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Author Topic: What Are Your Impressions of Atheism  (Read 4588 times)

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Offline TaintedAndDelish

Re: What Are Your Impressions of Atheism
« Reply #25 on: July 25, 2014, 02:04:15 PM »
Quote
Your assumption that atheism is the belief that a god or gods do not exist is false. Atheism is the rejection of religious claims that a god or gods exist. This means that we donít believe in supernatural claims until there is good evidence of them, not that we positively claim that there are no gods. Anti-theists make that claim, and anti-theists are also atheists, but not all atheists are anti-theists. As it happens, I am anit-theist, but I understand that the claim Ďthere is no Godí isnít substanciated, only extremely likely. I will not rebut your other points until you have the chance to adjust them.

I think I made this pretty clear in my first sentence. 'My current stance is that there is not enough credible evidence to support the notion that a god ( however you might define one ) exists or that the gods of religious lore are real.'

Not everyone who uses the words "atheist" or "agnostic" are referring to the same exact thing, which is I why I did not make assumptions about what you meant by "atheism."  If you want to get into hair splitting details about its definition, there's several pages worth here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism


Offline Saidi

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Re: What Are Your Impressions of Atheism
« Reply #26 on: July 25, 2014, 02:11:53 PM »
I'm going to weigh in with only two things:

One - as noted, threads of this nature do tend to get very heated, whether or not the OP wishes them to.  Everyone is reminded to behave with civility, regardless of your personal beliefs or lack thereof.

Two - If someone sincerely wishes you a Happy or Merry or Joyous anything, and you feel anger, the anger comes from inside you.  This, I believe, is a greater problem.

<3



I agree that atheists shouldn’t mock the religious so much, though I think religious beliefs are laughable in private. But the ridicule does run both ways, I assure you. I would argue that, in our current world, secularists do hold the moral high ground. I think that the dogmas of the Abrahamic religious texts are immoral and harmful to society, and that secularists are fighting against abuse by the religious every day. One of my examples from earlier is the child abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church that are still unresolved.

You believing in God doesn’t make you less intelligent. Intelligent people are allowed to be wrong, after all. I might make you more delusional than a non-theist, but that isn’t a scar on your entire character. Have you ever lost something and you swear you put it somewhere? You become convinced that someone else must have moved it? Then when you find out you’re sitting on it, you feel bad. That is how easy it is for a healthy human mind to be delusional. And when billions of people share your delusion and you have no obvious way to find that you’re sitting on what you’re looking for, it become nearly impossible to shake the delusion. I don’t mean offense by my comments, so please do not read my statements as mean. :) Also bare in mind that non-theists can be delusional about the supernatural as well. Many non-theists believe in alien abduction and ghosts, and they are equally ridiculed by atheists.

I respect your wishes to not have your beliefs belittled. I won’t be trying to belittle them, but I will challenge them. If you do not wish to participate in that discussion with me, I will not be offended. Thank you for your imput.


Also, about all that... *facepalm* ...

Just remember, if a person wants to challenge an idea, then they should challenge the idea.  Using terminology that the listener may perceive as a personal attack is not helpful.  It's best to stick to the subject being discussed and avoid using words like "you" because then the discussion is made personal and no longer objective.  Using words like "delusional" in a conversation can be perceived as an attack by the listener.  If a person wants to make a point, it usually works best to avoid being condescending (regardless of what side of the issue they uphold) and closing their audience's mind before ever making a valid point. 

Statements like "I don't mean to be/do (insert word here) but (insert what they said they weren't meant to be doing/saying)" doesn't take away the sting, and again the listener closes off to any further ideas the speaker may have.  It is considered a backhanded insult.  "I'm not calling you dumb, but..."  or "I don't mean to be rude but..."   

Good luck.
« Last Edit: July 25, 2014, 02:14:09 PM by Saidi »

Offline Beorning

Re: What Are Your Impressions of Atheism
« Reply #27 on: July 25, 2014, 03:14:56 PM »
Also, about all that... *facepalm* ...

Just remember, if a person wants to challenge an idea, then they should challenge the idea.  Using terminology that the listener may perceive as a personal attack is not helpful.  It's best to stick to the subject being discussed and avoid using words like "you" because then the discussion is made personal and no longer objective.  Using words like "delusional" in a conversation can be perceived as an attack by the listener.  If a person wants to make a point, it usually works best to avoid being condescending (regardless of what side of the issue they uphold) and closing their audience's mind before ever making a valid point. 

Statements like "I don't mean to be/do (insert word here) but (insert what they said they weren't meant to be doing/saying)" doesn't take away the sting, and again the listener closes off to any further ideas the speaker may have.  It is considered a backhanded insult.  "I'm not calling you dumb, but..."  or "I don't mean to be rude but..."   

I totally agree with that. BeeJay, I'm an atheist and even I can help feeling that your words come off as insulting, whether you want them to or not... ;)

Offline Ephiral

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Re: What Are Your Impressions of Atheism
« Reply #28 on: July 25, 2014, 03:44:37 PM »
There are clearly atheists who have poor moral character. I think Mathim was saying that secular morality is derived from logical and empiric conclusions, but not that everyone considers the same things logical, nor does everyone think of 'the best outcome' the same way. Secular morality can be wrong, but I would argue that it is less wrong more often than nonsecular morality, not in principle necessarily, but in practice. Am I representing you correctly Mathim?
Here's the thing, though: These people are following a secular moral code that ends in "...therefore, this group of people is inferior and should be treated as such." "Secular" != "well-reasoned", and most moral systems that fail do so not because of priors, but because of motivated reasoning.

Offline BeeJayTopic starter

Re: What Are Your Impressions of Atheism
« Reply #29 on: July 25, 2014, 04:47:47 PM »
Here's the thing, though: These people are following a secular moral code that ends in "...therefore, this group of people is inferior and should be treated as such." "Secular" != "well-reasoned", and most moral systems that fail do so not because of priors, but because of motivated reasoning.

I'm at work and don't have time to respond to every point in the thread, but I can't let this one go unchallenged. Who on earth suggested that someone is inferior? Is this just a straw man, or am I missing something? Clarify what you mean by 'these people'.

Offline JLinz77

Re: What Are Your Impressions of Atheism
« Reply #30 on: July 25, 2014, 06:40:49 PM »

Two - If someone sincerely wishes you a Happy or Merry or Joyous anything, and you feel anger, the anger comes from inside you.  This, I believe, is a greater problem.

I don't know if this is clearly off subject but that statement made me think about all the times where I have worked during the holidays. Some companies are careful not to offend anyone so during that time, they try to stress to their employees to wish consumers "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas". It makes a ton of sense to me even though I would personally like to be told "Merry Christmas". What bothered me was that even saying that, doing what I was told to do by my job, I would get people who got offended. "It's Merry Christmas to me"! Like, ma'am... how would I know that? I can't tell if you're Christian, Buddhist or Atheist just by looking at you...

And BeeJay: I wasn't trying to say that you were right or wrong; I hope you didn't get that vibe from my post. I was just stating that no one should make this into a right or wrong thread because we seriously don't know who is, not until we die and see what happens. Everyone has their own beliefs; that's great. I guess I didn't want to see you or anyone else on here attacked for it.

One thing that I've thought about for about two weeks now: why is it that the gods and goddesses of Greek, Roman, Norse and even Mayan culture are considered myths but the Christian God isn't? This thought is the reason for what I said earlier about not knowing who's right and who's wrong

Offline Ephiral

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Re: What Are Your Impressions of Atheism
« Reply #31 on: July 25, 2014, 07:28:50 PM »
I'm at work and don't have time to respond to every point in the thread, but I can't let this one go unchallenged. Who on earth suggested that someone is inferior? Is this just a straw man, or am I missing something? Clarify what you mean by 'these people'.
The rather vocal subsets of atheists I mentioned earlier, who are overtly misogynistic and/or racist. (For clarity, this is not a general accusation - I'm a hard atheist myself.)

Offline BeeJayTopic starter

Re: What Are Your Impressions of Atheism
« Reply #32 on: July 26, 2014, 12:37:03 AM »
The rather vocal subsets of atheists I mentioned earlier, who are overtly misogynistic and/or racist. (For clarity, this is not a general accusation - I'm a hard atheist myself.)

Thank you for the clarification. I agree that there are those that do what you refer to. That is all the more reason we should work towards positive progress. Social problems like bigotry and irrational dogma are both threats to ethical society. Atheism doesn't mean one can't be a moron or a bigot, but belief in God isn't going to make someone less disposed to those kinds of behavior. The way they were raised, with or without God, has the most to do with that. There is some false equivocation going on, but it is minor. The lack in a belief in a god does not lead to bigotry itself, though it can open people up to social groups that do promote bigotry, like eugenicists, anti-feminists or social Darwinists.

I don't know if this is clearly off subject but that statement made me think about all the times where I have worked during the holidays. Some companies are careful not to offend anyone so during that time, they try to stress to their employees to wish consumers "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas". It makes a ton of sense to me even though I would personally like to be told "Merry Christmas". What bothered me was that even saying that, doing what I was told to do by my job, I would get people who got offended. "It's Merry Christmas to me"! Like, ma'am... how would I know that? I can't tell if you're Christian, Buddhist or Atheist just by looking at you...

And BeeJay: I wasn't trying to say that you were right or wrong; I hope you didn't get that vibe from my post. I was just stating that no one should make this into a right or wrong thread because we seriously don't know who is, not until we die and see what happens. Everyone has their own beliefs; that's great. I guess I didn't want to see you or anyone else on here attacked for it.

One thing that I've thought about for about two weeks now: why is it that the gods and goddesses of Greek, Roman, Norse and even Mayan culture are considered myths but the Christian God isn't? This thought is the reason for what I said earlier about not knowing who's right and who's wrong
 

On your first point, the position you hold is a practical one. I usually just donít say anything to people about any kind of holiday. I just stick to Ďhave a nice dayí or other niceties. That keeps people from getting upset, and doesnít make them bat an eye. Some atheists like to offend theists, but not me. If I did say something Ďatheistyí instead of merry Christmas, it would be, ďHave a rational day!Ē

Iím sorry for jumping the gun. I still think we can come close to the right answer, and that we should for the sake of society, but I agree that I donít know for sure. My problem is with dogmatic systems that claim they do when they canít. Thatís why I think atheism should be everyoneís default position.

The difference is that Christendom is still a thriving culture. Do you know anyone besides the odd wiccan who worships Thor or Athena? Those gods and legends are myth because no one takes them seriously. To me and many other atheists, the god of Abrahamic religion is a myth also. So are faeries, bigfoot and alien abductions, until empirical evidence is found to support the claims.

Also, about all that... *facepalm* ...

Just remember, if a person wants to challenge an idea, then they should challenge the idea.  Using terminology that the listener may perceive as a personal attack is not helpful.  It's best to stick to the subject being discussed and avoid using words like "you" because then the discussion is made personal and no longer objective.  Using words like "delusional" in a conversation can be perceived as an attack by the listener.  If a person wants to make a point, it usually works best to avoid being condescending (regardless of what side of the issue they uphold) and closing their audience's mind before ever making a valid point. 

Statements like "I don't mean to be/do (insert word here) but (insert what they said they weren't meant to be doing/saying)" doesn't take away the sting, and again the listener closes off to any further ideas the speaker may have.  It is considered a backhanded insult.  "I'm not calling you dumb, but..."  or "I don't mean to be rude but..."   

Good luck.
      

I have two positions on this viewpoint.

1. When you suggest that I stick to the subject and be objective, what makes you think I am not doing so? If there were a less insulting way to describe my position on religious claims, I would use it. There just isn't any way to get around it. There are a few options when it comes to belief in God: Youíre correct, and there is a creator god who is benevolent, powerful, all knowing, and intervenes in the world; there is no such being, and you are creating that god with full awareness that it is false; or there is no god, but you are under the impression that there is. If the last option is so, that is delusion. My view is that delusion is more likely than Christians are lying, or that they are correct. So, as a matter of necessity, I have to make that claim or yield the argument. That means that the delusion issue is well within subject of the discussion, as well as being objective.

2. Although I think my position is correct, and being offended at the way I have to say it doesnít change that, I do believe in polite discourse. I agree that my language may have been too personal. While I donít like mincing words or stepping around peoples feelings, I donít like alienating potential friends more. I joined Elliquiy in order to be friendly, not to insult people.

So, I will take the middle path. I will say what I feel, but I will actively try to make it less insulting. Thank you for helping me realize that. I won't yield this point, even if someone is offended by it. :P

And I want to clarify/restate that I donít think believers are stupid, just wrong. If someone is offended by being called wrong, they shouldnít post in the politics and religion discussion forum.

I think I made this pretty clear in my first sentence. 'My current stance is that there is not enough credible evidence to support the notion that a god ( however you might define one ) exists or that the gods of religious lore are real.'

Not everyone who uses the words "atheist" or "agnostic" are referring to the same exact thing, which is I why I did not make assumptions about what you meant by "atheism."  If you want to get into hair splitting details about its definition, there's several pages worth here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism

You literally did make an assumption. I simply told you that your assumption is wrong in this case and gave you a chance to change it. I agree that not all atheists define the word the same way, but many of the authorities on atheism use the definition I have given you, including most of the prominent popularizers like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss and the late Christopher Hitchens. Now that we are clear on our definitions, we can have a meaningful discussion. Watashi wa sore no tame ni omachi shite imasu. Iím waiting for it! :)

I'm going to weigh in with only two things:

One - as noted, threads of this nature do tend to get very heated, whether or not the OP wishes them to.  Everyone is reminded to behave with civility, regardless of your personal beliefs or lack thereof.

Two - If someone sincerely wishes you a Happy or Merry or Joyous anything, and you feel anger, the anger comes from inside you.  This, I believe, is a greater problem.

I want to clarify that I never expressly said that I feel anger at people who wish me merry Christmas. I take the small talk and the good wishes as I would a Ďhave a nice dayí. It does get me thinking though. Mentioning it in the OP was incidental. Iíd say at worst, Ďmerry Christmasí is insensitive. Itís not mean-spirited though, so I let it roll off.

Offline BeeJayTopic starter

Re: What Are Your Impressions of Atheism
« Reply #33 on: July 26, 2014, 12:43:46 AM »
I can't edit anything, so I want to say that a revision error caused me to put a sentence in the wrong place. In section below the quote from Saidi, the sentence: "I won't yield this point, even if someone is offended by it. :P" should be at the end of the last paragraph, and not where it ended up. Sorry for the confusion. If a moderator can edit that in, I would be very grateful.

Offline consortium11

Re: What Are Your Impressions of Atheism
« Reply #34 on: July 26, 2014, 06:35:15 AM »
1. True, it can. The difference is that it often doesnít and there are many arguments against such things in secular philosophies, while many religious philosophies actively espouse it. Methods are important, but so are results.

Which leaves us again with the central point... it might be a valid criticism for some non-secular ethical systems compared to some secular ethical systems but it is not intrinsic to secular ethical systems compared to non-secular ethical systems. Remember, the claim that was made was that secular ethics (without qualification, so all secular ethics) are superior to non-secular ethics (again without qualification, so all non-secular ethics).

2. The Ďbest outcomeí, according to some, is the reduction to the greatest reasonable degree of suffering for peoples of a specific society. Different people have different opinions about cost/benefit when it comes to logical and empirical conclusions.

I don't particularly like the "according to some" best caveat here. As above, the discussion was on the basis that secular ethics are superior to non-secular ethics, not that some secular ethics are superior to some non-secular ethics. The caveat seems like a way to walk away from that.

Regardless, the view taken above would seemingly exclude all deontological or virtue theorists from being viewed as secular ethics and even certain consequentialists. Moreover, there is a certain utilitarian flavour to several religious ethical systems... notably William Paley when it comes to Christian utilitarianism... which would seemingly fit into the above point.

In addition, the standard criticisms of consequentialist/utilitarian ethics would likewise appear here; is-ought, open-questions, the utility monster etc etc.

3. Letís say for a moment that every Christian believed what you outline, that Godís nature and character are intrinsically moral. Letís also say, though I am not claiming all Christians believe this, that this god is also all knowing (omniscient) and all powerful (omnipotent), and intervenes in the world, as many Christianís believe. Now we are faced with Epicurusí dilemma. This is a post from http://ericback.wordpress.com/2011/01/18/the-epicurean-dilemma/. Read the first few lines and you have my rebuttal to the claim that God is moral, all powerful and all knowing. Now, if he is moral, but not omni-anything, or even manifest in reality at all, why even have the concept of God?

I'm well aware of Epicurus dilemma and could happily cite the common counter-arguments given ("dark is the absence of light", "free will" etc etc) but that gets away from the point in question. As previously, there is a school of non-secular thought that doesn't hold that certain acts or things are moral "because God said so" but because they're an intrinsic part of God and the universe was created as an expression of God. As such their approach to deontological ethics is not a "divine command" theory but instead about discovering these moral facts; an approach that many secular ethics approaches likewise take.

And in regards to Aquinasí statement about practical reasonableness, if secular and nonsecular societies practiced his views on the matter, there wouldnít need to be a discussion about it. My claim is the more often, secular societies are more prone to practical reasonableness. For example, abortion is practically reasonable with all that we know about science, but religious dogma is wasting taxpayer dollars clogging up the process with iron age ethics. That isnít practical reasonableness.

Then again we return to the first point; there is nothing intrinsically better about all secular ethical systems compared to all non-secular ethical systems. Once more, I do not dispute that some systems of secular ethics are superior to some systems of non-secular ethics; my objection is to the idea that secular ethics are intrinsically superior to non-secular ones.

Can I also just note that the way the discussion is jumping between metaethics, normative ethics, jurisprudence and sociology (and back again) makes it somewhat difficult to follow.

4. Secular society doesnít rely on Ďbecause I said soí. Secular societies and nonsecular societies that act exactly like secular ones, like England, have legislative and judicial discourse about issues, hashing out the issues and coming down on once side or another. Authority for enforcing laws comes down to ĎI said soí, but that is by proxy of the legal processes that decided the laws in the first place.

This seems somewhat incoherent; you're putting forward a legal positivist theory (in broad terms that the authority of law derives from its legal source, not its content) in the context of non-secular ethics when one of the key points of legal positivism is that ethics and the law are separate, if connected, things and to discuss the authority of law in the context of ethics or morality is a folly and failure of language. 

Shall we try to codify this into a more useful structure for the debate rather than leaping all over the shop? In the context of secular ethics:

1) What, in the context of morality/ethics, do terms like "wrong", "right", "good" and "bad" actually mean?

2) How do we discover this?

3) What is the nature of a moral judgement?

4) How do we move from discussing a factual statements about what is to ethical statements about what we ought to do?

5) Why should one be moral?

With those points noted we could start moving into normative ethics and looking at the standards of a right or wrong action.

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Re: What Are Your Impressions of Atheism
« Reply #35 on: July 26, 2014, 08:15:59 AM »
So long as a person treats me with respect and does not try to change me/force me to believe something I don't, I will respect that person in return, regardless of a person's religion or lack of a religion.

Yep, that about sums up my feelings as well. People can believe whatever they like. As long as they're not assholes about it, or try forcing me to believe, then go with what works for you.

Offline Ephiral

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Re: What Are Your Impressions of Atheism
« Reply #36 on: July 26, 2014, 09:39:00 AM »
Thank you for the clarification. I agree that there are those that do what you refer to. That is all the more reason we should work towards positive progress. Social problems like bigotry and irrational dogma are both threats to ethical society. Atheism doesn't mean one can't be a moron or a bigot, but belief in God isn't going to make someone less disposed to those kinds of behavior. The way they were raised, with or without God, has the most to do with that. There is some false equivocation going on, but it is minor. The lack in a belief in a god does not lead to bigotry itself, though it can open people up to social groups that do promote bigotry, like eugenicists, anti-feminists or social Darwinists.
Well, that's kinda my point - belief or lack of belief in a deity does not correlate in any meaningful way with the quality of one's character or moral reasoning. In short, "Secular moral systems are superior!" is an extremely broad and fundamentally indefensible statement. I do think secular reasoning provides a better toolkit for approaching morality, so it's certainly possible to build a better system, but to assume system X is superior to system Y just because X is secular and Y is theistic is blatantly succumbing to the halo effect.
 

There are a few options when it comes to belief in God: Youíre correct, and there is a creator god who is benevolent, powerful, all knowing, and intervenes in the world; there is no such being, and you are creating that god with full awareness that it is false; or there is no god, but you are under the impression that there is. If the last option is so, that is delusion. My view is that delusion is more likely than Christians are lying, or that they are correct. So, as a matter of necessity, I have to make that claim or yield the argument. That means that the delusion issue is well within subject of the discussion, as well as being objective.
You're forgetting belief-in-belief. And there are still more civil and less provocative ways to say that than 'delusion'.

I want to clarify that I never expressly said that I feel anger at people who wish me merry Christmas. I take the small talk and the good wishes as I would a Ďhave a nice dayí. It does get me thinking though. Mentioning it in the OP was incidental. Iíd say at worst, Ďmerry Christmasí is insensitive. Itís not mean-spirited though, so I let it roll off.
Is Christmas even primarily religious any more? Yes, it originated as such, but I suspect that the overwhelming majority of people who celebrate it do so entirely without a church of any sort - it's an excuse to get together with your family, exchange presents, and have some warm fuzzy feelings. At least, this is the case in my area - is it that different elsewhere? (Yes, I know there are people who cite its religiosity as an excuse to get offended. No, I don't think they constitute anything approaching a majority. They're fighting a battle that was lost years ago.) And, well, if it's primarily secular... where's the offense?

For that matter, even if it is religious... I'm still with Oniya. Would you get offended if I wished you a happy Canada Day, or would you recognize that, though my culture is not yours, I'm hoping you have a good time?

Offline BeeJayTopic starter

Re: What Are Your Impressions of Atheism
« Reply #37 on: July 26, 2014, 04:58:50 PM »
Which leaves us again with the central point... it might be a valid criticism for some non-secular ethical systems compared to some secular ethical systems but it is not intrinsic to secular ethical systems compared to non-secular ethical systems. Remember, the claim that was made was that secular ethics (without qualification, so all secular ethics) are superior to non-secular ethics (again without qualification, so all non-secular ethics).

Let me clarify what I mean. I am not saying that every instance of secular morality is better than every instance of non-secular morality. I agree that claim is fatuous, and thus I am not making it. My claim is that secular morality is systemically better, in that secular morality has everything that non-secular morality has, except for many limitations, like the outside imposed moral standard. Here is a link to a lecture that I think people should watch all the way through, but the good stuff starts in part 2/6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKdDFCJKBrs&index=2&list=PL4119AEC250E7777E

I don't particularly like the "according to some" best caveat here. As above, the discussion was on the basis that secular ethics are superior to non-secular ethics, not that some secular ethics are superior to some non-secular ethics. The caveat seems like a way to walk away from that.

I addressed this with my clarification of my claim. And Ďaccording to someí is the way we set a standard. If people donít agree on it, we canít have a standard for anything. That means the Ďsomeí have to agree, usually a majority.

Regardless, the view taken above would seemingly exclude all deontological or virtue theorists from being viewed as secular ethics and even certain consequentialists. Moreover, there is a certain utilitarian flavour to several religious ethical systems... notably William Paley when it comes to Christian utilitarianism... which would seemingly fit into the above point.

Any view that claims to get its morals from a deity or revered mortal (in the case of Buddhism) is not secular. That clears it up. If those moral theorists have a holy outside standard, they canít be viewed as secular.
   
In addition, the standard criticisms of consequentialist/utilitarian ethics would likewise appear here; is-ought, open-questions, the utility monster etc etc.

How about you state those criticisms in this thread. Iím not arguing with Wikipedia.

I'm well aware of Epicurus dilemma and could happily cite the common counter-arguments given ("dark is the absence of light", "free will" etc etc) but that gets away from the point in question. As previously, there is a school of non-secular thought that doesn't hold that certain acts or things are moral "because God said so" but because they're an intrinsic part of God and the universe was created as an expression of God. As such their approach to deontological ethics is not a "divine command" theory but instead about discovering these moral facts; an approach that many secular ethics approaches likewise take.

Again, post those arguments here. And as far as your arguments about divine command theory: You first have to demonstrate the existence of God and his intrinsic nature to forward this view. Even if this were all true, there is no practical difference between God literally saying what is moral and Godís very nature denoting what is moral. The followers of this god would still be taking their morals from an outside force instead of working them out on their own. Of course, evidence shows that men, and not God, wrote all of the religious texts in the world, so these systems you speak of simply take their moral guidance from a group of bronze and iron age mortals. Your claim that there are secular ethics approaches that even consider the Ďintrinsic nature of Godí is definitionally false.
   
Then again we return to the first point; there is nothing intrinsically better about all secular ethical systems compared to all non-secular ethical systems. Once more, I do not dispute that some systems of secular ethics are superior to some systems of non-secular ethics; my objection is to the idea that secular ethics are intrinsically superior to non-secular ones.

The clarification handles this point.

Can I also just note that the way the discussion is jumping between metaethics, normative ethics, jurisprudence and sociology (and back again) makes it somewhat difficult to follow.

All of those things are germane to the subject and are intertwined with the subject matter. They all matter to moral systems and thus cannot be excluded from the discussion. I donít understand how you can claim to separate them or that I am jumping around. Please elaborate.

This seems somewhat incoherent; you're putting forward a legal positivist theory (in broad terms that the authority of law derives from its legal source, not its content) in the context of non-secular ethics when one of the key points of legal positivism is that ethics and the law are separate, if connected, things and to discuss the authority of law in the context of ethics or morality is a folly and failure of language.

Can you explain where I claimed that ethics and the law arenít separate? We base some of our laws on ethical standards, but they arenít intrinsically tied to one another. And I wasnít discussing laws as they pertain to ethics, but to society. Iím sorry if that was unclear.

Shall we try to codify this into a more useful structure for the debate rather than leaping all over the shop? In the context of secular ethics:

1) What, in the context of morality/ethics, do terms like "wrong", "right", "good" and "bad" actually mean?

2) How do we discover this?

3) What is the nature of a moral judgement?

4) How do we move from discussing a factual statements about what is to ethical statements about what we ought to do?

5) Why should one be moral?

With those points noted we could start moving into normative ethics and looking at the standards of a right or wrong action.

Listen, Iíve just been responding to arguments. I am not creating the structure of the arguments being posed to me, so I canít easily impose order on the conversation. So claiming that I am Ďleaping all over the shopí is disingenuous. Iíd be glad have a more structured debate, but the purpose of this thread was to get peoples opinions and start a discussion. Naturally, people arenít going to get together and spontaneously have a 18-way structured debate with a moderator. Iím happy to respond to your numbered list, but you canít expect the discussion to stay numbered and you canít accuse me of switching subjects, because the nature of this discussion will cause the subject to change often.

1) Things that are Ďrightí and Ďgoodí are things that benefit people and society. ĎWrongí or Ďbadí things harm people and society.

2) We decide individually and in societal groups, based on the effects of various action. If an action generally beneficial, we decide that it is good. If an action is generally harmful, be decide that it is bad.

3) A moral judgement is when an individual or a group decides whether an action or group of actions is good or bad, beneficial or harmful.

4) We can move from what is to what ought to be by deciding ourselves what ought to be. There is no other way to decide what we ought to do than to figure it out ourselves.

5) Because being moral benefits everyone around you. If everyone is moral, you will receive approximately the amount of moral behavior that you put out. That means, that if society is generally moral, people will be constantly taking actions that benefit the group.

Of course, as I qualified before, you and I might be able to have structured back-and-forth, but that wonít translate to the entire discussion.

Well, that's kinda my point - belief or lack of belief in a deity does not correlate in any meaningful way with the quality of one's character or moral reasoning. In short, "Secular moral systems are superior!" is an extremely broad and fundamentally indefensible statement. I do think secular reasoning provides a better toolkit for approaching morality, so it's certainly possible to build a better system, but to assume system X is superior to system Y just because X is secular and Y is theistic is blatantly succumbing to the halo effect.
 
You're forgetting belief-in-belief. And there are still more civil and less provocative ways to say that than 'delusion'.
Is Christmas even primarily religious any more? Yes, it originated as such, but I suspect that the overwhelming majority of people who celebrate it do so entirely without a church of any sort - it's an excuse to get together with your family, exchange presents, and have some warm fuzzy feelings. At least, this is the case in my area - is it that different elsewhere? (Yes, I know there are people who cite its religiosity as an excuse to get offended. No, I don't think they constitute anything approaching a majority. They're fighting a battle that was lost years ago.) And, well, if it's primarily secular... where's the offense?

For that matter, even if it is religious... I'm still with Oniya. Would you get offended if I wished you a happy Canada Day, or would you recognize that, though my culture is not yours, I'm hoping you have a good time?

You nailed it, while contradicting yourself a little. Secular morality has a better toolkit for approaching morality. To clarify again, I am claiming that secular morality is systemically superior, and not that all secular societies are superior to all non-secular ones. A better toolkit (system) is the only thing secular morality needs to be superior if belief or lack of belief play no necessary role in character and moral reasoning. If both secular and non-secular people have the same character and moral reasoning (They donít always, but for the sake of argument, we will say they do), the person with the better toolkit for deciding questions of morality will end up with a better chance to be moral.

First of all, I donít think delusion is really offensive. Delusion is a natural part of having a human brain, and to claim that you canít be delusional is to be arrogant. Second of all, as far as the truth of the discussion goes, someone being offended by a statement doesnít make it false. Of course if someone I want to befriend is offended by what I say to them, I have to stop saying that thing to them, right?

If I say that your belief in belief is unfounded, is that really less offensive than saying the you are delusional? If your position is unfounded, that means that you came to the wrong conclusion, which is a jab your intellect. Saying someone is delusional doesn't make that claim. I think itís a little oversensitive to hold the view that if something is offensive, it shouldn't be said, but like I said, I will be adjusting my language in the future. If someone on this forum doesn't want me to say they are delusional, I wonít. But I will kindly not argue with someone who isn't prepared to have their views, specifically the view of ďI am not delusionĒ, challenged.

It doesnít matter if Christmas is primarily religious anymore, although I would claim that is most certainly is, at least in the US and especially where I live. It can be taken or delivered as a positive religious message, and that is insensitive. I thought you were interested in curbing offensive language?

Canada day isnít a religious holiday, so the comparison is apples vs. oranges. Wishing me merry Christmas is assuming that I am Christian or not caring whether I am or not. Wishing me happy Canada Day isnít assuming anything about me. 

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Re: What Are Your Impressions of Atheism
« Reply #38 on: July 26, 2014, 05:10:43 PM »
I think the point that Consortium11 was trying to make is that 'according to some' is incredibly vague and imprecise.  Even Wikipedia articles will get flagged with a [citation needed] tag when that phrase is used without further clarification.

Offline Serephino

Re: What Are Your Impressions of Atheism
« Reply #39 on: July 26, 2014, 06:47:48 PM »
Like others who have posted here, I'm fine with whatever a person believes as long as they're respectful of me and what I believe.  Can you really fault me for seriously disliking anyone who calls me stupid or delusional?  I believe what I do for a reason, and it isn't because I'm too stupid to see reason.  I take equal offense at Christians preaching at me for being Pagan.  But as long as you don't feel the need to show me why I'm wrong, we'll get along just fine.  I believe religion is a personal thing, and everyone has their own path, and the right to believe as they see fit.   

Offline BeeJayTopic starter

Re: What Are Your Impressions of Atheism
« Reply #40 on: July 26, 2014, 09:03:06 PM »
I think the point that Consortium11 was trying to make is that 'according to some' is incredibly vague and imprecise.  Even Wikipedia articles will get flagged with a [citation needed] tag when that phrase is used without further clarification.

This is a fair point. I wasn't terribly clear. 'According to some' doesn't explain how societies use majority opinion as a means by which to make collective decisions. Generally, the majority opinion is expedited with some sort of representative legislature. When we construct definitions, it is understood that not 100% of humans agree on every entry. And thus, 'according to some' is a shorthand way of saying, "People use this definition". Thank you for your input.

Offline BeeJayTopic starter

Re: What Are Your Impressions of Atheism
« Reply #41 on: July 26, 2014, 09:06:32 PM »
Like others who have posted here, I'm fine with whatever a person believes as long as they're respectful of me and what I believe.  Can you really fault me for seriously disliking anyone who calls me stupid or delusional?  I believe what I do for a reason, and it isn't because I'm too stupid to see reason.  I take equal offense at Christians preaching at me for being Pagan.  But as long as you don't feel the need to show me why I'm wrong, we'll get along just fine.  I believe religion is a personal thing, and everyone has their own path, and the right to believe as they see fit.   


I have some views that run counter to yours, and I would like to discuss them, but it doesn't seem like you are terribly interested. If you do want to have the discussion, be aware that some of my arguments might offend you by their very nature, so if you aren't down I understand. I'm not interested in stepping on toes or seeming like a jerk (OR delaying my approval process on grounds that I am perceived as hostile :P).

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Re: What Are Your Impressions of Atheism
« Reply #42 on: July 26, 2014, 09:20:31 PM »
You nailed it, while contradicting yourself a little. Secular morality has a better toolkit for approaching morality. To clarify again, I am claiming that secular morality is systemically superior, and not that all secular societies are superior to all non-secular ones. A better toolkit (system) is the only thing secular morality needs to be superior if belief or lack of belief play no necessary role in character and moral reasoning. If both secular and non-secular people have the same character and moral reasoning (They donít always, but for the sake of argument, we will say they do), the person with the better toolkit for deciding questions of morality will end up with a better chance to be moral.
This is not a clarification, this is an explicit retreat from the point I originally objected to. It's also still wrong. A better toolkit is a great thing if you care about outcomes... but the most important thing is still the outcome. I absolutely agree that getting that toolkit into general circulation is a vital and important step - but teaching people to use it is arguably more important.

First of all, I donít think delusion is really offensive. Delusion is a natural part of having a human brain, and to claim that you canít be delusional is to be arrogant. Second of all, as far as the truth of the discussion goes, someone being offended by a statement doesnít make it false. Of course if someone I want to befriend is offended by what I say to them, I have to stop saying that thing to them, right?
Truth is irrelevant to civility - and civility is kinda an important point around here. It's also far more likely to keep the discussion productive if you consider how what you're saying is likely to be received.

If I say that your belief in belief is unfounded, is that really less offensive than saying the you are delusional? If your position is unfounded, that means that you came to the wrong conclusion, which is a jab your intellect. Saying someone is delusional doesn't make that claim. I think itís a little oversensitive to hold the view that if something is offensive, it shouldn't be said, but like I said, I will be adjusting my language in the future. If someone on this forum doesn't want me to say they are delusional, I wonít. But I will kindly not argue with someone who isn't prepared to have their views, specifically the view of ďI am not delusionĒ, challenged.
No matter how much you try to dance around it, "delusional" has judgemental connotations in most societies - connotations not shared by "faulty priors" or "bad conclusions" or "unfounded beliefs". It is entirely possible to phrase these things in a way that doesn't come across as condescending or insulting.

It doesnít matter if Christmas is primarily religious anymore, although I would claim that is most certainly is, at least in the US and especially where I live. It can be taken or delivered as a positive religious message, and that is insensitive. I thought you were interested in curbing offensive language?

Canada day isnít a religious holiday, so the comparison is apples vs. oranges. Wishing me merry Christmas is assuming that I am Christian or not caring whether I am or not. Wishing me happy Canada Day isnít assuming anything about me.
I... really can't believe I'm explaining this, but:

1. Elliquiy is not society at large, and not every single interaction in society at large is intended to be a deep and productive discussion.
2. There is no inherent or intentional insult in a Christian assuming someone else to be Christian. Given the common view of mental illness, this is not true of "delusional".
3. If "Merry Christmas" assumes that you are Christian, then "Happy Canada Day" assumes you are Canadian. Reexamine your assumptions; as it stands right now, it looks like you're searching out reasons to be offended at any sign of potential religion.
[/quote]

Offline BeeJayTopic starter

Re: What Are Your Impressions of Atheism
« Reply #43 on: July 26, 2014, 10:36:42 PM »
This is not a clarification, this is an explicit retreat from the point I originally objected to. It's also still wrong. A better toolkit is a great thing if you care about outcomes... but the most important thing is still the outcome. I absolutely agree that getting that toolkit into general circulation is a vital and important step - but teaching people to use it is arguably more important.

Like I said, Iím not saying that all of our current societies implicitly use said toolkit. Iím saying that, were it to be used perfectly (Iím aware that perfection isnít possible here), it would always yield better results than the perfectly-wielded toolkits of non-secular societies. Please read my premise. Itís an argument for the superiority of the system, not the current state of the world and current Ďoutcomesí. We can have a discussion about the state of moral systems in the world if you like, but I wasnít making a claim about that.

Truth is irrelevant to civility - and civility is kinda an important point around here. It's also far more likely to keep the discussion productive if you consider how what you're saying is likely to be received.

I understand and agree with you. I have already yielded to civility and stated that I was too brash before. I disagree with the standard of civility, but I will adhere to it regardless.

   
No matter how much you try to dance around it, "delusional" has judgemental connotations in most societies - connotations not shared by "faulty priors" or "bad conclusions" or "unfounded beliefs". It is entirely possible to phrase these things in a way that doesn't come across as condescending or insulting.

The point I was making is that Ďunfounded beliefí isnít even what I was accusing believers of, though I do think they are guilty of that. I think they are guilty of delusion, and whether Iím right or not, it is germane to the discussion. It may be offensive to say, ďYou are delusional,Ē but it doesnít change the truth of the matter. Like I said, Iím not yielding the argument because someone is offended, because it is frankly irrelevant. I will, however, try to be less personal in my language and apologize if I do offend someone, then I will refrain from arguing with that person. Let me reiterate: Regardless of connotation, delusion *may* be the proper descriptor, which means we necessarily need to use it when it applies. That means, if you want to have a meaningful discussion about belief, you have to be prepared to be accused of it, just like Iím prepared to be accused of being a moral relativist, which I am not. Also, bare in mind that you donít have to be mentally unstable to have a delusion. See my example about losing the remote. I am going to repeat myself one last time: I am going to try to be more civil. There. The dead horse is beaten.

I... really can't believe I'm explaining this, but:

1. Elliquiy is not society at large, and not every single interaction in society at large is intended to be a deep and productive discussion.
2. There is no inherent or intentional insult in a Christian assuming someone else to be Christian. Given the common view of mental illness, this is not true of "delusional".
3. If "Merry Christmas" assumes that you are Christian, then "Happy Canada Day" assumes you are Canadian. Reexamine your assumptions; as it stands right now, it looks like you're searching out reasons to be offended at any sign of potential religion.

1. Iím aware of small talk and petty conversation in society.
2. While it isnít harmful in itself to make an untrue assumption about someone, it is insensitive and can lead to harmful societal changes and clashes. Itís in bad taste to assume that I am a Christian or a Hindu. Just donít make the assumption in the first place.
3. Happy Canada day just assumes that I might celebrate Canada Day, not that Iím necessarily Canadian. Itís a petty assumption. Itís still wrong to make that assumption, so I must change my evaluation: You shouldnít assume someone might celebrate Canada Day, either. And to be clear, I am offended by religion. Iím sure that Canada Day celebrations have never lead to the genocide or the suffering of women around the world. Somehow cracking down on Canada Day doesnít seem as important as cracking down on religion.

In conclusion, I donít think that every person that wishes me Ďhappy Hanukkahí is feeding me hatred. I also donít think that they mean anything other than what they are saying, or that those greetings each deserve a meaningful discussion. I just think that making the assumption is a bad habit, and can facilitate worse habits. Thank you for your input.

Offline Silk

Re: What Are Your Impressions of Atheism
« Reply #44 on: July 27, 2014, 04:37:21 PM »
The only thing that bugs me about this whole argument on ethics is the whole "I'm ethical because I'm religious, it's god that tells me that it's wrong to kill people" It just leaves me as feeling sorry for the person, they're so convinced that they need that power figure to tell them that it is wrong to kill people and they wouldn't be able to work it out for themselves. Its just... Wow give yourself some credit here guy. But then this is part of the reason why I'm so fascinated with Psychology. The Milgram shock experiment and the prison experiments are prime example of this sort of mentality in action and why the idea of general morality and civility are very flimsy concepts. Ultimately it all comes down to one ultimate factor.

The Authority figure.

Offline Sabby

Re: What Are Your Impressions of Atheism
« Reply #45 on: July 27, 2014, 04:41:22 PM »
Yeah, I don't think it's a good idea to take moral cues from a being that decides to kill every living creature on the planet because He's disappointed with the conduct of just one of them. I can learn to love my neighbor and such without going to someone who committed the greatest act of genocide ever conceived :P

Offline Serephino

Re: What Are Your Impressions of Atheism
« Reply #46 on: July 27, 2014, 06:27:17 PM »
I have some views that run counter to yours, and I would like to discuss them, but it doesn't seem like you are terribly interested. If you do want to have the discussion, be aware that some of my arguments might offend you by their very nature, so if you aren't down I understand. I'm not interested in stepping on toes or seeming like a jerk (OR delaying my approval process on grounds that I am perceived as hostile :P).

Yeah, a discussion may not be such a good idea.  My faith is a big part of my life, so trying to use logic to show me I'm wrong is offensive, yes.

Offline Sabby

Re: What Are Your Impressions of Atheism
« Reply #47 on: July 27, 2014, 06:35:32 PM »
Yeah, a discussion may not be such a good idea.  My faith is a big part of my life, so trying to use logic to show me I'm wrong is offensive, yes.

Doesn't that demonstrate that you're not entirely certain you're correct? I mean, my understanding of the world is heavily based on certain assumptions, like that the family I remember is actually my family, or that the face I see in the mirror is actually my face. I'm not afraid of being challenged on those, even knowing that being proved wrong would be a massive upheaval of my entire existence. I am that convinced I am correct that I am me and my parents are my parents and my brother is my brother and I truly did experience the childhood I remember that I have absolutely no fear of being challenged on it.

If I was scared that I am wrong, and thus a significant portion of my life is proven to be wrong, I might be very afraid of someone 'trying to use logic to show me I'm wrong'.
« Last Edit: July 27, 2014, 06:44:03 PM by Sabby »

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Re: What Are Your Impressions of Atheism
« Reply #48 on: July 27, 2014, 08:17:53 PM »
Personally, I'm atheist, but not necessarily anti-theist.  I'm fine with other religions existing, but not with them getting special privileges or extra pull with state bodies (such as the somewhat-recent kerfuffle at a few schools involving changing how evolution is taught and muddying the subject with trying to teach students creationism).  Believing in a deity is fine, but trying to force that belief onto others when they don't want it is not, and it seems religious groups get a lot more leeway with that forcing than non-religious groups.

Offline Serephino

Re: What Are Your Impressions of Atheism
« Reply #49 on: July 27, 2014, 08:29:59 PM »
This is why I don't like to participate in conversations like these, and was tentative about doing so this time.  Do I have doubts I'm right?  I'll admit, on occasion, I do.  But it's not often, and it's very fleeting.  I think it's human to not be 100% certain 100% of the time.  It's more like 99.9999% of the time.  But am I afraid to be proven wrong?  No, I'm not.  Let me make that part clear.  I just don't like anyone attacking my dearly held belief system, especially if they're going to call me delusional or stupid because I don't subscribe to their logic. 

I always hear that there is no scientific proof God exists, and if he's so powerful, why doesn't he just prove himself.  The God I know won't do that because that would interfere with free will.  He has a thing about that.  So no, there will never be any scientific proof God exists.  I'm okay with that.  I'm secure enough in my faith that I'm not afraid of death.  My faith is strong enough that even when I felt I couldn't take any more, I didn't take my own life because I knew what would happen on the other side. 

Comments like that are also why Atheists get labeled as fuckwads.  Accusing me of being afraid is an attack, or at least it feels like one.  You just couldn't accept that I didn't want to get into a discussion that even the poster himself admitted would probably be offensive to me.  I've heard it before, and it didn't end well.  I'd rather just agree to disagree.  The only way to know for sure who is right is to die.  I'm 99.9999% sure I am, and I can live with you not agreeing.  You'll find out when the time comes.  I don't feel the need to 'save your soul', or anything like that.  I know it'll just be a waste of breath.  I have about as much chance convincing you you're wrong than you do of convincing me I'm wrong.  All that lies down that path is anger and hurt feelings.

Now, if a person wishes to share why they believe as they do, but they can accept and respect the fact that I have a much different world view, I am willing to have a civil discussion and compare notes.