December 15, 2013

"Don’t get me wrong — I’m still an atheist."

"But I will no longer be dragged into debates with theists who make a ludicrous claim, then base their evidence on the very book from which their ludicrous claim originates."
There is no point in it. All this back-and-forth sniping serves to do is to make us feel a sense of superiority to the person making the claims and does nothing for them except leave them with a smugness about their assumption that “atheists are all mean.” Faith overrides knowledge and truth in any situation, so arguing with a theist is akin to banging your head against a brick wall: You will injure yourself and achieve little.
Why must an atheist bother with the subject of religion at all? If you think you're so rational, be rational about the reasons why people are religious, including many reasons that you could be empathetic about.

By the way, even in that little quoted squib, the guy is still being a jerk, likening religious people to a brick wall and being a bit of a brick wall himself about the possibility that religious people are seekers of knowledge and truth.

199 comments:

Bob Ellison said...

Atheists are theists.

Michael K said...

"I trolled Facebook and Twitter for theists and told them why they are wrong. I made fun of them for their unreasonable beliefs. I would analyze and nitpick their statements, show examples of just where they went wrong and why, and even at times ridicule them when there seemed to be no option left, all in the vain hope that I might be able to sway them to a more rational way of viewing the world and the universe. This could be extremely satisfying"

Atheism is just one more religion. This guy was practicing his religion, just like the guy in Kansas who was going to blow up the airport.

It's kind of amusing to see how much the atheists resemble fundamentalist Christians.

Birkel said...

Nobody can reason somebody out of a position they didn't reason themselves into.

See, e.g. ObamaCare; Anthropogenic Global Warming

Curious George said...

No one brings up religion more than a fucking atheist. It's not enough that they don't believe, they need no one to believe, and short of that, ridicule all that do.

Unknown said...

Says Pribble, "I can’t allow this kind of thinking, and if I can help it, I will move to sway the believer into rethinking their position."

Nobody expects the Pribble Inquisition.

Rusty said...

Bob Ellison said...
Atheists are theists.

Since both are based on faith.

Original Mike said...

"Why must an atheist bother with the subject of religion at all?"

We don't. I am dismayed by "militant" atheists. It's embarrassing. It also gives fodder to the "Atheists are theists" crowd.

John Lynch said...

Internet atheists are no fun at parties.

Illuninati said...

It appears Mr. Pribble has matured. He apparently doesn't realize yet that while atheism is a legitimate philosophical hypothesis it is not a universal, necessary and certain truth. He also doesn't appear to have explored all the logical consequences of his decision to be an atheist.

One of the worst aspects of Atheism is that it does not provide any absolute rules of morality. Our author chose “methodological humanism” but that is just a personal choice. Logically, he would have decided to be a mass murderer and/or a Communist dictator.

The ironic thing is that when Mr. Pribble says he has "chosen" "methodological humanism" he is using the language of the religious even though he claims he has reject their axioms. Since atheists are materialists if they are consistent they believe that their minds are nothing but matter in motion controlled physics. Unless one believes in emergent properties (a new physics which applies only to the mind) consciousness is nothing but an epiphenomena not an active agent.

EDH said...

I detect an Althouse theme this morning: whether to confront or ignore people on the Internet with whom you disagree.

But Dowd and this atheist guy are relentlessly navel gazing about it.

As a very familiar face once said...

When you have to shoot, shoot. Don't talk.

Tom said...

I'm agnostic. I find a lot of religious beliefs to be a bit silly once unpacked. But I'm glad, for the most part, religion is there. Most people I've met are not capable of creating a moral foundation for their lives - this includes a lot of atheists and agnostics. While I'm not in 100% alignment with, say, Christian morality, it's quite a bit better than nothing. So I find most religions to meet the Althouse challenge to be better than doing nothing - though for some, it's barely.

Take Mormonism. Unpack the inception Mormanism and it's a cult. But when you meet Mormons, they have amazing families and live very nice lives. I'm not going to become a Mormon. But I'm glad it's there for some people.

John Lynch said...

It's not about atheism. It's about etiquette. If it wasn't atheism it would just be something else.

A very good rule when conversing in public is to avoid religion, politics, and shop talk.

n.n said...

Religion is a philosophy of morality. For Judaism and Christianity it happens to be that the philosopher is divine. It is immature to make affirmative statements to deny articles of faith. It would be more productive to judge the philosophy by the principles it engenders. As for the articles, wait for your postmortem. If Atheism is right, then you simply cease to exist.

That said, what is the basis of morality? Is it merely competing interests checking each other's power? If it is, then Atheism can not make claim to any moral standard, since their "good conduct" is merely a product of coercion or its threat.

campy said...

We don't. I am dismayed by "militant" atheists. It's embarrassing.

It's just the 98% like Pribble that give the rest a bad name.

pm317 said...

Why must an atheist bother with the subject of religion at all? If you think you're so rational, be rational about the reasons why people are religious, including many reasons that you could be empathetic about.

Agree with this and I am one of those. But what do you do when people knock on your door and start proselytizing (which happens to us all the time -- may be it is the Mormons nearby). And most irritating of all is that we get letters telling us how great the lord is and there is no return address on the letter so I could tell that person to leave me alone -- cowards.

Also, I was once accosted by a man on UVA campus who started talking about Jesus. I was new in the country and I was on a college campus and I thought this might be an intellectual discussion and started talking to him telling him I abide by my own very personal religion. Soon found out he was one of those proselytizer types and really got angry when he responded that the rapist has his own religion. I started countering that and he soon started walking away saying "thanks" and it got me even more angry as I was still talking and talking to his back.

Paddy O said...

Atheism and Theism are almost always examples of the Argument Clinic.

They just use bigger words and sentences to hide the fact all they're saying is "It is!" and "No it isn't!"

The trouble is there's faith on every side of almost every issue. Religion is a hypothesis. Imagine if scientists had a claim then had philosophical debates over whether it was true.

When you're making a claim about reality and you're in the system, it's a matter of faith to state the nature of the broader reality.

At the same time, most atheist/theist debates aren't really about truth or reality. They're about ego. Theists make atheism sound stupid and atheists make theists sound stupid. It's very much like internet debates over politics. The real goal is to feel better about yourself, and if it takes bullying and misrepresentation of the other to do it, then all the better.

LarsPorsena said...

Blogger Curious George said...

No one brings up religion more than a fucking atheist. It's not enough that they don't believe, they need no one to believe, and short of that, ridicule all that do.

12/15/13, 10:15 AM
____________________________

Hence the term 'evangelical atheists'.

Jim said...

Robert Heinlein wrote: "Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig."

Sorun said...

"I think that we still need those who will relentlessly chase down believers for their ludicrous ideas, especially when they cause harm in the world."

Except for Muslims, because they'd kill us. And except for Buddhists and Hindus, because that would be racist. And certainly not Jews, because that would be anti-semitic. And...

traditionalguy said...

The War on Christmas like atheist dissent from which it arises reveals a fear of King Jesus. They are very afraid.

rhhardin said...

God doesn't much care for evolution.

Thylas Moss:

I don't believe in Him. He's just a casual aquaintance,
a comfortable associate with whom I can be myself.
To believe in Him would place Him in the center of the universe,
when He's far more secure in the fringes,
so He doesn't have to look over His shoulder to nab the backstabbers who want promotions,
but are tired of waiting for Him to die and set in motion the natural evolution.
God doesn't want to evolve.
Has been against evolution from its creation.
He doesn't figure many possibilites are open to Him.
I think He's wise to bide His time, even though He pales in the moonlight to just a glow...
just the warmth of hot chocolate spreading through the body like a subcutaneous halo.
But to trust in Him implicitly would be a mistake,
for then He would not have to maintain His worthiness to be God.
Even the thinnest flyweight modicum of doubt gives God the neccesity
to prove He's worthy of the implicet trust I can never give
because I protect Him from corruption,
from the complacency that rises withim Him sometimes,
a shadowy ever-descending brother.

rhhardin said...

Thylias Moss

tim in vermont said...

I am a Christian atheist. I know lots of Jewish atheists. I love Christmas, I love Easter. I can't see the conflict.

Patrick said...

Predictably, PaddyO gets it entirely correct.

Terry said...

Way back in olden times, before there was a scientific explanation for observed phenomena, there were atheists.
It seems to me that if a person wanted to be a good atheist they would master the ideas of people who believed reason alone could lead a person to atheism. To be an atheist you shouldn't need to know that lightning is caused by the discharge of potential energy in the atmosphere, or that the geologic record shows that the Earth is 4 billion years old.

Oso Negro said...

If you succeed in talking someone out of their faith, what have you accomplished?

Bob Boyd said...

Wanker.

Original Mike said...

"But what do you do when people knock on your door and start proselytizing"

I smile, take their handout, and throw it away (sometimes I look at it out of curiosity). Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go put the star on our Christmas tree.

Dr Weevil said...

"But what do you do when people knock on your door and start proselytizing"? That's easy. Just politely say, "Thank you, but I'm happy with my current religious beliefs and do not care to discuss them with strangers." Then, without waiting for a reply, close (but don't slam) the door. That's always worked for me.

As for stuff that comes in the mail, throw it away without thinking about it. Most of what I get in the mail (not to mention e-mail) is complete crap, and lot could be offensive if I cared to take offense - no, I don't need a title loan, or a debt-consolidation loan, or rent-to-own furniture, or bad pizza at a special low price, or more bald-faced lies from politicians, or AARP membership, or . . . just toss 'em and relax.

Carol said...

And except for Buddhists and Hindus,

But they're so charming, quaint, and far away...aren't they - ?

Edward Lunny said...

Of course, we could just live and let live, and refrain from the need to beat the other side into submission.

St. George said...

People who believe in God do not base their belief on a "book" from which a "claim originates."

A religious text, holy or otherwise, is an attempt by people to explain what can neither be explained or fully understood. In any event, the book, The Bible, is meant to be read simultaneously literally, figuratively, theologically, and historically.

The writer is correct, though, in saying that belief in a deity and faith in His/Her/Its love is "ludicrous." It is absurd. Just like Buster Keaton trying to eat soup in a diner.

iowan2 said...

Stop confusing religion with faith. God is God. Religion is man made. Religion being man made is as flawed as man himself.

While churches serve a purpose of leading an individual to find and start to grow a spiritual life, only if those persons actualy ask, seek, and work, to find their own spirituality, will they grow into spirituality. You cant just show up and think you will get there by osmosis.

Evangiligal atheist, from my experience spend all of their time railing against church doctrine. Not God.

Big Mike said...

It's kind of amusing to see how much the atheists resemble fundamentalist Christians.

Michael K beat me to it by almost an hour. I need to stop sleeping in on Sundays.

I am dismayed by "militant" atheists. It's embarrassing.

Me too. I'm an atheist because the universe makes no sense to me otherwise. But Christians, Buddhists, Jews, Sikhs, Shintos, Hindus, and Taoists are fine. Only liberalism and Islam cause grief when they set out to punish the blasphemers.

Renee said...

"Evangiligal atheist, from my experience spend all of their time railing against church doctrine. Not God."

Yep.

I was in a discussion and an atheist was hoping Church would change its 'policy'.

It was like asking to change the Gospel, but he didn't understand the distinction.

I did not respond. I already offered a point or two to the discussion.I didn't want to drag it out.

pm317 said...

Original Mike and DrWeevil, you guys are better people than I am. I get angry at the intrusion, how dare they! I have tried not to be that but it still gets me every time.

BTW, Buddhism and Hinduism have no proselytizing requirements -- in fact, that idea is alien to both religions. Christianity does. Of course, Islam takes it to a whole crazy level where they are told to eliminate non-believers.

Gahrie said...

I'm a deist, but I too am glad that religion exists. I have long contended that civilization cannot exist without religion. It is a simple fact that the vast majority of humans are unwilling or unable to behave civilly without strong instrinsic and exstrinsic motivators. Religion addresses both of these.

rhhardin said...

Jehovah's Witnesses : Hi, we're Jehovah's witnesses.

Fred Grampp [washing car] : Hi, I'm God.

JH: [turn around and leave]

YoungHegelian said...

I've got no problem with atheism or agnosticism. The big questions are the toughies & very intelligent men have come up with very different answers.

What I have a big problem with are atheists who think that theism is prima facie irrational & stupid. My question to those people is: Do you have acquaintance with a history of philosophy on some planet other than Earth that you'd like to share with us? Because for the great majority of Western & Eastern Philosophers, theism of some stripe is not irrational.

There are good reasons that naturalistic materialism is not the default setting for philosophy.

PeterK said...

"so arguing with a theist is akin to banging your head against a brick wall: You will injure yourself and achieve little."
reminds me of trying to have a discussion with environmentalists. no matter how many facts and studies you present to counter their beliefs they will continue to deny. Michael Crichton did it well in describing environmentalism as a religion
http://youtu.be/Vv9OSxTy1aU

http://www.cougarinfo.org/lionsupl/crichton.html

Anglelyne said...

"But I will no longer be dragged into debates with theists who make a ludicrous claim, then base their evidence on the very book from which their ludicrous claim originates."

Which demonstrates only that people always gravitate to their own intellectual level. If he were a smarter class of atheist, he would be engaging with a smarter class of theist, not dumbasses who "prove" biblical claims by citing the bible.

But this is Slate, so dumbass is to be expected.

Blue@9 said...

Hey, don't peg all of us atheists as proselytizing jerks. My stance is that faith and reason are orthogonal. You cannot possibly reason someone out of faith, so why even bother? Moreover, why would you want to argue that someone's faith is "incorrect"? It's rude, and it mocks the fact that faith is a very real, human thing. A rational atheist should understand that the only reason he's an atheist is because he hasn't found faith (that's me).

Every day in downtown San Francisco, right outside of the Powell Street Muni station, a street preacher holds up a sign and claims that all these materialistic shopper sinners are going to hell. Sometimes you see a young kid, probably 18-25 white hipster, get in his face and start spouting shit about the flying spaghetti monster. It's sad. Who's dumber, the nut claiming he knows who's going to hell, or the nut trying to argue with him?

Farmer said...

"But I will no longer be dragged into debates with theists who make a ludicrous claim, then base their evidence on the very book from which their ludicrous claim originates."

No serious apologist does anything of the sort. Sounds pretty straw-mannish to me.

YoungHegelian said...

@Blue@9

a street preacher holds up a sign and claims that all these materialistic shopper sinners are going to hell.

Take out the "going to hell" & replace it with "going to destroy Gaia" and no doubt many San Franciscans could get behind the message.

Apocalyptic spirituality is a protean thing, and shows itself in many social guises.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Let's say a central tenet of your religion is that you don't have to believe in the tenets of your religion, but you do have to publicly maintain that you do.

Now you get into an argument with an atheist over one of those tenets. You know the atheist is right, but you just can't admit it. So you say that you accept the tenet on faith.

Now the atheist thinks you are being irrational. But the atheist is wrong. You are being quite rational and consistent with the tenets of your religion.

The atheist can only be right if there is a god, and that god is not the god you are worshipping. But then the atheist, who professes not to believe in god, would be wrong too.

Of course, the atheist is wrong if your religion is the true religion. Therefore, in arguments about religion, the atheist is always wrong.

Jim Watts said...

Only a Fool says there is no God. Why debate a Fool? The Road to Hell is clearly marked and they are surely on it. Knock yourself out...

RecChief said...

"Why must an atheist bother with the subject of religion at all? If you think you're so rational, be rational about the reasons why people are religious, including many reasons that you could be empathetic about."

Atheism is its own religion, it has its own dogma, its own saints, and its own iconography.

Saint Croix said...

At the same time, most atheist/theist debates aren't really about truth or reality. They're about ego.

Yes it is very hard to let go of our pride in ourself.

The Christian conceit is that you are speaking for God, not yourself. But that in itself is a dangerous form of pride. When you know exactly what God is saying, you are speaking for God.

I think the Commandment not to take the Lord's name in vain is a reference to this. It's not about cursing, as many people think. It's about vanity, and a warning about the sin of pride. Be careful when you say you are speaking for the Lord!

It freaks me out to put Christianity in those terms.

Saint Croix said...

Atheism is just one more religion.

Yes. For instance, atheism might corrupt science in the same way that religion might corrupt science. Darwin's theory has to be true, to an atheist, because an atheist is positing that there is no intelligent design. Any problems with Darwin's theory are ignored.

Darwin's Black Box is a fun read. I don't think an atheist would have come up with that.

Saint Croix said...

It might be interesting to compare atheism and theism as moral systems. Which is likely to make us better people?

Under atheism, you can lie and get away with stuff. You can kill somebody, bury them in your backyard, and lie, and lie, and lie. If you lie long enough, and successfully enough, in an atheist worldview you get away with it.

If you believe in God, there is no getting away with anything. All your sins are known.

Original Mike said...

"Only a Fool says there is no God."

And then, every once and awhile, I can empathize with the militants.

m stone said...

I lean to Saint Croix's thinking much of the time. I'd argue whether religion corrupts science, if that's what he truly meant to say, Darwin excepted.

We seem to be talking around Christianity in the discussion for the most part and I take no interest in other religions and their proselytizing, the few that do. Buddhists, Muslims and Jews really don't engage others.

Christian conceit does creep in, serves no purpose, and is outright dangerous. As Croix points out: we don't speak for God.

But God speaks for himself, thankfully. Scripture tells us that no man comes to the Father but by the Spirit. Many Christians would rather "go out into the world and make disciples" instead forgetting who does the work. That's not to forbid evangelizing. Arguing and ego have no place in it.

Romans first chapter tells us that no man is without excuse as God reveals Himself to all, so even the most hardened atheist is given opportunity.

garage mahal said...

What I have a big problem with are atheists who think that theism is prima facie irrational & stupid.

Why would you have a problem with that? Who cares?

YoungHegelian said...

@garage,

Why would you have a problem with that? Who cares?

I have absolutely no idea what you're trying to say here. If you wish to explain it, please do.

rhhardin said...

There are no atheists in antholes.

MrCharlie2 said...

Why must an atheist bother with the subject of religion at all?

A few reasons, in my case:
- Religion is part of our cultural heritage, and part of human psychology. It is fascinating, and unavoidable.
- Once in a while "theists" try to impose their system on others, perhaps unconsciously. Very infrequently where I now live, but when I lived in the rural South it was constant. You have to stand up for yourself.

Personally, I have no animus against religion, no more than I oppose "American Idol". Religion is the more interesting and dangerous of the two (how many people have been killed in the name of Simon Cowell? No more than a handful.)

Enough, I have Christmas cards to write.

garage mahal said...

I have absolutely no idea what you're trying to say here

You said you had a big problem with someone that believes theism is irrational and stupid. I asked why you have a problem with that.

n.n said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jupiter said...

"Why must an atheist bother with the subject of religion at all?"

I used to get drunk with my friends on the roof of my apartment, on First Street. To the south, above the tops of the trees in the park below Houston Street, we could see the World Trade Center, with window lights blinking on and off in the night. For some reason, I found it comforting, to see those Twin Towers looming over lower Manhattan. We could party all night on that rooftop. You could always tell when the fun was over, because the birds would start singing.

You may not be interested in Religion, but Religion is most assuredly interested in you.

n.n said...

Atheism is not a religion. It is not defined by a moral philosophy. It is based on a single principle: denial of theism. It is a cult.

Individuals may develop their own morality, but it is not done in a vacuum, and they cannot defend it other than through citation of articles of faith (e.g. individual dignity, intrinsic value). Other than Islam, the worst violations of human rights (e.g. genocide, abortion, and other population control strategies) have been committed by atheists and in a shorter time frame.

Since Atheism is intrinsically materialistic, its adherents have a predisposition to seek instant or immediate gratification (e.g. redistributive change). They defer their dignity to mortal gods hoping for a return on their investment. People with a similar predisposition, whether atheist, theist, or agnostic, share a similar preference for intelligent design. Ironically, they fear or loath organic or distributed systems, which lack sufficient organization for their function or comfort.

I prefer people who acknowledge what they know, don't know, and are incapable of knowing. A certain stability follows from knowing what other people accept as articles of faith. There are also agnostics, but few who actually adhere to a neutral faith. Everyone is predisposed to some form of corruption, which is motivated by a material gain.

cubanbob said...

I believe the safest bet is Pascal's Wager.

Smilin' Jack said...

Why must an atheist bother with the subject of religion at all?

Why must theists begrudge me a few yuks at their expense? If they're right, I'm going to hell--isn't that punishment enough?

ALP said...

Agree with this and I am one of those. But what do you do when people knock on your door and start proselytizing (which happens to us all the time -- may be it is the Mormons nearby).
**********************
I have a particular hatred of anyone that comes to our door selling ideas. Its a gross violation of individual space and territory: never, NEVER would it EVER occur to me to go door to door on a search for people receptive to my ideas. Its repugnant. I simply cannot tolerate the fact this person has disregarded my privacy, and feels the need to interrupt what I am doing for a religious debate.

Thus, people who come to OUR door are in for a treat. Both of us are atheists, but usually don't bother bringing up the subject for reasons posters have stated here. But when you bring the argument to our doorstep? Its on.

Oh we'll ignore the first few knocks to give them a chance to get away unscathed. But ya know, people with "god on their side" seem rather daft: hearing a TV or other noise, they can't figure out we are IGNORING them! Why?

So they keep knocking. Worse, they have even come into the back yard looking for receptive ears! Intrusive? Yes, very much so. Once they have made 3 attempts, the gloves come off...and we open the door.

Let's just say we have sent more than a few away near tears.

Interrupt my day with a religious sales pitch? We'll make sure you never come back.

Original Mike said...

"Atheism ... is a cult."

Rubbish. I don't talk to other atheists. I don't have a secret decoder ring. I look at the cosmos (and, in particular, I look at the data from cosmology) and I find the explanations from human religion (and I mean no disrespect by this) pathetic.

YoungHegelian said...

@garage,

I asked why you have a problem with that.

Yes, but you also attached a "Who cares?", as if you are unaware that there is now a very vocal group of scientists, philosophers & their acolytes on the cultural landscape who believe that theism is irrational.

I'm both philosophically trained & a believing Catholic. Should I not care when my faith is publicly denigrated, especially by a movement that I believe is, at best, philosophically suspect? Do I not have a moral responsibility as a believer to defend the faiths of my fellow theists against the Neo-atheists using the language of philosophy, which they claim to uphold, against them? Our society, is, after all, a marketplace of ideas, and I, as a citizen, have my place in it.

Original Mike said...

And I guess I should say that "agnostic" may be a better description of my believe. Did "something" start this? Maybe. Is that something the God described by human religions? I have no doubt the answer is no.

Freeman Hunt said...

Basically he says he's not going to be a troll anymore. Article was sort of Onionish, at least as far as I got into it.

mtrobertsattorney said...

I was once attracted to atheism as the most reasonable explanation for what the hell is going on. I thought the foundational belief of atheism, namely that all things that exist are composed of matter in motion, was quite reasonable.

But after more than a few conversations with people who had thought about these matters more deeply than I had, I began to doubt this belief.

There were two problems. First, contempory science appears to understand matter as various "forces" governed by abstract, non-material mathematical relationships.

Second, there is the problem of dream images. They appear to exist only in time, but not in space. My atheist friends would offer a material cause for these images, but they could never account for the images themselves. Where is the stage, or where is the screen, where these entire productions take place, full of sound, color and conversation, but no physical sound waves and no physical light waves? And who is producing and directing these things?

I don't have an answer, but at least I know that I don't know.

Can pure reason or empirical science ever provide a conclusive answer? I doubt it.

YoungHegelian said...

@ALP,

Interrupt my day with a religious sales pitch? We'll make sure you never come back.

Do you also do this to canvassers for ideological & political causes that you disagree with? If not, why not?

Have they also not disturbed the peace of your day? They even want your money, or to put your name on some piece of paper that they plan on sending to a Congressman or something, which the religious folks don't. In that way, the political activists are much more invasive. You seem to reserve your ire for the religious, who you think believe themselves to have a monopoly on virtue. If you truly believe that, you clearly have never discussed issues with a political activist of any stripe.

In my neck of the woods, the political canvassers (all liberal causes) outnumber the JH's and Mormons ten to 1. Somehow, I manage without much trouble to send them on their way politely, while agreeing with none of them.

James Pawlak said...

"Atheism" is a religion based on the "theological" premises that there is no God nor gods. There is at least one US Court Of Appeals giving atheists the same rights as other "believers" [James J. Kaufmann VS Gary R. McCaughtey, et. al.; 7th US Court of Appeals; #04-1914; Aug. 19, 2005]

Like many other proponents of some religions Atheists attempt to drive others from the "public square" using gross force (eg Soviet/Mao style Communists) or such more subtle methods as subverting the intent of the authors of the First Amendment to the Constitution.

pm317 said...

ALP, I hear you.

Michael K said...

"Oh we'll ignore the first few knocks to give them a chance to get away unscathed. But ya know, people with "god on their side" seem rather daft: hearing a TV or other noise, they can't figure out we are IGNORING them! Why? "

I'm afraid I think this is rude and part of the atheism religion. I still remember a nice lady who came to my apartment door when I was in college. She was a Jehovah's Witness and peddling their newspaper, the Watchtower. I had her sit down and explain what she was doing. I heard her out and thanked her and she went on her way. The following Sunday, she was back. She told me I was the only one who ever listened to her. I politely sent her on her way.

Years later, some young Mormon boys came by and gave me a copy of the Book of Mormon. My kids came by a few days later and saw it on my bookshelf. They gave me a "What's this?" look and I explained. I am neither a Witness nor a Mormon. I think these people are doing something important to them and I am willing to give up five minutes of my time.

What I will not tolerate are these kids dropped off from a van and trying to peddle cheap junk to "earn a trip" or a "scholarship." They are part of a scam.

Just as I cannot care about what color Santa Claus is, I don't care about the arguments to prove pins cannot dance on the head of a pin.

pm317 said...

YH (typing on my iphone), there is a difference - political groups are begging for donation whereas these people show up with the premise that you are lacking. Their mission is to make you a better human, in their eyes.

Original Mike said...

"In my neck of the woods, the political canvassers (all liberal causes) outnumber the JH's and Mormons ten to 1. Somehow, I manage without much trouble to send them on their way politely, while agreeing with none of them."

It's funny. I'm a lot more forgiving of the religious canvassers than I am with the liberals. I ascribe good intent to the religious. I do not have the same feeling for the liberals.

Original Mike said...

BTW, our Christmas tree is looking mahvelous.

YoungHegelian said...

@pm317,

these people show up with the premise that you are lacking

I'm sorry, pm, but you have got to be kidding me!

Tell an enviro-activist that you don't believe in AGW, or tell an ACORN guy that you're Republican, and you'll hear a fucking earful about how you're lacking!

Guys, this idea you all have that the religious have a monopoly on being self-righteous pricks simply doesn't bear up under the weight of the empirical facts, I'm sorry.

Revenant said...

Why must an atheist bother with the subject of religion at all?

For the same reason a libertarian must bother with high taxes.

Just because you think something is wrong doesn't mean you get to ignore it. :)

garage mahal said...

Yes, but you also attached a "Who cares?"

Yea...as in, who cares what other people think of your religion?

YoungHegelian said...

@garage,

Yea...as in, who cares what other people think of your religion?

Because those other people can vote to enact laws which threaten the free exercise of my religion. Or, can exercise "mob rule" against it. This is not a theoretical exercise, garage, it's already happening.

Original Mike said...

"Guys, this idea you all have that the religious have a monopoly on being self-righteous pricks simply doesn't bear up under the weight of the empirical facts,"

This idea that you have that we all think the religious are self-righteous pricks doesn't even bear up to reading this thread. But don't let me get in the way of your need to feel persecuted.

pm317 said...

YH, this looks like what bugs you more type of situation.

YoungHegelian said...

@OM,

This idea that you have that we all think the religious are self-righteous pricks

Uhhhh Mike, go read pm317s & ALP's postings again. That's pretty much what they're saying. If you can come up with different interpretation, please share it.

garage mahal said...

YoungHeg
Try being an atheist and look around to see virtually no elected atheists representing you.

Original Mike said...

There are several "atheist" posts here, YH, that have been generous to the religious. I'm not going to do your work for you in finding them. I have a tree to trim and a football game to watch.

Renee said...

As a theist, I don't think most politicians believe in God. Sure they state they believe in God, but I doubt it. But I know I can't judge, and normally I couldn't. But with politicians, yeah I don't believe it when they say it.

Sorry.

YoungHegelian said...

@garage,

Do you think any of the presidents since Hoover were really practicing & believing Christians?

Maybe Truman. Almost definitely Carter. But the rest?

The ruling classes mostly mouth the pieties in public, but in private, very few are believers of a sort that ever let their conscience get in the way of their will to power.

There's no shortage of atheists in the halls of power, garage. Just folks who are honest enough to admit it.

Original Mike said...

Mason Crosby just made a 57-yd field goal. Maybe there is a God.

Original Mike said...

God is a Packer fan, you know.

YoungHegelian said...

@OM,

God is a Packer fan, you know.

They found that exact sentence in the Dead Sea Scrolls, so I've heard.

Original Mike said...

Well, that translation is controversial, but we all know it's true.

Revenant said...

Do you think any of the presidents since Hoover were really practicing & believing Christians?

If "believing and practicing Christian" means "someone who truly lives his life in the manner the Biblical Jesus called for" then I've never met a Christian in my entire life.

In the sense that people in this thread claim to be Christian, though? Sure, all of the post-WW2 Presidents qualify.

Original Mike said...

I believe the exact translation was, "Go Pack, Go!".

Original Mike said...

Satan just kicked a field goal.

YoungHegelian said...

@Revenant,

Sure, all of the post-WW2 Presidents qualify.

Then come up with an example of where they, in the political fray or after it in their memoirs, said of a matter of policy that "I felt that my Christian faith dictated that I had to do X instead of Y".

Michael said...

GM.
"Try being an atheist and look around to see virtually no elected atheists representing you."

In what way would you like to be represented by an Atheist? Name a law that has been passed recently that conflicts with your atheist views.




Michael said...

GM.
"Try being an atheist and look around to see virtually no elected atheists representing you."

In what way would you like to be represented by an Atheist? Name a law that has been passed recently that conflicts with your atheist views.




Revenant said...

One other thing:

There's no shortage of atheists in the halls of power, garage. Just folks who are honest enough to admit it

Do you realize you basically made garage's point for him?

To claim that politicians conceal their atheism is to concede that there is enough bigotry among religious Americans to swing elections. That folks will elect an immoral Christian or Jew but not an immoral atheist. Otherwise why would they conceal their belief?

harrogate said...

"To claim that politicians conceal their atheism is to concede that there is enough bigotry among religious Americans to swing elections. That folks will elect an immoral Christian or Jew but not an immoral atheist. Otherwise why would they conceal their belief?"

Bazinga.

Chef Mojo said...

I totally get what garage is asking here, but I'll ask it in another way:

'm both philosophically trained & a believing Catholic. Should I not care when my faith is publicly denigrated, especially by a movement that I believe is, at best, philosophically suspect? Do I not have a moral responsibility as a believer to defend the faiths of my fellow theists against the Neo-atheists using the language of philosophy, which they claim to uphold, against them? Our society, is, after all, a marketplace of ideas, and I, as a citizen, have my place in it.

Is your faith so weak that you can't withstand the "onslaught" of an extreme minority? What would would your Catholic martyrs and saints have to say about that, if they could see you whining about atheists attacking you? I always hear the religious bitching about how the atheists are always picking on them, and the first thing that comes to my mind, amusingly enough, is, "O ye, of little faith."

As an atheist, I tend to avoid religious discussion beyond the workings of the church that I used to belong to. I was raised Episcopalian, and I'm fascinated by the doctrinal disputes and politics of the Episcopal Church, CoE and the Anglican Communion as a whole. I have absolutely no problem with the religious, except on the rare occasions that they force evangelism on me, and then I do my utmost to be polite, yet firm.

I don't hang out with or - ahem - congregate with other atheists. To me, that seems absurd. The vast majority of my family and friends are religious to varying degrees, and I love them all dearly. And they return that, accepting me as a non believer. That's just the way we roll.

To me, atheism is simply the absence of belief in a divine being. I respect and love the religious. I do not look at them as irrational. I acknowledge the possibility, however remote, that I may be wrong, but I've not been presented with the evidence that would convince me otherwise.

There are some faiths that I do see as a threat. Islam, and certain cults like Scientology.

Christianity, Judaism, et.al.? Those aren't threats to me. Personally, I'm outraged when evangelical atheists lay siege to public creches and crosses on veterans memorials. I laugh at their stupidity when they insist on adding an atheist display along with other faiths displays on a courthouse lawn. They just don't seem to get the absurdity of that. Sigh.

And folks: Merry Christmas! May light of the season shine brightly, may you be at peace and in comfort.

David said...

Get an afterlife.

Original Mike said...

End of the first quarter. Not looking good for the Forces of Light.

garage mahal said...

I would be in favor of performing an exorcism on the Packer defense.

YoungHegelian said...

@Revenant/Harrowgate,

Do you realize you basically made garage's point for him?

Yes & no. It's true that many Americans --- even many atheists, if polls are to be believed --- trust politicians who are theists of some sort more than atheists. But, you are assuming that politicians who don't want to cop to their atheism/agnosticism because of political repercussions only, and I think it's more complicated than that. I think they just consider it to be part of their personal life that they don't want to get into in the public arena, and mouthing the pieties lets them get on to the politics that they adore. It's not like these politicians are hard-core atheists. To them, faith is like quantum mechanics or studying Hittite: it may be fun and useful for someone else, but what does it have to do with them & power? Their lives and minds are often terribly reductive in that way.

timkb4cq said...

>> But what do you do when people knock on your door and start proselytizing (which happens to us all the time -- may be it is the Mormons nearby). <<
My brother would go get his copy of Anton LeVey's Satanic Bible and tell them he'd be glad to speak with them about their book if they would also converse about his.
They always left quickly.

No, he isn't a Satanist - he usually says Druid when asked what religion he is.

Revenant said...

Then come up with an example of where they, in the political fray or after it in their memoirs, said of a matter of policy that "I felt that my Christian faith dictated that I had to do X instead of Y".

This website collects religious sentiments by American presidents. Have fun reading.

When you're done, share the source of your belief that our Presidents are a bunch of closet atheists. What objective evidence do you have for that claim?

n.n said...

Meanwhile... "China lands Jade Rabbit robot rover on Moon".

YoungHegelian:

Consider it as a conditional probability. While someone's religion may not determine their actions, it does offer information about their predisposition. From a purely probabilistic perspective, the optimal selection would depend on on a well defined set of principles. A historical pattern would increase the probability of a particular outcome.

Some people would consider this a bias, but it has a mathematical basis. This is an analytical problem which could be fully solved if not for the complexity and unwieldy nature of the system. As it is, we can model it as a chaotic process, which when limited to a stable state, and a limited frame, will be capable of reasonably forecasting an outcome.

Revenant said...

Yes & no. It's true that many Americans --- even many atheists, if polls are to be believed

Believing those polls would be easier if you provided a link to them, YH. :)

But, you are assuming that politicians who don't want to cop to their atheism/agnosticism because of political repercussions only, and I think it's more complicated than that. I think they just consider it to be part of their personal life that they don't want to get into in the public arena, and mouthing the pieties lets them get on to the politics that they adore.

It is easy to identify politicians who prefer to keep their religious beliefs private. Those are the ones who, when asked about their religious beliefs, reply "that's none of your business".

It is irrational to believe that a politician would lie about his religious beliefs for any reason other than fear of others' reaction to them.

YoungHegelian said...

@Chief,

I always hear the religious bitching about how the atheists are always picking on them, and the first thing that comes to my mind, amusingly enough, is, "O ye, of little faith."

No one would ever say something like this to a Jew after the Holocaust. Well, in spite of the fact that many don't like to think of it in this way, the 20th C with its mass slaughters was the golden age of martyrdom, in terms of both numbers & in terms of the sheer viciousness of the regimes who attempted to destroy the Churches within their borders. Many atheists seem to think that our culture wars have no greater import than on us here in the US, and that the comfort that American Christians enjoy will always be so. I don't agree with either thesis.

In Britain now, one can be arrested for preaching on a street corner that homosexuality is a sin. In MA, Catholic Adoption services had to shut down because they would not place with SS couples. In CA, folks who signed the petitions against SSM were targeted by gay activists. There are now multiple suits against ObamaCare claiming that it makes insurance purchasers violate their religious consciences in its requirements to fund contraceptives. Are these not threats to my faith that I should be wary of?

The history of the Left since its birth in the French revolution has seen the Church as one of its primary opponents. Nothing has changed since then. It amazes me that I, yet again, have to rehearse these arguments in this forum of all places.

Original Mike said...

@YH - You appear to be conflating atheism and liberalism.

cyrus83 said...

There is nothing really rational about being an atheist over a theist, it's just taking the opposite answer to the question of whether the supernatural exists. That answer depends on faith either way.

By definition, science cannot answer questions concerning the supernatural (science is limited to what is observable, and therefore in nature), so it has always puzzled me why atheists appeal to science as some sort of proof against theism. It's a category error.

At best, science might be able to disprove certain claims that relate to the physical world (i.e. that the moon is made of green cheese, that all matter is made of the Four Elements), but it's not going to have any luck investigating whether angels or God exists. I mean where would you begin? Even theists would tell you God is immaterial spirit, not bound to any particular location. And if science tried to tackle transsubstantiation, it will come up with the result that "it's bread and wine" to which the theist responds "yes, exactly as we said in our definition."

Chef Mojo said...

@YoungHegelian:

Is religion a matter of faith or of institution? You are describing two different concepts in your last comment. What matters more?

Does an attack on the religious institution lessen the importance of faith? Can faith survive the obliteration of an institution, or is it dependent on that institution? If faith is dependent upon the institution, then what does that say about the primacy of the divine? Are schisms not an indicator of the weakness of institutional doctrine?

These are some of the questions that would preface "O ye, of little faith."

YoungHegelian said...

@OM,

No, I'm saying that as a matter of historical fact the atheist Left & (and Right, for that matter) has taken a terrible toll on Christians in recent history. For those ideologies, atheism has been a core aspect of their ideology.

Do I worry about the atheism represented by my interlocutors in this forum? Not in the least. But, sadly, there's been some real psychos that have hidden under that label, and I feel that there are many on the Left who, if given the chance, would shut the Churches down in a heartbeat.

Inga said...

Is it amazing to rightists that some of their peers are atheists? YH conflates atheism with liberalism and religious belief with conservatism. I find it interesting that YH is becoming frustrated with his fellow conservatives here.

YoungHegelian said...

@Chef,

Does an attack on the religious institution lessen the importance of faith? Can faith survive the obliteration of an institution, or is it dependent on that institution?

I don't know the answer to these questions, and I'm not sure how they're apposite, Mojo. But, what I can say is that, I, as an American Christian, have a moral responsibility to defend freedom of religion in the USA, and to do my best to prevent anyone around the world for suffering on account of their beliefs, including atheists, I might add.

For me, Mojo, this is the intersection of the two Venn circles that are my faith & my responsibilities as a citizen. I don't know if that helps to explain my thinking any better to you, but it's about the best I got.

Original Mike said...

" For those ideologies, atheism has been a core aspect of their ideology."

You're not trotting out the old saw that fascism and communism are motivated by atheism, are you?

Strelnikov said...

Because no one holds their beliefs more religiously than do atheists.

Inga said...

Who said "Gott mit uns"?

YoungHegelian said...

@Revenant,

I looked for the survey that had the fact that even atheists were less trusting of other atheists, but couldn't find it. The polls showing Americans distrust of atheists are everywhere, however. I remembered the bit about atheist vs atheist simply because it was so counter-intuitive.

Thank you for your link to the Presidents & God. Still, most of what I could read in the time I had (by no means complete) fell into the "public pieties".

it is irrational to believe that a politician would lie about his religious beliefs for any reason other than fear of others' reaction to them.

I see why you say that. But you're thinking about a "hard" atheism, which I don't think many politicians are, because that involves actually, really thinking about the issue. I think more fall into in the "this won't fit into a sound bite, so it's too complicated & I don't want to talk or think about it" category. I understand why you would disagree.

Terry said...

"You're not trotting out the old saw that fascism and communism are motivated by atheism, are you?"
Both are motivated by the notion that man does not define or judge morality, he creates it.
You have to be precise in this -- a system in which religion serves the state is essentially atheistic. Both marxism-Leninism and 20th century fascism deny any moral vision that does not originate with the state.

Original Mike said...

"Both are motivated by the notion that man does not define or judge morality, he creates it."

Atheism says nothing about morality.

Terry said...

In my state, a few years ago, a police officer sued the state with the objective of removing all references to religion from the oath he took at his swearing in.
Set aside for the moment that the words "oath" and "swearing" are meaningless without a transcendent God to sear an oath to, just what proposition was he dedicating himself to uphold? That the state -- his boss -- was always right? That he could not judge his orders as immoral in any meaningful sense?
He won the suit, by the way.

YoungHegelian said...

@OM,

You're not trotting out the old saw that fascism and communism are motivated by atheism, are you?

Not motivated, but definitely core aspects of e.g. Marxist-Leninism. The communist regimes of the 20th century were atheistic & persecuted theists. That's just the facts.

As for you, Inga, yes, fascism & National Socialism are at their core atheistic. They just had an ideology where they felt they could work with the Italian or German as they were, faith & all, and later lead them towards a different fascist future, rather than have to build a "New Soviet Man" as the precursor to progress.

Terry said...

"Atheism says nothing about morality."
No, but the atheistic State does.

Inga said...

Seriously? People who swear an oath don't swear it to another human being? How does a Supreme Being fit into such oath making?

Chef Mojo said...

@YoungHegelian:

That's a good answer.

And as an atheist and US citizen, I feel the same obligation to defend religious freedom, even though I'm not religious myself.

@Inga:

It appears to me that, once again, you're willfully misinterpreting what is being discussed here. This discussion is not new or novel, and I'm sure YoungHegelian is very aware that there are a number of us on the right who are atheists. Just as there are an awful lot of misguided religionists on the left, perhaps like yourself.

Once again, your attempts at "Let's you and him fight" show you to be tedious and boring in the extreme.

If you have something to contribute, by all means do so. In the meantime, stop being disingenuous and please abandon the delusion of thinking yourself clever.

Inga said...

Mojo, no he seems genuinely surprised and dismayed.

Original Mike said...

"No, but the atheistic State does."

I understand that. They find it convenient to use atheism, but that doesn't mean atheism is their motivating principle. Their motivating principle is power for themselves.

YoungHegelian said...

@OM,

Their motivating principle is power for themselves.

Oh, Mike, I wish that were true. Sadly, I think they really, truly, in their hearts, thought that they were going to make a Heaven on Earth, and that to that end, all sacrifices were worthwhile.

Original Mike said...

You think Stalin was trying to make the world a better place? Surely, you don't.

YoungHegelian said...

You think Stalin was trying to make the world a better place?

When Stalin started out, yes.

But for all his tens of thousands of minions who obeyed the Politburo's every command, for those workers who named their sons "The Giant Dnieper Dam", who tracked down kulaks & wreckers & counter-revolutionaries, yes, I think they thought they were building the true workers state that would lead, in some finite time in the future, to Paradise on Earth.

It's so much easier to hate something or someone when it's opposed to everything you love.

Harold said...

Original Mike said...
""Atheism ... is a cult."

Rubbish. I don't talk to other atheists. I don't have a secret decoder ring. I look at the cosmos (and, in particular, I look at the data from cosmology) and I find the explanations from human religion (and I mean no disrespect by this) pathetic."

Ah, but which cosmology do you believe in? There is more then one, you know. Do you believe in that cosmology by faith, or becasue you actually understand the mathematical explanation for it? Is gravity a constant or does it change? Currently being debated- and it changes the nature of teh cosmos. Is the universe open or closed? Is there enough dark matter to pull it all back together again in another primordial blackhole? Or does dark matter exist at all? And how about dark energy? Why does the universe show a preference for matter over anti-matter? Or does it? Is it possible that half the galaxies are anti-matter and half matter? How would you know you were observing an anti-matter galaxy? The Cosmic Anthropic Principle is absolutely true and not falsifiable. But, do you go so far as to believe in the Ultimate Anthropic Principle? Do you consider the Ulimate Anthropic Principle religion, philosophy, or science?

Chris Lopes said...

@YH
I think it was Orwell who pointed out that tyrannies based on the idea of "doing good" are the worst of all. For there is no end to the crimes justified by trying to create heaven on Earth.

Wayworn Wanderer said...

Well, sure. He knows he's right and I'm wrong.

Original Mike said...

"Do you believe in that cosmology by faith, or becasue you actually understand the mathematical explanation for it?"

I don't "believe" in it. It is a scientific discipline with observations, and theories to explain those observations.

"Is gravity a constant or does it change?"

There's no evidence I am aware of that gravity varies over time, but I don't understand the relevance of the question.

"Currently being debated- and it changes the nature of teh cosmos. Is the universe open or closed?
Is there enough dark matter to pull it all back together again in another primordial blackhole?"

We know with a high degree of confidence that space-time is flat. It also looks like the universe will expand forever (though this conclusion is much less certain). Whether or not the universe is finite or infinite is something we have little or no data on. Quite possibly never will.

"Or does dark matter exist at all?"

With a certainty. It makes up 24% of the universe.

"And how about dark energy?"

Something is causing space to expand with time. That something make up 71% of the universe, but at this time there is little firm evidence as to what "it" is. This is a very recent discovery. (I believe in it, but what is the reality of it?)

"Why does the universe show a preference for matter over anti-matter? Or does it? Is it possible that half the galaxies are anti-matter and half matter? How would you know you were observing an anti-matter galaxy?"

Baryonic matter in the universe is overwhelming matter (vs. anti-matter). There are theories as to why, but this is much to technical for this forum.

"The Cosmic Anthropic Principle is absolutely true and not falsifiable. But, do you go so far as to believe in the Ultimate Anthropic Principle? Do you consider the Ulimate Anthropic Principle religion, philosophy, or science?"

I consider it uninformative.

I don't know what this has to do with atheism, but I'll never pass up an opportunity to discuss cosmology.

Original Mike said...

"I think it was Orwell who pointed out that tyrannies based on the idea of "doing good" are the worst of all."

Witness ObamaCare.

Original Mike said...

Did I say I didn't believe in God?

The Packers were down 26 to 3 at half time. They just won.

Oh my fault, oh my fault, oh my most grievous fault.

Tarrou said...

As an atheist, I have a marker for atheists who have crossed the line into religious level devotion to their ideal. It is the espousing, no matter how vague, of the idea that "the world would be a better place if everyone agreed with me". THAT is the essence of religion, and it is use by people to justify the grossest crimes. It is precisely because certain forms of atheism and secularism achieve religious devotion that they can be so destructive (communism, etc.).

As to believers, I love a debate, but it's not usually productive. I usually ask them to declare whether they will advance on evidence or faith. Evidence, they have to play by my rules, citations needed. Faith, nothing I can say has any bearing, and I wish them well and the argument is over.

And for the believers who whinge about "militant atheists" banging on about their hobbyhorse (annoying as that is), imagine how the atheist feels in a world 98% religious? We are assaulted by religious imposition every day. from every direction. Multiple rudeness doesn't make a right, but show some empathy. It's what Jesus would want, yes?

rcocean said...

Its been proven that most outspoken atheists have Aspberger and those that don't are usually obnoxious bores.

The most boring sentence in the world: "As an Atheist...."

Original Mike said...

Through my most grievous fault.

I was raised Catholic, but it's been a long time.

Broomhandle said...

"...71% of the universe..."

If a phrase like that doesn't have you lying awake and staring at the ceiling at 3AM, I don't know what will.

Original Mike said...

Not at all, Broomhandle.

It is exciting that we don't know what 95% (dark matter + dark energy) of the universe is.

Harold said...


"I don't "believe" in it. It is a scientific discipline with observations, and theories to explain those observations."

Multiple theories. Which one is true?


"There's no evidence I am aware of that gravity varies over time, but I don't understand the relevance of the question."

Actually, there is a lot of questions now whether G changes over time, or has different values in different parts of the universe, or can undergo phase shift. http://sdu.dk/en/Om_SDU/Fakulteterne/Naturvidenskab/Nyheder/2013_12_12_collapsing_universe Makes a huge difference as to what cosmology IS, or isn't. And, all the conflicting views have a scientific/mathematical basis. But only one can be true- or they could all be false.


We know with a high degree of confidence that space-time is flat. It also looks like the universe will expand forever (though this conclusion is much less certain). Whether or not the universe is finite or infinite is something we have little or no data on. Quite possibly never will.

So you're an agnostic here- you don't know what to believe.

"Or does dark matter exist at all?"
With a certainty. It makes up 24% of the universe.
Google search certainly shows a lot of disagreement on this. But hey, if you have faith it exists with zero evidence....

Baryonic matter in the universe is overwhelming matter (vs. anti-matter). There are theories as to why, but this is much to technical for this forum.
Got it. You're smarter then the rest of us.

You consider the Anthropic Principle uninformative? Hmmmm.... The the basic principle- The universe exists as it does at this time and the rules are the way they are because if it didn't and they weren't- we wouldn't exist. The Ultimate Principle- Intelligence is necessary for ANY universe to exist, and one intelligence is both necessary and sufficient. And we're that. It is certainly a good explanation for the Fermi Paradox. As good as "God created only us." And one of what I consider the only 2 universal reasons for the Fermi Paradox. The other is- Berserkers are real. Although looking at the world and it's development, it is possible that the more mundane statment "Civilizations and species strive towards stasis" may explain it. There are very few of us who actually embrace change and progress.

Belief in any particular explanation of the cosmos and it's existence is a matter of faith- faith in science. Which has changed its collective mind multiple times. Fred Hoyle's steady state universe was the accepted version for years. And there are still believers in the scientific community. A distinct minority at this point, but they exist. There's lots of effort among cosmologists to get rid of the supermassive black hole and big bang to start it all. And some theories that go along with it. The rebounding universe, or "Big Bounce" as opposed to the "Big Bang" is taken seriously by many. You say you believe in 'cosmology", but there are multiple cosmologies.

Me? I think God exists and has a sense of humor. Take quarks. I just double checked my memory http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Feynman and quarks were initially thought to be just a bookkeeping device. Proof of their actual existence shocked many scientists. I don't think quarks existed UNTIL they were therorized. I think God took a look at the theories, and said, "Hey, this will be a great practical joke. I can make them real, without changing how anything works." So, lo and behold, he did. I could be wrong, but I like it.

Original Mike said...

"Or does dark matter exist at all?"
With a certainty. It makes up 24% of the universe.
Google search certainly shows a lot of disagreement on this. But hey, if you have faith it exists with zero evidence....


It has been known for decades from the rotation velocity profile of galaxies that there is matter we can't see that responds to gravity. COBE and WMAP have placed the percentage of this matter to the total matter/energy content of the universe at 24.02 +/- 0.88%.

Broomhandle said...

OM,
Which reinforces the point made upthread that, theist or atheist, it's all on faith. We'll know soon enough for certain. In the meantime, I love a good-natured debate of the topic however fruitless it may be for either side.

Original Mike said...

BTW, the recognition that there is much more matter in the universe than we can currently detect is credited to Vera Rubin

Original Mike said...

"We'll know soon enough for certain."

Sadly, I don't expect to.

Original Mike said...

"You say you believe in 'cosmology", but there are multiple cosmologies."

I would not say that I "believe" in cosmology.

Terry said...

Original Mike wrote:
"I understand that. They find it convenient to use atheism, but that doesn't mean atheism is their motivating principle. Their motivating principle is power for themselves."
Motivating principles are a matter of speculation. What would it mean to have religion (or atheism) as a "motivating principle"?
"History is God" is a reasonable phrasing of the Marxist motivating principle, don't you think? Just as "The nation is God" is a paraphrasing of the fascist motivating principle.
Both of these are atheist in the sense that they find no God other than man.

RecChief said...

I'm still not sure that atheists don't believe in God. My experience with atheists is more that they hate Christianity. Just my experience of course.

ALP said...

Young Hegelian said:

"You seem to reserve your ire for the religious, who you think believe themselves to have a monopoly on virtue."
*****************************
You seem to jump to conclusions. Any door to door solicitation, regardless of the reason (commercial, religious, political), is an unwelcome intrusion. It may have had its day back when nobody had telephones, televisions or computers. But I see no reason for it now. If I need something, I can find it myself thank you very much, including ideas. In the public sphere, I can ignore you and walk on by. At my home? When you are banging on my door, looking in my windows, and poking around an entire acre of property looking for a receptive ear? Not so much.

My default response is to ignore the knocking. Once the uninvited caller decides to up the ante and bang on the door - that's the point of no return for me. On top of the intrusion, you add the rudeness of not getting THE POINT: no one is home OR those that are home simply don't care to speak to you.

RecChief said...

"I trolled Facebook and Twitter for theists and told them why they are wrong. I made fun of them for their unreasonable beliefs. I would analyze and nitpick their statements, show examples of just where they went wrong and why, and even at times ridicule them when there seemed to be no option left, all in the vain hope that I might be able to sway them to a more rational way of viewing the world and the universe. This could be extremely satisfying"

Because, y'know, nitpicking and ridicule are the methods most often used to sway someone to your point of view. but it does an atheist feel good about himself.

Lord Ben said...

If you believe in an omnipotent deity, as I do, then you're going to be placing God above science. Any science left behind in the world he created is unlikely to be a convincing argument against his existence. It's a circular argument of course but omnipotence is likely to lead to some paradox, it's where the whole faith bit helps.

Every time someone argues against the existence of God using science I kind of just sigh and tune out. It's not like I was sitting there one day studying chemistry and discovered what I thought was proof of his existence and decided to become a Christian only to renounce my beliefs later when more evidence came out. It's rather silly...

Original Mike said...

"Every time someone argues against the existence of God using science I kind of just sigh and tune out."

You can't use science to argue against the existence of God. All you can do is ask the question, "would his existence add to the explanation of how we came to be here?"

Harold said...

Free will. Does it exist?

There are Christian sects that believe in pre-determinism. They are theologically wrong. If you're Jewish or Christian, and know your religion, belief in free will is part of your belief system. I don't know about Buddhism, Shinto, etc. Good Christians and Jews don't follow their horoscope, read tarot cards, or any other such nonsense. The future is what we make it. And that belief comes from the Bible- God gave us free will, the will to be good or evil, to follow or reject him. It's our choice.

Now for atheists- defend free will. Everything boils down in an atheists world to electrical and chemical impulses. And it was all determined at the start of time. Thomas Edison didn't actually invent the light bulb. All the forces of the universe drove the light bulb to come about through him. He couldn't have stopped it if he wanted to. But he didn't want to- becasuse what he wanted was pre-determined when the big bang occurred..

I find it difficult to comprehend an atheist who believes in free will. Perhaps one of the atheists here will attempt such a defense.

In a universe created by God, he gives us free will. In a universe created by random chance and permutation- well, it's not random. It's going to happen because it's going to happen. We have no choice in the matter. "Honey, I didn't mean to commit adultery- the universe made me do it."

Original Mike said...

"And it was all determined at the start of time."

Isaac Newton would be comfortable with your argument. So would Einstein. Werner Heisenberg, not so much.

YoungHegelian said...

@ALP,

Any door to door solicitation, regardless of the reason...

I'm glad to hear that, but it certainly wasn't clear from your first post.

As I indicated above, you certainly would find life in my part of the DC metro area a trying experience.

Archie said...

Who is this pipsqueak?

kimsch said...

It's not atheism, it's ANTI-theism. They proselytize against a deity and want you to agree with them that there is no deity of any kind. They think that you are absolutely insane if you might believe in a deity. They try their best to get rid of all mentions of a deity or religion, not just in the public square, but anywhere in public at all.

n.n said...

A lot of modern astrophysics is supported through inference rather than observation of causes which can be tested and reproduced. It began its life with spontaneous conception or "big bang", from which successive apologies are derived. It is actually a branch of philosophy rather than science.

The modern theory of climate fails for similar reasons. It assumes that the Earth system can be modeled with an ensemble of stochastic processes, with ever higher ordered estimates, but the evidence suggests that it is a chaotic process, where probabilistic methods are only valid within a limited frame of reference, and that sudden path changes can and do occur through influence of undetermined or poorly understood subterranean, terrestrial, and extraterrestrial sinks and sources.

Anyway, science and philosophy, including faith, are not diametrically opposed. In fact, some faiths, notably Jewish and Christian, do not observe an intersection of faith and mortal (or physical) existence, other than with a moral philosophy and divine philosopher, and are therefore wholly compatible.

n.n said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
n.n said...

Harold:

Freewill is an article of faith. If it is an emergent phenomenon, then it does indeed follow a predetermined if complex (i.e. chaotic) path, which is indistinguishable from what is commonly understood as "freewill". Unfortunately, we are incapable of distinguishing between origin and expression. So, most people accept freewill, and the derivative principles of individual dignity, and intrinsic value, as prima facie features of human exceptionalism.

Original Mike said...

"modern astrophysics is ... actually a branch of philosophy rather than science."

Thanks for the laugh.

Sweet dreams.

Terry said...

n.n. wrote:
" If it is an emergent phenomenon, then it does indeed follow a predetermined if complex (i.e. chaotic) path, which is indistinguishable from what is commonly understood as "freewill"."

The depth of the divide between free will and scientific materialism stuck me when I took physics. If you pick up a stone you have mechanical action in the material universe. Everything is determined, neurons in the motor center of your brain change chemically and this allows a potential to travel down a specific pathway in the nervous system until it reaches muscle fibers. In the muscle tissue the potential releases a chemical that causes millions of molecules to physically change shape and this mechanically shortens the tissue. You bend and pick up a stone. It's all as mechanically determined as putting your key in your car's ignition and starting the engine. You can measure every element of motion over time, and how how energy is released and converted.
Yet you made a choice to pick up the stone, and that choice did not have a physical cause. A super-natural thing made a change in the natural world.
It's as strange and crazy as ghosts haunting the living or turning water into wine.

Saint Croix said...

One of my favorite atheists--aside from Althouse--was Christopher Hitchens. (Today is the anniversary of his death). The funny thing about Hitch is that almost everything he did or said was motivated by antithesis to religion. Read this, for instance. Hitchens was hostile to Martin Luther King, Jr. I did not know that, but it doesn't surprise me in the slightest. He was hostile to Gandhi, to Mother Teresa. Of course he was hostile to MLK.

So why like Christopher Hitchens? Part of the reason I like him is that he was very much a moralist. Always thinking about moral issues.

Upthread I argue that atheism might lead to dishonesty, since under atheism you can put up a false front, fool people, and profit.

Religious people know you can't do this.

What makes Hitchens such a joy is his commitment to the truth. For instance he was so appalled at Bill Clinton he wrote this book. That sort of anger only comes out of a great sincerity.

There's a sort of reckless disregard in Hitchens that I admire very much. I remember how he had himself water-boarded so he could report on the experience. That was awesome. I remember his courage in the face of Islamic terrorism, and his anger at the self-censorship of the left. He was utterly fearless. I admire very much his lack of regard for himself.

I would always skip any rants about nice religious people, or about God. There was no point in reading that stuff. I felt that he was motivated by a dark upset, and there was anger in him. But I also saw a lot of passion in his work, genuine feeling and a love of truth. I miss him. R.I.P. Hitch.

Revenant said...

I looked for the survey that had the fact that even atheists were less trusting of other atheists, but couldn't find it.

Well, keep looking. It is a very silly thing to claim, and I'm curious what basis you had for claiming it.

Thank you for your link to the Presidents & God. Still, most of what I could read in the time I had (by no means complete) fell into the "public pieties".

I've provided a wealth of statements demonstrating that Presidents routinely express relgious belief. At this point I expect you to either offer evidence that they didn't really believe in gods, or admit that you pulled the "they were all closet atheists" claim out of your backside. :)

I see why you say that. But you're thinking about a "hard" atheism

That's a really silly thing for you to say.

A politician who is an atheist (any kind) or agnostic, who claims either belief in the Judeo-Christian god or that said god favors his agenda, is lying. All of our Presidents, and almost all of our Congressmen and governors, claim exactly that. They are either theists, or they are lying about believing in that god.

Your claim is that they are telling that lie not because most Americans hate atheists -- although of course most Americans do -- but because they consider their personal beliefs "private". They would rather lie, and live that lie, and risk being caught, than simply say "none of your business". That's an irrational thing for you to believe.

I think more fall into in the "this won't fit into a sound bite, so it's too complicated & I don't want to talk or think about it" category.

No sound byte is simpler and easier to understand than "that's none of your business". I expect you to stop ducking the question and offer a rational reason -- other than fear of anti-atheist sentiment -- why a non-believing politician who wanted to keep his beliefs private would lie about them instead of just not talking about them.

Smilin' Jack said...

Even theists would tell you God is immaterial spirit.

OK, I think "immaterial spirit" is close enough to "doesn't exist." Argument settled.

Revenant said...

They proselytize against a deity and want you to agree with them that there is no deity of any kind.

The only difference between Christians and "anti-theists", on that particular point, is that Christians loudly and vehemently preach the non-existence of all the thousands of gods worshiped around the world... except their own.

"Anti-theists" are in 99.99% agreement with Christians when it comes to the non-existence of gods. :)

Largo said...

EDH: Now I recognize you, you ugly mutt! :D

Revenant said...

Google search certainly shows a lot of disagreement on this.

Google search shows there is serious disagreement about whether airplanes really crashed into the WTC on 9/11.

I'm just sayin'.

Revenant said...

"Atheism says nothing about morality."

No, but the atheistic State does.

You're using an unnecessary adjective in that sentence. :)

YoungHegelian said...

@Revenant,

No sound byte is simpler and easier to understand than "that's none of your business".

No, Revenant, you just can't say that as a politician, because what it means is "I'm hiding something I don't want to tell you."

You don't seem to understand the phrase "hard" vs "soft" atheism. The soft atheists are the people who go along to get along, but they really don't believe, and they certainly don't let any sort of religious belief get in their way. Don't you know lots of people like this? I do. You want to make that all about Americans dislike of atheism, and it partially is, but I think mostly it's about politicians who do what they've got to do to keep things going.

Our Founding Fathers spoke of God all the time, yet they were mostly deists if not agnostics. But it was not out of "fear". It was because they thought that the people needed religion to keep the republic together. Maybe the Founding Fathers didn't personally, but they were not the common rabble, who they thought did need it. So, private agnosticism, public piety.

They are either theists, or they are lying about believing in that god.

Politicians lie all the time, sometimes for the good of their fellow citizens (e.g. Roosevelt's "I will keep us out of Europe's wars"), and sometimes not. My original query still stands --- find a memoir where a President says "My faith made me do X instead of Y", not a bunch of public pronouncements. I mean, do you really believe Kennedy & Clinton behaved like they did, but yet were men of faith?

I just don't understand why you insist upon imposing black & white terms on a personal experience that is anything but.

Blue@9 said...

"I don't "believe" in it. It is a scientific discipline with observations, and theories to explain those observations."

Multiple theories. Which one is true?


Who the eff knows? There are currently limits to our understanding of the universe. It doesn't matter though, even if at some future time the human race gains complete knowledge of the workings of the universe-- God by his very definition is a being that can alter reality. You can't "disprove" the existence of god, and the only way you can prove it is if god chooses to reveal himself.

One of the worst aspects of Atheism is that it does not provide any absolute rules of morality.

That's rather silly. Just because I'm an atheist does note mean I lack moral principles. One can believe in the goodness of empathy and the golden rule without needing to believe that a divine being has ordained it. One argument that annoys me is the notion that without religious morality we'd all turn into crazed rapist murderers. I very much doubt any of you would suddenly become criminally minded if you thought no one was watching.

Revenant said...

It's all as mechanically determined as putting your key in your car's ignition and starting the engine.

That's how 19th century physicists thought the universe worked. Modern physicists speak in terms of probabilities. Even if you could somehow perfectly measure the state of your car, you couldn't say "this car will start when I turn the ignition". You could only give a probability of the car starting.

The human brain sees reactions as complex as the above many billions of times per second. Even if it was possible to get an exact measurement of the state of a human brain, it would be impossible to precisely predict what its state would be in the future. The laws of physics say as much. Simply put: it is impossible to know what your thoughts will be in the future.

The difference between "free will" and "we can't perfectly predict our thoughts and reactions" is purely academic. It has no real-world implications.

cyrus83 said...

OK, I think "immaterial spirit" is close enough to "doesn't exist." Argument settled.

That's a pretty narrow way to look at things. Thought itself is immaterial, but it certainly exists and influences the physical world. Any character of fiction, any political philosophy, any religious concept, any thought at all is an example of the immaterial coming forth into the material world and influencing it.

I would argue that immaterial thoughts have far more influence on the world than the mere physics of the universe itself.

Terry said...

Revenant wrote:
"That's how 19th century physicists thought the universe worked. Modern physicists speak in terms of probabilities."

If your car doesn't start there is a 19th century physics reason why it didn't start. "Quantum probability" played no role.
If free will exists and it is indeterminate as a result of some quantum randomness, it's not free will -- it's random. No choice was made.
This was how the epicureans arrived at atheism. There are no gods directing events, just random chance.

Revenant said...

No, Revenant, you just can't say that as a politician, because what it means is "I'm hiding something I don't want to tell you."

Only when the topic is one on which the public demands politicians have a particular viewpoint. If you ask a politician what kind of juice he has for breakfast and he says "none of your business", no scandal ensues.

This is doubly true when the topic is one the public recognizes as private. If you ask a politician which of his children he likes best or what his wife's favorite sexual position is, not only CAN he say "none of your business", people would enthusiastically support his choice to do so.

The American public does not consider the question "do you believe in God" to be a private matter or a simple matter of personal preference. They consider it vitally important that the answer be "yes", because most Americans are Christians and most Christians hate people who don't believe in their god.

The soft atheists are the people who go along to get along, but they really don't believe, and they certainly don't let any sort of religious belief get in their way.

The reason I don't "get" that definition is because you made it up. "Soft atheism" refers to people who answer "no" to the question "do you believe in gods" AND "no" to the question "do you believe there are no gods". Hard atheists answer yes to the second question.

But even your own definition illustrates how silly your argument is. Claiming religious belief is only a necessary part of a "go along to get along" life if the people around you are intolerant of the non-religious. Which is, of course, the case for this country.

Our Founding Fathers spoke of God all the time, yet they were mostly deists

Deists believe in a god, YH. Just not the same one Christians believe in.

find a memoir where a President says "My faith made me do X instead of Y"

I already gave you a URL filled with examples.

I will be happy to provide more, once you hold up your end and actually provide (a) evidence that the Presidents were atheists and (b) a URL to your apocryphal "many atheists don't trust atheists" poll.

I will also accept an admission that neither of those two things exists, of course.

Revenant said...

If your car doesn't start there is a 19th century physics reason why it didn't start. "Quantum probability" played no role.

You're wrong about that. Newtonian physics is just a mostly-accurate simplification of quantum probabilities. Granted, for something like a car ignition the probabilities are so close to certainty that you wouldn't expect to see the weirder ones if you devoted a trillion years to the attempt.

Where the brain is concerned, however, quantum mechanics absolutely does come into play. You cannot say why even a *single* neuron fired in the exact manner it did using "19th century physics" -- let alone why all of them behaved the exact way they did. You can't precisely measure the current state of the brain and you couldn't precisely predict its next state even if you could.

If free will exists and it is indeterminate as a result of some quantum randomness, it's not free will -- it's random. No choice was made.

"It happened because of an undetectable supernatural force" is indistinguishable from "it happened due to random chance".

You can't demonstrate the non-existence of free will without perfectly measuring the current and future states of a brain, and everything we've learned over the last century tells us that you can't precisely measure the current and future states of the brain.

rhhardin said...

If there's free will, everybody will want it.

Supply and demand.

Illuninati said...

Blue@9 said...
One of the worst aspects of Atheism is that it does not provide any absolute rules of morality.

That's rather silly. Just because I'm an atheist does note mean I lack moral principles. One can believe in the goodness of empathy and the golden rule without needing to believe that a divine being has ordained it. One argument that annoys me is the notion that without religious morality we'd all turn into crazed rapist murderers. I very much doubt any of you would suddenly become criminally minded if you thought no one was watching."

You have set up a straw man to attack. So of course it is silly. I have not stated that an atheist is unable to believe in the goodness of empathy and the golden rule. If that is a choice you have made, fine, there is nothing in atheism to keep you from making that choice. But it is only one option open to an atheist. If you chose to be a crazed rapist or a murderer, that would also be just as legitimate choice for an atheist. Many atheists have made that choice. It is a fact of history that the greatest mass murderers by the number of victims were militant atheists. Theists have also killed their share so the fact that atheists have been mass murders does not mean that all atheists are evil or that all theists are good. It does demonstrate that mass murder and raping are legitimate moral decisions for an atheist.

Theism does not automatically provide moral guidance either. Theists can worship gods who are mass murders i.e. the Aztecs. Some polytheists like the Hindus can have a working moral system although it is also somewhat fragmented since each god has his or her own personality. Ethical monotheism provides absolute moral standards but even here there is no absolute protection against mass murder and rape. In Islam Allah himself directed Mohammad to kill polytheists and unbelievers and to take their women as sex slaves. Modern Judaism and Christianity do provide absolute moral standards which flow from God himself which include the golden rule and the goodness of empathy.

What puzzles me is when militant atheists claim they like the golden rule and empathy and then do all they can to destroy the religion and culture which is designed to support those very behaviors. It has taken Christianity 2000 years to evolve to the point we have reached. Why destroy what we have achieved?


Revenant said...

"One of the worst aspects of Atheism is that it does not provide any absolute rules of morality."

That's rather silly. Just because I'm an atheist does note mean I lack moral principles

It is doubly silly when you consider that "do whatever [insert preferred imaginary being here] wants" is being held up as an example of a absolute morality. It is hard to think of a better example of subjective morality than "I just do what X tells me".

Bob Ellison said...

"One of the worst aspects of Atheism is that it does not provide any absolute rules of morality."

I think there's truth there. If you have morality, you should wonder why you do.

Christians, for example, tend to think that God gives them rules. The founders of America thought that God gave individuals rights that a king could not dissolve.

Marx and Engels advocated strict study of history and behavior, as though individuals were mere particles in a statistically predictable mass. Yet even Marx and Engels wanted economic rights. Why? Who gives a crap?

Atheists, why do you give a crap?

Illuninati said...

Revenant said...
"It is doubly silly when you consider that "do whatever [insert preferred imaginary being here] wants" is being held up as an example of a absolute morality. It is hard to think of a better example of subjective morality than "I just do what X tells me"."

I can think of little to add after Bob Ellison's excellent answer.

The philosophical position that the universe was created and sustained by a good god who created man in his own image with freedom of choice naturally leads to moral beliefs such as the golden rule and empathy. That philosophical position is quite different from the position you have attacked --"I just do what X tells me"

Atheism is the positive assertion that there is no god including the good god. According to atheists human life is the result of random events. People are an assemblage of atoms in motion who are completely explainable through the laws of physics. This philosophical position does not lead to any moral conclusions at all. If an atheist chooses to believe in the golden rule that is his choice (here slipping in the language of theists)but other choices such as the quest for power or riches at the expense of others is just as valid a choice.

Illuninati said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Revenant said...

Yet even Marx and Engels wanted economic rights. Why? Who gives a crap? Atheists, why do you give a crap?

The last sentence doesn't appear to have any relationship to the first three sentences.

Illuninati said...

Let me move the discussion about atheism and morality along further. If you believe as militant atheists must that people are nothing but matter in motion (whatever matter might be in the quantum universe)then there is no possibility of free choice in the sense that a Christian would define it. Consciousness is nothing but an epiphenomena which has no ability to effect any change in the material world at all. The belief that you are making a choice is an illusion. Since people are matter in motion everything they do is the result of their heredity and environment. People are really nothing but complex machines. It is just as irrational to assign moral blame to a human being who kills someone as it is to blame a machine if it kills someone.

Some philosophers try to get around that barrier by hypothesizing that consciousness is an emergent property of matter which is not evident in ordinary circumstances. In other words, matter takes on different behavior in a brain than outside a brain. Those emergent properties make consciousness including free choice possible. To me, the argument for emergent properties to explain consciousness is equivalent to a claim that the laws of physics are different when atoms are assembled into a brain than when they are outside of a brain. Even with emergent properties you have only managed to salvage consciousness from the wreckage of an epiphenomena. The atheist materialist still lacks any philosophical direction for that newly restored will to take.

Bob Ellison said...

Revenant (I still love that name!), I take you at your word. I try to comment briefly, and the folks on this blog are intelligent, and I'm not the best writer, so maybe I assume concepts not in evidence. Let me try to explain.

(1) Marxism is an atheistic religion. It assumes no God or gods. (2) In the absence of gods, I assume there is no morality. (3) In the absence of morality, I ask why anyone should care whether some crazy guy should go into a shopping mall and shoot a bunch of people.

The problem atheists have is in point (2) above. How can there be morality without gods? Why should you give a crap, especially after you're dead?

Revenant said...

The philosophical position that the universe was created and sustained by a good god who created man in his own image with freedom of choice naturally leads to moral beliefs such as the golden rule and empathy.

There are two major problems with that claim. The first is that it doesn't actually describe any of the major theistic religions' moral framework. The second is that everything before the word "choice" is irrelevant to the statement that follows it. You don't need a creator, good or otherwise; you don't even need the choice to derive from "free will".

According to atheists human life is the result of random events. People are an assemblage of atoms in motion who are completely explainable through the laws of physics

You have confused atheism with philosophical materialism. There are hundreds of millions of people on Earth who firmly believe in the non-existence of gods but yet still believe there is more to reality than the laws of physics can explain.

If an atheist chooses to believe in the golden rule that is his choice (here slipping in the language of theists)but other choices such as the quest for power or riches at the expense of others is just as valid a choice.

Yawn. Same boring claim, same total lack of logical proof.

Revenant said...

Marxism is an atheistic religion. It assumes no God or gods

It assumes gods play no role in human society and that religions are invented by human beings. That's not the same thing as atheism -- for example, deists believe the same thing.

In the absence of gods, I assume there is no morality.

Honestly, if atheism was some brand-new invention I can see theists making that kind of mistake, but there have been atheistic societies for thousands of years. There's really no excuse for anyone to still think atheism and morality are mutually exclusive.

The problem atheists have is in point (2) above

With all due respect, your inability to understand how there could be morality without gods is *your* problem, not atheists'. :)

Personally, I don't understand how there can be morality *with* gods. Ultimately that morality always boils down to "might makes right". But since I don't believe in gods, I don't need to understand it.

Bob Ellison said...

Revenant, why?

Are morals absolute?

Do they come from within each individual? Are they products of the molecules in your brain?

Or, as seems easier to describe, are morals mere religious constructs that you like to believe in, even as non-theist?

Bob Ellison said...

Revenant said "With all due respect, your inability to understand how there could be morality without gods is *your* problem, not atheists'."

Please explain it to me. I don't want to sound stupid or insulting, but I do want to understand how an atheist explains morality without gods.

Illuninati said...

Revenant said...

There are two major problems with that claim. The first is that it doesn't actually describe any of the major theistic religions' moral framework.

That is the way I understand Christian philosophy. Since I consider myself a practicing Christian, I do know quite a few people who believe as I do. Of course many Christians are not interested in philosophy. I'm not as familiar with modern Jewish philosophy so I can't argue with you on that one.

Revenant said...
"The second is that everything before the word "choice" is irrelevant to the statement that follows it...
I understand your objection flows from the following:
"You have confused atheism with philosophical materialism. There are hundreds of millions of people on Earth who firmly believe in the non-existence of gods but yet still believe there is more to reality than the laws of physics can explain."

I presume you are referring to Buddhists? If so, you are correct that I was not referring to Buddhists.

I'm referring to the militant Western atheists. Anyone "who believes there is more to reality than the laws of physics can explain" has already moved a long ways from the person who makes a positive affirmation that there is no god. If the universe really is mysterious then one still take the logical position as an agnostic, but would be far to humble to make the positive affirmation that there is no god.

"Yawn. Same boring claim, same total lack of logical proof."

100,000,000 dead bodies should be proof enough.




Illuninati said...

Incidentally, before it comes up, let me assure everyone that yes, I do believe in evolution.

Bob Ellison said...

And Revenant, I don't want to be mean, but your responses to my little argument do not pass in debate class.

Marxism...assumes gods play no role in human society and that religions are invented by human beings. That's not the same thing as atheism -- for example, deists believe the same thing.

Re-defining the terms.

Much of what you write is re-defining words. Theism, atheism, deism, etc. "You have confused atheism with philosophical materialism." This is really stupid. I thought you were mostly libertarian, but you're coming across as a leftist here. "Think like me, not like you."

Ralph Hyatt said...

"There are two major problems with that claim. The first is that it doesn't actually describe any of the major theistic religions' moral framework."

That is exactly the Christian world view. All Christians fail to live up the moral implications of it to some degree or another. But to claim it is not the basic tenant is absurd.

"You have confused atheism with philosophical materialism. There are hundreds of millions of people on Earth who firmly believe in the non-existence of gods but yet still believe there is more to reality than the laws of physics can explain."

So you believe in the supernatural, just without a God or gods?

Also, could you point me to some source to back your claim concerning atheistic civilizations having existed for thousands of years? China? Ancient Greece?

In any event, no one is claiming that atheists cannot act in a manner that is perceived as moral.

I would claim that an atheist who fully understands the implications of his belief system would realize that its logical implication is that there is no right or wrong, good or evil. Those are just labels we give to natural phenomenon.

Furthermore, labels such as good and evil are subjective. We apply the label good to things we enjoy or approve of and label evil things we don't like or approve.

And since it is an individual making the judgment, based on what he values, and there is no outside, objective source of morality, then what he is expressing is his "taste."

And in such a situation your taste for killing or not killing carries as much weight as your taste for vanilla or chocolate ice cream.

Now obviously society is concerned about your taste concerning killing or not killing but that concern is functional.

In a non-theistic universe there is no such thing as "morality", only rules to help ones tribe to survive and flourish.

hombre said...

"... most Americans are Christians and most Christians hate people who don't believe in their god."

Should read: "Most Americans are Christians and most Christians [pity] people [and mistrust politicians] who don't believe in [G]od."

There, fixed. Better late than never.

WCG said...

"Why must an atheist bother with the subject of religion at all?"

Heh, heh. You're kidding, right? Frequently, people actually act on the basis of their religious beliefs. Fanatic Muslims throw acid in the faces of schoolgirls. Fanatic Christians still burn witches, though they've stopped doing that in the developed world, at least (after centuries of horrific murder).

We are awash in faith-based thinking. Republicans in Congress deny science because they've got faith in some ancient book that even Christians can't agree among themselves about. Of course, the only reason it's that book instead of some other book is because of where they were born.

My local newspaper has a 'Religion' section which is 100% Christianity 100% of the time. If it were 100% Muslim or Hindu - or even 25% Muslim or Hindu - there'd be an uproar here,... but not in other countries. In other nations, that would be considered normal - not because Islam and Hinduism are any truer there, or because Christianity is any truer here, but just because of what people were raised to believe.

I don't care much about religion, but I have to take a stand against faith-based thinking. Our world is desperately in need of evidence-based people. Evidence-based people can still be wrong, but at least they'll change their mind when that's been demonstrated to them. And they'll thank the person who pointed it out.

hombre said...

"There's really no excuse for anyone to still think atheism and morality are mutually exclusive."

That's a distortion of the issue used as a straw man by atheists. The issue is metaethical and the statement does not suppose that atheists cannot be moral, only that their morality has no metaphysical grounding and is therefore, changeable.

Doug said...

I'm an agnostic. I used to be an atheist ... but they didn't have any holidays.

Harold said...

Revenant said...
"Our Founding Fathers spoke of God all the time, yet they were mostly deists

Deists believe in a god, YH. Just not the same one Christians believe in."

If they both believe in only one God, they believe in the same God. They may believe in different aspects, but all monotheists, almost by definition, believe in the same God, for if there is only one- that's him (or her).

And Revenant said...
"The American public does not consider the question "do you believe in God" to be a private matter or a simple matter of personal preference. They consider it vitally important that the answer be "yes", because most Americans are Christians and most Christians hate people who don't believe in their god."

No one else has challenged this yet? America is the home of live and let live. Believe what you want, but don't perform your ritual sacrifices on the front lawn where it will scare the neighborhood's children. I know a lot of Christians- and not one who hates atheists. In fact, I don't actually know anyone who really hates much of anyone. There's a few people I intensely dislike- and they've earned their place there. Most Christians I know feel somewhat sorry for atheists, knowing they will go to Hell when they die, because after being exposed to the Word of God- they rejected the message. But they don't hate them. But they do hate the efforts of militant atheists to remove all religion from the public square.

There is nothing stopping an atheist from acting in an ethical manner. Also nothing stopping him from acting an unethical manner. And for an atheist, there is no guideline for what is and is not ethical. And, there is no one who can claim to speak for atheists. No hierarchy, no atheist pope or minister or rabbi. "Greatest good for the greatest number!" Whoops, communism and death of millions who won't co-operate. "What's best for me and my descendants- screw everyone else." is a perfectly valid atheist ethical viewpoint. Or the ever famous hippie saying- "If it feels good do it!" That by doing so you're probably not contributing to the building and continuation of society- so what? You're having a good time, and that's the important thing.

Living the 10 commandments minus the religious ones is a pretty good way to live. Thou shalt not steal is pretty univeraslly understood to be a good way to live. But to be honest, most or the irreligious I know, who may or may not harbor atheist thought, have a pretty big problem with "Thou shalt not commit adultery", even though committing it causes havoc with relationships and families. 11 of the 12 points of the Scout Law are non-religious- and a pretty good guideline to living. But again, why should an atheist follow them? All the scouting laws, common sense rules that have proven over the centuries to be a good way to live, are wholly compatible with religious belief, and without that belief- why bother? What's going to happen if you're not kind? Or cheerful? You'll have fewer friends- but so what? Probably didn't need them anyway...