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Ask An Atheist Anything

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posted on Jul, 20 2010 @ 10:51 AM
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Originally posted by adjensen
I don't dispute your data, but I do dispute that there aren't other factors at work which make the presence or absence of spirituality of significantly less importance than is claimed.


Well, I'm going to leave specifics of those studies to that thread and I agree that there are too many factors within society to create a study which would definitively confirm those findings. I simply wished to point out that my statement was not unbacked and simply a leap of logic.




posted on Jul, 20 2010 @ 11:33 AM
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Originally posted by traditionaldrummer

Originally posted by adjensen
I don't dispute your data, but I do dispute that there aren't other factors at work which make the presence or absence of spirituality of significantly less importance than is claimed.


Well, I'm going to leave specifics of those studies to that thread and I agree that there are too many factors within society to create a study which would definitively confirm those findings. I simply wished to point out that my statement was not unbacked and simply a leap of logic.


Well, it is unbacked and a leap in logic if the support is faulty, as in this case. You can't say "look at Denmark, it proves that atheism is peaceful" while closing your eyes to Stalin's purges and forced famines, Mao's programs, Pol Pot, etc. While you might argue that "those things weren't done in the name of atheism", then you're left with showing that Denmark is peaceful "in the name of atheism."

The fact of the matter is that political states act as they will, and the motivation does not appear to be consistently applicable to religion, or, if you wish to say that it is, then the conclusion you must draw is that atheist states are far more cruel and terrible than religious ones.

I'm not sure how that's debatable, given the history of the past 100 years.



posted on Jul, 20 2010 @ 11:43 AM
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Only if they have accepted it blindly. Many people though have had subjective experiences which have convinced them, some even converting from atheism. I have addressed a few of them in this thread and told them flat out I did not believe they were crazy at all.

Yes, and you and I may even be in agreement about some of the "perosnal experience" ideas that you have expressed.

In the bit I quoted before, however, you did add the qualifier "simply." And now you have used "blindly." I understood you, then, to be talking about something different than before. Must be, right?, since you also reached different conclusions.

I don't really see how anybody could accept a religion without some "subjective experience." For example being convinced by someone's recital of the Bible must count as a "subjective experience." Hell, "being convinced" by anything is subjective, and it's an experience.

I wish you would be clearer about what kinds of faith formation impress you as symptoms of mental illness, and which inspire you to confidence that they are not crazy. If that's possible.

On another matter, I think we agree that you described yourself accurately in the thread title, that you are an atheist. I think it is unreasoanble to require certainty from any profession of belief, and almost everybody would change their mind if mind-changing evidence arrived; it's just that in the meantime, they think such evidence probably won't arrive.


Nowhere that we've looked produces any evidence of deities and as discovery and knowledge encroaches more and more on areas deities were said to inhabit, the less likely it becomes to discover any. The odds appear so great against discovering a deity that not forming a certitude on the issue seems less logical to me than assuming a neutral opinion.

Why would I expect that I could find a supernatural being while using natural means of detection?

The people who seem to have told me to look for Thor in thunder turn out not to know what they're talking about, if that's what they meant. OK. So much for Edda literalism. I suspect we can agree.

Do you have any evidence that the people who wrote the poems (Norse, Hebrew, Hottentot,...) intended them to be taken literally?

I thought that was one of the things Chrsitian fundies were criticized for, mistaking a figurative poem for lieteral prose. So, if they're wrong, then their text is a poem, and so is not something that could be verified or refuted by natural means.

I suspect you and I agree that the fundies are wrong, and wrong about that in particular. So, why are we not in agreement that there never was any chance of finding < insert your choice of deity > by investigating the literal truth of a non-literal text about < him her them >?

And if the only tests that have been peformed are those that never could have succeeded, whether or not God exists, then what's convincing about that?



[edit on 20-7-2010 by eight bits]



posted on Jul, 20 2010 @ 11:43 AM
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Originally posted by adjensen
I'm not sure how that's debatable, given the history of the past 100 years.


It's easily debatable because none of those murderous tyrants operated in the cause of atheism, rather the cause of statism. Their atheism is a red herring. Hitler and Pol Pot were both vegetarians. By employing similar techniques one could claim that vegetarianism caused the deaths of millions in the 20th century. This being a red herring also it's equally as absurd as blaming atheism for the actions of madmen.



posted on Jul, 20 2010 @ 11:55 AM
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Originally posted by eight bits
Why would I expect that I could find a supernatural being while using natural means of detection?


Well, many claims exist that such supernatural forces affect the natural world. A perturbation of the physical world should be able to be detected by natural methods of detection.


So, why are we not in agreement that there never was any chance of finding < insert your choice of deity > by investigating the literal truth of a non-literal text about < him her them >?


I think we do agree here. Though I don't regard investigation of religious texts a significant form of detection of positive evidence in favor of locating a deity. It does, however, make a great source in which to detect errors in theological claims about the universe.


And if the only tests that have been peformed are those that never could have succeeded, whether or not God exists, then what's convincing about that?


Which self-failing tests exactly are these? Evidence of deities could theoretically be detected with tests that were not designed to locate deities. What is paramount is that no test or discovery has so far located any deities. And more importantly, the universe is perfectly capable of functioning without one. Nothing detected so far indicates otherwise.



posted on Jul, 20 2010 @ 11:55 AM
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Originally posted by traditionaldrummer

Originally posted by adjensen
I'm not sure how that's debatable, given the history of the past 100 years.


It's easily debatable because none of those murderous tyrants operated in the cause of atheism, rather the cause of statism. Their atheism is a red herring.


Well, if you go back to what I said, that is exactly my point. The atheism, in my opinion, has nothing to do with it. But then it follows that it also has nothing to do with the peaceful nature of Denmark. You can't cherry pick your proofs, saying that things that agree with your perspective are valid, and things that don't are not. Which is exactly what it appears you're trying to do here.



posted on Jul, 20 2010 @ 11:57 AM
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Originally posted by adjensen
Well, if you go back to what I said, that is exactly my point. The atheism, in my opinion, has nothing to do with it. But then it follows that it also has nothing to do with the peaceful nature of Denmark. You can't cherry pick your proofs, saying that things that agree with your perspective are valid, and things that don't are not. Which is exactly what it appears you're trying to do here.


Okay, I'm willing to leave that point up for debate and will exclude it from my partial list of the benefits of secular humanism. I concede it's too inconclusive to rest my statement upon it.



posted on Jul, 20 2010 @ 12:39 PM
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Still working on the crazy-blind-simple thing? It is an important issue, I think.


What is paramount is that no test or discovery has so far located any deities.

Definitely we agree about that, since neither of us is a theist. And we are also in agreement that natural tests have eliminated some erroneous theological propositions which were literalist about this or that claim of supernatural influence upon the natural world.


And more importantly, the universe is perfectly capable of functioning without one.

Thank you for bringing that up. I've always wondered about the relevance of that to the existence question. That is something I have wanted to ask an atheist for a long time!

Now, I admit the next one-sentence paragraph states a speculation, but I have some confidence that it might be true. All I ask is that you spot me this one for the sake of argument.

The Universe is perfectly capable of functioning without Hula Hoops.

They exist.

inventors.about.com...

Conclude: that the Universe's supposed capability of functioning without something is an unreliable guide to whether or not that something exists anyway.

So, why is a god different from a Hula Hoop?

I'll bet you didn't guess you'd be asked that one!





[edit on 20-7-2010 by eight bits]



posted on Jul, 20 2010 @ 12:56 PM
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Originally posted by eight bits
Still working on the crazy-blind-simple thing? It is an important issue, I think.


I believe I answered this. Blind acceptance is crazy. This was a response to the poster who said [paraphrasing] "if only we could just accept people's ideas...". We can't just accept every idea presented.


Thank you for bringing that up. I've always wondered about the relevance of that to the existence question. That is something I have wanted to ask an atheist for a long time!

Now, I admit the next one-sentence paragraph states a speculation, but I have some confidence that it might be true. All I ask is that you spot me this one for the sake of argument.

The Universe is perfectly capable of functioning without Hula Hoops.

They exist.

inventors.about.com...

Conclude: that the Universe's supposed capability of functioning without something is an unreliable guide to whether or not that something exists anyway.

So, why is a god different from a Hula Hoop?

I'll bet you didn't guess you'd be asked that one!


Hula hoops are not explanations for various properties of the universe. Deities are.



[edit on 20-7-2010 by traditionaldrummer]



posted on Jul, 20 2010 @ 05:34 PM
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I believe I answered this. Blind acceptance is crazy. This was a response to the poster who said [paraphrasing] "if only we could just accept people's ideas...". We can't just accept every idea presented.

Well, then figure I'm slow. Your standard for non-craziness seems to be "subjective experience." I don't understand that standard because I do not see how somebody could agree to anything, except by the necessarily subjective experience of being convinced of its truth.

I do sense you have some standard that distinguishes among subjective experiences. There are some that impress you as healthy, and, it now emerges, others that impress you as pathological. But I don't know what your standard is, and I would like to know.

If you can't help me to understand, then that's OK, I guess. But before I called anybody mentally ill for doing something that such an enormous proportion of human beings have done at least once, then I'd want firm standards to tell me who's who.

Worse, mental illness appears to be exceptional. Professing a theist belief, even if only temporarily, is routine. The pigeon hole principle says that most people who made a profession must have done it without the illness.


Hula hoops are not explanations for various properties of the universe. Deities are.

That doesn't help you with establishing relevance the existence question, though.

Your opponent can't validly derive Zeus exists from the premise Zeus hurls thunderbolts. Obviously, the theist would simply have assumed the consequent.

So, the claim of function cannot be of relevance to establishing existence in the affirmative sense. Even as rebuttal to that, Zeus does not hurl thuderbolts only impeaches the premise of an argument that was already invalid. So, still no relevance to whether Zeus exists.

OK, you argue the negative. You wish to conclude Zeus doesn't exist.

So, my quesstion to you, then, is what relevance are you claiming in your situation? You postulate Zeus does not throw thnderbolts. Congratulations, you haven't assumed that Zeus doesn't exist, but what argument connects the lack of essential function to a conclusion of non-existence?

I don't throw thunderbolts. The Universe can in every way get along fine without me. Perhaps you would go so far as to say that the Universe would be better off without me. Fine, but here I am, I exist. Why not Zeus?

Yes, of course, there are a thousand reasons, but not hurling thunderbolts isn't one of them, unless you've got some argument to rehabilitate its relevance to Zeus, despite my non-thunderbolt-hurling existence being a ground fact.






[edit on 20-7-2010 by eight bits]



posted on Jul, 21 2010 @ 05:29 AM
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Originally posted by eight bits
[But before I called anybody mentally ill for doing something that such an enormous proportion of human beings have done at least once, then I'd want firm standards to tell me who's who.


I am certain I've made a clear delineation at this point. Accepting a belief on face value with no proof or experience is crazy: you'll accept anything someone suggests. Accepting a belief due to subjective experience, say a revelation from a deity, gives you valid reason to believe in a deity. My personal standard is to require objective evidence.



That doesn't help you with establishing relevance the existence question, though.


Yes it does because it provides the context of my statement. Certainly, the universe works just fine without any human invention, though we weren't discussing human inventions.



posted on Jul, 21 2010 @ 07:23 AM
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Accepting a belief on face value with no proof or experience is crazy:

Consider the proposition It is more likely than not that the Los Angeles Lakers will win the 2011 NBA Championship.

Whether or not there is in some abstract sense evidence available on point, I represent to you that I haven't seen any.

I've heard plenty of arguments. They tend to be remarkably similar to religious discussions. None of them, in either direction, persuades me. Whatever belief I have formed about the proposition has not been influenced by them. They are a wash.

Nevertheless, I believe that the proposition is true. I would happily put any sum up to $100 at risk in an even money bet on the Lakers. I would decline an even-money bet for comparable stakes on "anybody but the Lakers."

So, mine is not an idle belief. I'll put some skin in the game to back it up. I'll also refrain from doing something because of it. Nevertheless, my belief is completely unsupported by evidence.

In your opinion, am I crazy?

The backstory of the example also disposes of one your claims:


you'll accept anything someone suggests

No, even though I have heard contrary arguments, that is, someone suggesting that the proposition is untrue, I have not accepted those suggestions.

I also think it's perfectly obvious that almost everybody who has adopted any religious opinion has come across someone who suggests a different one. Nevertheless, the suggestion is typically not accepted. I think it's equally obvious that holding a religious opinion would be uninformative about whether the person believes in bigfoot.

So, that claim's really just a non-starter. It's also an inaccurate description of the choice behavior of most people who are mentally ill.


Yes it does because it provides the context of my statement. Certainly, the universe works just fine without any human invention, though we weren't discussing human inventions.

No, we were discussing inferences about ontological propositions. So far, you haven't backed up your claim that reliable inferences about whether something exists or not can be drawn from the absence of apparent function.

You have yet to show any relevance whatsoever. I have given counterexamples. You haven't even rebutted any of them.

At this rate, it looks like we're gonna be here for a while.



[edit on 21-7-2010 by eight bits]



posted on Jul, 21 2010 @ 07:57 AM
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I tried Athiesm for several years and realized there is as much evidence for "no god" as there is for "a god". So I became a spiritual agnostic, I accept the fact there might be a god or divine entity at the same time there might not be. Ultimatly there is no way to empiricaly proove it 100%. I was always facinated in the philosophy of Descartes. The idea of the only thing I objectly know that exsists is my own conciousness everything else is suspect. I believe the same rational Descartes used to logicaly define his philosophy can be applied to a spiritual debate as well.

But I am getting off track from the origional post. My question is how do you define abstract thought? I understand some of these proccess' can be explained loosely through neurochemestry but from my limited knowledge of the science I have gathered we really dont fully understand why these chemicals are released in the first place. Basicaly neuroscience can explain why the gun fires but not who pulled the trigger. In my understanding of philosophy you can keep breaking down everything (action/reaction/matter/energy/time ect ect) to the point of a singularity. That is what I define as the possibility of something greater than what we know. God by defintion has to be a paradox because it has to exsist outside of accepted reality, IF it created it. And because this paradox exsists I believe its fairly credible evidence (in a purely philisophical way) of the exsistence of "something". I hold true to that "something" and some quantum mechanics theories call this "the observer".
Oh and before any one says I just got my evidence from "what the bleep do we know' I have read ALOT on this subject beyond that movie. Sure I am no quantum math major but alot of that is philosophy as well. It should get some consideration without being compartimentalized in "hippy jumbo"

Any way I love these discussions, much love everyone!



posted on Jul, 21 2010 @ 08:14 AM
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Originally posted by eight bits

In your opinion, am I crazy?


Not in your example. However, in many of your objections to my statements you have changed the context from theology, superstition and belief in deities to an entirely different context to make a challenge work. My statements only apply to the subject matter at hand. Let's remain on topic, shall we?



No, we were discussing inferences about ontological propositions. So far, you haven't backed up your claim that reliable inferences about whether something exists or not can be drawn from the absence of apparent function.


Actually, we're hung up on you changing the variables and context of my statements to present a challenge to them. My statements are not absolutes which apply to all changes in variables and contexts. So, let's remain on topic, shall we?



posted on Jul, 21 2010 @ 08:22 AM
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Originally posted by TheKnave
I tried Athiesm for several years and realized there is as much evidence for "no god" as there is for "a god". So I became a spiritual agnostic, I accept the fact there might be a god or divine entity at the same time there might not be. Ultimatly there is no way to empiricaly proove it 100%


One does not need proof that there is no god, one needs proof that there is a god. The default position of any rational individual would be disbelief until shown otherwise.


God by defintion has to be a paradox because it has to exsist outside of accepted reality, IF it created it. And because this paradox exsists I believe its fairly credible evidence (in a purely philisophical way) of the exsistence of "something".


A logical paradox doesn't prove evidence of anything, and your paradox relies on assumptions that 1. a deity must live outside of accepted reality and 2. the possibility it created reality. The problem really lies in invoking a deity as a "creator". If a "creator" is required and a deity is invoked to explain it then you haven't answered anything, only complicated things. Because the deity which creates also must have been created and then that creator must have been created and so on. You force an infinite regression.

Ultimately what is required for the confirmation of the existence of deities is objective, testable evidence.



posted on Jul, 21 2010 @ 08:45 AM
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Originally posted by traditionaldrummer
A logical paradox doesn't prove evidence of anything, and your paradox relies on assumptions that 1. a deity must live outside of accepted reality and 2. the possibility it created reality. The problem really lies in invoking a deity as a "creator". If a "creator" is required and a deity is invoked to explain it then you haven't answered anything, only complicated things. Because the deity which creates also must have been created and then that creator must have been created and so on. You force an infinite regression.

Ultimately what is required for the confirmation of the existence of deities is objective, testable evidence.


I might not have wrote it out as well as I would have liked (I actually really suck at writing) but the infinite break down paradox doesnt RELY on those assumptions its just rational regression. I used those assumtions to try to explain a paradox. the other way around.



posted on Jul, 21 2010 @ 08:50 AM
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Originally posted by TheKnave
but the infinite break down paradox doesnt RELY on those assumptions its just rational regression. I used those assumtions to try to explain a paradox. the other way around.


Actually the infinite regression problem does require the assumption that there is/was a creator of the universe. The point I really wanted to make though was that paradoxes don't qualify as objective evidence for the existence of deities or creators or gods.



posted on Jul, 21 2010 @ 09:40 AM
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Not in your example. However, in many of your objections to my statements you have changed the context from theology...Let's remain on topic, shall we?

Fortunately, we haven't strayed from the topic. We are discussing reasonable heuristic inference, especially as it is practiced by mentally healthy people in contrast with crazy people.

Surely, the principles involved must be domain-independent. It is unproductive not to take advantage of example problems that lack the kind of emotional provocation that would lead you to write,


superstition and belief in deities

Superstition is pejorative word, plain and simple. It is name-calling. It is not something that is useful for discussing heuristics. It is utterly useless for discussing mental illness, which is our ultimate concern here.

Obviously, religion is emotionally energizing for you. So, I chose sports. And damned good thing that I did, because I finally got a yes-or-no answer to a yes-or-no question.

That's no small feat with you.

So, let us proceed. You say that I'm OK mental health-wise betting on the Lakers with no evidence, and with only inconclusive arguments from others, by thinking for myself.

Why would I be crazy to join the Society of Friends (liberal division, that is, a "non-credal" faith), without evidence, without convincing arguments from others, by thinking for myself?

Note that that also has some connection to your own divine inspiration exception. Quakers hope to receive divine guidance, and seek it. So, on the basis that that's what I'm looking for, too, I think I'll join. I haven't had divine guidance yet, however. Nevertheless, I think they're more likely than not to be right.

It is foreseeable that once I join, I will soon thereafter be present when someone else says that they have received divine guidance. That's what Quaker meetings are about, sharing with the community what someone believes God has said to them, and inspired them to repeat.

So, would I still be uncrazy if I continued indefinitely to be a Quaker, waiting for divine guidance to me, and in the meantime rely on the divine guidance subjective experience given to someone else?


Actually, we're hung up on you changing the variables and context of my statements to present a challenge to them.

Give me a break. You're simply not answering the question. Again.

So, as long as you stonewall, then I'll continue to rephrase.


So, let's remain on topic, shall we?

Capital idea. The topic is ask an atheist anything. That would be you. I asked you something. So, please answer.

"What's the question again?" you ask.

"How to rephrase this time?" I think. Here goes:

Would you be kind enough to explain how I might infer the non-existence of something from my inability to discern a critical function for it?

Please? With sugar on it?


One does not need proof that there is no god, one needs proof that there is a god. The default position of any rational individual would be disbelief until shown otherwise.

Why? I think I'm a rational person. I don't have a "default position. " I just say "I don't know the answer to the question."

Anybody who wants me to change me mind, and agree with them instead of somebody else, had better show me some proof.

You get bupkis just because you disagree with the vast majority of reasonable people I know personally. Truly a silly claim.





[edit on 21-7-2010 by eight bits]



posted on Jul, 21 2010 @ 10:08 AM
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Originally posted by eight bits

Fortunately, we haven't strayed from the topic.


Sadly, we've strayed from the context of my statements.


Superstition is pejorative word, plain and simple. It is name-calling.


No, it most certainly isn't.


Why would I be crazy to join the Society of Friends (liberal division, that is, a "non-credal" faith), without evidence, without convincing arguments from others, by thinking for myself?


Thinking for yourself employs reasoning, which is not the blind acceptance I referred to earlier.


Give me a break. You're simply not answering the question. Again.

So, as long as you stonewall, then I'll continue to rephrase.


I have answered your questions categorically and repeatedly. I'm simply not interested in entertaining every change in variables and context that you apply to my statements. As long as you continue doing so I suspect you won't receive the answer you seem to desire.


Capital idea. The topic is ask an atheist anything. That would be you. I asked you something. So, please answer.


I have answered your questions nearly to the point of redundancy.


Would you be kind enough to explain how I might infer the non-existence of something from my inability to discern a critical function for it?


That sounds somewhat to me like the requirement to prove a negative. I cannot tell you how to go about doing such a thing. Though honestly, I'm not certain exactly what you're trying to ask here anyway, but in short one could likely infer the non-existence of something due to the lack of evidence in support of the existence of said "something".


Why? I think I'm a rational person. I don't have a "default position. " I just say "I don't know the answer to the question."

Anybody who wants me to change me mind, and agree with them instead of somebody else, had better show me some proof.


Excellent. Then your default position is disbelief until shown otherwise.


You get bupkis just because you disagree with the vast majority of reasonable people I know personally. Truly a silly claim.


What is a "silly claim"? That I disagree with some reasonable people you know? That's not a claim, and I have no interest in conforming with the opinions of the reasonable people you know.



posted on Jul, 21 2010 @ 10:30 AM
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Originally posted by TheKnave
God by defintion has to be a paradox because it has to exsist outside of accepted reality, IF it created it.


Perhaps I'm pulling this out of context, but I don't understand where the paradox lies. If I make a box and put stuff in it, I'm outside of the box, but I can still interact with the box. It gets a little tricky if I AM the box, but I don't see any paradox there, either.

If "accepted reality" isn't all that there is (and I believe that statement to be true,) then it stands to reason that God isn't constrained to our limited part of it.



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