Newsflash: Brizoni & I try to be civil.

No. It was created for Richard Dawkins.

No. It was created for Richard Dawkins.

I know. People think I’m impossible. But I’m not. I reached out to Brizoni on the subject of “Talking.” We went back and forth. The heat got dialed down to an acceptable level, sort of, and I promised I would respond to his manifesto. Since he accused me of evading his points, it’s in the form of a Fisk. But only because I’m trying to be directly responsive. He’s in plain text and I’m in Italic.

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This isn’t working. I’ve been trying to figure out how to get through to you. Maybe it’s time I took your advice and started over. From the top.

I agree. Not working. I told you I’d respond but I confess a deep weariness at the prospect. I can feel your certainty arising even at the end of this brief email. You want to win. But I’ll do my best to remain civil even as I rehearse arguments I’ve already made which you simply dismiss.

There is serious, incontrovertible doubt about God’s existence. For that reason, God’s will is impossible to determine with any level of certainty, and he cannot be relied on to reward the virtuous or punish the guilty. In this, or any hypothetical other life.

Serious but not incontrovertible. The latter word does not apply to doubt, which is a state of mind not science. That God cannot be relied upon to reward the virtuous or punish the guilty is equally an emotional judgment, not a finding of fact. What constitutes reward? What constitutes punishment? I suspect you have narrower, more rational materialist definitions of these words than I do. A scoundrel dies rich with his name on hospitals. A mother suffers through life because her toddler died of cancer. I’m sure you have a kind of conceptual scorecard of these outcomes. I don’t. Because I’m old. If there is a God he might be tuning us all individually, because we are not digital units but individuals. There is no calculus capable of predicting who experiences peace of mind at the end or fear, agitation, and desperation.

This does not mean you have to stop believing in God. It does mean you ought to admit God doesn’t work as a foundation for morality or a social contract. The honest cannot be inspired by being part of a Story that is more likely false than true.

The first sentence is a ruse. You have constantly insisted that I not believe in God. The second sentence is, well, I don’t mean to be rude, ludicrous. For you to maintain the supremacy of an atheistic philosophy in our time is outright absurdity. The most successful cultures in all of recorded history, in terms of quality of life, acquisition of knowledge, and stability of social contract have been the Christian dominant civilizations of Europe and North America. The deterioration we’ve seen since a decade or two before your birth have to do with the abandonment of simple Judeo-Christian principles. That marriage should occur before childbirth. That the family is a sacred institution. That community is a function of finding a moral consensus about right and wrong, not an endless process of splitting apart, grievance, and revenge over fancied differences. Have all these cultures been without sin? No. Of course not. But to the extent that there are parliamentary democracies around the world today that are based on the rule of law and the rights of individuals to have a say in their lives, it is a function of the Christian elevation of individuals rather than subjects and slaves. It didn’t magically appear from math and the scientific method, whose roots you conveniently amputate from the continuum, just as you amputate the beginning of the universe from the tom-tom beat of Evolution as you understand it.

The power hungry cannot be humbled (The Scottish Perspective) by a God who lets the Holocaust and the Killing Fields happen. The solution to this “problem” is to root morality in demonstrable reality. Specifically, the actual requirements of human survival and human flourising. In my view, Ayn Rand has done this successfully, whatever mistakes one can glean around the margins of her thought.

I like to hear you say, “In my view, Ayn Rand has done this successfully.” Yes, in your view she has. In my view, she hasn’t. Would John Galt have done anything to stop the Holocaust or the Killing Fields? It doesn’t actually come up in Atlas Shrugged, does it? Rather, there’s a sense of letting the dumb-ass victims be dumb-ass victims while us smart ones run away to the Colorado Hole in the Wall Butch and Sundance were aiming for. (Btw, your link supports my points about moral degradation more than your argument for a New Rational Morality.)

Not trying to be glib or snarky. Rand was fighting the rational ideological “purity” of Soviet communism with an equally rational ideological opposite. She sets up a straw man and burns it to the ground. I loved it when I first read it, but it leaves out all the messy human parts. The Nazis murdered maybe 15 million innocents. The Soviets maybe 50 million. The Chinese maybe 100 million. They ALL thought they could replace archaic religious beliefs with superior rational constructs. And somehow they managed to make the behavior of their good soldiers indistinguishable from what you decry in religious fanatics. Except that the gods they chose to worship were not larger than life except in their posters — moral midgets named Hitler, Stalin, and Mao.

I haven’t always made the case for this clearly (though more than once I certainly have). The fact that a universe of self-sufficient natural law makes more sense than a universe that needed creation is a related, but seperate argument. I’ve conflated the two in the past. My bad.

No. You never have made the case for this in any clear way. You declare that you and some unknown set of like-minded folk have divined a rational morality that absolutely must be accepted as truth. All the rationalist disasters of the twentieth century are mere error. The real, honest, absolute, final, ineluctable truth lies with you and other subscribers to the arrogant anti-religious pronouncements of Richard Dawkins, who insists that all who disagree with him are idiots, fools, and unworthy of decent human respect.

What I’d like from you is, at long last, a good faith rebuttal (pardon the pun?). Without any rhetorical tricks hiding a lack of substance. No straw men. No straw fiat. No dishonest syllogisms (you have trouble keeping your distortions straight– why put rationalism “in quotes” if reason is only “a tool for making arguments”?). No collapsing into a heap of sneers at the mere mention of Ayn Rand. No splitting hairs about what like counts as like “demonstrable” anyway maaaan, or what the meaning of the word “is” is. No pretending to be stupid to make stupid points. Give me logical or fact-based (preferrably both!) reasons why I’m wrong. If you think most people simply can’t handle living without Sky Dad to keep them going or Sky Cop to keep them in line, say so openly. If you have evidence for God’s will other than fingers-crossed wishful thinking, don’t hide it under a bushel!

This is called projection. Everything you accuse me of, you are thrice guilty of. Note the return of your old tone in re Sky Dad and Sky Cop. Never used or intimated either. (Uh, rationalism isn’t philosophy, as you seem to keep implying. That’s why I specified it as a tool for making arguments.)

If you can’t prove me wrong, then it’s time to admit I’m right. If, of course, I’m wrong about you and ingetrity matters more to you than your pride in your plan to save Christianity.

I can’t prove you wrong. Never claimed I could except in matters of historical fact you cribbed from Google. I have no plan to save Christianity. If we’re in for another Dark Age of secular barbarism, we are. You seem to be okay with that.

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None of this has been about my pride. You are not right. You are you. Which is a function of your free will and okay. But your continuing demand for acquiescence is the saddest thing about you. You see, we could talk about other things we likely agree on. But you are stuck on this absolute need to be right about God and somehow compel me to admit it. I’ve written before about my belief that the existence of human intelligence, such as you value in yourself to the exclusion of all who dissent, is also proof that there is intelligence in the universe itself, built in, exemplified by a physics of the universe that could not be more precisely set up for what we find ourselves living in. The only scientific rebuttal for this anthropic cosmological principle is the Multiverse theory, which rests on no shred of observable, measurable scientific evidence but our determination to believe in an unintelligent universe. Except for really smart guys on Earth in the 21st century, of course. Which begins to sound a lot like your own idea of Old Testament scripture, a fantasy of Man-centric hubris…

You oh so certain guys make me laugh.

Why my acquiescence is not going to happen. I think about my sins these days. It’s helpful, enriching if frequently painful. But none of them is addressed by anything Ayn Rand ever wrote. Maybe that’s the appeal when you’re young, invincible, and certain of your mission. I’ve been there. It wears off eventually. Then you need more.

P.S. Brizoni linked to my old post The Scottish Perspective because he believes it proves that we are in a post-Christian world ripe for his better answers. Two points. Loss of faith does not mean that Christianity is wrong, just harder than people of little character can live up to.

Second point. The post dates back to October 2008. It included this prediction:

It is only religion which has the irrational force to declare that one human life can be equal to or greater than the “greater good.” But Americans have allowed themselves to be slowly driven backwards into a philosophical model that replaces faith with cost accounting, appetites, and organic chemistry. You want “free” healthcare. You will get it. And you will learn that the price of it is accepting a death sentence from the state when your life is too expensive in dollars to perpetuate. But you have spent a very long time already learning that despite your avowed faith, everything important in life is measured in dollars. Otherwise, there would be no way to buy your vote by promises of punishing rich people with higher taxes.

Six years later. Is the prediction wrong, funny, as dumb as Brizoni thinks my theology is? What happens when the supposedly smart people start making rational decisions for the rest of us?

The death of values which sustained us for generations does not mean those values are wrong. It only means that we have lost our faith. The pretenders who offer us new and improved values in place of the old ones are not to be trusted. Take a look. They’re all still wet behind the ears.

P.P.S. Serendicity. Just saw it this morning, I swear.

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