Catholic vs. Atheist - 2019-02-09 - Greg

Author Recorded Saturday February 9th, 2019

There are 47 episodes in the Versus:Atheist series.

Recorded February 9th, 2019

Catholic vs. Atheist - 2019-02-09 - Greg

Recorded September 11th, 2016

Catholic vs. Atheist - 2016-09-11 - Renaud

I met Greg on Aron Ra's interview, in the comments section on YouTube. He was raised with some Catholicism, but became an Atheist at an early age. Our conversation centered on origins and morality.


Catholic vs. Atheist - 2019-02-09 - Greg

Author Recorded July 30th, 2016

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These YouTube transcripts are generated automatically and are therefore unformatted and replete with errors.
hi my name is Greg and you're listening to Catholic versus atheist tell the listeners a little bit about yourself if you would please who you are what you believe and how you came to believe what you believe I am an atheist although I didn't always know that word I was raised to be a good Catholic boy boy but figured I had missed a lesson or a sermon or some such given that everyone else around me seemed to believe I was probably in my late teens when I heard the word atheist and realized that's what I was don't subscribe to any god or gods as for what else I may or may not believe I like to think it's based on my best assessment of the available evidence can you take us back to your childhood what sort of philosophy dominated the home my father was in the military a little bit rigid and discipline and whatnot religion on both sides of the family Protestantism on my dad's side and Catholicism on my mom's side and it was expected that we would believe in our God and be respectful of religion grew up in a trailer through some pretty difficult winters and always saw it as an adventure more than a hardship or anything like that but if feminism my mother was strong-willed independent wanted to work that caused some contention in the family amongst the men folk but she eventually won her argument and got a job and life continued then that was now can you talk about your earliest memories of how you categorized God and religion when you were very very young well it's as far as recollection goes there's basically two times of life before 10 years old approximately and after 10 years old before dad and of course we were regular Sunday churchgoers and I was always puzzled by church I remember once Furman specifically where the priest was talking about an all loving forgiving benevolent God and then the tone switched to Hellfire and damnation and vengeance and at that particular incident the collection plate passed by and I sort of connected the dots and thought to myself well I see a problem here and I decided that well no I don't belong to this community I don't believe what they believe nor do I have any preference to be believe what they believe how old are you now and how have you evolved between your teenage years and now just talk about that evolution if you would please sure mid my 50s now mid 50s as in my late teens or there abouts I came across the word a yest and identified as such understanding the meaning of the word and went from there about exploring on a somewhat casual and on-again off-again basis what other religions had to say about gods and faiths and all that to see if maybe there was some other strain that I could identify with there's more of an educational pursuit than a quest or faith or religion so I kept that up until my mid-20s mm-hmm slowing through my 30s and 40s I did the some personal investigation and two related matters just to assure myself that I was aware of all the arguments being made on both sides and in recent years that's become more of a diligent affair I'm trying to wrap my head around how folks like you believe in a God and accept the the arguments that people tend to make for God's and and I think I've heard pretty much all of the arguments and I've heard enough Christians I'm a big fan of Justin brierly's unbelievable to try and get more perspective from believers why they believe how they believe what evidence they rely on and I'm not the least bit impressed frankly I want to scream at my computer with them the likes are unbelievable but I understand that there they're doing it all in good faith they believe what they believe even if I'm not sure they believe the evidence they offer you need to understand that in my case it's an experiential existential conversion experience that I had and then faith seeks under this is a project of the Middle Ages you can look at people like san agustin and then all the way through to saint anselm and beyond into the Scholastic's and Saint Thomas Aquinas always seeking understanding but that we take it for granted that there is no understanding without faith we need to have faith first right so any sort of post hoc argumentation will be from the comfort of our faith which we are firmly established in experientially and existentially it's a contact it's an encounter with a person the person of God most atheists and I'm saying this as an ex atheist as a former atheist I can say with confidence that most atheists are mediocre atheists they're not digging into examine their atheism as soon as you start trying to be a faithful and devout and pious atheist you will discover that there is absolutely no way for you to maintain things like free will morality reason science justice anything that makes us human you cannot cling to it because you've rejected God you've rejected the supernatural and of course you've rejected along with that free will so if you remain a mediocre lukewarm atheist you will not examine your most cherished assumptions of your religion of atheism but as soon as you start examining it you will come to the conclusion that you have to jettison freewill and reason and science and everything else no I disagree with that entirely atheism just takes a position on a claim that gods exist and my response to that would be show me your best evidence and let's have that conversation but when you offer your best evidence for gods I take that as okay I hear you but I'm not persuaded even in the least that that's good evidence for the existence of gods that's all I mean by atheism I don't see any evidence that gods do or even could exist as I understand the definition of god or gods that most people seem to be using do we have free will perhaps we don't but it certainly feels like we do and we get along and live with each other is on assumption that we do does that determine entirely I don't know I like this idea of emergent property that collections of atoms and molecules result in selves that organized into organisms that have some degree I have an outlay of free well choice you're probably at least familiar with quantum mechanics yeah I studied physics at University Oh excellent then you're probably way out of me on the topic but there seems to be some degree of uncertainty and hold us these matched two atoms together at the same speed in the Large Hadron Collider for example they get different outcomes and they're compelled them to examine the data for more likely than not this over the other thing so I'm not entirely sure that there is a deterministic place where everything started such that you could follow the deterministic trail what I'm trying to say it can change right from the get-go or anywhere along the ways as far as I know there are two things I need to say about that the first thing is that quantum physics is a science and the results are predictable and reproducible and so on and so forth the fact that it's a statistical science doesn't change the fact that it is 100% in conformity with the laws of nature the other thing I wanted to say is that there is absolutely no correlation between this alleged randomness or indeterminacy which I consider to be nothing but an admission of our ignorance it's not as some people think evidence that there are uncaused natural causes that is completely unscientific it's completely unreasonable to posit an uncaused natural cause it would completely undermine science and the principle of sufficient reason to suggest that so what we have when we talk about randomness and indeterminacy is just a shrugging of the shoulders because we don't have access to reality we only have a limited access there are hard limits on what we can know we can't predict your behavior but that doesn't mean that your behavior is free for example every motion in your gray matter and your spinal column or in your nervous system generally the neurons that are firing they are never ever ever breaking or violating the laws of physics or biochemistry or anything else everything is in perfect conformity and this is why an atheist has to if he's going to deny the supernatural he has to admit that hard determinism is the case even though it's wonderful and delightful to look at the anomalies or the apparent paradoxical anomalies at the small scale or at the large scale with relativity they're also paradoxes at the large scale right but those paradoxes do not give us some sort of magical atheist fairy dust where we can sprinkle it and say oh well there might be freedom in there somewhere we know with certainty that if everything is natural then there is no freedom period you need the supernatural so I don't disagree with you very much on that but you threw in there that an atheist has to conclude one thing or another that it's a deterministic world and it's like no an atheist doesn't again an atheist is position on whether gods exist or even can't exist but you object to that and in the same way that I object to you using God as the the uncaused cause aren't you just making stuff up you're saying look I don't really know where all this came from so I'm just gonna imagine it and go I didn't call that on call I know the difference between God and the natural world is that God is not spatio-temporal you and I and the stuff that we deal with in physics and in the Natural Sciences and just in our day to day lives everything we encounter in the natural world that we can measure and touch is spatio-temporal that's what nature is nature is matter energy distributed in ever-changing configurations throughout space-time and that's why science natural science is limited and we need to go to philosophy and use pure reason to deduce by a reduction to absurdity proof that the first cause cannot be natural it has to be supernatural why because if we assume that there is no first cause or that that first cause exists but it's purely natural then we have something that is absolutely untenable philosophically namely infinite time behind us we have to reject that therefore we have ruled out that there is no first cause and we have also ruled out that the first cause but that first cause is natural and that only leaves one option that leaves this supernatural first cause which is infinite in every perfection because an effect cannot be greater than its cause I accept any of that you go straight to the supernatural that because the natural examination can only get us this far we must go to the supernatural we're presuppose a supernatural a presuppose a beginning that's not natural I don't see any reason to go there were you claimed gods for the leprechauns through Shiva and then we could have the conversation about who's more likely to be right they are you about our presumption of the supernatural any candidate for God is easy to either confirm as the true God or to eliminate as a false god we just need to ask a few questions about the infinite perfections the attributes of this fairy or this Flying Spaghetti Monster or whatever you want to pause it as a candidate for God is it changeable and made out of parts as a configuration of matter energy and space-time if so it's not god it's that easy we are forced by reason to admit that there is a first cause and that the first cause is not natural if you want to say otherwise then what you're saying necessarily is there's infinite time behind us but we know there cannot be infinite time behind us because you and I are here right now and even if entropy and the laws of thermodynamics are not universally valid even if they're not we can still use set theory just picture yourself in line and you're trying to get up to the counter you took your number and there's certain number of people ahead of you right so there's a finite amount of time you'll have to wait before you can go up to the counter but if someone jumps ahead of you in the line that's gonna delay you and if two people jump in front of you in the line that'll delay you twice as long and three people three times as long and so on and so forth but if infinite people jumped ahead of you in line you would never go up to the counter and by going up to the counter you can picture that as being born out of your mother's womb into the world so you have been born your turn has arrived you've come to the counter that means there are not infinite people jumping ahead of you in the line so we know with certainty even if entropy is not the case we know a certainty that the universe has a beginning and at that beginning that first cause is not natural let's say I agree with you all the way up to there there's a causal chain that it started somewhere from something somehow don't know I'm comfortable with that we don't know maybe one day we will what I'm not comfortable with is people who presume that gods do or must exist and had something to do with them I'm asking you why do you imagine that I could insert leprechauns or Shiva as I said earlier and then we're back to disagreeing about the nature of Lister's but leprechauns and Sheba's are either spatio-temporal or not either they're composed of parts and subject to change or not we can do the acid test on any candidate that you have forgot and I just want to address very briefly this idea of gods plural there is only one God and we know that with absolutely rational certainty because either the candidate you bring forward is identical in every attribute with God in every infinite perfection or not if he is identical then they are not two but one and if they differ in some way then the candidate simply is not God or something of an impasse where you're just telling me what isn't what isn't and I'm saying why would I why would I accept that as opposed to some other claim well you would need to go back and think about the first cause that that I think is your best bet either that or meditate on your own existence because it seems you take for granted this fact of existence and you think it's some sort of random emergent property that evolved from a dead universe I would recommend you go and meditate on that and think about that because the bald bear fact of your existence I think is all the evidence you need for God either your God or God as God so spend some quiet time thinking about that that's my recommendation and you're supposing that I haven't meditated on my own existence and come to a considered conclusion I believe that I have I would recommend going deeper because when you realize that existence simply is that it doesn't have a beginning life has no beginning your picture of the world is that life came about from non-life so you haven't sufficiently meditated on life itself do you accept or not accept the claim that life is eternal I wouldn't accept that at all far as I could well we're a collection of atoms that turn to molecules turn to cells turn to organisms that are very contemporary it hasn't always been that way and probably we won't always be that way it'll be something else the fact that you think that life came from non-life tells me you haven't gone deep enough didn't say that I said do you believe that life is eternal or not you said no so you you have not yet encountered that fact that this life that you participated in is eternal but what basis do you have for morality given the fact there's no difference between the best-case scenario and the worst-case scenario for any human being ever I think it was Rawls who put the argument out that if you can imagine having the capacity to create a world that you would be inserted into but you don't know what position you would be inserted into what would you like that world don't look like right so I imagine it's not very hard for me to imagine that well at a minimum I want a non-violent world I want a world where people aren't constantly threatening me or my stuff the world in which I have security a person and property first and foremost right because the material world we live in we we value probability we value things we possess things we want to keep things we don't want other people stealing our stuff or harming us so from that premise then we can start to build a world that's examinable logically and really as to what gives us at least that or something better than that yeah but there's no principle that you can give to the selfish psychopath to curb his behavior you just need to use a big stick the basis of morality is whatever the group decides they're gonna enforce by threats of violence and taking away your freedom there is actually no principle that you can give to these selfish Psychopaths or sociopaths you just have to use a big stick yeah and your stick would be gone right here god no my morality is based on the reality that we have free will we have reason and we can choose higher goods or lower goods and we can make these choices and they do have consequences you have no principle to offer him he's gonna try to maximize his pleasure during his hundred years on earth and he believed me his approach will be radically different from your nice guy approach probably yes I accept that so then we're dealing with a remedy of sorts right to address the psychopath you don't have a principle though you have nothing to say to someone who says that I cheat in this way I cheat in that way but I have an airtight plan where I'll never be caught I will never have to be punished in this life and there is no afterlife so as long as I can get away with it in this life I'm living large I'm enjoying my life more than you are because you're trying to be a goody-goody and you're trying to please your neighbors and you're trying to like maximize everyone's pleasure well I'm choosing to maximize my own pleasure and I'm getting away with it and there's absolutely no principle that you have to offer me because you're an atheist whereas if I were to meet this person I could put the fear of hell into them and they have a lasting consequence that differentiates the outcome based on the worst-case scenario if they do the wrong choices or the best-case scenario if they strive to do the right thing for the right reasons do you see the difference I have principles and you only have group things why can't I do the same thing in real time in real world put them in jail remove them from the rest of society because he's sophisticated and he's not going to get caught and he's laughing at you oh that's not no but listen to atheists are discussing their morality okay neither one believes that there's any afterlife both of them believe that total annihilation awaits them no matter what they do and they're talking to each other and they're comparing notes on morality and one person says I try to use John Rawls theory of justice and the other one laughs at you and says you're a complete fool wasting your life I have so much money and pleasure and power and I have the respect of my community because I know how to play the game and maximize my individual pleasure you've been sucked into some groupthink where you're trying to please your neighbors and everyone else would be a nice guy there's nothing you could say to that guy there's no principal that you could say to him he's winning in the game of life in the Atheist worldview well there is in fact a lot I could say to that person now I will agree with you as to whether it's going to be effective or not remains questionable if they're in fact a psychopath but I would argue that most of us are natural-born Psychopaths and we learn over time about what works and what doesn't work because we're social creatures who need each other babies for example learn what works to get their mother's attention or the resources they're looking for yet food or clean diaper whatever and we learned that all the way along we learn with our interactions with other people that we can't be that careless selfish and expect to get along with other people if we take from other people and and harm other people some of those to act looking for us for revenge right it's the way the old water was the tribal old world do you harm me or my family then my village will come after your village and probably in discriminant we harm some member of your that land whether they were responsible or not therein lies chaos for everybody so what we need people to understand is what results from this sort of psychopathic behaviour you're portraying it yeah he can call me a fool and we can argue all day long all week long about who's right who's wrong but you asked they were my sense of morality come true and that's what I've given you now you're saying but there are problems with that well there's problems with every model of morality as I understand even yours I would use jail or the threat of jail to the tourists psychopaths in the same way you would use I presume the threat of eternal damnation on the supposition of your God what's the difference well what's the difference between finite and infinite you don't know know what's the difference between my remedy my proposed remedy to a psychopath or psychopathic behavior and yours your punishment is finite my punishment is infinite that's the difference if you can't grasp the difference I don't know what to tell you it's it's a big difference well let's say then my prophet I'm not saying they don't misconstrue it that way but let's take my proposition to the extreme and say the sentence is death there now attention but all of the Psychopaths problems are over as soon as he's dead according to you all of our problems are over by eliminating the psychopath yeah your problems are over and his problems are over if you want to talk about the biggest stack then there you go my stack burst is your stick what's the dope but there is no suffering once you're annihilated there's no suffering so there there is no comparison between complete annihilation and hell there's absolutely no comparison whatsoever so now you're striking me is a bit cruel you want to intimidate people into compliant by the supposition of a god and all I want to do is try and solve the problem in a way that hopefully most or all people can agree to and psychopath disagrees and says you can't do this to me because my rights are just as valid as yours it's like it gets a little complicated there we can't have this everyone else is at risk because of your behavior and we need to stop yeah I don't think we're gonna see eye to eye on morality but I do at the end of my interviews I asked my guest to give a little closing thought a little message of hope from your own perspective what do you think you might be able to say to the listeners look life is difficult it's a struggle there's lots of suffering it seems to be unavoidable maybe try to be kind be kind to the extent you can and if you're not getting that back in kind then either remove yourself from the situation or deal with it as best you're able but start with be kind let's let's not be unnecessarily brutish with each other we have to figure out how to live together without devolving into chaos and part of my concern about religion among other ideologies is it divides us of the tribes of people who think this is right and that's wrong I don't know that there is a right there certainly as a different morality is coming from different cultures different ideologies including religious law so can we maybe put that aside and just try and live together more kindly as opposed to self-righteous layer technologically I suppose

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