Sunday, October 31, 2010

Torah Law & Angels and Leviticus 7:22-25 vs 1 Cor 11:23-25

The Author of Acts thought the Torah Law came from an angel. In Acts 7:37-38(RSV) Stephen's speech reads in part: “This is the Moses .... This is he who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers; and he received living oracles to give to us. “

The Apostle Paul thought that the Torah Law came from angels. In Gal 3:19 (RSV) “Why then the law? ... and it was ordained by angels through an intermediary.” , Paul directly stated this.

The author of Hebrews thought the same. When discussing the Torah Law in Hebrews 2:2 (RSV),
"For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward;”, he ascribes the Torah to angels.

This is how the Paulian Christians were able to get around the assertions of the earlier Jewish Christians that the Torah Laws had to be obeyed. Paul's special pleadings would have carried no argumentative weight if his opponents could appeal to the words of the divine Yahweh. If there were no word's of the divine Yahweh in the Torah Laws, then Paul's contentions were as good as those of the Jewish Christians in the James, Mandean, Nasoraean, and Ebonite cults. The problem then facing the Paulian Christian was to steal the concept of the Passover Paschal Lamb sacrifices that under gird the doctrine of the Atonement while simultaneously denying it . If the Torah Laws found at Exodus 12:43-50 and Numbers 9:9-14 were given by angels, then they were never in actual effect by any god. The Paulist needs to assert the Passover Paschal Lamb sacrifices were in effect to vivify the doctrine of Atonement, but she also needs to deny validity of the Torah Law in order to makes Paul's special pleading to the doctrine of Grace seem valid. The early Catholics understood this and consequently they wrote the doctrine that angels delivered the Torah into the mouth of Stephen to facilitate Hellenization of Christianity.

If Yahweh actually exists, however, and is responsible for the Torah law, Christianity is false, and the way to relate to deity is via Judaism. An interesting pair of Biblical contradictions falsifies Christianity, and the archeological record to falsify Judaism. A contradiction entailed between the alleged revelations of Christianity and Judaism is the formers glorification and dependence upon symbolic consumption of blood offered in sacrifice.

1 Cor. 11:23-25 relates " 23: For I received from the Lord, that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus, in the night in which he was delivered up, took bread, 24: and having given thanks broke [it], and said, This is my body, which [is] for you: this do in remembrance of me. 25: In like manner also the cup, after having supped, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood: this do, as often as ye shall drink [it], in remembrance of me. "

Judaism's alleged revelation in Lev 7:22-27 states "22: And Jehovah spoke to Moses, saying, .... 26: And no blood shall ye eat in any of your dwellings, whether it be of fowl or of cattle. 27: Whatever soul it be that eateth any manner of blood, that soul shall be cut off from his peoples."

Jesus is identified as Yahweh in the following passages. John 1:1, John 1:14, John 8:58, John 10:30-31, John 10:38-39, John 14:9, John 20:28, Acts 20:28, Col 1:16, Col 2:9, 1 Tim 3:16, Titus 2;13, Phil 2:6, Heb 1:8, Rev 1;17, and Rev 22:13.

The Bible assures the reader that Yahweh cannot lie as expounded in the following passages. Num 23:19, 1 Sam 15:29, 2 Sam 7:28, Titus 1:2, Heb 6:18.

The Bible also relates that the Law of Moses is a perpetual Covenant that cannot be rescinded ever. Gen 17:19, Ex 12:14, 17, 24, Lev 23:14,21,31, Deut 4:8-9, 7:9, 11:26-28,1 Chron 16:15, PS 111:7-8, Psalm 119:151-2, 160, Mal 4:4, Matt 5:18-19, Luke 16:17.

If Yahweh exists, then either Judaism is a true revelation or it isn't. If Moses got a true and correct revelation, then that revelation is incompatible with and contrary to Christianity, and Jesus and Paul were wrong, self-deluded, and Jesus cannot be equal to Yahweh. On the other hand if Moses was a deceiver or a myth, then Judaism is a fictional religious fairy tale, and Jesus and Paul were incorrect, self-deluded, and Jesus cannot be Yahweh because Christianity presupposes Judaism to be a true revelation. Either way Christianity is false, and Jesus is not Yahweh.

If Paul had the truth and his Law of Moses as schoolmaster argument (Gal. 3:24) was true, then either Yahweh lied to Moses or the New Testament's assertion that Jesus equals Yahweh is false. Either way the Passover Paschal Lamb sacrifices, that under gird the doctrine of the Atonement, found at Exodus 12:43-50 and Numbers 9:9-14 would be invalid and the entire pretext of Christianity would evaporate. Additionally, if Yahweh is a liar, then it is not most worthy of worship, and . If Yahweh is not most worthy of worship, then it cannot be God and the Christian God must be something else. If the Bible's assertion that Jesus equals Yahweh is false, then Christianity's dependence upon a truthful historical Judaism is also a lie and the use of Old Testament proof texts to support Christian claims is fallacious and there could not then be Christ as Jewish Messiah.

Both Moses and Paul cannot be correct, but both can be wrong. If Moses, the Exodus, the Conquest of Canaan, the Davidic-Solomon-Reboaham unified empire are myths cooked up by the eighth century BCE Judean Yahweh cultists in response to the prosperity of the Omri-Ahab dynasty of the northern Israel kingdom and territorial encroachments of the Assyrian empire, then the Mosaic Law and the Torah are human fabrications. And Jesus, the Jews, and Paul were wrong and self-deluded. Christianity presupposes and requires Judaism to be a true revelation from Yahweh, but if the Bible minimalists are correct, as they appear to be, then Judaism is just another mythological religious fairytale, and the New Testament's equivocation of Jesus and Yahweh is a lie, and there was never a first Passover. Without a first Passover as per the story in Exodus 12, there is no basis for the Passover Paschal Lamb sacrifice laws. This would be fatal for Judaism and Christianity.

Friday, October 29, 2010

About Papias and the Gospels

I crafted this quote heavy essay two years ago for a message exchange with a Christian guy named David on Dawson Bethrick’s blog Incinerating Presuppositionalism regarding Papias and Christian origins.

David: "you should wonder why the early church leadership chose to attribute Marcan authorship when they knew he was writing down Peter's words. Why not put Peter at the wheel, if you know that this will guarantee the story gets in the stack?"

David’s query begs the question in several ways. By asserting that I should be concerned about (presumably) the Jesus myth case because of Christian apologetical assertions that canonical Mark was authored by the legendary secretary John Markus to Simon Peter the Apostle and that putting Peter at the wheel gets the story into the stack is circular reasoning because that is to assume the gospel stories are historical. The historicity of the Gospel story is, however, the issue at question.

It is Petitio principii to think there was “leadership” in early Christianity because doing so assumes a “big bang” origin of Christianity with a legendary founder, Jesus of Nazareth. In fact, Christianity was always a schizophrenic diversity of cultic expression characterized by many sects each with a writhing, squirming, wad of competitive would be prophets and apostles. Christianity was never a single organization prior to the darkness of total Catholic control. Asserting there was 2-nd century consensus begs the question.

To suggest Irenaeus’ agenda of establishing his four gospels as authoritative was contested is to ignore the Sitz im Leben of late second century Catholicism and to assume that the other types of Christianity then extant would be in any way influenced by what they considered gross error. Would the Gnostics or Jewish-Christian sectarians have been influenced by Irenaeus? Of course not. Who was there in the 2-nd century to say what was scripture and what was not? The religious landscape of 2-nd century Rome was a free-for-all. There were Holy Ghost’s, Prophets-Of-The-Real-Gods, Apostles-O-Christ-du jure on every street corner. Vast numbers of phony preachers and cult leaders competed for followers and their loot, and there was no end to the fools and loons who willingly followed. The much later Church Councils and Synods of the fourth century were 150 to 200 years yet to come relative to Irenaeus. However, his writings were influential with third and fourth century Catholics in establishing preferred dogma. The later churchmen then accepted Irenaeus’ recommendations (an reliance on Papias) because his gospels told the story in a manner compliant with their desire to create an authoritative institution issuing command catechism. Irenaeus’ claim regarding authorship of Mark stem from Papias. However, the zany notion that the canonical Gospel of Mark was authored by the legendary secretary John Markus to Simon Peter the Apostle as per Papias cannot be substantiated from what historical data we have.

Since the four canonical gospels do not show up in the literary record prior to Irenaeus naming them in "Against Heresies,"

"After their departure (death of Peter & Paul), Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter." - (Against Heresies 3:1:1)

we can reasonably accept a strong prior probability that were canonical Mark and Matthew in circulation prior to Irenaeus, that Quadratus of Athens, Aristides, Marcion, Polycarp, Justin Martyr and other early 2-nd century apologists would have used them. But the early 2-nd century Christian churchmen do not cite or quote canonical Mark and Matthew.

It is likely that Irenaeus ascribed authorship of what we think of as the canonical Gospel According to Mark to Presbyter John’s Mark based on data from Papias about a quite different document. Paul Tobin’s case thoroughly refutes evangelical assertions that canonical Mark was the document thought to be known to Papias. He explains:

"The first explicit references to the supposed authors of the gospels were from Irenaeus (c130-200). Thus we see him making references to the gospels according to Mark, Matthew, Luke and John in Against Heresies (c 180)

Against Heresies 3:10:5 Wherefore also Mark, the interpreter and follower of Peter, does thus commence his Gospel narrative: "The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God..." [Mark 1:1]"

The earliest attempt to give the names of the authors of some of the gospels came just before the middle of the second century. This is the witness of an early Christian named Papias, bishop of Heirapolis. He wrote a now lost work entitled The Five Books of Interpretations of the Oracles of the Lord. The actual time of his writing is unknown, and is now available only in fragments quoted by later Christians. Most scholars place it around 130 CE, but it could well be as late as 150 CE. In any case, this is what Papias wrote - as quoted in Eusebius's (c275-339) History of the Church:(Book III, Chpt.39, Art.1)
Quoted in History of the Church 3:39:15
And the presbyter said this: Mark the interpreter of Peter, wrote down exactly, but not in order, what he remembered of the acts and sayings of the Lord, for he neither heard the Lord himself nor accompanied him, but, as I said, Peter later on. Peter adapted his teachings to the needs [of his hearers], but made no attempt to provide a connected narrative of things related to our Lord. So Mark made no mistake in setting down some things as he remembered them, for he took care not to omit anything he heard nor to include anything false. As for Matthew, he made a collection in Hebrew of the sayings and each translated them as best they could.

His source for this information is one Presbyter John. Who is this mysterious person whom Papias quoted? We do not know. We do know that he was not one of the apostles, as earlier in the same work Papias wrote this:

Quoted in History of the Church 3:39:3-4
And whenever anyone came who had been a follower of the presbyters, I inquired into the words of the presbyters, what Andrew or Peter had said, or Philip or Thomas or James or John or Matthew, or any other disciple of the Lord, and what Aristion and the presbyter John, disciples of the Lord, were still saying.

Note that the presbyter John is not included in the list of the apostles and is not to be confused with the apostle John who was mentioned earlier in the sentence and in the past tense. There is a further point we should note about the witness of Papias. According to Eusebius (History of the Church 3:39:13-14), Papias was a man "of very limited understanding" who "misunderstood apostolic accounts." In other words he must have been, even for his age, quite credulous. We do not foresee such a person counter-checking the reliability of the information given to him by the presbyter. He probably just accepted what was told to him verbatim.

[Robert_B: Presbyter John’s story is that his Mark took notes from speeches delivered by Apostle Peter. Our canonical Mark is a narrative story, not a collection of logia sayings.]

Whatever the case may be as to the reliability of this tradition (which we will consider below), Papias' testimony tells us that the name Mark was attached to the gospel around 130-150 CE. Prior to this the document we call the Gospel According to Mark circulated anonymously. It is unlikely that our Gospel According to Mark was the same document Papias referred to. Richard Bauckham in "Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony" (Eerdmans 2006) admits that modern scholars have regarded Papias testimony on Mark as "historically worthless." (Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: p203) – Paul Tobin’s web article Was Papias a Reliable Witness?

[Robert_B: We know about Papias from Irenaeus through Eusebius. Both Irenaeus and Eusebius are known to have exaggerated and must be approached skeptically

It is quite certain that the Christian landscape of the 2-nd century was saturated with itinerant, vagabond, preachers-teachers-prophets-apostles who traveled about swindling credulous Christian believers. Even Paul warned about such in 2 Cor 11:4. The Didache warns against such itinerant apostles..

Let every apostle who comes to you be received as the Lord. But he shall not remain more than one day; or two days, if there's a need. But if he remains three days, he is a false prophet.

[Robert_B: We cannot, therefore, rule out that presbyter John was not a swindling con-man who targeted Papias as a mark.

Richard Packham in "Critique of John Warwick Montgomery's Arguments for the Legal Evidence for Christianity" notes regarding Papias that: "The testimony of Papias is the earliest authority for the authorship of the Apostles, but it is scarcely "solid." We do not even have Papias' direct testimony, since his writings are lost. Our information about Papias' testimony comes only by way of Eusebius, who wrote in the fourth century, and who portrays Papias as being somewhat gullible. The "John" of whom Papias was a student was more likely John Presbyter than John the Evangelist (or John the Apostle, if they can be proven identical). In short, the "solid" evidence is not as solid as Montgomery would like us to believe."

Supernatural Religion: An Inquiry Into the Reality of Divine Revelation (full view available on Google Books) Walter Richard Cassels presents a thoroughly convincing case that canonical Mark is not the same document as that spoken of by Papias. The argument starts on page 276 and runs through 286.

Cassels concluded that: "It is not necessary for us to account for the manner in which the work referred to by the Presbyter John disappeared, and the present Gospel according to Mark became substituted for it. The merely negative evidence that our actual Gospel is not the work described by Papias is sufficient for our purpose. Any one acquainted with the thoroughly uncritical character of the Fathers, and with the literary history of the early Christian Church, will readily conceive the facility with which this can have been accomplished. The great mass of intelligent critics are agreed that our Synoptic Gospels have assumed their present form only after repeated modifications by various editors of earlier evangelical works. These changes have not been effected without traces being left by which the various materials may be separated and distinguished ; but the more primitive Gospels have entirely disappeared, naturally supplanted by the later and amplified versions. The critic, however, who distinguishes between the earlier and later matter is not bound to perform the now impossible feat of producing the originals, or accounting in any but a general way for the disappearance of the primitive Gospel.

Tischendorf asks : "How then has neither Eusebius nor any other theologian of Christian antiquity thought that the expressions of Papias were in contradiction with the two Gospels (Mt. And Mk.)?"

The absolute credulity with which those theologians accepted any fiction, however childish, which had a pious tendency, and the frivolous character of the only criticism in which they indulged, render their questioning application of the tradition of Papias to our Gospels anything but singular, and it is only surprising to find their silent acquiescence elevated into an argument. We have already, in the course of these pages, seen something of the singularly credulous and uncritical character of the Fathers, and we cannot afford space to give instances of the absurdities with which their writings abound. No fable could be too gross, no invention too transparent, for their unsuspicious acceptance, if it assumed a pious form or tended to edification. No period in the history of the world ever produced so many spurious works as the first two or three centuries of our era. The name of every Apostle, or Christian teacher, not excepting that of the great Master himself, was freely attached to every description of religious forgery. False gospels, epistles, acts, martyrologies, were unscrupulously circulated, and such pious falsification was not even intended, or regarded, as a crime, but perpetrated for the sake of edification. It was only slowly and after some centuries that many of these works, once, as we have seen, regarded with pious veneration, were excluded from the canon; and that genuine works shared this fate, while spurious ones usurped their places, is one of the surest results of criticism The Fathers omitted to inquire critically when such investigation might have been of value, and mere tradition credulously accepted and transmitted is of no critical value. In an age when the multiplication of copies of any work was a slow process, and their dissemination a matter of difficulty and even danger, it is easy to understand with what facility the more complete and artistic Gospel could take the place of the original notes as the work of Mark." – Cassels, "Supernatural Religion" p.285-286

Charles B. Waite in his definitive - "History of the Christian Religion: To the Year Two Hundred" wrote the following about Papias’ alleged witness to the Gospels According to Mark and Matthew.

*Such is this far famed testimony (Eusebius, Ecc. Hist. bk. 3, ch. 89.)
That portion relating to the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, may be stated as follows: Eusebius says, that Papias said, that John the presbyter said, in what manner certain writings of Mark and Matthew had been constructed. The value to be attached to any statements of Eusebius, will be considered hereafter. One important circumstance will be noted, in the evidence, as it stands: Notwithstanding this explanation of the apostolic origin of the books, it appears that Papias considered them, as evidence, inferior to oral tradition. That, too, a hundred years after the time, when, as is claimed, they were written. Again, it is contended by able critics, that the language here attributed to Papias, concerning the book written by Mark, cannot be applied to the gospel which bears his name. ' They insist that it must be referred to the Preaching of Peter, or some other document more ancient then the Gospel of Mark. So also of the logia, oracles or sayings of Christ, by Matthew, which were not the same as the Gospel of Matthew.* - "History of the Christian Religion: To the Year Two Hundred", By Charles Burlingame Waite (full view on Google books)

Papias’ credulity did not escape Eusebius who wrote of him that: 13. For he appears to have been of very limited understanding, as one can see from his discourses. Church History (Book III, Chpt.39, Art.13) That Papias would accept anything is evident by the surviving *fragment of Papias’ writing, preserved by Apollinarius of Laodicea, a fourth century Christian bishop, tells of the fate of Judas. It is important to read this passage in full:

Judas did not die by hanging, but lived on, having been cut down before choking. And this the Acts of the Apostles makes clear, that falling headlong his middle burst and his bowels poured forth. And Papias the disciple of John records this most clearly, saying thus in the fourth of the Exegeses of the Words of the Lord:

Judas walked about as an example of godlessness in this world, having been bloated so much in the flesh that he could not go through where a chariot goes easily, indeed not even his swollen head by itself. For the lids of his eyes, they say, were so puffed up that he could not see the light, and his own eyes could not be seen, not even by a physician with optics, such depth had they from the outer apparent surface. And his genitalia appeared more disgusting and greater than all formlessness, and he bore through them from his whole body flowing pus and worms, and to his shame these things alone were forced [out]. And after many tortures and torments, they say, when he had come to his end in his own place, from the place became deserted and uninhabited until now from the stench, but not even to this day can anyone go by that place unless they pinch their nostrils with their hands, so great did the outflow from his body spread out upon the earth. [4]

Anyone who reads this will immediately notice a few things. Firstly this is a harmonization of the contradictory readings from Matthew 27:3-5 and Acts 1:18-19. [b] Secondly the additional details, like his swollen head, sunken eyes, bloated genitalia, body flowing with pus, emanation of worms and terrible stench are typical motifs used by ancient authors to describe the deserved sufferings of evil men before their deaths. Josephus in Antiquities 17:6:5 described Herod the Great’s suffering before his death to include putrefied genitals, emanation of pus and worms and bad stench. Acts 12:23 describes the death of Herod’s grandson, Herod Agrippa I by stating that he was struck by an angel and was "eaten by worms." In other words the story about Judas suffering is an expected folkloric expansion of the brief accounts given in the Matthew and Acts. [5]

Obviously this fable recounted by Papias certainly did not come from eyewitness accounts. Yet he presented it quite matter-of-factly as though he was recounting real history!

There are further examples from available fragments of Papias’ writing of the basic unreliability of his writings. He was a teller of tall tales. In the fragment preserved by Philip of Side (c. 380 - c. 439), we hear of the daughters of Philip who would drink snake venom with no ill effects, of a woman resurrected and of those who were raised by Jesus surviving until the early second century!

The aforesaid Papias reported as having received it from the daughters of Philip that Barsabas who is Justus, tested by the unbelievers, drank the venom of a viper in the name of the Christ and was protected unharmed. He also reports other wonders and especially that about the mother of Manaemus, her resurrection from the dead. Concerning those resurrected by Christ from the dead, that they lived until Hadrian. [6]

We can now see why Eusebius noted that Papias writes of "strange parables" and "mythical tales." The latter’s credulousness is strong evidence that Papias was as Eusebius described him: someone of "limited understanding." As for his claim of diligent collection and remembering of the Jesus tradition from the elders, we have an example of this in Irenaeus. Irenaeus cited Papias as his source for this saying of Jesus about the millennium:

Against Heresies 5:33:3-4
As the elders who saw John, the disciple of the Lord, related that they had heard from him how the Lord used to teach in regard to these times, and say: The days will come, in which vines shall grow, each having ten thousand branches, and in each branch ten thousand twigs, and in each true twig ten thousand shoots, and in each one of the shoots ten thousand clusters, and on every one of the clusters ten thousand grapes, and every grape when pressed will give five and twenty metretes of wine…And these things are borne witness to in writing by Papias, the hearer of John, and a companion of Polycarp, in his fourth book; for there were five books compiled by him

The source of this saying attributed to Jesus is not from any extant Christian writing or oral tradition – but Jewish apocrypha! Compare the passage below from 2 Baruch, a late first century or early second century Jewish pseudepigraphical text.

2 Baruch 29:3-6
And it shall come to pass when all is accomplished that was to come to pass in those parts, that the Messiah shall then begin to be revealed. …The earth also shall yield its fruit ten thousandfold and on each (?) vine there shall be a thousand branches, and each branch shall produce a thousand clusters, and each cluster produce a thousand grapes, and each grape produce a cor of wine.

The above evidence tells us that Papias was not a careful historian but a credulous second century Christian who seemed eager to believe anything that confirms his faith in Jesus.* - Paul Tobin Was Papias a Reliable Witness?

In light of this stuff, the question of Peter-Mark-Papias is moot, for Papias was an unreliable witness. His testimony cannot be taken seriously by any honest exegetical investigator.

Randel Helms from Gospel Fictions on Jesus' last words.

I typed this a couple of years ago after reading Randel Helms great missive. Gospel Fictions

In the second chapter Helms points out that in three of the four canonical Gospels that the alleged final dying words of Jesus are recorded differently, and Matthew spins the words for his own purposes. I will cite the text at length as Helms is a better writer than me.

"For example, according to Matthew and Mark, the dying words of Jesus were, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" According to Luke, Jesus' dying words were, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." But according to John they were , "It is accomplished." To put it another way, we cannot know what the dying words of Jesus were, or even whether he uttered any; it is not that we have too little information, but that we have too much. Each narrative implicitly argues that the others are fictional. In this case at least, it is inappropriate to ask of the Gospels what "actually" happened; they may pretend to be telling us, but the effort remains a pretense, a fiction.
The matter becomes even more complex when we add to it the virtual certainty that Luke knew perfectly well what Mark had written as the dying words, and the likelihood that John also knew what Mark and perhaps Luke had wrote, but that both Luke and John chose to tell the story differently."

[The interesting thing here is that both the Lukian and Johnine writers were working from Mark and other source documents, but they choose to tell the story in very different ways for doctrinal and theological reasons related to the needs of their faith communities. This argues against historicity and reliability of the Gospels because if the evangelists were relating events involving the Son of God or God Incarnate they would have taken pains to ensure accuracy rather than incorporate many discrepancies and contradictions between the various Gospel accounts. Helms continues.]

"The Gospels are Hellenistic religious narratives in the tradition of th Greek Septuagint version of the Old Testament, which constituted the "Scriptures" to those Greek-speaking Christians who wrote the four canonical Gospels and who appealed to it, explicitly or implicitly, in nearly every paragraph the wrote.
A simple example is the case of the las words of Christ. Mark presents these words in self-consciously realistic fashion, shifting from his usual Greek into the Aramaic of Jesus, transliterated into Greek letters: "'Eloi eloi lama sabachthanei (My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? - Mark 15:34). Mark gives us no hint that Jesus is "quoting" Pslam 22:1; we are clearly to believe that we are hearing the grieving outcry of a dying man. But the author of Matthew, who used Mark as one of his major written sources is self-consciously "Literary" in both this and yet another way: though using Mark as his major source for the passion story, Matthew if fully aware that Mark's crucifixion narrative is based largely on the 22 nd Psalm, fully aware, that is, that Mark's Gospel is part of a literary tradition (this description would not be Matthew's vocabulary, but his method is nonetheless literary). Aware of the tradition, Matthew knew that no Aramaic speaker present at the Cross would mistake a cry to God (Eloi) for one to Elijah - the words are too dissimilar. So Matthew self-consciously evoked yet another literary tradition in the service both of verisimilitude and of greater faithfulness to the Scriptures: not the Aramaic of Psalm 22:1 but the Hebrew, which he too transliterated into Greek - "Eli Eli" (Matt. 27:46) - a cry which could more realistically be confused for "Eleian". Matthew self-consciously appeals both to literary tradition -a "purer" text of the Psalms-and to verisimilitude as he reshapes Mark, his literary source. ..... Matthew certainly knew that he was creating a linguistic fiction in his case (Jesus spoke Aramaic, not Hebrew.) though just as clearly he felt justified in doing so, given his conviction that since Psalm 22 had "predicted" events in the crucifixion, it could be appealed to even in the literary sense of one vocabulary rather that another, as a more "valid description of the Passion.
Luke is even more self-consciously literary and fictive than Matthew in his crucifixion scene. Though, as I have said, he knew perfectly well what Mark had written as the dying words of Jesus, he created new ones more suitable to his understanding of what the death of Jesus meant - and act with at least two critical implications: First, that he has thus implicitly declared Mark's account a fiction; second, that he self-consciously presents his own as a fictions. For like Matthew, Luke in 23:46 deliberately placed his own work in the literary tradition by quoting Psalm 30 (31):5 in the Septuagint as the dying speech of Jesus: "Into your hands I will commit my spirit" ("eis cheiras sou parathesomai to pneuma mou"), changing the verb from future to present (paratithemai) to suit the circumstances and leaving the rest of the quotation exact. This is self-conscious creation of literary fiction, creation of part of a narrative scene for religious and moral rather than historical purposes. Luke knew perfectly well, I would venture to assert, that he was creating an ideal model of Christian death, authorized both by doctrine and by literary precedent." - from "Gospel Fictions" p.15-17

Helms makes a good case throughout "Gospel Fictions", for there are many examples of this sort of purposeful editorial revisionism to assert midrashic theological-doctrinaire teachings. The last words of Jesus were and are of utmost importance to Christians as you yourself indicate by citing John 19:30. Yet each of the canonical Gospels tells it differently or spins it differently in the case of Matthew. This shows that the Gospel authors were self-consciously aware they were not dealing with history but rather with pious fiction. Taken together almost all content of the Gospels can be shown to be based on earlier Moses, Elijah, David stories or from bits of liturgical text form the Jewish apocrypha. I recommend Dr. Robert M. Price's book "The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man". Price does a masterful job of illustrating the midrashic nature of the Gospels.

In "The Case Against Christianity" Michael Martin evaluates Dr George A Wells' argument against a historical Jesus and concludes:

“Well's argument against the historicity of Jesus is sound, and recent criticisms against his argument can be met. So on the basis of Well's argument there is good reason to reject not only Orthodox Christianity but even those versions of Liberal Christianity that assume that although Jesus was not the Son of God he was an ethical teacher who lived in the first Century.” ~ p.67, ISBN 0-87722-767-5

My point in all of this is to note that the story of Jesus is fictional. Whatever Jesus really was, we'll never know. He is lost to history, and all that remains is a sad caricature clothed in layers of obfuscatory religions doctrines hidden behind the stained glass of orthodoxy.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

reply to Jayman

Hello Jayman: I hope this message finds you well and feeling good. Nothing in this reply should be construed as an insult of ad hominem attack in lieu of argument. We can have a discussion even though we disagree on the issue. However, I respectfully agree with you when you wrote in response to Mr. Myers that “If you don't want to make arguments then don't make historical claims.”

Sir, the Christian apologist bears a strong burden of proof to validate the claim that the Canonical Gospels are historically reliable. A context for shouldering that burden can be achieved by employment of the Coherency Theory
truth wherein an exegete holds a “view that the truth of a proposition consists in its being a member of some suitably defined body of other propositions: a body that is consistent.”

Since modern people can know nothing of ancient history with certainty, a historical inquirer must seek to form arguments to the best explanation. That is assisted by demonstrating a rational Beysian probability that the Canonical Gospels are most likely true (or not) as historical accounts. To do that it is required to determine the prior probability of that hypothesis given the evidence we do have using the Coherency Theory of truth. All the facts must be coherent and fit with the main hypothesis.

Bayes Theorem is expressed as


where for present purposes

P(H) is the prior probability of the Gospels being historically acurate.

P(S) is the prior probability of the non-Christian silence regarding Jesus or the rise of Christianity in the first century.

P(S|H) is the conditional probability of the non-Christian silence given historical accuracy of the Gospel accounts.

P(H|S) is the conditional probability of historical accuracy of the Gospel accounts given the non-Christian silence regarding Jesus or the rise of Christianity in the first century.

No non-Christian testimony for Jesus or the rise of Christianity can be reliably counted upon to support the hypothesis that the Gospels are historically accurate. Pliny the Younger’s letter to Emperor Trajan showed he knew nothing of Jesus or Christianity for he had to torture the female slaves to obtain information that he termed “excessive superstition”. Yet the Christian story says that the religion spread quickly and widely throughout the regions of the eastern Mediterranean. If that were true, sophisticated elite ruling class officials would be expected to be acquainted with the religion especially in light of the Ignatian story. This fact as well as the other unexplainable silences regarding Jesus, Paul, and the alleged rapid spread of Christianity contradicts the Gospel and Acts stories. And since all religions are known to be based on fictional stories and since it is very easy to make up fictional stories and since form criticism identifies the Gospel stories as compliant with the archtypical form of widespread redeeming hero mythcial savior deities or demigods, then it is very likely the Gospel stories are fictional midrash, and that means the P(H) is very small.

P(S) however is very large because if the stories are indeed fictional midrash constituting contents of a mystery religion that was secret and only revealed to initiates, then it is to be expected that ancient chroniclers of then current events would not write about Christianity even though they were Johnny on the Spot and had every opportunity and motivation to write about it.

However, P(S|H) would be very small because if a Demi God or Divine being were striding about doing supernatural miracles in front of thousands, then the chroniclers should have and would have known and subsequently written about it. Its not every day that some Jewish Rabbi resurrects stinking rotting corpses or that Zombies rise from their graves an go ambling about in Jerusalem.

Then since P(S) is very large, and P(H) and P(S|H) are very small, P(H|S) is also very small. Thus it is rational to think the Gospel stories not historically accurate and to think them fictional midrash for a small unobtrusive mystery cult. This means asserting the Gospels accounts historically accurate or reliable is an extraordinary claim. To validate it, extraordinary evidence is needed. No such evidence is available. Only ordinary evidence can be mustered to support the apologetic case. The ordinary evidence available is not very good. So I think an exegete seeking to make a case for Christianity or historical reliability of the Gospels has a long row to hoe.

The forgoing constitutes and argument to the best explanation because it has good scope and parsimony with the known facts. To rebut this, an apologist should provide evidence of non-Christian testimony for Jesus, Paul, and the rise of Christianity. However the usual suspects have been dispatched. Jesus: Neither God Nor Man - The Case for a Mythical Jesus

And the internal evidence of the New Testament documents fails for reasons Doherty, Price, Wells, Freke, Gandy, Murdock, Zindler and others have written upon in their books.

The facts are coherent and form a body of knowledge that is inconsistent with historical reliability of the NT Gospels. It is speculative that there may still have been a historical Jesus who was associated with the Q1 Kingdom of God preaching movement, but if so he would have more likely resembled a Hellenistic Cynic Sage type. But he would not have been the guy described in Gospel of Mark and that would be fatal for any form of Christianity dependent upon the Gospel Jesus character.

Best wishes, and regard to the readers, Robert Bumbalough

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Excerpt from John C. Calhoun's Fort Hill Speech

The great and leading principle is, that the General Government emanated from the people of the several States, forming distinct political communities, and acting in their separate and sovereign capacity, and not from all of the people forming one aggregate political community; that the Constitution of the United States is, in fact, a compact, to which each State is a party, in the character already described; and that the several States, or parties, have a right to judge of its infractions; and in case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of power not delegated, they have the right, in the last resort, to use the language of the Virginia Resolutions, “to interpose for arresting the progress of the evil, and for maintaining, within their respective limits, the authorities, rights, and liberties appertaining to them.” This right of interposition, thus solemnly asserted by the State of Virginia, be it called what it may—State-right, veto, nullification, or by any other name—I conceive to be the fundamental principle of our system, resting on facts historically as certain as our revolution itself, and deductions as simple and demonstrative as that of any political or moral truth whatever; and I firmly believe that on its recognition depend the stability and safety of our political institutions. . .
John C. Calhoun Fort Hill, July 26 1831

Friday, October 22, 2010

Why Pedication of Establishment Clause Precludes USA From Being Christian Country

Hello Mr ???????

I hope you're well and feeling good. Here's an additional thought that I can share with you right now. I may not be able to respond to your comments this weekend as my schedule is full. However here is an argument for the wall of separation.

The reason why predication of the Establishment clause by the Congress, the Senate, the President, the SOCTUS, the Constitutional Conventions, the State Ratification Conventions, the State Ratification Committees, and the expectation of the People of the States as indicated by almost total silence on religious matters in the Federalist Papers caused the Wall of Separation to obtain is that the intent of the Sovereigns, the People of The States, explicitly and unambiguously expressed the universal rejection of power to meddle in religious affair by the positive, explicit, endorsement of the Establishment clause by the Sovereign States in forming the United Stats of America means the ultimate Sovereigns, The People of The States, choose to not meddle in religious affairs. This predication specifically showed intent to configure the United States of America as a secular and free country. A secular and free country cannot be a religious country. Thus the intent of the Sovereigns was that the USA not be a Christian country.

Neither you nor I wish to live in a religious country anyways because a religious political entity that couples an welds Church and State together regulates all matters religious and compels religious observance in a manner like the ancient Roman Empire where citizens and subjects were compelled upon pain of charges of treason to worship the images of dead Ceasars as gods of the State or like Iran where people are required by law to practice Shia Islam. That is what a religious country would look like. Instead and happily, your religious practice is protected by law as is my choice to reject supernatural religion. You can worship your god freely. If the United States of America were a Christian County you would be forced by law to practice the official version of Christianity in lieu of your preferred faith. Since there are many thousands of versions or denominations of Christianity, it would be very likely you would find the official version offensive or undesirable. What if the USA adopted Calvinism as its official religion and surprised the world by producing a sacred scripture that stated that in order to be saved a Christian must pay 95% of all their money to the government and if they did not then they are not amongst the elect? What then if some resisted? Would not the government by fire and sword eliminate the non-elect from the population? After all eliminating infidels would be the will of God as expressed though the State. Is that what you really want? Would you desire to force everybody to bow down to a State Cult upon pain of some punishment, probably imprisonment or death? I think we're better off with religious freedom as Hamilton noted in Federalist No.1.

Its is my hope you prosper and find that which you seek.

Best Wishes and Regards

Robert Bumbalough

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Is USA a Christian Country?

I opened a new email exchange with a man who posts on a well trafficked blog on the question of whether the USA is a Christian Country. His post stated the following.

“Where in the Constitution is separation of church and state?,”  O’Donnell asks. The answer? It ain’t there. The First Amendment, passed after the Constitution was adopted by a Congress elected under that ratified Constitution, reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Meanwhile, “established religions” were flourishing in several states, and so were multiple prohibitions thereof. In no way does the Constitution or the Bill of Rights establish a “wall of separation” between church and state.
Of particular note, John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, supported a law in his native New York that prohibited Catholics from holding public office there. As I recall, the law was on the books until 1820.
Since 1789, activist courts have delighted in finding all sorts of “constitutional” principles that are not in the Constitution.

My initial rebuttal held that:

I disagree with your comment posted on the Lewrockwell blog. There is a wall of separation between State and Church specified in the Constitution for The United States cognizable by recognition of both a necessary and sufficient condition. The First Amendments prohibition on Congressional establishment of religion prevents the United States Federal Government from adopting any official religion. This is the necessary condition. However, The Establishment Clause is not a sufficient condition to rule out cultural inheritance of a defacto quasi official religion by means of commonality of shared traits. You correctly pointed this out in your comment by noting John Jay's support for religious tests of qualification for office holders.

You failed, however, to tell the whole story. The Supremacy Clause in Art VI Section 1, Clause 2 reads “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.” This makes articles of Treaties the “supreme Law of the Land”.

The Treaty of Tripoli's Article 11 reads “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”

Consequently, “the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby,” is to be understood “ As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” This is a sufficient condition, and considered with the necessary condition of the Establishment Clause we are justified in concluding there indeed is a wall of separation between the United States of America and the obviously false and repugnant Christian religions.

Best Wishes and Regards

Robert Bumbalough

His subsequent response prompted additional thoughts on this matter.

Greetings from Robert Bumbalough.

Sir, I hope you are well and prospering. This third message is the second I am writing to defend that the United States of America is not a Christian country or nation and is in fact both free and secular in nature. But first allow me to clarify my own position, I am a Randian Objectivist and as such, I advocate a minimal minarchism in governmental structural organization although for me the jury is still out on the question of whether or not government should be monolithic or can be a plurality of competing free market enterprises a la Anarcho-Capitalism. Religiously, I am a strong or positive atheist because I know God, imagined as consciousness without existence and source of information, is impossible. I am a fan of all sciences. In no sense could I be described as a leftist, a liberal, a progressive, a socialist, or Marxist. However, I am neither a conservative or libertarian as those positions are fraught with error. I argue for Laissez Faire Capitalism and maximal personal liberty and responsibility.

To answer the question, “Is the United States of America a Christian Country?”, the terms Christian and Country need to be defined. I think a nominal Christian can be and only be a living human being that is capable of cognitive reasoning, volitional will, and has “faith” that at least one of either the Nicene, Athanasian, or Apostles Creeds constitute a proper profession of religious observance.

A country is a political entity, a state, and is constituted by sets or rules called laws. In no sense can a country be considered a metaphysical thing or a living human being, nor can it in any sense be considered as having a mind or capacity to reason. It is a schema of organization for a group of human beings who mutually desire to form an association to obtain benefits of civil governance.

Since countries cannot think and are not alive, they cannot be Christian or otherwise religiously construed even if the people who made the rules were religious. However, in the case of the United States of America its founding Charter, the “Constitution for the United States of America” clearly predicates in the first amendment that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof....”. The Congress and Senate passed this amendment. It was signed by George Washington, and it was ratified by the States. These actions predicated a general sense that the United States of America were founded as a secular country. Jefferson made this clear in his famous letter to the Danbury Baptists:

“I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson, as President, in a letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 369)

In your original blog on you wrote

{“Where in the Constitution is separation of church and state?,”  O’Donnell asks. The answer? It ain’t there. The First Amendment, passed after the Constitution was adopted by a Congress elected under that ratified Constitution, reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Meanwhile, “established religions” were flourishing in several states, and so were multiple prohibitions thereof. In no way does the Constitution or the Bill of Rights establish a “wall of separation” between church and state.
Of particular note, John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, supported a law in his native New York that prohibited Catholics from holding public office there. As I recall, the law was on the books until 1820.
Since 1789, activist courts have delighted in finding all sorts of “constitutional” principles that are not in the Constitution.}~

O'Donnell's and your own fallacy lies in thinking the wall of separation can be found in the Constitution itself. But your failure to understand stems from not knowing that both a necessary and sufficient condition is obtained for a man made rule by virtue of universal assertion of an axiomatic corollary. Such predication as was the case with the universal adoption of the establishment clause caused the wall of separation to likewise be established. That is the reason why the Treaty of Tripoli's Article 11 reading in part “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion...” is true. The founders intended to set up a secular country where all people could have religious freedom or freedom from religion.

This view is further buttressed by the fact that nowhere in the Declaration, the Articles of Confederation, or the Constitution for the United States is there a mention of the Christian religion or that the USA should be styled a Christian nation. The reference to God in the Declaration is to nature's God. This is not the Triune fantasy of Christianity known as Theos. Theos is the name of the Christian God in the the New Testament. The English word, God, used by Jefferson in the Declaration was a reference to the Age of Enlightenment's ideal of a personification of reason and creative energy as imagined by deists like Jefferson, Henry, Franklin, Voltaire, Madison, and Adams. Some of the founders were Christians, but those closely related to the Declaration were Deists and had no faith in Jesus so called Christ. Even if Jefferson and et al had been Christian fanatics, the text of the Declaration has no import or affect upon the nature of the United States, for it is still the case that countries cannot be religious. People can be and they can stipulate rules that require others to be religious upon pain of some punishment, but the USA does not have such rules.

In fact, Article VI, Section 3 of the Constitution says “... but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

This is not how religious fanatics act in forcing others to adopt their faith as an official state religion. No country that is styled by its citizens as being religious in some way lacks an official or defacto official religion.

What about the Federalist Papers? Didn't they somehow entail that the people were expecting a religiously oriented country beyond The Articles of Confederation's complete silence on all matters religious save motivations for invasion by foreign enemies? NO! Jesus is not mentioned at all. God is mentioned twice. Once in context of a discussion of the ancient Greek god, Apollo, in reference to a discussion of Phippip of Macedonia (Alexander the Great's father) in Federalist No. 18 and once in Federalist No. 43 as a reference to the general Deist God of Nature referred to in the Declaration of independence. Madison was a Deist. Christianity is mentioned once as a time reference to the condition of the Germanic tribes just prior to the Carolinian empire in Federalist No. 11. So there is no evidence in the Federalist papers that the People expected a religiously oriented government or confederation.

Indeed, religion is mentioned several times in the Federalist Papers, however, but only once in a context of a national religion. Hamilton in Federalist No.1 wrote: “...nothing could be more ill-judged than that intolerant spirit which has, at all times, characterized political parties. For in politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution.” This warning about forcing others to accept one's faith was part of what was expected of the new Constitution. It was in the air in a general sense that the new and improved United States of America was to be a secular and free country.

I shall now address Mr ???????'s comments. The Bricker Amendment was never passed. The Senate defeated it. Eisenhower was opposed to it. A few years later, its champion, Senator Bricker was defeated for reelection. Those predications refuted the doctrine that Congressional approval of Treaties or Executive agreements is required.
Mr ???????, invocation of Missouri v. Holland does not help you. This case says the United States has power to implement Treaty obligations even if doing so would otherwise violate a State's Sovereignty protected by the Tenth Amendment. This is supportive of the Supremacy clause and enforces the Treaty of Tripoli's declaration that the United States was in no way founded upon the Christian religion. So if you wish to make a case that Treaty of Tripoli Art.11 is not the law, then you need something else. Missouri v. Holland helps my side. The United States is a free and secular country.

Mr ??????? mentioned the treaty powers in a general sense by writing “...the history of "Treaty Law,...” Please note that

“No part of any treaty has been held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court” and that

“The language of the Supremacy Clause of Article VI, which identifies treaties together with the Constitution and the laws of the United States as “the supreme Law of the Land,” was held to mean in Foster v. Neilson (1829) that a treaty must “be regarded in courts … as equivalent to an act of the legislature” (p. 254) and thus that a treaty is not valid if it contravenes the Constitution. The controversy engendered by the Bricker Amendment in the early 1950s resurrected fears generated by Missouri v. Holland that the treaty power might somehow be superior to constitutional restraint. In Reid v. Covert (1957), the Court held that civilian dependents of American military personnel overseas are entitled to a civilian trial, notwithstanding a contrary statute, and a plurality stated that no treaty or executive agreement “can confer power on the Congress, or on any other branch of Government, which is free from the restraints of the Constitution” (p. 16). ~

Since the Treaty of Tripoli Art. 11 has never been over turned, it is , via Foster v. Neilson to be regarded in court as equivalent to an act of the legislature and thus declaring the United States in no way founded upon the Christian religion is within the powers of Congress and the President as empowered by the Establishment clause that instantiated the wall of separation by universal predication by congress, Senate, President, and State Legislatures. The United States is a free and secular country.

Then Mr ??????? mentioned the “...facts of American history,...” The fact is that The United States is a free and secular country and has never had an official state religion nor can any country be religious as only people can be so silly.

Mr ??????? wrote: “Put bluntly: a treaty stating "down is up" is not therefore binding on the law of gravity -- nor does it reverse its application in the past.”
Treaties speak to man made states of affairs encoded in rules of conduct called laws. It is absurd to suggest any human can affect metaphysical reality by simply writing words on paper or saying something.

Mr ??????? wrote “In the case of the preamble you cite...” No preamble was cited. This is a casual exchange so exactitude is not necessary. But I did provide links for reference purposes.

Mr ??????? wrote “regarding the Tripoli language gives you grounds to assert that we are not a Christian nation” Sir, this statement indicates you do not understand what a nation is and why the United States is not one. A nation is a group of people who form a body politic for some purpose. Those who formed the United States of America are all dead. There is no nation here. The United States is a Country, a contract between States consisting of sets of rules, and cannot be Christian because only people can do that. Sets of rules can do nothing on their own. The language of the Treaty of Tripoli Article 11 is operative and is the Law.

Mr ??????? wrote “...300 years of history ...” The culture of Americans was not incorporated into the Constitution or Articles of Confederation before. Yet your claim here rests upon a false view of truth. If the religious beliefs of people were incorporated into the Constitution without any reference or specific enumerated power delegated to the Federal Government to establish an official religion, then how is it that all the other aspects of the cultures of the Colonial peoples were are not be be construed as part and parcel of the Constitution? Are we mandated to use candles and whale oil lamps for lighting because the Colonials of the 1780's did so? Your making the fallacy of Composition by assuming that one of traits of the populations which were designated We The People was somehow transferred into a contract made by their representatives even though they expressly did not do so. Just because a part has a property does not mean the whole has that same property. Your fallacy stems from a wrongful view of the Coherence Theory or Truth.

Mr ??????? wrote “...the Declaration of Independence...” I've already written about the Declaration. Jefferson was a Deist and the God references were to the God of Nature not Jesus, Theos, Jehovah, or YHVH. Besides the Declaration had no part in the formation of the United States of America. The USA #1 was formed with final ratification of the Articles of Confederation. USA #2 with final ratification of the Constitution. The assumption that the actions of the Continental Congress somehow made a country is wrong.

Mr ??????? wrote “...unless there are no rights, God-given or otherwise...” Rights presuppose Law and Legal context which in turn presuppose civil society and associations of citizens. Rights do not come from nature but rather from the minds of men. We mutually decide on what we will allow each other to do and those actions we shall be responsible for and are required for our cohabiting cooperation. Even if it were possible for God to exist, it could not make rights for us unless it forced us to do certain actions against our wills.

Mr ??????? wrote “...self-evident-truths like the Laws of nature...” Sir, are you a Christian? Do you believe that your god made the world, the universe, existence? Do you believe the Gospel stories of miracles and the Resurrection of Jesus? If so, then you must necessarily reject the idea of natural law or self-evident-truths. Natural Law means reality is only real if it still exists if there is no consciousness aware of it. Christianity's mythological worldview of a magical realm of miracles and teleology, means there can be no uniformity of nature and hence no possibility of induction and thus no self-evident-truths. Christianity is pure mental subjectivism asserted as primacy of consciousness over existence. The problem here for Christians is that consciousness is and only is awareness of existence and cannot make, modify, or terminate existence.

Mr ??????? wrote “...Nature's God...” Sir, {I should have wrote here that "Nature's God refers to the God of Deism and not the fantasy God of Christianity"}. God, as imagined by most Christians is impossible. Consider the following syllogism that I composed. (This is not a cut and paste job.)

1. To believe that a theistic creator deity exists and is responsible for existence, the believer must imagine their deity was in some timeless fashion akin to "before" existence alone in a timeless, non-spatial, void, without matter, energy, location, dimensions, fields, concepts, knowledge, symbols, perceptions, physical natural law, logic, or referents. And that it was a primordial consciousness that wished existence to instantiate.

2. Consciousness is an axiomatic irreducible primary that at the most common denominative rung on the ladder of complexity consists of awareness of existence.

3. Consciousness of consciousness necessarily requires primary consciousness to first obtain as awareness of existence.

4. Prior to existence there could not have been anything to be aware of.

5. Without anything to be aware of, there could not have been any awareness.

6. Without awareness there could not have been any consciousness.

7. From 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 there could not have been a primordial consciousness prior to existence.

8. Creator gods are defined as primordial consciousness.

9. From 7 and 8 Creator gods cannot exist.

Mr ??????? wrote “in which case there are no bonds on government power
other than our wishful thinking and our cartridge boxes.” Sir, you're just wrong. In a republic the limits of government power come from, checks and balances, Constitutional limitations, the Courts, and in some cases from Nullification. If the government does something you don't like, sue it, or get some friends and protest. Going to war over this shit ani't worth it as Clint Eastwood as fictional Josey Whales said “Dying ain't much of a living.” If it ever gets as bad as East Germany, then bug out for Chile or Argentina.

Mr ??????? wrote “All the best, “

Well Thank you. I hope you find prosperity for yourself and your family.

Cheers: Robert Bumbalough

The Articles of Confederation

The Federalist Papers

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A few thoughts on why fear should not be evidence for induction.

Good afternoon friends and readers. I hope all are well and living life to their fullest with passion and purpose as well as making lots of money. (BTW, America needs more Capitalists.)

The following comments relate to a thread on Objectivist Living forum.

Please do not think I’m trying to mess with anyone’s mind here. I probably should just shut up and try to be a happy idiot. I’ve been told that I think too much, and my 45 minute morning/evening commute gives me time to think. Today I was thinking about the story told earlier in the thread above where the student threw his Exacto knife at the philosophy class instructor and the allegation of a lesson learned thereby. This story bothered me from the moment I read it. Initially I could not figure out why, so I shared my own story of how fear affected me. Yet I was still not satisfied. After sleeping on this for two nights, now I understand why I have a problem with this approach. Fear induced stress activates the sympathetic nervous system to focus the viscera on fight or flight response to danger. Link to Article re sympathetic nervous system This yields an a situation where abrogation of reason as man’s only means of acquiring knowledge obtains. Rand famously wrote:

“Reason is man’s only means of grasping reality and of acquiring knowledge—and, therefore, the rejection of reason means that men should act regardless of and/or in contradiction to the facts of reality.” Link to Rand's reason quotes

Sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are found in the spinal cord and brain stem and not the prefrontal cortex where rational reasoning happens. Instinctive fight or flight responses are part of human cognition’s primitive lizard brain but are not involved in our higher rational thinking processes. Therefore, using strong emotional response to stimulus as justification for foundational belief including justification of induction or to validate “Existence exists” is little different from claims made by Pentecostal Christians that they “know” God is real because of their strong emotional reactions experienced during worship services or in response to their private devotions. Fervently dogmatic socialists, communists, progressives, liberal social democrat welfare Staters, or reds of any sort employ Epistemological Constructivism to maintain their beliefs that Social Justice involves ensuring equality of outcome through State control and de facto if not outright ownership of means of production including the lives citizens. Use of EC to maintain beliefs in SJ is done on emotional grounds. This is in and of itself constitutes a problem for Western Civilization for a reason Rand noted:

“An emotion as such tells you nothing about reality…” Link to Rand quotes re: emotions

It is my hope that I am warranted in thinking there are some very smart Objectivist philosophers here about that can provide a link or explanation to or for a Philosophical or Mathematical Justification of Induction that does not depend upon faith in foundational axioms. When Rand put these words in, John Galt’s, mouth she showed her faith in foundationalism.

“When he declares that an axiom is a matter of arbitrary choice and he doesn’t choose to accept the axiom that he exists, he blanks out the fact that he has accepted it by uttering that sentence, that the only way to reject it is to shut one’s mouth, expound no theories and die.” Link to Rand quotes re Axioms

In response to some who will claim seeking a Philosophical Justification for Induction or a Refutation to Solipsism is nonsense, please note that people are warranted in thinking that even nominal lefties are not in any way impressed by Galt’s observation. I know for sure, religious right wing romanticists (especially Calvinists or Christian Dominionists) are in no way moved by Galt.

Peikoff warns us about such people in one of his podcasts.

Most Americans are either part of the religious right or the political left, and neither group gives a rats arse for Rand’s naked assertions no matter how sensible they seem because they are Foundational Beliefs. Anyone can ask why should a person believe a FB true? Is it based on some more basic FB? Such that there is an infinite regress of FB’s like {FB1 FB2 FB3….FB(alph0)}. If Objectivists want to save WC, then they probably need to find a way to justify O metaphysics and epistemology that is not circular or infinitely regressive and that can be deployed to counter the basal premises of harmful doctrines to help in arguing for laissez faire capitalism and limited constitutional government.

Standard Disclaimer: The forgoing opinions are only mine and in no way imply anyone should or should not do anything. This message forum is for amusement only. No recommendations for investments, spending or trades have been made. Each reader is responsible for his or her own due diligence. The writer makes no warranty or promise of fitness for any purpose or compensation of any sort and is not responsible for any losses incurred due to philosophical inquiry or speculation.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Issue of Metaphysical Primacy

Link to where one may search copyright registrations
Although Thorn claimed he had copyrighted his work; there are no records of his writing having had actually been issued a copyright registration number. If Mr. Thorn reads this and wishes me to remove his work from this blog, I will. The following important essay is the work of Anton Thorn and all credit goes to him. This work may not be used for any commercial purposes.
The Issue of Metaphysical Primacy

"Existence is Identity, Consciousness is Identification." [1]

-- Ayn Rand

Abstract: The issue of metaphysical primacy is defined and explained, and the metaphysical primacy of existence is validated. The relationship of the Objectivist axioms and the primacy of existence to knowledge is explained. Finally, the reversal of the primacy of existence, which is the primacy of consciousness, is briefly examined and the basic performative inconsistency of theism is exposed. The piece concludes with a simple challenge to theists.


Crucial to the success of the argument from existence is a firm grasp of the issue of metaphysical primacy and of the validity of the primacy of existence. Since the Objectivism principally holds that religious ideas are an expression of the primacy of consciousness, identifying the issue of metaphysical primacy and demonstrating the validity of the primacy of existence are indispensable.

Philosopher Dr. Harry Binswanger lists the primacy of existence as one of the most important of Ayn Rand's contributions to philosophy. [2] By identifying the primacy of existence and its pertinence to the development of a rational system of philosophy, Rand brushed away centuries of intellectual dust, build-up and decay that have clouded every field of man's thought. Finally the root of the tree of knowledge has been exposed and its fruit rescued from panic-generating myths and fear-worshipping mystics. With a single act - the naming of an objective starting point - the cumbersome intricacies, unintegrated subsystems, false dichotomies, package deals, stolen concepts and floating abstractions encountered throughout and crippling modern philosophies, can be wiped away once and for all.

But what exactly is the primacy of existence, or more broadly, the issue of metaphysical primacy? What does it pertain to, what gives rise to it, and what exactly is it supposed to accomplish for philosophy? Is it a valid philosophical need? What are the consequences of mistaking the issue of primacy? These and other questions will be briefly surveyed in the following sections. First I will discuss the issue of metaphysical primacy and show why the primacy of existence is the only valid position. Then I will briefly explain how the primacy of existence pertains to cognition and why it is important to knowledge. Then I will describe the historically preferred alternative to the metaphysical primacy of existence, which is the primacy of consciousness, and demonstrate how religious ideas are essentially founded upon this error.

The Issue of Metaphysical Primacy: Where Do We Start?

In order to begin, let us look at the principle of metaphysical primacy, as defined by its originator, Ayn Rand. In her essay, "The Metaphysical Versus the Man-Made," Rand introduces the idea of metaphysical primacy as the fundamental principle which guides all philosophy:

… the basic metaphysical issue that lies at the root of any system of philosophy [is] the primacy of existence or the primacy of consciousness… The primacy of existence (of reality) is the axiom that existence exists, i.e., that the universe exists independent of consciousness (of any consciousness), that things are what they are, that they possess a specific nature, an identity. The epistemological corollary is the axiom that consciousness is the faculty of perceiving that which exists - and that man gains knowledge of reality by looking outward. The rejection of these axioms represents a reversal: the primacy of consciousness - the notion that the universe has no independent existence, that it is the product of a consciousness (either human or divine or both). The epistemological corollary is the notion that man gains knowledge of reality by looking inward (either at his own consciousness or at the revelations it [allegedly] receives from another, superior consciousness). [3]

The term 'primacy' in this context means the state of ranking first. Dr. Leonard Peikoff, in his book Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand [4], clarifies why existence has primacy over consciousness:

The primacy of existence is not an independent principle. It is an elaboration, a further corollary, of the basic axioms. Existence precedes consciousness because, consciousness is consciousness of an object. Nor can consciousness create or suspend the laws governing its objects, because every entity is something and acts accordingly [i.e., according to its identity, not according to the desires of consciousness]. Consciousness, therefore, is only a faculty of awareness. It is the power to grasp, to find out, to discover that which is. It is not a power to alter or control the nature of its objects. [5]

Eric Johnson, in his review of Peikoff's book, restates this very point:

Since the nature (identity) of consciousness is to be aware of reality, existence is prior to, necessary for, and not subject to the control of, consciousness. As a rephrasing of more basic axioms, the principle could be said as "It is....whether you want it to be or not.". In essence, the point is that consciousness, in and of itself (barring physical action) does not change existence.

Not only do we find in our activity in reality that the objects which we perceive do not respond directly to our desires, commands or whims, we also find that, when we focus on the reasons why this is the case, a hierarchical relationship between the objects we perceive and our act of perceiving them becomes evident. Since our consciousness is consciousness of something - i.e., of something which exists, the issue of metaphysical primacy is implicit throughout all cognition, beginning with our first perception of the entities in our environment.

Objectivism holds that implicit in every act of consciousness are certain unalterable and fundamental truths, which are represented by the axiomatic concepts 'existence', 'identity' and 'consciousness'. Our perception of the objects around us testifies to the truth of these concepts and to their relevance to our cognition. When we perceive an object, we gain awareness of its existence. From this we also gain awareness of the fact an object is something as distinguished from nothing and from other objects which we perceive or have perceived (identity), and that we are aware of it (consciousness). Once we begin to identify these concepts in explicit terms, as Objectivism does, we equip ourselves with the material needed to form our first principles in philosophy.

To do this, as one essay puts it,

it is important to note the order in which these axioms were presented. Note that existence comes first. And it must, because to speak of consciousness is necessarily to speak of existence (because consciousness must be conscious of something), while one can speak of things existing without anyone being conscious of them. This is the Objectivist principle of "The Primacy of Existence". According to it, facts are facts, independent of anyone's consciousness. [6]

While the natures of the objects we perceive vary from each other, one fact binds them all: they exist. This fact, the fact of existence, does not change. It is so rudimentary, fundamental and self-evident that most non-Objectivists dismiss discussion of axioms and axiomatic concepts as unimportant, simply because their truth is obvious. And their truth is obvious, indeed we all take them completely for granted. But this is actually their virtue in establishing a starting point: the axioms are inescapable, undeniable, indisputable and indispensable. The fact of existence is the bedrock on which the development of a rational philosophy can establish its foundation. And that is precisely what Objectivism does.

When we recognize that there is an order to the axioms, an order which parallels our discovery of them, we set in course the beginning of a hierarchy, a hierarchy that is implicit in our every awareness, in the formation of every concept, in every argument we construct. That hierarchy is the hierarchy of knowledge, the hierarchy which accounts for the fact that one must learn to grasp why 2+2=4 before he can comprehend differential calculus, or that one must identify reality and a means of knowledge proper to man before he can define a proper code of values (morality) and the proper form of government (politics).

Objectivism is correct to treat the concept 'existence' as the widest of all concepts. [7] It includes everything which actually exists, regardless of its particular nature or attributes, and that includes also consciousness as well. And once we recognize the nature of existence, that it exists independent of our consciousness of it, that the concept 'existence' is the widest of concepts, and that the relationship between the concepts 'existence', 'identity' and 'consciousness' sets in course a hierarchical progression, we have what we need to recognize the importance of the issue of metaphysical primacy, that existence holds primacy over consciousness.

The essential distinction to keep in mind in consideration of the issue of metaphysical primacy is the relationship between what exists (existence) and the act of being aware of or perceiving that which exists (consciousness). Clarifying and recognizing this distinction eliminate the tempting confusion which entraps some thinkers who interpret the issue of metaphysical primacy as treating existence and consciousness as mutually exclusive and/or as jointly exhaustive concepts. Indeed, since Objectivism recognizes both that existence exists and that consciousness also exists, this confusion is unfounded and untenable, however it is still encountered among those unfamiliar with or uncharitably critical of Objectivism. What is likely the case is that such confusion is the result of poor reading and/or insufficient integration. Objectivism does not assert the commonly mistaken dichotomy "existence or consciousness," but identifies the distinction of holding the primacy of the one over the other as philosophically significant.

Confusions such as this often lie at the root of one's misunderstanding of the issue of metaphysical primacy. David Kelley, an Objectivist philosopher, makes a final point which clinches the essence of the issue:

The fundamental question… is whether consciousness is metaphysically active or passive by nature. Is consciousness creative, constituting its own objects, so that the world known depends on ourselves as knowers; or is consciousness a faculty of response to objects, whose function is to identify things as they are independently of it? In Ayn Rand's terms, it is a question of the primacy of existence versus the primacy of consciousness: do the objects of awareness depend on the subject for their existence or identity, or do the contents of consciousness depend on external objects? [8]

Those who wish to affirm the primacy of consciousness in any sense, essentially hold that consciousness is metaphysically active (i.e., that consciousness creates or manipulates the identity of its own objects), according to Kelley's identification here. Objectivism corrects this by pointing out that "consciousness is the faculty of awareness - the faculty of perceiving that which exists" [9], and that "Existence is Identity, [and] Consciousness is Identification." [10]

One's position on the issue of metaphysical primacy, whether explicitly defined as in Objectivism, or inferred implicitly from a mass of unexamined assumptions as we encounter in other philosophies, has broad-ranging philosophical implications. The issue of metaphysical primacy has not only implications for knowledge, as we'll see briefly below, but also for morality and politics.

In regard to one's own values, which is the concern of morality, the primacy of existence versus the primacy of consciousness is a distinction with life and death consequences. On the primacy of existence, one recognizes that reality has certain constraints and that man has certain needs. In other words, he recognizes that identity is not subject to the influences of his wishes or feelings. He recognizes that his acceptance or denial of these constraints is a matter of his own existence or non-existence as a living being, and that his choices and actions must take this into account if his goal is to remain a living being. On the primacy of consciousness, however, one's wishes or feelings (or those of one's social circle, or of the ruling consciousness) hold metaphysical primacy over these constraints and needs, and can appear and vanish according to conscious intentions.

Dr. Peikoff offers a graphic illustration of the differences between the two principles in the following:

A simple example of the primacy-of-existence orientation would be a man running for his life from an erupting volcano. Such a man acknowledges a fact, the volcano - and the fact that it is what it is and does what it does independent of his feelings or any other state of his consciousness. At least in this instance, he grasps the difference between mental contents and external data, between perceiver and perceived, between subject and object. Implicitly if not explicitly, he knows that wishes are not horses and that ignoring an entity does not make it vanish. Contrast this approach with that of a savage who remains frozen under the same circumstances, eyes fixed sightless on the ground, mind chanting frantic prayers or magic incantations in the hope of wishing away the river of molten lava hurtling toward him. Such an individual has not reached the stage of making a firm distinction between consciousness and existence. Like many of our civilized contemporaries who are his brothers-in-spirit (and like the ostrich), he deals with threats not by identification and consequent action, but by blindness. The implicit premise underlying such behavior is: "If I don’t want it or look at it, it won't be there; i.e., my consciousness controls existence." [11]

On the primacy of existence, one recognizes that the fact that his own life requires values is not open to negotiation. One can only "negotiate" with "mother nature" in fairy tales and fables, not in reality. Just as kissing a frog does not produce a handsome prince, wishing does not satisfy one's hunger nor do hopes make one immortal. These ideas can only be taken seriously on the primacy of consciousness view of reality.

The same constraints and needs of man are consequently pertinent to an objective view of politics, since politics is the application of the principles of moral philosophy to the task of defining the social system proper for man. Any moral philosophy which fails to take into account man's objective needs and the constraints of reality cannot lead to a proper social theory. On the primacy of existence, these needs and constraints are identified and integrated into such a theory. But on the primacy of consciousness, they may be denied, ignored, misconstrued or simply deemed unimportant as the contents of the ruling consciousness are elevated to take their role as a standard for moral and political ideals.

All of these points should be borne in mind if one is to grasp the philosophy of Objectivism in general as well as the argument from existence in particular. For further discussion of these issues, readers may review the following (in addition to other materials cited elsewhere in this essay):
The First Principles of Ayn Rand, by Tibor Machan
The Primacy of Existence, by Michael Huemer
Axioms: The Eight-Fold Way, by Ron Miller
Introduction to Objectivism, by Russell Madden

The Primacy of Existence and Knowledge

Many who are unfamiliar with or new to Objectivism have asked how the axioms 'existence', 'identity' and 'consciousness' provide an anchor to cognition. Although Ayn Rand principally considered metaphysics and epistemology to constitute the foundation of her philosophy [12], we can rightly say that the axioms and their corollary derivatives provide the foundation to cognition, and therefore to epistemology. Since knowledge is hierarchical in nature [13], it is difficult to see how one can object to our cognitive need for an objective starting point. If new knowledge can only be validated by reference to previously acquired knowledge, how do we know that this previously acquired knowledge is valid? According to Objectivism, the answer to this question is that we must begin with the general, perceptually available facts of reality as our beginning point.

Peikoff rightly calls the axioms "perceptual self-evidencies." [14] Since awareness begins with the objects external to itself by a means of sense perception (since consciousness is consciousness of something), our cognition also begins with external objects. When we look at reality, as Dr. Peikoff notes, the "first thing to say about that which is is simply: it is." [15] Or, as Ayn Rand famously put it, existence exists. This axiom in turn leads us to two corollary recognitions: that which exists is that which exists (i.e., A is A, the law of identity), and: consciousness is the awareness of existence. Thus we have the axioms 'existence', 'identity' and 'consciousness'.

The next question might be obvious to some: How do the axioms work as the foundation to cognition? Since knowledge is knowledge of reality, reality must be the standard of what we call knowledge. Reality is the realm of existence. The axioms, in identifying in terms of explicit essentials that which is implicit in our every act of awareness, work as the foundation of our cognition by guiding that which we can accept as legitimate knowledge. How so? Principally, and broadly, by distinguishing the objects which we perceive (existence, identity) from the means by which we perceive them (consciousness), and by recognizing the primacy of the former (existence, identity) over the latter (consciousness), thus setting in objective order the hierarchical nature of knowledge which is present throughout our cognition. As we saw in the discussion above, Objectivism holds explicitly that existence has metaphysical primacy over consciousness.

Since consciousness does not create or change the identity of the objects it perceives, we cannot accept those statements which contradict the identity of our objects as genuine knowledge. A contradiction is a violation of the law of identity. One does not look at a cat, for instance, and say "This cat is a bowl of rice," or "A is both itself and not itself." Why? Because that which exists is that which it is, or A is A. Existence exists, and existence holds metaphysical primacy over consciousness.

Some may ask, "How does one prove the truth of the axioms?" But such questions miss the point. The fact of the case is, we need the axioms for any proof. The axioms are not the product of proofs, but, as noted above, perceptually self-evident. They are implicit in our every act of awareness, but in the philosophy of Objectivism, they are made explicit at the outset of our thinking and integrated consistently throughout the development of a non-contradictory, comprehensive philosophic system.

Furthermore, to deny or reject the axioms requires their use. Since the axioms are implicit in our every act of awareness, they are also assumed in every task of thought. Any course of thought which leads one to reject the axioms 'existence', 'identity' and 'consciousness' as the proper starting point of reason, naturally implicates and defeats itself. Although this leads to futile self-contradiction and stolen concepts, it is not uncommon to encounter in modern philosophical models (e.g., Descartes, Kant, et al.). As Allan Gotthelf notes, "Many philosophers have attempted to build their systems on the denial of the existence of an independent reality. In maintaining that the independence of the real is axiomatic, Ayn Rand is in effect maintaining that every such attempt will ultimately make use of the very fact it is attempting to deny." [16]

Some will ask if the axioms are to be accepted on faith. Not only do such questions imply that faith is a legitimate means of knowledge, they also miss the point that the axioms name the general, perceptually self-evident facts of reality. The function of our senses is not a conceptual product or matter of faith. Our senses are automatic. If you touch your fingertip to a flame, for instance, the deliverance of pain through your senses to your brain is immediate and automatic, and not a product of conceptual importation. One cannot touch his fingertip to a flame and decide to feel pleasure as a result. Similarly, the axioms are not true on the basis of hope, desire or wishing. Since the axioms are implicit in every act of our awareness and conscious action, they are already present in our hopes, desires and wishes.

Bryan Register, in his review of Calvinist John Robbins' book Without a Prayer: Ayn Rand and the Close of Her System [17] entitled Has Objectivism Been Refuted?, also encounters and corrects this frequently committed error. Citing Robbins' assertion "Reason can never cease to be the handmaid of faith: All thought must start somewhere, and that initial postulate is unproved, by definition... . The only question that remains is, Which faith-which axiom-shall reason serve?" [18], Register states

Since Objectivism is grounded on a set of axioms, which are by definition unprovable, Robbins concludes that Objectivism rests on an act of faith in those axioms. But this assumes that there are only two kinds of claims: those one proves and those which one takes on faith. In fact, as the Objectivist literature makes clear, there is a third type of claim: one which is valid because it formulates a fact that is directly perceived. Such are the most fundamental perceptual judgments and such are the axioms.

While it is the case that the axioms are unprovable, they can be validated, which is not the case in faith claims. Validation in this sense is a process broader than proof, "one that subsumes any process of establishing an idea's relationship to reality, whether deductive reasoning, inductive reasoning, or perceptual self-evidence." [19] In the case of the axioms, this validation is accomplished simply by looking at one's surroundings, i.e., by recognizing that one's senses are directed at objects and grasping the facts that those objects exist, have identity (i.e., they are what they are; they are themselves), and that one is conscious of them, just as plainly as you, my reader, are reading these words.

The axioms are not items of religious faith that one must accept under the duress of imagined damnation or church banishment, but facts which all men, regardless of their religious commitments (or lack thereof), take completely for granted because of their readily perceptible nature and rudimentary relationship to cognition. One does not attend weekly meetings in a sterile social hall to hear sermons repeating over and over ad nauseum the statement 'existence exists', akin to what we find with religious claims, in order to know the axioms. They are natural, not supernatural, and the means by which one becomes aware of them is not through some alleged mystical means of acquiring knowledge, such as 'revelation', which some claim to possess while claiming that others can never possess it, but by reason, the faculty which identifies and integrates what our senses discover, which any individual can use by choice. As Peikoff points out:

One knows that the axioms are true not by inference of any kind, but by sense perception. When one perceives a tomato, for example, there is no evidence that it exists, beyond the fact that one perceives it; and there is no evidence that one is aware, beyond the fact that one is perceiving it. [20]

In the case of the axioms, "There is nothing to be said in their behalf except: look at reality." [21] But in the case of faith claims, there is no validation apart from measuring a claim's conformity to previously accepted faith commitments, assumptions which have no legitimate tie to reality and which must be accepted in spite of their contradiction to the perceptually available facts of reality (e.g., the idea that existence is "created" by an act of will, or the gospel story that five loaves of bread and two fishes could be magically multiplied to feed five thousand [22]). Apologist John Frame admits as much when he concedes, "We know without knowing how we know." [23] Whatever 'means of validation' believers claim to have in defense of their confessional investment, it is not reason.

Nathaniel Branden argues that the claim that the axioms are an article of faith, or more broadly, that reason finds its foundation on faith (or, as Robbins puts it, borrowing from Aquinas, "Reason can never cease to be the handmaid of faith…"), commits the fallacy of the stolen concept. Indeed, in his short essay The Stolen Concept, Branden points out that

Reason is the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by the senses. Faith is the acceptance of ideas or allegations without sensory evidence or rational demonstration. "Faith in reason" is a contradiction in terms. "Faith" is a concept that possesses meaning only in contradistinction to reason. The concept of "faith" cannot antecede reason, it cannot provide the grounds for the acceptance of reason—it is the revolt against reason.

Indeed, a revolt against reason can hardly be construed as the basis of reason. To accept "ideas or allegations without sensory evidence or rational demonstration" which reduces to sensory evidence [24], is to accept ideas without reference to reality. What, then, guarantees that these ideas have anything to do with reality? The claim that reason must be "accepted on faith" is the attempt to kidnap reason from objectivity and to recruit it in the effort to validate the arbitrary. It is the attempt to replace the perceptually available facts of reality with one's wishes and whims as the arbiters of knowledge. But even to attempt this, detractors against reason (i.e., advocates of faith) must assume the validity of the axioms in their rejection of them, committing them to what Branden calls, in his essay noted above, "[o]ne of the most grotesque instances of the stolen concept fallacy."

Those who intend to assert ideational content as legitimate knowledge of reality have no choice about the fact that we must be willing to declare our starting points. Those who refuse to identify their starting points, or ignore their need for starting points, risk the error of asserting their notions as floating in the air, with nothing to anchor them, with no reference in reality. Those who are willing to declare their starting points should be willing to investigate what Objectivism has to say on this crucial matter. Without an objective grounding to our cognition, our cognition is at the mercy of our whims and destined to mistake the arbitrary for the valid.

The Primacy of Consciousness: The Fault of Theism

Confusing the relationship between that which exists and the faculty of perceiving that which exists results in the failure to grasp the crucial thrust of the issue of metaphysical primacy. Rand touches on this point when she states:

The source of this reversal [i.e., assuming the primacy of consciousness over existence] is the inability or unwillingness fully to grasp the difference between one's inner state and the outer world, i.e., between the perceiver and the perceived (thus blending consciousness and existence into one indeterminate package-deal). This crucial distinction is not given to man automatically; it has to be learned. It is implicit in any awareness, but it has to be grasped conceptually and held as an absolute. As far as can be observed, infants and savages do not grasp it (they may, perhaps, have some rudimentary glimmer of it). Very few men ever choose to grasp it and fully to accept it. The majority keep swinging from side to side, implicitly recognizing the primacy of existence in some cases and denying it in others, adopting a kind of hit-or-miss, rule-of-thumb epistemological agnosticism, through ignorance and/or by intention - the result of which is the shrinking of their intellectual range, i.e., of their capacity to deal with abstractions. And although few people today believe that the singing of mystic incantations [cf., prayer] will bring rain, most people still regard as valid an argument such as: "If there is no God, who created the universe?" [25]

The failure to grasp the distinction between the primacy of existence and the primacy of consciousness is the result of the failure to isolate essentials. Consider the following questions:

1. Can there be consciousness without existence?
2. Can there be existence without consciousness?

The answer to the first question is obviously negative; it essentially asks whether something can exist if there is no existence at all, and if there can be consciousness when there is nothing to be conscious of. However, in terms of essentials, this is precisely what the primacy of consciousness asserts: it attempts to posit some form of consciousness as prior to the fact of existence. But if we attempt to assert consciousness prior to existence, of what is it conscious? Those who affirm the primacy of consciousness view of reality will most likely see no problem in asserting consciousness conscious only of itself. [26] But how can something be identified as conscious if it has nothing to be conscious of, i.e., if it has no content? And how can consciousness acquire content without an object to be aware of, and without a means of acquiring awareness of its objects (i.e., without perceptual faculties, such as the senses)?

Those who assert such self-referential circularity usually do not recognize that they have condemned the form of consciousness which they want to assert to little more than a dog chasing its tail in terms of (alleged) awareness, for they give this consciousness nothing to be conscious of, and that leads to a contradiction in terms because of its commitment to the fallacy of pure self-reference. [27]

The answer to the second question, "Can there be existence without consciousness?" is demonstrably affirmative, and this certainty is the primacy of existence principle defined above. Consider the world and our awareness of it. When we discover objects in reality such as a mountain, a lake or another person, we do not experience these objects as "coming into" existence with our initial awareness of them. We experience them as stable parts of reality, as unalterable facts of reality which exist independent of our awareness, but still perceivable by a means of perception. We do not experience the objects of our awareness as extensions of our consciousness, as some might claim, or as the extension of someone else's consciousness. We experience them as primary concrete entities which exist whether we approve of their existence or not.

We are not immortal or eternal beings, yet we do possess consciousness; and we are aware of the world. Our awareness of the world began around the time of our birth. In my case, that was in 1966. But I learned as I grew, that the world had existed long before I came along and became aware of it. The earth itself where the world finds its location has existed for millions of years before me. It has many recorded histories, many people have existed prior to me, and many events have taken place before I was born. This means that the existence of the world - i.e., reality - was not and is not dependent upon my awareness of it. In other words, existence exists independent of my consciousness.

The same is true for all men who are consciousness of existence, and for the same reason: consciousness is conscious of something, and something exists. The existence of the world is no more dependent upon the consciousness of a group of men or of the sum of all men who now exist or who have ever existed, than it is dependent on my own awareness of it. In both cases, the primacy of personal consciousness and the primacy of social consciousness are demonstrably false.

With very few arguable exceptions (such as personal preferences or emotional experiences), whenever one asserts something as true, he asserts it as a truth independent of his own consciousness. If for example I assert that apples grow on apple trees, am I claiming that this is true only when I am conscious of it? Certainly not. Apples and apple trees have existed longer than I have been alive, and will of course survive my death, and even now while I am alive they bring forth fruit well outside the range of my awareness. The facts that apples exist and that they come from apple trees are not dependent upon my awareness. Indeed, my awareness of the fact that apples come from apple trees is dependent upon the fact that apples indeed come from apple trees. By identifying the fact that apples come from apple trees, I am implicitly affirming the primacy of existence, for I do not take such an identification as true in the context of being dependent upon my awareness of it, but a fact of reality independent of any consciousness. This is the case any time one asserts a truth statement about reality. Thus, every time one asserts a fact about reality, even if he is mistaken about that fact, he is asserting that fact as a fact which does not depend on either his or our consciousness of that fact in order for it to be a fact. Why? Because existence exists independent of consciousness. This is the primacy of existence metaphysics.

Thus, we see that the primacy of consciousness fails in two cases. It fails in the case of the implication that existence and/or facts are dependent upon the consciousness of an individual, and it fails in the case of the implication that existence and/or facts are dependent upon the consciousness of a group of individuals. Thus, the personal and the social expressions of the primacy of consciousness metaphysics should be dismissed as false metaphysics.

But the theist is still dissatisfied, because, as the persistent question which Ayn Rand points out in her quote above - "If there is no God, who created the universe?" - suggests, many men still want to assert in some form the idea that existence is dependent upon something prior, indeed upon a form of consciousness. We have already seen why two types of the primacy of consciousness - the personal and the social - are invalid. But theists do not claim that the existence of the world and of truth is dependent upon either the personal or social form of consciousness - which some philosophic systems propose [28], but upon an alleged cosmic or supernatural form of consciousness. In other words, they want to assert some kind of "macro-consciousness," a consciousness which "transcends existence and reality," as the origin and/or director of existence, reality and the things which go on in it. Some may recognize that this is invalid in the case of both the personal and the social primacy of consciousness metaphysics, but merrily assume that this principle can be valid on their premises anyway, regardless of the facts. Furthermore, theists do not even attempt to validate their cosmic version of the primacy of consciousness as opposed to the personal and the social primacy of consciousness, principally because they rarely if ever recognize the essentials involved. Indeed, at root level, their apologetic paradigms are amiss when it comes to identifying essentials. [29]

So the theist is performatively inconsistent with himself. That is, he implicitly affirms the validity of a principle (the primacy of existence) in the practice of affirming truth claims, but explicitly affirms the validity of a contradictory principle (the primacy of consciousness) in the content of the truth claims which he asserts. In other words, he implicitly denies the metaphysical primacy of consciousness in two senses - the personal and the social - whenever he asserts a truth claim about reality. He assumes that the supposed truths he identifies are true independent of his own consciousness and of the consciousness of others. But then he turns around and asserts the primacy of consciousness in principle when he affirms the notion that a God (i.e., a cosmic will or designer)is responsible for reality (i.e., for existence). Thus, he is inconsistent in that he denies the primacy of consciousness on the personal and social levels, but does not hesitate to affirm it at the cosmic level. For him, this seems to be "safe territory," for the resulting construct - theism - is securely removed beyond the realm of all testability and falsifiability. What he fails to recognize, however, is that he commits himself to a performative inconsistency. [30]

If one were to illustrate this inconsistency graphically, we might have something as follows:

Act vs. Content of theistic claim

Primacy of Consciousness

Primacy of Existence

Theist's act of asserting claim (e.g., "God exists")

Both the personal and the social aspects of the primacy of consciousness are implicitly denied. (Claim's alleged truth is not assumed to be dependent on the consciousness of oneself or of others.)

The validity of the primacy of existence is implicitly assumed. (Claim is said to be true independent of one's own and others' consciousness.)

Content of theist's claim (e.g., "God exists")

The supernatural aspect of the primacy of consciousness is explicitly affirmed. (I.e., existence is said to find its source in God's consciousness.)

The primacy of existence is consequently and explicitly denied. (Existence does not hold metaphysical primacy over consciousness.)

The above graph displays the assumptive implications on the part of the theist between his act of claiming that God exists, and the content of his claim, in their relation to the issue of metaphysical primacy. The inconsistency clearly occurs between his act of claiming and the content of his claim.

The performative inconsistency identified here is the result of a fundamental, two-fold and complementary reversal of the facts. As we can now see, god-belief rests on the assumption that consciousness is metaphysically active: that consciousness can create its objects and manipulate their identity. Christianity supplies this view in the doctrine of creation and the doctrine of miracles. Together these theistic doctrines adhere to metaphysical subjectivism, which is the view that the knowing subject creates its objects by an act of consciousness, essentially that existence finds its source in a form of consciousness. This reverses the fact that consciousness is metaphysically passive, that consciousness does not create its own objects, nor does it manipulate their identity, but rather perceives their existence through a means of perception (thereby acknowledging that objects exist independent of consciousness) and discovers their identity by looking outward (thereby acknowledging that the role of consciousness is not to fabricate identity, but to discover it).

The complement to this reversal is the assumption that consciousness is epistemologically passive. Christianity supplies this view in the form of the doctrine of revelation. This is the view that consciousness passively receives its contents from the ruling consciousness (i.e., "God"), which is essentially conceived as a cosmic storehouse of all knowledge [31], via some sort of non-perceptual transmission (i.e., by divine intervention). Knowledge, according to this view, is not the result of actively seeking out the relevant facts of the case, discovering their identity and testing one's conclusions against one's previously validated certainties, but a spontaneous implantation, a "bestowal" or "gift" of sorts, directly inserted into the mind of the believer by the ruling consciousness. Obviously, both reversals coincide completely with the point made by Dr. Kelley which I quoted above, that the "fundamental question… is whether consciousness is metaphysically active or passive by nature." To affirm either reversal, implicitly or explicitly, is to grant validity to the primacy of consciousness metaphysics.

The answer to the theist's unnecessary dilemmas and reversals is to grasp the concept of objectivity, i.e., to recognize and affirm on a thoroughly consistent basis the validity of the primacy of existence in all matters, for this avoids such hapless and unwitting inconsistencies. Quite simply, the case for objectivity is the case against god-belief. By recognizing that the only valid place to begin our philosophizing is with the very fact of existence itself - existence exists - we affirm a starting point which all cognition must assume and which all theorizing necessarily takes for granted. The fact that existence exists does not change, nor do its principal corollaries (i.e., the laws of identity, causality, etc.), thus providing fundamental stability to cognition. Furthermore, by affirming the primacy of existence, we recognize that consciousness is consciousness of something, that consciousness is not metaphysically creative of its objects, but actively aware of them, thus necessitating the epistemology of reason and repudiating the notion of revelation. This is because consciousness, like any entity or attribute which exists, has identity, and consequently, so should our philosophy, since our philosophy is, in rough terms, the operating system or software of the mind.

In Conclusion: A Simple Test

While many defenders of the religious view of the world, particularly those which assert a universe-creating and reality-ruling deity, may object to the accusation that such worldviews are committed to the primacy of consciousness view of reality, there is a simple test by which we can discover their true intention in regard to the metaphysical basis of their philosophical outlook. And that test is: Ask them if they are willing to adhere consistently to the primacy of existence metaphysics as advocated by Objectivism. If they are willing to do so, then they must be willing to abandon their god-belief commitments. If they are not willing to abandon their god-belief commitments, then they cannot ascribe consistently to the primacy of existence metaphysics. This is because the primacy of existence metaphysics is completely and irreconcilably incompatible with the religious view of reality.

Should the religious defender claim that he is willing to be consistently rational, then what is his starting point? Is he conscious of that starting point, and are his principles, theories and conclusions consistently developed with that starting point in mind? Or, do his philosophical theories and conclusions rely on gerrymandering their bases in the effort to make them appear to be consistent with that starting point, an enterprise engaged long after those conclusions have been accepted as unquestionably true on the claim of knowledge without rational means (e.g., 'revelation')?

If the theist is willing to embrace the primacy of existence view of reality wholeheartedly, is he then willing to recognize the invalidity of such questions as "If God does not exist, who created the universe?"? If the theist is willing to assume existence as such as his starting point, is he willing to abandon the idea that existence as such does not require a creator?

The typical theist is oblivious to the fundamental importance of these matters. As one creationist author puts it, "The creationist sees God as the source of all existence. Christian theology developed the doctrine of creation as creatio ex nihilo (creation out of nothing)." [32] Another theist claimed that "Existence exists because God exists." [33] Existence as such is thus explicitly thought to be a product of conscious selection.

If statements like these are not enough to demonstrate the fact that Christianity holds to the primacy of consciousness view of reality, then let us look deeper into the matter to discover whether or not this identification is true to the particular evidence we find in Christian sources. To continue this exploration, I invite readers to review my essay, The Ruling Consciousness, which examines the purported nature of the Christian God according to its primary source, the Bible, to determine whether or not it is committed to the primacy of consciousness metaphysics.

The identification of the issue of metaphysical primacy is only one of Ayn Rand's unique and noble contributions to the field of philosophy. But in principle it is the one contribution which makes all her other contributions sensible and meaningful. It is also the one principle which can be asserted at the outset of a rational approach to atheology, the one principle which slashes off unnecessary, unusable and unworkable ideas from the very beginning. It is because of the validity of the metaphysical primacy of existence that an objective atheology is possible.

Anton Thorn



[1] Atlas Shrugged, p.934.

[2] See his article "Ayn Rand's Philosophic Achievement," The Objectivist Forum, June, 1982, p. 9. Along with the primacy of existence, Dr. Binswanger also lists Rand's theory of concepts, theory of free will, Man's Life as the standard of morality, the moral basis of individual rights and the psycho-epistemology of art among the most important of her contributions to philosophy.

[3] Philosophy: Who Needs It, (New York: Signet, 1984), pp. 23-34.

[4] New York: Meridian, 1993, 493 pages.

[5] P. 19.

[6] Quoted from Are the Primacy of Existence and the Primacy of Consciousness Exhaustive Metaphysics? Astute readers will note that the author of this piece puts the axioms in the following order: existence, consciousness and then identity; I prefer the following order: existence, identity and then consciousness. While the former agrees with Dr. Leonard Peikoff's order of presentation (cf. Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, pp. 4-7), I tend to agree with Eric Johnson when he states in his review of OPAR, Chapter One:

I found Peikoff's choice of ordering the basic axioms rather bad. Peikoff presents and validates them in the order: Existence, Consciousness, Identity. To me the order Existence, Identity, then Consciousness seems far more appropriate. Firstly, that is the order children develop the axioms explicitly. Secondly, that was the order of explicit philosophical discovery (Parmenides, then Aristotle, then Augustine). Thirdly, since Existence and Identity are so closely tied and both have primacy over consciousness, it seems logical to put consciousness last. Perhaps a minor point, but as one with intrest in the pedagogical processes in OPAR and O'ism in general, it concerns me. [sic]

While this may be a "minor point" in the larger scheme of things, it does strike me as somewhat critical if perchance one makes the unwitting error of assuming that the identity of existents is somehow dependent on the workings of consciousness. Because I consider this a possibility if we should go with Peikoff's ordering, I agree completely with Johnson's caution here. In fairness to Peikoff, however, there may be a reason why he chooses the ordering which he presents for reasons unknown to me. For purposes of my original point, however, it is to be emphasized in both cases that existence precedes consciousness. Furthermore, Rand herself identifies the axiomatic concepts in this order (Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, 2nd Ed., p. 55), and held that between 'existence' and 'identity', as "an issue of perspective," 'existence' "is the wider concept" (Ibid., 240), meaning that 'existence' distinguishes between those things which exist and nothing, while 'identity' distinguishes objects from each other. The concept 'consciousness' of course is not so wide as either concept, since it only applies to a class of existents, not to all existents as a whole.

[7] See for instance Rand, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, 2nd Ed., p. 56; Peikoff, Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, p. 5.

[8] David Kelley, "The Primacy of Existence," The Objectivist Forum, Oct. 1981, p. 2. See also chapter 1, "The Primacy of Existence," of Dr. Kelley's book The Evidence of the Senses, (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1986), p. 8. Dr. Kelley's book is highly recommended for a fuller defense of the primacy of existence and the Objectivist view of the role of sense perception in cognition.

[9] Ayn Rand, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, p. 29.

[10] Atlas Shrugged, p. 934.

[11] Peikoff, Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, pp. 18-19.

[12] Rand states, referring to the metaphysical and epistemological branches of philosophy, that "These two branches are the theoretical foundation of philosophy," "Philosophy: Who Needs It," Philosophy: Who Needs It, (New York: Signet, 1984), p. 3. This is the essay form of Ayn Rand's lecture to the graduating class of West Point in 1974, and is available online (albeit with a few typos).

[13] See for instance Peikoff, "Knowledge as Hierarchical," Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, pp. 129-141.

[14] Ibid., p. 8.

[15] Ibid., p. 4.

[16] On Ayn Rand, (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2000), p. 42.

[17] Hobbs, New Mexico: The Trinity Foundation, 1997. 399 pp.

[18] Without a Prayer, p. 22.

[19] Peikoff, Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, p. 8. Peikoff also states (Ibid., p. 120) that proof (in contrast to validation) "is the process of establishing truth by reducing a proposition to axioms, i.e., ultimately, to sensory evidence. Such reduction is the only means man has of discovering the relationship between nonaxiomatic propositions and the facts of reality." Thus, for any proof to be ultimately successful in establishing the truth of a proposition, we need the axioms. Special thanks to Alex Silverman for pointing out the importance of including this point here.

[20] Ibid. Emphasis added.

[21] Ibid. As mentioned above, 'reality', according to Objectivism, is the realm of existence. If something exists, it exists as part of reality. Objectivism therefore does not accept the notion of something existing "apart from" reality. Such ideas are unsalvageably incoherent.

[22] Cf. Matthew 14:15-21 and parallels. Darryl Kight offers some succinct insights on such matters in his short piece on The Virtue of Faith.

[23] John M. Frame, Presuppositional Apologetics: An Introduction, Part 1 of 2; Introduction and "Creation," p. 6-7. This article is in PDF format and requires PDF application to view.

[24] For a discussion of the importance of reducing knowledge to sense perception, see the previously cited chapter "Knowledge as Hierarchical" in Peikoff's Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, pp. 129-141.

[25] Rand, Philosophy: Who Needs It, pp. 24-25.

[26] Misconceptions about the nature of consciousness are often fortified by an erroneous view of sense perception, including the views that sense perception is invalid as a means of contact with reality, that sense perception can provide man with only a "hint" or "glimmer" of what reality is, that perception may provide the practical truths which man needs on a daily basis, but plays no role in his ascertainment of "profound" or "spiritual" truths, etc. The purpose of Kelley's Evidence of the Senses is to provide a thorough-going defense of the validity of sense perception, and to dispel many of the assumptions crucial to the rejection of perception as the ultimate basis of knowledge. Readers who are interested in these matters are highly recommended to review this book.

[27] I discuss this problem at length in my essay God and Pure Self-Reference.

[28] While it is likely the case that the personal level of the primacy of consciousness is implicitly present in any instance of primacy of consciousness metaphysics, most philosophic systems which adopt the primacy of consciousness view of reality normally assert either the social or the cosmic/supernatural variant. The personal aspect of primacy of consciousness metaphysics would include any form of solipsism as well as irrational forms of egoism (as opposed to the rational egoism of Objectivism). The social primacy of consciousness is found at the root of any form of collectivism, such as Marxism, communism, Nazism, fascism, etc., whether explicitly religious or not. These versions of philosophy in effect attempt to hold the "collective consciousness" of society as an absolute holding primacy over the facts of reality. As such, they are merely the secularization of religious metaphysics, replacing religion's supernatural consciousness with its secular counterpart, the State or Society, and ultimately, the dictator. See my essay Religion Wears a Bloody Glove for more details in this regard.

[29] Cf. for example a simple version of the "first cause" argument:
Premise 1. Anything which begins to exist has a cause.
Premise 2. The Universe began to exist.
Conclusion: Therefore, the universe has a cause.

From arguments like these, theists assume the validity of their cosmic primacy of consciousness metaphysics. What they hesitate to identify in terms of explicit essentials is the fact that causality has no meaning outside the context of existence. Causality is metaphysically dependent upon existence: something (which exists) does the causing. It is because of this fact - the fact that causality is metaphysically dependent on existence - that gives the overall argument from "first cause" its ring of truth when they assert God as the ultimate first cause. But what they fail to recognize is that now they are asserting consciousness as prior to existence, and here the dog begins chasing its own tail again.

[30] See additionally my short essay A Lesson on the Issue of Metaphysical Primacy.

[31] It should also be noted that, since God is said to be both omniscient and infallible, God's own knowledge is not thought to be the product of reasoning, but an omnitemporaneous, non-hierarchical phenomenon. In other words, God's own knowledge, since God is not subject to ignorance or error, has always been complete. Thus, even God's own consciousness is essentially thought to be epistemologically passive, since God has knowledge without any effort at all.

[32] Personal correspondence.

[33] Personal correspondence.

Copyright 2001 Anton Thorn. All rights reserved.