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Tuesday, May 14, 2024


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Brother Bill, the link above on the blue word "latest" isn't working here (Chrome browser).

“That the world is divine handiwork is therefore, by the above definition, an over-belief. But the same goes for the Russellian view that the world is a brute fact. It too is an over-belief.”

I think what you argue here is true, and it leads me to consider the situation of those who, in rejecting either one of these “over-beliefs,” adopt an agnostic stance of these matters, often assuming that in doing so they are more rational. Among the latter are those who search endlessly for this or that definitive argument or proof or those waiting endlessly for some transformative experience. It seems to me that this sort of agnosticism before the great metaphysical mystery of the origin of the world is, in reality, more of an over-belief than the faith of the theist in God or the faith of the atheist in brute facts. At the core of this over-belief is the falsifiable assumption that man possesses the cognitive or the spiritual resources to attain knowledge of ultimate things. This is certainly “a belief arrived at by reading out of an experience more than is contained within it.”

Thanks, Joe. It should work now.

Now it works.

Interesting comment, Vito. I take you to be saying that the agnostic is not merely suspending belief (neither affirming nor denying the existence of God) but holding a belief himself, namely, the belief that one cannot know whether or not God exists, and that this belief is an over-belief.

I agree that the belief you impute to the agnostic is an over-belief, but I wonder whether the person to whom you impute the belief is well described as an agnostic.

As I understand the term, an agnostic (with respect to the God question) is not one who positively asserts that it cannot be known whether or not God exists, but one who asserts that it is not known whether or not God exists, and most likely that it will never be known. This is in line with the Merriam-Webster definition:

>>: a person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (such as God) is unknown and probably unknowable; broadly : one who is not committed to believing in either the existence or the nonexistence of God or a god.<<

What I am trying to get at, Bill, is the idea that behind what I term an agnostic position on the origin of the world is a standard for belief that exceeds the intellectual and spiritual capacities of our species. In other words, it involves an implicit belief that theism or, indeed, atheism is tenable as beliefs only if they we can KNOW that either is true. I call this an over-belief because it reads "out of an experience more than is contained within it." Specifically, it attributes to man's cognitive (and spiritual) abilities something that exceeds them. You often say that, after assessing the various rational arguments for and against God, we have to make a choice, which means that this is the sort of question that by its very nature involves an existential decision. The agnostic implicitly denies this by holding out for what is unobtainable, knowledge of final things. That is in a way an "over-belief." I may be wrong about this, but that is what makes sense to me, but correct me further if I am going down an unproductive path.


The problem with the agnostic stance -- on my understanding of the term -- is that the agnostic, by being noncommittal on the God question, ends up in an indifferentism that might in the end be spiritually dangerous.

"People have been debating this stuff for centuries; nobody knows the answer or will likely ever know the answer; there us no use in bothering one's head over it; let's live for today." Such an agnostic ends up a practical atheist: he lives as if there is no God, without preaching atheism, unlike Richard Dawkins who is both a practical atheist and an evangelical atheist to boot.

So what's the spiritual danger? God just might exist! In which case one has spent one's life chasing shadows and baubles instead of engaging in the soul-making necessary to fit one for ultimate felicity.

My 1:20 was written before I received your 1:08.

I like what you are saying @ 1:08. I think it is consistent with what I am saying @ 1:20.

I agree that theism is tenable (literally, holdable) whether or not it can be known to be true by us in our present state, using our senses plus discursive reason. It is tenable by reasoned faith, as opposed to blind faith. So on your view the agnostic makes an excessive demand when he demands that theism is tenable only if we can know it to be true. I see what you mean when you say or imply that the belief behind this demand is a an over-belief.

The agnostic, taking no position, not committed for God or against him, evades the existence decision for or against and ends up in an existential fog wherein he acquiesces in the final reality of this transient world.

By his life praxis he is an atheist but without ever having chosen atheism in full clarity of mind/spirit unlike the Four Horsemen of the New Atheism -- which is now a thing of the past, having been replaced by the Nww Paganism.

For as long as I can remember, I have tried to avoid belief, in favor of direct apprehension, which just might solve "does God exist" question, but then it would solve it only for me personally.

However, two things:

1. A Belief might very well be wrong, and thus it seems prudent to me to avoid believing too much. It is better to hold things in abeyance if there is no harm in doing so.

2. But ask any skid row drunk whom Jesus has saved, and they will tell you that Jesus (God) is plenty real. There is no shortage of people from these types of situations who will tell you of the solid Reality of what has touched them, and indeed remains with them. It is very hard to discount what all these people say.


Would you say that “narrative” is a synonym for “over-belief” as you define it?

Paul seems to be spinning a Christian narrative in the passage cited from Romans.

He talks about the Creation, and says that the world around us is so thick with things that their very existence can only point to a Creator God. Paul’s Roman audience believed in the Resurrection; thus they would have also believed in a Creator God. It was a package deal.

He wasn’t writing a treatise on whether the world was created out of nothing or whether it has also been there as a brute fact.

A treatise calls for understanding something.
A narrative calls for believing something.
A creed frames the beliefs in explicit terms.

Paul was writing in the pre-creedal stage. But his audience knew the narrative, believed it, and were called upon to live it.


To answer your question: No. As I understand the term, a narrative is a story or account. Some narratives are true, in whole or in part; some are false in whole or in parts. Some narratives are fact-based, some are not, etc. etc.

'Narrative' is not a synonym for 'over-belief' as I use these terms. Some narratives are true. If I give an honest account of how I came to live in Arizona, then my narrative is true. But no over-belief is wholly true to the facts. Example. At the time of 9/11, some who saw the Trade Towers collapse noted the similarity to controlled demolitions. These people came to believe that the 9/11 collapses just had to be controlled demolitions and thus 'inside jobs' and not solely due to the impact of the hijacked jets. Those people succumbed to over-belief. This sort of thing is not uncommon among those with a conspiratorial mindset.

But you are alluding to an important question: what was Paul doing in that passage? Was he trying to give an argument or was he merely stating his position? Some, and not just me, read Romans 1: 18-20 as an argument; other don't. In my Substack article, I was assuming that Paul was giving an argument, and then I showed that the argument he gave was probatively worthless because question-begging.

And then, assuming he was giving an argument, he engaged in some nasty psychologizing against those who perceive the probative worthlessness of the argument.

Interestingly, Ralph McInerny the Thomist thinks that Paul is giving an argument in the passage in question, but that it is a good one! Mirabile/horribile dictu!

Now suppose Paul is just preaching to the choir, energizing his base, articulating the creed he expects his Roman correspondents to accept. We can still ask, and we must ask: Is the creed, the narrative TRUE??

Compare our leftist pals. They say that Trump is a dictator! a fascist! a racist! An enemy of democracy! Are those slanderous allegations true? Of course not. But it doesn't matter if all you are trying to do is articulate your creed, energize your base, front a point of view before an audience that already agrees with you.

And then our leftist pals engage in nasty psychologing: Trump supporters are resentful working stiffs, clingers to guns and bibles, members of a cult, gullible believers in an Orange Christ who will save them . . .

Check out Hillary's recent hilarities.

Hello Bill,

Your working definition of ‘over-belief’ seems straightforward enough; however, determining what qualifies as an over-belief is not so clear. You say…

We experience the world as existent, as beautiful, and as orderly. But we cannot conclusively infer that the world is divine handiwork…That the world is divine handiwork is therefore, by the above definition, an over-belief.
This contradicts the Pauline passage. John Calvin spoke of a Divinitatus sensum in Chapter III.1 in his Institutes. He says…
There is within the human mind, and indeed by natural instinct, an awareness of divinity…To prevent anyone from taking refuge in the pretense of ignorance, God himself, has implanted in all men a certain understanding of his divine majesty.
If this is the case, then seeing the world as divine handiwork is not an over-belief. So, this leaves us in an interesting situation.

A Romans 1 Modus Ponens Argument

    Premise 1: If A has the sensus divinitatis, then A seeing the world as divine handiwork is not an over-belief.
    Premise 2: A has the sensus divinitatis.
    Conclusion: A seeing the world as divine handiwork is not an over-belief.
Given this argument, one could even say that failing to believe in the divine handiwork of the world is an under-belief! Of course, having followed this blog for years, I am aware that there is a Modus Tollens rebuttal.

A Modus Tollens Rebuttal
    Premise 1: If A has the sensus divinitatis, then A seeing the world as divine handiwork is not an over-belief.
    Premise 2: A seeing the world as divine handiwork is an over-belief.
    Conclusion: It is not the case that A has the sensus divinitatis
It seems to me, Bill, if you accept premise 1, then your position requires you to deny the sensus divinitatis. If this is the case, then the basis for your denial of the sensus divinitatis must be premise 2. But, as I mentioned above, it is not so clear to me what criteria is used to make such a determination. If part of the criteria ends up being a denial of Calvin’s sensus divinitatis, then this would itself be question begging.


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