Barrel Strength

Over-Proof Opinion, Smoothly Aged Insight

Barrel Strength - Over-Proof Opinion, Smoothly Aged Insight

Statements of faith

Statements of faith are not intended to be statements about material reality.

Eric Voegelin writing to his friend Hans Schutz on January 1, 1953.

The proposition “God is almighty” combines a transcendent subject (one of which we have no innerwordly experience, only an expe­rience of faith) with an “idealized,” infinitized, innerwordly pred­icate.

The proposition is therefore meaningless if both the subject and the predicate are taken literally; it makes sense only if the predicate is added analogically to the extrapolated subject of the experience of faith.

What the men of the 18th-century Enlighten­ment held against Christian dogmatics (enlightened thinkers are repeating it today), namely, that theological statements–unlike statements concerning sense perception–are meaningless because they cannot be verified, is the very starting point of Christian the­ology.

Eric Voegelin was an Austrian Catholic classicist who fled Hitler -not without reason – during the Anschluss and who taught philosophy for many years in the United States.

If you are speaking of verifiable propositions, you are not speaking of transcendent religious experience,  and on this Dawkins, Hume, Voegelin, Aquinas and I would all be in agreement.

The Wikipedia entry captures this well:

One of Voegelin’s main points in his later work is that a sense of order is conveyed by the experience of transcendence. This transcendence can never be fully defined nor described, though it may be conveyed in symbols. A particular sense of transcendent order serves as a basis for a particular political order. It is in this way that a philosophy of politics becomes a philosophy of consciousness. Insights may become fossilised as dogma. The main aim of the political philosopher is to remain open to the truth of order, and convey this to others.

His New Science of Politics and Science, Politics and Gnosticism will re-organize and inform your thinking about politics and history. They are strongly reccommended to people who try to think about political movements. They will enable you to perceive phenomena like Hitler, Robespierre, Lenin, Rousseau, Baboeuf, Trotsky, and Arun Smith in their proper light.

Knowledge and belief

Mark Mercer, Chairman of the philosophy department at St. Mary’s University, lets us all know how superior he feels to the religious impulse today in today’s Ottawa Citizen.

He tells us that religion is horrid because:

First, because a person can have no good reason of evidence or argument for holding a religious belief, a person cannot hold religious beliefs except on faith, that is, in violation of his or her standards of belief worthiness. Religion is horrid, then, because it depends on and encourages self-deception, wishful believing, and contempt for evidence.

Immediately, one can see there are two errors in this statement. The first is his assumption of error on the part of those who believe in unprovable propositions, such as, there is a God. He states: Because – by his definition – “a person can have no good reason of evidence or argument for holding a religious belief”,  there can be no good argument for holding a belief except on faith. This is the assertion of precisely what he needs to prove, it seems to me. Petitio principi – begging the question – is to assume the truth of what one argues.

Second, faith is not a violation of belief-worthiness. It is an essential element of belief-worthiness. If I did not have to believe something, faith would be superfluous. Faith and belief in this sense are the same things.

Consider this:

I do not believe in the law of gravity. I do not have to. I know it. If I jump off a window, I know that gravity will draw me down to the earth at an increasing rate.

Believing in the law of gravity is superfluous.

If, by contrast, I believe you will show up at lunch today despite the fact you had to drive a hundred miles to get to town, then the use of the word believe is appropriate. I do not know that you will show  up; I believe you will based on my knowledge of your character and history with me.

Belief is different from knowledge; they are different acts or states. I amtempted to add that belief is an act of the soul, knowledge of the mind. But since, on materialist grounds, we have no souls, that is an argument for another place.

Maybe saints know God. For the rest of us, belief will have to suffice. Any God whose existence could be proven to the satisfaction of materialist doctrinaires would be unworthy of belief.

Second, religion involves, perhaps necessarily involves, self-abasement. In worshipping something, a person assumes an attitude of inferiority to the object of worship — not just inferiority of talents, but inferiority in worth, inferiority as a person.

If a transcendent divine power governs this universe, it would be no diminishment of my ego to acknowledge its superiority to me. I am not diminished, I am enhanced, and this has always been a well spring of religion: to partake in something greater than ourselves by acknowledging its greatness.

Third, religion involves the attitude that all is for the best in this, the best of all possible worlds. (This must be the best possible world, as it is God’s handiwork.) Thus, everything happens for a reason, including suffering and sorrow, and is ultimately justified by its reason. But to take this attitude (again, against the evidence one has) is to be contemptuous of actual suffering and sorrow.

Not all religions take this attitide, but leave that aside. Volumes could be written about the problem of evil. The Book of Job is a good start. Of all the things one might say about the problem of evil, one of the stupidest I have ever heard is that believers are compelled to be contemptuous of actual suffering and sorrow. They are as mystified as anyone else, but they are not contemptuous. Perhaps our professor friend is attributing to believers what he feels himself.

Much of reductive materialist philosophy partakes of this sophomoric superiority to the concerns and feelings of ordinary humans, including the religious impulse, but so much also partakes of this second-rate thinking dressed up as deep thought. Christmas brings them out, like zombies from the grave.

George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation

is very Masonic, in case you are interested in that sort of thing. Note, in the third paragraph:

to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Science, virtue and religion are best fostered when all of them are fostered. The dependence of man on the Divine Being is not just a form of speech; they believed it.

Read more.

George Washington’s 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted’ for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have show kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d day of October, A.D. 1789.

Merkel calls Christianity world’s most persecuted religion

Ain’t it the truth. Whether by Muslims or reductive materialists (e.g. Dawkins), Christianity is under active Muslim persecution or wholly unwarranted derision from materialist idiots who ought to know better. But I think Angela Merkel is referring to Islam here.

 

BERLIN (AP) — Opposition lawmakers and human rights groups are criticizing German Chancellor Angela Merkel for claiming that Christianity is “the most persecuted religion worldwide.”

Lawmaker Jerzy Montag of the opposition Greens party on Tuesday described Merkel’s comments as “mistaken” and “not very helpful.”

Rights campaigners said ranking faiths according to how persecuted they are is pointless.

Human Rights Watch noted that Muslims in Myanmar, members of Falun Gong in China and Jews in many countries worldwide also face persecution.

Merkel’s comments came at a meeting of the German Protestant Church late Monday in which she emphasized Germany needed to protect Christian minorities as part of its foreign policy.

Merkel, the daughter of a pastor, also spoke out against a strict separation of church and state and said Europe was built on Christian foundations.

Reductive or eliminative materialism (there is nothing in the universe but matter and its motions, such that mind, intention, purpose and will are explained away in terms of ultimately physical phenomena), I refer you to Berlinski’s “The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions” and Thomas Nagel’s “Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost certainly False”. Ironically, Berlinski is an atheist. and Nagel, so far as I can tell, is one too. They both understand bad arguments, however.

Big Bird

You know who I mean right? The muppet threatened by cutbacks to PBS? I was listening to the radio this morning about the US election campaign and I was made aware of the enormous power of symbols over human events. Is Romney the Grinch who will steal Big Bird, to mix our symbolic references? That the question can be seriously asked should tell us something of how our minds work.

Who is Big Bird? Is he “real” or “symbolic”? Or can something be real and symbolic at the same time, and yet be entirely the creation of human ingenuity? Well he sure is a character. You know him as well as you know some of your cousins. So he is “real” in some sense. But he is also a symbol. Ideally he would have no existence but for a man putting on a bird costume, and acting in children’s television. It does not worry you that this is so – Big Bird is not less real for being an obvious contrivance, not less symbolic because acted by a man in a feathered suit.

Thus our “knowledge” encompasses knowing fictions as we know persons, and those fictions can instruct us, change our behaviour for better or worse, and provide symbolic benefits whose reality we do not question.

Now imagine if God wanted to create his own Big Bird to instruct the human species. How would He do it?

Man does not live by bread alone but by mystery,love and high adventure.