RE: [asa] consciousness, ASA article feedback (was: RE: (fall-away) TE and apologetics)

From: Ted Davis <>
Date: Wed Sep 23 2009 - 09:18:51 EDT


I'm glad we're now talking about these issues. On the mind/brain issues, the best people to discuss those things are mostly not on the ASA list; we don't have a lot of neuroscience and psychology people as members, to begin with, and not many of those we do have are active here. But some others, in theology or philosophy, may well know quite a bit about this, and that's one reason I picked Dave's essay to get this going. At least he is active here, and he does have some knowledge about it.

For my part, let me reply to this particular point you directed at Dave:

Bernie wrote:

<But why is it that if one thinks there is no immortal soul, all the difficult questions are then answered, regarding eternal life and the soul (there is none). The only downside is the fear of death, for one who is clinging to that hope. As far as I'm concerned, it that's reality, so be it. Can we (should we) ignore the truth if we think it has unpleasant consequences?>

Ted replies:

You've stated a very fair point here, Bernie. The truth or falsity of belief in an afterlife with God is a very basic point of disagreement between theism and non-theism. To be sure, some theists don't accept an afterlife--it's my understanding, e.g., that the Hebrews did not have that belief until a few centuries before Christ, and there may be some contemporary theists like them-- but I've yet to meet an atheist who does believe in an afterlife. That makes sense to me: if there is no God to restore you into existence (here I show my conviction that the resurrection of the dead is about being restored into existence, not being revived or reinvigorated), then you can't get there from here. (A sizeable percentage of liberal Christians 90 years ago believed in immortality without believing in a God who can work miracles, but that incoherent and IMO un-Christian position is pretty unusual today so I'll ignore it.)

And, this is central to Christianity. As Polkinghore says, Judaism is ultimately about love and Christianity is ultimately about hope. Obviously he doesn't mean that Jews have no hope and Christians aren't about loving God and others, but he does mean that the resurrection hope is the sine qua non for Christian faith.

I'm content with a basic difference in religious outlook here. I know you understand what our faith looks like from the inside, and I don't think you are belittling it or misrepresenting it. The one caveat to leaving it there would be this: as you know, I think that the bodily resurrection of Jesus is actually the best explanation for the stories that have come down to us about the empty tomb and the post-crucifixion appearances. You might have said the same thing at some point; if so, you understand what I am saying. I think I also understand what you are saying. And, as NT Wright has said, this isn't one of those things where you can just go and claim territory, like Francis Drake planting a flag on a California beach. It entails more than an intellectual assent (as you know), and even though both views on this (the historical reality of the resurrection) have a certain objectivity to them, neither ultimately does have full objectivity. If it really didn't happen, m!
 y faith is in vain; if it did, then it's not a good idea to dismiss it as impossible on the basis of "science" (i.e., David Hume).

I wish you well, Bernie,


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Received on Wed Sep 23 09:19:51 2009

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