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An odd title I know, but maybe not as odd as one might think.  I am an Atheist in the purest sense, but I am still in some ways forced to contemplate God, though it may not be my own.  The world is full of religious people whom we must interact with on a regular basis.  Being a bookseller I interact with many faiths and I am at peace with all of them.  Religion only becomes an issue when it forces itself upon me, but how others may choose to devote themselves is an intrinsic human right in my eyes.  

Should one choose to kneel 5 times a day facing Mecca, have midnight mass on Christmas Eve, or choose not to do any kind of work on the Sabbath, its just a personal expression of the same fundamental thing.  There are dozens, if not hundreds of religions, but they are all just different ways of doing the same thing.  

They are all a form of devotion to something far greater than us...

In this sense one can almost call 'science' the 'God' of atheism, for it is where one puts their stock in many questions often left to religion.  It answers the questions we can not instinctively answer on our own, but only the religious see it this way and I doubt you will find many atheists who would agree, for atheism is the absence of religion. Not a variant of it.

So for fun I thought "What if I was shown proof there really was a God, what would I expect it to be?"  How does an atheist express God?  Follow me over the orange paradoxal filigree of philosophy and I will share my atheism and my 'God'.

Welcome to my most deeply held religious beliefs, I share them with you because they are anything but sacred.

Why am I an Atheist?

Pretty simple actually.  The universe (I mean the whole multiverse, big bang or not isn't relevant) has either existed forever in some state or another, or it was at some point created.  These are the two possibilities.  There is nothing about our current understanding of the universe that prevents it from having always existed, maybe not as we see it from Earth right now, but in some fluctuating state of being.

So the most likely reason for the universe being created is because it had to be. It could not have existed forever on its own so it needs a creator to bring it into being.  The problem with this is that as soon as you claim the universe could not have existed forever then there is an implication that neither can God.  If the universe had to be created then so did the creator who then also needed a creator, causing an absurd paradox.

Either things can be eternal or they can't.  If they can't then we have an infinite string of creators, each creating the next, leading up the the creation of the universe, but if they can then we have a universe with no need for a creator.  Occam's Razor sees exactly where to cut this one, so I feel the only reasonable way to go is to see an eternal universe sans any creator at all.

But what if I found out there had to be a God?

Infinite strings of creators aside, if it was proven a God existed there must be things we could know or say about it.  Without getting too specific as to potentially insult others religions, lets just say having studied most to a degree I understand their dogma, I personally can not see any of their descriptions of the creator 'being' having any reasonable accuracy.  The sheer magnitude of intellect to create a universe from whole cloth is so vast that any of the petty 'humanisms' laid upon the creator by many religious texts just seem too unlikely to me.

Would such a being create a universe just to run its creations through some test to see if they should spend eternity in some blissful or malign dimension?  Seems all too cruel and pointless.  So why would a being as such create a universe and beings with intelligence within?  

To me the answer seems obvious...

To see what we do.  How far can we take it?  How much can we learn?  Can we come to grasp the creation as much as the creator?  Not to judge, but to see.  Like one would put a child in a sandbox with a shovel and bucket, not concerned what the child might make but curious to see none the less.  Curious of its creation, that is how I see the Atheist God.  As was once said in a science fiction series little known outside nerdville "We are the universe trying to understand itself".  How true this could be?

Most interestingly, this would turn science into an actual refection of God. Mathematics being the language God speaks to us in and doing science would be the most sacred of acts.

Just a thought... `

Originally posted to fToRrEeEsSt on Mon Oct 07, 2013 at 03:04 PM PDT.

Also republished by Progressive Atheists and Street Prophets .

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (14+ / 0-)

    The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function [Albert A. Bartlett]

    by fToRrEeEsSt on Mon Oct 07, 2013 at 03:04:39 PM PDT

  •  OMG! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ScienceMom, fToRrEeEsSt

    I've learned that my dog is my god. I'm good with it, and it can be proven via science. Therein lies my comfort with the universe. Nice diary...SSK

    "Hey Clinton, I'm bushed" - Keith Richards

    by Santa Susanna Kid on Mon Oct 07, 2013 at 03:49:59 PM PDT

    •  Slightly off-topic for the diary, (2+ / 0-)

      but pretty much in line with your comment is the following set of lyrics that we sang at our Unitarian-Universalist service on Sunday (that being the closest day to celebrate St. Francis of Assisi and to have something like a blessing of animals):

      Dogsology (to the tune of the Doxology):

      From all that dwell below the skies
      Let songs of hope and faith arise
      Let peace, goodwill on earth be sung
      Or barked or howled by every tongue!
                                          ~Rev. Lora Kim Joyner

      Being the single intellectual in a village of 1,100 souls ain't much fun, especially when 1,099 of those don't think you're all that smart.--Lucy Marsden

      by Miniaussiefan on Mon Oct 07, 2013 at 07:36:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  God talk, I guess. (10+ / 0-)

    As an atheist myself, I don't see science as a god.  I see it as a self-correcting process for understanding the world around me better.  A refined, philosophical tool.

    When religious types tell me I treat science as a god, I generally think that it means that they don't think science is a self-correcting process for understanding the world better.

    Usually, I also take it as a good indicator that they're simply not capable of understanding science at all.  Or qualified to talk about any scientific subject.  That's not always the case, but it's nearly always true.

    When I contemplate the concept of a god, I always wind up thinking of something that is subject to science and the knowledge that we learn about the world, not the other way around.  This, in my view makes a god, even a theoretical god, something small that can only control the unknown.

    And when I hear talk of a god that tortures, throws temper tantrums and is extremely petty, that god gets that much more small.  Insignificant, really.

    •  Your religious interlocutors confuse 'religon' (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Tonedevil

      with 'ideology'.  The most profound critiques of science-as-ideology have come from atheists: Nietzsche, Heidegger, Feyerabend, Rorty, and (more recently, and not to be confused with the "Men are from Mars" author) John Gray.  The common thread running through the writings of these authors is what they view science-as-ideology as sharing with religion, which is the notion that there has to be "one truth" out there that can be found, once we have perfected the language with which to express it.  If we reject this notion (as I think we should), it's easy to place religion and science in perspective: they are both practices geared toward getting different things done within their proper contexts, and nothing more.

      •  I don't get science-as-ideology either. (6+ / 0-)

        Science tells us what the facts are (within a certain degree of confidence), it doesn't tell us how to feel about them.  There is no way to derive a pure ideology from science (it only lets us lay a groundwork of a factual understanding of reality).  It is important to understand reality in order to have us able to better make decisions within it.

        As for there being 'one truth', scientific models and explanations fit specific criteria, there are no 'master theories' that cover everything to know, and I doubt there ever will be.  Science isn't at all about 'one truth'.

        But in the context of an objective truth meaning anything at all, science is the only game in town as far as I'm concerned.  It's the only way there is to distinguish between disparate, mutually exclusive claims about reality.

        I could easily be conservative (old-style, like my grandpa is) and still love science (like my grandpa, again).

        It can appear to be an ideology when people assert things contrary to science.  But all that means is that people aren't understanding science, it doesn't actually make science an ideology.

    •  I've never thought it made any sense (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JDsg

      to talk about science as a god.  One can of course make a god of science, but only because one can make a god of anything.

      I believe in God, and I believe in science, and those are not the same kind of belief in the slightest.

  •  The regression of creators is finite. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fToRrEeEsSt
  •  I think the film clip presented a good question: (2+ / 0-)

    How do you know what you don't know?  I'm agnostic because I don't have the faith in a belief that I KNOW whether there IS a god.

    •  Technically, atheism is only the lack of belief. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TFinSF, gfv6800

      Agnosticism is about a lack of certainty in your position.

      They are not mutually exclusive terms.

      If you don't believe in any given religion then you're an atheist.

      If you're uncertain about whether your position is correct, you're an agnostic.

      And yes, agnostic christian is a thing as well (or agnostic jew, hindu, etc...)

      •  Technically, that is-- etymologically (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Batya the Toon, gfv6800

        You've got that wrong. It's a Greek root "atheos" meaning "no gods" with a French "ismé" shortened to English "ism" tacked onto the end making it a belief. A belief that there are no gods. Seriously, the atheos existed as a word for godless people thousands of years before the French got their hands on it. The reason Thomas Huxley coined the term "agnosticism" is because, as a good scientist and skeptic, he was unhappy with the certainty of both atheism and all the other "isms"-- all the other beliefs. If the terms were not mutually exclusive the term "agnosticism" wouldn't exist.

        It's fact-based history and unfortunately it's entirely ignored by common usage. What used to be clear terminology has become garbled, muddied and worthless. I think it dishonors the memory of the man who was thoughtful enough to have invented agnosticism.

        And yes, I know I'm wasting my time.

        •  I've never considered atheism to imply certainty. (0+ / 0-)

          Certainty is for math or philosophy.

          There's pretty much no other context where certainty is appropriate.  I kind of doubt that way back when, thinkers had a hard time reaching that sort of conclusion.

          Generally, I use the term to mean lack of belief in gods or the supernatural, religious teachings, etc...

          So to me, atheism isn't a belief, it's the lack of a belief.

          I think it ties pretty directly into skepticism in general.

          That background is interesting, though.  And honestly, the only reason I can think of for agnostic to be invented would be an attempt to avoid the stigma of the word atheist.

          •  Well, no matter how you slice it (0+ / 0-)

            'atheism' is a belief. It does have the traditional tail of a belief hanging off the end. And yeah, I do know I make an ass of myself every time I do this.

            So, now that atheists can be agnostics and agnostics can be atheists. What's the term for someone who holds the firm, yet unprovable, belief that there is no god?

            Now that common usage has muddled two perfectly good terms-- I need a new one.

            I know I'm an unscientific twit. But there you go... I believe.

            If I was confronted by evidence that God exists I would rather I question my own sanity than believe it.

            And if anyone brings up "hard and soft atheism" I will pelt them mercilessly with Viagra. Just what we need, more insipid, meaningless modifiers to further complicate things.

            "Atheist" served me pretty well until someone was wrong on the internet.

            I think the problem stems from some people seeing agnosticism as not being clearly a rejection of religious belief but I believe it's a very strong rejection of religion because it denounces the very idea of certainty which is sort of a prerequisite to faith isn't it. If certain knowledge is impossible-- why does anyone believe in God? And really, either you hold a firm belief or you don't. I think some people felt that agnosticism was too much of a fence sitting position when what they wanted to do was rage against the beliefs of people who defied what they felt was logical. You can't yell very loudly when you're just saying "I'm not sure about this!" Somebody didn't understand agnosticism yet felt the need for some wobbling room in atheism and justified their ignorance by committing etymological heresy and sticking an 'a' onto 'theism'. The internet is full of heretics.

            I do find it interesting that many people who claim to adhere to the scientific method choose to prefer unclear common usage definitions for "atheist" and "agnostic" when their historic meanings are perfectly clear, precise and were never questioned until quite recently. Perhaps Huxley left other positions on the scale of belief uncovered. Maybe we just needed some new labels for people who feel pretty damn certain but would be willing to consider changing their opinion when God pokes them in the belly. There's not a lot of room for custom fitting when the labels are so precise and agnosticism covers a lot of territory.

            •  I'm comfortable with calling myself an atheist. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Marko the Werelynx

              It's how I think of the concept and the word.  But it's just a word.  Words aren't as important as the concepts they're intended to communicate.

              Words aside, I think I'm justified thinking about the topic like this.  The things I've heard christians (and the few other religious groups I've encountered) claim is garbage.  Whenever I hear a description of the beliefs I'm comfortable with entirely rejecting the claims.  I pretty much never come away with "I am unconvinced".  It's a matter of "definitely not that".  That usually happens because what I'm being told contradicts some science I know.  Sometimes, it's a matter of a logical inconsistency.

              Is there room for error?  Of course.  We could all be brains floating in a jar.  Nobody but me could be real.

              I try to give people a shot to convince me now and then, but honestly, every time I do, I only hear the same few flawed arguments, poor reasoning, or otherwise bizarre assertions that were critiqued hundreds, if not thousands of years ago.  It's a bit discouraging, actually.

              I've heard the kalam cosmological argument before, but it's got two problems.  Dishonest, because the person using it will leap from there to whatever their favorite religious assertions are as soon as the listener is confused, and two, it unjustifiably assumes the thing it's trying to demonstrate (the assumption is just hidden well enough so that maybe you won't find it).

              I don't accept any religious claim I've ever heard.  Any religious claim I've sought to learn more about just seems more and more wrong the more I hear.

        •  You are wasting your time... (0+ / 0-)

          because you are wrong.  Of course its rather convenient to interpret "atheos" "ism" as belief in no god rather than no god belief. It becomes more difficult if you correctly interpret the prefix "a" as meaning without, rather than no.

          A-theism is the negation of theism. Theism is belief in god.  Atheism is without a belief in god.  It is the only interpretation that makes sense.  You can consult all the dictionaries you want. Dictionary definitions are based on common usage.  Older dictionaries will define "atheism" as "wickedness".  Good luck parsing that out of your Greek roots.

  •  Ignostic (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wilderness voice

    I don't find the first cause arguments to be compelling because:

    1. Aristotelian physics largely falls apart when you consider that matter acts like a wave. The premise that outside forces must move matter seems dubious.

    2. I doubt that we can say anything about causer/caused, creator/created relationships within frames lacking spacetime. To me, the current evidence points to a singularity where verbs like "create" loose their meaning.

  •  Some things capable of proof (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fToRrEeEsSt

    God according to certain definitions can be shown to be non-existent: For example, consider a God that is defined to be omniscient, omnipotent, and all loving and compassionate.  One look at the disasters of the day is enough to refute this idea, at least according to our understanding of what it means to be loving and compassionate.  

    Also, Scientific materialism is inadequate as a theory of mind.

    •  A slightly better perspective. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Marko the Werelynx

      You don't need large disasters to throw a monkey wrench into the idea.  Birth defects work better to demonstrate the contradictory nature.

      Certain believers will gladly call natural disasters a punishment for 'sin', and thus claim that it's not god's fault for those things, its ours.  It's a result of our own choices or free will, or whatever nonsense.

      Birth defects are the absolute worst manifestation of the problem of evil because the very young have absolutely no part in choosing things.  So the people who want to hand wave and pretend the problem of evil is solved have absolutely no answer for it.  Unless you're willing to make some truly bizarre assertions (that baby was evil in-utero and must be punished!).  Not that people aren't willing to assert bizarre things if it serves their case.

      I know the classic problem of evil does include things like birth defects, I just normally see people assert that it only includes natural disasters, and then try to justify why a loving god would rain doom down upon his/her/its creations.

      I thought it would be worthwhile to point out the most troublesome case for the problem of evil.  This makes the problem of evil that much darker, stark, and clear-cut a contradiction.

      •  Not to mention (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wilderness voice

        all the innocent babies those natural disasters kill.

        For some reason, it seems the fundamentalist Christians continue to cling to an Old Testament "kill 'em all!" type of god. That clinging might explain why most of them don't seem to have read any further into the Bible.

        I had a Jehovah's Witness try to explain things by telling me that God has free will. That's the most horrific explanation that I can imagine.

        •  I was in a classroom discussion once (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Marko the Werelynx

          on the subject of whether or not God has free will.  There were some pretty fascinating arguments on both sides.

          I certainly don't think one can use the assertion that God does have free will as an explanation of why bad things happen to innocent people.  Not unless one is deliberately building an argument for maltheism.

          •  I've never understood free will as a thing. (0+ / 0-)

            I happen to think the concept of 'free will' is nonsense.

            Because the term is not well-defined.

            If I did not have it, how could I know?

            If I had it, how could I know?

            Basically, what's the difference between a universe where I have it and I do not?

            If I had no free will, then there's some theoretical mathematical model that could exactly predict my behavior or thinking in any given situation.

            No such model exists.  It is likewise not possible to demonstrate that no such model could exist.  (You can't prove a negative).

            Anyone there have that position?  I ask because I don't really encounter people who take that position.

            I suspect that 'free will' was made up to try and get around the problem of evil.  Can't solve the problem?  Invent gibberish to magic your way to a solution!

            •  I have a different theory (0+ / 0-)

              about the origin of the concept of free will.  Essentially it boils down to the fact that fatalists don't make for good survivors.

              As you say, there's no way to prove whether people have free will or not, one way or the other -- but the belief in one's own agency is selected for, because people who don't believe their choices will make any difference are unlikely to go to ridiculous lengths to save themselves from peril or to improve their living circumstances, and thus will be less successful than those who do.

              (I know evolutionary psychology is a bad model in general, but this one amuses me.)

            •  free will is a misconception (0+ / 0-)

              we have freedom of thought and preference, but we always pick whatever seems like the best choice at the time. No one ever refused lottery winnings to prove they had free will.

          •  I think I'd enjoy that discussion. (0+ / 0-)

            It does seem an odd assertion when combined with the concept of a benevolent and omnipotent God.

            I suppose the ol' fall-back position is always that God works in mysterious ways. It'd be the height of arrogance to presume to make sense out of that seeing as God is, more or less by definition, beyond our comprehension.

    •  I saw a button once (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      fToRrEeEsSt, wilderness voice

      that read "Omniscient / Omnipotent / Omnibenevolent / Pick two."

      It's a pretty tidy way of expressing the question.

      •  Buddhism picks (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Batya the Toon

        Omniscient and Omnibenevolent, and thus avoids the problem of trying to explain the existence of evil that is inherent in western religion.  There is even a name for such attempts: "theodicy".

        •  I've always had an easier time (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          wilderness voice

          looking at the Omnibenevolent one as "that doesn't mean what you think it means."  Insofar as anything about theodicy is easy.

          •  yes, there is that (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Batya the Toon

            idea that there are essential lessons to soul growth that come from being subject to physical law and suffering and failing. Kinda like how I hated it that my parents made me suffer from having braces on my teeth but am grateful afterwards. Personally have had enough of the suffering.

            •  Lessons to soul growth or possibly something else (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              wilderness voice

              that we don't get and may never get.

              What I mean is: the statement "God is all-benevolent and all-loving" and the statement "Terrible things happen to people who do not appear to deserve them" can only both be true if the statement "Benevolence and love must involve an unwillingness to cause or permit suffering, and a high priority attached to that unwillingness" is not true.  For whatever reason, in whatever fashion.

              My best guess is that either in some way suffering is itself good for us, or whatever would be required in order to prevent our suffering would be overwhelmingly bad for us.  But it's a guess, and I have long since given up trying for certainty on that topic.

  •  Running the logic train off the rails (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DJ Rix, JDsg, Batya the Toon

    I think you've missed the point of what a god is supposed to be-- supernatural. That's beyond the natural world, beyond any conundrum of creators needing creators.

    To deny the existence of gods because um, causality?

    Nope. Doesn't work.

    That's what gods are for; to do the stuff that's impossible.

    •  "Proof" of God's existence (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Marko the Werelynx

      is experiential & existential. If we try to  prove the existence of God by placing God outside us, which is what science demands, & ought to demand in the context of science, we have, in the words of R. Maurice Boyd, "already taken the first step toward unbelief, for the God whose reality we try to prove does not exist."

      "There ain't no sanity clause." Chico Marx

      by DJ Rix on Tue Oct 08, 2013 at 05:26:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Exactly. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Marko the Werelynx, JDsg

      The argument "either things can be eternal or they can't" is missing an important theoretical point: the universe consists of things (which is to say, physical matter and energy on an entropic time-axis), and the creator does not.

      •  That makes no sense the creator must... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Paul Rogers

        be something.

        If its nothing then it doesn't exist, no?

        The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function [Albert A. Bartlett]

        by fToRrEeEsSt on Tue Oct 08, 2013 at 08:37:31 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Must be something (0+ / 0-)

          but need not necessarily be a thing.

          That only means it doesn't exist if one defines "existing" as "having physical form."

          •  And even if we suppose (0+ / 0-)

            that God must be a "thing" what's to prevent a bit of quantum physics flim-flammery like the idea that there's just one electron existing in all places simultaneously?

            Why can't there be an eternal God thing?

            •  This is why not, as I see it. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Marko the Werelynx, fToRrEeEsSt

              The word God has baggage with it that implies a whole ton of things that have nothing to do with obscure particle physics.

              As for another thing, if what people call a God has no detectable impact on physical reality, can it really be said to be 'real' in any meaningful sense of the word?

              Gods I hear people talk about are always big, grandiose, active agents in the universe, constantly watching and active every day, running the weather, arranging debris from explosions and managing the finances of everyday families.

              Gods I hear people argue for are always extremely small, distant things that do not impact anything more recent than billions of years ago, and has no control of anything bigger than a subatomic particle.

              It's kind of funny listening to theologians try to debate atheists, and promote the latter type of god, then immediately try to pull a switcheroo when they think they've bamboozled their audience and assert the former god.  Sometimes, it makes me think they know they're trying to pull a scam.

              But I know they're probably just honestly making the best case that they are capable of making for their side.

              •  Theologians tend to confuse (0+ / 0-)

                the possible existence of some form of deity with the possible existence of their God, and to assume that any argument for the former constitutes an argument for the latter.

                Interestingly, atheists often do much the same thing in reverse: confuse arguments against the specific theology they were taught with arguments against the existence of any sort of deity.

                It can be very hard to detach the concept of deity from (as you say) the baggage that goes along with it.  Sometimes even if one makes a study of the differences between various traditions and their respective baggage.

                •  We can only contemplate deities described. (0+ / 0-)

                  Everything else, I tend  to be skeptical when the word is used, based on past experience of its usage.

                  •  Hell, I _do_ believe in God (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Marko the Werelynx, Paul Rogers

                    and I tend to get skeptical when the word is used in certain contexts.  Same as "freedom" and "righteousness" and a whole slew of other words; they mean things I approve of and support, but they're used to defend things I would sooner see die.

                    As far as only being able to contemplate deities described, though, I am not sure I follow.  What prevents one from contemplating a theoretical deity, similar to one that has been described but different in certain particulars?

                    •  Words don't matter as much as the concept does. (0+ / 0-)

                      Allow me to illustrate my point with an example.

                      Do you believe that a viar exists?

                      Now it's probably likely that for you, that word has no meaning at all.  You can't really give much of a direct response to my question until you really know the definition of the word.

                      Now if I define a viar as a parrot-like, humanoid creature that can speak English, then you can actually formulate a response.

                      The same thing applies to proposed deities.  I can't really say whether I believe in them or not before I have some idea about what is being talked about, however there is one important distinction to make.

                      The word 'god' is commonly used to mean something consistent, so the question isn't impossible to answer without a definition of some type.  Generally, I'm comfortable with saying 'no' without further discussion because it's going to be true most of the time.

                      But it's not going to be optimal, there's a ton of different ideas people have about that word, so it's best to ask specifics.

                      For instance, I've heard arguments that god is simply the rules that physical reality follows, together with an initial 'moment' of creation.  The earliest spark of events in our deep, ancient past.  Back before the earliest theories we have mean anything.  (Or, the big bang, etc...)

                      No conscious being, no activity (other than basic existence), no motive, nothing like an afterlife, no part of creating humans (other than by the fact that we arose as a consequence of those laws), no agenda or goal, no message to its creations, etc...

                      Yes, that god is real.  But that definition always strikes me as disingenuous because it doesn't have meaning (other than saying reality is real, or something else that is a tautology), it doesn't link to any real-world spiritual or religious system, and pretty much the only reason I can think of talking about that god is so that one can win an argument by definition.

                      Also, it's easier just to call that 'reality'.

                      Generally, I can't believe or dismiss any god until I hear the definition of one.  So if there's a disagreement, I'm usually willing to hear a clarification of what 'god' means to that specific person.  Many disagreements are merely a contradiction in terms of definitions used.

                      Until then, as a shorthand, I'm usually comfortable with saying I don't believe in a god because the term most commonly means something that I don't accept.

                      And yes, the same problem comes up with words like freedom, patriotism, and leader.  (Learned that last one after an amusing conversation with a conservative friend of mine).

                      •  Which is totally fair for shorthand. (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Paul Rogers

                        And yeah, I don't buy the definition of "god" as "the rules that physical reality follows" either.  At the very least I think any reasonable definition of "god" ought to include being self-aware.  If you want to define "god" as "the self-awareness of physical reality," fine, that's pantheism; I'm not a pantheist but it's at least got precedent.

                        But if you just say "couldn't that sort of a god exist?" the obvious answer is "yes, it exists, but it's not a god."  I mean, people worshipped the sun at various points in human history, but I can acknowledge that the sun exists without that meaning that I accept its putative divinity.

                        •  I babble for a while. (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Batya the Toon

                          Your sun example is generally how I view things people usually ascribe to god.  Back when people had no idea of what it could be, or why it could be, it would make perfect sense to me to say that god made it and leave it at that.  It might not be very satisfying for a skeptic, but nobody much had any other explanation for why it existed.

                          For me, the only difference between that and modern depictions is that we (collectively) know a whole lot more about the world around us.  There's just a lot of science to answer questions about why mountains exist, why the sun exists, why we exist, etc...

                          The stuff like the sun example that we have no good explanation for these days are complex, far, far beyond the realm of everyday experience and hard to even describe in casual conversation.  They're also easy to get wrong, even if one thinks they understand it.  Chiefly, only the experts can truly claim to understand it.

                          In theory, I have no problem with people generally ascribing those things to god, I just usually hear people flatly denying settled science with their beliefs, then trying to claim their ignorance is as good as any science.  Sometimes people will try to innovate mysticism by using sciencey sounding words they clearly do not understand, and claim it ties in perfectly to some ancient belief.  That annoys me.

                          For me that kind of track record 'poisons the well' to some degree, and makes me rather hostile towards the idea in general.  In theory, I have no objections to a carefully enough constructed god.  I'd want it to provide some kind of explanation to me beyond the simple hand-wave story it could be, again like the sun example.

                          But I generally also think the classical depictions of a god are so far away from what one would have to be based upon our modern knowledge, that it's almost an absurdity to think that the ancient ideas have any bearing on such a being.  That certainly, if some kind of being similar to the idea of god did truly exist, then it would inevitably have to be something so different that it's effectively the same as if humanity had never had any kind of direct knowledge of it.

                          Its message would have, effectively been so corrupted, garbled and lost, that it might as well rather have never contacted people in the first place.  Here's a funny video effectively demonstrating what I mean.

                          I understand if not everyone makes that last judgement, but hopefully at least it clarifies my thinking as one of those 'hard-line' atheists.

                          It's been nice talking with you.  I hope it's at least been an interesting read.

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