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Thursday, May 16, 2019


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Hi Bill,

I realized too late, after emailing you, that "The formulation in the penultimate sentence above, however, is not quite right. If a state of affairs is objectively evil, it does not follow that it is pointlessly evil. It may or may not be. As I see it, the pointlessly evil is a proper subset of the objectively evil. Everything pointlessly evil is objectively evil, but not conversely." I am not surprised, but happy to see, that you caught the problem.


You write, "Seeing as how I cannot achieve the fixation of belief by continuing to mull over reasons pro and con, I achieve said fixation by an act of will." I agree with this theoretically, and do want to believe. It makes sense to make a decision of the will, to believe, and act "as if" God exists. Given this, does it make sense to avoid debates between theists and atheists? When I watch or read them, I find myself overcome by endless arguments, for and against, pro and con. Quite literally, in the morning I'm theist and by dinner I'm an agnostic; by bedtime I'm an atheist. It's extremely exhausting. Could reading theistic apologetic material, even if I mostly agree with it, be doing more harm than good? I find myself playing devils advocate, even as I'm trying to bolster my faith.


It is a pleasure having you as a correspondent. Thanks for giving me opportunities to clarify my thoughts on these matters.


Most debates between theists and atheists should be avoided because they are not dialogs aimed at the truth, but mere ideological contests. But some of them are worthwhile because they introduce the arguments and counterarguments.

It is precisely the endlessness of the arguments pro and con that makes an act of will necessary.

I will add that a living faith is one that maintains itself in the face of doubt, and that one ought not shelter oneself from arguments contra.

I appreciate the response. I almost rejoined; if the point is to have faith, and ultimate communion with God, why expose myself to contrary arguments, potentially weakening? BUT if I have in fact made an act of the will to believe, I ought not avoid the exposure out of fear. Thanks!


You're welcome.

It is a ticklish question and opinions will differ. Faith, although it involves an element of will, may also be a gift and thus due in part to grace. Why endanger such a gift by exposing it to the acid of unbelief?

On the other hand, if there is truth in theism then it ought to be able to stand up to scrutiny. What we want in the end is the truth.

Would you say we ought to prioritize truth or theism? Or would you equate them as being the same.
If they are not the same would you say that if ones pursuit of the truth leads one to agnosticism, would that pursuit have been worthwhile?

On relation of God and truth, see related post.

>>If they are not the same would you say that if ones pursuit of the truth leads one to agnosticism, would that pursuit have been worthwhile?<<

This would need a separate post to answer.

Will do. Thanks!


I am not sure that Malcolm understands quite what I mean when I say that "one must decide what to believe" in the final analysis and with respect to a matter like this. He wants to how one decides. Answer: You just do it after having reviewed all the considerations pro et contra.

Thank you for this. I had indeed been a step behind. In ordinary matters, one usually has to bring deliberation to an end when time runs out and a decision simply has to be made. Perhaps I simply have too much leisure here, or imagine that I do; so far I have given myself the luxury of lingering in 'doxastic equipoise'. But time is short!

I must whisper to myself: "Respice post te. Hominem te memento!"

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