DiaBlogue: Belief, Reality & Epistemology

My friend Alan made an excellent point in his response to my last post:

while Ernie has made a good faith effort to respond as best he knew how, we are lacking some kind of “meta-agreement”. I do not know quite how to explain that, except to say that I feel like I need to back up and speak more generally, rather than respond point-by-point.

Well said! I think there’s three important meta-issues he raises:

a. What is the basis of valid belief?
b. What proof can we reasonably expect of God?
c. How subjective can empirical evidence be?

I see all three of these as different facets of a single problem: Epistemology. Click [Read More] for my attempt to address them.

Let me start with a few high-order epistemic assertions, just to see if we’re on the same page or not:

1. You can’t know anything unless you first believe something
2. Valid belief is ultimately a personal choice based on available evidence and an assumed paradigm — neither completely determined by, nor unrelated to, the evidence
3. Beliefs about non-material things should be be judged according to the same general epistemic framework used to judge beliefs about the material world
4. Belief about whether something is good ought to be independent of our belief about whether it is true (e.g., we shouldn’t just believe those things we would like to be true).
5. Any useful supernatural reality must be roughly as intelligible as the natural world; we should not expect it to be trivially easy to understand, nor so complex we never understand anything at all
6. Things that are not themselves objectively discernible (e.g., emotions, sensations, consciousness, relationships) may be plausibly inferred from manifest consequences
7. The only knowledge we ever have is plausible inference justified according to community standards; we know nothing (non-trivial) with absolute, objective certainty.

I apologize if I still missed the mark on your question, but hopefully your answers to my questions will at least help me understand where you’re coming from, and perhaps shape further inquiries on your part.

And, one bonus answer: I fully concede that historic Christianity has been complicit in enormous acts of evil in the world. My question to you is: by what moral standard do you judge Christianity?