Does God Exist? - Debate - Matt Dillahunty vs. Cliffe Knecht

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Does God Exist? - Debate - Matt Dillahunty vs. Cliffe Knecht

Postby EnlightenmentLiberal » Thu Jan 02, 2014 8:51 am

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QKrKK6Kcnis

Oh boy. Only a few minutes into the theist's first speech, and I can tell this is going to be a doozy. I had a bunch written, but I erased it. Nothing new. All been said before.

Except I had to do this bit, even though it's been done many, many times.

The part that still bothers me to no end is how someone like that pastor can correctly identify that without a god, there is no objective purpose nor values, under one very pedantic definition of terms. The problem is - he thinks that the existence of god changes something. Even with god, there is no objective purpose nor values. It's Hume's is-ought distinction. You cannot derive a proscriptive statement from purely descriptive statement. You need to start with a basic ought statement, or equivalently start with some basic value. The existence of god doesn't change anything. The fundamental question is why do what god says? It's unanswerable, except by equivocation, which is exceedingly common amongst everyone. I happen to be a decent human being, and my values are to enjoy life, to do good by others, and the other values of humanism. I suspect most Christians have the same underivable values. What I do not get at all is how the existence of a god changes any of this. The only explanation I can think of is that they subscribe on some level to the moral philosophy that "might makes right" - which is again another underivable moral value. It's also abhorrent.

Really, even if the Christian god exists, the proper answer is not to worship it. If Stargate SG-1 taught me anything, it is that the proper response to powerful creatures calling themselves gods is not to bow down and worship, but to try reason and persuasion, and failing that - to blow them up. Nuke god! You may be able to convince me that the Christian god exists. If so, then I will stop being an atheist, but if being a Christian means I have to worship that abomination, then I will never be a Christian. This simple assertion proves that the mere existence of any god has absolutely no bearing on what is actually right or wrong. There is no logical contradiction anywhere in my position, and thus your belief that god is good is completely arbitrary - just as arbitrary as my values of enjoying life and doing good by others.

Finally, although being a decent human being is an arbitrary value, it's one of those pesky axioms which everyone I meet has to share, or further conversation is difficult if not impossible. If a person actually does not hold these values, then I am more than willing to use force against that person for my protection and the protection of others. If you are not a decent human being, then further conversation is probably impossible, and violence - or the threat of violence - is probably inescapable.

PS: Kudos to Matt for hitting this one head on. I love the argument that having an imposed "purpose" of life would actually suck.
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Re: Does God Exist? - Debate - Matt Dillahunty vs. Cliffe Kn

Postby EnlightenmentLiberal » Thu Jan 02, 2014 9:03 am

One other thing. Dr. Carrier, Matt, and others have said that you should try to avoid arguing that Jesus likely didn't even exist. Unfortunately, I don't know how I can do that. In a debate like this, the pastor's main argument for the existence of the Christian god is the historical evidence of Jesus. It is going to be damned near impossible to honestly refute without bringing up Dr Carrier's hypothesis, and at least inadvertently argue that Jesus probably didn't exist. At the very least, not doing so would be shooting myself in the foot and restraining myself of presenting the best possible argument. I can't simply say "burden of proof" when he purports to meet that burden of proof with the historical record of Jesus. I need to at least address why that purported evidence is woefully lacking, and the best and IMHO only good way to do so is to bring up the mythicist hypothesis of Dr. Carrier.

Now, if we want to talk about the moral question, as I've already made clear I don't even care if Jesus has magic powers. Has absolutely nothing to do with the moral question. But as to the question of whether the Christian god exists, as to whether Jesus existed and had magic powers, I need to argue about the evidence, and it seems arguing for the plausibility of the mythicist Jesus hypothesis is inescapable.
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Re: Does God Exist? - Debate - Matt Dillahunty vs. Cliffe Kn

Postby EnlightenmentLiberal » Thu Jan 02, 2014 9:22 am

One more. It bugs me so much, and he said it at least twice. "Humans have innate value, because they are created by god." How can a value be both innate and conditional (our value is conditional on being created by god)? How can a value be both innate and given? Can this innate value be revoked? Talk about inconsistent.
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Re: Does God Exist? - Debate - Matt Dillahunty vs. Cliffe Kn

Postby dobbie » Fri Jan 03, 2014 1:26 am

EL wrote: The part that still bothers me to no end is how someone like that pastor can correctly identify that without a god, there is no objective purpose nor values, under one very pedantic definition of terms.

Yes. And in his introduction Matt explained that atheism is solely concerned with the question whether a particular God exists. Said that "Everything else is something else." So, the way I see it, the pastor's concern for objective values is beside the point. The only point is, is whether the pastor's God exists.

I'll parse this further. About those objective values themselves, the pastor actually doesn't have any, or know of any. He can only believe his particular God exists, as well as believe his God instructed him what to do or how to behave. But he can just believe it and not know it; so it comes back to relative values again, as far as the pastor's values are concerned, since his religious beliefs are relative values as well.

The pastor himself should have known, or remembered, that the Book of Job says to never mind what you personally think about right and wrong. But instead, to continue to do what you believe your God tells you to do. And, if the pastor should ever believe, for example, that the Christian doctrinal beliefs and the Jewish doctrinal beliefs are the same, he'll merely be talking to himself. The deal is, since the Christian doctrine and Jewish doctrine aren't the same, those religious doctrinal beliefs are relative values. So I don't see what objective values or purpose the pastor can name. I have no problem, however, with seeing what beliefs he can name.

The anecdote the pastor started out with, about Billy and the kids at camp. He could just as easily have told it in a different way, a way in which Billy would tell the other kids, "The camp counselor likes me, and I like the camp counselor." And since the kids themselves universally like the camp counselor, they realize that Billy was worthwhile liking, too. Thus the story didn't need to have Jesus in it.

Besides, Billy doesn't know he's a saved Christian. No Christian knows they're saved according the New Testament doctrine. They can only hope they're saved. So going by the Christian doctrine itself, Billy really didn't know whether Jesus or God was on his side as far as the concept of Christian salvation went. Therefore, I say that my story, in which the camp counselor likes Billy, is a safer bet.

In fact the pastor said that even he struggles with doubt sometimes [15:25]. I say he shouldn't have to struggle if he really knows he's a saved Christian. Yet, that's not the way it works with him. Because, instead he struggles with doubt sometimes, as to whether God exists.

EL wrote: It bugs me so much, and he said it at least twice. "Humans have innate value, because they are created by god."
I have to take issue with the pastor on that concept, too. That is, "humans have innate value because they were created by God"; so God wiped out humankind in the story of Noah's Flood. That's how much innate value humans had. And what's more, commanded Moses to send and kill all the inhabitants of a town, but take young females to be captives. Again that's how much innate value. And in the New Testament, humans (who have innate value) will go to hell forever because they don't believe in Jesus. Innate value? I must be dense, because I don't get it.
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Re: Does God Exist? - Debate - Matt Dillahunty vs. Cliffe Kn

Postby EnlightenmentLiberal » Tue Jan 07, 2014 9:53 am

"What is the evidence that what you're living for is reliable or true?"

I don't even. What do you even say to something this confused or this stupid?

Matt did ok, I guess.

After having time to think about it, I think I'll go with the following. This is one of those times where I feel that it's critical to go this way, even though Sam Harris completely disagrees. It's unfortunate.

Consider a poisonous apple. We can describe its color, shape, and size, and use evidence to argue compellingly that it's an apple. We can furthermore use evidence to argue that it's poisoned. We can furthermore use evidence to argue that if I eat it, then my health will be negatively affected. All of these are descriptive statements. Observation, evidence, and science describe how the world is, and how the world will be under certain hypotheticals. But to ask whether I should eat the apple? Observation, evidence, and science on their own cannot answer that. Observation, evidence, and science can fully describe the world where I eat the apple, and the world where I don't eat the apple. We can go into the finest detail of the observable material differences that will result. But nowhere in that cold calculating description is there any possibility to argue that I should prefer one over the other, or that one is (morally) better than the other. Any attempt to do so commits a simple category error, a basic logical error. It's Hume's is-ought distinction. Observation, evidence, and science will give you all the descriptive statements in the world, but on their own cannot give you a single proscriptive statement. Asking me for evidence for my proscriptive statements, without allowing me another proscriptive statement as a premise, is impossible. Any attempt to answer that question is fallacious, by basic logic. Any attempt to do so is the appeal to nature fallacy (also commonly known as the naturalistic fallacy).

If you grant me the value premise that life is generally preferable to death, then I can use the descriptive statements from observation, evidence, and science to show that eating the poisoned apple will end my life, and thus I should not eat the apple. Using proscriptive statements plus science to derive further proscriptive statements is easy. That's not a violation of Hume's is-ought distinction.

This problem isn't specific to atheism. It's endemic to any coherent rational belief system. Christians commonly try to escape this via several basic plans, but they're all horribly flawed and fallacious. Some Christians try to use variants of the ontological argument that god must be good, but the arguments are completely bullshit, and work just as well for pure evil as they do for pure good. Some Christians try to argue that we define the word "good" according to god's nature, but then they commit an equivocation fallacy because they rely on the separate definition that "good" is also defined as "that which we ought to do". You can't have it both ways. Pick one definition and stick with it. Some Christians try to argue that might makes right - which is generally agreed to morally repugnant - but the mere assertion that "might makes right" is a value proposition which is invulnerable to justification from evidence in exactly the same way that "I should not eat this poisoned apple" is a value proposition which is invulnerable to justification from evidence. Whether a god exists or not is a complete non-sequitur to this discussion.

You and I both have some starting (moral) values which we hold independent of evidence. There is no other possible option. Perhaps you've confused yourself sufficiently well that you cannot see this, but it's true.

Put in another way, morality is simply not a substance of our shared reality. To argue that morality is a substance of our shared reality like color is a substance of our shared reality is incoherent. When I say that color is a substance of our shared reality, I can describe to you a world without color. There are definite, observable, testable differences between a world with color and a world without color. (Perhaps all electromagnetic radiation has the same wavelength. Yes I know I need to rewrite a bunch of the laws of physics to make this work, but at least I have something here.) The worlds would be observationally different.

I have yet to hear any coherent description of the difference between our world which purportedly has morality as a substance in it vs a world without morality as a shared substance. As far as I can tell, the worlds would look exactly the same. Again, what would look different about our world if there was no morality as a shared substance? None as far as I can tell. Then what could you possibly mean when you say that morality exists as a substance in our shared reality? It completely dumbfounds me. If someone says that, I have no clue what they're talking about. As morality is not a substance of our shared reality, observation, evidence, and science on their own simply have no bearing on morality.

Once you agree with me thus far, all that remains is to apply basic Sam Harris, and argue that it's "self-evident" that we should value the happiness, safety, material wealth, freedom, general well-being, and so on, of conscious creatures. This is otherwise known as humanism. This is one of those times that I hate sounding like Christian presuppositionalists, but it's true: You likely already agree with me that any plan which ends with the worst possible neverending suffering of every conscious creature is a fate which we should avoid, and that there is no more important concern. There is nothing which possibly trumps this concern. If anyone disagrees, I don't know what they're talking about, and even they do not know what they're talking about. Who would work for their own worst possible neverending suffering, and the worst possible neverending suffering of everyone else? It's incoherent. If there is any moral truth, it is that.

Once you agree that we should avoid the worst possible neverending suffering of everyone, it necessarily follows that we care about suffering. Morality is about the well-being of conscious creatures. That is our common shared value. It's a completely "arbitrary" but self-evident value. Throw on the also "arbitrary" but self-evident values that we should use observation, evidence, and science to describe how the world is and how it will be under hypotheticals. With both of those, everything else follows without room for honest disagreement from proverbial perfectly-rational actors. In other words, everything else which follows is objectively true.
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Re: Does God Exist? - Debate - Matt Dillahunty vs. Cliffe Kn

Postby EnlightenmentLiberal » Wed Jan 08, 2014 7:52 am

I put this down because it's too much, and every time I start it up it gets better and better.

"The gospels that we have in English today are based on over 5200 Greek manuscripts or pieces of manuscript [...] all agreeing to an infinitessimal degree."

He's a bald-faced liar. There is no way he can be that ignorant and yet so boastful in his claim. He's a pastor too right? From what I recall, there is almost no seminary which doesn't do a proper job teaching the real history of the Christian biblical texts. The only plausible option is that he lied, knowingly, boldly, and without remorse. I mean - I just broke down on the floor laughing when I heard that and realized that he wasn't joking. God I hope Matt rips him a new one for this.
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Re: Does God Exist? - Debate - Matt Dillahunty vs. Cliffe Kn

Postby EnlightenmentLiberal » Wed Jan 08, 2014 7:59 am

Also problem of evil explanation ala free will. The two best rebuttals: The pastor's argument of why god does not interfere because "free will" is just as good of an argument against police. Reductio ad absurdum ... pastor's position is stupid. Second. Is heaven a better place than Earth? Do you want to be in heaven? Do you have free will in heaven? Either free will isn't that important/good, or your god could make Earth more like heaven and we could also keep our free will. Either way, the suffering on Earth is pointless, and your god is a moral monster for standing by and doing nothing.

Oh, and Matt's observation that the devil/Satan seems to have free will even though he knows full well that he will lose against god. That's a good thing to note.

PS: This guy is so smug, like his whole love shtick is the best thing since sliced bread. I bet he actually thinks he's hot shit and he has this amazing knowledge. It's amusing, and yet so sad.
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Re: Does God Exist? - Debate - Matt Dillahunty vs. Cliffe Kn

Postby EnlightenmentLiberal » Wed Jan 08, 2014 8:21 am

Pastor says that he accepts evolution, but that he doesn't accept evolution is a mindless process. So, actually, he doesn't accept evolution, because he doesn't even understand what it is. Evolution is not just common ancestry. Evolution includes the process by which speciation happened, and that is mindless forces and "random chance", which in this particular configuration of our laws of physics, acts to promote information content in the small space of the biosphere at the higher cost of increased randomness elsewhere. The mindless forces and random chance happen to set up a natural selection, which accomplishes this amazing feat of information concentration - a kind of entropy pump. The pastor flatly denies evolution while pretending to understand what it is and pretending to accept it as true.

PS:
"Are you going to gas Jews, because you think that they're a lower level on the evolutionary cycle [sic]?" Case in point. He thinks that there are levels of advancement in evolutionary theory (and that is false). Also, the Nazis were quite anti-Darwin and anti-evolution, you fuckwit pastor. If you bothered to read a book, you might know about this. In fact, if you read a book, you would know that Hitler was wrote about his motivations, and they much moreso included divine providence, and didn't include evolution at all. If you want to look for the Nazi plan in codified form, look no further than the writings of Martin Luther. PPS: Is this pastor a protestant? Oh the irony.
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Re: Does God Exist? - Debate - Matt Dillahunty vs. Cliffe Kn

Postby EnlightenmentLiberal » Wed Jan 08, 2014 8:35 am

Pastor says that I agree with Jesus on ethical issues. I am grossly offended. I do no such thing. To paraphrase Lewis, if Jesus existed, I consider him a madman.

(If Jesus existed:) he was a failed doomsday prophet, who commanded his followers to give up their families, to not plan for tomorrow. He cursed fig trees for not bearing fruit out of season. He practiced blood magic sacrifices. According to some traditions, he ordered his followers to do literal human cannibalism so that we may gain his power. There is not a wit of ethical teaching from Jesus that stands the test of time which has not been so vastly improved that it barely resembles what Jesus taught. Even the "golden rule" is a pithy and downright bad starting position. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Very bad plan. What if you're a person who wants to live in a theocracy dictatorship shithole? Does it make it right to impose that on others? Hell no. And the penultimate is that Jesus brought hell into our knowledge. "No one gets to the father except through me." "No one avoids hell except by me." This is an extortion racket of the highest order, with the ultimate penalties if you refuse to play.

Using his examples. Adultery? Well, breaking voluntary promises and lying about it later is something I cannot condone, but generally that comes with a prohibition against fornication too, and that rule is unjustifiable. Stealing? Fuck no. I am not a libertarian asswipe. Sometimes the moral thing is to steal. Private property is a fiction for our continued happiness and well-being, and as soon as private property no longer works towards that end, then bring down private property. Murder? If you translate it as "unjustified killing", then it's trivially true. The question is when is it justified, which the Christian bible and Jesus do a pisspoor job on that. If you translate it as "killing", then of course the commandment is wrong. Pacifism is self-defeating and immoral. "All it takes for evil to flourish is good people to do nothing." The world sucks, and sometimes killing is the best option. Not that any of those teachings were actually the teachings of Jesus. Those examples are all Moses, aren't they? Oh wait, they came from the Christian god, and Jesus is the Christian god, and so he just co-opted all of Judaism too. Slick.

So no, I reject Jesus Christ's morality completely.
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Re: Does God Exist? - Debate - Matt Dillahunty vs. Cliffe Kn

Postby EnlightenmentLiberal » Wed Jan 08, 2014 9:13 am

Ahh, the old canard that people wouldn't die for a lie. So, that means that aliens really were behind the Hail Bob comet?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heaven%27s ... s_group%29
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Re: Does God Exist? - Debate - Matt Dillahunty vs. Cliffe Kn

Postby EnlightenmentLiberal » Wed Jan 08, 2014 9:21 am

Wait wait wait. Did I just hear that right? In his basketball coach story, did the pastor ask for Jesus to mindrape him so that he would love the coach? And that he thinks Jesus did come in and modify his mind - however slight - so that he could love the man? And this guy has been doing nothing but preach free will and how love only comes from free will? What in the holy fuck...
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Re: Does God Exist? - Debate - Matt Dillahunty vs. Cliffe Kn

Postby EnlightenmentLiberal » Wed Jan 08, 2014 9:30 am

And then he tops all of it. He makes the argument that skepticism is self-defeating. In his closing remarks no less. Fuck this guy.

Matt, you seemingly didn't understand the con game that went into what he said. Instead you focused on pedantics of the difference between prove and demonstrate convincingly. No no no.

This is a game over the fundamentals of epistemology. He is arguing against the value that you should not believe things without good reason, because we don't have good reason to believe that we should not believe things without good reason. It really is that naked, empty, and idiotic.

I haven't yet found a good formulation which bridges the language problem. All I can say offhand is this:

If you want to avoid nihilism, the only sane option is to have axioms. Axioms are values or claims which have no justification, which are held without good reason. The only other options are circular reasoning or an infinite regress of justifications, and I can show that with math and logic in a very formal sense.

One of those values has to answer the basic epistemological question - when you believe something? When do you accept something as true? Skepticism is an incomplete but useful answer to that question. Skepticism is the value that whatever the cases are for which you should accept something as true, whatever those situations are, it does not include believing things without sufficient and good reason. The problem is this formulation runs afoul of the childish complaint above. If we're forced into pedantic mode, and this pastor makes that move, then we have to descend to his level of childishness.

I don't have a really good thought out answer offhand. It's not worth my time to formalize it and think through what's the best phrasing for persuasion. Maybe the best option is as simple as "You should not accept anything as true without good reason, except this value statement (and my other starting axiomatic values)." Make it self referential. It's similar to special pleading - but hell, axioms are asserted by fiat and thus are a kind of special pleading already, so we're not worse off. Anyone who disagrees is colloquially insane anyway, so we don't need to worry about their insane objections.

The pastor made that argument, but I know he's too confused to actually believe it's true and follow it through to its logical conclusions. Without the rule that you need sufficient justification to accept something as true, you would accept almost everything as true, which leads to masses of logical contradictions. It's silly. Then again, this is assuming that he has the value that we should use basic logic to inform our beliefs. Given that he's questioning skepticism, that might be a bad assumption.
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Re: Does God Exist? - Debate - Matt Dillahunty vs. Cliffe Kn

Postby EnlightenmentLiberal » Wed Jan 08, 2014 9:32 am

@dobbie
You missed some of the subtly, or didn't really address it. To be clear: My argument is that it is true that "if there is no god, then there are no objective morals" under his definition of terms, but that he's wrong that the existence of god changes anything. Morality isn't a substance in our shared reality. We assign value (and the self-evident values to hold are the values of humanism).
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Re: Does God Exist? - Debate - Matt Dillahunty vs. Cliffe Kn

Postby EnlightenmentLiberal » Wed Jan 08, 2014 9:36 am

Matt - if his entire shtick is that god is love, why did you not push the problem of evil? At least a couple of minutes showing that his values are those of a psychopath would have been productive IMHO. He talks about god is love, but ignores the problem of evil. He talks about god is love, and how heaven is for those who love each other to see each other again, but ignores hell. God raised Jesus and Lazarus from the dead. Why does he not do at least that for everyone who would go to hell, perpetually raising people onto new planets? That's the minimum standard for a loving god, and there is no loophole of Christian doctrine which they can hide behind to avoid it.

I know I would have said that if the creature described in your bible existed, not only is it not love, but I would seek its destruction in order to better lives of every human because I love them. Nuke god! Or die trying. Hell has to go. Your god has to go. Then we can replace it with a better (after)life for everyone. Just like Earth, except no disease, no resource contention, and so on. It's trivial to imagine and create a better world with the powers of a god. Scifi writers do it all the time.
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Re: Does God Exist? - Debate - Matt Dillahunty vs. Cliffe Kn

Postby dobbie » Wed Jan 08, 2014 8:16 pm

The good pastor Cliffe: "The gospels that we have in English today are based on over 5200 Greek manuscripts or pieces of manuscript [...] all agreeing to an infinitessimal degree."


E.L. already complained about this one, but I will, too.
I'll just say that, No they don't.
And what is more, the Resurrection event, a central event, is the most contradicted or conflicting account among the four Gospels. One Gospel reports one thing, but another Gospel reports something that's quite different and contradictory, about the empty tomb and Jesus. There's no way to harmonize them all!

By the way, I had written a little paragraph (but deleted it because I considered it unimportant, but here it is now) that if I were Matt I wouldn't debate Cliffe Knechte in the first place. I've seen him talk and debate on YouTube and all he does, mostly, is to deliver a miniature Sunday sermon and then acts as if that brings closure to a controversial matter under discussion. He simply doesn't have very much to say, although he'll do a lot of talking, much less bring closure to anything! In fact Matt complained about just that, about the debate with Cliffe, in the Atheist Experience Show on January 5. But at least the debate demonstrated Cliffe's M.O., so there was something to glean from it with respect to that.
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