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Author Topic: Elliquian Atheists  (Read 35560 times)

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Offline Luna

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Re: Elliquian Atheists
« Reply #50 on: May 18, 2012, 08:04:21 PM »
It can be a tough conversation to have on either side, but that is partly what makes it so interesting. I truly hope you didn't take any offense at my reply, as none was intended.

I guess I just took issue with the whole "If I'm right, you are screwed" line, but you are right, you did go on and suppose what might happen if other points happen to be right as well.

Offline Hemingway

Re: Elliquian Atheists
« Reply #51 on: May 18, 2012, 08:34:25 PM »
How exactly did I come across as arrogant?  Yes, the sentence is chiche, but you took it how you wanted to.  My simple meaning was that I could explain my beliefs to you, but I can't force them down your throat and make you believe.  It is a term Christians use, and it's true.  I wasn't referring to water as the truth, or the only way.  The problem is that you saw the phrase and immediately had a negative reaction.  I am sorry you had that reaction.  And as I've recently read, you just used it yourself.

It's probably because that expression about leading someone to water but not forcing them to drink is generally used when talking about something that would benefit someone. It's arrogant because it's implying that you have access to special wisdom that we don't. Or, at least, that's how it comes across to me. If that wasn't your intention, then you should communicate more clearly, and not blame Sabby for "having a negative reaction".

And that is all I'm going to say on the matter.  I've done my best to present another way to look at things.  But of course, I'm yet again being told I should not believe something because there is no evidence that can be seen under a microscope.  That's basically calling me ignorant; something that really does irritate me.       

Who here has said anything even vaguely like that? I've gone through the responses, and I don't see anyone in any way calling you ignorant. You're not a victim of anything except skepticism. And even if someone had said something like that, why is it unreasonable to expect evidence - why is it surprising that people expect evidence? We're being asked to take a lot on faith alone.

Offline SabbyTopic starter

Re: Elliquian Atheists
« Reply #52 on: May 18, 2012, 08:50:22 PM »
I had a long and detailed response to your every sentence, but my PC is bluescreening every few minutes and I've written and rewritten my rebuttal several times now. And since Hemmingway has actually addressed some of my points, I don't think your really worth the effort right now. Do not try and spin this into cowardice, you've done plenty of spinning so far, but I will explain, as quickly as I can, why your statement was condescending.

1. It implies the water is truth. Yes, you said thats not what you meant, and either your retracting and repackaging or you used the term in ignorance.
2. It implies Atheists simply choose to ignore a truth presented to them.
3. It implies that truth is essential to our survival.

And then you go on to criticize me for using the analogy. You do not compare my usage to yours >.> To do so is to imply that your God, which you present on personal conviction, is as real and tangible as the medical science which saves us from the horrors your God supposedly set upon us. This work, this work of THOUGHT, by MAN, does far more for this world then any Church can, and you presume to compare this work to your FEELINGS?

And there goes another Bluescreen. Chrome saved that one, luckily. Will end it here, but when my PC is acting functional again, I will gladly go into more detail.

Offline Samnell

Re: Elliquian Atheists
« Reply #53 on: May 18, 2012, 10:43:55 PM »
Actually, there are certain sects that do eschew medical care completely.  The results are not always convincing from the evangelical standpoint, and the excuse is usually 'They didn't believe strongly enough.'

I know, but those sects are small in number for the obvious reasons. I think some of them probably do actually believe that prayer is going to heal sickness, right up until it doesn't and then they have to start believing in belief and pull out the line about the victim not believing strongly enough. I imagine, however, that most of them start believing in belief before adulthood. Most everybody loses some loved one in that time and our loved ones, especially as children, are very likely to be people who share the same religion and more or less the same degree of religiosity with us.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Elliquian Atheists
« Reply #54 on: May 19, 2012, 12:46:25 AM »
I know, but those sects are small in number for the obvious reasons. I think some of them probably do actually believe that prayer is going to heal sickness, right up until it doesn't and then they have to start believing in belief and pull out the line about the victim not believing strongly enough. I imagine, however, that most of them start believing in belief before adulthood. Most everybody loses some loved one in that time and our loved ones, especially as children, are very likely to be people who share the same religion and more or less the same degree of religiosity with us.

*nodnods*  I was merely putting them forward as people who use that belief as an attempt to convince others that 'belief works', much as your example of the man who believes he can fly would best do that by actually flying.

Offline rick957

Re: Elliquian Atheists
« Reply #55 on: May 19, 2012, 02:51:36 PM »
Somewhat inspired by Serephino's post:

I sometimes wonder what believers actually mean when they say that their religion is true. I generally take it to mean that their religion is a description of reality. They don't just believe in a god, or souls, or whatever. They insist these things actually exist like rocks and gravity and pornography exist.

But if that's true, wouldn't they behave differently? Let me take an unrelated example. Say a man beleives if he jumps off a cliff he will fly. No jetpacks. No parachute. He'll do it Superman-style. If the man really, truly believes this is the truth one would expect him to leap off any cliff presented. He's not in any danger, from his point of view. Furthermore his doing so would surely be persuasive to others.  Now suppose this man tells you that he believes all of this stuff, but absolutely refuses to leap off a cliff. He'll make up all kinds of excuses, but ultimately he's never ever doing it. A reasonable person would think he's lying about his beliefs, perhaps even to himself, and trying to put one over on us.

Don't the religious do the same thing, often enough? If you really believe in the healing power of prayer, why go to the doctor? Why would you take your kids to the doctor? If you really believe you're among the righteous and have a one-way ticket to paradise, why avoid danger? If you truly believe you have the ultimate secrets of the universe in your grasp, why wouldn't you want all the world's scientists bent over them to confirm it's the case? That would evangelize the world a whole lot faster and more effectively than mailing shipments of Bibles.

Rather in both cases, what we observe is a person who acts as if he expects experience to refute his beliefs and thus has put a lot of work into coming up with excuses for their failure. That is hardly the act of someone who actually believes a thing is so. While we may all be irrational or inconsistent from time to time, and I know I have been, this is a consistent pattern of behavior. That being the case, how can religious people say they believe their religions to be true?

The best I can get from all of this is that believers do not, in fact, generally believe much of their religion. They say they do, but they do not actually think it's true in the sense that gravity, to use Serephino's example, is true. Rather they think of truth as a sort of term of art, the way we might use it to refer to a fictional work that reflects some kind of real world situation without being a depiction of one. Perhaps it reflects a situation they aspire to.

This is different from actually believing something. One can say that one aspires to be like a fictional character or wishes something from a work of fiction were the real state of reality without confusing the fiction with reality. I find Sherlock Holmes intensely admirable, but I don't think he's an actual historical figure. I'm sure the reader can supply a few additional examples. Call it belief in belief. The religious, for the most part, don't believe their religions. Rather they believe their religions are good things they ought to believe in and encourage others to do the same. They are saying religions are true in the sense we might say any fiction is true, but not in the sense we would say gravity is true. We know because they're not jumping off cliffs after saying they can fly.

I've reread this post several times, and I'd like to make sure I understand it correctly.

What you seem to be saying here is that you think that most people who say they believe in any god or in any religion don't actually believe in those things, even though they say that they do, and may even think that they do.  In other words, either they're all deliberately lying about their thoughts and beliefs, or else all of them have a completely incorrect understanding of what it means to really believe in anything.

Is this actually your view?  If so, I personally disagree with it in the strongest possible way, and I consider it enormously disrespectful towards an incredibly large number of people.  I happen to be a religious person, but I disagree with that view not on religious grounds, but based on my understanding of what it means to treat any person with respect, no matter what they claim to think or believe.  I think it is disrespectful to assume that people who say one thing actually think or feel something entirely different from what they say, or else they're not intelligent enough to understand the real meaning and ramifications of their own claims.

It would be like me saying that I think most gay people are actually attracted to those of the opposite gender, rather than those of the same gender, in spite of what most gay people claim about themselves.  Certain parts of their behavior indicate to me that they are actually attracted to people of the opposite gender, so they must either be deliberately lying about their feelings and thoughts, or else they all have a completely incorrect notion of what it means to feel attracted to anyone.  That viewpoint would be disrespectful towards gay people, I think.

By saying that I don't share your viewpoint and consider it disrespectful, I do not intend to show disrespect towards you personally, Samnell, and I hope that is clear.  You have a right to think whatever you think, just as I have a right to my different views.  If I have misunderstood your views, or if you want to modify anything you said in your post, I hope you will say so.
« Last Edit: May 19, 2012, 03:07:21 PM by rick957 »

Offline vtboy

Re: Elliquian Atheists
« Reply #56 on: May 19, 2012, 03:24:49 PM »
I am no apologist for religion. I do not believe in the existence of god or gods, ghosts, vampires, or pixies (the list is not exclusive). Though I don't pretend acquaintance with many religions, the Ibrahimic faiths with which I am at least passingly familiar strike me as a bunch of hooey, and I don't have sufficient hope that any of the others got things right to justify spending much of my limited time on this orb studying them. I hold religions responsible for at least centuries of retardation of social and material progress, as well as for much of the most sordid, wasteful, bleak, and horrifying history has had to offer.

It is thus with considerable discomfort I find myself defending the sincerity of the beliefs of those who count themselves among the faithful.

Somewhat inspired by Serephino's post:

I sometimes wonder what believers actually mean when they say that their religion is true. I generally take it to mean that their religion is a description of reality. They don't just believe in a god, or souls, or whatever. They insist these things actually exist like rocks and gravity and pornography exist.

Your use of the word "reality" creates ambiguity. If, by "reality," you mean the material world, I think you are incorrect that those who "believe in god, or souls, or whatever" conceive of them as having a corporeal existence or being otherwise perceptible through the five senses they way "rocks and gravity and pornography" are. Rather, I think most believers will concede these phenomena are not part of the material world, while insisting they nonetheless exist.

Quote
   
But if that's true, wouldn't they behave differently? Let me take an unrelated example. Say a man beleives if he jumps off a cliff he will fly. No jetpacks. No parachute. He'll do it Superman-style. If the man really, truly believes this is the truth one would expect him to leap off any cliff presented. He's not in any danger, from his point of view. Furthermore his doing so would surely be persuasive to others.  Now suppose this man tells you that he believes all of this stuff, but absolutely refuses to leap off a cliff. He'll make up all kinds of excuses, but ultimately he's never ever doing it. A reasonable person would think he's lying about his beliefs, perhaps even to himself, and trying to put one over on us.

Don't the religious do the same thing, often enough? If you really believe in the healing power of prayer, why go to the doctor? Why would you take your kids to the doctor? If you really believe you're among the righteous and have a one-way ticket to paradise, why avoid danger? If you truly believe you have the ultimate secrets of the universe in your grasp, why wouldn't you want all the world's scientists bent over them to confirm it's the case? That would evangelize the world a whole lot faster and more effectively than mailing shipments of Bibles.

Rather in both cases, what we observe is a person who acts as if he expects experience to refute his beliefs and thus has put a lot of work into coming up with excuses for their failure. That is hardly the act of someone who actually believes a thing is so. While we may all be irrational or inconsistent from time to time, and I know I have been, this is a consistent pattern of behavior. That being the case, how can religious people say they believe their religions to be true?

The best I can get from all of this is that believers do not, in fact, generally believe much of their religion. They say they do, but they do not actually think it's true in the sense that gravity, to use Serephino's example, is true. Rather they think of truth as a sort of term of art, the way we might use it to refer to a fictional work that reflects some kind of real world situation without being a depiction of one. Perhaps it reflects a situation they aspire to.

This is different from actually believing something. One can say that one aspires to be like a fictional character or wishes something from a work of fiction were the real state of reality without confusing the fiction with reality. I find Sherlock Holmes intensely admirable, but I don't think he's an actual historical figure. I'm sure the reader can supply a few additional examples. Call it belief in belief. The religious, for the most part, don't believe their religions. Rather they believe their religions are good things they ought to believe in and encourage others to do the same. They are saying religions are true in the sense we might say any fiction is true, but not in the sense we would say gravity is true. We know because they're not jumping off cliffs after saying they can fly.

This is something of a straw man argument, isn't it? There are many species of religious belief and of religious believer. I don't see why abject rejection of all else should be the litmus test for the earnestness of the faithful.

Are the only true believers necessarily fundamentalists? Does belief in god really mandate exclusive reliance on the power of prayer as the only means of altering events? Is it not possible sincerely to believe god answers prayers through temporal agencies? Or, to believe god exists but does not intervene in this world? Is the existence of some degree of doubt utterly irreconcilable with true belief?

Georges LeMaitre, one of the founders of the Big Bang Theory, was a Catholic priest. To my knowledge he was entirely genuine in his devotions to both science and faith.

Your views on the necessary concomitants of belief would seem to to put you more in the camp of the inquisitors, who branded as heretics those who departed from their view of orthodoxy, than of the skeptics. There is plenty about religion to dispute and even to despise without calling into question the devotion of adherents.

Offline MasterMischief

Re: Elliquian Atheists
« Reply #57 on: May 19, 2012, 04:42:41 PM »
Quote from: Serephino
This is why religious people don't tend to get into these kinds of conversations.  Or if they do, they stick to the logical and philosophical arguments.  They don't state their beliefs because they get ripped apart and criticized

Please understand, this is not an attack.  I sincerely apologize if it comes across that way.

You have to stick to the logical arguments because feelings and personal experiences are remarkably easy to manipulate.  I believe my daughter to be the most wonderful little girl in the world.  Surely, you will not dispute that I believe that.  Does it make it true?  Would you demand some kind of proof beyond my simply saying it is true if I were insistent on you believing it?

My feelings are biased.  Furthermore, isn't it somewhat arrogant to believe my own daughter is more special than any other girl?  This, for me, was one of my biggest eye openers.  I was raised Catholic and I believed.  But it occurred to me that my feelings were very me centric.  How could it be that I was right and all those ancient Greeks, ancient Romans, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Taoists, ect. were so wrong?  It would be arrogant for me to think they were any less convinced of their own 'rightness'.  How could we all be so sure and yet someone had to be wrong?

For me, it seemed most likely we were all equally wrong.  There must be something inside of us that wanted to believe or needed to believe.  It seemed to me we have to question everything.  Even non-belief.  I open myself every day to the possibility that there is a god.  But I can not just trust my feelings.  I need proof.

You know the adage, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn't."?  Doesn't it sound too good to be true that there is an all powerful, all knowing god who knows you personally and loves you unconditionally?  What makes you so special compared to every other being on the planet?  Did he love Hitler just as unconditionally?  Does that really make his love for you special?  Or does this sound a little too good to be true?

Offline rick957

Re: Elliquian Atheists
« Reply #58 on: May 19, 2012, 05:16:17 PM »
After vtboy's remarks, which I thought were generally along the same lines as what I was trying to say above, I feel I should add something.  One of the only reasons I posted here was simply to make sure that someone took issue in public with the viewpoint expressed in Samnell's post, because, as I said before, I consider it to be a viewpoint that is disrespectful towards religious people.  I hope that most people at Elliquiy would agree with me on that, but frankly, I'm more inclined to think that most people here don't feel strongly about these issues one way or another, or else they basically agree with what Samnell said.

I also want to add that I couldn't agree more with Samnell's point that most religious people don't act like they believe what they claim to believe.  I think religious people on average are far less rational than non-religious people, and their behavior on average is far less consistent with the beliefs they claim to have.  I just don't see that as a good reason to question their basic honesty or intellectual capacity. 

Offline Samnell

Re: Elliquian Atheists
« Reply #59 on: May 19, 2012, 05:21:47 PM »
Your use of the word "reality" creates ambiguity. If, by "reality," you mean the material world, I think you are incorrect that those who "believe in god, or souls, or whatever" conceive of them as having a corporeal existence or being otherwise perceptible through the five senses they way "rocks and gravity and pornography" are. Rather, I think most believers will concede these phenomena are not part of the material world, while insisting they nonetheless exist.

I don't think that claim even makes sense and I don't think its representative of what a majority of believers actually believe. If phenomena is not a part of the real world how can it be said to exist? Being a part of reality is what existence means, just as correspondence to reality is what truth means. (If you're going to contest that one, I have a famous landmark for you to buy.)  Furthermore even if that statement did make sense, our having knowledge of such a thing would be an impossibility. We couldn't observe it, since that requires materiality. We can't see it indirectly by how it interacts with things that we can observe, because that too requires materiality.

But just to take the big, obvious example, Christians do not generally believe in a deity that's absolutely unknowable. Rather they believe in one that they know personally, that listens when they speak, that cares about them, that resurrects the dead, and all kinds of obvious things just as material as living on top of Mount Olympus would be.

This is something of a straw man argument, isn't it? There are many species of religious belief and of religious believer. I don't see why abject rejection of all else should be the litmus test for the earnestness of the faithful.

I'm not suggesting that. What I am saying is that when believers say they believe one thing but act in every way as if they know for a fact that experience will not confirm their beliefs, they are acknowledging that they do not actually believe it. Rather they believe it's something they ought to believe or it is good to believe for some reason unrelated to its truth status. Pointing out that someone's conduct does not match their words is perfectly ordinary and uncontroversial in any other subject of human interest, secular ideologies included. It must also be so when it comes to religion.

Are the only true believers necessarily fundamentalists? Does belief in god really mandate exclusive reliance on the power of prayer as the only means of altering events? Is it not possible sincerely to believe god answers prayers through temporal agencies? Or, to believe god exists but does not intervene in this world? Is the existence of some degree of doubt utterly irreconcilable with true belief?

I don't know what a true believer is in regards to religion unless it's a person who actually thinks the religion is true. The less one actually believes that, the less religious one is. I don't think there's anything wrong with pointing that out just as we'd point out that a vegan chowing down on a bacon cheeseburger isn't a very good vegan. (Using "very good" in a value-neutral sense here.)

Georges LeMaitre, one of the founders of the Big Bang Theory, was a Catholic priest. To my knowledge he was entirely genuine in his devotions to both science and faith.

I'm sure we both know how people compartmentalize, so I don't see the relevance of LeMaitre to the subject at hand.

Your views on the necessary concomitants of belief would seem to to put you more in the camp of the inquisitors, who branded as heretics those who departed from their view of orthodoxy, than of the skeptics. There is plenty about religion to dispute and even to despise without calling into question the devotion of adherents.

I don't think any orthodoxy deserves a preferred position. All religions are equally false so far as I can tell. Their internal disputes don't much interest me, except in a historical sense. I observe and develop positions about their beliefs and practice the same way I would those of anybody in any field. I do not because of these judgments condemn them, want them punished, given house arrest, tours of the torture chambers, or anything of the sort.

What am I saying, in the face of varying degrees of religiosity? Some people have great big balls of stuff that falls under a magic religion category where what is good epistemic practice in every other field is suddenly inadmissible. Call them dogmas, sacred magisterium, epileptic rabbits skiing on rainbows, whatever you like. Others have comparatively smaller balls of such stuff. Whatever the size of this ball of stuff, they are all alike in the tacit admission that the stuff inside the ball isn't really true. If it was, why hide it away from the same tools we use in every other judgment? The same tools that have given us every human advance, every improvement in our lives, since the origin of the species? If their beliefs are really true, they can have no objection to their being scrutinized, tested, and so forth.

But they do have that objection because they know how the tests are going to work out. So they invent excuses, often blatantly contradictory or incoherent ones like something existing but not being part of reality or being perfectly impossible to observe but still known.

I don't think this makes them crazy. I don't think it makes them bad people. I don't think it even necessarily makes them dangerous. We are all irrational sometimes. We are all very good at fooling ourselves. That's not a trait of religious people, but a trait of human brains. Knowing that, we ought to be vigilant against signs that we are fooling ourselves and ready on the spot with ways we could be wrong, and the rest of the machinery of human rationality.

Offline Samnell

Re: Elliquian Atheists
« Reply #60 on: May 19, 2012, 05:34:24 PM »
I'm going to respond to the second post instead of the first since I think it captures the disconnect better, but if I miss something please bring it to my attention.

I also want to add that I couldn't agree more with Samnell's point that most religious people don't act like they believe what they claim to believe.  I think religious people on average are far less rational than non-religious people, and their behavior on average is far less consistent with the beliefs they claim to have.  I just don't see that as a good reason to question their basic honesty or intellectual capacity.

But didn't you just question their basic honesty and/or intellectual capacity in that paragraph, if we get right down to it? Being far less rational is certainly an intellectual deficiency, if one that can be remedied and we all share from time to time. In a way it's a form of dishonesty too, if more of the lying to yourself variety than lying to others. Of course we all do it from time to time, which makes it all the more important that we try to be aware of the pitfalls of human psychology and refine our rational arts to keep good epistemic hygiene.

I understand that people don't like to hear that they may be mistaken. I am no exception. But I don't see how it would be disrespectful to point out that someone's behavior doesn't match their words in any context, unless there's something else going on.

Offline Hemingway

Re: Elliquian Atheists
« Reply #61 on: May 19, 2012, 07:07:48 PM »
After vtboy's remarks, which I thought were generally along the same lines as what I was trying to say above, I feel I should add something.  One of the only reasons I posted here was simply to make sure that someone took issue in public with the viewpoint expressed in Samnell's post, because, as I said before, I consider it to be a viewpoint that is disrespectful towards religious people.  I hope that most people at Elliquiy would agree with me on that, but frankly, I'm more inclined to think that most people here don't feel strongly about these issues one way or another, or else they basically agree with what Samnell said.

I also want to add that I couldn't agree more with Samnell's point that most religious people don't act like they believe what they claim to believe.  I think religious people on average are far less rational than non-religious people, and their behavior on average is far less consistent with the beliefs they claim to have.  I just don't see that as a good reason to question their basic honesty or intellectual capacity.

Why is it disrespectful to point out that someone's actions do not conform to what they say they believe? I mean, if you truly and completely believe in the healing power of prayer, why would you ever seek out a doctor if something was wrong? To hedge your bets? That seems like a pointless thing to do, when you've got the almighty on your side.

It's the same thing you see with death. If you truly believe in everlasting bliss after death, why would you ever be saddened by the death of a loved one? Or, even more to the point, why would you ever fear death?

Now, I don't know what Samnell thinks, but I personally don't think all this people, however many it may apply to, are lying about what they believe. I think they believe that they believe these things, but they're never ( or very rarely ) confronted with them, and so they haven't really reflected on the implications of their beliefs. I don't think they're closeted atheists, or that they should stop seeking medical attention if they have a problem. But I would like to bring it to their attention, and again, I don't see how that's disrespectful in the least.

There is one specific case where it does make me angry, and that is when someone enjoys all the benefits of modern medicine, but denies the theory of evolution. These are what Richard Dawkins calls, accurately if you ask me, the enemies of reason. You cannot have it both ways.

Offline rick957

Re: Elliquian Atheists
« Reply #62 on: May 19, 2012, 07:15:59 PM »
@ MasterMischief

I know your latest comments were in response to Serephino's post, but I hope it's okay for me to respond to some of your general points, as part of the larger discussion in this thread.  I wouldn't want to try to speak for Serephino, of course.  Also, full disclosure:  I am a Christian, as some people may know from posts I've made elsewhere.

Quote
I was raised Catholic and I believed.  But it occurred to me that my feelings were very me centric.  How could it be that I was right and all those ancient Greeks, ancient Romans, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Taoists, ect. were so wrong?  It would be arrogant for me to think they were any less convinced of their own 'rightness'.  How could we all be so sure and yet someone had to be wrong?

It doesn't seem fair at all, does it?  Yet that is exactly what Christianity claims, and that claim is so arrogant and unfair as to be downright offensive, I think.  I think it ought to upset you and ought to upset everyone else, too ... including all Christians, even after they become Christians.

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For me, it seemed most likely we were all equally wrong. 
Quote
Doesn't it sound too good to be true that there is an all powerful, all knowing god who knows you personally and loves you unconditionally?

I just want to point out that, as everyone knows, just because a view seems more likely or more appealing does not necessarily make it a correct view.

Quote
But I can not just trust my feelings.  I need proof.

I believe that both feelings and rational evidence -- proof -- point any sensible person away from Christianity, not towards it.  I also believe Christianity is true, in spite of those things.

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What makes you so special compared to every other being on the planet?  Did he love Hitler just as unconditionally?  Does that really make his love for you special?

Aargh!  This is such a sensible and thoughtful response to certain Christian teachings.  However, I want to point out (you may know this already, MM, I don't know) that Christianity teaches that all people are basically equal, and from God's perspective, none of us are any better or worse than Hitler, and no more or less deserving of either favorable or unfavorable treatment.  I believe that personally, although I suppose it does sound rather extreme and somewhat unreasonable.

@ Samnell

Quote
But didn't you just question their basic honesty and/or intellectual capacity in that paragraph, if we get right down to it?

Okay, I'll concede that point ... sort of.  :)

I do not hesitate to point out shortcomings and express criticism of religious people.  Partly that's because I am one myself, and I don't exclude myself from the criticisms I express.  I basically have all the same shortcomings as other religious people, and I strive to minimize those shortcomings, sometimes with more or less success -- just as they do.

Quote
Being far less rational is certainly an intellectual deficiency, if one that can be remedied and we all share from time to time. In a way it's a form of dishonesty too, if more of the lying to yourself variety than lying to others. Of course we all do it from time to time, which makes it all the more important that we try to be aware of the pitfalls of human psychology and refine our rational arts to keep good epistemic hygiene.

I see here that you also are charitable enough and sensible enough to acknowledge that you have shortcomings.  Very good, then we're all together on that.  :)

Quote
I understand that people don't like to hear that they may be mistaken. I am no exception. But I don't see how it would be disrespectful to point out that someone's behavior doesn't match their words in any context, unless there's something else going on.

I think it's one thing for a member of a group to criticize it from within, especially if one includes oneself in the charges one raises.  I think it's a very different thing for a person to make harsh, sweeping criticisms of all the members of a gigantic group that one does not consider oneself to be any part of.  In your previous post, you levelled accusations at religious people en masse that were tantamount to calling them bald-faced liars and hypocrites.  I think that's disrespectful, and no one else pointed that out, so I felt compelled to do so.  (Incidentally, I would consider it just as disrespectful for anyone to call into question the sincerity or intelligence of most atheists or agnostics.)

Is your opinion just as low of religious people such as Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, all the Popes throughout history, all the Christian martyrs, and almost all the American Presidents, not to mention the Dalai Lama and Gandhi?  Do you think all those people didn't really believe the things they said they did?  What about all the religious people you know personally -- do you consider most of them to be insincere and hypocritical?  Perhaps you do, and if so, it pains me to think of what misbehavior from religious people towards you brought you to such a low opinion of them (and of me, by my association with them).

I hope your opinion isn't as negative as it sounded to me.  On the other hand, if that is your view, you have every right to it; and though I consider it to be a surprising and disrespectful view for anyone to have about any huge group of people, I also have a certain sympathy for it, considering how well-acquainted I am with so many disreputable and unlikable religious people.  And again, if I have misinterpreted or misrepresented your previous remarks, I apologize, and I would appreciate your helping me to understand your viewpoint better.

« Last Edit: May 19, 2012, 07:20:16 PM by rick957 »

Offline DeMalachine

Re: Elliquian Atheists
« Reply #63 on: May 19, 2012, 08:04:46 PM »
I'm an atheist on the basis of an inversion of the Ontological Argument for the Existence of God:

If we accept the premise that the power of god is limitless

and

We accept the premise that no other being can be as powerful as god

then

A god powerful enough to overcome the problem of non-existence is intrinsically more powerful that a god that requires existence.

therefore

God is non-existent.

Actually, I'm not an atheist because of this, because the argument is utter bollocks - just as is the original ontological argument.

I simply don't believe because I've not yet heard a definition of god - clear or (as is most often the case) unclear - that has any evidence to support it.

Offline Samnell

Re: Elliquian Atheists
« Reply #64 on: May 19, 2012, 09:42:22 PM »
@ Samnell

I think it's one thing for a member of a group to criticize it from within, especially if one includes oneself in the charges one raises.  I think it's a very different thing for a person to make harsh, sweeping criticisms of all the members of a gigantic group that one does not consider oneself to be any part of.  In your previous post, you levelled accusations at religious people en masse that were tantamount to calling them bald-faced liars and hypocrites.  I think that's disrespectful, and no one else pointed that out, so I felt compelled to do so.  (Incidentally, I would consider it just as disrespectful for anyone to call into question the sincerity or intelligence of most atheists or agnostics.)

Ok. I don't completely agree that it's disrespectful but that's a fair read of my post. I don't think most religious people think enough about the actual issues at hand (and the operational machinery of religion works to keep things that way often enough) to realize what they're doing, so I'm not sure hypocrisy is entirely accurate.

Is your opinion just as low of religious people such as Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, all the Popes throughout history, all the Christian martyrs, and almost all the American Presidents, not to mention the Dalai Lama and Gandhi?  Do you think all those people didn't really believe the things they said they did?  What about all the religious people you know personally -- do you consider most of them to be insincere and hypocritical?  Perhaps you do, and if so, it pains me to think of what misbehavior from religious people towards you brought you to such a low opinion of them (and of me, by my association with them).

Leaving aside certain issues with some of the examples, it depends what they said and what they did. I'm not making a global statement that they never ever under any circumstances actually believe any of the things they said they believed. For certain of the examples, that actually has them coming off better in my estimation than they might otherwise. :) But speaking in generalities, of the groups listed I would rate genuine Christian martyrs (people who actually existed and died specifically on account of having a religion that someone else killed them for after having given them the realistic option to repudiate it, not for other reasons or people killed before they had any realistic choice in the matter) are most likely to have believed most of their religious creeds instead of simply believed in them. Not that it wasn't still a senseless waste of life or that killing people with less conviction would have somehow been better. I'm against killing people regardless.

The religious people I know personally vary. Some are much more religious than others and so have a much bigger exposure to the belief in belief problems in religiosity. Others don't have as much religion so don't have the problem to the same extent. They may have it in other areas, just like everyone else. I would hope they would work on it, as I try to, but we get to live in the universe that exists instead of the one we'd rather existed so that hope doesn't pan out so well in practice.

Also, I suppose I should say, religion is not the only area where there's a lot of irrationality and anti-epistemology deployed to protect bad ideas. It's just a really big, influential one. If it vanished tomorrow I'd probably be criticizing astrologers or people who believe in Bigfoot or something like that.

I hope your opinion isn't as negative as it sounded to me.  On the other hand, if that is your view, you have every right to it; and though I consider it to be a surprising and disrespectful view for anyone to have about any huge group of people, I also have a certain sympathy for it, considering how well-acquainted I am with so many disreputable and unlikable religious people.  And again, if I have misinterpreted or misrepresented your previous remarks, I apologize, and I would appreciate your helping me to understand your viewpoint better.

To quote the cliche, I have friends who are religious. I even composed a prayer for one once. My mother, who I love dearly, is somewhat religious. Most of my social circle is not and I'm pretty comfortable with that. Religious people aren't in such short supply that I feel like I need to go on a lot of field expeditions to see them in the wild. :)

Usually someone will ask in short order what religious people did to me that I'm so anti-religious. It's a fair question. I despair a bit of the oft-unstated assumption that I must have been horribly abused or something like that to come to the positions I have, but I get where it comes from. It's certainly reasonable to presume that my personal background informs my positions. Everyone's does. I certainly think that I can set that aside, however imperfectly, and try to be objective. So in the interests of full disclosure: Not a lot, though I am pretty anti-religious by contemporary American standards. Nobody beat me up for being irreligious, or gay, or leftist. My family was not especially mistreated by religious authorities. Nor were any other loved ones.

But I do have to take issue with the notion that criticism is less legitimate if it comes from outside. I do think the religious can be very good at criticizing and challenging one another, but only on the things they disagree about. That's great as far as it goes, and in fact I even agree with a lot of those intrafaith arguments. (At least in the broad strokes, I think both the conservative objection to liberal theology and the liberal objection to conservative theology are valid.) But one doesn't go to committed religious people to get outside perspectives on religion itself. That would be like trying to get the marketing department of a corporation to tell you why you should never buy their product.

I don't only accept criticism of political views if it comes from people who already agree with me 90% of the time. That leaves 90% of our views free from scrutiny. Who knows what bad ideas slipped through there? Surely not me if I'm only going to listen to my compatriots. Why would religions be any different? This seems like a recipe for giving bad ideas a pass. We're not perfect. Human psychology is not geared to scrupulous rationality. There are bad ideas in that crop and we're not going to weed them out without outside views.

Offline rick957

Re: Elliquian Atheists
« Reply #65 on: May 19, 2012, 10:55:21 PM »
Samnell --

I think vtboy's comments after my first post here said what I intended to say better than I could, frankly, so there's probably no point in my trying to elaborate much further.  Suffice it to say that I think there are appropriate and respectful ways to criticize other people's beliefs without calling into question those people's sincerity or intelligence. 

I take your point that criticism from outside a group can still be valid and even important, but I think it doesn't benefit anyone unless the criticism is expressed in a respectful way, without attacking anyone's basic integrity.  There are people who consider belief in any religion to be proof of such ignorance that it basically amounts to a fundamental character flaw.  I can't quite tell if you feel that way or not; I hope not.  For all the harm and horror perpetrated by religious people throughout history and to this day, there has also been much good accomplished by certain religious people, Christian and non-, and I can't agree with anyone who considers it appropriate to question the character of those particular individuals.

At any rate, thank you for expressing yourself at some length and going into more detail about your views; I found it helpful and insightful.

Offline AndyZ

Re: Elliquian Atheists
« Reply #66 on: May 19, 2012, 11:12:38 PM »
I mostly only skim this thread on occasion, and it seems as though many questions have been answered on here already, but I saw one that doesn't seem to have an answer yet.  Sorry if my answers are unclear but I'm sleep deprived.

It's the same thing you see with death. If you truly believe in everlasting bliss after death, why would you ever be saddened by the death of a loved one? Or, even more to the point, why would you ever fear death?

This is something I've wrestled with; I'll give you my answers.

Fear of death is a purely pathos response, what some may refer to as the "lizard-brain" and others might refer to as "that of the body instead of the soul."

Let's use the example of a mother whose son goes off to college (alternating gender for ease of pronouns).  Now, she's certainly glad that he's making something of his life, but it doesn't stop her from missing him.  It doesn't mean that some part of her doesn't want him to stay her little boy for as long as she lives, even if she rationally understands the foolhardiness of that.

Now, from my understanding, that's something that you have to come to terms with.  Our higher selves are capable of overcoming our lower instincts, which is why being angry does not always cause us to become homicidal, why arousal does not justify rape and so on.

The primary pain of the death of a loved one is knowing that you'll never see them again for as long as you live, whether that be years, decades or (science permitting) millenia.

If that doesn't make sense, please send a PM or I may miss your response.

Offline Iniquitous

Re: Elliquian Atheists
« Reply #67 on: May 19, 2012, 11:47:47 PM »
Death is ‘final’ to a lot of people, even those that believe in an afterlife. It is the end of this life. It is unknown. And it is the fact that it is unknown that scares a lot of people, even those who believe in eternal bliss.

I can honestly say I am not scared of death. Of course I do not want to die, but I am not filled with fear at the thought of dying. The thought makes me sad because I will be leaving behind those I love and I know that I will never be able to do all the things I want to do, but at the same time I look forward to seeing what happens next. I believe that death is just another door for us to go through, another phase we have to go through.

It goes without saying that I do not believe in the christian hell (which, btw, was borrowed from the Norse) nor do I believe in the christian heaven or that we just die and go out like someone turning off a light.

As for being sad for those that pass on - I believe that the reason is simply because we are, by nature, selfish creatures. We do not want to lose what we love and care for. We want them with us forever despite knowing that it cannot be. It is human nature to want to cling to what is important to us. The interesting thing is, a lot of cultures will focus not only on saying goodbye to loved ones that pass on but also celebrate the life of the one who has passed on. (In New Orleans they have what is called the ‘jazz funeral’ where everyone ‘marches’ to the cemetery while a jazz band plays somber dirges. Once the burial is done, everyone marches back to a gathering place and the band plays upbeat, loud music for everyone to join in and dance to while making their way to the gathering place as a celebration of the deceased person’s life.)

Offline rick957

Re: Elliquian Atheists
« Reply #68 on: May 20, 2012, 12:33:04 AM »
Quote
I'm an atheist on the basis of an inversion of the Ontological Argument for the Existence of God:

Okay, look.  I just tried to read the effing Wikipedia page about the "ontological argument", but I gave up after about five paragraphs.  In case you're wondering, it was exactly at the point where I hit the word "mereological."  I don't know what the hell that means and don't even feel too terribly bad about not knowing, dammit.  :)

Anyway, I would love to hear you or anyone else here explain what this "Ontological View for the Existence of God" is, since you brought it up.  I hope it's something I've heard of before, somewhere, but it doesn't ring a bell, because my memory sucks.

Quote
Actually, I'm not an atheist because of this, because the argument is utter bollocks - just as is the original ontological argument.

Hm, well, the "inversion" struck me as unpersuasive, too, but I'm not sure why you brought it up to begin with, in light of the fact that you reject it yourself.  Any elaboration would be appreciated.  :)


Offline Hemingway

Re: Elliquian Atheists
« Reply #69 on: May 20, 2012, 07:30:01 AM »
Fear of death is a purely pathos response, what some may refer to as the "lizard-brain" and others might refer to as "that of the body instead of the soul."

Let's use the example of a mother whose son goes off to college (alternating gender for ease of pronouns).  Now, she's certainly glad that he's making something of his life, but it doesn't stop her from missing him.  It doesn't mean that some part of her doesn't want him to stay her little boy for as long as she lives, even if she rationally understands the foolhardiness of that.

This is comparing apples and oranges. For one thing, people who go off to get an education do not disappear into an uncertain void forever ( where your only way of knowing how they are is to follow, equally permanently ), and secondly I've never heard of anyone who would do anything ( more or less literally anything ) to avoid going off to college - or to avoid seeing someone they love go.

As for fear of death being purely a response of our instincts, I see your point, but it seems to suggest that reason has nothing to do with it. I can see how that would apply in intense near-death situations where you're fighting to survive, so to speak, but not in life in general.

I did a googling, to see if any research has been done on attitudes toward death between people of different religions or of no religion. One of the interesting things in the study is that people with a literal view of religion are more likely to believe in an afterlife, but also are more likely to have anxiety about death and dying, than those with more symbolic and open-minded interpretations. This also applies, apparently, to people rigidly scientific world views. I can't help but feel the causes and effects are reversed in those two cases, between the religious and non-religious, but the study doesn't go into it, unfortunately.

It does support what I wanted to say, though: why is there not, in the larger scale, more difference between religious and non-religious attitudes toward death? The differences being what they are, you'd expect there to be a vast gulf of difference between their attitudes, but there just isn't.

The study is called "The role of religion in death attitudes: distinguishing between religious belief and style of processing religious contents.", and you can find the whole thing with google, if you want to look it up.

Death is ‘final’ to a lot of people, even those that believe in an afterlife. It is the end of this life. It is unknown. And it is the fact that it is unknown that scares a lot of people, even those who believe in eternal bliss.

To this, I just want to point out that if a person believes in a literal heaven and everleasting bliss after death, then death isn't really an unknown. Sure, that person doesn't know exactly what it'll be like, but the person knows something, which is more than can be said for non-believers. But again, there's no significant difference between those with religious views and those without them.

Offline MercyfulFate

Re: Elliquian Atheists
« Reply #70 on: May 20, 2012, 02:13:28 PM »
Science has probably given us the answer to a lot of weird stuff already. I think that because these are often quite personal experiences, people are reluctant to accept that they're just hallucinations or something else that fooled them. I actually got a pretty good lesson in how easily we're misled a few years ago. It wasn't a supernatural experience, but it may as well have been, and I think you'll see why.

I was lying in bed in a dark hallway in my family's vacation home. The only light was a narrow strip that came from the streetlight outside. My window was open just a crack. There's something weird about that particular hallway, in that sounds that come from the rooms further into the house sound like they're coming from the kitchen, which is the other way. Well, what happened was I heard whispering. It was really quiet, so I couldn't make out the words, or the voice. It sounded like it came from outside. A moment later, I heard soft footsteps, again from outside, and then I saw a shadow move across the far wall, as if someone had just walked past the window and blotted out the streetlight. I was, of course, terrified, thinking someone was breaking in. Turns out what I'd heard was my brother, and the "shadow" I saw wasn't a shadow at all. It was just my brother walking through the hallway, in the darkness. But the illusion was perfect.

So, while some sort interference from a parallel universe is probably a more likely explanation than seeing the immortal spirit of a lost loved one, it's even more likely that we're simply being deceived, be it by circumstances, hallucinations, or simply our tendency to "interpret" reality and see meaning and patterns where there aren't any.

There may always be a reasonable explanation for things, but things far more intense than seeing a shadow or phantom voices are reported. Those are tougher to easily toss aside.

Offline DeMalachine

Re: Elliquian Atheists
« Reply #71 on: May 20, 2012, 02:24:24 PM »
Okay, look.  I just tried to read the effing Wikipedia page about the "ontological argument", but I gave up after about five paragraphs.  In case you're wondering, it was exactly at the point where I hit the word "mereological."  I don't know what the hell that means and don't even feel too terribly bad about not knowing, dammit.  :)

Anyway, I would love to hear you or anyone else here explain what this "Ontological View for the Existence of God" is, since you brought it up.  I hope it's something I've heard of before, somewhere, but it doesn't ring a bell, because my memory sucks.

Hm, well, the "inversion" struck me as unpersuasive, too, but I'm not sure why you brought it up to begin with, in light of the fact that you reject it yourself.  Any elaboration would be appreciated.  :)

LOL - well, I think we've all gone 'WTF??' on first reading or hearing of the Ontological Argument. It even caught Bertrand Russell on the hop, as far as I can recall. Essentially, the OA goes something like this:

If it is agreed that God is the most perfect thing possible

then

presuming we can imagine the most perfect thing

means

that it is less than perfect

because

it is non-existent

ergo

God exists, because He cannot possibly be less than perfect.


That's the OA in essence, as far as I understand it. It's an odd argument; on first reading or hearing of it, I found it sort of made sense...yet seemed inexplicably wrong somehow. Often, the 'perfect' is rephrased as 'of which no greater can be conceived', but the flaw in the argument remains the same: that it involves a subjective value judgement on the concept of existence. Whether 'existence' is in itself more or less perfect or greater than anything depends wholly on context and the personal viewpoint of the person considering the question at hand. Personally, I believe that an existing million pounds in my bank account to be wholly greater than an imaginary million pounds; likewise, I believe a non-existent ebola virus would be more perfect than its present reality dictates.

There are numerous other, better arguments deconstructing the OA all over the interwebs - suffice it to say, it's proven less than convincing. The same applies to the inversion I detailed in my earlier post. Neither of these arguments prove or disprove the existence of god - and I presented it to show that there is no serious philosophical underpinning to my nonbelief. Given the sophistries that can be deployed either in favour of or against god (it seems the equally fallacious Transcendental Argument has arisen again, thanks to such, um, luminaries as Sye Ten Bruggencate and...Eric Hovind), I'd personally prefer to go with real-world evidence.

Offline Hemingway

Re: Elliquian Atheists
« Reply #72 on: May 20, 2012, 02:28:54 PM »
There may always be a reasonable explanation for things, but things far more intense than seeing a shadow or phantom voices are reported. Those are tougher to easily toss aside.

Certainly. But I've yet to come across anything that can't be explained ( in practice or in principle ) scientifically, or as a hoax. I'm simply making the point that we're very easily fooled, especially if we want to believe something, and it's not always easy to tell when we're being fooled. When you have a déjà vu, the feeling is, at least for a moment, absolutely indistinguishable from the real experience of recalling something. So, basically, even if you "feel the presence of god", or something akin to that, and you just know it's real, it may not be.

It's also quite telling that we never have any truly remarkable miracles. People rising from their graves, or recovering lost limbs. Instead we get weeping statues and faces in pieces of toast. It's just not very compelling.

What it all boils down to is that people, at least if they want to be taken seriously and expect others to believe what they're saying, need to first be skeptical about their own experiences.

Offline rick957

Re: Elliquian Atheists
« Reply #73 on: May 20, 2012, 05:43:47 PM »
@ Hemingway

Just wanted to say, I read your recent response to my post with great interest but decided not to respond to the specific questions you posed, only because I think I covered those topics in my responses to other people.  Wouldn't want to bore everyone by repeating myself more than I already have.  :) 

@ DeMalachine

Ah, thanks for the info.  I don't find the argument as you described it to be particularly persuasive either.  It turns out that I've heard at least part of that argument somewhere before, I think, which makes me feel slightly less ignorant than I did when you first mentioned it, so that's nice too.  :)

I also looked up the Transcendental Argument, which I found slightly more persuasive and much more familiar, although not very much of either.

It sounds like you've studied philosophy and/or religion in detail at some point in your past; the same seems true for several of the people who have posted in this thread about various things.  ...

If that's true, and since this is a thread about atheism, I'd be curious to know which particular philosophical or religious argument(s) you (or anyone else here) find most persuasive or compelling, even if you ultimately reject them.  If you'd care to mention your reasons for liking or for rejecting the argument, that would be gravy.

« Last Edit: May 20, 2012, 05:57:03 PM by rick957 »

Offline DeMalachine

Re: Elliquian Atheists
« Reply #74 on: May 20, 2012, 06:31:05 PM »
@ Hemingway

Just wanted to say, I read your recent response to my post with great interest but decided not to respond to the specific questions you posed, only because I think I covered those topics in my responses to other people.  Wouldn't want to bore everyone by repeating myself more than I already have.  :) 

@ DeMalachine

Ah, thanks for the info.  I don't find the argument as you described it to be particularly persuasive either.  It turns out that I've heard at least part of that argument somewhere before, I think, which makes me feel slightly less ignorant than I did when you first mentioned it, so that's nice too.  :)

I also looked up the Transcendental Argument, which I found slightly more persuasive and much more familiar, although not very much of either.

It sounds like you've studied philosophy and/or religion in detail at some point in your past; the same seems true for several of the people who have posted in this thread about various things.  ...

If that's true, and since this is a thread about atheism, I'd be curious to know which particular philosophical or religious argument(s) you (or anyone else here) find most persuasive or compelling, even if you ultimately reject them.  If you'd care to mention your reasons for liking or for rejecting the argument, that would be gravy.

I haven't studied philosophy or religion academically, aside from a brief spell on philosophy while I was at college - which I later dropped because it was so arse-boring. Got no further than Descartes, if I remember rightly. I did give the Bible a serious go when I was younger, simply out of curiosity; I wanted to know what there was in it that so many people found persuasive. But all the problems I eventually found with it persuaded me that it was just...an unreliable document, let's say. Likewise with the Koran, which has the added distinction of being just about the most boring book I have ever tried to read. At least the Bible has the saving grace (ho ho) of being diverting on occasion; Revelation, though insane, would make a truly epic movie!

As for philosophy; I've always figured it's good for developing decent thinking skills and fostering a useful degree of introspection as regards one's own ideas. From the bits and pieces I've picked up over the years, I'd say I veer closer to Karl Popper in his view of the sciences as regards the concept of falsifiability; my own view is that falsifiability acts as a good safeguard against the pseudosciences. But that's a whole 'nother subject, anyways. As regards religion - and more specifically, the question of god's existence - I've not yet seen a philosophical argument either for or against God which did not resort to presuppositions or some peculiar logomachist or sophistic trickery. I guess what largely did it for me, in terms of the philosophical approach, was in considering Zeno's paradoxes, and how one can indeed argue something to a self-supporting conclusion entirely at odds with what reality demonstrates, as per 'Achilles and the  Tortoise': http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zeno%27s_paradoxes#Achilles_and_the_tortoise

Which is why I believe that reality-based evidence trumps all, when it comes to the question of god's existence. :-)