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A "Personal Relationship"

One of the more annoying apologetics I read and hear all of the time is the assertion of “personal experience” of god. Obviously, a personal god should be having personal relationships with his subjects, but I’ve never seen any evidence of such a relationship. Christians have redefined “personal relationship” to mean something other than what it is.

I have a personal relationship with my girlfriend. I don’t have a personal relationship with President Obama. This means that there are things I know about my girlfriend that I didn’t read in a book or had a chosen interpreter or some other third party tell me about her. On the other hand, there’s nothing that I know about Obama that I didn’t read in a book or had some third party tell me.

If Christians have a personal relationship with their god, they should be able to enumerate some things that they know about god or Jesus that they didn’t read in a book or had a third party tell them. Things about Jesus’ personality.

Questions you should be able to answer if you actually had a “personal” relationship with Jesus:

What does Jesus do in his free time when he’s not saving souls?
What kind of things does Jesus joke about?
What’s Jesus’ biggest secret that he doesn’t talk about to the unsaved?
What was Jesus’ childhood like?
When was Jesus’ first kiss? His first crush?

I obviously wouldn’t be able to answer questions like these with Obama (without reading it in a book or having a third party tell me), but I would be able to answer questions like these with people I do have a personal relationship with. The fact that Christians cannot answer these questions must mean that their definition of “personal” is something other than what it means in normal conversation.

The second annoying apologetic is the equivocation between subjective feelings like “love” and objective things like the existence of the person doing the loving. The objectivity of the person doing the loving has to first be established before engaging the subjective feeling of “love”. It edges pretty close to a fallacy of reification.

I don’t have faith that my gf exists. I have faith that she won’t cheat on me – they’re two very different things. If my gf didn’t exist, then the question of whether I have faith that she won’t cheat on me is irrelevant. Theist attempt to extrapolate the faith that we have in loved ones to faith that the loved one exists. Existence is an objective dilemma (barring the fallacy of reification), and has to be solved objectively. Attempting to solve an objective dilemma subjectively only leads to sophistry – and is the sole reason why there are millions of different religions on the planet.

I don’t have faith that my gf exists. My gf’s existence is based on facts. In order to prove the existence of something objective, we have to first doubt it and then test it. For instance, if someone said “it’s snowing outside” in the middle of the summer (an objective statement), then I would first doubt their assertion and then go outside to test their statement: I’d check to see if it was snowing.

Trying to apply the same methodology for subjective “facts” (like love, trust, etc) would drive someone crazy. Like if I wanted to find out if my gf was really faithful to me – I’d have to doubt her first and then set up a whole bunch of surveillance, watching her every move etc. It’s a lot easier to trust that she’s faithful.

The difference between the two situations is emotional investment. I have an emotional investment in whether my gf is faithful, I don’t have an emotional investment in whether it’s snowing in the middle of summer. In order to find out the objectivity of a fact of life, we shouldn’t be emotionally invested in the outcome. If we do have emotional investments in something, then it’s easier to pander to our emotions to make it more palatable – this is why we rely on trust when in human relationships. The emotion invovled is at the heart of the matter.

This is why I say that faith in the existence of god is intellectually bankrupt – because it’s using subjective methodology for an objective question. Objectivity is determined intellectually, not by emotions or fuzzy feelings. On the same side of that, faith that my gf won’t cheat on me is also intellectually bankrupt… but it’s not supposed to be intellectual in the first place!

However, trying to determine by fact and objectivity that my gf is faithful to me would be emotionally bankrupt. Of course this is a bad thing because the nature of the relationship is supposed to be emotional. But the objective existence of my gf has to be established first before appealing to how much I trust her. I would get strange looks if I simply asserted that I trust my gf yet she didn’t even exist… and then said that the feeling of trust I have for her establishes that she actually exists. It’s putting the horse before the cart, so to say.

Subjective, or emotional dilemmas require subjective/emotional solutions. Objective/intellectual dilemmas requre intellectual/objective solutions. The same reason why I wouldn’t get drunk (subjective, it makes me feel good) before taking a math test (objective and requiring intelligence) is the reason why I wouldn’t have to believe in god first and/or have faith (subjective, it feels good) in order to prove that god exists (objective and requiring intelligence).

Whether god exists or not shouldn’t affect you emotionally – just like the big bang theory or the theory of evolution.

(This was originally posted by me in the comments section of the blog Debunking Christianity, and is actually a rewriting of a post I made in late 2008 on FRDB)

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2010 in personal god, personal relationship

 

Does the Existence of a Personal God (Who Has a Master Plan) Make Life Meaningless?

I played the first “Fable” game on the Xbox 360 a couple of years ago. In that game you had the ability to be “good” or “evil”, depending on your actions. One time I got bored and decided to kill every single person in every single village I came across. Every merchant, every civilian, every guard, every wife. Everyone.

It was kinda ridiculous, but I was at an insanely huge level so I didn’t need any potions or anything else.

In this game, the main purpose was to defeat Jack of Blades. That was the grand, overreaching “master plan” so to say of the game designers. No matter how moral or immoral you were in the game, the game would end the same way – Jack of Blades’ defeat.

Now imagine that a god with a grand, master plan exists. Life would be a lot like Fable, where you could dedicate your life to altruism and helping the poor, or spend your free time on cross country killing sprees. If god has some master plan, nothing you do can change his plan. In other words in the grand scheme of things, going into a maternity ward and slaughtering every newborn there has absolutely no effect on god’s plan. Equally so, dedicating your life to the improvement of humanity has no effect on god’s plan. It’s going to come to fruition either way.

If this is the case, then what’s the point? It seems like veiled nihilism to me. No matter what we do, it doesn’t matter to god. His plan is going to be executed no matter what. The fact that we don’t even know what this master plan is supposed to be is what makes it veiled. So “god works in mysterious ways” equals veiled nihilism.

And what if this god is actually malevolent instead of benevolent like in the more popular theisms? We are screwed. And there’s no way to tell, either way. But it does look like any god who created the world did so because he/she/it wanted to see maximal suffering.

On the flip side…

If there’s no god with a master plan then everything you do has meaning; and potentially huge implications to the course of humanity. Like the Butterfly Effect. Take for example the thing in Philly that was going on last year (that I was involved in) called “Free Hugs” at Rittenhouse Square.

What if, simply giving a hug to a stranger made them not commit suicide that day, and then they decide to live and eventually become the next Martin Luther King, Jr., or Jesus, or Einstein? Even the most seemingly insignificant acts to your fellow human being could completely alter the course of human history. Or what if you’re a decorated British soldier in World War I named Henry Tandey who had been killing Germans all day, and notice one German obviously wounded after a long battle walk into your sights. You decide not to pull the trigger and let him live. He nods at you thankfully knowing that you spared him and hobbles off and disappears into the smoke. Then 20 years later you find out that the German you let live was a young Adolf Hitler?

So without a personal god with a master plan, life actually has meaning. Purpose. Things that you do might actually matter in the grand scheme of things. If there’s no predetermined end-game, then who knows how things might turn out. Some people are absolutely horrified of uncertainty, but I always see it as a blessing. Uncertainty means that there are still things to find out, and that there’s always room to grow. It’s like Einstein’s pantheism, where he’s struck by awe at the universe. That natural curiosity. Like a movie where you don’t know how it’s going to end.

So if there’s a god with a master plan, everything you do is pointless. But if no god exists, then everything you do has potentially huge ramifications. If there’s a god with a master plan, then your only true responsibility (if any responsibility at all) is to your self. If there’s no god, then your responsibility necessarily includes more people than yourself, since your actions have an impact on your environment.

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2009 in atheism, einstein, nihilism, pantheism, personal god

 
 
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