Monday, August 01, 2005

Non-falsification

[Reworked version of an old post]

Something that has always intrigued me is how people are able, through post-hoc rationalisation, to attribute everything to their god and to say that his will, mercy, grace et al are being displayed.

Take the case of someone getting into a serious accident. For every possible outcome, a rationalisation that involves praising and thanking his god can be found:


If they are uninjured - Praise be to God! I am uninjured! It's a miracle!

If they are slightly injured - Praise be to God! I am barely scratched! He's watching over me!

If they are injured - Praise be to God! I am injured, yet since I have faith in him, I have come out stronger. Hallelujah!

If they are badly injured - Praise be to God! This is a caution to me, to tell me not to be so careless next time. Thank you God for protecting me from death this time. I will take better care of myself next time.

If they are crippled for life - Praise be to God! Though I am crippled in body, I am whole in spirit. I will strive to extol him and glorify his name further. I will serve as a testament to his mercy and grace.

If they die - [Said by others] Praise be to God! He has taken xxx to his side, and saved him the torments of his life. His time was up, so he was taken according to God's plan. Amen.


One finds that there is no falsifier for the goodness and grace of this god, and as with much other Christian logic, this stems from working backwards from a pre-determined conclusion (God is great and good) and wrenching the facts so they miraculously point towards this conclusion.

When the answer is a foregone conclusion despite the facts, an argument loses any possible meaning, significance or worth.


Other views:

"Christians have always been the masters of rationization.Sometimes it borders on creative genius.If the explanation has the slightest bit of plausability,they're satisfied with it.They could flip a coin and pray that it turns up heads.If it does,praise God!A clear demonstration that God is with us.If it's tails,it's God's will and someday we'll understand.Then if there's the slightest positive result of it being tails,it proves that God,in his wisdom,knew what He was doing the whole time!"

"I love how God can never be the bad guy. There's always some reason why God will is always the right way. If some guy gets crushed by a steamroller, there's some mumbo jumbo about how God had a plan for him or some shit like that.
I always wonder what the rationalization is for people who agonize over diabetes or bone marrow cancer, who agonize for prolonged periods of time before they finally called by God."

11 Comments:

Blogger akikonomu said...

Perhaps the need to thank God, no matter how screwed the person is from the situation, belies a masked psychological belief in the maleovolence of God or the cosmos?

Monday, August 01, 2005 10:24:00 PM  
Blogger Laughingcow said...

I don't purport to speak for all Christians, but I think that there are other motivations behind giving praise and thanks to God "for every possible outcome," other than the delusional rationalisation that (I think) you insinuate.

Perhaps some of us just choose to obey the call to give thanks in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). The circumstances may precede the gratitude, but this in no way means that the gratitude is dependent on the circumstances; they are entirely separate.

"Praise be to God! I am uninjured!" is not the same as "I am uninjured, therefore praise be to God." At least not in sentiment. :)

Monday, August 01, 2005 11:17:00 PM  
Blogger Agagooga said...

So what is the gratitude for? If the Christian god sends down a lightning bolt that kills your husband, do you still give thanks?

Thanks are given for something. If evil is perpetrated, why give thanks?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005 12:41:00 AM  
Blogger Laughingcow said...

I suppose the answer would have to be yes, because He has taken xxx to his side, and all that. Hur.

I guess for those of us who believe in the Christian God, He is good all the time; if evil is perpetrated, it isn't perpetrated by Him. We give thanks for God's goodness (and everything good that comes with it), which is not something that can be negated just because bad things happen. But then I suppose there are too many premises here for the Christian and the non-Christian to reconcile.

All I wanted to say is really that when someone says "Praise be to God! Though I am crippled in body, I am whole in spirit," they (or not everyone) didn't just sit there and frantically think up of an excuse to thank God; they don't need one.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005 2:56:00 AM  
Blogger Agagooga said...

Which, in a way, is my point exactly.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005 3:03:00 AM  
Blogger Formerly Mr Moron said...

Thanks are given for something. If evil is perpetrated, why give thanks?

Gabriel, you're actually right to a certain extent. I'm not going to address the whole "praise God in everything issue", it'd probably take a day.

What I want to say here is that some flaky Christians thank God for everything that comes their way precisely because they want to believe those things are from God, even if it is evil. Often we find ourselves in persecution not because God put it in our lives to help us grow as a person, but because it is self-inflicted by our own actions.

By choosing to thank God in extremes, even for things that are clearly not put in place by Him ( just because things are His will doesn't necessarily mean it'll come to pass), those people manage to convince themselves these evil/unpleasant events taking place in their lives right now are not a result of their previous actions but something God has willed to happen in their lives.

In other words, self denial.

Of course, this is just one of the Christian perspectives. There're a million others out there. What I mentioned above isn't the case for most Christians I believe.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005 8:57:00 AM  
Blogger Formerly Mr Moron said...

Oh when I said self-denial in my above comment, I also meant irresponsibility too.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005 8:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If evil is not from god, whence did it come from?

it is only reasonable to thank god for every fucking thing on earth.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005 11:00:00 AM  
Blogger jeffyen said...

One finds that there is no falsifier for the goodness and grace of this god, and as with much other Christian logic, this stems from working backwards from a pre-determined conclusion (God is great and good) and wrenching the facts so they miraculously point towards this conclusion.

When the answer is a foregone conclusion despite the facts, an argument loses any possible meaning, significance or worth.


I think my response is a little similar to cow's. There is a distinct difference between the usual post-hoc fallacy, and the interpretation that I have of the sort of response that Job (the prime protagonist for this sort of tough theological question of why bad things happen to good people) has in the beginning of his book. The interpretation that I have is that one praises God in spite of sufferings. "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away, may the name of the LORD be praised." (Job 1:22)

I think in this case, the post-hoc fallacy isn't applicable because no conclusion is obtained because of x, y or z. The conclusion that 'God is just' is a given and agreed assumption irrelevant to circumstances. I think this is the ideal scenario. This sort of acceptance is a little similar to the Peanuts strip years ago in which Charlie Brown stands at the baseball mould ready to pitch and it starts raining, and Chuck mutters, "The rain falls on the good and bad alike." (Matthew 5:45). No cause-and-effect inference in this scenario.

But from the testimonials of the previous entries, yes, I think post-hoc fallacies can also be committed, like the person who beat 42 thousand people to win the free 1 million air miles from Northwest, and he says that "... Praise the Lord! He is so good and, truly, He gives us the power to get wealth." Now perhaps this (and the examples that Gabriel gives) can be argued as a post-hoc fallacy!

Going to the logical extreme is probably not too wise also, like what slayer says. And Jesus does provide the alternative for activism, and not merely sit still, when there is evil and injustice... (feed the poor, visit the sick etc. to the extent of pronouncing these actions to be more important than superficial religious affiliations.)

Returning to 'falsifier' that Gabriel uses as the title, I think one can't use 'falsification' as it's essentially a scientific concept. One can't use science to falsify the goodness of God because the technology isn't good enough to do so! It's quite beyond the scope of science; it's an article of faith, I reckon...

Tuesday, August 02, 2005 8:45:00 PM  
Blogger eilonwy said...

I kind of thought being God meant that you could never be the "bad guy".

On another note: interesting arguments you make here; I'm a Christian, and I'm enjoying your very brutally honest commentary on the faith. Keep writing!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005 11:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"One life, 'twill soon be past.
Only what's done for Christ will last!"

Friday, August 05, 2005 4:51:00 PM  

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