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Max Van Campen-Cramer
Sep 29, 2012
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3 debaters

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Claim 1: It's impossible to communicate the nature of something nonphysical, so all religious instruction is useless.

Language is physical. If it's spoken, language is mere sound vibrations traveling through the air from me to you, striking your eardrum and proceeding up your nerves to your brain—language requires organs, air, space, matter, movement, life, etc., for you to understand me. If language is written, it requires physical things like ink, paper, light, eyes, etc. to be understood.
Now, you might try to communicate nonphysical things to me using language. For example, you might try to describe love, a dream, a thought, time, or God. But because language is a physical thing, it's impossible to ever get close to describing something nonphysical with it. However, you can certainly know and understand these things by experiencing them for yourself, assuming they exist.

a. Love. If you try to tell me what love is, you must use analogy. For example, you might say, “What is love? Well... Love is kind of like... a hot fire inside you. It's kind of like a force between two people. It's kind of like a connection.” The first analogy you used in this hypothetical situation is fire. Fire requires physical things: wood, sparks, chemical reactions, air, heat, etc. The second analogy, that love is like a force, also requires physical things: a force requires space, matter, movement, friction, energy, etc. The third analogy, that love is like a connection, is also a physical thing: connections require magnetic attraction, lines, rope, forces, space, etc.
So when you try to communicate (using language, a physical thing) to me what love (a nonphysical “thing”) truly is, you must always speak by analogy. And I would never be able to understand, really know what love is if you tried to tell me. I would only be able to understand love if I had been in love; if I had experienced it for myself.

b. Dreams. You can never tell me what your dream was, you can only tell me what it was like. For example, you can describe some things you “saw,” some things you “did,” or some things you “heard,” in the dream. You can describe some emotions you “felt.” But can you ever make me understand exactly what the experience of your dream was using language? When you dream, time is not linear. Things that normally wouldn't make sense or are undescribable make sense. You feel a certain way. You're falling for eternity. You're running as fast as you can yet can't move. There is a whole lot of nonphysical things going on in your dream, and I could never hope to understand exactly what it was to have that dream by you telling me with a physical thing, language. I could only understand and truly know what that experience is if I could somehow have it for myself as well.

c. Thoughts. Consider a mental image. You see this “thing” “inside” your head, and it looks like something else you have seen in the physical world. 'Where is this picture you are seeing?' “Well, it's nowhere, really, because to be somewhere requires space, three dimensions, matter, etc.” 'What surface does the picture appear on?' “Well, I can't really describe it.” 'What does it look like?' “Well, it looks just like a cartoon pink elephant.” 'Okay, I can sort of understand now.' And even if I was able to sort of understand what this nonphysical thought you are having is like, I could never understand it unless I somehow became you and experienced it for myself.

d. Time. “Time flies when you're having fun.” Again, an analogy: time (this nonphysical “thing”) flies (like a bird in the sky). Does this nonphysical thing, Time, actually fly, using wings, muscles, bones, tendons, air currents, and energy? “Well, it's kind of like Time exists as a line; it's kind of like there's time in front of you (future), inside you (present) and behind you (past).” Again, if you tried to describe time to me using language in this way, you'd be necessarily speaking by analogy: “line,” “in front of,” “inside,” “behind,” all exist only on the physical plane, requiring matter, space, friction, energy, light, etc. So you could never describe this nonphysical thing, Time, to me using language. Of course, however, I can understand it by experiencing it myself.

e. God. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want; He makes me lie down in green pastures ...” God (the nonphysical “thing” that created the entire universe), is kind of like a lord: he rules over you, you must submit to and serve him, he protects you, etc. God is kind of like a shepherd: he's always watching over you, he feeds you, he guides you, he has the power to kill you, he protects you from the wolf (Satan/evil). And God is more like a man than a woman, so we call it “He”: men are dominating, men are physically stronger, etc. So when you try to tell me what God is using language, just like all these other nonphysical things, you must necessarily speak by analogy, and I can never come close to understanding truly what you have experienced unless I experience the same thing for myself.

So now you understand how it is impossible to communicate nonphysical things with physical things. But you also know that it is certainly possible to know and truly understand something nonphysical by experiencing it for yourself, because this does not require something physical for you to understand it.
This means that all religious instruction (and by that I mean when one person tries to make others understand the cause of things to be a creator or creators of the universe) is useless. For example, let's say you actually experienced the creator of the universe in a dream. The creator of the universe made you understand something about what you should do on earth. You wake up, full of excitement, and run into the streets, yelling to everyone about your dream. “What happened?” 'The creator of the universe spoke to me in a dream!' “You mean it has a mouth, a tongue, teeth, and a brain, a physical body?” 'Well, no, not really...' “Well what did you experience in this dream?” 'Well, I learned that... uh... it's wrong to kill!' “In every circumstance? Is it wrong to kill plants for food? Is it wrong to kill a virus or bacterium with a drug or penicillin if it's making you sick? Is it wrong to swat a mosquito sucking your blood?” 'Well, not exactly... I can't really describe it. The creator of the universe expressed to me that you shouldn't kill people, though!' “How about murderers? Rapists? What if it's accidental? What if there's a choice between killing one person and five? What if that one person is the caring mother of her child and the other five are rapists?” 'I don't know, I can't explain it. Something happened in my dream, that's the best I can say.'
So here's the case in point. You, who had the dream in this hypothetical situation truly did experience the creator of the universe expressing something to you, certainly understand what occurred because you experienced it for yourself. But you could never, using physical language, describe what that nonphysical thing is. You'd do better to pick up a wooden bludgeon and bang on a cracked cauldron, screaming, “This is what God is! Don't you get it?” You're shooting in the dark for a target that does not exist when trying to communicate the exact nature, the essence, of what a nonphysical thing truly is when using a physical thing to describe it.
So all religious instruction, which tries to make you understand the reason you should be a good person, should not kill people, should love everyone, should love the creator of the universe, etc., the reason being God wills it, is useless. You can never understand what the creator of the universe really wants you to do in life unless the creator of the universe specifically makes that clear to you personally. This is why you must be agnostic, or waiting for proof of a creator, after learning the above.

Claim 2: It's impossible to prove causation using language, so it's impossible to understand common experience.

But let's say you have indeed experienced the creator of the universe (I have talked to some people who have said they have indeed)! And you understand that you can never possibly communicate to me what occurred when you did, other than by saying “I experienced something,” which is not very useful, obviously. So you say, “Well, I know I can't describe what the creator of the universe wants you to do, but I do know that if you pray for people, good things will happen to them” (a general practitioner once told me this story: some researchers were doing a study to see if prayer actually would make sick people get better quicker. They had two groups of sick people, in the thousands I believe, one who had no one praying for them, and one who did. The study had to be called off because the results were so clearly definitive that prayer helped people get better faster; that there must have been a problem with the study's design, there must have been manipulation, etc. Now of course, this is just an anecdote and I have not researched this myself, but this story is where my next argument comes from).
So you say, “Prayer works.” So let's say I do indeed pray for my cancerous grandmother to get better. And she does! And I tell you that it worked, and you say, “Aha! I told you it would! That is God at work!”
But here's the problem: can you prove to me that it was a singular creator of the universe that cured my grandmother? What if there are two creators of the universe, and the one other than it which presented itself to you actually performed the cure? It would be impossible to know. What if there are a hundred creators of the universe that cured my grandmother? What if my grandmother herself has a spirit, not a creator of the universe, a separate entity that helped her get better? The possibilities are endless, of course.
So what this means is that it impossible to prove the nonphysical cause for something. It is only possible to prove correlation: “It's likely that the creator of the universe cured your grandmother, but I can't say for sure.”

Conclusion: Because it's impossible to communicate the nature of something nonphysical, and because it's only possible to prove correlation, all religious instruction is useless, and all religions of the world exist on the same level of truth as opinion. You therefore must be agnostic/atheist unless you don't want to listen to logic and reason, the only way humans make sense of things. If you don't accept things that make sense, then that makes you literally crazy or insane.

Just in case, I'll define a few terms: agnostic means that: (1) you don't believe a creator exists, (2) you don't believe a creator does not exist, and (3) you will not believe in the existence of a creator unless you have proof. Atheism is basically interchangeable with agnosticism. Atheism, of course, simply means “A-theism,” or “not theism; outside of theism; apart from theism,” and does not mean that one believes definitively that a creator of the universe does not exist. It means that one does not believe in any religion's (theism) definition of what the creator is.

Other Arguments:

1. Religion stunts human potential
a. Religion stunts the proper function of society
Religion stunts Richard Dawkins talks about how truly harmful religion can be, in terms of politics: 93% (if i remember correctly) of the intelligencia (scientists) in the USA is nonreligious, and it makes sense that that percent is the same for other fields of study, like politics, economics, literature, philosophy, mathematicians, etc. This means that leadership positions like presidency, congress, etc., are barred from people who are best suited for the position: honest, intelligent people, because some 60% of America is Christian (is it 80%?) and you would never have a chance of getting elected if you were honest and said you were an atheist.

b. Religion stunts the progress of science
From that same video, Dawkins talks about how the foundation of religion is dogma (“believe that it is true because I said so; do not question this because I said so”), while the foundation of science is inquiry (constantly asking questions and receiving answers substantiated by evidence). From my own biology studies I learned that science itself assumes that natural phenomena have natural causes. Therefore any religion that tries to synthesize science (i.e., Christianity) with its beliefs is deluding itself and lying to you. Not only that, but it is making the general population comfortable with accepting claims backed by no evidence, and this is the exact antithesis of science and the basic human urge to know the reasons behind things.

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Rebuttal to: Max Van Campen-Cramer Show

How can you explain demon possesion? :)

Mike Kilner
Oct 20, 2012
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Rebuttal to: Max Van Campen-Cramer Show

Rebuttal to claim 1a:
"It is impossible to communicate the nature of something nonphysical"

Mathematicians and logicians have communicated in length about the nature of sets and classes. If this was not possible, all of Math would be meaningless. But clearly, math is a meaningful subject, so it is possible to communicate about sets and classes.
But clearly sets and classes are not physical objects. Therefore, it is possible to communicate the nature of something nonphysical.


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