It has been awhile since I have had a chance to post, and so I thought I would take this opportunity to share a portion of a conversation I have been having on a discussion board. Although the discussion has gone on for awhile, and (I hope) will continue to progress, I thought I would post just a portion of my exchange, including my opponent’s “testimonial”.
To give some context to what you are about to read, the testimonial my opponent shares is in response to a challenge by me stated as follows:
Forgive me for rewording your assertions. I believe I have been true to the spirit of what you are saying, but please correct me if I have altered the essence of what you are saying:
1. Empirical events that trigger highly correlated brain states among most individuals are more than mere opinion.
2. Analytical constructs such as mathematics and logic that are defined by non-contradicting laws and exist primarily in the mind are more than mere opinion.
Tell me what now separates these assertions from your prior assertion that essentially nobody can be sure of anything. How is it you are sure that *these* assertions are “true”?
The assertions I mention above were derived from the ongoing conversation. What follows is my opponent’s response:
Well, its like this. When you cross a street and you see a speeding pickup truck heading forcefully in your direction, you step out of the way. Why? Because you trusted your senses and memories of past similar experiences. When you are faced with investing capital in some subset of stocks, you make a choice that reflects an expectation of success. Why? Because you expect your investment to behave in certain ways due to your understanding of the stock market and the underlying principles of economics. You make it a point to report to work exactly on time. Why? Because you’ve seen first hand or otherwise discovered about what can happen to one’s job when they disregard company rules. The point here is obvious; If we are to survive, we must trust and pay attention to our senses and what they have to say. It fuels, or should fuel any world-view because if it does not, the individual will soon find himself on the short end of the survival stick. To deny this simple fact is to sail on the river of denile. No one would take seriously any world view where this is not fundamentally true. It is based on repeated experiences of similar theme. We begin to learn these themes as we age, and the better we get at it, the stronger our chances to stay alive and thrive. It is all based on empirical events available to our senses.
My senses and my experience of others’ reports of their sensual experiences merge into my psychologically subjective experience that I use to understand and attempt to predict my world. And we all, whether we will admit it or not, arrange our perceptions in like manner (otherwise we would not last long). My ‘faith’ is built up from many related experiences that in certain ways are correlated, and reports from others that are not wildly divergent from my overall weltanschuang. I cannot therefore understand nor condone any apparent spurious decision to suddenly dismiss this function. I have no need to invent a construct that has no apparent manifestation or meaning in my own experience. I have never had anyone else demonstrate solid evidence to the contrary. If I had other experiences that DID in some way resemble some proposed abstract construct (like God), that could be a different story. But I haven’t. I build my world view on an on-going conversation with myself, the topic of which is always rooted in either what I’m encountering now, what I’ve encountered in the past, and possibly what I expect in the future. Its true I have faith in the continuity of my perceptions and concomitant world view, but so far my leap is kept at a minimum.
Your leap however is considerably wider than mine. I am not forced to accept things like virgin birth, miracle performance, raising the dead and resurrection from the dead when I have no experience of them, or any memory thread of something remotely related. There is no empirical experience with which to justify such claims outside their initial and singular claim. You are forced to justify a world view which accepts such outrageous claims by the only avenue available, that of large-leap faith. The problem however is that to justify a philosophy, based on large-leap faith, which denies the validity of any other – on faith alone – is a self-refuting system, given that another competing philosophy ALSO justifies their beliefs on some length of leap faith. To deny the validity of another religion, which justifies ITSELF by means of faith, is to refute its own basic foundation, which also happens to be faith. If you go before a judge for careless driving and you get off because your medication made you drowsy, you’d be a fool to turn around and tell the judge to throw me in jail for careless driving when I had been impaired from medication as well.
It is the sum total of our individual perceptions, based on a history of empirical experience and our brains evolved capacity to arrange these perceptions into related categories, and to cross-reference those perceptions to ‘go beyond’ the immediate. One is not required to understand oneself as something inherently evil or ‘sinful’ where the gory death of a deity is the only way to appease that same deity’s intolerance of our inherent badness. These concepts, while in no way exclusive to any given philosophical system or religion, require one to relinquish one’s fundamental orientation towards reason, based on learning and maturation of the brain in concert with empirical experience. That is where your world view fails. It fails because it requires your surrender of all of the things that you otherwise rely on to effectually manage your engagement with reality.
That is why I am not a Christian.
I will share my response in a future post. For now, read through what is said above, and see if you can find the problems inherent in this worldview.