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December 16, 2012 at 1:29 pm in reply to: Lecture 22 – The New Testament Era – The Historicity of the life of Jesus #16413
Dr, J. I apologize, then, perhaps it is only I who thought you were portraying those passages as historical truth. Of course, I would prefer a different tone; but I’ll agree that is just my opinion.
OK. While it may be challenging, I think it’s certainly relevant and important to history/liberty/individuals to tackle epistemology. So I’ll just state my case. Humans can only attain knowledge through the senses and/or reason. If something in your mind contradicts tangible/empirical/logical evidence, then it must give way to what can be measured objectively.
Truth: when our internal, subjective, concepts match the external, objective, world; aka reality. This is very basic. How else can you practically, consistently, and rationally conceive of truth?
While I understand that an empiricist must have “faith” (in the traditional, “I trust this guy” kind of way) in the method or results of other empiricists (and of course, he/she shouldn’t just take their word for it), this is not the same as religious faith. The word “faith” in religion is basically a euphemism for “belief with no evidence.” In other words, true prejudice. There is no evidence that the Bible is the word of god, that miracles happen, or that prayer changes things (external to yourself). If you have evidence for your claims, whether logically through mathematics or actual tangible results, then you can actually say it is true. I don’t have to scour every corner of the earth to know, practically, that supernatural events don’t occur. We have built our entire livelihood on the “faith” that they don’t occur, in fact. You don’t build a bridge thinking, “hmmm, I better pray daily that God will keep this bridge standing,” or attempt to stay fed after day by asking God to rain down bread from the sky. No, you use mathematics and scientific principles and laws to figure out the parameters of the bridge, and you find your own food. If you believe that supernatural events occur, and want to actually prove they do, you will need to show in some measurable fashion that they do. I don’t count peace/personal change from prayer as supernatural, as that is a psychological phenomenon contained completely in the mind.
Porphy. I’m not sure I understand your first paragraph… especially, “It (empiricism) has to be established by a foundation that it, itself, cannot provide (a number of a priori premises).” It doesn’t seem to me empiricism “needs” a foundation of something else to be “established,” it’s simply a method for attaining knowledge about the objective world. I suppose, though, it must be coupled with “rationalism,” to be applied practically to our lives.
Also, how is it an empiricist never (practically) establishes anything as truth? How about gravity? Is it not true and empirically validated that a rock will fall to the earth when you drop it? I think you are taking the “empiricism” idea to an impractical and illogical extreme. Of course an individual can’t say can’t say “I’ve seen/smelled/tasted/touched/heard everything that exists,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean that divine revelation is then a viable belief to hold. Empiricism is still the best way to confirm the unknown, and coupled with rationality, you can go a long way. I don’t think it’s valid to say empiricism is overrated/invalid simply because we make assumptions about what is familiar (see a pencil) either. What do you propose as the alternative for uncovering truth, anyway (the missing piece(s) to incompleteness of empiricism, as you said)?
In any case, I have not really read a direct response to the problems of Christianity I proposed. What I’ve seen are attempts to point out my biases and very verbose philosophizing about the merits of empiricism. If you so wish, tell me your epistemology and methods of attaining truth, and then truly tackle the problems I see as quite substantial to the fundamentals of Christian faith:
— How can you reconcile the concept of the Christian god (omniscient/omnipotent/omnipresent/just/loving), not only with the contradictions and hypocrisy within the Bible, but also with the measurable and indifferent nature of the natural world it’s supposed to be relevant to? .
— If you believe in a supernatural deity, why does it make sense to choose only the Christian god? Then you have the whole trouble of deciding who is damned to hell.
I could write more, but these two issues are so glaring to me (others might have different issues), there seems to be no reason to move on to other things.December 12, 2012 at 7:24 am in reply to: Lecture 22 – The New Testament Era – The Historicity of the life of Jesus #16409
I’m sorry to all who think I have a “sneer” or if I seem too harsh. I would like to point out that one can be disappointed and/or disagree without having strong ill-feelings toward someone.
To Dr. J. I didn’t mean that Erhman has no biases at all (of course, all humans do), but in reading the book (Jesus, Interrupted), in which he includes some details about his personal journey, it was clear that he had to work through and/or cast aside many learned fundamental Christian ideas (such as, the Bible being the infallible word of god) while he studied the Bible in university . So I meant that he was willing to come to conclusions about the Bible and its contents regardless of standards/dogma/personal feeling, so long as he felt the evidence was sufficient (so I suppose, as I gathered, he was biased toward the most consistent and rational evidence). I did find the book very interesting and influential to my views of the Bible, but if you think that his sources of evidence and his colleagues and such are unreliable, I’m certainly open to the idea.
As for my comment about “liberty, reason, and logic.” I do understand that many Christians believe that their beliefs match up with these values, and to a certain extent they may; but that doesn’t mean Christianity itself truly supports these values. I would argue that Christianity at its core (I can’t really speak for other religions, because I have no experience) runs counter to these values. First, let me say that I grew up as a Christian and I had a mostly amiable experience. I still have plenty of emotional attachment ideas such as god, the church, and a soul; but I’ve come to believe that Christianity can’t be rationally accepted (based on evidence and reason). So I don’t believe I’m biased on this subject (from an emotional and interpersonal standpoint, I would love for the religion I grew up with to be true), I simply want to find the truthiest truth possible. Let’s start with liberty. It seems apparent to me that a Christian doesn’t really support complete liberty, especially of the mind, because one must somehow submit himself/herself to god. If you choose to be a Christian, how much can you question the Bible and its contradictions? Are you “allowed” to accept scientific advances, even if they contradict doctrine? Are you “allowed” to raise your children free of religious indoctrination? To one degree or another, a Christian must limit these freedoms (whether this is “right or wrong” is another argument). So while a Christian can possibly argue for liberty from the authority of the State (I can, however, think of at least one passage that contradicts this), he must always submit his mind and certain other actions to god be considered a Christian. As for Christianity not being reasonable or logical, well, I think there is a lot evidence for this. The Bible (the supposed source of authority and truth) is riddled with contradictions and impossible feats. The creation account, miracles, and god’s intervention and deeds do not conform to reason, the senses, or science. We do not see any supernatural occurrences today, and scientific advancements (completely absent in those days) and reasoning can answer many of the whys and hows, although not necessarily our wants (which I think is largely due to cultural and childhood baggage). The idea of a god in and of itself cannot be reasonably explained… How can one reconcile the world we see and understand through science and the senses (indifferent to human wants and needs) with a god that is supposedly omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, just, AND loving (apparently fully concerned with human doings). It’s a self-destructing, circular idea; and even if you say that this being exists in a different realm then it’s simply irrelevant to our lives (we exist in only one realm, as even consciousness is a product of the physical). Add all this to the Biblical accounts of god’s cruelty, hypocrisy, and contradictions; and Christianity is highly unreasonable. These are the reasons I brought up “liberty, reason, and logic.” I’m sorry again if I sound too brash and insensitive; and of course, feel free to convince me otherwise if I’m being illogical.
To Porphyrogenitus. I think I made a poor choice of words and lacked in detail when I said, “overstating or legitimating its role in Western History.” I did not mean to imply that religious topics should be dismissed or are beneath me, as you suggested. I understand that religion (Jewish, Christin, Islamic, others, and their many forms) have had a HUGE impact on our history, and I certainly want to learn more about them from an anthropological standpoint. When I said “overstating,” I meant I had the sense while listening to the two lectures on the Hebrews that Dr. Jewell was saying that our basis of morality originated with the 10 commandments, but as I understand it, essential human morality (don’t steal, kill, etc) had been shaped earlier in history. This could be a misunderstanding or mistake on my part (I’m sorry if it is), and I probably shouldn’t of put it in such terms as “overstating.” As for “legitimating,” I was referring to the way Dr. Jewell was using many references from the Bible as historical accounts that I don’t think are legitimate (mostly the supernatural content); such as, god parting the red sea, god talking to Moses through a burning bush, and god knocking down the walls of Jericho. I think it’s quite reasonable to question some of this content and its implications on further content if Dr. Jewell is willing to teach the miracles of the Bible as historical fact. That’s my opinion, yet I don’t wish for it to sound mean spirited. I don’t care on a personal level if Dr. Jewell has religious beliefs and I have enjoyed much of the content. I am also obviously capable of setting aside my disagreements and decide for myself what is reliable content. I brought it up and said I was “disappointed” because I was surprised that a website seemingly non-affiliated with a religion has an entire Western Civilization course conducted by someone who quotes such parts of the Bible as historical truth. If he did not mean to quote them is such a way, I apologize, but I did re-listen to the lectures and it certainly comes off that way.
Hi, all. I know I’m late to the party, but this is too interesting to pass up.
The discussion seems to have meandered a bit, but I’d like to address the original topic of objective/subjective morality. Because morality is exclusively a human construct, I think it can be argued that it is essentially subjective. Objective reality says nothing about morality; it’s simply a set of physical laws and reactions… However, for the purposes of human conduct, there can (and I would say, should) be morality that is rationally and objectively attained. It’s not that “right and wrong” exists somewhere in reality other than in our heads, but humans can certainly (and largely have) assign right and wrong to things that are universally preferred (UPB, Stefan Molynuex anyone?). This morality is based upon conduct that can be objectively agreed upon to be preferred by all (see don’t murder, steal, rape, and the non-aggression principle in general). You can never say that any of those three examples are ever universally “right,” so they must be “wrong.” That doesn’t mean you won’t find that rare fellow who thinks that murder is the “right thing to do,” but he can never rationally make that argument (just try and make that a universal argument, and remember that morality is always framed as universal standards).
Sorry, this topic is relatively clear in my head, but when I try and write it out it feels sloppy. I would highly recommend checking out Stefan Molyneux’s work on the subject, and to read his book about secular ethics found here: http://www.freedomainradio.com/FreeBooks.aspx .December 10, 2012 at 10:23 am in reply to: Lecture 22 – The New Testament Era – The Historicity of the life of Jesus #16405
Kenn, I would also recommend Bart Ehrman. I read his book, Jesus Interrupted, and it totally shook up my ideas of what I had been taught in church. It’s a very unbiased look at the gospels (and much of the New Testament) and uses as much reliable historical data from the times to build up an interesting case about who the historical Jesus was.
Personally, I am a little uncomfortable and disappointed with the air of Christian bias so far in my listening (I’m only on lecture 7). I was not expecting to get such a heavy dose of that perspective when I signed up for courses tied so heavily with liberty, reason, and logic. It’s not so much that religious topics are covered that’s bothered me, but that it feels Dr. J is overstating or legitimating its role in Western History and in our life. I’m not denying the influence, but it’s important to touch the religious topics rationally (for instance, during his discussion of the Hebrews, I got the feeling he assumed the miracles and conversations with God to be real). I’m not the expert… but for purpose of learning unbiased Western History, I would have preferred for the approach to be as secular as possible.