The Buddha on God, with Responses

The Buddha once made a number of remarks about God and why he discouraged his disciples from speculating about God:

On occasions, [the Buddha] expressed his opinions about creation and the role of God. When Ananthapindika, a wealthy young man, met the Buddha at a bamboo groove at Rajagriha, the Buddha made a few statements before him about the existence of God and the real cause behind the creation of beings in this world. Those views are summarized as below:

1. If God is indeed the creator of all living things, then all things here should submit to his power unquestioningly. Like the vessels produced by a potter, they should remain without any individuality of their own. If that is so, how can there be an opportunity for anyone to practice virtue?

2. If this world is indeed created by God, then there should be no sorrow or calamity or evil in this world and no need for the existence of the principle of karma since all deeds, both pure and impure, must come from Him.

3. If it is not so, then there must be some other cause besides God which is behind him, in which case He would not be self-existent.

4. It is not convincing that the Absolute has created us, because that which is absolute cannot be a cause. All things here arise from different causes. Then can we can say that the Absolute is the cause of all things alike? If the Absolute is pervading them, then certainly It is not their creator.

5. If we consider the Self as the maker, why did it not make things pleasant? Why and how should it create so much sorrow and suffering for itself?

6. It is neither God nor the self nor some causeless chance which creates us. It is our deeds which produce both good and bad results according to the law of causation.

7. We should therefore “abandon the heresy of worshipping God and of praying to him. We should stop all speculation and vain talk about such matters and practice good so that good may result from our good deeds.

For such reasons, the Buddha did not encourage speculation on the existence of Isvara (God) among his disciples. He wanted them to confine themselves to what was within their field of awareness, that is, to understand the causes of suffering and work for their mitigation. For the same reason, he discouraged speculation upon the nature of Nirvana.

Let’s take these one at a time:

1. If God is indeed the creator of all living things, then all things here should submit to his power unquestioningly. Like the vessels produced by a potter, they should remain without any individuality of their own. If that is so, how can there be an opportunity for anyone to practice virtue?

RESPONSE: This is strange objection since Buddhism denies BOTH individuality and personal virtue (there being, really, no persons to practice virtue). 

We are indeed created by God like a potter producing pots, but the Buddha’s contention that being a creature would render one without individuality is simply a non sequitur. Consider the obvious case of a great artist: is each of his works “without individuality”? On the contrary, the greater the artist, e.g. Shakespeare, the greater the variations in his productions.

Similarly with regard to virtue. There is simply nothing that prevents God from creating free creatures, creatures who can choose meaningfully between good and evil—and hence virtue and vice.  

The error the Buddha is making is in considering God only in terms of His power, and not His wisdom and goodness. That is, the Buddha is making exactly the sort of theological mistake he warns his followers about. 

2. If this world is indeed created by God, then there should be no sorrow or calamity or evil in this world and no need for the existence of the principle of karma since all deeds, both pure and impure, must come from Him.

RESPONSE: This is where the question of the Fall of Man becomes necessary.  And admittedly, the Fall is revealed primarily via divine revelation, a revelation the Buddha did not have access to.

Nevertheless, the Buddha’s  inference is false. The Fall of Man cannot be shown by natural reason, but it can be shown to be in accord with natural reason: why should it be, when it is logically possible for everyone to be good and virtuous, no one is, and most people are bad? It is obvious to all sane people—including the Buddha—that man is not what and how he ought to be. 

Unfortunately, the Buddha equates the fallen world with the world as such, and thus his doctrine can only be one of renunciation and escape from the world.  

3. If it is not so, then there must be some other cause besides God which is behind him, in which case He would not be self-existent.

RESPONSE: The Buddha is making a metaphysical error in confusing evil and suffering and sorrow and calamity with real things. The reason that the Buddha is wrong here is that God is capable of creating free beings with real choice, which opens the possibility of there being a secondary cause besides God, that is not “behind” or “beside” God.

The Fall of Man is the work of man, and man’s abuse of his freedom, in order to sin. Evil and death are the result of sin, sin is the result of human choice, and although God is the author of human beings as free beings, he is not the author of their free choices, since it would be contradictory for God to “choose our free choices for us.” 

4. It is not convincing that the Absolute has created us, because that which is absolute cannot be a cause. All things here arise from different causes. Then can we can say that the Absolute is the cause of all things alike? If the Absolute is pervading them, then certainly It is not their creator.

RESPONSE: Another metaphysical mistake.  All things within the totality of creation have a cause within that totality, within the order of nature. But God is at once the creator and sustainer of the whole totality of what is in being.  In this way, as the one who donates a portion of the Being that He Is, thus allowing all else to be, God is the source and ground and cause of all things. 

5. If we consider the Self as the maker, why did it not make things pleasant? Why and how should it create so much sorrow and suffering for itself?

RESPONSE: The Self, or Atman, is not the God, or Isvara. That said, God DID create all things as GOOD. Evils such as sorrow and suffering are the consequences of the Fall, and of Sin.  

6. It is neither God nor the self nor some causeless chance which creates us. It is our deeds which produce both good and bad results according to the law of causation.

RESPONSE: False in two ways: firstly, the Buddha is making the error of thinking of divine creation as being in time, and a “one and done.” God is our creator at every instant because he is our sustainer in being. Second, our ability to do good is radically impaired due to our fallen state. Once again, the Buddha is unaware of the Fall of Man, and consequently, despite his deep insight into the deficiency of existence, somehow believes it is within man to escape this deficiency.  But the broken man in the broken world cannot repair himself. What is needed is a RESCUER, a SAVIOR, to redeem us from our fallen state. 

7. We should therefore “abandon the heresy of worshipping God and of praying to him. We should stop all speculation and vain talk about such matters and practice good so that good may result from our good deeds.

RESPONSE: Romans 3:10-12

as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
     no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”

 

The Buddha’s failure to engage in proper metaphysical and theological thought results in his making metaphysical and theological mistakes. This is always the way: those who disdain metaphysics and theology end up with defective metaphysics and theology. 

The Buddha’s answer, “Do good by following the Eightfold Path and you will achieve Nirvana,” is a false answer, because no one unassisted by Grace can do good, nor is it, I repeat, within the power of the broken being in the broken world to fix itself.  

The Buddha’s rejection of the life of selfish craving, Taṇhā is good as far as it goes, but there is also selfless craving. Taṇhā is cognate with the various Indo-European words, the English of which is Thirst, and true thirst can be quenched not be extinguishing it, but with the water of life: 

John 4:14 “but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Revelation 21:6 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the fountain of the water of life without payment.”

Revelation 22:17 “And let him who is thirsty come, let him who desires take the water of life without price.”

Buddhism offers only a palliative. It is not worthless, but it can no more solve the problem of human sin, suffering, misery, and despair than Stoicism could—which was a sort of Roman Buddhism, albeit in a nobler key.

Doctrines of Resignation such as Buddhism and Stoicism must give way to the doctrine of Christ the bringer of new life, of eternal life:

John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

Evidence of the Resurrection Accepted Even by Atheist New Testament Scholars

Cyber Penance

christ-898330_1920

This blog post is based on the Minimal Facts argument for the Resurrection of Jesus by Dr. Gary Habermas, and it one of the strongest arguments that I have seen for the resurrection.

Dr. Habermas is an American historian, New Testament scholar, and philosopher of religion , and he has been studying the resurrection for around 40 years now. During this time he has been cataloguing the accepted facts of the resurrection by every New Testament scholar he can find, regardless of their belief.

He says this about his Minimal Facts argument:

My Minimal Facts Argument in favor of Jesus’ resurrection was developed many years ago while writing my PhD dissertation.  It has two requirements for the historical facts that are used: each must be confirmed by several strong and independent arguments, plus the vast majority of even critical scholars must recognize the occurrence’s historical nature.  The critical scholars can…

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My Favorite Atheist Meme

So, this has got to be my number one favorite atheist meme:

Jesus vs demigods

Basically, it tries to show how Jesus is an utterly derivative mythological figure, with almost all his legendary attributes being drawn from various mythological demigods before him.

I have to say, it would be pretty persuasive … if any part of it were true.

Unfortunately, not a bit of it is. It is basically an atheist fabrication from whole cloth from beginning to end.

Here are the refutations, if you want to go through them all.  They are pretty interesting.

Probably the most interesting thing to know is that there are some parallels between Jesus and Krishna, but the dating in this meme is misleading. Krishna’s story in its original ancient form in he Mahabharata is only about 25 lines long and says almost nothing.  It really gets filled out around 200 A.D.— definitely after Christianity had reached India, which it did in the time of the Apostles, with Saint Thomas journeying there and founding one of the earliest Churches, where he remained, and Saint Bartholomew making an extended journey there. Indeed, the oldest Christian church still in existence (in the sense of church building) is located in India.

Similarly, there actually is a story of Dionysus turning water into wine, but that part of the Dionysus story is post-Christian and is a borrowing from the Christian story, in a late pagan attempt to jazz Dionysus up to appeal to Christians or even pagans, who by then had mostly lost all interest in the old myths.

Jesus vs Horus

Jesus vs Mithra

Jesus vs Krishna

Jesus vs Dionysus

And then I made this for Twitter replies. I may as well stick it on the end here:

Jesus vs demigods

The Burden of Proof Fallacy

The concept of “the burden of proof” is a matter of interpersonal protocol in debate or discussion. In formal contexts, such as courts of law, one side—in criminal cases in the United States, the prosecution—may hold the burden of proof.  Some formal debates also make use of a burden of proof as part of the rules.

A burden of proof fallacy occurs when someone attempts to invoke or assign a burden of proof outside of any agreement or interpersonal protocol.

In such cases, the concept of “the burden of proof” becomes a rhetorical trope that conceals two informal logical fallacies: special pleading and an argument to ignorance. A fallacy of special pleading occurs when one asks or demands (“pleads”) to be exempted from a rule or criterion to which everyone else is held for no relevant reason (or no reason at all).  An argument to ignorance fallacy has the form “my assertion is true until proven false.”

The burden of proof fallacy takes the form of “My position is the default position. My opponent has the burden of proof!” But in asserting that one’s position is “the default position”, one is making an argument to ignorance: this just is equivalent to saying “My position is true until it is proven false.” And the justification for this argument to ignorance is simply special pleading that one be allowed to use an argument to ignorance as if it were valid.

Both combined have the form “My argument is true until proven false, and although this is an argument to ignorance, I am specially pleading that I be allowed to use it, despite its invalidity.”  This sounds more legitimate when it is phrased as “My position is the default position, and my opponent has the burden of proof,” but the meaning is the same.

To attempt to lay the burden of proof solely on one’s opponent, as if one had some sort of metaphysical, moral, or logical right to do so is logically fallacious, intellectually dishonest, and unethical.  Since the burden of proof exists solely as a matter of interpersonal protocol, it cannot be placed upon someone without their consent.

As my readers know, I do not appreciate attempts to obligate me without my consent.  As my readers also know, I block this move by demanding that anyone who asserts that I have “the burden of proof” PROVE IT.  And he will never be able to do so, since the burden of proof is a matter of interpersonal protocol, and not any sort of metaphysical, logical, or ethical principle.  It is exactly the same as someone unilaterally attempting to say that I am bound by a contract I never agreed to or signed, just because he says I am a party to the contract.  He cannot “prove” I signed a contract I never signed.

Or to make an even more obvious analogy, it is like someone claiming that of two parties, one of them can consent for the other person, whether or not he or she agrees to this. This dynamic has the same structure as an accused rapist arguing to be acquitted of rape charges on the grounds that he consented for his victim and therefore there was consent.

No one in their right mind would accept this kind of argument. Consent precisely does not occur when only one of the two parties involve does the “consenting” for both. And it is not any more sound when it involves nonconsensual attempts to morally obligate someone with specious “burdens.”

“Microaggressions”, “Trigger Warnings”, and the New Meaning of “Trauma”

“Fuck your trauma.” 

chrishernandezauthor

When I joined the Marines, I met a man who had survived a helicopter crash during a training exercise. The first time I saw him his head and face were covered in burn scars. A balloon filled with saline, that looked like a dinosaur’s crest, was implanted in his scalp to stretch the skin so hair could grow. Something that looked exactly like the checkered buttstock of an M16A2 was imprinted on one side of his head. He greeted me when I checked in to my unit, and totally ignored the shocked expression I must have had when he approached. He shook my hand, asked a few questions, then left with a friendly “See you later, PFC.” His demeanor left me with the absurd thought, Maybe he doesn’t know how strange he looks.

He had been assigned to my reserve unit while undergoing treatment at a nearby military burn unit…

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The Earth Does Not Go Around The Sun

I made this meme some time ago, and I’m rather fond of it, so I’m putting it here to start with, because it makes the point that this post is about.

astronomers

Since the time of the Greeks, it was commonly believed that the earth was stationary at the center of the cosmos, with the sun and other planets orbiting the stationary earth. This belief was not insane. There are actually very many good reasons to think it is true, based on experience and phenomenological evidence.

Incidentally, the fact that the earth was “at the center” DID NOT mean that the ancients thought that this made the earth SUPER-IMPORTANT, and that, somehow, Copernicanism wrecked this idea that the earth and humanity was SUPER-IMPORTANT.  Did you ever read Dante’s Divine Comedy? Or at least the Inferno? Do you remember where Satan was? That’s right, the bottom of Hell, the lowest, meanest, place in the cosmos was … the center.

Back on point. Copernicus proposed a theory or a model that the earth went around the sun instead of the sun going around the earth. It wasn’t a very good model, since it had at least as many ad hoc adjustments as Ptolemy’s model, and was actually less predictively accurate. Nonetheless, although most astronomers regarded it as a mere curiosity, a small number of persons, most notably Galileo Galilei (whose Latin name was thus Galileus Galileus—which Kepler found endlessly amusing) decided, for reasons that are not clear, that Copernicanism was ABSOLUTE TRUTH, and started insisting it was, even when, like Galileo, they couldn’t come up with any compelling evidence.

But largely thanks to the work of scientists like Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler (Galileo actually contributed pretty much NOTHING to the debate, other than to get some people so angry and upset that research was probably retarded in some quarters), the astronomical models were improved.  Ironically, by the time of Galileo’s famous trial in 1633, when he was still choosing to die on the hill of an utterly dogmatic Copernicanism, science had already passed him by: serious astronomers were debating between the Tychonic system and the Keplerian system by them. Copernicus was as dead and done as Ptolemy.

Kepler’s elliptical orbits and laws of planetary motion more or less edged out the Tychonic model between 1630 and 1650.  If we are really generous and pick the 1630 date, then we can rightly say that people believed that the earth orbited the sun between 1630 and 1687, or 57 years.  Not quite as long as the 2000 years of believing the sun went around the earth, nor the 1400 or so years of the Ptolemaic system.

What happened it 1687, you ask? Isaac Newton, natural philosopher, published his Philosophiæ Naturalis Principe Mathematica (the Principia for short), in which he conclusively demonstrated that the earth and the sun orbit ONE ANOTHER, or more specifically, they both orbit their common center of gravity, which is a point actually located inside the sun, given its much greater mass than the earth.

Of course the planetary motions are much more complicated than this, since the other planets also have mass and therefore affect both the sun and the earth, and for that matter, EVERY SINGLE BODY IN THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE WITH MASS affects both the earth and the sun.  Nevertheless, THE POINT HERE is that NEITHER “the sun orbits the earth” NOR “the earth orbits the sun” is an entirely accurate statement.

STOP SAYING THIS AS IF IT WERE TRUE.  WE’VE KNOWN IT ISN’T SINCE 1687!

You might say, well, Eve, fair enough, it’s not STRICTLY TRUE that the earth orbits the sun, but it’s kind of true, because the effects of the other planets aren’t that great, and the effects of all the other massive bodies are so slight they can be discounted, and the common center of mass of the sun and the earth is inside the sun, which means that the combined effects of everything means that the earth goes around a moving point that is usually or always inside the sun, so isn’t it at least KIND OF TRUE that the earth orbits the sun?

Actually, no.

Newtonian motion, complex as it is, requires there be ABSOLUTE MOTION against the background of ABSOLUTE SPACE and ABSOLUTE TIME.  This was already being highly questioned in the 19th century, but it wasn’t until Einstein’s theories of special and then general relativity were produced that the notion was throughly killed to death.

Motion always occurs RELATIVE TO a given frame of reference.  That is what RELATIVITY means.  And there JUST IS NO ABSOLUTE, ONE TRUE FRAME OF REFERENCE.  You can use any point you like. The choice of an inertial frame of reference really depends on what you are trying to do, and it will be a choice made, by and large, to make your math easier.

If you want to, you can pick the center of mass of the earth as your frame of reference. In which case, within this frame of reference, all motion in the universe DOES, in fact, move around or is relative to the center of the earth, which is stationary.

If you want to you can pick the center of mass of the sun as your frame of reference. In which case, within that frame of reference, all motion in the universe DOES, in fact, move around or is relative to the center of the sun, which is stationary.

Or you can pick the Omphalos at Delphi, thought to be the center of the world by the ancient Greeks.

Or your belly button.

Or my cat.

Or Alpha Centauri.

Or literally ANYWHERE. ANY POINT IN SPACE ANYWHERE.

So, just to put a fricking stake in the heart of the vampire meme: THE EARTH DOES NOT GO AROUND THE SUN IN ANY ABSOLUTE SENSE.  YOU CAN SAY IT DOES, BUT ONLY BY PICKING AN ARBITRARY FRAME OF REFERENCE AND ANYONE ELSE CAN PICK A DIFFERENT FRAME OF REFERENCE AND SAY IT DOESN’T GO AROUND THE SUN AND YOU’LL BOTH BE EQUALLY RIGHT AND WRONG, RELATIVISTICALLY.

Goddamnit.

To end, here’s a meme, which explains why atheists shouldn’t even be talking about this:

gaiahelios