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Discussion 1 to Talk Back 74
A grown-up, well-conceptualized faith can add more

by Maarten van den Driest

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The argument proposed by Kristine - copy-pasted without further ado it seems to me, but still - defeats a strawman argument. It is not even particularly succesful doing that.

Strawman arguments are a nuisance. Honest criticism put to the side, no one likes his or her system of beliefs slighted so casually, out-of-hand.

The student in the story correctly identifies a class of concepts called 'privatives'. I am stunned that a highly educated university professor wouldn't know of them but, then again, it is a story.

It is true that there is no 'cold' or 'dark' in actual existence, even though we use the corresponding concepts and for good reasons. It would be terribly tedious to have to say that the Earth revolved in a particular manner as to produce visible effects so aesthetically pleasing when we could very well say we saw the sun set.

For a thorough and enjoyable demonstration of the effects of privatives on our thinking, see basically the entire Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. He doesn't only claim that dark is real but even that it has a speed higher than the speed of light. It has to get out of the way, doesn't it?

I agree with the story that Evil doesn't exist in and of itself and that a conscious choice is involved to act with or without higher principles. As a Christian I would certainly say 'to live with or without God in your life'.

The story runs into trouble when it tries to use this idea as proof of God's existence. First of all, and I have said this dozens of times, any old god will do. Krishna could be behind good and evil and their definitions, so could Allah, or the Invisble Pink Unicorn. Secondly, as we don't need any deity in existence for the cold-warm and dark-light phenomena, why would we need a deity for evil-good? It could just arise naturally from our collective minds... stranger things have been known to happen.

Thirdly, and I think fatally, God could be the privative. 'God' could be a label we stick on certain phenomena, feelings and ideas. Love exists, doesn't it? That doesn't mean it is a thing or even has seperate existence.

The story tries to tackle a rather shallow anti-belief argument. It almost makes it. There remain, however, ample better arguments in existence. A rethinking of outmoded, childish religious concepts is sorely needed. A grown-up, well-conceptualized faith can add much to the human culture.