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The Achilles Heel?
Posted: 01 December 2006 03:22 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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Hi all.  Recently read Sam's books, turned some friends on to the books, and we discuss them fairly openly and regularly.  I grew up in a semi-religious family (Catholic) and my friends are about the same in that respect.  I am vehemently opposed to religion and really connected with Sam's books and the intellectual, logical approach they take with the subject of "does god exist in any form?".

What tends to come up in discussion is somewhat often, and seems to be the Achilles heel of the athiest creed:  "God doesn't exist."  In order to make a statement of such absolute, one would seem to need to base that on proof…on fact.  This leaves the athiest with no better defensible position than a Christian or a Muslim:  No proof, no case.

I don't believe there is a god, but I believe there MAY be a god…or an entity that could be construed as a god.  I can't prove otherwise.  I can deduce with logic and by examining a religion in both substance and history that it's primarily an ancient set of "rules" to stage early societies, to provide morality guidelines (the same ones that are obvious to any decent human being regardless of belief or not), and then used to further control societies and ultimately create an overwhelming dogma that would keep people in check. 

So then, is it not a chink in the armor to stand by an "athiest" POV and claim that all belief in god is false because it cannot be proven?  The athiest loses any advantage. 

Don't get me wrong, as Sam and most of you likely do, I believe that religion has some good lessons.  I believe that some people need a method other than "being a good person by default" to deliver those good messages and keep them in check with regard to society.  I believe that religion must go away or the demise of mankind will fall to a religious war, that religion is responsible for and teaches intolerance and hatred amongst fellow men.

Here's the rub:  I can't prove there isn't SOMETHING out there that is on a higher order than mankind…that it wasn't created by some entity.  I don't think it was done is 6 days from a rib and some dirt or any nonsense like that, but the petri dish approach, say some higher order put the "seeds" of evolution into play, like a culture in a petri dish.  I can't say for sure there ISN'T a god because I can't prove it.  I CAN say that I don't buy ANY of the major (or minor I guess) "religions" versions of gods or "tales from god".  None of them.  I don't believe the stories, I've seen for myself the hypocrisy of religion, the hatred within religion, the damage religion does locally and globally.  Karl Marx was right on the money when he said "Religion is the opiate of the masses." (or something damn close to that).  It's nothing more than that.

I can't prove there is a god, I can't prove there ISN'T a god.  I dont believe in god, I believe good comes from within.  I think it is possible that we could be a petri dish for some alien race.  I believe that it's possible we're nothing more than a "virus" a la The Matrix.  I believe there are many possibilities, though I don't believe ANY of them are represented by any religion on our planet.

Is this the Achilles heel of the athiest belief?  What does this make me?  Agnostic?  If I'm spiritual in that I don't completely discount there are forces at work that we can't comprehend (no I don't mean haunted houses, etc…), what the hell am I, and why do I and many I know find Sam's books so damn compelling, but that Achilles heel exists: How can one declare absolutely there is no god, unable to prove this, and in the same breath say those that believe in god are wrong, because they can't prove there is a god. I can't explain it away.  It almost takes away from the position he holds, and it's a damn shame.

Can someone please clarify if I'm off base or help to shine some light on this? 

Confused and confounded by the seeming catch 22 of claiming the platform of an atheist,
HF

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Posted: 01 December 2006 03:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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An atheist doesn’t say that he *knows* 100% that God does not exist.  What he says is that he does not have sufficient evidence to believe that God exists, and that based on the evidence he has available, he believes that the probability that God exists is very low.

Even Richard Dawkins, very much an atheist, admits that he cannot say 100% definitively that God does not exist.  That isn’t the test for atheism, and it’s a common misperception.

The difference between that perspective and what has come to be known as agnosticism is that agnostics are more 50/50 people (could exist, could not exist, same probability more or less), while atheists tend to think that the probability that God exists is extremely low, while not being statistically excludable.

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Posted: 01 December 2006 09:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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Thanks for the reply, and though that’d be a very easy copout for someone willing to let you get away with it, it’s entirely incorrect according to dictionary definitions of “atheist” and “atheism”.  There is no “partly” or “mostly” in atheism.  An atheist denies the existance of ANY god or power greater than the randomness of natural forces.  Not “almost doesn’t believe” or “mostly believes”.  What you’ve described are varying degrees of Agnostic and would likely make anyone who IS an atheist very upset that you’d offer such an absolutely wrong definition of “atheist”.  If Charles Dawkins indeed made such a statement (I would like you to cite a source as I will below to support my statements), then he truly isn’t an atheist and is by defniition an agnostic.  The dilemma still stands.

In order to discuss this matter with any authority, then we must agree on what “atheist” means.  I will show by the following data that one who claims to be “atheist”, by clear identical definitions by nearly every single authority on language and definition, is one who rejects the existance of any god or deity in any form. What follows will give us a baseline by which to discuss what qualifes as an “atheist”, and then we can discuss the topic of my thread, which is “The Achilles Heel of the Atheist Doctrine. 

By the very root of atheist alone, “theist”, an athiest is, according to http://www.ethicalatheist.com/docs/definitions.html ,

Athe·ist : one who does not believe in the existence of any gods. (pronunciation: ‘A-thE-ist)

The same site lists “Agnostic” as:

Ag·nos·tic : one who believes that it is impossible to know whether there is a God or gods, that it is unknown and probably unknowable; yet does not profess true atheist. (pronunciation: ag-‘näs-tik)

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/atheist defines “atheist” with a single meaning as a noun, which is:

Noun 1. atheist - someone who denies the existence of god
disbeliever, nonbeliever, unbeliever - someone who refuses to believe (as in a divinity)

According to reference.com, there are 4 valid definitions from 4 different sources found here: http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=atheist&x=54&y=10

...and are as follows:

Dictionary.com defines atheist as:

a·the·ist /ˈeɪθiɪst/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[ey-thee-ist] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation  
–noun a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings. 
————————————————————————————————————————
[Origin: 1565–75; < Gk áthe(os) godless + -ist]
—Synonyms Atheist, agnostic, infidel, skeptic refer to persons not inclined toward religious belief or a particular form of religious belief. An atheist is one who denies the existence of a deity or of divine beings. An agnostic is one who believes it impossible to know anything about God or about the creation of the universe and refrains from commitment to any religious doctrine. Infidel means an unbeliever, especially a nonbeliever in Islam or Christianity. A skeptic doubts and is critical of all accepted doctrines and creeds.

American Heritage dictionary defines “atheist” as:

a·the·ist (th-st)  Pronunciation Key  
n.
One who disbelieves or denies the existence of God or gods.

WordNet defines “atheist” as:

atheist
adj : related to or characterized by or given to atheism; “atheist leanings” [syn: atheistic, atheistical] n : someone who denies the existence of god

Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary defines “athiest” as:

ˈatheist noun
a person who does not believe in God

Similarly, according to the American Athiests website http://www.athiests.org :

Atheism is a doctrine that states that nothing exists but natural phenomena (matter), that thought is a property or function of matter, and that death irreversibly and totally terminates individual organic units. This definition means that there are no forces, phenomena, or entities which exist outside of or apart from physical nature, or which transcend nature, or are “super” natural, nor can there be. Humankind is on its own.

This was a direct quote from http://www.atheists.org/Atheism/

So, let’s not pretend there is any leeway with what is, and what is not, the definition of what it means to be an “atheist”.  There is no “100%” or “partly” anywhere in the definition.  The clear definition of “atheist” is to deny the existance of any god, any deity, and believes that there are NO forces outside natural phenomena.

With that behind us, and the definition of “atheist” out in the open for all to read, now lets discuss how when an Atheist decries the belief in god because “there is no proof”, it is from an indefensible platform, the very same platform that any and all religions base their theist beliefs in:  Faith.  The atheist has faith in his own reasoning that there is no god, there cannot be a god, and the atheist denies the existance of god or deities in any form.

The reason this is an issue is because, while I agree with Sam 100% and am estatic about his books and the level of comprehension, logic, reason, and philsophy behind them, when it comes down to it, at the end of the day, the entire issue boils down to “is there a god or isn’t there”. While the religious point to their faith in god and the “evidence” around them, the athiest points to their faith in science and the “evidence” around them, yet decry that religious are wrong…for those very same reasons.  When Sam puts it out there from an “atheist” point of view, I contend that it makes much of his well crafted debate platform indefensible, therefore taking away from the debate.  If Sam were agnostic he would be completely defensible based on the facts:  Religion is a scourge, there is no “soul”, Jesus isn’t a deity, etc, etc, etc…that’s all fairytale garbage and we all know it, but to deny the existance of god with no possiblity of there being a “higher power” than humankind, it is difficult to defend.

Anyhow, lots of info but that’s the catch 22 of claiming to be “atheist”, and what any discussion of The End of Faith ALWAYS winds down to for me and those I know who’ve read the book.

Someone…anyone…I am not into this for a debate, I just want to know if someone can clear this up, or is “being an atheist” an Achilles heel for Sam and his great books?  I’m willing to discuss it, but I’m not going to dismiss it out of hand with this “well, a common misconception about atheists is they dont’ reject god 100%..sometimes blahblahblah…”  If you don’t reject god, dieties, and theism 100%, then by definition you are NOT an atheist.  Sam Harris states that he IS an atheist, so by definition his platform is as shaky as anyone who believes there IS a god, because both sides are “unprovable”.

Looking forward to a good discussion.

HF

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Posted: 02 December 2006 02:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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How can one declare absolutely there is no god, unable to prove this, and in the same breath say those that believe in god are wrong, because they can’t prove there is a god.

the same statement above can be said about unicorns or fairies… we can’t prove they don’t exist.  but no one in their right mind would believe they do.  so we are all atheists (in a sense) with regards to unicorns and fairies.

there is no evidence to suggest that a god exists, so atheists dont believe it.  the fact that we can’t prove one way or the other doesn’t mean the argument is moot, and it doesn’t imply that the chances of god existing then are around 50%.  it is a simple measure of the evidence.  and when one measures, and finds no evidence in favor of the existence of a supernatrual power, they will generally favor atheism (barring some unshakable religious predisposition).

i can understand how this would bother you, because it seems the whole of atheism is founded upon a claim that is not provable.  but we should not let that bother us too much.  there is much that is not provable when examining our reality (though maybe there will come a time when it will become provable).  and when we consider supernatural claims, by definition, they seem to be forever unprovable, or disprovable.  many theists will happily admit that god is forever not provable… “we need faith” they’ll say.  but we have to remember, that the burden of proof lies with the ones claiming that something exists and they have yet to provide good evidence, let alone prove it.  if we were required to entertain all claims of existence without their being provable, then we would have to believe that something like a teapot is orbiting mars until we are proven otherwise (as the old Russell argument goes).

atheism is “the lack of a belief in god or gods”.  all childern are born atheists as they have no belief in a god or gods. and we are all athiests with respect to Thor or Zeus.  there are “strong atheists’ who outright deny the existence of god, then there are “weak atheists” who just lack a belief in god.  Note though, that both weak and strong atheists share one thing: lack of a belief in god.

also to clear up a misconception… atheism makes statement about beleif in the existence of something.  agnosticism makes statements about knowledge: we can’t KNOW one way or the other.  so they are not mutually exclusive… in fact, one can be an agnostic atheist.  and agnosticis doesn’t have to apply to just theologic positions… a scientist, for example, would probably be an agnostic with respect to alien life: its just not something we are capable of knowing.  the scientist might believe alien life exists, but they dont know.

i hope this offers some clarification!

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Posted: 02 December 2006 01:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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[quote author=“HarmFamily”]What tends to come up in discussion is somewhat often, and seems to be the Achilles heel of the athiest creed:  “God doesn’t exist.”  In order to make a statement of such absolute, one would seem to need to base that on proof…on fact.  This leaves the athiest with no better defensible position than a Christian or a Muslim:  No proof, no case.

I don’t believe there is a god, but I believe there MAY be a god…or an entity that could be construed as a god.  I can’t prove otherwise.  I can deduce with logic and by examining a religion in both substance and history that it’s primarily an ancient set of “rules” to stage early societies, to provide morality guidelines (the same ones that are obvious to any decent human being regardless of belief or not), and then used to further control societies and ultimately create an overwhelming dogma that would keep people in check. 

So then, is it not a chink in the armor to stand by an “athiest” POV and claim that all belief in god is false because it cannot be proven?  The athiest loses any advantage.

You are correct when you say that evidence alone cannot disprove the existence of anything. As they say, a lack of evidence is not evidence of a lack. However, this argument only applies if the object in question is logically capable of existing. While I cannot produce evidence that square circles do not exist, I can still say with total confidence that they don’t because they are logically inconsistent.

I put god in the same category as square circles and other logically inconsistent theories. I can therefore make an absolute claim that god does not exist irregardless of any lack of evidence.

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Posted: 02 December 2006 01:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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Thanks to both of you for your well-worded responses!  Not to be difficult, but when camanintx says

“I put god in the same category as square circles and other logically inconsistent theories. I can therefore make an absolute claim that god does not exist irregardless of any lack of evidence.”

My response must be:  The atheist and the theist both have absolutes upon which both platforms firmly rest, and without this platform, they dissolve completely.  That platform is absoluteness, no leeway.  “God exists, or god doesn’t exist”.  Those are absolutes.  ALL of the area in between would be for the agnostic, whcih is “it may or may not exist.” to whatever degree.

So, here we are at the Achilles Heel again.  The atheist chooses his position, which is “god does NOT exist”.  The theist also chooses his position, which is “God DOES exist”.  In order to make that claim, the atheist asks the theist to show what facts he has to support his position. 

When the theist (Christian, Muslim, etc) says “it’s Faith and observation that allow me to KNOW God exists”, the atheist proclaims “without facts, you cannot prove your god exists and your beliefs are misguided”. 

The theist can simply use that SAME logic to say “well, without facts, you cannot prove god does NOT exist, therefore your beliefs are misguided, and at the very least, we are equals in that respect”.

That is infallable logic.  Based on the definition of “atheist”, the atheist has no firmer ground upon which to stand and make his/her claim than does the theist.  The agnostic position is the only one to me that makes sense, and had this book been presented from THAT platform rather than the absolute of the atheist, the real points of the book would have been significantly more impactful, especially to the theist:  That religion is ridiculous, dated, the cause of more human suffering than any other single influence, and is primarily responsible for proflieration of hatred and intolerance we all deal with on every level in society today.  These points get lost when the atheist has NO leverage against the theist, because it always comes back to “is there a god or isn’t there”?  The agnostic knows that neither side can be proven, so once you get past “is there a god or isn’t there?  THe answer is “maybe”, THEN you can begin to disect the crap that doesn’t make sense in religion and break down the theists position, break down the reasons THEY think there IS a god, and ultimately undermine their own beliefs by casting doubt on their reasons for faith, while at the SAME time creating a wider platform for the agnostic, who says “while I can’t prove your god exists or not, I can show that you being a Christian and believing in your rules is damaging mankind to no end, and that the proliferation of your silly, hypocritical beliefs are going to continue the hatred and intolerance, and that the human notion of “sprirtiaulism” should best be left to the individiual”  Take the good lessons from religion (essentialy the golden rule, nothing more), and dump the rest.”

Thanks again to all who read and participate.  I really enjoy discussing this openly with others who are intelligent and rational.  By definition it’s probably clear to most that I’m an agnostic, but Sam’s books make so much sense and have such important messages for mankind in them that when I want to sit down with a theist and have a meaningful debate, it’s very difficult when it boils down to that Achilles Heel of “you’re no more right than I” because of absolutes.  The book applies as well to the agnostic, and can be taken from that platform and debated as well…if not better IMHO, than from the atheist position.

Anyhow, we’re all on the same page here I’m sure with regard to our beliefs in general, and specificaly in believing Sam Harris did a great job with this book, and I’m eternally grateful for his writing and publishing this work.  I want to be able to defend the book and Sam’s position, and often find myself having to remove Sam’s atheist position from the equation because of the absolute.

Looking forward to more discussion.  Great chatting out here!

HF

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Posted: 02 December 2006 02:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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[quote author=“HarmFamily”]The theist can simply use that SAME logic to say “well, without facts, you cannot prove god does NOT exist, therefore your beliefs are misguided, and at the very least, we are equals in that respect”.

The problem with your argument is that these two positions are NOT equal. It is the theist that is making a positive statement that god exists so the burden of proof is on them. Until the theist presents either logical proof or incontrovertible evidence supporting their belief, the atheist doesn’t have to prove anything.

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Posted: 02 December 2006 02:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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Harmfamily,

Have you read Dawkin’s the god delusion, it may clarify some.  Many people consider themselves to be Deists.  They believe in a natural god but not a personal god that listens to people prayers, etc.  They believe that some unknown force may have helped the universe into existence but do not believe that it controls everyday life in any way.

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Posted: 02 December 2006 02:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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[quote author=“camanintx”][quote author=“HarmFamily”]The theist can simply use that SAME logic to say “well, without facts, you cannot prove god does NOT exist, therefore your beliefs are misguided, and at the very least, we are equals in that respect”.

The problem with your argument is that these two positions are NOT equal. It is the theist that is making a positive statement that god exists so the burden of proof is on them. Until the theist presents either logical proof or incontrovertible evidence supporting their belief, the atheist doesn’t have to prove anything.

Positive or negative have no bearing, as one position claims absolute existance, and the other clams absolute non-existance.  In order to be absolute, one MUST have proof or one cannot be absolute, hence in absense of proof, the “atheist” becomes the “agnostic”, or at the very least, unable to prove their position of absolute certainty that “god does not exist”.  To be absolute in your statement, anyone who’s conscioius would certainly ask you to prove, should one decide to assert their “absolute” position of theist or atheist.

I’ve shown that by definition the “atheist” “believes there is NO god”.  Not “maybe”, not that it’s possible, but that there is none god, period.  That belief goes beyond “maybe”, and since the “agnostic” says “well, I can’t prove it either way”, that position and platform you ascribe to above is one of agnostic and is already spoken for by the agnostic.  The agnostic has the luxury of saying “prove it”, but the atheist does not, because while the agnostic doesn’t know, the “atheist” does.  Therefore, the burden of proof is equal for both the atheist and the theist.  The atheist says that one does NOT exist, consequently there must be proof that god doesn’t exist or one would be an “agnostic” by definition. 

Your logic falls short and you’ve strayed from the root of the issue, but we’re getting closer.  The conundrum still stands unresolved.

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Posted: 02 December 2006 02:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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[quote author=“milanst”]Harmfamily,

Have you read Dawkin’s the god delusion, it may clarify some.  Many people consider themselves to be Deists.  They believe in a natural god but not a personal god that listens to people prayers, etc.  They believe that some unknown force may have helped the universe into existence but do not believe that it controls everyday life in any way.

Haven’t read it yet, though what you’re indicating isn’t entirely germane to this particular issue. 

A Deist isn’t an “atheist”.  The issue of personal gods is one that all but the theist dismiss out of hand.  Atheists believe there is no god in any form, and no great force than that of random acts of nature.

The atheist is in a unique position which I believe requires him/her to back up their absolute assertion with something other than “well, if the theist can’t prove a god, then my position stands”, and this is what I’m finding difficult to stand behind when discussing Sam’s book.  I am an agnostic, but from an atheist position, a theist has plenty of ammo and clearance to say “then prove god doesn’t exist”, and the two wind up in a stalemate.  My last post clarifies this position.

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Posted: 02 December 2006 02:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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[quote author=“HarmFamily”]So, here we are at the Achilles Heel again.  The atheist chooses his position, which is “god does NOT exist”.  The theist also chooses his position, which is “God DOES exist”.  In order to make that claim, the atheist asks the theist to show what facts he has to support his position.

You’ve got the foundation of the argument wrong, HF. You’re not talking to theologians here, you’re talking to atheists, and you are trying to dictate the terms of the argument to them. Once you do what you’ve done above, you can say “this is the way it is; end of argument”. The Achilles Heel of your argument is that you are letting yourself off the hook far too easily. You try to quibble about the meaning of the word “existence” rather than focus on the properties of the entity whose existence is in question. Hence the “square circle” problem.

How do you respond to someone who regards statements about the existence of God as essentially meaningless? How do you respond to someone who simply questions your (or anyone’s) authority to decide whether statements about the existence of God are meaningful? Clearly they are meaningful to you, but to ask someone else to engage you in a meaningful discussion of something that only you find meaningful is absurd.

The Achilles Heel of theists is that only theists seem to care whether these arguments are meaningful. The Achilles Heel of atheists consists solely in being drawn into arguments about the existence of God. Were it not for theists, atheists would not be discussing this. You have to do the thought experiment: Ask yourself if anyone would even be talking about it if the world was populated only by atheists.

The only sense in which God “exists” for an atheist like me is when I’m arguing about the existence of God. Seriously, HF, I wouldn’t give the idea a second thought if there weren’t earnest but deluded persons such as yourself bringing their pink elephants into the room.

My signature fully presents what my definition of God is: The infinite amount of nonsense that someone can know about nothing. To me, God is simply the sum total of all the supersition, prejudice, and downright malevolence that has ever been written about, spoken about, and fought savagely over throughout human history. That is the existence that God has been given by fearful and ignorant human beings. The Achilles Heel of theists is the ocean of blood that has been poured out to “prove” the existence of God.

Good people do good things despite all this. Evil people do evil things despite all this, and often times feel justified by this “God” in doing so. Good people can be induced to do evil things only in the name of religion.

So here’s the challenge to you HF, agnostic or otherwise, and any intrepid theists who want to join in: Why don’t you start the discussion of whether or not God exists by writing down some of the properties that your God should have, and what evidence of those properties you see in the world. Not the properties of people who believe in God - no. I want you to tell me the properties themselves of this God-thing you all talk so very, very much about.

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Posted: 02 December 2006 02:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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[quote author=“HarmFamily”]Positive or negative have no bearing, as one position claims absolute existance, and the other clams absolute non-existance.  In order to be absolute, one MUST have proof or one cannot be absolute, hence in absense of proof, the “atheist” becomes the “agnostic”, or at the very least, unable to prove their position of absolute certainty that “god does not exist”.  To be absolute in your statement, anyone who’s conscioius would certainly ask you to prove, should one decide to assert their “absolute” position of theist or atheist.

I’ve shown that by definition the “atheist” “believes there is NO god”.  Not “maybe”, not that it’s possible, but that there is none god, period.  That belief goes beyond “maybe”, and since the “agnostic” says “well, I can’t prove it either way”, that position and platform you ascribe to above is one of agnostic and is already spoken for by the agnostic.  The agnostic has the luxury of saying “prove it”, but the atheist does not, because while the agnostic doesn’t know, the “atheist” does.  Therefore, the burden of proof is equal for both the atheist and the theist.  The atheist says that one does NOT exist, consequently there must be proof that god doesn’t exist or one would be an “agnostic” by definition. 

Your logic falls short and you’ve strayed from the root of the issue, but we’re getting closer.  The conundrum still stands unresolved.

Are you an agnostic with respect to Santa Clause?  Or an atheist?  Prove to me that Santa Clause doesn’t exist otherwise I’ll have to conclude that he might exist.  Get it?

Now, insert God in place of the fat guy.

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Posted: 02 December 2006 05:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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SaltCreek:

You’ve got the foundation of the argument wrong, HF. You’re not talking to theologians here, you’re talking to atheists, and you are trying to dictate the terms of the argument to them.  Once you do what you’ve done above, you can say “this is the way it is; e nd of argument”. The Achilles Heel of your argument is that you are letting yourself off the hook far too easily. You try to quibble about the meaning of the word “existence” rather than focus on the properties of the entity whose existence is in question. Hence the “square circle” problem.

No, you got it wrong as indicated by you stating that the “entity in question is a “who”“.  I’m ONLY not an atheist because I believe, for instance, that it IS possible we’re a petri dish for some “alien” entity, be it a race, or any subset thereof.  I don’t know.  It’s possible.  I’m sure not going to start some damned religion over it, but as a thinking being, I can’t dismiss it as “impossible”, therefore, by definition, I cannot be an “atheist”.  The Matrix was based on this sort of idea to a degree.  I DO know that I don’t believe religion or subscribe to it in ANY way shape or form, but I cannot prove we’re not some chemistry experiment for something else.  Neither can you.  You sound like someone who discusses your shiny “atheist” badge with only theists in the context of “you’re wrong, you’re stupid”.  This isn’t about whether or not some silly personal Jesus exists or not, or some goofy Muhammad prophet exists or not, it’s about being an atheist, and to debate with a theist, and being able to defend an atheist position with something other than word semantics.  If you think that there’s a chance, even a 1:1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 chance, then you are NOT an atheist.  If you say “nope, not even a 1:1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 chance of a possibility we’re a petri dish for a higher power in any context,”, then how do you DEFEND THAT POSITION?  Stay in context. 

I’m simply point out with FACT what the definition of atheism is.  I haven’t defined anything with regard to the atheist position, I have only created a baseline upon which to have a reasonable debate (something your elitist personality has apparently abandon in lieu of you posting “to make you feel good”.), which is the definition of atheist.  I’m not “quibbiling” about anything.  I’m stating: Here’s the accpeted definition of atheist.  It is very simple, very absolute:  to be atheist means to believe there is no god in ANY form. 

Letting MYSELF OFF THE HOOK?  Focus, SaltCreek.  I’m finding that THEISTS often wind up going to the indefensibility of the “atheist” assurity when they are cornered with their own beliefs and they’re shattered by logic.  I’m not defining anything.  If anything, I’m paraphrasing what it always seems to come down to, as Sam says, “is there a god or not”.

For you to be so off base and quick to personal attacks by callingl me “deluded” and “bringing pink elephants” into the room is dismissive, egotistical, and suggests that I take religion seriously and you are somehow more intelligent or knowledgable than myself.  Nothing could be further from the truth, but my steady approach at trying to come up with a defensible position being an atheist, and to defend the positions held in Sams book has clearly caused you to not think clearly, become defensive, and lose track of the issue.

So here’s the challenge to you HF, agnostic or otherwise, and any intrepid theists who want to join in: Why don’t you start the discussion of whether or not God exists by writing down some of the properties that your God should have, and what evidence of those properties you see in the world. Not the properties of people who believe in God - no. I want you to tell me the properties themselves of this God-thing you all talk so very, very much about.

Instead of me taking the side of a theist (something I’m clearly not) and engaging in allowing you to use someone else’s arguements, how about this, SaltCreek.  How about I present a challenge to you (since you haven’t met the first one of assisting in providing clarity to my quandry)...something that IS germane to our discussion, will benefit all who read it if you can stick to the challenge.

The setup for the challenge:  I say that while I absolutely do NOT believe in god in any religious form (or santa clause, or any intangible “god” that religions embrace),I think it’s possible that there is some other higher order, some higher entity…let’s say “an alien race”, and the universe as we humans know it is much larger and we in fact are nothing more than 1 of millions of “science experiments” for some alien race in an alien universe unknown to man.  Evolution takes place without question, but the universe isn’t random and the elements that make up Earth were nothing more than a science experiment for an alien race.  Wacky, no?  It IS possible though!  I believe that it is certainly possible.  I also don’t indicate that I have one SHRED of evidence to suggest it IS so, nor do I have any reason to have any “faith” in it’s reality or not.  I simply acknowledge that it’s possible.  I believe all life is chemistry and electricity, nothing more, and when you die there is no soul or afterlife.  By definition, I am now not an atheist.  By definition I’m something other than atheist, more closely agnostic I guess.

The challenge, SaltCreek, is this:  You as an atheist say I’m wrong, that it’s impossible, because you as an atheist believe there is NO god or power greater than random natural acts.  I have no duty to “prove” my position, because any intellectual rational being would agree that it’s possible absent of any proof.  I don’t claim to have knowledge, only acknowledge it’s possible.  YOU now have the burden of proof, as I simply say it’s possible, yet you claim otherwise and say you know it is NOT possible, ergo not “able”, ergo, it can’t exist.

Defend your position as an atheist.  In order to do so, you now must prove why the possibility DOESN’T exist, or be considered unable to defend your position or the doctrine to which you subscribe as an atheist, and must concede that you rely on beliefs that you cannot back up with a single fact or reasonable position to support.

Your turn.

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Posted: 02 December 2006 06:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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[quote author=“HarmFamily”]No, you got it wrong as indicated by you stating that the “entity in question is a “who”“.  I’m ONLY not an atheist because I believe, for instance, that it IS possible we’re a petri dish for some “alien” entity, be it a race, or any subset thereof.  I don’t know.  It’s possible.  I’m sure not going to start some damned religion over it, but as a thinking being, I can’t dismiss it as “impossible”, therefore, by definition, I cannot be an “atheist”.  The Matrix was based on this sort of idea to a degree.
[snip]
The setup for the challenge:  I say that while I absolutely do NOT believe in god in any religious form (or santa clause, or any intangible “god” that religions embrace),I think it’s possible that there is some other higher order, some higher entity…let’s say “an alien race”, and the universe as we humans know it is much larger and we in fact are nothing more than 1 of millions of “science experiments” for some alien race in an alien universe unknown to man.  Evolution takes place without question, but the universe isn’t random and the elements that make up Earth were nothing more than a science experiment for an alien race.  Wacky, no?  It IS possible though!  I believe that it is certainly possible.

You keep coming back to this idea.  It is your Flying Spaghetti Monster, your orbiting teapot, your Santa Claus, your God.

I believe we can say to a working certainty that none of those things is true.  Alien races experimenting on us as much as Santa Claus.

Why?  Because there is no evidence for any of it.  No traces of evidence.  No unanswered questions that tend in those directions.  You can conjure up all sorts of things in the same line but you need to provide some evidence for one over the other.  You are very certain that Santa Claus doesn’t exist, but he’s just as possible as any of the others.  Your certainty about Santa Claus is because you’ve been exposed to his existence and then shown that your belief was flat-out wrong in this one particular case, all happening in childhood when belief and correction are both easier to achieve.  You seem to be equally certain about God and probably have a similar history with that unlikely concept.

But in any case, you’re still the one making the extraordinary claim - that some things we can think of are therefore possible to some vanishingly small degree and can’t be denied with certainty.  Except for the ones you do.  But you can’t have it both ways.  People can think of Santa Claus and God.  What are your reasons for believing they don’t exist?  Those are my reasons for not believing in any other unlikely idea someone dreams up.

Your “alien race” is exactly as likely as Santa Claus.  But because you saw a movie, and were exposed to other nonsense without the effective removal of reason to believe, you take it more seriously.

It reminds me of David Sedaris at the end of one of his monologues on “Me Talk Pretty”, I think it’s “Jesus Shaves”.  The people learning French try to explain Easter to a Muslim and are all over the map.  Chocolate is brought up.  The teacher asks who brings the chocolate.  Sedaris says the Easter Bunny does.  The teacher thinks he’s made a mistake.  Of course a rabbit doesn’t bring Easter chocolate - a bell flying in from Rome brings the chocolate.  To French kids, at least.

Sedaris concludes by saying that it’s all about faith - the students have faith that their French will improve, that their teacher is really a kind and loving person despite all evidence to the contrary, etc.  And if he can believe those things, he can believe all the rest too - God, Jesus, the Easter rabbit, crucifixion and resurrection and all.

“But a bell - that’s fucked up.”

So what you’re saying is “Alien race, this, that, the other thing - we can’t be sure so we have to believe in the possibility.  Take it on faith.

“But Santa Claus - that’s fucked up.”

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“I will tell you with the utmost impudence that I esteem much more his Person, than his Works.”

  (Dryden, St. Euremont’s Essays, 1692.)

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Posted: 02 December 2006 09:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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made_maka said:

Why? Because there is no evidence for any of it. No traces of evidence. No unanswered questions that tend in those directions. You can conjure up all sorts of things in the same line but you need to provide some evidence for one over the other. You are very certain that Santa Claus doesn’t exist, but he’s just as possible as any of the others. Your certainty about Santa Claus is because you’ve been exposed to his existence and then shown that your belief was flat-out wrong in this one particular case, all happening in childhood when belief and correction are both easier to achieve. You seem to be equally certain about God and probably have a similar history with that unlikely concept.

But in any case, you’re still the one making the extraordinary claim - that some things we can think of are therefore possible to some vanishingly small degree and can’t be denied with certainty. Except for the ones you do. But you can’t have it both ways. People can think of Santa Claus and God. What are your reasons for believing they don’t exist? Those are my reasons for not believing in any other unlikely idea someone dreams up.

Your “alien race” is exactly as likely as Santa Claus. But because you saw a movie, and were exposed to other nonsense without the effective removal of reason to believe, you take it more seriously.

Ahh…now that I can wrap my head around to an extent.  Even though this “alien race” thing was an attempt on my part to put into words some heady “out there” sort of mental roaming I’d done…you know, those quiet moments when you ponder “the questions of the universe”, the explanation works nicely.

You outlined very nicely how the context of the definition of “atheist” works, enough so that when it comes to this issue again I’ll have a reasonable defense.  I am not sure “santa claus”, or even any form of religious or personal “god” is exactly synonymous with my notion of “the alien race” or being a petri dish, but nonetheless, your explanation worked well, and I thank you for taking the time to put it down in words.

Thanks to most here for the lively discussion and for taking the time to help me to clarify, for myself, not only how to approach this “Achilles heel” in debate and discussion, but to help me clarify for myself what definition my beliefs equate to.

Have a great holiday, and may the Lord bless and care for you, watch over you, and blahblahblah…. JUST KIDDING!!!  smile smile

Thanks again,
HF

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Posted: 02 December 2006 10:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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If you don’t believe in God you’re an atheist. I wouldn’t think an explanation would need to get more complicated than that. If you believe in God or believe you are supposed to believe in God you are a theist. One who does not believe that you are supposed to believe in God or does not believe in God is not a theist. That does not necessarily (I use that in the strongest possible sense) that the atheist vehemently believes there is no God.

The statements, “I believe there is no God,” and, “I do not believe in any God,” are worlds apart. One is a positive statement about God, the other is a negative statement. The positive statement is asserting something as if it were a fact. The negative statement is simply saying that due to the fact that people believe in God, it is necessary for me to say that I do not. It makes no positive claims about anything.

That is probably the definition that covers the broadest range of atheists. There are other forms of atheism or rather there are other descriptions of the absence of belief systems as well as the presence of some that can be described as atheistic at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism

It seems as though the discussion had ended but everyone seemed so caught up on faeries and Santa Claus that I had to put in my two cents.

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