Wow. I missed a lot. Ok, I'm going to hit a couple of the smaller points quickly before getting to the main meat of the argument; effectively, "how does my knowledge of God differ from Science's knowledge." Right. Let's get started.On the note of the correlation between religiosity and generosity:
Correlation doesn't always equal causation, and I would be tempted to say that that is more down to the traditions of the society and the belief that you should always strive to help...which arguably doesn't come from religion. It comes from the knowledge that by actively helping society, you are in a way helping yourself and the society you live in get along. Without religion, you would still have good people doing good things. On the note of the AA:
Oh, I know that. I was more using it as an example of an organisation that has a lot of strings attached to it that could, in the end, be very harmful to its participants...and there's also the fact that if you relapse, you're not classed as "completing" the program, and telling an addict that he has no power over it is oftentimes counterproductive to their self esteem and wellbeing, but that's a matter for another day. I was more using it as an example than anything else, haha. It's entirely possible that it helps people recover, but I think that the organisation is dishonest, predatory - it preys on peoples weaknesses to try and foist religion on them - and its methods are inherently harmful in the long run to a lot of people.On the "Stalin was an Atheist" thing:
True, but as was mentioned, he didn't do anything in the name of Atheism. Atheism isn't a cause, it's simply a lack of belief...he was, quite frankly, a megalomaniac who wanted to be the "ultimate authority" in Russia, and the Cults of Personality are in themselves religion. But you know what? If there was a country that was an "atheist country," and forced its atheism on its citizens, most atheists would be opposed to that, since most atheists believe that the government has no business telling people what to believe and what not to believe when it comes to religion. Everybody has the right to hold their own religion, so long as it doesn't infringe on other peoples rights. Also, Hitler was raised a Roman Catholic. Whilst whether or not he stayed as a Roman Catholic is debatable, but he was at the least religious in some way (he made several mentions of "a higher power" and "Providence" in his speeches and Mein Kampf, and actively worked to "stamp out" atheism. He also blamed the Jews for a lot of things, but that was more a product of the times anti-Semitism than any specific religious views). And you know what? It doesn't bloody matter. Guilt by association is probably the worst way to determine whether somebody is correct or not. There are some situations, of course, when it's relevant but when saying "X also thought this and look at what HE did!" is perhaps the worst argument for or against either side in a religious debate, and when somebody pulls out "Mao/Hitler/Kim Jong Il "was an atheist," you know that they're just grasping at straws. Guess what? Martin Luther was originally Catholic, then Protestant, and with his book "The Jews And Their Lies" and his Anti-Semitic preaching arguably indirectly caused the Holocaust. So....kids in glass houses.Sabby:
Haha, thank you for the compliment.
Not sure if I deserve it or not, but it's kind of you to say
Now the biggy.Knowledge. Ooh boy.
Ok. I think that we need to make a distinction here. Belief is a dichotomy; you either believe or you don't. There's no middle ground, and I assume that everybody here would agree with that. One is either a theist or an atheist, since that only makes a comment on whether you believe or not. Knowledge is also a dichotomy; you either know something or you do not know something. Again, there is no official "middle ground." Honestly, I think people are talking past each other here; what Lost In The Mist is saying is that you either know or you don't, and what I think everybody else is talking about is certainty.
There are degrees of certainty that are attained with more and more conclusive evidence, which is the big difference between a scientific theory and a religious conjecture. Gravity, Evolution, Relativity, etc etc all explain all available evidence, are contradicted by none and make testable and - most importantly - falsifiable predictions and claims. So, we can be 99% Certain that every single time we drop a pen, it will fall since objects with mass attract. The general rule of thumb is "the less the mass, the less powerful the attraction." There are exceptions to this rule of thumb, of course (EG, Magnets), but that's because other forces are at play. That last 1% is reserved for any factor that we may not be aware of tampering with gravities workings.
Now. "Knowledge" only comes with a certain amount of certainty. That percentage varies from person to person, but the biggest thing here is that sometimes, science can be wrong, but science then changes its mind and figures out why
it was wrong.
[Side note: I think I saw mentioned that in the middle ages, people thought the world was flat. That's actually a common misconception; the Greeks knew the world was a sphere in the 3rd century BCE (though the concept had been around since the 6th), and Eratosthenes actually accurately calculated its size by using the lengths of shadows in two different locations to figure out its curvature; the measurement he used is not exactly known in modern figures, but it is estimated that his measurement was only wrong by a error margin of 5-15%. He was a smart cookie.]
The difference between scientific knowledge and religious knowledge, Mist, is that scientific knowledge is demonstrable and testable. Religious knowledge is not. If you cannot test something, how can you be certain that it exists? Personal experiences have a hundred and one different explanations; there are stories of people waking up with demons in their rooms, being unable to move, from the middle ages....and yet nowadays we know that it is a common phenomenon known as "Sleep Paralysis," which is caused when a sleeper awakens in the middle of their REM cycle and their brain is slow in waking the body up and is still half asleep. Just an example, of course, but you get my point. But if you claim to know that a God exists, the burden of proof is on you. HOW do you know this God exists? Can we test it? Can we demonstrate it? Can we falsify it? If not, how can you actually claim to know, since there's no way of finding out if you're wrong? And why should anybody else believe you if you can't prove what you're claiming? Yes, people can believe incorrect things based on evidence, but that doesn't give people licence to just "Make Shit Up." You're only justified in believing something when you have evidence, and it isn't - as I think you're suggesting - up to other people to prove you wrong. Tell you what.
I know that there's a teapot orbiting Jupiter. Nobodies ever seen it because it's invisible, and doesn't want us to be able to prove it, but I know because I've felt it in my life. By your logic, I wouldn't have to prove that. You'd have to disprove it, but it is by its very nature unfalsifiable. You can claim to know something, but that doesn't change the fact that without evidence, nobody has to take you seriously. Do you believe me when I say that there's a celestial teapot orbiting Jupiter? No? Well, why not? You believe that there's a deity out there somewhere who meddles in peoples lives, and you're expecting us to just take your word for it, so why is my word any different?
There's a quote that I think is applicable here:"That which can be presented without evidence can be discarded without evidence."
- Christopher Hitchens.
This simultaneously discards the God conjecture and solipsism, since there's no way to prove it but there's no way to disprove it, so until a way to test it comes about, there's no point worrying about it. You are right in that there is no way to test anything 100%, but there are still percentages. We can test and demonstrate gravity and evolution and relativity to 99.99% recurring, but we can't test God AT ALL. God is still on 0.01%, and that percentage will only rise as new evidence comes up.
To answer your question of why your statement is considered invalid: We can test evolution. We can test gravity. We CANNOT test God other than his supposed influences on reality (all of such tests having turned up negative, BTW), so saying that God definitely or at least probably exists requires evidence and justification on your part, which you have not offered. You can claim that you've felt God in your life, and that may be enough for YOU, but A) you could be wrong, and all we know of reality right now suggests that the likelihood is that you are, and B) we have no way of determining if you are telling the truth, if there's another explanation or if the cause of that experience was in fact a deity. You have NO evidence. And whilst your personal experience may be enough for you, personal experience - as unverifiable and untestable as it is - is not sufficient evidence for everybody else because there are 1001 different alternatives to the one you are proposing, and there's almost no way of figuring out for certain which one it is. So to answer your question: There are degrees of certainty and standards of evidence, and you claiming that you had a personal experience isn't even a blip on the graph unless you can prove that A) you had it and B) that it came from the deity you are claiming it came from....which, and I'm taking a wild stab in the dark here, I'm guessing you can't.
Your entire position here is based on a fallacy, I'm sorry to say. You claimed in your first post last page that "faith" is the same as "knowledge." It isn't. Knowledge is believing something based on evidence. Faith - as used in religious context, so please don't try to play word games with the different meanings of "faith" - means "belief without evidence." You cannot have faith with
evidence, since evidence removes the need for faith. You had a personal experience and are now believing on faith
that this experiences cause was a deity of some kind. Now you have to prove it. I know I'm harping on about this, but if you want to convince others "your word" that you had a personal experience therefore God requires more justification than just your word if we're going to believe you. Going back to my teapot example....is my word enough for you? No. Of course it isn't. So why is your certainty any different from mine? Why should I accept your word, if you aren't willing to accept mine?
If you believe something and want others to believe you
that this thing is real, you better have proof other than "I felt it." That's like me saying "I know it because I feel it in my balls," or "I have a gut feeling." It's meaningless, because it's unfalsifiable and has been presented without evidence. If you went around believing everything without evidence, you would believe every
idiotic and conflicting claim you came across. So how do you figure out which ones are justifiably believable and which aren't? By examining the available evidence and deciding whether or not it's probable - given the evidence available - whether it's true or not. Yeah, you could be wrong. But at least your conclusion was justified based on the information you were provided. Saying "Well, we can't know anything for sure" doesn't
mean that all claims are equal. Knowledge and truth may be binary, but certainty
is a tiered system, and there are things you are less certain of than others. And how do you gain certainty? Evidence and investigation. THAT is why your "knowledge" of God is not equal to our "knowledge" of gravity or evolution. We can test and demonstrate our knowledge and gain certainty, and show those results to other people. More, they can go off and do their own
tests using a similar methodology and come up with the same conclusions. We cannot test your experience, and we cannot even verify that it actually happened. So how would the two claims be equal? In the court of existence, I find your deity not guilty of existing based on insufficient evidence to convict. I am NOT saying he doesn't exist...just that the evidence provided to me so far is inconclusive. You may appeal, but you must have better evidence than "I feel it in my heart" since that is inherently untestable and therefore meaningless when used to try and convince others of the validity of your belief. I am NOT saying your experience is meaningless full stop. Just that when you are trying to convince others that your position is correct, it means nothing because for all we know, you could be lying through your teeth and there is no way of verifying that you aren't.
Yes, you may claim to "know" a God exists, but HOW do you know? And how can we find out whether you are right or not? Humans are, after all, fallible. You could be wrong about your personal experience, and you could be wrong about a deity existing. How do we go about finding out? The only justifiable time to believe something is when you have evidence. A claim that is supported by evidence is not
equal to one without evidence, especially when you're making a claim as extraordinary as an omnipotent, omniscient deity who cares about my personal sexual life and wants me to bow down and worship him or else I'll burn forever in the fires of hell (this bit is hyperbole; I'm not saying that that's what you believe). Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and you seem to be trying to say that you don't need to present any evidence because you feel it in your heart. Well, that's not good enough to convince anybody else.
So: Short version.Belief
is a dichotomy - you either believe or you don't.Knowledge
is a binary position - you either know or you don't.Certainty
is a ratchet system - you have degrees of certainty, which at some point turns into knowledge (for example, 80% is knowing and 79.9% is still not knowing for some people on some positions. It depends on the person.)
If you claim to know
something, you better be ready to justify that "knowledge" with evidence, or people will not believe you.
Knowledge can be claimed, but isn't always justified. Believing something and claiming to "know" that it's true is unjustified because you have no way
of knowing, or demonstrating it.
In fact, I would ask how you're so certain that you know that God exists, when you have no way of testing, demonstrating or falsifying that belief, when you could simply be wrong? A belief in God is not equal to people believing the Theory of Evolution, since the latter has mountains of evidence and the formers evidence is dubious, circumstantial and untestable at best.
So I think the real question isn't "DO you know?" It's "HOW do you know, and can we test it?"
Am I making any sense here?