Faith in atheism

“If God didn’t exist nor would atheist” GK Chesterton.

What i’m proposing is more detailed and unqualifiedly better definitions. It doesn’t mean that i’m trying to completely change the definitions or not recognize them (if i do so it’s out of my ignorance). I take it you have something against Dictionary.com, is it not a scholarly website? If not then you can start pulling out the Greek and Latin roots of the words if you wish since i take it that you are a scholar.

I also don’t claim to have any “new” information. All that i “know” is either centuries old knowledge or some widely accepted dictionary definitions. Sorry for sounding like an ass but i feel like i need to point this out in your writing style (not that I’m not guilty of it), you need to be more careful when you use phrases such as “sorely wanting” or “gaping wholes” these in Logic are called assurances and most of the time are used to strengthen a weak or even bad argument. Even look when and how you used them, you didn’t provide an example of a “gaping whole” or even provide an instance of “sorely wanting” in Aquinas argument, at least in my opinion.

“I’d have to reject that as a definition, since it could apply to science, Republicanism, ethnic groups, and other groups I would not consider to be religions.” Ok, you can say this but i can also say that atheism is in a sense a sort of religion and faith and be correct.

“People who don’t worship gods may have that one belief in common, but they are not a “body of people” and may otherwise be completely culturally distinct.” It sounds like your willing to admit that atheism has all sorts of different denominations and sects. Just because they are culturally distinct doesn’t mean anything in fact i could say that to just about anyone and be right. If your willing to propose a “new” definition for religion and faith i’m all for it.

“My core philosophy would not change because none of it relies on there being no God.” I thought your core philosophy was atheism so it would necessarily need to change because these are contradicting views. It is impossible for one to believe and not believe in God at the same time that’s another “mental impossibility”. You say your core philosophy would go unchanged but you’re writing a book on Ethics which came about because your beliefs without God. Uhmm, something doesn’t sound right.

“I disagree that it is based on no proof (since the burden of proof is on those who believe in deities)” Wouldn’t the burden of proof for your belief be on your hands? I have yet to see any substantial proof to believe in atheism just as you would say about theism.

“If I understand you correctly, you are agreeing that small possibilities can be treated as non-existent, but you are saying that for very important subjects (such as life and death or the existence of God) we need to be completely precise. I think that’s a point worth considering.” I believe that you can say something is nonexistent though it exists, for example the White House doesn’t exist, but you’ll be wrong this is the point. Now as for the existence of God, this no matter the situation should be taken very seriously in my opinion for that very reason, someone can be wrong.

I think treating the possibility (ex. who chooses the odds, Vegas) of God the same as the possibility of winning the lottery is wrong. How are these two things similar, how are the “odds” of His existence stacked into a theory of probability i just don’t understand and refuse to take this as a solid reason not to believe in God. The mistake I believe is the use of the word possibility or probability(even in the lottery we have a winner). In the lottery the odds of you winning depend on how many people buy tickets in Gods existence no one buys tickets. Again I don’t believe that His existence stands on probability this can’t dictate his existence or nonexistence. Either we exist for a purpose or we exist without one I believe it can be made that clear. You might say there is a greater “possibility” in there not being anything after death, so there is no point to life i take it. So what exactly is the point of your book or for that matter this blog if there is no point in life why do you care so much about something that doesn’t matter if it’s believed in or not?

Divorce seems to me a contradiction in a way because they confess their love for each other at one point and then agree that they no longer were in love. The hard part about this is trying to prove they were ever in love.

You said this in reference to emotions, “light can be scientifically described but the experience of seeing a color is subjective”. I think we can all agree that the sky is blue the grass is green and blood is red i don’t see your point about subjectivity here.

Ok, so you at least admit Jesus existed. The next question is do you believe Him a liar?

“But wouldn’t miracles be non-philosophical proof for the existence of God” Good call, let me restate. The only proof i have for you is philosophical, i would take miracles as being proof for his existence as well you might not.

When said “God is good” it is eternal in this sense, you said the phrase and the fact that you said it will be true forever. Now it is also true in this sense, if He can be said to be good than you can say he cannot say he was bad these are contradicting views especially since we are using present tense and future tense (future tense, i don’t know how to say it). What i believe your missing is the idea (idea that i believe in) that God is eternal meaning that you can’t use He was this or will be that because He forever is.

I’m starting to understand your definition of truth and the more understand it the more i feel we are misunderstanding each other. I think both our ideas of truth can coexist we are both right in a sense. Would you agree or are they contradictory in your eyes?

The Bible was written in Hebrew and Greek, i tend to forget that it was written in Greek but the New Testament is a combination of both but mostly Greek if i’m not mistaken again, but once again good check you were right.

As for Kalam’s ontological argument i right now don’t have access to the internet that is why it is taking a while for my responses so i can’t check it out right away. I will say this though just because something is rigorously explained doesn’t make it a better argument it just makes it harder to understand if the person is not making sense.

“I would say that anything that is entirely part of the physical world is natural.” Are you saying that everything is natural and that there is no distinction between natural and unnatural? If so what is the purpose of calling something natural. We call things natural because there is such thing as unnatural, things that don’t normally occur in nature for example an airplane, car, and clothes. So i would have to disagree that everything that exists is natural.

Good point on science i would agree that some times science hits the mean and reveals the incredible miracle that life on this earth really is. I mean just think about the probability or the “odds” of this earth and creatures that exist on it, this truly is just incredible how things come together on this planet for life to be able to exist, one could almost call this proof of some sort of deity.

God is something no one will be able to fully understand so it will sound like, “anything I don’t know I label ‘God.'” But if we take it in to what i’ve said about the Him i don’t think he can be considered “a period of time” that just doesn’t make sense in the context of the discussion. I used this example to show how silly i believe it is to say that the universe is expanding from the center of the big bang. How can something come into existence from nothing? The idea that we are moving further apart is more abstract than people care to think about and i think might just take it at face value. I believe it could be said that we are moving but what is the measure. Where is the reference point? Where in the universe can we call the center? These are valid questions.

“I’d also say that asking why assumes that there is some ultimate purpose to the universe, and a purpose implies a deity or creator of some kind. Therefore God is not the answer to Why, but rather He is part of the question. If you are not assuming that God exists, then there is no Why.” I have stated before that “the default position is a willingness to know” (i assumed you agreed since i stated this default position a couple of times) asking why i believe just strengthens this statement and if it implies believing in a God (which i never stated) than take this as even more proof. I think it is safe to say that God would be both part of the question and the answer.

Once more with the razor, i think i must be either misunderstanding you or just not getting it. I will say that i thought there was distinct difference between the process of elimination and a system that goes about finding “preferred theories”. In Occam’s razor I thought you said you don’t rule out possibilities but now you’re saying you do. I guess we do not understand one another again.

I believe that there is an absolute moral rule i think in this moral system the intent needs to be taken in to account. If a women were running outside naked i would say to myself what in the world is she doing without thinking but what if she were running away from a rapist? I would be wrong in my judgment of her. Treat others the way you want to be treated would be another universal law i believe in but this one really needs further explanation and i don’t know if i’m capable of putting down coherent arguments for this one.

Murder is based on intent it is that easy in my opinion, this i can’t believe to be ambiguous. That a man should never kill is a harder statement because this doesn’t imply any intent. There would be situations in which i believe would be just to kill.

I don’t know if i wasn’t clear but from what i remember the “witches” were speaking up against the evil that the Church was committing and the Church leaders had to shut them up. Yes many were burned but there was some who say this was the case, though to be honest i don’t really remember where i got this information from. They weren’t burned because they were un-Christian but because they were too much Christian that was my point.

I also used to be Catholic then atheist than agnostic than Christian and now I’m leaning once more towards Catholicism, mainly because of Aristotle, Aquinas, Augustine, Plato, and now GK Chesterton. This all happened relatively fast, within a four or five years. In a way i think that one must first love or try understanding Christ (in other words be Christian) in order to then become Catholic which involves thinking. I hope i responded to all your remarks but i’ll sit down this weekend and put more effort into my responses and when i get more time i’ll send you some very good passages from a book i’m reading. By the way i think now that i have been introduced to Chesterton that every other writer pales in comparison. He is the Einstein of common sense i would say.

“If there were no God, there would be no atheists” — G. K. Chesterton

I think that Chesterton’s quote is funnier when phrased this way (which I believe is correct). It’s a bit ambiguous, which makes it entertaining.

I have no problem with you trying to refine definitions. But the definitions you proposed weren’t more detailed (in the sense of being more precise) than standard dictionary definitions, but rather were more broad. I have nothing against Dictionary.com, and in fact I believe I said that their definition for religion was better than the one you had proposed (which appeared to be a truncated version of the Dictionary.com definition).

Regarding my use of the terms “gaping holes” and “sorely wanting” with regard to Aquinas: I gave the example of the first premise of the argument you cited being quite bad. Your response did not, I think, really address this shortcoming, but rather seemed to assert that it was a good argument in the context of his writing, and I do not see how anything in his writing plugs the logical hole in this argument (unless I am missing something). We can go into more detail about why his arguments are, in my opinion, poor, but I think we might make more progress discussing more robust arguments.

I rejected your definition of religion because it also applied to Republicanism, etc., and you responded that I can do that but you can also say that atheism is a sort of religion and faith. If you want to stick with this definition of religion, then you are correct that you can call atheism a religion. But you are also stuck calling Republicanism, etc., religions and I don’t see how that helps your philosophical cause. A more stringent definition of religion would prevent it from looking like you are trying to cast the net of religion wide to make sure that it encompasses all types of atheism. (As an aside, I will agree that some forms of atheism can correctly be called religions under a conservative definition of the term.)

When I said that atheists are not a body of people, I was not saying that atheism “has all sorts of different denominations and sects” any more than saying that blonds are not a body of people implies that there are denominations and sects of blonds. Instead of trying to make new definitions, would you agree to go ahead and use definition 1 from Dictionary.com? Namely, “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.” As I said in a previous post, this would not include atheism since atheists do not believe that the universe has a purpose. Atheists generally do not have devotional and ritual observances (the Church of Satan is a notable exception), and there is no atheism-centered moral code (my parody of the 10 Commandments not withstanding).

I said that my core philosophy would not change if God existed; you are incorrect that my core philosophy is atheism. My core philosophy (simplified greatly) is that one’s personal philosophy must be self consistent and that it must be allowable for everyone, not just for me. That’s pretty much it. After years of working on the implications of this philosophy, I discovered that — for me — only atheism met those criteria. If compelling evidence for God existed, I would still have this core philosophy, but the results would be different. For what it’s worth, I came up with this core philosophy while I was a Christian and originally intended to use it to discover which religion’s view of God was correct.

Regarding the burden of proof: the burden of proof is in the hands of the person making the claim. My claim is that I am not convinced that God exists, and from my perspective that’s an easy claim to prove (since I know whether or not I am convinced of anything). You are claiming that God exists, so the burden of proof for that is on you, not me.

Regarding the possibility that you or I might be wrong about the existence of God: It’s true that one of us is wrong and I agree that the possibility should be taken seriously. I take this possibility as seriously as I take the possibility that I am wrong about other equally unlikely things (that Islam is the true faith, for example).

I see your point about discussing the probability of God’s existence as if it is a matter of chance. That is not what I mean and I agree that discussing probability makes this ambiguous. I am not really looking at the probability that God exists, but at the likelihood that the phrase “God exists” is true. Since I don’t see any compelling evidence that this is a true statement, I treat it as equal to any other statement for which I see no compelling evidence (“Atlantis exists,” “we all really live in the Matrix,” etc.)

You are right that we either do or do not have a purpose (in the metaphysical sense). But this does not imply that there is no point to life. In fact, if life is all we have, then it is the greatest treasure in the universe and must be treated with respect. That’s the point of my book and of this blog. That’s why I care.

You said that we can all agree that the sky is blue, etc., and that you don’t see how this is subjective. I’d say that this is subjective in two ways: 1) A blind person only agrees that the sky is blue because you tell him it is; he has no idea what it means to see blue. 2) It is possible that if you could experience the world from my perspective that what you call “blue” I call “red” — we’d both call the sky blue but we’d be describing different experiences and there’s no way to tell there’s any difference (for what it’s worth, I worked with someone who was completely color blind and he would say that the sky is blue).

I don’t “admit” that Jesus existed. Rather, I think it’s likely he existed. I also don’t think Jesus was necessarily a liar. There are many other possibilities (as we discussed previously).

I think I also see what the problem is with our definitions of “truth.” I think I am describing any truth while you are describing what I’ll call Truth (with a capital “T”) — important, eternal facts about the nature of the universe. If this is the case, then our definitions are not contradictory, our words were just ambiguous.

Sorry to hear that you don’t have access to the Internet to look up Kalam. When you do, you will (I think) see that the argument is more rigorous than Aquinas’ without being harder to understand.

When I say that anything that is entirely part of the physical world is natural, I am not saying that everything is natural. Under this definition, deities, magic, the soul, etc., would not be natural because they are not part of the physical world. This definition is distinct from the definition of natural meaning the opposite of artificial (under which airplanes, etc., wouldn’t be natural). (On Dictionary.com, I’m referring to definition #8 of natural: “having a real or physical existence, as opposed to one that is spiritual, intellectual, fictitious, etc.” with the clarification that I consider thought to be natural.)

Addressing your questions about the Big Bang:

I don’t agree with your statement that “the default position is a willingness to know” since I don’t think it has any philosophical implications. But if you are going to ask “why?” in reference to the universe, I think you must first ask yourself what “why” means in this context. If it means, “Why was the universe created?” then you are assuming that the universe was created. If it means, “Why are we here?” then you are assuming something exists that gave us a purpose? Pretty much any “why” question assumes that something God-like exists — that’s why I said that “why” implies God, even though you did not explicitly say so. A question like, “What caused the universe?” does not imply God since a cause can have no intention.

I’ll give Occam’s razor one last shot. Occam’s razor states that you should prefer explanations that require the fewest new things. Given a list of possibilities, that helps you decide which you should prefer. Those that you do not prefer are not eliminated (in the sense that they are not treated as impossible), but they are sort of pushed aside until further evidence arises. When I asked if you would accuse God of breaking your lamp, you pushed aside that possibility until possibilities that didn’t involve God were eliminated. This is a proper use of Occam’s razor.

I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree on morality and intent. I think it can be morally (or, at least, ethically) wrong for a woman to be underdressed in public even if she has no bad intention. I would be happy to discuss “treat others the way you want to be treated” as a universal law, since this is another one that I think is poorly defined (if I want a man to kiss me, should I give him a kiss?) It’s cool if you don’t feel like discussing this one, though (we are covering an awful lot of topics already, aren’t we?)

Again, we may need to disagree about intent and murder. For example, I would say that vivisecting a human is murder, even if the intent is to do research that will save hundreds of lives. I agree that there are situations in which it is just to kill.

I agree that there were may reasons women were put to death for witchcraft. In Salem, women were hung (if I remember correctly) largely because children accused them of cursing them. There were some who fell under suspicion for complaining about the proceedings, so this may be what you are referring to. In any case, I don’t think any of this argues for or against the points we’re trying to make.

I admit that I’ve read almost nothing og Chesterton. I’m more of a Thomas Paine person.

Posted on March 13, 2009 at 5:38 pm by ideclare · Permalink
In: Discussion, Evidence, Morality

One Response

Subscribe to comments via RSS

  1. Written by Denise
    on March 14, 2009 at 11:45 am
    Reply · Permalink

    All I can really say is that I thoroughly enjoy reading people’s thoughts here. By classic definition, I am an atheist – with the disclaimer that if EVER any categorical evidence is offered as proof of god’s existence, then I’ll reconsider my stance. And as you said, the burden of proof rests on the people making the assertion there is a god. *shrug*

    Thinking on Aquinas – it’s been a bit since I’ve read his work, but one point of note (I missed if this was mentioned in either this blog entry or the previous) – he was a man of deep philosophical thought, as well as being a religious man…which given the era in which he lived is unsurprising. He appreciated the thoughts of the greats, and didn’t want to see those philosophies die with the advent of the church, so he worked VERY hard to incorporate those thoughts into religious context. To that end he was successful, and philosophy today IS indebted to him for working diligently to ensure the works of Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, et al were not lost to the dust of history and into irrelevance. Do I agree with Aquinas’ conclusions? No. But do I appreciate his place in philosophical history? Absolutely. :)

    Always fun reading here. Keep up the great work!

Subscribe to comments via RSS

Leave a Reply