movies matter | criticism by maryann johanson
Sat Mar 29 2008, 11:35am | 31 comments
Fun for all!
Via Critical Critique; thanks to my friend Lowell for sending me to the site.
(Technorati tags: Proving that God’s plan is impossible)
The logic in this video is laughable. Because Rick Warren and many Christians believe God determines everything, and are therefore hypocrites for opposing abortion, God must not exist. God is imaginary.
Do atheists not see the GIANT leap here? Disproving Rick Warren does not disprove God. Nor has God’s Plan been disproved. If God plans everything, then God causes abortion. Therefore God must not exist. God is imaginary.
Atheists can’t seem to grasp this simple concept. The entire video is a fallacy.
kinda weak, straw man thing going on there. there are more sophisticated arguments the guy could wrestle with, but i guess that would make it harder for him to be a condescending, unholier-than-thou, arbiter of proper intellectualism.
yeah the main kicker for this argument is Rick Warren, who is basically writing from his own belief system. I will admit, I’m not a fan of these additional Christian books, as if the King James Bible didn’t screw things up enough. Its a weak argument,you can’t push the author of this book and expect it to have a domino effect on all Christians, or Catholics. I don’t think he has a plan , I think god set us up like an Ant farm and we have to dig and pick our own tunnels and routes. Then when we die, if we picked and dig the right paths we can advance to the next Ant farm that isn’t as cramped and alot more pleasurable to live in.
Wow Hdj, a slightly larger, better ant farm? When you put it that way, a lifetime of servitude and willful ignorance seems totally worth it. Sign me up!
Seriously, most would agree that people try to “choose the right path,” in this life so that they can achieve their personal goals. The jump from that vague statement to the idea that an invisible, omnipotent being is handling admissions to a wondrous second “ant farm” that no one has ever seen is kind of a stretch.
I can’t believe I’m getting sucked into another one of these arguments. Everything we are typing has been typed and thought almost word for word literally millions of times by thousands of other, much smarter people. Must… stop… useless… typing… can’t
The truly annoying thing is that I’m sure many times throughout history religions that was were nonoffensive and tolerant of other religions popped up, but they didn’t last because the only religions that perpetuate and grow are the ones that encourage their followers to indoctrinate their children, force their beliefs onto others, and reject and/or belittle followers of all other religions (and those pesky, blasphemous infidel nonbelievers) no matter how laughably small the differences are in their religious beliefs and your own.
Of course it also helps if the religion makes people think that the universe is some kind of divine meritocracy. How convenient for those in power.
It’s like dumping a bunch of puppies in a pit and forcing them to fight each other until only the three or four meanest, most unpleasant ones remain. Were there ever any nice, reasonable puppies in the pit? Probably. But they never had a chance, and now the pit is a sea of snarling, angry puppies and there’s nothing we can do except try to ignore their constant yapping and toe-biting and State of the Union addresses and “pray” we all don’t end up the horribly mutated victims of some pointless, apocalyptic Puppigeddon.
Basically, the argument of this video is that free will is incompatible with the omniscient deity Christianity claims, especially combined with the concept that this deity has a plan for all of us. If God knows everything you’re ever going to do — and indeed, he must, if he is omniscient — then you cannot choose to do anything that that deity already knows you’re going to do. You may have the illusion of free will, in that you don’t already know which choice you’re going to make, but if God knows what you’re going to do, then you have no real choice.
I assume you believe in the Big Bang Theory. Well, it is believed by many scientists(Einstein, Steven Hawking, countless other big and little names) that the big bang is the beginning of all time, space, and matter. Our conceptions/experiences of the physical universe do not exist before the moment the BB occurred. There is no TIME before the BB. That is, everything we experience temporally, the forward motion of thoughts and events, could not happen without time and space. But we could not have just popped out of nothingness. So what is this mysterious beyond that we know must exist, as there must have always been something, SOMETHING, there – even if we can not conceive of it?
Well, Einstein, who postulated the origins of the universe with his theory of relativity, came to the conclusion that there must be a creator behind everything.
Does this exclude free well? It would SEEM to if we operate from the conception that there is a “before” the big bang. But wait. If time starts at the big bang, there can really be no “before,” as the word can only be used in a temporal framework. If God exists, and he created time from a non-temporal existence.
But how could he conceive of the universe without employing thought, which operates on a linear progression of time? And with that question, we begin to attempt to know how God’s mind operates. The mysterious, unimaginable mind of the eternal being that is God necessarily cannot be discerned by temporal creatures.
If there is no “before” the big bang, then God enters time with complete knowledge of all things that will ever occur, but he had not known them “prior” to them occurring as there is no before for God, all events have already occurred in his knowledge. This does not imply that we do not have free will, but that we do not know how inextricably our free will is tied to eternity. If God does not exist in time and does not know of our actions “prior” to setting our creation in motion, but exists in a completely unimaginable state of omniscient knowledge and omnipotent power that we cannot even conceive of (as we are temporal creatures and He is not) then the existence of our free will could well mean that our ACTIONS determine God’s KNOWLEDGE, and not the other way around. Free will and our existence are tied to this incredible eternity(whether you believe in God our not, we’re all products of something that is beyond the physical world, as matter/time/space begins at the big bang), the essence of God’s mysterious existence.
This may be rather confusing, but I hope that it is understood that there can be no eternal, physical universe. And something supernatural, nonphysical, and untestable by science must necessarily exist beyond it.
“Time is that dimension in which cause and effect phenomena take place. . . . If time’s beginning is concurrent with the beginning of the universe, as the space-time theorem says, then the cause of the universe must be some entity operating in a time dimension completely independent of and pre-existent to the time dimension of the cosmos. This conclusion is powerfully important to our understanding of who God is and who or what God isn’t. It tells us that the creator is transcendent, operating beyond the dimensional limits of the universe. It tells us that God is not the universe itself, nor is God contained within the universe.”
So. You don’t believe in God. What else could have existed without time… that is unmeasurable by human perception… but that we are inextricably tied to? Just curious as to your opinion.
MaryAnne, you’re right about the video’s argument (free will is incompatible with the omniscient deity Christianity claims), but how does that argument lead to the conclusion that God is imaginary? That’s the GIANT flaw. We don’t know whether free will exists or not. The video doesn’t attempt to prove it, it just assumes so and wrongly concludes that because Christians are illogical God must be imaginary. That’s classic Ad hominem.
The video concludes:
“If they would think, and if they would look at the data all around them, they would very quickly realize that God’s plan is impossible and that God is imaginary. With luck, this video will help you to start thinking.”
The video does not prove God’s plan is impossible. It only proves that God’s plan is impossible if it can be proven that Free Will exists.
For the sake of argument let’s say that it does; that would indeed disprove Christianity’s version of God’s Plan, but NOT disprove God.
“…then you cannot choose to do anything that that deity already knows you’re going to do.”
There’s the central fallacy of the argument. The foreknowledge doesn’t affect the choice. Correlation isn’t causation.
I assume you believe in the Big Bang Theory.
You make an incorrect assumption. No one needs to “believe” in anything science talks about — evolution, cosmology, whatever. Either you accept that this is the best explanation *we have at this moment* to explain something, or you don’t. “Belief” and “faith” have nothing to do with it.
And if you cannot accept that the universe could not exist without a cause or a beginning, why are you able to accept that God could exist without a cause or a beginning?
The foreknowledge doesn’t affect the choice
Of course it does. It means you can’t change that choice. Which leaves you no choice at all.
how does that argument lead to the conclusion that God is imaginary?
It leads to the conclusion that the deity that Christians worship is imaginary. Of course the argument doesn’t disprove the existence of any deity. It doesn’t disprove the existence of Thor, Isis, Kali, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Better get worshipping.
“It means you can’t change that choice. Which leaves you no choice at all.”
Seriously flawed logic. Causality lies with the actor, not the observer, no matter how much the observer knows about what will happen. A person who knows the rat in the maze will eventually find and eat the cheese is not making the rat’s choices.
” “Belief” and “faith” have nothing to do with it.”
Whatever – do you “accept that this is the best explanation *we have at this moment*”?
“And if you cannot accept that the universe could not exist without a cause or a beginning, why are you able to accept that God could exist without a cause or a beginning?”
Because the universe is temporal, or existing within time. The conception of an eternal universe suffers from the problem of infinite regress, wheras God, a being that exists beyond time/what we can conceive of as temporal creatures, does not suffer from this problem.
A few examples that would highlight the problem of infinite regress: If an infinite amount of time has passed already, then why is this current moment happening now, and not a minute, month, year, or millenia earlier?
A clearer example might be this: If I were to give you something, say a cookie, after an infinite amount of time, would I ever give it to you? Of course not, because the time between which I said I’d give it to you and when I would actually give it to you would never elapse. And yet, that such a situation is possible is what the idea of an infinite universe allows for.
Do you see a problem with the idea? If not, why?
God, a being that exists beyond time/what we can conceive of as temporal creatures, does not suffer from this problem.
Okay. Then so is the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
“A person who knows the rat in the maze will eventually find and eat the cheese is not making the rat’s choices.”
So what you’re saying is that God knows what the outcome of every possible “choice” in the universe will be. We’re still free to choose anything we want to, but God, being an infinite being outside of time, already knows what choices we will select.
So, no matter what we choose to do, God can sit back in his extratemporal recliner and omnipotently say, “I totally knew you were going to do that. That abortion, those rapes, yeah, totally not a surprise to me.”
If this far-fetched, implausibly weird science-fiction God you are describing really does exist, it (because this being is clearly not even close to human) must be incredibly bored. I mean, I hope it’s got a lot of parallel universes to play around with because now that it’s done seting up everything in this universe, there’s nothing left to do, at least nothing that it doesn’t already know it’s going to do.
If you can believe that somewhere every single decision in your life, no matter how trivial or important has been pre-planned (even if it is within a mysterious infinite mind) and still feel like you have free will, well more power to you, but all these mental gymnastics for the sake of few poorly translated collections of nomadic tribal legends smells a little fishy to me (and I don’t mean Jesus fishy either).
Anything physical is temporal. The flying spaghetti monster, zeus, thor, odin – are all supposed to live in the universe. They are beings with a physical make-up(and wear clothes, for crying out loud), and exist within time, space, and matter(and would as well suffer from the problem of infinite regress). They are not compatible with the conception the monotheistic God – a being that lives beyond anything we can conceive of(time, space, matter).
God does not have physical properties; he does not exist within time. The only reason we call him “he” is to anthropomorphize.
Comparisons of the monotheistic God to a Flying Spaghetti Monster or any other temporal “god” are false comparisons.
“So what you’re saying is that God knows what the outcome of every possible “choice” in the universe will be. We’re still free to choose anything we want to, but God, being an infinite being outside of time, already knows what choices we will select.
So, no matter what we choose to do, God can sit back in his extratemporal recliner and omnipotently say, “I totally knew you were going to do that. That abortion, those rapes, yeah, totally not a surprise to me.” ”
You understand perfectly.
“If you can believe that somewhere every single decision in your life, no matter how trivial or important has been pre-planned (even if it is within a mysterious infinite mind)…”
I said the opposite, actually, more than once. Our decisions are NOT preplanned.
the Flying Spaghetti Monster is meant to ridicule the idea of a personal God, that is a god with spatial extension (spaghetti), temporal activity (flying), and personality (a monster).
literal arguments for a personal God are bound to fail, but having shot one down and saying that this is proof that there is no God or nothing divine is kind of like going to the zoo, shooting a tiger in a cage, and calling yourself a big-game hunter.
language doesn’t have any transcendent representational power, it has uses that depend on contexts. religious language and scientific language are two different things that describe different experiences of the world. to get them mixed up or think one is the other is to suffer endless bullshit.
Hmmm… I think I’ve got this straight now. Because God is conveniently outside of space and time, all of our decisions can somehow NOT be preplanned but It CAN know what our decisions will be, because It doesn’t follow any of the established laws of physics (causality has no meaning, everything that has and will ever happen and every possible universe exists simultaneously inside Its “mind,” etc. etc.) and It doesn’t follow the laws of physics because that’s the only way that any of Its supposed powers are possible and the only way that It can know our decisions but still allow us free will.
Circular reasoning aside, that means the bit about making the Heavens and the Earth in six days and resting on the seventh was a patronizing oversimplification. And the part about Adam being made in God’s image wasn’t talking about his physical body, because that’s clearly ridiculous, It has no body, It must have been talking about his mind being similar to the infinite “mind” of God… sort of, well more similar than a chimpanzee’s or a dolphin’s mind… in most cases.
I have a couple things (that have been beaten to death by millions of other people, but what the heck)to add:
1) Any time the solution to a problem invovles the assumption that the laws of physics as we currently understand them are no longer valid in some domain, you are “stretching,” to put it lightly. At the very least, you should exhaust every remotely possible alternative before even considering the deconstruction of any physical laws (much less all of them).
2) What exactly do holy texts and organized religion (and Jesus) have to do with any of this? The sci-fi monster you describe and the God of the various holy books are completely different characters.
Can you really imagine the God you described saying “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers…” etc. Seems a little petty for such a powerful being. Almost, dare I say it, human.
In fact, if everyone truly believed in this particular type of God, it seems like there would really be no need to advocate one particular book or religion or set of silly rituals over another (thus the flying spaghetti monster). As long as you believe in a single omnipotent being, you’re pretty much good to go no matter what you say when you eat crackers.
3) If God is outside of space and time, and Heaven is where God “is” then, do we get absorbed into God’s being when we “go to” Heaven? In other words are God and Heaven the same thing? Because that sounds unpleasant, I kinda like my individuality.
4) If, as some are claiming, human language and thought are incapable of describing this infinite extratemporal being, how are we discussing it right now? More specifically, how can you say that one person, say… a religious person is able to better understand this incomprehensible, indescribable Thing any better than another person, say… a non-religious person. If we are failing to understand It now, and doomed to never be able to understand It, why are we wasting all this time in churches, mosques, temples, and synagogues trying to discuss It? Aren’t we really just discussing ourselves? If so, what’s the point of having the sci-fi monster in the first place?
The late Douglas Adams would have had a field day with that “Godisimaginary.com” person. Come to think of it, Adams actually did put that particular Sour Kangaroo in his place, before the fact, with regard to one of his most inspired creations, the improbably useful Babel Fish:
The argument goes something like this:
“I refuse to prove that I exist,” says God, “for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.”
“But,” says Man, “the Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn’t it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don’t. QED.”
“Oh dear,” says God, “I hadn’t though of that,” and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.
Sophists the world over continue to try to make God vanish in a puff of logic. Usually doesn’t work. Of course, Adams was a pretty even-handed satirist, and he dished it out to believers just as mercilessly. Which just shows that the difference between intolerant, short-sighted believers and intolerant, short-sighted atheists is pretty negligible. The only sad-making element is that the doofusae (plural of “doofus”) on both sides of the debate give black eyes to both intelligent, reasonable believers (not necessarily an oxymoron) and intelligent, reasonable atheists (ditto).
I’m a catholic and I believe theres a God but he gave us a choice to ether be a sheep or a wolf, and we need Shepard’s as well, preachers minsters and such. The problem is when theres to much sheep, the sheep loose there guidance and they become easy targets for the wolfs. Also theres alot of wolves in sheep clothing
Then of course if your Indian you believe in Karma , which is the same theology with a different god, and Im cool with that, you have to have a choice to make karma work. You gota make a mistake or wrong doing, like your own damn mistake without any kinda god plans, then karma comes around from what you did and bites you in the ass. So I cant help but feel the free will is there and I don’t feel over ruled by any one except our own mistakes.
I’m a pretty hardened atheist, myself, but those who have pointed out that the “argument” presented in this video is predicated on the unproved assumption that free will exists have it right.
Frankly, it is far more difficult to reconcile free will with a materialistic universe governed by natural law than it is to reconcile omniscience, omnipotence and free will.
This is not to say that I believe in God. I don’t. But I’m not convinced that free will exists, either. Indeed, I’m sure you could make a pretty good argument that it doesn’t.
Whether or not free will literally exists (and I’m not going to argue one way or another), every human being on the planet, including yourself, certainly behaves as if it does. It’s the basis of our legal and justice system… most of the time.
Heck, it’s the basis of almost every social interaction in every human society. Who wants to walk around all day saying “I would say something, but what’s the use? Everything I will ever say or do including what I am saying and doing right now is the product of natural laws and neurotransmitters and hormones and electrical impulses.” Pretty boring.
Human society, and humanity in general would quickly grind to a halt and cease to function entirely if we truly behaved as if we had no free will. That makes the argument a nifty but ultimately completely useless mental exercise, as the result cannot possibly have any effect on the future behavior of a rational person who wants to continue their social (human) existence.
I can’t believe I’m going to jump into this but…
Well, Einstein, who postulated the origins of the universe with his theory of relativity, came to the conclusion that there must be a creator behind everything.
I have two problems with this assertion:
First, I think you are misrepresenting the origins of the Big Bang Theory, the General Theory of Relativity, and Einstein’s personal beliefs. The Cosmoslogical Constant resulted from Einstein’s desire to avoid a beginning to the universe. It was others who devised (and demonstrated to Einstein) the perfered solution of a Big Bang. But, if you have references refuting any of this, I’ll happily conced that you may be simplifying for the sake of argument. Still…
Second, Einstein was a Theoretical Physicist, not a Theologian. His beliefs on the existance of a Creator do not make the existence of a Creator any more or less likely. He’s simply not in a position to say with any more certainty than you or I. This is a pretty clear cut example of the logical fallacy of the argumentum ad veracundiam (appeal to authority).
the unproved assumption that free will
Whether or not free will exists is not the question here. The issue here is that the Christian philosophy posits that it does, while the deity it posits cannot possibly allow it.
If apologists want to call that a puff of logic, so be it.
Wow!–I’m a 44-year-old Jew AND a Christian philosophy apologist! Wait till I tell Mom–she’ll plotz!
Here’s my issue, and then I’ll call it a day. As a Jew, I’ve noted that a lot of Christians want to see me “perfected”–that is, to accept the divinity of Jesus. In other words, to stop being a Jew. That’s not exactly a news flash, I’ll admit.
BUT… here’s the Godisimaginary.com fellow telling me that if only I were to think and be logical, I’d realize that, per the name of his site, God is imaginary. Then I would stop believing in Him. In other words, I’d stop being a Jew. His message is not “I don’t think it’s logical or rational to believe in any god or gods,” but rather, “Silly Jew, just think for a few moments and YOU’LL STOP BELIEVING IN GOD.”
Now. I’m reasonably certain, MA, that you personally don’t have an issue with my being Jewish. BUT THIS GUY DOES. Ducking dogmatic believers and the occasional skin-head was one thing; now I’ve got to worry about secular rationalists? So, I’ve just got one question, MA–where the FUCK CAN I HIDE???????
Oh, come on! There’s a huge difference between skinheads and Nazis, and those who would ask you to consider the reality of what you believe in. Surely you know that you don’t have to “worry” about secularists in the same sense that you have to worry about skinheads?
If you don’t, then there’s another huge misunderstanding about what atheism is.
I think the world would generally be a better place if people did not put their hopes in imaginary figures like the Tooth Fairy, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Thor, or the Judeo-Christian God, and instead spent their time making their life on Earth the best it can be, just in case, you know, this happens to be it. If that means you would have to stop “being Jewish,” then I guess that’s what it means. But it also means other people would have to stop being Christian, stop being Thorish, and stop being Pastafarian.
In the real world, I don’t expect religion to go away. I’d be happy if religious people were content to keep their religion to themselves and stop trying to foist it on me. Jews tend not to do that, which is great. Christians — as a cultural and political bloc and very often as individuals as well — tend to think that everyone believes what they believe, except for those people who don’t and who should therefore be forced to live as if they do believe anyway.
religion is the very real fear of death compounded by thousands of years of written tradition exploited by the powerful to keep the masses content with their lackluster existence on this world, in the hope that their conformity to certain societal laws will earn them a place in some sort of ethereal paradise.
Feel free to cloak it with any philosophy or fancy argument you choose…when we all inevitably die the argument is over, and you really can’t lose.
Thanks for responding, MA. We agree on one major point–
“I’d be happy if religious people were content to keep their religion to themselves and stop trying to foist it on me.” And I’m happy that enough people live that way so that I can have a number of friends who are atheists, Baptists, Catholics, and so on.
The big issue I have with the Godisimaginary fellow is that I don’t think he’s content to have me “consider the reality” of what I believe in. There is, in fact, a tradition of Jewish self-questioning and even skepticism–a role in the old communities filled by the “apikoros”–kind of an in-house critic who would question the laws, even to the point of doubting that there was a just (or any) God. But that’s not what Godisimaginary is saying. He’s saying, “Consider the world the way I do, and then you’ll stop believing. Then you can join us, and spread the word.” (And there are tags on his site marked “join us” and “spread the word.”) That’s where I see the red flags.
I guess what I’m not seeing is the significant difference between, say, an evangelical type trying to “foist” his or her belief system on me, and what the Godisimaginary person is doing. Is it a matter of hegemony–that is, Christians wield significant power and influence in terms of how our country is run, and atheists don’t, so Christian “foisting” is more dangerous? Is it because what the atheist is talking about is not a matter of faith? Is it because he’s on a website and not accosting me in person? I get the feeling that I’m maybe this close to “getting it,” but I’m feeling a little dense.
And, Ryan–good point.
The atheist — even the Godisimaginary guy — is not attempting to force you to accept anything. Christians who want to — and have — enshrined their beliefs into law — are forcing their beliefs on those who don’t share them. That’s the huge difference.
And to liken the Godisimaginary guy to neo-Nazis is outrageous. What will the Godisimaginary guy do to you if you don’t accept what he says? Will he beat you up? No, of course not.
I neglected to concede the point about skinheads in my last post–for that, I apologize.
And…you’ve convinced me. Now I see the difference. So thank you.
The next time I check in, it’ll be about a movie.
What faith boils down to is that people make a choice to believe what they want regardless of the facts.
Once someone makes up his/her mind that there is a god of some sort, they cling to that belief with every fiber of their being.
Only the intellectually honest are willing to consider that stories about gods and supernatural beings are just fiction.
It’s difficult to accept a reality where this is all there is, especially when fantastic stories are considered true by the public at large.
I’ll add another thing to consider.
If you lived in the city of Metropolis, at some point you’d see evidence that Superman lived there. Perhaps you’d see a blue and red blur zipping through the air, or be saved by the man himself from falling debris.
The media in Metropolis would certainly be able to verify tales about Superman with images and video of the Man of Steel. There would even be interviews with the last son of Krypton.
If gods are infinitely more powerful than Superman, why is it so hard to find any evidence which shows they exist?
If we can’t find any obvious evidence proving that any god exists, how can we know that a god has a plan? How could we prove a god’s power? omniscience? omnipotence? omnipresence?
Bottom line: you can’t.
When you back any believer into a corner with these questions, they fall back on the empty excuse that they have faith.
Granted absence of evidence doesn’t prove non-existence, but when you consider how much time, money, and energy have been poured into proving gods exist, the evidence is pointing to non-existence.
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