Though Dawson Bethrick judged my critique: Bethrick: A Proof that the Christian God Does Not Exist? of his case: A Proof that the Christian God Does Not Exist, as failed decisively, his ca. 8400 words counter response is a model of civility, which both atheists and theists would do well to emulate. It is an honor to offer my critique of his counter response and comments, as I expound more why I think his case is unsuccessful.
Before I begin, it is of first importance to define our terms. Concise Oxford English Dictionary defined the verb imagine as:
1. form a metal image or concept of. [often as adjective imagined] believe (something unreal) to exist.
2. believe to be so; suppose.
And Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defined an adjective imaginary as existing only in the imagination: lacking factual reality.
What I think is the core error in Bethrick response, Prayson Daniel vs. the Imaginative Nature of Christian Theism, is his failure to disguise between epistemological status of subject and ontological reality of an object. He was unhappy with my dismissal of his 13 points, even if all 13 points were assumed to be true, as irrelevant on this ground.
Example to justify my dismissal: Jane Doe asked John Doe, how many people did John think were in the library. John looked at his watch and saw 2:10 p.m. and creatively imagined 210 people. He replied Jane: “There are 210 people in the library.”
Is John’s imagining imaginary? Is John’s imagining existing only in the imagination: lacking factual reality? Yes if the amount of people in the library is not 210, because his belief lacks factual reality, and no, if the amount of people is 210, thus John’s belief does have factual reality.
Thus I did not have to address Bethrick’s 13 points because I assumed that even if all his 13 points were true, they are all irrelevant. As from my example, showing how John creatively imagined the amount of people in the library, even if true, is irrelevant to decide whether it is true or false that there are 210 people in the library because what matter is not the epistemological status of subjects but the ontological status of an object. If John’s imagined amount lacks factual reality then it is imaginary, if it does have factual reality then it is not imaginary.
Simply put, it is not about subject’s epistemology [i.e. John’s creative way of knowing or Christians power of imagining things] but object’s ontology [amount of people in the library or existence of God] that decides whether or not a subject’s imagined object is imaginary.
To claim that John’s imagined amount is imaginary, we need to show that the amount of people in the library is not 210, and thus John lacks factual reality to his belief. With a similar reason, for Bethrick’s case to succeed, he need to show that Christian God does not exist, and thus Christians lacks factual reality to their beliefs.
Bethrick denies this distinction in his comment:
I would say that if John “imagined 210” people, he imagined 210 people regardless of how many people were there, regardless of whether or not he later found out how many people were there, regardless of whether or not it turned out to be in fact 210 people. Imagination is still imagination.[sic] (Bethrick 31.1.13 2:52 PM)
Bethrick’s reasoning redefines, the dictionary meaning of imaginary, something existing only in the imagination: lacking factual reality, to something existing in the imagination: regardless of it lacking factual reality or not.
To illustrate the absurdity of Bethrick’s position: It is 1880, John Doe imagined that his pregnant wife, Jane Doe is going to have a baby boy, while Jane Doe imagined a baby girl. Even thought both imagined, both imagined gender cannot be said to be imaginary since either John or Jane imagined gender lacks factual reality. If it is a boy, then John’s imagined gender is not imaginary, while Jane’s is and verse. For Bethrick, it does not matter, both Jane and John imagined gender are imaginary: existing only in the imagination:lacking factual reality, which I find absurd.
It is for this reasons I reckoned Bethrick’s proof against existence of Christian God unsuccessful until he succeeds to show that it is the case that Christian God does not exist, thus Christian God is imaginary.
I will encourage you to read and reread Bethrick’s case and responses to my critique. Try to understand first before you agree or disagree with his argument. Think. Think. Think.
Question: Is showing how John Doe got to know there are 210 people in the library to discredit his belief that there are 210 a genetic fallacy?
Update: I added an illustration John and Jane imagined gender to show absurdity in Bethrick’s understanding of imagine and imaginary.
Soanes, C., & Stevenson, A. (2004). Concise Oxford English dictionary (11th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Merriam-Webster, I. (2003). Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary. (Eleventh ed.). Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc.
Photocover credit: Imaginary Transit ii Copyrighted Citylab 2013