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Michael Miller wrote:

Hi, guys —

I have a sort of devil's advocate question for you, just to mix things up.

  • How would you respond to those that claim that the Christian faith (a well as any other theistically-based world views that makes claims about the truth) is not simply a well-meaning human fabrication to relieve human suffering, or worse, a means for a few to control the many?
  • By what criteria do we judge the evidences of Christianity so as to acknowledge the role of cognitive biases in our:

    • actions
    • observations, and
    • thought?

  • How can you successfully defend the Bible, miracles, and the afterlife against the charge of cognitive bias, specifically these four plus one more of your choice:

    • survivorship bias
    • confirmation bias
    • observer expectancy effect, and
    • false memories

    and answer the objections related to these?

  • Would you say that:
    • God is a being within reality that created the material and immaterial or
    • is God not a fundamentally a being (though he may relate to us as a being) but the fundamental nature of reality (basically Ed Feser' Aristotelian-Thomist classical theism)?

Regards,

Michael Miller

  { How would you respond to those that claim that the Christian faith is simply a fabrication? }

John replied:

Hi, Michael —

There are a lot of very deep questions here and it would require almost a foundational course in apologetics to really answer them thoroughly.

I would suggest a search of the Catholic Answers web site [and/or] the Nazareth Resource Library by Jimmy Akin. I know they've tackled some these issues already and have tracts on some of these topics.

If you can't find anything on these topics, I'll be happy to take them one at a time but let me address the question about God being a being.

God is not a being among beings, hence it would be incorrect calling Him the Supreme Being. That would a grave demotion. God is being or as you put it, God is reality. That's not what I say. That is a Theological Truth. The notion that God is Supreme Being is a by-product of Nominalism which caused all kinds of theological problems within the Western Church.

Yes, God is Sovereign but God doesn't decide what is right and wrong or what is good and evil. Good is good and Evil is evil. God is fundamentally good and the source of all goodness. He created the Universe from absolutely nothing — a concept which is difficult for us to even fathom.

  • What is nothing?

So He does not exist within reality but rather is reality.

John

Richard replied:

Michael,

You said:

  • Is Christianity a means for a few to control the many?

Similar questions can be posed:

  • Is atheism a means for a few to control the many?
  • Is Islam a means for a few to control the many?
  • Is [fill in the blank] a means for a few to control the many?

Such questions suggest a particular kind of mentality. There are folks who think that conspiracies run the world. These questions suggest that there is some clique of people inventing religious ideas in order to manipulate others. Of course no one can prove that such a conspiracy does not exist. The non-existence of anything is very hard to prove.

It's like trying to persuade a solipsist that other people actually exist and are not figments of his imagination. One can't do it: people who trap their minds in a fantasy can't be reasoned out of it because they weren't reasoned into it.

Nevertheless, one can critique the suggestion as basically implausible. You can look at societies historically: which religions have:

  • promoted values that augment human freedom and development
  • respect for individuals
  • concern for the weak
  • a linear and non-cyclical view of history
  • a sense that people are morally responsible for their actions.

Some of the big religions don't have these intellectual ingredients that promote justice and social charity and human rights.

I think it's almost laughable to suggest that Christian faith makes people easier to govern!

  • If you wanted to manipulate masses of people, wouldn't it be logical to promote general skepticism and hedonism, so that people would be motivated by comfort and pleasure rather than any sort of convictions?

— RC

Michael replied:

Richard,

  • How would you then respond to those that claim that Christianity (and other theistically based world views) are simply human fabrications or abstractions to progress humanity and relieve suffering?
  • From our perspective, what is it that makes the Christian faith the most coherent and correct world view a human can have?
  • What criteria does the Christian faith meet that are insufficiently met by other theistic faiths/religions and world views?
  • I have heard it said that the one with the strongest reality wins, so in the same respect, explain how the Christian faith has the strongest and most accurate view of reality?

Just a note, I am a Christian as Mike previously mentioned. I want dig deep into my faith, down past the rocky soil where many a Christian's faith remains and perishes into Atheism when it is challenged because the Christian has not thought through nor developed his or her faith deeply enough for it to take strong enough root.

Also, thank you for your initial answer. It definitely answered the question I asked.

Michael

Richard replied:

Hi Michael,

Thanks for your note.

I should admit right up front that I don't personally have a lot to offer in this topic area, as it's not something I've studied. That answer I sent was just off-the-cuff, but there are Catholic philosophers who deal with:

  • foundational questions about faith and
  • its relation to reason, and
  • its plausibility, etc.

  • Have you been reading in that field yet?

For your interest, one philosopher who deals with issues of faith and atheism is Peter Kreeft of Boston College; I've had a couple of courses with him and do recommend him.

Here, in a popular-style video, he discusses some of the famous proofs of God advanced by Thomas Aquinas.

— Richard

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