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Time and Truth

The man. The myth.

Time and Truth

Postby richard_dawkins » 31 Dec 2009, 00:26

rusmeister wrote:A short and (probably oversimplified) response would be that God, being completely outside of Time, like the author is outside of his book, can be 'present' at all times.

If God (Time-Space incomprehensible) is outside Time (and Space, which have to be mentioned together because of their intimate connection - see Relativity), by what mechanism do you get to know that he can be compared to an author writing a book (Time-Space comprehensible)?
In what sense is an author outside his book, if it directly reflects his thoughts? Do you mean "An author is not a character in the book"? If the book is an autobiography, she is. If you mean a fictional character, then the author can be said to be in all the characters ate once.

Your analogy only makes sense if it can be applied with similarities between the reality and the analogy. You can't apply an analogy to something you can't know. Otherwise you are saying something like "Think of something that doesn't exist. Well, its just like eating a blue tomato."

rusmeister wrote: For Him, every moment in all past, present and future is 'now'. Lewis makes the comment somewhere of God having all eternity to listen to the prayers of a pilot whose plane is going down in flames.

Does this not make God morally reprehensible! On the basis that you, as a good citizen of the world, would save a life if you had the means, will you now condemn something that fails to do that with adequate means and time. You need to now curse God since he is so different to you in your moral fibre.
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Re: Questions about The Screwtape Letters

Postby archenland_knight » 31 Dec 2009, 17:34

richard_dawkins wrote:
Russmeister wrote:A short and (probably oversimplified) response would be that God, being completely outside of Time, like the author is outside of his book, can be 'present' at all times.


If God (Time-Space incomprehensible) is outside Time (and Space, which have to be mentioned together because of their intimate connection - see Relativity), by what mechanism do you get to know that he can be compared to an author writing a book (Time-Space comprehensible)?
In what sense is an author outside his book, if it directly reflects his thoughts? Do you mean "An author is not a character in the book"? If the book is an autobiography, she is. If you mean a fictional character, then the author can be said to be in all the characters ate once.


I would have thought a man as well educated as Richard Dawkins to understand the analogy better. :undecided: while I seldom agree with Russ, I think his analogy here adequate. I might, perhaps, have used the analogy of a scroll instead of a book, because a scroll can be unrolled completely and the author can see all of it at once, as long as the scroll is small enough or he has vision adequate to see all the way to the end of the scroll.

I've never really seen Space-time as incomprehensible. It's always seemed quite intuitive to me.

You see, every Space-Time structure, besides a "point", in the universe is merely an infinite series of the another structure.

    A line is an infinite series of points, one after the other. Between any two points, there is, of course, another point. You could say the points are "infinitely close". The language is not totally accurate, but it will suffice for common understanding.

    A plane is an infinite series of lines.

    A cube is an infinite series of planes.

    A 4-D solid is an infinite series of cubes.

And a 4-D solid is how we humans experience our universe. Not that it really stops at 4-D, mind you. I can only imagine how a higher order being might experience it; laughing - if they are capable of such a thing - at the pathetic humans and their 4-D perspective. But let's just deal with 4-D for now, with that fourth dimension representing what we commonly call "Time".

Now, imagine and artist painting a 2 dimensional picture. Once it is done, he stands back, some distance away in a third dimension, and sees all the picture at once.

Likewise, the artist portrayed in "Close Encounters of The Third Kind", sculpting on a table, making perhaps a model of a mountain is able once the work is done to see all of it at any moment. This is because he is outside the 3-dimensional structure of the work of art itself. To say that he "put a part of himself into it" is mere metaphysical analogy. It's true in some sense, but not in any sense relevant to multi-dimensional physics.

The artist is, in fact, at another point in the 4-D solid than the work occupied when it was being constructed. Only by being at a 4-D point OTHER than the 4-D point in which the work was created (i.e. he's looking at the work AFTER it's completion) can he see it in it's entirety. Other members of the artist's species of course, also being at a 4-D point beyond the work's completion, can likewise see the work in it's entirety.

So, picture the universe, at least that portion of the universe which our species can experience, as being four dimensional sculpture within a 4-D solid. (As I said, it really has many more than 4 dimensions, but we'll worry about that later.) Our 4-D universe is really an infinite series of similar three dimensional sculptures within a series of 3-D solids. Take any moment, any single point in time which is passing before you ... like .... THIS one ... okay, that was a 3-dimensional universe. You've shot past it now, but there it was. The 4-D universe you experience is an infinite series of those 3-D solids, strung together along the 4th dimension we call "Time".

So, to understand what Lewis was saying in STL, and in many other works, we need to see God as the artist of the 4-D solid, standing outside the 4-D solid just as the artist from "Close Encounters of The Third Kind" stood outside the model of the mountain. The artist in the movie could see any point in the 3-D sculpture. The Artist who built the 4-D solid can likewise stand outside it and see any point in the universe we experience.

Dawkins wrote:Does this not make God morally reprehensible! On the basis that you, as a good citizen of the world, would save a life if you had the means, will you now condemn something that fails to do that with adequate means and time. You need to now curse God since he is so different to you in your moral fibre.


Ah yes, the idea that we humans can really know what is right and wrong on our own. A curious idea, it seems to me. For if there is no God, and we really are just the culmination of natural forces, then why, exactly, is it wrong to kill us? Why would it be any more wrong to kill a man than to break a rock ... much less to simply allow a man to die?

Only if we are more than the culmination of natural forces, only if we are more than the chemicals than make up our bodies, only if there is something beyond our natural universe which values human life for reasons we may not understand, can it possibly be wrong to kill a man.

But let's say that there is some moral standard which exists apart from human pre-conceptions. (Such a moral standard, on it's own, would constitute a "god" whether you admit it or not ... though not necessarily the God of Judaism or Christianity.) Then you seem to assume that allowing the pilot to die is automatically wrong.

Members of our species often see death as the ultimate evil. I don't see how this could possibly be true.

If we are merely the result of physical forces, I really don't care who lives or dies. It doesn't matter. You are no different than a dandelion. Why should I not kill you if you are an inconvenience to me? Why should you not kill me for the sheer adrenaline rush of it? Why would it be "wrong"? Why would their me any such thing as "right" or "wrong"?

But, if we are in fact just spirits living inside physical bodies, especially if these spirits have been created by a higher order-being who brings in a standard of right and wrong we can not understand on our own, then death is still not the ultimate evil because there is something more than this natural world. What you call "death", we would simply call "moving on". In fact, the only reason that murder would be wrong in this case is because members of our species are incapable of judging when a person should get to leave his/her shell, and should not take that decision upon themselves.

If I had the means to save such a plane, then of course I should, because I do not know if now is the proper time for the occupants to be set free from their shells. But a higher-order being with greater wisdom and holiness might not be so obligated.

If the God you seem to hate so much does exist, then perhaps "death" really is just "moving on" and the moral axiom you are clinging to in order to rail against Him becomes unreliable. What if we need to stop thinking like 4-dimensional organic beings and realize there's more to existence than our little box of a universe?
Romans 5:8 "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
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Re: Questions about The Screwtape Letters

Postby richard_dawkins » 03 Jan 2010, 00:05

archenland_knight wrote:
richard_dawkins wrote:
Russmeister wrote:A short and (probably oversimplified) response would be that God, being completely outside of Time, like the author is outside of his book, can be 'present' at all times.


If God (Time-Space incomprehensible) is outside Time (and Space, which have to be mentioned together because of their intimate connection - see Relativity), by what mechanism do you get to know that he can be compared to an author writing a book (Time-Space comprehensible)?
In what sense is an author outside his book, if it directly reflects his thoughts? Do you mean "An author is not a character in the book"? If the book is an autobiography, she is. If you mean a fictional character, then the author can be said to be in all the characters ate once.


I would have thought a man as well educated as Richard Dawkins to understand the analogy better. :undecided: while I seldom agree with Russ, I think his analogy here adequate. I might, perhaps, have used the analogy of a scroll instead of a book, because a scroll can be unrolled completely and the author can see all of it at once, as long as the scroll is small enough or he has vision adequate to see all the way to the end of the scroll.

I've never really seen Space-time as incomprehensible. It's always seemed quite intuitive to me.


Please read my posting again. Space-Time IS intuitive, because we evolved in it. According to Russmeister, God is beyond Space-Time. Therefore, we are left to conclude either a) that God cannot be understood in Space-Time or b) the notion of God is completely speculative or c) God is explainable with Space-Time.

archenland_knight wrote:You see, every Space-Time structure, besides a "point", in the universe is merely an infinite series of the another structure.

    A line is an infinite series of points, one after the other. Between any two points, there is, of course, another point. You could say the points are "infinitely close". The language is not totally accurate, but it will suffice for common understanding.

    A plane is an infinite series of lines.

    A cube is an infinite series of planes.

    A 4-D solid is an infinite series of cubes.

And a 4-D solid is how we humans experience our universe. Not that it really stops at 4-D, mind you. I can only imagine how a higher order being might experience it; laughing - if they are capable of such a thing - at the pathetic humans and their 4-D perspective. But let's just deal with 4-D for now, with that fourth dimension representing what we commonly call "Time".


These are postulates of Mathematics. Points, cubes etc are imaginary - as soon as they are applied to reality, they break, because of the inherent fuzziness of our observed world. We accept them because they resonate with forms with observe frequently. They have no independent existence. If you assert they do, you insult most Mathematicians of repute.

Other Mathematical ideas can be demonstrated and not applied. Impossible numbers. Read "Alice's adventures in algebra wonderland" http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20427391.600-alices-adventures-in-algebra-wonderland-solved.html

Thus, despite Mathematical proof of many dimensions, they may or may not be useful in explaining our world. See this discussion of the "messiness" of more dimensions. http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn12261-is-dark-energy-lurking-in-hidden-spatial-dimensions.html.

In fact, some scientists assert that Time is something we have created and that it is not an essential property of the universe. See http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20427311.300-timewarp-how-your-brain-creates-the-fourth-dimension.html

archenland_knight wrote:Now, imagine and artist painting a 2 dimensional picture. Once it is done, he stands back, some distance away in a third dimension, and sees all the picture at once.

Likewise, the artist portrayed in "Close Encounters of The Third Kind", sculpting on a table, making perhaps a model of a mountain is able once the work is done to see all of it at any moment. This is because he is outside the 3-dimensional structure of the work of art itself. To say that he "put a part of himself into it" is mere metaphysical analogy. It's true in some sense, but not in any sense relevant to multi-dimensional physics.

The artist is, in fact, at another point in the 4-D solid than the work occupied when it was being constructed. Only by being at a 4-D point OTHER than the 4-D point in which the work was created (i.e. he's looking at the work AFTER it's completion) can he see it in it's entirety. Other members of the artist's species of course, also being at a 4-D point beyond the work's completion, can likewise see the work in it's entirety.

So, picture the universe, at least that portion of the universe which our species can experience, as being four dimensional sculpture within a 4-D solid. (As I said, it really has many more than 4 dimensions, but we'll worry about that later.) Our 4-D universe is really an infinite series of similar three dimensional sculptures within a series of 3-D solids. Take any moment, any single point in time which is passing before you ... like .... THIS one ... okay, that was a 3-dimensional universe. You've shot past it now, but there it was. The 4-D universe you experience is an infinite series of those 3-D solids, strung together along the 4th dimension we call "Time".

So, to understand what Lewis was saying in STL, and in many other works, we need to see God as the artist of the 4-D solid, standing outside the 4-D solid just as the artist from "Close Encounters of The Third Kind" stood outside the model of the mountain. The artist in the movie could see any point in the 3-D sculpture. The Artist who built the 4-D solid can likewise stand outside it and see any point in the universe we experience.


This is a speculative view of the universe. There is no reason to believe that the past has any existence. We only see an imprint of it in our present reality. This provides adequate evidence. Your 4th dimension cannot be proven, but it is intuitive.

What is not intuitive is a being that sits beyond Time. It is speculative. You can guess anything in the 4th dimension - a spaghetti monster or a cosmic teapot or a wobbly wheelbarrow. Mostly, it doesn't matter, since it can't be explained or understood in our 3D terms.

If you assert that there is a passage between a Time bound and Timeless universe, you are bound to demonstrate that. Many are waiting with bated breath for that explanation. Instead, we get sloppy science from many Christians and others "of the book", including Lewis, who misses Dawkin's arrows, probably out of cultural deference (my opinion - no evidence for this).

archenland_knight wrote:
Dawkins wrote:Does this not make God morally reprehensible! On the basis that you, as a good citizen of the world, would save a life if you had the means, will you now condemn something that fails to do that with adequate means and time. You need to now curse God since he is so different to you in your moral fibre.


Ah yes, the idea that we humans can really know what is right and wrong on our own. A curious idea, it seems to me. For if there is no God, and we really are just the culmination of natural forces, then why, exactly, is it wrong to kill us? Why would it be any more wrong to kill a man than to break a rock ... much less to simply allow a man to die?


Do you really need God to tell you that it is "more wrong to kill a man than to break a rock"? You don't. This is because you have evolved to have a conscience. A conscience has a survival benefit. It allows us to regulate our behaviour in alignment with social expectations, thus giving us a place in the society. Otherwise, we are ostracised, as is the psychopath.

What you really mean is that you are incredulous that such a conscience could have evolved. Your incredulity does not count in assessing the factuality of human moral status and development.

archenland_knight wrote:Only if we are more than the culmination of natural forces, only if we are more than the chemicals than make up our bodies, only if there is something beyond our natural universe which values human life for reasons we may not understand, can it possibly be wrong to kill a man.


Why do you require something beyond natural forces? Do you need an "on-line reference" to tell you moment by moment what to do?

But you raise an interesting point. Killing a person is totally morally problematic and has been since the beginning of time. Yes, I can kill in war, but only if the enemy is armed. But what of Dresden? Is total war justified to prevent more deaths?

The fact that moral questions are so problematic proves they are socially negotiated and not absolute and therefore a product of societies which are a product of evolution. The problem with an absolutist moral position is that it explains nothing at all.

archenland_knight wrote:But let's say that there is some moral standard which exists apart from human pre-conceptions. (Such a moral standard, on it's own, would constitute a "god" whether you admit it or not ... though not necessarily the God of Judaism or Christianity.) Then you seem to assume that allowing the pilot to die is automatically wrong.


I can't think of a good reason for this thought experiment, except to please Christians, which I don't have time for. Operating within the human made moral framework of my society is complicated enough.

archenland_knight wrote:Members of our species often see death as the ultimate evil. I don't see how this could possibly be true.

If we are merely the result of physical forces, I really don't care who lives or dies. It doesn't matter. You are no different than a dandelion. Why should I not kill you if you are an inconvenience to me? Why should you not kill me for the sheer adrenaline rush of it? Why would it be "wrong"? Why would their me any such thing as "right" or "wrong"?

But, if we are in fact just spirits living inside physical bodies, especially if these spirits have been created by a higher order-being who brings in a standard of right and wrong we can not understand on our own, then death is still not the ultimate evil because there is something more than this natural world. What you call "death", we would simply call "moving on". In fact, the only reason that murder would be wrong in this case is because members of our species are incapable of judging when a person should get to leave his/her shell, and should not take that decision upon themselves.


You use "merely" as if living in a world of physical forces was not worthy of adulation. Have you never watched an Attenborough documentary? In what sense is our universe "mere". I recommend you read "The Greatest Show on Earth" by Richard Dawkins. You will wonder. Don't stop there. This is a small mountain of literature devoted to showing the wonder of our universe, sans God.

You are constrained in killing me or anyone else by your conscience, built by participation in society. But this is not the only mechanism. Have a conversation with a person diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome and you may understand how you can be almost completely amoral and yet function (sort of) within society. Amoral people, such as these people, see no good reason to kill you and therefore don't. There is more than one passage to a moral outcome.

archenland_knight wrote:If I had the means to save such a plane, then of course I should, because I do not know if now is the proper time for the occupants to be set free from their shells. But a higher-order being with greater wisdom and holiness might not be so obligated.


I'm sorry, I don't understand your reference to a independent spiritual entity inside you or a spiritual entity called God in the natural world, nor the mechanism by which you are given moral instruction by God. Can you explain this?

archenland_knight wrote:If the God you seem to hate so much does exist, then perhaps "death" really is just "moving on" and the moral axiom you are clinging to in order to rail against Him becomes unreliable. What if we need to stop thinking like 4-dimensional organic beings and realize there's more to existence than our little box of a universe?


I know more hate God than Santa. I hate those who commit atrocities in the name of God. I tolerate those who espouse God.

In what sense is the universe "little"? That's a curious phrase!
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Re: Questions about The Screwtape Letters

Postby john » 03 Jan 2010, 01:30

Gentlemen,

If you wish to argue about the existence of God, then you'll have to find some place else (meaning outside the Wardrobe) to do it.

archenland_knight, you should know better than to engage a troll.

richard_dawkins, if you have come here to "show those silly Christians a thing or two", then you've chosen the wrong place. I am not a Christian myself, but I do not tolerate this kind of behavior here. Find another forum.
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Re: Questions about The Screwtape Letters

Postby AllanS » 03 Jan 2010, 03:43

Hi John,

I also have grown weary of such arguments. They rarely go anywhere but downhill. Where did Jesus debate such things?

A friend of mine (a ship-wrecked alien from the planet Zorf) disbelieves in the color Red. Neither argument nor reason has the power to convey Red to him. I have concluded that unless he experiences Red directly, he can have no knowledge of it. Poor fellow.

In the same way, neither argument nor reason has the power to open a person's eyes to God. Revelation is an elemental perception. Faith is a gift. You either have it or you don't. As Pascal said, "The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing."
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Re: Questions about The Screwtape Letters

Postby john » 03 Jan 2010, 16:22

Allan,

While I appreciate that you agree with me, you really just continued the argument -- one that I said must stop.

Kind regards.
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Re: Questions about The Screwtape Letters

Postby archenland_knight » 03 Jan 2010, 18:43

John wrote:archenland_knight, you should know better than to engage a troll.


Sadly, I did not realize this until I read your response that this is what was going on. My sincerest appologies. "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another," and you have just revealed to me a weakness I did not realize I had. There was a certain element of RD's post that capitalized on this weakness, and kept me from seeing what should have been obvious. So, again, my appologies and thanks for pointing this out.
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Re: Questions about The Screwtape Letters

Postby AllanS » 03 Jan 2010, 21:00

john wrote:Allan,

While I appreciate that you agree with me, you really just continued the argument -- one that I said must stop.

Kind regards.


A: Come in.
M: Ah, Is this the right room for an argument?
A: I told you once.
M: No you haven't.
A: Yes I have.
M: When?
A: Just now.
M: No you didn't.
A: Yes I did.
M: You didn't
A: I did!
M: You didn't!
A: I'm telling you I did!
M: You did not!!
A: Oh, I'm sorry, just one moment. Is this a five minute argument or the full half hour?
M: Oh, just the five minutes.
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Re: Questions about The Screwtape Letters

Postby richard_dawkins » 04 Jan 2010, 04:51

john wrote:Gentlemen,

If you wish to argue about the existence of God, then you'll have to find some place else (meaning outside the Wardrobe) to do it.


Is not discussion about God at the core of Lewis's writing? I would have thought this was completely in tune with the code of conduct. I don't see where I have been impolite. So far, I have talked about Mathematics and Physics as much as God, including references for those who would like to read further. It is about broadening the mind, not fighting a position. As I said, if this was about fighting fundamentalism, I would probably use different language. But my observations are that most people on the list seem fairly reasonable. And it appears there is desire amongst your members to discuss these topics.

john wrote:archenland_knight, you should know better than to engage a troll.
I don't understand how anything I said makes me a troll.

john wrote:richard_dawkins, if you have come here to "show those silly Christians a thing or two", then you've chosen the wrong place. I am not a Christian myself, but I do not tolerate this kind of behaviour here. Find another forum.
That's not my intention. Most Christians I know aren't silly. That's why I discuss things with them. Why not give me time to "show my colours"? I have barely had time to read or respond anywhere else and didn't feel I had the expertise to argue about Eastern Orthodoxy or Lewis's books I haven't read. At least I know something about Christianity.
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Re: Questions about The Screwtape Letters

Postby richard_dawkins » 04 Jan 2010, 05:47

AllanS wrote:Hi John,

I also have grown weary of such arguments. They rarely go anywhere but downhill. Where did Jesus debate such things?

A friend of mine (a ship-wrecked alien from the planet Zorf) disbelieves in the color Red. Neither argument nor reason has the power to convey Red to him. I have concluded that unless he experiences Red directly, he can have no knowledge of it. Poor fellow.

In the same way, neither argument nor reason has the power to open a person's eyes to God. Revelation is an elemental perception. Faith is a gift. You either have it or you don't. As Pascal said, "The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing."


Hi AllanS

Suppose this wasn't a discussion about God, which seems to draw resentment. Suppose it is about "how you know". In much of Lewis's writing (and others like Pascal), I see a kind of assertion = truth. If I say it, then, if it resonates with you, then it is true. I see a present danger in this.

Consider a masked man standing somewhere in the West Bank speaking to a BBC reporter about jihad (as a recent documentary showed). He espouses the killing of the infidel en masse because he and his people have been oppressed and he considers some countries complicit. He is a soldier, he says. He is articulate and intelligent, rather like a bomber who nearly took out a plane in the last week.

Now, a little time later, a boy in Manchester, feeling similar about his status as a Islamic boy of middle eastern extraction, decides on a mission to teach his fellow British citizens a lesson.

What is missing is the engagement of critical faculties to his experience. Neither person is bad - just willing to accept anything, on the basis that it is intuitive - it resonates. It is a dangerous tendency, no less present in me or you or them or any "pillar" of the intellectual world.

I can never doubt your revelation, your moments of epiphany, your insights or your enlightenment.

But are not all of these, at some time, destined to meet the "hard light of day"? So what tools do we have to consider whether this epiphany is something more than a rush of blood? I turn to science, because it is both systematic and honest and acknowledges, rather than trivialises, experience.

I submit that we should apply "strong" critiques to many of Lewis's statements, because some seem just a little too neat - too tidy to really properly refer to my experience and understanding of my world.

My problem with making some things "immune" from reason is that you give legitimacy to the suicide bomber. You say "That is your revelation and you are entitled to it." Certainly, let us not break the magic of the story - we must live Frodo's struggle with the ring in order to really bring the story alive. But I will not premise my judgement of your worthiness to be a citizen of my country on how many orcs you killed.

Tell me where you draw your line in applying reason. It will be interesting to read.
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Re: Questions about The Screwtape Letters

Postby john » 04 Jan 2010, 05:51

You register with the name of a famous atheist, and your first post is an attack on something that is over 3 years old. We have a code of conduct, and your antagonistic fight-picking approach is inappropriate. Any respectful debate needs to stay on topic within the thread and forum it's being posted in.
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Re: Questions about The Screwtape Letters

Postby richard_dawkins » 04 Jan 2010, 06:11

john wrote:You register with the name of a famous atheist, and your first post is an attack on something that is over 3 years old. We have a code of conduct, and your antagonistic fight-picking approach is inappropriate. Any respectful debate needs to stay on topic within the thread and forum it's being posted in.


John, I don't understand why you have come at me so aggressively. Registering with this name was to do with having read a very amazing book. It was about picking someone I admire, as is the case with many nom de plumes on the Internet. The post appeared on the first page of this topic in Apologetics. I was not aware until you pointed it out that it was old. I have re-arranged the order to get to recent posts first, which seems sensible.

Then threads do seem to wander. One seemed to be discussing "beards". I would not enter that discussion as I it holds no interest for me. I will try to do better at staying on topic, but how exactly does that work. Do I start a new thread? How do I then reference what people say inside threads? I am a little confused.

Do I assume that all topics in the Archive are now closed and therefore forbidden?
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Re: Questions about The Screwtape Letters

Postby john » 04 Jan 2010, 06:32

If I come across as aggressive, it's because I have a duty to protect the tone of these forums. We are a community based on tolerance and acceptance -- not everybody agrees with everybody else, of course, but we don't actively seek out to argue our points with one another. I have no problem with respectful discussions that are specifically about C. S. Lewis' writings, but I will not allow it to deviate too far into irrelevance.

We did have a forum that allowed most topics of religion, science and philosophy (which you've referred to, in the archives). That had to be closed because it was a breeding ground for intolerance and poor conduct. So, yes, those topics are closed.

If your main interest in being here is because you're a non-Christian who wishes to discuss and debate the doctrines and practices of Christianity, then there are many other forums that will serve you better.
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Re: Questions about The Screwtape Letters

Postby Adam Linton » 04 Jan 2010, 06:40

"richard_dawkins":

In a purely unofficial capacity, but as a member here, I'll add a note of my own:

As you are evidently checking out the Wardrobe, you surely will review both "Announcements and Support" and also the archived sections (including "Religion, Science, & Philosophy"). I trust in doing so that you will find it evident that the Wardrobe, quite specifically and deliberately, is not an instrument for debate; nor--frankly--probably the most congenial place for the debate hungry. This is a site--of course, gathered around varying appreciations of C. S. Lewis--rather geared toward the informational, reflective, conversational, and social. This clarity has been rather extensively worked through here in the last year.

Regards.

Now, back to Questions about the Screwtape Letters...
we have not loosely through silence permitted things to pass away as in a dream
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Adam Linton
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Re: Questions about The Screwtape Letters

Postby richard_dawkins » 04 Jan 2010, 07:57

Adam Linton wrote:"richard_dawkins":

In a purely unofficial capacity, but as a member here, I'll add a note of my own:

As you are evidently checking out the Wardrobe, you surely will review both "Announcements and Support" and also the archived sections (including "Religion, Science, & Philosophy"). I trust in doing so that you will find it evident that the Wardrobe, quite specifically and deliberately, is not an instrument for debate; nor--frankly--probably the most congenial place for the debate hungry. This is a site--of course, gathered around varying appreciations of C. S. Lewis--rather geared toward the informational, reflective, conversational, and social. This clarity has been rather extensively worked through here in the last year.

Regards.

Now, back to Questions about the Screwtape Letters...


Adam, you have been a member for 5 years, so you know the ropes. Therefore, I follow your lead in pursuing this and continue in my defence.

Do you risk dishonouring someone who wrestled with atheism:

"Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable." – Mere Christianity

by sanitising him into "informational" oblivion?

By my reading of Lewis, maybe not as extensive as yours, I see a man torn by this very question and a restlessness unresolved - as obvious in Surprised By Joy.

Debate follows naturally from two points of view - only uncivilised debate diminishes the participants. Thus, I concur entirely with the code that respects others in their tone and intent; but to exclude debate?

On this topic (which I will move, if I have that capacity within this bb) I contend that some of Lewis's work, especially Mere Chrisitanity does need some debate.

For example, how can a statement like:

"God is the only comfort, He is also the supreme terror: the thing we most need and the thing we most want to hide from. He is our only possible ally, and we have made ourselves His enemies."

be understood? When I was a Christian, in my youth, I felt that this statement resonated and did not question it. It appeared self-evident. On going back, as an atheist, I now struggle to find what it was I thought made sense. What I now realise is that reading Lewis as a Christian is a warm blanket on a cold night, but reading it as an atheist suddenly awakens the senses, because you want to know where that thinking actually comes from. Its not about God at all, but about looking into the minds of others. What makes you tick? What makes you value?

To attempt to give you a sense of my approach, please indulge me a tangent.

During the election in which Obama was victorious, I read a most enlightening article by a Democrat researcher. They were collecting data on Republican views. To cut a long story short, what they found was that Republican rhetoric and Republican values did not always correlate; but what was more surprising was that Republican values were so disparate - not so different from Democrats.

In other words, by looking into the mind of a Republican, one could actually see something more fundamental to humanity - a desire for security and peace, happy relationships and wholesome experiences etc. Going past the rhetoric might make a better world where polarities are unnecessary.

I yearn for that. I have many Christian relatives and friends and aspire to finding their core humanity. I just find the rhetoric hard to get by. I also find so much intellectual dissonance. I cannot get beyond the rhetoric without at least some measure of debate. And in processing intellectual dissonance, some anxiety is inevitable.

If that approach makes me a pariah, then I must retire to Facebook, where depth is forbidden, and the one small oasis where intellectual discussion with a gathering of Christians might have been possible, vanishes into a mirage.
Last edited by richard_dawkins on 04 Jan 2010, 10:25, edited 1 time in total.
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