Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Three second argument: Is God good?
(click to enlarge)
This is the first of what will hopefully be a series of arguments distilled down to some single basic point.
The idea for this grew out of frustration with theist ground-shifting:
[It rains. Or thousands of people die in an earthquake but a 5 year old survives. Or a football team wins.]
Believer: "God is good! Praise the Lord!"
Nonbeliever: "What about all these bad things?"
Believer: "You can't make moral judgements about God's actions!"
I suspect the problem is that the your average god-praising theist doesn't actually have an explicit belief about whether we can make judgements or not (even though the theist will make them all the time). What's going on is we always start in one of the arms, and the believer jumps from one to the other at will - apprently without recognising that they're doing it. I think the inability to follow through with even the most basic of reasoning (reasoning that my six-year-old displays daily) is a consequence of starting with a conclusion based on an emotional response - it's NOT about being right, or making sense, or truth, or ideas. It's about avoiding cognitive dissonance. The belief meme must be protected at all costs, even if it's false.
By making the arms an explicit choice, the ground is established. The commitment to an arm at the beginning makes it harder to keep changing the claim, and the argument from there becomes more straightforward.
I want to expand both the terminal nodes into fuller arguments (particularly the left one, so I can give a few examples), but the original point was to keep it short.
I have a few more of these vaguely swimming around at he back of my head that I will probably bring out as the mood takes me, but if you have a believer's argument involving ground-shifting or circular reasoning (leave it in the comments), I'll see if I can break it down.