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Discussing Faith, With A Christian Friend

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Christian: How can human beings live without faith, my friend? What meaning does life have without faith? What is the purpose of life? Why are we here in this world then? Why do we go through everything that we go through in life? Why do you wake up every morning? Why, why, why, why did we all come to this world? Logic is not always correct my friend, and sometimes you need a little faith to live!

AmbivalentEye: Okay, let me answer your questions from my perspective:

AmbivalentEye: Re: "but how can human beings live without FAITH?" faith isn't essential to life because faith cannot KEEP you alive. Logic and Reason are your primary tools for survival as a human being.

AmbivalentEye: Re: "what meaning does life have without faith?" I don't understand what you mean, because without faith, I am still capable of being unbelievably happy. You don't know how I see the world, and I don't know if I could explain it to you, but I KNOW that Life is wonderful. My entire life I have looked to world around me and have not only seen all of the wonders of nature (existing as scientific proof of every chemical and physical process ever discovered), and not only do I see that it is there but I also see that there is MORE. There is always more. There is the promise that things can be greater, for society, for nature, for ourselves. I refuse to believe that we are all just doomed to an unstoppable demise. I believe we can always DO SOMETHING. We can always create, and improve, and be productive. We can play our part in the span of evolution. What meaning does life have? It means everything. It is the single greatest thing that has ever existed in our universe and we should always not only defend the fact that it exists, but enhance that abilities we have in order to go beyond our own expectations or anybodys expectations of what the world CAN BE.

AmbivalentEye: Things are an end within themselves. A is A. I don't exist for the means of someone else's survival. I exist for my own. I do what I can, and challenge what people believe I cannot.

Christian: So you believe that logic and reasoning are the only reason why we exist? That you exist for yourself and not for a reason, my friend? Why is it that you believe that? How do you find meaning in life without hope and faith? EVERYTHING IN THIS EARTH my friend IS destined to the undeniable demise of the end of its existence, even you and me! And, there's nothing that either you nor anyone else in the universe can do about it, except God!

AmbivalentEye: Re: "What is the purpose of life??" You can't just ask that in generalized terms as if its supposed to apply to everything and everyone, because once again, we are not all the same substance or entity. The purpose of a root may be to support a tree and provide it with food and water. The purpose of a bee may be to produce honey. My purpose as I see it, is to be productive, and to never give up on my aspirations. That is why regardless of how depressed I may be at any given moment, I can find joy in knowing that I'm producing something with all of my efforts in school, and if that ever fails to reach my conscience then I still see that promise all around me, and I know that Life is amazing and it is worth living.

Christian: Are you sure that those are not your goals and your ambition rather than your purpose in life?? Because purpose and ambition, drive, traits, and character are very different things buddy!

AmbivalentEye: Re: "Why do you wake up every morning?" I wake up every morning because long ago I chose a course of action for myself which has been my primary conviction until this day. I wake up to carry on with what I know I am capable of doing, and finding my payment in all of the great things I collect along the way: friendships, knowledge, values, etc..

Christian: I know life is worth living, that's why i live it to the max and try to be the best person i can be everyday, because I do not know if I'll be able to wake up tomorrow or if I'll still be here an hour from now!

Christian: So you do not believe that we all have a mission in life then? That we were sent to this planet for some reason and that life is not all about what you accomplish or how much of something you have but about how much you enjoy it and how much love and joy you give to everyone?

AmbivalentEye: I guess in the end it all just comes down to idealism. I was born with the belief that I can make the world better if I use everything in my mind and my potential to achieve it, but whether or not we do make it better....I guess that's relative to the observer.

Christian: Yes, you CAN make it better, you see, that's your purpose, your MISSION!! Do you not see it?? everyone learns from you my friend. look around you! :-)

AmbivalentEye: No, not the joy I give to everyone, but the joy I am able to attain for myself. Our forefathers were right when they mentioned our unalienable right to the pursuit of happiness. If there is any central purpose to humanity, it is the pursuit of happiness, in a manner that never demands the sacrifices of others, or the betrayal of your own ideals

Christian: Don't you sometimes feel that there's something missing in your life?? and you just can't put your finger on it? So you don't believe me when i tell you that's your mission, or that's why you came to this world then?

AmbivalentEye: I know I really want/need to be with someone. That's the only thing that has never made any sense to me. No one ever wants to be alone. We somehow require someone with whom we could mutually exchange values.

Christian: right, everyone feels that way, that's normal, but have you never given God a chance in your life? like it has never crossed your mind that God maybe really exists? that logic and reasoning is not always right?

AmbivalentEye: I know that I have flaws in my thinking. I am not perfect. I do believe there is a "God", but only to fill in the tiny gaps that science has not been able to resolve yet. the biggest being "the beginning of time". I think he could have "set it all off", but that's pretty much it. He's so "grand", that he could care less about us. I don't believe in miracles. I don't believe in "divine intervention", sometimes, I don't even believe in "judgment" or "salvation". It isn't that hard to accept that maybe this is just it for us. I don't HAVE to go on for eternity, and I don't want to. I want to do the best that I can in the time that I have.

AmbivalentEye: As a child, I was raised around many Christian ideals and customs, but like thousands of people out there in the world, I spent nearly a decade of my life praying to something that may very well be an illusion, and I eventually just came to the conclusion that prayers aren't answered. The universe does not rearrange itself when you pray and ask for something because you believe you "need" it. Things happen....and you live with it, and if you have earned it, then nature will always balance itself out and give you what you deserve.

Christian: of course prayer works my friend. Prayers are answers. remember the saying... Dios tarda, pero no olvida. Miracles do happen in this world Surreality, everyday. how would you explain that out of all of the miners that were in the accident that happened in west Virginia, only one survived?? why is it that people who go through unthinkable situations or through things where death is certain, they beat all odds and come out alive?? how can you explain that??

AmbivalentEye: I respect what you do and what you believe. I'm not going to ask you to change. So really I just hope you could respect and accept who I am and my ideals as well.

Christian: Of course I do buddy! I respect your ideals and who you are, and i agree with most of what you say, except when it comes to faith, God, and the meaning of life!

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First, I will add the following context: the conversation above is of two high-school friends trying to figure out what life and philosophy is all about. One is a Christian, the other recently Christian, and now exploring Objectivism and thinking he's mostly convinced, yet unsure how to present his case.

AmbivalentEye, In the first half, where you tackle the specific questions that you friend puts to you, you do a pretty good job describing your notion of purpose. However, the concept of which you are speaking is not the same as the one your friend has in mind. That's why, he ends up more or less agreeing that your concept is all fine and dandy, but adds this: "Are you sure that those are not your goals and your ambition rather than your purpose in life? Because purpose and ambition, drive, traits, and character are very different things buddy!"

You are using "purpose" to mean: the fundamental reasons that drive you to act. He is using "purpose" to mean: the reasons you were created in the first place.

So, explaining all about your goals (i.e., your purpose) does not actually address the core of his belief. It's good to lay it out and explain it all. Up to that point, I think you were doing well. However, when he pointed out that he was talking about something different (in the part I quoted above), that was the time to stop and explore his concept of purpose a little more.

You had had your say; it was time to let him explain himself. That was the time to bring him back to his argument, which is: he does not have a reason to think that he has a purpose (used in his sense), but he thinks that facing such a possibility leaves him feeling empty. So, even though there is no evidence for a purpose behind the creation of life, he believes in it because it makes him feel good.

He admits as much in part of the conversation, but this is the key point that has to be made explicit. Not only made explicit, but explored some more. For instance, are there similar things that he believes because it makes him feel good? Is death and the after-life a similar situation?

I think it would have been useful to explore fully whether there is any type of evidence-backed reason that your friend is thinking of, rather than simply: it makes him feel good to think that something exists. Put the onus of reason on him and see what he comes up with.

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I know the struggle that people experience when dealing with someone who isnt open to reason. It seems wrong to just accept that they are unreasonable. I want to understand exactly what they are doing, and act accordingly, even if it is ignoring them.

To help this along, use the best of your knowledge to look at the full meaning of what they are saying. It is easy to help them disguise the nature of what they say. Question everything, and very importantly: ask them to define their terms. Not just a simple dictionary definition, but a few examples illustrating the term. The reason for this is terms like purpose, reason, rights and others are very complicated and layered concepts (though untimately definable down to a T) that should be very well understood before any sort of debate ensues.

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  • 1 month later...

I would like to assert here that many christians do not deny reason. I am one of them. this particular friend sees a dichotomy between reason and faith. in order to have his faith he must deny happiness on this world. also, there are some very important differences in definition that would require reconciliation. faith means something entirely different to many christians than to an objectivist. or to a different christian for that matter.

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faith means something entirely different to many christians than to an objectivist. or to a different christian for that matter.

Not to be needlessly confrontational, but faith is what it is. Faith is belief without reason and thus is another word for irrationality. You can use the word to describe more or less, you can apply faith more or less in your life. The extent of your faith determines how far from reason you are. You cannot claim to be rational unless you are 100% rational, knowlege requires integration.

Many want to have their faith and eat it too, because it makes them feel good. That is evasion.

mrocktor

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Not to be needlessly confrontational, but faith is what it is. Faith is belief without reason and thus is another word for irrationality. You can use the word to describe more or less, you can apply faith more or less in your life. The extent of your faith determines how far from reason you are. You cannot claim to be rational unless you are 100% rational, knowlege requires integration.

Many want to have their faith and eat it too, because it makes them feel good. That is evasion.

mrocktor

Be this as it may, I have a question, just for the sake of keeping our definitions clear so that we don't confuse terms with each other. When a person uses reason to make a judgement based upon metaphysics, such as speculate on the nature of an inorganic life-form (such as silicon plant-life, which some in the field of inorganic chemistry think may be possible), is there a line that is crossed in which reason can not be further extended until the senses can actually observe this taking place, or does speculation upon phenomena existing on other planets (potentially anywhere in the universe) still fall into the realm of being 100% rational.

By the same token, would metaphysical speculation upon the origin of causality, ergo Aristotle's "universal consciousness" also fall outside of the realm of reason? I'm not specifically looking for a debate on this issue, because there is a separate forum for that, I just wish to know where a line is drawn on this issue as far as Objectivism is concerned.

Edited by dark_unicorn
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i did not mean that some people have rational faith and others have irrational faith. i mean that one christians defintion of faith is different from many others and is definately different than an objecivists definition. when a person says he has faith, you cannot immediately label him as irrational until you identify his conception of faith. for instance, it would be irrational to have faith if it were defined as "belief without reason". but for my specific church, faith is defined as "a belief in things which are not seen but which are true" and i am perfectly rational when i say i have faith. id give scripture reference to the specific place where that is stated, but i do not believe you care, so please PM me if i am wrong and i will point it out to you.

like i said. reconciliations in definition are key. faith doesnt just mean different things to different people, but literally has a different meaning. and also, i expect to take flak over being a theist objectivist who also claims to be consistent. thank you for your concern about confrontation however, and no offense was taken.

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(...) speculate on the nature of an inorganic life-form (such as silicon plant-life, which some in the field of inorganic chemistry think may be possible), is there a line that is crossed in which reason can not be further extended until the senses can actually observe this taking place, or does speculation upon phenomena existing on other planets (potentially anywhere in the universe) still fall into the realm of being 100% rational.

The question is about the rationality of speculation. Observe in your example:

1. We know "organic" life exists. I quote organic because it is only the word we created to designate that pertaining to the type of life we know. Strictly speaking, "chemical life" would be a better term.

2. We know the properties of "inorganic" compounds and observe that some (or all? I really don't have enough specific knowlege) of the required properties of life are present, or may be present under certain conditions (temperature, pressure etc.).

3. We speculate that "inorganic life" is possible.

On a side note, if (3) happens do we define a new term or are those compounds now considered "organic"? Note that the concept of organic depends on what forms of life we know.

By the same token, would metaphysical speculation upon the origin of causality, ergo Aristotle's "universal consciousness" also fall outside of the realm of reason?

Notice the difference:

1. We have no evidence that an "origin" of causality exists, we have the certainty that an "origin" of existence is impossible (it contradicts identity).

2. We know that consciousness presuposes existence (something must exist to perceive, something must exist to be perceived). A consciousness as a primary thus violates identity by the fallacy of the stolen concept.

3. People speculate about a metaphysical consciousness, or god, as you will.

I think the difference is clear: in one case the evidence gives rise to speculation, in the other imagination gives rise to speculation. In the first case, it is rational. In the second it is not.

"a belief in things which are not seen but which are true"

How is this different from "belief in things without reason" except by the fact that the definition begs the question ("that are true")? The definition is the same.

thank you for your concern about confrontation however, and no offense was taken.

I have the utmost respect for those truly in search of reason and truth, no matter where they currently stand.

mrocktor

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I can conceive of a great many truths without seeing them. A man who believes something without reason is worse than a fool. And a man who believes nothing without direct perception is bound in concretes and will never learn to count. Thats why my tool of Reason allows me to integrate what I perceive into concepts which allow me to understand a corrolary truth without perception.

Also, a belief in things which are not seen Or true, is not merely "false faith" but is not faith at all and cannot be applied to any sentence in any scripture, much less any argument I may put forth in the future using the word. Merely believing something isn't going to earn anybody any happiness in this life, much less any kind of reward in a here-after. I have no interest in having a belief in anything but a truth. It will do me no good for I have denied reason by substituting belief. My faith is a belief in things which are celebrated by my reason and will always do if my faculty of reason is being correctly used. I accept no Faith-Truth dichotomy. which is to say I cannot accept a Faith-Reason dichotomy.

I understand this may be outrageous to some, but I firmly believe that it could only be if my definition and application of faith are misunderstood. If this is the case, please send all personal insults, smears, or improper questions to my PM folder or email address.

And again, thank you mrocktor for your respectful discussion of ideas. I am coming to appreciate it more and more.

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If this is the case, please send all personal insults, smears, or improper questions to my PM folder or email address.

As you might have guessed already, you will not be able to dictate where the responses are sent to your posts. If you come on here with talk of faith and God, you will get responses you may not like.

I would suggest you review the forum rules at this point so that you may have a clearer understanding of what conversation is permissible here. Perverting Objectivism by stating it is consistent with beliefs in imaginary beings is not permissible.

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...my tool of Reason allows me to integrate what I perceive into concepts which allow me to understand a corrolary truth without perception.

This is an epistemological inconsistency. It is correct to say that the means to knowledge, or 'truth' to use your words, is a process of perceiving concretes and their relationships. However, it is not correct to say that any higher abstractions or corollaries to abstractions are disjunct from the level of percepts. It is only because we have the basic knowledge of percepts that allows us to progress to any higher level of abstraction.

Also, a belief in things which are not seen Or true, is not merely "false faith" but is not faith at all and cannot be applied to any sentence in any scripture, much less any argument I may put forth in the future using the word.

[...]

...faith doesnt just mean different things to different people, but literally has a different meaning.

If you are interested in any further commentary on the topic of 'faith,' it would greatly help all of us to actually define your concept of 'faith' so that we may better understand why you are saying that the "Objectivist definition of faith" is clearly different from "rational faith" as you might put it.

Which, I must say is a perverted contradiction. Which is an assumption that I will happily explain given you supply your conceptualization of faith.

'Faith' as practiced in an enumerable denominations of religion is clearly and demonstrably a "belief in something apart from and often contradictory to any real evidence." (that 'something' often being a god or ethreal plane)

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The debate forum could be your "safety valve" if you want to explain how faith is compatible with reason. Come to think of it, there was a debate about Reason and Faith a little while ago. If that interests you, you can start a thread there and invite someone to be your opponent.

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1. We have no evidence that an "origin" of causality exists, we have the certainty that an "origin" of existence is impossible (it contradicts identity).
But then this begs the question, do we have evidence that the universe has been eternally "in motion", thus negating the need for an origin of motion?

2. We know that consciousness presuposes existence (something must exist to perceive, something must exist to be perceived). A consciousness as a primary thus violates identity by the fallacy of the stolen concept.

Only if the consciousness is implied as non-existent within our universe. The "universal consciouness" would not neccesarily be a non-material being, but rather of a material yet to be observed. You will note that I do not assert that God is not knowable, but rather is not yet known.

3. People speculate about a metaphysical consciousness, or god, as you will.
Indeed, and the fact that we will it does not in itself make it true, but rather the extent to which we understand the world that we live in. An a priori approach to pursuing the "God" question is obviously absurd, however, the a posteriori approach is best way to go, even though that road leads to denying God's existence in many cases.

I think the difference is clear: in one case the evidence gives rise to speculation, in the other imagination gives rise to speculation. In the first case, it is rational. In the second it is not.

If the universe has been "eternally in motion" then obviously this answer applies, because causality would be a given. However, in order for me to fully convert to the Objectivist view of Metaphysics (the only place where I personally differ with them), I need proof that the universe has been "eternally in motion", or "motion was not caused, but constant like matter", and I don't think that that can be rationally proven with our current technology.

On a side note, if (3) happens do we define a new term or are those compounds now considered "organic"? Note that the concept of organic depends on what forms of life we know.

All life as we know it is Carbon based, so the separation between "Organic" and "Inorganic" would rest upon whether or not Carbon is present. I think that if Silicon or some other element were observed as being a fundamental part of a living entity's make-up, the label of Inorganic would still hold up. "Inorganic life" exists as a speculation on such literary abstractions as the show "Star Trek", all that would change would be that what it labels would cease to be a speculation.

P.S. - I come from the viewpoint that "motion" and "matter" are two separate categories of study, and that these studies warrant similar methods of deduction in their pursuit. Motion of one object usually stems from a separate force acting upon it, as compounds stem from elements forming bonds. If these actions are eternal, then have they always been dispersed, were they manifested in one location and then dispersed?(The Big Bang" prempting motion as well matter) And if this is the case, what was the cause, and was there a catalyst in that cause? These speculations do not strike me as irrational or a product of mere imagination, but obviously they do not conform to the Objectivist view of metaphysics, and if the Objectivist view is correct, then these speculations are obviously at error.

Edited by dark_unicorn
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The 'a priori - a posteriori' distinction is a false dichotomy. Let's all grab our copy of ITOE.

Indeed it is, because rationally there is no such thing as knowledge known "A priori", I mentioned it primarily because that is how most Christians argue the existence of God. A priori nothing exists, because it is a negation of existence. I should have made this distinction earlier but I neglected it as I was formulating my responses to the last post.

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Oh, I see. cool

Yeah, the whole concept of "divine revelation" implies that a person is experiencing a message from a non-sensory means. Now, if such a means exists (ESP), it would have to be some sort of mechanism that is implanted prior to a person's existence, ergo Plato's realm of forms.

Now it could also be argued that "divine revelation" was a mis-interpretation of what was in fact fits of volitional cognition. In other words, people coming to realizations of various phenomena that did not fit a societal template, but were accepted as being something higher than the tribal society. Furthermore, absent a working philosophy, the natural course of the mind is to attribute magical properties to unexplainable phenomena, rather than try to investigate it further.

One of the interesting aspects of Aquinas' Summa is that noteworthy for Aristotilean philosophical descendents, particularly the Thomist and the Objectivist is that he specifically separates "A priori" into the realm of the mystical, and places "A posteriori" into the realm of rational philosophical arguement. This is his influence upon the Enlightment, as well as the Renaissance. The next step would be to completely refute any existence of "a priori" as a form of knowledge, as Rand does. Epistemologically I agree with Rand on this, where I differ is whether or not this fact of human knowledge necessitates Atheism. But that need not be discussed on this thread as it would get away from traditional Christian vs. Objectivist debate that is the current discussion.

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But then this begs the question, do we have evidence that the universe has been eternally "in motion", thus negating the need for an origin of motion?

The whole of your argument rests on this, and this is incorrect. We observe that the unverse is "in motion", we see no evidence why it should stop or that it could have started. The end. Anything else is arbitrary.

The "big bang" itself is arbitrary, when it is defined as "there was nothing, nothing spontaneously exploded and voilá: the universe".

mrocktor

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You are using "purpose" to mean: the fundamental reasons that drive you to act. He is using "purpose" to mean: the reasons you were created in the first place.
In the original post, I think that both parties would agree that there is something for which questioning "purpose" is a moot point. I imagine the Christian would say that there is no purpose for, say, God's existence or the Christian standards of morality.

If both agree that there is some fundamental level for each which has no "purpose," the question would be whether either/both/any "purposeless" level is more justified than the other.

Would the Christian minority here :worry: agree?

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As a part of the christian minority, though not speaking for all of it, I must heartily protest the idea that there is no purpose for God or the christian standard of morality. God's purpose is stated as thus "This is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" and the fulfillment of this purpose brings him a very selfish joy. The purpose of morality in my life is to bring me joy. Ethics is the science of defining rules of behavior for myself which will make me a better person (or bring me values) and when I am a "good person" (or have Values) I will nescesarily have Joy (If I am rational and they are rational values). This, I believe, is the view held by many objectivists, though attained through radically different means. i.e. a non-belief in God vs. a belief in God. Therefore my standard of morality does have a purpose, though I must admit it is not the same as other christian standards of morality.

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This, I believe, is the view held by many objectivists, though attained through radically different means. i.e. a non-belief in God vs. a belief in God.

This is more accurately stated by saying "objective identification of reality vs. belief in the arbitrary."

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