Slippin’ and Slidin’

Recycled picture, new post

I’ve written before about how impossible it is to argue with Christians. It’s either that they have superior knowledge because an invisible ghost possesses them and is guiding them towards truths that non-believers can’t possibly perceive. Or it’s that the supernatural just cannot be understood in an evidential, naturalistic way. Science and empiricism – what we can detect with our own eyes, with specialist equipment that serves as an extension of those eyes or that can be mathematically demonstrated – just cannot detect, perceive or understand the supernatural. Gary Matson is currently experiencing this on Escaping Christian Fundamentalism, where a Catholic Christian (an oxymoron to many other religionists) is arguing that the things he believes in – hell specifically and his God generally – are just too sophisticated for the ignorant layman to understand. We’ve met this before too, from pseudo-intellectual Christians who think their faith, which its supposed founder said was best understood by becoming like a child, requires a degree or three in theology or philosophy.

It’s all a sleight of hand, and rather like wrestling with a jelly-fish. The assertion that the believer in the supernatural makes, that his or her particular brand of woo lies outside the purview of science, is mere flannel. ‘You can’t prove this because you haven’t the tools to’, applies to any form of magical belief – in heaven and hell, in an afterlife, in ghosts, and angels, gods who speak to mortals, mystical saints, flying horses, reptilian overlords, UFO abductions… you name it – does not stand up to scrutiny. If supernatural entities and states are outside the natural universe (and they are, by definition) then they will never be detected by science, observation and empirical measurement; but not because our means of detection is inadequate, but because they don’t exist. It isn’t that they are out there somewhere, detectable only with the right frame of mind or with the help of a spirit that itself has no physical presence; they are nowhere; they are not real. It is not the inadequacy of our means of detection that is at fault; it is that the invisible, non-physical and intangible have no substance outside the human imagination. As I’ve said before, remove human imagination from the equation and the supernatural goes with it. If humans were to become extinct tomorrow, so too would all the magical beings and places that humans have ever conjured up. They have no  existence independent of the human imagination.

Arguing that this isn’t so is to assume your conclusion in your premise: ‘Of course supernatural things exist, you just can’t see them. But I can prove them with my argument/philosophy/faith’. This, however, is a demonstration of irrationality, not of the supernatural. In any case, the fact the supernatural has to be argued for at all is evidence that it doesn’t exist. Nothing real has to be argued for, it can be detected, shown, demonstrated and measured by the senses, by instruments, by mathematical proofs. That gods and ghosts can’t be, but have to be argued for, tells us they are not real – not that they are beyond the scope of our capabilities.

6 thoughts on “Slippin’ and Slidin’

  1. Neil: “the invisible, non-physical and intangible have no substance outside the human imagination.”

    Okay, we got it. But how do you know this? It is a belief without evidence.

    A “street epistemologist” from Portland, Oregon, wrote a book several years ago basically teaching his protegees to challenge Christians with this question – which he did not expect them to be able tom answer. I wonder what might have happened if a Christian had turned the question around and asked the same of his atheist inquisitors.

    So, how do you know that the invisible, non-physical, and intangible have no substance outside the human imagination? Or turning it around, how do you know that the material and physical is all there is?

    I’ve asked that quite often and on a few occasions have gotten the answer that since we know of the material world and we know how it works – without the necessity of gods or such – it is parsimonious to conclude no invisible, non-physical, and intangible entities exist. Sounds pretty airtight, doesn’t it. The problem is that it ignores some pretty big problems that are not solved by material and physical solutions.

    One of the biggest problems is explaining the origin of the material cosmos if the material is all there is. The old cosmological argument, you know. The answers get complex and pretty much depend not on evidence, but on speculation.

    The answers get more iffy when we go beyond the basic first cause argument to ask how it is that the universe as we know it produced the unexpected complexity we observe. Pretty much the answer depends on random chance, even though statistically that doesn’t come close to explaining complexity. That is the teleological argument.

    Now, you ask why should such an entity as Gods need an argument. The answer is that he does not. God is intuitive based on what we observe around us. It is really the argument that only the material is real that needs an argument. For most of people from all time that is the idea that is not intuitive and without evidence. So, how do you know?


  2. Absence of evidence in this case is evidence of absence.

    Why ‘in this case’? Because of probability:

    The chance of there being a god of any sort is slim.

    The possibility there is a (theistic) god with an interest in the evolved apes on a small planet on the edge of an infinitesimally vast universe, is smaller still.

    The probability that an ancient tribal god that morphed about 2500 years ago into the God of the universe, that loves his creation while simultaneously being so offended by them he wants, paradoxically, to destroy them, is infinitesimally small.

    It is reasonable to conclude, therefore, on the basis that such a God is highly improbable, that he does not exist and is instead a creation of the human imagination.

    I’ve addressed this more fully several times in the ten years or so I’ve been writing this blog. You might like to try here:
    and here:
    for the most recent.


  3. The chance of reality being only material is near zero.

    The chance of there being evolved apes such as us without there being a theistic God is even more remote.

    Such pronouncements, both yours and mine, are based on absence of direct evidence.

    I will take a look at your blog posts, but honestly I don’t expect anything more than I have read in many atheist apologies. And you probably would say the same of my brief appeal to the classic cosmological and teleological arguments. So we are at an impasse. But since you have a background in literature, I will add this one.

    The Bible is a book made up of 66 books (Protestant). They were written over about one thousand years time, and probably include pieces that are older than the oldest OT book. There are more than 20 different authors. Yet the Bible has one THEME and a COHERENT PLOT and is UNIFIED with no rabbit trails or strands of thought that are unconnected to the central theme.

    If the Bible were written by one author, that would be remarkable in a book that ranges so broadly across history. Written by multiple authors, it is more than remarkable. Even given that there were editors and a selection of books from among a larger number, that is remarkable.

    The INTRODUCTION in Genesis 1-6 and particularly in Genesis 3 is so necessary to the larger narrative that it is inconceivable that the plot could be created apart from that background because it includes an introduction to the primary characters and the first and underlying CONFLICT for the whole book. And that is to say nothing of the DENOUEMENT in Revelation that ties together the narrative in a conclusion that resolves all the conflicts.

    It does this while being comprised of pieces in many different genres written in styles that even now are recognized to be some of the best of all literature written, ancient or modern.

    As a student of literature, I cannot imagine how that can have happened. It has no equal in all of literature. I can only explain it by divine superintendency. And that implies a God.


  4. Pingback: Christians Say the Darnedest Things: The Bible Has One Theme, One Coherent Plot, and is Unified Throughout – The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser

  5. Pingback: Using Mormonism to Explain to Evangelicals the Reasons Why Atheists Reject Christianity – The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.