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jtgain
06-19-2010, 11:24 AM
I guess this is a question, but it will quickly turn into a GD, so I'll just start it here.

I see many on the board who are proud atheists; there is no God/gods, afterlife or souls. I wonder how you are so sure. My first guess would be that since you have seen no evidence of such a thing, then you don't believe. Fair enough. But absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Would you not have to concede that if there were something supernatural "out there" that your human mind would not know of such a thing? I can understand agnosticism, but I can't grasp how one could say definitively that there is nothing beyond our mortal existence.

Skald the Rhymer
06-19-2010, 11:38 AM
:: takes off usual Athena-worshipper hat ::

Can I answer as a technical agnostic but practical atheist?

In the first place, the vast majority of the world's religions are incompatible with one another. Certainly the claims of, say, Pentecostal Christianity (the faith in which I was raised) cannot be reconciled with those of Sufism, Bahai, Islam, or even Catholicism when you get right down to it. Since they clearly cannot all be right, either all but one of them are wrong, or all of them are wrong. I see no practical way of determining which one is right in the first instance; it seems more parsimonious to assume the latter. There's no real evidence of the truth of any claim of the supernatural, so so why should any claim be given a bye? Why should I believe in Jesus rather than Thor?

In the second place--and here I'll specifically restrict myself to religions that claim that God is sovereign and beneficent*--there's plenty of trivially observable phenomena that seem to argue against it. You'd think that, if Jesus were real, he'd have looked at Rwanda in 1990, seen one group of his followers massacreing and raping another group, and said, "Oh, hell no. Fuck that shit. Time to put on my Aslan suit and go eat some evil-doers."

In the third place, in my judgment the emphasis of many religions on a blissful post-death existence compensating for the horrors and travails of this world seems utterly misguided to me. It's an excuse for the powerful not to care about the plight of the suffering, and an attempt to persuade the suffering to meekly accept their state. I see more evidence of a malign and hateful deity, or an incompetent one, than one who either benevolent or competent.

That's just off the top of my head. Now, if you'll excuse me, I will put my Athena-priest hat back on.


*No, I did NOT mean to write omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibevenolent.

MeanOldLady
06-19-2010, 11:44 AM
How are you so sure that there are no unicorns?

Leaffan
06-19-2010, 11:55 AM
Pink, invisible unicorns. That's right; they're both pink and invisible. You just need to believe.

jtgain
06-19-2010, 11:57 AM
How are you so sure that there are no unicorns?

For all any of us know, when we die we go to a world populated with pink, invisible unicorns. That doesn't mean I believe such a thing, but how can you definitely say that in another dimension (or whatever) that there is no such thing?

x-ray vision
06-19-2010, 11:59 AM
I see many on the board who are proud atheists
How do you know they're 'proud'?

I wonder how you are so sure.
Some are sure because the usual claims of what defines God include things that are impossible such as breaking the laws of physics. Others are atheists without being sure of anything. You don't have to be sure no gods exist to be an atheist.

My first guess would be that since you have seen no evidence of such a thing, then you don't believe. Fair enough. But absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
Okay? You just admitted we have no evidence for something that I'm guessing you understand is a fantastic claim. That's a reason not to believe. Should no evidence of absence now give us a reason to believe?

I can understand agnosticism, but I can't grasp how one could say definitively that there is nothing beyond our mortal existence.
How do you define agnosticism? How do you define atheism?

You've been here for enough years to realize that no atheists here claim that there is nothing beyond our mortal existence. Don't make straw man arguments.

ivan astikov
06-19-2010, 12:01 PM
If it's occuring in another dimension, unless you can flit between dimensions, it may as well be a fiction.

MeanOldLady
06-19-2010, 12:02 PM
For all any of us know, when we die we go to a world populated with pink, invisible unicorns. That doesn't mean I believe such a thing, but how can you definitely say that in another dimension (or whatever) that there is no such thing?How certain are you, on a scale of 1-10, that there is no world populated by pink, invisible unicorns? Maybe a 9.9999? My guess is you wouldn't declare with absolute, air-tight certainty that there isn't, but you'd be willing to bet the ranch.

Edit: If we're going to get into what "atheism" is, I simply define it as lack of theism. If the answer to the question "Do you believe there is a god?" is anything but yes, I reckon you lack theism.

x-ray vision
06-19-2010, 12:02 PM
For all any of us know, when we die we go to a world populated with pink, invisible unicorns. That doesn't mean I believe such a thing
If you don't believe in such a thing then you are an a-pink invisible unicornist.

but how can you definitely say that in another dimension (or whatever) that there is no such thing?
I know of no atheists that make claims of absolute knowledge in anything other than maybe "I am."

Tethered Kite
06-19-2010, 12:05 PM
Faith, whether it is in service of the unprovable or refutation of the unprovable remains a mysterious human quality.

A mind decided is no longer a rational mind. Doesn't science demand that we continue to remain open to possibilities? On both sides of the fence?

That's where I'm the most comfortable.

MeanOldLady
06-19-2010, 12:09 PM
I'm open to the possibility of unicorns. As of now, I maintain my lack of belief that they exist.

jtgain
06-19-2010, 12:13 PM
How do you define agnosticism? How do you define atheism?

You've been here for enough years to realize that no atheists here claim that there is nothing beyond our mortal existence. Don't make straw man arguments.

I have always thought that agnosticism was a belief that we can't really be sure if there is a God/gods.

Atheism is an affirmative belief that there is in fact NOT a higher being(s).

I don't think that I am making straw man arguments. Over in the death/afterlife threads, the atheists are stating with certainty that this life is all we have; nothing before or after.

whorfin
06-19-2010, 12:14 PM
Faith, whether it is in service of the unprovable or refutation of the unprovable remains a mysterious human quality.

A mind decided is no longer a rational mind. Doesn't science demand that we continue to remain open to possibilities? On both sides of the fence?

That's where I'm the most comfortable.

To offer a second response:

Does science demand that we remain open to the possibility that there's an invisible, fire-breathing dragon in my garage, and in the possibility that when we die, we go to a world filled with pink unicorns?

Are you the most comfortable with remaining open to those possibilities? Over, say, believing that there isn't an invisible fire-breathing dragon in my garage?

More importantly, what does "remaining open" mean? Does it mean anything other than what meanoldlady proposes?

Would you argue that it's rational or irrational to base any actual, real-life decision on the possibility that there's an invisible fire-breathing dragon in my garage?

Tethered Kite
06-19-2010, 12:22 PM
To offer a second response:

Does science demand that we remain open to the possibility that there's an invisible, fire-breathing dragon in my garage, and in the possibility that when we die, we go to a world filled with pink unicorns?

Are you the most comfortable with remaining open to those possibilities? Over, say, believing that there isn't an invisible fire-breathing dragon in my garage?

More importantly, what does "remaining open" mean? Does it mean anything other than what meanoldlady proposes?

Would you argue that it's rational or irrational to base any actual, real-life decision on the possibility that there's an invisible fire-breathing dragon in my garage?

MOL is sneaking up and tickling me. I have a recipe for her. ;)

I think the best response to belief in the possiblity of something unquantifiable is not to narrow it with definitions. In other words, I doubt the unicorn is pink. Heh.

x-ray vision
06-19-2010, 12:24 PM
A mind decided is no longer a rational mind. Doesn't science demand that we continue to remain open to possibilities? On both sides of the fence?
Keep an open mind, but not so open that your brain falls out.

Richard Feynman


I have always thought that agnosticism was a belief that we can't really be sure if there is a God/gods.
Right. But it says nothing about belief.

Atheism is an affirmative belief that there is in fact NOT a higher being(s).
No, it's not. It's being without belief in the existence of God/gods.

http://atheism.about.com/od/aboutatheism/p/atheism101.htm

whorfin
06-19-2010, 12:27 PM
MOL is sneaking up and tickling me. I have a recipe for her. ;)

I think the best response to belief in the possiblity of something unquantifiable is not to narrow it with definitions. In other words, I doubt the unicorn is pink. Heh.

So, what does it mean to remain open to the possibility that when you die, you go to a world filled with unicorns of unknown color?

Is there any difference between how someone would rationally act if

- she knew there was no unicorn-afterlife.

or if

-she chose to remain open to the possibility of a unicorn-afterlife.

Sr Siete
06-19-2010, 12:33 PM
Sure abscence of evidence is not evidence of abscence.


It's just indicative of it.


Mostly, all of us, you, me, Skald, Carrot Top, whoever, go through life making assumptions based on the evidence at hand. You may not be completely sure that there isn't a million bucks that just appeared magically in your pocket until you actually check it, but you can be pretty sure that such a thing is laughably improbable.


Well, most of us are just baffled at the idea of people not just believing that they do have the million bucks without even patting their pockets, but are even making plans under the assumption that they are magical millionaires. That's all our problem.

SenorBeef
06-19-2010, 12:34 PM
Would you not have to concede that if there were something supernatural "out there" that your human mind would not know of such a thing? I can understand agnosticism, but I can't grasp how one could say definitively that there is nothing beyond our mortal existence.

If there's something "out there" yet is so subtle that it never actually does anything to affect us, then what does it matter what we believe? There's no use for religions or any sort of belief system to work around this so-subtle-as-to-be-invisible supernatural force. If it doesn't affect anything, who cares?

No, religions (aside from some weak deists maybe) aren't formed on the idea that there's some non-interventional magical force out there. They're built on the idea that there's a very specific force, and here's how he has shaped our world, and here's how he affects the world we live in, and these are his rules, and this is why you kill infidels, etc. etc.

So either the power out there is so vague and so non-interventional that it doesn't matter whether it exists, or there's a power out there that's specific and that some religion understands and that actively intervenes in our world - and actively intervening in our world would leave evidence. If the Earth formed spontaneously rather than having lots of lines of evidence for a very old, gradually developed planet, that would be evidence. If all the living creatures popped up suddenly at once in functional ecosystems, that would be evidence. If God healed all his loyal followers of all their diseases, that would be evidence. All of this stuff would be testable and observable.

So then we can rule out most forms of religion because they make these testable claims and yet fail (creation didn't happen like in genesis, etc). The things that these religions believe would be useful - they would tell us something about the world or something about how to live our lives - if they were true. But they aren't. So we're left with "uhhh but you can't prove there's some vague non-intervening power out there! GOTCHA ATHEISTS HAHAHAHA!". But what use is that? If something has no effect on our lives and doesn't have any effect on the natural world, why do you need a belief about it? What purpose does that belief serve?

Religious people like to proclaim some very specific things (this is who god is, here's his rulebook, etc) but when you start asking for evidence it becomes "hey, you can't disprove there's not some vague undetectable power out there! Can't prove a negative! THEREFORE MY SPECIFIC VIEW OF GOD IS CORRECT!"




God may exist. It's pretty clear that no religion I'm aware of describes him because they all make factually incorrect claims about the history of the world and nature. Leprechauns may exist. There's equal evidence and non-evidence for either. There's simply no reason to believe in either - that doesn't require a positive statement that they don't exist. In fact even the more militant atheists will often say "your specific idea of god almost certainly doesn't exist" rather than "certainly", and that's the more logically defensible position, although they're practically extremely similar.

gonzomax
06-19-2010, 12:40 PM
Atheists just dismiss the god belief due to a long period of zero evidence. There is nothing to hang onto.
Those who actually claim to know are the religious people. They state that they know god exists .We atheist just dismiss it as totally lacking any proof whatsoever.

MrDibble
06-19-2010, 01:44 PM
But absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Poppycock. Wrong. Trite. And unmitigated bullshit. Absence of evidence is, indeed, evidence of absence - when evidence should be present. As there should be for any deity put forward by the world's religions.

Snarky_Kong
06-19-2010, 01:50 PM
I reject your premise.

I am exactly as sure that there's no god as I am that there isn't a unicorn behind me at the moment. Now, I wouldn't say that I'm 100% absolutely sure of either. I don't know of anybody that would. I don't know that I'm typing this post with that certainty. However, if I started a thread asking "why are typists so sure that they're posting to a message board. I mean sure, there is evidence for it, but 100% sure? That's so arrogant. How do you know you're not dreaming?", well that would be silly, right?

Tethered Kite
06-19-2010, 01:52 PM
So, what does it mean to remain open to the possibility that when you die, you go to a world filled with unicorns of unknown color?

Is there any difference between how someone would rationally act if

- she knew there was no unicorn-afterlife.

or if

-she chose to remain open to the possibility of a unicorn-afterlife.

I'm unsure of why you are asking me these questions. I have trouble with the magical and unicorn references since they weren't referenced in my framework.

What I said was that I feel most comfortable remaining open to possibilities of all sorts. In my sixty-some years I've seen many rationally unexpected things happen.

As I age I have a growing mass of evidence that what I have believed to be true has a way of revealing itself to me as not being so frequently enough that I'd venture with care to try to tell someone else what their "god" was all about.

msmith537
06-19-2010, 01:53 PM
Would you not have to concede that if there were something supernatural "out there" that your human mind would not know of such a thing? I can understand agnosticism, but I can't grasp how one could say definitively that there is nothing beyond our mortal existence.

It is certainly possible that there are things out there beyond our current perception or understanding. But that does not make them "supernatural".

What I take exception to is this notion that all organized religeons seem to have where what you have an ability to influence what happens to you either in life or after death through your actions and behaviors. Or that some supernatural being takes an interest in the results of events in your life.

whorfin
06-19-2010, 02:33 PM
I'm unsure of why you are asking me these questions. I have trouble with the magical and unicorn references since they weren't referenced in my framework.

I realize that they weren't referenced in your framework; that's rather the point I'm making. I'm trying to figure out two things: first, whether you're consistent in applying your framework, and second, what it means to "remain open" to something.

As an aside, we could debate these questions endlessly (and I'm sure we will), but they don't strike me as overcomplicated; so to help me understand your argument, I hope you can just answer the questions.

What I said was that I feel most comfortable remaining open to possibilities of all sorts.

So, to repeat my first question, do those possibilities of all sorts that it makes you feel most comfortable to remain open to include the invisible fire-breathing dragon in my garage? Does it include a heaven populated by unicorns?

My point is to see if you're being consistent in your framework. I want to see if you're trying to draw some sort of line, or if you'll apply your framework to other things that there is no empirical evidence for, such as invisible dragons, or unicorn heaven.

If you don't, you're being inconsistent in your argument--your "framework" isn't really what you state it to be, but you're instead making judgments between different kinds of belief, remaining open to some and dismissing others based on the circumstantial evidence for that belief. I can get behind that--but I'd suspect we'll strongly disagree on how much circumstantial evidence is necessary not to dismiss something.

If you do, on the other hand, remain open to the dragon in my garage, I'd argue there's a problem with your framework, as it makes you remain open to the existence of an invisible fire-breathing dragon in my garage.

I'd also argue that "remaining open" has no real meaning, if you read it to mean that you must remain open to all possibilities, regardless of how little evidence. You'd have to give equal credence to the IFBD in my garage and to the belief that it's not a dragon, but a invisible fire-breathing gibbon, and it's not in my garage, but in my living room.

That is also why I'm asking you what "remaining open" means you do. I'll repeat my second question.

Is there any difference between how someone would rationally act if
- she knew there was no unicorn-afterlife.
or if
-she chose to remain open to the possibility of a unicorn-afterlife.

If "remaining open" means you act no differently than if you have knowledge of non-existence, I'd ask why it matters to remain open.

If, on the other hand, it means you do act differently, then what, specifically, do you think should I do while going to get my car?

As I age I have a growing mass of evidence that what I have believed to be true has a way of revealing itself to me as not being so frequently enough that I'd venture with care to try to tell someone else what their "god" was all about.

So, are you going to venture with equal care not to tell someone else what the invisible fire-breathing dragon in his garage is all about?

Grumman
06-19-2010, 02:37 PM
Doesn't science demand that we continue to remain open to possibilities? On both sides of the fence?
Only to the extent that you are willing to change your mind if sufficient evidence is presented that contradicts your current understanding. Until such evidence presents itself (and the phrase "until hell freezes over" seems relevant here), the only reasonable conclusion is that the gods do not exist.

Lynn Bodoni
06-19-2010, 02:44 PM
I see many on the board who are proud atheists; there is no God/gods, afterlife or souls. I wonder how you are so sure. My first guess would be that since you have seen no evidence of such a thing, then you don't believe. If there really is a god or goddess in charge of this planet, s/he has been very lax in the Smiting department for the past couple of millenia. Milleniums. Whatever. Seriously, even though there are people who claim that the Haiti Disaster is the result of a Pact With The Devil, I don't see much happening around here that needs a supernatural cause. If there IS a god/dess, why isn't s/he a lot more active? Why did s/he think that it's amusing to abuse Job's kids, in order to test Job's integrity? If a god/dess does exist, then s/he has a nasty streak, and no sense of fair play at all.

On the other hand, I DO see evidence of scientific facts about me every day. In many cases, I can perform experiments on my own, to test the theory of gravity, for instance. On the other hand, if I say the same prayer for the same thing, maybe my prayer will seem to be granted. Maybe not. And if my sister prays for the same thing, using the same words and other rituals, maybe her prayer will appear to be granted, or maybe not. It's possible that both of us are performing or not performing a vital element in the prayer (maybe we need to have our pinkie fingers extended or curled, for instance), but the fact of the matter is, prayer doesn't do anything for nonbelievers, and I contend that any effect it seems to have on believers is merely a placebo effect.

If there really were an active god/dess, then prayer and faith would have a consistent effect, unless we've got a bipolar diety on our hands. And I don't even want to think about the theological issues that would bring up. Not unless I get a lot more caffeine in me, at any rate.

Tapioca Dextrin
06-19-2010, 03:09 PM
For all any of us know, when we die we go to a world populated with pink, invisible unicorns. That doesn't mean I believe such a thing, but how can you definitely say that in another dimension (or whatever) that there is no such thing?

Should I assume that there is a possibility that the guy standing next to me in the bus queue is a kiddy diddling serial killer Commie Nazi and act accordingly? It might be true in an other dimension and you can't be too careful these days.

Tethered Kite
06-19-2010, 03:16 PM
I realize that they weren't referenced in your framework; that's rather the point I'm making. I'm trying to figure out two things: first, whether you're consistent in applying your framework, and second, what it means to "remain open" to something.

As an aside, we could debate these questions endlessly (and I'm sure we will), but they don't strike me as overcomplicated; so to help me understand your argument, I hope you can just answer the questions.



So, to repeat my first question, do those possibilities of all sorts that it makes you feel most comfortable to remain open to include the invisible fire-breathing dragon in my garage? Does it include a heaven populated by unicorns?

My point is to see if you're being consistent in your framework. I want to see if you're trying to draw some sort of line, or if you'll apply your framework to other things that there is no empirical evidence for, such as invisible dragons, or unicorn heaven.

If you don't, you're being inconsistent in your argument--your "framework" isn't really what you state it to be, but you're instead making judgments between different kinds of belief, remaining open to some and dismissing others based on the circumstantial evidence for that belief. I can get behind that--but I'd suspect we'll strongly disagree on how much circumstantial evidence is necessary not to dismiss something.

If you do, on the other hand, remain open to the dragon in my garage, I'd argue there's a problem with your framework, as it makes you remain open to the existence of an invisible fire-breathing dragon in my garage.

I'd also argue that "remaining open" has no real meaning, if you read it to mean that you must remain open to all possibilities, regardless of how little evidence. You'd have to give equal credence to the IFBD in my garage and to the belief that it's not a dragon, but a invisible fire-breathing gibbon, and it's not in my garage, but in my living room.

That is also why I'm asking you what "remaining open" means you do. I'll repeat my second question.


If "remaining open" means you act no differently than if you have knowledge of non-existence, I'd ask why it matters to remain open.

If, on the other hand, it means you do act differently, then what, specifically, do you think should I do while going to get my car?



So, are you going to venture with equal care not to tell someone else what the invisible fire-breathing dragon in his garage is all about?

Okay. I understand better where you are coming from now.

Cyningablod
06-19-2010, 03:19 PM
[...]
I see many on the board who are proud atheists; there is no God/gods, afterlife or souls. I wonder how you are so sure. My first guess would be that since you have seen no evidence of such a thing, then you don't believe. Fair enough. But absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Would you not have to concede that if there were something supernatural "out there" that your human mind would not know of such a thing? I can understand agnosticism, but I can't grasp how one could say definitively that there is nothing beyond our mortal existence.

Someone might already have explained the following to the OP (I haven't read through all the responses yet), but I'm going to post anyway.

I wonder how you are so sure.

It's not about being "sure". It's about making the best possible inference from the information available. Atheism, at least the sort of atheism that I think most of us hold to, is not an insistent dogma that there CANNOT be anything beyond the material. It is simply a carefully measured disbelief in the theistic claims to which we have thus far been exposed. I'm an atheist, and I happily admit the possibility of a god's (or gods', plural) existence(s). But given what I know, I find it extremely unlikely. I don't need to be "sure".

So before you ask atheists why they're "sure" that gods don't exist, you might ask yourself why you're "sure" that there isn't actually a fifth terrestrial planet in our solar system, located between Venus and Earth. The answer is, you aren't "sure". But your disbelief in such a thing is the best epistemic match for the available information.

But absence of evidence is not evidence of absence

Theists misuse this maxim all the time, without realizing the logical consequence of employing it to argue against atheism. If we follow the "AoEisnotEoA" argument to its conclusion, then we'd pretty much have to believe in EVERYTHING, simply because most claims could not evidentially be entirely ruled out. This would be a hopelessly schizophrenic and unproductive state of affairs.

So a better maxim to follow, instead of "AoEisnotEoA", would be, "Whenever and wherever a consequential claim on one's cognitive allegiance is being made (i.e., whenever you're being asked to believe a non-trivial proposition), accept only those claims that have corroborating evidence." THIS is what atheists do, and it's a very useful, non-circular epistemic maxim.

Would you not have to concede that if there were something supernatural "out there" that your human mind would not know of such a thing?

No, not necessarily, at all. Take the Judeo-Christian God. Supposedly he is both supernatural and interacts with humans. So we would CERTAINLY have a way of experiencing him in a cognitively meaningful way. But most of us atheists have been forced to conclude, based on reason and evidence from psychology and sociology, that these "experiences" are ambiguous and unreliable, at best.

It is indeed possible that there exists a god, whom we cannot "know" with our minds or experience in any meaningful way...but then, why would its existence be at all important to us? What possible good is a completely unknowable god?? :dubious:

I can't grasp how one could say definitively that there is nothing beyond our mortal existence.

Again, this is not what most atheists assert. Most atheists simply say, "I don't believe in X," NOT that "X absolutely doesn't exist."

If plausible evidence of a god's existence were forthcoming, I'd happily become a theist.

Mr. Kobayashi
06-19-2010, 03:23 PM
Can't be 100% sure and completely certain of anything. For all I know I'm a brain in a vat. But for practical purposes, I'm 'sure' of my disbelief in deities for the same reason I'm 'sure' that there are no fairies, unicorns, and so on; I've seen no evidence that they do exist.

This also goes to the differences/similarities between the labels of atheist and agnostic. I favour the definition where theism is a statement of belief, or faith, whereas gnosticism is a statement about knowledge. So someone who's sure there is a god would be a gnostic theist, I call my self an agnostic atheist - I can't know god doesn't exist, but I don't believe he/she/it does.

Leaper
06-19-2010, 03:44 PM
Atheists just dismiss the god belief due to a long period of zero evidence. There is nothing to hang onto.
Those who actually claim to know are the religious people. They state that they know god exists .We atheist just dismiss it as totally lacking any proof whatsoever.

Well, it sort of depends. If you think that the supernatural has been scientifically proven to not exist (as some folks on this very board have stated they believe), then wouldn't that mean you believe, by extension, that God has been scientifically proven to not exist? Or replace "the supernatural" with "major tenets of religion X".

whorfin
06-19-2010, 03:58 PM
Okay. I understand better where you are coming from now.

Now that you understand me, would you mind answering my questions so I can better understand you and your framework?

Der Trihs
06-19-2010, 04:31 PM
Would you not have to concede that if there were something supernatural "out there" that your human mind would not know of such a thing? No, I don't. I have no reason to think that the supernatural would be any more unknowable than quantum mechanics. And this whole "the supernatural is unknowable" routine is nothing but a tool for use in arguments like this; the believers only bring it up when defending the nonsense they believe in. As soon as they aren't, they suddenly "know" quite a bit about the supernatural.

I can understand agnosticism, but I can't grasp how one could say definitively that there is nothing beyond our mortal existence.If by that you mean an afterlife or gods or magic, I can say there definitely aren't any because such claims violate physical laws and the evidence.

Poppycock. Wrong. Trite. And unmitigated bullshit. Absence of evidence is, indeed, evidence of absence - when evidence should be present. As there should be for any deity put forward by the world's religions.It's also evidence of absence when the entity claimed to exist violates known physical laws. Which most or all versions of gods do.

Well, it sort of depends. If you think that the supernatural has been scientifically proven to not exist (as some folks on this very board have stated they believe), then wouldn't that mean you believe, by extension, that God has been scientifically proven to not exist? Or replace "the supernatural" with "major tenets of religion X".It's been proven not to exist as far as science proves anything, which is as good a proof as you'll get short of proving it logically impossible. There's just no room for the "supernatural" in the known laws of physics. And there's no real evidence for the supernatural, nothing worth taking seriously; just empty assertions and other baseless claims. Which means there's no reason to think science is wrong on this.

Arguments like the OPs revolve around demanding that the supernatural be given a special intellectual privilege. It is trying to insist that supernatural beliefs shouldn't be called untrue unless they can be shown to be absolutely logically impossible, which is usually possible only in mathematics. That's not how we use terms like "prove" and "disprove" for other subjects; no one starts ranting about how I can't really prove it if I claim to not believe in Sauron or to not believe that I can fly by flapping my arms.

Fear Itself
06-19-2010, 04:31 PM
I do not believe in the absolutism that is necessary for religious faith. Facts are knowledge that is supported by empiric evidence; if new evidence arises, the facts change. This does not mean I must allow for the possibility for the existence of things for which there is as yet no empiric evidence. By my definition, if there is no empiric evidence, it does not exist. If that evidence arises at some point in the future, then it does exist.

Faith based absolutism has a problem with that. They live in an immutable world where knowledge is fixed and finite, and is either known or unknown. When I suggest that what is true in the morning may not be true in the evening, their heads asplode. When facts and reason collide, the relativist sacrifices his facts; the absolutist sacrifices his reason. As a relativist, I value reason over facts.

The fundamental difference between relativism and absolutism can never be reconciled so long as both sides remain convinced of the validity of their positions. The reason I choose relativism is because I believe the universe is knowable, and empiric evidence is the means for separating knowledge from myth. If I must change my beliefs from time to time to fit the evidence, that is far preferable to changing the evidence to fit by beliefs.

Little Nemo
06-19-2010, 04:53 PM
Imagine a Christian and an atheist discussing their beliefs.

C: "I'm certain that there is no such thing as Ahura Mazda, Allah, Amma, Baha'u'llah, Baiame, Buddha, Byelobog, Cao Dai, Coyote, the Daghda, Izanagi, Jade Emperor, Laozi, Luonnotar, Marduk, Quetzalcoatl, Ra, Rama, Raven, Ta'aroa, Tenri-o-no-Mikoto, Thor, Tohan, Vishnu, Xenu, and Zeus."
A: "And I'm certain that there is no such thing as Ahura Mazda, Allah, Amma, Baha'u'llah, Baiame, Buddha, Byelobog, Cao Dai, Coyote, the Daghda, Izanagi, Jade Emperor, Jesus, Laozi, Luonnotar, Marduk, Quetzalcoatl, Ra, Rama, Raven, Ta'aroa, Tenri-o-no-Mikoto, Thor, Tohan, Vishnu, Xenu, and Zeus."
C: "Why are you certain there's no such thing as Jesus?"

DanBlather
06-19-2010, 05:07 PM
For all any of us know, when we die we go to a world populated with pink, invisible unicorns. That doesn't mean I believe such a thing, but how can you definitely say that in another dimension (or whatever) that there is no such thing?That's not the atheist position. They just think that without any evidence of something, and without a clear definition of what that something does, or what it is, or the belief that that thing can be known at all, then it makes sense to go about you business without the belief that the thing exists.

It is certainly possible that everything you own is replaced every night by something identical. Do you waste time considering that possibility? If so, do you consider that it might happen twice a night, or 100 times a night, or might be done by bright pink fairies? And note that in these cases, the "thing" and what it does is much better defined than God.

gonzomax
06-19-2010, 05:15 PM
Well, it sort of depends. If you think that the supernatural has been scientifically proven to not exist (as some folks on this very board have stated they believe), then wouldn't that mean you believe, by extension, that God has been scientifically proven to not exist? Or replace "the supernatural" with "major tenets of religion X".

You can not scientifically prove that the supernatural or god ,does not exist. Our ability to perceive and measure things with science has gotten better and better. But it has nothing to do with proving god does not exist. Nor can it prove the Easter Bunny does not exist. You can not subject something supernatural to scientific methodology. That is why it requires faith. Faith is the ability to believe something you can not know anything about, and still believe it is there. It is a leap that many can not make. I can think of no reason to try.

Indistinguishable
06-19-2010, 05:17 PM
Nevermind about other dimensions and all that; we can illustrate the point more mundanely.

How sure are you that I'm not a dog? After all, it is conceptually possible that, in fact, I am a most unusual dog who is conversant in English, able to type, and with access to an Internet connection, even if no one has ever actually witnessed such a thing.

So how can you be certain that I'm not a dog?

As I see it, you can be certain that something isn't the case, and still acknowledge that it is conceptually possible for that thing to turn out to surprisingly be the case after all. Though you may object, I am willing to consider this "certainty". Indeed, I am hardly inclined to postulate any other kind of certainty; at any rate, this is, in fact, the kind of certainty that pervades almost all of our daily life...

SenorBeef
06-19-2010, 05:20 PM
You can not subject something supernatural to scientific methodology.

Well sure, you can measure effects even if you don't understand the mechanism.

If someone could lift objects with their minds, or predict the future, or heal cancer with their touch, we could very much observe and confirm this scientifically. It's only when you have beliefs that stuff happened yet it's so subtle that it can never be measured that it's untestable.

If God regularly intervened in the world and altered things in a supernatural way, it would very much be subject to scientific investigation. It's inconvenient for these people that nothing supernatural actually ever happens.

Der Trihs
06-19-2010, 05:36 PM
Well sure, you can measure effects even if you don't understand the mechanism.

If someone could lift objects with their minds, or predict the future, or heal cancer with their touch, we could very much observe and confirm this scientifically. It's only when you have beliefs that stuff happened yet it's so subtle that it can never be measured that it's untestable.

If God regularly intervened in the world and altered things in a supernatural way, it would very much be subject to scientific investigation. It's inconvenient for these people that nothing supernatural actually ever happens.
Exactly. The supernatural is "unknowable" because it never actually happens. It's only because science, cameras, religious freedom and so forth have made it harder to make claims of such things happening without skeptics demanding real evidence that we even hear so much about the supernatural being unknowably subtle in the first place. It's clearly a defensive claim, not one that believers actually take seriously or they wouldn't then turn around and go into so much detail about the "unknowable".

DanBlather
06-19-2010, 06:07 PM
What drives me nuts are people that reject religion, but hold on to some ill-defined, untestable supernatural something. If something is outside of our universe, and it can not be observed or measured in any manner, and it has no real effect on anything in our universe, and one can make no predictions based on it's existence, and it wouldn't really have any effect if it did exist, then I think one can make that one last leap and say it's existence is indistinguishable from not existing.

Der Trihs
06-19-2010, 06:22 PM
What drives me nuts are people that reject religion, but hold on to some ill-defined, untestable supernatural something. If something is outside of our universe, and it can not be observed or measured in any manner, and it has no real effect on anything in our universe, and one can make no predictions based on it's existence, and it wouldn't really have any effect if it did exist, then I think one can make that one last leap and say it's existence is indistinguishable from not existing.It does however allow you to refrain from uttering the dread words "I'm an atheist."

jtgain
06-19-2010, 06:34 PM
So the consensus seems to be, "With all of the available data at my disposal, I have not seen evidence of the existence of a God/gods, therefore I do not believe there is one/any"

How is this different from agnosticism?

Lobohan
06-19-2010, 06:34 PM
In response to the OP, I'd say that I'm sure there is no evidence for the existence of God. What other stuff with no evidence should I believe in? Zombies, Vampires, Space Ninjas? Are Space Ninjas a belief you'd be willing to admit are as likely as God? If not, why not? We know ninjas existed. We know space exists. We, however have never seen any evidence for immaterial beings. Believing in one is an act of self-delusion.

Given that there is equal evidence for God and Cthulhu, why should I choose God? The whole concept of plunging your hand into the infinite vat of possible Gods and choosing one is utterly stupid.

Bosstone
06-19-2010, 06:44 PM
If something is outside of our universe, and it can not be observed or measured in any manner, and it has no real effect on anything in our universe, and one can make no predictions based on it's existence, and it wouldn't really have any effect if it did exist, then I think one can make that one last leap and say it's existence is indistinguishable from not existing.This is why, rather than taking up theism, agnosticism, or atheism, I've wholeheartedly embraced apatheism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apatheism), also known as the who-gives-a-shit philosophy.

I was so very disappointed when I found that Wikipedia page. I was certain I was the first person to come up with apatheism.

Snarky_Kong
06-19-2010, 06:51 PM
So the consensus seems to be, "With all of the available data at my disposal, I have not seen evidence of the existence of a God/gods, therefore I do not believe there is one/any"

How is this different from agnosticism?

Atheism is not mutually exclusive from agnosticism.

Skald the Rhymer
06-19-2010, 06:51 PM
So the consensus seems to be, "With all of the available data at my disposal, I have not seen evidence of the existence of a God/gods, therefore I do not believe there is one/any"

How is this different from agnosticism?

When I say agnostic, I refer to someone who asserts that that the question of the existence of God or gods is something humans can never answer with any degree of certainty. In other words, he's saying that the question itself cannot be answered. To give a somewhat silly analogy, consider this question: what was the first thing Abraham Lincoln had to eat on the day of 19 June, 1852? He was alive that day; it's likely that he ate that day. But since he kept no diaries, and we hve no means of time travel or reasonable belief we ever will be able to travel through time, I am agnostic as to what he ate that day.

Contrariwise, when I say atheist, I mean a person who is willing to positively assert, based on either the lack of evidence or for philosophical reasons, that neither God nor gods exist. Continuing the previous example: I am entirely certain that, on 19 June 1852, Mr. Lincoln did NOT have a microwave burrito. The microwave was decades from being invented after all. Now, while it's conceivable that he had access to one via time travel, or because the ancient Egyptians had invented the microwave and requisite power structure, brought same to America, and hidden them where he had access to them, I am certain that neither is true, and unless I was given extraordinarily strong evidence I will disbelieve them.

As I wrote upthread, I am a technical agnostic but practical atheist. Philosophically, I have to call the matter of God's or the gods' existence unsettled, but I can imagine them existing. But practically speaking, I know of no mythological deity that could exist, and I see no reason to think I'll be proven wrong. It's obvious that Yahweh, Zeus, Wotan, Krishna, Superman, and so forth are only fictions.

Der Trihs
06-19-2010, 06:52 PM
So the consensus seems to be, "With all of the available data at my disposal, I have not seen evidence of the existence of a God/gods, therefore I do not believe there is one/any"

How is this different from agnosticism?
It's not as cowardly. Agnosticism is about sucking up to the believers; it's about being unwilling to simply say "I don't believe" the way you would about other ridiculous beliefs. People don't say they are "agnostic" about unicorns, flying spaghetti monsters or Sauron; it's religion that gets that treatment because it panders to the believers by pretending their nonsense deserves to be taken seriously.

Damuri Ajashi
06-19-2010, 07:25 PM
In the first place, the vast majority of the world's religions are incompatible with one another.

What if they all have it wrong. What if we are all two dimensional blind men trying to describe a 3 dimensional elephant?

You'd think that, if Jesus were real, he'd have looked at Rwanda in 1990, seen one group of his followers massacreing and raping another group, and said, "Oh, hell no. Fuck that shit. Time to put on my Aslan suit and go eat some evil-doers."

It might be hard for 2 dimensional blind men to understand the motives and behaviour of a three dimensional elephant.

In the third place, in my judgment the emphasis of many religions on a blissful post-death existence compensating for the horrors and travails of this world seems utterly misguided to me. It's an excuse for the powerful not to care about the plight of the suffering, and an attempt to persuade the suffering to meekly accept their state. I see more evidence of a malign and hateful deity, or an incompetent one, than one who either benevolent or competent.

This is the part that I have trouble with too. Does that mean you have less objection to religions like Buddhism?

You've been here for enough years to realize that no atheists here claim that there is nothing beyond our mortal existence. Don't make straw man arguments.

I'm pretty sure there are at least some posters that think that claim that when we die thats the end. No part of us survives death, there is nothing beyond the physical universe as we know it.

If it's occuring in another dimension, unless you can flit between dimensions, it may as well be a fiction.

This is a good point. And many religions make it relevant by saying that there is some sort of cause and effect between what happens here and what happens there.

How certain are you, on a scale of 1-10, that there is no world populated by pink, invisible unicorns? Maybe a 9.9999? My guess is you wouldn't declare with absolute, air-tight certainty that there isn't, but you'd be willing to bet the ranch.

I think some people get a lot of comfort from the fact that so many other people seem to think its plausible. Perhaps religions just fills some basic psychological need that most of us have and that account for the large number of people with faith but most people have more faith in religion than pink unicorns.

Atheists just dismiss the god belief due to a long period of zero evidence. There is nothing to hang onto.

And I think that is a reasonable position but on this board it seems to be open season on anyone who is religious. I am a fairly rational person and I realize that my religious faith is not grounded in facts but I believe nonetheless, I can't help it. A lot of people in the world feel the same way, are we all suffering from an incredibly prevalent psychosis?

We atheist just dismiss it as totally lacking any proof whatsoever.

Its more than dismissing it as lacking proof, its actively saying that those who have faith are fooling themselves and might as well believe in pink unicorns.

If plausible evidence of a god's existence were forthcoming, I'd happily become a theist.

I take it you don't believe the stuff they say in the bible, huh? It would certainly qualify as one of the biggest hoaxes ever perpetrated.

You can not scientifically prove that the supernatural or god ,does not exist. Our ability to perceive and measure things with science has gotten better and better. But it has nothing to do with proving god does not exist. Nor can it prove the Easter Bunny does not exist. You can not subject something supernatural to scientific methodology. That is why it requires faith. Faith is the ability to believe something you can not know anything about, and still believe it is there. It is a leap that many can not make. I can think of no reason to try.

If only faith could be had for the trying.

Well sure, you can measure effects even if you don't understand the mechanism.

If someone could lift objects with their minds, or predict the future, or heal cancer with their touch, we could very much observe and confirm this scientifically. It's only when you have beliefs that stuff happened yet it's so subtle that it can never be measured that it's untestable.

If God regularly intervened in the world and altered things in a supernatural way, it would very much be subject to scientific investigation. It's inconvenient for these people that nothing supernatural actually ever happens.

Science frequently requires reproducable results. We understand how lightning works but are usually unable to predict exactly where lightning will strike, we are unable to predict when earthquakes will occur. I think its a bit arrogant to believe that we understand enough about the way things work to rule out something that man has believed almost since he could think.

What drives me nuts are people that reject religion, but hold on to some ill-defined, untestable supernatural something. If something is outside of our universe, and it can not be observed or measured in any manner, and it has no real effect on anything in our universe, and one can make no predictions based on it's existence, and it wouldn't really have any effect if it did exist, then I think one can make that one last leap and say it's existence is indistinguishable from not existing.

Some religions say that what you do in this world has consequences in the other.

Indistinguishable
06-19-2010, 07:40 PM
It might be hard for 2 dimensional blind men to understand the motives and behaviour of a three dimensional elephant.
Well, perhaps my understanding will never be good enough by somebody else's standards, but it's all I've got. Once we admit "Eh, who knows. This reasoning looks sound, but I could be wrong about it. I could be wrong about everything. Why bother thinking?", all reasoning goes out the window ("Is 25 * 32 equal to 800? Eh, it looks like it is, but perhaps I'll just never understand the subtle flaw in my argument."). So, fine, you can consider such a possibility, if you like, but moving past it is not defective reasoning; it's the only reasoning there is...

gonzomax
06-19-2010, 07:52 PM
I have always thought that agnosticism was a belief that we can't really be sure if there is a God/gods.

Atheism is an affirmative belief that there is in fact NOT a higher being(s).

I don't think that I am making straw man arguments. Over in the death/afterlife threads, the atheists are stating with certainty that this life is all we have; nothing before or after.

If you have evidence that that is not true, please say it. But ,you don't. There isn't any. All you have is made up myths and stories that are passed along by "educating" kids into it. I have a life time with zero data confirming the existence of ghosts, angels, gods and unicorns. Faith is the ability to continue believing in something with no evidence to support it.

The Hamster King
06-19-2010, 07:58 PM
I am a fairly rational person and I realize that my religious faith is not grounded in facts but I believe nonetheless, I can't help it.Then you should try harder.

Digital Stimulus
06-19-2010, 08:13 PM
I am a fairly rational person and I realize that my religious faith is not grounded in facts but I believe nonetheless, I can't help it. A lot of people in the world feel the same way, are we all suffering from an incredibly prevalent psychosis?
Yes, all believers agreeing with those terms are suffering a psychosis (disregarding the usually attached qualifier concerning severity). Specifically, if psychosis is defined as: a loss of contact with reality and fact is defined as: knowledge or information based on reality, then maintaining steadfast belief in something that you admit is not grounded in reality is a psychosis. That's definitional, based on the admission that one's religious faith is not grounded in fact; one might also use the term delusional.

If, on the other hand, one claims that one's religious belief is grounded in fact (but of a special kind, e.g., revelation, special insight, emotional truth, etc.), then that changes things, becoming an argument about what qualifies as "fact" and/or the facts themselves.

DanBlather
06-19-2010, 08:17 PM
Some religions say that what you do in this world has consequences in the other.And I say that in the other world there are pink fairies with green wings. So what?

DanBlather
06-19-2010, 08:20 PM
If, on the other hand, one claims that one's religious belief is grounded in fact (but of a special kind, e.g., revelation, special insight, emotional truth, etc....)And how is that different from delusion?

Stan Shmenge
06-19-2010, 08:24 PM
Well as far as Judeo Christian religions, we can pretty much discount them. The claim is that the Bible is divinely inspired. Yet Genesis gets it all wrong about the order of events in creation, i.e. earth created before the sun. You would think God would know how he did it and his revealed word would reflect that. It doesn't. QED.

Digital Stimulus
06-19-2010, 08:29 PM
And how is that different from delusion?
Well, IMO, it's not. :D

What it does do is attempt to ground the belief claim on a factual base, and thus outside the definition of "psychosis" I supplied.

Skald the Rhymer
06-19-2010, 08:41 PM
Well as far as Judeo Christian religions, we can pretty much discount them. The claim is that the Bible is divinely inspired. Yet Genesis gets it all wrong about the order of events in creation, i.e. earth created before the sun. You would think God would know how he did it and his revealed word would reflect that. It doesn't. QED.

Divinely inspired need not mean factually inerrant or literally true. I can name several pastors I know personally who would say that the Bible has far more metaphor and poetry and history, and one whom I have heard explicitly discount the Virgin Birth (just to name one doctrine) in a sermon as "irrelevant" and who has, in small-group discussions, explained why that doctrine arose from a misreading of Old Testament texts and a desire to insert proof of prophecies being fulfilled.

x-ray vision
06-19-2010, 08:48 PM
I'm pretty sure there are at least some posters that think that claim that when we die thats the end. No part of us survives death, there is nothing beyond the physical universe as we know it.
Oh, I'm sure there are lots, including myself. But this is the quote by the OP I was responding to:


I can understand agnosticism, but I can't grasp how one could say definitively that there is nothing beyond our mortal existence.
I haven't witnessed any posters here claiming there are definitively no gods. Even those that claim they are hard atheists acknowledge they aren't making any definitive claims about reality. If you ask me if I know if there's a car in my garage, I will answer with a yes. But that's because I'd be using a more every day definition of know. On a more philosophical level, I realize I can know nothing except for maybe "I am", and maybe not even that.

Also, the quote by the OP infers that atheists necessarily make definitive claims about the non-existence of gods which I hope he now understands isn't the case.

jtgain
06-19-2010, 09:00 PM
So, fine, you can consider such a possibility, if you like, but moving past it is not defective reasoning; it's the only reasoning there is...

Fair enough. But when I get to the point that you are and I sail on the ocean, look down from a hilltop, or watch a mother care for her child, I am supposed to think that this all just happened? By a quirk? That doesn't seem reasonable to me. It seems that there is a higher order above us that guides us.

It would be like a society of worms that live underground. They only know the dirt and the area around them. I'm sure that the "atheists" in the worm community would think (if they were sentient) that this 100 sq foot parcel of land was all that there was and that since there is no evidence of anything beyond it, then there is not anything else.

I'm not putting you all down, but I can't come around to atheism.

Indistinguishable
06-19-2010, 09:08 PM
If it doesn't seem reasonable to you, then it doesn't seem reasonable to you. On the other hand, to me, the positing of God seems just as unreasonable as acknowledging the lack of such a higher order seems to you. Alas, our intuitions about what counts as reasonable differ in this respect; that's ok, "reasonable" is inherently ultimately subject to such differences of personal perspective. But just as you can't come around to atheism, I can't come around to anything else, absent shocking new evidence (again a concept which is, I say, inherently subjective, as seen by how ocean sailing, hilltop views, and maternal love count as evidence of God to you but are far from it for me. That you find those things convincing reason to believe in God seems silly to me, I will admit, but if they are convincing to you, they are convincing to you; nothing I need to or necessarily can do about that)

x-ray vision
06-19-2010, 09:26 PM
Fair enough. But when I get to the point that you are and I sail on the ocean, look down from a hilltop, or watch a mother care for her child, I am supposed to think that this all just happened? By a quirk? That doesn't seem reasonable to me. It seems that there is a higher order above us that guides us.
So you don't see how order can exist in the universe without a Creator, but you can see what you call an even "higher order" existing without a Creator? Or do you believe that that creator must have a creator and so on?

It would be like a society of worms that live underground. They only know the dirt and the area around them. I'm sure that the "atheists" in the worm community would think (if they were sentient) that this 100 sq foot parcel of land was all that there was and that since there is no evidence of anything beyond it, then there is not anything else.
You'd be wrong. I know of no atheists that believe all that exists is what we're aware of. You still don't understand the point of view of the majority of atheists on this board or you're in denial.

firstname
06-19-2010, 09:27 PM
Fair enough. But when I get to the point that you are and I sail on the ocean, look down from a hilltop, or watch a mother care for her child, I am supposed to think that this all just happened? By a quirk? That doesn't seem reasonable to me. It seems that there is a higher order above us that guides us.
(Bolding mine)

But if this higher order is needed to guide our existance (and i am asuming you mean also create) then where did this order come from?

There is no logical answer to that question without decending into stupidity and if the answer is "the higher order just existed, or sprung into existance" then why couldn't that apply to the world now.

I'm an atheist because I'm yet to see any evidence that a god, or gods exist.

Der Trihs
06-19-2010, 09:38 PM
You'd think that, if Jesus were real, he'd have looked at Rwanda in 1990, seen one group of his followers massacreing and raping another group, and said, "Oh, hell no. Fuck that shit. Time to put on my Aslan suit and go eat some evil-doers."
It might be hard for 2 dimensional blind men to understand the motives and behaviour of a three dimensional elephant.Well, in that case why should the "2 dimensional blind men" care about this particular elephant? At best, such an argument means we should be indifferent to "God" even if it existed.

I am a fairly rational person and I realize that my religious faith is not grounded in facts but I believe nonetheless, I can't help it. A lot of people in the world feel the same way, are we all suffering from an incredibly prevalent psychosis?Yes. The majority of humanity is insane, and the name of that insanity is religion. You yourself, right there are describing a compulsion; an irrational need to believe.

Science frequently requires reproducable results. We understand how lightning works but are usually unable to predict exactly where lightning will strike, we are unable to predict when earthquakes will occur. I think its a bit arrogant to believe that we understand enough about the way things work to rule out something that man has believed almost since he could think.Nonsense. We've done that over and over; science has demonstrated again and again the errors of various ancient beliefs. Old doesn't mean accurate. And for that matter, people haven't had any particular religious belief "since we could think". On the contrary, religions wildly contradict each other.

But when I get to the point that you are and I sail on the ocean, look down from a hilltop, or watch a mother care for her child, I am supposed to think that this all just happened? By a quirk? That doesn't seem reasonable to me. It seems that there is a higher order above us that guides us.Well, you're wrong. A "higher order" isn't necessary to explain any of that.

And when you see someone dying in agony from something like cancer, do you start talking about how there must be a higher order to explain the existence of cancer? Or does your god only get the credit for warm and fuzzy things?

Otara
06-19-2010, 09:45 PM
"Fair enough. But when I get to the point that you are and I sail on the ocean, look down from a hilltop, or watch a mother care for her child, I am supposed to think that this all just happened?"

No, you're supposed to think 'I wonder how all this happened', and then examine how convincing the 'this is how it did happen' arguments are.

One thing that makes 'god' seem plausible are things like ants vs us, but thats an extrapolation rather than evidence. And if anything its an argument that even if 'god' did exist, he might not give a toss about us in the grand scheme of things.

Otara

Skald the Rhymer
06-19-2010, 09:46 PM
Well, in that case why should the "2 dimensional blind men" care about this particular elephant? At best, such an argument means we should be indifferent to "God" even if it existed.


While I don't agree with you that it's a slam dunk that God doesn't exist, DT, I can't argue with the above statement. For a Deity to have any meaningful moral authority, it must be comprehensible on moral issues. Otherwise we might as well be worshipping Wotan (who at least is honest--he's raising an army of the best of all warriors to fight the final battle, and doesn't give a good goddamn about the rest of humanity except as potential rape victims for himself) or General Zod (who wanted to rule Earth because, well, he's omnipotent, and he was bored).

Diogenes the Cynic
06-19-2010, 09:53 PM
Atheism isn't a belief, so certainty doesn't play into it. All it means to me is that no one has convinced me that gods exist.

DanBlather
06-19-2010, 10:37 PM
I literally can not understand how an intelligent person, with access to information outside of his family and village, can not grasp that God is just as silly as Santa Claus. I don't meant this as a put down, I just can not understand that anyone smart enough to use a keyboard, or drive, doesn't think "well there is no evidence of God, I can't use the existence of God to make predictions on future events, I can't measure any difference in the world because of the existence of God, there are multiple beliefs about God that contradict each other, and the adherents of those beliefs all think that theirs is the correct one, so the fact that people believe is not evidence, so I think I'll go with the idea that God is a fable/superstition".

ETA: and it's not that I don't understand religion. I was raised Episcopalian and considered going into the ministry until I discovered that it was all just nonsense.

mutantmoose
06-19-2010, 11:10 PM
Reading through this thread, a fairly common meme is - well I don't believe in fire breathing dragons in my garage/invisible pink unicorns therefore I don't believe in God.

Are they really equal as comparative terms?

Unicorns are a fictional human invention based on a horse. Invisibility is impossible according to the laws that pertain here on earth. And if there was an invisible unicorn it wouldn't be pink.

Likewise fire breathing dragons. Dragons are a fictional human invention based on lizards. Fire breathing is impossible according to the laws that pertain here on earth. And if there was such a thing it wouldn't live in your garage.

God may be a fictional human invention but his powers are not limited by what pertains here on earth because he exists in a different realm. And he doesn't have a colour or an ability to fire breathe so that bit's irrelevant.

Not sure the two things are the same.

Lobohan
06-19-2010, 11:14 PM
Reading through this thread, a fairly common meme is - well I don't believe in fire breathing dragons in my garage/invisible pink unicorns therefore I don't believe in God.

Are they really equal as comparative terms?

Unicorns are a fictional human invention based on a horse. Invisibility is impossible according to the laws that pertain here on earth. And if there was an invisible unicorn it wouldn't be pink.

Likewise fire breathing dragons. Dragons are a fictional human invention based on lizards. Fire breathing is impossible according to the laws that pertain here on earth. And if there was such a thing it wouldn't live in your garage.

God may be a fictional human invention but his powers are not limited by what pertains here on earth because he exists in a different realm. And he doesn't have a colour or an ability to fire breathe so that bit's irrelevant.

Not sure the two things are the same.The point is there isn't any evidence for His existence. Why is he any more likely than the invisible pink elephants? God, the Babylonian Storm Deity, sounds like the sort of thing ignorant primitives would make up to explain the world.

Why isn't that explanation for Him good enough for you? What, given that there is zero evidence for his existence, would make you assume that the ignorant primitives were right?

Der Trihs
06-19-2010, 11:22 PM
Reading through this thread, a fairly common meme is - well I don't believe in fire breathing dragons in my garage/invisible pink unicorns therefore I don't believe in God.

Are they really equal as comparative terms?No; dragons and unicorns and invisibility are far more plausible than God. They are far less grandiose, violate fewer physical laws, are less illogical.

Jackmannii
06-19-2010, 11:22 PM
But absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.Absence of evidence means you ain't got nuthin'.

Please report back at the very next confirmed deity sighting.And if there was an invisible unicorn it wouldn't be pink.The devil can twist invisible pink unicorn scripture to suit his purposes.

mutantmoose
06-19-2010, 11:25 PM
The difference is that invisible pink elephants cannot exist here on earth because of the laws of existence that pertain here. Invisibility is impossible (far as we know).

But the laws that govern the earth may not hold true elsewhere in the universe. You're using an earthbound example to illustrate a universe-wide phenomenon. Inappropriate metaphor I think.

x-ray vision
06-19-2010, 11:27 PM
I literally can not understand how an intelligent person, with access to information outside of his family and village, can not grasp that God is just as silly as Santa Claus. I don't meant this as a put down, I just can not understand that anyone smart enough to use a keyboard, or drive, doesn't think "well there is no evidence of God, I can't use the existence of God to make predictions on future events, I can't measure any difference in the world because of the existence of God, there are multiple beliefs about God that contradict each other, and the adherents of those beliefs all think that theirs is the correct one, so the fact that people believe is not evidence, so I think I'll go with the idea that God is a fable/superstition".

ETA: and it's not that I don't understand religion. I was raised Episcopalian and considered going into the ministry until I discovered that it was all just nonsense.
So, while you were thinking of going into the ministry you were without access to information outside of your family and village and weren't smart enough to use a keyboard, or drive? ;)

x-ray vision
06-19-2010, 11:32 PM
Invisibility is impossible (far as we know).
No, it's not. You claimed it was impossible "according to the laws that pertain here on earth." Care to cite those laws? What does an x-ray beam look like?

Der Trihs
06-19-2010, 11:33 PM
The difference is that invisible pink elephants cannot exist here on earth because of the laws of existence that pertain here. Invisibility is impossible (far as we know).

But the laws that govern the earth may not hold true elsewhere in the universe. You're using an earthbound example to illustrate a universe-wide phenomenon. Inappropriate metaphor I think.First, the same physical laws apply everywhere in the observable universe. And second, a being such as you describe would be locked out of the universe, unable to affect it. A God who would dissolve or explode if he tried to enter the universe isn't how most people define God. And a God who can't affect the universe is meaningless to us, anyway. And the fact that you need to deny physical laws apply to God just demonstrates his impossibility.

And none of that affects the illogic or the grandiosity of the claims about God. Or the fact that there's zero evidence for any such thing.

mutantmoose
06-19-2010, 11:44 PM
No, it's not. You claimed it was impossible "according to the laws that pertain here on earth." Care to cite those laws? What does an x-ray beam look like?

I think it was pretty clear that I meant the ability of corporeal beings to become invisible not that there isn't anything on the planet that is invisible to human eyes. Infra red for example.

First, the same physical laws apply everywhere in the observable universe. And second, a being such as you describe would be locked out of the universe, unable to affect it. A God who would dissolve or explode if he tried to enter the universe isn't how most people define God. And a God who can't affect the universe is meaningless to us, anyway. And the fact that you need to deny physical laws apply to God just demonstrates his impossibility.

I'm only saying that the the fact that the laws that pertain here on earth don't seem to allow for god doesn't mean a lot since god doesn't reside here on earth (allegedly).

Whether god can affect things here on earth is irrelevant to the question of whether he exists.

whorfin
06-19-2010, 11:48 PM
Reading through this thread, a fairly common meme is - well I don't believe in fire breathing dragons in my garage/invisible pink unicorns therefore I don't believe in God.
actually, most of the citations to the IPU are asking those who use the "open mind" argument whether they do so consistently-- testing whether
(1) they are as open about the IPU, or the IFBD, as they ask us to be about gods. and
(2) if the answer to (1) is "no", whether there is some way to rationally distinguish god and the IPU--to make it rational to keep an open mind as to gods, but not as to IPU.

That's what you're trying to do in the post I reply to, and it's a noble effort, but it is, at base, futile--because, as the one asserting the invisible fire-breathing dragon in my garage, I can (and will be happy to) assert that my invisible fire-breathing dragon has any attribute you claim makes gods distinct from my IFBD.

Why? Because I and others are trying to find out (and I would love a simple answer from someone making the argument) whether "keep an open mind" means "keep an open mind to every possibility whether or not supported by evidence", or just "keep an open mind only to those assertions made about god that aren't supported by evidence."

The first is logically consistent, but a bit of a reductio ad absurdum, because it makes you also believe in invisible pink unicorns.

The second requires some way to distinguish gods and invisible pink unicorns or fire-breathing dragons.

So, now, to your efforts to come up with such a distinction.

Likewise fire breathing dragons.

Dragons are a fictional human invention based on lizards.
You say it's fictional. I say I have one in my garage. (and, as you acknowledge in your own post, the fictional, human-created nature of such a beast may not be any different from gods.


Fire breathing is impossible according to the laws that pertain here on earth.
So, maybe the laws that pertain here on earth don't apply to my dragon. Maybe you just don't understand them.
Or to put it another way, (with apologies to galileo), and yet, the dragon flames

And if there was such a thing it wouldn't live in your garage.
Why not? I assert that it's there. Where is a more sensible place for an invisible fire-breathing dragon? It likes my garage (I think it's because I keep leaving bones in the trash can).
God may be a fictional human invention but his powers are not limited by what pertains here on earth because he exists in a different realm.
Fictional human invention. And, if we can assume different realms, my dragon's from there, too. I should know. I'm the one saying he exists.

And he doesn't have a colour
Rev. 20:11. Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it.
Seems to suggest god's visible, and presumably, has a color.
or an ability to fire breathe so that bit's irrelevant.

Isaiah 30:33. "The Breath of Jehovah, like a stream of Brimstone, doth kindle it." (or, in the NIV, the breath of the LORD, like a stream of burning sulfur, sets it ablaze.")

Furthermore, you've just described a being from another realm, with powers not limited by our understanding of reality. Are you seriously contending that that doesn't include fire-breathing?

Not sure the two things are the same.
I can make them as similar as is necessary to rebut any attempted distinction. Or, to put it another way, I can come up with an absurd, made-up thing, that is exactly like any "god" one can make an "open mind" argument about--and then ask why you shouldn't have an open mind about my imaginary absurdity. I'd have much more respect for the people making such "open mind" arguments if they had a response to that--either that we must keep an open mind about my made-up absurdity, or some way to distinguish (in which case, I change my made-up absurdity to remove the distinction).

Der Trihs
06-19-2010, 11:49 PM
I'm only saying that the the fact that the laws that pertain here on earth don't seem to allow for god doesn't mean a lot since god doesn't reside here on earth (allegedly).

Whether god can affect things here on earth is irrelevant to the question of whether he exists.Hardy. For one thing, if he can't affect Earth, how exactly do you know he exists? For another, such a God isn't a God that anyone actually follows; it's another example of a God that only exists as a defense measure against skeptics. And for yet another, God as typically described couldn't exist anywhere, not just here.

whorfin
06-19-2010, 11:56 PM
I think it was pretty clear that I meant the ability of corporeal beings to become invisible

Forgot to mention. My invisible fire-breathing dragon is incorporeal. Nice try, though.

More seriously--do you really think this line of argument can work? There is no possible argument you can make--no possible distinction you can identify between a god and the invisible, incorporeal fire-breathing dragon in my garage that I can't simply respond with "but the same is true of my dragon." After all, I'm the one asserting the dragon's existence.

And you're still stuck with the question of whether keeping an open mind also requires you to keep an open mind about the dragon in my garage.

DanBlather
06-20-2010, 12:00 AM
Whether god can affect things here on earth is irrelevant to the question of whether he exists.But it's not. If there is no discernible difference between X and Y then they are the same. So if you postulate that there is a god that does not interact with our universe in any way then it is the same as the god not existing.

For example: let's say that everything in the universe is being multiplied by 1 constantly. There is no difference between that happening and it not happening, so stating that "everything in the universe is being multiplied by 1 constantly" is not useful.

Let's look at another example: suppose God laid out a set of moral principles, but there is no way for man to ever know what they are. That is just the same as there not being a set of moral principles.

DanBlather
06-20-2010, 12:05 AM
So, while you were thinking of going into the ministry you were without access to information outside of your family and village and weren't smart enough to use a keyboard, or drive? ;)Well oddly enough, it's when I did start to see that there were other religions, and that their adherents were every bit as sure they were right, and that neither they nor me had any objective way to determine which of us were right, that things clicked.

mhendo
06-20-2010, 12:19 AM
Fair enough. But when I get to the point that you are and I sail on the ocean, look down from a hilltop, or watch a mother care for her child, I am supposed to think that this all just happened? By a quirk? That doesn't seem reasonable to me. It seems that there is a higher order above us that guides us.It "seems" that way to you?

Well, that's that then, isn't it? Say no more.

Why bother starting this thread if your aim was to engage in nothing more than Round #2,547,431 of "My subjective, unsubstantiated belief is better"It would be like a society of worms that live underground. They only know the dirt and the area around them. I'm sure that the "atheists" in the worm community would think (if they were sentient) that this 100 sq foot parcel of land was all that there was and that since there is no evidence of anything beyond it, then there is not anything else.No, it would be nothing like that.
I'm not putting you all down, but I can't come around to atheism.You make the mistake of assuming we care.

Little Nemo
06-20-2010, 12:22 AM
But when I get to the point that you are and I sail on the ocean, look down from a hilltop, or watch a mother care for her child, I am supposed to think that this all just happened? By a quirk? That doesn't seem reasonable to me. It seems that there is a higher order above us that guides us.How can you look at a scene like that and not believe in Odin the All-Father?

Mrs. Cake
06-20-2010, 12:23 AM
Well, I am absolutely sure of my atheism due to my total absence of belief in any supernatural deity. The lack of evidence merely tells me that I am not crazy to be an atheist.

mutantmoose
06-20-2010, 12:39 AM
testing whether
(1) they are as open about the IPU, or the IFBD, as they ask us to be about gods
and
(2) if the answer to (1) is "no", whether there is some way to rationally distinguish god and the IPU--to make it rational to keep an open mind as to gods, but not as to IPU.

Maybe we're talking at cross purposes. I'm fully willing to accept I'm wrong but I still don't quite understand. The rational distinguishing point between the unicorn and god is that one exists within the confines of the known laws of earth and one exists outside of them. So comparing a unicorn to god doesn't get you very far. You're not comparing like for like.

I'm just saying it's a bad metaphor.

That's what you're trying to do in the post I reply to, and it's a noble effort, but it is, at base, futile--because, as the one asserting the invisible fire-breathing dragon in my garage, I can (and will be happy to) assert that my invisible fire-breathing dragon has any attribute you claim makes gods distinct from my IFBD.

Your dragon lives on earth though. So that's two things you're asking us to believe. First that you own an invisible fire breathing dragon and secondly that it lives in your garage. That's two things - one that you own an impossible creature and two that it violates the laws of earth physics. Belief in god only requires one of them - impossible creature. It doesn't have to violate the laws of physics here on earth.

But it's not. If there is no discernible difference between X and Y then they are the same. So if you postulate that there is a god that does not interact with our universe in any way then it is the same as the god not existing.

For example: let's say that everything in the universe is being multiplied by 1 constantly. There is no difference between that happening and it not happening, so stating that "everything in the universe is being multiplied by 1 constantly" is not useful.

Let's look at another example: suppose God laid out a set of moral principles, but there is no way for man to ever know what they are. That is just the same as there not being a set of moral principles.

I don't really get the necessary connection between the existence of god and him interfering. Seems like two different questions. Maybe to us on earth the result is the same but cosmically who knows?

MeanOldLady
06-20-2010, 12:46 AM
Are Space Ninjas a belief you'd be willing to admit are as likely as God? If not, why not? I believe in Space Ninjas!

I think some people get a lot of comfort from the fact that so many other people seem to think its plausible. Perhaps religions just fills some basic psychological need that most of us have and that account for the large number of people with faith but most people have more faith in religion than pink unicorns.I'm not sure what you're saying here. Are you saying that gods are more plausible than unicorns or Space Ninjas because a greater number of people believe in them?

DanBlather
06-20-2010, 12:50 AM
M
I don't really get the necessary connection between the existence of god and him interfering. Seems like two different questions. Maybe to us on earth the result is the same but cosmically who knows?So you think there might be a god that doesn't interfere with our universe, is not observable in any way, and it makes no difference as to whether he exists or not, does not explain anything about our universe (except to add one more turtle), and provides no moral guidance. And you are going to waste time on this possibility despite the fact that you can not know the difference between you being 100% right and 100% wrong.

Why not consider the possibility that there is a pink dragon that is outside the universe, but might affect us "cosmically". Who knows?

whorfin
06-20-2010, 01:08 AM
Maybe we're talking at cross purposes. I'm fully willing to accept I'm wrong but I still don't quite understand. The rational distinguishing point between the unicorn and god is that one exists within the confines of the known laws of earth and one exists outside of them. So comparing a unicorn to god doesn't get you very far. You're not comparing like for like.
I'm just saying it's a bad metaphor.
It's not a metaphor at all. It is a hypothetical--and one that, I'll point out, people seem to be taking the long way around not to address.

Even if it is harder to believe in the fire-breathing dragon than in god, the argument being rebutted doesn't have anything to do with strength of evidence--it is the argument that we must keep an "open mind" where there is no evidence.

The hypothetical asks if this is still true for things other than gods. That's not a difficult question, it doesn't turn on the precise details of the unicorn or dragon, and I honestly don't understand why people making the "open mind" argument aren't even trying to rebut it--it just suggests they have nothing.


Your dragon lives on earth though.
Sez you. How do you know where my garage is?

You may think garages are only on earth, just as I think "gods" are only supernatural beings that influence human affairs. You want to redefine "gods" in a way that makes them even harder to disprove, I'll do the same for my dragon.
So that's two things you're asking us to believe. First that you own an invisible fire breathing dragon and secondly that it lives in your garage. That's two things - one that you own an impossible creature and two that it violates the laws of earth physics.
You may argue that being in my garage means it has to exist within the confines of the known laws of earth. That's three assumptions by you: first, that you know the laws, second, that they apply to my dragon, and third, that my garage is on this planet. None, I contend, are accurate.

Well, fine. If you want me to be precise, my garage is actually in another dimension. It's actually pretty cool. Problem solved.
Belief in god only requires one of them - impossible creature. It doesn't have to violate the laws of physics here on earth.

This goes back to my earlier point about the assertion of a "god" that doesn't affect the earth. I would contend that calling such a being a "god" goes against every single part of the meaning inherent in the term "god."

More importantly, if that's how you're going to define "god", I define my invisible incorporeal fire-breathing dragon to live in my garage in another dimension (not bound by the laws of earth).

That gets you back to the same problem--having to answer whether it's rational to keep an open mind about god, and not about my dragon.

More broadly, you seem to be missing the point of the hypothetical. The point is that for any rational distinguishing point, I will just change my dragon to match. THERE IS NO RATIONAL DISTINGUISHING POINT. The dragon is a hypothetical I'm creating. Quibbling with its attributes is useless, since those attributes are whatever I say they are.

The point of the hypothetical is to point out that the "open mind" argument fails because there are so many things that one could, hypothetically, keep an open mind about the existence of. Nobody making the "open mind" argument seems willing to address the other things they'd have to keep an open mind about. Such as invisible fire-breathing dragons.

I don't really get the necessary connection between the existence of god and him interfering. Seems like two different questions.
Well, let me take a crack at this. Let's postulate a creature, who doesn't exist in this reality, and doesn't (and hasn''t) interfered with or affected our reality in any way.

You seem to be happy to call that "god." I question that belief. For example, how do we distinguish between "god" and "fred", with fred being a creature who exists in some other plane of existence, and doesn't affect this one in any way ?

It also makes it utterly irrelevant if you keep an open mind to that creature or not. It doesn't (and can't) affect our reality. (since if it did, it'd have to violate the rules of physics to do so).

Heavy
06-20-2010, 01:24 AM
Well, I am absolutely sure of my atheism due to my total absence of belief in any supernatural deity. The lack of evidence merely tells me that I am not crazy to be an atheist.

I used to say the same thing ten years ago before I started believing.I was absolutely sure I was right then as I'am now. :cool:

Sr Siete
06-20-2010, 01:37 AM
Couple of things: There is no "supernatural" because nature is defined as "everything that exists" and science as its study. If God exists, it automatically becomes part of nature.

Sure, it would be pretty hard to apply any method to understand a being that can make up its own laws of physics if it feels like it, but that still wouldn't make it outside science, just very complex.


Agnosticism is the complete and absolute belief in the principle of uncertainty, that God is unknowable. An atheist makes no such claim. To wit:

Theist: I believe in Santa Claus. He watches me and puts me in the "good" or "naughty" list and then brings me presents accordingly at Christmas.

Agnostic: The question of the existence of the being known as Santa Claus cannot be answered definitively, therefore I won't even try.

Atheist: Sure, everything may be possible, I guess, but... COME. ON. You are both shitting me, right?

PBear42
06-20-2010, 02:14 AM
Fair enough. But when I get to the point that you are and I sail on the ocean, look down from a hilltop, or watch a mother care for her child, I am supposed to think that this all just happened? By a quirk? That doesn't seem reasonable to me. It seems that there is a higher order above us that guides us.

It would be like a society of worms that live underground. They only know the dirt and the area around them. I'm sure that the "atheists" in the worm community would think (if they were sentient) that this 100 sq foot parcel of land was all that there was and that since there is no evidence of anything beyond it, then there is not anything else.

I'm not putting you all down, but I can't come around to atheism.Interesting. So, where in prior threads (I'm talking about a year or so ago) you appeared to be a weak atheist, you now appear to be a weak theist. I doubt your position has changed, but I'm pretty sure you made no statement like this in the earlier threads, at least not those in which I participated.

What you have outlined here is basically the cosmological argument, the argument from design and/or the argument from wonder (or awe). Why atheists (as ordinarily defined) don't find these persuasive is, I suspect, well known to you. If not, a little Google time would fill in the gaps fairly quickly.

In any event, to reiterate what was explained to you many times in the earlier threads and here, atheism (as ordinarily defined) isn't about certainty or proof. It's an epistemological system in which belief is premised on evidence. Without evidence, no belief. Depending on how one defines terms, this also could be called agnosticism, but that's not general modern usage.

Grumman
06-20-2010, 02:50 AM
So the consensus seems to be, "With all of the available data at my disposal, I have not seen evidence of the existence of a God/gods, therefore I do not believe there is one/any"

How is this different from agnosticism?
The difference is the conclusion you draw. An atheist looks at this dearth of evidence and says "Therefore God does not exist", while an agnostic does the same and says "Therefore we don't know anything about God".

It's the difference between concluding that invisible unicorns don't exist, and concluding that we have no way of knowing whether they're pink or blue.

Grumman
06-20-2010, 03:17 AM
Fair enough. But when I get to the point that you are and I sail on the ocean, look down from a hilltop, or watch a mother care for her child, I am supposed to think that this all just happened? By a quirk? That doesn't seem reasonable to me. It seems that there is a higher order above us that guides us.
This is the Argument from Ignorance. "I don't understand how this happened, therefore God must have done it!"

It would be like a society of worms that live underground. They only know the dirt and the area around them. I'm sure that the "atheists" in the worm community would think (if they were sentient) that this 100 sq foot parcel of land was all that there was and that since there is no evidence of anything beyond it, then there is not anything else.
No, it would not. The equivalent to atheism for these worms would be to assume that the soil extends infinitely in all directions. And they would not be wrong to do so, because (this is the important bit) picking the right answer by complete chance makes you no better than picking the wrong answer by complete chance. Only picking the answer that best complies with the existing evidence and Occam's Razor is reasonable. If God descends from the heavens in a chariot of light tomorrow, that won't change the fact that the religious were idiots to believe in Him before He presented Himself.

Invisibility is impossible according to the laws that pertain here on earth.
No it isn't. Invisibility is trivial: photons in approximately equals photons out. How you achieve this is irrelevant.

Your other assumptions are equally unfounded.

Snag
06-20-2010, 06:01 AM
I guess this is a question, but it will quickly turn into a GD, so I'll just start it here.

I see many on the board who are proud atheists; there is no God/gods, afterlife or souls. I wonder how you are so sure. My first guess would be that since you have seen no evidence of such a thing, then you don't believe. Fair enough. But absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Would you not have to concede that if there were something supernatural "out there" that your human mind would not know of such a thing? I can understand agnosticism, but I can't grasp how one could say definitively that there is nothing beyond our mortal existence.

Atheism does not by and large claim absolute certainty. Anyone who uses the scientific method as a standard of truth realizes that - at this time and unlikely to change - there is no any kind of deterministic universe at the most basic level of matter and energy. The scientific approach never expects to prove anything although mountains of certainty about a thing amount to the truth. Some things may be more likely to happen than other things, but the most outlandish improbability could happen once in a quadrillion times. Godel and Turing , demonstrated that some mathematical problems may not be solvable. Yet we have an awesome understanding of the basics of how the general laws of physics behave. Again, we have predictive math that sometimes is true out to 9 or 10 decimal places consistently.

Thus we have a very high confidence that nature works entirely on its own and it systematically does so without any outside help or interference. There is none to be seen. So the likelihood is that there are no gods, at least none that are willing to submit to testing and measurement. Sure some atheists will insist that they have perfect knowledge that there are no gods but those few are as wrong as anyone who claims perfect knowledge of anything including the existence of gods. The only real difference between atheists and agnostics is that atheists consider it possible that one day, science with the math to support it may bring about actual evidence that will demonstrate one way or the other. It may take 100 years, it might take 10,000 but who's to say it isn't possible? Frankly, I believe it would be much more likely that omniscient gods would be crossed off the list as we see nothing and it would require extraordinary evidence of a god to prove it. But I think it may be possible that some far off descendants might see a resolution to the question.

Agnostics don't think it could ever be possible to know, despite holding some kind of certainty about uncertainty. Suspecting that we could never be sure of knowing anything, really, they suggest that we simply don't know anything at all. They know about not knowing.

Sage Rat
06-20-2010, 06:25 AM
Would you not have to concede that if there were something supernatural "out there" that your human mind would not know of such a thing? I can understand agnosticism, but I can't grasp how one could say definitively that there is nothing beyond our mortal existence.

Why would I concede that any more than I would concede that there might be an invisible three headed alien following me around, watching everything I do? Of the two options, this is far far more likely. But for all practical purposes, if no one has ever been able to detect these aliens, has no theories about how one might be able to detect them, there's no evidence that there was ever an alien on the planet, etc. then I'm no better to believe that there are invisible three-headed aliens following me than to believe that there are invisible four-headed aliens following me. I have no reason to think that I'm a computer simulation, that I'm the dream of some super-intelligent being, nor that our universe exists as one quark in the makeup of a giant multi-dimensional space rhinoceros.

All of these possibilities are still more likely than that a giant bearded man popped out of nothing, created the universe, and has been whispering to the occasional Wise Man that he particularly wants us to worship his greatness. But without any reason to believe any one of them and knowing that there are billions of possibilities to explain all of existence, I'm happy enough to say that what can be demonstrated to exist exists and what can't be doesn't. If you want to believe in invisible bearded men, space rhinoceros, or three-headed aliens, then that's fine by me, but until it's up to you to say how one might prove the existence and present evidence to that extent.

At the moment, the only evidence for religion is that people say that they "feel" something. But given that people who "feel" this something are 99% exclusively composed of those who were raised to do so, this isn't terribly compelling. Once you consider human abilities at self-delusion and the existence of mental illness, drugs, and herd behavior not to mention that some people "feel" God whereas others "feel" an entire pantheon of gods, aliens, or spiritual rocks, that evidence becomes meaningless.

Agnosticism and atheism aren't mutually exclusive it's also worth noting. Admitting that something is theoretically possible makes one an agnostic, but not believing that it is the truth makes one an atheist. It is theoretically possible that there is a jolly fat man who wears all red living at the North Pole. I don't believe there is, though.

SenorBeef
06-20-2010, 06:58 AM
Before I start my replies, I'd just like to point it out to people advocating the "atheists are people who positively assert that God could not possibly exist" viewpoint would disqualify Richard Dawkins from being an atheist. Are you cool with that?


What if they all have it wrong. What if we are all two dimensional blind men trying to describe a 3 dimensional elephant?


It would be difficult for them to comprehend, but there must be some evidence that they're witnessing that 3d elephant, right? Otherwise why create a belief to explain it? There is no equivelant evidence about god.


I think some people get a lot of comfort from the fact that so many other people seem to think its plausible. Perhaps religions just fills some basic psychological need that most of us have and that account for the large number of people with faith but most people have more faith in religion than pink unicorns.


Of course. The fact that we equate popularity with plausibility is one of the big reasons religions exist. It's also one of the reasons that pretty much every culture has sprung up with their own religion. You would expect, in the absense of an actual god, that people would form religion - and how does that look any different from our real world where even believers think there are 100 false religions and one real one?

People need religion. Death is unsettling. Not understanding how the world works is unsettling. In the old days when we didn't understand how our solar system works, it was comforting to think of a sun god travelling across the sky. Now that we can explain that little mystery, it has dissapeared from religion.

But we'll never have a satisfactory answer about death. "Uh, yep, you're dead, sorry" will always be unsettling to most people and hence there will probably always be a need to find a way to alleviate it. Religion can still exist for that basic reason.

The fact that people have all the motivations in the world to create religions even if god doesn't exist is further evidence of the case. Or, more accurately, it's a way to argue against the premise of "billions of people are religious, and they can't all be wrong!'


And I think that is a reasonable position but on this board it seems to be open season on anyone who is religious. I am a fairly rational person and I realize that my religious faith is not grounded in facts but I believe nonetheless, I can't help it. A lot of people in the world feel the same way, are we all suffering from an incredibly prevalent psychosis?


Yes, it's a delusion. It's a socially acceptable delusion because it's so widespread and popular, but if you want to look at it logically there's no reason to give it special priviledge in our society. We're pretty hostile on this board to people who think 9/11 was an inside job, that magnetic bracelets will cure your cancer, etc. This is a board dedicated to the eradication of ignorance. While not being universally brilliant, it's one of the smartest, most rational places on the interwebs. Why wouldn't we be hostile to religion?


Its more than dismissing it as lacking proof, its actively saying that those who have faith are fooling themselves and might as well believe in pink unicorns.


Yes. There's no evidence that magnetic healing bracelets work, so I can hold the position both that they don't work and that people who believe they do work are, at best, misguided.

You are essentially asking for special treatment for no reason. I think you understand why we would all dismiss people who believed in silly things, except your particular sacred cow silly thing. That we must treat with respect for some reason even though it has no more evidence or plausibility than any of the other things. Can you tell us why we should d othat?


I take it you don't believe the stuff they say in the bible, huh? It would certainly qualify as one of the biggest hoaxes ever perpetrated.


The bible was written by people with an agenda long after the supposed events had taken place. It has been translated and interpreted dozens of times. It has explanations for how the world works which are obviously false. How could anyone reasonably regard it as proof of anything?


Science frequently requires reproducable results. We understand how lightning works but are usually unable to predict exactly where lightning will strike, we are unable to predict when earthquakes will occur. I think its a bit arrogant to believe that we understand enough about the way things work to rule out something that man has believed almost since he could think.


You can make specific claims about the world. God does this, God did that. We can test those things. Did God create the earth in its current shape spontaneously? No, the geological record shows us that the planet was gradually formed and changed a lot over billions of years. Did god create all life at the same time spontaneously? No, we have a very solid idea on the way life started and gradually developed. Does god interene in our world, say, to cure the diseases of his faithful? No, we could very much quantify if people who followed a certain religion had spontaneous recovery at a greater rate than everyone else.

Even if we didn't understand how god worked, we could see his work in action.

Fair enough. But when I get to the point that you are and I sail on the ocean, look down from a hilltop, or watch a mother care for her child, I am supposed to think that this all just happened? By a quirk? That doesn't seem reasonable to me. It seems that there is a higher order above us that guides us.


Ok, so how do you think a world which was a natural phoenomina would work? Would mothers not love their children? Would there not be pools of liquid for us to sail? Would there not be scenic views from hilltops?

Tell us what you think a world resulting from natural forces would look like, and how you can tell therefore that our world is not the result of natural forces.


Your dragon lives on earth though. So that's two things you're asking us to believe. First that you own an invisible fire breathing dragon and secondly that it lives in your garage. That's two things - one that you own an impossible creature and two that it violates the laws of earth physics. Belief in god only requires one of them - impossible creature. It doesn't have to violate the laws of physics here on earth.


Unless you are advocating for a non-interventional god that has never interacted with our planet, then god does violate the laws of earth physics. When he parts the red sea. Or when he talks to people using a booming voice out of thin air - what is generating those sound waves? When he performs all the various miracles - that's interacting with our world in a way that would violate the laws of physics on earth.

If you are supposing a non-interventional god that lives in another dimension that never has an effect on us on earth, of what possible use is that belief? What do we gain by believing in such an entity?

I really wish that religious people believed in this hypothetical non-intervenionist vague deist God that they always bring to these arguments. If they did, there'd be no "god orders you to do this" or "god wants you to kill these infidels because..." or "god thinks women should shut up and be your property" stuff, because this vague god they create for the pedantic, rhetorical sake doesn't demand anything from his believers. He couldn't.

ivan astikov
06-20-2010, 07:18 AM
For those of you who believe there is a god that set everything in motion, and is also a spiritual parent, has it ever occured to you that "he" might be sick of you clinging to his robes and might prefer you to go forth exploring on your own?

Superfluous Parentheses
06-20-2010, 08:20 AM
Loads of replies in this post.

I see many on the board who are proud atheists; there is no God/gods, afterlife or souls. I wonder how you are so sure. My first guess would be that since you have seen no evidence of such a thing, then you don't believe. Fair enough. But absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Why do we keep running into this?

Atheism is a position on what you're prepared to believe or accept as fact.

Agnosticism is a position on what you (can) know.

Would you not have to concede that if there were something supernatural "out there" that your human mind would not know of such a thing? I can understand agnosticism, but I can't grasp how one could say definitively that there is nothing beyond our mortal existence.

Practically all atheists here are agnostics. Most of them do accept that there might exist deities that we just don't have enough/any evidence for. But practically; if there is "something 'out there'" and we can't/don't know about it - especially if we've tried for thousands of years to find evidence for it - then it's very reasonable to assume it has no influence in "the real world" and the correct behaviour is act as if it's not there; including using the common short hand of asserting it ISN'T there. That's atheism.

A mind decided is no longer a rational mind. Doesn't science demand that we continue to remain open to possibilities? On both sides of the fence?

You forgot about the "evidence" bit. And the usual acceptance that logically inconsistent things can't exist. In short, by far the majority of atheists are willing to reconsider, but you'll have to come up with more than "but.. but.. there might be magical ice cream tomorrow".

So the consensus seems to be, "With all of the available data at my disposal, I have not seen evidence of the existence of a God/gods, therefore I do not believe there is one/any"

How is this different from agnosticism?

Agnosticism just says we can't be/aren't sure. What you're describing is atheism (lack of belief).

I'm pretty sure there are at least some posters that think that claim that when we die thats the end. No part of us survives death, there is nothing beyond the physical universe as we know it.
Yeah. And we can't be 100% certain about that. So what? There's no evidence for it whatsoever.

This is a good point. And many religions make it relevant by saying that there is some sort of cause and effect between what happens here and what happens there.

Please tell my why all claims of cause and effect are in the one direction where we can't test any of it? For all the stuff in the Bible about god speaking to people in burning bushes and stuff like that, he's been awfully quiet last couple of thousand years.

Its more than dismissing it as lacking proof, its actively saying that those who have faith are fooling themselves and might as well believe in pink unicorns.
IMHO you'd be better off believing in invisible pink unicorns (if only because they're a lot more logically consistent than most deities). However, the actual point in these IPU arguments is that the evidence is exactly the same for them as for any deity. Most believers prefer to act insulted when you point that out, though.

Science frequently requires reproducable results. We understand how lightning works but are usually unable to predict exactly where lightning will strike, we are unable to predict when earthquakes will occur. I think its a bit arrogant to believe that we understand enough about the way things work to rule out something that man has believed almost since he could think.
Science tells us that a particle has some % chance of decaying within a certain time-frame, yet it also tells us that we will never be able to predict when exactly that will happen. Does that mean we can't say anything about the existence of gods? Why should we address the god question last?

Reading through this thread, a fairly common meme is - well I don't believe in fire breathing dragons in my garage/invisible pink unicorns therefore I don't believe in God.

Are they really equal as comparative terms?
YES!
God may be a fictional human invention but his powers are not limited by what pertains here on earth because he exists in a different realm.
And so do the invisible pink unicorns. Hey, that was easy!

Blackberry
06-20-2010, 09:15 AM
What drives me nuts are people that reject religion, but hold on to some ill-defined, untestable supernatural something. If something is outside of our universe, and it can not be observed or measured in any manner, and it has no real effect on anything in our universe, and one can make no predictions based on it's existence, and it wouldn't really have any effect if it did exist, then I think one can make that one last leap and say it's existence is indistinguishable from not existing.

That would be me :o
Part of that IS because I can't bear to think there's really nothing else, I'm sure. But not all. I don't get the basis for having specific beliefs about a god, because where do they come from? It just seems so arbitrary (and IS, obviously, since people have come up with so many different, conflicting specifics).

However, I don't think it's an irrational position to think that that it's fairly likely that there is some kind of higher power. There are things about the universe that we don't know now, but might one day know. But then there are things that we'll NEVER be able to comprehend, like the idea of an infinite universe. Our minds are not capable of grasping the concept. So clearly there's something going on that is going above all our heads, and always will. What it is, I have no idea.

So then you guys say, why does it matter then, if it's that abstract and unknowable? Well, it doesn't really make a difference in my daily life or my moral code or anything. But I do like to think there's a possibility of some sort of afterlife. Maybe it's something we can't even imagine, like infinity. Maybe it's pink unicorns. Maybe it's nothing.

Tethered Kite
06-20-2010, 09:32 AM
Now that you understand me, would you mind answering my questions so I can better understand you and your framework?

I see I have posted once again in Great Debates forgeting that there is a format for this type of discussion. :smack:

Alas, I have no formal training in this particular exersize and find myself at a loss to play well.

But I'm all for understanding and will continue to discuss my belief system when appropriate.

Something I often fail to notice when I see discussions of this nature is that most are talking about a specific, mind-picture God or gods. I, for lack of another word, use the word "God" to conceptualize whatever Great Force powers existence of everything.

And I do think that the way one frames that can influence one's life for the better whether it's imaginary or real. If that effect is positive then I respect that.



(Next you see this absent-minded person stumble in with an opinion you may give me a gentle nudge toward the door with reminder that "You don't DO debate, yah old fool." Thanks.)

gonzomax
06-20-2010, 11:16 AM
Forgot to mention. My invisible fire-breathing dragon is incorporeal. Nice try, though.

More seriously--do you really think this line of argument can work? There is no possible argument you can make--no possible distinction you can identify between a god and the invisible, incorporeal fire-breathing dragon in my garage that I can't simply respond with "but the same is true of my dragon." After all, I'm the one asserting the dragon's existence.

And you're still stuck with the question of whether keeping an open mind also requires you to keep an open mind about the dragon in my garage.

Now ,if you can convince others that you actually have a dragon, that only you can see, you have the basics of a religion. The flock will have to trust your special ability to see and communicate with the dragon. You can say you will keep them safe if they come by every Sunday morning and drop off food and money. They of course the garage is too small for such a magnificent creature. So they must build a huge and fancy building to appease it. Then your friends and family will have to become dragon handlers. You can branch out and save other areas . They of course need a fancy building in each area. You are on your way .

mutantmoose
06-20-2010, 11:28 AM
Forgot to mention. My invisible fire-breathing dragon is incorporeal. Nice try, though.

Doesn't make sense. If the dragon is incorporeal then by definition it's invisible. Tautology.

More seriously--do you really think this line of argument can work? There is no possible argument you can make--no possible distinction you can identify between a god and the invisible, incorporeal fire-breathing dragon in my garage that I can't simply respond with "but the same is true of my dragon." After all, I'm the one asserting the dragon's existence.

You're asserting that an impossible creature exists here on earth. God people are asserting that an impossible creature exists elsewhere in the universe. Seems like a pretty clear distinction to me.

And you're still stuck with the question of whether keeping an open mind also requires you to keep an open mind about the dragon in my garage.

The dragon violates the laws of physics so it would be foolish to keep an open mind about that. I don't know what the laws of physics are in the part of the universe that god resides in so I can't form an opinion on whether He violates them or not.

Skald the Rhymer
06-20-2010, 11:32 AM
Doesn't make sense. If the dragon is incorporeal then by definition it's invisible. Tautology.


A shadow is incorporeal but not invisible.

mutantmoose
06-20-2010, 11:34 AM
A shadow is only cast by a corporeal thing though. So although it is itself incorporeal it is inextricably linked to the corporeal world.

SenorBeef
06-20-2010, 11:34 AM
You're asserting that an impossible creature exists here on earth. God people are asserting that an impossible creature exists elsewhere in the universe. Seems like a pretty clear distinction to me.


So are you saying that God doesn't interact with the earth, or that it doesn't violate physical laws here if he does because he's sitting on a couch across the universe?

Gustav
06-20-2010, 11:42 AM
Saying that it exists elsewhere in the universe isn't really a relevant distinction. Going to a different galaxy doesn't change any physical laws that I'm aware of. You would have to say that it exists in a different universe altogether.

mutantmoose
06-20-2010, 11:48 AM
So are you saying that God doesn't interact with the earth, or that it doesn't violate physical laws here if he does because he's sitting on a couch across the universe?

I'm saying it's two different questions:

Question 1: the existence of god

Question 2: the extent of His interaction with earth

Saying that it exists elsewhere in the universe isn't really a relevant distinction. Going to a different galaxy doesn't change any physical laws that I'm aware of. You would have to say that it exists in a different universe altogether.

Who knows where or how he exists. Seems like you're trying to define the nature of god to fit in with your already formed conclusions.

Gustav
06-20-2010, 11:50 AM
Who knows where or how he exists. Seems like you're trying to define the nature of god to fit in with your already formed conclusions.

Just trying to help you fight the hypothetical as efficiently as possible.

Shawn1767
06-20-2010, 11:56 AM
I don't believe in religion(s) because they're so mundane and predictable. It's painfully obvious that religious stories are made up based on the knowledge of the people who made them up at that time.

The evidence for reality and how the universe really works is so much more amazing and complex. There is no need for religion.

Lobohan
06-20-2010, 12:21 PM
Who knows where or how he exists. Seems like you're trying to define the nature of god to fit in with your already formed conclusions.So you have no idea how he could exist, no evidence he does exist and yet you still argue for it being reasonable for Him to exist?

Religion is self-delusion. It's a comfortable lie.

SenorBeef
06-20-2010, 12:33 PM
I'm saying it's two different questions:

Question 1: the existence of god

Question 2: the extent of His interaction with earth



How is a belief in a god that hasn't interacted with the earth or humanity useful? What should we believe and how should we change our actions?

whorfin
06-20-2010, 12:42 PM
Doesn't make sense. If the dragon is incorporeal then by definition it's invisible. Tautology.

As others have pointed out, totally wrong. A shadow is incorporeal but visible. The classic, horror-movie invisible man is invisible but corporeal--you can touch him, just not see him. My dragon is both invisible and incorporeal.

A shadow is only cast by a corporeal thing though. So although it is itself incorporeal it is inextricably linked to the corporeal world.
Sez you. Maybe you just don't understand the laws of physics. Maybe you don't know where my dragon is. But it is not bound by your definition of how the world works--it's my dragon. I'm the one telling you about it--by definition, you cannot tell me about the attributes of my dragon.


You're asserting that an impossible creature exists here on earth. God people are asserting that an impossible creature exists elsewhere in the universe. Seems like a pretty clear distinction to me.

Did you pay attention to me describing where my garage was? Also, as in your next quote, you suggest your "god" is somewhere in the universe. But I'll make it easy for you. My garage is in the same place your "god" is.


The dragon violates the laws of physics so it would be foolish to keep an open mind about that. I don't know what the laws of physics are in the part of the universe that god resides in so I can't form an opinion on whether He violates them or not.

Again, as I and others have pointed out: First, your "god" seems very unlike all the gods I've heard about, who seem to interfere on this little blue speck on a daily basis. Second, you don't know what the laws of physics are in the place where my dragon resides.

Again, you have just assumed my garage is on earth. I just assumed when you were talking about "god" you meant something similar to what every religion on earth describes. If you want me to accept your definition of "god," that's fine (though how you distinguish a god like the one you're describing from a non-godly resident of the same area beats me)--but if you want me to do that, you have to accept that my garage is in the same place your god is.

heatmiserfl
06-20-2010, 01:23 PM
Fair enough. But when I get to the point that you are and I sail on the ocean, look down from a hilltop, or watch a mother care for her child, I am supposed to think that this all just happened? By a quirk? That doesn't seem reasonable to me. It seems that there is a higher order above us that guides us.



Why did the higher order take 14 billion years to get to this point? Hell, it might have even taken longer if there are other older universes. Lots of shit can happen in 14 billion years "by a quirk". I hope "by a quirk" doesn't mean that everything showed up randomly. The universe goes by a very strict set of rules and everything that is here now has been selected for being here now.

The higher order you're describing is simply having the properties of being stable enough to exist. I'm not an astronomer but I suppose that if the universe expanded too quickly, stars wouldn't have formed. Then no nebula. Then no planets. If it didn't expand enough, it would have collapsed on itself?

So it took a while to get here but we're here because we're here.

DanBlather
06-20-2010, 01:44 PM
However, I don't think it's an irrational position to think that that it's fairly likely that there is some kind of higher power. No, it is irrational. The fact that we do not understand everything, and may not be able to understand everything, does not rationally lead to a "higher power" unless you define it in tautological terms: God is what we don't understand, we don't understand everything, so therefore there is a God.

Blackberry
06-20-2010, 02:09 PM
No, it is irrational. The fact that we do not understand everything, and may not be able to understand everything, does not rationally lead to a "higher power" unless you define it in tautological terms: God is what we don't understand, we don't understand everything, so therefore there is a God.

But you'll notice I didn't say there IS a God. I agree that is not a rational conclusion to reach. But there could be. It's very unlikely that it would be the man with the long white beard who lives in the clouds, but some kind of power that is beyond the reach of our science and that we can't fully understand? That doesn't sound any more far-fetched than an infinite universe, to me anyway.

And I get what you're saying about how we would define "God", but I'm talking about an actual entity of some sort. It goes without saying that we don't understand everything, and I agree that that alone does not prove that there's a god (nor does anything PROVE it, I just don't think it's irrational to think that it's more likely than some specific mythical thing like invisible pink unicorns).

Anyway, I was raised Catholic and still have the guilt to show for it. I haven't been religious at all in many years, but I know I still have some issues stemming from it, so I realize that plays a part in my views. So I'm not saying that I'm right and anyone who disagrees is wrong, I'm just trying to explore the subject further.

Digital Stimulus
06-20-2010, 02:54 PM
It goes without saying that we don't understand everything, and I agree that that alone does not prove that there's a god (nor does anything PROVE it, I just don't think it's irrational to think that it's more likely than some specific mythical thing like invisible pink unicorns).
I would argue that assigning likelihoods to events that are admittedly beyond understanding serves as a definition of irrational.

Blackberry
06-20-2010, 03:11 PM
I would argue that assigning likelihoods to events that are admittedly beyond understanding serves as a definition of irrational.

You could be right. Well, like I said, my wanting to believe in the possibility of some kind of afterlife is not rooted in rationality. That's what makes me WANT to believe in a higher power. What makes me think that it could actually be true instead of just wishful thinking is the fact that there's so much about the universe that we can't understand. But I suppose that if I didn't care one way or the other, I wouldn't even bother thinking about it.

I don't know how to cope with someone close to me dying if I think for sure they're just gone and there's nothing else. I don't know how to cope with it even if I DO believe in an afterlife (I've never had someone close die but it has to happen evetually and I worry about it a lot), but even more if I don't.

Superfluous Parentheses
06-20-2010, 03:15 PM
I would argue that assigning likelihoods to events that are admittedly beyond understanding serves as a definition of irrational.

Hold it.

All those scenarios are hypothetical - made up - with equal evidence to back them up (that is, none, and with no apparent way of advancing the evidence). In that case, it's perfectly rational to assign them all the same probability. Doing anything else is AFAICS irrational.

The question really is; how much probability do you give an IPU?

Blackberry
06-20-2010, 03:25 PM
Hold it.

All those scenarios are hypothetical - made up - with equal evidence to back them up (that is, none, and with no apparent way of advancing the evidence). In that case, it's perfectly rational to assign them all the same probability. Doing anything else is AFAICS irrational.

The question really is; how much probability do you give an IPU?

Well, I would say that the fact that there are things about the universe that we could never hope to understand is evidence that there could be powers we can't understand. That power being an invisible pink unicorn is less likely than it existing at all, unless you believe that there's absolutely ZERO chance that anything of the sort could exist (or that if it does exist it HAS to be an invisible pink unicorn, I suppose)

whorfin
06-20-2010, 03:33 PM
Well, I would say that the fact that there are things about the universe that we could never hope to understand is evidence that there could be powers we can't understand. That power being an invisible pink unicorn is less likely than it existing at all, unless you believe that there's absolutely ZERO chance that anything of the sort could exist (or that if it does exist it HAS to be an invisible pink unicorn, I suppose)

But nobody is saying the power, as you put it, is an IPU. That's adding another part to the question you're being asked--and one that would, as you point out, make it less likely.

So to repeat
The question really is; how much probability do you give an IPU?

Not a god-like IPU. Not something else. Invisible. Pink. Unicorn.

In the one corner, weighing in with a probability of X%, we have the "power." In the other corner, an invisible pink unicorn--another, completely different entity, for which there's no empirical evidence that it does exist, and which is (or can be made to be, if you want to fight the hypothetical) exactly as plausible or implausible under the laws of physics as a "power."

So, do you give the same, different probability to the existence of an IPU that you give to the existence of a "power"?

Blackberry
06-20-2010, 03:45 PM
But nobody is saying the power, as you put it, is an IPU. That's adding another part to the question you're being asked--and one that would, as you point out, make it less likely.

So to repeat


And, I add, is that the same, or different to the probability you give a "power"?

Not a god-like IPU. Not something else. Invisble. Pink. Unicorn.

Oh yeah, I guess it was the dragon in somebody's garage that was in another dimension or something.

I don't know of any evidence of the run-of-the-mill IPU existing so I have no reason to think it might, but, like I said, I think that the fact that our brains are incapable of grasping things about the universe is evidence that a higher power MAY exist. So, based on the evidence as I see it, I give the unspecified power a higher probability of existing than the IPU.

whorfin
06-20-2010, 03:55 PM
Oh yeah, I guess it was the dragon in somebody's garage that was in another dimension or something.
Technically, the dragon was only in another dimension to respond to another poster trying to fight the hypothetical by saying his "god" was in another dimension; further, being in another dimension doesn't make something god, or a "power"--it's just a place it lives.


I don't know of any evidence of the run-of-the-mill IPU existing so I have no reason to think it might, but, like I said, I think that the fact that our brains are incapable of grasping things about the universe is evidence that a higher power MAY exist. So, based on the evidence as I see it, I give the unspecified power a higher probability of existing than the IPU.

Very nice response! So, if I understand you correctly, you aren't just arguing that we should keep an open mind as to a higher power based on the absence of evidence--you're looking to circumstantial evidence, and using it to evaluate the probability of such a thing existing.

And, as you point out in the case of an IPU, the complete absence of evidence is a reason not to have any reason to think that such a thing might exist, yes? Or as you put it,

I don't know of any evidence of the run-of-the-mill IPU existing so I have no reason to think it might

So now we get to debate the evidence in favor or against a higher power.

Superfluous Parentheses
06-20-2010, 04:08 PM
[...]I think that the fact that our brains are incapable of grasping things about the universe is evidence that a higher power MAY exist. So, based on the evidence as I see it, I give the unspecified power a higher probability of existing than the IPU.

Our brains have nothing to do with it. The "higher power" is generally defined in such a way that - no matter how smart and well-informed we are - we still couldn't do an exhaustive search or test that would give any evidence that it exists or not. The exact same thing is true for the IPU.

Even if we were trillions of times smarter, that wouldn't change a thing about the argument or evidence for gods, higher powers, invisible pink unicorns or any other suitably defined hypothetical entity.

The problem is not our minds or our physical limitations, it's that these types of entities are defined to be both undetectable and incomprehensible and therefore inherently impotent and not worthy of thought even if they did exist.

gonzomax
06-20-2010, 04:09 PM
Strange ,the earth is 4.5 million years old. Man has been around a thin slice of that time. Religion has been around for 2 or 3 thousand years. Yet some people believe the worlds was all made for us . It requires a huge belief that people are something special. Some sharks, bears and lions think we are food. Not so special. Mosquitoes like our blood. We are just another life form on a rock circling a mid sized sun.

SciFiSam
06-20-2010, 04:13 PM
To the OP, not reading the rest of thread yet:

I'm sure because belief in a deity is a personal thing. I'm sure I don't believe in any Gods because I know what my own beliefs are. I'm not telling you that you don't believe in a God.

Digital Stimulus
06-20-2010, 04:58 PM
All those scenarios are hypothetical - made up - with equal evidence to back them up (that is, none, and with no apparent way of advancing the evidence). In that case, it's perfectly rational to assign them all the same probability. Doing anything else is AFAICS irrational.
Yes, my unstated assumption was that the very act of assigning probabilities entailed assignment of differing values. If that's not the case, then the notion of probability doesn't really make any sense...unless the value being assigned to all such possibilities is "indeterminate".

Superfluous Parentheses
06-20-2010, 05:01 PM
Yes, my unstated assumption was that the very act of assigning probabilities entailed assignment of differing values. If that's not the case, then the notion of probability doesn't really make any sense...unless the value being assigned to all such possibilities is "indeterminate".

Personally, I'd say more than 0 and less than 1. If we're talking about entities within the universe, something very close to 0. Outside, who cares?

Blackberry
06-20-2010, 05:45 PM
Technically, the dragon was only in another dimension to respond to another poster trying to fight the hypothetical by saying his "god" was in another dimension; further, being in another dimension doesn't make something god, or a "power"--it's just a place it lives.

But something that lives in another dimension would be supernatural, right?


Very nice response! So, if I understand you correctly, you aren't just arguing that we should keep an open mind as to a higher power based on the absence of evidence--you're looking to circumstantial evidence, and using it to evaluate the probability of such a thing existing.

Yes that's exactly right. I don't think there might be a higher power just because, hey, why not? It's true that that line of thinking would apply just as much to the IPU.

The infinite nature of time and space is something I just can't wrap my mind around, and I don't think any other person can either. It wouldn't sound too likely either if we didn't know it had to be true. So we have no idea what is behind that, but we do know it's something our minds can't conceive of. Doesn't that make it beyond the scope of science?


And, as you point out in the case of an IPU, the complete absence of evidence is a reason not to have any reason to think that such a thing might exist, yes? Or as you put it,


So now we get to debate the evidence in favor or against a higher power.

Yes we do :)


Our brains have nothing to do with it. The "higher power" is generally defined in such a way that - no matter how smart and well-informed we are - we still couldn't do an exhaustive search or test that would give any evidence that it exists or not. The exact same thing is true for the IPU.

Even if we were trillions of times smarter, that wouldn't change a thing about the argument or evidence for gods, higher powers, invisible pink unicorns or any other suitably defined hypothetical entity.

The problem is not our minds or our physical limitations, it's that these types of entities are defined to be both undetectable and incomprehensible and therefore inherently impotent and not worthy of thought even if they did exist.

I didn't mean that we can't detect the higher power because we're not smart enough, I meant that we know for a fact that there ARE things that we can't imagine. We can't imagine the universe being infinite OR finite, but one of them has to be true. I guess my notion of a "higher power" is so vague that it all kind of blends together to me. There's something going on that we're incapable of comprehending. I don't see why it would be unlikely that some type of higher power is in the mix.

And like I said, I don't worship this vague thing that may or may not exist, I don't get my morals from it, I don't kill people in its name, etc. But I do like to think that there could be some kind of afterlife involving it.

whorfin
06-20-2010, 06:04 PM
But something that lives in another dimension would be supernatural, right?

Sure--but remember that the dragon was only put in another dimension to match an assertion made about "god" in an attempt to fight the hypothetical. The point is not that I'm invested in (or particularly proposing) an interdimensional dragon, but that I'm proposing a dragon that cannot be trivially distinguished from "god" by saying "well, the dragon is on earth and "god" isn't"

Yes that's exactly right. I don't think there might be a higher power just because, hey, why not? It's true that that line of thinking would apply just as much to the IPU.

This is exactly the point of the hypothetical--to determine if the argument is evidence-based, or if it is merely a "hey, why not" argument--and if it is the second, to rebut it fiercely (as is entirely appropriate--it's a silly argument) because it could apply equally to the IPU (not that many people pushing the "open mind" argument are willing to acknowledge that it applies equally well to the IPU).

The infinite nature of time and space is something I just can't wrap my mind around, and I don't think any other person can either. It wouldn't sound too likely either if we didn't know it had to be true. So we have no idea what is behind that, but we do know it's something our minds can't conceive of. Doesn't that make it beyond the scope of science?
I strongly disagree that anything's beyond the scope of science. Beyond the scope of now-known science, sure--but beyond that, aren't you making an assumption about, as you put it, the infinite nature of time and space, by saying it's never going to be understandable by humans, ever? I think that statement makes exactly the error you seem to be challenging--it makes an assumption about the nature about the not-currently understood, with no support for so doing.
Yes we do :)
And that may be a risky argument for those advocating "open minds"--but we can, and should objectively consider the evidence in favor of a higher power.


I didn't mean that we can't detect the higher power because we're not smart enough, I meant that we know for a fact that there ARE things that we can't imagine.
At this time. That's all, by your own contention, that we can know now--that we can't imagine at this time.
There's something going on that we're incapable of comprehending. I don't see why it would be unlikely that some type of higher power is in the mix.
Again, unknown doesn't to me mean unknowable. In fact, you shouldn't take a view on whether the unknown is unknowable specifically because you don't know what it is.
Black holes, quasars, and so on were unknown to galileo. Unknowable, they were not, as we now know them well. Just because something is unknown, perhaps even unimagined, at the present time just plain says nothing about whether it is knowable or not.

Superfluous Parentheses
06-20-2010, 06:05 PM
And like I said, I don't worship this vague thing that may or may not exist, I don't get my morals from it, I don't kill people in its name, etc. But I do like to think that there could be some kind of afterlife involving it.

Just curious: why would an afterlife involve some kind of higher being? I don't believe in either, but I suppose that if there's an afterlife, I imagine it as something "natural".

Dinsdale
06-20-2010, 06:10 PM
Well, I would say that the fact that there are things about the universe that we could never hope to understand is evidence that there could be powers we can't understand.

Sure. A lot of believers mention that (at this point in time at least) humans don't understand everything - what pre-existed the big bang for ex. But that is no surprise if you assume there is no reason the universe got to this point for the sake of being understood by humans - or that humane exist for the purpose of understanding the universe. I'm not sure "understanding the universe" confers a significant evolutionary advantage...

Most atheists think that humans are simply animals. The universe was not made for my golden retrievers to understand... Many believers seem to think humans are something special.

Even if you wish to separate the 2 questions of god's existence and his action, do you see any evidence of either? And, do you see any evidence of one particular god(s} over any other?

The fact that gods come in and out of vogue, and that so many are downright silly in their specifics, I find contributes to the "no god" side of the ledger.

Do you agree that man has the ability to make things up - for any number of reasons? Does that not strike you as a much more likely explanation for a god belief than whatever "magical" explanation?

whorfin
06-20-2010, 06:18 PM
Sure. A lot of believers mention that (at this point in time at least) humans don't understand everything - what pre-existed the big bang for ex. But that is no surprise if you assume there is no reason the universe got to this point for the sake of being understood by humans - or that humane exist for the purpose of understanding the universe. I'm not sure "understanding the universe" confers a significant evolutionary advantage...

Most atheists think that humans are simply animals. The universe was not made for my golden retrievers to understand... Many believers seem to think humans are something special.

This is also quite a good response to the "universe is unknowable" argument--that any failure of knowledge is down to our inability to perceive it.

To take it a step further--if humans really were special, and were created by some kind of higher power, doesn't it seem like that higher power has failed, or is flawed, because it has put us in a world that we can't perceive, understand, or imagine fully?

Do you agree that man has the ability to make things up - for any number of reasons? Does that not strike you as a much more likely explanation for a god belief than whatever "magical" explanation?
Exactly! now that we're evaluating probabilities, we have to take this one into account--and from my own viewpoint, I agree that this seems far more likely than the actual existence of a higher power (especially given the huge number of inconsistent stories about gods that fill humanity's past).

Blackberry
06-20-2010, 06:54 PM
I strongly disagree that anything's beyond the scope of science. Beyond the scope of now-known science, sure--but beyond that, aren't you making an assumption about, as you put it, the infinite nature of time and space, by saying it's never going to be understandable by humans, ever? I think that statement makes exactly the error you seem to be challenging--it makes an assumption about the nature about the not-currently understood, with no support for so doing.

I just don't see how it could ever possibly make sense to us that the universe has no end. I don't believe it's something we can maybe figure out someday. I'm no scientist (so correct me if I'm wrong), but I don't know of anything that's ever been so incomprehensible on such a basic level, but then science solved the mystery.

There are a lot of scientific facts that seem amazing, maybe hard to believe, hard to understand...but IMPOSSIBLE?

I think our brains would have to change in some fundamental way for us to be able to grasp the concept of infinity.

Take time travel as an example. I don't think it's possible and if it is, I sure haven't the slightest clue how it could be done…but I can IMAGINE it happening. Maybe someday people will figure out how to do it. My brain doesn't get stuck like when I try to think about the universe never ending, or else ending, and then…?

Just curious: why would an afterlife involve some kind of higher being? I don't believe in either, but I suppose that if there's an afterlife, I imagine it as something "natural".

How could it be something natural though? We know what happens to us physically when we die.


Sure. A lot of believers mention that (at this point in time at least) humans don't understand everything - what pre-existed the big bang for ex. But that is no surprise if you assume there is no reason the universe got to this point for the sake of being understood by humans - or that humane exist for the purpose of understanding the universe. I'm not sure "understanding the universe" confers a significant evolutionary advantage...

Most atheists think that humans are simply animals. The universe was not made for my golden retrievers to understand... Many believers seem to think humans are something special.

You make an interesting point. I'll have to think about it some more.
And I don't think humans are special either.

Even if you wish to separate the 2 questions of god's existence and his action, do you see any evidence of either? And, do you see any evidence of one particular god(s} over any other?

No, I don't believe in any specific god, because I can't see any evidence of one. As I've been saying, I do see evidence though of something that I think is beyond the scope of science.

The fact that gods come in and out of vogue, and that so many are downright silly in their specifics, I find contributes to the "no god" side of the ledger.

Do you agree that man has the ability to make things up - for any number of reasons? Does that not strike you as a much more likely explanation for a god belief than whatever "magical" explanation?

Humans definitely can and do make things up. There have to be all kinds of things made up about various gods, since they can't all be true. But none of that is the basis for my belief that there could possibly exist a higher power of some kind.

Superfluous Parentheses
06-20-2010, 07:04 PM
How could it be something natural though? We know what happens to us physically when we die.
I meant "natural" as in "innate"; something that happens to everyone/thing. As far as I understand it, most believers in an afterlife assume a concept of "soul" or "spirit" that persists after death. Meaning there's something that everybody already has when they're alive that you "keep" when you die.

I'm not at all certain what a "soul" is, though I've tried, and the result of that is that I now believe nobody has a good definition of it, but anyway, if we (as in humans, to get rid of at least part of the problems) all have souls that can persist after death, I don't see what any kind of higher power has to do with it.

whorfin
06-20-2010, 07:08 PM
I just don't see how it could ever possibly make sense to us that the universe has no end. I don't believe it's something we can maybe figure out someday. I'm no scientist (so correct me if I'm wrong), but I don't know of anything that's ever been so incomprehensible on such a basic level, but then science solved the mystery.
Well, I'd disagree that infinity is particularly incomprehensible to "us". To you, to many people, sure, but I'm not willing to generalize about humanity based on your own experience--especially as mine differs. To me, infinity--something that goes on forever is not particularly complicated. Weird, sure, but conceptually complicated, I disagree. How many numbers are there on a number line? Sixth-graders can understand that.

If you want examples, how about general relativity, quantum mechanics, the workings of the cell, as things that were incomprehensible on a basic level, but are now understood.

But beyond that, surely you agree that incomprehensible to you just plain doesn't mean incomprehensible to anyone, everywhere. Maybe you just don't understand it. And unless infinity is incomprehensible to anyone, everywhere, it's just not evidence of a higher being.
The argument from personal incredulity just isn't a very strong argument--especially when you try to generalize from that incredulity.

There are a lot of scientific facts that seem amazing, maybe hard to believe, hard to understand...but IMPOSSIBLE?
Assumes it's impossible.

I think our brains would have to change in some fundamental way for us to be able to grasp the concept of infinity.
Because you can't grasp it, here and now? I just see no basis for this conclusion.

Superfluous Parentheses
06-20-2010, 07:15 PM
I just don't see how it could ever possibly make sense to us that the universe has no end. I don't believe it's something we can maybe figure out someday. I'm no scientist (so correct me if I'm wrong), but I don't know of anything that's ever been so incomprehensible on such a basic level, but then science solved the mystery.

From what I understand (and I'm not a scientist either, just a layman interested in physics) is that nobody knows if the universe is infinite, and actually, many if not most physicists are quite ready to state that they don't like the idea of an infinite universe. Not just because it makes the maths more or less impossible to deal with, but also because a truly infinite universe would make everything that's possible not just plausible but certain to exist. And that includes planets covered in chocolate.

What we know is that, given the age of the universe, we can't "see" the edge - we can see as far back as it's possible to see. And there might not even be an edge, even if the universe is finite (the universe might "wrap around", though it seems unlikely on any scale we can measure, IIRC, again, I'm not a physicist).

ETA: if you mean "end" as in "end in time", there appears to quite probably be one.

Blackberry
06-20-2010, 07:17 PM
I meant "natural" as in "innate"; something that happens to everyone/thing. As far as I understand it, most believers in an afterlife assume a concept of "soul" or "spirit" that persists after death. Meaning there's something that everybody already has when they're alive that you "keep" when you die.

I'm not at all certain what a "soul" is, though I've tried, and the result of that is that I now believe nobody has a good definition of it, but anyway, if we (as in humans, to get rid of at least part of the problems) all have souls that can persist after death, I don't see what any kind of higher power has to do with it.

Well, yeah, if there's an afterlife I would think it would be for everyone.
And it wouldn't need a "god" exactly...but if there's an afterlife then that must mean there is some supernatural stuff going on, which would be a type of higher power, I think? I wasn't thinking of it as some personified God, necessarily.

Indistinguishable
06-20-2010, 07:18 PM
I can imagine an infinite universe with no planets covered in chocolate...

Superfluous Parentheses
06-20-2010, 07:22 PM
I can imagine an infinite universe with no planets covered in chocolate...

You can imagine one, but in a truly infinite universe, how would you prevent planets covered in chocolate from forming?

Superfluous Parentheses
06-20-2010, 07:25 PM
Well, yeah, if there's an afterlife I would think it would be for everyone.
And it wouldn't need a "god" exactly...but if there's an afterlife then that must mean there is some supernatural stuff going on, which would be a type of higher power, I think? I wasn't thinking of it as some personified God, necessarily.

This is a problem with "supernatural". That's why I put quotes around "natural" in my original post. Once it applies to everyone, I've got a hard time classifying it as supernatural. AFAICS it becomes just "unknown".

Indistinguishable
06-20-2010, 07:30 PM
You can imagine one, but in a truly infinite universe, how would you prevent planets covered in chocolate from forming?
It's not my business to prevent anything; I'm not responsible for the design of the universe. I'm just saying, it's certainly possible for an infinite universe to lack planets covered in chocolate, the same way it's certainly possible to have an infinite string of letters that never contains my name; lots of infinite universes are filled with planets covered in chocolate, and lots of infinite strings of letters contain infinitely many instances of my name, but some don't have any.

Superfluous Parentheses
06-20-2010, 07:37 PM
It's not my business to prevent anything; I'm not responsible for the design of the universe. I'm just saying, it's certainly possible for an infinite universe to lack planets covered in chocolate, the same way it's certainly possible to have an infinite string of letters that never contains my name; lots of infinite universes are filled with planets covered in chocolate, and lots of infinite strings of letters contain infinitely many instances of my name, but some don't have any.

I understand the argument, but as far as I can see, the universe isn't ordered enough to prevent chocolate covered planets. An infinite string of "really random (oh dear)" characters will certainly contain your name. And all of Shakespeare's plays. Etc. Infinity is creapy that way.

It does depend on the assumptions you'd make on the universe (including the amount of time available), that's true.

Blackberry
06-20-2010, 07:50 PM
Well, I'd disagree that infinity is particularly incomprehensible to "us". To you, to many people, sure, but I'm not willing to generalize about humanity based on your own experience--especially as mine differs. To me, infinity--something that goes on forever is not particularly complicated. Weird, sure, but conceptually complicated, I disagree. How many numbers are there on a number line? Sixth-graders can understand that.

If you want examples, how about general relativity, quantum mechanics, the workings of the cell, as things that were incomprehensible on a basic level, but are now understood.

I just don't see that as being the same. Then again, I don't know much about physics.

But beyond that, surely you agree that incomprehensible to you just plain doesn't mean incomprehensible to anyone, everywhere. Maybe you just don't understand it. And unless infinity is incomprehensible to anyone, everywhere, it's just not evidence of a higher being.

I do agree that it would have to be imcomprehensible to everyone to be evidence of a higher being. There's really nothing about the idea of time having no beginning and going on forever and ever that you can't quite grasp? I mean, stuff has to come from somewhere! What the hell is the universe? Even if it all came from the Big Bang, where did that come from? We can't know that. Once the universe was established, nothing else that I'm aware of seems unknowable to me, but the origin and extent of it?

But I'm not saying that "God did it" answers those questions, because obviously it doesn't since God would have to come from somewhere too.


From what I understand (and I'm not a scientist either, just a layman interested in physics) is that nobody knows if the universe is infinite, and actually, many if not most physicists are quite ready to state that they don't like the idea of an infinite universe. Not just because it makes the maths more or less impossible to deal with, but also because a truly infinite universe would make everything that's possible not just plausible but certain to exist. And that includes planets covered in chocolate.

What we know is that, given the age of the universe, we can't "see" the edge - we can see as far back as it's possible to see. And there might not even be an edge, even if the universe is finite (the universe might "wrap around", though it seems unlikely on any scale we can measure, IIRC, again, I'm not a physicist).

But if it's finite, what's outside it? And if THAT is finite, then what's outside of that, and so on? I don't see how this can make sense to anyone.

gonzomax
06-20-2010, 07:53 PM
The universe is an island surrounded by whatever it is that surrounds universes.

Superfluous Parentheses
06-20-2010, 08:01 PM
But if it's finite, what's outside it? And if THAT is finite, then what's outside of that, and so on? I don't see how this can make sense to anyone.

We don't know. It's quite possible that we can't know. Gonzomax is right.

The universe is an island surrounded by whatever it is that surrounds universes.

And I note that it's perfectly possible for the universe to be infinite AND there to be "something" outside it.

Superfluous Parentheses
06-20-2010, 08:13 PM
There's really nothing about the idea of time having no beginning and going on forever and ever that you can't quite grasp?
Speaking for myself, I find the idea that time has a start at least as hard to grasp as the idea that it hasn't. And the current consensus seems to be that time did start at the big bang (but this is "just" the consensus).
I mean, stuff has to come from somewhere! What the hell is the universe? Even if it all came from the Big Bang, where did that come from?
We don't know.
We can't know that.
Says you :) Sixty-odd years ago, the thinking was that the universe didn't have a start. Or an end. We've gone a long way to finding ever more interesting questions.

SteveG1
06-20-2010, 09:20 PM
Poppycock. Wrong. Trite. And unmitigated bullshit. Absence of evidence is, indeed, evidence of absence - when evidence should be present. As there should be for any deity put forward by the world's religions.

Besides, wasn't there already a LONG thread about this concept already?

jackdavinci
06-20-2010, 10:38 PM
I see many on the board who are proud atheists; there is no God/gods, afterlife or souls. [...]I can understand agnosticism, but I can't grasp how one could say definitively that there is nothing beyond our mortal existence.

While there are hard atheists, who believe affirmatively in a lack of God or the afterlife or whatever, I think most atheists are soft atheists, effectively agnostic - while they will acknowledge that intellectual rigor demands that they respect the notion that theoretically something that is unprovable could exist, they also realize that they are under no obligation to give the notion any likelihood. More likely they are not proud per se of being atheist, but more strictly they have pride that they are *not theists*, since theism is silly and for the most part easily debunked.

There are a million silly unprovable notions in the world, and most of them contradict many of the other millions of silly ideas. And hey, every once in a blue moon one of them turns out to be correct and provable. But none of them deserve the attention of anyone besides enthusiasts and fiction writers until such time as they get demonstrated.

OTOH I do think research of odd things is worthwhile. But the research should be from the viewpoint of explaining something that is known to have occurred, rather than trying to find things you wish were true, or fanwanking increasingly ridiculous stories to explain away the mountains of hard evidence that contradict your pet story.

To answer the question another way, it's not so much that people are so sure of their non-belief as that they are so *unsure* about your pet belief.

Damuri Ajashi
06-21-2010, 12:04 AM
Well, perhaps my understanding will never be good enough by somebody else's standards, but it's all I've got. Once we admit "Eh, who knows. This reasoning looks sound, but I could be wrong about it. I could be wrong about everything. Why bother thinking?", all reasoning goes out the window ("Is 25 * 32 equal to 800? Eh, it looks like it is, but perhaps I'll just never understand the subtle flaw in my argument."). So, fine, you can consider such a possibility, if you like, but moving past it is not defective reasoning; it's the only reasoning there is...

Yeah, I understand the athiests position and it is perfectly reasonable. I am even willing to admit that it is more reasonable than having faith. I don't think any religion has got it perfectly correct and I suspect that despite thousands of years of human creativity and imagination, none of them are much closer to the truth than the pink unicorns but I also suspect that there is something.

Perhaps, my vision was simply my conscience talking to me through a proxy. Perhaps my brain conjures a God when I need to talk to a God. Perhaps we will discover that there is a little part of the brain that is different between those who have faith and those who do not. Perhaps it is genetic and perhaps there is an evolutionary advantage to having faith (perhaps it is linked to the same gene that gives us immunity to some disease that killed off anyone without that resistance, perhaps faith makes you more likely to conceive), but there must be something more than "God simply doesn't exist and 90% of humans are just being silly".

Then you should try harder.

Not really how faith works. If you believe the Christians, then faith is a gift of God, you can't attain it through good works or endless hours of praying unless God grants it. And I would add that it is equally difficult to get rid of just by trying.

Yes, all believers agreeing with those terms are suffering a psychosis...
If, on the other hand, one claims that one's religious belief is grounded in fact (but of a special kind, e.g., revelation, special insight, emotional truth, etc.), then that changes things, becoming an argument about what qualifies as "fact" and/or the facts themselves.

OK so because my faith in grounded in this vision I had one time 20 years ago when I thought I saw God (or at least felt his presence very vividly) I am not psychotic, I am merely delusional?

Well, in that case why should the "2 dimensional blind men" care about this particular elephant? At best, such an argument means we should be indifferent to "God" even if it existed.

That is a good point and perhaps God is useless to us if we are incapable of understanding God or understanding his morality but if you believe he exists why wouldn't you strive to understand him to what little extent you could.

Yes. The majority of humanity is insane, and the name of that insanity is religion. You yourself, right there are describing a compulsion; an irrational need to believe.

That is a pretty grim prospect, most of humanity is insane.

And for that matter, people haven't had any particular religious belief "since we could think".

No but there has been a pretty consistent belief in a spiritual world.

And when you see someone dying in agony from something like cancer, do you start talking about how there must be a higher order to explain the existence of cancer? Or does your god only get the credit for warm and fuzzy things?

Yeah the whole "why do bad things happen to good people and why does evil prosper?" is hard to explain.

I'm not sure what you're saying here. Are you saying that gods are more plausible than unicorns or Space Ninjas because a greater number of people believe in them?

Yes, I think that is what I am saying. How does 90% of humanity come to believe in higher power.

It would be difficult for them to comprehend, but there must be some evidence that they're witnessing that 3d elephant, right? Otherwise why create a belief to explain it? There is no equivelant evidence about god.

Well some people have visions and stuff.

Of course. The fact that we equate popularity with plausibility is one of the big reasons religions exist. It's also one of the reasons that pretty much every culture has sprung up with their own religion. You would expect, in the absense of an actual god, that people would form religion - and how does that look any different from our real world where even believers think there are 100 false religions and one real one?

[quote]People need religion. Death is unsettling. Not understanding how the world works is unsettling. In the old days when we didn't understand how our solar system works, it was comforting to think of a sun god travelling across the sky. Now that we can explain that little mystery, it has dissapeared from religion.

But we'll never have a satisfactory answer about death. "Uh, yep, you're dead, sorry" will always be unsettling to most people and hence there will probably always be a need to find a way to alleviate it. Religion can still exist for that basic reason.

So you think that the movie "the invention of lying" basically has it right?

Is it really all just a reflex to prevent ourselves from going crazy about the prospect of death?

The fact that people have all the motivations in the world to create religions even if god doesn't exist is further evidence of the case. Or, more accurately, it's a way to argue against the premise of "billions of people are religious, and they can't all be wrong!'

I think it is entirely possible that they are all wrong on the particulars, my question is why so many people believe in religions. I was not on deaths door or afraid of death when I experienced something (whether you think it was a phsychotic break a hallucination or God) that made be a believer for the next 20 years. I suspect that a lot of people's faith is not driven by the concept of an afterlife, its sort of the reason why I still fear death despite having faith in the existence of God..

Why wouldn't we be hostile to religion?

Because it is so singular in its persistence over time and across cultures and so prevalent that it is something that might deserve a bit more discussion than "you might as well believe in pink unicorns"

You can make specific claims about the world. God does this, God did that. We can test those things.

Can i say God triggered the Big bang?

Even if we didn't understand how god worked, we could see his work in action.

Some people see it all around them every day. If you are asking why priests can't read minds and shoot laser beams from their eyes i guess i'd have to say that God works in mysterious ways.

Unless you are advocating for a non-interventional god that has never interacted with our planet, then god does violate the laws of earth physics. When he parts the red sea. Or when he talks to people using a booming voice out of thin air - what is generating those sound waves? When he performs all the various miracles - that's interacting with our world in a way that would violate the laws of physics on earth.

That's what makes them miracles

If you are supposing a non-interventional god that lives in another dimension that never has an effect on us on earth, of what possible use is that belief? What do we gain by believing in such an entity?

I really wish that religious people believed in this hypothetical non-intervenionist vague deist God that they always bring to these arguments. If they did, there'd be no "god orders you to do this" or "god wants you to kill these infidels because..." or "god thinks women should shut up and be your property" stuff, because this vague god they create for the pedantic, rhetorical sake doesn't demand anything from his believers. He couldn't.

Some religions don't really have Gods.



Please tell my why all claims of cause and effect are in the one direction where we can't test any of it? For all the stuff in the Bible about god speaking to people in burning bushes and stuff like that, he's been awfully quiet last couple of thousand years.

Well, tell that to Mohammed and the Muslims or to John Smith and the Mormons or to Tom Cruise and the L. Ron Hubbardians.

Just curious: why would an afterlife involve some kind of higher being? I don't believe in either, but I suppose that if there's an afterlife, I imagine it as something "natural".

There are plenty of religions that have afterlives without a God. Buddhism or Huna are two examples.

What we know is that, given the age of the universe, we can't "see" the edge - we can see as far back as it's possible to see. And there might not even be an edge, even if the universe is finite (the universe might "wrap around", though it seems unlikely on any scale we can measure, IIRC, again, I'm not a physicist).

ETA: if you mean "end" as in "end in time", there appears to quite probably be one.

There once was a time when people believed in a static and infinite universe. As we learn more, as our understanding changes, our belief changes. Perhaps the evolution of religion is like this. As prophets enlighten us, our understanding of God changes too.

I understand the argument, but as far as I can see, the universe isn't ordered enough to prevent chocolate covered planets. An infinite string of "really random (oh dear)" characters will certainly contain your name. And all of Shakespeare's plays. Etc. Infinity is creapy that way.

Infinity only mean that anything that is possible will exist somewhere. For example, pi is supposed to go on forever with no discernable rhythm or pattern but none of the digits is every going to be an ampersand. In positing God, we are not saying something about the digits of pi we are saying that someone drew that circle.

Der Trihs
06-21-2010, 12:31 AM
Yeah, I understand the athiests position and it is perfectly reasonable. I am even willing to admit that it is more reasonable than having faith. I don't think any religion has got it perfectly correct and I suspect that despite thousands of years of human creativity and imagination, none of them are much closer to the truth than the pink unicorns but I also suspect that there is something.And there's no reason at all for you to "suspect" any such thing.

Perhaps it is genetic and perhaps there is an evolutionary advantage to having faith (perhaps it is linked to the same gene that gives us immunity to some disease that killed off anyone without that resistance, perhaps faith makes you more likely to conceive), but there must be something more than "God simply doesn't exist and 90% of humans are just being silly". My opinion; "faith" probably became a survival advantage due to thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of years of believers systematically killing anyone who didn't praise religion loud enough. Selective breeding in action; we've bred ourselves to be insane in a specific way just as we've bred some dogs to have long fur or specific behaviors.

SCSimmons
06-21-2010, 12:54 AM
Nevermind about other dimensions and all that; we can illustrate the point more mundanely.

How sure are you that I'm not a dog? After all, it is conceptually possible that, in fact, I am a most unusual dog who is conversant in English, able to type, and with access to an Internet connection, even if no one has ever actually witnessed such a thing.

So how can you be certain that I'm not a dog?

As I see it, you can be certain that something isn't the case, and still acknowledge that it is conceptually possible for that thing to turn out to surprisingly be the case after all. Though you may object, I am willing to consider this "certainty". Indeed, I am hardly inclined to postulate any other kind of certainty; at any rate, this is, in fact, the kind of certainty that pervades almost all of our daily life...
This. It's conceivable that a fire-breathing magical dragon is living in my garage, but it's just hiding whenever I go out to look for it. It's conceivable that there is a Supreme Being which created the universe. It's hard to measure relative probabilities on statements like this, but at a rough guess, I'd estimate the dragon theory to be at least one thousand times more probable. In any case, I would be perfectly happy to say that I'm 'certain' that both of these theories are false.

If someone wishes to say that my unwillingness to assent to the statement that the probabilities of either of these statements being true is exactly 0, means that I'm 'really' agnostic about the possibilities, they should feel free. But I can't imagine what things they would consider someone to be certain about. Personally, I'd rather reserve the word 'certain' for some meaning that allows it to occasionally be used in a positive sense. In this case, I'm confident enough that I'm willing to bet--and apparently am, in fact, betting--my life and immortal soul that I'm correct. That level of confidence = certainty, by any definition that's reasonable to me.

Superfluous Parentheses
06-21-2010, 04:53 AM
Perhaps, my vision was simply my conscience talking to me through a proxy. Perhaps my brain conjures a God when I need to talk to a God. Perhaps we will discover that there is a little part of the brain that is different between those who have faith and those who do not. Perhaps it is genetic and perhaps there is an evolutionary advantage to having faith (perhaps it is linked to the same gene that gives us immunity to some disease that killed off anyone without that resistance, perhaps faith makes you more likely to conceive), but there must be something more than "God simply doesn't exist and 90% of humans are just being silly".

AFAICS part of a built-in mechanism for belief in invisible actors is quite easy to understand. If you're walking around on the savanna and you hear a creaking branch and you think it's something (possibly unseen) stalking you, you're more likely to survive than if you think that it was probably just the wind.

Humans have an enormous preference for seeing and stating actions in terms of intentional beings - even when it's completely clear there isn't any intent or being. When people want to be clear that there isn't any intent, the language becomes a lot clunkier when describing actions. Listen to any programmer explain her code, or a physicist explain the attractions of electromagnetism and you'll usually hear examples of both.

Dawkins has suggested that another part is that young children are necessarily gullible. They need to believe what other people tell them or they'll quite probably die quickly. This gives a possible mechanism whereby children are very likely to accept their parent's beliefs as their own (which is what we see everywhere) and also might be a reason there is a widespread acceptance of mythological parent-figures that will tell us what to do and punish those who "fail", even if that parent figure appears completely psychotic and unreasonable.

Baboonanza
06-21-2010, 05:18 AM
I don't believe in religion(s) because they're so mundane and predictable. It's painfully obvious that religious stories are made up based on the knowledge of the people who made them up at that time.

The evidence for reality and how the universe really works is so much more amazing and complex. There is no need for religion.
This is one of the key's to the whole thing for me. Religions in general are so clearly the product of ancient humans attempting to understand and give meaning to their lives that it's just incomprehensible to me that someone could actually believe the stories to be true. How can you be a human living in a modern society, with all of our science on the one hand and countless examples of the human storytelling on the other and not come to that conclusion? It's like believing Ulysses to be factually correct or Harry Potter to a true-to-life account of a boy's youth at a school for the magically gifted.

The second issue is one of philosophy - I don't believe something termed 'God' could exist from a conceptual standpoint. Science is based on the fact that the universe operates in predictable ways, and if 'God' exists it would have to be explainable in some fashion. OTOH, if it's an explainable phenomena then it can't be 'God' - Christianity in particular has a definition of 'God' that by definition cannot exist, perhaps this is deliberate? So once again you have the entire history of mankind's scientific achievements on the one hand and on the other you have some stories.

I would happily believe (given evidence) that a god-like entity existed, but it would have to be explainable (since it exists in the first place) and it wouldn't be the 'God' that man has imagined for himself.

ivan astikov
06-21-2010, 07:07 AM
So, some physicists are strongly opposed to the idea of an infinite universe? Would they prefer us to be in an enclosed universe suspended in nothingness?

The Other Waldo Pepper
06-21-2010, 07:31 AM
Because it is so singular in its persistence over time and across cultures and so prevalent that it is something that might deserve a bit more discussion than "you might as well believe in pink unicorns"

And then, later in that post:

Some religions don't really have Gods.

There are plenty of religions that have afterlives without a God.

So what, exactly, is the particular feature that's "singular in its persistence over time and across cultures"?

I think it is entirely possible that they are all wrong on the particulars, my question is why so many people believe in religions.

ivan astikov
06-21-2010, 07:44 AM
So what, exactly, is the particular feature that's "singular in its persistence over time and across cultures"?

A belief in the unfathomable? Or, even more arrogant, or pig-headed, a belief that the unfathomable is understandable by mere humans, animals that only just recently invented toilet-paper.

Meatros
06-21-2010, 07:51 AM
I guess this is a question, but it will quickly turn into a GD, so I'll just start it here.

I see many on the board who are proud atheists; there is no God/gods, afterlife or souls. I wonder how you are so sure. My first guess would be that since you have seen no evidence of such a thing, then you don't believe. Fair enough. But absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Would you not have to concede that if there were something supernatural "out there" that your human mind would not know of such a thing? I can understand agnosticism, but I can't grasp how one could say definitively that there is nothing beyond our mortal existence.

As I'm sure has already been pointed out many times, agnosticism and atheism are not exclusive positions.

As to my confidence, I'm as confident that your god doesn't exist as I am that zeus doesn't exist.

Does that mean I'm certain of this? No, but I'm not losing sleep over it.

The Other Waldo Pepper
06-21-2010, 07:54 AM
A belief in the unfathomable?

I'm not quite sure what you mean by "unfathomable". Some religions posit unfathomable gods; others posit downright fathomable ones. (The gods of ancient Greece, for example, come across like comic-book characters IMHO: they have recognizably human personalities and use impressive but straightforward powers: throwing lightning around, wearing a helmet of invisibility, causing earthquakes, changing into a bull or a swan at will, that sort of thing -- and they plainly spell out what sort of propitiation will keep you in their good graces, sure as they go around committing adultery or competing in the occasional beauty contest or whatever.)

Or, even more arrogant, or pig-headed, a belief that the unfathomable is understandable by mere humans

If you think religion is a belief that the unfathomable is understandable, then I have little to add.

Superfluous Parentheses
06-21-2010, 07:57 AM
So, some physicists are strongly opposed to the idea of an infinite universe? Would they prefer us to be in an enclosed universe suspended in nothingness?

Well, there are no (other) infinities in nature. And I don't know if we can even in theory tell the difference between an infinite universe and one that's just larger than the observable part.

And as I said above, making the universe infinite doesn't answer the question of what (if anything) is "outside" it.

Czarcasm
06-21-2010, 08:03 AM
So, some physicists are strongly opposed to the idea of an infinite universe? Would they prefer us to be in an enclosed universe suspended in nothingness?You mean that same "nothingness" outside the universe where some religionists would have us believe God resides?

ivan astikov
06-21-2010, 08:06 AM
Well, there are no (other) infinities in nature. And I don't know if we can even in theory tell the difference between an infinite universe and one that's just larger than the observable part.

And as I said above, making the universe infinite doesn't answer the question of what (if anything) is "outside" it.

Making it less than infinite guarantees there is an "outside" to it, whereas infinity suggests that is all there is, and trying to look beyond it is a telescopic waste of time.

Superfluous Parentheses
06-21-2010, 08:11 AM
Making it less than infinite guarantees there is an "outside" to it, whereas infinity suggests that is all there is, and trying to look beyond it is a telescopic waste of time.

AFAIK, none of that is true.

ivan astikov
06-21-2010, 08:12 AM
You mean that same "nothingness" outside the universe where some religionists would have us believe God resides?

So, God would be like a universal, incorporeal, sentient membrane surrounding the whole kaboodle?
That would still presuppose that there would have to have been "something" to form from and form into, or we are back to "it popped out of nowhere.", which is entirely unsatisfying from a philosophical pov.

Meatros
06-21-2010, 08:14 AM
So, God would be like a universal, incorporeal, sentient membrane surrounding the whole kaboodle?
That would still presuppose that there would have to have been "something" to form from and form into, or we are back to "it popped out of nowhere.", which is entirely unsatisfying from a philosophical pov.

Why are you assuming that there is "something" surrounding the universe?

This isn't a necessary assumption as far as I can tell - Neither is the supposition that the universe popped out of nowhere. The evidence (inflationary universe) does not necessitate this interpretation.

ivan astikov
06-21-2010, 08:14 AM
AFAIK, none of that is true.

Sorry, I should have added "imo". I'd have to be as arrogant as a religionist to believe I knew for sure.

ivan astikov
06-21-2010, 08:18 AM
Why are you assuming that there is "something" surrounding the universe?

This isn't a necessary assumption as far as I can tell - Neither is the supposition that the universe popped out of nowhere. The evidence (inflationary universe) does not necessitate this interpretation.

It doesn't necessitate anything. It is all just word-salad, and scientist's best guesses.

Or are you going to point me to an "authority" on "When The Universe Began!", now?

Meatros
06-21-2010, 08:21 AM
It doesn't necessitate anything. It is all just word-salad, and scientist's best guesses.

Or are you going to point me to an "authority" on "When The Universe Began!", now?

I don't think the universe 'began', really, so no and I'm certainly not an authority.

Superfluous Parentheses
06-21-2010, 08:21 AM
Sorry, I should have added "imo". I'd have to be as arrogant as a religionist to believe I knew for sure.

Sure. Just to explain a bit as far as I understand it: if the universe is "inside" something else, it might be extremely small on the "outside" while still possibly infinite on the inside - meaning it's possible that you can't get "out". The universe may also be curved in on itself, which would mean it might not be infinite, but you still can't get out of it from the inside regardless of whether there's anything outside of it.

ivan astikov
06-21-2010, 08:30 AM
I don't think the universe 'began', really, so no and I'm certainly not an authority.

And I bet you can't point me to one either. I'm not claiming my guess is as good as that of the person who has dedicated his life to exploring this shit, but it seems that today's scientists search for the TOE, is like the alchemist's search for the Philosopher's Stone, something that only exists in the minds of men.

ivan astikov
06-21-2010, 08:32 AM
Sure. Just to explain a bit as far as I understand it: if the universe is "inside" something else, it might be extremely small on the "outside" while still possibly infinite on the inside -

You've been watching too much Dr Who.

Superfluous Parentheses
06-21-2010, 08:37 AM
And I bet you can't point me to one either. I'm not claiming my guess is as good as that of the person who has dedicated his life to exploring this shit, but it seems that today's scientists search for the TOE, is like the alchemist's search for the Philosopher's Stone, something that only exists in the minds of men.

Well, as Neil deGrasse Tyson likes to remark; "theoretical physics is cheap".

Meatros
06-21-2010, 08:38 AM
And I bet you can't point me to one either. I'm not claiming my guess is as good as that of the person who has dedicated his life to exploring this shit, but it seems that today's scientists search for the TOE, is like the alchemist's search for the Philosopher's Stone, something that only exists in the minds of men.

What constitutes an 'authority'? I can point you to some philosophers who have spent their lives dealing with this issue, but what good would that do if you don't accept them as an authority?

My point is that there are concepts out there that do not require ultimate beginnings or cosmologies where there is a 'something' that exists outside of the universe. In short, they are simpler and make sense of the data.

Are they true?

I don't know and I'm not sure how we can really *know* whether they are true or not. I would say that we can have reasonable confidence in them.

If certainty is what you are after, you are probably going to be disappointed.

ivan astikov
06-21-2010, 08:55 AM
What constitutes an 'authority'? I can point you to some philosophers who have spent their lives dealing with this issue, but what good would that do if you don't accept them as an authority?
In this case, there is no "authority" - there are just intelligent people who have spent a lot of time thinking about it.

My point is that there are concepts out there that do not require ultimate beginnings or cosmologies where there is a 'something' that exists outside of the universe. In short, they are simpler and make sense of the data.

Are they true?
The data is subject to human interpretation.

I don't know and I'm not sure how we can really *know* whether they are true or not. I would say that we can have reasonable confidence in them.
If you mean confidence in them having a better idea than their predecessors, I'd agree.

If certainty is what you are after, you are probably going to be disappointed.

If energy can never be destroyed, only transformed, even the death of consciousness is uncertain, but I'm not going to attribute a Grand Design to it.

Meatros
06-21-2010, 09:03 AM
In this case, there is no "authority" - there are just intelligent people who have spent a lot of time thinking about it.

Isn't that practically the case with almost everything?

The data is subject to human interpretation.

Obviously.

If you mean confidence in them having a better idea than their predecessors, I'd agree.

I'm not sure I see a meaningful distinction here.

If energy can never be destroyed, only transformed, even the death of consciousness is uncertain, but I'm not going to attribute a Grand Design to it.

For what reason? Seems like S&Gs to me.

shiftless
06-21-2010, 09:43 AM
Yeah, I understand the athiests position and it is perfectly reasonable. I am even willing to admit that it is more reasonable than having faith. I don't think any religion has got it perfectly correct and I suspect that despite thousands of years of human creativity and imagination, none of them are much closer to the truth than the pink unicorns but I also suspect that there is something.

Perhaps, my vision was simply my conscience talking to me through a proxy. Perhaps my brain conjures a God when I need to talk to a God. Perhaps we will discover that there is a little part of the brain that is different between those who have faith and those who do not. Perhaps it is genetic and perhaps there is an evolutionary advantage to having faith (perhaps it is linked to the same gene that gives us immunity to some disease that killed off anyone without that resistance, perhaps faith makes you more likely to conceive), but there must be something more than "God simply doesn't exist and 90% of humans are just being silly".


I once was where you are. I was raised a Christian but asked a lot of questions about the things I was told and I tried out a few different Christian sects. In my experience, whenever the light of inquiry shines on religion it retreats into the shadows. When no-one questions it, it makes bold claims. When pressed it weakens on those claims until only a vague "there might be something" is left. This is always where religious debates seem to end up - There might be something supernatural out there that I've never seen and can't make claims about. If that is the boldest claim that religion can make then you are welcome to your religion.

The moment I went from an agnostic to an atheist was when I allowed the thought to enter my conscience: "Maybe there isn't anything god-like out there." Very scary and very freeing moment. A lot of stuff snaps into place but it is a real downer because it does mean that 90% of humans are just being silly and we don't get to live forever in a happy place. It's not for the faint of heart.

Dinsdale
06-21-2010, 09:57 AM
You make an interesting point. I'll have to think about it some more.

Thanks. Seriously. That is more than this nontheist is used to getting from believers.

But none of that is the basis for my belief that there could possibly exist a higher power of some kind.

Sure, a "higher power of some kind" is possible. But isn't just about anything possible if we allow exceptions to what we understand to be "universal" laws, and consider fallible all of our senses and thinking processes? I mean, it is possible that we all exist in the Matrix, the Lathe of Heaven, or somesuch, no? But if we can't even trust our senses and thoughts, then what use is there in even asking what is or is not possible?

I think that many "possible" things are so highly improbable that I am happy to lead my life treating them as tho they are impossible. You placing any bets on which direction the sun is going to rise from tomorrow? Cause you never can completely rule out the possibility that some all-powerful rink guard in the sky isn't going to come over the PA and announce "Opposite skate"! ;)

Rhodes
06-21-2010, 11:48 AM
... Well, tell that to Mohammed and the Muslims or to John Smith and the Mormons or to Tom Cruise and the L. Ron Hubbardians. ...
It's Joseph Smith.

To answer the OP, I claim no evidence of absence. I am a nearly 100% confident atheist, simply because nothing has persuaded me to believe otherwise. If a person claims to have received some sort of spiritual manifestation that had persuaded him to believe, I simply tell him that I have had no such experience and until I do I will not believe.

Voyager
06-21-2010, 02:20 PM
I have always thought that agnosticism was a belief that we can't really be sure if there is a God/gods.

Atheism is an affirmative belief that there is in fact NOT a higher being(s).

I don't think that I am making straw man arguments. Over in the death/afterlife threads, the atheists are stating with certainty that this life is all we have; nothing before or after.

As is common around here, you are confusing knowledge with belief. You can believe that there are no dinosaurs still living without being 100% sure of it.
We've got lots of good evidence for our belief that no gods exist - at least not any defined by humans so far. There is the great diversity in the kind of gods believed in over time and over place, there are failed prophecies, there is the fact that any statements about the physical world made in supposedly inspired books turn out to be wrong, there is the success of science in filling in the gaps in our knowledge that religion has never been able to fill.

It is also perfectly possible to be an atheist and believe in some sort of godless afterlife - like Farmer's Riverworld. But most atheists come to their conclusions from evidence and reason, and the lack of evidence of an afterlife - plus the lack of evidence for a soul - tends to make us not believe in this either.

As far as absence of evidence, etc., I started a thread a while ago which went on for pages and pages on this very subject.

Acsenray
06-21-2010, 05:14 PM
In my view, the more one goes around and around, the vaguer the posited god becomes. Eventually it becomes so devoid of characteristics that it is essentially meaningless.

So does anyone have a more specific idea of a god that can be debated?

For example, it seems to me impossible for there to exist a creator god that is simultaneously omnipotent, omniscient, and good. That really kills any Western notion of a god worthy of worship.

If there really is a god or goddess in charge of this planet, s/he has been very lax in the Smiting department for the past couple of millenia.

Last week, god smote Touchdown Jesus.

It's not my business to prevent anything; I'm not responsible for the design of the universe. I'm just saying, it's certainly possible for an infinite universe to lack planets covered in chocolate, the same way it's certainly possible to have an infinite string of letters that never contains my name; lots of infinite universes are filled with planets covered in chocolate, and lots of infinite strings of letters contain infinitely many instances of my name, but some don't have any.

There's infinite and there's infinite. In a truly infinite universe, these things have to happen.

Given sufficient time, the improbable becomes inevitable.

The Other Waldo Pepper
06-21-2010, 05:20 PM
For example, it seems to me impossible for there to exist a creator god that is simultaneously omnipotent, omniscient, and good. That really kills any Western notion of a god worthy of worship.

Why can't a good one be worthy of worship while being only ludicrously powerful?

I mean, consider a creator-god who needs six whole days to create a universe and then settles in for a day of rest; that's not omnipotence, but it's still pretty danged impressive compared to what you or I (or everyone on the planet working together) could do in a week. Why should omnipotence be a "worthy of worship" criterion?

Damuri Ajashi
06-21-2010, 05:27 PM
And there's no reason at all for you to "suspect" any such thing.

Well, like I said in another thread, I had an experience that makes it hard for me not to have at least some faith.

My opinion; "faith" probably became a survival advantage due to thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of years of believers systematically killing anyone who didn't praise religion loud enough. Selective breeding in action; we've bred ourselves to be insane in a specific way just as we've bred some dogs to have long fur or specific behaviors.

Not in the part of the world my people come from.

Czarcasm
06-21-2010, 05:31 PM
Not in the part of the world my people come from.Shangri-La?

Der Trihs
06-21-2010, 05:33 PM
Not in the part of the world my people come from.Ah, so your stone age hunter-gatherers were more enlightened and civilized than stone age hunter-gatherers from elsewhere? :rolleyes:

Bryan Ekers
06-21-2010, 05:39 PM
All my ancestors vanished without a trace.

The Hamster King
06-21-2010, 05:52 PM
Selective breeding in action; we've bred ourselves to be insane in a specific way just as we've bred some dogs to have long fur or specific behaviors.I don't know if I'd call it "insanity". I'd say that religion is the result of the accidental interaction of a constellation of behaviors that taken individually provide survival value.

For example, we tend to see patterns where there are none, because a false negative is more dangerous than a false positive. If I jump a hundred times because I see a panther where there isn't one, that's preferable to not jumping ONCE because I didn't see a panther when there was one.

We also tend to assign explanations to patterns to help us predict how they will repeat. An explanation that is even a little correct (even if it contains a lot of error) is better than no explanation at all. So we tend to come up with all sorts of half-baked ideas to make sense of what's happening around us.

And since we're social animals, we put a lot of weight on what others tell us, particularly elders, particularly elders we're related to. This helps us pass down useful information from one generation to another, but it also makes us particularly susceptible to not examining the beliefs we acquire when we're young.

The result is religion and faith. We pick up a set of half-baked ideas from our family and community that explain a lot of things pretty well if you don't look too hard to find all the holes and gaps. And we selectively observe a bunch of false positives that confirm what we're expecting to see. It's not insanity any more than our natural cravings for fats and sweets is insanity (even though both are counterproductive in our modern times of plenty).

begbert2
06-21-2010, 06:06 PM
Why can't a good one be worthy of worship while being only ludicrously powerful?

I mean, consider a creator-god who needs six whole days to create a universe and then settles in for a day of rest; that's not omnipotence, but it's still pretty danged impressive compared to what you or I (or everyone on the planet working together) could do in a week. Why should omnipotence be a "worthy of worship" criterion?The problem isn't that he's not powerful enough. The problem is he's still too powerful.

The POE can be summarized as "If I could help everyone in the world improve their lot, and it wasn't too hard or personally taxing, then I probably would, because I'm a halfway decent guy. God could, but clearly doesn't, which proves either he's not a halfway decent guy, or he's not real."

God could help out a *lot* just by making manna appear from heaven on everyone's doorstep each morning. Starvation - gone! But he doesn't. And because he doesn't we know he either can't - or won't. And it's a pretty sorry god who can't make a relatively modest amount of food appear. So we're left with either evil or nonexistence (or complete unawareness of our plight).

Now, as an atheist, I'm perfectly willing to entertain the idea of evil or unaware gods. I don't beleve in 'em, not any more than I do in Darth Vader, but I can at least entertain the idea at a theoretical level and allow for the possiblity that there might be higher-level beings ignoring our plight, or that Star Wars might be a (suconciously recieved) documentary of distant past past events.

But nobody seems to want to talk about the evil, insane, blind, stupid, or dead gods for some reason - they always want to talk about the impossible ones. And there's little point in waxing theoretical about dieties that can't even exist in theory.

The Hamster King
06-21-2010, 06:11 PM
But nobody seems to want to talk about the evil, insane, blind, stupid, or dead gods for some reason - they always want to talk about the impossible ones.Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!

Superfluous Parentheses
06-21-2010, 06:25 PM
But nobody seems to want to talk about the evil, insane, blind, stupid, or dead gods for some reason - they always want to talk about the impossible ones. And there's little point in waxing theoretical about dieties that can't even exist in theory.

Well, the Greeks and Romans certainly had their fair share of messed up gods. I still think a pantheon of mutually conflicting gods makes a lot more sense re the state of the world than the idea of a single omnimax one. And Jehova used to be just one god out of many.

begbert2
06-21-2010, 06:33 PM
Well, the Greeks and Romans certainly had their fair share of messed up gods. I still think a pantheon of mutually conflicting gods makes a lot more sense re the state of the world than the idea of a single omnimax one. And Jehova used to be just one god out of many.Of course - which is probably why satan is so popular (or was) as an excuse for the ills of the world. Though in practical terms the dieties would have to be preemptively preventing each other from acting at all - we don't see manna appearing and then disappearing repeatedly as the competing gods keep undoing each others' good/bad works, after all.

It should also be noted that the Greek/Roman gods weren't really actively competing to influence mortals' lives that much; they got by by largeley being apathetic most of the time, which made them a plausible fiction that played well with confirmation bias.

heatmiserfl
06-21-2010, 09:03 PM
And there's no reason at all for you to "suspect" any such thing.

My opinion; "faith" probably became a survival advantage due to thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of years of believers systematically killing anyone who didn't praise religion loud enough. Selective breeding in action; we've bred ourselves to be insane in a specific way just as we've bred some dogs to have long fur or specific behaviors.

Organized religion is probably too new to have been selected so much. What I think is more likely is that religion is an appropriation of naturally-selected behaviors. Much of it was for complex social interactions. Part of it involved intuitive reasoning. Basically making up shit to fill in the blanks in information. People (and probably other animals) needed to do this to survive especially when snap judgments were required. Also humans, being social beings, anthropomorphize everything (including an overuse of causality to create a purpose for a phenomenon) to be able to fill in the holes in their information so that they can problem solve and make decisions. This is why some people insist on filling in unknowns with supernatural things that have human characteristics (gods). This is also why theists simply can't accept the answer, "I don't know." Finally, this is why theists keep starting these types of discussions. They can't believe that atheists aren't filling in the blanks with some kind of sciency fantasy.

Typically, knowledge will overcome this natural god-creating in many people. Unfortunately for us, natural religion-making became organized with civilizations. Here, people become brainwashed so much that they are incapable of accepting information to replace their fantasizing. Even worse, people are threatened either by violence or, just as bad, social ostracism for not believing.

Here's a youtube video of Andy Thomson's talk
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1iMmvu9eMrg

Der Trihs
06-21-2010, 09:56 PM
Organized religion is probably too new to have been selected so much. I didn't say anything about "organized". Religion in general appears to go back as far as we have evidence about human behavior. It's easily old enough.

Damuri Ajashi
06-23-2010, 11:12 AM
Ah, so your stone age hunter-gatherers were more enlightened and civilized than stone age hunter-gatherers from elsewhere? :rolleyes:

Nope there was plenty of genocide and murder and avarice in Asia but there weren't a lot of holy wars over Buddhism, Confucianism or Shamanism. We managed to kill each other for things like land and wealth without pretending it was about God.

Damuri Ajashi
06-23-2010, 11:13 AM
I didn't say anything about "organized". Religion in general appears to go back as far as we have evidence about human behavior. It's easily old enough.

Doesn't that undercut the notion that religion was bred into us by centuries of religious prosecution and wars that made religiosity a survival trait?

Digital Stimulus
06-23-2010, 01:22 PM
I realize this is kinda late, but I felt it only right to respond to the following to clarify:
Yes, all believers agreeing with those terms are suffering a psychosis...
If, on the other hand, one claims that one's religious belief is grounded in fact (but of a special kind, e.g., revelation, special insight, emotional truth, etc.), then that changes things, becoming an argument about what qualifies as "fact" and/or the facts themselves.
OK so because my faith in grounded in this vision I had one time 20 years ago when I thought I saw God (or at least felt his presence very vividly) I am not psychotic, I am merely delusional?
I think you misunderstand my point...which was not about your mental state, but your statement (and its accuracy/ramifications).

All I did was to take your original statement ("my religious faith is not grounded in facts but I believe nonetheless"), provide definitions of psychosis and fact, and show you that IF your original statement is true AND you accept my definitions, then you (or any religious believer who says their faith is not grounded in facts) suffer a psychosis by definition.

I have little to no desire to argue as to whether you are psychotic, delusional, or stone-cold sane (although, as my response to DanBlather indicates, I do hold an opinion) and I'm in no position to confirm nor deny that you experienced a "vision". Evidently, using the definitions I supplied, you feel that that experience qualifies as "fact". If so, then your original statement was incorrect and should have been something like: "my religious faith is grounded in a personal experience I had; I cannot deny its vividness, impact, nor truth, and it is why I believe."

That seems to me to be a stronger argumentative position (not to mention a better reason for belief) than to posit irrationality from the start.

margin
06-24-2010, 01:58 AM
Atheists: Why are you so certain of your non beliefs?

Two words: Rush Limbaugh

ivan astikov
06-24-2010, 02:04 AM
I didn't say anything about "organized". Religion in general appears to go back as far as we have evidence about human behavior. It's easily old enough.

And I'm still going to go with it being a result of the mystery of birth, as opposed to the mystery of death. Until homo whatever made the connection between sex and birth, that would have been the biggest puzzle of our existence, and seems to fit the early reverence for Earth Mothers perfectly.

Damuri Ajashi
06-24-2010, 09:54 PM
So what, exactly, is the particular feature that's "singular in its persistence over time and across cultures"?

Religion, belief in a spiritual world.

Damuri Ajashi
06-24-2010, 10:06 PM
The moment I went from an agnostic to an atheist was when I allowed the thought to enter my conscience: "Maybe there isn't anything god-like out there." Very scary and very freeing moment. A lot of stuff snaps into place but it is a real downer because it does mean that 90% of humans are just being silly and we don't get to live forever in a happy place. It's not for the faint of heart.

I have that thought constantly, it has never led me to entirely lose faith.

Damuri Ajashi
06-24-2010, 10:19 PM
It is also perfectly possible to be an atheist and believe in some sort of godless afterlife

So Athiests can be Buddhist?

Der Trihs
06-24-2010, 10:56 PM
Doesn't that undercut the notion that religion was bred into us by centuries of religious prosecution and wars that made religiosity a survival trait?I didn't say centuries, I said millennia. And you don't need organized religion or war for persecution. You just need the general attitude that anyone who doesn't revere the local superstitions loudly enough is evil and should be killed. An attitude that has been the norm among most people and which they have even applied to their own children.

MrDibble
06-25-2010, 07:43 AM
So Athiests can be Buddhist?

Only some sorts of Buddhism. Not all Buddhist schools are atheistic. While theism isn't a central tenet of Buddhism like most other religions, many strains have theistic beliefs, or elevate some Buddha and Bodhisattva to de facto theistic state. Pure Land as commonly practices, for instance.

Sandwich
06-25-2010, 08:28 AM
All my ancestors vanished without a trace.

How can you be so sure you have ancestors? I'm open minded enough to accept that, for certain definitions of 'ancestor', maybe the situation is just a little more complicated than you like to think.

Now, did I take my pills today, I can't remember?

Damuri Ajashi
06-25-2010, 10:55 AM
I didn't say centuries, I said millennia. And you don't need organized religion or war for persecution. You just need the general attitude that anyone who doesn't revere the local superstitions loudly enough is evil and should be killed. An attitude that has been the norm among most people and which they have even applied to their own children.

Yeah, I just don't see that in Asia and yet they have a pretty rich religious tradition.

Latro
06-25-2010, 11:11 AM
Yeah, I just don't see that in Asia and yet they have a pretty rich religious tradition.

I must agree with this.
The bloodthirst and craving for killing off people of other religions is really only found with this "God of Love" fellow.
I wouldn't know of any religions, other than the Jahwe's and it's derivatives, that forced people to convert by the sword.( and fire and the rack and.. and.. and).

MrDibble
06-25-2010, 11:26 AM
Yeah, I just don't see that in Asia and yet they have a pretty rich religious tradition.

Not familiar with India, I take it?

MrDibble
06-25-2010, 11:28 AM
I must agree with this.
The bloodthirst and craving for killing off people of other religions is really only found with this "God of Love" fellow.
I wouldn't know of any religions, other than the Jahwe's and it's derivatives, that forced people to convert by the sword.( and fire and the rack and.. and.. and).

The Aztecs subjugated their neighbours and made them submit to regular "flower wars" so they could feed their death cults' need for human flesh.

Latro
06-25-2010, 11:31 AM
The Aztecs subjugated their neighbours and made them submit to regular "flower wars" so they could feed their death cults' need for human flesh.

That's different.
Someone had to make sure the sun comes up again.

Besides the prisoners usually had a similar belief, they weren't forced to convert.



Oh, yes what are you referring to with India? Thuggee?

Czarcasm
06-25-2010, 11:35 AM
That's different.
Someone had to make sure the sun comes up again.

Besides the prisoners usually had a similar belief, they weren't forced to convert.Generally, conversion wasn't requested, because the religion was tied to the people of that particular area-if you didn't live there, you were automatically fair game.

FREQ_FORCE
06-25-2010, 01:40 PM
My lack of belief in cultural deities stems from a few simple points:

1. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever of any intelligent supernatural processes at work anywhere in nature. This is a fact. Get used to it.

2. I have never been presented with a definition of a "god" that has not been completely and utterly incoherent.

3. A great deal of religions are ridiculously pessimistic and have an abysmal framework for establishing morality.

4. Invoking "gods" as an explanation for anything actually explains nothing. As a model for increasing our understanding of the universe, theistic and anthropic lines of reasoning are utterly useless.

5. We've literally dreamed up thousands of gods during the span of human history, and at one time or another their adherents were supremely confident of their existence as well. There is nothing to me that suggests the validity of one over the other.

6. Bronze age myths are not particularly compelling in providing evidence for the existence of supernatural entities.

7. People tend to think that a universe without supernatural boogeymen is somehow "less special," or "meaningless." This strikes me as pathologically egocentric and to me displays a supreme lack of perspective.

The idea that people can operate under the assumption that the existence of their particular cultural diety is just a "given," and that their belief is somehow the default for humanity makes it extraordinarily difficult for me to take them seriously.

begbert2
06-25-2010, 02:00 PM
2. I have never been presented with a definition of a "god" that has not been completely and utterly incoherent.Oh come now - Thor and the FSM are both completely coherent. Extremely implausible for differing reasons, but coherent. (The IPU not so much - but that's deliberate.)

Czarcasm
06-25-2010, 02:04 PM
Oh come now - Thor and the FSM are both completely coherent. Extremely implausible for differing reasons, but coherent. (The IPU not so much - but that's deliberate.)I don't think I've encountered a god-concept more incoherent than the IFG, though.

begbert2
06-25-2010, 02:38 PM
I don't think I've encountered a god-concept more incoherent than the IFG, though.:confused: The International Forum on Globalization? :confused:

Czarcasm
06-25-2010, 02:41 PM
:confused: The International Forum on Globalization? :confused:My friend Snake's nickname for ol' Jehovah-"Invisible Flying Goalposts".

MrDibble
06-25-2010, 03:08 PM
Oh, yes what are you referring to with India? Thuggee?No, more the partition and ongoing Hindu-Muslim violence. I understand people will point out that one side is Yahwistic-derived monotheism, but it takes two to tango and Hindus give as good as they get.

Latro
06-25-2010, 04:51 PM
No, more the partition and ongoing Hindu-Muslim violence. I understand people will point out that one side is Yahwistic-derived monotheism, but it takes two to tango and Hindus give as good as they get.

That's exactly what my wife says, everytime she starts an argument.