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An aside on teapots (or a better guide to understanding atheists)

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posted on Dec, 23 2010 @ 05:21 AM
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A nice working class "rewrite" of Russell's "Is there a God?" article (the one with the teapot) has appeared, just in time for Christmas, from British comedian Ricky Gervais,

online.wsj.com...

Among the many things I like about the new article is that it reinforces an observation I made on another thread, one of Joe's. Unilke on ATS, in real life it is very easy to find an atheist who will state, simply and directly, their belief that "God doesn't exist."

Speaking of Joe, I disagree with this:


I think Russell’s teapot analogy is aimed primarily at those who hold a religious belief in God, and not at those who hold a belief in a higher power.

Russell's tea pot isn't aimed at anybody else's beliefs. He's explaining his own freedom from any "burden of disproof," and the reasonableness of his handling of an irrebuttable claim, not commenting on the well-foundedness of anybody else's beliefs.

Another atheist might adapt the example, as the OP tried to do, to explore other people's beliefs, but it is simply a fact that Russell didn't. When Russell writes the sentence you cited and partially bolded,


If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.

He is repairing one of the rhetorical defects in his example. As first proposed, his teapot is painfully capricious and improvised. To foreclose an easily foreseeable objection against its relevance to burdens of proof, Russell amends his example to include the teapot being widely written about and discussed, so that belief in it becomes a societal "default position."

Yes, the way the teapot is to achieve this routineness is the same way that religious subjects are routinely encountered, but that is the defect-of-relevance he is trying to repair. The existence of scripture, preaching and teaching is not, after all, a reason to believe anything. Instead, these are expositions of what someone is invited to believe. Their existence is, however, complete rebuttal to the objection that the contents of the scripture, preaching and teaching are capricious and improvised. A sermon is intentionally prepared.

Even if someone thought the sermon's contents were improvised and capricious way back when, they are no longer. That doesn't make them correct, but ubiquity obviously could achieve social respectability for the belief in question. Social respectability may well bear on "burden of proof" questions, since persuasion is necessarily a social activity and "burden of proof" is primarily a social convention about how that activity ought to proceed.

Social respectability is something which a spacewrecked household appliance being pulled out of someone's bu.. - um, I mean made up out of thin air, sorely lacks. But the reason why Russell's mechanism for achieving social respectability recalls religious observance has to do with the theme of his article, not a swipe against anybody else's beliefs, nor any speculation about why anybody else believes.




posted on Dec, 23 2010 @ 04:56 PM
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reply to post by eight bits
 




Originally posted by eight bits
A nice working class "rewrite" of Russell's "Is there a God?" article (the one with the teapot) has appeared, just in time for Christmas, from British comedian Ricky Gervais,

online.wsj.com...

An interesting perspective from Ricky Gervais, who sites various reasons and perspectives and then states the following…

“But believing in something doesn't make it true.”

What he forgets to mention though, is that it doesn’t necessarily make it untrue either, especially in the field, of how everything around us came to be.



Originally posted by Joecroft
I think Russell’s teapot analogy is aimed primarily at those who hold a religious belief in God, and not at those who hold a belief in a higher power




Originally posted by eight bits
Russell's tea pot isn't aimed at anybody else's beliefs. He's explaining his own freedom from any "burden of disproof," and the reasonableness of his handling of an irrebuttable claim, not commenting on the well-foundedness of anybody else's beliefs.

Another atheist might adapt the example, as the OP tried to do, to explore other people's beliefs, but it is simply a fact that Russell didn't. When Russell writes the sentence you cited and partially bolded,


Yes, I agree, Russell's “tea pot” is not being aimed at someone else’s beliefs, whatever they may be, but what I meant, is that sometimes it is used as a parallel, for the onus of belief to be on the other person.


- JC



posted on Dec, 23 2010 @ 05:07 PM
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If you don't believe in this teapot...why are you so concerned about others maybe believing in it?


I think someone is trying to convince themselves that they are right in thinking there is no teapot.



posted on Dec, 25 2010 @ 06:24 PM
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reply to post by OutKast Searcher
 



Originally posted by OutKast Searcher
If you don't believe in this teapot...why are you so concerned about others maybe believing in it?


Where is the evidence that I'm incredibly concerned? I discuss it on the internet, but I'm not devoting my life to ateapotism.

Of course, this brings up a different point entirely. I have never really been concerned with theism as a general concept. As a whole it is at worst illogical and at best just a different opinion. Unfortunately, the predominant forms of theism on this planet are...well, based on some pretty scary stuff to say the least.



I think someone is trying to convince themselves that they are right in thinking there is no teapot.


Nope, I'm just trying to take part in the discourse. I'm basically alright with my lack of belief, I just want to help others understand my lack of belief so we can all just get along and hold hands and sing kumbay----- actually, no, that's kind of lame. I mean, the getting along part is alright, but we can do something that's a lot cooler than holding hands and singing songs that I personally find creepy.

reply to post by Joecroft
 


Now that I've returned to tackling things that aren't just outright scary bigotry here on ATS...I'll take that suggestion and run with it, see you in that thread.



posted on Dec, 26 2010 @ 07:40 AM
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Originally posted by madnessinmysoul

The tiny teapot is still relevant.




Too right it is!


And not being made of chocolate, it cannot be said to be useless but to access the amber nectar that pours forth from the spout, one must first firmly grasp the handle.



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