Christian Nihilism

magilum
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Christian Nihilism

1. Christian values are dependent on external source for validation.

2. To entrust value to an external source removes intrinsic value by implication.

3. Nothing has intrinsic value in Christianity.

4. Nihilism rejects the intrinsic value of things, including life itself.

5. Christian values depend on an inscrutable agent assigning value.

6. The specific values of the agent are unknown and unobtainable.

7. Christianity can't know value, and won't assign it, and becomes nihilism.

8. To say that nothing has value, one must exist, live and be conscious.

9. Nihilism and Christianity steal the concept of existence while arguing against value.

10. Both must acknowledge the intrinsic value of existence to have any position, thus defeating their own positions.


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I like. I imagine the

I like.

I imagine the theist could argue that 3 is incorrect as god could have intrinsic value and all value could be granted by god and known by revelation; a God is value and has written value on our hearts (whatever that means) type argument. 

Along this line of thought though, if all value is granted by god then is the theist valuing god not, in actuallity, simply god valuing himself?  

“Philosophers have argued for centuries about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, but materialists have always known it depends on whether they are jitterbugging or dancing cheek to cheek" -- Tom Robbins


magilum
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Thanks for your input,

Thanks for your input, Vessel.

My counter to the refutation of line 3 would depend on whether god is considered immaterial. If that's the case, material reality remains worthless in Christian philosophy, since even if god had intrinsic value, he's immaterial, not a thing, and so carries no intrinsic value into the realm of things. This does assume revelation is invalid, and that the specific whims of a fickle and arbitrary agent can't specifically be known (induction is made worse by Christian theology, contrary to what the presuppers say). If revelation is valid, then my argument seems to fall apart at that point, though I would still see an externally dependent value system as nihilistic.

Your latter statement reminds me of a story a Hindu-Buddhist monk told me as I sat among an informal group of students. It was something about a military leader who had a spiritual crisis when he was forced to slay his own brother in battle. He was advised that it was alright, because he was dharma, and his brother was dharma, and the battle was dharma -- everything was dharma. I'm brutalizing the details of the story, but the point seemed to be that nothing mattered because Brahma was everything. I think either perspective has a similar effect: raise it as the Hindus may, or lower it as the Christians do, there is a flattening of values that contradicts the inescapable values imposed on us simply existing, thinking, climbing an ontological ladder only to turn around and denounce the things the possibility of such acts as denunciation are wholly dependent upon. Aside from a disciplined few, like suicidal buddhist monks who torch themselves without apparent remorse, everyone is wired to preserve their lives. I don't think it's an appeal to fear as in the "atheists in foxholes" argument, as fear of death is the very root fear on which the argument depends. "As if your life depended on it," the saying goes.


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magilum wrote: Thanks for

magilum wrote:

Thanks for your input, Vessel.

My counter to the refutation of line 3 would depend on whether god is considered immaterial. If that's the case, material reality remains worthless in Christian philosophy, since even if god had intrinsic value, he's immaterial, not a thing, and so carries no intrinsic value into the realm of things. This does assume revelation is invalid, and that the specific whims of a fickle and arbitrary agent can't specifically be known (induction is made worse by Christian theology, contrary to what the presuppers say). If revelation is valid, then my argument seems to fall apart at that point, though I would still see an externally dependent value system as nihilistic.

I definitely agree with you. At the very least, material reality should be of no value to the Christian and I have spoken with some who will willingly state as much. All good stems from god and man is instructed to seek the good, material things have no intrinsic value except for their value in demonstrating or helping to acheive the good, that sort of thing. And being as that they see man as immaterial, the important bits at least, and made in the image of god, they see man as having intrinsic value, though the value granted by the creator. There is a blog I used to comment on regularly written by a California preacher who is a big fan of Aquinas where this position is often put forward. I believe it was call Theology for Dummies, ironically enough.


 

“Philosophers have argued for centuries about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, but materialists have always known it depends on whether they are jitterbugging or dancing cheek to cheek" -- Tom Robbins


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Very nice line of

Very nice line of reasoning. This was one of those things that I could always see as "something wrong" with Christianity, but couldn't nail down nearly as well. I generally looked at the obsession with an afterlife.

I'm sorry if it's already mentioned, but some Christians might attack item 6. They'd claim that we can know some values of god (ignoring the idea that god could be jerking us around with that bible of his... if it even is his.)

-Triften 


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magilum wrote:

magilum wrote:

1. Christian values are dependent on external source for validation.

2. To entrust value to an external source removes intrinsic value by implication.

3. Nothing has intrinsic value in Christianity.

4. Nihilism rejects the intrinsic value of things, including life itself.

5. Christian values depend on an inscrutable agent assigning value.

6. The specific values of the agent are unknown and unobtainable.

7. Christianity can't know value, and won't assign it, and becomes nihilism.

8. To say that nothing has value, one must exist, live and be conscious.

9. Nihilism and Christianity steal the concept of existence while arguing against value.

10. Both must acknowledge the intrinsic value of existence to have any position, thus defeating their own positions.

I'm not particularly fond of your line of reasoning, but I wholeheartedly agree with the assertion that Christianity is inherently nihilistic. And Nietzsche agreed with both of us 120 years ago, before our great-great grandparents were born.


magilum
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jmm wrote: I'm not

jmm wrote:
I'm not particularly fond of your line of reasoning, but I wholeheartedly agree with the assertion that Christianity is inherently nihilistic.

It's up for discussion.

jmm wrote:
And Nietzsche agreed with both of us 120 years ago, before our great-great grandparents were born.

And buddhism as well, but I'm here rephrasing it and exploring it. Anything to, you know, add (for a change)?


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I object to the first

I object to the first two premises (and by extension all contentions that rely upon them).

magilum wrote:
1. Christian values are dependent on external source for validation.

Your term "external validation" isn't explicitly defined, so I have to go with my first impression here. I would assume that your meaning is something like "Christians have to check in with God before they can value something. If a Christian wants to eat apple pie, they have to read the Bible or pray or whatever to see if God is okay with that."

Given that rough definition of "external validation," your first premise ignores the definition of "value". A "value" is an "object or quality desirable as a means or as an end in itself" (source: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/value, it's the one with the italicized word "Ethics" next to it). By definition, any living thing can have values without external validation. Happiness, food, money et cetera are values to me simply because I am a human. Whether or not God exists, they are desirable as means/ends. They would be valuable to me whether I was a Christian or an atheist. No "external validation" is required, nor is it possible.

Quote:
2. To entrust value to an external source removes intrinsic value by implication.

Intrinsic value does not exist. To say something is valuable is to say it is valuable TO SOMEBODY, FOR SOMETHING. If no sentient beings existed, value wouldn't exist.

Q: Why didn't you address (post x) that I made in response to you nine minutes ago???

A: Because I have (a) a job, (b) familial obligations, (c) social obligations, and (d) probably a lot of other atheists responded to the same post you did, since I am practically the token Christian on this site now. Be patient, please.


magilum
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Presuppositionalist wrote:I

Presuppositionalist wrote:

I object to the first two premises (and by extension all contentions that rely upon them).

Yawn.

Presuppositionalist wrote:

magilum wrote:
1. Christian values are dependent on external source for validation.

Your term "external validation" isn't explicitly defined,

Nothing to do with religion has well-defined properties, so in depending on that my argument would easily fail. I refer specifically to adherents to divine command and god as a provider of meaning and purpose (whatever those things are meant to mean in that use).

Presuppositionalist wrote:
so I have to go with my first impression here. I would assume that your meaning is something like "Christians have to check in with God before they can value something. If a Christian wants to eat apple pie, they have to read the Bible or pray or whatever to see if God is okay with that."

I'm not under the impression you're able to "check with god" about anything, which is what lead me to my conclusion that any valuation which relies on a textual definition of a fickle conscious agent's intents would make an unjustified assumption, leaving neither intrinsic value, nor a specific knowledge of supposed divinely-outlined values.

Your own name betrays your need for an unsubstantiated external validator, even for you to be able to make this argument. It's a complete non-sequitur, but it does make your argument all the more bizarre.

Presuppositionalist wrote:
Given that rough definition of "external validation," your first premise ignores the definition of "value". A "value" is an "object or quality desirable as a means or as an end in itself" (source: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/value, it's the one with the italicized word "Ethics" next to it). By definition, any living thing can have values without external validation. Happiness, food, money et cetera are values to me simply because I am a human.

Swap in any vector attributed to a god, and you have it. That's not the divine-command, god-needed-for-purpose position, though. Or the god-needed-for-logic/god-needed-for-uniformity position, either.

Presuppositionalist wrote:
Whether or not God exists, they are desirable as means/ends. They would be valuable to me whether I was a Christian or an atheist. No "external validation" is required, nor is it possible.

Agreed. This is getting spooky.

Quote:
2. To entrust value to an external source removes intrinsic value by implication.

 

Intrinsic value does not exist. To say something is valuable is to say it is valuable TO SOMEBODY, FOR SOMETHING. If no sentient beings existed, value wouldn't exist.

If you don't slap a god on top of that, that's a monist position. Lulz.

---

EDIT: I didn't think references necessary due to the commonality of the divine command / external validation argument, but I plucked one out of the steady stream of such arguments, thus: "No one is good but god..."


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// 10. Both must acknowledge the intrinsic value of existence to have any position //

Please, explain how this is so. To me, this statement has the same logic as saying that one must acknowledge the existence of God to deny it.


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Lokine wrote:// 10. Both

Lokine wrote:

// 10. Both must acknowledge the intrinsic value of existence to have any position //

Please, explain how this is so. To me, this statement has the same logic as saying that one must acknowledge the existence of God to deny it.

So, you're saying I'm begging the question? Perhaps, if existence itself is in question -- but I don't see how one can question it without, again, stealing the concept (by, y'know, existing).


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Vessel wrote:I imagine the

Vessel wrote:

I imagine the theist could argue that 3 is incorrect as god could have intrinsic value and all value could be granted by god and known by revelation; a God is value and has written value on our hearts (whatever that means) type argument.

How did you even make your brain do that? I had to read that three times before I got it.

Vessel wrote:
Along this line of thought though, if all value is granted by god then is the theist valuing god not, in actuallity, simply god valuing himself?

Nice. I don't think Hallmark Cards will go for it, but nice.

magilum:

I run into the same kind of problem with Marty and Paisley (you did too, obviously) that all things flow from God for these guys. 'Cept they make up the God part, since that's so completely up to their interpretation; it can be whatever they want. What's amazing to me is not just the nihilism, but the rationalization involved. Certainly, no value can be placed on life, or thoughts, or actions without God in that mindset, but once a life or a thought or an action is produced, it is through the grace of God, or it makes God angry depending on the circumstances (and apparently by the pattern of their father's behaviour).

The psychological torment of that position must be agonizing (if considered carefully).

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magilum wrote:Lokine

magilum wrote:

Lokine wrote:

// 10. Both must acknowledge the intrinsic value of existence to have any position //

Please, explain how this is so. To me, this statement has the same logic as saying that one must acknowledge the existence of God to deny it.

So, you're saying I'm begging the question? Perhaps, if existence itself is in question -- but I don't see how one can question it without, again, stealing the concept (by, y'know, existing).

Sorry, I should have clarified: Not existence, but the "intrinsic value" of existence. Why should they have to acknowledge something that which they deny? What is the intrinsic value of existence?


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Lokine wrote:magilum

Lokine wrote:

magilum wrote:

Lokine wrote:

// 10. Both must acknowledge the intrinsic value of existence to have any position //

Please, explain how this is so. To me, this statement has the same logic as saying that one must acknowledge the existence of God to deny it.

So, you're saying I'm begging the question? Perhaps, if existence itself is in question -- but I don't see how one can question it without, again, stealing the concept (by, y'know, existing).

Sorry, I should have clarified: Not existence, but the "intrinsic value" of existence. Why should they have to acknowledge something that which they deny? What is the intrinsic value of existence?

You are asking that question; in order to ask that question, you have to exist first.


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One could use the same

One could use the same argument for science in modern methodology. For something to be considered true, it must be verified by external sources and checks, and thus is not considered intrinsically true. #5's "inscrutable agent" would be the basic principles of Western logic and philosophy.

I like the Western way of thinking, and hope for all our sakes that this argument is not valid. Otherwise, our work and way of thinking could largely go down the drain.


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magilum wrote:You are asking

magilum wrote:

You are asking that question; in order to ask that question, you have to exist first.

Well, yes, granted, one must exist to question existence, but how does existence itself imply that existence has value? The question only implies existence's necessity.


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Lokine wrote:What is the

Lokine wrote:

What is the intrinsic value of existence?

Non-existence isn't as much fun.


magilum
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Quote: One could use the

Quote:

 

One could use the same argument for science in modern methodology. For something to be considered true, it must be verified by external sources and checks, and thus is not considered intrinsically true. #5's "inscrutable agent" would be the basic principles of Western logic and philosophy. I like the Western way of thinking, and hope for all our sakes that this argument is not valid. Otherwise, our work and way of thinking could largely go down the drain.

 

Your premise depends on a mythological figure, known for its fickle and arbitrary behavior -- a black box -- being similar enough to the scientific method. The choice whether to trust or distrust a god is arbitrary, and the effects not differentiable from non-effects (how a god can "answer" a prayer with "no" ). In phenomenological approaches, we have an idea of the nature of a thing because of the data we can get back from the tests mentioned; the quibble being that the data is not a direct experience of the thing itself, but a "shadow" cast. I see the light bouncing off, not the thing; and the experience of seeing is itself just a dynamic of other phenomena; as is the "I" which reflects on it. These things are real enough because their effects are reproducible and predictable; what's absent is the teleological aspect introduced by projecting a deliberate agency onto the phenomena. But this conversation is a bit of a red herring, isn't it. The values Christians speak of are moral and preferential ones.

{EDIT: edited stuff}


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Lokine wrote:magilum

Lokine wrote:

magilum wrote:

You are asking that question; in order to ask that question, you have to exist first.

Well, yes, granted, one must exist to question existence, but how does existence itself imply that existence has value? The question only implies existence's necessity.

Existence doesn't imply value; but the ability for the subject to value emerges from existence (most things that exist aren't conscious). No value is possible without existence, so a value judgement that doesn't value what's necessary to itself steals the concept.


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magilum wrote:Existence

magilum wrote:

Existence doesn't imply value; but the ability for the subject to value emerges from existence (most things that exist aren't conscious). No value is possible without existence, so a value judgement that doesn't value what's necessary to itself steals the concept.

So, the value of existence is that a conscious existence can apply value to existence, if I understand you correctly. Wouldn't that mean, then, that existence has no intrinsic value, but that its value is applied by something that exists?


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Lokine wrote:magilum

Lokine wrote:

magilum wrote:

Existence doesn't imply value; but the ability for the subject to value emerges from existence (most things that exist aren't conscious). No value is possible without existence, so a value judgement that doesn't value what's necessary to itself steals the concept.

So, the value of existence is that a conscious existence can apply value to existence, if I understand you correctly. Wouldn't that mean, then, that existence has no intrinsic value, but that its value is applied by something that exists?

Any value judgement requires existence first, then consciousness. To disregard either is to refute whatever follows.

I think questioning the word "intrinsic" is valid, though, and I'd like to qualify it. By it I meant that the subject can regard something through direct experience -- however "direct" it actually is -- rather than as granted by the aforementioned inscrutable agency. I may be, for example, compelled to help another person because of the subjective experience of something like empathy; where a fairly standard Christian practice is to negate the idea of a naturally-derived and culturally-developed "morality" in favor of morality juice dribbling in from another dimension (along with the value, love and meaning juices).


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Quote:I may be, for example,

Quote:
I may be, for example, compelled to help another person because of the subjective experience of something like empathy; where a fairly standard Christian practice is to negate the idea of a naturally-derived and culturally-developed "morality" in favor of morality juice dribbling in from another dimension (along with the value, love and meaning juices).

I really don't have anything to add to this discussion.  Magilum, I can't really find any gaps in your logic that haven't been addressed.  I'm mainly commenting because I want you to know that I'm going to be stealing your term.  From now on, dribbling morality juice from another dimension is part of my repertoire.

 

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magilum wrote:Any value

magilum wrote:

Any value judgement requires existence first, then consciousness. To disregard either is to refute whatever follows.

I think questioning the word "intrinsic" is valid, though, and I'd like to qualify it. By it I meant that the subject can regard something through direct experience -- however "direct" it actually is -- rather than as granted by the aforementioned inscrutable agency. I may be, for example, compelled to help another person because of the subjective experience of something like empathy; where a fairly standard Christian practice is to negate the idea of a naturally-derived and culturally-developed "morality" in favor of morality juice dribbling in from another dimension (along with the value, love and meaning juices).

I see where you're coming from. However, I don't think that constitutes being intrinsic; again, the value is applied from the outside, though. The concept of existence, again, can only have value if it is applied from something that exists (i.e. it is not a part of the concept itself.) The better word for your argument would be "extrinsic."


magilum
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Lokine wrote:magilum

Lokine wrote:

magilum wrote:

Any value judgement requires existence first, then consciousness. To disregard either is to refute whatever follows.

I think questioning the word "intrinsic" is valid, though, and I'd like to qualify it. By it I meant that the subject can regard something through direct experience -- however "direct" it actually is -- rather than as granted by the aforementioned inscrutable agency. I may be, for example, compelled to help another person because of the subjective experience of something like empathy; where a fairly standard Christian practice is to negate the idea of a naturally-derived and culturally-developed "morality" in favor of morality juice dribbling in from another dimension (along with the value, love and meaning juices).

I see where you're coming from. However, I don't think that constitutes being intrinsic; again, the value is applied from the outside, though. The concept of existence, again, can only have value if it is applied from something that exists (i.e. it is not a part of the concept itself.) The better word for your argument would be "extrinsic."

Your point is taken that my wording is misleading. Perhaps I've just fallen into the trap of using two words that often go together -- "intrinsic value." My argument doesn't rest on the concept of an objective value being possible/coherent, but rather the introduction of inscrutable third agencies.