You don’t know what the genetic fallacy is. The fallacy is to ignore the claim at issue and to distract attention by talking about the claim’s origin, as if the qualities of that origin could be automatically passed off as a reason to accept or reject the claim in question.
To show that I committed the genetic fallacy, you’d need to identify the claim I’m ignoring by way of pointing to the claim’s origin. You’d have difficulty doing so, because I wasn’t even making an argument. I was offering an explanation, “a surefire explanation of the existence of religion,” as I called it. Do you know what the difference is between an argument and an explanation?
You say my “argument is horrifyingly self-defeating.” Then you go off on a red herring about how evolution undermines the belief that evolution occurred. Before you try to think of objections, wouldn’t it be best to understand what you’re trying to object to? Wouldn’t it be better to work on your reading comprehension skills before you begin to study logic and critical thinking?
My point in appealing to Dennett’s theory is to explain the universality of religion. Once we understand where the religious instinct comes from, we face a question: Should we even expect religious belief to be rational, let alone intellectual? Why should we if the religious belief is based instead on instinct? In short, I was suggesting there’s something fishy about the very notion of an intellectual theist. The “intellectual” theist is protesting too much.
Next, you meander so much you lose sight of what you were trying to do. Remember, you were trying to criticize what I wrote. To do that, it would be best not to agree with what I wrote, since that would land you in a self-contradiction. Let’s follow the path of your meandering illogic to lead us to the nothingness left by your self-contradiction.
First you aim to criticize my point about the overuse of what Dennett calls the intentional stance, by saying that just because the stance can be overused, doesn’t mean the stance is entirely unreliable or should never be used.
But can you show anywhere in the article where I say any such thing? Can you point to where I say we should never treat each other as minds or persons? Can you show where I say we should never express our social instinct? Can you show that you know how to comprehend what you’re reading?
Then you give another name for the overuse of the intentional stance, “OCD,” and you think that counts as some kind of objection to Dennett’s explanation of religious belief. How could you be objecting to it when you don’t even understand what you’re talking about? OCD would be an overuse of certain mental faculties. Meanwhile, my point was that we overuse certain mental faculties when we project personal qualities onto inanimate objects. So you’re agreeing that the overuse happens.
What, then, is your objection supposed to be? How could there be a non sequitur if you agree that the mental faculties can be overused, producing absurd results, such as obsessive compulsive disorder or, as Dennett and I said, religious personification of natural events and forces? You thought you were objecting because you didn’t understand what I was saying in the article, because your reading comprehension skills are poor. Alas, you turned to your skills in critical thinking to save you and to search for a suitable objection, but those skills of yours are also poor. So it was the blind leading the blind there.
Your third through your sixth criticisms likewise demonstrate you don’t know how to read well. I hope you take this to heart: you need to learn to walk before you try to run. Before you attempt to engage critically with ideas, you need to learn how to identify what the ideas are, how they can best be categorized and analyzed and understood. If you can’t understand even what’s clearly laid out before you, you have no business pretending you’re in a position to criticize it.
So in all those areas I was talking generally about theism and monotheism, not specifically about Christianity, let alone about what’s likely your literalistic, born-again variety. I suspect this is part of the downside of being such a handsome fellow: you have trouble turning away from your image in the mirror. So when someone writes about theism in general, you leap to the assumption that the spotlight is directly on you, because that’s exactly where you want the spotlight to be.
Now a free lesson in critical thinking: If I ended with the personal attack in that last paragraph, instead of showing how your other four objections go wrong, and if I’d inferred that your criticisms fail because you’re handsome and likely vain, I’d have been guilty of an ad hominem fallacy. But watch now as I demonstrate your remaining errors, which will in turn make that personal attack of mine an explanation rather than an argument. So you’ll have learned the difference between an argument and an explanation.
You speak of a misunderstanding on my part, of how the Christian thinks of reason merely as supporting faith. Here you’re simply not coming to terms with the article’s target, that being Bertuzzi’s ministry which wears its intellectualism on its sleeve. I’m targeting precisely those Evangelicals that make a show out of the alleged supreme rationality of their religion. And I’m saying there’s something fishy about that, because authentic religion should be dealt with not at an academic or intellectual level, but at the gut, existential level. Evidently, Bertuzzi, William Lane Craig and the other literalistic “philosophical” Christians are pretending that reason takes you only to theism and to Christianity, so they can rationalize their view that the rejection of Christianity merits hellfire.
You claim the Christian is saying only that her faith isn’t blind. But Bertuzzi’s slogan is that he’s revealing “the intellectual side of Christian belief,” and he says his channel is “unique” in taking “critical thinking very seriously.” So he’s not saying only that his faith isn’t completely blind. He’s holding himself out as an intellectual Christian, as a lover of knowledge and arguments.
I establish all of that in the article’s first paragraph. Once again, though, you prefer to bring it back to you, to talk about yourself and your interpretations. Is it alright by you if I talk about something other than you, something like evidential apologetics? Can you tear your handsome face away from the mirror even for a moment?
Next you speak of a “misunderstanding of a uniquely Christian claim.” Again, you’re hopelessly lost here. In that section of the article I was talking about the general monotheistic claim that we live in a fallen world, apart from God, so that we can hope only for ambiguous evidence of God, among other trials and tribulations. The Gnostic flavour of the Gospel of John and of Paul’s letters is quite consistent with this point, the upshot being that instead of making friends with reason, the monotheist might think about criticizing the worship of reason, since evidential apologetics is in danger of being idolatrous. Of course, the secular poses of Evangelical Christianity, in particular, are only cons that shouldn’t be taken at face value.
Once you understand that we’re separated from God, as opposed to being in Heaven or walking in Eden with God, the question arises as to whether God has a plan for reconnecting with us, for healing the world and bringing about atonement. Monotheists say, yes, a messiah will come and God will judge the living and the dead, and will create for us a new, divine society that will last forever.
Now if you want to talk specifically about Christianity, that’s fine as long as you understand there’s no error in speaking more generally about monotheism. The error and misunderstanding here were yours in leaping from a discussion of monotheism to one about you and your precious Christianity. Remember that Jesus taught that you should be helping others. To do that, you might try empathizing, putting yourself in their shoes and seeing things from their perspective. That will enable you to get out of your ego. It may also help you to comprehend what other people are saying in their writings.
You say Jesus took away the sins of the world. Oh, so I guess you’re a univeralist, then? No need for faith or a Second Coming or further judgment or Hell? And that’s supposed to be the Christian belief of the NT authors? Who do you think you’re fooling? You think the NT is unambiguous in teaching universal reconciliation?
2 Cor.6:2 is about turning Isaiah 49:8 around to comfort Paul’s readers. Yes, Jesus brought the salvation that the Jewish prophet had expected to arrive one day. But does that mean we’re automatically reconciled to God? That we’re all Christians just because of Jesus’s sacrificial death?
Do you know how many NT passages I could cite about the necessity of Christian faith? Paul said we’re saved by faith in Christ’s death, not just by the event of his death. Jesus opened the door to God, but we have to walk through it to accept Jesus as our saviour and master, to invite Jesus to live in us, as it were. And if we lack faith, God won’t credit us with the benefits of Jesus’s sacrifice. Thus, we’ll inherit the wages of our sin after all, which sins Jesus won’t automatically have eliminated just by shedding his blood for us. Jesus died for everyone, but God expects something from us in return, namely our recognition that we’re in need of salvation, so we can begin to live like humble (groveling, humiliated, childlike) followers of Jesus. That’s the basic view of Jesus’s sacrifice in Western Christianity.
Next you say I misunderstood the Christian view of suffering and testing. Luckily I was talking explicitly about monotheism in general, so that’s a non-issue.
You concede that God does test Christians, but you deny that God abandons the Christians who fail the test. Once again, you make it all about you and your fellow Christians. I was talking about God’s testing of humanity in our fallen condition, in our common separation from God. Christians feel closer to God, since they feel his presence in their life, but they’re not yet in Heaven, are they? The world is still a fallen place and Christians still live in that world. As such, all human life is a test, complete with suffering which results from demonic influences on our judgment and from God’s absence from the world.
Again, my point about God’s separation from his creation was just that in this natural life the Christian can expect to find only ambiguous evidence in favour of theism and Christianity, because even the Christian is subject to natural and demonic distractions, fallibility, and sins (vices). The Christian may be saved, but he’s not yet entirely one with God. He lives in a natural body in a realm that’s beset by godless, satanic forces. Reason is part of that world, so why should the Christian be so casual in boasting about her intellectualism? That was my point which you completely avoid dealing with, because you don’t even know how to read well.
Let’s have a look at 2 Cor.13:4–9: “For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him in our dealing with you. Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you — unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong — not so that people will see that we have stood the test but so that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is that you may be fully restored.”
Paul can only pray that his fellow Christians are fully restored, because it’s up to God’s grace to strengthen them. Why? Because they’re weak as natural creatures, just as Jesus was weak on the cross. Paul trusts that Christians won’t fail the test, but he doesn’t say their failure is impossible. If they fail, that means they’re in not “in the faith,” in which case they don’t receive the benefits of Jesus’s sacrifice. In short, it’s possible to make choices in this life which lead us into Heaven or into Hell. That’s the ambiguity I was speaking about in the article.
See also 1 Thess.2:4, “On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts”; Rom.12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will”; Rom.16:10, “Greet Apelles, whose fidelity to Christ has stood the test”; 1 Cor.3:12–15, “If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved — even though only as one escaping through the flames”; James 1:2–7, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance…But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord”; Luke 8:13, “Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away”; 1 Pe.4:12–17, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you…For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”
And just a small sample from the OT: Deut.8:2, “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands”; Deut.13:3, “you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul”; 1 Chron.29:17, “I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity”; Ps.17:3, “Though you probe my heart, though you examine me at night and test me, you will find that I have planned no evil; my mouth has not transgressed”; Ps.26:2, “Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind”; Prov.17:3, “The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart”; Eccles.3:18, ‘I also said to myself, “As for humans, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals.’
You say I misunderstand “basic Christian theology,” even as you quote me as speaking more generally about “the monotheistic religions.” You just can’t pry your eyes away from that mirror, can you? But your complaint here is that I say, as monotheism slowly emerged from animism and polytheism, God became thought of as being sovereign over all spirits, whereas according to you, God is sovereign only over us, while Satan is in control of the other spirits.
So you’re a Manichean dualist, then, and a heretic rather than a monotheist? You think God isn’t ultimately in control of the devil and is using him for his purposes, namely to bring Creation back into harmony with divine law, as Aquinas put it? Yes, Satan is the great tempter (e.g. Mark 1:13, 1 Cor.7:5, 1 Pet.5:8), but Satan tempts us on behalf of God, as shown in the Book of Job. According to monotheists, God is in control of all creation, since that’s a distinguishing feature of monotheism. I could cite hundreds of biblical verses to that effect. Here are just a few on how the devil ultimately serves God and has no lasting sovereignty over anything.
Matt.4:1, “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil”; John 1:2–3, “He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made”; John 16:11, “the prince of this world now stands condemned”; 1 John 3:8, “The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work”; Rev.12:12, “But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short”; Rev.17:17, “For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to hand over to the beast their royal authority, until God’s words are fulfilled”; Rev.21:6, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.”
Incidentally, this apocalyptic view of how God’s ultimate power over all things will be revealed in a cataclysmic battle with his arch enemy, in which the devil’s defeat has been preordained, derives from Zoroastrian process theology.
How ironic, then, that in attempting to criticize my article about the hollowness and wrongheadedness of Christian intellectualism, you offer only empty criticisms with so much pseudo-intellectual fanfare, such as the numbering of your precious points as though there were any logic to them. I thank you for the richness of that irony and for lending further support to the article.