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Source: (consider it) Thread: Arguing for atheism by arguing against theism
Mark Betts

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quote:
Originally posted by Anglican_Brat:
Can one exactly say "I don't believe in a Ground of being" or "I don't believe in an Ultimate Concern."

Most arguments made by atheists always seem to be an argument against a particular type of literal theism which sees God as a "Person." The sneaky and sophisticated theist will always insist that whenever we talk about God, we are always using metaphors. Even the notion that God is a Person, so essential to Western theism, in itself is metaphorical.

[TANGENT]I've wondered for a long time what "the ground of our being" actually means. Yes, I have read "Honest to God" and I won't be reading it again![/TANGENT]

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Raptor Eye
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quote:
Originally posted by SusanDoris:
.
I ceased to believe in any God/god/s or superstitions long ago although I still smile at the fun that could be had from having one's horoscope cast or future told, [Smile] and the more I know, the less I am likely to return to any such beliefs! But I think that makes me a stronger person.

Funny that, my belief in God means that I no longer hold any superstitions, while you connect horoscopes with belief in God? I find it interesting that some atheists do follow horoscopes seriously, or knock on wood, or consult fortune-tellers.

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Mark Betts

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quote:
Originally posted by Raptor Eye:
Funny that, my belief in God means that I no longer hold any superstitions, while you connect horoscopes with belief in God? I find it interesting that some atheists do follow horoscopes seriously, or knock on wood, or consult fortune-tellers.

For the scientismist, anything and everything which they don't consider to be scientific "empirical evidence," be it fact, theory or speculation, is all lumped together as "superstition."

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"We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary."

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IconiumBound
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Why should there be arguments between atheists and religionists? Discussion, yes; but trying to persuade or force a belief on others is not something I want to do or have done to me. i agree with tclune
quote:
originally posted by tclune
I think it is exactly right, but not limited to atheism. There is absolutely no need for a Christian to argue for their world view (or Muslims, or Hindus, or what-have-you.) Why on earth would you believe that you need to have a good argument for what is important to you? The real point is that you know what is important to you. Or so ISTM. --Tom Clune

Isn't the test of a good belief system in how your life is lived, productively and morally?

[ 24. February 2013, 12:48: Message edited by: IconiumBound ]

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Mark Betts

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quote:
Originally posted by IconiumBound:
Why should there be arguments between atheists and religionists? Discussion, yes; but trying to persuade or force a belief on others is not something I want to do or have done to me. i agree with tclune
quote:
originally posted by tclune
I think it is exactly right, but not limited to atheism. There is absolutely no need for a Christian to argue for their world view (or Muslims, or Hindus, or what-have-you.) Why on earth would you believe that you need to have a good argument for what is important to you? The real point is that you know what is important to you. Or so ISTM. --Tom Clune

Isn't the test of a good belief system in how your life is lived, productively and morally?
Yes absolutely - and consistency is important too. In theory, I can see where you and Tom Clune are coming from - and it all seems so obvious. But somehow, in practice... well maybe it has to do with human nature... fallen human nature! [Razz]

Anyway, things would be very quiet and boring around here if we could all be that reasonable - so be careful what you wish for.

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"We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary."

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EtymologicalEvangelical
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quote:
Originally posted by quetzalcoatl
Do I need to demonstrate that I don't collect stamps, or I don't believe in pixies? No.

So presumably you believe that 'God' - the eternal, intelligent, personal creator of the universe - is as trivial and as implication-free a concept as stamps and pixies?

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You can argue with a man who says, 'Rice is unwholesome': but you neither can nor need argue with a man who says, 'Rice is unwholesome, but I'm not saying this is true'. CS Lewis

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Truman White
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@Hughetc

Afternoon me old' son. You wrote

My worldview is simple – show me real evidence for supernature and I’ll accept it exists – until then I’ll use my time, efforts and money in ways I think are worthwhile based on the natural world.

You've mentioned this money business before. Have to say mate, you're intellectual objections to Christianity, and the evidence you quote, is usually pretty lame. Makes me wonder if your atheism is an attempt at an intellectual justification of an emotional experience. Nothing wrong in that - plenty of people come to faith on the back of an experience then sort out the intellectual side afterwards.

So what came first - the conceptual doubts or the nagging doubt you were getting fleeced?

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Truman White
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quote:
Originally posted by tclune:
quote:
Originally posted by Squibs:
What do people think of the claim that atheists - presumably because atheism is presupposed to be so blindingly obvious - need not make a positive case for their world-view?

I think it is exactly right, but not limited to atheism. There is absolutely no need for a Christian to argue for their world view (or Muslims, or Hindus, or what-have-you.) Why on earth would you believe that you need to have a good argument for what is important to you? The real point is that you know what is important to you. Or so ISTM.

--Tom Clune

Can be an issue in a good way - I can't describe anything like well enough how great being a Christian is, especially with my expereinces of some of the alternatives. But I'll have a go - it's good to share good stuff.

Flip side is that there are a small bunch of noisy people on a mission to eradicate faith both from public and private life. Sometimes you gotta stand up for yourself and what you believe.

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quetzalcoatl
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quote:
Originally posted by EtymologicalEvangelical:
quote:
Originally posted by quetzalcoatl
Do I need to demonstrate that I don't collect stamps, or I don't believe in pixies? No.

So presumably you believe that 'God' - the eternal, intelligent, personal creator of the universe - is as trivial and as implication-free a concept as stamps and pixies?
That misses the point, which is that many negatives don't need to be demonstrated. In fact, they cannot be demonstrated. I cannot demonstrate that there are no pixies, but I can simply not believe in them. Ditto God.

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SusanDoris

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quote:
Originally posted by Raptor Eye:
quote:
Originally posted by SusanDoris:
.
I ceased to believe in any God/god/s or superstitions long ago although I still smile at the fun that could be had from having one's horoscope cast or future told, [Smile] and the more I know, the less I am likely to return to any such beliefs! But I think that makes me a stronger person.

Funny that, my belief in God means that I no longer hold any superstitions, while you connect horoscopes with belief in God?
Well, not really; There is no doubt that the God/god/s belief carries far more weight and power than the others mentioned, so they cannot be equated. None of the latter has a hierarchy, 'holy' books, dogmas etc.It is, I would assert, far easier to dismiss them, and I can't think of anyone (except maybe some eastern groups) who would accept that they could have any serious effect on law-making.

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Truman White
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quote:
Originally posted by quetzalcoatl:
quote:
Originally posted by EtymologicalEvangelical:
quote:
Originally posted by quetzalcoatl
Do I need to demonstrate that I don't collect stamps, or I don't believe in pixies? No.

So presumably you believe that 'God' - the eternal, intelligent, personal creator of the universe - is as trivial and as implication-free a concept as stamps and pixies?
That misses the point, which is that many negatives don't need to be demonstrated. In fact, they cannot be demonstrated. I cannot demonstrate that there are no pixies, but I can simply not believe in them. Ditto God.
I take your point Q, but reckon you're missing EE's. It doesn't matter to well, I would reckon most people, whether you collect stamps. Also doesn't make a lot of difference whether there are any pixies around (or Leprechauns, Boggats or whatever your local favourite is). Their existence or not might form part of your world view. But whether the universe has a transcendent cause, whether life is a series of random events or part of a bigger plan, whether your life has an eternal purpose or not - well I'd reckon the answers to those of questions will define your world view.

See Q, I reckon the issue is this. If you were brought up an atheist in a community of atheists and never once asked whether there was anything more to the world than what you could perceive through your senses, then you might reckon you didn't have to explain your world view. But you don't have that option here mate, since your on a community full of theists giving intelligent arguments about why the world is how it is. It's because those arguments are intelligent and articulate that you both need to explain why you don't find them convincing and why your view of the world is more credible and convincing.

Yeah you're right - some things are inherently trivial, or only important to a few people directly concerned with them.

But God doesn't fall into that category.

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quetzalcoatl
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Truman White

I should point out that I'm not an atheist. I'm just arguing against the idea that atheism, as a kind of negative, needs demonstrating.

I did grow up amidst atheists, actually, in a working class area. In fact, nobody was at all interested in religion in the slightest, so there were no arguments for or against!

I thought Tom Clune made a very good point - that there is no actual requirement to argue for any position.

But to go back to negative statements - for many of them, they cannot be demonstrated, as with 'there are no black swans', (but might be falsified). Oh no, let's not start on that one again.

Incidentally, atheism need not involve any 'view of the world' at all. Well, OK, it's a view that the world is without God, but that's all. It could be made of pudding rice, or could be dreamed up by a Venusian jellyfish. All irrelevant to atheism.

[ 24. February 2013, 14:37: Message edited by: quetzalcoatl ]

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EtymologicalEvangelical
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quote:
Originally posted by quetzalcoatl
Well, OK, it's a view that the world is without God...

Which is a highly significant position. 'God' is not an inconsequential appendage, which can be dispensed with without any profound implications. The entire argument you are presenting seems to assume this.

By the way, it can be argued that every position is a negative one, which, according to your reasoning, does not need to be demonstrated. Every positive view can be turned into a negative. Therefore I don't need to demonstrate my a-atheism (or 'anatheism' to be more accurate to the Greek prefixes)! I simply don't believe in atheism. End of. No extraordinary claims. No extraordinary evidence required. No burden of proof that I need to carry.

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You can argue with a man who says, 'Rice is unwholesome': but you neither can nor need argue with a man who says, 'Rice is unwholesome, but I'm not saying this is true'. CS Lewis

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Dafyd
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quote:
Originally posted by quetzalcoatl:
But to go back to negative statements - for many of them, they cannot be demonstrated, as with 'there are no black swans', (but might be falsified). Oh no, let's not start on that one again.

Incidentally, atheism need not involve any 'view of the world' at all. Well, OK, it's a view that the world is without God, but that's all. It could be made of pudding rice, or could be dreamed up by a Venusian jellyfish. All irrelevant to atheism.

Er... I think that last paragraph is making a category error. Atheism isn't a specific view that the world is without God. It's a large number of views that have in common solely that the world is without God. Just because atheism doesn't require any specific view, that doesn't mean that it doesn't require any view at all. The word 'atheism' makes us think that there must be something that corresponds to it without qualification, and there isn't.

With regards to negative arguments, they depend on the status of the thing you're arguing about. If the thing you're arguing about is playing some role in the overall worldview, then you have to either propose something to take its place or else show that the role doesn't need to be filled. Pixies don't have any particular role in anyone's worldview any more, if they ever did, while God still does.

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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quetzalcoatl
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Dafyd

I agree that not all negative claims are non-demonstrable, but I think many claims of the form 'I don't believe in X' or 'there are no X' are not demonstrable.

In fact, these examples show the extreme complexity of statements combining terms such as 'all', 'not', 'there are', and so on. They are a total nightmare, both logically and linguistically. And of course, 'believe' and 'there are' are also totally different.

Anyway, it strikes me that 'I don't believe in God' requires no back-up. People might want some reasoned argument to support it, but wanting and requiring are distinct.

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Truman White:
But you don't have that option here mate, since your on a community full of theists giving intelligent arguments about why the world is how it is.

/tangent
I agree this is true, and would claim the same for the atheists.* However, I would wager there would be significant debate about which arguments merit this distinction.


*as well as non-theists and agnostics.

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quetzalcoatl
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I would have thought that an atheist could turn up here, and shoot down arguments for theism. Is he required to argue for 'I don't believe in God'? I don't see why, if he continues to demonstrate (as he sees it) why theistic arguments are bull-shit.

And of course, as Tom Clune argued, he need do neither.

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quetzalcoatl
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I think a lot of atheists see it as like being innocent.

I mean that I don't need to prove my innocence in a trial, but the prosecution has to prove my guilt. Of course, hopefully, I have a defence team who attempt to defuse the prosecution claims.

But then in actual debates, the burden of proof can be decided by the participants. So you could have the claim, 'there are no gods', being defended. I think that would be a dumb atheist who did that, since he simply has to reverse the burden of proof, as many atheists do, since it is impossible to demonstrate that there are no gods.

Well, OK, possibly that could be done by a cast-iron argument for materialism, but I don't think there are any, are there?

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by quetzalcoatl:
But it often seems as if the atheist must demonstrate his particular world view, whether materialism or dualism, or whatever. But this is a separate issue, I think, since atheism involves no particular world view.

Accepting for the nonce that atheism itself is not a worldview, it is nevertheless true that everybody has a worldview of some sort, be it Christianity or humanism or even solipsism. So it could be said, then, that what we really have are a bunch of worldviews, which all have in common nowt more than the lack of belief in deity, and in a kind of parlor trick, a blanket is thrown over all of them, or a rope tied around them, and they're collectively called "atheism." From there, all one has to do is successfully "disprove" theism, and the entire lot is automagically affirmed.

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quetzalcoatl
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Depends on what you mean by a world view. If you mean a sort of political world-view, I'm not sure. Some people just don't care.

If you mean a more philosophical world-view, I'm not sure even more, since they are all guesses. (Remembering also that science is not a world-view in this sense).

Some people, including me, just don't know.

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EtymologicalEvangelical
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quote:
Originally posted by quetzalcoatl
But then in actual debates, the burden of proof can be decided by the participants. So you could have the claim, 'there are no gods', being defended. I think that would be a dumb atheist who did that, since he simply has to reverse the burden of proof, as many atheists do, since it is impossible to demonstrate that there are no gods.

I think the problem revolves around the use of the word 'God / god'. This is too vague, and attracts the kind of "Zeus arguments" that we have seen on this thread.

The discussion has to be framed in more specific conceptual terms. Let's take the following claim: "there is - external to nature - an ordering influence on matter, which directs the laws of physics and chemistry in order to bring living organisms into being". Now surely there is a burden of proof on the position of non-belief in such an influence, because the rejection of such a mechanism implies that the laws of physics and chemistry alone can bring organisms into being? That is a definite positive claim, which can be investigated.

Or we could have a discussion about morality, and whether this is valid in the absence of an absolute and unchanging lawgiver.

And so on, issue by issue...

[ 24. February 2013, 16:31: Message edited by: EtymologicalEvangelical ]

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You can argue with a man who says, 'Rice is unwholesome': but you neither can nor need argue with a man who says, 'Rice is unwholesome, but I'm not saying this is true'. CS Lewis

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Yorick

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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
I've often felt that atheists need to move beyond simply outlining what they see as religious error and awfulness if atheism is to become a meaningful alternative to religion.

I accept that atheism itself simply represents an absence of belief in God rather than some kind of positivity switch that's flicked on as soon as someone leaves religion behind; but giving up Christianity for what looks like the neutral vacuum of atheism doesn't seem like much of an exchange to me, even though Christianity is challenging. You may say that atheism is 'better' simply because it's 'true'; but since truth is so hard to establish and agree on it seems to me that atheism has to be 'better' in other more immediate ways if it's going to trump religion.

If atheism is merely a vacuum that's always going to be overlaid with other ideologies, be they communism, humanism, etc., then it might be more useful and creative to explore how atheism is 'better' than religion by presenting it in combination with values that are widely appreciated in our culture. (This might be a challenge in such a pluralistic and individualistic culture, though. Do we really agree on all that much nowadays, or is modern society highly polarised?)

Good call.

Atheism is better than religion in the same way that walking on your own two legs is better than walking with crutches.

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این نیز بگذرد

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SvitlanaV2
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Yorick

quote:


Atheism is better than religion in the same way that walking on your own two legs is better than walking with crutches.


That presupposes that your legs are good enough as they are! But they probably aren't, if you're using crutches. Would we advise someone who's recovering from a serious fall to throw away their crutches? (Don't ask Jesus that question - he was one of those dodgy faith healer types!)
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passer

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So let's give every child a set of crutches to use from birth, lest their legs should ever fail. Then they'd never have to learn to walk properly on their own two feet. And makers of crutches would thrive.
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Mark Betts

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quote:
Originally posted by EtymologicalEvangelical:
...Now surely there is a burden of proof on the position of non-belief in such an influence, because the rejection of such a mechanism implies that the laws of physics and chemistry alone can bring organisms into being? That is a definite positive claim, which can be investigated.

The trouble is, EtymologicalEvangelical, that they think scientists have already proved this with their "empirical evidence." We may think it's a load of rubbish, but try telling them that.

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Truman White
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quote:
Originally posted by quetzalcoatl:
I would have thought that an atheist could turn up here, and shoot down arguments for theism. Is he required to argue for 'I don't believe in God'? I don't see why, if he continues to demonstrate (as he sees it) why theistic arguments are bull-shit.

And of course, as Tom Clune argued, he need do neither.

Cheers for the clarification up thread - wasn't sure whether you were an atheist or enriching the conversation....

Your latest point - it's about context. If your an atheist on SoF, you've chosen to come here. If you're crying "bovine extrement" about theistic ideas, then you should expect to be challenged on your own views. There are common questions both theists and atheists are faced with (I gave a few). If the question is more about "who's got the best explanation for these" then we're all in the same territory of explaining why we see the world as we do.

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by EtymologicalEvangelical:
The discussion has to be framed in more specific conceptual terms. Let's take the following claim: "there is - external to nature - an ordering influence on matter, which directs the laws of physics and chemistry in order to bring living organisms into being". Now surely there is a burden of proof on the position of non-belief in such an influence, because the rejection of such a mechanism implies that the laws of physics and chemistry alone can bring organisms into being? That is a definite positive claim, which can be investigated.

How would your framing change the debate? Seems to be much the same thing. Except your frame is much more vague. Assigning a particular god is more specific. What your frame does is take away the more ludicrous elements of creation stories so to give opponents less tangible places to grab hold. But it changes nothing in the underlying debate.

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Truman White:
Your latest point - it's about context. If your an atheist on SoF, you've chosen to come here. If you're crying "bovine extrement" about theistic ideas, then you should expect to be challenged on your own views. There are common questions both theists and atheists are faced with (I gave a few). If the question is more about "who's got the best explanation for these" then we're all in the same territory of explaining why we see the world as we do.

bold mine
What I decry is not theistic argument in general, but certain specific arguments. As do, BTW, many theists on this board.

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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by passer:
So let's give every child a set of crutches to use from birth, lest their legs should ever fail. Then they'd never have to learn to walk properly on their own two feet. And makers of crutches would thrive.

The Christian perspective is usually that in a life without Jesus, even an apparently wonderful life, something is missing. This is where the analogy with crutches (chosen by Yorick, not myself) falls short, because not everyone will need crutches. Christianity assumes that all lives produce failure, and that following Jesus will help us to meet those challenges when they arrive, because he unites us with God, who is the source of life.

On the other hand, Jesus also said that only the sick, not the healthy, need a doctor (Mark 2: 17). This may mean that victorious people have no need of his help. The trouble is, when we're born we don't yet know whether or not we're likely to fall into the victorious category; Jesus met both rich and poor people who were in need.

So the argument may be that yes - the 'crutches' should be provided early in life. But for the child or adult who finds he has absolutely no need of them (i.e. of Jesus) at any time, they can be shed without much bother. And plenty of people do toss Jesus away without much bother.

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EtymologicalEvangelical
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quote:
Originally posted by Yorick
Atheism is better than religion in the same way that walking on your own two legs is better than walking with crutches.

A very strange analogy, considering that God is the creator of legs, whereas crutches are made by man. Therefore I would have thought that relying on something man made is more consistent with (atheistic) humanism, than relying on something 'God-made'.

By the way... I don't suppose drugs, alcohol, power, money, sex, etc count as 'crutches'? But an often difficult and uncomfortable relationship with the Creator of the universe is a 'crutch'?

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You can argue with a man who says, 'Rice is unwholesome': but you neither can nor need argue with a man who says, 'Rice is unwholesome, but I'm not saying this is true'. CS Lewis

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Raptor Eye
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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
The Christian perspective is usually that in a life without Jesus, even an apparently wonderful life, something is missing. This is where the analogy with crutches (chosen by Yorick, not myself) falls short, because not everyone will need crutches. Christianity assumes that all lives produce failure, and that following Jesus will help us to meet those challenges when they arrive, because he unites us with God, who is the source of life.

On the other hand, Jesus also said that only the sick, not the healthy, need a doctor (Mark 2: 17). This may mean that victorious people have no need of his help. The trouble is, when we're born we don't yet know whether or not we're likely to fall into the victorious category; Jesus met both rich and poor people who were in need.

So the argument may be that yes - the 'crutches' should be provided early in life. But for the child or adult who finds he has absolutely no need of them (i.e. of Jesus) at any time, they can be shed without much bother. And plenty of people do toss Jesus away without much bother.

Surely anyone who recognised the value of Christ would never want to throw away what they had. I wonder whether what is rejected are false images of God, and those who don't go on to try to discover God for themselves remain atheists, who perhaps believe that theists believe in the same false God that they rejected. Perhaps some do.

I dislike the 'crutch' analogy, as it's used by some to imply an inadequacy in believers.

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Mark Betts

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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
...On the other hand, Jesus also said that only the sick, not the healthy, need a doctor (Mark 2: 17). This may mean that victorious people have no need of his help. The trouble is, when we're born we don't yet know whether or not we're likely to fall into the victorious category; Jesus met both rich and poor people who were in need.

I don't think Jesus meant this - it would seem that everyone needs Salvation, but only those who knew of their need (those who knew they were sick) would seek out The Great Physician.

So the proud, smug Atheist who thinks he understands everything will never look for Christ, because he thinks there is no power greater than that of the evolved human mind.

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"We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary."

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by quetzalcoatl:
If you mean a more philosophical world-view, I'm not sure even more, since they are all guesses. (Remembering also that science is not a world-view in this sense).

Why would its being a guess stop it from being a worldview? A worldview is a VIEW, not a belief or certainty. It's not even on the same spectrum as certainty<--->doubt. A set of presuppositions that acts as a lens through which one views the world. Find me someone without a set of such presuppositions and I'll find you someone severely mentally handicapped.

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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Surely anyone who recognised the value of Christ would never want to throw away what they had. I wonder whether what is rejected are false images of God, and those who don't go on to try to discover God for themselves remain atheists, who perhaps believe that theists believe in the same false God that they rejected. Perhaps some do.

I dislike the 'crutch' analogy, as it's used by some to imply an inadequacy in believers.


Atheists come to atheism in all sorts of ways, don't they? I agree with your position to a large degree. Most atheists who discuss these things seem to have acquired a strange view of God (from a Christian's point of view). Yet what seems inadequate in their eyes might well have been the catalyst that led someone else to faith.

I thought I'd engage with the 'crutch' analogy simply because it's so frequently employed by atheists. And as Mark Betts points out, if we're all sick - i.e. inadequate? - we all need a doctor!

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Anglican_Brat
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quote:


Atheism is better than religion in the same way that walking on your own two legs is better than walking with crutches.

It is often claimed by atheists that unlike their religious compatriots, that they are moral on their own without reference to anything transcendent. My view is that no one, neither religious or atheist, is good simply because he or she has decided to be good in an individualist, rationalist fashion. Everyone is influenced in one way or the other by convention and society.

[ 24. February 2013, 22:17: Message edited by: Anglican_Brat ]

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Squibs
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quote:
Originally posted by quetzalcoatl:
Anyway, it strikes me that 'I don't believe in God' requires no back-up. People might want some reasoned argument to support it, but wanting and requiring are distinct.

But what if the atheist in question is evangelical in their belief? While some might define their atheism as "lacking the belief in God", others are making the stronger claim that "God (almost certainly) does not exist". Given that this argument is often taken to theists, I would have thought that promoting atheism based on a refutation of a particular religion (mostly Christianity) is inadequate.

But I suppose that we aren't really comparing like with like. Atheists are generally found to be attacking a particular theistic belief and not theism itself. Does this mean that a self described theist (who makes no claim other then "God exists") does not have to defend their position?

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kankucho
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quote:
Originally posted by Anglican_Brat:
It is often claimed by atheists that unlike their religious compatriots, that they are moral on their own without reference to anything transcendent. My view is that no one, neither religious or atheist, is good simply because he or she has decided to be good in an individualist, rationalist fashion. Everyone is influenced in one way or the other by convention and society.

True. But conventional and societal influences aren't transcendent but merely external. Whereas a theist (at least one of a particular hue) might ascribe social and conventional influences to The Work Of Satan, both theist and atheist recognise that personal volition and integrity are necessary to counter external influences in order to be 'good', no?

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Net Spinster
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quote:
Originally posted by Mark Betts:

So the proud, smug Atheist who thinks he understands everything will never look for Christ, because he thinks there is no power greater than that of the evolved human mind.

I think most atheists are well aware that to dust we each individually will return and that the sun going nova (in a few billion years) or a large asteroid hitting earth will end all of humanity (if we don't manage to do ourselves in first).

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Grokesx
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@Squibs

I suspect the atheists you have in mind in your OP are applying the scientific concept of the null hypothesis to the question of God.

To illustrate, take the bunch of physicists who reckon that the Standard Model predicts a sub atomic particle that would explain why some other sub atomic particles have mass. The null hypothesis in this case is that this particle, the Higgs Boson, does not exist. No amount of theorising and argumentation will change the status of that null hypothesis, which is why they had to go to the trouble and expense of building the Large Hadron Collider. And note that in order to say the null hypothesis still holds, we do not need an alternative positive hypothesis. But if and when sufficient evidence is acquired the null hypothesis will be rejected and the Higgs Boson will take its place in the Standard Model.

There are atheists who will say that the null hypothesis regarding God cannot be rejected. Of course, theists can maintain that the null hypothesis is that God exists, but as as been noted, that leaves the field wide open for claiming any number of fanciful null hypotheses.

I'll leave it to Mark Betts to give the other theistic response.

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For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong. H. L. Mencken

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Socratic-enigma
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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
I've often felt that atheists need to move beyond simply outlining what they see as religious error and awfulness if atheism is to become a meaningful alternative to religion.

I accept that atheism itself simply represents an absence of belief in God rather than some kind of positivity switch that's flicked on as soon as someone leaves religion behind; but giving up Christianity for what looks like the neutral vacuum of atheism doesn't seem like much of an exchange to me, even though Christianity is challenging. You may say that atheism is 'better' simply because it's 'true'; but since truth is so hard to establish and agree on it seems to me that atheism has to be 'better' in other more immediate ways if it's going to trump religion.

I don't know.

That's the crux of atheism - uncertainty

We begin from a position of ignorance, and sometimes I wonder if we've moved much beyond it.

I always find these questions concerning 'what is positive about atheism', bizarre. If your respected GP diagnosed that you had a terminal illness (confirmed by subsequent tests & two specialists) would you accept the prognosis and make the best of it? Or go off on a frantic search until you found someone who said: "Don't worry: you're not sick - just follow me, do as I say, and you will live forever" (now where have I heard that before).

It's not either/or - there is no choice. We are atheists because all religions are clearly human concoctions. And more and more people are realising this.

S-E

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"Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them."
David Hume

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Mark Betts

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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
And as Mark Betts points out, if we're all sick - i.e. inadequate?...

That will do. [Smile]

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"We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary."

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Mark Betts

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quote:
Originally posted by Grokesx:
@Squibs

I suspect the atheists you have in mind in your OP are applying the scientific concept of the null hypothesis to the question of God.

To illustrate, take the bunch of physicists who reckon that the Standard Model predicts a sub atomic particle that would explain why some other sub atomic particles have mass. The null hypothesis in this case is that this particle, the Higgs Boson, does not exist. No amount of theorising and argumentation will change the status of that null hypothesis, which is why they had to go to the trouble and expense of building the Large Hadron Collider. And note that in order to say the null hypothesis still holds, we do not need an alternative positive hypothesis. But if and when sufficient evidence is acquired the null hypothesis will be rejected and the Higgs Boson will take its place in the Standard Model.

There are atheists who will say that the null hypothesis regarding God cannot be rejected. Of course, theists can maintain that the null hypothesis is that God exists, but as as been noted, that leaves the field wide open for claiming any number of fanciful null hypotheses.

I'll leave it to Mark Betts to give the other theistic response.

You've lost me man - but one thing I do know is that most physicists don't like the nickname "the God particle" for the Higgs Boson - which must mean that they consider that it has little to do with whether God exists or not.

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"We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary."

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Mark Betts

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quote:
Originally posted by Socratic-enigma:
It's not either/or - there is no choice. We are atheists because all religions are clearly human concoctions. And more and more people are realising this.

S-E

Except, of course, that you could be wrong. [Paranoid]

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"We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary."

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SusanDoris

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quetzalcoatl
Even though you were brought up amongst atheists, I suppose you had a general idea of God and churches?
You say, 'atheism need not involve any view of the world at all'. I like that - I'm always slightly puzzled about the question of what is my world view.
I watched parts of a debate taking place in Davos recently in which Lawrence Kraus was saying that education, about proof of how the world and the universe is, is the best way to change minds. Not all minds of course, that will never happen, but perhaps, one day, a majority?!
Is Religion Outdated in the 21st century? Lawrence Krauss et al /

Raptor Eye
You say
quote:
Surely anyone who recognised the value of Christ would never want to throw away what they had.
But one can value the wisdom of the past as I was taught to do but not accept the layers of divinity etc.
quote:
I wonder whether what is rejected are false images of God,..
How can you tell if it's a 'false image'?!

I was thinking of commenting on Mark Betts'a 'arrogant atheist who thinks he knows everything', but decided not to!!

SvitlanaV2
Many, especially those of my age, come to atheism as they see scientific knowledge replacing divine intervention.etc


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I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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IngoB

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Both theism and atheism are educated choices, and not the spiritual default state at all - neither in an individual nor in a cultural sense.

The spiritual default state of humanity is superstition.

Theism and atheism are in fact close allies, if one simply goes by the education they require in particular for the young. For both it is a steady battle to drive back superstition - and if they ever lapse, superstition creeps back naturally.

The only difference is that theism says "right sentiment, wrong way" whereas atheism says "wrong sentiment". And this is precisely why atheists attacking theism are such fools, socially speaking, quite irrespective of whether there actually is a God or not.

The more atheism manages to beat down theism, the more it will have to control superstition on its own. And since superstition is the spiritual default state of humanity, and since rational thought can never win against sentiment, that will end in disaster. For atheism. Sentiments can be shaped by rational thought, but not - on average and over long time scales - denied.

Purely from a social engineering perspective, what atheists should want is something that shapes superstitious sentiment into a form that atheists can live with. Such somethings of course exist. They are called religions. And the Christian one is - at least in its current form - just about as easy to live with for an atheist as one could wish for.

A smart Western atheist should be a supporter of modern (perhaps: modern European) Christianity. Most atheists however, as the bible correctly points out, are fools.

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They’ll have me whipp’d for speaking true; thou’lt have me whipp’d for lying; and sometimes I am whipp’d for holding my peace. - The Fool in King Lear

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Evensong
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quote:
Originally posted by Squibs:

It never really occurred to me that there where people out there (and it seems quite a few of them) who hold to the belief that because atheism is the default belief they don't have to argue for it.

Atheism is certainly not the default belief IMO. That's why references to Russell's teapot are so inane. There is no reason why it should be.

The University of Cambridge has a website dedicated to investigating atheism and has a page on a definition.

Michael Martin, a leading atheist philosopher, says this:


quote:
The exact meaning of 'atheist' varies between thinkers, and caution must always be shown to make sure that discussions of atheism are not working at cross purposes.

Michael Martin, a leading atheist philosopher, defines atheism entirely in terms of belief.[1]

For him, negative atheism is simply the lack of theistic belief, positive atheism is the asserted disbelief in God, and agnosticism is the lack of either belief or disbelief in God.

This suggests that negative atheism, the minimal position that all atheists share, divides neatly into agnosticism and positive atheism. It is worth noting that the 'positive atheist' need not have certainty that God doesn't exist: it is a matter of belief, not knowledge.

- source

[ 25. February 2013, 07:53: Message edited by: Evensong ]

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SusanDoris

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quote:
Originally posted by Squibs:
But what if the atheist in question is evangelical in their belief? While some might define their atheism as "lacking the belief in God", others are making the stronger claim that "God (almost certainly) does not exist".

Since atheism/humanism has a very strong case to present, is there a reason why they should not present and promote it as often and as well as they can?
quote:
Given that this argument is often taken to theists, I would have thought that promoting atheism based on a refutation of a particular religion (mostly Christianity) is inadequate.
I agree, but by showing that the world and the universe run as they do just the same without a belief in God, that I, for instance, am as moral and happy as I was when I believed in God ... or rather more so! ...that argument should not be overcome. (That doesn't sound quite right - can't think how to change it just at the moment.)
quote:
But I suppose that we aren't really comparing like with like. Atheists are generally found to be attacking a particular theistic belief and not theism itself. Does this mean that a self described theist (who makes no claim other then "God exists") does not have to defend their position?
Hmmmm, good point. I don't know the answer!

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I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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Boogie

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quote:
Originally posted by Squibs:

But I suppose that we aren't really comparing like with like. Atheists are generally found to be attacking a particular theistic belief and not theism itself. Does this mean that a self described theist (who makes no claim other then "God exists") does not have to defend their position?

Why all this 'defending of positions' anyway?

I let people know what I believe, they can agree or not, that's up to them. I don't ever find myself 'defending my position'. Faith (for me) isn't a matter of intellectual argument.

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Garden. Room. Walk

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passer

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quote:
Originally posted by IngoB:
The spiritual default state of humanity is superstition.

Is that a personal view, or is it one you have garnered from another source?
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Mark Betts

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quote:
Originally posted by SusanDoris:
I was thinking of commenting on Mark Betts'a 'arrogant atheist who thinks he knows everything', but decided not to!!

With the greatest of respect SusanDoris, perhaps that's just as well - because you've mis-quoted me!

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"We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary."

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