REPLY #18c TO
are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.
prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.
My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text
and are prefaced by my initials (MB)
This is the last of a three-part reply.
"X exists" is a positive position. "X does not
exist" is a negative position. Substitute anything you want for
"X" -- the concept does not change.
(R) The statement that X exists is the statement that X exists,
nothing more. You can call it the positive position, or the advocate
position, or the purple-and-orange position, but it doesn't change
(MB) Do you understand what the words "positive" and "negative" mean? If you
did, there would be no arguments here. Do you understand that statements of
existence require some evidence in support in order to have any validity? Do
you understand that this applies without regard to whatever it might be for
which existence is being claimed?
The positions are also not equal. There are a finite number of
things that exist. There are an infinite number of things that do not
exist. Therefore, if only from a probabilistic standpoint, it is
reasonable to assume that any given "X" does not exist unless it is
(R) A finite number of things which exist? O.K. smart guy,
(MB) Surely, you jest. Do you understand the difference between "finite" and
"infinite"? Do you understand that the universe is finite in size and extent?
Do you understand that it is impossible to have an infinite number of things in
any finite space? Why are you even arguing the point except to evade directly
(R) Even if this statement were true, the finite number would
be so immense as to make any difference in probabilities so small as
to be zero. The positions are exactly equal.
(MB) I guess you don't understand the concept of "infinite" (or "finite", for
that matter). There is no finite number (no matter how immense) that even
begins to approach infinity. Your argument is mathematically invalid. That
makes your conclusion meaningless.
Now, substitute "God" for "Harvey" and you will come
up with the same answers.
(R) No, you won't, because Harvey is fictional by definition and
a belief in him cannot be justified. God is not fictional.
(MB) According to your previous arguments, any belief for which there is no
support is justifiable so long as it can't be proven wrong. Also, you have
previously stated that fiction can contain non-fictional elements. Can you
prove that Harvey is not a non-fictional element that has been included into a
fictional story? If not, then, by your own arguments, you must accept the
proposed existences of Harvey and God as being equal.
The only evidence for Harvey is in a film. The only evidence
for God is in a book.
(R) The Bible is not a single book, it is a collection of 66 books,
written by different authors over a period of more than ten
centuries. Many other volumes have been written on the subject as
(MB) The Bible is a compendium of the laws, beliefs, stories, and histories of
the Jews. The history can be confirmed by independent evidence. Subsequent
books that just echo what's written in the Bible do not provide any such
verification of its contents. Without the Bible, the other books will not be
written. A parallel could be drawn with Star Trek. Without Gene Roddenberry's
original vision, none of the subsequent follow-up products would have been
(R) I have read that over 50,000 books have been written about
the American Civil War. How many hundreds of thousands do you
think have been written on the subject of religion? They weren't
presented as fictional, either.
(MB) So, something becomes valid based solely on the number of books that are
written about it? I guess that means that the starship Enterprise exists, eh?
Also, a book doesn't have to be presented as fiction in order to be rather
dubious in nature. The philosophical works of L. Ron Hubbard are a prime
(R) Saying that the only basis for a belief
in God is in the Bible is like arguing that the only basis of physics is
(MB) In a way, they are similar. Both are compilations of the ideas of their
respective disciplines along with added contributions of the authors. The
difference is that physics still exists in its modern form without Principia to
support it, while the God theory does not exist in its modern form without the
Bible to support it.
Films can be documentaries of real events and characters or
can be entirely fictional -- as can books. Neither a film nor a book
can be used as proof of its own validity -- to do so would be
(R) Exactly. Which is why I never use the Bible in an attempt to
prove God's existence.
(MB) That is why you have quoted Bible verses in previous arguments?
(R) You seem determined to use it to try and prove He doesn't exist, however.
(MB) Since there is nothing else with which to support the existence of God, one
must turn to the book in which he was invented -- the Bible. Since the Bible
also contains the basis upon which Judaism and Christianity are formed, it is
necessary to examine its contents. Since those same religions also claim that
the Bible is the inspired Word of God, one could reasonably expect it to provide
support for his existence.
Such proof would have to come from an outside,
disconnected source. No such authenticating source exists for either
of the characters in question which are depicted in the film or in the
book. Without this, it is reasonable to conclude that each could
possibly be defined as fictional with respect to those particular
(R) Harvey is fictional because the writer who invented him
classified his work as fictional. You're not trying to say it was a
documentary, are you?
(MB) Not at all. I'm just trying to see if you really believe your own
arguments. Just because the work in which Harvey appears is classified as
fiction does not mean all elements contained within the work are also fictional.
You have made this point yourself. Do you stand by it?
How does one judge which elements of a story are fictional or non-fictional?
You need independent evidence! Without such evidence, any given elements
contained within the story are suspect. They aren't considered non-fictional
simply because nobody can prove them wrong.
Consider two real people -- one who believes in Harvey
and one who believes in God. Each believes that his character
exists and talks to him. Neither can prove that his character
actually does exist. It can be argued that there is also no way
to prove that his character does *not* exist.
(R) All you have to do, to show that Harvey doesn't really exist,
is say, "Harvey is a figment of the imagination of a fictional
character in a film." Can you do the same thing with God?
(MB) Yep. If I say that Man created God in his own image and likeness, can you
prove me wrong? There is considerable evidence in the historical record to
support such a statement. If Man created God, then God is, by definition, just
as fictional as any other character which appears in any other story created by
Man. Once again, you must admit that God and Harvey are equal.
You can't just make statements such as the one you have suggested and have them
provide any degree of proof for anything. That's why it is so important to have
evidence to back up a claim.
You said you would have to question the mental health of the
person who believes in Harvey. Why would you not do the same
for the person who believes in God?
(R) A belief in God certainly doesn't mean someone is mentally
ill. Four billion people can't all be crazy, eh?
(MB) Mass hysteria is a real psychological phenomenon. Once again, ideas do not
gain validity solely on the basis of the number of people that believe them.
(R) I will say, though, I
would be rather leery if someone claimed God actually spoke to
them, out loud, in actual words.
(MB) Why? If God is real and is all-powerful, why couldn't he do that? The
Bible relates several stories where God speaks to various different characters
out loud in actual words. Therefore, if you believe in God, there is no reason
to question or limit the methods that God might use.
If something has no physical manifestation, then it can
not truly be said to exist. In that case, the question is resolved
(R) No, all that can be said is they do not exist physically. This
(MB) Give me an example of something that exists but has neither a physical
manifestation nor derives from the actions or interactions of anything in
physical reality. If you can't, then I am right.
What difference would that make? Just because you
are a Buddhist doesn't mean that ghosts suddenly become a
(R) Just a feeble attempt at humor. Buddhists don't actually
believe in God, at least not in the way that practitioners of other
religions do. However, they do believe that human beings (in fact,
all living things) have spirits. Your question was, does the
existence of ghosts depend on the existence of God? A Buddhist
who believed in ghosts would answer in the negative.
(MB) Buddhists believe that superior beings ("gods", if you will) exist, but
that they are no longer a part of the realm that contains human beings. Without
the initial efforts of the gods, the universe wouldn't exist, but their presence
is no longer required for its continued existence and operation. Therefore, the
answer to the question might well be two-fold. Ghosts wouldn't exist if they
weren't created, but reincarnation is not dependent upon the gods.
Either ghosts exist or they don't. Individual beliefs
can't and don't change that.
(R) Absolutely. But individuals choose to believe or not. As
you say, this choice has no effect on the actual existence or
non-existence. Ghosts, if there are any, don't cease to exist simply
because you choose to believe there aren't any.
(MB) True. Nor do they exist only because somebody chooses to believe so. As
with all other questions of existence, if we are to believe that ghosts exist,
there must be some evidence to support them. The same would apply for the
Christian version of ghosts, "souls".
However, if either God or ghosts truly exist,
then they must be a natural phenomena. If so, there will be some
evidence that could demonstrate their existence.
(R) Only things with a physical manifestations have physical
evidence of their existence.
(MB) Explain how ghosts (or God) could exist and have any effect upon the
physical universe or anything within it and still have no physical
"I don't buy it" neither refutes nor explains anything.
(R) You're absolutely right, that was superficial of me. Some
times, when something is obvious to me, I forget it may not be
obvious to everyone else and don't bother to give proper details.
Sorry. Here's some clarification:
There is a difference between stating the purpose for something,
that is, giving the logical reasons for it, and making up excuses for
it. The latter is called "rationalization." If someone writes a book
in which he says the members of a certain race are physically,
mentally, and morally inferior to other human beings, and are
responsible for all the ills of mankind, he can rationalize his action
in exactly the same way you do yours. That doesn't change the fact
that the purpose of the book is to promote his point of view.
Saying, "It's just my opinion and you don't have to read it," is mere
rationalization. If you didn't want to promote your opinion, you
wouldn't put an essay about it on the Internet.
(MB) All you're doing here is trying to redefine the meaning of the word
"promote". Did you read my essay because I told you to do so or because it was
forced upon you in any way? Were you required to reply to it? Is it displayed
in a public place where one couldn't help but see it whether or not they were
actually looking for it? Were you tricked into reading it? Do I buy or sell
advertising for it?
Since you're not likely to believe anything I might have to say in my own
defense, allow me to quote an e-mail message I recently received. The author of
this message directed its contents towards you and it concerns this current
point of debate. The message follows:
"While reading all the debates on releigion with MB, I find myself a
little miffed by your statement in Reply #9c. I was born and raised Catholic. I was
married in the Baptist church and attended it for a few years. I have
also attended the Christian church and been to the Temple. My
step-mother is Jewish. I am not a beleiver in organized religion after
being turned off by the different things that have happened. This does
not mean I don't beleive in a Higher Being. I've known MB for about two
years, and I assure you he forces his views on no one. Most people who
know him socially don't even know his beliefs or how he feels. I have
always found religion to be a very interesting subject and enjoy reading
the replies on his web site. He and I have had discussions about our
views on religion. At no time has he ever tried to change my view or my
beliefs, as if he could. He has however opened up a world of different
thinking to me which I find interesting. He truly beleives in being one
with the universe and kind to his fellow man. Because he thinks
differently doesn't make him wrong. It just makes him different. He is
entitled to that, just as you are entitled to what you think and feel.
Do I agree with MB, no not always, but we are still friends. We have
discussed numerious topics and not once has he ever tried to force an
opinion on me, even if I disagree with him. If you were to meet him at
a party you wouldn't even know this is the same person you have been
debateing. I'd love to see that."