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View Diary: Atheist Digest '10, The believers' path to Atheism (212 comments)

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  •  There is not "point" - it simply is (3+ / 0-)
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    bigjacbigjacbigjac, XNeeOhCon, TFinSF

    If one lacks belief in a god or gods, one simply lacks that belief.

    If one holds the simple standard that one does not believe in extraordinary claims for which there is no extraordinary (or, in the case of gods, even ordinary) evidence, then one need not agonize about it, one simply applies the standard.

    Isn't it more interesting and intellectually challenging to figure out what you do believe in, rather than what you don't?

    In fact, it is, and since atheists don't presume to have found a magical guide who has all the answers for us, we do, in fact, spend a great deal of time exploring what values and principles we conclude are valid and worth, contingently, following.

    Your insinuation, that atheists are lacking something to "believe in", which is shorthand for lacking morality is unfounded and rather stereotypical.

    Also not much of a defense of believing in a god, because one lacks the capacity to set moral standards oneself, and has to resort to unquestioning following others, even mythical others.

    Nonbelief is a default position, absent any evidence.

    There is no "point" to not believing in a god any more than there is a "point" to not choosing to collect stamps. One simply does other things instead.

    Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

    by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 01:41:11 AM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  not at all (0+ / 0-)

      Your insinuation, that atheists are lacking something to "believe in", which is shorthand for lacking morality is unfounded and rather stereotypical.

      Also not much of a defense of believing in a god, because one lacks the capacity to set moral standards oneself, and has to resort to unquestioning following others, even mythical others.

      I meant to insinuate no such thing.  This has nothing to do with moral standards.  I was raised as an atheist and continued to consider myself one into my twenties.  And my moral code has not changed one bit since then.

      In fact, it is, and since atheists don't presume to have found a magical guide who has all the answers for us, we do, in fact, spend a great deal of time exploring what values and principles we conclude are valid and worth, contingently, following.

      Did I say anything about a "magical guide" with all the answers?  Who is imputing stereotypical views now?  

      But I do stand by my original point: To say "I do not believe in X", one has to have an idea what "X" means.  It's not as simple as saying "nonbelief is a default position".

      Now you can simply say "I don't believe in God as traditionally understood by most major religious institutions" (which I am guessing is along the lines of what you don't believe in).  That's fine.  I don't either.  

      But I approach the entire question differently.  I start with the a priory assumption that God exists.  Then I spend my time thinking about how must I define "God" in order to believe that statement to be true(based on my own critical experience of existence).

      We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

      by RageKage on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 07:25:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Fabulous! (0+ / 0-)

        I start with the a priory [sic!] assumption that God exists. Then I spend my time thinking about how must I define "God" in order to believe that statement to be true(based on my own critical experience of existence).

        Wow!

        You really don't have any excuse for not believing in the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Hell, you don't have any excuse for lacking a belief in anything whatsoever. If you think the FSM doesn't exist, the problem is just that you've mis-defined the FSM! (Uh-oh: if you think about it, I'm afraid you have cancer. And, uh, every other conceivable disease. Damn this semantic profligacy, anyway!)

        Yours seems to be a swell method, except when words need to actually mean things. Defining "God" as Connecticut--or anything else that's utterly divorced from what the former word means to several billion people on this planet--doesn't actually make it so. Semantics is not a parlor game, to be batted around at a whim. And demanding that "God," unlike every other noun, deserves the incredible privilege of being overtly presumed to exist before we even figure out what the word means, is simply absurd.


        How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg?

        Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.

        - (attributed to) Abraham Lincoln

        •  Not unlike EVERY other noun, just most (0+ / 0-)

          There are nouns that by their very nature are utterly subjective and have no set meaning. "God" is the most extreme example of that kind of noun.  Can you really assert that most people agree on a precise definition of "God"?  Indeed, defining "God" as the FSM if one chooses to do so is completely legitimate.  "Good" would be a similar word that I can think of, off hand.

          Now, one can take a position that "good" does exist and one can take a position that it doesn't.  Such a debate, however, would be utterly useless without any discussion of the meaning of good.  I think it would be that part of the discussion that is actually interesting.

          It's not a matter of granting the word the "incredible privilege" of being overtly presumed to exist before we even figure out what the word means. Rather it's the first step I choose to take in defining the word for myself.

          Now you can call this "semantic parlor games", but I call it freedom of conscience.  I'm not about to let some superstitious dogma impose a definition of God on me.

          We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

          by RageKage on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 10:59:21 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  No dice. (0+ / 0-)

            There are nouns that by their very nature are utterly subjective and have no set meaning. "God" is the most extreme example of that kind of noun.

            Not to billions upon billions of theists (and atheists), no, it is not.

            You have simply arbitrarily declared "God" to be an "utterly subjective" noun. That doesn't make it so; vast numbers of potential definitions of "God" (such as one I offered, and you conveniently ignored: "God" = Connecticut) are comically absurd and unworthy of serious attention.

            Figuring out a way to flagrantly misinterpret the language that our species uses so that you can shore up a faltering belief system is not actually a defense of that system. It's dishonest semantic sleight-of-hand.


            Can you really assert that most people agree on a precise definition of "God"?

            "Precise"? Irrelevant. "Most people" cannot agree on a precise definition of anything. This does not license a resort to utterly boundless semantic nihilism.

            Defining the things that exist (or could exist but don't) around us unavoidably involves ambiguity. The FSM doesn't have a "precise" definition either, and its devotees have arrived at schisms aplenty regarding definition.

            Deciding that such ambiguities provide grounds for literally any definition one can possibly imagine is just laughable.


            Indeed, defining "God" as the FSM if one chooses to do so is completely legitimate.

            What do you mean, "Indeed"? I suggested nothing so worthless and silly as defining the FSM as God--that's just replacing one question mark with another. I pointed out that your semantic nihilism allows anyone to define the FSM any way they'd like--including ways that make your a-FSM-ism look just as pigheaded as you pretend atheism is. Who, pray tell, are you to say that "no one believes" that the Flying Spaghetti Monster exists? If I define the Flying Spaghetti Monster as the Internet, then clearly you were flatly wrong to claim that no one believes in it. How narrow and denuded a view of the FSM you have!

            Which is to say that under your approach, language simply collapses. Thankfully, most of us think words need to mean things.


            It's not a matter of granting the word the "incredible privilege" of being overtly presumed to exist before we even figure out what the word means. Rather it's the first step I choose to take in defining the word for myself.

            What a parody of logic that is: "It's not privilege because it's my first step." Heh!

            Again, your "first step" is irrational nonsense. The power of definition is not unbounded; defining "God" as creamed corn is useless in actual discussions with actual human beings with actual notions about things--including gods, creamed corn, and language. Ergo your premise that God is an "utterly subjective" noun is false.

            There's some half-baked Anselm in your presume-existence-before-even-defining-anything gambit. Even Anselm, though, wasn't so silly as to think a god could be defined to be absolutely anything.


            Now you can call this "semantic parlor games", but I call it freedom of conscience.

            Who's talking about rights? You have the right to play all of the meaningless word games you'd like. It's just that no one has any responsibility to take your semantic fumbling seriously, or to credit any aspersions you cast on atheists for failing to join you in pretending that you can make words mean whatever you want them to mean just by saying so.

            You have the unquestionable human right to concoct any notion about gods that you'd like. Many of us are more interested, however, in notions about gods that actually matter in the world. "God = Connecticut" and "God = creamed corn," among several trillion other potential meanings for the word, don't matter. As a result, your pretenses that God is an "utterly subjective" noun, and that anyone should join you in first assuming that God exists and then trying to figure out how to define it, are just laughable nonsense. That's not how reason works.

      •  Thank you for illustrating the critical differenc (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Rieux

        between a rational, secular or scientific approach to knowledge, and an irrational, religious or faith-based approach to knowledge.

        Faith assumes an answer and then seeks to justify it with cherry-picked evidence to fit, ignoring contrary evidence (and often inventing evidence outright). A faith-based mind is obsessed with knowing The Answer.

        Science is more concerned with asking the right questions. Science approaches knowledge through open inquiry, and follows the evidence where it may lead. Conclusions only and always follow the evidence, and are always contingent on support from new evidence.

        There is a profound incompatibility between the way or reason, and the way of faith.

        You have a habit of telling other people what they should say or how they should think. You might want to review that habit, it is unattractive.

        I don't presume to speak for all atheists (ironically, even though you aren't one, you do). I can only say that, for myself, I simply do not believe things for which there is no evidence. In particular, I do not believe extraordinary claims that contradict known scientific facts, absent extraordinary evidence.

        That is a default position by which I approach all questions. The god question is not inherently privileged over all other questions. Many think it is special, somehow, because it happens to be popular at this time.

        You can try to define it away so that it is so innocuous and meaningless that no one can object to the term 'god'. What is the point in that? I can call all colors 'red', and then claim we all see red. That doesn't make it true.

        Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

        by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 09:09:35 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  last paragraph meant to say, (0+ / 0-)

          "...and then claim all we see is red"

          Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

          by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 09:10:22 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  You have me backwards (0+ / 0-)

          I can only say that, for myself, I simply do not believe things for which there is no evidence. In particular, I do not believe extraordinary claims that contradict known scientific facts, absent extraordinary evidence.

          That is a default position by which I approach all questions.

          I completely agree.  And I too am more interested in questions than in answers.  In fact it's in the interest of further questions that I play these "semantic games" (as some might call them).

          If I start with the premise that "God exists", then the next question is "what is God?" (based on the evidence of my own experience)".  And this is certainly a question that instigates further discussion.  If I start with the premise that "God does not exist" then there are no further questions relating to the meaning of God.  (NOTE: There are always other questions, to be sure.  I don't want to imply that being an atheist leads to an end of asking questions)

          You can try to define it away so that it is so innocuous and meaningless that no one can object to the term 'god'. What is the point in that? I can call all colors 'red', and then claim we all see red. That doesn't make it true.

          I'm not trying simply to find a definition that everyone can agree with.  Just one that I can.  And along the way I can have lots of interesting discussions with others who have their own ideas about what God means.

          We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

          by RageKage on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 11:16:53 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  "If I start with the premise that "God exists'" (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Rieux

            If I start with the premise that dragons exist.

            If I start with the premise that aliens are abducting humans.

            If I start with the premise that Barack Obama is in league with the Devil.

            If I start with the premise that Jews own the banks.

            Not sure starting with an arbitrary premise is necessarily helpful.

            Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

            by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 11:26:46 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Yes, (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              RandomActsOfReason

              that pretty well gets to the core of this.

            •  If you can't see the difference (0+ / 0-)

              If I start with the premise that dragons exist

              ... I would be dressing up in fake armor and acting out battles with foam weapons.

              If I start with the premise that aliens are abducting humans

              ...then Kucinich is RIGHT!

              If I start with the premise that Barack Obama is in league with the Devil

              ... it would confirm my suspicion that the devil has taken the form of Timothy Geithner.

              If I start with the premise that Jews own the banks.

              ... I'd be wondering where my share is.

              Not sure starting with an arbitrary premise is necessarily helpful.

              It is not arbitrary.  I start with that premise because it allows me to explore different ideas about God and have interesting conversations with other people who have their own particular notions about what God means.

              And I am not arbitrarily giving some random meaning to the word.  It is a life long quest where I am constantly re-evaluating and adjusting my understanding, based on all the knowledge and experience available to me.

              We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

              by RageKage on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 04:13:45 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Swell. (0+ / 0-)

                I start with that premise because it allows me to explore different ideas about God and have interesting conversations with other people who have their own particular notions about what God means.

                How very nice. Some of us are more interested in believing things that are true. I guess that's just not something that interests you much.

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