jesus Christ is a greater Savior.” So, if I am to be accused of an “ignorant strawman,” at least I can say its root was in something you said first.

Based on your initial response to my first comment, and amplified by your earlier discussion of Dahmer, it seems that, in terms of actually being held to account for one’s behavior, Christianity is lacking. Placing one’s faith and reliance on Jesus seems to wash away the stain of filthy sin, thus making--in terms of practical effect, if nothing else--the entirety of one’s life irrelevant with respect to ultimate consequences.

To me, it kind of screams “meh.”

Rhology said...

You need to make a connecting argument between "the sins of the believer in Jesus are not imputed to him but rather to Christ" and "nothing matters".

And I stand 100% behind what I said about Dahmer; you just need to make that argument.


Finally, even if my proposed worldview does reduce to meh, you haven't shown that the same is not true of atheistic nihilism, in which case the answer to the question: "Does Christianity = meh?" is "meh". You can't seem to wrap your head around the statement "nothing matters".

David said...

"God uses the actions done in life to lead His people to repentance."

Uh, Rho? Aren't you a Calvinist?

The Jolly Nihilist said...

Perhaps I am reading more deeply into your fable, and hence your worldview, than I should be, but I do not think this is the case, so I will continue to proceed in the same vein. In your original post, you seemed to be making two points, one explicitly and one subtly. The explicit point was that, on atheism, one's actions in life do not matter because we as creatures, and the universe we inhabit, will eventually die. The subtle point, discerned through the evidence of the ill-fated Slate the enslaved human, whom you seemed to portray as righteous, and the propitiously fated Reginald the independently wealthy human, whom you seemed to cast as wicked, seemed to be that, on atheism, nobody is held to account for their actions, whether they happen to be "good" or "evil" ones. The subtle point is the one to which I have devoted most of my attention.

If saving faith in Jesus cleanses one of one's hideous sins, thus leading to your declaration that Jeffrey Dahmer, if reconciled, "is my brother in Christ and will spend eternity in heaven in the presence of Jesus," one is not actually ever held to account for one's actions and, as a result, one's actions on your worldview lack significance in exactly the way of which you accuse atheism. Jeffrey Dahmer could have been a missionary in Asia, spreading the word of god. Or, Jeffrey Dahmer could have been a homosexual serial killer who cannibalized his victims, performed home lobotomies and kept bodies in an acidic vat. The entirety of one's life, and the immeasurable happiness or suffering one might cause, melts into nothingness in the face of one question: Is the person reconciled?

Sure, it makes a difference terrestrially whether Dahmer is a missionary or a serial killer, inasmuch as the effects of a person's actions can be noticed and remarked upon, but this is no different from atheism, according to which there is no meaning apart from the terrestrial. On the Christian view, human beings are accountable, as individuals, to god, but they are not held accountable for their actions, save for whether they seek redemption. Your subtle observation, in the original fable, that an atheistic world is, by its very structure, unjust, while an interesting idea, gives you no currency in promoting your own worldview. At best, this line of thought leads to a standoff, with nobody's life choices and moral decisions having any significance with respect to ultimate consequences.

thechemistscorner said...

I think you are missing a crucial difference. In an atheistic universe, the actions of the individuals has no ultimate meaning. However, in a Christian universe they still do hold meaning even if not applied to the person directly. Sins are not winked away, but the full punishment for those sins is paid for by Jesus. Indeed, in the Christian world, eternity will be spent with the one who bears the wounds for paying for those sins. I do not think that can be glossed over so easily.

Paul C said...

In an atheistic universe, the actions of the individuals has no ultimate meaning.

The reason that we can't reach common ground is that - for whatever reason - this is a proposition that frightens you. Thus it has force only because you would prefer to think that you live in a universe where your actions have an "ultimate meaning".

Meanwhile, myself and the Jolly Nihilist (and possibly NAL) are not frightened by the possibility that our actions have an "ultimate meaning" - indeed, I think none of us understand what the concept of "ultimate meaning" refers to, and in my case I reject the concept entirely.

We cannot bridge this gap. You cannot stop being mortally afraid of the possibility of a universe without "ultimate meaning", and therefore cannot conceive of a universe without such meaning, while I cannot even understand what the phrase "ultimate meaning" even means.

NAL said...

"Ultimate meaning" is simply a rhetorical device. In his discussions with atheists, Rho knows that they attach meaning to their actions. By using the term "ultimate meaning" Rho can dismiss the atheist's meanings as not being "ultimate".

Rhology said...

David,

Yes, and that is a fully Calvinistic statement. Just FYI, HYPER-Calvinism would deny the truth of that statement, but I'm not a Hyper-Calvinist. Just a regular one.



JN,

The explicit point was that, on atheism, one's actions in life do not matter because we as creatures, and the universe we inhabit, will eventually die.

Quite so.
And not only die, but be forgotten and of no use or utility to anyone or anything, ever. Our molecules, even, will degrade and eventually become motionless, isolated atoms in the universal heat death.



nobody is held to account for their actions, whether they happen to be "good" or "evil" ones.

Some might be held to acct, some not. And it doesn't matter - held to acct or not, you die.



one is not actually ever held to account for one's actions

1) Thank God for that! Rather, Jesus Christ the righteous is held to account for my actions, and I rejoice in that incalculable gift, whose benefits I will enjoy unto eternity.
2) That said, God disciplines His children, so this statement is not accurate. Prov 3:7-8.



but this is no different from atheism

Even the fact that you care enough to comment on the fact that you disagree shows that you're not consistent with the nihilist you claim to be.





Paul C,

this is a proposition that frightens you.

Me? I'm not the one acting inconsistently with my stated worldview.

David said...

"But I'm not a Hyper-Calvinist. Just a regular one."

Then what do you mean by the word "lead"? To lead is to persuade. And persuasion implies that the persuaded had a choice.

Rhology said...

Yes, and Calvinism does not deny that humans make choices.

Rhology said...

This might help.

I know it can be confusing.

Paul C said...

I'm not the one acting inconsistently with my stated worldview.

I'm certainly not. I reject the notion that I have a "worldview" - certainly you've never explained what that worldview consists of, except for a single misrepresentative statement of my views on morality and meaning. Do I act consistently with my beliefs? Yes, I absolutely do - you might say it's my life's work.

I'm waiting for substantial arguments from you instead of unsubstantiated assertions.

Rhology said...

You really don't think you have a worldview?

David said...

Calvinism does not deny that humans make choices.

Yes, I'm confused, and your link didn't help. Isn't the question of one's salvation settled before one is born?

Paul C said...

You really don't think you have a worldview?

To be precise, I think you don't know what you mean when you say that I have a "worldview". And if you do, you certainly have no idea what my "worldview" is, because you don't know enough about my beliefs. Certainly you've never expressed any interest in learning about other peoples' beliefs - you just fall back on stock rhetorical gimmicks like "personal fantasy".

Here's your opportunity, though. Since you're so sure I have one, why don't you define a) what you mean when you say "worldview" and b) what you think my "worldview" is? Then we can see how much your assumptions match up with reality.

thechemistscorner said...

The reason that we can't reach common ground is that - for whatever reason - this is a proposition that frightens you.

This has nothing to do with me being afraid of a lack of ultimate meaning. I am just stating the obvious. In the eventual heat death of this universe, the actions you do right now will mean nothing. In contrast, if the universe is indeed theistic (specifically Christianity), then it does matter a great deal what you do right now.

In the context of these posts, JN claimed that Christianity reduces to the same thing as atheism because the just punishment for sins are paid for by Jesus. I challenged this with my comment because I think it is a wrong assessment.

Paul took the fable to say that all that matters in atheism is how you live right now. Sure, I agree with this. But, what is missing is that how you live right now is highly dependent on each individual person. To be honest, as far as I can tell, in an atheistic universe Reginald made out pretty good. Sure, he was probably hated by others, but who cares?

Rhology said...

David,

Yes, the question of salvation is settled from eternity past aka eternity ago.
For that matter, every event is settled from eternity past. God has decreed all that comes to pass.
But that doesn't mean people don't make choices. And it doesn't mean that my choice doesn't affect the future - it DOES. The future happens partly b/c I made that choice. But I'm not autonomous and I'm not the ultimate cause of the choice I made.


Paul C,

You seem like you might be a bit irritated, but I'd like to encourage you - if atheism is true, you and I will be dead in ~50 years or less and nobody will remember anything we talked about here.
As for worldviews, I suspect you're just being difficult b/c you feel like sprinkling in some petulance.
Here you go.

David said...

"Yes, the question of salvation is settled from eternity past aka eternity ago.
For that matter, every event is settled from eternity past. God has decreed all that comes to pass.
But that doesn't mean people don't make choices. And it doesn't mean that my choice doesn't affect the future - it DOES. The future happens partly b/c I made that choice. But I'm not autonomous and I'm not the ultimate cause of the choice I made."

I'm sorry, but this is self-contradictory. If the first part is true, then the word choice has no meaning. You may as well claim that Hamlet chose to say "to be or not to be" despite the fact that Shakespeare had already written the script.

Paul C said...

if atheism is true, you and I will be dead in ~50 years or less and nobody will remember anything we talked about here.

And in 8-12 hours, the delicious food that I'm eating will eject itself from my system. That's not an argument that I should stop eating food, nor does it mean that the food is not delicious.

Your argument above is not an argument, merely an observation. The thought that in 50 years' time you'll be as dust clearly frightens you; it doesn't frighten me. Try making an argument.

As for worldviews, I suspect you're just being difficult b/c you feel like sprinkling in some petulance.

I'm not "being difficult". I'm refuting your argument. I know about your particular interpretation of the idea of a "world view", having read Sire nearly 20 years ago. I'm not surprised that you're just regurgitating that, since it doesn't seem like you've thought about these issues for yourself.

Anyway, he was wrong; you are wrong; the idea of "world views" is a pseudo-philosophy that is used as an excuse to avoid examining your own beliefs. Your debased interpretation of the concept falls down as soon as you start to really dig into what your fellow Christians believe, because a lot of them don't share your "worldview". You then label them as false, cutting the cake smaller and smaller.

But still, I'm giving you a chance to demonstrate that I have the "world view" that you ascribe to me. Go for it, we'll see if you have a clue what my "world view" consists of. I won't accept a single statement like "you're a materialist" - you claim you know what my entire "world view" is, so give me some detail!

Paul C said...

In the eventual heat death of this universe, the actions you do right now will mean nothing.

I've already explained to Rhology why that isn't an argument, merely an observation. If you want to make an argument that the “heat death of the universe” robs things of metaphysical value and not just heat, please feel free.

My actions mean something to me. No other “meaning” is important, or indeed possible. For example, let's say that God's plan for me is to count the grains of sand on this beach. Now that might have meaning for God, but it's not something that has meaning for me.

Now, I could say, “okay, what's important for God must be important for me” - but that means that I've decided to invest it with importance because of my beliefs. Whether the universe is arranged according to my beliefs or yours, meaning is still something that only the individual can decide.

thechemistscorner said...

Wow, so you deny that you have a way of interpreting the world outside yourself. By the way, disagreements about what the worldview is does not mean that worldviews do not exist, but nice try.

Let me think about a formal syllogism for this. I don't want to write it off the cuff.

Paul C said...

Wow, so you deny that you have a way of interpreting the world outside yourself.

No, I don't. I refute the specific and particular misuse of the Weltanschaung concept by evangelical Christians as a way of closing off debate rather than opening it up.

I'm not including you in that, by the way - I believe that you're genuinely interested in learning about how other people think. Rhology, on the other hand, keeps telling me what I think, which gets a little tiring.

Rhology said...

David,

I'm sorry, but this is self-contradictory.

I understand you think so. I'll just have to wait for an argument, I guess.



Paul C,
That's not an argument that I should stop eating food, nor does it mean that the food is not delicious.

Why isn't it?



. The thought that in 50 years' time you'll be as dust clearly frightens you; it doesn't frighten me. Try making an argument.

Whether it frightens me is irrelevant, and the fact that it doesn't frighten you tells me something about your intellectual honesty.
The argument has already been stated - since all is headed for dust, give me a reason why sthg matters. Don't ask me to prove stuff DOESN'T have meaning, as if proving a universal negative were possible. I simply see no evidence that, on atheism, meaning exists except in the fantastic imaginations of its adherents. I owe this kind of terminology and argumentation to my atheist friends, actually. I just change "God" to "meaning"; I expect that, since y'all use it all the time, you must think it's a good argument!



As for worldviews, I suspect you're just being difficult b/c you feel like sprinkling in some petulance.

I'm not "being difficult". I'm refuting your argument.


"I don't have a worldview" is hardly a refutation, I'm sorry to inform you.



the idea of "world views" is a pseudo-philosophy that is used as an excuse to avoid examining your own beliefs.

Hahahaa *snort*. The idea that I don't examine my own beliefs is...I'm casting about for adjectives here.



Your debased interpretation of the concept

More pejorative, and w/o any basis for talking like that, w/o a standard to know what's not debased and what is.



I'm giving you a chance to demonstrate that I have the "world view" that you ascribe to me.

It involves your faith that evidence means sthg, that communication means sthg, that other minds and the external universe exist.



My actions mean something to me.

God exists for me.
By your argument, ergo, God exists.



I refute the specific and particular misuse of the Weltanschaung concept by evangelical Christians as a way of closing off debate rather than opening it up.

Right, which is why so many Weltanschauung-affirmers challenge ppl to debate all the time. And why famous atheists often turn down such debate invitations. And why, even when they don't turn it down, they get pantsed more often than not.

Paul C said...

Why isn't it?

I ate my dinner last night in the full awareness that it would soon come to an end, and it was delicious. However if you think there is an argument that the transitory nature of deliciousness means that I should stop eating food or that food is not delicious, then by all means make that argument.

Whether it frightens me is irrelevant, and the fact that it doesn't frighten you tells me something about your intellectual honesty.

I'm fascinated to know what it tells you about my intellectual honesty, but I'm more excited to hear your argument as to why I should be frightened by the fact that in 50 years time I'll be dust.

The argument has already been stated - since all is headed for dust, give me a reason why sthg matters... I simply see no evidence that, on atheism, meaning exists except in the fantastic imaginations of its adherents.

Well, I've already provided an argument in my response to the Chemist above. If you believe you can refute that argument, please do.

"I don't have a worldview" is hardly a refutation, I'm sorry to inform you.

Then it's lucky that I didn't say “I don't have a worldview”. I said I reject the notion that I have a worldview in the specific sense in which you (and other evangelicals) use it.

It involves your faith that evidence means sthg, that communication means sthg, that other minds and the external universe exist.

Oh, surely you can do better than that. What is it about my “worldview” that makes it “atheist”? You keep telling me that my “worldview” means that I *must* believe this and I *must* believe that – but you never actually specify what my “worldview” consists of.

As I said, I don't think you know what you mean when you use the word. Of course, you can always link to Sire's bleatings, but that doesn't mean you've understood them.

God exists for me. By your argument, ergo, God exists.

a. That doesn't refute my argument in any way.
b. Of course, the two are different categories: meaning is an internal mental state, God is an external personal being, so the argument doesn't transfer like that.
c. However if you insist that my argument extends to your beliefs, then God exists solely in your mind. Are you sure that's the move you want to make?

Rhology said...

However if you think there is an argument that the transitory nature of deliciousness means that I should stop eating food or that food is not delicious, then by all means make that argument.

My argument is that it means that you neither should nor shouldn't. It makes no difference to anyone except you. The meaning is limited to you, to the meaning you manufacture, which does not exist anywhere else except in your mind.
See, when I say that God exists, atheists argue that He doesn't exist. If I retreat like the mainline liberals do to "well, He exists to me!" or "He's real in my life!" atheists condescendingly reply "You can have your fantasy sky daddy, but just don't bother us with him, kthxbye".
This is turnabout. Not that I retreat like the libs do, but I'm just subjecting you to the same treatment. You don't like it, clearly. Maybe you could show some guts and some consistency and reprove the atheists who treat Christians like that, with that kind of condescension.



why I should be frightened by the fact that in 50 years time I'll be dust.

You neither should nor shouldn't, on atheism. How many times do I have to remind you of that? But why you're not frightened is weird, b/c you apparently think that things matter, and yet it's all going to decompose into nothing. All your life's work will not be remembered. Nothing you live for will survive even 100 yrs, probably. Maybe you're not a Big Picture guy.
But since Christianity is in fact true, I wish you feared it! Then you might seek a Savior.



I've already provided an argument in my response to the Chemist above.

What, you mean this?
My actions mean something to me.

That's called a personal fantasy. We've been over this already.



I said I reject the notion that I have a worldview in the specific sense in which you (and other evangelicals) use it.

Just letting you know I'm rolling my eyes now. Obfuscation, time-wasting.



What is it about my “worldview” that makes it “atheist”?

The fact that it doesn't contain a god? That it's materialistic?



You keep telling me that my “worldview” means that I *must* believe this and I *must* believe that – but you never actually specify what my “worldview” consists of.

I'm tired of this.
If I get you wrong, either correct me or stop whining. Tell me what you believe, then! Sheesh.

Paul C said...

Sorry, it is Paul C.

How do you know when anything is rational?

So you're saying that you don't have an argument that an infinite regress is irrational?

Tkalim said...

So you don't have a reason to label them "bad". You just do. What if I came along and told you that losing the trail is in fact "very good"?

Then I will understand that the word for “bad” in your language is “very good.”

And that it were my moral obligation, given to me by my gods, to cause you to lose the trail every time and injure your child every time?

Then your gods are set against our gods, and we will see whose gods are stronger.

And that it was "very good"? Is that OK? Is it really good for me? Can you tell which of us is right?

It is good for you if that's what your gods tell you to do.

Why were you so quick to tell me that the news that I brought you was incorrect, about the God Who created the world and Who will judge you for your lawbreaking, but Who offers forgiveness to those who repent?

Because the five gods created the world.

How can the world have existed forever and also have been created?

I didn't say that the world has existed forever.

Paul C said...

Damn, wrong post. Ignore those last two comments!

Paul C said...

My argument is that it means that you neither should nor shouldn't.

Do you have an argument that the transitory nature of deliciousness in food means that food is not delicious, or don't you?

If you don't, then you have no defense against the argument that the transitory nature of meaning in life does not mean that life is meaningless.

The meaning is limited to you, to the meaning you manufacture, which does not exist anywhere else except in your mind.

Where else would meaning exist?

But why you're not frightened is weird, b/c you apparently think that things matter, and yet it's all going to decompose into nothing.

Do you have an actual argument as to why I should be frightened by the fact that everything will decompose into nothing? Or is this just another example of you trying to tell me what I should believe again?

The fact that it doesn't contain a god? That it's materialistic?

That's what you mean by a “worldview”? The absence of religious faith and a single elementary philosophical position?

Wow, that's even weaker than I thought.

Paul C said...

My actions mean something to me.

No, that was one line of the argument that I provided to the Chemist. The complete argument went as follows.

My actions mean something to me. No other “meaning” is important, or indeed possible. For example, let's say that God's plan for me is to count the grains of sand on this beach. Now that might have meaning for God, but it's not something that has meaning for me.

Now, I could say, “okay, what's important for God must be important for me” - but that means that I've decided to invest it with importance because of my beliefs. Whether the universe is arranged according to my beliefs or yours, meaning is still something that only the individual can decide.

You can call it a “personal fantasy” if you like, but that's not an argument. If you have an argument that meaning can exist anywhere except in my mind, please make it.