The Experience of God

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dastardly stem
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Re: The Experience of God

Post by dastardly stem »

DrStakhanovite wrote:
Wed Jun 15, 2022 1:59 am
Don didn’t address this to me, but I thought it might helpful to comment on it:

Don Bradley wrote:
Sat Jun 11, 2022 9:48 am
You mentioned the idea that you "could be missing something." Would a reasonable way of looking into this possibility be to check into, say, the general regard in which David Bentley Hart is held as a scholar, the general regard with which Yale University Press is held in academia, and the general tenor of reviews by those whose field is philosophy?
Hart is generally seen more as a theologian with a certain degree of philosophical competency. In the world of analytic philosophy (which represents the majority of philosophy departments that are English speaking, and a substantial minority of European departments), Hart is nearly unknown. In the specific field of philosophy of religion, I’ve never seen him discussed or even mentioned. I’m less in touch with continental philosophy (a substantial minority in the English speaking world, and the majority of departments in Europe), but I have a hard time imagining him carrying much currency with that crowd. I know that Thomistic philosophers (represented in Jesuit schools and other Roman Catholic institutions) interact with him on a regular basis.

None of the above entails Hart doesn’t have anything meaningful to say on philosophical topics or that he doesn’t have any philosophical ability. Hart has spent far more time in the history of philosophy and drawn a lot of inspiration from Ancient Greek and Hellenistic philosophy, the classical Islamic philosophers, and the Jewish mystical tradition than he has wrestling with the contemporary issues in metaphysics. This is probably why Hart’s book resonates with Kishkumen, because their interests are much more aligned.

Most important though is the fact that Hart’s book really isn’t addressed to philosophically minded atheists. I think Hart’s material would be good to begin a conversation with/on materialism (more appropriate to call it physicalism nowadays), but if you just outright compared it to the mature expressions of materialism/physicalism seen in a Jaegwon Kim or a Ned Block, it would be like bringing a potato gun to an artillery barrage.

And why should Hart have to address a Kim or a Block? Neither of those guys exert any meaningful influence on popular expressions of atheism and they never really address the topic of theism or religion in general. They are simply not a threat in the sense Dawkins or Hitchens are, because they are too busy to be the kind of public figures that write editorials weighing in on culture war tripe.

You could say the same with any other contemporary philosophical topics that Hart touches on. Does this book represent a meaningful contribution to the field of philosophy? No, but I don’t think it was intended to be and probably shouldn’t be judged by that metric.
I wouldn’t imagine it otherwise. Very helpful again, Stak. I’m glad I’m back to speaking to heavy hitters as if I have something to say. Eh… what do you? Stick it out there and let the circus go.

On Gadiantons excellent post, yep. I see where you’re coming from. Wish I was as sharp and knowledgeable. Yes, I still consider classical theism an explanation of the god of nothing. I mean imagine the Bible’s corporeal one god among many fitting into harts concept of god? It’s like the opposite. Mormons should be trying to recover that old, I mean really old, god and run from classical theism. I mean, that’s what I’d expect them to do.
“Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.”
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Gadianton
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Re: The Experience of God

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So Stak, two questions for you.
I think Hart’s material would be good to begin a conversation with/on materialism (more appropriate to call it physicalism nowadays)
1) In Hart's view (assuming you're aware of it), how does the failure of "materialism" to explain mind score a point for God?

2) What is the best argument for God, in your opinion?
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Doctor CamNC4Me
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Re: The Experience of God

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Gadianton wrote:
Wed Jun 15, 2022 3:09 am
So Stak, two questions for you.
I think Hart’s material would be good to begin a conversation with/on materialism (more appropriate to call it physicalism nowadays)
1) In Hart's view (assuming you're aware of it), how does the failure of "materialism" to explain mind score a point for God?

2) What is the best argument for God, in your opinion?
I’ll take a crack at #2 - The universe is symmetrical and shouldn’t exist. The only thing that could logically keep the universe from collapsing into oblivion has to be an outside force exerting some effect on it.
I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.
Notice the symmetry? Oddly prescient for a Bronze Age god to present this notion into the minds of barbarian Jews. Perhaps the Jewish god was explaining a broader scope of his Being, in that he exists in such a state that he prevents the universe from disappearing because he has a purpose? And what is that purpose?

He needs money.

It’s like their god is the ultimate sucker who always buys high and sells low. Man, he needs money, and more importantly, he needs his money managers, his priesthood, to fly first class and to ensure their kids get full-ride scholarships to school. That’s very important to the god of the House of Israel (and the Wasatch Front). And because this god needs money he somehow inspired a bunch of inbred yokels to dupe other gullible dupes to set up thousands of revenue centers, collect ‘ungodly’ amounts of money, invest it in meat farms, office buildings, and tech stocks until now the jewish-Mormon god has so much money he can fritter it away any way he pleases and still have some left over for the Millennium.

So, the best proof that God exists is that the Mormon church is sitting on piles of lucre, and idiots keep giving it more money. <- Infallible reasoning.

- Doc
1. Speech is aggression.
2. Every utterance has a winner or a loser.
3. Curiosity is feigned.
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Gadianton
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Re: The Experience of God

Post by Gadianton »

Cam wrote: The universe is symmetrical and shouldn’t exist. The only thing that could logically keep the universe from collapsing into oblivion has to be an outside force exerting some effect on it.
MG reaches for his checkbook...
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Re: The Experience of God

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dastardly stem wrote:
Wed Jun 15, 2022 12:12 am

Hi huckleberry. We can drop any reference to Hart. Please ignore my Hart comments and feel free to answer my questions.
Stem, there is perhaps a layer of your question which is not just silly as it appears to be on the surface. I did already propose a simple answer. By their nature mammals are more interesting than virus because the harmony of their potential is greater.

perhaps I could wonder what sort of damage god would have to have undergone to find paint drying as interesting as a play by Shakespeare?

I am willing to pause a bit to search in my mind for some place your question might make sense. Are you concerned about the role competition has in the scheme of things?
dastardly stem
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Re: The Experience of God

Post by dastardly stem »

Gadianton wrote:
Wed Jun 15, 2022 1:29 am
Rubs me the wrong way like crazy. The Philosophy of Mind may be the most active area of analytic philosophy in the last 60 years, and all the good material against "physicalism" -- which is what we call it now, not materialism -- is written by other atheist philosophers with no interest in God. Will Hart's rejection of physicalism be more profound than the atheist (naturalist) David Chalmers?... Chalmers rejects the weakest versions of physicalism, but the thing is, none of the alternatives are enhanced by God.
Well, no...I mean not really an official answer. I don't really know. I can't imagine it being the case.

I think I couldn't get why Chalmers was insistent that our minds couldn't be simply a result of the physical. I found this from Carroll interesting, vis a vis his poetic naturalism (long, sorry but, interesting to me):
David Chalmers, who coined the phrase “Hard Problem of consciousness,” is arguably the leading modern advocate for the possibility that physical reality needs to be augmented by some kind of additional ingredient in order to explain consciousness—in particular, to account for the kinds of inner mental experience pinpointed by the Hard Problem. One of his favorite tools has been yet another thought experiment: the philosophical zombie.

Unlike undead zombies, which seek out brains and generate movie franchises, philosophical zombies look and behave exactly like ordinary human beings. Indeed, they are perfectly physically identical to non-zombie people. The difference is that they are lacking in any inner mental experience. We can ask, and be puzzled about, what it is like to be a bat, or another person. But by definition, there is no “what it is like” to be a zombie. Zombies don’t experience.

The possible existence of zombies hinges on the idea that one can be a naturalist but not a physicalist—we can accept that there is only the natural world, but believe that there is more to it than its physical properties. There are not, according to this view, nonphysical kinds of things, such as immaterial souls. But the physical things with which we are familiar can have other kinds of properties—there can be a separate category of mental properties. This view is property dualism, as distinct from good old-fashioned Cartesian substance dualism, which holds that there are physical and nonphysical substances.

The idea is that you can have a collection of atoms, and tell me everything there is to say about the physical properties of those atoms, and yet you haven’t told me everything. The system has various possible mental states. If the atoms make up a rock, those states might be primitive and unobservable, essentially irrelevant. But if they make up a person, a rich variety of mental states come to life. To understand consciousness, on this view, we need to take those mental properties seriously. If these mental properties affected the behavior of particles in the same way that physical properties like mass and electric charge do, then they would simply be another kind of physical property. You are free to postulate new properties that affect the behavior of electrons and photons, but you’re not simply adding new ideas to the Core Theory; you are saying that it is wrong.

If mental properties affect the evolution of quantum fields, there will be ways to measure that effect experimentally, at least in principle—not to mention all of the theoretical difficulties with regard to conservation of energy and so on that such a modification would entail. It’s reasonable to assign very low credence to such a complete overhaul of the very successful structure of known physics.

Alternatively, we could imagine that mental properties just go along for the ride, as far as physical systems are concerned. The Core Theory can be a complete description of the physical behavior of the quantum fields of which we are made, but not a complete description of us. Such a description would need to specify our mental properties as well.

Zombies would be collections of particles in exactly the same arrangement as would ordinarily make up a person, obeying the same laws of physics and therefore behaving in precisely the same way, but lacking the mental properties that account for inner experience. As far as you can tell by talking to them, all of your friends and loved ones are secretly zombies. And they can’t be sure you’re not a zombie. Perhaps they have suspicions.

The big question about zombies is a simple one: can they possibly exist? If they can, it’s a knockout argument against the idea that consciousness can be explained in completely physical terms. If you can have two identical collections of atoms, both of which take the form of a human being, but one has consciousness and the other does not, then consciousness cannot be purely physical. There must be something else going on, not necessarily a disembodied spirit, but at least a mental aspect in addition to the physical configuration.

When we talk about whether zombies are possible, we don’t necessarily mean physically possible. We don’t need to imagine that we could find an honest-to-goodness zombie here in our real world, made out of the same particles that you and I are made from (if you’re not a zombie, which I’m going to assume henceforth). We’re just imagining a possible world, with a different fundamental ontology, even though it might have very similar-seeming particles and forces. What it would be lacking is mental properties.

As long as zombies are conceivable or logically possible, Chalmers argues, then we know that consciousness is not purely physical, regardless of whether zombies could exist in our world. Because then we would know that consciousness can’t simply be attributed to what matter is doing: the same behavior of matter could happen with or without conscious experience.

Of course, Chalmers also then says that zombies are conceivable. He has no trouble conceiving of them, and maybe you feel the same way. Can we then conclude that there is more to the world than just the physical universe? Deciding whether something is “conceivable” is harder than it might seem at first glance. We can conjure up an image in our mind of someone that looks and acts just like a human being, but who is dead inside, with no inner experiences. But can we really do so without imagining any differences in the physical behavior of them versus an ordinary person?

Imagine a zombie stubbed its toe. It would cry out in pain, because that’s what a human would do, and zombies behave just like humans. (Otherwise we would be able to recognize zombies by observing their external behavior.) When you stub your toe, certain electrochemical signals bounce around your connectome, and the exact same signals bounce around the zombie connectome. If you asked it why it cried out, it could say, “Because I stubbed my toe and it hurts." When a human says something like that, we presume it’s telling the truth. But the zombie must be lying, because zombies have no mental states such as “experiencing pain.” Why do zombies lie all the time?

For that matter, are you sure you’re not a zombie? You think you’re not, because you have access to your own mental experiences. You can write about them in your journal or sing songs about them in a coffee shop. But a zombie version of you would do those things as well. Your zombie doppelgänger would swear in all sincerity that it had inner experiences, just as you would. You don’t think you’re a zombie, but that’s just what a zombie would say.

The problem is that the notion of “inner mental states” isn’t one that merely goes along for the ride as we interact with the world. It has an important role to play in accounting for how people behave. In informal speech, we certainly imagine that our mental states influence our physical actions. I am happy, and therefore I am smiling. The idea that mental properties are both separate from physical properties, and yet have no influence on them whatsoever, is harder to consistently conceive of than it might first appear.

According to poetic naturalism, philosophical zombies are simply inconceivable, because “consciousness ” is a particular way of talking about the behavior of certain physical systems. The phrase “experiencing the redness of red” is part of a higher-level vocabulary we use to talk about the emergent behavior of the underlying physical system, not something separate from the physical system. That doesn’t mean it’s not real; my experience of redness is perfectly real, as is yours. It’s real in exactly the same way as fluids and chairs and universities and legal codes are real—in the sense that they play an essential role in a successful description of a certain part of the natural world, within a certain domain of applicability.

It might seem strange that the logical possibility of a concept depends on whether this or that ontology turns out to be true, but we can’t decide whether “humanlike beings without consciousness” is a sensible concept until we know what consciousness is.

In 1774, British clergyman Joseph Priestley isolated the element of oxygen. If you asked him whether he could imagine water without any oxygen, he presumably would have had no problem, since he didn’t know that water is made of molecules with one oxygen atom and two hydrogens. (Water was first decomposed into hydrogen and oxygen in 1800.) But now we know better, and realize that “water without oxygen” is not conceivable. In some possible world with somewhat somewhat different laws of physics, there may be another substance that is not H2O, yet has all the phenomenological properties of water—liquid at room temperature, transparent to visible light, and so on. But it wouldn’t be the water that we know and love. Likewise, if you think that conscious experience is something truly distinct from the physical behavior of matter, you should have no trouble imagining zombies; but if consciousness is just a concept we use to describe certain physical behaviors, zombies become inconceivable.

The idea that our mental experiences or qualia are not actually separate things, but instead are useful parts of certain stories we tell about ordinary physical things, is one that many people find hard to swallow.

Even with the best of intentions on both sides, a dialogue between a property dualist who believes in the separate reality of mental properties (call him M) and a poetic naturalist who believes they are just ways of talking about physical states (call her P) can be frustrating.
ETA: Forgot to source this: Carroll, (2016), The Big Picture, pg 355-359.
Last edited by dastardly stem on Wed Jun 15, 2022 2:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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dastardly stem
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Re: The Experience of God

Post by dastardly stem »

huckelberry wrote:
Wed Jun 15, 2022 4:43 am

Stem, there is perhaps a layer of your question which is not just silly as it appears to be on the surface. I did already propose a simple answer. By their nature mammals are more interesting than virus because the harmony of their potential is greater.

perhaps I could wonder what sort of damage god would have to have undergone to find paint drying as interesting as a play by Shakespeare?

I am willing to pause a bit to search in my mind for some place your question might make sense. Are you concerned about the role competition has in the scheme of things?
Hey Huckelberry...I'll be honest. I can't tell what we're saying anymore. You took issue with me saying something about God demands people worship him. I get the wording sounds problematic if we are to think God is good, but I can't figure out why its problematic other than people want to assume he's good. I can't see why believers worship God other than to please him. If they refuse to worship him (granted, as we said, worship can mean many things) does that not please him? Who knows? I guess. I might just keep thinking God demands worship, and hope to find a better way to express that concern of mine.
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Gadianton
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Re: The Experience of God

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Stem,

The point about Chalmers wasn't whether he's right or wrong or whether I agree with him, but that as basically an atheist, he rejects minimal physicalism, and at least back then, had the novel argument to beat. Why is it that the atheists make all the progress (presumably toward God?) and the theists ride for free?

Popularizers like Hart and DCP (Chalmers is also a popularizer, but specialized in his subject) grandstand about how hard the problem of consciousness is (science can't answer, therefore God?), but none of those names who have advanced the subject and put the toughest question to physicalism are theists (or at least are arguing for theism). Theologians are looking on, waiting for table scraps. It's not a religiously driven subject. The fall of physicalism would mean just about nothing for religion if you look at the alternatives, from what I can see. Bottom line: the rejection of physicalism in today's conception doesn't leave a "non physical" world in the way that believers think about "non physical".

main point: it's non-believers who are driving the move away from physicalism with innovative arguments, not theologians. secondary point: If physicalism falls, what's left isn't anything more "God friendly" from what I can see, hence my question to Stak.

Sean C. is very good I'd say, if he's a New Atheist, then he's the exception to the rule, and puts the time into understanding things from the theological perspective.

Almost nobody is going to agree with Chalmers, but wow, if only a theologian would have come up with his argument instead, that person would literally become a multi-millionaire overnight. Guaranteed Templeton prize plus 50k speaking deals.
dastardly stem
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Re: The Experience of God

Post by dastardly stem »

Gadianton wrote:
Wed Jun 15, 2022 6:28 pm
Stem,

The point about Chalmers wasn't whether he's right or wrong or whether I agree with him, but that as basically an atheist, he rejects minimal physicalism, and at least back then, had the novel argument to beat. Why is it that the atheists make all the progress (presumably toward God?) and the theists ride for free?
I got your point and find it a good one and essential one for the context this all came in. But I happened to have that from Carroll handy and figured I'd add it for, what, posterity reasons. It wasn't offered as a defense, or a refutation...just interesting, I hope.
Popularizers like Hart and DCP (Chalmers is also a popularizer, but specialized in his subject) grandstand about how hard the problem of consciousness is (science can't answer, therefore God?), but none of those names who have advanced the subject and put the toughest question to physicalism are theists (or at least are arguing for theism). Theologians are looking on, waiting for table scraps. It's not a religiously driven subject. The fall of physicalism would mean just about nothing for religion if you look at the alternatives, from what I can see. Bottom line: the rejection of physicalism in today's conception doesn't leave a "non physical" world in the way that believers think about "non physical".

main point: it's non-believers who are driving the move away from physicalism with innovative arguments, not theologians. secondary point: If physicalism falls, what's left isn't anything more "God friendly" from what I can see, hence my question to Stak.

Sean C. is very good I'd say, if he's a New Atheist, then he's the exception to the rule, and puts the time into understanding things from the theological perspective.

Almost nobody is going to agree with Chalmers, but wow, if only a theologian would have come up with his argument instead, that person would literally become a multi-millionaire overnight. Guaranteed Templeton prize plus 50k speaking deals.
I could not agree more with all of this. As far as I can tell there are 4 New Atheists out there. Everyone else who hasn't found belief in God are just atheist. That should keep the definition pretty clean. Therefore Sean Carroll is not a New Atheist.

Aside from that, I agree and it was my biggest problem with Hart, even if I didn't express that well. His effort to combat physicalism, was his effort to defeat atheism, and not much more. How he figured that approach justified his god belief was left for believers to delight in, I guess. To me, he didn't get very close to what he set out to do.
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Re: The Experience of God

Post by Kishkumen »

Gadianton wrote:
Wed Jun 15, 2022 1:29 am
I read two reviews of Hart's book, one good and one bad. The glowering review from Christianscholars.com convinced me reading the book would be a waste of time. Sometimes that happens. For instance, Reverend Kishkuman's favorable review of Witnesses convinced me that I probably wouldn't be able to sit through it, even for the sake of morbid entertainment.
Glowing review, Dean? A glowering review would be a negative one, no? One in which the reviewer is metaphorically glowering at the book and its author?

In any case, I am happy to have saved you the trouble of seeing a movie you would evidently hate. I found it fun, but that's me.
That being said, in the case of Hart's book, not because the book is a joke, it's probably pretty good for what it is, I just don't think that what it is will tell me anything radically new.
That could well be the case. I don't spend a lot of time with theology, philosophy, and so forth. I found it useful, but I was in the market for a more popular approach, albeit one that is still relatively meaty and well thought out.
These quotes sum up the greater part of the review:
reviewer wrote:The “New Atheists” write sophomoric books caricaturing religious belief, and their fans gather before atheist self-help preachers and employ a rocking band to set the mood. David Bentley Hart believes that the new atheism fits very well with the spirit of our shallow, consumer civilization.
reviewer wrote:When the New Atheists rail on religious belief, they are rarely if ever speaking of any God affirmed in any version of classical theism.
reviewer wrote:Hart contends that modern religious fundamentalists and atheists, alike, are working with a concept of “God” that is more akin to what ancient peoples, even the ancient Hebrews, referred to as the “gods.”
A lot of Christians probably see Hart as a life raft in this effort, so I doubt they are the best reviewers of his work. They are like "wow, a really smart dude full of confidence and swagger who puts the atheists in their place." Like Nibley on the shelf.
I'll quickly note in the spirit of my challenge to Don in my last post, that Mormons are working with a concept of "God" that is more akin to what ancient peoples believed, and rejecting classical theism is something Mormons wear as a badge of honor.
Yeah, and I think that Nauvoo/Brigham theology went too far. Current LDS theology is a real mess in my view and nothing that can stand up to challenges from the outside. The basic appeal of LDS theology is that it serves as a surface refutation of some of the worst aspects of Augustinian and Calvinist theology. And that is not to poo-poo the value of attacking the uglier parts of those views. What Hart may inadvertently achieve is demonstrating that Orthodox theology already addressed many of those problems better than Mormonism could.

Mormonism is also much worse, to my limited understanding, at addressing atheist arguments. At least I can see how Classical theism is plausibly defensible against atheist attacks. Mormonism? Certainly current LDS theology hasn't a leg to stand on.
Rubs me the wrong way like crazy. The Philosophy of Mind may be the most active area of analytic philosophy in the last 60 years, and all the good material against "physicalism" -- which is what we call it now, not materialism -- is written by other atheist philosophers with no interest in God. Will Hart's rejection of physicalism be more profound than the atheist (naturalist) David Chalmers? Daniel Dennett himself rejects reductive physicalism. All the New Atheists do, I think, Pinker is the other guy whose framework wouldn't make sense in reductive physicalism. Chalmers rejects the weakest versions of physicalism, but the thing is, none of the alternatives are enhanced by God. The first issue here is the very issue of why philosophy of mind is a philosophical discussion and not science discussion. One example. Richard Rorty and David Lewis both have fun examples of encountering aliens wired totally different than humans. Maybe their biology is so different (maybe even machines? Dennett) or their mannerisms that we're at a loss of ascribing a first person experience to them -- do they feel pain, etc? How would you prove that they do or don't? For that matter, how do you know other people have a first-person experience? Shared biology (Sober) or behavior; hardly proof, but without it, what? Now, how would God help settle the problem of other minds aside from declaring the other mind sentient? That other minds is a vexing problem that science probably can't solve and that philosophers can debate forever, doesn't mean it's a limitation of a variety where God helps. Compare to suddenly finding your car keys. In principle, that is a gap that God possibly explains, even if we hold a high bar for a standard of evidence, I can imagine God explaining a physical anomaly far easier than I can imagine God solving the problem of other minds. In physics problems, God intervening makes sense in principle, in philosophy, the principle is the thing we don't understand in the first place.
Interesting. I was aware of the term physicalism, but, honestly, materialism is just a lot easier for a layperson like me to work with, and at least as a term it overlaps some with internal Mormon discussions. My recollection of Hart on this question is that he contrasts two views, one in which consciousness emerges as kind of a serendipitous accident in a universe of meaninglessness and one in which God is consciousness writ large and that reality is thus pregnant with intelligence and meaning. Honestly it has been some months since I read it, and I know I am not doing this justice. He admittedly does not frame the problem in terms of engaging with the latest Philosophy of Mind arguments. He is laying things out in the big picture and contrasting overall assumptions and approaches.

When it comes down to it, most physicalist arguments I have read did not resonate with my experience of life, and I don't see that it is necessary to hold such views to be a rational thinker and a decent human being. Do the believers have great answers to rebut atheist arguments? For the most part, I think not. Surely science and philosophy continue to expand our understanding of the cosmos much more than Christian theology, and yet I am not sure it is a condemnation of belief in divinity or divinities that scientists and philosophers in the atheist camp are making most of the forward progress. To an extent, that may be incidental, especially on the science side. Less so perhaps in philosophy.
Not mentioned is the ontological argument, which in my opinion, is the only argument for God, and the only proper way to define God. One thing that I can respect about the ontological argument is that it was actually conceived of by a theologian and original to theology, it isn't high philosophy somebody else thought of aped to the cause of God. I'm not going to defend that argument in this post as already this is long, I realize the ontological argument sounds totally silly, but, just putting it out there that if I were to go back and question my atheism, I'd start by reviewing the ontological argument.
Cool! I look forward to it!
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