This topic is in response to my seeing an awful lot of the argument, on both sides of the old "God v. No God" debate, that supporters of the opposing view are simply not willing to believe. However, it makes me wonder how that can be? To the atheists and agnostics who use this argument, I would say that a person can no more help that they believe a certain way than you can help that you disbelieve certain things by due course of your own reasoning. To the deists who use this argument, I ask where a man acquires his nature to believe or disbelieve. One might say that it is the wickedness in a man's heart which causes him to disbelieve, but then where did the wickedness come from?
To make an analogy, if a manufacturer makes a part that is defective in some way, the designers don't just say, "Oh, well that part was simply defective."
"Because it had a defect."
It doesn't work like that. To say that a product has an inherent flaw that causes it to fail some test is to say that the product has a flawed design that caused it to have that flaw which caused it to fail. A product cannot cause itself to fail independently of responsibility on the part of the designer. So, to Christians, I would suggest a stop to such reasoning, as it is really somewhat a roundabout insult to the creator to say that a creation is of poor quality.
It's possible I'm thinking about this in the wrong way, but I don't think that this is the case.
@ mathsciguy, re. From Whence Comes Belief?
This is a metaphysical question, and so, without falling into the trap of using a circular approach, I shall answer it this way. Desire comes first. Out of Desire comes Hope, and then comes Belief. One is built upon the other, as in a preceding fundament or structure of architecture.
I offer these synonyms and examples below to define and qualify the three (3) developing notions of pursuit, attentiveness, and ultimately, conviction:
1. Desire: To want, to crave, to yearn for, and in a transitive sense, to SEEK and PREPARE. For example, “I SEEK to catch the early bus, hence I PREPARE to station myself appropriately”
2. Hope: anticipate, foresee, expect, and in a transitive sense, to REMAIN and WAIT for. For example, “I expect the early bus to arrive on schedule, therefore here I shall REMAIN in good stead”
3. Belief: credibility, reliance, trust, and in a transitive sense, to UNDERSTAND. For example, “I trust the bus is soon to arrive, for I UNDERSTAND that its record is flawless”
You may see here that I have tried to articulate that for a belief to be genuine and sincere, it has to “be current”, alive, and “in action”, otherwise it becomes as a result NOT a conviction of understanding or use for its first party holder, and moreover a moot assertion for the third party observer.
Furthermore, theologically speaking, a belief is a “study in comprehension”, which is shown to be “true” (and therefore makes sense - even if only to the bearer of it) by the Holy Ghost, who reveals the truth in all things. Each belief must be built upon a firm foundation and, as a child learns, the milk must come before the meat.
John 16:13 “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.”
“And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”
Timothy, very interesting analysis. I learned something here.
This is a good example of an explanation about how one comes to believe a thing. How does one come to not believe a thing? Specifically, what causes a person not to believe in God?
8eliief and unbelief are both attitudes which stems from each persons desires.
These desires belong to either knowledge or ignorance....
The desire of knowlesge will cause to one truly want to know, becuase knowledge already knows all things as posiiblle...this is a believing person.
The desires of ignorance will also cause one to want to know except it will perpetually be doubtful of anything and everything that does not appear as itself.....for ignorance thinks himself to be knowledge.
this is an unbelieving or doubtful person.
Given the conditions of the physical universe, I would conclude that the natural earth is perfect
absent the human ability to create ideal other.
Some would say indoctrination,sometimes they are right ,sometimes they are wrong..
I would say our beliefs come from trial and error.
What works and what doesnt
For me Jesus Christ works ,for others -well its varied.
MathSciGuy, first of all, thanks for starting this discussion. Not only is it thought-provoking, but it is an important opportunity to understand something that powerfully affects our lives.
I subscribe to the notion that we have every ability to "help" what we believe. In fact, we are fully responsible for it. The problem with many people is that they abdicate that responsibility, letting something else control belief, through peer pressure, or through laziness (once a worldview is established, they let it run on auto-pilot), or through ego (anyone who challenges "my" way is automatically wrong).
Wickedness in the Attitude
As for the "wickedness in a man's heart," this is a perfect answer, and you miss the wisdom in it. Some people are, by their own decision separatists and selfish -- "my way or the highway, buster!" It was this kind of willfullness which got us into trouble in the first place. We decided to create through an action-reaction (think Newtonian) pseudo-self (a physical universe construct) which we can call "ego."
Ego is all about the self -- self-interest, self-importance, and selfishness. Every conceptual dichotomy is used by ego -- the good, the bad and the ugly. Ego is at both ends and the middle. The suicide perpetrator is full of ego (selfishness), as is the tyrant. Even the sweet little old lady who goes to church every Sunday, but wouldn't be caught dead talking to a prostitute or a thief. Such monumental arrogance in her quiet demeanor. Pure evil.
Because of ego (selfishness in all its forms), the individual cannot see their own spiritual half, because of all of the wickedness (self-importance) in the way.
What makes this subject area difficult is that truly good traits frequently look like the most evil ones.
Take confidence, for instance. Evil confidence is arrogance. Again, self-interest. Righteous confidence is full of humility -- zero-self-interest.
Cause and Effect
MathSciGuy, your example from the assembly line is good, but very limited. It's true that many on both side of the God question argue poorly. A product cannot cause itself to fail, but an individual can through decision and focus of attention.
Believe it or not, we are inherently non-physical, spiritual and immortal sources of creation. As such children of God, we have the ability to ignore our heritage and to assume a separate viewpoint. It is in that separateness from the "whole" that is the source of the "wickedness" and the "blindness" we suffer.
And yes, you were thinking about it the wrong way. Working by analogy is only as good as the analogy. But you win kudos for asking the tough questions.
The universe is an effect for which there was a cause. Such a cause cannot be made of the elements of that effect. A rock cannot create a rock. And in the case of creating the physical universe, we have an ultimate cause -- a cause which is pure and one-sided, untainted by effect.
This is like the Buddhist paramitas -- the Zen one-sided coin or one hand clapping. Generosity without a hint of selfishness. Confidence without a shred of doubt. There is no room for ego in all this perfection. This realm of perfection is the realm of creation and spirit where things like forgiveness and inspiration originate.
Where does the ego come from, then?
You pointed out something about the analogy of the manufacturing process that made me rethink it, and I agree that it is flawed. Presumably, an omnipotent creator would dictate not only the blueprints of the device, but additionally the laws of nature (so to speak) by which the creation would operate. This allows for the initial distinction between a "product" and an "individual." It is true that a device cannot cause itself to fail in the sense that you said, because a device has no self-will or "ego." This is because a human engineer cannot give a product self-will, being limited in this respect to feats humanly possible.
But, an omnipotent creator would (in theory, again) be able to attribute to its creation such self-determination, thereby relinquishing responsibility for success or failure to the "product" itself, humankind. However, from this conclusion arises the sticky problem of figuring out why Human A failed the test of belief, while Human B passed it. According to the fact that A and B have self-determination, we intially think that it must be due to the choices of A and B.
The contradiction with this is that either all humans are given the same self-determination, or they are not given the same self-determination. In the case that they are all given the same starting attributes of self-will, then how does one come to believe while another does not? In this case, the choices one makes (made possible by the self-determination of which you spoke) should be the same as the choices another makes, assuming that since self-determination and will are what allow a human to make a choice at all then the same self-will ought to result in a congruent choice in another human.
In the case that humans are not given the same starting attributes of will and determination (ie, one human is given such a self-determination and nature that he will eventually reject belief in God, while another is given such a nature that will be conducive to that person’s faith and belief), then it can hardly be called fair (much less, righteous!) to punish one who does not believe and reward another who does.
To say that it is a man’s wickedness which turns him from God answers nothing from a Christian, since the Bible clearly holds that ALL men are wicked (“there is none righteous; no, not one…”). So what is the determining factor that causes one wicked man to believe and repent, while another wicked man clings to his wickedness?
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