testing for the ineffable
April 10, 2003 01:47 PM

There's something about tests that challenge the contradictions in one's beliefs that hearkens back to that boy. You know, the geeky one who was always getting his ass kicked for trying to make other people look stupid?

So, if you harbor residual resentment for the aggressive geek in your [past] life, you might want to avoid Battlefield God.

If you're curious about my personal philosophy, or are just interested in the level of annoyance produced by the questions in the battlefield test, read on for the answers I gave and the supporting theories on my part. I have to say, I feel much better now that I've gotten my niggling and quibbling out in the open.

I still owe a boy named Eric a kick in the shins from sixth grade for asking me stupid questions like this over and over again. If you see him, will you pass it along for me?

[Link from Ampersand]

1. God exists: FALSE
Glad we got that out of the way up front.

2. If God does not exist then there is no basis for morality: FALSE
Does anyone actually argue to the contrary on this one? What we consider moral clearly varies from culture to culture, with or without existence or belief in gods.

3. Any being which it is right to call God must be free to do anything: FALSE
You could rightly call any power you believe in "god". Does the calling enable that power to do anything? Maybe, maybe not.

4. Any being which it is right to call God must want there to be as little suffering in the word as is possible: FALSE
Suffering in the WORD? Even taking the misspelling, there's certainly the potential for a vengeful god.

5. Any being which it is right to call God must have the power to do anything: FALSE
To me, this falls pretty much under the same category as #3, but I suppose freedom could be implied to mean unconstrained power, so a god could have constrained power but still have power. I'll give you that.

6. Evolutionary theory maybe false in some matters of detail, but it is essentially true: TRUE
This is the sucker punch question, isn't it? You just know this is going to trigger that kid coming back around with his "well, you said evolution was true, so nah!" attitude. Damned kid. Rationally, though - there is evidence that evolution happened, so I'll believe it's true.

7. It is justifiable to base one's beliefs about the external world on a firm, inner conviction, regardless of the external evidence, or lack of it, for the truth or falsity of these convictions: FALSE or TRUE, whatever.
When it comes to the ineffable, there is no hard line drawn between external evidence and internal conviction. When it comes to the prosaic world-as-it-is stuff, my internal conviction that I am a murderous loaf of bread may be justifiable, but it is both irrational and unprovable. If I sit and believe my loaf of bread thing, fine, but if I act on my murderous breadly tendencies, it shifts to unacceptable. So, what does justifiable mean to you? To me, it has an implication of rationality and fitting into what everyone agrees is the rest of the world; I say, generally you need to act on what you have evidence is true.

8. Any being that it is right to call God must know everything that there is to know: FALSE
Bah. I've already said this. God is whatever you say it is.

9. Torturing innocent people is morally wrong: TRUE
Hey, this one is easy! I think it was intended to "get" the anarchists who answered #1 false and #2 true. But torturing innocent people is morally and ethically unacceptable in my culture, so I'm uberconsistent on this one. If you added "always" to this, I'd have to disagree, though.

10. If, despite years of trying, no strong evidence or argument has been presented to show that there is a Loch Ness monster, it is rational to believe that such a monster does not exist: TRUE
This is so setting me up for some sort of argument against the existence of a god. But you could also say, if there's not much evidence against the existence of the LNM, it's rational to believe that it does exist.

11. People who die of horrible, painful diseases need to die in such a way for some higher purpose: FALSE
But some people who die horribly do deserve it. So do some people who get kicked in the shin. And maybe dying of a horrible disease might serve some grand purpose in terms of your personal development that might carry over to some future life. I don't know.

12. If God exists she could make it so that everything now considered sinful becomes morally acceptable and everything that is now considered morally good becomes sinful: FALSE
I think I've already explained the rationale behind my perspective on morality. But, despite a lack of dings from the test on this one, my answer is somewhat inconsistent. If I really believed that whatever you thought god was became what god was, then I'd say this one was true, even though I think morality is a real, useful social construct and god doesn't actually exist. The test only knows what I say, though, not why I say it.

13. It is foolish to believe in God without certain, irrevocable proof that God exists: FALSE
"Foolish"? I told you that evolution question was coming back - if you answer "true" to this question, the test dings you for saying you think evolution is true, since the proof isn't certain and irrevocable. I take issue with the semantics here. It didn't ask me if I thought myself foolish for believing evolutionary theory, but it does return an issue if I say I think god exists in question 1, but then say I think it's foolish to do so. I suppose it is inconsistent to hold a belief you think is foolish.

14. As long as there are no compelling arguments or evidence that show that God does not exist, atheism is a matter of faith, not rationality: TRUE. And FALSE.
This is so the Loch Ness Monster question all over again. You cannot prove something does or does not exist without evidence to support one of those assumptions. So, barring any evidence, only agnosticism is purely rational. Atheism is both a matter of faith and of rationality; the same could be said for belief in god.

15. The serial rapist Peter Sutcliffe had a firm, inner conviction that God wanted him to rape and murder prostitutes. He was, therefore, justified in believing that he was carrying out God's will in undertaking these actions: FALSE
Based on my previously stated assumption about the meaning of "justified", this answer is consistent. Based on what I actually answered (when locked into the one or the other approach), it was not.

16. If God exists she would have the freedom and power to create square circles and make 1 + 1 = 72: FALSE
A circle is simply the name we've given something. And there probably is a mathematical basis for the truth of the statement 1 + 1 = 72. So, who knows?

17. It is justifiable to believe in God if one has a firm, inner conviction that God exists, regardless of the external evidence, or lack of it, for the truth or falsity of the conviction that God exists: TRUE
I was dinged on this one on the grounds that "god" is part of the "external world", which may or may not be the case. The ineffability of god is such that, if god exists, it might exist only in the context of my exact, personal experience. In which case, I challenge the externality implied by this question. Shennanigans!

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