Faith in atheism

Sweet thanks for such a quick response,

Sorry to be such a stickler about faith. It appears that we don’t understand each other. Faith means you put your trust in a thing you don’t fully understand or know to be true. Do you claim to not be doing this?

If you told me that you had a twenty foot uncle named fred the only thing i could say is that “yes there is a possibility that you have a twenty foot uncle”. Just because it is unlikely doesn’t mean it is not possible. I would say this though, if i only had an option of yes and no, it would depend on how much i trusted you. Sorry to avoid the question, but it seems to be a loaded one and am not able to answer straight forward.

Well as for proof of God. You can pick up a history book and find many who write and discredit a man named Jesus. This man did exist. And as for his Father i would have to pull out one of the many arguments that Saint Thomas Aquinas’ has. I’ll use that of the unmoved mover. The idea is that this world must have been set into motion by a thing that was not moved to move. You see someone can make a claim such as the “big bang” but i can ask the question “who lit it?”(GK Chesterton) I don’t claim to be the best at understanding Aquinas to be quite honest i don’t think i’ll be able to prove anything to you because i’m just not that smart but i do have the will to learn and investigate. Hopefully i’ll have the time and clarity to explain but i don’t think even an arguement could convince you, but hopefully i’m wrong.

The default position is a willingness to know. No one is born believing in anything but by our very nature we quetion because we can we are “free” in this sense.

As for gravity. Just because a thing is more reasonable doesn’t make it true or right. For example, if i grew up with a drunk father wouldn’t you agree that it would be “reasonable” for me to become a drunk. Especially if i loved and admired him. The theory of gravity is not fully explained so it does not fully explain why things fall. If i see a thing fall how could the complete explanation be “gravity”. We must not end there. If anything we should have some sort of amazement that things fall at all for it could have been possible that they didn’t, we could have grown up on pluto, who knows. One could use faries such as Chesterton does to prove a point about the inadequecy of science when it comes to creating “laws”. In his “Orthodoxy” he does just that but i could also claim it as he does that God is the reason this world does what it does everyday it is His WILL. When you say you “prefer to take the simpler explanation”, could that be mistaken for laziness of the mind?

By the rules of “logic” do you mean the rules of “necessity”? I’m not quite sure what you mean. But i’ll give you an example of what i think truth is. It is the an idea, concept, or thought that is eternal. Meaning these ideas or concepts never change. Such as 2+2=4. You see no one made these things up out of no where they were always there it just took a sharp mind to point it out. Obviously this is a simple example but i am a simple person.

As for morality and your example of the woman and her skirt, i personally don’t think her showing her knees is immoral niether would i believe Christ would. But i would say that if she was running around naked there’s a problem. Isn’t that obvious. Even Christ was judged by the pharisees for not washing his hands before he ate and for curing the sick on sundays. I believe that it could be said that morales can be paradoxical. For a person could be completely just in killing someone and another completely wrong.

I don’t think i need religion i believe i need Christ. You see there is a diffence in religion and relationship. But if your hinting that i might not be able to discuss this neutrally, then what makes you think that you can? To tell you the truth i haven’t read any Bacon i just loved the quote. None the less good check.

You define faith as putting trust in a thing you don’t fully understand or know to be true and then ask if I say I am not doing this when I say I do not believe that God exists. That is correct — I am not doing this. I do not trust that God does not exist, and I do not assert that God does not exist, I am simply not convinced that God exists. My atheism is not a statement of faith by your definition.

My question about Uncle Fred is indeed “loaded” in the sense that your answer tells me more about how you think than it does about my uncle. You say that you would say there is a possibility that my twenty-foot uncle exists because something being unlikely doesn’t make it not possible. I suspect that outside the context of this conversation you would give a different answer, but for the moment I’ll assume that this is how you would naturally answer. So if I told you that my uncle grows one yard taller each day, would you change your response? If I saw you in a few years and told you that Uncle Fred was now more than a mile tall, and you knew me to be honest, sincere, and able to pass a lie-detector test, would you still say that Uncle Fred might exist? If a stranger came up to you and said, “Do you believe that the atheist blogger’s mile-tall Uncle Fred exists?” would you answer, “Maybe”?

The point of all this is that as reasonable people we can behave in one of two ways: we can either assume that vanishingly unlikely things are untrue until such time as they are no longer vanishingly unlikely, or we can treat all possibilities as open. In practice, nobody chooses the latter option. If someone asks you what you had for breakfast, you say “eggs,” you don’t say, “I think it was eggs.” Could it be that your breakfast was an illusion or a false memory? Sure. But you don’t say it, you don’t really believe it, and you don’t act like that was a possibility.

Moving to the subject of Jesus. I do think it is likely that someone named Jesus existed, but I find it unlikely that he was the son of a deity.

You bring up Aquinas’ argument for a prime mover. He argues that everything that moves was moved by a mover. This statement assumes that everything that currently is moving was at one time not moving. I would say this is an unproved assumption, and therefore his conclusion is logically suspect.

You say that you don’t think you are smart enough to prove anything to me and that an argument might not be able to convince me. This has nothing to do with you being smart — you seem perfectly intelligent to me. I will say that it is unlikely you will come up with an argument for the existence of God that I have not heard before, but I don’t mind you trying. On the other hand, if you would like to stick to a subject where you are the expert, perhaps we could discuss how you personally came to believe that God exists? I would be very interested to know what convinced you, and I freely admit that what is compelling evidence to one person might not be compelling evidence to another.

Let’s talk for a moment about preferring simpler explanations. Occam’s Razor is not a sign of laziness or of lack of imagination, but rather a useful tool for finding what explanations should be preferred. Occam said (essentially) that when there are multiple possible explanations, the explanation that requires the invention of the fewest new things should be preferred. There is no guarantee that the simplest explanation is the correct one, but it is more likely to be correct and is therefore preferred.

Using the example of gravity, let’s say that we don’t have any idea how gravity works and examine three possibilities: a) that gravity works through the action of gravity fairies, b) that al motion is the direct result of the will of a divine being, and c) that gravity operates on a physical principle similar to that under which magnetism works, but that we haven’t yet identified. All three options introduce an unknown (fairies, a divine being, or a physical principle). But the first two explanations also introduce the concept of thinking supernatural beings, and since the existence of such things has never been proven, explanation C is preferred.

The utility of this may become more clear when we consider the question of gravity with one item changed: let’s say that we have a complete, workable, testable theory of gravitons that sufficiently explains how gravity works. It’s still possible that gravity fairies or divine will are at work pushing about gravitons, but why should we even consider the possibility since we have a working explanation that doesn’t include them?

Regarding the rules of logic, I am referring to formal logic (e.g., if A implies B, and A, then B). These are as true as 2+2=4. But, as I said in my previous post, they are not moral truths.

Moving on to morality, you say that you think the moral line for a woman showing skin is somewhere between showing her knees and complete nudity. The next logical question is how do you know? You state that morals can be paradoxical, but I would say that a well-defined moral system should be free of paradox (although not necessarily free of ethical dilemmas). I’d say that the only reason it might be a paradox that one person is just in killing while another is not just is that the moral rule “thou shall not murder” is poorly defined.

In closing, let me say that I was not at all hinting that you were unable to discuss this subject neutrally (and I would not expect you to be neutral, since each of us has a stated point of view). I was commenting on Bacon’s quote, not on you.

Posted on March 6, 2009 at 12:43 am by ideclare · Permalink
In: Discussion, Evidence, Morality

Leave a Reply