the religious a prori

Discuss arguments for existence of God and faith in general. Any aspect of any orientation toward religion/spirituality, as long as it is based upon a positive open to other people attitude.

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the religious a prori

Post by Metacrock » Tue Jan 29, 2008 10:57 pm

The A priori


God is not given directly in sense data, God transcends the threshold of human understanding, and thus is not given amenable to empirical proof. As I have commented in previous essays (bloodspots) religion is not a scientific question. There are other methodologies that must be used to understand religion, since the topic is essentially inter-subjective (and science thrives upon objective data). We can study religious behavior through empirical means and we can compare all sorts of statistical realizations through comparisons of differing religious experiences, behaviors, and options. But we cannot produce a trace of God in the universe through "objective" scientific means. Here I use the term "trace" in the Derision sense, the "track," "footprint" the thing to follow to put us on the scent. As I have stated in previous essays, what we must do is find the "co-detemrinate," the thing that is left by God like footprints in the snow. The trace of God can be found in God's affects upon the human heart, and that shows up objectively, or inter-subjectvely in changed behavior, changed attitudes, life transformations. This is the basis of the mystical argument that I use, and in a sense it also have a bearing upon my religious instruct argument. But here I wish to present anther view of the trace of God. This could be seen as a co-detmiernate perhaps, more importantly, it frees religion from the structures of having to measure up to a scientific standard of proof: the religious a prori.

Definition of the a priori.


"This notion [Religious a priori] is used by philosophers of religion to express the view that the sense of the Divine is due to a special form of awareness which exists along side the cognitive, moral, and aesthetic forms of awareness and is not explicable by reference to them. The concept of religion as concerned with the awareness of and response to the divine is accordingly a simple notion which cannot be defined by reference other than itself." --David Pailin "Religious a pariori" Westminster Dictionary of Chrisian Theology (498)



The religious a priroi deals with the speicial nature of religion as non-derivative of any other discipline, and especially it's speicial reiigious faculty of understanding which transcends ordinary means of understanding. Since the enlightenment atheist have sought to explain away religion by placing it in relative and discardable terms. The major tactic for accomplishing this strategy was use of the sociological theory of structural functionalism. By this assumption religion was chalked up to some relative and passing social function, such as promoting loyalty to the tribe, or teaching morality for the sake of social cohesion. This way religion was explained naturalistically and it was also set in relative terms because these functions in society, while still viable (since religion is still around) could always pass away. But this viewpoint assumes that religion is derivative of some other discipline; it's primitive failed science, concocted to explain what thunder is for example. Religion is an emotional solace to get people through hard times and make sense of death and destruction (it's a ll sin, fallen world et). But the a priori does away with all that. The a priori says religion is its own thing, it is not failed primitive sincere, nor is it merely a crutch for surviving or making sense of the world (although it can be that) it is also its own discipline; the major impetus for religion is the sense of the numinous, not the need for explanations of the natural world. Anthropologists are coming more and more to discord that nineteenth century approach anyway.

Thomas A Indianopolus
prof of Religion at of Miami U. of Ohio

Cross currents


"It is the experience of the transcendent, including the human response to that experience, that creates faith, or more precisely the life of faith. [Huston] Smith seems to regard human beings as having a propensity for faith, so that one speaks of their faith as "innate." In his analysis, faith and transcendence are more accurate descriptions of the lives of religious human beings than conventional uses of the word, religion. The reason for this has to do with the distinction between participant and observer. This is a fundamental distinction for Smith, separating religious people (the participants) from the detached, so-called objective students of religious people (the observers). Smith's argument is that religious persons do not ordinarily have "a religion." The word, religion, comes into usage not as the participant's word but as the observer's word, one that focuses on observable doctrines, institutions, ceremonies, and other practices. By contrast, faith is about the nonobservable, life-shaping vision of transcendence held by a participant..."



The Skeptic might argue "if religion as this unique form of consciousness that sets it apart form other forms of understanding, why does it have to be taught?" Obviously religious belief is taught through culture, and there is a good reason for that, because religion is a cultural construct. But that does not diminish the reality of God. Culture teaches religion but God is known to people in the heart. This comes through a variety of ways; through direct experience, through miraculous signs, through intuitive sense, or through a sense of the numinous. The Westminster's Dictionary of Christian Theology ..defines Numinous as "the sense of awe in attracting and repelling people to the Holy." Of course the background assumption I make is, as I have said many times, that God is apprehended by us mystically--beyond word, thought, or image--we must encode that understanding by filtering it through our cultural constrcts, which creates religious differences, and religious problems.

The Culturally constructed nature of religion does not negate the a priori. "Even though the forms by Which religion is expressed are culturally conditioned, religion itself is sui generis .. essentially irreducible to and undeceivable from the non-religious." (Paladin). Nor can the a priori be reduced to some other form of endeavor. It cannot be summed up by the use of ethics or any other field, it cannot be reduced to explanation of the world or to other fields, or physiological counter causality. To propose such scientific analysis, except in terms of measuring or documenting effects upon behavior, would yield fruitless results. Such results might be taken as proof of no validity, but this would be a mistake. No scientific control can ever be established, because any study would only be studying the culturally constructed bits (by definition since language and social sciences are cultural constructs as well) so all the social sciences will wind up doing is merely reifying the phenomena and reducing the experience. In other words, This idea can never be studied in a social sciences sense, all that the social sciences can do is redefine the phenomena until they are no longer discussing the actual experiences of the religious believer, but merely the ideology of the social scientist (see my essay on Thomas S. Kuhn.

The attempt of skeptics to apply counter causality, that is, to show that the a priori phenomena is the result of naturalistic forces and not miraculous or divine, not only misses the boat in its assumptions about the nature of the argument, but it also loses the phenomena by reduction to some other phenomena. It misses the boat because it assumes that the reason for the phenomena is the claim of miraculous origin, “I feel the presence of God because God is miraculously giving me this sense of his presence.” While some may say that, it need not be the believers argument. The real argument is simply that the co-determinates are signs of the trace of God in the universe, not because we cant understand them being produced naturalistically, but because they evoke the sense of numinous and draw us to God. The numinous implies something beyond the natural, but it need not be “a miracle.” The sense of the numinous is actually a natural thing, it is part of our apprehension of the world, but it points to the sublime, which in turn points to transcendence. In other words, the attribution of counter causality does not, in and of itself, destroy the argument, while it is the life transformation through the experience that is truly the argument, not the phenomena itself. Its the affects upon the believer of the sense of Gods presence and not the sense of Gods presence that truly indicates the trance of God.

Moreover, the attempts to reduce the causality to something less than the miraculous also lose the phenomena in reification.William James, The Verieties of Religious Experience (The Gilford Lectures):

"Medical materialism seems indeed a good appellation for the too simple-minded system of thought which we are considering. Medical materialism finishes up Saint Paul by calling his vision on the road to Damascus a discharging lesion of the occipital cortex, he being an epileptic. It snuffs out Saint Teresa as an hysteric, Saint Francis of Assisi as an hereditary degenerate. George Fox's discontent with the shams of his age, and his pining for spiritual veracity, it treats as a symptom of a disordered colon. Carlyle's organ-tones of misery it accounts for by a gastro-duodenal catarrh. All such mental over-tensions, it says, are, when you come to the bottom of the matter, mere affairs of diathesis (auto-intoxications most probably), due to the perverted action of various glands which physiology will yet discover. And medical materialism then thinks that the spiritual authority of all such personages is successfully undermined."

This does not mean that the mere claim of religious experience of God consciousness is proof in and of itself, but it means that it must be taken on its own terms. It clearly answers the question about why God doesn't reveal himself to everyone; He has, or rather, He has made it clear to everyone that he exists, and He has provided everyone with a means of knowing Him. He doesn't get any more explicit because faith is a major requirement for belief. Faith is not an arbitrary requirement, but the rational and logical result of a world made up of moral choices. God reveals himself, but on his own terms. We must seek God on those terms, in the human heart and the basic sense of the numinous and in the nature of religious encounter. There are many aspects and versions of this sense, it is not standardized and can be describes in many ways:

Forms of the A priori.

Schleiermacher's "Feeling of Utter Dependence.

Frederick Schleiermacher, (1768-1834) in On Religion: Speeches to it's Cultured Disposers, and The Christian Faith, sets forth the view that religion is not reducible to knowledge or ethical systems. It is primarily a phenomenological apprehension of God consciousness through means of religious affections. Affections is a term not used much anymore, and it is easily confused with mere emotion. Sometimes Schleiermacher is understood as saying that "I become emotional when I pay and thus there must be an object of my emotional feelings." Though he does vintner close to this position in one form of the argument, this is not exactly what he's saying.

Schleiermacher is saying that there is a special intuitive sense that everyone can grasp of this whole, this unity, being bound up with a higher reality, being dependent upon a higher unity. In other words, the "feeling" can be understood as an intuitive sense of "radical contingency" (int he sense of the above ontological arugments).He goes on to say that the feeling is based upon the ontological principle as its theoretical background, but doesn't' depend on the argument because it proceeds the argument as the pre-given pre-theorectical pre-cognative realization of what Anslem sat down and thought about and turned into a rational argument: why has the fools said in his heart 'there is no God?' Why a fool? Because in the heart we know God. To deny this is to deny the most basic realization about reality.

Rudolph Otto's Sense of the Holy (1868-1937)

The sense of power in the numinous which people find when confronted by the sacred. The special sense of presence or of Holiness which is intuitive and observed in all religious experience around the world.

Paul Tillich's Object of Ultimate Concern.

We are going to die. We cannot avoid this. This is our ultimate concern and sooner or latter we have to confront it. When we do we realize a sense of transformation that gives us a special realization existentially that life is more than material.

see also My article on Toilet's notion of God as the Ground of Being.

Tillich's concept made into God argument.

As Robert R. Williams puts it:

There is a "co-determinate to the Feeling of Utter dependence.



"It is the original pre-theoretical consciousness...Schleiermacher believes that theoretical cognition is founded upon pre-theoretical intersubjective cognition and its life world. The latter cannot be dismissed as non-cognative for if the life world praxis is non-cognative and invalid so is theoretical cognition..S...contends that belief in God is pre-theoretical, it is not the result of proofs and demonstration, but is conditioned soley by the modification of feeling of utter dependence. Belief in God is not acquired through intellectual acts of which the traditional proofs are examples, but rather from the thing itself, the object of religious experience..If as S...says God is given to feeling in an original way this means that the feeling of utter dependence is in some sense an apparition of divine being and reality. This is not meant as an appeal to revelation but rather as a naturalistic eidetic"] or a priori. The feeling of utter dependence is structured by a corrolation with its whence." , Schleiermacher the Theologian, p 4.



The believer is justified in assuming that his/her experinces are experiences of a reality, that is to say, that God is real.

Freedom from the Need to prove.

Schleiermacher came up with his notion of the feeling when wrestling with Kantian Dualism. Kant had said that the world is divided into two aspects of relaity the numenous and the pheneomenal. The numenous is not experienced through sense data, and sense God is not experineced through sense data, God belongs only to the numenous. The problem is that this robbs us of an object of theological discourse. We can't talk about God because we can't experience God in sense data. Schleiermacher found a way to run an 'end round' and get around the sense data. Experience of God is given directly in the "feeling" apart form sense data.

This frees us form the need to prove the existence of God to others, because we know that God exists in a deep way that cannot be estreated by mere cultural constructs or reductionist data or deified phenomena. This restores the object of theological discourse. Once having regained its object, theological discourse can proceed to make the logical deduction that there must be a CO-determinate to the feeling, and that CO-determinate is God. In that sense Schleiermacher is saying "if I have affections about God must exist as an object of my affections"--not merely because anything there must be an object of all affections, but because of the logic of the co-determinate--there is a sense of radical contengency, there must be an object upon which we are radically contingent.
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Re: the religious a prori

Post by ChumpChange » Sun Mar 02, 2008 1:10 am

Great post! It took me awhile to read but it was well worth it. I agree 100% with the point you make here. The fact that none of these pesky skeptics have bothered to critique it says alot about the truth instilled within this post. Thank you.
"Behold, I have found only this, that God made men upright, but they have sought out many devices."

-Ecclesiastes 7:29

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Re: the religious a prori

Post by ChumpChange » Sun Mar 02, 2008 1:39 am

http://www.ryerson.ca/~kraay/Documents/Replies.pdf

Thought you may find this interesting since where on the topic
"Behold, I have found only this, that God made men upright, but they have sought out many devices."

-Ecclesiastes 7:29

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Re: the religious a prori

Post by Metacrock » Mon Mar 03, 2008 6:57 am

ChumpChange wrote:Great post! It took me awhile to read but it was well worth it. I agree 100% with the point you make here. The fact that none of these pesky skeptics have bothered to critique it says alot about the truth instilled within this post. Thank you.

hey thanks man. we need more skeptics to turn up here.
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Re: the religious a prori

Post by Metacrock » Mon Mar 03, 2008 6:58 am

can't get into link without down loading which I don't want to do. can you give me an html version of it?
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Re: the religious a prori

Post by Antimatter » Mon Mar 03, 2008 2:44 pm

Metacrock wrote:can't get into link without down loading which I don't want to do. can you give me an html version of it?
Google to the rescue!
http://www.google.com/search?q=http://w ... eplies.pdf

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Re: the religious a prori

Post by Antimatter » Mon Mar 03, 2008 4:06 pm

I'm rather confused by this argument, Meta. As far as I can tell, it doesn't accomplish anything or make any significant claims. You begin by arguing that there could be no objective evidence for god because religion is wholly separate from the rigors of science, but then you go on to describe objective (or "inter-subjective") footprints that god should leave behind. The examples you provide consist entirely of the feelings and significant events that religious adherents worldwide all claim to experience. You further argue that faith is a requirement to perceive these religious experiences, as god selectively grants these experiences only to those who are looking for them. We're left with two obvious explanations:
  1. An undetectable transcendent agent interacts with reality in such a manner as to engender religious experiences and feelings.
  2. Religious experience is a result of malleable human memory and confirmation bias, and religious feelings and the sense of god's presence is merely a psychological outcome of religious adherence and ritual.
Even your argument concedes that these phenomenon may have naturalistic explanations, but you argue that this "misses the boat" because both of the above explanations may simultaneously be true. You also point out that claims of religious experience do not constitute proof but "must be taken on its own terms." So you see, I'm left wondering what we gained from this argument aside from shoring up religion, making it unassailable to criticism.

Explanation 2 above seems sufficient to explain the phenomenon you described. You provide no other reason to accept the supernatural explanation, and I can think of several reasons to find it implausible. For instance, I could describe the religious experiences of non-theistic religions or cults. I could also point out the almost total hostility of our universe towards life. To the best of our knowledge, all environments outside our pale blue dot are inhospitable, which suggests the universe was not designed for our benefit. Given these counter-examples, what is the rational warrant for your alternative explanation?

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Re: the religious a prori

Post by Metacrock » Mon Mar 03, 2008 10:01 pm

Antimatter wrote:
Metacrock wrote:can't get into link without down loading which I don't want to do. can you give me an html version of it?
Google to the rescue!
http://www.google.com/search?q=http://w ... eplies.pdf

ahahaha ant it the truth! I love those guys. thanks. :| :P
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Re: the religious a prori

Post by Metacrock » Mon Mar 03, 2008 10:23 pm

Antimatter wrote:I'm rather confused by this argument, Meta. As far as I can tell, it doesn't accomplish anything or make any significant claims. You begin by arguing that there could be no objective evidence for god because religion is wholly separate from the rigors of science, but then you go on to describe objective (or "inter-subjective") footprints that god should leave behind. The examples you provide consist entirely of the feelings and significant events that religious adherents worldwide all claim to experience. You further argue that faith is a requirement to perceive these religious experiences, as god selectively grants these experiences only to those who are looking for them. We're left with two obvious explanations:

I didn't put it that way. So far you have described rational warrant so I fail to see why you say it doesn't accomplish anything. It laid the ground work for the weakness of empirical knowledge then exploited it by setting up a criteria for a different category of knowledge which is in religion's own special domain.

  1. An undetectable transcendent agent interacts with reality in such a manner as to engender religious experiences and feelings.
  2. Religious experience is a result of malleable human memory and confirmation bias, and religious feelings and the sense of god's presence is merely a psychological outcome of religious adherence and ritual.
Even your argument concedes that these phenomenon may have naturalistic explanations, but you argue that this "misses the boat" because both of the above explanations may simultaneously be true.

yes, I fail to see the problem here. I've long argued that the atheist is working under a misconception to try and point out naturalistic causes to these experiences. that in no way diminishes them. It doesn't negate their role as rationally warranting belief. it's just a matter of understanding how the warrant is predicated.

if the effects where entirely naturalistic I suppose that would be a problem, but as there is no data at all to back up even a slight view of their naturalistic causality that's not really an issue. No reason why it can't be both. like with the God Pod. it's part of brain chemistry but there's no proof that isn't the way God did it.

the question is would it that that entirely on its own. I don't see how it could.



You also point out that claims of religious experience do not constitute proof but "must be taken on its own terms." So you see, I'm left wondering what we gained from this argument aside from shoring up religion, making it unassailable to criticism.

isn't that enough?
Explanation 2 above seems sufficient to explain the phenomenon you described. You provide no other reason to accept the supernatural explanation, and I can think of several reasons to find it implausible. For instance, I could describe the religious experiences of non-theistic religions or cults. I could also point out the almost total hostility of our universe towards life. To the best of our knowledge, all environments outside our pale blue dot are inhospitable, which suggests the universe was not designed for our benefit. Given these counter-examples, what is the rational warrant for your alternative explanation?

To take the last two first:

(1) other faiths

that is not a reason to disbelieve. I've explained a million times how this one reality stands behind all traditions. the label "theistic" or "non" is unimportant. all labels are bull shit, all words are bull shit. words have no meaning. The one reality is beyond words. It's only experienced. we load it into words, which means into culture and that filters it through the lens of culture. this is what makes religions different. but it doesn't mean there is no such reality.

(2) universe

why does the universe have to be designed for us? we are not put in the whole universe to live, just on the blue dot. It's designed for us quite well.

these do nothing to get under my argument. they not pertain directly to any part of the argument (which is not a design argument).


you offered these as examples of the implausibility of a supernatural explication. But it's a mistake to thin the SN works in my view as a design argument would work. You expect to see the SN as some kind of contradicting alternative. I don't see the supernatural in that way and my argument doesn't turn on the need to explain some sort of miraculous nature of these experiences. I've commented many times that is not the nature of the argument.

this argument turns entirely upon the ability of our experince to go around sense data and to offer an object of theological discourse that is beyond the domain of empirical data.


that is a rational warrant for belief because it is commensurate with one's phenomenolgoical apprehension of reality. The empirical materialism of an atheist is merely metaphysical hegemony that seems to mutilate one's experiences and reduce them to ideological orthodoxy.


see now this is why I started by the observation about how things fall between the cracks of inductive scientific data gathering. this is becasue what I'm saying is the atheist tires to recue the phenomena to exliacable parts that fit his world view, and in so donig he loses the phenomena because these experiences are things that fall between the cracks.

so we go between the cracks (that's where the SN is) we say "hey this is not according to hole but it's real none the less" thus between the cracks we see there's a whole other view of reality that materialism is denying us.
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