CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

This week, the United States will celebrate our annual Independence Day (July 4th -- the day in 1776 we declared, a bit preemptorily, our independence from Great Britain).

Freedom and independence are words with great political and cultural meaning for us; and not only for us, but for the numerous nations who (more-or-less following our lead) also declared their independence from sovereign rulers whom they believed were oppressing them, both socially and not-infrequently religiously.

Sad to say, Christianity was just-as-not-infrequently the religious oppression the people were revolting against. To some extent this is even true of the United States: even though our own national revolution was grounded on a mixture of orthodox Christianity and nominal deism (such as Franklin’s and Jefferson’s), the history of our country’s settlement in the centuries before the revolution was typically based on fleeing religious (as well as financial) oppression in Europe. And it can hardly be argued that Buddhists or Hindus or Muslims, or witches, or atheists or agnostics for that matter, were the perceived (and even the actual) oppressors in Europe; not in this case. Nor was any large branch of Christianity exempt from the taint of oppressing other people at the time. (Resistance, by flight or arms, to Muslim religious oppression is an earlier story, of the Middle Ages.)

Consequently, I fully expect that our agnostic and atheistic and otherwise sceptical colleagues have a special fondness in their hearts for Independence Day; because those particular first American Christians-and-nominal-deists made a provision of the principle that a person should be free to responsibly follow his or her conscience and best judgments concerning such issues, which are the most important issues of all --  even if that means rejecting the religious beliefs of the founding fathers themselves! -- and even regardless of whether such a rejection involves substituting something better, including truer, as a set of metaphysical beliefs in their place. That evaluation was (in principle, and eventually in practice) left up to the person individually.

Nor am I writing today’s essay in order to altogether condemn such rejections. I have always consistently (even religiously!) insisted of ally and opponent alike, that insofar as the person is walking according to what light she can see and is looking for more light thereby, then I consider her my sister, whom I should support with my life (if it comes to that), even if she does not recognize me for her brother.

The people I have problems with are the ones who, on any side of any aisle, would mire us in fog. That attitude is worse than an attack against me, which I care little for; that is an attack on my sister-in-heart, condemning her to hopelessness. And I am not remotely tolerant of that.

Having said all this, however: as a metaphysician, I am aware that many people are not aware, that notions such as ‘freedom’ and ‘independence’ are rawly metaphysical claims about reality. They are also claims which, in regard to our relationship to the evident system of Nature in which we live, can only be affirmations, not only of supernaturalism (of one or another kind), but of supernaturalistic theism (of one or another kind).

Only a self-existent fact, dependent upon nothing else for its existence, can truly be independent. We ourselves, however, are clearly not Independent Facts of that 'ontological' sort: we obviously depend upon at least the system of Nature for our existence and abilities, to at least some large extent. What can be coherently meant, then, by freedom and independence?

The first answer must be, that since we are not 'ontological' Independent Facts, we are not and can never really be maximally independent.

That may sound unfairly restrictive. But once the logical implications are reckoned up, whatever worldview we accept, we aren’t going to be escaping from this fact, any more than we are going to be escaping from whatever Independent Fact ultimately grounds all existence. Proposing that Nature is merely illusion may seem an escape, but that proposal leads eventually but directly to the notion that all persons, except perhaps the thinker herself, are also equally illusionary: at best the thinker sacrifices the reality and thus also any amount of freedom of other people for the thinker's own freedom -- and the thinker might even take that so far as to claim the thinker herself only exists as an impersonal reality which ultimately does nothing including having no real beliefs! But at best along this route it still remains true that in no real sense (if this idea was actually true) can"we", plural persons, be maximally independent. Positive pantheism (where only one person is all that exists in reality) and negative pantheism (where not even one person exists in reality, and even the evident system of Nature is only an illusion in the non-existent minds of non-persons), logically cannot ever be a philosophy of liberty and justice for all.

Nor would this concept be improved by the notion that two or some other limited number of IFs exist, independently of each other, upon all of which Facts we are dependent. If we ourselves depend on only one of those IFs, then for all practical purposes we might as well be talking about a single IF anyway, and ontologically we still would not have maximum possible freedom. But even if two or more apparently-only-human thinkers were the two-or-more proposed IFs of existence, those persons would still exist within a common overarching shared reality which was not themselves: they would exist within the one and only single Independent Fact, and be dependent upon that for existence, after all. (I discuss this more directly myself as part of an ongoing series of metaphysical argument here.)

Very well; then what if Nature is the IF? We will recognize, realistically, that we humans will not be independent of Nature in any ontological fashion. (The alternative is an anti-realism where all evident systems of reality can only be utter illusion.) But, is there not some kind of meaningful freedom, a derivative independence so to speak, which we can still coherently propose of ourselves in relation to Nature?

Such a derivative freedom would depend, and must depend for its possibility, on the intrinsic characteristics of the IF.

So, to take a very pertinent example: we are fond of using the phrase ‘to make free’. But if by ‘make’ we think in terms of force instigating reaction, then clearly there can be no freedom at all, even derivatively, in such a reality. I somewhat doubt we could even have the illusion of freedom, for the recognition of an illusion as such depends on being able to distinguish between reality and only the appearance of a reality. Such an ability to distinguish, however, depends itself upon the very freedom to act, instead of merely to react, which is now being questioned; or else the consideration has been put back one stage for no gain.

This highlights a crucial tension which must be resolved in metaphysical accounts of freedom, when discussing derivative creatures such as ourselves: we, our selves, are dependent for our existence and capabilities, on something other than our selves; thus any freedom we have must itself, paradoxically, be dependent on something other than our selves. But how can this be a legitimate paradox, and not an outright contradiction to be rejected?

It should be clear in any case, that if the IF’s intrinsic existence only involves mere power-effect, then only mere power-effect is responsible for our existence and capabilities. We cannot be even derivatively free, if such a reality is true. It should be just as clear, that if the IF's intrinsic existence involves no behaviors at all, then neither can it behave to produce or generate derivative persons! -- if it does not create there can be no creatures, and if it does not behave there cannot be even one single person, therefore all persons (including the thinker) must not exist. This is hardly a conclusion any real person could validly arrive at, of course!

Moreover, it should be clear that if the IF is atheistic (aside from questions of naturalism vs. supernaturalism, whether only one level of reality ultimately exists or subordinate systems of realities substantially different from the ultimate IF), then there can be no doubt as to whether the IF’s intrinsic behaviors, upon which we depend, are at best anything other or more than mere power-effects. By excluding, per hypothesis, the notion that the IF itself has free will, we exclude the notion that the IF may in some way choose both to grant this gift to a derivative entity and also to somehow voluntarily reduce its own merely direct control over the behaviors of this entity. (The two grantings might be the same grace, looked at from different perspectives.) Nature is not going to make personal sacrifices for our sake, if Nature is not a personal entity. But neither is the problem removed by proposing an atheistic supernature with either an equally non-personal natural system derived from it (in which we live) or else a personally sentient and active natural system derived from it (for such a created pantheism only puts our problem back one stage for no gain.)

If I take my freedom seriously, then -- and I do, especially as a necessary presumption I find I must hold in order to be engaging in any argument -- then I should conclude from the presumption of my freedom, that the IF must be theistic.

But does this mend matters much? The previous deadly question can be asked just as pertinently: if God is ‘making’ me free, then is my ostensible freedom meaningful in any way?

If I answer, as before, that it depends on whether I consider the intrinsic self-existence of God, the final reality, to be about mere power-effect... well, we are talking about the ‘omnipotent’, aren’t we? And if we aren’t, then at most while we may be talking about some conscious intentional active entity, we aren’t really talking about the IF anymore, but about some subordinate entity instead. (Which, incidentally, is why I have insisted that one way or another Mormons are not talking about the final IF of reality; but the IF is what I am interested in, especially as a metaphysician.)

To sceptical criticisms such as these, I am entirely sympathetic, and even ready to agree -- despite being myself a theist! (I feature a whole entry agreeing with such criticisms from the particular standpoint of ethical grounding here.) If God, in His own self-existence, is only an active sentience causing power-effects in whatever creations He creates, then my apparent freedom is just as illusory as it must be under atheism. It isn’t even a real-though-derivative freedom. And I am only a puppet; at best a fictional character like the characters in one of my novels.

But then, so much for the relevance of any 'argument' 'I' may be making, including the ones I have been making up to this point! Such a proposal violates the Golden Presumption of rational thought: that I (and you, my reader, for sake of rational discussion) can act -- that even if derivative, we still are somehow free.

Yet, didn’t I say near the beginning that the claim of our freedom and independence -- a claim we celebrate in the United States every July 4th -- is itself a claim not only of supernaturalism but of supernaturalistic theism?!

If I am real and am more than only a knee-jerk automatic reaction in a system of non-rational reactions and counterreactions, then I must be supernatural in some constituent way to that system of non-rational reactions (even if I am also largely constituted by that system and its behaviors).

Furthermore, if I am real and more than these things, yet am not myself an Independent Fact (which is obvious), then God must also be real and must be the IF, with Nature (where I agree this exists) being a subordinately created system, along with myself.

The argument only breaks down where God’s existence is regarded as being most basically the forcing of effect.

Therefore, insofar as I recognize the presumption of true (if derivative) action ability to be required for making any argument per se (whether the argument is mine, or an ally's, or even an opponent's), I conclude that God’s existence must not be most basically the forcing of effect. But how can this be?

I find the solution through considering whether the IF is dependent upon itself for its own self-existence, or whether if instead the IF is not even dependent upon itself for its own self-existence. Each of these options resolves the problem of mere force-effect being intrinsic to God’s self-existence; but each option does so in very different ways.

The latter position, which goes by the technical name ‘privative aseity’, essentially denies that even God’s own action is intrinsic to God’s own self-existence. If this sounds rather more like a static atheism than theism -- I agree! Nevertheless, it is also, ironically, the position that has been usually taken by theistic philosophers, since the days of Aristotle. (Whether they were misunderstanding what he meant is beside the point; though the debate over whether Aristotle was or wasn't a theist after all might not be entirely beside the point!)

If the IF does not act at all for His (or its) own self-existence, then of course the IF’s existence must not be most basically the forcing of effect. But then again, other problems begin to emerge which, while not immediately inescapable, will eventually resolve into effectively proposing atheism. Since I already conclude on other grounds (ones logically more prior -- and ones that involve positively respecting the existence of even my opponents as responsible persons), that I should believe not-atheism to be true instead, then I am inclined to reject privative aseity and consider the other option of self-existence.

The other option, is that God’s own action is intrinsic to God’s own self-existence -- technically known as 'positive aseity'. (That the IF is going to be paradoxically self-existent in any case, is something we will be required to logically accept whatever else we believe to be true, once the implications have been followed out; so I am passing over this potential difficulty, not without some sympathy, but for sake of relative brevity.)

On the face of it, this proposal should look more immediately theistic: even if I decided (which I would, for a technical reason I will not go into here) that I should accept positive aseity to be true, and yet still tended (which I don't) to believe atheism, I think I would find it more and more difficult to maintain an atheistic belief, the longer I consistently held to positive aseity.

But what positive aseity involves, is nothing other or less than this: the one and only God Most High is (borrowing biological language for a semi-anology) both actively self-begetting and actively self-begotten. We are talking at least, then, about God the Father, and God the Son, as nevertheless being the singular Independent Fact.

Normally I would discuss the option of modalism here. Instead, I will abbreviate to the result I already know (from experience) I will reach if I do: the Persons must be distinctively real as persons, even though they constitute one substantially unique reality. They cannot be like two of the three or five ‘aspects of the Goddess’ in some popular mythologies; or rather, the Persons are aspects of the singular God but also more than only aspects. The persons are to be regarded as distinctively real Persons, in a personal relationship with one another, at and as the ground of all existence.

According to this concept, even though the Independent Fact does act (and so in that regard exercises power) in order to be eternally self-existent, this intrinsic action of the IF is itself an interpersonal relationship. The Father actively begets the Son, the Son actively concedes to the Father, so that the circuit of self-existence will be complete and completely active in one substantial unity.

If power-effectment then (to coin a term), is an interpersonal relationship at the most foundational level of reality, restricted only in the sense that self-existence chooses to not cease existing and cannot choose to simply exist and also not exist simultaneously (on pain of contradiction of ultimate reality, which is itself), then the first hurdle has been cleared: my existence as a person does not depend on mere reaction to stimuli, whether atheistically or by mere monotheism. Consequently, neither would any derivative freedom I am given by God -- to exist as a real boy, not as only a puppet.

I do not say that this is the end of the difficulties. I would (and do) need to work out other implications and corollaries from this, as a beginning of understanding the process of creation distinct from self-existence -- a creation which I find includes myself (as a not-God entity).

But I can say from here, that insofar as I presuppose my freedom in some meaningful fashion -- the same freedom any atheist, agnostic or other sceptic presupposes and indeed insists upon, in standing for what they believe to be factually correct -- then I find I am robustly asserting a reality’s truth that is not only supernaturalistic, and not only theistic, but at least bi-nitarian. (I haven’t discussed a Third Person yet, because as far as the argument has gone here I do not discover such a person. This does not mean I would never reach such a conclusion from inference, however; refer to my section of chapters on "Ethics and the Third Person", especially from this entry onward.)

Only in orthodox Christianity do I find these precise claims also being made by people who, in turn, are drawing inferences from data purportedly revealed in a historical story: which in fairness should dramatically increase my respect and regard for that general claim of special inspiration!

On the other hand, if (as some Christians prefer to do, though this is not my own preference) I began with the orthodox Christian metaphysical system as a presumption, then personal derivative freedom of the only sort that can be coherently available, even to a proponent of atheism, is provided for as a logical corollary of the worldview.

(Actually, such freedom is necessarily presupposed even to presuppose the worldview, which leads to what I regard as major problems of circularity; so I personally do not recommend proceeding by this route. But to the extent that some Christian philosophers insist on doing so, I affirm, somewhat tautologically, that such freedom is in fact specially included in the package!)

Which leads back to the grief of my initial remarks: Christians, who of all people ought to have known (and know) better, have still insisted on religious oppression throughout our history. Such oppression is not only immoral, it directly contravenes the very doctrines we profess to hold and cherish as truths. Sceptics are entirely correct to account us as hypocrites when we advocate, and have advocated, such things; and I cannot personally find it in my heart to blame them if they turn with loathing from the fruit we have spoiled (a fruit spoiled, I would say, by the persistent technical heresy of gnosticism, insisted upon by us as a safeguard we ourselves ought to have rejected), and reject our attempts at linking freedom -- including the freedom cherished and died for by our ancestors, in order to secure the blessings of liberty today in these United States and other nations -- with a system they find through simple (if occasionally oversimple) historical polling to have been, with some regularity and in some ways, an enemy and oppressor of freedom.

It is in honor of such sceptics that I am writing today’s entry. Yet it is also precisely in honor of such sceptics that I am, in fact, an orthodox Christian apologist. Against the abuses of our history, I urge now and always: please, do not give up hope.

'Christianity' is not the heart of freedom, whatever some uncautious apologists may have said to you. And you are correct to complain when Christians try to promote it as such (for this is the heresy of gnosticism, among other things.)

But God, the Father and the Son (and the Holy Spirit, too) is Himself the very heart of freedom. And He gives His very life for your freedom, too: cherishing you, yourself, whoever you are -- forever.

God’s hope, then, to all our readers, around the world, on this day, and every day.

Jason Pratt
July 4, 2014
(revised with some grammatic, punctuation and clarification updates, from 2008 edition)

 photo william-james-3-sized.jpg
William James (1842–1910)

Atheist pundit Austin  Cline can often be found pontificating about religion on He has an article around religious experience as a God argument, [1] his prejudicial dismissal of the argument is tailormade for my new book, The Trace of God: A Rational Warrant for Belief, by Joseph Hinman (paperback, soon to be e book available on Amazon) to answer. First I want to clear the way by a knit pick. the phrase "Do we experience God's existence?" is an awkward and odd phrase. It's redundant because the only way we could actually experience God as a reality is if God is real, what we call "existing," thus even though this is a misuse of the term on his part according to Paul Tillich's theology [2] to experience God is to say that God is real and thus the idea that we are experiencing God's existence is just redundant. If we experience God as a reality then God must be real or we are not truly experiencing God's reality. We don't say that we experience the existence of things apart form experiencing those things. I've experienced losing my parents, I don't say 'I have experienced the existence of my parent's deaths.'

Be that as it may Cline opens his argument:

According to the Argument from Religious Experience, people have “religious experiences” — experiences of the supernatural, like heaven or angels or even a god. Because we believe other experiential claims people make — like that they went to the store or own a car — then we should believe these claims as well. It is also argued that when skeptics apply higher standards for claims based on religious experiences than they do for claims based on other experiences, they exhibiting a prejudice against religious claims. This prevents them from understanding and ultimately believing. 
 Here we see a totally inadequate understanding of religious experience. There is no sense here that religious experience is mystical experience or "peak" experience or that it is even a form of consciousnesses. He tries to justify the kind of dismissal tactics atheists use to reduce and mislabel religious experience. He's already demonstrated that he's mislabeling it. The understanding of super nature such that religious experience is "experience of the supernatural" is merely the modern enlightenment misunderstanding of the concept. Super nature is the power of God to raise human nature to a higher level (of consciousness) thus "the supernatural" is mystical experience. See my article "the Empirical Supernatural."[3]

 Cline bases his argument on the work of William James:

William James offers a classic version of this argument in his influential Varieties of Religious Experience. He argues that all normal persons have religious experience and, since experience is the final arbiter of truth, then God — as the object of religious experiences — must be accepted as factually true. James further observes that the religious experiences in question tend to have a profound effect on the lives of people and even whole societies, implying that such effects cannot reasonably be attributed to hallucinations. Instead, it is much more reasonable to believe that a real God is responsible for religious experiences than to attribute the profound effects of those experiences to a mere imaginary being. 
 As profoundly important as James still is in the study of religious experience, and this argument is good in so far as it goes, there are better and more updated versions of the argument. Notice he doesn't  take on William Alston, who is one of the major philosophers of religion of the late twentieth century. Nor does he deal with any of the modern empirical scientific data in favor of religious experience.[4] Cline decides to pick on James as the best example of the argument.

The first problem is in James’ assertion that “all normal people” have “religious experiences.” It is uncertain what exactly he means by this, but it is a much easier assertion to make than to support. If he means experiences of the supernatural — gods, angels, etc. — then he is wrong. If he means something much more vague, like that everyone has experienced awe when contemplating the universe, then he might be right but he isn’t supporting his claim.[5]

 I doubt that James said "normal people" I can't find where he did say it. I notice that Cline doesn't document  it. That could be crucial weather or not he ascribes it to normality. What he actually says is referenced by Wuthnow in his study (this can be seen in my book) where he says there is a continuum in experience that all people (I don't think he says "normal")

As far as the argument itself goes it is perfectly logical. We don't experience things that are not real. We could actually mistake experiences of one thing for another, so that must be answered. We might also have a false experience, that is hallucination or some other trick of the mind. These things are easily disproved in the case of mystical experience. The argument I sustain throughout the Trace of God is designed to answer this argument. The first answer I would give is:

 (1)  that I go to great lengths in my book to show that we habitually use a certain criteria for judging the reality of experience. The studies on religious experience, with the aid of Hood's M scale show us that religious experience of the mystical kind meets this criteria. Thus we must on principle accept it as real and trust it, or doubt our own existences.[6] This arguemnt is made in a simpler way on my lis of God arguments, no. 8 "The Thomas Reid argument," or "Argument from epistemic judgement."[7] The criteria is that we judge experiences real if hey are regular, consistent, shared (inter-subjective) and enable navigation in the world. If other forms of coutner causation are eliminated so that we can be fairly certain that we not expericing falsely logic forces us to conclude that we are experiencing rightly and there is something there to be experinced.

(2) the effects of the experience of are real. I go to great lengths to show (see all of chapter 2) that the outcome of having such experiences is life life transformation, that is a bold dramatic positive long term life changing result. I further argue that long term positive changes consistently are indicative of reality. Pathological states, mental illness and delusion are degenerative, they bring us down and destroy us over time. Nothing false builds us up and is vital too our well being over a long term period. These experiences are transforming over the long term.

(3) At the end of Chapter 7 I present eight tie breakers. The "tie" is conceived of as between brain chemicals as the most likely explanation for the origin of the experience, vs. brain chemistry as merely God's tool for enabling us to experience his presence. That's a stand off it could be either option. The tie breakers tell us it makes much more sense to accept the latter as the most likely possibility.

(4) I also rule out placebo effects in chapter 7. placebo requires that one expect the desired result, but in that chapter I show several ways in which religious experience does not conform to expected norms but often surprises such that it is often unsought, unexpected, a conversion experience, or also it can contradicts cherished doctrines.[8] For some of the studies as much as half the sample received their experiences in childhood. I show that children are not hung up on doctrines so they are not expecting experiences to conform to doctrines. Yet they have these uniform experiences that indicates the experiences are really of  an objective reality.[9]

Cline sticks with his sustained attack against James.In any case his arguments are easy to answer if one knows Jame's  works. My understanding of James is only passing fair. In my book I bring together a much larger body of empirical work which has been done over the last 50 years, armed with this knoweldge it is easy to pick off Cline's bromides. Cline refuses to think past cultural influence  and makes the argument that difference in religious traditions disprove the idea of one reality behind them all. Here's he's trying to play the old atheist divide and conquer game:

The second problem is in the variety of religious experiences: if there is just one God, why is there such wide variety in the reports of religious experiences? Indeed, they are mutually incompatible. They can’t all be true, so at least some must be false. How do we differentiate? What reasons can the religious believer give to accept her reports over the reports made by others? 
 I would argue that the studies on Hood's mysticism scale ("M scale") prove that mystical experience around the world is universally experienced in the same way. They are not conditioned by doctrines, even though they are explained by doctrines and culture that makes them seem different. When the explanation is ignored and the experiences themselves are compared they are the same. That means they have a good reason to assume they are expericing something real, something objectively there (since it's not just a matter of culture of psychology). A more detailed version documented by Hood's M scale studies can be found on The Religious  a priori.[10]

 Cline asserts that there is no criteria that enables us to determine false from true experiences. While I agree that there is no criteria that proves the difference, I have already demonstrated that he's wrong in his assertion:

There are no independent criteria we can use to separate the genuine experiences from false or flawed experiences — not only in the reports of others, but in ourselves. The only criteria which might exist rely upon the validity of some religious system. For example, some argue that a religious experience which does not agree with the Bible is flawed or false — but since this ultimately assumes the truth of what is supposed to be proven, such criteria are unacceptable. 
There is a criteria that we habitually use to assert the reality of experience, we go by that criteria every time: regular, consistent, sheared, navigational. We don't think about it. We dont say to ourselves "I'm going to use that criteria" we just do it. If an experience is anomalous, it's not regular or consistent we assume it's bogus. If we experience things they same way all the time we assume it's normal and its alright. It's only the stuff that stands out as rare or one of a kind that bothers us. If we want confirmation of our view we seek it in others, "is it hot in here to you?" "Did you see that?" If it works we can live by it we assume it's true. Thus we don't stand on the freeway deliberating about Cartesian doubt we get out of the way of oncoming traffic. The studies on religious experience that are discussed in the Trace of God demonstrate that religious experiences fit that criteria thus we should trust them as indicative of reality.[11]

 From there Cline tries to disparage the link between the effects of the experience and an assumption of its truth aptness:

The third problem is in the idea that the profound effects these experiences have is any indicator of the truth. We can grant that people have some sort of experience and we can certainly grant that the experiences have a profound effect; but does this mean we must accept the reported content of these experiences — that they were of a supernatural nature? No. 
 Again he raises the false specter of the hijack version of the supernatural. Real supernatural--the original meaning of the term--referred to mystical experience not to some ookie spookie reality zone that houses all manor of stings that go "bump" in the night. Mystical experience is proved to be real. It is a real phenomena that people have such experiences and those experiences tend to have a certain effect upon the lives of those who have them. The atheists try to turn that phrase "SN" into some kind of badge of dishonor, the fantasy world one dare not believe in. In resorting to that ploy he is dogging the real issue that he himself raised, do these effects of having had such experiences indicate the truth of the object of experience? He says "no" based upon the proviso that it is indicative of the forbidden realm. But if we ask the question in terms of reality and the object of the experience we must say yes.

First of all atheists are inconsistent in that they will argue that the advantage of having an experience is not indicative of truth but then they turn around and affirm this very idea of scinece. Every time I ask atheists how do you know science is true? They always say "because it works, you are using a computer aren't you? Science produced that computer because it works." All hail science! In any case, so saying the affirm the principle that working is related to being true. This is one of my tie breakers in chapter 7. Then Cline dazzels us with more of his fallacious reasoning: "Real experiences that have a profound impact on a person can have completely natural sources without any divine connections."

That just illustrate the atheist misunderstanding of the true concept of SN and the way they use it as a ploy to ward off belief in God by lumping it into the forbidden zone of belief. They make still absurd dichotomy anything natural must lack God and could be the product of evolution. That is an assumption not in evidence. A Gambler getting 100 royal flushes in a row as random chance would be naturalistic but it would not be natural, it would be the greatest of flukes. God created the natural realm and he works in all the time. The assumption atheists make that if it's naturalistic then God can't be in it is absurd. That's why we need the tie breakers, because the naturalistic element of brain chemistry could go either way. It  could be indicative of a Godless origin or it could be God's tool in giving us a sense of his presence.

Yet Cline goes further he makes a foolish assertion that: "Mystical experiences can be reproduced in anyone, both with chemical substances and mechanical equipment. With this being the case, what reason is there to think that other reports actually stem from a supernatural, rather than a natural, cause?" Well if you really want to know:

(1) buy my book and read the end of chapter 7 for the eight tie brakers and you have eight different reasons to assume the answer to that.

(2) The assertion that religious experiences can be reproduced is not proved. There are tons of claims to that effect, but in the book I point out (ala Philosopher John Hick) that those researchers do not have a standard criteria for control in understanding what constitutes religious experience. They do not use the M scale or any other valid scale to determine this. [12] I analyze the Borg study which is hostile to religion and show that their standard is totally unsuited.[13] Because they do not use such criteria they cannot prove that ever produce religious experience. They merely take the presence of cultural icons of religion as indicative of religious experience but there's no sense of consciousness. As I have said dichotomizing bewteen natural and SN is not a valid means of determining God's handiwork since God can work int he natural as easily as he can in the SN. Rather it is God's power to life us up to a higher state of consciousness that is Super nature. The basic state of such consciousness is a matter of fact, regardless of proof about it's origin.

Cline goes on dictonomizing:

If at least some of the alleged religious experiences are wholly natural, how do we separate them from the “truly” supernatural ones? Even if an experience changes the course of a society, that does not testify that the experiences had supernatural origins. At most, it might point to the persuasiveness of the believers or the appeal of the claims. 
 As I said already we do that by buying my book and reading the end of chapter 7 where I list the tie breakers. Then at the end of the article he takes on Swinebrune's argument:
Some, like Richard Swineburne, argue that the degree to which it seems to a person that something has happened should translate into the probability that something has happened. It is true that when people say that it seems to them that a chair is in a room that, therefore, we tend to accept that a chair is in the room. It is not true, however, that every time someone genuinely and seriously believes something, we also accept that whatever they believe is probably true.
We only accept this when it comes to more mundane things which we all have experiences of. When someone says that it seems to them very strongly that an elf is in the room, we do not accept that there is probably an elf in the room, do we?
 I don't argue Swineburne's argument. I've only read it one time. So I wont try to defined it here except to say that the condition of the argument seems to be the extent to which is seem that the person has actually experinced something. We are talking about warrant. If there is a warrant to believe this then there is no logical reason to discount it on face value. That doesn't mean one can't come up with an argument, it does mean the burden of proof is on the sketpic to show that the warrant is invalid and that there is good reason to doubt. Playing dichotomy game and hinting that "O no this leads to the forbidden zone of he SN" is not going to cut it. That is an ideological assumptino that some aspect aspect of reality must be doubted because it is the aspect that it seems to be and and brings too close to God so we must doubt it.

At this point Cline leaves us with the most dubious argument of tall, that failure to obtain mystical experience is a reason to doubt it's validity.
 Even if we accept Swineburne’s argument, we must also accept that when people try to have an experience of a god and fail, that this is good reason to believe that a god probably does not exist. After all, it would be prejudiced to dismiss the experiences of nonbelievers but privilege the experiences of those who already believe.
This argument is open to immediate reversal becasue then one must accept results as indicative of truth. If this is the case then why don't successes reflect that reality of God? The fact that it works has to be understood as truth indicative. Moreover, if results are indicative the fact that the experience is transformative and that being such it fulfills the basic function religion promises to fill in the first place, offers a rational warrant for belief that it is true. I suspect that Cline based his argument upon the arrangements I make because his contains all the basic elements of mine but he didn't bother study how I defend them. Or that may be my own arrogance and conciet.

Either way the Trace of God, my book,  arms the chruch with a power body of scientific data that backs up this and all other experience based arguments. This work injects fiber into the content of experience arguments and no Christian ever need fear the atheists jibes about no facts, no God, atheism has scinece. Atheists have not touched these arguments in five years of battle on CARM. This book serves as a compindium that will enable anyone to defend experience arguments against all commers.

Order The Trace of God On AMAZON in paper back, (soon to be avaible in Hard back and Electronic).


[1] Austin Cline, "Argument from Religious Experience:Do We Experience God's Existence?" no date listed.  accessed 6/27/14

[2] Tillich famously argued that we can' use the term "existence" in relation to God becuase exist is what contingent things do. God is being itself and thus is above the level of mere "existing." see Shaking of the Foundations, by Paul Tillich.

[3] Metacrock, "The Empirical Supernatural," The Religious a priori, no date given. accessed 6/28/14.

[4] Willam Alston,Perceiving God: The Epistemology of Religious Experience, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993, no page indicated. see also The Trace of God, the entire book is about this huge body of data that has heretofore been neglected by both atheists and theists.

[5] Cline, ibid.

[6] Joseph Hinman, The Trace of God: Rational Warrant for Belief.  Colorado Springs: Grand Viaduct Publishing.2014, see the whole of chapter 2.

[7] Metacrock, "8, on list of God arguments: The Thomas Reid Argument,"  Doxa, website,  accessed 6/27/14. 

[8]  Hinman,The Trace of God... op cit., 286-296.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Metacrock, "The M Scale and The Universal Nature of Mystical Experience," The Religious a priori, website, accessed 6/26/14.

 [11] Hinman, The Trace of God, op.cit, 103-127

 [12] Hinman, Ibid.,262-3, 306.

 [13] Ibid., 309


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The Ideology of Scientism (part 2)

  photo cartoon5-listening.jpg
 We left off talking about E.O. Wilson.
Wilson started sociobiology and then it transmogrified into evolutionary psychology.
            Evolutionary psychology seeks to explain psychological traits in terms of direct relation to evolutionary needs. Wilson didn’t just invent evolutionary psychology out of the air, there were other thinkers involved. From 1963 to 1974 William Hamilton, George Williams, Robert Trivers, John Maynard Smith pioneered in the sort of understanding we find in evolutionary psychology.[1] Wilson galvanized this trend with his work Sociobiology: the New Synthesis which has been said to mark the epoch.[2] In speaking of the spread of evolutionary psychology Wright says “a new world view is dawning.”[3] He uses the phrase world view literally. He says it’s a body of theory and fact, much like quantum theory, or molecular biology, but unlike that, “it’s also a way of seeing every day life. Once truly grasped (it is easier to grasp than either of them [quantum theory or molecular biology]) it can entirely alter one’s perception of social reality.”[4] Well that’s actually one good definition of ideology. That fits my concept of ideology: One idea that defines the world and determines how one sees everything filtering all perceptions through the lens of its truth regime.
The Questions addressed by the new view range from the mundane to the spiritual and touch on just about everything that matters: romance, love, sex (are men and/or women built for monogamy? What circumstances can make them more or less so?); friendship and enmity (what is the evolutionary logic behind office politics—for that matter politics in general; selfishness, self sacrifice, guilt, (why did natural selection give us that vast guilt repository known as the conscience? Is it truly a guide to moral behavior?)…[5]
Evolutionary psychology draws biologically oriented thinkers and is rejected by social science types such as anthropologists and sociologists, who chafe under the reductionism of the view point. They refuse to accept the explanatory power of naturalistic models. This is largely either the result of or fueled by the nature vs. nurture debate.[6] There have been criticisms of evolutionary psychology to the extent that it is seen as ideological. Stephen J. Gould, as David J. Buller tells us, “disparaged evolutionary psychology as ‘pseudo science’ and Darwinian fundamentalism.”[7] Buller goes to on to talk about the nature of his own flirtation with evolutionary psychology. He was lured into interest and then  “once I began to focus on evolutionary psychology, I seemed to encounter it everywhere I turned…it seemed to be all over television, not just on highbrow channels like PBS…ABC Special Report with John Stossel examining the evolutionary psychology of sex differences…” [8] This was in the period where there was also some popular idea like “Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus,” or men hunt and women nest, a lot of it backing the so called “Regan Revolution.” He goes to describe falling out of love with the theory.
Initially I was completely captivated by evolutionary psychology, I was certain that it was providing a deep and accurate understanding of human mentality and behavior…after six months research it was unclear to me how everything that went by the name ‘evolutionary psychology’ fit together and I began having serious doubts…a years research latter, it was clear to me that there were distinctly different lines of research being conducted under the evolutionary psychology label. I became convinced that the line of research that had garnered the most attention, both within academia and through popular media was wrong in almost every detail.[9]
            The first aspect that seemed to draw Buller to evolutionary psychology was a sense that genes almost have a mind of their own, they are the one’s actually guiding our moves. “I recalled a vivid passage in Richard Dawkins’s Selfish Gene that describes us as survival machines for our genes, which created us body and mind; and their preservation is the ultimate rational for our existence.” [10] The way he describes his infatuation, and subsequent disillusionment, sounds like a teenager’s crush or a young student turning to the Romance of Marxism and protest in the sixties. One can see how easy it might be to get caught up in such a romance. At least at one time, almost everyone who took an intro psychology class in college would go through a phase of spouting pop psychology at everyone and trying to diagnose problems with pseudo Freudian sounding labels. That process might even be more alluring if tied to Darwin and modern research. Evolutionary psychology has generated a fiercely loyal following. Buller again, “…I found evolutionary psychologists dismissing their critics as anti-scientific, politically correct postmodernists, or closet creationists. Any skepticism about the claims of evolutionary psychology was typically portrayed as a product of dogmatic indoctrination in the social sciences…”[11]
Exacerbating the conflicts, some evolutionary psychologists present their paradigm as replacing, rather than coexisting with, current paradigms, alienating advocates of epistemological diversity. An alternative explanatory model is presented - one that is grounded in evolutionary theory, reflects recent advances in cognitive neuroscience and developmental psychology, and achieves a dialectical balance between nature and nurture.[12]
Evolutionary psychology seems to present a totalizing view that some times overshadows even other scientific work, not as a result of careful scholarship, but merely because it is the word form the camp.
            We can see the same kind of ideological defense at work in the wanton attacks upon Thomas Nagel’s book Mind and Cosmos. [13] Nagel is a philosopher at NYU and achieved fame and respect for his 1974 essay “What’s it like to be a Bat?”[13] This work has become a standard among those who seek to disprove the reductionist’s take on brain/mind issues. His Mind and Cosmos has drawn fire from many quarters, no doubt including evolutionary psychology. It’s not clear what he means by “Neo Darwininan” but no doubt it must include evolutionary psychology. By labeling it “materialist” he’s taking in the largest possible group since that would include not only materialists but most naturalists and physicalists. He’s arguing that we can’t have a grand theory of everything as long as that theory is coming out of a ideological camp that only allows one view point. That is essentially the nature of the Neo Darwinian understanding. That’s not such a radical thing to say, but the tendency of the scientistic Zeitgeist won’t allow him to say it; the tendency is to reduce all knowledge to one form of knowledge. Not so much because it’s connected to atheism, although atheism is a part of it, but because it’s accepted as scientific fact in modernity, Neo Darwinian view point predominates because science predominates. Philosophy and Religion are not treated as knowledge, so they are not treated as valid alternative view points.
            The major thrust of the attack as been to label Nagel as “creationist” or “Intelligent Design” which he famously is not. It doesn’t help him that the Intelligent Design’s Discovery Institute has lauded the book. Brain Leiter and Michael Weisberg began the assault by attempting to tear it to pieces in The Nation, then Harvard psychologist, champion of evolutionary psychology Steven Pinker dismissed it as “shoddy reasoning,” not likely. New York Times Review of Books and London Review of books panned it. The Guardian (America) named it the “most despised science book of 2012.”[15] Alva NoĆ« argued that Nagel is being confronted by Orthodoxy, “and they are responding the way the Orthodox respond.”[16] Nagel didn’t attack evolutionary psychology per se but one assumes that’s part of the “Neo-Darwinan” crowd. The reaction of anger certainly betrays and ideological vent, a “them and us,” a certain mentality of solider confronting the enemy.
            There is a cadre of physicists who are busy beating up on philosophy, even though their views can actually be described as philosophical. This is another aspect of the ideological tentacles claiming their grasp on a slice of science. These physicists are primarily but not exclusively part of the new atheist movement. Professor Massimo Pigliucci (City University of New York) complains about how in the days of Einstein and Bohr Physicists were intellectually sophisticated and respectful of other branches of knowledge. They were honored to work together with philosophers and theologians. [17] In fact there is a picture of the young theologian Paul Tillich together with Einstein and other physicists, philosophers, and theologians at a conference in Davos Switzerland, march 18, 1928.[18] That meeting may have had some influence on the production of Einstein’s publication arguing against the personal God. Tillich responded with an article, not chiding Einstein but lauding his views, yet putting them into a larger theological perspective that didn’t confine God to the realm of dead matter, nor did it defend God as a magnification of human psyche.[19] This is the kind of exchange that used to exist between philosophers and physicists. Now, Pigliucci complains, it seems physicists are more concerned with attacking philosophy. “These days it’s much more likely to encounter physicists like Steven Weinberg or Stephen Hawking, who merely go about dismissing philosophy for the wrong reasons.” [20]
Nonetheless, let’s get to the core of Krauss’ attack on philosophy. He says: “Every time there's a leap in physics, it encroaches on these areas that philosophers have carefully sequestered away to themselves, and so then you have this natural resentment on the part of philosophers.” This clearly shows two things: first, that Krauss does not understand what the business of philosophy is (it is not to advance science…); second, that Krauss doesn’t mind playing armchair psychologist, despite the dearth of evidence for his pop psychological “explanation.” Okay, others can play the same game too, so I’m going to put forth the hypothesis that the reason physicists such as Weinberg, Hawking and Krauss keep bashing philosophy is because they suffer from an intellectual version of the Oedipus Complex (you know, philosophy was the mother of science and all that... you can work out the details of the inherent sexual frustrations from there).[21]
He continues amusingly in the vain. Basically he shows that the physicists want to deal with philosophy as though its goal is to reproduce science. All of their criticisms are oriented around the notion that philosophy is not contributing to scientific understanding but is reacting to it. Essentially Pigliucci’s entire publication is in reaction to this movement he perceives of science types fighting against and trying to take over philosophy (and liberal arts in general) this is made explicit and typified in is article “on the Difference between Science and Philosophy.” [22] George Musser sums it up by affirming that in the days of Einstein philosophy and physics were close. As a sign of the drift apart he points to the Weinberg chapter title “Against Philosophy,” from the book Dreams of a Final Theory (Vintage 1994).[23] He also points to what may be a trend of the move back to reunion due to a sense that the search for grand theory is stalling. “At meetings where the two groups come together, they strike me as quite compatible. The philosophers in attendance tend to have training in physics, and the physicists, even if they can’t tell their Hegel from their Heidegger, are eager to learn.”[24] But are they compatible because they are becoming more attune to tolerating diverse opinion or because they are all becoming scientism’s pawns?
  photo foxtrot-free-will1.jpg
            There seems to be an amalgam of several ideologies that turn on the same naturalistic assumptions and that really go together. It’s often the case that one holds all of them at the same time, they include: materialism, physicalism, naturalism, and reductionism. Reductionism is a mythological procedure or assumption in many scientific fields. It also amounts to a philosophical stand within naturalism, et al. All of these “isms” go together, bleed into one another, and form an overarching set of ideas or a sort of “meta ideology,” so to speak. We could break it down endlessly into types of reductionism and so forth, but there’s no point in doing that. For brevity sake I’ll just refer to this whole amalgam as “Scientism,” when speaking in general of the major flow of ideas around that admixture, and as “reductionism” when talking about the connection to the assumptions of any form of reductionism. There are different kinds of naturalism and this may become confusing but I basically mean scientific naturalism as an opposition to religious thinking. The terms materialism and physicalism are related. They can be used interchangeably but have different histories. Phsyicalism is usually preferred as it recognizes that matter is also a form of energy so while matter isn’t all there is, it’s not necessarily the basis of all there is, it’s related to energy. That term reflects the reality of a modern understanding of science. Materialism is the older word and came out of the mechanistic era when the workings of the physical world were compared to a machine. “Materialism” was used in opposition to the concept of spirit. Physicalism was introduced in the 1930’s by two prominent members of positivism’s Vienna Circle, Otto Neurath and Rudolf Carnap.[25] Naturalism is the more general term. Turning to an atheist movement understanding of these terms:
Materialism (or physicalism) can signify either a broad metaphysical view, or, more narrowly, a type of theory of mind. Metaphysical materialism is a specific kind of naturalism which contends that everything that exists is either physical or dependent upon the physical. Broadly understood, reductionist materialism maintains that everything is strictly physical; more narrowly, it maintains that the mind (at least) is purely physical. Nonreductive materialism also allows the existence of nonphysical properties that inhere in, or emerge from, a physical substrate. Consequently, it is sometimes called emergent materialism or property dualism. In the broad sense, nonreductive materialism holds that everything is physical or at least dependent upon the physical; and in the narrower sense it holds that the mind can have both physical and nonphysical aspects even though it must be instantiated in a physical system like the brain.
While metaphysical materialism entails a materialist theory of mind, one can be a materialist about the mental without believing that everything is physical (e.g., some theologians are nonreductive materialists about the human mind but believe that God is neither physical nor dependent upon the physical; and some philosophers who think that the mind is purely physical also believe in nonphysical abstract objects).[26]
            Even within their own movement those who understand the terms acknowledge that they are metaphysics and don’t try to pass them off as science. “Philosophical materialism (physicalism) is the metaphysical view that there is only one substance in the universe and that substance is physical, empirical or material. Materialists believe that spiritual substance does not exist. Paranormal, supernatural or occult phenomena are either delusions or reducible to physical forces.”[27] The amalgam we are talking about doesn’t necessarily limit itself to atheists. E.O. Wilson is not an atheist. Nevertheless, in some quarters of the atheist movement adherents are constantly beating the drums for these philosophies while denying that’ it’s a movement and trying to pass them off as science proper. They try to juxtapose their view of the world, which they claim to be factual and scientific, while at the same time imposing these philosophical ideas as we see Thomas doing above. At the philosophical level academics make no attempt to hide the fact that this is philosophy, no holds barred. Geoffrey Hellman and Frank Wilson Thompson state:
In [11] we laid the groundwork for a comprehensive materialism based upon physical science which the problems of ontology and of the interrelations between higher order sciences—biology, psychology, social theory, and so forth on the one hand, and basic physical science on the other could be correctly stated and accessed. It was our aim to formulate principles of phsyicalism which are strong enough to incorporate the kinds of appeals to the comprehensive and fundamental character of physical science that materialists have sought to make…[28]
Materialism and phsyicalism are metaphysical assumptions. Both of these constitute philosophical positions; they are going beyond the domain and nature of science.
            There are several types of phsyicalism. Supervenience physicialism, for example,  and minimal phsyicalism. The word supervenience is currently enjoying a renaissance in philosophical circles. It basically means, as used in philosophical circles, that there are two sets of characteristics and one set is dependent upon the other or connected with it in such a way that a change in one means a change in the other. The concept came out of meta ethics but is being used in physics and philosophy of mind and other venues.[29]
            Daniel Stoljar illustrates supervenience with the use of an analogy by David Lewis. The analogy is to a dot-matrix picture, that is just dots and the global properties are formed solely from patterns in the dots. The pictures supervene on the patterns of dots and non dots. No two pictures could differ in their global properties unless they differ in the placement of dots.
Lewis's example gives us one way to introduce the basic idea of physicalism. The basic idea is that the physical features of the world are like the dots in the picture, and the psychological or biological or social features of the world are like the global properties of the picture. Just as the global features of the picture are nothing but a pattern in the dots, so too the psychological, the biological and the social features of the world are nothing but a pattern in the physical features of the world. To use the language of supervenience, just as the global features of the picture supervene on the dots, so too everything supervenes on the physical, if physicalism is true. [30]
Lewis says that “no two pictures can be identical in the arrangement of dots but different in their global properties”.[31]
The other versions of Physicialism include “minimal,” “token and type,” “reductive and non reductive,” and “a priori and a posteriori.” Minimal physicalism is tied up with philosophy of mind. That’s the version that’s always discussed wherever people discuss the brain/mind issue. It’s in this venue that we most often find arguments about the falsehood of physicialism.[32] Minimal physicalism is basically the core commitment of all phsyicalism. Supervenience physicialism is neutral in a good many issues. Minimal physicalism is the basic core belief of the physical nature of everything.
            There can be no doubt as to the philological basis of these ideas. While rank and file atheists profess their disgust for philosophy because “it’s making stuff up” the leaders of their movement have always and still are basing their world view and their movement upon obviously philosophical view points. Materialism is in line with the classic definition of metaphysics, reasoning about that which is beyond our observation, and phsyicalism takes up where materialism left off. Physicalism is completely rooted in philosophy of mind. Physicalism serves as the basis for atheist thinking. 
            Andrew Brown, himself an “old” kind of atheist, identifies and summarizes the ideology of the new atheists based upon the works of their major leaders and spokesmen.
So, who are they? The ideas I claim are distinctive of the new atheists have been collected from Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Jerry Coyne, the American physicist Robert L. Park, and a couple of blogging biologists, P Z Myers and Larry Moran. They have two things in common. They are none of them philosophers and, though most are scientists, none study psychology, history, the sociology of religion, or any other discipline which might cast light on the objects of their execration. All of them make claims about religion and about believers which go far beyond the mere disbelief in God which I take to be the distinguishing mark of an atheist….
There is something called "Faith" which can be defined as unjustified belief held in the teeth of the evidence. Faith is primarily a matter of false propositional belief.
The cure for faith is science: The existence of God is a scientific question: either he exists or he doesn't. "Science is the only way of knowing – everything else is just superstition" [Robert L. Park]
Science is the opposite of religion, and will lead people into the clear sunlit uplands of reason. "The real war is between rationalism and superstition. Science is but one form of rationalism, while religion is the most common form of superstition" [Jerry Coyne] "I am not attacking any particular version of God or gods. I am attacking God, all gods, anything and everything supernatural, wherever and whenever they have been or will be invented." [Dawkins]
In this great struggle, religion is doomed. Enlightened common sense is gradually triumphing and at the end of the process, humanity will assume a new and better character, free from the shackles of religion. Without faith, we would be better as well as wiser. Conflict is primarily a result of misunderstanding, of which Faith is the paradigm. (Looking for links, I just came across a lovely example of this in the endnotes to the Selfish Gene, where lawyers are dismissed as "solving man-made problems that should never have existed in the first place".)
Religion exists. It is essentially something like American fundamentalist protestantism, or Islam. More moderate forms are false and treacherous: if anything even more dangerous, because they conceal the raging, homicidal lunacy that is religion's true nature. [Sam Harris]
Faith, as defined above, is the most dangerous and wicked force on earth today and the struggle against it and especially against Islam will define the future of humanity. [Everyone]
All of these propositions will be found in the authors I have cited as well as in the comments to religious articles here. I sometimes think that only the last two are unique to the new atheists: you can certainly find the others in earlier authors. But those are the six doctrines which I would reject when saying rude things about the new atheists.[33]
Each of these opinionated positions summarized by Brown appeals to science as its justification; none of them can really be based upon science. Take the counter intuitive opinion that moderate religion is more dangerous than extreme religion because it’s somehow concealing some hidden lunacy (there’s a clinical scientific term, “lunacy.”) within it. That’s the sort of scientific thinking that motivated the mental health industry in the days of witch trails and brain stones. There is no data justifying this bromide. It’s obviously a slogan serving to energize the base and prevent defection to more reasonable versions of religion. At the same time it casts the aura of science over the evil essence of religion. The implications of essentialism alone mark it as totally unscientific. Science, in the hands of the new atheist leaders, takes on a role and a make up that real scientists would never recognize as scientific. It becomes more than ideology, something close to religion itself.
            These view points bear the ear marks of ideology. They reduce knowledge to one kind of knowledge and they reduce the world to one idea that fits everything. They form the basis of a kind of politics as they motivate and urge and define society in terms of negative results based upon the following of the antithetical ideas they seek to challenge. In that sense they are very reminiscent of Marxism: Marxism has the eternal struggle between the worker and the owner. The working class is exploited by the ruling class, and all the ills of society are due to that exploitation. The ruling class justifies itself through a false consciousness, if that consciousness was property cleared up by the “truth” of the proper van guard understanding, the workers paradise would be inaugurated. The same is true of atheism. According the ideas Brown discusses, there’s a great evil that spawns all the social ills, created by the false consciousness of religious belief. The priest class keeps the believer enthralled with “superstition” as the ruling class keeps the workers enthralled with promises of wealth. In Marxism the workers are save by the revolutionary van guard of the party. In new atheism the brain washed believers are saved by the van guard of science.  Workers are liberated by the party line, believers are liberated by the facts of science.
Making a chart like this is not meant to suggest that there is no truth in Marxism or that reduces neatly to just these points. In fact Christianity can also be put on such a chart. Yet is does illustrate the fact that these ideas lend themselves to an ideological perspective and unwary can be led down the garden path into some tempropal human idea of an eternal struggle for the good.
New Atheism
Great struggle
Class struggle
Brain washing of believers
Enemy of people
Van Guard
Party line
Workers paradise
Secular society
Mocking and ridiculing reiligion
Great struggle
Human race
Enemy of people
Van Guard
End of times, second coming, judgment
Preach gospel
Does the fact that Christianity can be subjected to ideological analysis mean that it is an empty ideology? No more so than science. The fact that science can be distorted and laced with ideological assumptions doesn’t mean there is no clear idea of science, nor does it mean that science doesn’t have a valid basis. Ideology can take over any view point. Any truth can become reduce to an ideological understanding if one is not careful. While we might consider that Christianity is like the prototype, ideology the copy. Although Christianity was not the first religion thus we could say religion as a whole is the prototype and these other versions are the ideologies. Yet we know religion can be ideological as well.
            One of the major examples of religion as ideology is creationism. Of course in saying that we have to aware of the fact that the counters to creationism can also be very ideological.
            The ideology of new atheism is a subset of the larger ideology of scientisim. Not all scisentistic types are atheists and not all atheists are scientistic. There is an atheist ideology that is an outgrowth and subset of the lager umbrella of scientism. What the umbrella has in common all of its many departments is the reduction of all knowledge to one thing; that one thing is the illusion of technique. In even the one thing is an illusion because the ostensible one thing is “science.” Yet it’s not really science because science is about hypothesis testing and this is more what William Barrett called “the illusion of technique.” The illusion of technique is the manipulation of all knowledge and fact, all feeling and questions into the closed realm of discourse. The reduction assumes the only possible questions and the only possible answers go back to the same circular concept, both problem and solution: the reduction of all knowledge not to science but to technology. It’s the bait and switch, the substitution of science for technology. Science leaves off with debunking what it could and then the offering of possible knowledge in the form the best explanation.[34] Yet technology assumes we have the answers. Technology assumes we have the answers and we are going to apply them. It assumes either we know the truth or it doesn’t matter. What is replacing truth is the ability to control things.Science is put over as “the truth” when in fact its’ only a means of hypothesis testing. That leaves us with a void in our understanding of the nature of truth.

[1] Robert Wright, The Moral Animal: Why We are the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology. New York and Canada: First Vantage Books edition, Division of Random House. 1995.4.
Robert Write is an award wining American Journalist, writes scholarly books about science is respected for his scholarship.
[2] Ibid. 4
[3] Ibid. 4
[4] Ibid., 4-5
[5] Ibid., 5
[6] Harvey Whitehouse, “Introduction,” The Debated Mind: Evolutionary Psychology Vs. Ethnography. Oxford, New York: Berg Publishers. 2001,1.
[7] David, J. Buller, Adapting Minds: Evolutionary Psychology and the Persistent Quest for human Nature. Cambridge Massachusetts: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 2005, 4.
[8] Ibid.3
[9] Ibid., 3
[10] Ibid., 2
[11] Ibid., 5
[12] Linda Gannon, “abstract,” “A Critique of Evolutionary Psychology.” Psychology, Evolution, and Gender. Volume 4 Issue 2, (2002), 173-218, 173.
[13] Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. no page cited.
[14] Thomas Nagel, “What’s it Like to Be A Bat?” The Philosophical Review, Vol. 83, No. 4., (Oct. 1974) 435-450.
[15] Jennifer Schuessler, “An Author Attracts Unlikely Allies,” New York Times, Feb 6, 2013, ON line copy accessed 10/18/13.
[16] Ibid.
[17] Massimo Pigliucci, “Lawrence Krauss: Another Physicist With an Anti-Philosophy Complex.” Rationally Speaking, online publication,   accessed 9/27/13.
[18] Krista Tippett, “Einstein’s Refutation of Personal God,” On Being, online publication  accessed 9/27/13.
Photograph from conference in Davos Switzerlan, March 18, 1928, courtesy of Image Archive, ETH-Bibliotek, Zurich. Published, On Being,
[19] Paul Tillich, “The Idea of a Personal God.” Online article from a blog by Krista Tippett, Speaking of Faith reprinted with permission form the Yale Divinity School Library. URL: (visited 8/31/2010) No indication is given of a translator or original publication.
I document this in a footnote to an article I wrote on my blog, “Paul Tillich and the Personal God: was Paul Tillich’s Ground of Being an Impersonal Force? Part 1.” Metacrock’s Blog, March 14, 2011 on line
In that article I put a caption under the picture (same Photograph published by Tippett the converence in 1828 In Switzerland) it says  Einstein’s paper was presented at a New York Conference science, philosophy and Religion, 1940.
[20] Pigliucci, Op Cit.
[21] Ibid.
[22] Massimo Pugliucci, “On the Difference Between Science and Philosophy.” Rationally speaking, on line publication,  accessed 9/27/13.
[23] Steven Weinberg, “Against Philosophy” (chapter VII)  Dreams of a Final Theory: Scientists Search for The Ultimate Laws of Nature. New York, NY: Vintage, reprint edition, 1994. 166.
[24] George Musser, “Deep in Thought, What is a Law of Physics Anyway?” Scientific American Blogs (June 4, 2010) Onilne  accessed 9/27/13.
George Musser is a contributing editor at Scientific American. He focuses on space science and fundamental physics, ranging from particles to planets to parallel universes. He is the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to String Theory. Musser has won numerous awards in his career, including the 2011 American Institute of Physics's Science Writing Award.
[25] Daniel Stoljar, “Physicalism:Terminology,” Stanford Encyclopedia of philosophy fed 13, 2001, sept 9, 2009. Online resource: URL:  visited 3/11/11
[26] Keith Augustine,  “Materliaism,” The Secular Web  Internet resource online URL:  visited 3/11/11.
[27] Robert T. Carroll, “Philosophical Materialism (Physicalism),” The Skeptics Dictionary.  1994/2012 the article updated last 2010. on line resource,  accessed 9/22/13
[28] Geoffery Hellman and Frank Wilson Thompson, “Physicalist Materialism,” Nous, 11, Blackwell Publishing, 1977 available online through JSTOR URL:  visited 3/11/11.
[29] Stoljar, Op Cit.
[30] Ibid, citing David Lewis, On The Plurality of Worlds,1986, 14. no page numbers for Stoljar.
[31] Ibid.
[32] Ibid
[33] Andrew Brown, Andrew Brown’s Blog, “New Atheism, A Definition and Quiz.” online version published by The Guardian. URL:   visited, 11/1/11.
[34] Popper, find

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