Imagination

Imagine you were born on the island of Bali in a little village on a rice farm. The likelihood that you would become a fervent Hindu is 99.9%. You would grow up, learn your parents’ craft and religious traditions. You would grow strong, get married and teach your children the same thing.

Imagine, instead, that you were born just a few miles to the east and west of Bali on one of the two neighboring islands on a rice farm. The likelihood that you would grow up as a Muslim is almost 100%. The cycle would continue through your children and theirs.

Imagine, if your egg were fertilized just a short plane ride to the north in Cambodia or Thailand. The likelihood that you would be Buddhist is high.

Imagine if you were born on the other side of the earth in America, you’d likely grow up in a Christian home.

Because all of your life, the religion that is prevalent where you were born is the one you assimilate. And that assimilation paints your view. And that view informs the way you debate topics like the origin of the universe or whether you agree with abortion or not.

But imagine again, you were born in any one of the Asian countries on a rice farm. And if you weren’t already doing so, imagine yourself as a little girl. Your family is poor. When you come within reach of your teen years, your father decides he can sell you to a brothel and get a bit of money to pay bills, buy food, and get by.

You, an almost teen, have no choice. You’re sold and you go to work somewhere that entertains wealthy businessmen in the large city of your island or country. There you learn to make a man feel like a man. You learn to fake enjoyment when you wrap your arms around men of all shapes. You learn to control your gag reflex when you taste their semen in your mouth.

You learn not to scream too loud when they rip your vaginal walls or when you’ve been fucked so many times you can’t even remember the man you were with before this one.

If you want me to imagine that the god of the bible, or the god of the koran, or the Buddha, or the deities of the hindu religion exist, you have to first explain to me the phenomenon of the ovarian lottery and how you, yes you, avoided getting fertilized a girl on a rice farm in South Asia, and the god, the Buddhas, or the gods didn’t intervene when the monsters came knocking at your door and entered through every opening they could find.

Is it really, by the luck of the draw or a divinely-guided universe that you were born where you were when you were and how you were?

Because if god is in control, and he guided the realistic scenarios above to happen, or let them happen, that, dear readers, is an atrocity.

I do not believe god exists, because if he did, he doesn’t deserve my worship. Or yours, for that matter.

If you do worship him, is it because you aren’t getting raped right now by a business man in Asia?

Imagine that.

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19 thoughts on “Imagination

    1. I’m honored you’d do that. Thank you. I’ll check the comments later to see what responses it gets.

      I can’t get through reading it without hearing my voice break … or maybe that’s my heart.

      It’s in response to two different internet conversations I had yesterday asking me to imagine god were real.

      I have. And it’s not pretty.

      1. Moreover if these atrocities are justified because a man and woman sinned in a garden six to ten thousand years ago, we all need to adjust our definition of justice.

  1. Wow. Just … wow. Great piece. Came here through Biodork, and I’m glad I did. More ammo to use against the godbots.

  2. This is a really thought-provoking piece. I hope that I can be so well spoken when it comes time to use this bit of “what if” against the “godbots” (thanks for the term, Thorne). I doubt I will be able to do the imagery you’ve provided justice.

  3. Wow. Thanks.

    It’s moving to receive these comments. I’m so grateful you read it and took the time to respond.

    All the best,

    Jeremy

  4. I got here through Brianne’s blog.
    Beautiful post, man. It mirrors my own thoughts, but crystallized far better than I could manage. Perfect.
    We need these ideas to take root: we take care of each other because there isn’t a god who will; we take care of the earth because there isn’t a god who will; and we must always be aware of just how god-damn fortunate we are to not be that little girl in Asia, and must always fight for her to have what we were lucky enough to win.
    The ovarian lottery. Brilliant, man, brilliant.
    Stumbling across posts like these gives one hope that intelligent, considered, empathetic life actually does exist.

  5. Jeremy, you paint a sobering and disturbing picture of truly tragic injustices in your ‘imaginings’ piece. And my heart breaks with you as you read it either aloud or simply to yourself.

    You strike out with eloquent moral indignation at both mankind and ‘god’. But I find it begging the question, ‘where does all this moral indignation come from in the first place?’

    If there is no God, then we are, as any Darwinian Evolutionist worth his weight would concede, ‘mere byproducts of a universe-sized cesspool which happened to churn out highly sophisticated life a long time ago in galaxy far far away.’ If you believe that, that’s all well and good for you, but it makes moral indignation ludicrous for a number of reasons.

    1st, moral indignation requires a moral standard of appeal. I mean, why feel indignant at all unless we feel that there is some moral code that is being violated?! And why should we care at all about mere chance churn-outs of the cosmic cesspool? For that matter, why should we have even the capacity to care, if we ourselves are but mere churn-outs from that same cosmic cesspool?

    2nd, having ruled out God altogether, and thereby God as the standard bearer, the only remaining alternative for a moral appeals board/standard is humankind. But if that’s the case, we might as well be appealing our parole to a board made up of felons; for as you’ve aptly illustrated, mankind doesn’t exactly have a spotless record. In fact humankind’s ‘spot’ has historically only grown larger when people have ruled out a Creator altogether in favor of an appeals board made up of humans [take Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, and countless others as examples; Darwinism invariably leads to eugenics and other evils].

    But even if we were to pool the best of humankind together for that appeals board, we have to admit that at best it’s still only relative at best, because it appeals to nothing as the standard but itself. On what basis, for instance, do we judge the humans fit to occupy those posts? i.e., where’s the standard for even having a seat to set the standard? Couldn’t the thugs, rapists, molesters and thieves make a case that they ought to have equal representation on this board or at least cast a vote for who sits on it? I mean, who says what is ‘right’ if humankind is the judge and standard bearer, because humankind consists also, one might even say predominantly, of these thugs!

    Finally, where is hope to be found? As I said at the outset, Jeremy, my heart breaks with you. But it only breaks with despair if there is no God. If there is no God, what hope is there for redemption from Islamic-oppression, rape, violence and thuggery, etc.? What hope for healing is there even after the problems are perhaps mitigated? Do I dare hope in mankind who is the very cause of these things that breaks or hearts?! Can we the cause also be the solution?

    You ask, ‘where is the justice in a curse pronounced in the Garden?’ I’d appeal to the next story, of Cain and Abel. Even those who never saw the inside of a church in their life [such was I until about 20 yrs ago] know that ‘Cain slew Abel’. The Biblical writer’s point is that this is the inevitable result of what mankind has brought upon himself and the world when he chose to do without God.

    Cain’s basic problem is one of glory, which is the problem of fallen man in Adam and Eve: we love and cherish ourselves and our own glory above everyone else’s. i.e., we always defer to ourselves as the standard of goodness and righteousness. And the story’s point is that as a staunch believer in myself and my own glory, all rivals to my glory must be eliminated. Abel, who was pleasing in God’s sight, must be gotten rid of; and God, as the supreme rival to my glory must be gotten rid of. “There will be blood”.

    But THE PROMISE OF GOD, even in the darkness, is that the “sprinkled blood of Christ speaks a better word than the spilled blood of Abel!” Hebrews 12:24 i.e., I can only surrender my murderous-dedication to my own glory if something better becomes the delight of my heart and eyes: namely Jesus the Christ, a willing sacrifice for the sins of the world, my sins and yours, himself the standard bearer who bears all the repercussions of all the standar-breaking on my behalf and yours and the world’s, if they will have Him. Apart from Him, it is always the spilled blood of Abel; it is the inevitable option.

    So I do not condemn God, though you may; I dare not “put God in the dock” to use C.S. Lewis’ phrase. I give thanks to God for freeing me from the dock I rightly belonged in, that I might proclaim to you and others the freedom hope and beauty of redeemed life in Christ.

    The only other alternative is humankind, and I know our story all too well to put any hope in ourselves.

    I respect Jeremy your right to disagree, and your friends who read your blog as well. I appreciate very much the dialogue we’ve had Jeremy, and the dialogue that might ensue from whoever might join the conversation. I wish you all blessings, that if you do not already, you might come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, that you would see it is the only cure for the evilness of man’s heart. And if you do already know Him, my prayers for you to continue to grow in and share His peace with everyone you know.

    With sincerest thanks,
    Joshua Schatzle

    1. Joshua,
      Though I respect the fervor with which you argue for your religion, I find myself wondering how anyone can truly believe any of the things you have just said. The vast majority of your comment is a full-on assault on higher order thinking- more a testament to classical conditioning than our evolved philosophical faculties. Jeremy rang the dinner bell, and your faith juices instictually start oozing from the orifices.

      First, the idea that humans are worthless to other humans without a god to impart value is nothing short of ridiculous. That we are the product of a cosmic chain of happenstance does nothing to add to or deplete from our intrinsic value. Purpose does not in itself impart value. A purpose derived from social or mental utility as opposed to divine right does not subtract value either. I am a human being, and as such value other human life because I am a social species capable of empathy (I understand the value you place on your optimized existance) and social bahaviour (I understand the value I and others potentially receive through your utility). If the only value you can conceive of is divine, I understand why you might be partial to insisting that god exists- though your inability to grapple with facts doesn’t make the resulting assumption so.

      In response to your first “issue”, what moral authority does a lioness appeal to when it chooses not to eat its pride? What moral authority does a mother bear appeal to when it protects its young? What moral authority does an ant appeal to when it brings food home to its colony? What you are claiming is that because we are capable of higher order thinking, we need to account for social instincts or else discard them. Morality, or at the very least behaviour that we would deem morally virtuous, exists among all social species. That we can wax philosophical about it is what seperates us.

      To your second appeal to ignorance, why would you assume that an individual has the ability to define the word morality any which way he/she likes? Did we suddenly cross through the looking glass?
      You can define morality by a Bronze Age book of fables, and I can define morality by a measurable interplay of social utility and reasonable cost/benefit analysis, and 95 times out of 100, we will probably end up on the same page. You, of course, will have to use mountains of crafted hermeneutics to augment your entire moral framework- and this really speaks to the question of whether morality really comes from god or not. To draw from Jeremy’s post- what does the bible have to say about indentured servitude? What about the child sex trade? Your own moral opinions on these matters are influenced more by human philosophy than biblical text. At least I hope they are. Else you certainly see no issue with parents selling their children into slavery as long as certain ground rules apply, and you must find child exploitation at best morally neutral. You would think that one would be important enough to justify a number of clear passages. You would think…..

      If you need to believe in god to be a social person- to act in the very ways that define our humanness- then my heart breaks for you. I was unaware that Christians were one or two bible passages away from rape and murder. How very sad for your lot. I guess I can be greatful that you have “found” your god, and that I don’t know you well enough to worry if you start struggling in your walk with Christ.

      1. If I can pull myself away this may be my final post, not because I have not enjoyed the dialogue, but because there is much to attend to in the writing of sermons, study, the counseling and company of friends, and the raising of a family.

        Firstly, Jeremy, I applaud your class at all times and in all things throughout our dialogue. I have always admired you as a friend, a colleague, both your personal integrity and your creativity. Mostly I just admire you as a person; I always have, and I’m grateful you picked up on my rare Facebook post and decided to respond. I wish you all the best and will continue each morning to include you and your wife—who I’m certain must be lovely if she has had the good sense to marry you, and you her—in my prayers. As for the question regarding the “ovarian lottery”, which I acknowledge was a beautiful metaphor, I don’t know that I can answer it straight out; there are many, many things I cannot begin to give answer to. Perhaps someday.

        Secondly, if I might address Brian’s post. Brian, I appreciate your thought-filled reply to my reply, though I must admit I do not think it thought-full. To put it another way, I think your argument reasons, but I think it reasons too small. Yet it is impressive, and, if I might borrow G.K. Chesterton’s [that famed 19th century English apologist for the Christian Faith] words, “the error in it is not so easy to trace.”

        I say the error in your argument, and not the error in you. [You, I imagine I would rather enjoy meeting over a cup of joe or a good craft beer.] In fact as I approached a way to answer the error I found in your argument, I found that the answer was not my own, but belonged wholly to Chesterton. I looked up the exact quote in his work “Orthodoxy”. I give it to you here.

        “Imagination does not bread insanity…exactly what does bread insanity is reason. Poets do not go mad, but chess-players do. Mathematicians go mad, but creative artists very seldom…Poetry is sane because it floats easily on an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross it and so to make it finite. The result is mental exhaustion…The poet only desires exaltation and expansion, a world to stretch himself in. The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits…John Dryden [influential English poet 1631-1700] once said that ‘great wits are oft to madness near allied'; and that is true…A flippant person has asked why the phrase ‘As mad as a hatter’. A more flippant person might answer that a hatter is mad because he has to measure the human head. And if great reasoners are often maniacal, it is equally true that maniacs are commonly great reasoners…Every one who has had the misfortune to talk with people in the heart or on the edge of mental disorder, knows that their most sinister quality is a horrible clarity of detail; a connecting of one thing to another in a map more elaborate than a maze. If you argue with the madman it is extremely probable that you will get the worst of it; for in many ways his mind moves all the quicker for not being delayed with the things that go with good judgment…he is the more logical for losing certain sane affections…The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason. His explanation of things is always complete, and often in a purely rational sense satisfactory, or to speak more strictly, the insane explanation, if not conclusive, is at least unanswerable…Nevertheless he is wrong. But if we attempt to trace his error in exact terms, we shall not find it quite so easy as we had supposed…his argument moves in a perfect, but narrow, circle. A small circle is quite as infinite as a large circle; but though it is quite as infinite, it is not so large. In the same way, the insane explanation is quite as complete as the sane one, but it is not so large. A bullet is quite as round as the world, but it is not the world. There is such a thing as a narrow universality; there is such a thing as a small and cramped eternity…and speaking empirically, we may say that the strongest and most unmistakable mark of madness is this combination between a logical completeness and a spiritual contraction. The lunatic’s theory explains a large number of things, but it does not explain them in a large way…it explains a great deal; but what a great deal it leaves out!”

        Please don’t think I’m accusing you of being maniacal; I don’t even know you. I only say along with Chesterton, that the reasoning is mad; it accounts, but it accounts for too little. It’s answer is sought within itself; which is to say, the reasoning goes inward and draws the circle inward upon itself, tighter and tighter—it acts very much in the way a black hole does upon objects that it draws into itself.

        Yes, as you point out, “the lioness does not eat her pride”, and “the mother bear defends her young”. And rightly put, “what separates us is that we can wax philosophical about it”. And that is precisely what your argument fails to account for; for the difference between humans and the lion is not one of degree, but of kind, as you yourself I think have pointed out. We might feel quite bad about killing the lioness, but the lioness would not for a moment feel remorseful about killing us. In fact, she would not have the capacity to even consider that she might or should feel remorseful about killing us; she does not consider at all. i.e., we have a difference in kind that is a giant chasm in what you would probably term “the chain of evolution”. And its not limited to the “lower animals.” Take the ape or whichever species you think most nearly resembles the human kind; he may mirror many human behaviors, but one kind of behavior he most certainly does not; when he looks in the aforementioned mirror the monkey does not draw himself more crudely than perhaps a human might draw himself. No, the monkey does not draw himself at all; he does not for a moment consider that he might draw himself, or anyone or anything else for that matter. i.e., if you look within the circle of the Natural world for an explanation for itself and its origin, you will come up with answers that reason, but they will always reason too small.

        If I might quote C.S. Lewis on this, “in the whole history of the universe, the laws of nature have never produced a single event. They are the pattern to which every event must conform, provided only that it can be induced to happen. But how do you get that? How do you get a move on? Nature can give you no help there…The laws are the pattern to which events conform: the source of events must be sought elsewhere…either the stream of events had a beginning or it had not. If it had, then we are faced with something like Creation, and hence a Creator…Science, when or if it becomes perfect, will have explained the connection between the links in the chain and the links before it. But the actual existence of the chain, that remains wholly unaccountable; that, science cannot do.”

        You say the difference in these things we discuss might be accounted for by a difference of only 5%. But oh what a great deal that 5% must account for, for it is every bit the difference between the mere instinct/sentience of the quadruped—or for that matter the primate—and ourselves. I seem to remember hearing or reading somewhere that the difference between human and every other animal’s DNA was something near to only 5%. But what a chasmic 5% it is! In fact I would say that within that 5% lies the great mystery of the Universe and all Creation, which Nature itself can only begin to point to.

        Does that mean that a man apart from Christianity cannot help but rape and murder? Absolutely not! That was certainly neither the meaning nor the intention of my words. In fact I would argue that the only reason he does not rape or murder, or if he does that he would have any sense of remorse about either, or that he would disdain both in the first place, is because he is made in the beautiful image of the Creator God. Whether he knows it or not is another matter. And Brian, you are made in that very same image. I wish you only blessings.

        Sincerest thanks,
        Joshua Schatzle

      2. Hey Josh.

        I’m not ignoring your response.

        Thanks for spending the time to craft it.

        I’m leaving for the weekend and will attempt to get to it on the plane.

        Craft beers,

        Jeremy

      3. For a less glib response to your essay, please read my comments below- but I simply must respond to something G.K. said.

        Your comment made me dust off my old copy of “Orthodoxy”- a well worn and cracked budget dimestore paperback I had forgotten that I had. It is under 200 pages, a quick and painless read (that is, if one suspends reasoned disbelief).

        I have a tendancy to write rather unoriginal deepities in the margins of books I read. In the margin of the section you draw those passages from I had scribbled the following notes:

        The best of poetry is imagined reason, or reasoned imagination- it is, at its best, the fancy of fact and the fathoming of fiction. Carefully parsed words become poetry when they betray either ignorance or understanding….

        and

        Maniacs don’t grow mad by reason- nor teachers wise by imagination. Reason is not madness, imagination is not clarity. It is the mistaking of one for the other that is the trap.

        So, yeah, I thought Chesterton was full of it even as a Christian.

    2. Hey Josh,

      I find your response classy. Thank you.

      We were cut from a similar cloth, as I would have agreed with you at one time. Spot on.

      The path to disbelief was not short, easy, or something I take lightly.

      Non-belief is lumped in with the evil atheist dictators. There really aren’t countless examples. And if you were so inclined, you could find many well-reasoned, well-cited responses to this common accusation that might dispel this bit of debate.

      A lot of this conversation has become redundant. That’s not to demean your effort or mine. You might agree.

      I’m bored of the idea that the absence of God equals an inability to qualify for the upright, standup citizens brigade.

      Ol’ George tapped into something below and it’s that, when it comes down to it, we’d all probably reach very similar conclusions (and we do) about so many things that are considered upright and good, that this conversation can become silly, really.

      I can pull out revolting passages of scripture, and I’m sure you could refute them. Sadly, much of this debate is won or lost in the mind of the debater.

      And let me tell you, I’m a master debater!

      Honk.

      I wonder, though, if you have thoughts regarding the post above that might address the topic of the ovarian lottery a little more closely. You know, the idea that your environment shaped you into a Christian, and should you have been born somewhere else, you certainly would be approaching this conversation with a different perspective. Can you entertain the thought of arguing this from the standpoint of a non-Christian? And if so, how?

      Best,

      Jeremy

  6. That was so moving. Your empathy is much appreciated. Reading this reminded me of a Jewish tradition, a daily morning prayer, where the men say, “Thank you [God] for not making me a woman,” while the women’s version thanks god “for making me according to Your will.”

    So it seems the lottery and the atrocity are openly accepted as god’s will.

    1. Joshua,

      First, let me assure you that I don’t take your time for granted. I have five children of my own. I balance family, work, community involvement and friends. I know from past experience the level of commitment necessary in the church- I was a youth pastor once as well.

      I can’t tell you how many times I have had a conversation with a Christian who begins with his exit speech. It always seems odd, as though there is a multi-layered “defense of faith” going on. One the one hand, you wish to defend your faith logically- on the other, you wish to defend faith from logic. The double standard exists in that you must account for your faith, and your faith must account for nothing.

      Jeremy and I have become quite close over the past few years- and I believe the measure of degree is one of commonality. Like Jeremy, I have a history in the church. Like Jeremy, I was once tangled in my own convictions. Like Jeremy, I once spoke the language you speak now. I was once enamored, as you are, with Chesterton and Lewis.

      I don’t harbor ill will that you channeled G.K. to paint me a maniac, I know each of those amalgamated passages well, and I understand that there is no maliciousness in those words. I should like to think I ought to be proud that Chesterton and you find my greatest fault to be reason- as though building your house on a foundation is a fool’s errand.

      The story goes that Descartes nearly drove himself to madness as he stripped his epistemology down to “I think, therefor I am”-that he wrestled with the demons of utter uncertainty, doubting even the candle’s flame before him. Unsure if even the light was an illusion, unsure if he saw by the light of his own madness, he uttered his most famous affirmation. He could have simply presupposed faith and been done with it- yet he insisted on building faith on a foundation of reason. There exists within this digression an irony- that you and Chesterton are glib enough to appeal to Descartes (as G.K. does just ten or so pages later) when it suits your argument, then cut him off mid sentance before he has finished his thought. We do not have the luxury of being the lawyers of reason- we cannot claim that it is a tool only as far as it confirms our suppositions. You don’t get to invoke reason to make conclusions then refuse it when it comes time to examine them.

      If you are going to say that faith floats where reason races forever at the horizon- you ought not then invoke that same horizon as your vessel is sinking. You cannot appeal to my reason with a first cause if you ask me to subdue it in consideration of the links that bind creation to reality. If faith is an embracable necessity of existance by reason- then faith ought to stand accountable to reason. Philosophy is not the slave-girl we exploit to our pleasure, if we choose to be its keeper we owe it basic human decency.
      This is where you make your mistake.
      This is Chesterton’s shell game- if the pea is under one shell it is under all three- if reason is the foundation of one tenent then it is safe to presuppose it as the foundation of all. It is a game that the con-man cannot lose, so far as the mark is the truth.

      If your issue is not morality- since you now choose to abandon that tack in light of the facts- then why did you not just begin by saying the issue was, in fact, higher order empathy?
      Imagine, you and I stand beside a fig tree- you say “George, look at the lovely olives.” I grab one, and when I show you it is no olive, you say “ahh, but just beyond the low hanging fruit- there lies the olives of this tree!” Faith may be, to you, the certitude that there exists an olive on the branches just beyond our reach- but with each new fig you will just insist I reach that much higher. You cannot curse the fig tree for being a fig tree, and you cannot make it barren if it won’t give you an olive. If I show you that morality exists outside the covenant, you ask me to show how we might be capable of valuing life in the first place. I think history proves you disingenuous- it is not the case that any species struggling for survival has had the luxury of extending social empathy beyond instinct- humans included. The shepherd does not cry for his sheep over a plate of mutton.

      Chesterton opens “Orthodoxy” by saying:

      We need to be happy in this wonderland without once being merely comfortable.

      and this observation sets the tone for his entire epistemology. It is not enough to be happy if that happiness is predicated on an illusion. Man makes his own happiness by appreciating those thing that he has access to. I would rather find happiness in truth than in hope. I would rather be happy with my reasons for assumptions than reasonably happy with my assumptions.
      I strive for the former, you and Chesterton can settle for the latter.

      1. Well George, that’s a lot to respond to. That’s very interesting that you grew up in the faith and then apparently reasoned your way out. I respect the struggle, though it’s not one I’m familiar with myself having actually traveled the route in reverse; I think I referred to the fact that I grew up in an agnostic home, and I use the term euphemistically, but if not, there you go.

        I appreciate that you’ve read some Chesterton; I find him, to use C.S. Lewis’ words from his own conversion story, “the most reasonable man in the world…” So it’s funny to me that you and Lewis would have gone some rounds at the pub as well. And I’ve no doubt where he’d have come out on that one. All that to say, he find his reason not only reasonable, but thoroughly enjoyable. And perhaps that is just one of many confirmations for me of the truthfulness of Christianity, not merely that it appeals to any higher order empathy.

        Now I’m no expert on Descartes–I don’t know that I’m an expert on much of anything for that matter. But of course I’m familiar with his infamous “I think therefore I am.” And I’m glad for Descartes that he recognizes his own thought and that he knows thereby that he is. That seems to me about the observation of an idiot and hardly remarkable. I’ve also noted that many so-called scholars cite him as being the father of Modernist Philosphy and our modern university system.

        And to quote Tom Wolfe, the modern university system consists of theory, upon theory, upon more theory, and mountain of ceaseless isms after isms.

        I’m not sure why Chesterton mentioned him, but perhaps he could’ve sidestepped your criticism had he invoked Descartes’ much wiser contemporary, Blaise Pascal, who said,

        “Man is obviously made for thinking. Therein lies all his dignity and his merit; and his whole duty is to think as he ought. Now the order of thought is to begin with ourselves, and with our author and our end.” Pensee 620.

        Now again, I’m neither an expert on Descartes or Pascal, but it seems to me that Pascal is beginning from the same point as his friend Descartes, only drawing much more reasonable conclusions. Man not only thinks; he is made for thinking, he has purpose and design. That he thinks does not give him dignity, but is a sign that he has dignity. Man is not an end in and of himself with value; he has an origin. And because he has an origin he should “think as he ought”. And there is an “order of thought”; and that order “begins with ourselves and moves to our author and our end.”

        Now old Blaise didn’t mean that our author was different from our end; he meant that our author was the ends, and our thinking the means. Seems perhaps that Descartes was trying to get it the other way around. Anyway, Blaise’s conclusion was the same as the old Westminster divines, who used that same syntactical device when they said “the chief end of man was to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” i.e., “God is to be enjoyed forever, and our enjoyment of Him is most glorifying to Him.” a la Rev. John Piper

        I’m sure that you’ll write much in an exhaustive rebuttal to all I’ve said. I sure I haven’t satisfied any of your objections, or adequately answered your questions about higher order thinking or empathy; theories! tis there no end to the end of theories?!

        Now, here’s what I’d like to know, George: what do you know. I’m not asking about what you theorize, I’m asking about what you know when wake up in the morning, go to sleep at nite, hug your kids and pour cereal in their bowls in the morning, kiss your wife goodnite. What do you know. What does all of this mean, and why do you care? Is there anything objective, or is at all subjective, and your belief system just as valuable or equal to mine. Am I truly naive to suggest that if there is meaning there must be a Meaner? Or am I just caught up in higher order empathic intimations? I’d really like to know. Goodnite George.

      2. I’m going to jump in.

        As for quoting the ostensible greats, I’m not for it. Quoting others does not make personal feelings, thoughts, ideas sound. It’s distracting, and I’m not a fan.

        I have to say that C.S. Lewis is partly to thank for my atheism, and with each Lewis reference comes a cool, soothing reminder that he’s a contributor to the better life I live now.

        The leading questions at the end. Seriously?

        What do I know when I wake up in the morning? Is it subjective or objective?

        Aren’t these the questions someone impressed on you to ask? These were the same questions mentors impressed on me to ask the nonbelievers. Do you know something? They don’t work.

        I’ll write it again to help make it stick. Those questions do not work.

        They never have.

        They never will.

        I encourage you to stop.

        I feel a great significance through my friends, family, my wife and, oddly enough, my animals. We feel the same pain and same enjoyment as you. The biggest difference between you and me, is I don’t believe in one more god than you don’t believe in. You live a fine life as an atheist to a zillion other gods, don’t you?

        I understand that reality does not include a ghost who shaped my past, present and future, and I’m neither better or worse for it.

        If you want to think that a guy whom you’ve never seen first hand lives in your heart, created all that’s around you, loves you and found disobedience in a garden six to ten thousand years ago enough cause to make little girls in Asia suffer rape, poverty and pain, or any other myriad of complaints I can make about god, you’re certainly welcome.

        It’s not as if the bible didn’t predict that belief in its precepts would cause you strife.

        I will not pretend to know there is a God who did or did not permit, allow, impose the above Asian-girl atrocity. And if you do not kiss the sweet foreheads of your children every night and refuse to remember the pain and suffering a child is facing as you do so, all because of two people’s disobedience, I find that shallow and underproductive.

        If all the evidence we have for “God” is nature, the bible and a disjointed, religious group that kinda makes up 1/3 of the Earth’s population, I’ll checkmark extremely satisfied with life as an atheist.

        For me, the food and the drink tastes better on this side of the fence.

  7. Jeremy, I resent your resentment of the ostensible greats; I think they help in grounding my thoughts. Also, we cannot practice historical amnesia, or chronological snobbery–our thoughts did not come to us only by ourselves; we are rehearsing the thoughts of others and their arguments as well.–they help us refine and articulate.

    Now my questions for George and you by inclusion on this, were sincere questions, and no one supplied me with them. George is very good at telling me thus far what he doesn’t believe; he’s very skilled at poking holes in arguments and disparaging whole worldviews in a single bound, as are you.

    So I ask not as a means of argument–I’m done with the arguing as clearly there is no hope of one persuading the other, and so the arguing becomes an end in and of itself. I’m moving on from that and asking you both just please to explain to me what you believe/think, to give me your philosophies of life and your explanation of origins and such, if even such things matter to you. I keep getting from you both that you think Christianity’s explanation of a Creator is implausible. So please guys, I just want to hear your understanding clean and simple, without positioning against any imagined opponent.

    Does that makes sense? That’s all I’m asking for.

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