Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Life Is

I have recently read a blog entry by Joseph Tkach III relating his views on belief, faith and Christianity (http://www.livejournal.com/users/jeva/34028.html). He writes clearly and calmly.

Unfortunately, I am much less eloquent, and looking after a 1 year old baby means that I must write very succinctly.

However, I have read and heard people use similar arguments for "god"--pick a flavour--and creation. They say things like, "Well, everything seems to work so well in the universe, so therefore the only reasonable explanation is that some super-being designed it." Or things like, "I have such a strong belief that there must be another existence after death, otherwise what would be the use of living?" They call that belief, without proof, faith. There they remain, happy with their faith, and content that it is impossible to really know. They feel safe and secure.

This is a dangerous example of human-centric thinking. The earth is teeming with life. Is that life useless? Does that life exist solely to benefit humans? Unfortunately, that has been a foundational belief behind many religions and non-religions alike. We are seeing the results of that thinking in pollution, global warming and other trends.

Life is not useless because a human mind thinks it so. Nor is it useful. Life is.

We make many assumptions to reach the above conclusion. For example, we assume that the universe was designed by a super-being. We assume that the creation exists for humans. We assume that as humans we have custodianship over the earth as a responsibility to god. Some assume that if we screw things up badly enough, God will rescue us and give us a second chance.

And as a wise man once told me, to assume makes an "ass" out of "u" and "me". Then we end up sending thousands to religous leaders who fly around in planes and drive in limos...

Don't close your mind to the possibilities. Examine the things that could make your assumptions fail along with those that make them possible. Is there a God? Could be, but I just don't know. What makes me ask that question in the first place? Obviously something in my brain chemistry triggered it. Some people say that it is an outside force--God's calling through his Holy Spirit--could be. Or maybe it's the "human spirit". Neither have been seen nor measured and for either to be acting on our brain, wouldn't they have to be measurable? If Gerald Flurry had an MRI of his brain, what would we see that would differentiate him from the average human?

Could the Bible be speaking symbolicly or metaphorically? Maybe it's a development of evolution that puts that thought there. Maybe some part of human psychology and being raised in a family/tribe over thousands of years.

The point is, the more we learn, the more we know. And the old answers just don't cut it any more. Faith has to change along with knowledge and understanding, so stay flexible or Santa won't be coming to your house this year.

KTHO

6 Comments:

Anonymous Joseph Tkach III said...

A friend of mine directed me to your post regarding my most recent blog entry, and I thank you for your compliment regarding the eloquence of my writing, however unwarranted it may be. I am concerned, however, that you have misrepresented several of the views I expressed, and I wish to respectfully enumerate these misrepresentations that I perceive.

First, there is your reference to what is commonly known as the teleological argument, the idea that a watch requries a watchmaker, via the quote,
Well, everything seems to work so well in the universe, so therefore the only reasonable explanation is that some super-being designed it." I specifically eschewed this argument in the blog entry that you read, and I direct you to my own quote, "I have never found the argument that a watch requires a watch-maker to be very moving, because it seems, then, that a watch-maker requires a watch-maker-maker, and so on."

Second, I never said anything that could even remotely be construed to say "I have such a strong belief that there must be another existence after death, otherwise what would be the use of living?".

Third, after suggesting that I have said things that I have not, you segue into a collection of speculations that prove nothing conclusively. Though I cannot claim to prove the truth of Christianity conclusively, I contend that you are equally unable to disprove it conclusively. There are reasonably plausible alternative explanations for everything, regardless of your world view, and I hope that your apparent a priori committment to atheism does not prevent you from coexisting peacefully with those who disagree with you.

Last, as a point of curiousity, I find it intriguing and saddening that you continue to associate the Worldwide Church of God with its various splinter groups, because as of approximately 1994, they have been radically different philosophically, doctrinally, and ideologically. And although you seem to have placed all religions in the same category, one with which you have decidedly negative associations, I suggest that you might do some research, and note the distinctions, if you care.

Humbly, Joseph Tkach III

3:34 AM  
Blogger Asbestos said...

Thank you for expressing your views. My comments were not meant to focus solely on your article and the arguments it puts forward. It reminded me of so many "I believe" viewpoints that I have read over the years.
I acknowledge that you did not buy into the "watchmaker" argument. I think my line of thought on all of this is regarding faith. In short our faith is based on our current world view. To me faith really means belief in the unknown or something not understood. We must acknowledge that but not glorify it, I believe.
The current WCG is different from the WCG of the past, and the name change will make that even more so to the public. However, many individuals in the current administration will always be a part of thousands of lives. For past members and tithe payers. Millions of dollars and prayers poured into the WCG from all over the world. What has happened and is currently happening definitely matters, althoug the core beliefs have changed.

Thanks for writing

6:26 AM  
Blogger The Knave said...

Herbie was a fraud.

J. Tkach I was a fraud.

J. Tkach II is a fraud and is running a scam, albeit a highly profitable one.

J. Tkach III likes to use big words and rhetorical flourishes, but the basics of logical discourse elude him, to wit:

"Though I cannot claim to prove the truth of Christianity conclusively, I contend that you are equally unable to disprove it conclusively."

This is so silly and sophomoric.

All of the "proofs" of the "truth" of Christianity are provided by, guess who, Christians! A single lone outlier, that would be considered an independent historical source, which Christians love to cite as evidence of the historicity of "Jesus," is a very short passage in Flavius Josephus' exhaustive account -- "Antiquities of the Jews." However, critical scholarship has revealed that this passage was inserted long after Josephesus' death, by guess who? (Hint -- the word begins with a capital "C.") The perpetrator of this fraud was likely Bishop Eusebius, the propagandist of the Roman Church, in the fourth century C.E.

Other Jewish (like Josephus) historians, who lived contemporaneously with the supposed period when God walked the earth, whose works have survived, make no mention of Jesus. Most notable among these historians are the eminent Jewish authors Philo and Justus of Tiberias.

You are welcome, of course, to place your faith in, and rely on, whatever fables, myths and fund-raising propaganda you may choose. But to engage challengers, and to attempt to make your views credible, by saying those challengers have failed to prove a negative is a play-ground-quality technique. Of course, what's a defender of the faith to do when there is nothing else available?

9:32 AM  
Anonymous Joseph Tkach III said...

Apparently, the finer points of logical discourse have also eluded "the knave", who begins his argument against me by saying, "This is so silly and sophomoric." I submit that this is also a "play-ground quality" technique, a classic one called "argumentum ad hominem", wherein the arguer attacks his opponent personally instead of speaking to the issue at hand.

I do not offer the idea that Christianity cannot be disproven as proof that it is true, but simply to suggest that no one can no for certain. This is called "faith", and you employ just as much of it in your acceptance of atheism as I do in my acceptance of Christianity.

If I simply transpose certain words in your argument that "only Christians try to prove Christianity," we see that the same logic is applicable to the idea that "only those who oppose Christianity try to disprove it." Of course a person who espouses an ideology will try to demonstrate its truthfulness. This idea borders on tautological.

I am sorry that you feel the way you do about my father, but I don't expect I will be able to change your mind. If you feel that all Christianity is false, may I ask why you do not choose some larger institution, such as the Catholic Church, which surely, by your logic, fleeces far more people than the relatively small Worldwide Church of God, as the target of your verbal attacks?

Respectfully, Joseph Tkach III

2:21 PM  
Blogger Asbestos said...

Nothing like a good tautology to liven things up.
Christianity in general may be a worthwhile target with its many myths and suppositions, but it is natural for people to take action against those individuals who did them damage first hand. In this case that happens to be WCG and various offshoots.
Faith is only faith until knowledge fills in the gaps. My position is to keep questioning rather than stick with the old standbys. I think I learned from Richard Feynman that the best approach is to try to prove yourself wrong, rather than right.

4:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Knave offers responses to the following quoted statements from J. Tkach III (aka, No. III) regarding earlier comments made by The Knave:

(Tkachism #1) “Apparently, the finer points of logical discourse have also eluded ‘the knave’, who begins his argument against me by saying, ‘This is so silly and sophomoric.’ I submit that this is also a "play-ground quality" technique, a classic one called ‘argumentum ad hominem’, wherein the arguer attacks his opponent personally instead of speaking to the issue at hand.”
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No. III says he has been “personally” attacked. This is patently a “silly and sophomoric” defensive reaction, since it was obviously No. III’s “silly and sophomoric” statement ("Though I cannot claim to prove the truth of Christianity conclusively, I contend that you are equally unable to disprove it conclusively.") that was the subject of The Knave’s observation. No. III calls it an “…argument against me…” when in fact I was commenting on the inferiority of his logic (i.e., “…the issue at hand”). No. III has chosen to redefine that into a personal attack -- a favorite trick of politicians, theologians, and other small-minded rogues, including those who favor Latin over English. And, please, show some respect here – it is “The Knave,” not, as you say, “the knave.” To put it into terms with which you are familiar in the Holy Book, consider “God” vs. “god” or “Lord” vs. “lord.” Note that I do not refer to “no. iii,” but rather “No. III.”

The Knave did not begin his “…argument against me by saying, ‘This is so silly…” In fact, The Knave began his argument by saying that Herbie and all of his successors are frauds. How can we have a discussion, No. III, if you’re not going to pay attention?
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(Tkachism #2) “I do not offer the idea that Christianity cannot be disproven as proof that it is true, but simply to suggest that no one can no for certain. This is called ‘faith’, and you employ just as much of it in your acceptance of atheism as I do in my acceptance of Christianity.”
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Although No. III believes that “…no one can no…,” he goes on to say quite a bit more than he noes (or is it “nose?”). I suppose it is No. III’s “faith” that has led him to the conclusion that The Knave is in a state of “…acceptance of atheism.” It must have been because of No. III’s faith that, through divine communication (perhaps a still small voice) the mantra was placed into his mind and on his heart: “The Knave is an atheist, The Knave is an atheist.” Oh well, even the most reliable of communication systems have failures from time to time, even those thought to be operated by divine powers. Admittedly, The Knave IS a heretic, certainly qualification enough for eternal damnation. And, facts, not “faith” are the basis for that heterodoxy.
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(Tkachism #3) “If I simply transpose certain words in your argument that ‘only Christians try to prove Christianity,’ we see that the same logic is applicable to the idea that ‘only those who oppose Christianity try to disprove it.’ Of course a person who espouses an ideology will try to demonstrate its truthfulness. This idea borders on tautological.”
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How tantalizingly tautological of No. III to proffer this tautological bit of tautology. I wonder just how close (inches, feet, miles, light-years) to the tautological “border” lies the argument? In any case, No. III has indeed stumbled upon a couple of key points in his sentence: “Of course a person who espouses an ideology will try to demonstrate its truthfulness.” (a) The demonstration of truthfulness is valid only to the extent that verifiable facts are placed into evidence. Sorry -- myth, fable, dogma, evangelical fervor, sweet music, tribal tradition, ceremony, threats of damnation, fund-raising propaganda and salesmanship don’t count. (b) It is typically “a person who espouses an ideology…” (i.e., an ideologue) that has been the cause of massive mayhem throughout history. The dog-pack instinct dominates human behavior. It is why we have insane religious ideas and institutions, wars and teen-age gangs, and attach ourselves furiously to football teams. It may disappoint No. III to no (whoops, know) that The Knave espouses no ideology. In particular, with respect to matters religious, The Knave subscribes to the thoughts of Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson, among other credible, critical thinkers:

"All national institutions of churches (read organized religion), whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish (i.e., Islamic), appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit."

"Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is no more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifiying to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory to itself than this thing called Christianity."

-- Thomas Paine "The Age of Reason" 1793

"One day the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in the United States will tear down the artificial scaffolding of Christianity. And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter."

-- Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Waterhouse, June 26, 1822
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(Tkachism #4) “I am sorry that you feel the way you do about my father, but I don't expect I will be able to change your mind. If you feel that all Christianity is false, may I ask why you do not choose some larger institution, such as the Catholic Church, which surely, by your logic, fleeces far more people than the relatively small Worldwide Church of God, as the target of your verbal attacks?”
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With respect to changing my mind, No. III has reached another conclusion (remember “atheism?”) based on facts not in evidence. I will not agree to stipulate that your father is not engaged in thoroughly mendacious activity, and I doubt you can prove otherwise. But, hey, why not give it a try?

And, yes you may ask. I choose the WCG as the current subject because I have had a very personal, direct, and unpleasant encounter with it and its autocrats over a period of a couple of decades. Nevertheless, No. III, you end your response with yet another false assumption, this time based on facts that do not exist -- that assumption being that the Catholic Church is not a target of my “verbal attacks.” The contemporary books "Constantine’s Sword", "Hitler’s Pope", and "The Fourth Crusade" do a better job than can I of documenting the psychological and physiological crimes, hypocrisy, thievery, and intellectual bankruptcy of the Catholic Church. However, the Catholic Church does not have a monopolistic grip on those attributes within the larger Christian industry. I agree with you, No.III, that the Catholic Church “… fleeces far more people than the relatively small Worldwide Church of God.” Sure, the Catholic Church is a much larger, more efficient, and more sophisticated machine, but it and the WCG have precisely the same objective, that is embodied in the word that you chose – “fleece.” It never occurred to me to think of “the lesser of two evils” as being an admirable characterization. See, The Knave IS willing to consider new ideas!
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In conclusion:

“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we've been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We're no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It is simply too painful to acknowledge -- even to ourselves -- that we've been so credulous.” -- Carl Sagan

The Knave

3:19 PM  

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