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Author Topic: 10 Myths about atheism  (Read 12314 times)

Mr. Analytical

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10 Myths about atheism
« Reply #600 on: February 26, 2007, 11:12:17 am »
Quote from: Balbinus

That said, Mark Kermode's a film critic, in the film she's possessed by the devil, deal with it Mark.  Inventing explanations beyond the text of the film is I think an exercise for internet geeks, not serious critics.


  Sorry... wasn't clear.  He talks about the case that The Exorcist is based upon and considers whether it was tk and cites someone who did make the argument.  Kermode is a Catholic who believes in TK and the "evolutionary theories" of Teilhard de Chardin.

  I agree that TK involves less epicycles than demonic possession but in order to buy into the existence of TK you need a pretty heavily bracketted commitment to rationalism.  In the case of your former landlord to buy into all the epicycles needed for demonic possession to exist and then turn up your noce at magic seems a little bit silly (especially as magic would probably require less ontological infrastructure than that required by a literal interpretation of the christian teachings regarding hell).

Balbinus

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« Reply #601 on: February 26, 2007, 11:17:55 am »
Quote from: Mr. Analytical
Sorry... wasn't clear.  He talks about the case that The Exorcist is based upon and considers whether it was tk and cites someone who did make the argument.  Kermode is a Catholic who believes in TK and the "evolutionary theories" of Teilhard de Chardin.

  I agree that TK involves less epicycles than demonic possession but in order to buy into the existence of TK you need a pretty heavily bracketted commitment to rationalism.  In the case of your former landlord to buy into all the epicycles needed for demonic possession to exist and then turn up your noce at magic seems a little bit silly (especially as magic would probably require less ontological infrastructure than that required by a literal interpretation of the christian teachings regarding hell).


My landlord did believe in magic, it was the rest of the committee were unpersuaded.

The thing is, I wasn't there you know, they reviewed a bunch of cases and on the evidence they saw were persuaded by hauntings and possession but not by magic.  Would I have been equally persuaded?  I doubt it, but not having been there I can't ever entirely know, but they formed a view on the evidence before them.  

In some ways it was an admirably unideological exercise, they did not prejudge on the basis of their faith, but equally they were not doing it from the perspective of having any interest in demonstrating these things scientifically and as that was not their interest there's no real way of verifying any of it.  Their priority was linked to their ministry, understanding phenomena which might be dangerous for the flock, at one level I suspect many were indifferent as to whether the explanations were supernatural or otherwise though they tended to think the supernatural explanation probably right.

Many Catholics and other theists are vaguely Teilhardian, which isn't really surprising all in.

Mr. Analytical

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« Reply #602 on: February 26, 2007, 01:07:29 pm »
However, it does put a question mark next to the idea, repeatedly directed at Grim, that pretty much everyone outside of US fundies accepts Darwinian evolution.

I know you weren't there... in fact, I can't think why you would be present at CofE hearings into the supernatural :)

One of the interesting aspects of theology is how it operates as a form of bounded rationality.  Theologians are some of the most ruthlessly analytical people you'll ever meet... they're essentially analytical philosophers with a different frame of reference.  however, that reason never goes so far as to question the tenets of the faith.

So you'll frequently find theologians pouring burning hot oil on the idea of there being ghosts but you'll never see a theologian go "...and by that measure, God doesn't exist either.  Anyone care to join me in the pub?"

In fact, one of the most chilling facts about the witch burnings up to and including the Salem Witchtrials was the presence of an absolutely rigorous system for identifying, judging and dealing with witches.  Your average witchfinder would be as on the ball as a natural philosopher of the period... he would simply use a different frame of reference and a different set of assumptions.  It's just that the rigorous belief system based around detecting witches (the malleus malificarum in particular) simply didn't refer to anything real.  For me that's the most chilling aspect of the Salem Witchtrials... not that people were persecuted out of an erroneous belief but that it was all done by the book and that a book had been written that told people how to deal with such cases.  It's similar to the cold and beastly mechanism of the final solution... man applying reason to completely deluded beliefs and, on the basis of those beliefs, killing and torturing loads of people.

Marxism and psychoanalysis are good examples of this phenomenon too.  Highly rigorous, intellectually bruising bodies of literature and theory but (particularly in the case of psychoanalysis and astrology) completely severed from reality.

A lot of people erroneously assume that science's innovation was looking dispassionately and rigrously at the world.  Not true.  Science's innovation was actually relatively minor and that's that it included a feedback loop that took in the fundamental beliefs of the movement, making them open for consideration and refutation.

If you look at Indian vedic and buddhist philosophy you find a similar pattern; astonishing levels of rigour and intellectual graft but invariably bounded within certain limits.  In fact, Indian philosophy was easily centuries ahead of western philosophy and many historians of science argue that if the scientific revolution had not taken place in europe then it would most likely have occured in India.

Malleus Arianorum

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« Reply #603 on: February 27, 2007, 09:18:41 am »
Quote from: Akrasia
Thanks for the clarifications.  Ultimately, though, I still fail to see how some (suitably modified) version of the POE does not still apply to the Christian God (so understood) – certainly Aquinas, et al., thought it did.
Catholic versions apply but they glorify God. (Ex: the one I posted upthread.) What I want to know is, is there a PoE with an Atheist conclusion that addresses the Catholic conception of God?

For a staunchly Atheist mind, the answer will either be: 'Yes' or 'No, but the whole idea of a God with those qualities is silly anyway.'

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If the suffering in hell is justified (i.e. punishment for 'moral evil'), then the POE argument is just fine.

   Akrasia: Post #301
...All the POE argument needs is the manifest fact that there exists so much innocent suffering, and suffering caused by natural forces (a.k.a. 'Acts of God'), as opposed to suffering caused by agents with 'free will'.
You said it yoruself: The PoE needs 'natural evil' (a.k.a. acts of God).
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(But, wholly independent of the POE argument, the very concept of hell is morally repugnant.   It seems absurd that a ‘good’ God would condemn people to an eternity of torture for simply not believing in him (often for sincerely held reasons).  Such a God is a horrific, odious, and strangely vain tyrant [in comparison to hell, God’s commands to commit genocide against the Amalekites, etc., seem like rather small stuff].  But this is a whole separate debate …)
It's not 'wholly separate' since the PoE needs 'natural evil.' You have already accepted that damnation is the result of moral evil and the murder of Amalekite babies is a much lesser evil than that, so what's left over for 'natural evil' in a Catholic worldview? Are earthquakes and other 'Acts of God' less justified than hell and killing Amaelkite babies? Remember, the PoE needs 'natural evil.

(I'd like to answer the charge of genocide without getting Godwin's law all over this nice thread.)

(The Catholic Church rejects the doctrine of being saved by belief alone. It's un-Catholic to say... "an eternity of torture for simply not believing in him.")  

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Not at all!  The question of ‘free will’ and God’s foreknowledge have nothing to do with the POE.  The POE argument (as I explained earlier a few times) can, and typically does, make a distinction between ‘moral evil’ (evil caused by free will) and ‘natural evil’ (suffering unrelated to free will).

Of course it is a separate philosophical question how God’s foreknowledge and (libertarian) free will are compatible – a question for which I have yet to encounter a satisfying theistic answer.   But that’s an entirely separate debate.
On the contrary, the entire argument hinges on the existence of natural evil so the status of foreknowledge and free will are essential.

   Akrasia: Post#96
In a nutshell, while the "free will" defense might help justify the necessity of "moral evil" (suffering caused by the free choices of individuals, and/or sufferieng necessary for the free choices of individuals), it cannot explain or justify the existence of "natural evil".

But there is no 'natural evil' in Catholic theology unless you care to demonstrate something less justified than the moral evils of eternal hellfire and the Amalekite baby slaughter.

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Again, everything you say here does not seem to be a problem for the POE argument (or at least a suitably modified version of the argument).

It's sufficient to note that you have not yet presented such a 'suitably modified version.'
 

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This still doesn’t make any sense to me.  I believe that I’m oblivious?
That should have read 'You are.' (Although it seems I was oblivious too -- oblivious to editing! :) )

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The ‘mechanism’ in question is rather straightforward: it’s a natural psychological reaction to abandoning a set of commitments that were once very important to me.

There’s nothing more to it!  To try to impose a sense of the ‘supernatural’ onto perfectly natural psychological processes is wholly unnecessary (and, in my opinion, foolish).
You're right to call it a 'natural' reaction -- it's human nature. (You're also right to say that your ideas about the supernatural are only your opinion, they're certainly not rationaly justified. :) )

Quote
Moreover, since people who ‘break’ from other religions (e.g. Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.) also experience this kind of psychological reaction, but those religions are false (at least if one thinks Catholicism is true), then it can’t be the case that the phenomena in question reflects some uniform ‘supernatural’ experience.
No, Catholic belief is that God calls all people to him. (See my earlier comments to Sigmund re: 'outside the Catholic Church there is no salvation.') Secondly, Catholics and Muslims worship the same God so it's not shocking that abandoning either religion has similar results. But enough with Catholicism 101...

If we accept your assertion that people who abandon religion for Atheism receive 'grief' and your earlier claim that religion is the happier and less true alternative it's clear that this mechanism rewards religiosity by giving 'joy' to the faithful and 'grief' to Atheists. Even if the undiscovered cause could be strictly material, it's worth noticing that the hypothesis of concience fits the evidence presented here.

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Well, given that people who belong to different religions seem to have radically different (indeed, incompatible) ‘revelations’ – indeed, people who belong to the same religion often have conflicting ‘revelations’ – you’ll forgive me if I’m sceptical about the ability of persons to objectively judge “how revelations hold up over time”.
Lol! People also '...seem to have radicaly different (indeed, incompatible) diets' does that mean people don't need to eat food?

Absolute orthodoxy is no good for scientific progress, why would it be any different for religious progress?

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I suspect that these ‘revelations’ are somehow insulated psychologically from possibly being falsified by actual experiences.
It's nothing so convoluted as that, we just believe in what works. We 'consider all things and keep the good.'

You seem to have an existential crisis whenever you consider matters of faith. Before it was your 'delusion demon.' Now you're doubting hindsight? I think a less hysterical scepticism is to accuse us of choosing the winner after the race. For example: it would be nice for Saints if they were canonized during life so they could get some VIP treatment here on earth, but instead we wait till long after they're dead. (1200 years in the case of my patron saint! :p )

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When we form beliefs about the nature of the universe (e.g. ‘does phlogiston exist?’, etc.) we should rely on evidence and rational arguments alone.  However, when in particular situations and trying to decide ‘what to do’, often we need to rely on our emotions, as they can convey information to us (e.g. that certain risks or dangers exist) that are not immediately  apparent to our deliberative faculties.
Any reason why asking the big questions is not such a 'particular situation?' Seems like if they can convey information to us, it's worth taking that information into consideration.

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I’m not sure what you mean by this.  My position is that, with respect to any particular phenomena, if we have one explanation that relies only on naturalistic processes and entities, and another explanation that relies on both naturalistic and supernaturalistic processes and entities, then we should opt for the former. This is especially correct given that there is no ‘evidence’ for the supernatural.
I think you should judge them on their merits rather than being prejudiced against things that are not 'drempt of in your philosophy.' :Shakespeare: After all, "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" and all that.
That's pretty much how post modernism works. Keep dismissing details until there is nothing left, and then declare that it meant nothing all along. --John Morrow
 
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Malleus Arianorum

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« Reply #604 on: February 27, 2007, 09:54:09 am »
Quote from: Mr. Analytical
Your average witchfinder would be as on the ball as a natural philosopher of the period... he would simply use a different frame of reference and a different set of assumptions.  It's just that the rigorous belief system based around detecting witches (the malleus malificarum in particular) simply didn't refer to anything real.  For me that's the most chilling aspect of the Salem Witchtrials... not that people were persecuted out of an erroneous belief but that it was all done by the book and that a book had been written that told people how to deal with such cases.

It may appear that the malleus malificarum was rigourous from the outside, but from a Catholic perspective it was bunk (and quickly added to the index of banned books). That idiotic book contains the most spurious of theological claims imaginable.

Claims such as: Since Aquinas wrote that it's impossible for a demon to have sex with women or sire children, what Aquinas realy means that demons have sex using other men's seed. :confused:

Another one was: Since Catholics are not at liberty to believe in flying witches on pain of excommunication, what this realy means that the brooms can fly. :confused:

The method to Kramer's madness was not based on theology, but evolved from failed witch trials where the condemned were able to defend themselves in court. Or as Kramer would say "bewitch the magistrate." He added the bizzare rituals of gagging and isolation in a response to a particularly talkative 'witch. He added the fake Papal endorcement after being rebuffed by a clergyman, and added the infamous chapter about the evil of women last to respond to the criticism that no one would be idiotic enough to worship Satan in exchange for such a feeble reward (rape by demons in life, damnation in the afterlife and the power to blight crops.)

Similarly, Salem was not the outgrowth of theological rigour, but the result of allowing 'phantasmal evidence' in court. (I.e. dreams and visions.)

Edit: Oh yeah, and there's strong evidence that Kramer did not believe in God!
That's pretty much how post modernism works. Keep dismissing details until there is nothing left, and then declare that it meant nothing all along. --John Morrow
 
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Akrasia

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« Reply #605 on: February 27, 2007, 10:24:38 am »
Quote from: malleus arianorum

You said it yoruself: The PoE needs 'natural evil' (a.k.a. acts of God).
 It's not 'wholly separate' since the PoE needs 'natural evil.' You have already accepted that damnation is the result of moral evil and the murder of Amalekite babies is a much lesser evil than that, so what's left over for 'natural evil' in a Catholic worldview? Are earthquakes and other 'Acts of God' less justified than hell and killing Amaelkite babies? Remember, the PoE needs 'natural evil.


Is there an argument somewhere here?  The PoE needs ‘suffering’, yes, but it can accommodate the existence of (libertarian) free will.  It is an equally effective argument whether or not one posits the existence of (libertarian) free will.

If you want to attribute all natural events that cause innocent suffering to the direct agency of God, then, if anything, the PoE argument is all the stronger.

 
Quote from: malleus arianorum

(The Catholic Church rejects the doctrine of being saved by belief alone. It's un-Catholic to say... "an eternity of torture for simply not believing in him.")  


Well, AFAIK, acceptance of Christ is a necessary (if not sufficient) condition for being ‘saved’.  Even people who perform all kinds of good works are damned if they cannot bring themselves to believe in the divinity of Christ.  (So it looks like I’ll be hanging out with Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, Adam Smith, and David Hume once I arrive.)

In any case, this is completely irrelevant with respect to the PoE argument.

Quote from: malleus arianorum

 On the contrary, the entire argument hinges on the existence of natural evil so the status of foreknowledge and free will are essential.


Free will is irrelevant.  Foreknowledge is indeed part of the argument.  Sorry, I’m still not seeing how the PoE argument is now ‘ineffective’ or ‘inapplicable’.

Quote from: malleus arianorum

But there is no 'natural evil' in Catholic theology unless you care to demonstrate something less justified than the moral evils of eternal hellfire and the Amalekite baby slaughter.


Are you seriously trying to tell me that there is no such thing as ‘natural evil’ (suffering not caused by the moral agency of others) in Catholic theology?  

Quote from: malleus arianorum
 
It's sufficient to note that you have not yet presented such a 'suitably modified version.'

 
Look, based on my understanding of the various versions of the PoE argument (for a discussion of the wide variety of these different versions, see this link [that I’ve included in many posts in the past]: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/evil/ ), nothing in what you’ve said renders the argument ineffective.  (I only included the caveat ‘suitably modified version’ in case I was not correctly understanding your points.)

 
Quote from: malleus arianorum

You're also right to say that your ideas about the supernatural are only your opinion, they're certainly not rationaly justified. :) )


Nope.  They’re rationally justified.   Since supernatural phenomena are not needed to explain anything, they’re superfluous.  Not positing them is simply using Occam’s razor to shave pointless dross.

Quote from: malleus arianorum

 If we accept your assertion that people who abandon religion for Atheism receive 'grief' and your earlier claim that religion is the happier and less true alternative it's clear that this mechanism rewards religiosity by giving 'joy' to the faithful and 'grief' to Atheists. Even if the undiscovered cause could be strictly material, it's worth noticing that the hypothesis of concience fits the evidence presented here.


Look, whenever anybody abandons anything that was once important to them – whether a religious belief, a set of political convictions, a relationship, whatever – they are likely to feel (temporarily) depressed about it.

The phenomenon in question is not unique to religious belief.

Moreover, it is incorrect on your part to assume that this ‘grief’ is permanent.  I’m quite happy in my life, and I know many happy atheists.  Only 7 percent of leading scientists in the U.S. believe in a ‘personal God’.  Yet I doubt that they’re all miserable.

In any case, whether religious people are happier or less happy than atheists is an empirical question – one that I don’t have the answer to.  My earlier point (in response to some links from Hastur) is that even if religious people were, on average, ‘happier’, that has absolutely no bearing on the truth or falseness of their beliefs.

Children who believe in Santa Claus might be happier because of that false belief than adults who no longer believe in Santa Claus.  Still, I think it’s important for people to grow up.

Quote from: malleus arianorum

 Lol! People also '...seem to have radicaly different (indeed, incompatible) diets' does that mean people don't need to eat food?


Sorry, but this is an idiotic analogy.  All diets – insofar as they sustain human life – provide adequate nutrition, and thus are ‘compatible’ (i.e. they all have a place within a compatible account of human biology and nutrition).

In contrast, different revelations and religions make incompatible metaphysical and ethical claims.

Quote from: malleus arianorum

You seem to have an existential crisis whenever you consider matters of faith.


?

Quote from: malleus arianorum

Before it was your 'delusion demon.'


You obviously completely misunderstood the whole point of that discussion (which had to do with the nature of ‘inductive belief’ and scepticism).

Quote from: malleus arianorum

Now you're doubting hindsight?


What are you talking about?  I’m merely concerned with coming up with the most plausible explanations for phenomena.  Explanations that posit supernatural entities and processes are far less plausible than rival naturalistic explanations.

Quote from: malleus arianorum

 Any reason why asking the big questions is not such a 'particular situation?' Seems like if they can convey information to us, it's worth taking that information into consideration. .


Man, I don’t have time to keep explaining basic philosophical concepts to you.  ‘Big questions’ concern questions of ‘theoretical reason’, and thus should be formed on the basis of the best available evidence and arguments – and should be capable of withstanding scrutiny over time (i.e. questioning and examination by others with different emotional conditions).  In contrast, emotions can play a role in cases where a decision has to be made right now and we, as limited agents who have to act one way or another, do not have the time to take into account all the available evidence, etc.  Emotions convey information about risks, etc. (information that can later be vindicated by theoretical reason).

I think you should judge them on their merits rather than being prejudiced against things that are not 'drempt of in your philosophy.' :Shakespeare: After all, "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" and all that. [/QUOTE]

I do (and have) judged rival explanations ‘on their merits’.  Trying to come up with the best explanation for phenomena is not an exercise in ‘dreaming’  -- rather, it is an exercise in coming up with the best explanation possible, given available data and arguments.  Positing a whole set of supernatural entities and processes (God, souls, pixies, magic, etc.) when they are wholly unnecessary is simply sloppy epistemology.
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