I met a guy years ago who turned my head around by pointing out to me something I kept doing that was causing me alot of turmoil. He was a local Professor of Philosophy (which I never had much use for, frankly).
We were part of a once-a-month movie club that watched and discussed old classic films. We'd meet in small groups sometimes before the movie and just chat.
Inevitably a conversation will turn controversial. You just can't avoid it. In the middle of one of these back and forth duels at our table my Professor friend stops me and says to me:
"Did you know you may be falling victim to your own hidden premises?"
Which caused me to say: "Huh? Say wuh?" (I'm articulate like that.)
He then gently and methodically began to lay out something I'd never noticed.
"When we build a building we have to build it somewhere. And no matter how how we build it everything rests on the bottom foundation. It is just as true of any argument or carefully reasoned system of belief. In other words, you can't escape what you start with." Mr. Philosophy just sat there and waited for me to say something.
I thought it was so bleeping obvious I was wondering why he was telling me that since I was not five years old. But, he continued...
"In Philsophy there is something called a Presupposition. It is like a "hidden" foundation which is not the apparent foundation at all. Imagine putting a concrete patio in your backyard on top of the nice firm ground. But, what you don't know is that your backyard is positioned over a sinkhole! That is what a Presupposition is: a potential sinkhole."
I listened curiously wondering where would all this Academic claptrap would lead us. He persisted.
"I hear a lot of anxiety in many of your arguments, Terry, and I think that you think they are the result of questions that are too complex to answer. But, I don't think they are at all. I think you need to examine your premises and root out any Presuppositions that are hidden beneath the surface. You might be shocked to discover how many there are!"
I could not let this go unchallenged, could I? How could he, a stranger, know what I was thinking or how? So, I rose to the bait and challenged him to demonstrate this mysterious hidden thingy I had that was choking my thinking like a garden full of nasty weeds.
We had been discussing the very question raised on this thread here on the Discussion Forum. It was why a loving, caring, God of justice would allow His children to suffer for any reason at all.
I asked the Professor about this. He proceeded to use my very argument to demonstrate my inability to notice the error in my thinking.
"In a court of law the Judge sometimes makes you answer "yes" or "no" to avoid coloring your reply with evasions, does he not?", Professor Genius asked me innocently
"Um, yep. I think you are right." I replied.
"If the prosecuting attorney asked you that old hackneyed question 'Have you stopped beating your wife?' would you be able to honestly answer that one "yes" or "no" without implicating yourself in wife-beating either way?"
"Ha ha ha, no--because that is a trick question! The Judge would not allow it!" I exclaimed.
"Precisely!" The Professor explained, "Because there is a hidden premise which ASSUMES something that has not been established prior by evidence. It falsely colors your answer no matter whether "yes" or "no". It Pre-sumes wife-beating without having to prove it."
"So?" (Even O.J. knew that).
"So, you are falling victim to the assumption without proof. A great many things in your argument about God allowing people to suffer make that obvious."
"Here are a few:
1.You assume not only the existence of God; but, a particular kind of being with particular attributes without having proved them as being so. What steps did you take to evidence?
2.You assume a basis for interaction with humans based on a number of definitions which you did not bother to prove; such as all-knowing information, justice, interference toward intervention, a bond or obligation, etc. None of these things did you bother to prove; you merely started out assuming them to be firmly in place. And from that starting point you've loaded the outcome! That is the reason you can't answer your own question. You did not bother to tidy it up before hand with FACTS! It is just a chain of unproven assertions leading to a puzzling conflict.
3.The very idea that there might be a hundred alternatives you've never even thought of doesn't enter in to your discussion. You simply assume you know ALL the facts to begin with. What if important data is outside your sphere of knowledge? It would be like tryng to decide on a radical medical treatment just on the basis of an Internet story! It sounds true; so it must be true? No.
"Okay okay, I get the point. I merely assumed what the Bible says about God as my starting point and my foundation!"
"Ah. Another huge set of presuppositions! What data do you have about what went in to that book? Just what people have insisted is true? Do you know if any political or religious bias existed in the editing? Do you know if the various sources available at the time the bible was canonized were themselves proved divine? Do you know how anybody would go about testing all those things rationally?"
"Well, I don't think God would allow humans to wonder what their purpose was without giving them some kind of information. That would not be loving".
"Here we go again! You are accepting at face value every single hidden premise without data! You start out again with assuming who and what God is based on the very book you have not proved to be authentically divine. That is a circular argument. You've heard many human beings tell you things in your lifetime. How many of those things did they get exactly 100% right?"
"So, why accept what you've always heard about the Bible? Have you studied the formation of the scriptures historically? Or, did you just automatically take the package deal? You see, Terry, the world is filled with people who are guessing and calling it fact. That is what produces bibles and other religious ideas and documents. It starts with a need or an idea or a dream and gets blown into a myth and then somebody writes it down eventually without fact checking. Why do you accept all that? Because somebody says so?"
"People have used that book to control other people's thinking for thousands of years. How did they do it? They made the people under their control assume "somebody" had inside information that proved it and that they should listen."
I had to swallow hard when I heard that. My experience with the JW's made me blush.
Well, that is the essence of my story. I went away with my head spinning. He was right, of course. I have always simply accepted my STARTING POINT as beginning with a Bible that is true and I went from there. That is a big assumption!
I've spent the last few years reading about the history of how the ancient writings and oral traditions go put together. There are a lot of scholarly books about it. I've since come away with a lot of my bubbles burst! So many politically motivated people had their hands on this that the bias is not hard to observe when you dig in and look objectively.
So, I relate all the above for a reason. Sometimes we find a problem where there really IS no problem and it is because we have assumed into our reasoning many unproven elements.
For myself, I find the more I depersonalize my concept of God, the less human I make him, the more I can excuse his not being much of a "father" in the traditional family sense. My own father was never around, so this is easy for me. My fleshly dad gave me life and left. Simple as that.
Holding the invisible super-dad in the sky to a higher standard just pisses me off. So, I ignore Him the way I feel he (she, it) ignores me. After all, as I've said elsewhere, why would anything that is a "god" need anything at all? It is the human that ages and suffers and passes away and not god. So, I begin my suppositions with no presuppositions without examining them first. Sometimes they sneak in. But, if I find a contradiction in life I know this is an alarm bell. It means I've got something wrong! Why? Because things are what they are. A thing, whatever it is--simply IS what it is and cannot be other than what it is. IF there is a "god", then that "god" is what it is. If God does not talk to me or answer prayers and lets me or others suffer and die; well that DEFINES the nature of what "god" really is. Actions speak the truth.
If I tend to blubber and get wordy; just ignore me. Thought I would share the above for what it is worth. (Which may not be much at all).