Fire-breathing gods


I once had the opportunity to summit the Villarica volcano in Chile and peer into its mouth. The mountain felt alive, expelling pulses of hot air like it was breathing out of its fiery gut. It evoked such mystery and splendor! Who was this massive soul who breathed fire? It was easy to understand how the Incas could build a theology around such a real, natural phenomenon operating on a much grander plane than us piddly humans. For all anybody could tell, the mountain had obviously been there forever and always would be with its searing heart.

From the post "Why does faith = redemption?", theists and atheists seem to agree that our respective belief systems are built on underlying assumptions. Given an initial framework, life becomes a cycle of world view -> behavior -> world's response -> adapting our world view -> adapting our behavior, etc. Sounds like evolution to me! It also offers a simplistic explanation for the creation of any belief system.

One of the classic Richard Dawkins quotes is, "We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further." Why is it so easy for religious folk of a particular faith to see the splinter in the eye of other religions, but not the log in their own? (And here’s a bone for the theists) What trees are in the atheist’s eyes?

I would say that it is due to history and culture. Any belief system, even atheism, is subject to seeing what we want to see. Because assumptions are all tied together, starting with some basis, reinforcing and expanding it is rather straightforward. Opposing it takes a whole lot of work. Indeed, human nature seems to direct us to become "set in our ways". We become self-protective and defensive when we see a threat to our cultures and ideologies. The young earth creationist, for example, recognizing the threat of evolution to his assumptions is likely to turn a blind ear and give the knee-jerk response that all the information necessary to understand creation is in the Bible.

What brings us to blows or at least not to see eye to eye (with all that wood we’ve go in there!) is the subjective nature of the argument. Given the same embodiment of our opponent, the same genetic make-up, thinking ability, family, and history, would we not have the ideology and behavior of our opponent?

49 comments:

7K said...

I love this. Great blog. My nearly 40 years in the "Christian" wilderness made me begin to wonder, what do we do with "Blessed are the peacemakers?" Is there any group anywhere more splintered than the church? Is there any religion less unified?

I partly blame modernism. The search for the absolute through reductionism brought us to face-value literalism with regard to the Bible. Hence, "Creationism." God made everything in seven days. So obvious to me now that this is allegory. And it is more valuable to me now as allegory.

But your main point here sounds to me very post-modern. All of our realities are little more than language constructs, specific to our own cultures and what we know or have processed. We are in the information age and it will be very difficult for people to distinguish if one product is better than another. If, for instance, Islam is to win the religious sweepstakes, it will have to do so by force.

Did the Internet undo Communism? Will it undo Islam, or even Christianity? Or will something else happen? My assumption and belief is that Christ is who he said he was. That trumps all other information.

In the fragmentation of post-modernism everything will be tested in the wikipedia whirlpool of information and counter-information. In that unprecendented historical situation, wouldn't we expect truth to win, wherever it is? Or is it all just imploding into a black hole?

psiloiordinary said...

Sounds post modern? Must be wrong!

- - -

I mean it.

- - -

How do you know what Jesus said?

And why believe him and not Mohammed. Or Odin etc?

Serious questions - I am not attempting humour with my usual reckless abandon - I really mean it.

How do you know? And why believe him and not the others?

- - -

Whirlpool and all - don't you mean plug hole rather than black hole?

;-)

Gorgeous language 7k BTW.

Gordon J. Glover said...

There is a lot of good stuff here, but for now I'll only respond to one point. I've heard that quote by Dawkins before: "We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further."

I completely understand the intent behind a statement like this. Sam Harris uses a similar argument in his "letter" - but here is why these arguments aren't percieved by theists as an effective arguement against theism.

Imagine that we are all at a party when somebody notices that there is a goldfish in the punchbowl. Now, to everybody in the room - every other person at the party is a suspect. Who put the goldfish in the punchbowl? We all believe SOMEBODY put it there, even though we all might disagree on the identy of prankster.

Now if somebody stood up and said, "You all believe that SOMEBODY put the goldfish in the punchbowl, but since you can't agree on who this person was, I will go one step further and say that nobody put the fish there!" - we would all think that this person had a few drinks too many. That doesn't make any sense! Even though we can't agree on who committed the prank, we can at least agree that the goldfish couldn't have gotten in the punchbowl by itself. From our perspective, saying that NOBODY did this would be cop-out. Giving up on hard work of trying to figure out who was responsible for what we can all clearly observe.

So it is not entirely accurrate to say that all theists are atheists with respect to the other "gods" - we still agree that something fills the "god" niche, even if we can't all agree on what that something is.

-GJG

Tom said...

This punchbowl argument is not the same thing. You are claiming that nearly everyone except a few atheists in the world recognize a universal need of a God percept and it's the atheist's lack of it that leaves him the odd man out. As long as everyone has some God image, then we can all enjoy the party.

C'mon let's not be so politically correct and a little more honest about what you think of other religions. We can easily recognize problems and inconsistencies in someone else's faith, especially when the deity is something totally different from our own.

Using my Incan example, I don't know their theology well, but I know they sacrificed children, throwing them into the mountain's fiery mouth. Was this not bunk? When I summited the mountain, I appreciated the splendor and could understand how one without a knowledge of geology or our scientific advances now could easily succumb to believing something else. But I can see it as superstition and completely deny that God's existence.

psiloiordinary said...

GjG,

Perhaps we can differentiate about the "something"?

Supernatural or unknown/presumed natural?

I would only call you religious if you believe the something to be supernatural.

I am in the unknown category.

Gordon J. Glover said...

Tom - Ok, so half the crowd claims that nobody pulled the prank. The point wasn't that athesim is a minority (I have no idea if it is or isn't) - the point is that if you have already accepted the fact that SOMEBODY must have pulled the prank, any claim that all of the suspects are innocent does not seem rational, even though it is "numerically" closer to the truth than the "all but ONE of the accused are innocent" hypothesis.

Like any analogy, this one also breaks down if you over-analyze it.

RE: the Incas - I would say that they obviously understood that a greater power than themselves existed, and that this transcendent concisousness was the result of the image of God in man. But I believe that apart from any further revelation, this "god instinct" can have many perverse expressions (even with revelation we screw it up more often than not).

But God is very patient with knuckleheads like us. He even accommodated his first standards of worship to the Ancient Near-Eastern practice of sacrificing the most "perfect" animals to remove the guilt of one's sin. However, in a brilliant move to put an end to all such bloody practices, God put on human flesh, dwelt among us, fulfilled all of the requirements of the "law" on our behalf, and became the final and perfect sacrifice that ultimately removed all religious obstacles that separate the creature from the Creator.

The reason I choose Christ over all other religious systems is that he did not come to start a new religion (new requirements for man to reach God), but rather to end all religions and open the door for man to know God apart from the requirments imposted on man by "religious" regimes. Why do you think we was such a threat to the Jewish religious establishment?

Christianity is the only instnace I am aware of where an infinite, eternal, and omnipotent God pursues mankind and fulfills the requirements of his own law on man's behalf, removing the guilt of sin and setting us free to live life without fear and guilt - as opposed to other religions that force man to run through a series of religious wickets to reach God.

Unfortuntely, Christianity has evolved into something that it was never inteded to be - an establishment that at it's height (late middle ages prior to the reformation) rivaled the Jewish political system that Chirst spent so much time speaking out against. Rather than remove the obsticles between God and man, we seem perfectly content to add more and more. Christianity has become conflated with everything from political party affiliation, to music preferences, to dress and grooming standards, to scientific viewpoints and everything in between.

I honestly can't blame you folks for feeling the way you do, but for people like Cliff, Steve, Stephen, and Me, there is enough still there that worth holding on to so that, rather than throw up our hands and walk away from it all, we choose to press on and help encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ to not lose sight what the kingdom of God is really all about. My work to remove faith as an obstacle to accepting evolution (and also evolution as an obstacle to faith) is just one piece of the puzzle.

I don't claim to have an objective scientific evidence for any of this one way or the other (so don't ask), but if I can not reject the idea that somebody put the fish in the punchbowl, then I'll go with the prankster that makes the most sense to me. That's pretty much where I stand.

-GJG

Tom said...

But GJG, given what you know about this prankster, you can see the flaws in other peoples' ideas. Even though you can hear them out, understand their reasoning, and empathize with their percepts, you know they are wrong, otherwise you would have no choice but to change your view of the prankster in this silly whodunnit.

The question is: How can subjectiveness be minimized so that "ultimate truth" can be revealed?

One problem potential problem with Christianity casting God as a personal God and to have Jesus operate on such a personal level is that it drives subjectivity. Now, perhaps like evolution itself which selects individuals and whose effects are felt at the population level, perhaps you are advocating a population-level theology that is the result of independent theologies operating and being selected for.

The point, though, is that all belief systems (including atheism) have a knack for being able to see the fallacies of other belief systems but do not have the ability to see the silliness of their own.

Theists (and I'll use as example Christians), from where they stand, have a hard time understanding why anybody would choose atheism. The Dawkins quote is meant to highlight that theists actually have rejected deities, so in a way, they should be able to begin to understand how the atheist operates and creates a world view. The atheist has denounced the same deities as the Christian. The atheist, however, has also applied the same arguments to denounce the Christian God.

The difficulty of the conversation is that the atheist and Christian probably used the same arguments to debunk these religions. However, when the atheist applies this same language to the Christian God, a wall is put up, the Christian claiming that it is a subjective experience the atheist just wouldn't understand. This trumps what we (hypothetically) agreed upon.

I guess the question for the Christians is, is there really agreement in the way we debunk other religions? For the atheist, it is (completely?) a rational debunking. Is it for the Christian their subjective experience that they use as argument? That is, do they say, "My God percept is just so dead on that theirs must be wrong."?

Cliff Martin said...

Gordon,
Thank you for the punchbowl-live-seafood analogy! Of course, as you often remind us, analogies all break down, and Tom correctly identifies a weakness in this one. But it does show us that Dawkins is overly simple. There are two distinct issues. Atheists are not separated from theists by a just small degree or two. The first and major question which must first be resolved is "Does Creation suggest a Creator; is there evidence (subjective or otherwise) that there is a God?" The second question, "Which God?" only becomes an issue for those who answer the first in the affirmative. So the Dawkins quote makes for a nice sound bite, but it greatly distorts the matter: we are simply not all atheists as he declares.

Tom,
Excellent, insightful arguments. I have a few comments. My approach to Christianity has been through a Christian upbringing, and thus my perspective on comparative religions is admittedly skewed by that upbringing. But there have been many intellectual agnostics who have first rationally opted for theism, and then chosen Christianity after considerable comparative religion studies (C.S. Lewis perhaps being the best known. Francis Collins is a contemporary example, Hugh Ross being another.) I do not know how often this happens, or how often the seeker ends up making a different choice. And the choice may well be influenced by the dominate culture of the seeker. But your question about how a Christian concludes that the Christian God is the one true and living God does have an answer. For me, and my study, I have found Christianity to be more rationally satisfying than what I read of other religions. But more importantly, I find the teachings of Jesus to be qualitatively distinct from every other religious system of thought. What about Gordon's description of the work of Christ, which sets Christianity into an entirely new category distinct from all other religions (indeed, distinct from religion itself!). You did not respond to that. Do you agree or disagree with his analysis?

Cliff Martin said...

I'm working here from memory, and my memory may be mistaken. Some of those intellectual agnostics cited may not have made their entrance into faith following a study of comparative religions. But many have. Others, (and I think Ross may be among them) have become Christians after having set out to specifically disprove the claims of Christianity.

I realize that plenty, including Tom, have migrated the opposite direction after honest intellectual evaluation. So this entire line of reasoning may be just a red herring. My point was that there exists a rational basis for choosing Christianity over other religions.

Tom said...

I agree and disagree with Gordon's entirely new category.

Jesus did not come to change the rule of law, but to uphold it, and re-establish/modify it from the Jewish establishment's treatment of it. (Matthew 5, especially verses 17-20). Indeed, Matt 5 implores Christians to in some ways be more strict about the interpretation of the law, explaining that it's not just actions, but even thoughts should also come with nasty or rewarding consequences.

The contradictions even in this single chapter show that one can take about anything they want from the Bible to define their own brand of Christianity which allows for independent, single viewpoints, but it also affords institutions to be able to make their own interpretations. Is there any other deity so splintered as the Christian God?

In short, I'm saying that the Christian God is so open to interpretations of laws that this allows for a freedom even from religion, but it also allows governments and institutions to wield it.

Tom said...

Cliff, I will re-read some CS Lewis books I have (especially Surprised by Joy and Mere Christianity and comment on them. His eloquent writing makes you nod your head as you read, but there are some problems with his rationale that I did take issues with. (I've forgotten what they are. When I re-read them, I'll post my opinions).

Gordon J. Glover said...

Tom,

Unfortunately, there are plenty of examples from history that prove you right.

But the reason that we can even sit back and pass judgment on the historical abuses is because we both know that there is a line that shouldn't be crossed. And when this line is crossed, those actions resonante out of phase with our moral sense and this stirs us to make these rigteous judgements - not because they offend our individual preferences, but because they are an offense against nature itself.

So we're back to our same problem. We are both using the same tools of logic, reason, and tradition to sort out right from wrong, but one position claims that there is a moral law that exists independent of our chemistry and biology (nature), and the other position claims that the moral is a product of our biology and chemistry (nature).

Is this a fair assessment?

psiloiordinary said...

Yep.

Presumption of the supernatural versus don't know/natural.

Gordon J. Glover said...

Could it actually be both? Rather than take the approach of ID and say "either/or" (natural precludes supernaturel, or supernatural precludes the natural) - why not consider the possibility that what we find expressed through nature and natures law is actually a reflection of the creator?

Certainly that was the position of the great Renaissance scientists (Newton, Kepler, etc...).

7K said...

"How do you know what Jesus said?
And why believe him and not Mohammed. Or Odin etc?"

Odin is mythological, so I would have to approach him as a type of ancient god like the Greeks invented. For the Vikings, I suppose Odin did have a religious function, but he is isolated and culture-specific, not having much of a universal appeal. And, as a fantasy, he is obviously imaginary.

Mohammed did not claim to be God, but a messenger of Allah. He believed Christ was a savior, not the savior. Therefore, comparatively, between Jesus and Mohammed, I am more compelled to believe Jesus.

But if you are influenced by the Jesus Seminar or the historical Jesus, you may have some logical grounds to dismiss whether he even existed. Some people dismiss him as myth, some dismiss the gospel accounts, appealing to historians who say there is not enough evidence to prove he even existed.

Thus, I cannot "prove" even his existence. So my foolishness is that I believe in spite of a possible lack of evidence, at least according to skeptics. But belief is the very thing that connects me to him and provides the evidence. Jesus' whole message is: "Believe in me." When a person makes that step, then they are convinced, not because of historical evidence or even the Bible, but because of his Spirit. The Spirit brings the gnosis, the knowledge, to me or anyone who believes.

For some reason God requires faith in this exchange, at least in the present paradigm. Thus, if we are resistant to faith, we refuse the only sure evidence he provides.

Jesus is the only historical person I know of who does this: not Buddha, not Confucius, not Odin, or Zeus, or Osiris. Not even Moses. Jesus' claims are indeed extravagant, and either true or the ravings of a madman. The only test I really have is to do what he asks: believe.

To believe is to transfer confidence. When the transfer is made ~ when I exchange my support paradigm ~ then I find out that, crazy as this may sound, Jesus is the one.

It may indeed sound like madness to you. How can one trust that which is invisible and without rational support? But I took that leap and was convinced, without the luxury of easy, rational, empirical "proof."

"Whirlpool and all - don't you mean plug hole rather than black hole?"

I was recently looking at Hawking's theories of black holes and the theory of everything. Physicists call it "information" that becomes compressed into these strange "holes" (plugs probably). So I was hopefully seeing a metaphor here, of the information superhighway like a black hole. No value-judgment intended. I'm thinking that we are in a new age, so to speak, a new Renaissance. Right now, "post-modern" is a label for that, because we really don't know what this sea is we're sailing into.

"Supernatural or unknown/presumed natural?"

Above nature, I think, is meant. Transcendent. So, no, not natural. Interestingly, though, Jesus is natural. God invading the natural. God who is Spirit combining with nature. It is like the Hermetic Axiom: as above, so below. When God assumes human form the unity of heaven and earth is achieved.

Maybe what I'm saying here is super meets natural in Jesus. Did I almost say superman? Hm. Did Neitzche ever consider Jesus as superman?

Tom said...

Too funny. "Superman" is the topic of one of my soon-to-be future posts!

You Christians make my head spin.

7K, you say that you choose Jesus because he is not a myth, but then admit that some historians might say that he never existed. Other historians might say that if he did exist, perhaps he was some Joe Schmoe who ended up having a myth ascribed to him for political endeavors. Regardless, you are saying that it feels right.

I think this was what Cliff was trying to get out of Psi when asking him about his wife. There is this chemistry/attraction I have with my wife. I can say that I love this, that, and the other about her, but I know other women with all those same characteristics that I don't find attractive or have that seemingly magical chemistry. It feels right.

I guess I'm trying to say having experienced The Spirit in the past and this chemistry with my wife is the closest I can come to empathizing with you. I discount those alter call and spiritual experiences now as not only seeing what I wanted to see, but feeling what I wanted to feel. Perhaps it's the same with my wife and I. We both feel what we want to feel and when doing that through each other we get perpetual chemistry going in some way that is beyond verbal expression.

Gordon J. Glover said...

"beyond verbal expression"

Sounds like a catchy book title.

-GJG

psiloiordinary said...

I thought we were talking about the "cause" - if it is singular then I guess it would have to be one or the other.

If we are talking about the here and now then do our folks of faith accept that reason and logic together with evidence should be used to decide if the supernatural exists or not?

- - -

One problem I have with faith is this;

When you decide to believe something despite lack of evidence and perhaps even inspite of the evidence, then where do you draw the line?

E.g. Chelation treatment kills an autistic kid becasuse his parents think it will cure him despite no evidence of this.

or Kid dies of measels here in the UK after irrational scare about vaccines - and I am aware of ridiculess court case in the US at the moment on the topic of vaccines.

Get more serious now (yes I mean it) and ask about the 9/11 bombers and their faith.

If the whole point of faith is to shut your eyes (to reality) and believe, then how do you stop such crap from happening?

psiloiordinary said...

How do you know Jesus was not mythological?

Mohammed claimed to have the true word of god. How do you know this was untrue?

Tom said...

And as has and will be shown on this blog, I have several problems with faith.

Faith and persistence in one's notions just because it feels right is only going to cripple community. It shuts doors if people cannot start speaking a common language and have a more substantial basis, especially when it comes to core ideologies. Believers might speak of community of believers being "one in the spirit", but common emotion and passion in throngs make for exciting ball games and also horrific wars.

Cliff Martin said...

Psiloiordinary,

“If the whole point of faith is to shut your eyes (to reality) and believe, then how do you stop such crap from happening?”

In all three of the examples you cite (chelation therapy, the silly vaccination controversy, and the 911 bombers), the actors did indeed “shut their eyes (to reality) and believe.” I quite agree that is dangerous, or at the very least just plain stupid. In each case, we can identify a reality they chose to deny, evidence they chose to ignore, rational thought to which they closed their eyes.

But I’m having a hard time seeing how that is analogous to my faith. We’ve already agreed there is no evidence for atheism. Regardless of whether there exists evidence or “reality” supporting theism, there is clearly none supporting atheism. To what specific reality did I “shut my eyes” when I chose to believe?

I contend that my act of faith is no way analogous to the three examples you cite. The only one of the three that could remotely be analogous is the case of the 911 bombers. But consider that their “act of faith” cost 3,000+ innocent lives, including many Muslims. They had to “shut their eyes” to universally accepted morality. To what did I “shut my eyes”?

psiloiordinary said...

Hi Cliff,

I think this gets us moving forwards a little and cuts to the heart of a key issue.

Re your comment about universal morality; The 911 bombers did not ignore it, they just interpreted the holy book in a different way to others - and because holy books have no way to test which is the "correct" interpretation they ended up putting souls above lives.

- - -

I would just like to stress that I am using this as an analogy only - Cliff and the other folk of faith here seem very civilised and decent folks. I am more used to abuse than I would like to be after a year of asking questions like this on the net and so this blog and it's commenters are a very pleasant find.

So - I am in no way equating you with suicide bombers - period. But I am drawing an analogy to illustrate a problem with faith which can crop up.

- - -

Other less dramatic (and hopefully less offensive) comparisons might include many religious folks bigotry towards gay people, JW's refusal to give blood transfusions to their kids, refusal to give out condoms in countries where AID's is rife, people being "cured" by prayer and not taking their medicine, children being killed by close relatives in exorcisms, do you want me to go on?

These are not examples of people having faith in their hearts and simply living a life of faith - they are examples of others lives being badly impacted by the actions of folks acting on their faith and ignoring the evidence/lack of evidence.

I think that these are analogies to your faith in that they are examples of people choosing to believe something despite the lack of evidence. You have no evidence to support your view. I have asked for your evidence more than once now.

If I am wrong in this then please share your evidence with us.

Gordon J. Glover said...

Psi,

I think you're just saying that we must avoid extremes. Your atheism doesn't lead you to nihilism, becasue it is balanced with a sense of transcendet purpose that you create for yourself. And our faith does not lead us to stop taking medicine or working for a living because it is tempered with our belief that - while a reality exists beyond time/space/chemistry/biology, God's purposes are ultimately accomplished thruogh time/space/chemistry/biology.

Earlier you said, "I thought we were talking about the "cause" - if it is singular then I guess it would have to be one or the other."

But a theist does not limit reality only to that which can be emperically detected. If indeed there is ultimate purpose and meaning to life, then every event here on earth has both an ultimate (teleological) cause as well as a proximate (material) cause.

Why is the tea kettle boiling? Because (1) heat is being transfered to the water molecules, exiting them to the point where they can escape the bonds that keep them in a liquid state and they charge off into the atmosphere as a gas; and because (2) I wanted some tea.

The fact that there is an ultmate cause (I wanted some tea) doesn't mean that proximate causes were bypassed - as the ID or Creation Sciences movements are prone to conclude. But the fact there is a material explanation doesn't mean that there is no greater purpose beyond cause and effect - as some atheists are quick to charge.

-GJG

Tom said...

GJG said, "But the fact there is a material explanation doesn't mean that there is no greater purpose beyond cause and effect - as some atheists are quick to charge."

I don't know if I'm one of those quick-to-charge atheists or not. I think there's some semantics here that we are likely to get tripped up on. I would like to substitute "material" for "natural" as "material" for me connotes matter and "natural" includes the material but adds in other physical forces such as energy, too. In this case, all animals behave and "think" blurring the distinction between teleological and material. (Is a reflex teleological or material?) Either way, it falls under the umbrella of natural. Thinking and behavior can become complex, naturally, transcending the material, giving life meanings. So adept are we humans at complex thought that we can imagine there is perhaps even other purposes out there. We can even build stories around such longings, but at the end of the day, we can only see evidence with cause and effect.

Tom said...

I was inspired by Cliff's blog to ask the following:

Theist-scientists, why do you think that the fire-breathing-god-in-the-mountain is now longer practiced? (Yes, there are probably some Andeans today who worship the mountain and even incorporate some of those beliefs with Christianity. Also, with the conquering of them by the Spanish, Christianity was imposed, but let's assume that at least part of the decline was due to the theology itself).

For me, I discount this religion because of what I know about geology. The mountain exists as a pimple formed by magma driving the earth up. It spews every now and then due to random continental drift. The Incan story is much more romantic.

But I think there is a problem here for science and religion. Obviously, for religion to ignore science is dimwitted, but by jumping on the science bandwagon to confirm or expand knowledge of God does that not also shoot itself in the foot? Could not the Andeans argue that this geological knowledge only expands their God -- that he is more complex than previously thought, operating on a much broader scale using continental drift and a much deeper scale, right down to the layers of the earth's core? Doesn't that add more meaning to their God or does it churn out more people like me who just see it as Mother Nature just doing her thang?

Gordon J. Glover said...

Ok Tom, I'll make you a deal: when this volcano-god puts on human flesh, lives a blameless life among his people and throws himslef into the volcano so that they no longer have to live in fear of nature, then I'll consider converting.

But seriously, you make an excellent point (and are probably laying a trap for me to walk right into) so I'll take the bait.

Yes, a consistent theists should not dismiss this volcano-god simply because we understand the geology behind the effects we observe. In fact, if I were in a position to survey the thousands of proposed dieties and select which one to follow, perhaps this one would make the list.

But I can say, without even having studied this volcano-god, that any theology based on a created thing would not resonate with me nearly as strongly as the Christian God, in whom all things have their being - who faithfully and precisely governs the course of natural history, and causes creatures to achieve the neurological complexity to realize that they, as part of their amazing journey from stardust to bipeds, have the rational attribues of the cosmos harwired into them so that, by studying the world around them, they can recognize, model, and make use of nature's coherence and elegance to advance thier civilation to God's glory.

And an added bonus: to keep us from being misled by darkenss, superstition and from seeing God's creation as a "demon-haunted world" (an unfornate consequence of this hardwired instinct to assign teleogical purpose to the things we observe in nature) this God puts on our flesh and spends a few years among us to ensure that no matter how we chose to organize ourselves as a society, we should always remember to treat our neighbor as we would want them to treat us, and we should not bind the consciouses of other men by burdoning them with the whimsical and capricious requirements of man's attempts to please god (man-made religion), but rather rest in faith that the maker of heaven and earth has satisfied the harsh demands of his own justice - so that we might serve him and serve our fellow man free from the crippling burden of religious guilt.

I am ashamed to admit that the Christian religion has not always lived up to this high calling, but I choose not to abandon it. And I hope you can at least see a big difference between Christian theology and a theology that requires one to throw a child down the mouth of a volcano - just to buy them a little more time.

Forget about heaven/hell and the "afterlife" for a moment(whatever those are) - THIS IS WHAT CHRIST came to set us free (ie: SAVE us) from. From religion = superstition. You might not see it this way, but having been liberated from superstition, you are a benificiary of Christian theism.

-GJG

7K said...

"How do you know Jesus was not mythological?"

I don't know where I got the idea that myth doesn't have to be bad: Joseph Campbell? Do we assume we don't have a mythology just because we are sure our God exists?
Let us say Christianity is in some way mythical or at least that Christians entertain myths: it could be a useful or very positive mythology anyway. It could bring good things into the world.

If I can't empirically prove Jesus existed then perhaps my belief-system is a myth, sure. In fact, I tend to think at least some of what I believe could be classified as myth. So I constantly test what I am believing, or what I hear someone else say I should believe. I have believed dumb things.

But part of my testing is to use scriptures, to sort of measure information against biblical information. I don't think an atheist would process scripture that way, especially starting from the basic interpretational grid that is atheism. I approach the "myth" with faith, which is not unreasoning, and discover it is true. As an atheist I could not regard it as anything but myth. I said as an atheist, "Man made God in his own image." The moment I entertained believing though I would begin to cease to be atheist.

So "myth" is partly perspective. It becomes myth if I believe it to be less than true or outright fantasy. As an atheist, I considered Christianity a dangerous fantasy. Now I would say religion can be dangerous, obviously, but that there is nothing dangerous about Christ himself. Whew, this is tough, dude.

"Mohammed claimed to have the true word of god. How do you know this was untrue?"

Mohammed borrows from the Jews and the New Testament to claim a "higher revelation." Considering the source, we have a violent and amoral man claiming to have received something greater than the Son of God. I should at least be skeptical. Comparing him with Jesus gives me reason to reject him. But Muslims generally don't have that luxury of comparison. They just believe what they are told.

I'm not afraid to hold Jesus up to any light. He always seems to come out on top. Am I just prejudiced? I could be deceived, of course.

Again, though, my faith is not based on reasoning or even comparisons. It seems to be more based on acquaintance. I can't know Mohammed. I might would like him as a person. But he's dead as a doornail.

Whereas, with Jesus, I can "know" him. He exists through his Spirit, and his Spirit is knowable. Invisible,yes, but tangible in a sense.He is always there. I don't think Muslims have that kind of connection with their prophet.It's a mysterious connection with the God who became Christ: He lives on in believers by his Spirit, and that Spirit works on us, changing us to be like him.

Tom said...

GJG said,
...any theology based on a created thing would not resonate with me nearly as strongly as the Christian God, in whom all things have their being.

I was expecting this argument that the Christian God created everything, is omniscient, omnipowerful, and omnipresent. He trumps all other potential contenders. But try building a theology around it, for Christ's sake! ;)

Forget about heaven/hell and the "afterlife" for a moment(whatever those are) - THIS IS WHAT CHRIST came to set us free (ie: SAVE us) from. From religion = superstition. You might not see it this way, but having been liberated from superstition, you are a benificiary of Christian theism.

There's a lot embedded in this paragraph. For starters, the heaven/ living eternally idea is a strong attractor to the religion and I don't think you can really separate it out. But I'll pretend that is not there. In which case, what is faith other than a belief and feeling that you cannot substantiate? I would label that "superstition". In which case, with its persistent call to faith, I would say Christianity without religion is extraordinarily superstitious.

Gordon J. Glover said...

I have substantiated my faith, and I have provided you evidence - just not to your satisfaction.

If I wanted to doubt that your wife loved you, I could find a reason to reject whatever subjective evidence you could give me. Since I could never expereience it first hand the way you do, I could formulate all sorts of arguments to explain away your "evidence".

After a while, you would cease trying to convince me because you would realize that I could keep playing this game forever, and it doesn't change the fact that you know your wife loves you. So you would move on to something with a higher return on your time investment.

See you on the next thread!

-GJG

Tom said...

Gordon, I'm afraid we'll inevitably go round and round on many of my posts. How can it not? I find the exercise frustrating but also stimulating and illuminating.

For the next post, I'll try not to throw out a horse we end up beating to death.

Cliff Martin said...

I have friends from Cambodia who are staying with us for a few days. Tonight they related the story of a young Cambodian gang leader who recently gave his life to Christ. He was changed overnight. His drug addiction and life of crime left him in a flood of tears. Today, he is the new leader of brand new group of believers in a neighboring Phnom Penh suburb.

This scenario is repeated again and again and again. I know it can be written off as some natural psychological phenomenon. But its a pretty darn good phenomenon no matter how you slice it and dissect it. It just gave me pause to wonder ... How many drug addicted criminal gang leaders of late have had their lives revolutionized by their new found atheism! Any? Ever?

Tom said...

Cliff, by their nature, I think conversion experiences to religion are more prone to epiphanies than conversions to atheism. My conversion to atheism took years and this blog is, in part, some of the healing process for me.

I can imagine a conversion to Christianity would be quite pronounced for a gang leader who knows in his heart he is performing evil acts and in one fell swoop, through accepting Jesus as his savior, he can have his sin wiped clean. That's got to be a liberating comfort! Alternatively, the bad-dude Christian will have a hard time converting to atheism for such cleansing when he already associates forgiveness and better behavior as ultimately attained through Jesus Christ. In fact, he probably assumes atheism will only make him a worse character, so he probably does not even consider it an option.

Conversions to agnosticism from theism I think is relatively straightforward. The person just really doesn't care so much to push the issue, so God's existence becomes an ignored topic in the agnostic's thoughts and behavior.

Whether coming from the agnostic or theist camps, conversions to atheism are much more conscious, deliberate, and reasoned. Also, when coming from a religion, there is often a lot of anger and rebellion directed at the religion. Unfortunately, this indicates to the theists that atheism does not lead to happiness. However, atheism can culminate in ridding the individual of guilt and some of the ridiculous practices and beliefs brought on by religion, allowing the atheist to reach a certain peace with the world and our inevitable mortality, but such a transformation is subtle.

7K said...

Just a further thought on the idea of Christian mythology, or the Christian myth. In one sense, a myth is a story that explains something. Christianity is about a story: the story of humanity as that relates to a particular human, Christ. So, in a sense, it may be thought of as mythical ~ actually, in my thinking, as the BIG myth: the overarching cosmic story is how I see it.

Another aspect of myth is basically that it can mean a fiction. So I cannot concede that the Christian story is a fiction. For one thing, it has a huge and very successful history for something that could be based on a myth. If Christ were a myth (a fiction) that myth has created a huge, complex, and very influential culture and history. Hercules hasn't done that.

Could atheism also be considered a myth? It is a belief, is it not? And it tends to produce systems or cultures of a certain kind.

Are 10% of all people atheists (something like that)? So we could say the "no God" myth is another option among an array of cultural beliefs. Why is it superior to all other beliefs or myths? Why is it superior to Christianity?

Finally, then, does it produce a religion? Atheism, like religions, requires devotion and single-mindedness. It molds a certain type of individual. It categorizes its devotees. Thus, perhaps, atheism could also be a myth. If there is a God, then atheism is a fiction. And, perhaps, its superiority to all other concepts is still questionable, since it must prove there is no God to remain viable. And how do we prove there is no God?

Cliff Martin said...

Thank you Tom. I wasn’t actually looking for an answer, but it was interesting reading your account of the typical conversion to atheism. I can understand what you say about that (the healing aspect, the freedom from guilt, etc.), particularly in light of the branch of Christianity from which you came. I appreciate your honesty. Please accept this honest statement: If I were to “convert” the atheism, I would not feel the release from guilt you mentioned. Guilt simply is not a driving force in my life. Christians who are driven by guilt (and a great many are! perhaps most Christians) have never understood the gospel, let alone practiced it. When the work of the Cross is understood, and the grace of God is fully received, the believer walks in freedom from guilt. “There is therefore now no condemnation” (Romans 8:1) is the banner over the believer’s life. It is unbelievably freeing. It applies to my life when I screw up. But no truth in all the Bible acts as a greater motivator to please my Father. So I screw up less!

And for me, this whole way of approaching life with God provides me with the kind of evidence Psiloiordiary keeps asking for. It is personal, highly subjective, no doubt. [It is not the only evidence. There is a steady stream of answered prayer, sometimes remarkable answered prayer, both in my life and in the lives of friends. There is internal evidence in the Scriptures themselves. All such evidence can be discounted as anecdotal, or circular, or subjective. But when faith is confirmed again and again, the body of evidence mounds up (the preponderance of evidence, as the lawyer might say) in such a way that my faith is validated for me.] But the most convincing evidence for me comes from this dynamic of receiving forgiveness, walking shame-free, being motivated by this freedom to live life on a higher moral plane, resulting in greater purity in my heart, resulting in greater joy and fuller life. Can such evidence be quantified? Can it be subjected to double blind trials? Can it be analyzed in a lab? Would it hold up in court? No, of course not. It is faith.

I do not identify with the faith of even those “less dramatic comparisons” Psiloiordinary lists off in his 10/17/07 1:06 AM posted comment. In each case, Psi identifies specific behaviors that turn a blind eye to evidence. Since I believe, as does Gordon, that God works in and through natural phenomenon 99% of the time, I choose not to close my eyes to the kinds of evidence that leads the JW to make foolish medical choices. It is why I pray like crazy for my wife, while I take her in for chemotherapy. Religion drives people to do weird things. I agree. Examples abound. I would need to have Psi follow me around for a month or a year to identify where my faith makes me close my eyes to common sense, or evidence. I’m certainly not aware of any such pattern in my thinking or life choices.

Psiloiordinary, I tried to argue that there is a difference between behaving in a way that indicates one is willfully blinded to evidence, versus accepting something to be true without the presence of empirical proof. We keep missing each other, I’m afraid. You keep saying “Faith makes people do weird things because faith blinds them to evidence.” And I agree with that premise. You then turn that premise into “So, Cliff, show me the evidence for what you believe.” That does not logically follow. What does logically follow your premise is my question to you, “Okay, so what evidence did I ignore, or blind my eyes to, when I chose to believe in God?” None, as far as I can see. Because I think we all agree that there is no empirical evidence for atheism.

psiloiordinary said...

Hi Folks,

I have no time to post at the mo but will have in the next few days - just wanted to say some great posts here.

I will try to respond to all soon.

Cliff - your last comment helps a lot - a penny has dropped for me from this - thank you.

Speak to all soon.

Regards,

Psi

Tom said...

Cliff, thanks for your persistently clear, honest comments.

While I think my use of the word "guilt" probably applies to most Christians, I just thought that I should make a personal qualifier on my guilt.

My upbringing, both from my parents and my church, did not specifically employ guilt. It was largely self-induced. I knew the particular kind of person I should be and was a generally good, honest, fun person. What I would feel guilty about was my relationship with Jesus. It was never my actions, per se, but the feeling that I should be feeling more -- both being filled with the Spirit and also feeling more of a true devotion to God on my part. It was up and down, and not in an abnormal way, I don't think for most Christians. After all, it is a personal relationship that is touted, and any relationship is going to have its ups and downs. When it is so abstract and intangible, though, it's even worse. I wanted something consistent and the more I studied it, the more inconsistent Christianity appeared with the world.

Perhaps it can be argued that I was looking for an "out" and found it with evolution, but the acceptance of evolution for me put so much into perspective. I still see it operate at so many levels.

Now I know you and seemingly most of the Christians on this site do not see evolution and Christianity as being incongruent. There's nothing to respond to this particular comment as I will describe my perspectives in future posts. I said it in a comment before and perpetually see it this way -- evolution does not negate God, but it obviates God. When I see evolution at work, I do not see God and I can build a consistent world view without Him. Whenever I try to incorporate God, it's still square pegs and round holes.

Side note: I'm actually on a long weekend vacation and with limited internet access, so I may not read/post for a few days....

psiloiordinary said...

Hi Folks,

Sorry for the delay - in France now on a family holiday - just another empty period of hopelessness in my atheist existence ;-)

- - -


GjG said;

"Another aspect of myth is basically that it can mean a fiction. So I cannot concede that the Christian story is a fiction. For one thing, it has a huge and very successful history for something that could be based on a myth. If Christ were a myth (a fiction) that myth has created a huge, complex, and very influential culture and history. "

Size and complexity of story is not logically a measure of veracity as you seem to be claiming. Or did you mean something else?

"Could atheism also be considered a myth? It is a belief, is it not?"

No it is simply a lack of belief in god. It is the absence of a belief.

I have explored some of the reasons why I think atheism is "better" than theism; it accords with the evidence we have, and it is less likely to lead to bad things which sometimes follow from the use of irrationality which is a part of all faiths, some to more degree than others.

Finally, then, does it produce a religion? Atheism, like religions, requires devotion and single-mindedness.

No it doesn't - I follow the evidence - just show me your evidence and I will look at it with an open mind and assess it - like everything else in the world - with reason and thought - I can imagine the evidence that would convince me there was a god - I am open minded.

It molds a certain type of individual.

Wow.
I would be delighted for you to elaborate on that.

It categorizes its devotees.

I am not sure what that means.

I call myself an atheist and yet I do not claim to be able to prove there is no god.

You (I presume) don't believe in the tooth fairy, but do you have proof it does not exist?

Cliff Said;

Guilt simply is not a driving force in my life.

Good for you.

And for me, this whole way of approaching life with God provides me with the kind of evidence Psiloiordiary keeps asking for. It is personal, highly subjective, no doubt. [It is not the only evidence. There is a steady stream of answered prayer, sometimes remarkable answered prayer, both in my life and in the lives of friends.

This is fascinating. Would you be prepared to keep a prayer diary?

Write down what you pray for. Then, perhaps at the end of each day mark down which ones where answered and how?

What do you think - I think I could learn a lot from you sharing this with me.

There is internal evidence in the Scriptures themselves. All such evidence can be discounted as anecdotal, or circular, or subjective. But when faith is confirmed again and again, the body of evidence mounds up (the preponderance of evidence, as the lawyer might say) in such a way that my faith is validated for me.]

This sounds awfully like the ufologists when presenting mountains of evidence each single piece of which is poor.

But the most convincing evidence for me comes from this dynamic of receiving forgiveness, walking shame-free, being motivated by this freedom to live life on a higher moral plane, resulting in greater purity in my heart, resulting in greater joy and fuller life. Can such evidence be quantified? Can it be subjected to double blind trials? Can it be analyzed in a lab? Would it hold up in court? No, of course not. It is faith.

OK - I think I see what you are saying here - what I would say is a result of your faith, with your faith being based upon the evidence you previously listed - is from your viewpoint, part of the evidence for your faith. Is that right?

I would need to have Psi follow me around for a month or a year to identify where my faith makes me close my eyes to common sense, or evidence. I’m certainly not aware of any such pattern in my thinking or life choices.

I think that the prayer diary would be a good start.

Psiloiordinary, I tried to argue that there is a difference between behaving in a way that indicates one is willfully blinded to evidence, versus accepting something to be true without the presence of empirical proof. We keep missing each other, I’m afraid. You keep saying “Faith makes people do weird things because faith blinds them to evidence.” And I agree with that premise. You then turn that premise into “So, Cliff, show me the evidence for what you believe.”

Cliff your claim that behaving against some evidence is more irrational than behaving in the absence of evidence is the difference between us.

Why do you think this is so?

e.g. medical treatment A is superseded by medical treatment B because of the evidence. Are you saying it is better to go for treatment C where no evidence at all exists than to chose A over B despite the fact there is some evidence it it's favour?

I am trying to make the point that when you leave the evidence behind then it leads to wrong decisions full stop and that saying you are just doing something with no evidence is no always better than going against the evidence.

That does not logically follow. What does logically follow your premise is my question to you, “Okay, so what evidence did I ignore, or blind my eyes to, when I chose to believe in God?” None, as far as I can see. Because I think we all agree that there is no empirical evidence for atheism.

Well how about Archaeological evidence and the bible for a start? What about the fact we have no contemporaneous writings about, let alone by, Jesus?

But we have lots of evidence that "messiah" was a fairly common profession thousands of years ago.

Atheism is simply a non belief in god. Therefore your comment that there is no empirical evidence for atheism is illogical and a non sequitur. There is also no evidence in favour of the non existence of leprechauns.

- - -

Re "conversion to atheism" I agree with Tom they are very much more a non event - mainly because, as we have previously discussed, atheism is just a non-belief in god. It is not a positive belief just an absence of one. It is not on its own any more fulfilling or life changing than a non belief in fairies.

Now if you go from one day being a super committed fundamentalist to the next day being an atheist then it would certainly seem pretty life changing - but I have never heard of such a conversion and my experience of atheism and atheist is that it doesn't happen.

I think Tom puts it very well.

Cliff Martin said...

Psi,

Wow. One thing at a time. For starters, when I wrote, " I think we all agree that there is no empirical evidence for atheism" I was not attacking the basis of atheism. Your objection about my lack of logic displays how you completely missed the point. I was just stating a fact with which we all agree. And based upon that fact, I was asking you to show me what evidence I had to "close my eyes to” when I chose theism. None.

I understand that you see little difference between ignoring evidence, and choosing to believe something in the absence of evidence. But there is not a complete absence of evidence for theism, just the lack of empirical proof. The evidence for theism (number one exhibit: the cosmos!) is sufficient to have made theists of millions of intelligent, thoughtful, rational people through the ages. This surely must set it apart from belief in leprechauns. No?

Cliff Martin said...

Psi,

You keep saying things to effect that atheism is not a positive belief in anything, just a non-belief in theism. That strikes me as a rather too convenient cop out. "A non-belief needs no evidence."

So could I say that my theism is nothing more than a non-belief in atheism? Therefore, my theism requires no evidence? Of course, my tongue is firmly planted in my cheek. But really what is the difference?

If I say I don't believe in leprechauns, that is a non-belief requiring no justification, no evidence, because there are no meaningful implications to such a non-belief. But it seems to me that atheism is quite different. To express a belief in atheism is to positively believe that everything we are, and everything we see came into existence completely through natural causes. Not even Einstein could bring himself to such a belief as that even though he wanted to. The Big Bang happened apart from a First Cause, you would say; that does not sound like a non-belief to me. It is a belief. It requires precisely no more, nor less, evidence than my chosen belief that theism fits reality better. Some say that atheism requires a greater leap of faith than theism (of course, this is said by theists!); but my point is just that theism and atheism are on equal ground when it comes to “need for evidence”.

Show me where my thoughts are amiss.

psiloiordinary said...

Hi Cliff,

Take your time. One thing at a time is fine.

I can only read what you write, sorry if I got the wrong end of the stick.

The only problem with your claim that atheism is a belief is one of fact - look it up in a dictionary.

- - -

If you can claim the universe as "evidence" of god then rainbows are evidence for Leprechauns.

There are many logical implications of non belief in Leprechauns. You will be plagued by bad luck - are you honestly claiming you have never been unlucky?

Your non belief means a lack of respect for the little folk which means you will never get your pot of gold. Whilst not quite immortality this is surely worth a shot at?

Now why not believe in them? If you turn out to be wrong and they don't exist then what have you lost?

Please tell me why these claims are wrong.

After all Cliff you are an atheist for all the gods but one.

Assuming there is a God, assuming they will reward with immortality/torture eternally then that gives you a 1 in 3,000 chance of immortality. Remember that you didn't chose, your faith was picked by your parents whose faith was picked by . . .

Heard about the Monty Walls problem?

- - -

I listed a few bits of evidence you are ignoring in your belief but you seem to have ignored them.

I can add to the list the evidence claimed by every other faith.

I have previously confirmed that I don't claim to be able to prove there is no god, just that I don't see any evidence for it.

I don't even see any semi-ambiguous evidence.

I don't see anything "supernatural" in the day to day world - every claim for this I have looked into has been bunkum.

So why leap to the thought that if these small things claimed for the supernatural are in fact not true, that the supernatural must explain the big thing?

- - -

Have you heard of the logical fallacy called the argument ad populum?

You just produced it.

Look back in history and see millions of intelligent thoughtful, Mythraists, Hindu's, Nazi's, believers in WMD's etc.

Do you see?

Popularity demonstrates nothing.

7K said...

"Popularity demonstrates nothing."

It demonstrates the preferential tidal flow of a fickle population. What more do you want? Proof?

"It molds a certain type of individual."

"Wow.
I would be delighted for you to elaborate on that."

I am exploring the idea that faith in Christ produces Christians. It places boundaries on your life trajectory. Even if one is a "lousy" Christian, one's whole purpose becomes bound up in his faith.

So some Christians would argue that atheism is just another "faith", perhaps a religion. The atheist who claims contrary may just be in denial, and claiming superiority based on no real evidence ~ or certainly no proof.

If Christian faith produces "Christians" then atheistic faith produces "atheists."

Christians often say, "There are no atheists in foxholes." Meaning, atheism does not of itself produce answers about death and, when faced with death, the atheist will opt for help from Deity. Of course, this is a presumption, I realize. It sounds more like wishful thinking on the part of Christians who don't want to deal with people who enthusiastically don't believe.

Atheism will inform the life-trajectory in some way: the way one acts out the drama of life. The atheist will presumably be free from the constraints of an outside deity and ethic. In fact, I wonder if that is the basic euphoria of atheism, that it can be utterly self-directed. But therein lies a danger: some atheists may not construct a very good self-directed ethic in relation to mankind. Take Lenin for example.

So atheism and theism will "mold" a different life-trajectory. There is often a detectable self-righteousness in atheists that is reminiscent of fundamentalist Christians. Some atheists sound like they are working out angst against offenses they suffered at the hands of neurotic religionists.

I'm always searching for peaceful solutions. Often that is achieved by combining dichotomies: in this case, atheistic theism. Can one believe and not believe at the same time? I think I can approach all information with doubt, though, testing it, and at the same time retain faith. Then faith does not interfere with reason.

7K said...

One last thought, sorry:

On "argumentum ad populum" ~ isn't democracy the will of the majority? Doesn't that mean that democracy enshrines a fallacy? And if public tastes are fickle and easily swayed by propaganda, wouldn't even democratic processes tend to instigate whatever is the popular delusion of the moment (instead of the unpopular delusion of a king or dictator)?

Cliff Martin said...

Psi,

“The only problem with your claim that atheism is a belief is one of fact - look it up in a dictionary.” So I did, and here is what I found on my Mac dictionary:

atheism noun, the theory or belief that God does not exist.

Did I miss your point?

Your memory fails you, Psi. This is the second time you have accused me of ad populum. And both times you have been mistaken. You may recall my use of the Anatole France quote about 50 million people saying a foolish thing. I avoid fallacious ad populum arguments.

My point was that millions (perhaps I should have said billions) of people have looked at Creation and concluded that there is a Creator, but that nothing like that claim can be made for leprechaun belief, setting the two belief systems into separate categories in my mind.

While I do not use ad populum, I do tend to give a closer look at those belief systems that have commanded large followings than those that have not. Hence, I take theism seriously as belief systems, and I do not take leprechaun belief seriously.

psiloiordinary said...

Hi Cliff,

Mine says - lack of belief in god - if you want to stick to the definition you are using then I am not an atheist - I think we covered all this early on in my comments on this and your blog.

So. I say that I don't believe in god because I see no evidence.

I ask you for evidence. I suggest a way to gather some - re the prayer diary - any thoughts? You yourself said the other evidences can be discounted.

You responded by saying that non belief is the same as belief - hopefully I have clarified this for you now from my point of view at least.


Can you now respond to my other points? Including the ones about Leprechauns?

You claim that you don't commit ad populum then you do it again. What else is treating things more seriously because they are popular?

Presumably then you could not have been a Christian unless born into a Christian family until Christianity burst on to the world stage - you would not have taken it seriously before then?

7k,

I get so many different messages about what it means to be a Christian that I struggle to see this when viewing it from outside of your faith. Look at Northern Ireland.

The atheist who claims contrary may just be in denial, and claiming superiority based on no real evidence ~ or certainly no proof.

I have not claimed to be able to prove your god does not exist - but you keep throwing this at me time after time - Dawkins doesn't even claim this.


Do you want to discuss these issues with me or with your own definition of me?

Atheism is me saying - I see no evidence for your god. How is that a faith?

Is not believing in Leprechauns a faith too? If not why not?

Meaning, atheism does not of itself produce answers about death and, when faced with death, the atheist will opt for help from Deity.

I have answers about death - do you want to hear them?

Atheism will inform the life-trajectory in some way: the way one acts out the drama of life. The atheist will presumably be free from the constraints of an outside deity and ethic. In fact, I wonder if that is the basic euphoria of atheism, that it can be utterly self-directed. But therein lies a danger: some atheists may not construct a very good self-directed ethic in relation to mankind. Take Lenin for example.

I see your Lenin with an Ayotollah Homeny (bad spelling I am sure) and raise you a Hitler. Shall we drop this silly game?

I assert that your outside directed ethic doesn't exist - your holy book is full of contradictions and many more fellow followers of yours disagree about things than agree about things. Furthermore, your book seems to suggest many things that are now widely rejected by many religious folks as bad anyway.

I'm always searching for peaceful solutions.
Snap.

Often that is achieved by combining dichotomies: in this case, atheistic theism. Can one believe and not believe at the same time? I think I can approach all information with doubt, though, testing it, and at the same time retain faith. Then faith does not interfere with reason.

Sorry mate this is indecipherable to me.

Logical fallacies are descriptions of errors in thought.

Democracy is a type of government.

I think both are important. We decide truth by evidence and logical thought.

We decide government without the aid of either far too often.


Your comments are a "category error" logical fallacy.

;-)

Cliff Martin said...

Psi, now you're up to three.

You claim that you don't commit ad populum then you do it again. What else is treating things more seriously because they are popular? 

Presumably then you could not have been a Christian unless born into a Christian family until Christianity burst on to the world stage - you would not have taken it seriously before then?

Come on, Psi, be reasonable! You are now wrong for the third time when you accuse me of using ad populum.

From Wikipedia: "An argumentum ad populum (Latin: "appeal to the people"), in logic, is a fallacious argument that concludes a proposition to be true because many or all people believe it" 


I have NEVER made a truth claim for Christianity, or theism based on popularity. I will say it again: my point was that when many people come to the same conclusion, I will treat that belief system with greater seriousness than a claim made by a fringe minority. (Atheism is a belief system widely held. That is why I am on this blogsite. I take it seriously... oops, another ad populum! ... I do not take leprechaun belief seriously.) Of course other factors come into play. I would be very surprised if you do not evaluate belief systems, political parties, etc., at least in part, by the same reasoning. Can you deny it? (Note: I did not say this is the only basis for considering a belief. Just one that you, I, and everybody uses!)

Remember, you started this ridiculous discussion by comparing theism to leprechaun belief. I don't think that is fair or reasonable. 


Would I have been a follower of Jesus if I had been his contemporary, before he was popular? Hard to say, for sure. But I think so. Popularity is not the only basis I use for considering ideas. It is not even a primary one. If some completely new truth claim comes along that, for other reasons, merits consideration, I will not be dissuaded by its lack of adherents. My blogsite is called "Outside the Box" because I do have ideas that are not widely shared.

Can we put this "ad populum" objection to rest, please?

Cliff Martin said...

Can we put my contention to the test?

Say one wide-eyed man comes running out of the woods and begs you to go with him a half mile back into the woods to see the UFO manned with Leprechauns. Will you go with him?

Now say 1,000 wide-eyed people all come running out of the woods with the same claim. Will this make a difference? Are you now more likely to go have a look-see?

Maybe you can honestly say it would make no difference. But I will say that I honestly that I would not bother with the one man. But I would be driven by curiosity if 1000 people said there was a space ship half a mile away. I would go, not because I believe their report, but rather to investigate it for myself.

Am I unreasonable, inconsistent. Did I just use my fifth ad populum fallacy?

Tom said...

7K said "Atheism will inform the life-trajectory in some way: the way one acts out the drama of life."

Well put. Atheism-as-religion comes in two forms: 1) Humanist organization and community and 2) the ideology one constructs when not having a belief in God.

Dawkins' big thing now is organizing atheists as a movement to battle other religions, but the spirit of the movement is rather religious --- along the same vein as environmental bandwagons where followers have common beliefs and an agenda. Atheist ideologies can be treated as a religion and compared to other religions simply on the basis that other religions exist. From my comment before, atheism in today's religious-rich society is a conscious decision to discount other deities.

Now, we can play the dictionary game about whether atheism is really a religion or not, but I would say that when atheism is a deliberate choice and I consciously modify my behavior because of that (dare I say it?) belief, including the way I discuss, expose, or hide deity-religions from my children, then I cannot simply call it non-belief. I believe there is no God. I fall into the Mac dictionary's definition of atheism.

Psi, your definition sounds agnostic, but perhaps we're saying the same thing. After all a belief that there is no God does not require faith and the evidence is that there is no God. Perhaps we should substitute "belief" with "assumption" as I would say assumptions are beliefs based on knowledge/evidence whereas "belief" on its own could be entirely unsubstantiated.

Tom said...

Please follow up, where applicable, to the new post "Is atheism non-belief or disbelief".

Thanks,
Tom

psiloiordinary said...

Hi Tom,

Will do.

Cliff,

Thanks for clarifying that the popularity is not the main way of choosing whether ot not to look into a claim - that is the impression I got from your previous posts - sorry again if I got the wrong end of the stick.

Perhaps it would help to bear in mind I am quite new here and so know very little about you and so I must go by what is written.

BTW yes I would go look in the wood. What if the chap coming out was Einstein a, patent clerk, claiming a new theory?

Science checks every claim. I try to as well.

- - -

Please can you go back and address some of my other points? I would like some answers.

Thanks.

- - -

How about a bit of role reversal for general edutaintment purposes?

Let me argue the case for Leprechauns as a "believer" and you argue against them as the atheist/agnostic?

Let me know what you think?

If you want to then I can start a thread on my blog and you (and others?) can respond on there.

If you don't want to do this then please tell me why Christianity is different from Leprechaunism.

Cheers,

Psi