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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

 

Because I Want To!

This is a pretty good deconstruction of the “personal relationship” meme that most Christians have. This was posted by someone at FRDB:

So my best friend is Catholic and his wife is very in to her Catholicism too. She also happens to be a Yoga teacher and likes to talk about a lot of new age woo woo.

One dinner we got in to a conversation about Catholicism and I asked her why she believes what she believes? She said there was all kinds of evidence. The bibles, personal experience/personal relationship, all the millions of others that believe it.

I shot holes in her “reasoning” and we continued until she asked if I even believed JC was a real person. When I said “not really” she looked like I shot her.

I asked her if she thought she’d be Catholic if her parents hadn’t been. She didn’t know. I asked her if she thought she would be if she was born in Afghanistan. She didn’t know, but didn’t think so. I asked her if she was a Hindu whether she’d find the same “evidence” for Catholicism all that persuasive. She wasn’t sure.

I asked her if she really had a personal relationship with JC where she spoke with and got replies from him. She said she believed she did. I asked her to close her eyes and imagine Brad Pitt telling her that apples taste good (then imagining him taking a bite of it). She did and laughed. I told her that she now had an equally personal relationship with Brad Pitt. She started crying and said “I believe it because I LIKE IT AND I HAVE TO BELIEVE IT BECAUSE I WANT TO!!! OKAY? I JUST WANT TO” to which I quietly looked around the Boston Pizza we were in and whispered with a smirk “okay…that’s okay”.

That’s the best answer I’ve heard yet. “BECAUSE I WANT TO”

 
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Posted by on November 4, 2009 in personal relationship

 

Philosophical and Intellectual arguments

Here are two lines of arguments that Christians haven’t given me a satisfactory answer to:

Philosophical
Let’s say that you are married to a guy/girl for 10 years. Would you prefer that your spouse lie to you so that you stay faithful to them, or would you rather them tell you a truth that might make you lose faith in them?

What would your spouse do if, above all else, they wanted you to be faithful to them? They would lie.

If any system of beliefs, philosophies, religions, etc. place faith on too high a pedestal, then this system of beliefs will necessarily lead to deception. If the overvaluing of faith necessarily leads to deception, how can someone tell the difference between faith and self deception?

Intellectual
Some Christians claim that Christianity isn’t a “religion”, it’s a “personal relationship” with Jesus. But this equivocation was always suspect in my eyes. In every single “personal relationship” I’ve been in, I could always enumerate things I knew about the other person that I didn’t read in a book or had someone tell me. On the opposite side, I can’t name anything about say President Obama that I didn’t read in a book or had someone tell me.

So, the challenge for Christians – if they indeed have a “personal relationship” with Jesus – is to list some things that they know about Jesus that they didn’t read in a book or had someone tell them.

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2009 in deception, faith, personal relationship

 
 
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