Catholic vs. Atheist - 2019-09-23 - William McCauley and the IPM

Author Recorded Monday September 23rd, 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

William invited me to speak with his Indianapolis Philosophy Meetup (IPM) group. Most of the questions centered on trying to understand how we can know that God exists, and which God it is. It was a fun experience for me and I hope to do it again some time.

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These YouTube transcripts are generated automatically and are therefore unformatted and replete with errors.
my name is William I'll go by William McCauley online and what this is is I have a group that means twice a month and it's called Indianapolis philosophy meetup and it's you know very broad range of topics but we would try to approach things from like a philosophical standpoint or be open to a lot of philosophical opinions and I i love the philosophy religion a lot and so well i wanted to do for the group ultimately was to have different guest speakers guest thinkers to discuss their various perspectives so people could have a dialogue with them so it would just be us kind of talking to each other maybe be like us having the best representatives of different positions because like I could talk about Catholicism or Marxism or anarchism something like that but it's better if you have someone who's either an expert in or has been steeped in it for a long time to represent it so you can have like a fair representation of it and so you're you're the first person I've had as a guest of a person so for the first few months it's just been people who I've you know just local people us discussing things but I really wanted to have to start having virtual and live guests and so I listen to your podcast a lot so I thought you'd be a good first guest you know and a lot of people who are in this group have it they either have a Christian background or they it's usually kind of a Christian dragon or Buddhist dragon or something they're familiar enough with it that they have a familiar with like the various like theistic terminology and some arguments and stuff like that and so when I told that like I have a guy who wants to discuss his uh evidences or at least at least his reasons for believing monotheism we got pretty excited so I'm bringing just talking about this stuff so my own position is I you could say I always say I'm probably best described as agnostic I think that you know our philosophy or intuition does point us to there being something there but then we when we start making a lot of specific claims about what it is and I think we kind of get in the weeds so I'm most Abrahamic monotheistic agree with that and then the biggest thing is just on my position is that I feel like people Associated ID illogical baggage with theism so they thinkthey ISM answers the question of like afterlife and moral realism or tells us how to interpret religious experiences or all that kind of stuff I don't think theism does this so I think that if you make a good theistic argument you still have to justify all the various divine attributes or explain if God wrote a book or not or if there's a resurrection like that it doesn't it doesn't answer a lot of those associative questions people have like but we don't know if God you know what do you got thinks about animals suffering or genocide or masturbation or homosexuality like all all that additional stuff is stuff people have to argue for later but I still think the question of theism does it allows us to kind of sharpen our philosophical tools and it clarify like our most basic like epistemic assumptions or metaphysical assumptions and stuff like that so even if someone's not a believer I still feel like there's value and getting at the question of like like fundamental ontology or fundamental metaphysics and stuff like that so you you used to be an atheist or self-described atheist at some point yeah for my whole entire adult life up until the age of 39 like I remember the exact moment I lost my faith in God and in Christianity obviously if I lost faith in God I lost my faith in Christianity at the same time it was by means of a very holy and pleasant religious dream where I was being waved at by Jesus Christ he was standing on a desert island with a palm tree and he was waving pleasantly to me as my point of view drifted back from him and I woke up and I realized that I had lost my faith I knew that that was counterintuitive but I just went with it what would you say your strongest reasons for not believing in monotheism were at the time I mean I was 14 when I lost my faith and 25 years later at age 39 I consider my adolescent rebellion to have ended finally at long last so I see it more in terms of childish rebellion selfishness than in terms of intellectual ideas but as soon as I lost my faith I turned to philosophy I started reading actually logical positivism and it certainly resonated with me so I went straight from monotheism and Christian in particular to a sort of hardcore physicalism naturalism scientism and logical positivism so it was quite interesting so more you've liked position and God probably didn't exist or God couldn't exist or that gods hog was meaningless well I mean I went to bed at age 14 thinking that God did exist I said my prayers as usual and then I woke up and I said to myself God does not exist well damn so obviously believe in God now but is that what you said is based on reasons that our country generally accepted by people who like reflects on the Lord to come like I had it you had a specific experience that only somebody who had that experience could understand it or something like that it's hard to say it's really mysterious but I can tell you what happened on the surface like I told you right after my conversion to atheism I started getting into naturalism and logical positivism and my philosophical interests petered out for some years as I went to university and was focused on having fun and meeting women and then once I settled into my marriage I've been married for 25 years now once I settled into my marriage it sort of gave me time to get back into my philosophy so as I was studying philosophy I went the whole gamut from the pre-socratics up through to Rene Descartes and when I read Rene de cartes discourse on method by that point I was hurt solipsist ugly though it was the only being and of course I've gone through all kinds of worldviews through my reading I ended up passing through German idealism which had a profound effect on me and so I ended up being a hurt solipsist and it was Rene Descartes who offered me a way out and that way out was not so much a logical rational proof of God's existence so much as just a sort of shrugging of the shoulders and a complacent will of course God exists of course he's real of course he's good and of course I'm not being fooled by an evil demon so it wasn't a very rigorous philosophical conversion but on the same time it was couched in the language of philosophy and it came as a result of reading philosophy so you don't like ready two carts argument no I do like it I I mean he doesn't really make an argument there's a leap of faith that's required to get for naturalism to monotheism there's a leap of faith that's required there's absolutely no way to get out of solipsism without a leap of faith but I think I may have found a rational deductive proof that solipsism is false a reduction to absurdity proof that God exists and it goes like this either I am God or God is God and if I'm wrong when I claim that I am NOT God then I'm also not wrong because if I'm wrong when I say that I'm not God then I am God and God cannot be wrong therefore God is God so that's my reduction to absurdity proof and it does require one axiomatic assumption and that can only be arrived at through an existential encounter with the fact that life simply is it's a brute fact that there is one necessary being and that that being is not contingent not composed two parts it just is even when I was an atheist I encountered this being and I you know obviously I made the mistake of identifying myself with that being because I do have being and even when I deny my being I assert my being I affirm my being so you know I I think it's an honest mistake to make when you're an atheist when you encounter the reality of God it's sort of a natural tendency to identify yourself with that God but there are a lot of models of theism you know like you have Panthers you got panentheism well yeah I was in pantheism for most of my 25 years as an atheist I was a pantheist to this day I classify pantheism it's a form of monism there's one thing and that's God and I classify heart solipsism certain forms of Buddhism Hinduism Sikhism all of these are pantheistic in that way okay I mean I think we can agree on this that our conventional realist assumptions I can't really be justified without making some leaps of faith right so like to have our everyday ontology does require or some assumption we don't immediately perceive that solipsism as faultless yeah there's a technical term for the default sort of naive view and its called naive realism where we just take for granted that the other is real and of course the material universe is real so these are two fundamental assumptions that most human being that aren't psychotic carry with them and if you go into something like idealism you can sort of undermine those assumptions or of course if you go as far as hearts all up system you can also attack those I bought a pass the baton to my friend he's got some questions for yeah sure yeah yeah sure well I'm not understanding how you equate solipsistic ISM solace and says I exist and nothing else exists that's right is that okay pantheon or the versions of pantheism dive study or been involved with have acknowledged things outside of the south so I'm not sure how you equate the two terms well if you press a pantheist they will always admit that separation is illusion and the other is illusion and we are one it's one God is one so there are loose and corrupted forms of pantheism just as they're loose and corrupted forms of Christianity just like every Christian you meet doesn't actually believe all of the dogmas that he's obliged by his religion to believe I meet old women at church who believe in reincarnation that's strictly forbidden but people have watered down corrupted ideas and they bring in a mixed bag a hodgepodge of paganism Satanism pantheism a new age everything everyone brings a mix of everything that they like under that label that they're adhering to maybe they're only going to Catholic Church because they like the community maybe they like the bingo maybe they were just raised with that so it's the same thing with the pantheist maybe they don't know but if you press a true devoted pantheist you'll see that separation is illusion and the other is illusion okay I'll buy that I see where you're going with that I'm gonna ask you one other question and I'm gonna ask at the time back to well yeah I'm sure in your reductio that you mentioned earlier your reductio ad absurdum you started with the premise either I am God or God is God why aren't we for example beginning with a supposition that I am God or William is God or God is God yeah well you know how saltopus is Ammar a there is no other only I am that's a soul AFC means why I alone em so yeah there is absolutely no good reason to say that William is God I mean either I'm God or God is God from my perspective now from Williams perspective either William is God or God is God and from your perspective either you are God or God is God like this is the existential headspace that you have to enter into and the way to enter into Hertz ellipse ISM is to be a radical skeptic this was the approach of Rene Descartes radical skepticism he explicitly mentions this throughout his works that that's how we need to build a solid epistemological foundation is by doubting everything that can be doubted and the only thing we can't doubt is I am which ironically is the name of God right I am Yahweh yes I actually I'm an atheist myself but I think that by now heart ate the assailant dismissed the possibility of God's existence out of hand but I think there is a good loss topical proof for the existence of God it is probably some version of the ontological argument that the card posed and Saint Anselm before it yeah for sure yeah as an atheist I was chewing on and Psalms ontological argument for eight solid years like it to this day I don't claim to understand the ontological argument but there's food for thought there and it's a sort of Zen koan that you can just chew on and it's sort of like a drug trip and for eight years I chewed on it and at the end of that eight years I was along with you so is that cause and effect or is it just correlation I don't know god only knows I'm going one of the components of the ontological argument and I suspect it's a component of your belief in God is that God is a perfect being am I correct in assuming that yeah oh yeah given that God is both omnipotent and omni-benevolent yet there are clear cases of suffering which do not seem to have any greater end I'm going to pass the phone to our other friend he's going to communicate with you music so if there is a kebab that does exist is a unified consciousness then being a one would be very terrible mmm so in order to have friends and family you have to create beings with freewill otherwise they're just going to be mimics true so in order to create a being with freewill you have to wipe its mind of any divine source whatsoever okay we have to be tabula rasa which means that we have to go through period of experimentation so to speak so that we can practice creativity without eventually causing suffering but we have to go through the school period first sure so we're blanked out with blot our minds are blotted out or sent down into this dark realm of experience or we experiment with each other make all of our mistakes then finally realize what mistakes we were making and then after we've had all of our practice then we're done and we go back okay I agree I'm a strong believer in free will that is a baseline axiomatic assumption for me we can pretend to not believe it but we never really don't believe it but to believe in a perfect God you have to explain terminal stage for painful cancer in the two-year-old yes I would say it's us like we are creative beings just like God so we create these things out of our baby and has something to do with the unconscious that these things arise from our our clashing and our interacting you know maybe one of us like a billion years ago through Rockets somebody and it landed in a pool which caused a chemical reaction which had a chain reaction through time which ended up with somebody getting cancer some child getting cancer it comes down to the ill will the humans have for each other or we're not just humans animals that throughout time as they've evolved they they have this survival of the fittest I'm the only one matters I need to eat like I'm going to kill this thing over here and over time this the cycle ended up in in the unconscious basically devouring itself so I'm all an all-powerful and evolved benevolent God would rather the three-year-old suffer from terminal cancer then tweak a ripple in the bond but if if it tweaks a ripple it has destroyed free well it absolutely cannot interfere not a problem there is a perfect God who created a perfect paradise for mankind the Garden of Eden and we were given a commandment not to eat of that fruit of the tree and we ate it and we have this fall from grace and we lost all kinds of power special powers that were not part of our nature but which God gave us in the garden and now we have a tendency to evil and to sin and every evil that we see in the world around us results from sin original and actual and of course God is able to bring a higher good out of this evil and of course the second person of the Trinity incarnated and suffered and died for us and we have the option of obtaining forgiveness of our sins and attaining heaven not by our merits but by the merits of the Godman Jesus Christ so it's just important to understand whether you believe it or not this is my perspective as a Catholic and an Allgood God created a perfect world we messed it up all of the evils we see in the world whether it's stubbing your toe or tsunami or an epidemic of disease or a rape or murder whatever it is it all stems from sin original actual and the only way we could sin was with free will which is a good gift of God but a gift which we abuse so that's basically the whole story in a nutshell okay you may be right I am not categorically denying your argument however I just want you to be aware it just in case you're not you probably already seem like a very learned philosopher you've introduced about twenty autopsies there yeah that's why I said we can come back to examine why I believe what the Church teaches but we've got to pick and choose certain questions okay so do you think that without like the additional information is supplied by Catholicism revelation that we that you could address like say the problem deal or something that so if you just had oh yeah yeah just with straight up classical theism we know that God is all good and that he's infinite in every perfection and that he is perfectly simple he's not composed of parts he's not subject to change you can really flesh out most of what you need to know about classical theism without getting into any specific brand of monotheism okay so you say guys not subject to change right correct I have no idea what that means because if guy create stuff then he there's a time where he wasn't creating stuff so it seems like a direct contradict but a guy who doesn't create complete or contradictory concepts because you're thinking about God is a big man in the sky but he's not a big man in the sky my ways are not your ways says the Lord my thoughts are not your thoughts says the Lord you need to trust and believe that God is different he's in a different category and he's not just a big man in the sky so if I'm understanding what you're saying correctly you seem to be essentially saying that God is not just practically but theoretically inscrutable we cannot understand fully understand God correct if that is true then it seems to me that there's not a huge benefit in discussing this rationally at all but rather that we must rely on a mystical ineffable experience which may be a way of knowing I don't normally that's not it seems like you have to rely on that which is that what you're saying I mean are you do you have a significant other you married yes well I've been married for 25 years it's an absolute delight every day to discover new things about this person it's an infinite source of joy to me because I love her and I think you're absolutely right that the mystical existential approach to religion is a much more satisfying a much more fulfilling approach to take than the philosophical intellectual and cerebral approach but both go hand in hand and it's a dogma of the the church that we can know the existence of God and the attributes of God many of the attributes of God by the light of natural reason without recourse to divine revelations so there's a lot to be gained there and I'm the type that enjoys philosophy I enjoy theology and I'm no expert but I'm just a little schmuck who fell in love with God so you would be saying then that the reason I could not completely know God but I could know God better yeah everyone can get to know God better that's what heaven is heaven in heaven we'll be discovering more and more and more and more and it's never boring a lot of atheists seem to think that heaven is boring and that God is stupid but nothing could be further from the truth oh no when I was in my Christian days which lasted for a good 15 or 20 years I don't have them to be exciting concept because learning forever yeah I definitely uh could appreciate that yeah okay here's my question so you have these divine attributes but then I'm like when we asked like we try it like now I understand like it's not gonna be completely intelligible but if the first move from what is omniscience or divine this and that mean is like Oh God's inscrutable they're like why can't everybody else make that move like why can't we say like well pantheism is true but it's really inscrutable or like I feel like you don't you don't let the non monotheists make the same moves to mystery or inscrutability that you're making like no no I I give full license to everyone's worldview if you're a nihilist go for it if you're a solipsistic oveur it if you're a monotheistic Oh for it but I've experienced two out of those three I've never been a nihilist but I've experienced hurt solipsism and it sucks and I've experienced monotheism and it's amazing and I don't want to experience nihilism because I know a couple of nihilists and it's not fun you know so this is not a reason to be a monotheistic the then you you know you've tasted you've seen but you can struggle with the intellectual side but until you're in desperate you won't you your pride won't allow you to say uncle that's my direct experience I mean I might be wrong I might be just insane there's no way for you to evaluate my experience but you can consider the testimony that I'm giving you and think about it and then when you have an existential experience maybe it'll be a little bit easier for you to let go of your pride and to say yes to God because God is so gentle and loving it's win-win-win I mean I've never been reproached by God I was an atheistic Satanist I was very anti-catholic very anti-christian very anti God and God never once reproached me when I came back to him he's flooded me with light with love with warmth with joy and with learning and with clarity and vision and it's all good you know I mean I get my own belief about like now every time whether it's psychology religion I mean I think that Christianity works for some people and some people that doesn't these and worship some people some people doesn't I mean it in a sense that there's plenty of fulfilled Buddhists and Hindus and Muslims or whatever like this it does it does not appear that the the metaphysical truth of the belief constrains it's a psychological impact like it seems like people have a variety of different beliefs that obviously all can't be true but it seems like people seem to have transformed impacts regardless yeah if I were to preach to a Muslim a Hindu a Jew an atheist denialist assault Syst my message would be the same be authentic go for it don't be mediocre mediocrity is the only danger really in every worldview it's the only dangerous mediocrity if you don't push yourself if you don't think about what you believe in why you believe it then you're in danger you're in danger really of missing out on life and that's a tragedy and I know that there are good devout Muslims that are going to go to heaven and the same thing for Jews and Hindus and even atheists they're a good atheist you're gonna go to heaven now to get there they're gonna have to somehow enter the Catholic Church because it's a dogma of the church that there is absolutely no possibility of salvation outside of the Catholic Church so I'm not worried about the atheist but the good atheist will make it to heaven how they enter the church before death that's a mystery that I don't have access to but I trust in God and I know that there are a lot of good people most of my friends and relatives or atheists and a lot of them like to hide behind agnosticism but they're basically atheists and I'm not worried about them you know I'm praying for them and okay so I got some people just came in so I just I have I'm having trouble summarizing the argument so just just to go back to the the proof you gave so you're saying either I'm God or God is God and they say I'm not God so God must exist is that what you're saying because of the brute fact of existence eternal life is something that I encountered and that I was confronted with in an existential crisis until you've seen it I could talk to Ellen blue in the face you just won't get it but it's it's like back in the 1980s almost you were alive then but back in the 1980s they had these magic posters where you could stare through it and see a 3d image of a unicorn or whatever and for a few days I tried I failed to try to fail and my friends were laughing and describing what they saw in these different posters at the mall and finally I just got it you know I saw it and once you see it you can't unsee it and it's the same thing with eternal life like if you reach the depths of despair that I reached in my philosophical crisis by entering into idealism and then solipsism then maybe you'll you'll see it too but until then all of these words are just going to bounce off you it's just there's not much I can say it's not even that it's like I agree with every premise if you argue my eyes I just don't see how the conclusion that monotheism shoe follows premise I I agree like you know reality is real and all this crap but like I don't see how you get through monotheism really well as a heart solipsistic that reality was real I was the only being and I was not an embodied being I was a disembodied being right with no parts let's just sit let's just say this also was the reality's real solutions false whatever let's just to conceal all that I don't see how you get to monotheism I was talking about my experience of going from solid system to monotheism which was just a leap of faith based on the Nexus tential crisis but if you want to work backwards we can go from the material world to the first cause the uncaused first cause which is necessarily infinite in every perfection necessarily non-material non-spatial non-temporal and we can go one by one we can prove all of the attributes of God as per classical theism we can do that but it's gonna take about a week but if you want to just pick up a book of medieval philosophy and learn for yourself I recommend blessed John Duns Scotus his mortal argument is ideal because it doesn't necessitate a beginning to the physical universe it works even if the physical universe is infinite and a lot of the atheists that I encounter they like to insist that there's infinite time behind us so that's not an obstacle for him and he uses a hierarchical series of causality that's in the moment and you can you can sidestep that whole issue of the beginning of creation so it's a really interesting proof i I can't summarize it for you quickly I just recommend if you're interested go look it up and if that's too heady for you because he's called the subtle doctor for a reason because a lot of his argumentation is very very subtle if that's too difficult for you then just go to something like st. Thomas Aquinas his second argument is similar but weaker okay so the very first premise like you say either I'm God organized go that seems to be false because you can come I couldn't they both be true why couldn't God begotten you be God oh yeah I mean if I'm God then God is God and that's me right but if you want to have a proof a rational proof and start with the assumption that the natural world is real then you're going to have to go look at something like the modal argument of Blessed John Duns Scotus or the second proof of st. Thomas Aquinas or something like that or you could even if you want you could even go to an ontological argument like st. Anselm but I don't think that that is the kind of proof that will convince anyone although like I said at the beginning of this it might very well have convinced me I chewed on it for eight years and I ended up being a monotheistic so my question is is it largely possible that your God and God's got at the same time yes yeah yeah I mean I mean if hard salep system is true then I'm God but I don't believe that I'm God yeah but if I'm glad I've got on that question about um I agree that if we're not solid cysts that I can't be God at the same time as God is God if we're separate beings because then the question arises who would have power over who and that reverts back to what you said about policy is limit and in every polytheistic religion I'm aware of like you said one God always sits on the top yeah my question about your own something else you posed is over purchase the cosmological art events that the first cause argument I'm not sure why there must be a first cause there's nothing logically that keeps their from being an infinite chain of caused coffee well there's entropy right there's an ever-diminishing amount of useful energy in the universe so either there's a first cause or there's not a first cause if there is not a first cause that means that there is an infinite amount of time behind us and therefore if there's an ever-diminishing amount of useful energy in the universe and we still have useful energy today then that proves that there's not infinite time behind us so that rules out that possibility so we know that there's a first cause behind us but we have to ask now is that first cause natural or not and if it is natural that means it's temporal and when we say it's the first cause that means it's not cause that means it's always been there and if you combine those two ideas of something that's always been there with something that's temporal by its very nature then you have infinite time behind us that cannot be the case therefore we know that there is a first cause and that that first cause is not natural and that's what everyone calls God the second law doesn't refer to a starting point it just says entropy is increasing if entropy is ever increasing one direction it would follow that ever decreasing in the opposite direction without limit it could decrease without limit yeah but the amount of useful energy is always decreasing and we still have useful energy today that means there's not an infinite amount of time behind us that doesn't follow at all I'm sorry it does follow because you know the heat death is coming right in the universe sure yeah so if the heat death has not yet arrived but it only takes a finite amount of time for the heat death to arrive but the heat death has not arrived therefore there's a finite amount of time behind us okay here's the thing so you're saying the first cause doesn't change and I said well if the first cause doesn't change how to start going from not creating and creating and then the other thing is if the first cause doesn't change that it's not going to cause anything because that would mean that the effects of the first cause it had to be eternal because of the first cause is the same all the time it's not going to generate any without recourse to divine revelation we can know by the light of natural reason that the first cause is pure actuality there's no potential in the first cause so it's not subject to change it's not composed of parts and it's not contingent it just is what it is it is being itself it is like I said at the beginning of this talk it's not just a big man in the sky it's categorically different from creation and space and time were created by this pure actuality which is perfectly simple and not subject to change if you're scratching your head saying wow this is hard to understand it's because it's God it's the first cause it's categorically different from creation creation is finite creation is contingent creation is radically contingent to time then when I grap up sure when you say the first cause so as I say it like it all starts with God nothing else before that could you fill in the blanks for me there are you speaking now into a microphone or a telephone or what are you using is your device to talk to me now yes I'm talking into a phone it's a phone okay so look at that phone in three-dimensional space and in the dimension of times your space time right so you're looking at this four dimensional object it's made of length width and breadth and it's moving through time okay this phone that you're looking at right now so now I'm gonna pretend that you're God and that all of space-time the four dimensions are contained in that three dimensional physical object okay so you're outside of space-time so you're looking at this little object which is all of history all of from the beginning of creation to the end of creation it's in that cell phone that you're looking at right now okay so your god you're standing outside of your creation you made this thing and it is mckitten time you made it to be time it is time it is space-time so you're outside of it you're in that you're in a completely superior relationship to that object which is all of space-time all of creation of course it boggles the mind and this is not a perfect analogy obviously we can't push it too far it's gonna break but just think about that that little cell phone that you're looking at right now it could fit in your pocket and it's all of history all it's based on from the very beginning to the very end that's how you have to think about God in relation to space-time it's just a little plaything for him he's so far above it and he can enter into it because he's the creator of it and he knows it intimately when God made nature he was not frustrated in this design he made it to be natural and he made to be spatial and temporal grace does not destroy nature it perfects nature just like when I programmed my computer make a little video game for my niece's to play I'm in control I can make the game with the boundaries and all the limitations and all the points that they get and how they score and how they win how they lose how they can die how many alive is I get and I can control the situation and I can intervene at a distance using my networking skills and I can sort of make miracles happen in this game for my nieces that are playing in a different city so it's the same sort of thing with God I want you to think about all of nature being his creation and he lets things roll according to the rules the predetermined rules and guidelines and the game mechanics if you want to think of it as a video game and at the same time he can intervene so that's just a little image I wanted to leave you with at the end of our discussion today and of course there are many other questions we could ask you know I didn't give sufficient or satisfying answers to probably any of your questions but I hope at least you guys have taken away some food for thought and something to think about okay I think's me a good talking to you I know we'll talk again for sure thank you so much and I'll be in touch take care man take care