TheRPGSite

The Lounge => Media and Inspiration => Topic started by: Akrasia on December 25, 2006, 01:52:40 am

Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on December 25, 2006, 01:52:40 am
Suffering from a bit of insomnia (X-mas eve anxiousness at the age of 36 ...:duh:), I came across this piece in the L.A. Times (http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-op-harris24dec24,0,3994298.story?page=1&track=tottext) by Sam Harris.  

If nothing else, Harris does a decent job in shooting down many of the silly objections that religious people (especially in the U.S.) level against atheism and atheists.

So Merry Christmas, good atheists everywhere! :bambi:
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: droog on December 25, 2006, 01:57:39 am
Merry Capitalistmas!
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Dominus Nox on December 25, 2006, 02:30:00 am
The weirdest thing in that article was the statement that being an aethiest is more of an impediment to a career in american politics than being a muslim is.

personally I'd vote for an aethiest way before I'd vote for a muslim.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: beejazz on December 25, 2006, 03:31:21 am
Dude... this could not have come at a better time.

My mom just found out my sister's an atheist... they had somewhat of a quarrel on the topic. Hooray for their mutual ignorance and my having to play mediator.

And Nox, STFU.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Spike on December 25, 2006, 04:02:36 pm
Bah. I found it rather poorly written and rather a bit like shooting at strawmen. He set up 'myths' about atheism... many I've never heard of or have never seen used as a possible 'complaint', then rather badly shoots holes in them.

If that is the sort of defense Atheists can muster, no wonder Americans don't want to vote for them.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sosthenes on December 25, 2006, 04:58:44 pm
Quote from: Spike
If that is the sort of defense Atheists can muster, no wonder Americans don't want to vote for them.

I'll sacrifice you at the altar of Richard Dawkins, little Pika!

Yeah, the article isn't that good. I've actually read most of the arguments, though. It's just that a good journalist shouldn't exactly write short paragraphs about some bullet points. That's one way removed from bad powerpoint presentations. If you're net able to get some free-flowing text, get back to journalism school or finish that MBA...
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on December 25, 2006, 05:29:48 pm
Quote from: Spike
Bah. I found it rather poorly written and rather a bit like shooting at strawmen. He set up 'myths' about atheism... many I've never heard of or have never seen used as a possible 'complaint', then rather badly shoots holes in them....


Well, it's not meant as a piece of analytical philosophy, but something intended for the masses.  

There are obviously rather sophisticated theists who would never buy into the lame 'arguments' discussed in the article.  Discussing the views of accomplished contemporary Christian philosophers like Plantiga, Swinburne, and Adams would be impossible in a newpaper opinion piece.

I'm not sure what you expect from a short piece published in the L.A. Times.

Anyhow, I lived in the U.S. for 10 years, and I've heard every one of these myths many times.  And I lived in college towns like Ann Arbor Michigan and Ithaca New York, as well as 'atheist friendly' San Francisco (when I taught at Stanford).  Not exactly the 'Bible belt'.  But nonetheless, I was surprised by how often otherwise erudite people would make these lame points about atheism.

(As an aside, I don't quite understand why you think it's 'poorly written'.)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on December 25, 2006, 05:34:05 pm
Quote from: Sosthenes
... I've actually read most of the arguments, though. It's just that a good journalist shouldn't exactly write short paragraphs about some bullet points. That's one way removed from bad powerpoint presentations. If you're net able to get some free-flowing text, get back to journalism school or finish that MBA...

Sam Harris isn't a journalist.  He studied philosophy at Stanford University (where I previously taught), and is presently working on a doctorate in neuroscience.  He's also written two, rather well reviewed, books.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sosthenes on December 25, 2006, 06:45:13 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
Sam Harris isn't a journalist.  He studied philosophy at Stanford University (where I previously taught), and is presently working on a doctorate in neuroscience.  He's also written two, rather well reviewed, books.
That's a general problem with scientists. A reason why the old-school type of quoting on the internet parcels the previous participants entry into neat little bundles to reply to them directly.

It works better for the Internet, though, were reading is more tiresome and finding information quickly is paramount. But for a published piece of work, I'd prefer something with more body. The article was some kind of "how to argue with your friends and family over the holidays". Which we're desparately in need of...

And BTW: He's excused, though. Philosophers generally don't know how to write. ;)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on December 25, 2006, 11:26:17 pm
Quote from: Sosthenes
... The article was some kind of "how to argue with your friends and family over the holidays"...


I'm toying with the idea of writing a book called The Sophist's Handbook that would cover a range of 10-20 divisive topics (for the most part on politics, economics, and religion).  For each topic there would be a list of '5-10 standard arguments' and effective replies to them.  

It would not be especially deep or intellectually challenging.  Essentially, it would be a guide to help people win arguments at parties, pubs, etc.
:ACF114F:

Cheesy, yeah.  But I suspect that there might be a market for such a 'handbook'.
:greedy:
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Spike on December 26, 2006, 03:26:46 am
Well, to be honest equating atheism with scientists is not particularly a 'bad thing' myth from the atheists point of view. Maybe from the SCIENTIST POV, sure.... nothing brings the witchhunters down like godlessness.....;)

The only real myth I ran into regarding Atheism, and mind you I lived in the 'bible belt' for most of a decade, was equating atheist with satanists.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: GRIM on December 26, 2006, 08:21:36 am
Of the ten I've been confronted with...

1, a lot.
2, usually only during drawn out arguments and as a reaction against mentioning  the inquisition or the crusades.
3, yes.
4, ALL the time, and linked to 1.
5, nope.
6, yes, but mostly from agnostics.
7, yes. 'But if you were insane like me, you could see!'
8, kinda, not usually expressed quite that way.
9, yes.
10, all the time, especially from Christian fundies.

So I don't think he's off the mark, nor have I found my experience to be atypical.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Divine Hammer on December 26, 2006, 02:37:48 pm
I just hope he writes something so I can convince God that He doesn't exist.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Dominus Nox on December 26, 2006, 06:16:56 pm
Let's see now, how about top reasons to prefer aethists to christians?

1. Fred Phelps.
2. Jerry Fallwell.
3. Pat Robertson.
4. Jack Chick.
5. Ann Coulter.


Anyone got any others?
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Spike on December 26, 2006, 06:18:47 pm
Quote from: GRIM
Of the ten I've been confronted with...



So I don't think he's off the mark, nor have I found my experience to be atypical.



I think you missed my point, Grim. Most of these are easy to show as existing, and as myths, simply because while they DO exist, they are rarely problems.  

In a few cases, it's been my experience that he's got them backwards  (like the scientists thing).   So, while a FEW of the ten may be very real targets,  even his arguements are hollow.  

Myth: Atheists are immoral...yadda yadda. Sure, real myth, real problem. Pointing out that 'Atheists are more likely.... due to their belief that this life matters...' is the same sort of bullshit moralizing that the religious types do. Atheists are people. Some will belive that, sure, but many will shrug and move on with their lives. Some will give up the ghost and eat a bullet in the face of an uncaring universe.  

To extend my metaphor, he's knocking down his straw men just dandy with his nerf bullets, but the real targets out there aren't affected in the least.

Crap article and hardly worth my time.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: apparition13 on December 26, 2006, 08:49:19 pm
Quote from: Spike
I think you missed my point, Grim. Most of these are easy to show as existing, and as myths, simply because while they DO exist, they are rarely problems.  

In a few cases, it's been my experience that he's got them backwards  (like the scientists thing).   So, while a FEW of the ten may be very real targets,  even his arguements are hollow.  

Myth: Atheists are immoral...yadda yadda. Sure, real myth, real problem. Pointing out that 'Atheists are more likely.... due to their belief that this life matters...' is the same sort of bullshit moralizing that the religious types do. Atheists are people. Some will belive that, sure, but many will shrug and move on with their lives. Some will give up the ghost and eat a bullet in the face of an uncaring universe.  

To extend my metaphor, he's knocking down his straw men just dandy with his nerf bullets, but the real targets out there aren't affected in the least.

Crap article and hardly worth my time.


So oh "Slayer of the Sacred Cows", what are the "real targets out there" that "aren't affected in the least"?

(Agreed about science and atheism though, I think he's got that one backwards.)

By the way, what does this

Quote from: Spike
If that is the sort of defense Atheists can muster, no wonder Americans don't want to vote for them.


mean?
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Gunslinger on December 26, 2006, 08:54:38 pm
[Dripping Sarcasm]Damn, it's finally happened.  Even atheism has become a relegion.  The persecution talks have begun.  Run if they start asking for money.[/Dripping Sarcasm]
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: beejazz on December 26, 2006, 09:00:26 pm
Quote from: Spike
Well, to be honest equating atheism with scientists is not particularly a 'bad thing' myth from the atheists point of view. Maybe from the SCIENTIST POV, sure.... nothing brings the witchhunters down like godlessness.....;)

The only real myth I ran into regarding Atheism, and mind you I lived in the 'bible belt' for most of a decade, was equating atheist with satanists.

Funny you should bring this up, given that I've seen people do the same with Nihilism... not that nihilism is a bad thing either... the idea that things only matter to the extent that you decide can be quite liberating.

Also, on the "Convince God He doesn't exist"... I can imagine I'd have my doubts if I were God. Probably dismiss it as delusions of grandeur. Granted, there's the omniscience bit... but how does one know if one is omniscient? Because one is omniscient? Relying on the thing called into question to answer the question is a little self-defeating and delusional in itself.

Or you could just say that no God could be living because the scientific definition of life requires a thing to preform complex chemical functions and be capable of reproduction (at least according to what they tell you in elementary school). So even if there is a God, He's dead (or undead... which is an entertaining thought).
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on December 26, 2006, 09:51:05 pm
When I converted Return to the Tomb of Horrors to 3rd edition and ran my group through it Acererak completed his apotheosis because the last surviving party member had his head vorpalized moments before he could destroy the soul gem. God is indeed undead.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: fonkaygarry on December 27, 2006, 12:29:23 am
Quote from: James McMurray
When I converted Return to the Tomb of Horrors to 3rd edition and ran my group through it Acererak completed his apotheosis because the last surviving party member had his head vorpalized moments before he could destroy the soul gem. God is indeed undead.

Sounds like the backstory of a Keanu Reeves movie.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on December 27, 2006, 01:04:03 am
Glad you liked it.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Spike on December 27, 2006, 11:54:28 am
Quote from: apparition13
So oh "Slayer of the Sacred Cows", what are the "real targets out there" that "aren't affected in the least"?

(Agreed about science and atheism though, I think he's got that one backwards.)

By the way, what does this



mean?



To answer both at once: The thrust of the article linked in the OP is that Atheists get a bad rap in America, to the point that people would rather vote for a muslim than an atheist... according to polls. The 'myths' addressed to fuck all to really address why 'most people' hate atheists, or distrust them, or think they might be in league with ' The DEEVIL!'.  Most of his targets are set up just to be shot down (the strawmen) and the rest are either missed completely or shot so ineffectually that he might as well have never bothered.


Thus: If that is the defender protecting Atheists, its time to start running 'cause the other guy is gonna steamroll right over him like he's not there.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: RPGPundit on December 27, 2006, 01:48:51 pm
So what is, in your opinion, the real reason people hate atheists, spike?

RPGPundit
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on December 27, 2006, 02:32:38 pm
Quote from: Gunslinger
[Dripping Sarcasm]Damn, it's finally happened.  Even atheism has become a relegion.  The persecution talks have begun.  Run if they start asking for money.[/Dripping Sarcasm]


:confused:
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on December 27, 2006, 02:40:52 pm
Quote from: Spike
To answer both at once: The thrust of the article linked in the OP is that Atheists get a bad rap in America, to the point that people would rather vote for a muslim than an atheist... according to polls. The 'myths' addressed to fuck all to really address why 'most people' hate atheists, or distrust them, or think they might be in league with ' The DEEVIL!'.  Most of his targets are set up just to be shot down (the strawmen) and the rest are either missed completely or shot so ineffectually that he might as well have never bothered.


Thus: If that is the defender protecting Atheists, its time to start running 'cause the other guy is gonna steamroll right over him like he's not there.


I don't understand what you're trying to say here.

If your point is that the arguments against atheism discussed in the article are lame, fair enough!  They are lame.  

But they are also ubiquitous.  As I've already said, when I lived in the U.S., I regularly encountered many of these 'arguments' advanced by religious people.  

So, given that these 'arguments' are commonly aserted by religious people (especially in the U.S.), it seems like it may be useful to show why they are lame, particularly in a well read newspaper like the L.A. Times.

Now, if you're claiming that there are other reasons why Americans distrust or dislike atheists, then please present them.  I don't deny that this is a possibility, but I'd be curious to know what they are.  So I second the Pundit's request for your 'insight' on this matter.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: fonkaygarry on December 27, 2006, 02:47:30 pm
Why won't Americans vote atheists into positions of power?

They don't believe in God.

Simple as that.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Spike on December 27, 2006, 02:49:13 pm
Quote from: RPGPundit
So what is, in your opinion, the real reason people hate atheists, spike?

RPGPundit



Obviously those with a vested interest in religion (including worshippers, by the way) dislike, even hate those who can get along without.  Hate may be a strong word.  It's groupthink, and Atheists are outside that group.

Let me see if I can refine this a bit, clarify the sentiment.

Cultures are really nothing more than collections of behavior and rules. Many of those behaviors and rules will have beliefs.  Atheists, by rejecting established beliefs, go against the norms and actually fray the fibers of the culture. They are an irritant, a disruption.   Normally this isn't a problem. Many people 'don't believe' but continue to observe the behavioral patterns of the people around them.   However, as the article did point out, many of the brightest, rational minds, the shining lights of our culture, reject God and 'irrational beliefs', and by being prominant and successful become a threat to the status quo.  

Other religions are not nearly the threat that atheism is, because while they may not share the same exact belief, they share common forms, common thought processes, that atheists do not.   If one rejects all supernaturalism, including God, as irrational one is much further from 'comfort' than someone who believes in a different supernatural paradigm.  

FORMER atheists are popular, the most common recruiting tactic for churches to take now days is to publish the stories of unhappy 'non-believers' who found faith, and with it happiness.  This reinforces the collective ideal in a powerful way, though overexposure to outsiders tends to suggest a somewhat hollow symbolism... that is to say the cynical tendency to view such stories as hookum, or manufactured treacle.

Clear enough?  :confused:
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: HinterWelt on December 27, 2006, 03:00:14 pm
I can't resist. Please forgive me Spike, and take it in the spirit of a good natured parody. :)

Quote from: Spike
Obviously those with a vested interest in mainstream(including RPGSiters, by the way) dislike, even hate those who can get along without.  Hate may be a strong word.  It's groupthink, and Forgeites are outside that group.

Let me see if I can refine this a bit, clarify the sentiment.

Cultures are really nothing more than collections of behavior and rules. Many of those behaviors and rules will have theories.  Forgeites, by rejecting established theories, go against the norms and actually fray the fibers of the culture. They are an irritant, a disruption.   Normally this isn't a problem. Many people 'don't believe (in theory)' but continue to observe the behavioral patterns of the people around them.   However, as the article did point out, many of the brightest, rational minds, the shining lights of our culture, reject Main Stream and 'rational games', and by being prominant and successful become a threat to the status quo.  

Other games are not nearly the threat that Forgeism is, because while they may not share the same exact theories, they share common forms, common thought processes, that Forgeites do not.   If one rejects all main stream games, including D20, as irrational one is much further from 'comfort' than someone who believes in a different D20 paradigm.  

FORMER Forgeites are popular, the most common recruiting tactic for theRPGStie to take now days is to publish the stories of unhappy 'non-believers' who found game, and with it happiness.  This reinforces the collective ideal in a powerful way, though overexposure to outsiders tends to suggest a somewhat hollow symbolism... that is to say the cynical tendency to view such stories as hookum, or manufactured treacle.

Clear enough?  :confused:
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Spike on December 27, 2006, 03:07:25 pm
Fun stuff, Hinter...


Too bad it reads like a powerful argument in favor of forgism and rejecting the Game....;)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: HinterWelt on December 27, 2006, 04:20:30 pm
Quote from: Spike
Fun stuff, Hinter...


Too bad it reads like a powerful argument in favor of forgism and rejecting the Game....;)

We could probably switch it around, it just came to me easier that way. ;)

Again, meant in fun.

Bill
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on December 27, 2006, 06:56:01 pm
Quote from: Spike
Obviously those with a vested interest in religion (including worshippers, by the way) dislike, even hate those who can get along without.  Hate may be a strong word.  It's groupthink, and Atheists are outside that group.

Let me see if I can refine this a bit, clarify the sentiment....


I think that you provide a plausible psychological explanation for why religious people in the U.S. dislike/distrust atheists.  However, as plausible as this explanation might be, it is not generally going to be useful when engaging in debates with anti-atheist religious folk.  For that, you need to address the arguments that religious people actually make, even if those arguments are exceedingly lame (since, sadly, the lameness of the arguments in question has not prevented widescale acceptance of them).

In other words, what you're doing here is trying to provide an expanation for why Americans adopt anti-atheist beliefs and attitudes.  In contrast, the article is trying to provide a set of refutations to arguments made by Americans who have adopted anti-atheist beliefs and attitudes.  

Naturally, these are compatible projects, but they are nonetheless distinct.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: GRIM on December 27, 2006, 07:08:00 pm
Quote from: Spike
Myth: Atheists are immoral...yadda yadda. Sure, real myth, real problem. Pointing out that 'Atheists are more likely.... due to their belief that this life matters...' is the same sort of bullshit moralizing that the religious types do. Atheists are people. Some will belive that, sure, but many will shrug and move on with their lives. Some will give up the ghost and eat a bullet in the face of an uncaring universe.


Difference is he/we can point to statistical proof that it certainly appears that atheists are more 'moral' than the average and definately more moral than those who _profess_ christianity in the US. Lower divorce rates, lower numbers - by proportion - in prisons.

The data isn't perfect and atheists also tend to be amongst those of higher intelligence, higher education and better social circumstances than those of faith (which skews the statistics) but it's there and so this isn't bullshit moralising since it is based upon actual evidence.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Spike on December 27, 2006, 07:14:05 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
).

 In contrast, the article is trying to provide a set of refutations to arguments made by Americans who have adopted anti-atheist beliefs and attitudes.  

Naturally, these are compatible projects, but they are nonetheless distinct.



Certainly there has been a slight bit of drift in the nature of my posts (due to questions, naturally), but:

I disagree that the article is a decent refutation of anything but itself.   I could suggest that leading people to more rational thought about atheists is the answer (under the premise that atheists are caused by excessively rational thinking... or that rational thought removes irrational dislikes...)  but in fact I don't think it would work. Purportedly the article IS going about spreading rationality.  Badly.

If Atheists need defending, which I won't dispute is a serious possiblity at some point, it will have to be with the weapons of the enemy. Feel good stories and 'heroes' of our society upholding their atheistic beliefs as part of their integral happiness, show how atheists can build and contribute to communities as surely as religious people.  As terrible as it sounds (nay, is) make a fucking church of atheism, adopt their behavioral patterns and reduce the psychological irratant factor to some extent.   Fill the vacuum, if you will.


I'll explain the vacuum: Atheists tear down the church, the belief structures and social compact that they carry with them but, as far as the religiously minded are concerned, erect nothing in its place. No moral code, no organization, no social compact.  When you say Joe is a catholic, in their mind is a whole body of lore you take for granted about what it means to be Catholic. When you say Joe is an Atheist, other than disbelief of god there is nothing there, a void, a vacuum. Nature abhors a vacuum, and thus they want to fill the vacuum with poorly concieved myths.  Even the article writer, presumably an Atheist, or pro-atheism guy has filled that vaccuum somewhat with his blanket statements about atheists, many of which ring hollow to my ears.

It is the nature of the beast to catagorize and label, and atheists don't lend themselves well to labeling and grouping... one of the many ways they irritate the community.

Of course, as a rationalist thinker myself (other than Doug, the great Sky Pikachu who will consume my soul upon death..., I'm allowed one irrational belief), I have to refrain from bitch-slapping the average wiccan I run into every time they open their mouths.  I can forgive the conventional religious types, they've been indoctrinated for millenia. Every time someone tells me flat out they are a Wiccan... or an atheist for that matter, and it WASN"T a conversation about personal beliefs, I just want to slap 'ATTENTION WHORE" stickers across their foreheads to shut them up.

But that's me.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on December 27, 2006, 09:38:34 pm
Quote from: Spike
... I disagree that the article is a decent refutation of anything but itself....


:confused:

Quote from: Spike

...  I could suggest that leading people to more rational thought about atheists is the answer (under the premise that atheists are caused by excessively rational thinking... or that rational thought removes irrational dislikes...)  but in fact I don't think it would work. Purportedly the article IS going about spreading rationality.  Badly...


:confused:

What is it for a belief to be 'caused by excessively rational thinking'?  What the fuck is 'excessively rational thinking'?

I think that people should form beliefs on the basis of reason (evidence, logic, abduction, etc.).  Failing that, what beliefs they do have, if not based on reason, should at least be compatible with reason.  All other beliefs should be rejected.

If that makes me 'excessively rational' then that's a label I will gladly accept.

Quote from: Spike

If Atheists need defending, which I won't dispute is a serious possiblity at some point...


It seems to be necessary now, at least in the U.S.  Atheists are one group regularly 'criticised', 'mocked', etc. by talking heads and politicians in that country.  For completely bullshit reasons.

Quote from: Spike

 ... Feel good stories and 'heroes' of our society upholding their atheistic beliefs as part of their integral happiness, show how atheists can build and contribute to communities as surely as religious people...
 

I'm not sure why such a strategy could not be combined with also explaining why common 'arguments' against atheism are rubbish.

These are not incompatible strategies.  The article in question simply pursues one of many strategies that atheists should employ to improve the U.S. public's perception of them.

Quote from: Spike

No moral code, no organization, no social compact...
 

:confused:

It's starting to dawn on me that you buy into some of the complete rubbish that people think about atheists in the U.S.

Quote from: Spike

Even the article writer, presumably an Atheist, or pro-atheism guy has filled that vaccuum somewhat with his blanket statements about atheists, many of which ring hollow to my ears.


What 'blanket statements' 'ring hollow' to your ears?

I'm an atheist, as are most of my colleagues and friends.  The author's comments generally 'rang true' to my ears.  Yes they're generalisations, and thus many exceptions exist.  But they didn't strike as wrong-headed at all.

Quote from: Spike

It is the nature of the beast to catagorize and label, and atheists don't lend themselves well to labeling and grouping... one of the many ways they irritate the community...


Um, okay.  So what?

Quote from: Spike
... Every time someone tells me flat out they are a Wiccan... or an atheist for that matter, and it WASN"T a conversation about personal beliefs, I just want to slap 'ATTENTION WHORE" stickers across their foreheads to shut them up.

But that's me.


Well it seems pretty damned fucked up to lump atheists in with Wiccan.  What is your problem?  

Also, why is explaining that you're an atheist to someone make you an 'ATTENTION WHORE'?  If someone's making some stupid religion-based point in conversation, I don't think that it's inappropriate to remark that you don't believe in supernatural entities.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Spike on December 28, 2006, 02:45:10 am
Quote from: Akrasia


Also, why is explaining that you're an atheist to someone make you an 'ATTENTION WHORE'?  If someone's making some stupid religion-based point in conversation, I don't think that it's inappropriate to remark that you don't believe in supernatural entities.



It isn't explaining to someone that you are an atheist that makes you an attention whore, it's bringing it up in casual conversations... any old conversation, that makes you an attention whore.    I expect my freinds to know my belief structure, especially if 'non-standard'. I don't expect casual aquaintences or even random strangers know it.  If they happen to find out, I'm cool with that, but impressing upon them that I am 'different' is different from dying your hair purple and tattooing your face in approach.

To give you an example: I was participating in a group activity about 13 years ago. 400 strangers all together for the first time. One of the coordinators was discussing religious observences and the facilities that were available.  Pretty comprehensive list, really.  One guy stands up and demands that they tell him, right then and there, where and when the services for Norse Pagan's were, as that was his faith.   He could have done the same thing with zoraosterism and probably gotten the same dumbfounded look. It had nothing to do with his beliefs and everything to do with 'look at me, I'm a precious snowflake'. All to often I've found 'pagans' and 'wiccans' to be excessively public with their 'faith'.

I've met a fair number of atheists who act the same way. The guys who go to church groups just to denounce them, the people that found churches of atheism.  People who go online and denounce religious types as delusional and insane.

Main stream religious types aren't immune to attention whoring, by no means. It just is a bit more egregious in 'alternative' faiths it seems.  Certainly I've met more than a few 'pagan' types who I was 99% certain had adopted the faith just to be 'different' or because it was 'cool'.  Hardly things to build a belief structure on.


I'm sorry if my post confused you, but you seem to be laboring under the mistaken impression that I am out to attack atheists in general, and that I take umbrage at the entire concept of 'disbelief'.  Far from it. I mock this article, this particular 'defense' of atheism, just as I mock posters at this site for their extremist point of view.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on December 28, 2006, 03:24:06 am
Quote from: Spike
It isn't explaining to someone that you are an atheist that makes you an attention whore, it's bringing it up in casual conversations... any old conversation, that makes you an attention whore...
 

Well, I should think that this would be irritating no matter the belief system in question.

I would find such behaviour most annoying in a Christian, even if Christianity was the 'dominant' religion of the country/area in which I lived.

Quote from: Spike
...
Main stream religious types aren't immune to attention whoring, by no means. It just is a bit more egregious in 'alternative' faiths it seems.  Certainly I've met more than a few 'pagan' types who I was 99% certain had adopted the faith just to be 'different' or because it was 'cool'.  Hardly things to build a belief structure on...


The mere fact that Americans consider atheism an 'alternative' faith (a la neo-paganism) is what I find so disturbing.

Pretty much anywhere else in the Western world, stating that you're an atheist would not raise an eyebrow.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Pseudoephedrine on December 28, 2006, 03:40:00 am
So Spike, your position is basically "I met a rude jerk who called himself a pagan many years ago, so this article about atheism is trite"?
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Spike on December 28, 2006, 11:46:40 am
Quote from: Pseudoephedrine
So Spike, your position is basically "I met a rude jerk who called himself a pagan many years ago, so this article about atheism is trite"?



If thats what floats your boat, sure.  You won't win any medals for reading comprehension, but maybe you don't care.


Akrasia: Try saying you are an atheist in a muslim nation.  Most of them are actually pretty cool with christians, though the rise of intolerence is noted.  Its those damn pagans... and worse still, the non-believers that are the problem.  

As for Europe, which is what I suspect you mean when you say the 'rest of the western world'... Europe plus Canada, the rise of secularism has been fairly well documented, while Americans, oddly enough, remain much more attached to their faiths, as do many latin americans.  Obviously, when secularism is on the rise, concern over matters of faith drop off.   This then could be the true defense of Atheism then? Making faith less popular?   I'm sure it would work to an extent.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on December 28, 2006, 12:03:04 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
The mere fact that Americans consider atheism an 'alternative' faith (a la neo-paganism) is what I find so disturbing.


Belief without proof = faith, ergo atheism is a faith. Not sure about the 'alternative' part, but if you mean "not mainstream" or "not one of the big three" then it's definitely 'alternative'.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: RPGPundit on December 28, 2006, 12:15:53 pm
Obviously, "militant atheists" will tend to be attention whores.  The average "nonbeliever" won't, and often the distinction is as simple as whether the guy makes a point of calling himself an atheist, or just saying that he doesn't believe in God.

An atheist is already an aggresive, positive stance, you are holding a position.  Therefore you will argue for it to a certain degree, and since most atheists are "converts", that degree is usually pretty high.
Whereas just being a nonbeliever is merely the absence of a position. Note that a non-believer and an agnostic are two different things, though both tend to be equally unoffensive; an agnostic doesn't know, a nonbeliever simply rejects, but these are both different from a militant atheist.

And yes, wiccans are attention whores. That's the whole point of wicca, to feel that you're part of a different special group of different special people, with a built in persecution complex, ridiculous claims regarding history and spiritual powers, and an insistence on being treated special for one's beliefs.  
Come to think of it, that's pretty much what evangelical christianity is like too, they just appeal to a different demographic.

RPGPundit
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Spike on December 28, 2006, 12:26:22 pm
Kudos to the Pundit for stating my position in general on Atheists and Wiccans much more clearly than I was. Of course, none of that addresses the article, which is what I was trying to do.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on December 28, 2006, 01:17:22 pm
Quote from: RPGPundit
Obviously, "militant atheists" will tend to be attention whores...

Being 'millitant anything' makes one an attention whore.  I don't see why atheists should be singled out.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on December 28, 2006, 01:26:39 pm
Quote from: James McMurray
Belief without proof = faith, ergo atheism is a faith. Not sure about the 'alternative' part, but if you mean "not mainstream" or "not one of the big three" then it's definitely 'alternative'.


Rubbish.

I don't know what you mean by 'proof', but atheism does not involve 'belief without justification'.

The notion that atheism requires 'faith' is one of the biggest bullshit myths held by people (especially in the U.S.) these days.

There is a very well established logical argument in philosophy against the existence of a benevolent (or ‘just’) deity -- it is called the 'problem of evil'.  (There are other arguments available, but I'll simply mention this one for the sake of convenience.) It has been around for many centuries, and was famously presented as a deductive argument by the Oxford philosopher John Mackie in the mid-20th Century.

The argument is pretty straight forward, and I use it to introduce undergraduates to basic logic. It holds, roughly, that suffering ('evil') exists, including both 'moral evil' (suffering caused by human beings, e.g. murder, rape, etc.) and 'natural evil' (suffering caused by natural events, e.g. diseases, famines, tsunamis, etc.). The basic problem is that widespread suffering cannot be reconciled logically with the existence of an omniscient, omnipotent, and benevolent (or just) deity. It is one of a number of compelling arguments against belief in a 'traditional' God (another holds that the very idea of 'God' is logically incoherent).

Very roughly, the ‘problem of evil’ argument states:

1. If God exists (as understood by the main monotheistic religions), he is omniscient and omnipotent and omnibenevolent
2. If suffering exists, God cannot be omniscient & omnipotent & omnibenevolent (at most he can only be two of those things, e.g. he might be all-knowing and all-powerful, but not care about the existence of widespread suffering).
3. We know suffering exists.
4. Therefore God does not exist (i.e. any God that is omniscient & omnipotent & omnibenevolent).

It is clearly a valid argument (if the premises are true, the conclusion must be true). Whether it is sound depends on the truth of its premises. Presumably religious folk dispute the truth of premise 2.

All leading contemporary analytic philosophers working in the philosophy of religion -- including, of course, theists -- recognize the strength of the 'problem of evil' argument. There are a few responses out there on behalf of theism, but none are especially impressive, in my opinion.

The argument shows, I think, that atheism is not simply a system of belief with no greater justification than, say, Christianity or Islam. The arguments against the existence of a benevolent deity are logically compelling; the arguments in favour of the existence of a benevolent deity are not.

The 'problem of evil' says nothing about 'higher beings' (super aliens?) that are not omnipotent, omniscient, and omni-benevolent. The argument is simply directed against the traditional conception of God, as found in the main monotheistic religions. According to traditional Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent. If there is a God that is, say, merely omnipotent and omniscient, but not benevolent, that would be quite interesting. However, I can see no reason to worship such a creature.

In short, atheists have rational grounds for their rejection of a 'triple-O' God (i.e. the God of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism).  Thus it is not based on 'faith' (belief without rational justification).
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Mr. Christopher on December 28, 2006, 01:42:08 pm
I think these alt.atheism definitions may help the conversation:

Strong atheism is the belief that no deity exists. It is a form of explicit atheism, meaning that strong atheists consciously reject theism. It is contrasted with weak atheism, which is the absence of belief in deities, without the belief that deities do not exist. The strong atheist believes, at the very least, that no deities exist, and may further believe that the existence of certain deities is logically impossible.

Self-described "strong atheists" commonly hold a naturalistic world view, rejecting belief in supernatural entities or processes in general. However, spiritual or supernatural beliefs would not preclude someone from being a strong atheist, or from being an atheist in general; although there may be a correlation with other beliefs, the term atheism itself only reflects beliefs regarding deities.

Agnosticism is distinct from weak atheism, though most weak atheists may be agnostics, and most agnostics may be weak atheists.

Weak atheism (also called negative atheism) is the absence of belief in the existence of deities, without the belief that deities are non-existent. Weak atheism contrasts with strong atheism, which is the belief that no deities exist, and with theism, which is the belief that there is at least one deity. Weak atheism may either be a form of explicit atheism, that is, a conscious rejection of belief in deities, or implicit atheism, an absence of belief in deities without a conscious rejection of theism.

Restatement of the concept: Where theists believe that one or more deities exist and strong atheists believe that no gods exist, weak atheists hold neither belief.

Strong agnosticism or positive agnosticism is the belief that it is impossible for humans to know whether or not any deities exist. It is a broader view than weak agnosticism, which states that the existence or nonexistence of any deities is unknown but not necessarily unknowable.

Weak agnosticism, or empirical agnosticism (also negative agnosticism), is the belief that the existence or nonexistence of deities is currently unknown, but is not necessarily unknowable, therefore one will withhold judgment until more evidence is available.

Weak agnosticism is in contrast to strong agnosticism, in which the agnostic believes that the existence of any gods is not only unknown, but is also unknowable to humanity. Neither type of agnosticism is fully irreconcilable with theism (belief in a deity or deities) nor strong atheism. A weak agnostic who also considers themselves a theist is likely in a state of doubt, though they are not necessarily having a crisis of faith. Weak agnosticism often overlaps with, and is often confused with, weak atheism, as both are a lack of belief rather than a belief in lack (of either knowledge or existence, respectively).
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Spike on December 28, 2006, 02:00:39 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
Rubbish.

I don't know what you mean by 'proof', but atheism does not involve 'belief without justification'.

The notion that atheism requires 'faith' is one of the biggest bullshit myths held by people (especially in the U.S.) these days.

Very roughly, the ‘problem of evil’ argument states:

1. If God exists (as understood by the main monotheistic religions), he is omniscient and omnipotent and omnibenevolent
2. If suffering exists, God cannot be omniscient & omnipotent & omnibenevolent (at most he can only be two of those things, e.g. he might be all-knowing and all-powerful, but not care about the existence of widespread suffering).
3. We know suffering exists.
4. Therefore God does not exist (i.e. any God that is omniscient & omnipotent & omnibenevolent).

It is clearly a valid argument (if the premises are true, the conclusion must be true). Whether it is sound depends on the truth of its premises. Presumably religious folk dispute the truth of premise 2.

).



You already bolded the important part.  IF the premises are true.  Let us look at this properly.

First of all, if your 'atheism' is predicated only on rejection of Judeo-christian belief structures you have a narrow perspective.  Properly speaking, you should be rejecting faiths which have no relation to the J-C ideal.    Without being the subject matter expert I believe Buddism explains quite adequately why there is suffering in the world.  That's just off the top of my head, and happens to be the single largests NON-J/C faith out there. Presto, you've just invalidated your entire premise that Atheism can be 'proven' by logically looking at the 'problem of evil'.  

Your argument is not against belief in 'higher powers' it is against the human interpretation of a specific set of 'higher powers' and is as flawed as the article.

While I've already argued why God could not be omnisceint and omnipotent in the truest defintions of the word, I've very rarely... in fact NEVER heard it said that God was 'Omnibenevolent'.  I've heard it said that God was good, yes. that He was benevolent and kind, sure. But 'All Benevolent'? Not once.  The best method of explaining your 'problem of evil' would be that God is teaching us something when we suffer from natural evil, and that human evil is a direct result of free will.  You do remember that fundamental part of J-C doctrine, right? Free will?  True, Islam rejects it, but then Islam doesn't claim god is particularly benevolent either.  Calling on 'merciful allah' is more a request that He BE merciful, rather than a declaration of God's nature.  

Thus, your entire post is suffering the same problem as the original article: You set your arguements up for an easy win. Its a hollow victory, meaningless.  Expand your disbelief out from the narrow J/C perspective and your arguements will have more force.

I won't even touch on our idea that faith isn't required to be an atheist.  You have faith that you are correct, that your rational arguements and logic problems have disproven God.  But, may I remind you of the logical impossibility of proving a negative?   You might be able to prove the existance of God with enough evidence, but you can never fully prove He doesn't exist. Thus 'reasonable doubt'.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Gunslinger on December 28, 2006, 04:46:32 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
1. If God exists (as understood by the main monotheistic religions), he is omniscient and omnipotent and omnibenevolent
2. If suffering exists, God cannot be omniscient & omnipotent & omnibenevolent (at most he can only be two of those things, e.g. he might be all-knowing and all-powerful, but not care about the existence of widespread suffering).
3. We know suffering exists.
4. Therefore God does not exist (i.e. any God that is omniscient & omnipotent & omnibenevolent).

That is a logical argument but one that is assuming that we have a logical perspective on the subject matter.  If that assumption is not true, the entire argument is false.  A lack of evidence does not make something true or false.  All we can do as a species is to continue observations over time to get closer to "the truth".  Even science makes the assumption that the universe can be translated logically.  If that assumption is not true, well the answer is "42".
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on December 28, 2006, 04:56:24 pm
Quote
it is called the 'problem of evil'.


The problem of evil is based upon the assumption that man can understand the mind of God. Hence it is flawed.

Quote
I use it to introduce undergraduates to basic logic.


Then I hope you're using it to point out that flawed premises can result in flawed conclusions even with impeccable logic. Otherwise you're dong the students a disservice by teaching them crap.

It can be refuted by the mere fact that as far as many situations where kids and parents are concerned the parents are effectively omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent. Yet we still let our children fall on their faces because that's better for them than coddling, and it serves them better later down the road.

I'm sorry, but the so-called "problem of evil" just doesn't cut it.

If you can't disprove the existence of an omnipotent being that wants to stay hidden, you can't have strong atheism without faith that your belief in his nonexistence is valid.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Dominus Nox on December 28, 2006, 05:17:48 pm
Personally I reject all the major religions for the simple reason that they are all about controlling the masses, and if they ever had a grain of truth to them it has long been buried under centuries of politically motivated interpretations, revisions, 'revelations', etc.

Christianity and islam both have been used as justifications for tyranny, oppression, wars of aggression, torture, mass terrorism and worse. The crusades, which started a lot of our trouble with islam, was a massive land grab justified by religion. The muslim jyhad against the west is justified by religion, etc.

The spanish inquisition, the salem witch trials, the list of atrocities comitted under the auspices of religion goes on and on, I don't believe in any religion per se.

As to the rest, there may be something like god, who knows? People may be created by the mind of the universe as a whole in an attempt to understand itself. But I do not buy into any of the world's major religions to any degree, they're nothing but means to controllng people and justification for the worst acts in human history.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on December 28, 2006, 05:30:02 pm
Quote from: Spike
... First of all, if your 'atheism' is predicated only on rejection of Judeo-christian belief structures you have a narrow perspective.  

... Properly speaking, you should be rejecting faiths which have no relation to the J-C ideal...    
 


I agree that the argument is aimed squarely at the main three monotheistic religions (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism), as traditionally understood.

I never claimed that it applies to other conceptions of God (e.g. an indifferent deist god), or 'religions' that do not presuppose a particular conception of 'God' (like Buddhism).  

Please read my post more carefully.

A single argument can only do so much.  This argument has as its aim  the three main monotheistic arguments.  And with respect to those religions, I think that it is quite convincing.  (Even theistic philosophers recognise its strength, even if they ultimately reject it.)

Other arguments may be appropriate for other religions or faiths (like Buddhism).  So what?  Your entire point rests on an obvious fallacy, namely, that any single argument against theism must address all existing religions.  But that's obviously ridiculous.  The focus of this argument is Christianity, Islam and Judaism.  Other arguments can be applied to other religions/faiths.

Quote from: Spike
...
 I've heard it said that God was good, yes. that He was benevolent and kind, sure. But 'All Benevolent'? Not once.  


Well, I've got news for you: all three main monotheistic religions assert that God is the source of all goodness/morality in the universe.  This is a fundamental feature of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, as traditionally understood.  

If you don't know that, then I can hardly do anything about your apalling ignorance in this thread.

Quote from: Spike
...
The best method of explaining your 'problem of evil' would be that God is teaching us something when we suffer from natural evil, and that human evil is a direct result of free will.  You do remember that fundamental part of J-C doctrine, right? Free will?  True, Islam rejects it, but then Islam doesn't claim god is particularly benevolent either....

:sleeping:

Oh yes, the tired old 'free will' defense (btw, many branches of Christianity also reject the existence of 'libertarian' free will).

Well, this is hardly a new attempt to refute the argument.  Assuming that it even makes sense to posit the existence of 'libertarian free will' in a universe created by an omnipotent and omniscient being, this argument will hardly let you get around the argument that I've presented.

The reason is painfully simple: massive amounts of suffering have nothing to do with free will!  Not all of human suffering is caused by 'moral agents' (creatures with free will doing harmful things to others).  A lot of human suffering (and animal suffering) is caused by natural processes.

So the free will defense fails entirely in justifying the suffering and death caused by diseases, natural disasters, etc.

Nice try, though.  I give your effort a 'B'.

Quote from: Spike
...
You set your arguements up for an easy win.

:rolleyes:

Look, the argument (which is not 'mine') proceeds by attributing to God the very attributes that Christians, Muslims, and Jews do.  It then proceeds to show that such a conception of God is incompatible with the existence of suffering in the world.

Well, maybe it's an 'easy win'.  Whatever.  But it's a win that a staggeringly large number of religious people seem oblivious to.

Quote from: Spike
...  
 But, may I remind you of the logical impossibility of proving a negative?   You might be able to prove the existance of God with enough evidence, but you can never fully prove He doesn't exist. Thus 'reasonable doubt'.


Look, we have two conflicting propositions: (a) 'God as conceived by the main monotheistic religions does exist' and (b) 'God as conceived by the main monotheistic religions does not exist'.

These propositions are mutually incompatible.  When deciding which of these two propositions to believe, one should endorse the one best supported by the arguments and evidence.  The 'problem of evil' argument is a strong (very strong IMO) rational argument in favour of endorsing proposition )b).
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on December 28, 2006, 05:33:49 pm
Quote from: Gunslinger
That is a logical argument but one that is assuming that we have a logical perspective on the subject matter.  If that assumption is not true, the entire argument is false.  A lack of evidence does not make something true or false.  All we can do as a species is to continue observations over time to get closer to "the truth".  Even science makes the assumption that the universe can be translated logically.  If that assumption is not true, well the answer is "42".


Well, we do have evidence of widespread suffering in the world.  The argument claims that this suffering is incompatible with God, as traditionally conceived by Christians, Muslims, and Jews.

Now, we are limited, fallible human beings.  So perhaps the argument fails for some reason that I cannot comprehend.

But I should form my beliefs on the basis of the best arguments and evidence available.  This is certainly  compatible with recognising that I have limited evidence and cognitive abilities.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: droog on December 28, 2006, 05:42:56 pm
Quote from: James McMurray
Belief without proof = faith, ergo atheism is a faith. Not sure about the 'alternative' part, but if you mean "not mainstream" or "not one of the big three" then it's definitely 'alternative'.

The Pundalini already touched on this, but since you can't read his posts I'll give it to you in my own words.

Lack of belief is not the same thing as belief. Declining to participate in the discourse does not give you faith.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on December 28, 2006, 05:50:44 pm
Quote from: James McMurray
The problem of evil is based upon the assumption that man can understand the mind of God. Hence it is flawed...


The argument merely proceeds by attributing to God the very same attributes that Christians, Muslims, and Jews do, and then pointing out that those attributes are incompatible with the existence of widespread natural suffering.

Perhaps the 'mind of God' is wholly incomprehensible to human beings.  But if this is so, why would we conceivably worship such a creature?  

According to Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, we at least understand some things about the mind of God -- namely, that He loves us, wants us to love and obey Him, and wants us to obey His law (commandments).

Quote from: James McMurray

Then I hope you're using it to point out that flawed premises can result in flawed conclusions even with impeccable logic. Otherwise you're dong the students a disservice by teaching them crap...


:tears:

Quote from: James McMurray

It can be refuted by the mere fact that as far as many situations where kids and parents are concerned the parents are effectively omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent. Yet we still let our children fall on their faces because that's better for them than coddling, and it serves them better later down the road.

I'm sorry, but the so-called "problem of evil" just doesn't cut it.


I'm sorry, but your so-called "refutation" gets a grade of 'C'.  See my explanation, in an earlier post, of why the 'free will defense' fails.

(But notice also that your attempted reply fails to attribute omnipotence to God.  This is because it assumes that God is constrained in requiring that his creations suffer in order to learn and 'become better'.)
 
Quote from: James McMurray
...
If you can't disprove the existence of an omnipotent being that wants to stay hidden...


Ummm ... does God want to 'stay hidden' or does he want us to 'love and know him'?  

If the former, why did he reveal Himself, as claimed by the sacred texts of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam?  If the latter, where has he been lately?  
:confused:

Actually, I mentioned before that the "problem of evil" is only one argument against the traditional monotheistic conception of God.  Some others include: the 'Hiddenness argument' (roughly, the idea that if God loves us, and wants us to love Him, why does he hide?); and the 'Argument for Explanatory Uselessness' (roughly, the idea that positing the existence of God fails to explain anything about the universe).

Quote from: James McMurray

... you can't have strong atheism without faith that your belief in his nonexistence is valid.


I don't know what you mean by 'strong atheism', but my rejection of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam is based on rational reflection alone.

With respect to other possible conceptions of God -- say, the deistic one -- I would say that I'm agnostic.  But such conceptions of God don't really posit anything more than a supernatural alien -- not exactly an entity worth 'worshipping'.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Spike on December 28, 2006, 06:36:06 pm
Akrasia:

I have no knowledge of what you have, or have not learned of Judeo-Christianity as a whole, what your background is, etc.

However, Free will has be a pretty fundamental part of the 'biblical' expirence to just about every Christian I've spoken to in my entire life.  I'm tempted to look around for a bible to check for specific passages.  Rejecting it because it doesn't leave much room for your arguement is trying to stack the deck.

On the other hand, you erroniously assign it to Islam. Islam DOES NOT have the same idea of Free Will as a fundamental belief.  Inshallah, brother. It means God Willing. The Quran is pretty specific, everything you do, good or bad, is because God willed it. Don't even question it.  Give me a day or two and I'll quote the suras to you.

Further, by bringing in your 'problem of evil' you specifically chose to narrow the conversation to the existance of 'God' in the J/C mythic structure, rather than focusing it on Atheism, which properly speaking rejects all god figures.  

I particularly like how you missed the most common defense of God, that is 'the unknowability of god'.   I'd give your 'condemnation' of God the same failing grade I gave the 'Defense of Atheism' article, if I had condecended to 'grading' other posters in the first place.  You, and you alone, keep trying to narrow down the 'conditions' of your argument to where you feel your statements are strongest.    

To be honest, the old testament, and I'd have to get with a Rabbi to check this, the Talmud/Torah thingamajigger never once suggests that God is benevolent, and the 'all powerful' thing gets opened to interpretation depending upon which book you are reading.  I think the favorite description of the God of the old testament is 'Angry, vengeful God' or even, in His own words 'Jealous'.   You paint all three 'faiths of the book' with too broad a brush, and are heavily inaccurate as a result.  

Refuting a single set of beliefs (or in your case, three linked beliefs) does not prove, or disprove the existance of any godlike figures. It just refutes those faiths.  I don't have to be an Atheist to reject the teachings of the Great Mother Chicken, and rejecting the GMC doesn't make me an atheist by default.   THAT is the flaw with your entire argument over the last several posts.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Gunslinger on December 28, 2006, 06:42:39 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
Well, we do have evidence of widespread suffering in the world. The argument claims that this suffering is incompatible with God, as traditionally conceived by Christians, Muslims, and Jews.


It's  making the assumption that an omnibenevolent, omnipresent, and omniscient being can't allow what we define as our suffering.  Both the Jewish and Christian relegions have numerous accounts where God has allowing suffering, so that is also a misrepresentation (I don't feel familiar enough with the Muslim relegion to comment).

Quote
But I should form my beliefs on the basis of the best arguments and evidence available. This is certainly compatible with recognising that I have limited evidence and cognitive abilities.

Yes, but your basing your beliefs off a lack of evidence available.  It's one thing to say "I don't know enough to believe firmly in either" it's another thing to say "I don't know enough so this is true."  I know of no firm evidence that proves either theory correct or incorrect.  So in essence, you have faith in what you don't believe in.

Quote from: droog
The Pundalini already touched on this, but since you can't read his posts I'll give it to you in my own words.

Lack of belief is not the same thing as belief. Declining to participate in the discourse does not give you faith.


Def'n - Faith
1. confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another's ability.  
2. belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.  

I disagree that Atheists are declining to participate in the discourse because that would be an observer.  They have faith in their lack of belief when there is no firm evidence to discredit either theory.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: droog on December 28, 2006, 07:47:29 pm
Quote from: Gunslinger
I disagree that Atheists are declining to participate in the discourse because that would be an observer.  They have faith in their lack of belief when there is no firm evidence to discredit either theory.

I don't identify myself as an 'Atheist', so I can't speak for them.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on December 28, 2006, 07:48:12 pm
Quote from: Spike
... Free will has be a pretty fundamental part of the 'biblical' expirence to just about every Christian I've spoken to in my entire life.  I'm tempted to look around for a bible to check for specific passages.  Rejecting it because it doesn't leave much room for your arguement is trying to stack the deck...

Have you ever met a Calvinist?  Do you know what Calvinism is?

Even in Catholicism the question of 'free will' is not clear cut.  Aquinas appears in places to posit a 'compatibilist' -- as opposed to a 'libertarian' -- account of free will, but is ultimately unclear.

In any case, as I've already explained, the 'problem of evil' argument works whether one believes in libertarian free will or not.

 
Quote from: Spike
...
On the other hand, you erroniously assign it to Islam.
:confused:

No I didn't.

Please, point out where I explicitly attributed 'free will' to Islam.  I didn't do it.

My point was merely that even if a monotheist (of whatever brand) wanted to assert the 'free will' defense, that defense failed to refute the argument.

I never specifically referred to Islam in making that point.

Yet again you failed to properly read my posts.  I guess that I should be used to this by now.

Quote from: Spike

Further, by bringing in your 'problem of evil' you specifically chose to narrow the conversation to the existance of 'God' in the J/C mythic structure, rather than focusing it on Atheism, which properly speaking rejects all god figures.

As I said, one argument can only do so much.  I've already clarified this.  

You seem to have absurdly high expectations for specific arguments.

Quote from: Spike

I particularly like how you missed the most common defense of God, that is 'the unknowability of god'.  

I didn't miss it.  I mentioned it briefly in a previous post, and I'll elaborate on it in a future post.  (No time now ...)
 
Quote from: Spike

You, and you alone, keep trying to narrow down the 'conditions' of your argument to where you feel your statements are strongest.    

Rubbish.  I'm just trying to make explicit what the target of a particular argument happens to be. It's called being a careful reasoner.  If you want me to evaluate other beliefs and claims, I'll be happy to do so.
:D

But the point I was trying to make in my original post was that rejecting the standard monotheistic conception of 'God' (which is commonly assumed to be at least one thing that 'atheism' entails) required no 'faith'.

I only have so much time to waste here.  I could bring up other arguments concerning other beliefs and claims, if you like...

Quote from: Spike

...  I think the favorite description of the God of the old testament is 'Angry, vengeful God' or even, in His own words 'Jealous'.   You paint all three 'faiths of the book' with too broad a brush, and are heavily inaccurate as a result.  

There are indeed inconsistent descriptions of God in the Old Testament (let alone the manifest inconsistencies between the OT & the NT for Christianity; I still find it mystifying how anyone could believe that the messiah described by Isaiah could be Jesus Christ).  Yet another reason for not taking those beliefs seriously!  Nonetheless, the considered position in 'mainstream' Judaism is that God is the source of all good and the moral law.  What else could be?

Quote from: Spike

Refuting a single set of beliefs (or in your case, three linked beliefs) does not prove, or disprove the existance of any godlike figures. It just refutes those faiths.  

Mission accomplished!  :)

Quote from: Spike

 THAT is the flaw with your entire argument over the last several posts.

Flaw? :confused:

You just conceded the very point I sought to establish! :D
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on December 28, 2006, 07:55:44 pm
Quote from: Gunslinger
It's  making the assumption that an omnibenevolent, omnipresent, and omniscient being can't allow what we define as our suffering.  Both the Jewish and Christian relegions have numerous accounts where God has allowing suffering, so that is also a misrepresentation ...


Yes.  The argument points out that these accounts are incompatible with the attributes that those religions ascribe to God.  

Quote from: Gunslinger

Yes, but your basing your beliefs off a lack of evidence available.  It's one thing to say "I don't know enough to believe firmly in either" it's another thing to say "I don't know enough so this is true."  I know of no firm evidence that proves either theory correct or incorrect.  So in essence, you have faith in what you don't believe in..


I'm not sure what you're trying to say here.

But I think I have enough justification to reject the traditional conception of God.  Consider:

A. I have abundant evidence for the existence of suffering.

B. I also have knowledge of the conception of God affirmed by  the main monotheistic religions.

As far as I can tell, it is clear that A is in conflict with B.  Given that my belief in A is pretty damn secure, belief in B has to go.

Why is this not a justified belief?  It seems like I've engaged in the kind of reasoning that leads to all kinds of perfectly well-justified beliefs in other domains of life (and in science, etc.).
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Spike on December 28, 2006, 07:59:29 pm
Quote from: Akrasia


Flaw? :confused:

You just conceded the very point I sought to establish! :D



I'll get to the rest of your post when I have more time (in a few hours)...


So. You made a point that had little, if anything to do with the discussion at hand, and you are proud that I conceeded it too you?

Great. The Sky is blue.


Do I win something now?
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: beejazz on December 28, 2006, 08:40:23 pm
Yeah... benevlent God... I'll concede that alot of Christians think so, but from a Biblical standpoint it's rubbish. There are entire books explaining both that this isn't so and why this isn't so.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on December 28, 2006, 09:14:24 pm
Quote
Well, I've got news for you: all three main monotheistic religions assert that God is the source of all goodness/morality in the universe.


So what? If you empty your bladder into an otherwise empty toilet you're the source of all urine in that toilet. Does that mean you're all piss, all the time?

Quote
Look, the argument (which is not 'mine') proceeds by attributing to God the very attributes that Christians, Muslims, and Jews (CJMs from here on out) do.


Really? The bible (old and new testaments) show a lot of instances of God being non-benevolent (or at least not very nice from a human perspective). The Koran does the same. How then can you say that the big three say that God is "Omnibenevolent."

And of course, even if it is, you've not refuted our lack of understanding of the mind of god. It's possible from some alien standpoint that takes multiple lifetimes into account that suffering is a good thing.

Quote
But it's a win that a staggeringly large number of religious people seem oblivious to.


And with good reason: it's crap. Unless you profess to understand the Infinite?

Quote
When deciding which of these two propositions to believe, one should endorse the one best supported by the arguments and evidence.


You've got evidence? You've got arguments that don't require false premises? Spill them out, please. I've always wondered whether there was a God or not. I'd love to see actual evidence and irrefutable arguments.

Quote
So perhaps the argument fails for some reason that I cannot comprehend.


You mean beyond the reasons it's failed at for hundreds of years (see above)?

Quote
Lack of belief is not the same thing as belief. Declining to participate in the discourse does not give you faith.


I agree. If you say "I don't know" or "I don't bother with that" you're not stating a belief. yiou're also not endorsing atheism (or "strong atheism" if you prefer). If you're a strong atheist you state emphatically that God does not exist. If you state something as a fact but have no proof, it is a belief / faith.

Quote
The argument merely proceeds by attributing to God the very same attributes that Christians, Muslims, and Jews do,


Which Christians, Muslims, and Jews? The ones that haven't read their own holy texts to see evidence that God isn't Omnibenevolent? Sure, I'll go along with you that people who state the ludicrous belief that God is Omnibenevolent make the "Problem of Evil" a stronger argument. However those aren't the majority of Christians, Jews, and Muslims. Likewise it still doesn't ignore the fact that for the argument to work we have to be able ti understand the mind of god enough to know that suffering isn't a good thing in the long run. Even pseudo-omnipotent and pseudo-omniscient (and still "omnibenevolent") parents let their children suffer at times in pursuit of the "greater good" for the child.

Quote
I'm sorry, but your so-called "refutation" gets a grade of 'C'. See my explanation, in an earlier post, of why the 'free will defense' fails.


Where did I say anything about free will? I said that we can't understand the mind of god enough to know exactly what is best in his mind. Are you trying to say that we can?

Quote
Ummm ... does God want to 'stay hidden' or does he want us to 'love and know him'?


How the hell should I know? From what I understand of religions it's both. He wants us to love and know him through faith. Are you trying to say that CJMs claim that God wants us to see him walking down the street (or doing whatever it is Gods do when they want to be seen)?

Quote
the 'Hiddenness argument' (roughly, the idea that if God loves us, and wants us to love Him, why does he hide?);


Don't know. Not infinite nor omniscient. Again, the argument fails because it presume we can apply human motives to God.

Quote
'Argument for Explanatory Uselessness' (roughly, the idea that positing the existence of God fails to explain anything about the universe).


"There's piss in the cat litter" fails to explain anything, but it doesn't make the piss disappear. Would that it did.

Quote
I don't know what you mean by 'strong atheism', but my rejection of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam is based on rational reflection alone.


By Strong Atheism I mean the version that states "there is no God." It was defined earlier in the thread. Generally I just call that version atheism and all the "I'm not sure" stuff agnosticism, but some people prefer more stringent categories.

Quote
The argument points out that these accounts are incompatible with the attributes that those religions ascribe to God.


You keep saying this, but keep failing to show anywhere that says "god is Omnibenevolent". An argument needs a foundation, and while you've stated yours you've failed to demonstrate it.

Quote
As far as I can tell, it is clear that A is in conflict with B. Given that my belief in A is pretty damn secure, belief in B has to go.

Why is this not a justified belief? It seems like I've engaged in the kind of reasoning that leads to all kinds of perfectly well-justified beliefs in other domains of life (and in science, etc.).


It's a justified belief, but it's still a faith because it's predicated on something you cannot prove: that suffering is not somehow good for us when viewed with God's eyes. and even there, you admit it to be a belief, and hence something you're taking on faith. If you didn't think it was one, why would you call it one? For that matter, why would you debate it for several pages and then concede that it is indeed a belief?
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Gunslinger on December 28, 2006, 09:38:27 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
Yes. The argument points out that these accounts are incompatible with the attributes that those religions ascribe to God.


Suffering is bad and these religion's perception of God should not allow bad because God is good?  All we have to do now is define what bad and good are and what God views as bad and good and then the argument would be valid.

I'm not sure that's the kind of evidence I'm looking at for proof.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on December 28, 2006, 10:24:26 pm
Quote from: Spike
... So. You made a point that had little, if anything to do with the discussion at hand, and you are proud that I conceeded it too you? ...


Many points have been raised in this thread.

The point that I was making when I posted the "problem of evil" argument was simply that atheism does not require 'faith'.  Rather, one might become an atheist simply by weighing the available arguments in favour and against the various claims made concerning the existence of God.  

The "problem of evil" was presented as one such argument concerning a very common conception of God (viz. the conception of God found in the mainstream monotheistic religions).  Other arguments may be necessary for other beliefs and views.  But I was not trying to provide a comprehensive summary of all the arguments concerning all the different (radically different!) views concerning God that are out there.  That would take 1000+ page book, not a post on some forum.

I think that the "problem of evil" argument helps illustrate why atheism does not require 'faith', but instead can be the outcome of rational reflection.  That was my main purpose in mentioning it, and I apologise if I was not adequately clear.

Quote from: Spike
... Great. The Sky is blue.

Do I win something now?


No, because no one denies that the Sky is blue.

Billions of people do believe in an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-just deity.  Showing that that belief is problematic is a bit more significant.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on December 28, 2006, 10:29:05 pm
Quote from: beejazz
Yeah... benevlent God... I'll concede that alot of Christians think so, but from a Biblical standpoint it's rubbish...


You won't get an argument on this from me, as the God presented in the Bible strikes my as a morally repugnant schizophrenic tyrant.

Still, it's the "official view" of mainstream Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.
:shrug:

(Some adherents of those religions do reject that view, but that's obviusly a whole different debate.)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: beejazz on December 28, 2006, 10:35:12 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
...as the God presented in the Bible strikes my as a morally repugnant schizophrenic tyrant.

And that guy behind the wheel isn't consistent with reality how?;)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on December 28, 2006, 11:26:15 pm
Quote from: beejazz
And that guy behind the wheel isn't consistent with reality how?;)


Oh quite consistent!

Job by Heinlein presents a convincing case for the existence of such a God!
:D
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on December 28, 2006, 11:31:21 pm
Quote from: James McMurray
So what? If you empty your bladder into an otherwise empty toilet you're the source of all urine in that toilet. Does that mean you're all piss, all the time?

Is it conceivable that a perfect God could be the 'source of all goodness' but not himself be perfectly good?

According to the mainstream monotheistic religions, the answer to this is no.  It is also the view of the most significant religious philosophers throughout history (e.g. Augustine and Aquinas in the Catholic tradition, Al-Gazali in the Islamic tradition, Maimonides in the Jewish tradition).  (Yes, there are some dissenters and heretics, but I'll put those views aside for now.)

Think about it.  Is God Perfect?   If so, then according to the main monotheistic religions, God must also be perfectly good.  For him to lack this feature would be an imperfection.  But God is perfect!

Hey, hey, I'm a sporting person ...  :p   I’ll grant you something: let's say that God is not all good.

Would you instead agree that Christianity, Islam, and Judaism are committed to the view that God is all just?  I'm going to assume that the answer is 'yes' (since otherwise we simply live in alternate realities).

Guess what?  Mutatis mutandis, the "problem of evil" argument still works!  Simply substitute "all just" for "all good", and "unjust suffering" for "natural evil/suffering".  Voila!  The argument is still valid.  (I also think it is sound, but arguing for this does not introduce anything new to the debate at this point.)

Quote from: James McMurray
Really? The bible (old and new testaments) show a lot of instances of God being non-benevolent (or at least not very nice from a human perspective). The Koran does the same. How then can you say that the big three say that God is "Omnibenevolent."

Well, all this shows is that there are all kinds of inconsistencies in the main texts of the monotheistic religions.  This is a point that I happily acknowledge, have already noted, and in no way undermines my overall position.

Quote from: James McMurray
And with good reason: it's crap. Unless you profess to understand the Infinite?

I don't have to understand the 'Infinite'.  All I simply need a basic understanding of logic (inductive and deductive).

Sure it’s conceivable that all my beliefs about the external world and logic are false (maybe I’m being manipulated by an ‘evil demon’, or am trapped in ‘the Matrix’, or whatever).  But I form beliefs on the basis of the best available evidence and arguments.  

Including my belief about whether the God of Christianity exists.  (Or Islam, etc.)

But let’s say that I do decide to believe in God.  What then?  How do I decide whether to believe in the Christian God (Protestant or Catholic?), the Jewish God, the Muslim God, or some other kind of God?  Do I use reason?  If not, what am I to do?

No matter where you go, you need to adopt beliefs, as best you can, on the basis of reason.  Including belief in God.

Quote from: James McMurray
I've always wondered whether there was a God or not. I'd love to see actual evidence and irrefutable arguments.

I never claimed that the argument was ‘irrefutable’.  However, I have never encountered a reply to the argument that was convincing.  But I’ll mention one (that I find unconvincing, but others do not) shortly … :)

Quote from: James McMurray
You mean beyond the reasons it's failed at for hundreds of years (see above)?

But the argument has not failed!  At least it hasn’t failed logically.  

(Has it failed in terms of persuasion.  Well, many people throughout the ages have been persuaded by it.  And I would suggest that the vast majority of Christians, Muslims, and Jews are oblivious to it.  Nonetheless, I can understand why  one might think it ‘failed’ insofar as billions of people continue to be religious.  However, people hold all kinds of illogical, contradictory beliefs!  Millions of people still believe in astrology, they still ‘affirm the consequent’ when making arguments [as well as committing all kinds of other fallacies], and so forth.  But whether an argument is logically valid and whether it is persuasive are two entirely different matters.  I care about the former.)

It is a valid argument!  This cannot be disputed.  Even religious (including Christian) philosophers and theologians recognise this.

The debate concerns its soundness (in particular, the truth/falseness of premise 2, although you also want to debate premise 1, but I’ve already addressed that).  

I’m sorry to burst your bubble, James, but people much smarter than both you and I -- of both theistic and nontheistic persuasions -- continue to debate this.  It’s not as obvious as you seem to think.  Now, as far as I can tell (reflecting to the best of my ability on the available evidence and the various claims attributed to God by the main monotheistic religions), premise 2 is true.  This also happens to be the view of most (but certainly not all!) analytic philosophers.

Obviously, traditional Christians, Jews, and Muslims want to believe that it is false.  The best explanation that they can give is something similar to the point that you and others have made about the ‘unknowability of God’s master plan’ (we perceive his actions “through a glass darkly”, as St. Paul says).  I’ll happily concede that this is a possible reply available to a religious person to this argument.  But it only convincing if you are already committed to the existence of (something like the traditional conception of) God!  

In other words, this reply to the “problem of evil” argument requires faith, namely, faith that somehow, someway, God’s “master plan” will ultimately be justified.

By contrast, the person who is persuaded by this argument (e.g. moi) need not make any analogous ‘leap of faith’!  

 
Quote from: James McMurray
If you state something as a fact but have no proof, it is a belief / faith.

Again, I don’t know what you mean by ‘proof’, and there is a huge difference between ‘justified belief’ and ‘faith’.  Faith, as I understand it, is belief without justification.  

(I suspect that some of the confusion in our discussion might be attributed to the fact that you mean something different by 'belief' than I do.  For me, knowledge is 'justified true belief'.  The best we can generally hope for is 'justified belief'.  Faith is 'unjustified belief', although it may occassionally turn out to nonetheless be true, e.g. if I have 'faith' that I purchased the winning lottery ticket, and by chance I in fact did, then I have a true unjustified belief, i.e. true faith.)

I have arguments (based on inductive, deductive, and abductive reasoning) to support my position of atheism vis-à-vis the main extant religions of the world.  I don’t claim that my arguments are irrefutable, any more than I would claim that it is inconceivable that many of my other core beliefs about the external world may be mistaken (e.g. water is composed of H2O).

No beliefs about the external world -- whether about water, people, physics, or God -- are irrefutable.  But we try to form our beliefs on the strongest available grounds.

And my exercise of my rational faculties lead me to conclude that the God of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism does not exist.  That’s not faith.  That’s just one of my justified beliefs.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: beejazz on December 28, 2006, 11:48:35 pm
Justice is a little fuzzier, and has more room for favoritism. Especially considering the possibility that God would make a universe for His own purposes/amusment as opposed to ours. Even if it was made for someone else's benefit than His, it still might not exist solely for us.

In which case, humans might be sacrificed here and there because it is necessary for the actual purpose of the universe, which might be goodness and justice for some other party.

Yay subjectivity!

Long live the King in Yellow!

Again with the Job: Justice for whom? I like you alot, but this place wasn't built for you, or you'd have been in it from the start.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on December 29, 2006, 01:18:04 am
Quote
Rather, one might become an atheist simply by weighing the available arguments in favour and against the various claims made concerning the existence of God.


And then what? Choosing one based on proof or on what they believe[/i] is the better argument (since the premises for said arguments cannot be proven one way or the other). Sounds suspiciously like faith to me.

Quote
Think about it. Is God Perfect? If so, then according to the main monotheistic religions, God must also be perfectly good. For him to lack this feature would be an imperfection. But God is perfect!


By that argument he's also perfectly evil. Agin, you're trying to assign human motives to the mind of God and say "see, I proved he can't exist because if I were in his shoes I'd do things differently." It can't work, no matter how many times you repeat it.

Quote
Would you instead agree that Christianity, Islam, and Judaism are committed to the view that God is all just?


Sure, but I won't agree that we can know exactly what the most just course of action is in any given circumstance, because we don't have infinite knowledge.

Quote
Guess what? Mutatis mutandis, the "problem of evil" argument still works! Simply substitute "all just" for "all good", and "unjust suffering" for "natural evil/suffering". Voila! The argument is still valid. (I also think it is sound, but arguing for this does not introduce anything new to the debate at this point.)


Guess What? It still fails unless you claim to fully understand the mind of God and know his every idea and motive.

Quote
Well, all this shows is that there are all kinds of inconsistencies in the main texts of the monotheistic religions. This is a point that I happily acknowledge, have already noted, and in no way undermines my overall position.


This is true. It in no way undermines your position that an idea of god which is not wildly held falls apart when you apply human motives to an infinite being. I'll definitely agree with you on that.

Quote
All I simply need a basic understanding of logic (inductive and deductive).


Really? Ok then, logically, what is best for me at this very moment? Not what you think is best, but what an infinite mind with infinite knowledge would know is best. State your answer clearly and prove your case. If you can't, then you can't claim that simply understanding the laws of logic lets you know when an infinite and supposedly all just god is or is not being unjust.

Quote
Sure it’s conceivable that all my beliefs about the external world and logic are false (maybe I’m being manipulated by an ‘evil demon’, or am trapped in ‘the Matrix’, or whatever). But I form beliefs on the basis of the best available evidence and arguments.

Including my belief about whether the God of Christianity exists. (Or Islam, etc.)


That's an awful lot of basis in belief[/i] for someone that doesn't think what they have is a faith.

Quote
But let’s say that I do decide to believe in God. What then? How do I decide whether to believe in the Christian God (Protestant or Catholic?), the Jewish God, the Muslim God, or some other kind of God? Do I use reason? If not, what am I to do?


If I had that answer I'd be peddling it and getting rich. I can't tell you what you should believe, all I can do is point out that belief without proof is faith.

Quote
No matter where you go, you need to adopt beliefs, as best you can, on the basis of reason. Including belief in God.


No I don't. I can abstain from that choice. I don't have to claim either way whether God (in whatever form) exists or not. I can avoid acting on Faith in the matter and simply go on with my life in blissful ignorance.

I'm done with the quote war. Obviously your faith in your argument is too strong. If you can't see that the problem of evil relies on unsubstantiated ideas of what things are and are not good and/or just then there's nothing that will shake your belief structure, or even open your eyes and show you that it is a belief structure (which is odd, since you constantly refer to it as such).

Please, if you can answer my question about what is best in terms of absolute good (or most just if you prefer) then do so. If you can't, then you have to realize that an argument which sets as its foundation "God wouldn't do that because it's bad" cannot work.

Quote
It is a valid argument! This cannot be disputed. Even religious (including Christian) philosophers and theologians recognise this.


Wait! Now I see! you're not saying it's right, just that it's logically sound. Yeah, I'll give you that.

Joe the Butcher wants what is best for his child
Joe the Butcher allows harm to come to his child
Joe the Butcher does not exist

That's the exact same argument. Sounds pretty stupid though, doesn't it? :)

Quote
In other words, this reply to the “problem of evil” argument requires faith, namely, faith that somehow, someway, God’s “master plan” will ultimately be justified.


you mean like the faith the argument requires? You know, that part where it says that somehow, someway the human formulating the argument knows that suffering is of necessity not good? ur funny

Quote
Faith, as I understand it, is belief without justification.


Aha! We've found another problem. You're not actually speaking the English language, just a close proximity to it. I did go ahead and actually define the word a couple of times, but I guess something more formal is required?

Faith: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/faith

1. confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another's ability.  
2. belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.

Quote
based on inductive, deductive, and abductive reasoning


And unprovable premises. :)

Please don't let that stuff distract you from explaining to me what is best so I know that your premises are sound though. :) And of course, I'd love some proven knowledge of what is best for me. That's gotta come in handy somewhere. :D
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: beejazz on December 29, 2006, 01:56:56 am
Dude, chill. He's not claiming to know what God wants because he's claiming God is fictional. Who the fuck knows the motives of a fictional being? The argument is not based on any objective, extant God, but on tenative accounts of said God which (admittedly) is about all we've got to work with.

If the argument is broken, it's in contradicting the most established accounts by making the claim of benevolence.

Athesim doesn't happen by extrapolating its beliefs as "anti (insert specific existing religion)." It's a belief that could stand on its own. This is why it would do better to argue for itself rather than against its peers.

Furthermore, specific issues concerning morality are more important than the presence or absence of a God. The former is arguable. The latter is inconsequencial as often as not.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on December 29, 2006, 02:04:10 am
Quote from: James McMurray
And then what? Choosing one based on proof or on what they believe[/i] is the better argument (since the premises for said arguments cannot be proven one way or the other). Sounds suspiciously like faith to me ….


Yet again, you keep appealing to some notion of ‘proof’.   I don’t know what you mean by this term, as it can mean different things depending on context (e.g. a ‘proof’ in mathematics or formal logic is completely different from the idea of a ‘burden of proof’ in legal reasoning), but I assume that you mean something like an argument that is ‘irrefutable’ or establishes ‘absolute’ knowledge.

But let me give you a little insight into epistemology: all of our beliefs about the external world are inductive in nature.  But we don’t believe whatever we want, do we?  I mean, we don’t believe that the existence of pixies is just as plausible as the existence of the sun, right?  Rather, we should -- if we are responsible reasoners -- determine what to believe on the basis of the strength of the available evidence.

Consequently, I believe in modern physics and not Aristotelian physics.  I believe in science and not magic.  I believe the earth is round and not flat.  And I believe that the God of Christianity (and Islam, etc.) does not exist, instead of believing that He does exist.  It’s simply a matter of comparing the available arguments in favour of different propositions about the external world.

To assert that a proposition needs an absolutely irrefutable argument (or ‘proof’, in your sense) in order to be a subject of justified belief or knowledge would render us with no beliefs about the external world at all.

Quote from: James McMurray

By that argument he's also perfectly evil.


No, because according to established religion evil is the absence of goodness.  (Sheesh, do I have to explain everything here?)  

Quote from: James McMurray

Again, you're trying to assign human motives to the mind of God and say "see, I proved he can't exist because if I were in his shoes I'd do things differently." It can't work, no matter how many times you repeat it…


You seem to think this is a strong argument.  I’m sorry, but it isn’t (despite being used by a lot by people).  I am only appealing to the attributes ascribed to God by the main monotheistic religions and well established facts about the world (e.g. the suffering of innocents).

Anyhow, if God was truly completely incomprehensible to us, why would anyone possibly worship Him?  We wouldn’t even know what God is, and thus what it would even mean to ‘worship Him’!

Consider this possible God: God in fact wants to be as evil as possible, and his commandments, actions, and statements in the Bible are all an elaborate practical joke.

Now, if you’re right, and God is truly completely incomprehensible, then we have no reason to believe that my ‘evil trickster God’ is any less possible than the traditional conception of God.

However, you’re simply wrong in claiming that the established religions assert that God is wholly incomprehensible to us.  In Christianity and Judaism at least, God created Man in His Image.  This suggests that we do resemble God in at least some limited ways.  Moreover, as I’ve already mentioned, the main monotheistic religions all make certain claims about God’s “state of mind”, namely, that He loves us, that He wants us to obey Him, that we have (at least some) knowledge of His moral law, etc.
 
So, not only is your own argument implausible in its own right, it is directly contradicted by what the main monotheistic religions assert.

 
Quote from: James McMurray

Guess What? It still fails unless you claim to fully understand the mind of God and know his every idea and motive.


Again, my argument doesn’t require me to ‘fully understand the mind of God and know his every idea and motive’.  I simply do not understand why you think this is a plausible argument against my overall position.

Quote from: James McMurray

Really? Ok then, logically, what is best for me at this very moment? …


I think I’ve already explained why this whole line of argument is not plausible.

Quote from: James McMurray

That's an awful lot of basis in belief[/i] for someone that doesn't think what they have is a faith.


See my earlier explanation regarding all of our beliefs about the external world.

What makes an inductive belief not an example of faith is that it is justified by the best available evidence and reasoning.  In contrast, faith requires belief inspite of evidence and reasoning (or positing something in the complete absence of evidence and reasoning).

Look, even religious people agree that some of the inductive beliefs that we have (e.g. ‘water is composed of H2O’) are very well justified -- and are fundamentally different from religious beliefs.  I hear from religious people all the time that they have ‘faith’, and that this is different form their other beliefs.  I’m willing to take them at their word: they assert that they hold beliefs that they cannot justify or rationally argue for.  I agree.  This is why I’m not religious -- I oppose adopting worldviews on the basis of faith.

Quote from: James McMurray

I'm done with the quote war. Obviously your faith in your argument is too strong.


Please explain to me why my argument involves ‘faith’ in any form.  

Quote from: James McMurray

 If you can't see that the problem of evil relies on unsubstantiated ideas of what things are and are not good and/or just then there's nothing that will shake your belief structure, or even open your eyes and show you that it is a belief structure (which is odd, since you constantly refer to it as such).


Nice cop out.  

And please see my earlier point about ‘belief’.  You keep equating ‘belief’ with ‘faith’.  

They are not the same thing!

Quote from: James McMurray

Please, if you can answer my question about what is best in terms of absolute good (or most just if you prefer) then do so. If you can't, then you have to realize that an argument which sets as its foundation "God wouldn't do that because it's bad" cannot work.


I have not idea what this means.

 
Quote from: James McMurray

Joe the Butcher wants what is best for his child
Joe the Butcher allows harm to come to his child
Joe the Butcher does not exist

That's the exact same argument. Sounds pretty stupid though, doesn't it? :)


No that’s not the ‘exact same argument’.  And yes, it is pretty stupid.  :)

Quote from: James McMurray

Faith: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/faith

1. confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another's ability.  
2. belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.


Nothing in that definition is in contradiction to what I have stated and argued.
 
Quote from: James McMurray

Please don't let that stuff distract you from explaining to me what is best so I know that your premises are sound though. :) And of course, I'd love some proven knowledge of what is best for me. That's gotta come in handy somewhere. :D


Premises are not sound or unsound.  Arguments are sound or unsound.  Premises are true or false.

That important point aside, I don’t know why you think I need “some proven knowledge of what is best for you” or what that has to do with anything I’ve argued.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on December 29, 2006, 02:14:23 am
Thanks for making an important point far more succinctly than I did, beejazz.  :)

Quote from: beejazz
... If the argument is broken, it's in contradicting the most established accounts by making the claim of benevolence...


I'm kind of surprised at the opposition that that premise is encountering in this thread.

Most of my Christian friends seem committed to the idea that God is perfect and therefore 'all good' (loving, etc.).  They're pretty unconventional Christians, admittedly, but my impression that this is certainly the 'standard view' among most Christians.  It is the official view of the Catholic Church, and certainly was the view espoused by my (Mennonite) church when I grew up.

But since I don't believe in the Christian God for many reasons (not just the 'problem of evil'), I don't have a horse in this race.  :)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: beejazz on December 29, 2006, 02:20:58 am
On your statement about evil, it's incorrect. Or, at least, doesn't mesh with the religions you're mentioning.

Evil isn't the absence of good. It's a choice to do something wrong.
Sin (from het, right?) is error.

Different explanations are giving depending on who you ask, from the idea of progressively faint emanations of divinity being responsible for progressively less divine realities to the idea of their being an actual opposing force to good and God. Others where they apply. Evil as the absence of good is hardly mainstream religion.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: beejazz on December 29, 2006, 02:24:53 am
Quote from: Akrasia
Thanks for making an important point far more succinctly than I did, beejazz.  :)



I'm kind of surprised at the opposition that that premise is encountering in this thread.

Most of my Christian friends seem committed to the idea that God is perfect and therefore 'all good' (loving, etc.).  They're pretty unconventional Christians, admittedly, but my impression that this is certainly the 'standard view' among most Christians.  It is the official view of the Catholic Church, and certainly was the view espoused by my (Mennonite) church when I grew up.

But since I don't believe in the Christian God for many reasons (not just the 'problem of evil'), I don't have a horse in this race.  :)


I'd maybe mitigate this with the tired cliche about always hurting the ones you love?

Would this be too cheesy?

One could also say that God is not omnipotent. There were bits of Genesis where it is implied that humans could actually pose a threat (if not to God, then to the whole divine plan or will).

In any case, with the exception of maybe omniscience (which I'll leave in there because I can think of no Biblical accounts to refute it), those assumptions are hardly set in stone.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on December 29, 2006, 02:43:50 am
Quote from: beejazz
On your statement about evil, it's incorrect. Or, at least, doesn't mesh with the religions you're mentioning.
...
 Evil as the absence of good is hardly mainstream religion.


Well, it is the official view of the Catholic Church.  Aquinas is quite explicit in describing evil as a 'privation', and the Church has since held that view.

The idea is that 'evil' is like 'coldness' -- the absence of 'goodness' or 'heat'.

You're right, though, that I may have been too quick in assuming that this is the standard view for all branches of Christianity, let alone Islam and Judaism.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on December 29, 2006, 02:45:35 am
Anyway, James and Spike (and others!), I wanted to apologise for the frequently condescending and obnoxious tone of my posts.  I sometimes get into a kind of 'snark mode' that isn't especially constructive.

:imsorry:

These are complicated issues, and I think that we've sometimes been arguing past each other (though, obviously, not always; we clearly disagree about certain fundamental matters).

Stepping back from the details of our exchange, my basic position is this.  All of our beliefs about the external world are inductive in nature (and thus fallible), but we should try to form our beliefs on the basis of the best arguments (evidence, explanations, etc.) available.  Some of our beliefs are very well justified (e.g. 'water is composed of H2O'), while others are not.  On the basis of rational reflection on the best evidence and arguments that we have concerning the existence of God, I think that we have strong reasons not to believe in the existence of the God posited by Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.  I also think that we have good reasons for rejecting belief in any supernatural entity, including other conceptions of God (but I think that these reasons are somewhat less compelling than those that we have for rejecting the traditional monotheistic conception of God).  These beliefs about God, though, are all based on my best attempt to critically and rationally evaluate the available arguments.  No 'faith' (unjustified belief) is involved.

Okay, okay ... enough of this for now.  No hard feelings, I hope.
 :joecool:

I'll be travelling and visiting with friends over the next few days, so my internet access will be limited.  However, I would be happy to discuss these matters (time permitting) after I get back to Dublin on January 2nd.

Good night, and good luck! :)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Hastur T. Fannon on December 29, 2006, 09:11:05 am
Quote from: beejazz
Evil as the absence of good is hardly mainstream religion.

Sorry mate, but it is. This (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evil#Judaeo-Christian_religions) is a fairly good start.  If you want I can also dig up stuff from the Roman Catholic Catechism

Here's (http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/programmes/misc/scripts/humphryswilliams.html) one of Rowan's partial responses to the Problem of Evil
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Spike on December 29, 2006, 12:18:42 pm
The problem we've all had with you, Akrasia can, and has been stated by a few of us, is that you are arguing an Atheism that is an 'anti-christianity'. This is flawed on two levels.

The first is that it presupposes that the belief structures of the Christians you've met are perfectly in line with what God must be, if He existed.  So, you are arguing about an infallible God from the perspectives of fallible human belief structures.

Second, and more importantly to me, is that  simply rejecting a single framework of beliefs does not somehow magically eliminate all beliefs.  I've pointed out two or three fairly large belief structures that are utterly beyond your 'problem of evil', and you've blown them off as irrelevant because you are not arguing atheism, you are arguing 'anti-christianity-as-I-Understand-it'...  And unassailable position, to be sure, just like my statement about the color of the sky.

Regretfully my internet time is limited during weekends for personal reasons, but it sounds like you won't be on either.   But I'll leave off with this: If you die and meet 'Doug' from the tone of your arguements you'd reject him even then as not meeting your stringent requirements for Diety-hood.  Convert to the worship of Doug, it's easy and so unstressful. Be content in the knowledge that your afterlife, for good or ill, will be short as Doug consumes your soul to make him stronger.  Maybe, if you are really really lucky, a part of your soul will be spit out and you'll reincarnate as a Pika :p
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on December 29, 2006, 01:09:09 pm
Spike, I have to get a train in a few hours, so here is a quick reply to something you said ...

Quote from: Spike
...  simply rejecting a single framework of beliefs does not somehow magically eliminate all beliefs.  I've pointed out two or three fairly large belief structures that are utterly beyond your 'problem of evil', and you've blown them off as irrelevant because you are not arguing atheism, you are arguing 'anti-christianity-as-I-Understand-it'...


Well, as I've stated many times already, one can only take on so many positions at once.  

I agree that the 'problem of evil' argument is aimed at a very specific target, viz., the three main monotheistic religions (as traditionally understood).  Since atheism includes rejecting those religions, it makes sense that I, as an atheist, would want to explain why (i.e. what reasons I have) for rejecting Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.

As for those other 'belief structures', tell me about them!  :)  I'd be happy to critically evaluate those on a case-by-case basis.  A single argument (as I've been at pains to explain many times already) can only do so much.  Fortunately, so long as arguments are mutually consistent and compatible, there is no limit to the number of rational arguments we can make!

In short, your expectations for a single argument strike me as unrealistic.  But I'll happily critically evaluate whatever other 'belief structures' you like!
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on December 29, 2006, 01:10:24 pm
Quote from: Hastur T. Fannon
... Here's (http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/programmes/misc/scripts/humphryswilliams.html) one of Rowan's partial responses to the Problem of Evil


Thanks for the link.  I hope to read it once I get settled back in Dublin.  :)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on December 29, 2006, 02:09:55 pm
Quote
Rather, we should -- if we are responsible reasoners -- determine what to believe on the basis of the strength of the available evidence.


Right, except for your acceptance of the problem of evil, which assumes the existence of evidence (God's knowable motives). That evidence is not only not present, it's not available via induction because all the evidence points the opposite direction.

Quote
To assert that a proposition needs an absolutely irrefutable argument (or ‘proof’, in your sense) in order to be a subject of justified belief or knowledge would render us with no beliefs about the external world at all.


I'm not talking about justified belief. Remember that bit about the English language? I'm using the English language to duscuss faith, not the Akrasian language to discuss it. If you insist on using your language can we get an online tranlator so I can run your posts through it?

Quote
No, because according to established religion evil is the absence of goodness. (Sheesh, do I have to explain everything here?)


Source?

Quote
Anyhow, if God was truly completely incomprehensible to us, why would anyone possibly worship Him?


Nice straw man. Who said he was completely incomprehensible? Presumably we can understand those parts that He deigns to explain.

Quote
Consider this possible God: God in fact wants to be as evil as possible, and his commandments, actions, and statements in the Bible are all an elaborate practical joke.

Now, if you’re right, and God is truly completely incomprehensible, then we have no reason to believe that my ‘evil trickster God’ is any less possible than the traditional conception of God.


Barring the BS about me saying "completely" you're absolutely right. It's possible that God is indeed a bastard that wants to screw with us through religion. What does that have to do with the problem of evil?

Quote
However, you’re simply wrong in claiming that the established religions assert that God is wholly incomprehensible to us.


No matter how many times you repeat it, it won't put the words in my mouth.

Quote
In Christianity and Judaism at least, God created Man in His Image. This suggests that we do resemble God in at least some limited ways.


An infant is "created" in the image of it's parents. do you claim that infants can know the minds of their parents?

Quote
Moreover, as I’ve already mentioned, the main monotheistic religions all make certain claims about God’s “state of mind”, namely, that He loves us, that He wants us to obey Him, that we have (at least some) knowledge of His moral law, etc.


True, but none of that says we can understand his motives. "God works in mysterious ways" is a tenet of many faiths. So while he may have created us in his image that doesn't give us insight into his mind.

Quote
So, not only is your own argument implausible in its own right, it is directly contradicted by what the main monotheistic religions assert.


Evidence? Beyond "I say so" of course. I'll need to see some actual religous practices stating that we can completely understand the mind of god enough to make the problem of evil a good argument.

Quote
Again, my argument doesn’t require me to ‘fully understand the mind of God and know his every idea and motive’. I simply do not understand why you think this is a plausible argument against my overall position.


Yes, it does. you're trying to assign motives to someone and use that assignment of motives as a basis for a logical argument. If it turns out your assignment of motives isn't valid then the entire argument crumbles.

Quote
I think I’ve already explained why this whole line of argument is not plausible.


Unfortunately you haven't. you've yet to see the simple fact that the problem of evil requires assignment of motives to a being whose motives cannot be understood. The religions that you say claim this even admit as much with saying such as "god works in myseterious ways" and "none can know the mind of God."

Quote
See my earlier explanation regarding all of our beliefs about the external world.


See my earlier rebuttal where that doesn't matter.

Quote
In contrast, faith requires belief inspite of evidence and reasoning (or positing something in the complete absence of evidence and reasoning).


There you go again, speaking Akrasian. The English dictionary disagrees with you. I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to stick with the language I know on this one. If you need to change definitions to avoid thinking you've got faith then by all means do it, but you'll avoid a lot of confusion if you pick a commonly used language and use it instead.

Quote
Look, even religious people agree that some of the inductive beliefs that we have (e.g. ‘water is composed of H2O’) are very well justified -- and are fundamentally different from religious beliefs. I hear from religious people all the time that they have ‘faith’, and that this is different form their other beliefs. I’m willing to take them at their word: they assert that they hold beliefs that they cannot justify or rationally argue for. I agree. This is why I’m not religious -- I oppose adopting worldviews on the basis of faith.


I thought we were discussing the problem of evil and your faith? do you want to change the topic to the validity of physics instead? I'll have to abstain from that particular topic, as otherwise I'll make a fool of myself pretty quickly.

Quote
Please explain to me why my argument involves ‘faith’ in any form.


I already did. Over and over and over and over and over again. Here we go though. I'll first restate the problem so I can handle it one point at a time:

1. If God exists (as understood by the main monotheistic religions), he is omniscient and omnipotent and omnibenevolent

-- I think we've shown that thatlast bit (omnibenevolent) is rubbish, but for argument's sake we'll leave it in.

2. If suffering exists, God cannot be omniscient & omnipotent & omnibenevolent (at most he can only be two of those things, e.g. he might be all-knowing and all-powerful, but not care about the existence of widespread suffering).

-- Here's where you draw on faith (by which I mean the English language version of belief without proof). You require faith because premise 2 has an unspoken premise attached to it.

2a. We can understand the universe and god's mind enough to know that suffering is never a requirement for the greater good.

3. We know suffering exists.

-- Agreed

4. Therefore God does not exist (i.e. any God that is omniscient & omnipotent & omnibenevolent).

-- Close. This should read "Therefore the God whose motives I believe in without proof does not exist."

Quote
They are not the same thing!


Unless you use the English language. :lol

Quote
I have not idea what this means.


It means that if you can't answer my question then you have to admit you cannot understand God's motives. English troubles again? :)

Quote
No that’s not the ‘exact same argument’. And yes, it is pretty stupid.


It's not? The problem of evil doesn't hinge on the fact that God allows suffering to come to his children? The Joe the Butcher argument doesn't hinge upon Joe allowing suffering to come to his child?

Quote
Nothing in that definition is in contradiction to what I have stated and argued.


Except the parts where you fail to prove the premises of the problem of evil and then state your belief in it isn't faith. :lol

Quote
Premises are not sound or unsound. Arguments are sound or unsound. Premises are true or false.


Nice dodge into semantics. You knew what I meant though. The premises in the problem of evil are unprovable, hence while the argument may be sound, using it as a basis for a world view requires belief without proof.

Quote
I don’t know why you think I need “some proven knowledge of what is best for you” or what that has to do with anything I’ve argued.


Because for the problem of evil to be a viable argument you have to be able to know what is nbest for everyone at all times. If you don't know that, then you don't know that suffering is never what's best for you. And if you don't know that then the leap from 3 to 4 is a bad one.

Quote from: Spike
The problem we've all had with you, Akrasia can, and has been stated by a few of us, is that you are arguing an Atheism that is an 'anti-christianity'. This is flawed on two levels.


That's not my problem. I can see that the problem of evil is just one basis for the faith of atheism. My problem is the outright refusal to understand thhat the argument requires belief without proof in regards to God's motives, and is therefor an argument that is based on faith.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: RPGPundit on December 29, 2006, 03:02:43 pm
Akrasia, let me mirror Spike's comments that I find it deeply annoying that you seem to be equating "I can poke holes into certain very specific christian theologies" to meaning "I can prove God doesn't exist!!".

They're not the same thing, and it makes it seem like you either have a very personal beef in all this (some resentment from your mennonite childhood perhaps?) or like you're just woefully uneducated (which none of my previous experience with you would seem to imply). Its just bad rhetoric.

It also highlites my point that most self-titled "atheists" are really "anti-religionists" with a militant streak that are as dogmatic as the religionists they oppose.

RPGPundit
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: RPGPundit on December 29, 2006, 03:05:03 pm
Quote from: James McMurray
Right, except for your acceptance of the problem of evil, which assumes the existence of evidence (God's knowable motives). That evidence is not only not present, it's not available via induction because all the evidence points the opposite direction.

Yes, Augustine expresses this very colourfully with his example; that a Father might hit a boy, and a pederast might kiss one, but the former hits him out of love, while the latter kisses him with sinful intent; but to an outsider merely seeing the two actions, they might misinterpret the first as an "evil" act and the second as a "good" act.

Of course, this from the guy who married a 10 year old girl. Ah, those crazy fathers o' the church...

RPGPundit
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Spike on December 29, 2006, 03:09:21 pm
Quote from: Akrasia

As for those other 'belief structures', tell me about them!  :)  I'd be happy to critically evaluate those on a case-by-case basis.  A single argument (as I've been at pains to explain many times already) can only do so much.  Fortunately, so long as arguments are mutually consistent and compatible, there is no limit to the number of rational arguments we can make!

In short, your expectations for a single argument strike me as unrealistic.  But I'll happily critically evaluate whatever other 'belief structures' you like!



Well, I've already named them, but I'll do it again.

Buddism is most definitely NOT a J/C faith, yet it seems to dwell exactly on the 'problem of evil'... that is the belief structure seems to exist to explain and understand why suffering exists in the world. There isn't even a creator diety to point too, yet I would argue, and expect agreement from most everyone, that you could not be a believer of buddism AND an atheist. Yet, Buddism is the third largest faith in the world by most counts.  

You have lumped Islam into J/C faiths, yet according to the Quran, as I've stated before, God is is not benevolent, any more than old testament Jewish God was, perhaps less.   Allah causes it all to happen, and it isn't the believers place to understand why, only to accept that everything, even to their decision to accept it or not, is God's will.  If the faithful has doubts, God put those doubts there.  

That is just a literal reading of the Suras, of course, but it is a fact that many Muslims are incredibly fatalistic in their outlook. Inshallah, brother. God willing.  

The point is, such a perspective on God, Allah if you will, suggests that the creator is not the source of all that is Good and that evil exists some how despite Him, but rather that God is neither Good nor Evil, but GOD, and all things are His will. No problem of Evil there, it is Gods will that it exists, period.  It isn't even a debate from a traditionalist perspective.  Now, wether or not Islamic philosophers debated the reasons God allows for evil and suffering and non-believers is another matter, the belief structure, the written word of God makes it plain.  And while Jews and Christians may claim the bible is the word of God, Islam KNOWS it is, transmitted to the prophet verbatim by the Archangel Gabriel.   So, God Himself, in Islam, said 'I did it all, don't you never mind why' and that is the end of the story.  Now, we can debate the validity of various beliefs, but simply claiming the followers think God is benevolent doesn't touch on the.... er... facts of the case, as it were.

Then there comes the Hindu faith, where the 'Gods' are neither omnisecient nor omnipotent.  Now, I gather you would dismiss them as 'not godly enough', based on earlier comments about 'powerful aliens not worthy of worship', but to be honest, most of humanity worshipped similar gods long before monotheism ever popped into the scene, and even earlier takes on monotheism (including Old testament God) weren't always 'all powerful'. The God of the jews wasn't originally 'all powerful' meaning he could do anything and everything, he was 'All Powerful' becuase he could do all the things other Gods could by himself.  Need a love God? Not really, God can do it. Need a War God? Same deal.   Over time that evolved from 'general purpose God' to 'All powerful creator of everything'.   Hell, the way I read it, God never denies the existance of other Gods, he doesn't want HIS people worshipping them 'cause he is a Jealous God.  

Now, if I really REALLY wanted to, I'm sure I could frame an arguement based in rational thought that was an arguement for Atheism over irrational supersitious beliefs that wasn't dependent upon the Dogma's and Doctrines of any given church. Inclusive. I don't care enough to do so.  I just think that if you base your atheism purely on the rejection of a single faith it's a damned hollow atheism indeed.



As a post script:  If you really want to twist your head around on other belief structures that explain your 'problem of Evil' read up on Gnostic beliefs.   That is early Christian beliefs that were ousted by the dominant church, and they very handily discuss your issues as well.  To sum up? (and recall that there were many branches with different beliefs...)

God created everything, a pure, perfect realm of creation. Sophia (wisdom) bore a child and hid it from God, called the Demiurge. The Demiurge created the mortal world, but because he is not God, and not perfect, the world is flawed.  True spiritual enlightenment takes you from this flawed world of suffereing through Sophia (wisdom) into the pure spiritual realms of the true God.  

Mind you that is just a very rough outline (and the Pundit could probably assrape my description eight ways from sunday), and MY sample doesn't discuss why a perfect creator god allows the flawed Demiurge to exist.  But then, I'm not an expert on Gnostic beliefs either.  Now, if you suggest that a less than all knowing/allpowerful/all benevolent diety is unworthy of worship as a God, perhaps your standards are too high. ;)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on December 29, 2006, 03:31:25 pm
Even Christian belief structures (the honest ones anyway) don't claim that God is omnibenevolent (at least not in the way that would require suffering be abolished). The idea that God allowed suffering (Christ on the cross) for a greater good (salvation of mankind) shows that He believes suffering to be necessary at times.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Gunslinger on December 29, 2006, 05:25:37 pm
Akrasia, I think my problem with the "argument of evil" is that it's an argument that exists in a philosophical vacuum.  Your perceptions of your God are this, if these are true, your God cannot exist.  It's an infallible argument with no objective evidence to support or detract from it.  Science is the application of logic that measures perception over time.  Science has not proven or disproven the existence of a God.  There is no conceivable way at this time that scientists can measure a definable attribute of a God.  It's hard for me to believe that a logical argument has proven the non-existence of a God when the Scientific Method which is an application of logic has not.  

Akrasia, please clarify if I'm misunderstanding the secondary argument.  You are an atheist.  You claim that atheism doesn't require faith.  Don't worry I won't define faith for the third time but I will define atheist because I had to look it up to make sure I hadn't been using it wrong the entire discussion.  

atheist - a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings.

What I think me and others have been trying to say, it requires as much faith to not believe in a supreme being than to believe in one because they are still both valid theories.  With no evidence that discredits either theory you have to have faith that your belief is true.  The individual that cannot determine whether a supreme being exists or not, is not an atheist.  

Quote from: Akrasia
Anyway, James and Spike (and others!), I wanted to apologise for the frequently condescending and obnoxious tone of my posts. I sometimes get into a kind of 'snark mode' that isn't especially constructive.

No worries, I expect it from philosophers.  ;)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Levi Kornelsen on December 29, 2006, 06:47:52 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
Very roughly, the ‘problem of evil’ argument states:

1. If God exists (as understood by the main monotheistic religions), he is omniscient and omnipotent and omnibenevolent
2. If suffering exists, God cannot be omniscient & omnipotent & omnibenevolent (at most he can only be two of those things, e.g. he might be all-knowing and all-powerful, but not care about the existence of widespread suffering).
3. We know suffering exists.
4. Therefore God does not exist (i.e. any God that is omniscient & omnipotent & omnibenevolent).

It is clearly a valid argument (if the premises are true, the conclusion must be true). Whether it is sound depends on the truth of its premises. Presumably religious folk dispute the truth of premise 2.


No.

Because you missed a premise:

2.5: An omnibenevolent entity would, by their very nature, view the removal of suffering as a greater priority than any side-effect of said removal.

And that's where the strongest counter-argument lies; that a necessary side-effect of removing suffering might also be to remove meaningful choice, and that an omnibenevolent entity might actually value the capacity for meaningful choice to be vastly more than the value for a humanity that does not suffer.

See C.S. Lewis in "The Problem of Pain" for a much better-phrased version of this argument.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on December 29, 2006, 08:26:33 pm
Yeah, what he said. Which is what I said, but phrased better. :)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Yamo on December 30, 2006, 05:59:46 am
Why all this talk about the hypothetical properties of a diety when none of it is testable and falsafiable?
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: GRIM on December 30, 2006, 07:49:06 am
Quote from: Yamo
Why all this talk about the hypothetical properties of a diety when none of it is testable and falsafiable?


Many faiths do make testable claims, other alleged deity properties are testable in the realm of logic.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on December 30, 2006, 02:44:25 pm
Quote from: Yamo
Why all this talk about the hypothetical properties of a diety when none of it is testable and falsafiable?


Because Akrasia claims to have falsified one of those hypothetical deities.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Dominus Nox on January 01, 2007, 05:27:49 am
It's true that you can NOT disprove the existence of god, any god from Marduk to allah, but then again you can NOT disprove the flying spaghetti monster, the invisible pink unicorn, etc.

One of the things I like about aethiests is that they can't/don't claim that their actions are justified by some invisble magic giant, or that they can do ahything they want, then ask their invisible magic giant for forgiveness and suddenly it's all OK, and now the person who they wronged must forgive them "or else" on juddgement day. Yes, I've known religious people with that type of attitude, and  it really sucks.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Kyle Aaron on January 01, 2007, 06:03:16 am
Quote from: Yamo
Why all this talk about the hypothetical properties of a diety when none of it is testable and falsafiable?

Well, if it were testable, then there wouldn't be so much to talk about. It's discussed, because discussion is all we can do about it.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Hastur T. Fannon on January 01, 2007, 06:05:04 am
Quote from: JimBobOz
Well, if it were testable, then there wouldn't be so much to talk about.


If it was testable, it wouldn't be God.  "The Tao that can be spoken of is not the true Tao" and all that...
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 01, 2007, 08:31:45 am
Quote from: James McMurray
Right, except for your acceptance of the problem of evil, which assumes the existence of evidence (God's knowable motives). That evidence is not only not present, it's not available via induction because all the evidence points the opposite direction…

This makes no sense.  What do you mean “all the evidence points the opposite direction”?

Anyhow, you keep harping on the notion that the ‘problem of evil’ argument requires complete knowledge of God’s mind (or motives, or whatever).

I’m sorry, but this is simply false.  I’ve taught this argument for many years to first year students at Stanford University and Trinity College, and they seem to grasp this fact after it is explained clearly a few times.  Why are you having such a hard time with it?

Look, I’ll try one more time.

The argument posits only the following:

1.  The established monotheistic religions (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism) all attribute certain attributes to God (aspects of God’s mind/plan that He has ‘deigned to explain’).

2.  Suffering exists.

That is it!

The reason why the ‘problem of evil’ is such a compelling argument -- an argument taken seriously by religious philosophers and theologians throughout the centuries -- is because it operates on the basis of the very same conception of God that they endorse.

Nobody -- seriously, James, nobody -- who has struggled with this argument, religious or anti-religious, has claimed that it requires complete knowledge of the mind of God.  

Quote from: James McMurray
Presumably we can understand those parts that He deigns to explain.
Quote from: James McMurray
… you've yet to see the simple fact that the problem of evil requires assignment of motives to a being whose motives cannot be understood.

You’re contradicting yourself here.

Look, as I have explained many times already, the main monotheistic religions all claim that God HAS ‘deigned to explain’ some of his motives.

So sorry pal, you can’t have it both ways.  And the “problem of evil” argument works ONLY with those ‘motives’ that the main monotheistic religions all claim that God has revealed.

Quote from: James McMurray
do you want to change the topic to the validity of physics instead? I'll have to abstain from that particular topic, as otherwise I'll make a fool of myself pretty quickly.

You’ve already demonstrated a remarkable ignorance of basic logic, philosophy, and theology.  Why should you be shy of doing so with regard to physics as well?

(Yes, that was petty.  But I’m growing weary of your inability to understand basic logic.)

Quote from: James McMurray
It's not?

The ‘problem of evil’ argument is a reductio ad absurdum.  The argument you wrote is not.

Quote from: James McMurray
Because for the problem of evil to be a viable argument you have to be able to know what is nbest for everyone at all times.

You keep saying this.  And it keeps being FALSE. :rolleyes:

If this point made any sense, I can assure you that Aquinas, Al-Gazli, Leibniz, Maimonides, et al., would have made it already.  Sorry, James, but you're not smarter than those guys.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 01, 2007, 08:39:41 am
Quote from: RPGPundit
Akrasia, let me mirror Spike's comments that I find it deeply annoying that you seem to be equating "I can poke holes into certain very specific christian theologies" to meaning "I can prove God doesn't exist!!". ...

And let me mirror my comment (already made many times):

Quote from: Akrasia
 ... I agree that the 'problem of evil' argument is aimed at a very specific target, viz., the three main monotheistic religions (as traditionally understood).  Since atheism includes rejecting those religions, it makes sense that I, as an atheist, would want to explain why (i.e. what reasons I have) for rejecting Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.

As for those other 'belief structures', tell me about them!  :)  I'd be happy to critically evaluate those on a case-by-case basis.  A single argument (as I've been at pains to explain many times already) can only do so much.  Fortunately, so long as arguments are mutually consistent and compatible, there is no limit to the number of rational arguments we can make!

In short, your expectations for a single argument strike me as unrealistic.  But I'll happily critically evaluate whatever other 'belief structures' you like!

Edit: Anyhow, I'm happy to give you other arguments!  I've provided one downstream.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 01, 2007, 08:46:35 am
Quote from: Levi Kornelsen
No.

Because you missed a premise:

2.5: An omnibenevolent entity would, by their very nature, view the removal of suffering as a greater priority than any side-effect of said removal.

And that's where the strongest counter-argument lies; that a necessary side-effect of removing suffering might also be to remove meaningful choice, and that an omnibenevolent entity might actually value the capacity for meaningful choice to be vastly more than the value for a humanity that does not suffer.

See C.S. Lewis in "The Problem of Pain" for a much better-phrased version of this argument.


Nice try Levi, but I already dealt with this argument when I explained why the "free will" defense does not provide an adequate refutation to the "problem of evil" argument.

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".
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 01, 2007, 08:52:39 am
Quote from: James McMurray
Source?


I can't be arsed to dig through my Aquinas books or track this down, but fortunately a useful link has already been provided:

Quote from: Hastur T. Fannon
Sorry mate, but it is. This (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evil#Judaeo-Christian_religions) is a fairly good start.  If you want I can also dig up stuff from the Roman Catholic Catechism ...
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 01, 2007, 09:56:50 am
Quote from: Spike
... I just think that if you base your atheism purely on the rejection of a single faith it's a damned hollow atheism indeed...

I’ve already said a million times in this thread (okay, maybe only 3) that the ‘problem of evil’ argument is NOT the only argument why I am an atheist.  

I merely mentioned it as an example (one argument among many) to help illustrate why atheism requires no faith.

I could have also explained why, for example, the Buddhist conception of the self/soul is incoherent, why the Christian/Jewish/Islamic conception of omnipotence (‘If God can do anything, can He create a better God than Himself?’) is incoherent, and so forth.  

But given how badly the ‘problem of evil’ argument has been misunderstood or mangled in this thread, I’m somewhat relieved that I didn’t.  

Not to mention the fact that I just don’t have that much time to waste.  (But I do have some … :))

Quote from: Spike
Well, I've already named them, but I'll do it again….

Yeah, yeah, I’m well aware that there are other religions out there.  I was curious what, specifically were the beliefs you wanted me to address.  I had hoped that the reason for this would be obvious, given what I’ve explained about the nature of arguments.

Also, I find some of the comments that you make about particular religions (especially Islam) highly implausible, or at least subject to serious debate (your account of morality in Islam ultimately reduces to the rather pathetic resolution found in the book of Job -- “Might Makes Right” -- something Islamic philosophers like Ibn Tufayl found highly unsatisfactory).  But frankly, I just can’t be arsed to get into that here, since I think Islam is hopelessly implausible for too many reasons to even begin discussing here.

So anyhow, here is a pretty general argument.

We have two possible explanations for everything in universe:

1.  An explanation that relies on a purely naturalist ontology (i.e. an explanation that posits solely a ‘naturalistic’ or ‘physicalist’ metaphysics; nothing exists that cannot, ultimately, be explained by the ‘laws of nature’).

2. An explanation that combines a naturalist and supernaturalist ontology (i.e. an explanation that posits supernatural entities, such as God or gods, angels, souls, pixies, or whatever, in addition to everything else).

Do we have any reason for preferring 2 over 1?

Well, to make a long but pretty straightforward story short, no. Engaging in some basic, very general abductive reasoning, we can see that 1 is all we need.  So we have no reason to go around positing the existence of unicorns, pixies, or gods.  (Actually, a stronger argument exists that naturalist and supernaturalist explanations are fundamentally incompatible, but I won’t get into that here.)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 01, 2007, 10:01:42 am
Quote from: JimBobOz
Well, if it were testable, then there wouldn't be so much to talk about. It's discussed, because discussion is all we can do about it.


That also seems to be true of string theory, but that shouldn't prevent us from using all the tools of reason at our disposal in evaluating the theory under consideration.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 01, 2007, 10:11:18 am
Quote from: James McMurray
Even Christian belief structures (the honest ones anyway) don't claim that God is omnibenevolent (at least not in the way that would require suffering be abolished). The idea that God allowed suffering (Christ on the cross) for a greater good (salvation of mankind) shows that He believes suffering to be necessary at times.

IF God is concerned with the 'greater good' he is benevolent -- and if He is concerned with the 'greater good' of everything, he is omnibenevolent.

But if He can not realise the 'greater good' without causing suffering (babies born with painful spinalcord disorders and then dying after a few weeks of intense agony; people dying slowing with cancer; etc.), then He's not omnipotent.

For crying out loud, you guys think that the 'problem of evil' argument is weak, but can't even make a point without contradicting yourselves!  No wonder you're having so many problems with basic logic.
:rolleyes:
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: HinterWelt on January 01, 2007, 10:35:36 am
Quote from: Akrasia
IF God is concerned with the 'greater good' he is benevolent -- and if He is concerned with the 'greater good' of everything, he is omnibenevolent.

But if He can not realise the 'greater good' without causing suffering (babies born with painful spinalcord disorders and then dying after a few weeks of intense agony; people dying slowing with cancer; etc.), then He's not omnipotent.

For crying out loud, you guys who think that the 'problem of evil' argument is weak, but can't even make a point without contradicting yourselves!  No wonder you're having so many problems with basic logic.
:rolleyes:

If you take a picture of a parent punishing a child and show it to a stranger with no context, the stranger will come to the conclusion that the parent is evil. The Parent is punishing the child for running in the road with out looking. The Child does not do so again, saving his life. The Parent's actions are good, but without understanding the context, the viewer cannot understand the situation.

For the goal of a greater good, God allows suffering.

Personally, I think the Omnibenevolent conclusion is unsupported. God did a fair amount of punishment, pain and destruction throughout the Old Testament.

In the end, you have a supernatural sky fairy that you can neither prove nor disprove. I am sorry you are so committed to disproving God but there is no way to do so definitively. The argument of evil, much like the argument of contradictions in the bible, are based on a desire to disprove God against a faith in God's existence. The argument with such people is futile even if it was sound.

Bill
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 01, 2007, 11:24:14 am
Quote from: HinterWelt
If you take a picture of a parent punishing a child and show it to a stranger with no context, the stranger will come to the conclusion that the parent is evil. The Parent is punishing the child for running in the road with out looking. The Child does not do so again, saving his life. The Parent's actions are good, but without understanding the context, the viewer cannot understand the situation.

For the goal of a greater good, God allows suffering.

What part of omnipotence do you not understand? :confused:

If God is really 'all powerful', then He could accomplish his goals (viz. making sure that the Child does not make the same mistake again) without suffering.

Isn't that something that an all powerful creator could do?  If not, then he's not 'all powerful'!

Quote from: HinterWelt
... Personally, I think the Omnibenevolent conclusion is unsupported. God did a fair amount of punishment, pain and destruction throughout the Old Testament...

Um, yeah.

The whole question is how this 'pain and destruction' is compatible with God's goodness -- which is asserted in both the OT & NT.

This whole line of discussion is somewhat ridiculous.  :rolleyes:

Feel free to ask you local rabbi, priest, imam, or reverend whether they think God is perfectly good.  

Quote from: HinterWelt
I am sorry you are so committed to disproving God but there is no way to do so definitively.

I'm not trying to 'disprove' 'definitively' anything.

I'm trying to show that, sans faith, the most rational thing to believe is that there is no God (in the Christian/Jewish/Islamic sense).  

Quote from: HinterWelt
The argument with such people is futile even if it was sound.

A sound argument is, well, TRUE.  (All premises are true + valid argument = TRUTH.)

Given that there are people who still believe that the earth is flat, etc., I do not doubt that even sound argument can fail to convince.  

But people are often extremely stupid.  :(
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 01, 2007, 12:02:22 pm
Quote from: Gunslinger
Akrasia, I think my problem with the "argument of evil" is that it's an argument that exists in a philosophical vacuum.


Given that the most important Christian, Islamic, and Jewish philosophers for many centuries have considered this a very challenging argument against their religious convictions,  I don't think that it 'exists in a philosophical vacuum'.

It has been a part of those religious traditions for centuries.

Quote from: Gunslinger

Science has not proven or disproven the existence of a God.


Science has also not proven or disproven the existence of Zeus, Odin, or invisible pixies.

So what?  My argument has to do with rational belief in light of available evidence.

Quote from: Gunslinger

It's hard for me to believe that a logical argument has proven the non-existence of a God when the Scientific Method which is an application of logic has not.  


Gunslinger, you're positing a contrast here that does not exist.

Do you consider string theory a 'scientific theory'?  Well, if you do, I have rather distressing news.  It cannot be verified by standard scientific methods.  Rather we must rely logic and rational principles to evaluate it.  

But ... the same is true of the scientific method itself.   :eek:

Quote from: Gunslinger

  You claim that atheism doesn't require faith...


No more than the scientific method!  

:D
(Unlike Christianity, or Islam or... etc., which require belief despite, and often inspite, of  evidence)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: RPGPundit on January 01, 2007, 12:05:32 pm
The point, Akrasia, is that the religious answer to the "problem of evil" is provided by Augustine. Oh, and by Job...

You cannot know what is good or evil from god's point of view. God is beyond you.  Who the fuck are you to presume to know why?

You are saying that "omnipotent" and "omnibenevolent" mean that God should act the way you think he should, and that's no different than an ant thinking God should act the way the ant thinks he should. Or a worm. Or Nox.

Our capacity to understand is limited by our condition as human beings.

Hell, a MUCH better argument against Judeo-christianity than the "problem of evil" argument is the fact that in Judeo-christianity God acts all too human.

In any case, your choosing this as your personal Alamo is not looking well on you; you say you aren't but it still looks as though you're gloatingly arguing that by having disproven the Judeo-christian god (which you haven't, incidentally), you are somehow disproving God. Precisely the kind of attitude I was talking about when I talked about "fanatical atheists".

Its a pretty obvious example of irrationality to believe that you can somehow absolutely know that God does not exist.  Its what in certain circles is called "stupid atheism".  Its just as dogmatic as Christianity, and usually born of a deep-seated resentment to having had to go to Sunday school or not being allowed meat on friday, or having been spanked by a nun or fondled by a priest or something...

RPGPundit
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: HinterWelt on January 01, 2007, 12:05:49 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
What part of omnipotence do you not understand? :confused:

If God is really 'all powerful', then He could accomplish his goals (viz. making sure that the Child does not make the same mistake again) without suffering.

Isn't that something that an all powerful creator could do?  If not, then he's not 'all powerful'!



Um, yeah.

The whole question is how this 'pain and destruction' is compatible with God's goodness -- which is asserted in both the OT & NT.

This whole line of discussion is somewhat ridiculous.  :rolleyes:

Feel free to ask you local rabbi, priest, imam, or reverend whether they think God is perfectly good.  



I'm not trying to 'disprove' 'definitively' anything.

I'm trying to show that, sans faith, the most rational thing to believe is that there is no God (in the Christian/Jewish/Islamic sense).  



A sound argument is, well, TRUE.  (All premises are true + valid argument = TRUTH.)

Given that there are people who still believe that the earth is flat, etc., I do not doubt that even sound argument can fail to convince.  

But people are often extremely stupid.  :(

Sigh. This is like arguing with a fundamentalist. All your premises are true to you. Your faith in these statements makes your argument correct.

Let me point out the base problem with and example from above.

You equate Good = Omnibenevolent. These are not equivalent. One can be good without be good without being Onmibenevolent. That term even bugs me. All Benevolent? If a creature is omnipotent and omniscient his motives are beyond our capabilities to understand. You obviously reject this line of reasoning.

So, without faith, the very concept of God is moot. So why the hell do you care? I have read this thread and the pathetic article and it has all left me rather cold. I do not believe in the Christian God nor do I care if others do. I do not need to validate my beliefs by disproving someone else's faith.

Sad.

Bill
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 01, 2007, 12:23:22 pm
Quote from: RPGPundit
The point, Akrasia, is that the religious answer to the "problem of evil" is provided by Augustine. Oh, and by Job...

You cannot know what is good or evil from god's point of view. God is beyond you.  Who the fuck are you to presume to know why?
...
Our capacity to understand is limited by our condition as human beings…


Yes, yes, how tireseome.

Pundit, you’re not paying attention.   I already dispatched this argument.  

Here:
Quote from: Akrasia
Well, we do have evidence of widespread suffering in the world.  The argument claims that this suffering is incompatible with God, as traditionally conceived by Christians, Muslims, and Jews.

Now, we are limited, fallible human beings.  So perhaps the argument fails for some reason that I cannot comprehend.

But I should form my beliefs on the basis of the best arguments and evidence available.  This is certainly  compatible with recognising that I have limited evidence and cognitive abilities.


At least you and James share one thing: your amazing ability to ignore what I write.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 01, 2007, 12:25:32 pm
Quote from: RPGPundit

Hell, a MUCH better argument against Judeo-christianity than the "problem of evil" argument is the fact that in Judeo-christianity God acts all too human. ] …


I quite agree that that is a good argument.

As I’ve said many times: arguments are not mutually exclusive!

Why did you ever think otherwise? :confused:
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 01, 2007, 12:34:09 pm
Quote from: RPGPundit

In any case, your choosing this as your personal Alamo is not looking well on you … having been spanked by a nun or fondled by a priest or something...


Vulgar Ad hominem arguments reflect poorly on you, Pundit.

I have nothing against religious folk, if they’re willing to discuss their views rationally.  One of the reasons I take Catholics so seriously, and bother to read Aquinas, is precisely because they are concerned with reason and its challenges to their faith.

And the religious people I respect the most all acknowledge that faith is not something that I have, and that it involves work, and worry/
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: RPGPundit on January 01, 2007, 12:38:11 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
Yes, yes, how tireseome.

Now, we are limited, fallible human beings. So perhaps the argument fails for some reason that I cannot comprehend.

But I should form my beliefs on the basis of the best arguments and evidence available. This is certainly compatible with recognising that I have limited evidence and cognitive abilities.


If your evidence and cognitive abilities were just a wee bit higher, then maybe you'd recognize that the human brain is far too small to be able to comprehend EVERYTHING, and that therefore making moral judgements on the definition of what would be "good" actions or "nongood" actions on a supposed all-powerful entity is a pretty asinine thing to do.

Your argument there doesn't "answer" the issue of god's omnipotence, it is just you ignoring reality in the face of your own defeat.  Its like saying "well yes, I realize that I cannot possibly have the strength to stop the sun from setting, but I'm going to go out and do it anyways because its logical for me to attempt it with as much strength as I can muster".  In fact, the logical thing would be for you to realize that its beyond you.

This is why fanatical atheists are NOT in fact any more rational human beings than the Christians they get their panties so in a knot about.  They're as desperate to prove that god doesn't exist for the sake of their own self-worth as Christians are to prove that god does.

RPGPundit
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: RPGPundit on January 01, 2007, 12:40:08 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
I quite agree that that is a good argument.

As I’ve said many times: arguments are not mutually exclusive!

Why did you ever think otherwise? :confused:


I never suggested they were. But your triumphalist attitude continues to suggest that you've somehow accomplished something and defeated any notion of the possibility of god existing ever, just by rehashing that old chestnut of the "problem of evil". Its pretty silly, frankly. The sort of thing I'd expect from a very pretentious 1st-year university student.

RPGPundit
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: RPGPundit on January 01, 2007, 12:41:36 pm
Quote from: Akrasia


And the religious people I respect the most all acknowledge that faith is not something that I have, and that it involves work, and worry/


You appear to have a tremendous amount of faith in the non-existence of god.

RPGPundit
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 01, 2007, 12:47:16 pm
Quote from: HinterWelt
This is like arguing with a fundamentalist. All your premises are true to you. Your faith in these statements makes your argument correct.  


Well, in addition to Christian philosophers like Augustine, Aquinas, Leibniz, Ockham, and so forth.  Yeah, I'm the 'fundamentalist'!  :rolleyes:

Look, Bill, Christians, Jews, and Muslims have also shared my 'premises' throughout history.  

I've had good discussins with them.

Quote from: HinterWelt

You equate Good = Omnibenevolent. These are not equivalent.


I agree.  But while I hate repeating myself, if God is perfect, then he is perfectly good.  Jews, Christians, and Muslims all agree on that.  Go back and read earlier posts for more information ...

Quote from: HinterWelt

I do not need to validate my beliefs by disproving someone else's faith.


Well, if you believe x, and someone else believes not-x, then there is simply no fucking way to 'validate' your belief in x without disproving the belief in not-x.

Example:

"Do you belive that the sun goes around the earth, or that the earth goes around the sun?"

Validate your belief by invalidating the other.

Quote from: HinterWelt

Sad.


Your grasp of logic, Bill.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 01, 2007, 12:51:38 pm
Quote from: RPGPundit
You appear to have a tremendous amount of faith in the non-existence of god.

RPGPundit


No ...  :confused:
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 01, 2007, 01:03:56 pm
Quote from: RPGPundit
I never suggested they were. But your triumphalist attitude continues to suggest that you've somehow accomplished something and defeated any notion of the possibility of god existing ever, just by rehashing that old chestnut of the "problem of evil". Its pretty silly, frankly. The sort of thing I'd expect from a very pretentious 1st-year university student.

RPGPundit


Given the lameness of the answers to the "problem of evil" argument (and your own rather surprisingly weak posts on the topic; didn't you achieve a Masters or something on this topic?), I have to say that the 'triumphalist' attitude is not unwarranted.

But, as I have been at fucking pains over an over again to explain, it is not the only fucking argument around.  

If people hadn't continually made arses of themselves in trying to refute it with sophomoric responses, we could have moved on by now.
:pundit:
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 01, 2007, 01:18:19 pm
Quote from: RPGPundit
If your evidence and cognitive abilities were just a wee bit higher, then maybe you'd recognize that the human brain is far too small to be able to comprehend EVERYTHING, and that therefore making moral judgements on the definition of what would be "good" actions or "nongood" actions on a supposed all-powerful entity is a pretty asinine thing to do.

Wow.  Missing the point ... big time ... you need to read James' sophomoric posts on this same topic (charming in 19 year olds... but ...) :rolleyes:

The whole point of the problem of evil is that, given what we know about the world and what the main monotheistic religions tell us about God, a loving God does not look likely to be on the cards.

This is compatible with recognising human limitations.

I mean, we don’t need to know EVERYTHING in order to know that string theory is more likely true than Aristotelian physics!  (

Quote from: RPGPundit

Your argument there doesn't "answer" the issue of god's omnipotence, it is just you ignoring reality in the face of your own defeat.  Its like saying "well yes, I realize that I cannot possibly have the strength to stop the sun from setting, but I'm going to go out and do it anyways because its logical for me to attempt it with as much strength as I can muster".  In fact, the logical thing would be for you to realize that its beyond you.

Um ... no.  In fact, this makes no fucking sense.  :pundit:

Quote from: RPGPundit

This is why fanatical atheists are NOT in fact any more rational human beings than the Christians they get their panties so in a knot about.  They're as desperate to prove that god doesn't exist for the sake of their own self-worth as Christians are to prove that god does.

RPGPundit

This is bullshit, tiresome ad hominem crap.   When you have to resort to this, you should know that your position is weak

Give me arguments!  Give me logic.

(Good luck!)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: RPGPundit on January 01, 2007, 01:41:52 pm
Quote from: Akrasia

I agree.  But while I hate repeating myself, if God is perfect, then he is perfectly good.  


Yes, but you aren't. And therefore, cannot know what "perfectly good" even looks like.


RPGPundit
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: RPGPundit on January 01, 2007, 01:46:01 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
Given the lameness of the answers to the "problem of evil" argument (and your own rather surprisingly weak posts on the topic; didn't you achieve a Masters or something on this topic?), I have to say that the 'triumphalist' attitude is not unwarranted.


Not specifically on this topic, no, but on religious history.
In any case, if my posts are "surprisingly weak" it surprises me that you've so utterly failed to refute them.  Instead, you choose to try to dodge the argument altogether, conveniently ignore the fact that you are not omnipotent, and claim victory. How sad.

RPGPundit
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: RPGPundit on January 01, 2007, 01:52:14 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
Wow.  Missing the point ... big time ... you need to read James' sophomoric posts on this same topic (charming in 19 year olds... but ...) :rolleyes:

The whole point of the problem of evil is that, given what we know about the world and what the main monotheistic religions tell us about God, a loving God does not look likely to be on the cards.

This is compatible with recognising human limitations


Yes, that's all very well and good for ESTABLISHING the problem of evil.  But it does you no good whatsoever with using that to prove the nonexistence of god.  The problem of evil is a human problem, not a problem with God.  Any cleric worth his weight could say that the problem is thus a limit in our capacity to understand "god's plan", or yes, even the very fullest type of nature of his goodness and love.

Its why it absolutely stuns me that you're being so fucking pigheaded about this.  Both in continuing to pretend that you have somehow disproven god with this stupid ass argument of yours, and in clinging to this argument for dear life like it was the best one you could possibly make.

If this is the best you have, you've got nothing, bud.
Like I said, even attacking the "Humanity" of the judeo-christian god is a far better way to criticize judeo christian religion than the problem of evil. Fuck.


Quote

Um ... no.  In fact, this makes no fucking sense.  :pundit:


It makes no sense to recognize that fucking GOD might be beyond your capacity for understanding? Wow.. and they say I have a big ego.

If a cat or a dog is incapable of understanding, much less judging, so many of the things we do, how the hell do you claim to know what and why God does?

Quote

This is bullshit, tiresome ad hominem crap.   When you have to resort to this, you should know that your position is weak

Give me arguments!  Give me logic.


I will as soon as you start to.

RPGPundit
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 01, 2007, 01:59:37 pm
Quote from: RPGPundit
In any case, if my posts are "surprisingly weak" it surprises me that you've so utterly failed to refute them...


You can lead a horse to water ... :(  

Quote from: RPGPundit

Instead, you choose to try to dodge the argument altogether...


When?  Where?   :confused:

Quote from: RPGPundit
....
conveniently ignore the fact that you are not omnipotent....


I've always been painfully aware that I'm not omnipotent!  
 
I merely claimed to be a good (not great!) inductive and abductive reasoner.  :)

Quote from: RPGPundit

... and claim victory. How sad....


Oh yes.  How sad. :pundit:  :confused:
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: RPGPundit on January 01, 2007, 02:04:24 pm
Where do you dodge it? Ok, let me spell this out very fucking clearly to you: how can you define what god's omnibenevolence would be like? If you are not yourself omnibenevolent, you cannot know what is or is not good as God would see it.

So you can do just fine at what you have admitted to doing, which is defining it in human terms, and expressing that, as a human being, you are unhappy with how god's alleged omnibenevolence manifests in the world, but that is a HUMAN definition of a HUMAN problem. Its a good way of saying you're pissed at god, not a good way of saying "god can't possibly exist". Not even in the judeo-christian viewpoint.

RPGPundit
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 01, 2007, 03:03:19 pm
Quote
This makes no sense. What do you mean “all the evidence points the opposite direction”?


We're using the Bible as "evidence" right? You've pointed to it several times. In the bible there is ample evidence that God (either Old or New Testament) does not negate suffering in all it's forms. Therefore either he is not omnibenevolent, or (and here's the part you constantly ignore) his benevolence is such that he knows that sometimes suffering is better than no suffering, not unlike the surgeon who cuts because he has to.

Quote
1. The established monotheistic religions (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism) all attribute certain attributes to God (aspects of God’s mind/plan that He has ‘deigned to explain’).

2. Suffering exists.

That is it!


If you're so blinded by your belief in the argument that you can't see the possibilility that suffering may sometimes be a benefit, or at least better than the alternative in the long run then I beg you to please stop teaching logic.

Quote
complete knowledge of the mind of God.


Right, it doesn't require complete knowledge of the mind of God. It does however require that we know with certainty that suffering is all bad, all the time. Without a view into the lives that come after this one there's no way to know if suffering now works out to a better existence later.

Quote
And the “problem of evil” argument works ONLY with those ‘motives’ that the main monotheistic religions all claim that God has revealed.


Yes, if we accept that his motive is omnibenevolence, then we know his motive. But we still don't know that suffering is all bad, all the time.

Quote
(Yes, that was petty. But I’m growing weary of your inability to understand basic logic.)


I understand the logic. I'm not disagreeing with the logic. I'm simply pointing out that one of the premises (suffering should be removed) cannot be proven without more knowledge than we've got right now.

Quote
If this point made any sense, I can assure you that Aquinas, Al-Gazli, Leibniz, Maimonides, et al., would have made it already. Sorry, James, but you're not smarter than those guys.


I'd have to disagree then. If they were so "smart" they'd realize that sometimes suffering is a necessary thing. By the way, since we're talking logic, let's try to avoid fallacious arguments from authority please. Honestly, you teach this stuff and yet you engage in petty ad hominem attacks and arguments from authority. Really, you should consider resigning if that's the sort of "logical" arguments you encourage.

Quote
I'm trying to show that, sans faith, the most rational thing to believe is that there is no God (in the Christian/Jewish/Islamic sense).


So we've tossed out the dictionary again? Remeber that little bit about belief without proof being faith? If you can't prove ti, it's faith. So you both ignore the English language and engage in logical fallacies while maintaining a supposedly logical debate? Honestly, please consider not passing this sort of behavior on to your students.

Quote
you need to read James' sophomoric posts on this same topic


More Ad hominems? And you teach at Stanford? What's your name so I can ensure my children never sign up for one of your classes.

Quote
The whole point of the problem of evil is that, given what we know about the world and what the main monotheistic religions tell us about God, a loving God does not look likely to be on the cards.


Wait... Now we've gone from "cannot possibly be" to "doesn't look likely"? Why the waffling?

Quote
ad hominem crap. When you have to resort to this, you should know that your position is weak


This statement, coupled with your own ad hominem attacks, looks pretty damning. :lol:
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 01, 2007, 03:34:32 pm
Quote from: RPGPundit
So you can do just fine at what you have admitted to doing, which is defining it in human terms, and expressing that, as a human being, you are unhappy with how god's alleged omnibenevolence manifests in the world, but that is a HUMAN definition of a HUMAN problem. Its a good way of saying you're pissed at god, not a good way of saying "god can't possibly exist". Not even in the judeo-christian viewpoint.


Yeah, yeah ...:rolleyes:

I thought that I had already addressed this.  (Probably I had, but you didn't bother to read it.  Oh well.)

I'm going to simplify things massively now ...

The argument proceeds in the following way (this is crude; more nuance can be found in my earlier posts, or is not worth this forum).  Indulge me, if you will ...

Two claims:

1.  God claims to be ultimately lovin' (The Catholic Church, most Potestant Groups, and my local Rabbi -- who claims that Maimonides was the man -- all claim this to be true).

2.  We appear to have a whole lot of hurt going on.

Now, there are five (logically incompatible, but not inexhaustible, for you logic sophomores out there) possibilities:

a. God is full of love, and the death of babies with spinalcord disorders, innocents suffering due to cancer, and animals dying due to disease over countless eons, is just part of his big-ass loving plan, but we just cannot comprehend it now (Faith).

b. God is full of love, and the death of babies with spinalcord disorders, innocents suffering due to cancer, and (etc.), is because God is loving, but just especially competent (i.e. not omnipotent!).

c. God is full of love, and the death of babies with spinalcord disorders, innocents suffering due to cancer, and (etc.), is because God is loving, but just especially knowledgeable (he isn't aware of everything). (i.e. Not omniscient)

d. God is a ... bad dad.   And the death of babies with spinalcord disorders, innocents suffering due to cancer, and (etc.), is because God is powerful and omniscient, but he is doesn't give a shit.

e. People claim: "God is full of love, and the death of babies with spinalcord disorders, innocents suffering due to cancer, and animals dying due to disease over countless eons, is just part of his big-ass loving plan, but we just cannot comprehend it now", but that’s bullshit.    There is no God.  It's just a myth.

Confusion reigns?   What is right?

Well, the atheist claims (e), the traditional theist (a.), and various heretics b-d.  

Based on empirical evidence, (e.) looks pretty good.  But the atheist isn’t fanatical about it!
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 01, 2007, 03:38:34 pm
Yeah, because a fanatic would argue for 13 pages about something. :)

But at least it looks like you're now admitting that there are other possibilities. Now all we need is for you to swap over to the English language and call a faith a faith rather than hiding behind the misdirection of "justified belief."

But at least we know you're not a fanatic, as you've dropped the "it can't exist" attitude and switched to "it doesn't look likely." It's a step. :)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 01, 2007, 04:14:05 pm
Quote from: James McMurray
..  Therefore either he is not omnibenevolent, or (and here's the part you constantly ignore) his benevolence is such that he knows that sometimes suffering is better than no suffering, not unlike the surgeon who cuts because he has to.


So he is omnibenevolent, but not omnipotent.

(Since if he was omnipotent, He could change things so that there was no suffering – your very metaphor illuminates His lack of power!).

A surgeon who cares about minimising human suffering, and promoting life, would always like to do so as far as is within her/his power.  An omnipotent God faces no such barriers!

Quote from: James McMurray
..
If you're so blinded by your belief in the argument that you can't see the possibilility that suffering may sometimes be a benefit, or at least better than the alternative in the long run then I beg you to please stop teaching logic.


Oh, I definitely understand that suffering might sometimes lead to a benefit.

I fail to see – as a matter of logic – how that could possibly be a concern for an omnipotent Being.

But for me, yes, quite so.  Indeed, my students understand the need of suffering for the sake of greater benefit everytime they attend my class.

Quote from: James McMurray
..
It does however require that we know with certainty that suffering is all bad, all the time.

 
Piffle.  All that the argument needs is the awareness that innocent suffering needs some kind of justification.  

Yes, yes, FAITH can overcome that problem – as my Christian friends assure me.  

But FAITH is precisely what I, as an atheist, reject.  Which is why the suffering of innocents bothers me.  I can see no rational reason for it.  

Sure there might be some ‘master plan’ for children starving to death, or dying of aids.  But until God comes down and explains to me why this is all such a cunning endeavour, reason compels me to think that either there is no God or that he’s a royal arse.  (And given that the former belief involves no positing of silly supernatural entities, I may as well swing that way!)

Quote from: James McMurray
..
Yes, if we accept that his motive is omnibenevolence, then we know his motive. But we still don't know that suffering is all bad, all the time.


Quite right.  That’s called ‘faith’.

And that’s what atheism rejects.

Quote from: James McMurray
..
I understand the logic. I'm not disagreeing with the logic. I'm simply pointing out that one of the premises (suffering should be removed) cannot be proven without more knowledge than we've got right now.


Should the theory of gravity be rejected?  No, because the evidence points to it likely being true (though we do not know why).

Likewise for the fact that the existence of a Loving God looks likely to be false given the widespread existence of innocent suffering.  

Quote from: James McMurray
...  I beg you to please stop teaching logic…


Hmm…

Let me be clear: I use the argument as a useful instructional tool.  Most of my students disagree with the argument, but discussing why they do is the best thing of all – they come to understand formal arguments.

I in no way ‘force’ my religious views on them.   They amaze me with their own wisdom.  

And the ones who are the most thankful are the religious ones.  They are thankful for the challenge.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 01, 2007, 04:38:57 pm
Quote from: James McMurray
I'd have to disagree then. If they were so "smart" they'd realize that sometimes suffering is a necessary thing.  

You're quite right.  They did realise that suffering was sometimes a necessary thing.

What they rejected -- and what you don't seem to understand (although they did) -- was that an infinitley powerful GOD should deem it necessary to make them suffer.

Quote from: James McMurray
By the way, since we're talking logic, let's try to avoid fallacious arguments from authority please.

Actually, an 'argument from authoritey' is not necessarily fallacious.  Indeed, they are usually quite legitimate (e.g. when your physics teacher tells you that E=Mc2 before you know what that means ...).

My only reason for mentioning the philosophers and theologians who had already been engaged in this debate was to reinforce the point that the argument was not as 'stupid' as you seemed to think (since I was doing such an admittedly piss poor job in my own right :( ).
 
Quote from: James McMurray

 Really, you should consider resigning if that's the sort of "logical" arguments you encourage.

With my amazing teaching evaluations?  (No sarcasm here, sir!)

Nahhh ... I know I'm doing a good job.

Quote from: James McMurray

...  I can ensure my children never sign up for one of your classes.
 

 [Snarky comment deleted]
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 01, 2007, 05:06:24 pm
We're going around in circles. You seem to feel that you understand the infinite enough to know that suffering is always and forever a bad thing. I certainly can't prove it to be wrong any more than you can prove it to be true. So by all means stick with the argument you feel best explains what we see in the world. At least you admit that it's not a certainly, merely what's "most likely."

But again, unless it's a certainty, if you believe in it, you're operating under the English definition of faith. We can agree to use a different definition here, but that won't change the way the language works.

Unless you've got something new to say I think we're done here, as I certainly don't have anything else to add, and I'm getting tired of being insulted by and pointing out the fallacies of someone who is supposedly a professor of these things. I personally don't believe you are, and your refusal to provide a name only enforces that belief. I guess I just find it hard to believe a prestigious university would hire someone that mangles logic that way. But maybe I was spoiled by my university's logic professors (I took it twice, once as part of Philosophy and once with a mathematical focus as part of Computer Science).
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: HinterWelt on January 01, 2007, 05:13:18 pm
Quote from: Akrasia

Your grasp of logic, Bill.

Excuse me. Did I piss in your cornflakes?

Let me clear something up for you. I do not believe in the sky fairy either. That said, I do not need to preach (and you are preaching) about how everyone is wrong just to make my beliefs valid. My view on the world and the universe is large enough to allow other people to believe as they wish. You call people who do not believe as you do stupid. That is sad.

Now, other have explained your faulty logic to great lengths but you dismiss them much as a fundamentalist does. You drive for absolutes the way a young person would; i.e. if something is not y it must be definitively z. Dealing in absolutes is no way to view the world.

Finally, simply put, you have a very simple view of love. I love my son. I punish my son and sometimes allow him to cause himself pain so he will learn. If I , a mortal man, can do this, couldn't it be possible that an omnipotent god could. That is the simplest counter to your argument and I have not seen you refute it to my satisfaction.

Good day and happy new year.

Bill
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 01, 2007, 05:20:21 pm
Quote from: James McMurray
... But again, unless it's a certainty, if you believe in it, you're operating under the English definition of faith. We can agree to use a different definition here, but that won't change the way the language works...


No, no, no.

I use English quite well, mon ami.

As do my Christian friends.  They seem to understand that 'water = H2O' while acknowledging that it is not a mtter of 'faith'.

Likewise, they discuss 'string theory' without thinking that it involves 'faith'.

Belief is not the same thing as faith.  Belief is inductive.  Nothing is 'a certaintly'.

The fact that you even speak in terms of 'certainty' shows an amusing naivity.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 01, 2007, 05:29:06 pm
Quote from: James McMurray
... I personally don't believe you are, and your refusal to provide a name only enforces that belief. I guess I just find it hard to believe a prestigious university would hire someone that mangles logic that way. But maybe I was spoiled by my university's logic professors (I took it twice, once as part of Philosophy and once with a mathematical focus as part of Computer Science).


I've never mangled logic.

And I've sent you a PM with ... well ... my information.  (Although that shouldn't have been  hard to track down by anyone who reads my sig!)!

Needless to, my credentials are legitimate!  :pundit:
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 01, 2007, 05:52:42 pm
LOL! Yes, you use English perfectly well, except that that point where you ignore the dictionary definition of the word "faith" in favor of your chosen definition which doesn't endanger your supposed faithlessness. :)

Either

a) You don't accept the problem of evil as proof that a certain type of God does not exist,

b) You have proof that from a divine perspective suffering is the greatest possible evil and must be gotten rid of in any and all instances of suffering, or

c) You don't have proof, but you believe in the problem of evil anyway. And, since belief without proof = faith, you have faith.

Inductive, deductive, abductive, none of it matters without a proven foundation. Either you've got proof, you've got uncertainty, or you've got faith. That is, if you're speaking the English language.

You claimed that ad hominem attacks were proof that your stance is weak. You made ad hominem attacks. By your own admission then, your stance is weak. Or is that logic not good enough for you? LOL

As for water = H2O requiring faith, it actually does. You need faith in scientists unless you've actually seen the proof with your own eyes. It's a fairly easy faith to have, because science and it's practitioners agree pretty strongly across the board on it, and folks put a lot of stock into what they say, but that doesn't change the fact that it does require a tiny amount of faith. In this case it's faith in other people, not faith in a deity.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 01, 2007, 05:58:09 pm
Quote from: HinterWelt
Excuse me. Did I piss in your cornflakes?

I hope not.  Sorry about that.

(What are cornflakes?)

Quote from: HinterWelt
Let me clear something up for you. I do not believe in the sky fairy either. That said, I do not need to preach (and you are preaching) about how everyone is wrong just to make my beliefs valid.

Ummm…  

Do you believe that the world is round?  Then you have rendered ‘invalid’ (actually, ‘false’) the beliefs of the people who though it was flat.

Is that ‘preaching’?   Even when most people don’t believe you?

Do you believe that the earth goes around the sun?  Well, gosh darn, certain folk are (or were) going to be desperately disappointed …

What about evolution?  Is that just one view among many?  Should we teach creationism as well?

Do you believe that women are morally equal to men, and entitled to basic human rights?  If you do, well, you calling certain views ‘invalid’.  

(That is, unless you think it’s just ‘okay’ for them to cut off their daughters’ clitorises.  Okay that was unfair... .)

Quote from: HinterWelt

You call people who do not believe as you do stupid. That is sad.

No, no no.

Some of my best friends disagree with me.  And they are, if anything, smarter than me.

But I will no have any of your wholly thinking that ‘we can all believe both x and no-x’.  That is rubbish.

Quote from: HinterWelt

Now, other have explained your faulty logic to great lengths but you dismiss them much as a fundamentalist does.

Um, no.  I’m still waiting for the good arguments.

Quote from: HinterWelt

You drive for absolutes the way a young person would; i.e. if something is not y it must be definitively z. Dealing in absolutes is no way to view the world.

Hmmm… for some reason it seems to make the computers work, get men on the moon, underpin logic, etc.

I think I’ll stick with logic, merci.  

Quote from: HinterWelt

 If I , a mortal man, can do this, couldn't it be possible that an omnipotent god could. That is the simplest counter to your argument and I have not seen you refute it to my satisfaction. .

Why couldn’t an omnipotent and omniscient God deal with the small stuff.  I can understand your frustration as a father.  But you’re not GOD. .

Quote from: HinterWelt

Good day and happy new year.

Bill

Likewise, Bill.  I’m sorry if I angered you.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: HinterWelt on January 01, 2007, 06:52:15 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
I hope not.  Sorry about that.

(What are cornflakes?)



Ummm…  

Do you believe that the world is round?  Then you have rendered ‘invalid’ (actually, ‘false’) the beliefs of the people who though it was flat.

Is that ‘preaching’?   Even when most people don’t believe you?

Do you believe that the earth goes around the sun?  Well, gosh darn, certain folk are (or were) going to be desperately disappointed …

What about evolution?  Is that just one view among many?  Should we teach creationism as well?

Do you believe that women are morally equal to men, and entitled to basic human rights?  If you do, well, you calling certain views ‘invalid’.  

(That is, unless you think it’s just ‘okay’ for them to cut off their daughters’ clitorises.  Okay that was unfair... .)



No, no no.

Some of my best friends disagree with me.  And they are, if anything, smarter than me.

But I will no have any of your wholly thinking that ‘we can all believe both x and no-x’.  That is rubbish.



Um, no.  I’m still waiting for the good arguments.



Hmmm… for some reason it seems to make the computers work, get men on the moon, underpin logic, etc.

I think I’ll stick with logic, merci.  



Why couldn’t an omnipotent and omniscient God deal with the small stuff.  I can understand your frustration as a father.  But you’re not GOD. .



Likewise, Bill.  I’m sorry if I angered you.


You did not anger me except offering the minor offense of calling me stupid.

Science is one thing, metaphysics another and life yet another. They overlap but to attempt to define one with another in entirety is misleading. You are stating matters of philosophy, which is often a subjective matter, in absolutes.

Let me rephrase my counter argument. What does it matter if God exists?

If he does, in the Judeo-Christian sense, you are damned to Hell. End of story.

If he does not (and you are an atheist) you get the smug satisfaction of dying right and ending your existence.

Corollary to you being correct: You may attempt to convert those of the faith to your beliefs. To what purpose? If you are not a religion, you are taking from them and providing nothing in return. They had hope of an eternal afterlife and now, assuming you convince them, you give them the grim reality of a life of suffering ending in non-existence.

Now, you could argue that for the sake of Truth you have done them a service by opening their eyes to the "real" world as Akrasia sees it but it seems a grim world. Filled with suffering and no hope of getting out of it alive.

Thus, in very similar logic, I have negated the whole point of this thread and it bings into non-existence.

So, despite my no believing in the Sky Fairy and his errant hippy son, I respect that others may choose to live a life with different outlooks on their existence. As long as they do not force me to view the world the same way, I am good with it.

So, if you do not want to believe in the Sky Fairy, go for it. Just do not call me stupid if I choose to be tolerant.

Thank you and have a good day,
Bill
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 01, 2007, 07:16:29 pm
Quote from: HinterWelt
You did not anger me except offering the minor offense of calling me stupid...

 
My apologies for calling you stupid!
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on January 01, 2007, 08:10:41 pm
Quote from: HinterWelt
Sky Fairy and his errant hippy son

Thank you and have a good day,
Bill


You realise, referring to God and JC this way in and of itself could be construed as intolerant, disrespectful, and condescending? Not that it bothers me any, I don't believe in the Sky Fairy or have any need for the "salvation" his errant hippy son offers either... just thought I'd point it out ;)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 01, 2007, 09:29:03 pm
Hey Akrasia, did you see my post? It looks like it went up as you were ytping a reply elsewhere.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: HinterWelt on January 01, 2007, 09:41:44 pm
Quote from: Sigmund
You realise, referring to God and JC this way in and of itself could be construed as intolerant, disrespectful, and condescending? Not that it bothers me any, I don't believe in the Sky Fairy or have any need for the "salvation" his errant hippy son offers either... just thought I'd point it out ;)

I meant I would respect your right to worship and believe in whatever you like as long as it falls within the social restrictions of living in your community (i.e. human sacrifice is illegal in most countries). I would fight and die for your right, as well as mine, to worship (or not worship) as you choose.

That said, I reserve the right to free speech and making fun of your ridiculous beliefs. You want to be involved in a cult that practices ritual cannibalism, worships a Sky Fairy and lives their lives waiting for death that is fine. As long as you do not force me or others to worship as you do we have no problem.

And as an aside, this is probably the most I have talked about it since college. When I was younger I thought and talked about it a lot. Now, I am an old man and don't have the energy. :) I hope I do not come off sounding upset, I really am not. I just like saying Sky Fairy. :P

Bill
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 01, 2007, 10:48:14 pm
Quote from: James McMurray
Hey Akrasia, did you see my post? It looks like it went up as you were ytping a reply elsewhere.


Rest assured, James.

You have not escaped My attention.  :emot-sigh:
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 01, 2007, 10:56:27 pm
Quote from: HinterWelt
If he does, in the Judeo-Christian sense, you are damned to Hell. End of story.

If he does not (and you are an atheist) you get the smug satisfaction of dying right and ending your existence.
Bill  


Um, what a joke.
 the Catholic Church does not believe in ‘Hell’ anymore!

What if Zeus still exists?

Or Odin?

You’ve (more or less) just resated ‘Pascal’s Wager’.

And that would be insanely boring to get into now!
Quote from: HinterWelt
Thank you and have a good day,
Bill  
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 01, 2007, 11:15:49 pm
Quote from: HinterWelt
If he does, in the Judeo-Christian sense, you are damned to Hell. End of story.

If he does not (and you are an atheist) you get the smug satisfaction of dying right and ending your existence.
Bill  

Umm, what a joke.

Seriously, if pathetic ‘fear’ iis the best that God can to do, I laugh in his face!

The Catholic Church does not even believe in ‘Hell’ anymore!

What if Zeus still exists?

Or Odin?

You’ve (more or less) just retsated ‘Pascal’s Wager’.

Strangley, that did not convince too many lads back the day.

And those people were fucking dandies..

That would be insanely boring to get into now!

Quote from: HinterWelt
Thank you and have a good day,
Bill  

Given that I might be murdered within the next 30 seconds?

Well, no.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: RPGPundit on January 01, 2007, 11:27:28 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
Yeah, yeah ...:rolleyes:

e. People claim: "God is full of love, and the death of babies with spinalcord disorders, innocents suffering due to cancer, and animals dying due to disease over countless eons, is just part of his big-ass loving plan, but we just cannot comprehend it now", but that’s bullshit.    There is no God.  It's just a myth.


"I don't like this answer" does not equate to "that's bullshit".

Quote

Confusion reigns?   What is right?

Well, the atheist claims (e), the traditional theist (a.), and various heretics b-d.  


First, you need to change "the traditional theist" to "most traditional judeo-christian theists".
Second, a. and e. are equally logically possible. "god exists but is working in ways we don't understand" is logically speaking just as provable as "god doesn't exist"; which is to say, neither of them are provable at all.  Both of them depend on having faith.

Quote

Based on empirical evidence, (e.) looks pretty good.  But the atheist isn’t fanatical about it!


You certainly seem to be.

RPGPundit
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 01, 2007, 11:36:42 pm
Quote from: James McMurray
LOL! Yes, you use English perfectly well, except that that point where you ignore the dictionary definition of the word "faith" in favor of your chosen definition which doesn't endanger your supposed faithlessness. :)

Umm ...  no
Quote from: James McMurray
L
Either

a) You don't accept the problem of evil as proof that a certain type of God does not exist,

b) You have proof that from a divine perspective suffering is the greatest possible evil and must be gotten rid of in any and all instances of suffering, or

c) You don't have proof, but you believe in the problem of evil anyway. And, since belief without proof = faith, you have faith.

Um, no.

(Unnecessary insults removed.)

Quote from: James McMurray
L
Inductive, deductive, abductive, none of it matters without a proven foundation. Either you've got proof, you've got uncertainty, or you've got faith. That is, if you're speaking the English language.

No...

You have 60 percent certainty, etc.

Probabilities, nothing more.

Quote from: James McMurray
: You claimed that ad hominem attacks were proof that your stance is weak. You made ad hominem attacks. By your own admission then, your stance is weak. Or is that logic not good enough for you? LOL...
No.
Logic is fine.

Quote from: James McMurray
As for water = H2O requiring faith, it actually does....
Let's see it!

Quote from: James McMurray
...
As for water = H2O requiring faith, it actually does....

Um, yeah.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: RPGPundit on January 01, 2007, 11:36:48 pm
Quote from: HinterWelt

Let me rephrase my counter argument. What does it matter if God exists?

If he does, in the Judeo-Christian sense, you are damned to Hell. End of story.

If he does not (and you are an atheist) you get the smug satisfaction of dying right and ending your existence.

Corollary to you being correct: You may attempt to convert those of the faith to your beliefs. To what purpose? If you are not a religion, you are taking from them and providing nothing in return. They had hope of an eternal afterlife and now, assuming you convince them, you give them the grim reality of a life of suffering ending in non-existence.


Well, if you can find logical or theological faults with judeo-christianity, and you certainly can, then there is certainly a point to getting people to stop mortgaging their present (and fucking up the entire world, not to mention life for the rest of us in it) in exchange for a promise of paradise that is based on a lie.
Arguing a dogmatic atheism might not be the way to do it, though...

Quote

Now, you could argue that for the sake of Truth you have done them a service by opening their eyes to the "real" world as Akrasia sees it but it seems a grim world. Filled with suffering and no hope of getting out of it alive.


There are ways around suffering; ultimately one big part of them is to start out by accepting that "no one here gets out alive".

RPGPundit
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Kyle Aaron on January 01, 2007, 11:43:53 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
That also seems to be true of string theory, but that shouldn't prevent us from using all the tools of reason at our disposal in evaluating the theory under consideration.
String theory has some hope of eventually producing testable predictions. It hasn't so far, but if developed thoroughly enough, could do so.

Theology, it ain't so.

Of course, until string theory does in fact produce testable predictions, it remains utterly irrelevant to the world, and is, as I said of theology, merely a matter of discussion.

Doesn't mean we shouldn't do it. There are a lot of things we talk about which have no practical meaning whatsoever, for example celebrity gossip. I think theological discussions are far more worthy than celebrity gossip, even if both are equally futile in themselves. The theology, after all, at least tells us something about the person who's speaking, and can help them achieve a deeper understanding of their own assumptions about the universe. So theology has some use not because it helps us to understand God, but ourselves.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 01, 2007, 11:54:22 pm
Quote from: RPGPundit
"I don't like this answer" does not equate to "that's bullshit".

Given that I've already explained this seven fucking times ... well, whatever.  :rolleyes:

I have no problem with 'unorthodox' views.

Yeah, the magic Christmas God exists.  Happy?  :pundit:

Quote from: RPGPundit

Second, a. and e. are equally logically possible.


Um, well, no, they're not.

Jesus Christ, it just occured to me that I'm dealing with people who don't know fucking induction from abduction.   :rolleyes:

Good thing, mate, you bailed out of academia when you did.  :pundit:

Quote from: RPGPundit
...
"god exists but is working in ways we don't understand" is logically speaking just as provable as "god doesn't exist"; which is to say, neither of them are provable at all.  Both of them depend on having faith....


Um, no.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 02, 2007, 12:13:35 am
Quote from: JimBobOz
String theory has some hope of eventually producing testable predictions.

It hasn't so far, but if developed thoroughly enough, could do so.

False.  

Please, I beg you, explain to me what these 'experiments' would involve.  

Go on, do it.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: RPGPundit on January 02, 2007, 12:22:03 am
Quote from: Akrasia


Um, no.


This, as an answer, only seems to highlight your inability to actually defend your position.  And it certainly doesn't stop it from being so.  How does "god exists but works in ways that are beyond human comprehension" end up relying on faith any more than "god doesn't exist because I don't like the idea lalalala I can't hear you"?

I mean fuck, 14 pages of this crap and you still haven't even been able to provide a decent argument to disprove the Judeo-christian god, much less the idea of God in general. Your only victories are against people who have poorer arguments than you do, but when you get to the core of your logical argument, as I have, you can't seem to offer any better defense to the claim that you are essentially arguing that God doesn't exist because you dislike the idea that God would be more intelligent than you, and therefore beyond your comprehension than "um, no".

RPGPundit
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: HinterWelt on January 02, 2007, 12:26:19 am
Quote from: RPGPundit
Well, if you can find logical or theological faults with judeo-christianity, and you certainly can, then there is certainly a point to getting people to stop mortgaging their present (and fucking up the entire world, not to mention life for the rest of us in it) in exchange for a promise of paradise that is based on a lie.
Arguing a dogmatic atheism might not be the way to do it, though...



There are ways around suffering; ultimately one big part of them is to start out by accepting that "no one here gets out alive".

RPGPundit

To be clear, I am of the camp that believe no one will get out of it alive. However, I have many friends who gleefully look forward to eternal life in the after life....ah, that seemed a bit garbled.

I am not a fan of organized religion but I do not believe it is currently a big player in the world suffering arena. A desire for power and selfishness is much more pertinent cause. Whether someone uses the cloak of religion for it or doing public political service or even charitable organizations, evil can be found anywhere and excuses are too common.

Bill
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Kyle Aaron on January 02, 2007, 12:34:15 am
Quote from: Akrasia
False.  

Please, I beg you, explain to me what these 'experiments' would involve.  

Go on, do it.

If string theory were developed further, it could lead to predictions about the properties of quarks and the like, and the interactions of the strong and weak force, and so on. Stupidly-high energy particle colliders are the traditional way to study these things. That's a rather distant prospect, and isn't possible at the moment.

I didn't say that it was possible today, or that such experiments were even proposed. I said
Quote from: Jimboboz
String theory has some hope of eventually producing testable predictions.

It hasn't so far, but if developed thoroughly enough, could do so.

"some hope... eventually... could..."

Those are the qualifiers one traditionally uses when talking about currently-untestable scientific theories. At the moment, even testing string theory looks less plausible than months-long sustained fusion reactions. Those at least we have some vague idea of how to go about. String theory, nope.

But in principle, it could predict properties of certain particles, and interactions of the basic forces.

In any case, the comparison between string theory and theology is a poor one. There are, what, not more than a hundred people in the world who have a real grasp of string theory? But there are millions of people who can speak in an educated way about theology, and anyone can speculate, and there speculations will not be different in end results to those of the educated ones.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 02, 2007, 01:05:44 am
Quote from: JimBobOz
If string theory were developed further...

EDITED to remove snarky answer.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 02, 2007, 01:17:23 am
Quote from: RPGPundit
This, as an answer, only seems to highlight your inability to actually defend your position.  
Ummm ... how?
Quote from: RPGPundit

And it certainly doesn't stop it from being so.  How does "god exists but works in ways that are beyond human comprehension" end up relying on faith any more than "god doesn't exist because I don't like the idea lalalala I can't hear you"?
Yes, I already addresed the whole 'through a glass darkly' objection.

SNORE.

Why must I repeat myself endlessly?  

Should St.Paul as well?

:rolleyes:

Quote from: RPGPundit
I mean fuck, 14 pages of this crap and you still haven't even been able to provide a decent argument to disprove the Judeo-christian god, much less the idea of God in general. Your only victories are against people who have poorer arguments than you do, but when you get to the core of your logical argument, as I have, you can't seem to offer any better defense to the claim that you are essentially arguing that God doesn't exist because you dislike the idea that God would be more intelligent than you, and therefore beyond your comprehension than "um, no".

Wow!  This is good.  You have SOME funny arguments there, mate. :p

Maybe the brains reconnect sometime soon? :confused:
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 02, 2007, 01:24:04 am
EDITED TO REMOVE UNNECESSARY INSULT.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 02, 2007, 01:32:42 am
Quote from: RPGPundit
... when you get to the core of your logical argument, as I have, you can't seem to offer any better defense to the claim that you are essentially arguing that God doesn't exist because you dislike the idea that God would be more intelligent than you, and therefore beyond your comprehension than "um, no".

That is NOT my argument.

[EDITED to remove unnecessary snarky insults.]
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 02, 2007, 01:45:14 am
Quote from: RPGPundit
This, as an answer, only seems to highlight your inability to actually defend your position.

I've defended my position many times, mate.

(EDITED to remove gratuitious insults.)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: beejazz on January 02, 2007, 02:25:35 am
See here now, does a person have to make a point?

As I see it any view (lets say) on what happens after we die is going to be pulled straight out of our asses. Because no one discussing it has died. Am I correct? So long as we're talking out of our asses, can we at least acknowledge it?

And fuck, doesn't M-theory hinge on a single ineffable* force providing the impetus and substance of all things in the universe?

Mind you, M-theory is about as disprovable as God, but as long as we're there... why not, right? The only real difference between the membranes and God is some kind of sentience, right?

Or, as long as we're making uninformed claims about one another's respective faiths, let's see you defend the mechanistic universe. Let's see you toss aside free will. Or will you defend free will with shaky science the same way the religious will defend evil with shaky religion?

See? Isn't it so much more fun to "disprove" someone else than to make any point of your own and have to defend it?

*By ineffable, I largely mean that it can't be directly percieved or interacted with, only deduced by complicated and obscure numerology. Hooray for the fucking cabalists soaking up the funding that could be alloted to more productive and tangible science.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: RPGPundit on January 02, 2007, 02:32:24 am
Quote from: Akrasia
Ummm ... how?

Yes, I already addresed the whole 'through a glass darkly' objection.

SNORE.

Why must I repeat myself endlessly?  


No, you haven't. You have failed over and over to address the answer in any way. Your answers vary predictably between "umm, no" and "i already answered that previously", with the occasional "the proof is that I don't like the idea of God being too intelligent for me to get him".

I think its also blatantly obvious to everyone here but you that you are failing to address this argument in any way.

RPGPundit
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: RPGPundit on January 02, 2007, 02:34:17 am
Quote from: Akrasia
I've defended my position many times, mate.

Let’s hear your defence!


My defense for what? What the fuck are you even talking about? Are you drunk while you're posting??

RPGPundit
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 02, 2007, 02:49:12 am
Quote from: RPGPundit
... Are you drunk while you're posting?...

Only mildly so!

(EDITED to remove insults and meaningless comments)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 02, 2007, 03:13:54 am
I made this point much earlier in this discussion:

Quote from: Akrasia
 
Premise 2 of my original argument ... the sticking point.... Of course ...
 
Obviously, traditional Christians, Jews, and Muslims want to believe that it is false.  The best explanation that they can give is something similar to the point that you and others have made about the ‘unknowability of God’s master plan’ (we perceive his actions “through a glass darkly”, as St. Paul says).  

I’ll happily concede that this is a possible reply available to a religious person to this argument.  But it is only convincing if you are already committed to the existence of (something like the traditional conception of) God!  

In other words, this reply to the “problem of evil” argument requires faith, namely, faith that somehow, someway, God’s “master plan” will ultimately be justified.

(EDITED for clarity.)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 02, 2007, 03:19:01 am
Quote from: RPGPundit
...
I think its also blatantly obvious to everyone here but you that you are failing to address this argument in any way....

Yes, yes, I've addressed it (see above!).  :pundit:
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 02, 2007, 03:28:53 am
(Comment removed -- I have no idea what I was trying to say here!)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Hastur T. Fannon on January 02, 2007, 04:58:47 am
Quote from: Akrasia
The Catholic Church does not even believe in ‘Hell’ anymore!


Um, yes they do (http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P2O.HTM)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Kyle Aaron on January 02, 2007, 07:09:44 am
Quote from: Akrasia
Obviously, traditional Christians, Jews, and Muslims want to believe that it is false.

If you'd like to know what Jews believe, or want to believe, you could always ask one. Hastur already pointed out that you don't know the most basic thing about Catholicism - that hell still exists in that faith. Now, about Judaism...

Judaism does not require that you believe in God.

Just hold onto that thought for a moment.

Got it? Haven't lost it in prejudice or nonsense? No? Okay, keep hold of it.

Judaism proposes a set of laws which must be followed. Some of those laws (like kosher) are for just for Jews, and some of those laws (like not murdering people) are for eveveryone.

Follow the Law, says the Law, and you'll be off to Heaven; exactly what Heaven is, is left pretty vague. Don't follow the Law, and you're off to Hell. Hell's even vaguer, but is usually understood to be simply the absence of the presence of God. Anyway, it's thought that following the Law will make life better, whether or not it makes the afterlife better. See, Judaism focuses on now. That's why we have a whole shitload of sayings like, "break one law, so as to fulfill many others" - eg, eat a pork sausage so you can not starve, and live on to eat kosher in future, rather than just starving now. Or, "pray as though everything depends on God, act as though everything depends on you." Or "he who takes one life, it as if he has killed the whole world; he who saves one life, it is as if he has saved the whole world" (because each person saved may become a parent, and their children will have children, and so on; or if beyond child-bearing age, they may at least protect the lives of others).

God doesn't require our belief, just that we follow the Law. This isn't so hard to make sense of, really. If I say to a cop, "I don't believe Parliament exists!" the cop might reply, "um... will you obey the laws passed by Parliament?" If I say, "yes," the cop will say, "good enough." My belief or disbelief in the existence of Parliament has no effect on whether their laws are good, and on whether I follow those laws.

Likewise, with God and his Law.

Judaism requires no belief. It requires action. Good actions are good actions, whatever the belief or motivation behind them, and bad actions are bad actions. The laws are good or bad, harmless or harmful, give us fulfilment or emptiness, in and of themselves; whether they come from God or humanity makes no difference.

Faith makes more sense when you ask the people who hold that faith about it, rather than vague half-remembered musings from some website somewhere. I imagine that's where you got your "Catholics don't believe in Hell anymore" from, from the recent abolition of the ideas of Limbo, etc. It's ironic that one of the criticisms of atheists of those with faith is that their faith leads to muddled thought; atheists are entirely capable of muddled thought. Catholicism still has Hell, and Judaism does not require belief, only action.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 02, 2007, 10:28:09 am
Quote from: Akrasia
ad hominem crap. When you have to resort to this, you should know that your position is weak  

Quote from: Akrasia
Jesus Christ, you are a moron, aren't you?

Quote from: Akrasia
Can't say the same for you, sad git.


Hmmmm....

Quote from: Akrasia
You have 60 percent certainty, etc.

Probabilities, nothing more.


What part of "proof" don't you understand? Probabilities are not proof.

Quote from: Akrasia
Let's see it!


Let's see what? You quoted my statement about water = H2O requiring faith and said let's see it. It don't make no sense, yo.

Quote from: Akrasia
Um, yeah.


You personally have seen that water = H2O? Or are you taking it on faith that the scientific community is correct?

Have you personally seen all the other things that science tells us are true?

Quote from: Akrasia
I’ll happily concede that this is a possible reply available to a religious person to this argument. But it is only convincing if you are already committed to the existence of (something like the traditional conception of) God!


Say what? You mean I have to believe in God to accept the idea that if God does exist I can't be sure that I can comprehend his motives?

Quote from: Akrasia
In other words, this reply to the “problem of evil” argument requires faith, namely, faith that somehow, someway, God’s “master plan” will ultimately be justified.


No, belief in a God that defies the problem of evil requires faith in a master plan. Realizing that the problem of evil is not proof only requires admittance that a God with a plan is a possibility.

Quote from: Akrasia
Here is a machine's ... no my ... official reply.

Snorseville.

Oh goodness gracious, could it be that GOD is very cunning -- so desperately cunning -- that He's made exact replicants of everyone?

Are we all 'ready'?


Please put down the bottle. You're spouting gibberish now.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: RPGPundit on January 02, 2007, 10:32:28 am
Quote from: Akrasia

But honestly, your 'challenge' is pathetic.

Yes, yes, God might 'beyond our comprehension. '   So what?

That leaves two possibilities:

(1.) God is evil and incomprehensible, and running around.   In which case you're fucked.

(2.) God is a machine and under control.  (In which case ... )


In what possible way would those be the only two options? Why do you have such trouble with the idea that god could in fact be a benevolent Supreme Being that is active in the universe and that is acting in ways that are too infinite for you to be able to fully understand?

RPGPundit
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: RPGPundit on January 02, 2007, 10:35:30 am
Quote from: Akrasia
Obviously, traditional Christians, Jews, and Muslims want to believe that it is false.  The best explanation that they can give is something similar to the point that you and others have made about the ‘unknowability of God’s master plan’ (we perceive his actions “through a glass darkly”, as St. Paul says).  

I’ll happily concede that this is a possible reply available to a religious person to this argument.  But it is only convincing if you are already committed to the existence of (something like the traditional conception of) God!  

In other words, this reply to the “problem of evil” argument requires faith, namely, faith that somehow, someway, God’s “master plan” will ultimately be justified.

And your argument is only convincing if you are already committed to the non-existence of God.

Shit, I don't believe in the Judeo-Christian god, and yet you've failed utterly to convince me. By any possible interpretation of the situation, I should be biased in your favour, and yet you've only managed to show me that you seem to suffer from as much tunnel-vision and pigheaded dogmatism as any of the christians.

RPGPundit
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Spike on January 02, 2007, 12:08:41 pm
Sweet Lord Doug!!!

I step out of the debate for a couple of days and come back to this mess? Akrasia has taken the Atheists Burden upon his shoulders (taking it from one of the Grims as I recall) for the world, leading everyone from the dark wombs of their respective beliefs... mostly by insulting them wildly.

All this shouting, lots of injured bystanders... Mate, you are doing nothing to earn the respect of even your fellow ATHEISTS in this thread, much less making Academia, as you seem to represent it, look good.


Oh, and to whatever you are going to say in your defense, I'll say just this...


Umm.... No. Snoresville. You obviously haven't read what I said, 'cause I already covered that previously.


Did I miss any?
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 02, 2007, 12:23:28 pm
Yeah, you forgot the insult.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Spike on January 02, 2007, 01:33:19 pm
Quote from: James McMurray
Yeah, you forgot the insult.



Ah, thanks.

Yes: You must be stupid.




Seriously, Akrasia, at least a significant number of posters... in this THREAD are Atheists or at a minimum sympathetic, yet none of them are exactly leaping to your defense, in fact a few of them have clamored for the same answers as the more religiously minded debators.  While I can understand if you feel a bit defensive, being in the middle of a firing line like that, you should understand WHY you are there.

You took a general dismissal of an article as an attack on athesim, which I can understand, then presented a vastly overlimited arguement for atheism, and when called on it you started lashing out.  Rethink your position, and your own beliefs.  Why it is such a problem for you to come to grips with the fact that you must take atheism 'on faith' is baffling to me.   If you have no faith in your atheism you wouldn't defend it with such vigor.

I'll leave off now. I was planning to go back and dissect your blanket claims of faiths in detail, but Jimbob has covered Judaic beliefs from an insider standpoint, and a few of your christian arguments have been shot down quiet enthusiastically by others... I see little point in continuing, especially since your responses have shown decreasing intellectual rigor and have been reduced to the likes of which that lead to this post.  I'll blame a trip to Ireland, complete with excessive drinking rather than continue an increasingly long and pointless shouting match.  If it makes you feel at all better, I concede the field, you have won, sir, as far as this poster is concerned.  I submit to your greater obtuseness and willingness to burn bandwidth.  Enjoy your Stalingrad.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Levi Kornelsen on January 02, 2007, 01:45:23 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
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".


Horseshit.

I'm not saying "You must be able to inflict suffering in order to possess free will".  That's obvious on the face of it, and reducing what I've said to that is a cheap attempt to weasel away.

The solution to the problem of pain is that suffering is required in order to form the existence of will.  Where it is not provided by others, it is provided by the benevolence of the creator, in a natural fashion.

That's not evil.  Because this life isn't the main show.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 02, 2007, 04:03:28 pm
Quote from: Hastur T. Fannon
Um, yes they do (http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P2O.HTM)

Thanks for the link.

I should have been more careful in making that comment.  (Suffice to say that there is some debate amongst Catholic scholars on this matter, i.e., how to understand 'Hell'.)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 02, 2007, 04:11:18 pm
Quote from: Spike
... I see little point in continuing, especially since your responses have shown decreasing intellectual rigor and have been reduced to the likes of which that lead to this post.  I'll blame a trip to Ireland, complete with excessive drinking rather than continue an increasingly long and pointless shouting match....


You're quite right, Spike, that my posts declined significantly in terms of rigour and even basic coherence.  And you're also correct about the cause (long international flight + too much Guinness on my return).  I clearly should have simply taken a break.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 02, 2007, 04:23:53 pm
Quote from: RPGPundit
... Second, a. and e. are equally logically possible. "god exists but is working in ways we don't understand" is logically speaking just as provable as "god doesn't exist"; which is to say, neither of them are provable at all.  Both of them depend on having faith.
...


This isn’t correct, though, since it does not require ‘faith’ to disbelieve (or simply not form a belief in the existence of) something for which there is no evidence (or that contradicts the available evidence).

I don’t believe that invisible pixies are floating around me at all times.  That’s not a ‘faith-based’ belief.

I don’t really know what else to say about this.  If you think it requires ‘faith’ to not believe in entities for which there is no evidence, then you’re simply working with a different definition of ‘faith’ than I am.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 02, 2007, 04:27:39 pm
There a difference between not believing a proposition and believing the opposite proposition. It requires no faith to not believe that god exists. It requires faith to believe that he does not.

One is not accepting a proposition for which there is no proof, while the other is choosing to accept the opposite proposition, which is equally without proof.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 02, 2007, 04:35:11 pm
Anyhow, I'd like to apologise for the various insults that I made in this thread, especially in the posts that I made late last night and early this morning.  I kind of lost it, due to frustration and weariness, and really regret that.  (I've tried to edit out some of the more egregious examples in my later posts.)

So "sorry" James, Pundit, Spike, Bill, etc.!  :imsorry:

Now, that aside, it seems clear that I've done a rather poor job of explaining why the 'problem of evil' argument should be taken seriously.  

However, simply because I've failed to do this, doesn't mean that the argument is not worth taking seriously!  Surely, if the argument was as manifestly implausible as some of you seem to think, theologians and philosophers would not have struggled with it from the time of Epicurus onwards.

But rather than waste more of your time here with my own apparently inadequate attempts to explain the argument, I'll mention two links.

This one at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy provides a good overview (including a summary of the different versions of the argument that have been developed):

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/evil/

And this entry at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy focuses on the 'evidentialist' version of the argument (which is quite convincing, IMO):

http://www.iep.utm.edu/e/evil-evi.htm

Well that's it for now.

Once more, my apologies for my poor behaviour!
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 02, 2007, 04:40:57 pm
Quote from: James McMurray
.... It requires no faith to not believe that god exists. It requires faith to believe that he does not...


Well, we're going around in circles here.

For a rigorous explanation for why one ought to believe the proposition 'There is no God with the following attributes ....' based on the available evidence, check out:
http://www.iep.utm.edu/e/evil-evi.htm
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 02, 2007, 04:53:44 pm
I'm not talking about evidence. I'm talking about proof. One leads to the other but does not gaurantee it. If I drop a block, a chair, and a helium balloon I am presented with evidence that round objects fall upwards and pointy objects fall down. That's a simplistic example, true, but I think it applies.

From the second link: Alston's analogies are argued against by saying "God is good, so he would tell us why he does stuff." That ignores the very fact that the matter being discussed is why God does things. Perhaps a) we can't understand the reason, or b) God has another, more important, reason for not telling us. It's basically saying "God would tell me everything because that's what is best for me" or in other words "see, I understand the mind of God."

I didn't read much into the Theodicy discussion. After it said that an explanation of why evil might be allowed is invliad unless it includes evolution I chuckled and moved on. I personally have more faith in evolution than in creationism, but denouncing a logical argument if it doesn't hold your world view is self defeating.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 02, 2007, 04:53:44 pm
Quote from: James McMurray
What part of "proof" don't you understand? Probabilities are not proof.


I already explained that all of our beliefs about the external world are based on induction, and that induction involves probabilities.

I still don't know what you mean by 'proof'.  If you mean something like 'adequate evidence' to believe something, than that's just plain old induction.  In which case we should believe propositions on the basis of the available evidence and arguments.
 
One version of the 'problem of evil' argument, the evidentialist version, holds that the available evidence indicates that a benevolent God, etc., does not exist (just as, for example, the available evidence suggests that Aristotelian physics is not true).  

Quote from: James McMurray

You personally have seen that water = H2O? Or are you taking it on faith that the scientific community is correct?


I don't take it on 'faith' that the scientific community is correct.  Rather, the 'scientific community' makes claims that can be subject to independent critical scrutiny (testing, peer review, etc.).  So I have good grounds to believe many of the claims made by the 'scientific community' (although those grounds will obviously vary depending on the claim in question).

In any case, you could expand the definition of 'faith' to include all of our beliefs.  But that would render the term 'faith' effectively meaningless.  Most religious people would be reluctant to use the term 'faith' in such an expansive way.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 02, 2007, 04:57:55 pm
Quote
I still don't know what you mean by 'proof'.


Again, I'm just speaking English here. If you don't know what proof means, how do you teach logic? http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/proof

Quote
available evidence indicates that a benevolent God, etc., does not exist (just as, for example, the available evidence suggests that Aristotelian physics is not true).


Available evidence 1,500 years ago gave no indication of the existence of atoms. Did they not exist? Not "should Akrasia have believed they didn't" but "did they"?

Quote
Most religious people would be reluctant to use the term 'faith' in such an expansive way.


Why should I care what most religious people think? I thought we were discussing logic here, not religion.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 02, 2007, 05:01:54 pm
Quote from: beejazz
... Or, as long as we're making uninformed claims about one another's respective faiths, let's see you defend the mechanistic universe. Let's see you toss aside free will. Or will you defend free will with shaky science the same way the religious will defend evil with shaky religion?

See? Isn't it so much more fun to "disprove" someone else than to make any point of your own and have to defend it?


Well, I don't think 'libertarian' free will exists.  I'm not sure why you think that should be hard for an atheist to acknowledge.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 02, 2007, 05:05:29 pm
Quote from: James McMurray
Again, I'm just speaking English here. If you don't know what proof means, how do you teach logic? http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/proof

My point was that the term 'proof' can be used in many different ways (as made clear in that link).  It was unclear to me what meaning you were employing.  It's still somewhat unclear

Quote from: James McMurray
Available evidence 1,500 years ago gave no indication of the existence of atoms. Did they not exist?  

All of the available evidence indicates that yes, atoms existed.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 02, 2007, 05:17:58 pm
Quote from: JimBobOz

... Judaism does not require that you believe in God...

God doesn't require our belief, just that we follow the Law....

 
Thanks for your overview of Judaism.  :)

While Judaism may not require individuals to believe anything in particular (unlike most versions of Christianity), Judaism is committed to the claim that there is a God, etc.  That is, while individual Jews need only obey the Law in order to satisfy the demands of their religion for them, the religion (separate from what it demands of its followers) is committed to a certain account of God.  And it is that account that is the target of the 'problem of evil' argument.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: RPGPundit on January 02, 2007, 05:34:39 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
Thanks for the link.

I should have been more careful in making that comment.  (Suffice to say that there is some debate amongst Catholic scholars on this matter, i.e., how to understand 'Hell'.)


"Catholic Scholars" debate all kinds of shit. But in Catholicism, the only thing that matters is the word of the Curia and the "holy father" Rat.

RPGPundit
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: RPGPundit on January 02, 2007, 05:39:54 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
This isn’t correct, though, since it does not require ‘faith’ to disbelieve (or simply not form a belief in the existence of) something for which there is no evidence (or that contradicts the available evidence).


No, it absolutely does not require "faith" to disbelieve something for which there is no evidence.  So for example, I do not believe in the presence of the judeo-christian god.  However, you do not seem to be doing that.  What you are doing goes beyond mere "disbelief" to an active and activist belief in the absence of god.

Quote

I don’t believe that invisible pixies are floating around me at all times.  That’s not a ‘faith-based’ belief.


No but you do seem to believe that it is a certainty that God does NOT exist, when the truth is you don't know.

The best definition of faith I ever heard was "the power of trying to convince one's self of something one suspects to be untrue".

Disbelief would logically lead to a passive or active agnosticism, not to a militant atheism, which is already just another kind of dogmatism.

RPGPundit
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: RPGPundit on January 02, 2007, 05:46:21 pm
Quote from: Akrasia

Now, that aside, it seems clear that I've done a rather poor job of explaining why the 'problem of evil' argument should be taken seriously.  

However, simply because I've failed to do this, doesn't mean that the argument is not worth taking seriously!  Surely, if the argument was as manifestly implausible as some of you seem to think, theologians and philosophers would not have struggled with it from the time of Epicurus onwards.


The problem of evil is a fundamental issue that confronts theology of just about all belief systems.  They all attempt to address it in different ways.  The problem of evil in the context of judeo-christian religion in particular has been a long-standing source of religious discourse for scholars and philosophers in the Christian (and Jewish, and Muslim) world.
But this does not mean, as you seem to have been arguing on this thread, that it is an issue against which theologians have just shrugged their shoulders in impotent helplessness, the achilles heel that has thwarted all of their beliefs and is unsolvable.  Just as it is an issue that has come up in many different forms over the centuries it has been responded to in many different ways (some adequate, others grossly inadequate, and some more satisfying than others).

RPGPundit
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 02, 2007, 06:36:22 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
My point was that the term 'proof' can be used in many different ways (as made clear in that link).  It was unclear to me what meaning you were employing.  It's still somewhat unclear


I'm talking about the very first (and hence most commonly used) definition in the link I provided earlier. "evidence sufficient to establish a thing as true, or to produce belief in its truth." You do not have that in regards to the nonexistence of God.

Quote
All of the available evidence indicates that yes, atoms existed.


That's not the question, but perhaps I phrased it poorly. 1,500 years ago, the contemporaries of that time had no evidence to point to the existence of atoms. If Joe says "atoms exist" and Steve says "all available evidence says they don't, so I believe that they don't" does that mean that atoms did not exist? In other words, are you claiming that a lack of proof for something is proof of a lack of that something?
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Kyle Aaron on January 02, 2007, 10:41:50 pm
Quote from: James McMurray
I'm not talking about evidence. I'm talking about proof. One leads to the other but does not gaurantee it. If I drop a block, a chair, and a helium balloon I am presented with evidence that round objects fall upwards and pointy objects fall down. That's a simplistic example, true, but I think it applies.
There's a piece I actually used in d4-d4... It suggests for character generation giving the character likes, dislikes, etc - but also a philosophy, or "worldview," if you prefer. It's the filter by which we process the raw data which enters our minds. Filters are necessary to make sense of things. For example, it's possible for you to be blind or deaf not from damage to the eyes or ears, but from damage to the brain, to the part of the brain which processes the raw data and puts it into a coherent whole, into something which makes sense.

Our "philosophy" does the same thing. What the brain is to the eyes and ears for sights and sounds, the philosophy is to the events of the world.
Quote from: d4-d4
A person has a long illness, and is told they've six months to live; they pray to Jesus, and live on, recovering fully.

The Empirical Scientist will call this a "spontaneous remission," and perhaps think it'd be good to study the hormonal effects of prayer, and whether those hormones promote natural antibodies, and…

Whereas the Charismatic Christian will say, "it's a miracle." The same event is thus interpreted differently by different Philosophies. Both people have "evidence" for their point of view - the recovery of the patient. In all philosophies, people tend to look for evidence to support their point of view: the Empirical Scientist sees "facts" everywhere, while the Charismatic Christian sees "miracles" everywhere. They tend to ignore evidence which disproves their point of view, or they interpret the evidence in very elaborate ways so as not to harm their philosophy. Of course, there are different degrees of philosophy. It’s up the player how strongly they’ll play the various personality aspects.
Just something the evidence/proof distinction James McMurray noted brought to mind. For most people, there is evidence, but there is never proof, except proof for what they already believe.
Quote from: Akrasia
While Judaism may not require individuals to believe anything in particular (unlike most versions of Christianity), Judaism is committed to the claim that there is a God, etc. That is, while individual Jews need only obey the Law in order to satisfy the demands of their religion for them, the religion (separate from what it demands of its followers) is committed to a certain account of God. And it is that account that is the target of the 'problem of evil' argument.
There's a wonderful old piece called Why I Am A Jew (link (http://www.csuohio.edu/tagar/why.htm)). It's too lengthy to quote entirely as a forum post, but the key and most quoted part is,
Quote
I am a Jew because, born of Israel and having lost her,

I have felt her live again in me, more living than myself.

I am a Jew because, born of Israel and having regained her,

I wish her to live after me, more living than in myself.

I am a Jew because the faith of Israel demands of me no abdication of the mind.

I am a Jew because the faith of Israel requires of me all the devotion of my heart.

I am a Jew because in every place where suffering weeps, the Jew weeps.

I am a Jew because at every time when despair cries out, the Jew hopes.

I am a Jew because the word of Israel is the oldest and the newest.

I am a Jew because the promise of Israel if the universal promise.

I am a Jew because, for Israel, the world is not yet completed; men are completing it.

I am a Jew because, above the nations and Israel, Israel places man and his Unity.

I am a Jew because above man, image of the divine Unity, Israel places the divine Unity, and its divinity.
The relevant part here is, "the world is not yet completed; men are completing it." That's the answer to the "problem of evil." A world with evil in it is imperfect, incomplete; it is humanity's job to complete it. Constructive work for the good of oneself, of one's family, of one's nation, of the world - in this work is found meaning and fulfilment. In this view, humans are the adult children of God. A parent doesn't want their adult children to be mindless puppets of the parent, they want them to be fulfilled autonomous people, with their own actions and desires, adults in their own right.

To behave in this way, as an adult, responsible for your own fate, and responsible for the fate of humanity - this is a good way to live, with or without any belief in God. That's why Judaism does not require belief in God - because we were not put here for God, but for ourselves. The focus on God and the divine is not for God, God doesn't need our worship in any way. It's simply because humanity has a tendency to worship the work of its own hands. That's what "idolatory" really is, not simply worshipping graven idols of other gods, but worshipping ourselves. This leads to dictatorial personality cults, to excessive materialism and vicious greed, and so on. Having something else to focus on, something greater than a man, helps prevent that.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 03, 2007, 06:22:33 pm
Quote from: RPGPundit
... you do not seem to be doing that.  What you are doing goes beyond mere "disbelief" to an active and activist belief in the absence of god.
... you do seem to believe that it is a certainty that God does NOT exist, when the truth is you don't know.

Okay, since I may not have been especially clear in many of my previous posts, let me sum up my overall position as succinctly as possible, and (hopefully) for the final time.

I hold that the proposition ‘the traditional monotheistic conception of God’ is false.  My basis for doing so is (one version of) the evidential ‘problem of evil’ argument.  Consequently, because my belief is based on an evidential argument, my belief is not a matter of ‘faith’.

Quote
If the argument from evil is given an evidential formulation, what form should that take? There appear to be three main possibilities have been suggested in recent discussions. The first, which might be called the direct inductive approach, involves the idea that one can show that theism is unlikely to be true without comparing theism with any alternative hypothesis, other than the mere denial of theism. The second, which can be labeled the indirect inductive approach, argues instead that theism can be shown to be unlikely to be true by establishing that there is some alternative hypothesis -- other than the mere negation of theism -- that is logically incompatible with theism, and more probable than theism. Finally, the third possibility, which might be referred to as a probabilistic or Bayesian approach, starts out from probabilistic premises, and then attempts to show that it follows deductively, via axioms of probability theory, that it is unlikely that God exists.
(From http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/evil/.)

Now, leaving aside the details of the different ‘evidential’ arguments here (as I’ve already mentioned, if you’re curious, one version is discussed at: http://www.iep.utm.edu/e/evil-evi.htm), it seems to me to be clear that forming a belief on the basis of an evidential argument differs fundamentally from forming a belief on the basis of faith.

If you think otherwise, all I can do is conclude that you understand the terms ‘belief’, ‘justification’, ‘evidential argument’, ‘induction’, ‘faith’, and so forth, in some idiosyncratic way.  There’s obviously nothing that I can do about that, as that’s your decision.   All I can do is point out that my use of these terms is the same as that found in analytical philosophy.

Now, I’m not saying that replies to the argument in question are impossible.  Indeed, if you look at the articles to which I’ve provided links, you can read about some possible (often very compelling) replies yourself.  Thus I’m not saying that (all possible versions of) the argument might not be wrong.  It could turn out to be wrong -- just as any belief that we have based an evidential argument might be wrong.  (The strength of different evidential arguments, of course, can vary widely.  But a belief based on an adequately strong evidential argument just is a justified, if not irrefutable, belief, and thus not a belief based on 'faith'.)

All I’m asserting is the rather simple (indeed, trivial) point that a belief formed inductively (i.e. on the basis of available evidence and argument) is not a case of ‘faith’.  So my belief, based on an evidential argument, that a certain conception of God is false is not a belief based on faith.  That’s it.

(Now, I suppose that one could argue, as James appears determined to do, that all of our beliefs about the external world are cases of ‘faith’.  That seems to me to be an exceedingly strange view -- it certainly involves a radical change in the meaning of ‘faith’.  If people want to assert and cling to such a bizarre definition of ‘faith’ that’s their decision, as I’ve already said in this post, but I see little value in trying to debate any further with such people.)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 03, 2007, 06:37:22 pm
Quote from: JimBobOz
...  For most people, there is evidence, but there is never proof, except proof for what they already believe...


Well, assuming that by 'proof' one means irrefutable, then we don't have 'proof' for pretty much any of our beliefs about the external world.  (Of course the term 'proof' is used quite differently in legal discouse, where a 'burden of proof' just does refer to 'available evidence' -- satisfying the 'burden of proof' can still lead to an unjust conviction!)

If one demands that our beliefs about the external world be 'irrefutable', then scepticism appears to be the inevitable conclusion.  One could go that route, if one likes, but the vast majority of philosophers throughout history (with some noteworthy exceptions, like Descartes) have not.

When forming beliefs about the external world, we rely on induction.  Evidential arguments provide justifications for beliefs.  These aren't 'irrefutable', but they are rational justifications nonetheless.

Quote from: JimBobOz
...
The relevant part here is, "the world is not yet completed; men are completing it." That's the answer to the "problem of evil." A world with evil in it is imperfect, incomplete; it is humanity's job to complete it....


That is indeed a possible reply to the problem of evil.  For various reasons that I will not get into here, I don't find it convincing (i.e. I do not think that it seriously challenges the reasons that I have for my justified belief), but I certainly respect the right of people to advocate it.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 03, 2007, 09:15:42 pm
Quote
One could go that route, if one likes, but the vast majority of philosophers throughout history (with some noteworthy exceptions, like Descartes) have not.


Why the appeal to authority?
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Gunslinger on January 04, 2007, 03:52:30 pm
Akrasia, let me sum what i've read or somewhat read into so far.  Akrasia is an atheist.  Akrasia believes in many ways that atheists are somewhat persecuted in society.  Akrasia relates to many points in an article about the misconceptions people have of atheists.  The reason Akrasia is an atheist is because "the problem of evil" proves God does not exist.  The reason Akrasia believes in the validity of “the problem of evil” is because this is the best information available to make a logical conclusion.  

1. If God exists (as understood by the main monotheistic religions), he is omniscient and omnipotent and omnibenevolent
2. If suffering exists, God cannot be omniscient & omnipotent & omnibenevolent (at most he can only be two of those things, e.g. he might be all-knowing and all-powerful, but not care about the existence of widespread suffering).
3. We know suffering exists.
4. Therefore God does not exist (i.e. any God that is omniscient & omnipotent & omnibenevolent).

Let examine this:

1.  Assumes a correct interpretation of an individual’s perception of God.  Also assumes we can completely comprehend omniscience, omnipotence, and omnibenevolence.
2.  Makes the assumption that suffering is equitable to bad.
3.  Suffering is subjective to an individual’s perspective.  Suffering exists in many forms, so suffering exists.
4.  Is true only if all of the above assumptions are correct.

Actually “the problem of evil” is actually a better argument for an individual’s lack of understanding of omnibenevolence, omnipotence, and omniscience.  You see Akrasia, it seems you are using this argument to validate your belief structure not using the argument to establish your belief structure.  The argument seems to be more an indicator of what you believe, which is why it makes a great discussion piece for philosophy students.  There’s no way to test this argument because there is no measurable evidence to test the conclusion.  That’s what I mean when I say that the argument exists in a philosophical vacuum.  Being an atheist allows you to categorically deny any evidence that supports the existence of a God or at least deny a probability that there could be.  It really doesn’t seem any different than my roommate’s philosophy professor using philosophy to convince her students that they shouldn’t hurt animals because humans are vegetarians or mine using philosophy to instill in herself a false sense of superiority.  Yes, they also had PhDs in philosophy.  So I admit that my past experiences with philosophers may be a factor.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 04, 2007, 04:01:34 pm
Quote
The reason Akrasia is an atheist is because "the problem of evil" proves God does not exist. The reason Akrasia believes in the validity of “the problem of evil” is because this is the best information available to make a logical conclusion.


You're doing what several others have done (despite Akrasia's constant statements to the contrary). You've confused "one" argument to mean "the argument."

The rest of the post seems pretty close to what I've read.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Bradford C. Walker on January 04, 2007, 07:08:37 pm
God is Pai Mei.

That solves the problem.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 04, 2007, 08:34:26 pm
Quote from: James McMurray
Why the appeal to authority?


Because I simply don't have time to explain all of the various relevant arguments here; I cannot  give you an adequate survey in the history of epistemology.  And, moreover, you would certainly be better served by simply purchasing an introductory book on epistemology.  (I've come to realise that a forum like this is not the best place to try to explain or discuss complicated concepts.)

(For starters, though, it may be helpful to read up on inductive arguments:
http://www.iep.utm.edu/d/ded-ind.htm.  
Helpful general online resources include: http://plato.stanford.edu/
and: http://www.iep.utm.edu/)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 04, 2007, 08:39:38 pm
Quote from: Gunslinger
... Actually “the problem of evil” is actually a better argument for an individual’s lack of understanding of omnibenevolence, omnipotence, and omniscience...

 
But only if we presuppose the existence of an entity that is omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient.  Otherwise, the ‘argument’ you posit is implausible -- it is a classic case ‘begging the question’.  In order to avoid that fallacy, my position is simply that, given the available evidence, it is more rational to maintain that such an entity does not exist

Quote from: Gunslinger
...
You see Akrasia, it seems you are using this argument to validate your belief structure not using the argument to establish your belief structure….


I could not disagree more, especially since I was once a devout Christian.  Various philosophical arguments (ironically, not the one that has been the focus of this thread!) convinced me of the incorrectness of my previous beliefs.

Anyhow, given that the argument has succeeded with respect to some religious people over the centuries, and that others (especially theologians and religious philosophers) have felt the need to try to reply  to it over the past 2000+ years, the argument cannot be merely a rhetorical device to validate beliefs that people already have.

Quote from: Gunslinger
...
Being an atheist allows you to categorically deny any evidence that supports the existence of a God or at least deny a probability that there could be...


This is not true.  There are arguments in favour of the existence of God.  I cannot discuss them here, but suffice to say that, while I find some of them interesting, I don’t find them convincing (and the most convincing arguments can only establish a ‘deistic’ conception of God, i.e., a kind of God that it is pointless to worship).

Quote from: Gunslinger
...using philosophy to instill in herself a false sense of superiority.  Yes, they also had PhDs in philosophy.  So I admit that my past experiences with philosophers may be a factor.


Yes, we can be quite irritating, can’t we?  :)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Gunslinger on January 04, 2007, 09:47:47 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
I could not disagree more, especially since I was once a devout Christian. Various philosophical arguments (ironically, not the one that has been the focus of this thread!) convinced me of the incorrectness of my previous beliefs.

Sorry, just read that way.

As to the rest, it doesn't seem like you're a firm atheist.  Just haven't ran across an argument or evidence to convince you otherwise...yet.  Really not that much different than someone saying they believe in God and not having found an argument or evidence to convince you otherwise...yet.  Atheism is the term that seems to describe a belief of your's best right now.  If your argument was that all along well, damn.  I spent hours thinking about this.  

Quote from: Akrasia
Yes, we can be quite irritating, can’t we?

I honestly didn't know whether to laugh or cry when the prof asked if I would consider philosophy as a minor after the experience I had with her.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Balbinus on January 05, 2007, 05:07:28 am
Quote from: Gunslinger
1. If God exists (as understood by the main monotheistic religions), he is omniscient and omnipotent and omnibenevolent
2. If suffering exists, God cannot be omniscient & omnipotent & omnibenevolent (at most he can only be two of those things, e.g. he might be all-knowing and all-powerful, but not care about the existence of widespread suffering).
3. We know suffering exists.
4. Therefore God does not exist (i.e. any God that is omniscient & omnipotent & omnibenevolent).

Let examine this:

1.  Assumes a correct interpretation of an individual’s perception of God.  Also assumes we can completely comprehend omniscience, omnipotence, and omnibenevolence.
2.  Makes the assumption that suffering is equitable to bad.
3.  Suffering is subjective to an individual’s perspective.  Suffering exists in many forms, so suffering exists.
4.  Is true only if all of the above assumptions are correct.


Good summary.  The problem of evil is an argument against the Judeo-Christian diety only by the way, it isn't an argument against several other faiths.

The reason though it is powerful in respect of the Judeo-Christian deity is that those religions posit that God is good, indeed that God is in fact all loving and omnibenevolent.  They also posit that God is omniscient and omnipotent, but for some reason not omnifiscient.

The problem of evil is an application of logic to those claims, no more and no less.  If the claim is that God is all powerful, all seeing and is good, then one should not expect evil in the world save possibly as a product of free will.  One sees such evil in the world however every day.  Ergo, if there is a God he is either not omnipotent, not omniscient or not omnibenevolent.

Pundit's response that we cannot understand God's goodness is an old argument long since discarded in philosophy, because it is essentially semantic.  God's goodness is not our goodness, in which case it isn't what we mean by the term good.

The problem of evil is generally regarded by Christian philosophers as insoluble, a mystery which can only be answered by faith as it is logically generally agreed to be pretty unassailable.  I find the ignorance of it here slightly surprising.

That said, it presents no great difficulties to many other faiths, Buddhists are fine with it, Hindus likewise, any of the manichean faiths has no problem dealing with it.  The problem of evil is only a problem if you posit an omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent god and only the Christians, Jews and Moslems do that (not sure if the Jews do actually, my knowledge of Jewish theology is very limited).
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Balbinus on January 05, 2007, 05:10:20 am
Oh, although for some atheism clearly has become some sort of faith, the militant atheist brigade, the idea that it is a faith per se is nonsense.

It is merely an absence of faith.  The universe I see around me presents only very weak evidence for any kind of theist hypothesis while also presenting strong evidence for it's origin being a natural phenomenon, thus I reject the theist hypothesis.  No more, no less.  If the evidence changes then I may change my view, but I think the evidence that the universe is a natural phenomenon has considerable strength and it would now take a lot to overcome that hypothesis.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Balbinus on January 05, 2007, 05:13:56 am
Quote from: JimBobOz
If you'd like to know what Jews believe, or want to believe, you could always ask one. Hastur already pointed out that you don't know the most basic thing about Catholicism - that hell still exists in that faith. Now, about Judaism...

Judaism does not require that you believe in God.

Just hold onto that thought for a moment.

Got it? Haven't lost it in prejudice or nonsense? No? Okay, keep hold of it.

Judaism proposes a set of laws which must be followed. Some of those laws (like kosher) are for just for Jews, and some of those laws (like not murdering people) are for eveveryone.

Follow the Law, says the Law, and you'll be off to Heaven; exactly what Heaven is, is left pretty vague. Don't follow the Law, and you're off to Hell. Hell's even vaguer, but is usually understood to be simply the absence of the presence of God. Anyway, it's thought that following the Law will make life better, whether or not it makes the afterlife better. See, Judaism focuses on now. That's why we have a whole shitload of sayings like, "break one law, so as to fulfill many others" - eg, eat a pork sausage so you can not starve, and live on to eat kosher in future, rather than just starving now. Or, "pray as though everything depends on God, act as though everything depends on you." Or "he who takes one life, it as if he has killed the whole world; he who saves one life, it is as if he has saved the whole world" (because each person saved may become a parent, and their children will have children, and so on; or if beyond child-bearing age, they may at least protect the lives of others).

God doesn't require our belief, just that we follow the Law. This isn't so hard to make sense of, really. If I say to a cop, "I don't believe Parliament exists!" the cop might reply, "um... will you obey the laws passed by Parliament?" If I say, "yes," the cop will say, "good enough." My belief or disbelief in the existence of Parliament has no effect on whether their laws are good, and on whether I follow those laws.

Likewise, with God and his Law.

Judaism requires no belief. It requires action. Good actions are good actions, whatever the belief or motivation behind them, and bad actions are bad actions. The laws are good or bad, harmless or harmful, give us fulfilment or emptiness, in and of themselves; whether they come from God or humanity makes no difference.

Faith makes more sense when you ask the people who hold that faith about it, rather than vague half-remembered musings from some website somewhere. I imagine that's where you got your "Catholics don't believe in Hell anymore" from, from the recent abolition of the ideas of Limbo, etc. It's ironic that one of the criticisms of atheists of those with faith is that their faith leads to muddled thought; atheists are entirely capable of muddled thought. Catholicism still has Hell, and Judaism does not require belief, only action.


I missed this, I'm glad I caveated about Judaism now as the problem of evil wouldn't be a great problem on this argument.  Thanks Jim-Bob.

It still is a real issue for Christians and Moslems though.  Not much for anyone else however.  All too often, when we discuss theist hypotheses we speak only to our own religious traditions ignoring the many others.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Balbinus on January 05, 2007, 05:16:56 am
Quote from: RPGPundit
Yes, but you aren't. And therefore, cannot know what "perfectly good" even looks like.


RPGPundit


That's the semantic argument pundit, it isn't a good one.

If we say that whatever God does is good, it just doesn't necessarily match what we perceive as good, then that is not really any different to saying that God does things which are not good.  It's semantics, nothing more.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Balbinus on January 05, 2007, 05:23:44 am
The other problem with the argument that suffering may be necessary for a greater good, is it begs the question of who benefits from that greater good.

If someone dies horribly and painfully, but that death creates a better world for others, then you can argue that overall good is being served.  But that's not much comfort to the dead guy.  It starts to argue that god plays favourites, that some are sacrificed for the whole regardless of the cost to them, it's an argument one can rationally make but it doesn't fit well with the Christian notion of a personal saviour who cares about each of us equally.

When at Uni I coined the Rigellian argument, ie that all our suffering could be for the greater benefit of the inhabitants of Rigel V, and they're the ones God is actually more interested in.  Logically that holds good, but it doesn't lead you to a very comforting deist hypothesis.  It also frankly doesn't fit that well with the world we see, in which all too often suffering at the personal level has no great benefit to anyone much.  Try telling someone who's kid just died of an agonising cancer that it was for the greater good and see how comforting they find that.  Logically it could be true, but it's cheap and if you're affected by the suffering it's hard to conclude that the deity which tortured your kid to death effectively is good overall because there will be some long term benefit to some other guy.

Again though, outside the Christian paradigm none of this is an issue.  For a buddhist or Hindu the chances are the kid was working off some shitty karma and so their suffering helped burn that off, which may genuinely present some comfort to the grieving relatives.  The individual suffers, but for the long term benefit of that individual, not for the benefit of some other guy.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Kyle Aaron on January 05, 2007, 05:42:04 am
Quote from: Balbinus
I missed this, I'm glad I caveated about Judaism now as the problem of evil wouldn't be a great problem on this argument.  Thanks Jim-Bob.

No worries, mate.

For Judaism, the argument isn't that we're suffering for the Greater Good. The argument is that if we're suffering, it's our fault for causing suffering, and we've been put here to improve our lives.

The world is not complete, it's our job to complete it.

So in Judaism, asking why the benevolent God doesn't make the world perfect is like some school student asking why the teacher doesn't just do all his homework for them. The child develops into adulthood by doing their own study, both academically and otherwise. Humanity becomes better by doing their own work.

The end goal of some kind of utopia may not be reachable, but striving for it is worthwhile in itself. There are things which enhance or degrade us, whatever they do to the world. For example, in Judaism we say that one shouldn't be cruel to animals or hunt them for sport. An animal which is killed slowly and painfully, it's just as wrong to eat it as it would be to eat swine or shellfish. More wrong, in fact - kosher food is just for Jews, meat killed swiftly is for everyone, says the Jewish law. Not being cruel to animals isn't presented as, "poor animals, they will be sad," but instead, "us being cruel degrades us, whatever the victim feels."

I know this sort of argument confuses militant atheists, because fundamentally it just makes sense, and it puts responsibility for human actions and suffering back on humans. Since militant atheists usually argue that the religious all have blind stupid faith, passively awaiting their fate, this sort of argument just stumps them.

Which of course is another wonderful thing about Judaism. Anything that silences a militant of any kind is good ;)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Balbinus on January 05, 2007, 06:04:06 am
Quote from: JimBobOz
I know this sort of argument confuses militant atheists, because fundamentally it just makes sense, and it puts responsibility for human actions and suffering back on humans. Since militant atheists usually argue that the religious all have blind stupid faith, passively awaiting their fate, this sort of argument just stumps them.


In my experience, most militant atheists confuse American evangelical Christianity of the sillier sort with religion generally.  

The thing is, just because the US evangelicals shout loudest doesn't mean they're representative of anything much, frequently I doubt they're even representative of most US evangelical Christians.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Hastur T. Fannon on January 05, 2007, 06:32:36 am
Quote from: JimBobOz
For Judaism, the argument isn't that we're suffering for the Greater Good. The argument is that if we're suffering, it's our fault for causing suffering, and we've been put here to improve our lives.

The world is not complete, it's our job to complete it.


Incidentally, this viewpoint is also common in Eastern Christianity and is beginning to move it's way westwards as Orthodoxy becomes more fashionable
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Kyle Aaron on January 05, 2007, 06:47:05 am
Well, it's more optimistic than Calvinism, anyway :D
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Balbinus on January 05, 2007, 06:56:02 am
Quote from: JimBobOz
Well, it's more optimistic than Calvinism, anyway :D


You only say that because you're not one of the elect.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 05, 2007, 10:23:59 am
Quote
Pundit's response that we cannot understand God's goodness is an old argument long since discarded in philosophy, because it is essentially semantic. God's goodness is not our goodness, in which case it isn't what we mean by the term good.


It's not so much that we can't understand God's goodness, it's that even if we do understand it, we don't have all the information or the perspective an omniscient being would have, so we can't possibly know whether or not some amount of suffering is actually better or not.

Quote
It is merely an absence of faith.


Not if you speak english. Agnosticism is the absence of faith. The moment you make an actual claim one way or the other and you can't prove it you require faith.

Quote
If someone dies horribly and painfully, but that death creates a better world for others, then you can argue that overall good is being served. But that's not much comfort to the dead guy.


Supposedly this is a multi-layered existence. As such, why is it impossible to consider the idea that the suffering and death may be both good for those that stay behind and the person it happens to?
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Balbinus on January 05, 2007, 10:31:11 am
Quote from: James McMurray
Supposedly this is a multi-layered existence. As such, why is it impossible to consider the idea that the suffering and death may be both good for those that stay behind and the person it happens to?


Because Christianity posits a binary afterlife, either you go to heaven or you don't.

If the suffering prompted you to reconsider your life, thus tilting you to heaven when otherwise you wouldn't have got there, plainly you benefit.

If however you were already saved, or are not given a meaningful opportunity to reconsider, then you get no post-mortem improvement in position.  Therefore you have no personal benefit.

On your first para, better for who?  If a child suffocates slowly under a mud landslide in Peru, it is fair to ask how the child benefited.  If some other guy benefited from the child's suffering at the very least we're getting to an idiosyncratic idea of good.  If the child was too young to understand what was happening, or was religiously devout already, then it is difficult to see any possible benefit to them of slow suffocation in a tide of mud given a binary afterlife.

Now, with buddhism ain't none of that a problem, but with Christianity it definitely is.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Balbinus on January 05, 2007, 10:34:36 am
Quote from: James McMurray
Supposedly this is a multi-layered existence. As such, why is it impossible to consider the idea that the suffering and death may be both good for those that stay behind and the person it happens to?


Also, and to be clear here I am going to matters of personal view rather than logic, I struggle remotely to believe that some forms of suffering can have any value at all.  Vomiting faeces while you die slowly in hideous pain (and that is a real example I encountered once in a debate about euthanasia) is not something which can I personally regard as an acceptable fate to deliberately expose someone to.  This does go to a question of faith (which I don't think the arguments generally do), but it simply is not in me to believe that that is a necessity for anyone and that no other means of benefitting them would have sufficed.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 05, 2007, 10:38:30 am
What, no purgatory?

As whether you were saved or not, what if you ask forgiveness while being burned or buried alive, thus becoming saved? What if you already were saved but would mostly likely fall from grace soon, and the early death saved you from an eternity of Hell? What if your suffering were brought about because of choices you made, so God stepped back and let it happen because his omnibenevolence includes the idea that a GM shouldn't fudge the dice rolls and shouldn't force his plot on the players?

I personally have no idea what benefits that child may or may not experience from a slow muddy grave. But then again I a) have no idea what sorts of things got hrough someone's head when they're dying that might be beneficial, and b) am not God.

And has it occured to you that perhaps there are more "good things" that can happen then just "dies and goes to heaven?" I know I've got just a tiny little mortal brain and I can think of lots of good things beyond that just in therapy-oriented thought processes alone. Who knows how many good things an honest to Himself deity could brainstorm out in a minute or two.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Balbinus on January 05, 2007, 10:38:40 am
Quote from: James McMurray
Not if you speak english. Agnosticism is the absence of faith. The moment you make an actual claim one way or the other and you can't prove it you require faith.


That's not actually correct, disbelief in the existence of god falls within the dictionariy definition of atheism.  Agnosticism is a belief that the existence or otherwise of god is essentially unnowable.  Both the OED and I think Websters support this.

That said, I really don't want to get into dictionary definitions and I am happy to use your terms, I just rather objected to an implication I didn't speak English when I am using a perfectly standard usage of the term.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 05, 2007, 10:40:04 am
Don't ask me about the vomiting feces stuff, as God (if he exists). I can't think of anything good in that either, but I'm not so prideful to think that there can't be anything good about it just because I can't think of it.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 05, 2007, 10:43:24 am
Quote from: Balbinus
That's not actually correct, disbelief in the existence of god falls within the dictionariy definition of atheism.  Agnosticism is a belief that the existence or otherwise of god is essentially unnowable.  Both the OED and I think Websters support this.

That said, I really don't want to get into dictionary definitions and I am happy to use your terms, I just rather objected to an implication I didn't speak English when I am using a perfectly standard usage of the term.



Sorry, I was going by the dictionary definitions we've been using since this discussion started: namely that

faith = belief without proof
atheism = belief that God does not exist

Yes there are all sorts of shades of grey in atheism, primarily (IMO) because some people just don't want to call themselves agnostics so they call themselves soft atheistists. But those shades aren't what's being discussed here, Akrasia's claims that 1) strong atheism of the "god ain't real" sort aren't faith based because there's some sort of proof and 2) the Problem of Evil proves that the Judeo-christian God doesn't exist.

If you want to expand the discussion by all mean do, although a new thread might be best to avoid diluting this thread.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Balbinus on January 05, 2007, 11:06:20 am
Quote from: James McMurray
What, no purgatory?

As whether you were saved or not, what if you ask forgiveness while being burned or buried alive, thus becoming saved? What if you already were saved but would mostly likely fall from grace soon, and the early death saved you from an eternity of Hell? What if your suffering were brought about because of choices you made, so God stepped back and let it happen because his omnibenevolence includes the idea that a GM shouldn't fudge the dice rolls and shouldn't force his plot on the players?

I personally have no idea what benefits that child may or may not experience from a slow muddy grave. But then again I a) have no idea what sorts of things got hrough someone's head when they're dying that might be beneficial, and b) am not God.

And has it occured to you that perhaps there are more "good things" that can happen then just "dies and goes to heaven?" I know I've got just a tiny little mortal brain and I can think of lots of good things beyond that just in therapy-oriented thought processes alone. Who knows how many good things an honest to Himself deity could brainstorm out in a minute or two.


Purgatory is merely heaven's waiting room, though I suppose a few years shaved off the wait would have value.

I posited a child to get round the being saved while dying bit, though I do take your point about being saved from later sins which is a good one.

On the other benefits, if I'm dead the only possible benefits to me going forward are necessarily post-mortem, what else are you considering?

I'm a bit tied up for a moment James, but those were good points and I'll give them further thought.  That said, I haven't been attacking people here, that was other posters, so let's try not to be too aggressive with one another.  Comments about whether I have possibly considered something aren't really helpful.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Balbinus on January 05, 2007, 11:29:30 am
Quote from: James McMurray
Sorry, I was going by the dictionary definitions we've been using since this discussion started: namely that

faith = belief without proof
atheism = belief that God does not exist

Yes there are all sorts of shades of grey in atheism, primarily (IMO) because some people just don't want to call themselves agnostics so they call themselves soft atheistists. But those shades aren't what's being discussed here, Akrasia's claims that 1) strong atheism of the "god ain't real" sort aren't faith based because there's some sort of proof and 2) the Problem of Evil proves that the Judeo-christian God doesn't exist.

If you want to expand the discussion by all mean do, although a new thread might be best to avoid diluting this thread.


Ah, my mistake, no worries about the expansion.  I'm fine to go with those definitions, teaches me not to skim really seeing as how I missed that.

To be honest, there were some really circular discussions earlier in this thread that I rather skipped over in the interests of protecting my remaining brain cells.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Balbinus on January 05, 2007, 11:31:36 am
Quote from: James McMurray
Don't ask me about the vomiting feces stuff, as God (if he exists). I can't think of anything good in that either, but I'm not so prideful to think that there can't be anything good about it just because I can't think of it.


That's why I was saying at that point it becomes a matter of faith, one has (if one so chooses) faith that god does indeed have a purpose to this that is beyond our understanding.  In the absence of that faith, one is left with the reality of the suffering alone.

James, I think if we were down the pub we'd find we had little between us actually, sometimes online posts rather exaggerate differences.  I wonder if we have not widely disimillar views and are merely placing our emphases in different places.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 05, 2007, 11:51:05 am
Quote
On the other benefits, if I'm dead the only possible benefits to me going forward are necessarily post-mortem, what else are you considering?


Why does it matter if they're pre- or post-mortem?

Quote
]That said, I haven't been attacking people here, that was other posters, so let's try not to be too aggressive with one another. Comments about whether I have possibly considered something aren't really helpful.


Sorry, that's just my style. It's not meant as an attack, it's just the way the words come out. I'll see what I can do to rein it in some. :)

Quote
To be honest, there were some really circular discussions earlier in this thread that I rather skipped over in the interests of protecting my remaining brain cells.


What, you mean the 6 (or was it more) pages of "yuh-huh" ... "nuh-uh" ... "yuh-huh"? :)

Quote
That's why I was saying at that point it becomes a matter of faith, one has (if one so chooses) faith that god does indeed have a purpose to this that is beyond our understanding. In the absence of that faith, one is left with the reality of the suffering alone.


Well, it looks like we're starting our own circular back-and-forth. Or at least this is the sticking point that started the last one. I'll say this and then we may just have to agree to disagree. Your stance seems to be:

1) If you believe God has a plan then you believe it and the Problem of Evil falls apart. This would be the theist's response to the Problem of Evil.

2) If you don't believe that you're left with the idea that suffering exists so this particular flavor of god can't. This is the atheist's response.

My stance is:

1) The theist says "God has a plan."

2) The atheist (as used in this thread) says "I don't believe in god so suffering disproves him."

3) The agnostic says I don't believe in God, but neither do I disbelieve. If he does exist I can see where he may have a plan, therefor the Problem of Evil is neither refutable nor provable.

Quote
James, I think if we were down the pub we'd find we had little between us actually, sometimes online posts rather exaggerate differences. I wonder if we have not widely disimillar views and are merely placing our emphases in different places.


Probably. :) I'll tell you what, you buy the drinks and I'll believe whatever you want me to believe about the PoE, at least until I'm sober. ;)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Balbinus on January 05, 2007, 12:17:55 pm
Quote from: James McMurray
2) The atheist (as used in this thread) says "I don't believe in god so suffering disproves him."


Hm, put like that that isn't correct.  The problem of evil doesn't disprove god, it is simply a (IMO convincing) challenge to the deist hypothesis.  A challenge though ain't proof, it's simply evidence to the contrary.

I would put 2 as "I don't believe in god, and one reason why I don't is that I find the concept of god raises the POE as a challenge to be addressed but the problem of POE goes away once we cease to posit this type of god".  That isn't though the argument that was being made earlier in this thread.

So yeah, that 2 is wrong.  To me the POE is relevant because I find it more persuasive to simply explain evil by reference to the world not being set up to be nice to us, and I find that much more likely than the world in fact being a good place but in ways we can't quite grasp.  It's a question of probability and how convincing we find the evidence, which isn't quite a matter of faith as a matter of making a judgement and accepting that one may be wrong.

In my judgement, the evidence for this kind of god is poor and unconvincing, while in my judgement the evidence that there is no such god is pretty good.  That's not so much faith as simply forming a view on the basis of the information available to me.  All that said, I may of course be wrong just as I may be wrong in any judgement I make.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 05, 2007, 01:45:46 pm
As used in this thread it has been claimed that (partly) due to the problem of evil belief in the nonexistence of God does not require faith. Since faith is belief without proof, nonfaith would be belief with proof, ergo PoE is being offered as proof.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Gunslinger on January 05, 2007, 02:52:16 pm
Quote from: Balbinus
Because Christianity posits a binary afterlife, either you go to heaven or you don't.

That's another point that's unsettling to me.  Not all Christians even share the same views.  Throwing in the other monotheistic religions muddies the water even more.  Talk to a Jehovah's Witness even for a small amount of time and you'll find they discredit many traditional teachings.  I know they don't believe in a heaven and will discuss for hours why Jehovah allows suffering in "this system of things".  The Mormons go a step further.  I'm not an expert on any of these religions but the argument just seems to be too broad for me to get a lot of mileage out of it.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on January 05, 2007, 04:30:59 pm
Quote from: James McMurray
As used in this thread it has been claimed that (partly) due to the problem of evil belief in the nonexistence of God does not require faith. Since faith is belief without proof, nonfaith would be belief with proof, ergo PoE is being offered as proof.


When applied to the specific ideas for which it is meant, proof is exactly what PoE is, at least according to the definition of "proof" which you provided.

Quote from: James McMurray

proof     /pruf/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[proof] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation
–noun
1.   evidence sufficient to establish a thing as true, or to produce belief in its truth.


(Emphasis added by me for clarity)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 05, 2007, 04:36:50 pm
If that means "evidence sufficient for anyone to believe" then the fact that the human circulatory system is so freakin' complex is "proof" that God exists, after all it's sufficient evidence for some people.

I take a more stringent view of the definition. You of course are free to decide what is sufficient evidence for you.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on January 05, 2007, 04:45:08 pm
Quote from: James McMurray
If that means "evidence sufficient for anyone to believe" then the fact that the human circulatory system is so freakin' complex is "proof" that God exists, after all it's sufficient evidence for some people.

I take a more stringent view of the definition. You of course are free to decide what is sufficient evidence for you.

I am well aware that I am free to decide any damn thing I want. I was simply pointing out that the definition of the word which you provided allows for the PoE to be used as proof in the non-existence of god for those who are inclined to see it that way. If that's not the part of the definition you are using, perhaps you should be more specific.

Other related arguements can be found here (http://www.positiveatheism.org/hist/russell0.htm) as well. Interesting stuff.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 05, 2007, 04:58:15 pm
For proof: if one holds up an object and says "this is proof" and the people one is trying to convince say "no it isn't because of X"** then it has failed as proof. It might be proof for the person who believes in it, but it is not proof for the argument in general. Further, if an argument is being held up as proof but the responses of "what about X, Y, and Z" cannot be answered, that argument is not proof. I'm using proof as an empirical term, not a subjective one. If all we care about is subjective proof then we might as well stop now because every true believer and unbeliever has something that they accept as proof.*

The link: There's nothing there about the Problem of Evil that I could see. Was there a specific one you wanted to discuss? I will say that none of that is new to me, although it's been years since I've thought about religious philosophy as much as I have in the last week of this thread. I'm more than happy to talk more though, the whole experience is really getting the old juices flowing. :)

We should probably start another thread though, as this one is pretty tightly focused and diluting that would be a disservice to those engaged in it. Normally I wouldn't give a rat's ass, but I actually like this thread. :)

* And yes, I'm aware that everything is subjective, but when we elect to have a discussion (about anything) we start with certain shared experiences (i.e. reality) taken as a basis for that discussion. For instance, if I use the word door in a point I'm making, I feel certain that everone I'm talking to knows what a door is. They may think of different types (revolving, sliding, swivel-hinged, etc.) but the general idea of a door is known to everyone and if I need to be more specific I can be.

But now I'm rambling about something that probably didn't even need to be said, so I'll stop. :)

** Assuming X makes sense of course. Disbelieving in the pencil someone hands you because Elton John soothes you wouldn't qualify. :)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on January 05, 2007, 05:16:30 pm
Quote from: James McMurray
For proof: if one holds up an object and says "this is proof" and the people one is trying to convince say "no it isn't because of ___" then it has failed as proof. It might be proof for the person who believes in it, but it is not proof for the argument in general. Further, if an argument is being held up as proof but the responses of "what about X, Y, and Z" cannot be answered, that argument is not proof. I'm using proof as an empirical term, not a subjective one. If all we care about is subjective proof then we might as well stop now because every true believer and unbeliever has something that they accept as proof.*


There, that's much better. Now I know specifically what you mean. I would still also like to point out that the definition of proof still allows for Akrasia to say accurately that PoE "proves" satisfactorily that the idea of god argued against by PoE can't exist logically.

Quote
The link: There's nothing there about the Problem of Evil that I could see. Was there a specific one you wanted to discuss? I will say that none of that is new to me, although it's been years since I've thought about religious philosophy as much as I have in the last week of this thread. I'm more than happy to talk more though, the whole experience is really getting the old juices flowing. :)


No, Russell doesn't talk about PoE per se in that link, I just thought it was related (kinda) and interesting. The fact that it isn't directly related is why I didn't quote or anything, but just provided the link for any who might be interested (as I am) in this kind of discussion.

Quote
We should probably start another thread though, as this one is pretty tightly focused and diluting that would be a disservice to those engaged in it. Normally I wouldn't give a rat's ass, but I actually like this thread. :)


I agree. Same here. :)

Quote
* And yes, I'm aware that everything is subjective, but when we elect to have a discussion (about anything) we start with certain shared experiences (i.e. reality) taken as a basis for that discussion. For instance, if I use the word door in a point I'm making, I feel certain that everone I'm talking to knows what a door is. They may think of different types (revolving, sliding, swivel-hinged, etc.) but the general idea of a door is known to everyone and if I need to be more specific I can be.

But now I'm rambling about something that probably didn't even need to be said, so I'll stop. :)


True, but unless I missed it, you had never specifically said that your usage of "proof" didn't include all facets of the definition contained in the link you provided. A number of other terms have not been defined very well, causing me to feel some posters to this thread have been talking past and around one another. Among them are "belief", "faith", "good" (including benevolence), and indirectly (and perhaps imprecisely) "infinite" (in the form of the suffix "omni-").

As an aside, tonight is game night for me, so I won't be around the forum to post further until after midnight EST. I have greatly enjoyed this thread so far, rock on ya'all.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 05, 2007, 07:32:18 pm
Great, you win the semantics argument. Wanna cookie? :)

To all and sundry: please be advised that when I use the word "proof" in this thread I will be referring to my definition here (http://www.therpgsite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=61404&postcount=223). In short, I'm talking about an objective proof, not a subjective one.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 05, 2007, 07:35:13 pm
Quote from: Sigmund
I have greatly enjoyed this thread so far, rock on ya'all.


Same here. I'm surprised at how long it's lasted and how civil it's remained. I think once the PoE debate dies (and it has to eventually as there's really nothing new to add to it) I'll reincarnate it by pulling up one of the other "proofs" for atheism.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 06, 2007, 12:53:58 am
Quote from: Balbinus
... The problem of evil is generally regarded by Christian philosophers as insoluble, a mystery which can only be answered by faith as it is logically generally agreed to be pretty unassailable.  I find the ignorance of it here slightly surprising. ...

(Edit: I 'bolded' the word 'faith'.)

Quote from: Balbinus
Oh, although for some atheism clearly has become some sort of faith, the militant atheist brigade, the idea that it is a faith per se is nonsense.

It is merely an absence of faith.  The universe I see around me presents only very weak evidence for any kind of theist hypothesis while also presenting strong evidence for it's origin being a natural phenomenon, thus I reject the theist hypothesis.  No more, no less.  If the evidence changes then I may change my view, but I think the evidence that the universe is a natural phenomenon has considerable strength and it would now take a lot to overcome that hypothesis.

Thank you for stating these points in a far clearer and more succinct manner than I have been able to in this thread.  :)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 06, 2007, 01:08:10 am
Quote from: James McMurray

faith = belief without proof
atheism = belief that God does not exist


Faith is belief without rational justification.  Belief with rational justification is not faith.

Now what is 'rational justification'?  It involves looking at the available evidence, considering relevant arguments, and believing the most plausible conclusion.  

Everything we know about the external world we know inductively (see my earlier link to ‘inductive arguments’ if you would like to know what those are).  Some of these things we know inductively with, say, 99.999+ percent confidence (e.g. that material objects exist).  Some of these things we might know with only 98 percent confidence, 90 percent confidence, etc.

If an inductive argument makes me 80 percent confident that a certain claim is true (e.g. ‘Moriarity committed the crime’), then my belief in that claim is rationally justified, and I should believe it (with 80 percent confidence), even if it might be wrong, and even if someone else might claim it to be wrong.

Now, I leave it to you to decide just how confident we should be in an inductive argument in order for us to think of it as ‘proof’.  (It seems to me that you are fetishizing the word ‘proof’ into some kind of magical thing that, if granted to a proposition, removes all possible doubt about it.  But any belief that we have based on induction is open to potential doubt  -- even something as manifestly obvious as the belief that the external world exists.  In any case, your focus on the word ‘proof’ seems counterproductive to me.)

Insofar as we are rational we should believe the strongest inductive argument available.

So if an inductive argument (e.g. the evidential POE argument) gives us reasons to be, say, 80 percent confident that a loving God does not exist, then that is what we should believe.  We are rationally justified in holding that belief -- and thus in being an atheist -- despite the fact that we might be wrong.

Now you can re-label that ‘faith’ if you want, but then you’re going to end up labelling all inductively-based beliefs matters of ‘faith’ (i.e. radical scepticism).

Quote from: Sigmund
When applied to the specific ideas for which it is meant, proof is exactly what PoE is, at least according to the definition of "proof" which you provided...


Thank you.  :)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on January 06, 2007, 01:55:40 am
Quote from: James McMurray
Great, you win the semantics argument. Wanna cookie? :)

To all and sundry: please be advised that when I use the word "proof" in this thread I will be referring to my definition here (http://www.therpgsite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=61404&postcount=223). In short, I'm talking about an objective proof, not a subjective one.


Nope, what I want is a lack of sarcasm, or condescension. Cookies I have plenty of.

I was hardly engaging in a semantics arguement by simply pointing out that the indistinct meanings of some of the words being used in this discussion allow for both sides to be both correct and incorrect and that some clarity and focus might be in order for the discussion to be in any way productive. Now if what you actually want is to be arguementative (which is fine by me as long as I know that's what's going on), then just keep flingin the zingers cuz they fit that bill just fine.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 06, 2007, 07:09:04 pm
Akrasia, I've pointed you to the dictionary definition of faith several times. If you still refuse to use it I don't think we can go much farther here.

Sigmud: great, you win the morality argument too. Can we move on now or do you need to keep patting yourself on the back?
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 06, 2007, 07:10:12 pm
Just saw todays pvponline and thought it was tangentially appropriate here: http://www.pvponline.com/article/3071/sat-jan-06. :)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on January 06, 2007, 08:39:51 pm
Quote from: James McMurray


Sigmud: great, you win the morality argument too. Can we move on now or do you need to keep patting yourself on the back?


We can move on if you're done being a prick, otherwise I have better things to do. I would also recommend perhaps learning how to concede a point without insults.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 06, 2007, 09:06:41 pm
So then I guess your answer is no, you can't move on? Otherwise you would have, oh, I don't know... moved on.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Dominus Nox on January 07, 2007, 12:13:00 am
Getting back on topic, I think the worst myth about aethiests is that they have no morality.

Some christian group was peddling a hate book a while back that claimed that it was "impossible' to have morality without religion, which says that aethiests have no morality.

Bullshit.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 07, 2007, 01:13:07 am
I've heard that too, and it scares me. Makes me wonder if the person I'm talking to would be out raping babies and eating old women if they hadn't found God.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on January 07, 2007, 02:38:34 am
Quote from: James McMurray
So then I guess your answer is no, you can't move on? Otherwise you would have, oh, I don't know... moved on.

I guess it is. I'm not in the mood for arrogant bullshit right now, so we'll have to save the "witty" banter for another day. When you're actually ready to discuss something like an adult, let me know.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 07, 2007, 04:17:20 am
Quote from: James McMurray
Akrasia, I've pointed you to the dictionary definition of faith several times. If you still refuse to use it I don't think we can go much farther here...


If you mean 'belief without proof' then I've merely pointed out that the concept of 'proof' -- at least with respect to beliefs concerning the external world (in contrast to, say, mathematical proofs) -- is hardly as straightforward as you (and common discourse, for that matter) seem to presuppose.

We often use terms in everyday English in an imprecise manner (precise enough for everday discourse, perhaps, but not precise enough for careful critical discussions of difficult topics).  One of the things that analytical philosophy does is try to refine these terms and make them more precise.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 07, 2007, 01:23:53 pm
Quote from: Sigmund
I guess it is. I'm not in the mood for arrogant bullshit right now, so we'll have to save the "witty" banter for another day. When you're actually ready to discuss something like an adult, let me know.


What, you mean like I've done for this entire thread until you came along? Run along Sally, you're playing a game with your betters and can't possibly win.

Akrasia: I think we've gone back and forth on the proof thing enough. I've explained what I call proof, you've explained what you call it. If we can't agree on the term, we certainly won't agree on when something crosses into the realm of Faith. No biggie though. :)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on January 08, 2007, 01:45:03 pm
Quote from: James McMurray
What, you mean like I've done for this entire thread until you came along? Run along Sally, you're playing a game with your betters and can't possibly win.


If you honestly believe you're my or anyone else's better you're gonna need some more of that DnD therapy you've gone on about. You accuse me of nitpicking over semantics when that's what you've done all thread. You provide a definition for a term and apparently don't even read it, then come back and say you've only been talking about part of it when I pointed out that according to the same definition Akrasia is correct in saying that for him, PoE proves (as originally defined by you) a specific idea of god doesn't exist. This thereby made you incorrect about his atheism requiring faith as it relates to PoE and the god defined therein. Then you get all petulant and start insulting me for lack of any credible refutation of my assertion other than, "Oh, I wasn't using that whole definition, just the parts that prove me right." When you actually have an intelligent point I'd be interested to see it. Otherwise, I don't see any arguement advanced by you that in any way refutes either PoE or Akrasia's assertion that his atheism doesn't require faith, at least where PoE's god is concerned. That is unless you start nitpicking over semantics again.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on January 08, 2007, 01:55:23 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
If you mean 'belief without proof' then I've merely pointed out that the concept of 'proof' -- at least with respect to beliefs concerning the external world (in contrast to, say, mathematical proofs) -- is hardly as straightforward as you (and common discourse, for that matter) seem to presuppose.

We often use terms in everyday English in an imprecise manner (precise enough for everday discourse, perhaps, but not precise enough for careful critical discussions of difficult topics).  One of the things that analytical philosophy does is try to refine these terms and make them more precise.


This is exactly my point as well.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Gunslinger on January 08, 2007, 02:26:43 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
If an inductive argument makes me 80 percent confident that a certain claim is true (e.g. ‘Moriarity committed the crime’), then my belief in that claim is rationally justified, and I should believe it (with 80 percent confidence), even if it might be wrong, and even if someone else might claim it to be wrong.

Scientifically speaking, on can only induce at a 95% confident interval (2 standard deviations) unless we are talking about genetics which a 99.5% confidence interval (3 standard deviations).  To achieve this one must have accurate data and a well designed study that can be replicated over time.  80% would not be accurate enough for a conclusive argument based on the data.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 08, 2007, 11:09:52 pm
Dude, I already said you won. There is no round two. Move on, enjoy your life. It's way too short to waste trying to convince me of something I've already agreed with you on, and even went so far as to update the definition I was using so there'd be no more confusion.

Honestly, you're just making yourself look like a prattling git when you continue to beat your chest over this.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 09, 2007, 04:15:21 am
Quote from: Gunslinger
Scientifically speaking, on can only induce at a 95% confident interval (2 standard deviations) unless we are talking about genetics which a 99.5% confidence interval (3 standard deviations).  To achieve this one must have accurate data and a well designed study that can be replicated over time.  80% would not be accurate enough for a conclusive argument based on the data.


This doesn't in any way invalidate anything that I've said.  And it certainly does not cause any worry for any induction-based version of the 'problem of evil' argument!  :)

Yes, 'scientifically speaking', the standards for believing a proprosition based on evidence are quite high.  That's because of the nature of the empirical sciences (ability to isolate the relevant variables, replicate experiments, etc.).  So yes, as you say, "80% would not be ... enough for a conclusive argument based on the data" in, say, biology.

But given that all of our beliefs about the external world are based on induction, and we often form rational beliefs based on the available evidence, it would be perfectly rational for one to say that there is an 80 percent likelihood of a certain proprosition being true (so long as he/she made clear the probabilistic nature of his/her belief).

Indeed, one version of the evidentialist argument against God's existence simply posits two incompatible hyptheses, and points out that since one is more likely to be true than the other, it is rational to believe the more likely hypothesis.  That's all induction requires -- forming the most justified belief on the basis of the available evidence!
:D

If you would like to learn more about the nature of inductive arguments, I recommend you check out this link: http://www.iep.utm.edu/d/ded-ind.htm
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 09, 2007, 04:15:53 am
Quote from: James McMurray
Dude, I already said you won...

:confused:

I'm afraid that you decidedly wrong about this.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 09, 2007, 04:20:38 am
Quote from: James McMurray
... Akrasia: I think we've gone back and forth on the proof thing enough. I've explained what I call proof, you've explained what you call it. If we can't agree on the term, we certainly won't agree on when something crosses into the realm of Faith. No biggie though. :)


Well, I think that focusing on the word 'proof' has been wholly counterproductive.  But whatever.

My approach has been to focus on inductive arguments -- reasons for rationally believing propositions about the external world (but without 'absolute certainty', which is not attainable).

You're obviously free to use whatever terms and definitions that you like.  But I prefer to stick with the definitions and concepts provided by 2500 years of epistemology, and which continue to be used in contemporary analytical philosophy. :)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 09, 2007, 04:22:44 am
Quote from: Sigmund
.... Otherwise, I don't see any arguement advanced by you that in any way refutes either PoE or Akrasia's assertion that his atheism doesn't require faith, at least where PoE's god is concerned. That is unless you start nitpicking over semantics again.


Thank you sir! :bow:
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 09, 2007, 08:27:46 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
:confused:

I'm afraid that you decidedly wrong about this.


Have you been drinking again?

I not only told him he'd won, I told him twice, in regards to two different arguments he seemed intent on entering into, and even more intent in continuing even after he'd been granted victory. I'm thinking low self esteem, but haven't really read enough of his stuff outside of this thread and his anger at me to make a diagnosis with a high degree of accuracy in it. It's possible I just pushed his buttons and he decided to try to push back.

Quote from: Me
Great, you win the semantics argument


Quote from: Me
great, you win the morality argument too


As for the discussion of inductive logic it all pulls back into the definition of proof, for which yours is apparently different than mine, and which I've already chatted about at some length. Which is why I said there was nothing new to add.

Thanks for the link. It doesn't change my response to the PoE and the question of faith, but it was definitely interesting.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Gunslinger on January 09, 2007, 09:34:15 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
This doesn't in any way invalidate anything that I've said. And it certainly does not cause any worry for any induction-based version of the 'problem of evil' argument!

Agreed.  However, I think when others have used the word "proof" they are insinuating scientific proof.  At the time, I thought it needed to be pointed out so the conversation could move forward.  

Quote from: Akrasia
Indeed, one version of the evidentialist argument against God's existence simply posits two incompatible hyptheses, and points out that since one is more likely to be true than the other, it is rational to believe the more likely hypothesis. That's all induction requires -- forming the most justified belief on the basis of the available evidence!

I'm also thinking that's where many people, including myself, are having a hard time believing the PoE has enough evidence for us to induce a logical conclusion to establish a belief.  The hypotheses provided in the PoE are subjective and open to interpretation.  There's no way to measure or test the validity of the interpretation.  The argument is valid only IF the evidence is valid or more to the point the argument only works if you the interpreter of the argument believes the evidence is valid.  Those religions believe that evidence is valid based on their interpretation of the source, so the argument is a problem for them.  You believe their interpretation of the evidence is valid therefore their God can not exist.  I'm not even sure enough that their source material is valid to know those interpretations are valid.  So the PoE doesn't do much for me because it's not based off evidence, it's based on the validity of the interpretation from the assumption of the validity of the source evidence.  Or more simply, the PoE would do better to address the source evidence than the interpretations of it because the individual organizations cannot agree on a correct interpretation of the evidence.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 10, 2007, 02:26:35 am
Quote from: James McMurray
Have you been drinking again? ...


No, but I did misinterpret your comment.  I didn't realise that you were referring to your specific interactions.  My apologies.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 10, 2007, 02:42:17 am
Quote from: Gunslinger
... So the PoE doesn't do much for me because it's not based off evidence...


But it is based on evidence (or at least the 'evidential' version of the POE argument is -- e.g. http://www.iep.utm.edu/e/evil-evi.htm. There are other evidential POE arguments -- and other variants of the POE argument more generally -- of course).  Moreover, the evidence in question is not ‘subjective’ (at least not in the sense that that word is traditionally used).

Obviously I can’t convince you of the evidential POE argument if you’re determined to deny it.  But I do think that the particular criticisms that you’re levelling against it don’t threaten the argument in any way.

Anyhow, I’m off to London for a few days.  I’ll be happy to continue this discussion upon my return on Sunday.  Until then, take care, and God bless!  ;)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: hgjs on January 10, 2007, 08:56:08 am
Quote from: Gunslinger
Scientifically speaking, on can only induce at a 95% confident interval (2 standard deviations) unless we are talking about genetics which a 99.5% confidence interval (3 standard deviations).  To achieve this one must have accurate data and a well designed study that can be replicated over time.  80% would not be accurate enough for a conclusive argument based on the data.


You are an idiot.  First, the choice of confidence interval is arbitrary.  95% is the most common, but there's nothing magic about that number.  Second, you clearly have no idea what the hell a confidence interval is -- and it's not the probability that your result is correct.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 10, 2007, 08:11:55 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
No, but I did misinterpret your comment.  I didn't realise that you were referring to your specific interactions.  My apologies.


No prob. I also apologize, as my response to you was a bit over the top and not warranted.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on January 10, 2007, 08:14:38 pm
Quote from: James McMurray
Have you been drinking again?

I not only told him he'd won, I told him twice, in regards to two different arguments he seemed intent on entering into, and even more intent in continuing even after he'd been granted victory. I'm thinking low self esteem, but haven't really read enough of his stuff outside of this thread and his anger at me to make a diagnosis with a high degree of accuracy in it. It's possible I just pushed his buttons and he decided to try to push back.

Let's look at your posts.

Quote from: James McMurray
Great, you win the semantics argument. Wanna cookie?

Quote from: James McMurray
Sigmud: great, you win the morality argument too. Can we move on now or do you need to keep patting yourself on the back?

Given the sarcasm and insults, what here would have led me to believe you were being sincere? To me, it came across as arrogance and dismissal, that's what annoyed me. I pointed it out to you and you continued to lace your posts with it anyway. You implied that you and everyone else posting here are somehow better than me, yet now say you don't know me or my posts well enough to know if I'm suffering from "low self-esteem". Perhaps you should be looking more into your own behavior.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 10, 2007, 08:47:41 pm
I can't make you believe the truth, all I can do is deliver it.

Honest question, directed at trying to get a better grasp on you: why do you feel the need to act like a mother regarding my posting styles? Not just in general, but mine in particular? There's much bigger fish out there.

And yes, if you continue to act like you're better than me, I'll continue to act the same. You were told you were right. You were then told that yes, you really were right. You got snippy and were told yet again that you had won. Not once, but twice. You were asked to drop it and move on. And yet you've consistently blamed this back-and-forth on me.

And all along you've continued to try and exert your dominance (to steal a phrase used against me in the past). It ain't gonna happen. I reply to people as I see they deserve it. When you first pointed out my definition error I replied cordially and respectfully. When you continued, and opted to try and "twist the knife" rather than move on, I responded in kind.

We can go back and forth as long as you feel like it, or you can suck it up, realize you won't change me, and move on with your life. I would request (again) that you take this to a PM or another thread though, as this thread has been a good one and (as I said before) I don't want to dilute it.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on January 11, 2007, 05:51:33 am
Quote from: James McMurray
I can't make you believe the truth, all I can do is deliver it.

Honest question, directed at trying to get a better grasp on you: why do you feel the need to act like a mother regarding my posting styles? Not just in general, but mine in particular? There's much bigger fish out there.

And yes, if you continue to act like you're better than me, I'll continue to act the same. You were told you were right. You were then told that yes, you really were right. You got snippy and were told yet again that you had won. Not once, but twice. You were asked to drop it and move on. And yet you've consistently blamed this back-and-forth on me.

And all along you've continued to try and exert your dominance (to steal a phrase used against me in the past). It ain't gonna happen. I reply to people as I see they deserve it. When you first pointed out my definition error I replied cordially and respectfully. When you continued, and opted to try and "twist the knife" rather than move on, I responded in kind.

We can go back and forth as long as you feel like it, or you can suck it up, realize you won't change me, and move on with your life. I would request (again) that you take this to a PM or another thread though, as this thread has been a good one and (as I said before) I don't want to dilute it.



Pot calling the kettle black. Suit yourself, PM it is.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: King Turnip on January 17, 2007, 02:12:04 pm
I'm suprised nobody has brought G.E. Moore into the argument about the Problem of Evil.  I am further suprised that people have been bringing the Problem of Evil up in the last 80 years.  Yes, G.E. Moore's solution to the problem was published in 1925, and still works when presented with some "new and spiffy" version of the argument.  Maybe Mr. Rowe never heard of Moore, he wasn't one of the most influential philosophers in one of the most influential periods of modern philosophy.  Oh, wait, he was....  Maybe Mr. Rowe didn't get the memo.

By way of full disclosure, I subscribe to a theist conclusion to these matters.  I have a Bachelor's in Philsosphy from Sacramento State University, where I focused on Ethics and Formal Logic.  Much of my training in Philosophy of Religion came from Dr. Joe Lynch of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.

For the link-challenged, here is Mr. Rowe's "Evedential" problem of evil:

Quote
1.  There exist instances of intense suffering which an omnipotent, omniscient being could have prevented without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.
2.  An omniscient, wholly good being would prevent the occurrence of any intense suffering it could, unless it could not do so without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.
3.  (Therefore) There does not exist an omnipotent, omniscient, wholly good being. (Rowe 1979: 336)


This formulation is virtually identical to the version addressed by Acquinas, which leads me to question the need for increasing verbosity over the course of ages.  Of course, I am one to be talking

The problem is that premise one is controversial, and controversial in a very specific way.  By applying the inordinately famous G. E. Moore Shift:

1.  There exists an Omni-God (omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent.)
2.  An Omni-God would prevent the occurrence of any intense suffering it could, unless it could not do so without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.
3.  Therefore, there DOES NOT exist instances of intense suffering which an Omni-God being could have prevented without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.

By the definition of Omni-God, Mr. Rowe assumes his own conclusion, hidden in Premise 1.  This is shown by the G.E. Moore shift completing the circle.

Akrasia, I'm sorry to say that the logic here is not sound, and as such, the conclusion is not formally valid.  As a self-proclamed Philosopher and University Professor, I am suprised that you did not bring this up yourself, if only for the enlightenment of the assembled arguers.

Do you have another "disproof of God" you would like me to address?
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: GRIM on January 18, 2007, 08:16:28 am
The problem with point 3 in the second version is that we're talking about an omni god. When you can do anything, no suffering is necessary, at all.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 18, 2007, 01:02:19 pm
I agree with GRIM's comment.

But, furthermore (assuming that an omnipotent God could nonetheless face limitations in terms of what is logically possible)...

Quote from: King Turnip

...By applying the inordinately famous G. E. Moore Shift:

1.  There exists an Omni-God (omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent.)
2.  An Omni-God would prevent the occurrence of any intense suffering it could, unless it could not do so without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.
3.  Therefore, there DOES NOT exist instances of intense suffering which an Omni-God being could have prevented without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse....


Where exactly in Moore is this argument presented?  :confused:  I'm rather surprised that someone as sharp as Moore would have made this argument.

Anyway, it looks no different that Leibniz's claim that this world must be the best possible one, since if it was not, then a perfect God would not have created it.

In any case, such an argument (either your version or Leibniz's) is not going to convince any agnostic or atheist, as it requires one to assume that whatever evil/suffering does exist is the least amount possible compatible with the existence of a perfect (triple-O) God, since otherwise God would have ensured that even less evil/suffering would exit.  

Such an argument clearly 'begs the question' by being convincing only if what it aims to demonstrate (viz. the existence of a triple-O God) is assumed to exist in the first place (that this is so is clear in premise 1).

Quote from: King Turnip
...
Akrasia, I'm sorry to say that the logic here is not sound, and as such, the conclusion is not formally valid.  As a self-proclamed Philosopher and University Professor, I am suprised that you did not bring this up yourself, if only for the enlightenment of the assembled arguers...


You're confused on the difference between validity and soundness.  Nobody denies that the problem of evil is a valid argument.  It is a prefectly valid reductio ad absurdum. People disagree over its soundness.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Balbinus on January 18, 2007, 01:25:14 pm
Quote from: King Turnip
1.  There exists an Omni-God (omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent.)
2.  An Omni-God would prevent the occurrence of any intense suffering it could, unless it could not do so without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.
3.  Therefore, there DOES NOT exist instances of intense suffering which an Omni-God being could have prevented without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.

By the definition of Omni-God, Mr. Rowe assumes his own conclusion, hidden in Premise 1.  This is shown by the G.E. Moore shift completing the circle.


The definition of the omni-god is the classic Christian description of god, that's why it gets used in these debates.  If you read upthread that's why I said the problem of evil is only an issue for certain concepts of god, in particular the Christian concept.

You're attacking the argument by removing it from context, but the context is essential.  The problem of evil is an argument against a certain conception of god, taken out of that context it necessarily falls down, but then it wasn't intended to apply out of that context.

I am also frankly rather suspicious of any argument that depends on restating the original premise rather than on addressing it directly.  As a matter of formal logic the second argument may be essentially the same as the first, that doesn't change the fact though that they are making different claims in different contexts and again context is everything.

Akrasia is correct, the second argument begs the question.  For an answer to it I would refer you to Voltaire who effectively disposed of it some centuries ago.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 18, 2007, 01:30:26 pm
Does anyone else think it's funny that religion and the hatred of it have resulted in a bunch of geeks sitting around restating the arguments of people who have been dead for centuries?

It seems obvious to me that this argument has never been satisfactorily proven or disproven. If it had been the thread would have died long ago with a single link to wikipedia. :)

edit: I am, of course, including myself in that "bunch of geeks."
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Balbinus on January 18, 2007, 01:34:54 pm
Quote from: King Turnip
I'm suprised nobody has brought G.E. Moore into the argument about the Problem of Evil.  I am further suprised that people have been bringing the Problem of Evil up in the last 80 years.  Yes, G.E. Moore's solution to the problem was published in 1925, and still works when presented with some "new and spiffy" version of the argument.  Maybe Mr. Rowe never heard of Moore, he wasn't one of the most influential philosophers in one of the most influential periods of modern philosophy.  Oh, wait, he was....  Maybe Mr. Rowe didn't get the memo.


Rowe directly commented on Moore and on the Moore shift, as I would have thought you would have known.  In fact, I think it was Rowe who coined the term "the Moore Shift" which would suggest he had considered it.

Edit:  I just refreshed myself on this, not only was Rowe aware of Moore he expressly addressed the Moore shift and why he thought it unpersuasive in his work.  I find it curious that this guy registered here just to post one side, without mentioning that it had been spoken to.

It's fine to find the Rowe rebuttal unpersuasive, but I find this guy's post deeply disingenuous and would go so far as to say I think he deliberately misrepresented his sources in order to minister to us.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: King Turnip on January 18, 2007, 05:01:10 pm
Please note that for the sake of continuity and readability, these quotes are taken out of order.
Quote from: Akraisa

You're confused on the difference between validity and soundness.  Nobody denies that the problem of evil is a valid argument.  It is a prefectly valid reductio ad absurdum. People disagree over its soundness.


For the audience:
An argument is valid if and only if it's premises logically force the conclusion and it is not fallacious.
An argument is sound if and only if it is valid and all of its premises are true.
A reductio ad absurdum argument is one in which sacred cow premises--those which the listener is loathe to deny-- lead to an absurd (self-contradicting) conclusion.  This is not a reductio ad absurdum, it is a straightforward sillogism.

I have presented a case that the problem of evil, in both its classical and modern incarnations begs the question in the formal sense.  That is, it assumes its own conclusion.  I have mentioned the conclusion (the assumption not-god) is in the first premise, but I might be able to make the case that it is instead or also in the second premise.

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In any case, such an argument (either your version or Leibniz's) is not going to convince any agnostic or atheist, as it requires one to assume that whatever evil/suffering does exist is the least amount possible compatible with the existence of a perfect (triple-O) God, since otherwise God would have ensured that even less evil/suffering would exit.  

Such an argument clearly 'begs the question' by being convincing only if what it aims to demonstrate (viz. the existence of a triple-O God) is assumed to exist in the first place (that this is so is clear in premise 1).


You misunderstand the purpose of counterargument.  I am not trying to convince you or any other non-believer of my side, I am trying to show that your argument is no good.  If I wanted to convince you to come to the dark side, I would present an active argument in favor of it.  Frankly, my love of Logic is far greater than my desire to prove a conception of God I don't adhere to.  If I did claim this proves the existence of God, I would be both begging the question and preaching to the choir.

Further, the argument that God would ensure less suffering assumes the following:
1: that you can know the entirety of the effects of each evil/suffering through the whole of time.  Hence the finite mind argument a dozen pages ago.
2: that you can propperly gauge the calculus of good/pleasure and bad/suffering.  
3: Good is the same as not suffering and that evil is directly related to suffering
4: Human good is the greatest good.

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Where exactly in Moore is this argument presented?  :confused:  I'm rather surprised that someone as sharp as Moore would have made this argument.


In defense of common sense, 1925.  He applied the shift to identically structured arguments supposedly proving skepticism: the philosophical belief that we can know nothing.  The shift was rapidly adopted within Philosophy of Religion (then called Theology) circles, and supposedly was used by Moore in exactly this context in Some Main Problems in Philosophy in 1953 though I wouldn't know first hand, I haven't read that book.

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Anyway, it looks no different that Leibniz's claim that this world must be the best possible one, since if it was not, then a perfect God would not have created it.


Leibniz's argument was a proactive attempt to proove the existence of god through nautral examination.  I make no such attempt or claim.  I have simply endevoured to show that these formulations of the problem of evil are fallacious.  Disproof of your argument is in no way an attempt to proove mine.

Quote from: Balbinus
Rowe directly commented on Moore and on the Moore shift, as I would have thought you would have known. In fact, I think it was Rowe who coined the term "the Moore Shift" which would suggest he had considered it.


First, let me address the matter of Dr. Rowe.  I actually have the utmost respect for him.  His Philosophy of Religion is one of the best texts on the subject.  It is in the best vein of Anglo-American Philosophy that I savagly criticize him and accuse him of intelectual dishonesty.  Oddly enough, IME, being criticized furiously is the preeminent mark of respect in Philosophy circles.  If someone isn't saying you're full of shit, you haven't said anything worthwile.
To mention it is not the same as addressing it.  Rowe mentions the shift only by way of a strawman.  He ignores completely the presented fallacy, instead concentrating on the supposed "evedential" nature of his argument.  While there is arguments against this as well, I prefer to stay with the purely logical.  To call a formal proof of fallacy "unconvincing" is intelectually dishonest and a statement of faith rather than reason.

To recreate this with a different fallacy (and a lot more clarity):
Quote from: Bobby, a 6 year old brat
Jimmy says it's raining
Jimmy is a poopoohead
Therefore the sun is shining.

If I were to point out to Bobby here that his argument is fallacious, it becomes irrelevant how much evidence Bobby has to how much of a poopoohead that Jimmy is.
Likewise, Rowe's response is inadequate.  He addresses a claim that his argument is fallacious by claiming he has evidence for one of his premises.  This has not made his argument any more valid.  In addition, not venturing too far into the realm of Theodicy, it assumes a great deal about his understanding of nature that is not uncontroversial.
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You're attacking the argument by removing it from context, but the context is essential. The problem of evil is an argument against a certain conception of god, taken out of that context it necessarily falls down, but then it wasn't intended to apply out of that context.

I am attacking a formally logical argument by showing that it fails to utilize the tools of logic correctly.  What context am I ignoring?  What, exactly, have I construed incorrectly by removing context?  His argument is full and intact in that I have used his own text.  If you can show me a fuller quote that leaves the context intact, you are welcome to.
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Akrasia is correct, the second argument begs the question. For an answer to it I would refer you to Voltaire who effectively disposed of it some centuries ago.

Akrasia is incorrect in that I did not claim to prove philosophical Optimism.  Further, Voltaire's Candide is a wonderfully funny book, but it is hardly a disproof of the philosophy.
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It's fine to find the Rowe rebuttal unpersuasive, but I find this guy's post deeply disingenuous and would go so far as to say I think he deliberately misrepresented his sources in order to minister to us.

I have done no such thing.  As I said previously, avoiding and addressing are two very different actions.  Mr. Rowe opted for the former.  I appologize for not mistaking the chaff of a strawman for an argument.  I resent the accusation that I am ministering here.  I explicitly want to convince the assembled of nothing more than this argument is crap, which it is.  It is not the only argument against God, nor the only argument for athiesm.  Everyone, no matter their stake in this argument, will be better off finding more and better arguments on both sides.
Quote from: James McMurray
Does anyone else think it's funny that religion and the hatred of it have resulted in a bunch of geeks sitting around restating the arguments of people who have been dead for centuries?

Those are the best ones!
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Kyle Aaron on January 18, 2007, 05:01:20 pm
Quote from: James McMurray
It seems obvious to me that this argument has never been satisfactorily proven or disproven. If it had been the thread would have died long ago with a single link to wikipedia. :)

Well, it's because eople aren't happy with what is reasonable or produces good, they want everything to be proven and objectively true.

Me, I'm happy with "reasonable and produces good."

If a man says to me, "my wife is the most beautiful woman in the world", of course that's not objectively true. But it's reasonable and produces good. His believing something that isn't objectively true does not make him crazy, he's quite able to function day-to-day, and it produces good - it helps make him be kind to, loyal to, respectful of, and full of desire for his wife; these are all good things.

Likewise, if someone believes in Catholicism, Judaism, Zorastrianism or whatever, whether it's obectively true or not doesn't matter. What matters is if it's reasonable, and produces good.

Now what we find is that no particular religious belief, nor the philosophy of science, still less the worldview of capitalism, is consistently reasonable, nor yet does it consistently produce good. People do horrendous things to one another in the name of their philosophies. The establishment of capitalism and communism have killed millions. Catholicism has been used as a support to military juntas, and mafias (swearing oaths of loyalty on the Virgin Mary, etc). Protestantism has enhanced the formation of murderous Loyalist militias, and domestic terror groups in the USA. Sunni Islam has created the Wahhabi sect, which hideously oppresses women, and enacts barbaric punishments on people.

But then, capitalism has given people great increases of wealth, and encouraged scientific developments which have enhanced the lives of billions. Communism has in some countries replaced great inequities, and in others inspired democratic socialist movements which revented the poor from starving. Catholicism helped liberate Poland from communism, and inspires millions of people to kindness and charity. Protestantism has opened up theological thought, and made dissent a good thing. Sunni Islam has created great works of art and poetry, and encourages charity, and has not been found incompatible with free speech in Dubai and Qatar.

So each worldview or philosophy or faith has blood on its hands, but has much to commend it. So, as broad movements they are all reasonable and produce good. But none are obviously or even arguably objectively true.

Nonetheless, people wish to argue about their objective truth.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 18, 2007, 05:14:24 pm
Yeah, funny ain't it how some folks get upset when you claim to have objective proof that their wife ain't the most beautiful woman in the world. Speaking of which, we must have different definitions of the word reasonable if you find that claim to be so. If I had an old dead dude's name to throw at you I would, but I'd much rather go home then dig for one. :)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Balbinus on January 18, 2007, 05:22:40 pm
Quote from: King Turnip
Further, Voltaire's Candide is a wonderfully funny book, but it is hardly a disproof of the philosophy.


I disagree, the point of Candide is to demonstrate the evident absurdity of the position it addresses, a goal it amply succeeds in.  I think it the most effective rebuttal of the philosophy of optimism available and I think it a wholly successful rebuttal.

That's the trouble also with the restatement of the argument a la Moore.  We have knowledge and evidence of apalling suffering, we do not have knowledge and only very limited evidence of the omnigod, they are not equivalent starting positions.

Put another way:

1.  We observe appalling suffering in the world around us.

2.  At times, we can neither perceive nor imagine a corresponding benefit produced by that suffering, which benefit would result overall in that suffering being part of a greater good.

3.  Certain theologians posit the existence of an entity which is omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent (though for some reason rarely omnifiscient).

4.  If those theologians are correct, and this entity exists, the question arises as to how in a universe governed by an omnigod we have appalling suffering without corresponding benefit.

5.  Two explanations present themselves, firstly that there is in fact a corresponding benefit but one we cannot perceive or imagine, secondly that there is in fact no omnigod of the type posited.

6.  We now come to a weighing of probabilities, we have direct evidence of the suffering , we lack any direct evidence of the omnigod and we lack any direct evidence of the corresponding benefit.

7.  That doesn't disprove the omnigod theory, but it is a serious challenge, as we have two competing explanations one of which is directly supported by our experience and the other of which isn't.

8.  Where we have two competing explanations, one supported by our experience and the other challenged by our experience, we are not necessarily guaranteed to be correct in choosing the supported option, but that remains the sensible course.

Apologies for the ministering comment, but the notion that the problem of evil is a settled debate is laughable.  It isn't, people (including philosophers) differ, suggesting it is a closed argument that has been adequately resolved is simply incorrect and not an accurate summary of contemporary thought on the issue.  The fact you are happy with a particular answer to it does not mean that everyone else is, and certainly doesn't mean that philosophy as a field is.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Balbinus on January 18, 2007, 05:24:47 pm
Oh and King Turnip, please stop assuming we haven't also studied philosophy.  It is not a correct assumption.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: King Turnip on January 18, 2007, 05:30:08 pm
JimBob, I am more than happy with "reasonable and provides good."  That's good stuff and I want more of it.  Faith, true or not, provides more of that, and more faith is good stuff, too.

I argue because I hate bad arguments.  Really.  With a passion.  A passion beyond simply people slandering God; I really don't think He minds, nor do I.  I would argue as forcefully on the topic of politics (please, don't start,) the origins of language, the nature of evolution or any other topic someone wanted to throw a BS logical argument about.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 18, 2007, 05:36:30 pm
Quote from: King Turnip

For the audience:
An argument is valid if and only if it's premises logically force the conclusion and it is not fallacious.
An argument is sound if and only if it is valid and all of its premises are true.
A reductio ad absurdum argument is one in which sacred cow premises--those which the listener is loathe to deny-- lead to an absurd (self-contradicting) conclusion.  This is not a reductio ad absurdum, it is a straightforward sillogism…


A valid argument is one in which the truth of the premises guarantees the truth of the conclusion (although, of course, the premises may not in fact be true).  I assume that is what you mean by ‘logically force the conclusion’, although that’s a rather awkward way of defining ‘validity’.

Anyhow, sorry mate, but the problem of evil argument (at least as traditionally put forward) is a reductio ad absurdum argument (or, at least, that is the easiest logically valid way of putting the argument).

Don’t believe me?  How about the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy?  
Quote from: Stanford

1. If God exists, then God is omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect.
2. If God is omnipotent, then God has the power to eliminate all evil.
3. If God is omniscient, then God knows when evil exists.
4. If God is morally perfect, then God has the desire to eliminate all evil.
5. Evil exists.
6. f evil exists and God exists, then either God doesn't have the power to eliminate all evil, or doesn't know when evil exists, or doesn't have the desire to eliminate all evil.
7. Therefore, God doesn't exist.

That this argument is valid is perhaps most easily seen by a reductio argument, in which one assumes that the conclusion -- (7) -- is false, and then shows that the denial of (7), along with premises (1) through (6), leads to a contradiction. Thus if, contrary to (7), God exists, it follows from (1) that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect. This, together with (2), (3), and (4) then entails that God has the power to eliminate all evil, that God knows when evil exists, and that God has the desire to eliminate all evil. But when (5) is conjoined with the reductio assumption that God exists, it then follows via modus ponens from (6) that either God doesn't have the power to eliminate all evil, or doesn't know when evil exists, or doesn't have the desire to eliminate all evil. Thus we have a contradiction, and so premises (1) through (6) do validly imply (7).

Whether the argument is sound is, of course, a further question, for it may be that one of more of the premises is false. …

(From here: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/evil/)


Quote from: King Turnip

I have presented a case that the problem of evil, in both its classical and modern incarnations begs the question in the formal sense.  That is, it assumes its own conclusion.  I have mentioned the conclusion (the assumption not-god) is in the first premise, but I might be able to make the case that it is instead or also in the second premise. …


I don’t understand this at all.  I don’t mean to be rude, but I’m guessing that English is not your first language?  Please don’t take that as a cheap shot; I honestly don’t understand what you’re trying to say in this passage (and, indeed, in most of your post).

Quote from: King Turnip

Further, the argument that God would ensure less suffering assumes the following:
1: that you can know the entirety of the effects of each evil/suffering through the whole of time.  Hence the finite mind argument a dozen pages ago.
2: that you can propperly gauge the calculus of good/pleasure and bad/suffering.  
3: Good is the same as not suffering and that evil is directly related to suffering
4: Human good is the greatest good.


Sorry, mon ami, but no.  

The problem of evil argument -- and especially the evidential version of the argument -- does not assume any of the above premises.  I have no idea why you would think that it does.

Quote from: King Turnip

In defense of common sense, 1925.  He applied the shift to identically structured arguments supposedly proving skepticism: the philosophical belief that we can know nothing.  The shift was rapidly adopted within Philosophy of Religion (then called Theology) circles, and supposedly was used by Moore in exactly this context in Some Main Problems in Philosophy in 1953 though I wouldn't know first hand, I haven't read that book.


Oh right, Moore’s argument against scepticism.  Well, I’m afraid that attempts to use that against the problem of evil argument have been rejected by even theistic philosophers in recent decades (for good reason).

 
Quote from: King Turnip

I have simply endevoured to show that these formulations of the problem of evil are fallacious.  Disproof of your argument is in no way an attempt to proove mine.


But they’re not ‘fallacious’.  They’re formally valid.

Quote from: King Turnip

First, let me address the matter of Dr. Rowe.  I actually have the utmost respect for him.  His Philosophy of Religion is one of the best texts on the subject.  It is in the best vein of Anglo-American Philosophy that I savagly criticize him and accuse him of intelectual dishonesty.   . …


So you have ‘utmost respect’ for someone you accuse of ‘intellectual dishonesty’?  

WTF?

Quote from: King Turnip

If I were to point out to Bobby here that his argument is fallacious, it becomes irrelevant how much evidence Bobby has to how much of a poopoohead that Jimmy is.
Likewise, Rowe's response is inadequate.  He addresses a claim that his argument is fallacious by claiming he has evidence for one of his premises.  This has not made his argument any more valid.  In addition, not venturing too far into the realm of Theodicy, it assumes a great deal about his understanding of nature that is not uncontroversial.


Sorry, but this makes no sense.  Or, rather, I have no idea what exactly you’re arguing here.

 
Quote from: King Turnip
…Voltaire's Candide is a wonderfully funny book, but it is hardly a disproof of the philosophy…


I’m pretty sure that Voltaire was not trying to provide a ‘disproof of philosophy’ (whatever that would be).

Quote from: King Turnip

I explicitly want to convince the assembled of nothing more than this argument is crap, which it is…


Well, many leading religious philosophers (Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, etc.) take it to be a ‘non-crap’ argument.  Not just today, but over the centuries.  I guess they were idiots, eh?
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Balbinus on January 18, 2007, 05:43:42 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
I’m pretty sure that Voltaire was not trying to provide a ‘disproof of philosophy’ (whatever that would be).


The philosophy, he means that it is not an effective refutation of the optimist philosophy.  It was intended as one, or at least as a response to it, and in my view it is in fact a highly effective refutation.

Just wanted to clarify that, otherwise I agree with your post.  In particular, I find it very annoying that this guy is pretending that this is a settled debate within philosophy and that the problem of evil was satisfactorily addressed.  Anyone with a passing knowledge of philosophy knows that isn't true, it has been addressed to the satisfaction of some but nobody serious pretends it isn't a valid challenge.  It's just that some feel it is a valid challenge to which there are answers that satisfy them.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 18, 2007, 06:01:10 pm
Quote from: JimBobOz
...
So each worldview or philosophy or faith has blood on its hands, but has much to commend it. So, as broad movements they are all reasonable and produce good. But none are obviously or even arguably objectively true.

Nonetheless, people wish to argue about their objective truth.


Well, lots of people would like their beliefs about the world to be true.    Indeed, I would argue that the 'constitutive aim' of belief is truth.  I honestly don't understand people who say: "I believe x, y, and z, but I don't care whether x, y, and z are true."  (E.g. If I have a glass of clear liquid infront of me, and I am thirsty, I should very much like my belief that that liquid is non-poisonous water to be true.)  

Likewise, if I am deliberating about the nature of the universe (whether it has a purpose, what relation it has to morality, whether there is a self that will survive the death of my body, etc.), I should very much want my beliefs to be true.  Of course, as a fallible human being, I recognise that I might get things wrong.  But I will surely try my best to 'get it right'.  And part of that endeavour involves rejecting implausible views as false.

Finally, JimBobOz, you actually contradict yourself (or so it seems to me ;)) by your criterion "produce good".  The criterion that worldviews (e.g. religions) bring about "good" in the world strikes me as an "objective" criterion for evaluating people's belief systems.  In particular, your view seems to commit you to the belief that it is true whether or not a particular belief system/religion does indeed bring about "good" in the world.  It's a belief that you have about the effects of religions -- one that I assume that you think it "true".
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 18, 2007, 06:05:03 pm
Quote from: Balbinus
The philosophy, he means that it is not an effective refutation of the optimist philosophy.  It was intended as one, or at least as a response to it, and in my view it is in fact a highly effective refutation...

Thanks for the clarification.   :)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 18, 2007, 06:12:14 pm
Quote from: Balbinus
... Anyone with a passing knowledge of philosophy knows that isn't true, it has been addressed to the satisfaction of some but nobody serious pretends it isn't a valid challenge.  It's just that some feel it is a valid challenge to which there are answers that satisfy them.


If anything -- to the extent that there exists a 'consensus' in contemporary analytical philosophy on the problem of evil argument -- it is that it is a successful argument.

The people who get the most exercise trying to think about the argument are the theists.  And they're at least intellectually honest enough to acknowledge that the argument is a serious one, one that they have to refute, or at least address.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Kyle Aaron on January 18, 2007, 06:47:35 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
Well, lots of people would like their beliefs about the world to be true.    Indeed, I would argue that the 'constitutive aim' of belief is truth.
Certainly. But there is Truth, and then there is truth. That which is "true" is simply provable facts, that water is wet, that objects in a vacuum on Earth fall at 9.82 m/sec/sec at 45 degrees latitude, that the gravitational constant is 6.62... or whatever it is, and so on. That which is "True" are less substantive things; though of less substance in themselves, they lead to substance without. That is, from belief comes action, and with actions we live our lives, build societies and so on. The belief which gives us our action is "Truth." The merely cosmetic facts of things are "truth."

That is, "truth" is universal, but "Truth" is not.

Quote from: Akrasia
I honestly don't understand people who say: "I believe x, y, and z, but I don't care whether x, y, and z are true."  
Who are these people you don't understand? I've never met or spoken with such a person, are they merely a thought experiment of yours?

What I believe is true in every meaningful sense. That it is not true to the rest of the world does not make it less true to me. When the first wireless signal was sent between two technicians, that it passed over the heads of thousands of others did not in any way remove its reality for those two. A thing need not be believed in or known about universally to be "true", nor need it be so to be "True."

Quote from: Akrasia
Finally, JimBobOz, you actually contradict yourself (or so it seems to me ;)) by your criterion "produce good".  The criterion that worldviews (e.g. religions) bring about "good" in the world strikes me as an "objective" criterion for evaluating people's belief systems.
Yes, it is. There are things which are innately good. Life is better than death, health is better than sickness, fertility is better than sterility, a caress is better than a wounding blow, freedom to choose a profession and walk across the street to visit your friends is better than not having that freedom, and so on. Only professional philosophers argue otherwise.

Details of course can be argued, but a few things are objectively good, in that those few things consistently produce happiness, and their absence produces misery; we can use those as guidelines.

Quote from: Akrasia
In particular, your view seems to commit you to the belief that it is true whether or not a particular belief system/religion does indeed bring about "good" in the world.  It's a belief that you have about the effects of religions -- one that I assume that you think it "true".
Absolutely. I look at the results of philosophies. If a philosophy consistently brings misery, then it is bad; if it consisently brings happiness, then it is good. No philosophy brings only misery, or only happiness. That's why in a civilised country we allow a diversity of philosophies, that we may take the best from each of them. So for example here in Australia we take the "creates wealth" part of capitalism, and the "distributes wealth" part of communism, so that the strength of each may come forth, while the weaknesses of each are countered by the strengths of the other. The same goes for secular liberal humanism and Christianity, and so on.

We allow a diversity of ideas so as to produce a diversity of actions, which lets the cream rise to the top.

This discussion we're having here demonstrates one reason that atheism is so often disliked in society. "We have the truth, and all the rest of you are fools, blinded by faith!" This is quite simply paternalism, "We know better than you," and paternalism combined with wanting the "make everyone understand the truth!" leads to totalitarianism, and bloody misery.

Happiness comes not from belief, but from actions, so that what matters is not what this or that person believes, but what they do. And of course understanding comes from action, too. As they said in Batman Begins, "it's not who you are inside, but what you do that defines you."

Of course, you may feel that happiness is not objectively good, but I would say again that only a professional philosopher would say that. The vast majority of humanity would not.

Again, I'm returning to the central thesis of Judaism - the world is not complete, we are here to complete it. What we believe matters only insofar as it affects our actions. A Jew who claims to believe but does not follow the Law is not a worthy person; a non-Jew who does not believe, but does good works, is a better person. This is much as with civil law: parliament does not require that I believe in their existence, only that I follow the law.

In science, a hypothesis is worthless unless it can be tested - ideas are important only insofar as they can be translated into actions. This is the test of reasonableness, of common sense. I apply the same test to a religious faith. If a religious faith produces good works, then it is True, even if it's not true.

By comparison, in science we had the laws of Newton. Now the laws of Newton are not "true"; they're simply models of reality. They're not reality itself, and are only approximations. However, they have a Truth to them - they can be used for many day-to-day engineering applications, and those engines and machines quite obviously work. But for other applications, further laws are needed, the laws of relativity. For other applications still, we need to touch on quantumn uncertainty, or even on the electroweak force.

We do not claim that any one of these things is the one, final "truth". Each is simply part of the truth. A scientist or engineer will typically spend their working lives focusing on one of those truths. A mechanic deals with the world as though it followed entirely the laws of Newton. A computer engineer deals with the world as though it entirely followed the laws of quantum uncertainty. Each sees one part of the whole, and the worth of the thing they follow is determined by their results - does the car or computer they work on, run well? When the mechanic uses the computer, or the computer engineer uses the car, they don't care if those other laws they don't focus on are "true" or not; they focus on if the computer or car actually works, runs well.

Likewise, Judaism and Catholicism and capitalism are all true, just as Newton and Heisenberg's laws are all true. But each is useful for one way of life, and each we judge not by itself, but by the works it does.

Or again with science, we don't look at any theory by itself to determine its truth, we look at the results of experiments. So, to determine the truth of Judaism or atheism or communism, it's senseless to look at the books, but instead look at the societies these ideas have produced, the good and bad work they've done. If it's done some good work, there must be some truth in it.

Something need not be universally true, to have a Truth. This is the difficulty of the modern atheist, for all too often they are in fact a nihilist, believing in nothing, and they confuse "truth" and "Truth", confuse everyday facts with belief which produces action, leading them to say silly things like, "but what is objectively good? Who can say?" This desire for a union of "truth" and "Truth", for unformity of belief, all too easily leads to totalitarianism.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Balbinus on January 18, 2007, 07:18:29 pm
JB, that's all very well, but for many people the important question is not whether something has a personal true but whether it is in some fundamental sense objectively true, a fact about the universe.

The point for many people is whether god actually exists, not whether a belief in god helps those individuals.

The result of philosophies is important, but so too is the objective state of the universe.  Discussing the latter does not invalide the former, but the utility of a philosophy is irrelevant to its objective truth.

Catholicism and Islam cannot both from within be true, it is sophistry to say otherwise.  Both contain statements about the nature of the universe and it is important to many if not most believers of both faiths whether or not those statements are objectively accurate.  

This postmodern bollocks about how all truths are equally true is a nonsense, either a thing is or it is not (barring quantum physics of course).  Either god exists, or god does not.  That is an important question, and it is important for reasons far greater than whether it helps us live our lives or not.

Yours is an argument based on utility, but belief based on utility is sterile.  The point of belief is that it is a statement about the universe, to reduce it from that belittles it.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Kyle Aaron on January 18, 2007, 07:57:57 pm
Quote from: Balbinus
This postmodern bollocks about how all truths are equally true is a nonsense, either a thing is or it is not (barring quantum physics of course).
Firstly, I would reject the postmodernist assertion that all things are equally true, for that simply means that nothing is true.

What I would say is that many faiths have an aspect of the truth. I am sure you're familiar with the old story of the men in the dark with the elephant, to one it seems a snake, to another a tree, to another a rock, and so on. All philosophies, from Manidean to capitalist, have an aspect of the truth - it just depends on what part of the elephant they're hanging around, or rather what society they grew up in.

No single philosophy has the entire truth, and many philosophies contain things which are obviously and demonstrably wrong, such as creationism, or Augustine's belief that we are merely "sacks of filth". But overall, each contains part of the truth. Trouble comes when one claims they have all of the truth, like each of the men with the elephant claiming, "no, it's a rope" or whatever.

Notice the exception you give for quantum uncertainty. The universe, at its roots, is not absolute, either/or, true or false. For those who don't know, quantum uncertainty tells us that because when we measure something, we interact with and affect it, we can never know everything about it. The fundamental equation of it tells us that we may know the momentum of a particle, or its direction, but not both. Imagine that you faced a billiard table in the dark, and the only way to know where the balls where was to strike them with another ball; but in striking them, you of course change them, make them move. By the way the ball bounces back you can tell their momentum, or where they're going, but not both; the more certain you become about one of those things, the less certain you become about the other.

At its most basic level, that of subatomic particles, the universe is uncertain, it is not absolute, either/or. By becoming certain about one thing, we become less certain about other things; those who claim they can be certain about all things are mistaken.

Day to day we may convince ourselves that things are absolute, and certain - but at its most basic level, the universe is, like it or not, uncertain, and not absolute, either/or. God exists, and god does not exist. Judaism is true, and it is not true.

Quote from: Balbinus
Yours is an argument based on utility, but belief based on utility is sterile.  The point of belief is that it is a statement about the universe, to reduce it from that belittles it.
Utility demonstrates the worth of the belief, just as experiment proves a theory in science. Some people may prefer to theorise in the absence of experiment; but it's that that is sterile. Sterile quite literally means, "unable to produce". A theory which does not lead to experiment is sterile; a belief which is unconnected to utility is sterile.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 18, 2007, 08:05:24 pm
Quote

2. At times, we can neither perceive nor imagine a corresponding benefit produced by that suffering, which benefit would result overall in that suffering being part of a greater good.



4. If those theologians are correct, and this entity exists, the question arises as to how in a universe governed by an omnigod we have appalling suffering without corresponding benefit.


Sorry, you've gone from "I can't imagine or see X" to "X does not exist."
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: King Turnip on January 18, 2007, 08:15:03 pm
Quote from: Balbinus
Oh and King Turnip, please stop assuming we haven't also studied philosophy.  It is not a correct assumption.


I don't assume that everyone has not studied philosophy, only that some have not.  I appologize if my tone offended you.  If it is any consolation, I rarely regard forums as conversations between two, instead as artefacts to be witnessed by many; many who likely have not studied these topics.

Regarding Candide I maintain that it is not a rigorous refutation of Optimism.  He presents a wild and hillarious tale of misfortune, but never does he show that the world in which Dr. Pangloss (or any of the others) is tortured, maimed, tempted, infected, killed, revived, vivisected, half-drowned, enslaved &c. is not the best possible one.  I happen to agree that it is a silly assertation, but it isn't self-contradictory.  Optimism is not, however the topic at hand.
aside: I include a plot summary, again, for those who may be following the conversation but have not read the book.  It is quite clear you have a complete understanding of it.

Akraisa, to save some space I will not redrop the whole post.

First, the Standford argument is indeed Reducto ad absurdum, but it is not the argument presented by Rowe.  This form, however, is a strawman.  Nobody, theist or atheist, argues for the non-existence of evil.  A more propper presentation would be to replace every instance of evil with "unneccessary evil."  Just as we accept the evil of a shot to have the good of medicine, nobody I have encountered denies necessary evil exists.  The controversy is that unnecessary evil may or may not exist, and necessary evil is no challenge to the existence of god.
To make the claim that unnecessary evil exists, one must make these claims:
1: I know what good and evil are
2: I know exactly how much evil is necessary to maximize good.
OR
3: Argue that all evil is unnecessary.

1 and 2 are frought with the limitations of human understanding.
3 is a strawman.  Theists do not believe this, and if you're arguing against their idea you've got to present it as charitably as possible.
Arguments on 1 and 2 go into the realm of Theodicy, or "understanding god's plan."  As I mentioned previously I would prefer to stay away from that arena.  Suffice to say, theists deny the possibility of full comprehension of either 1 or 2 or both.

Re: my 4 assumptions presented
Quote
The problem of evil argument -- and especially the evidential version of the argument -- does not assume any of the above premises. I have no idea why you would think that it does.


The evedential problem of evil, as presented by Rowe and endorsed by you, presents that god would prevent unnecessary suffering, especially human suffering. To make that claim:
1.  Omnibenevolence (all-good-ness) must be equated with anti-suffering.  Hence, you must take the hedonistic view that evil=suffering or at least that good and suffering are incompatible.
2.  That we capable of judging the evidence for unnecessary suffering presented.  Further, these two supporting claims must be made:
2a:  I know what suffering is
2b:  I know how much suffering is necessary to produce maximal good
3:  I know exactly how much good is provided over the course of the entirety of history so I can judge correctly the amount of good from any act of suffering.
4:  God is primarially conscerned with Human good, rather than, say, the good of graveworms.

Some of these assertations are not terribly controversial, some are.  Denying any or all of these assertations puts the evidential argument in serious jeapordy.  
Without 1, suffering is not incompatible with god and the argument fails.  Many theists are loathe deny this claim.
Without 2a, I cannot rightly claim the existence of suffering much less unnecessary suffering.  Most if not all theists would agree that we know what suffering is.
Without 2b, I cannot claim that the suffering I see is unnecessary, given that we have estabilished some suffering is necessary.  The same goes for 3: if I don't know what future good may arise from current or past suffering, I cannot rightly judge its necessity.  Both of these are commonly denied by theists.  We don't know God's plan or the good beyond ourselves.
Without 4, we do not have an accurate gauge of suffering.  Maybe children with Spinal Biffada are extra-tasty to graveworms, God's true favorites.  Very few people would deny this.  We like to think that God prefers us to virii.

Re: Rowe's begging the question.
Quote
I don’t understand this at all. I don’t mean to be rude, but I’m guessing that English is not your first language? Please don’t take that as a cheap shot; I honestly don’t understand what you’re trying to say in this passage (and, indeed, in most of your post).

I'm sorry if you found some of my post difficult.  English is indeed my first language.  I also speak some Lao, Thai, and German-- enough to not starve but not enough to open a business.  As a side note, the polite way to phrase this statement is to ask for clarification, not to accuse someone of not speaking the language.

To reiterate what I said about Rowe, Moore and begging the question:
Rowe, and his predecessors with the Sillogistic form of problem of evil, have assumed their conclusion in their premises.  This is what I tried to show with Moore's shift.  I'm sorry if I was unclear.  Let me restate this while clearing some of the language/jargon away:
Rowe's argument looks like this:
1. God is defined as preventing unnecessary suffering
2. There is unnecessary suffering
3. Therefore, god doesn't exist.

But, unpacking the hidden part gives us this:
1. God is defined as preventing unnecessary suffering
2. a (There is suffering) and
    b (that suffering is unnecessary) and
    c (god did not prevent it.)
3. therefore god doesn't exist.

2a is uncontested, as is 2c.  So, to apply the premises here for a different conclusion:
1. God is defined as preventing unnecessary suffering
2. a (There is suffering) and
    c (god did not prevent it.)
~2b.  Therefore, no suffering is unnecessary.
Because both 2b and ~2b are presented as necessarially true by the argument, it has proven itself to be fallacious, by reductio ad absurdum.
To then get into the Evidential part of this argument, Rowe puts forth the argument that we can pile evidence up to try to show one or the other sides of these is better than the other.  But he misses the point that piling up evidence does not make his argument any more valid.  To claim that by showing vast examples of suffering, he can prove 2b is continuing the fallacy.

Damn, I write too much.  Wasn't it Twain that said "Brevity is the soul of Wit."  I guess I'm witless. ;)

EDIT-- I need to post faster, or only on my days off.  I can't write a response without several more Xposting.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Dominus Nox on January 18, 2007, 09:32:24 pm
Ok, here's a myth about aethiesm that appeared in my local paper, and god knows elsewhere, that I think really needs to be stepped on.

A local halohead (Obnoxious, offensive, pushy, arrogant christian type) said that christianity sought to unite humanity while the aethiest doctrine of evolution sought to divide humanity by classifying people into different races and such.

Now, this halohead routinely refers to all non christians as "lost people" and goes on and on about how ONLY christians are right and how everyone else is wrong, how the most uneducated christian knows more about the truth than the most educated lost person, blah blah blah. (My local paper is a total tool for the christian conservative movement and lets him do this a couple times a week, while squelching any rebuttals)

I assume other haloheads are spreading the myth that their religions seeks to unite people while aethiests preaching evolution seeks to divide people, and this is exactly 180 degrees out of phase with the truth, i's utterly the opposite of the truth.

The truth is that those trying to teach evolution are the ones who seek to unite humanity, by showing all humans come from a common ancestor, while the religious types seek to divide humanity between the "saved" and the "lots people", between the "Faithful" and the "infidel", etc.

I think that religious people do more to divide humanity into hostile groups than the aethiest who teaches evolution, but the religious types want to tell us it's the exact opposite.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Kyle Aaron on January 18, 2007, 09:35:50 pm
So, King Turnip, do you roleplay, at all? Just wonderin'. I've a feeling my cheetos might dissolve in your intellectual rigour, but still, it'd be interesting to hear from you about rpgs over in the other subforum.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: GRIM on January 19, 2007, 03:12:48 am
Quote from: James McMurray
It seems obvious to me that this argument has never been satisfactorily proven or disproven. If it had been the thread would have died long ago with a single link to wikipedia. :)


http://www.400monkeys.com/God/

(Though IMO the real state of affairs is that the theistic side of the argument really just consists of new and elaborate ways of going 'La la la, I can't hear you.')
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Balbinus on January 19, 2007, 03:51:01 am
Quote from: James McMurray
Sorry, you've gone from "I can't imagine or see X" to "X does not exist."


It should read

4. If those theologians are correct, and this entity exists, the question arises as to how in a universe governed by an omnigod we have appalling suffering without any corresponding benefit that we can perceive or imagine
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 19, 2007, 06:49:26 am
Quote from: JimBobOz

That is, "truth" is universal, but "Truth" is not  ...

Well, I disagree with this conception of ‘truth’/‘Truth’.

I agree that tastes are subjective (e.g. I might like coffee, and you might like tea; I might want to become a hockey player, you might want to become an artist).  But beliefs about the world are not like that.  Astrology is not ‘true’, no matter how much you might dig it.  Likewise, a devout Muslim and a devout Hindu cannot both hold ‘true’ (or ‘True’) beliefs, no matter how strongly they hold them.

Of course, I might also think that it is true that people should have the right to believe in whatever religion they want (so long as they don’t harm others).  But that’s compatible with thinking that the content of their religious beliefs are false.

Quote from: JimBobOz

 Yes, it is. There are things which are innately good. Life is better than death, health is better than sickness, fertility is better than sterility, a caress is better than a wounding blow, freedom to choose a profession and walk across the street to visit your friends is better than not having that freedom, and so on. Only professional philosophers argue otherwise. ...

Well, I don’t know any ‘professional philosophers’ who think that these things are bad.  In my case, I agree with you that these things are indeed good.  But that has nothing to do with the truth/falseness of various religious beliefs.

 
Quote from: JimBobOz

Absolutely. I look at the results of philosophies. If a philosophy consistently brings misery, then it is bad; if it consisently brings happiness, then it is good. ...


Yes, but here you are evaluating different religious views with a criterion that true believers of the religions in question would reject.

There’s nothing wrong with that -- as an atheist I agree that some religions might have instrumental value in making people happy, etc.  But it’s important not to confuse the ‘utility’ of a religion with its ‘truth’.

Quote from: JimBobOz

We allow a diversity of ideas so as to produce a diversity of actions, which lets the cream rise to the top. ...

I agree.  But part of that process involves critically evaluating different beliefs.

Quote from: JimBobOz

This discussion we're having here demonstrates one reason that atheism is so often disliked in society. "We have the truth, and all the rest of you are fools, blinded by faith!" This is quite simply paternalism, "We know better than you," and paternalism combined with wanting the "make everyone understand the truth!" leads to totalitarianism, and bloody misery. ...

Since when did discussing the plausibility of beliefs with other people amount to totalitarianism?  Or paternalism?  I’m not trying to pass laws to destroy of freedom of religion or freedom of speech!

Quote from: JimBobOz

Of course, you may feel that happiness is not objectively good, but I would say again that only a professional philosopher would say that. The vast majority of humanity would not.
...

Again, I agree that happiness is ‘objectively good’.  I just think that the truth/falseness of different religious beliefs is an entirely different matter.

 
Quote from: JimBobOz
... Notice the exception you give for quantum uncertainty. The universe, at its roots, is not absolute, either/or, true or false...

Well, insofar as quantum mechanics describes how the universe works (at the very small level, that is), it purports to be true.  It is true that we live in a universe in which the most fundamental entities in existence are governed by probabilistic, not deterministic, laws.

I don't understand why people often claim that quantum mechanics is a problem for 'truth'.  It's a theory that claims to accurately describe reality, i.e., be 'true'.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 19, 2007, 07:15:16 am
Quote from: King Turnip
First, the Standford argument is indeed Reducto ad absurdum, but it is not the argument presented by Rowe…


Fair enough.  There are many versions of the ‘problem of evil’ argument, and the discussion has been a bit sloppy in distinguishing between them (I’m certainly guilty of this!).  I must have misread your original point.  In any case, the deductive version of the problem of evil argument is a reductio ad absurdum, whereas Rowe’s argument is an inductive argument (one of a number; other inductive POE arguments exist).

Quote from: King Turnip

This form, however, is a strawman.  Nobody, theist or atheist, argues for the non-existence of evil. …

 
I don’t know what you mean by ‘straw man’, but the argument is not trying to demonstrate the ‘non-existence of evil’!  Rather, it is the fact that evil/suffering so clearly exists that makes the argument a challenging one.

 
Quote from: King Turnip
.
To make the claim that unnecessary evil exists, one must make these claims:
1: I know what good and evil are
2: I know exactly how much evil is necessary to maximize good.
OR
3: Argue that all evil is unnecessary.

1 and 2 are frought with the limitations of human understanding.
3 is a strawman.  Theists do not believe this, and if you're arguing against their idea you've got to present it as charitably as possible.
Arguments on 1 and 2 go into the realm of Theodicy, or "understanding god's plan."  As I mentioned previously I would prefer to stay away from that arena.  Suffice to say, theists deny the possibility of full comprehension of either 1 or 2 or both.


I am pretty sure that I covered this stuff far earlier in the thread, but I’ll briefly restate the point again.  All this version of the POE argument assumes is the traditional monotheistic conception of God.  It takes the description of God asserted by the main monotheistic religions, and then points out that this conception is incompatible with widespread suffering.  As for the ‘necessity’ of suffering/evil, well, if God is genuinely omnipotent, he could easily create a world in which infants didn’t die in great agony due to cancer, etc.

Sure, religious people try to argue that we only have ‘limited knowledge’ of God’s plan – something I’ve noted before in this thread.  But hoping that ‘everything will make sense’ in the end requires faith.  The fact of suffering, and its prima facie incompatibility with the concept of a triple-O God, does not require faith.

 
Quote from: King Turnip

The evedential problem of evil, as presented by Rowe and endorsed by you, presents that god would prevent unnecessary suffering, especially human suffering. To make that claim:
1.  Omnibenevolence (all-good-ness) must be equated with anti-suffering.  Hence, you must take the hedonistic view that evil=suffering or at least that good and suffering are incompatible.
2.  That we capable of judging the evidence for unnecessary suffering presented.  Further, these two supporting claims must be made:
2a:  I know what suffering is
2b:  I know how much suffering is necessary to produce maximal good
3:  I know exactly how much good is provided over the course of the entirety of history so I can judge correctly the amount of good from any act of suffering.
4:  God is primarially conscerned with Human good, rather than, say, the good of graveworms.


Well, insofar as Rowe’s argument is levelled against the traditional monotheistic conception of God, assumption 4 is unproblematic (just read the Bible!).  In contrast, your formulation of assumption 1 is problematic -- all the argument requires is that goodness requires preventing unnecessary suffering; one need not be a ‘hedonist’ to think that!  

Assumptions 2b and 3 are entirely unnecessary.

Quote from: King Turnip

1. God is defined as preventing unnecessary suffering
2. a (There is suffering) and
    c (god did not prevent it.)
~2b.  Therefore, no suffering is unnecessary.


The problem with this ‘shift’ is that it is only going to be convincing to people who are already committed to the existence of a triple-O God, and thus are willing to interpret all existing suffering as ‘necessary’.  But for someone genuinely trying to evaluate two conflicting claims about the universe -- either (a) a triple-O God exists, and widespread suffering exists, or (b) a triple-O God does not exist, and widespread suffering exists -- your argument is going to be wholly unpersuasive.  Rowe’s argument concerns the evaluation of these two claims (a and b) about the universe.

Quote from: King Turnip
Wasn't it Twain that said "Brevity is the soul of Wit."


The character Polonius in Shakespeare’s Hamlet utters that line.  :)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 19, 2007, 10:24:18 am
Quote from: Balbinus
4. If those theologians are correct, and this entity exists, the question arises as to how in a universe governed by an omnigod we have appalling suffering without any corresponding benefit that we can perceive or imagine


Easy: We cannot perceive or imagine all the things that an omnigod could perceive or imagine.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Balbinus on January 19, 2007, 12:17:09 pm
Quote from: James McMurray
Easy: We cannot perceive or imagine all the things that an omnigod could perceive or imagine.


I address that later on in the original post we're quoting from, point four doesn't say we can't do it, merely that we must reconcile that issue.  Later on I speak about possible solutions to point four.

I also acknowledge that it does not necessarily lead to a refutation of the deist hypothesis, but to a weighing of likely explanations.

As I said above, you need to look at the whole thing in context, just taking 4 on it's own doesn't really work.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 19, 2007, 12:55:07 pm
Yeah, I'm reconciling the issue, and therefore negating point four. At least, that was the intent.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Malleus Arianorum on January 20, 2007, 09:54:43 am
Quote from: Akrasia
I am pretty sure that I covered this stuff far earlier in the thread, but I’ll briefly restate the point again.  All this version of the POE argument assumes is the traditional monotheistic conception of God.  It takes the description of God asserted by the main monotheistic religions, and then points out that this conception is incompatible with widespread suffering.  As for the ‘necessity’ of suffering/evil, well, if God is genuinely omnipotent, he could easily create a world in which infants didn’t die in great agony due to cancer, etc.


Just so you know, your traditional monotheistic God is not particularly Christian. He's more of a straw man with some O-words for a hat 'n pipe. You could just as easily say: if God is genuinely omnipotent he could easily create a world in which infants get top notch lightsaber training from Master Yoda. Neither case addresses the cornerstone of Christian Faith, the God who went to great pains (suffering and death on a cross) to redeem the world from sin.

Quote
Sure, religious people try to argue that we only have ‘limited knowledge’ of God’s plan – something I’ve noted before in this thread.  But hoping that ‘everything will make sense’ in the end requires faith.  The fact of suffering, and its prima facie incompatibility with the concept of a triple-O God, does not require faith.


The opposite of believing that you have limited knowledge of God's plan is the belief that you have unlimited knowledge of God's plan a belief you seem hold with unquestioned faith.  

Or since you know the Bard let me put it another way -- There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Believing that, or not, requires faith.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on January 20, 2007, 12:05:44 pm
Quote from: malleus arianorum

The opposite of believing that you have limited knowledge of God's plan is the belief that you have unlimited knowledge of God's plan a belief you seem hold with unquestioned faith.  



This has no bearing on PoE's validity. One doesn't even need to consider a god's "plan" to know that an omniscient god (one who knows how to create a world without suffering), who is also an omnipotent god (has the power to create a world without suffering), couldn't also be an omnibenevolent god given that the world doesn't just have suffering, but has a very great deal of it. If one argues in any way that god's "plan" requires pain and suffering, despite his omnibenevolence, that would imply that god is incapable of conceiving a plan that doesn't require suffering thereby negating his omniscience. If one argues that god's "plan" requires suffering despite his perfect knowledge and power, and that he is willing to hurt or allow his children to be hurt to achieve his goals, one thereby negates his omnibenevolence. If one argues that god's plan requires suffering despite him knowing the pain it would cause, and despite him not wanting to cause the pain but having to just to achieve his goals one negates his omnipotence.

Argueing that pain and suffering are not actually bad so they don't negate god's omnibenevolence will then require redefining "good", "bad", "benevolence", etc... as, as far as I'm aware, hurting people and creating suffering is a pretty universally considered "bad".
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 20, 2007, 01:35:57 pm
Quote from: malleus arianorum
Just so you know, your traditional monotheistic God is not particularly Christian...

  The opposite of believing that you have limited knowledge of God's plan is the belief that you have unlimited knowledge of God's plan a belief you seem hold with unquestioned faith...


Sorry, but both these claims are false.

Most Christians understand God in the manner presupposed by the POE argument.  Why else would the greatest Christian philosophers and theologians throughout the ages take the POE argument so seriously?  

Sigmund has already explained why your second claim is false (and, frankly, that spurious claim has already been addressed many times in this thread).

The simple fact is that the POE argument does not require 'unlimited knowledge of God's plan'.  Nobody who takes the argument seriusly -- whether a theist or non-theist -- thinks that it does.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: RPGObjects_chuck on January 20, 2007, 01:49:27 pm
Quote from: Sigmund
This has no bearing on PoE's validity. One doesn't even need to consider a god's "plan" to know that an omniscient god (one who knows how to create a world without suffering), who is also an omnipotent god (has the power to create a world without suffering), couldn't also be an omnibenevolent god given that the world doesn't just have suffering, but has a very great deal of it. If one argues in any way that god's "plan" requires pain and suffering, despite his omnibenevolence, that would imply that god is incapable of conceiving a plan that doesn't require suffering thereby negating his omniscience. If one argues that god's "plan" requires suffering despite his perfect knowledge and power, and that he is willing to hurt or allow his children to be hurt to achieve his goals, one thereby negates his omnibenevolence. If one argues that god's plan requires suffering despite him knowing the pain it would cause, and despite him not wanting to cause the pain but having to just to achieve his goals one negates his omnipotence.

Argueing that pain and suffering are not actually bad so they don't negate god's omnibenevolence will then require redefining "good", "bad", "benevolence", etc... as, as far as I'm aware, hurting people and creating suffering is a pretty universally considered "bad".


Wasn't this basically C.S. Lewis' theory on suffering though? That it is part of God's plan and that we need it to learn right from wrong? Sort of like a spanking on a grand scale.

"The blows of the sculptor that hurt us so much are what makes us perfect". I'm paraphrasing but not much.

I get the impression that you don't think anyone things God can be benevolent, all-powerful and allow suffering to continue. Catholics and Jews who, like Lewis, lived through the horrors of WWII had to rationalize that horror somehow (thus "When Bad things happen to good people" and all that).

Cause, God might not be totally all-powerful, but he sure could have pulled some Jews out of some camps and saved a few. Couldn't he?
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on January 20, 2007, 02:04:56 pm
Quote from: RPGObjects_chuck
Wasn't this basically C.S. Lewis' theory on suffering though? That it is part of God's plan and that we need it to learn right from wrong? Sort of like a spanking on a grand scale.

"The blows of the sculptor that hurt us so much are what makes us perfect". I'm paraphrasing but not much.

I get the impression that you don't think anyone things God can be benevolent, all-powerful and allow suffering to continue. Catholics and Jews who, like Lewis, lived through the horrors of WWII had to rationalize that horror somehow (thus "When Bad things happen to good people" and all that).

Cause, God might not be totally all-powerful, but he sure could have pulled some Jews out of some camps and saved a few. Couldn't he?

I believe so, but I don't buy it. If god were truely omnipotent, he could execute a plan that doesn't require pain. Why? Because there is nothing he wouldn't be able to do. That he hasn't implies that he is not capable of executing a suffering-free plan, that he's not interested in executing a suffering-free plan, or that he can't concieve a suffering-free plan. I don't need to know the details of what his alleged plan might be to understand these simple things.

Also, if the horrendous suffering that exists on this world is some sort of deific "spanking", then I think we can throw the omnibenevolence out the window.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: RPGObjects_chuck on January 20, 2007, 02:18:47 pm
Well in my experience, the main argument used to be "bad things happen to bad people".

That got theologians through for millennia really.

It wasn't until WWII that people on all sides of the argument had to scramble about for a different explanation.

Thus "when bad things happen to good people".

I've always agreed with George Carlin, the world certainly doesn't seem to be "good work, it's the product of a temp with a bad attitude and God is most certainly male, because no woman could or would fuck things up this badly".
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on January 20, 2007, 03:07:35 pm
Quote from: RPGObjects_chuck


I've always agreed with George Carlin, the world certainly doesn't seem to be "good work, it's the product of a temp with a bad attitude and God is most certainly male, because no woman could or would fuck things up this badly".


Yet another reason to like George Carlin.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: RPGObjects_chuck on January 20, 2007, 07:25:12 pm
Because of my upbringing, I was forced (literally) to spend time in three different churches.

The first, Southern Baptist, I'm sure had a profound effect on my abandoning of the entire scheme. These people are a unique kind of crazy. Being 11 and having an adult encourage you to join the other adults and kids flopping around on the floor speaking in tongues is an experience whose magnitude is difficult to describe. Certainly effected the way I view church and religion. Not to mention adults.

Oh and telling me the nice Catholic lady who baked cookies for the neighborhood kids was going to hell, that the clencher.

Speaking of which... my time in the Catholic Church or as the arrogant fuckers refer to it "The Church" brought me to the realization that these fuckers are superstitious, vengeful, spiteful, close-minded masochists. People whose religious houses have that much expensive stained glass should not throw stones.

And finally there was my time in Jewish synagogue, which at least was somewhat dignified. Sort of like a combination of a good book club and a boring social club. At least the book *was* good, and we actually *read* it.

Unlike the Catholic Church where they gave us a handout of the passage being discussed, heavily exerpted and intercut with the priest's interpretation of the passage.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Levi Kornelsen on January 20, 2007, 09:49:14 pm
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4. If God is morally perfect, then God has the desire to eliminate all evil.


I disagree with this definition of moral perfection.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Malleus Arianorum on January 21, 2007, 04:30:40 am
Quote from: Sigmund
This has no bearing on PoE's validity. One doesn't even need to consider a god's "plan" to know that an omniscient god (one who knows how to create a world without suffering), who is also an omnipotent god (has the power to create a world without suffering), couldn't also be an omnibenevolent god given that the world doesn't just have suffering, but has a very great deal of it. If one argues in any way that god's "plan" requires pain and suffering, despite his omnibenevolence, that would imply that god is incapable of conceiving a plan that doesn't require suffering thereby negating his omniscience. If one argues that god's "plan" requires suffering despite his perfect knowledge and power, and that he is willing to hurt or allow his children to be hurt to achieve his goals, one thereby negates his omnibenevolence. If one argues that god's plan requires suffering despite him knowing the pain it would cause, and despite him not wanting to cause the pain but having to just to achieve his goals one negates his omnipotence.
As a Christian, I have no qualms about you proving the existence of a God who plans for suffering so that good may result -- that's who my God is. Christ's suffering and death is the cornerstone to our religion, it's not the Achilles heel you imagine it to be.
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Argueing that pain and suffering are not actually bad so they don't negate god's omnibenevolence will then require redefining "good", "bad", "benevolence", etc... as, as far as I'm aware, hurting people and creating suffering is a pretty universally considered "bad".
You've reached that false dilemma because you've taken it as a matter of unquestioned faith that redemption (God's plan) is moot.

By way of analogy, consider Warren Buffet. He is a Bright Benevolent Billionaire and benefactor to his children . Or is he?  He's only leaving a couple million (not billion) bucks to each kid.
Does that prove that Buffet is not a billionaire? No, He's got plenty of dough.
Does that prove that Buffet is not bright? No, clearly he's bright enough when it comes to money.
Does that prove that Buffet is not benevolent? No, it only shows that his idea of "good" is different than the idea of minimizing suffering for his children by giving them an easy life. (From what I've seen on The Simple Life, he's right! :melodramatic: )  

The way you judge the benevolence of God and Warren Buffet reveals alot about your own personal axiology but it doesn't prove that they don't each in their own way love their children very very much.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Malleus Arianorum on January 21, 2007, 05:54:39 am
Quote from: Akrasia
Sorry, but both these claims are false.

Most Christians understand God in the manner presupposed by the POE argument.  Why else would the greatest Christian philosophers and theologians throughout the ages take the POE argument so seriously?
Your formulation of god is only a straw man -- easy to kill but not particularly Christian. According to the scriptures "God is love" but where does it say God is omnibenevolent? (Not just the word, but your definition of being opposed to suffering at any cost.)
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Sigmund has already explained why your second claim is false (and, frankly, that spurious claim has already been addressed many times in this thread).
All I heard was "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain." If there's a reason why "prevent all suffering" is any less arbitrary than "Yoda lightsaber school for everyone" I'd like to hear it. If you can't provide evidence I can only assume that it's just an article of faith.
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The simple fact is that the POE argument does not require 'unlimited knowledge of God's plan'.  Nobody who takes the argument seriously -- whether a theist or non-theist -- thinks that it does.
What I understand is that "simple fact" = unquestioned article of faith. Is that right? Or let me ask it another way, if it's so simple why not explain simply: by whose values do you judge God's omnibenevolence?

And I'm still waiting for an answer on the Hamlet thing. It seems to me that which ever side you choose, you still have to make that choice on faith.

:shakespeare: Or since you know the Bard let me put it another way -- There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Believing that, or not, requires faith.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on January 21, 2007, 01:01:29 pm
Quote from: malleus arianorum
As a Christian, I have no qualms about you proving the existence of a God who plans for suffering so that good may result -- that's who my God is. Christ's suffering and death is the cornerstone to our religion, it's not the Achilles heel you imagine it to be. You've reached that false dilemma because you've taken it as a matter of unquestioned faith that redemption (God's plan) is moot.


Despite your taking your beliefs on faith, despite lack of proof, your assertion that my "dilemma" is false (as opposed to possibly false) reveals quite a bit about you as well. Also, I don't recall asserting that anyone's suffering and death is some kind of "Achille's heel".

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By way of analogy, consider Warren Buffet. He is a Bright Benevolent Billionaire and benefactor to his children . Or is he?  He's only leaving a couple million (not billion) bucks to each kid.
Does that prove that Buffet is not a billionaire? No, He's got plenty of dough.
Does that prove that Buffet is not bright? No, clearly he's bright enough when it comes to money.
Does that prove that Buffet is not benevolent? No, it only shows that his idea of "good" is different than the idea of minimizing suffering for his children by giving them an easy life. (From what I've seen on The Simple Life, he's right! :melodramatic: )  


What would possible make Warren Buffet an appropriate analogy to an all-powerful god? Does he claim to be omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent? What does leaving millions to his children instead of billions have to do with suffering?

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The way you judge the benevolence of God and Warren Buffet reveals alot about your own personal axiology but it doesn't prove that they don't each in their own way love their children very very much.


I never said that either god or Warren Buffet don't love their children. All I said was that if god truely loves his creations, yet allows suffering to exist anyway, it's because he either can't execute a plan without suffering, or can't concieve a plan without suffering. Either way, he couldn't possible be a triple O god because there is at least one thing he can't do.

Just to toss your Buffett analogy aside a moment and speak from a more personal level... I love my 16 month old son more than life itself. I would die to save him, and pay nearly any price to shield him from suffering in his life. Unfortunately, however, I can't. I don't have the power, or the knowledge, to prevent every disease, scraped knee, heartbreak... Not even Prince Shakymuni's father could do it. Trying to compare any human to a triple O god is pointless, so forgive me if I dismiss it.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on January 21, 2007, 01:15:59 pm
Quote from: malleus arianorum
Your formulation of god is only a straw man -- easy to kill but not particularly Christian. According to the scriptures "God is love" but where does it say God is omnibenevolent? (Not just the word, but your definition of being opposed to suffering at any cost.)

What is "love" if not benevolence? Benevolence might not always include love, but I think it's safe to say that love always includes benevolence. Would it make you more comfortable if we were to say "infinitely loving"?

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All I heard was "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain." If there's a reason why "prevent all suffering" is any less arbitrary than "Yoda lightsaber school for everyone" I'd like to hear it.

Because preventing all suffering is something a being who truely loved it's creations, and who had the power to accomplish this goal, would do.

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If you can't provide evidence I can only assume that it's just an article of faith.What I understand is that "simple fact" = unquestioned article of faith. Is that right? Or let me ask it another way, if it's so simple why not explain simply: by whose values do you judge God's omnibenevolence?

I can't speak for Akrasia, but I personally use my values to judge god's benevolence. Am I not god's creation? Did I not gain my understanding of "values" from god himself? Does his word not lay these things out for us? Isn't that where our values have come from in this society (USA for me)? If god exists, and we are his creations, and the values we hold were instilled in us by him, then why couldn't I use my values to judge his benevolence? If he doesn't, then the question is pointless.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on January 21, 2007, 01:25:25 pm
Quote from: malleus arianorum

:shakespeare: Or since you know the Bard let me put it another way -- There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Believing that, or not, requires faith.

I wanted to address this separately, because I thought we already addressed the faith thing in this thread. That is, unless you're using a different meaning of "faith" than others have, in which case you're going to have to enlighten us.

Also, I ask you to forgive me if I don't take some playwright's (no matter how good a playwright he was) statements as "gospel", so to speak. Just because "the Bard" said it, doesn't make it the end all be all of truth.

All that said, knowing that a triple O god can't exist, and realizing that "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." are not mutally exclusive. I have a hard time understanding the motivations of women, how the behavior of light can change depending on whether it's observed or not, and why people try to fly around the world in hot-air balloons. This doesn't mean I can't think well enough to understand that the PoE arguement is more than adequate proof that a triple O god doesn't exist.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 21, 2007, 07:48:12 pm
Quote from: malleus arianorum
Your formulation of god is only a straw man -- easy to kill but not particularly Christian. According to the scriptures "God is love" but where does it say God is omnibenevolent? (Not just the word, but your definition of being opposed to suffering at any cost.)


Well, God is perfect, and, according to most theologians and religious philosophers (including such 'light weights' as Augustine, Aquinas, et al.), for God not be completely good would be an imperfection.  

It's not part of the POE argument that God is opposed to suffering 'at any cost'.  After all, there may be 'just punishment' for the sinful (i.e. those who commit moral evil), and suffering caused by agents with 'free will' (assuming that such a thing as 'free will' is compatible with an omniscient and omnipotent God).  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'.

Anyhow, even if you don't like the claim that God is 'all-good', the POE arguments works just as well if you accept the description that God is 'all-just' instead (just modify the relevant premises).

Quote from: malleus arianorum

If there's a reason why "prevent all suffering" is any less arbitrary than "Yoda lightsaber school for everyone" I'd like to hear it.  


"Preventing suffering" is just part of what of benevolence is.  Providing people with "Yoda lightsaber school" is not.

Quote from: malleus arianorum

Or let me ask it another way, if it's so simple why not explain simply: by whose values do you judge God's omnibenevolence?


Pretty much every main monotheistic religion -- and every secular philosophy, for that matter -- holds that, all things being equal, unjust suffering is morally wrong.  

(One of the nice things about the POE argument is that it "hoists God by His own petard" -- at least the God that commands us to love others, prevent needless suffering, commit acts of charity, etc.)

Quote from: malleus arianorum

And I'm still waiting for an answer on the Hamlet thing. It seems to me that which ever side you choose, you still have to make that choice on faith.


No, sorry, you don't.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: hgjs on January 21, 2007, 08:21:09 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
Pretty much every main monotheistic religion -- and every secular philosophy, for that matter -- holds that, all things being equal, unjust suffering is morally wrong.


See, this is where I stop following you (as far as the argument pertains to the Christian God).  According to most Christian denominations I'm aware of, every single human being on earth deserves eternal torment.  That would mean that anything up to and including hell on earth would be just.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on January 21, 2007, 08:26:01 pm
Quote from: Akrasia


It's not part of the POE argument that God is opposed to suffering 'at any cost'.  After all, there may be 'just punishment' for the sinful (i.e. those who commit moral evil), and suffering caused by agents with 'free will' (assuming that such a thing as 'free will' is compatible with an omniscient and omnipotent God).  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'.



As true as this is, I still would say that a perfectly loving god, a perfectly benevolent god, would forgive and reform, rather than punish. Also, the sinful are part of the suffering that has been allowed to exist. I contend that if there were no suffering, there would be no "sin". All the "sin" I've experienced in my life, either by my own hand or by others, has been motivated by suffering of one form or another. All that said, I still don't disagree with your post for the purposes of the PoE arguement... just throwing out my own thoughts and observations :)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on January 21, 2007, 08:27:20 pm
Quote from: hgjs
See, this is where I stop following you (as far as the argument pertains to the Christian God).  According to most Christian denominations I'm aware of, every single human being on earth deserves eternal torment.  That would mean that anything up to and including hell on earth would be just.


Then this would invalidate the omnibenevolence bit and still make PoE valid.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 21, 2007, 09:41:11 pm
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"Preventing suffering" is just part of what of benevolence is. Providing people with "Yoda lightsaber school" is not.


Oh, I don't know. If I were to become all powerful, I'd definitely contemplate Yoda Lightsaber School Training as part of my benevolence towards my fellow man. :)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Dominus Nox on January 22, 2007, 01:59:33 am
Quote from: hgjs
See, this is where I stop following you (as far as the argument pertains to the Christian God).  According to most Christian denominations I'm aware of, every single human being on earth deserves eternal torment.  That would mean that anything up to and including hell on earth would be just.


If every single person on earth deserves eternal agony as punishment for...existing, I guess, then doesn't that mean that man is a horribly flawed creation, and that, therefore his creator must be imperfect as well?

Personally, I think that haloheads use that dogma, "All people deserve to go to hell" to justify their fundamentally insane religion, and as a rule I do view christianity as being based on precepts only a madman could accept unless he was brainwashed into it from childhood.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Malleus Arianorum on January 22, 2007, 05:33:16 am
Quote from: Sigmund
Despite your taking your beliefs on faith, despite lack of proof, your assertion that my "dilemma" is false (as opposed to possibly false) reveals quite a bit about you as well. Also, I don't recall asserting that anyone's suffering and death is some kind of "Achille's heel".
I say "false dilemma" because a third lemma exists: God is loving but not your kind of loving.
I say "Achille's heel" because the triple-O god is fragile, easily dispatched by showing that suffering exists.
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What would possible make Warren Buffet an appropriate analogy to an all-powerful god? Does he claim to be omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent? What does leaving millions to his children instead of billions have to do with suffering?
Both God and Buffet have the power to give their kids what they want but refrain from doing so out of love. I'm fine with that. Are you?
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I never said that either god or Warren Buffet don't love their children. All I said was that if god truely loves his creations, yet allows suffering to exist anyway, it's because he either can't execute a plan without suffering, or can't concieve a plan without suffering. Either way, he couldn't possible be a triple O god because there is at least one thing he can't do.
Here's another difference between our gods. In a Christian context Omnipotent is taken as a latinization of Hebrew words that roughly mean "unfailing." The literal transliteration "all" + "power" does not apply to the Christian God since there are plenty of things he can't do. (Sin, lie etc...)
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Just to toss your Buffett analogy aside a moment and speak from a more personal level... I love my 16 month old son more than life itself. I would die to save him, and pay nearly any price to shield him from suffering in his life. Unfortunately, however, I can't. I don't have the power, or the knowledge, to prevent every disease, scraped knee, heartbreak... Not even Prince Shakymuni's father could do it. Trying to compare any human to a triple O god is pointless, so forgive me if I dismiss it.
Personally, I hate the triple-O god and his followers. When my firstborn son died they spouted inhuman slogans like "you'll get over it" and "it's for the best" and "don't be sad, your little boy is in heaven playing harps with the angels!" My very real, very human suffering was an affront to their moronic grinning god and they hated me for it. My grief proclaimed what their philosophy could never withstand: suffering exists. So I agree with you that the existence of suffering invalidates the triple-O god but I disagree that that inhuman god has anything to do with my Lord.

So what's so different about Jesus? First, his definition of Love is "This is love, that a man lay down his life for a friend." It's very close to what you wrote about your love for your son. Secondly, Jesus didn't try to explain or excuse suffering. He never said "blah blah harps 'n heaven." He wept openly and experienced profound grief for his friends. Finally, he died for my son even though I couldn't.

Anyway, I hope you can see that the inhuman triple-O god you thrashed has nothing to do with my Lord. You could leave a ten thousand flaming bags of poo at triple-O's house and not one of them would be on Jesus's doorstep. They're totally different.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Malleus Arianorum on January 22, 2007, 07:15:01 am
Quote from: Sigmund
What is "love" if not benevolence? Benevolence might not always include love, but I think it's safe to say that love always includes benevolence. Would it make you more comfortable if we were to say "infinitely loving"?
Christians believe that God himself told us how to speak of him. "Omnibenevolence" isn't one of those words. I chose to use the word "love" to represent the Christian viewpoint because (1) it's a traditional Christian word and (2) benevolence was already in play.
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Because preventing all suffering is something a being who truely loved it's creations, and who had the power to accomplish this goal, would do.
Says who?
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I can't speak for Akrasia, but I personally use my values to judge god's benevolence. Am I not god's creation? Did I not gain my understanding of "values" from god himself? Does his word not lay these things out for us? Isn't that where our values have come from in this society (USA for me)? If god exists, and we are his creations, and the values we hold were instilled in us by him, then why couldn't I use my values to judge his benevolence? If he doesn't, then the question is pointless.
Tisk tisk. In any case you just tossed out your moral authority.
(1) If the PoE only rests on "your personal values" then what's so scientific or logical about that? Nothin! You're taking it on faith just like me.
(2) If "your personal values" are objective because they're created by a god, that defeats the idea of atheism eh?
(2b) None of those objections matter a whit in a Christian universe. God commands "lean not on your own understanding" and "seek ye first the kingdom of God and his rightiousness." We're supposed to do good even if we suffer by doing so. On the other hand, your professed willingness to die for your son is love, and love is what the Christian universe is all about.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Hastur T. Fannon on January 22, 2007, 07:41:19 am
Quote from: hgjs
See, this is where I stop following you (as far as the argument pertains to the Christian God).  According to most Christian denominations I'm aware of, every single human being on earth deserves eternal torment.  That would mean that anything up to and including hell on earth would be just.


Only the Western ones.  The Eastern Church believes something quite different.  Here's (http://www.orthodoxpress.org/parish/river_of_fire.htm) a good (if somewhat bombastic) introduction to the differences between Eastern and Western Christianity, from an Eastern perspective

You might find it interesting Dominus.  You see - he agrees with you:

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If we consider hell as a punishment from God, we must admit that it is a senseless punishment, unless we admit that God is an infinitely wicked being.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Malleus Arianorum on January 22, 2007, 08:02:49 am
Quote from: Akrasia
I'm toying with the idea of writing a book called The Sophist's Handbook that would cover a range of 10-20 divisive topics (for the most part on politics, economics, and religion). For each topic there would be a list of '5-10 standard arguments' and effective replies to them.
:shakespeare: Or since you know the Bard let me put it another way -- There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Believing that, or not, requires faith.
Quote from: Akrasia
No, sorry, you don't.
Amaze your friends and family with answers like this and 9-19 others! Reserve your copy of The Sophist's Handbook and you'll recieve a FREE copy for a friend! Give the gift of unassailable logic today!

Also: what HGJS said.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Malleus Arianorum on January 22, 2007, 08:33:52 am
Quote from: Hastur T. Fannon
Only the Western ones.  The Eastern Church believes something quite different.  Here's (http://www.orthodoxpress.org/parish/river_of_fire.htm) a good (if somewhat bombastic) introduction to the differences between Eastern and Western Christianity, from an Eastern perspective

You might find it interesting Dominus.  You see - he agrees with you:


:confused: Dominus said that God is an all loving, all kind, and absolutely good God?

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You see, the devil managed to make men believe that God does not really love us, that He really only loves Himself, and that He accepts us only if we behave as He wants us to behave; that He hates us if we do not behave as He ordered us to behave, and is offended by our insubordination to such a degree that we must pay for it by eternal tortures, created by Him for that purpose.

    Who can love a torturer? Even those who try hard to save themselves from the wrath of God cannot really love Him. They love only themselves, trying to escape God's vengeance and to achieve eternal bliss by managing to please this fearsome and extremely dangerous Creator.

    Do you perceive the devil's slander of our all loving, all kind, and absolutely good God? That is why in Greek the devil was given the name DIABOLOS, "the slanderer".
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Hastur T. Fannon on January 22, 2007, 08:45:45 am
Quote from: malleus arianorum
:confused: Dominus said that God is an all loving, all kind, and absolutely good God?


I'm sure you knew this prefectly well, but I was responding to this quote of Dominus's

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If every single person on earth deserves eternal agony as punishment for...existing, I guess, then doesn't that mean that man is a horribly flawed creation, and that, therefore his creator must be imperfect as well?
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on January 22, 2007, 09:34:40 am
Quote from: malleus arianorum
So I agree with you that the existence of suffering invalidates the triple-O god but I disagree that that inhuman god has anything to do with my Lord.

So what's so different about Jesus? First, his definition of Love is "This is love, that a man lay down his life for a friend." It's very close to what you wrote about your love for your son. Secondly, Jesus didn't try to explain or excuse suffering. He never said "blah blah harps 'n heaven." He wept openly and experienced profound grief for his friends. Finally, he died for my son even though I couldn't.

Anyway, I hope you can see that the inhuman triple-O god you thrashed has nothing to do with my Lord. You could leave a ten thousand flaming bags of poo at triple-O's house and not one of them would be on Jesus's doorstep. They're totally different.


Then we are in agreement. PoE demonstrates that the triple O god can't exist, and has no bearing on any other conception of divinity.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on January 22, 2007, 09:43:19 am
Quote from: malleus arianorum
 Tisk tisk. In any case you just tossed out your moral authority.
(1) If the PoE only rests on "your personal values" then what's so scientific or logical about that? Nothin! You're taking it on faith just like me.


No, I'm taking it on carefully considered logical arguements, using the gifts I have been given to think and reason.

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(2) If "your personal values" are objective because they're created by a god, that defeats the idea of atheism eh?


Yes. The "if" in that statement is the operative word however.
 
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(2b) None of those objections matter a whit in a Christian universe. God commands "lean not on your own understanding" and "seek ye first the kingdom of God and his rightiousness." We're supposed to do good even if we suffer by doing so. On the other hand, your professed willingness to die for your son is love, and love is what the Christian universe is all about.


Since I don't believe god exists, forgive me if I disregard his commands. Also, you probably didn't mean it to be insulting, but qualifying my statement regarding my son with "professed" is a bit insulting, kinda. I'm trying to learn from my short temper with James McMurray, however, and so I'm trying not to come out shooting though so I'm just expressing how I felt when I read it.

I, too, lost my first child. She died during birth, and the hardest thing I ever did was hold my dead daughter in the delivery room and try to say goodbye to her and make sense of what had happened. I still struggle with it at times. I'm glad you have a way to find some peace after such a tragedy. It's a flavor of pain I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Malleus Arianorum on January 22, 2007, 09:58:31 am
Quote from: Akrasia
Well, God is perfect, and, according to most theologians and religious philosophers (including such 'light weights' as Augustine, Aquinas, et al.), for God not be completely good would be an imperfection.

I believe he is completely good but not up to your personal standards.
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It's not part of the POE argument that God is opposed to suffering 'at any cost'.  After all, there may be 'just punishment' for the sinful (i.e. those who commit moral evil), and suffering caused by agents with 'free will' (assuming that such a thing as 'free will' is compatible with an omniscient and omnipotent God).  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'.

Why does "innocent suffering" disprove the Christian God? Did he make that promise somewhere?
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Anyhow, even if you don't like the claim that God is 'all-good', the POE arguments works just as well if you accept the description that God is 'all-just' instead (just modify the relevant premises).

You can modify it to whatever you want if you're just skeet shooting your own strawmen, but I thought you said the PoE applies to the Christian God?
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"Preventing suffering" is just part of what of benevolence is.  Providing people with "Yoda lightsaber school" is not.

:nono: That's your faith, not mine. I believe that a benevolent God would let me suffer in the swamp so I could complete my Jedi training. And I would eat frogs who would therefore suffer innocently. :emoticon for innocently suffering frogs:
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Pretty much every main monotheistic religion -- and every secular philosophy, for that matter -- holds that, all things being equal, unjust suffering is morally wrong.
 
No skin off my back. I believe that pretty much every main monotheistic religion and every secular philosophy is wrong. Especialy secular philosophys that toss terms like "omnibenevolent" around.
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(One of the nice things about the POE argument is that it "hoists God by His own petard" -- at least the God that commands us to love others, prevent needless suffering, commit acts of charity, etc.)

What petard is that? Where does the Christian God say "innocent suffering does not exist?"
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 22, 2007, 10:37:38 am
Quote from: malleus arianorum
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Why does "innocent suffering" disprove the Christian God? Did he make that promise somewhere?...

*sigh*
The POE argument is not about what God 'promises'.  Rather, it simply points out that innocent suffering is incompatible with a triple-O God.

Quote from: malleus arianorum
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You can modify it to whatever you want if you're just skeet shooting your own strawmen, but I thought you said the PoE applies to the Christian God? ...


My point was that, even if you (as a Christian) reject the idea that God is 'all good' or 'benevolent', surely it must be the case that you believe He is 'all just', right?  If you do, then the POE argument still works.

But if you sincerely believe that God is neither ultimately benevolent nor just, why love him at all?  I mean, I can understand fearing him, insofar as he is omnipotent, but I have a hard time seeing why one should love and revere a deity that causes unnecessary suffering.  

When I see human beings causing unnecessary suffering, I think that they're either incompetent (insofar as they did not intend the suffering in question, but caused it accidentally), or evil (insofar as they intended to cause unnecessary suffering).  

As far as I can tell, this god that you worship  -- which is not all-powerful, all-loving, and/or all-knowing -- is either (somewhat) incompetent or (somewhat) evil (or perhaps both).  Nice god, that! :rolleyes:

Quote from: malleus arianorum
... That's your faith, not mine. I believe that a benevolent God would let me suffer in the swamp so I could complete my Jedi training. And I would eat frogs who would therefore suffer innocently.


Well, I don't have a 'faith'.  And insofar as your faith seems rather absurd, I can't be bothered trying to refute it.  

 
Quote from: malleus arianorum
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I believe that pretty much every main monotheistic religion and every secular philosophy is wrong. Especialy secular philosophys that toss terms like "omnibenevolent" around.


Then why are you even bothering to engage in this debate?  You seem attached to some (rather unusual) conception of 'Christianity' to which the POE argument does not apply (as already noted by Sigmund).  You also don't seem to care about logic or philosophy.

Enjoy your strange little religion!  But I have no interest in trying to refute it, as it strikes me as manifestly implausible.

Quote from: malleus arianorum
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What petard is that? Where does the Christian God say "innocent suffering does not exist?"


I never claimed that the Christian God (or any other monotheistic conception of God) asserts that "innocent suffering does not exist".  It obviously does!

Rather, most mainstream traditional conceptions of God hold that "innocent suffering should not exist, at least insofar as it is in our power to prevent it."  Isn't that the whole point of charity, being a 'Good Samaritan', mercy, love, etc?  It's just a pity that God doesn't live up to his own moral standards.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 22, 2007, 10:43:06 am
Quote from: Sigmund
As true as this is, I still would say that a perfectly loving god, a perfectly benevolent god, would forgive and reform, rather than punish.
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All that said, I still don't disagree with your post for the purposes of the PoE arguement... just throwing out my own thoughts and observations :)


I largely agree with your thoughts, and don't have much sympathy for the 'free will' (or 'moral growth' or whatever) reply to the POE.  I was just mentioning that even if one granted that reply, the POE argument still succeeds.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 22, 2007, 10:44:44 am
:lol:
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 22, 2007, 10:48:31 am
Quote from: malleus arianorum
:shakespeare: Or since you know the Bard let me put it another way -- There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Believing that, or not, requires faith.Amaze your friends and family with answers like this and 9-19 others! Reserve your copy of The Sophist's Handbook and you'll recieve a FREE copy for a friend! Give the gift of unassailable logic today!
...

:rolleyes:

Forgive me if I have grown somewhat tired of pointing out that believing a proposition (e.g. "a triple-O God does not exist") on the basis of evidence and logical argument (whether deductive, inductive or abductive) does not involve faith.

No 'faith' is required to claim that invisible pixies, Zeus, or phlogiston don't exist.  Likewise, the triple-O god.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 22, 2007, 10:49:33 am
Quote from: James McMurray
:lol:


At what (or whom) is this directed?  :confused:
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 22, 2007, 10:53:08 am
At this entire thread. It's the exact same string of arguments, counterarguments, and misconceptions being repeated over and over again. Every now and then someone mentions an old dead guy's name to break up the monotony, but it doesn't actually change the discussion, just adds an air of authority to it.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 22, 2007, 11:03:04 am
Quote from: James McMurray
At this entire thread. It's the exact same string of arguments, counterarguments, and misconceptions being repeated over and over again. Every now and then someone mentions an old dead guy's name to break up the monotony, but it doesn't actually change the discussion, just adds an air of authority to it.


I agree that it has become rather repetitive.  This is partially because a few people joined the debate without (apparently) bothering to read any of the earlier posts.  (Suspiciously, some seem to be posting only in this thread, which makes me wonder whether they're interested in RPGs at all, or simply googled the topic of 'atheism' looking for a fight.)

On the other hand, I have found that this thread has helped me to refine my thinking about how to present the argument in the future.  I was quite sloppy many times earlier on in this thread (and not just when I was sloshed!).  And I hope that some other participants have at least learned something about the ongoing debates over this issue, even if their positions weren't ultimately changed.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 22, 2007, 11:06:16 am
This is an argument on the internet. Is there such as thing as changed positions? I thought that was mythical like faeries, unconditional love, and Mr. Rogers.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 22, 2007, 12:08:42 pm
Quote from: James McMurray
This is an argument on the internet. Is there such as thing as changed positions? I thought that was mythical like faeries, unconditional love, and Mr. Rogers.


I've certainly changed my views on some topics thanks to discussions (even on the internet!).  Likewise, I've seen others acknowledge that their own original view about a particular subject was implausible, a different position was convincing, etc.  It doesn't happen that often, but it's not impossible.  People aren't always unreasonable.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 22, 2007, 12:17:11 pm
Yeah. It was a joke. :)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on January 22, 2007, 01:21:00 pm
Quote from: James McMurray
At this entire thread. It's the exact same string of arguments, counterarguments, and misconceptions being repeated over and over again. Every now and then someone mentions an old dead guy's name to break up the monotony, but it doesn't actually change the discussion, just adds an air of authority to it.


I imagine this is the way this particular arguement has been for alot longer than just in this thread. Just a feeling I have.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Malleus Arianorum on January 23, 2007, 03:36:47 am
Quote from: Sigmund
No, I'm taking it on carefully considered logical arguements, using the gifts I have been given to think and reason.

I asked you "by whose values do you judge God's omnibenevolence?" and you answered "I can't speak for Akrasia, but I personally use my values to judge god's benevolence." This shows that the result of the PoE depends on personal values, not objective facts. The PoE is only a personality test.
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Yes. The "if" in that statement is the operative word however.
If you make an appeal to the "gift" of reason and invoke God, it implies the existance of God. That's all I was saying.
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Since I don't believe god exists, forgive me if I disregard his commands.
I thought you were trying to undermine the existance of God from within the Christian world view, if not then please disregard those comments.
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Also, you probably didn't mean it to be insulting, but qualifying my statement regarding my son with "professed" is a bit insulting, kinda. I'm trying to learn from my short temper with James McMurray, however, and so I'm trying not to come out shooting though so I'm just expressing how I felt when I read it.

I'm sorry you read it that way. I meant it as a term of honor as in "Mother Theresa professed her love of the poor through acts of charity." Professed means (in a Catholic context) you believe in a higher ideal, you preach that ideal compellingly and you exemplify it through the way you live and die. I didn't stop to think that it would be taken as sarcasm. I genuinely respect and admire what you wrote about your love for your son -- it's profoundly Christlike (and I mean that as a compliment too.)

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I, too, lost my first child. She died during birth, and the hardest thing I ever did was hold my dead daughter in the delivery room and try to say goodbye to her and make sense of what had happened. I still struggle with it at times. I'm glad you have a way to find some peace after such a tragedy. It's a flavor of pain I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.
Thank you, I hope you find peace also.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on January 23, 2007, 08:39:05 am
Quote from: malleus arianorum
I asked you "by whose values do you judge God's omnibenevolence?" and you answered "I can't speak for Akrasia, but I personally use my values to judge god's benevolence." This shows that the result of the PoE depends on personal values, not objective facts. The PoE is only a personality test.


What isn't a personality test. Every thought, experience, and perception passes through each of our personal worldview filters and is labelled by our minds based on those filters. This, IMO, is one of the things (combined with it's narrow focus) that makes PoE not the most persuasive of arguements for the purposes of changing minds about divinity. I say I can't speak for Akrasia, because I really can't speak for anyone else, but Akrasia seems to be the only other person (besides me) still engaged with this thread on the side of pro-PoE (so to speak). I gain my values, and hence the meaning of "benevolence" from our society. Since it's our word, and our values attached to the word, I'm perfectly comfortable using the word and the values attached to it in the PoE arguement. Since I don't believe in any divinity, there is nowhere else for me to get my values from. Why do you presume that my values aren't good enough to judge this mythical triple O god? This isn't an experiment to determine whether light is a particle or a wave, it's a logical arguement against the existence of an illogical idea.

The point is not the word "benevolence". The point is the meaning behind the word. Is the suffering of innocents bad? If you feel that the suffering of innocents is a horrible thing, but use a different word than "benevolence", feel free to insert that word instead.

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 If you make an appeal to the "gift" of reason and invoke God, it implies the existance of God. That's all I was saying.  


Not really. It implies the existence of a power greater than me. Who or what that is has not been specified, and the "if" is still the operative word.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Malleus Arianorum on January 23, 2007, 08:50:20 am
Quote from: Akrasia
*sigh*
The POE argument is not about what God 'promises'.  Rather, it simply points out that innocent suffering is incompatible with a triple-O God.

My point was that, even if you (as a Christian) reject the idea that God is 'all good' or 'benevolent', surely it must be the case that you believe He is 'all just', right?  If you do, then the POE argument still works.
The PoE was a big question in my mind because (1) it's pure logic and (2) how can you argue with that? But when I saw you throwing around made-up terms like "omnibenevolent" a light went on. Omnibenevolent is not a JudeoChristian word. It might describe an ideal utilitarian state, or Nirvana or something but it's not a part of the JC tradition. Likewise, God is just but not necessarily "all-Just," "omni-just," "double-plus-just," just-to-the-xtreme" or "Akrasia-just."
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But if you sincerely believe that God is neither ultimately benevolent nor just, why love him at all?  I mean, I can understand fearing him, insofar as he is omnipotent, but I have a hard time seeing why one should love and revere a deity that causes unnecessary suffering.
If I had the same opinions as you we'd reach the same conclusion, but I'm a Christian and you're an Atheist. Since we have different opinions on what "good" means we get different answers from the PoE depending on who's opinion of good is in play. Under my (Christian) opinions Christ is everybit as good, just and merciful as he is evil, unjust and merciless by your criteria. The answer depends on your opinion.
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When I see human beings causing unnecessary suffering, I think that they're either incompetent (insofar as they did not intend the suffering in question, but caused it accidentally), or evil (insofar as they intended to cause unnecessary suffering).
How can we tell what suffering is necessary? Take an opinion poll?  
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As far as I can tell, this god that you worship  -- which is not all-powerful, all-loving, and/or all-knowing -- is either (somewhat) incompetent or (somewhat) evil (or perhaps both).  Nice god, that! :rolleyes:
So you and God disagree on what's best for the human race. Perhaps you should write it up as a screenplay and send it to Paramont Pictures c/o: StarTrek.
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Well, I don't have a 'faith'. And insofar as your faith seems rather absurd, I can't be bothered trying to refute it.
O! be some other name: What's in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet. How about: you have a "strongly held opinion based on personal belief."
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Then why are you even bothering to engage in this debate?  You seem attached to some (rather unusual) conception of 'Christianity' to which the POE argument does not apply (as already noted by Sigmund).  You also don't seem to care about logic or philosophy.
:confused: Of course I don't believe in most "monotheisic religions and secular philosophys." I'm a MONOtheist i.e. someone who believes in one god.

Anyway I'm engaging in this debate because I wanted to know if the PoE applies to the Christian God or not. It seems like Jesus would be quite the feather in an Atheist's cap.

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Enjoy your strange little religion!  But I have no interest in trying to refute it, as it strikes me as manifestly implausible.
An atheist thinks god is manifestly implausible? Shock. Horror. I'd better warn my 1.2 billion fellow Catholics.
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I never claimed that the Christian God (or any other monotheistic conception of God) asserts that "innocent suffering does not exist".  It obviously does!

Rather, most mainstream traditional conceptions of God hold that "innocent suffering should not exist, at least insofar as it is in our power to prevent it."  Isn't that the whole point of charity, being a 'Good Samaritan', mercy, love, etc?  It's just a pity that God doesn't live up to his own moral standards.


Ok. I'll try your new definition of 'good' in the PoE. The parable of the Good Samaritan teaches that a Good Samaritan is someone who shows love to those to whom he owes nothing. "Love" according to Jesus is "that a man lay down his life for a friend." Let's put that into the PoE and see what comes out.

1. A truly good God would be a Good Samaritan even to the point of laying down His life for us.
2. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
3. Therefore God is truly good.

See? The PoE spits out whatever you put into it. Garbage-in-Garbage-out Atheism-in-Atheism-out.  Jesus-in-Jesus-out. The trick to your little game is that the PoE will spit out whatever opinion of "good" you're currently using.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Malleus Arianorum on January 23, 2007, 09:55:15 am
Quote from: Sigmund
What isn't a personality test.
Logic, reason...[/quote]
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Every thought, experience, and perception passes through each of our personal worldview filters and is labelled by our minds based on those filters. This, IMO, is one of the things (combined with it's narrow focus) that makes PoE not the most persuasive of arguements for the purposes of changing minds about divinity. I say I can't speak for Akrasia, because I really can't speak for anyone else, but Akrasia seems to be the only other person (besides me) still engaged with this thread on the side of pro-PoE (so to speak). I gain my values, and hence the meaning of "benevolence" from our society. Since it's our word, and our values attached to the word, I'm perfectly comfortable using the word and the values attached to it in the PoE arguement.Since I don't believe in any divinity, there is nowhere else for me to get my values from. Why do you presume that my values aren't good enough to judge this mythical triple O god?
If your values are only based on your culture you're enslaved by those words. Read George Orwell's 1984. Read anything that's from somewhere else, from a different point of view. Otherwise you'll spend your life doing the "two miniutes hate" and feeling double plus good about Oceana with the other word slaves.
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This isn't an experiment to determine whether light is a particle or a wave, it's a logical arguement against the existence of an illogical idea.
We believe that God himself has given us the data to understand him through revelation of the holy scriptures and most importantly through his son Jesus Christ. (Catholics realy use the word "data" to describe it btw) Our opinion is that there is enough data to make a reasoned examination of who God is.

At least we agree that the PoE is only a personality test. I was under the impression that it was marketed as a compelling logical arguement, but in the end it's just:

What is your name?
> Sigmund
What do you think about god?
> He does not exist
Congradulations Sigmund, You have proved God He does not exist.

-Your spirtiual journey is complete. Game Over.-

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The point is not the word "benevolence". The point is the meaning behind the word. Is the suffering of innocents bad? If you feel that the suffering of innocents is a horrible thing, but use a different word than "benevolence", feel free to insert that word instead.


Redeemer.

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Not really. It implies the existence of a power greater than me. Who or what that is has not been specified, and the "if" is still the operative word.
Well if an Atheist believes in a greater power that hands out the gift of reason that's fine by me. You're welcome to believe in my Lord and savior too if you want. :p
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 23, 2007, 09:59:48 am
Quote from: malleus arianorum
... An atheist thinks god is manifestly implausible? Shock. Horror. I'd better warn my 1.2 billion fellow Catholics...
:confused:

If you're really a Catholic, then I'm genuinely confused by your failure to appreciate the force of the POE argument.  According to Aquinas, God is all-good, all-powerful, and all-knowing.  This is required by God's perfection.  And this is the official position of the Catholic Church!

Catholic philosophers (from Aquinas to today) take the POE argument very seriously precisely because they are committed to the conception of God that the argument presupposes!

Quote from: malleus arianorum
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1. A truly good God would be a Good Samaritan even to the point of laying down His life for us.
2. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
3. Therefore God is truly good.

Well, God knew that he/JC wasn't really going to die, so God's death is not really analogous to the death of a human being.  In any case, the above argument doesn't really have anything to do with the POE argument.   After all, an omnipotent God could easily have created a universe in which there was no unnecessary suffering, no need for him to become Christ to deal with that suffering, etc.  Your example sidesteps the whole challenge posed by the POE argument.

Quote from: malleus arianorum
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The PoE spits out whatever you put into it. Garbage-in-Garbage-out Atheism-in-Atheism-out.  Jesus-in-Jesus-out. The trick to your little game is that the PoE will spit out whatever opinion of "good" you're currently using...

The reason why the POE argument is so effective is that it assumes the same conception of God presupposed by most Christians (certainly Catholicism).  It is not a matter of simply 'putting in whatever you want'.  I'm afraid that the fact that you keep asserting this does not make it so.  I'd recommend looking at the links that I provided earlier.  They might help you understand the POE argument -- or, actually, arguments, as there are different versions of it.

Look, I can understand that you don't like the POE argument.  After all, it challenges the intellectual plausibility of something that you happen to believe deeply in.  But a more sensible response would be to simply acknowledge the strength of the POE argument (as most Catholic philosophers do), but hold that you have faith that somehow all the manifest suffering that we see in the universe will ultimately be vindicated in the end.  

That's precisely the 'leap of faith' that Christianity requires.  It's why it involves faith, and atheism doesn't.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 23, 2007, 10:27:21 am
Quote from: malleus arianorum
... At least we agree that the PoE is only a personality test. I was under the impression that it was marketed as a compelling logical arguement, but in the end it's just:

What is your name?
> Sigmund
What do you think about god?
> He does not exist
Congradulations Sigmund, You have proved God He does not exist.
...


I think you're being grossly unfair to Sigmund here.

Now I could be wrong (and I invite Sigmund to correct me if I am!), but I understood Sigmund's overall point to be simply this.  We form our beliefs and values to the best of our ability, given the limitations that we face as fallible individual human beings.  The fact that we are limited and fallible doesn't mean that we shouldn't adopt those beliefs that are the most rational (i.e. supported by evidence and/or argument).  I'm a fallible human being with limited cognitive abilities, but I don't believe in round quadrangles, because that makes no sense.  I don't believe that the earth is flat because the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that it is not.  Likewise, I don't believe in an all-good, all-powerful, and all-knowing God, given certain facts about the world and their prima facie incompatibility with that hypothesized entity.

Simply acknowledging our cognitive limitations does not mean that all of our beliefs are mere 'opinions' or can't be well-justified.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Hastur T. Fannon on January 23, 2007, 10:54:24 am
Quote from: Akrasia
Well, God knew that he/JC wasn't really going to die, so God's death is not really analogous to the death of a human being.


Point of order, but mainstream Christians believe that Jesus experienced death and Hell in exactly the same way as any other human being
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 23, 2007, 10:57:22 am
You mean as in "for all eternity"?
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Hastur T. Fannon on January 23, 2007, 11:10:17 am
Quote from: James McMurray
You mean as in "for all eternity"?


It would certainly have felt like it...
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 23, 2007, 11:29:08 am
Well, at least up until the point it stopped. :)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 23, 2007, 12:52:27 pm
Quote from: Hastur T. Fannon
Point of order, but mainstream Christians believe that Jesus experienced death and Hell in exactly the same way as any other human being

Yes, I realise that.  That wasn't my point.  My point was that God knew ahead of time that, after three days, Jesus would rise again.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Malleus Arianorum on January 23, 2007, 01:45:12 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
:confused:

If you're really a Catholic, then I'm genuinely confused by your failure to appreciate the force of the POE argument.  According to Aquinas, God is all-good, all-powerful, and all-knowing.  This is required by God's perfection.  And this is the official position of the Catholic Church!
Official Church position: We give up! Too hard! :(
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Catholic philosophers (from Aquinas to today) take the POE argument very seriously precisely because they are committed to the conception of God that the argument presupposes!
So seriously that they become Atheists? Riiiight. I suppose I could, like the Psalmists get all worked up about why evil people prosper while good people go down to Sheol. But I'm in a "rejoice in God my Savior" mood right now and my PoE personality test proves it.
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Well, God knew that he/JC wasn't really going to die, so God's death is not really analogous to the death of a human being.  In any case, the above argument doesn't really have anything to do with the POE argument.   After all, an omnipotent God could easily have created a universe in which there was no unnecessary suffering, no need for him to become Christ to deal with that suffering, etc.  Your example sidesteps the whole challenge posed by the POE argument.
I owe that to you. You taught me how to side step it by arguing for omnibenevolence/suffering bellybutton/Yoda instead of godliness/evil. If the criteria of your PoE is so random, why shouldn't there be a similar flaw in the real PoE? Secondly, if you know Jesus didn't really die, don't you also know that the saint's are in for resurrection too? It's a big chorus of "Oh death where is thy sting" for all creation, not just for Jesus. Anyway, pick a side and stick with it. Either death and suffering is a big deal in which case I'll act worried about God's weakness, or salvation is a snap and I'll act frightened by God's callousness. But if He walks perfectly down the middle (as your flip flopping indicates) He's perfect!
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The reason why the POE argument is so effective is that it assumes the same conception of God presupposed by most Christians (certainly Catholicism).  It is not a matter of simply 'putting in whatever you want'.  I'm afraid that the fact that you keep asserting this does not make it so.  I'd recommend looking at the links that I provided earlier.  They might help you understand the POE argument -- or, actually, arguments, as there are different versions of it.
If the PoE has been "effective" for thousands of years, what's with all the believers? If I roach bombed my apartment for TWO THOUSAND YEARS but found they had multiplied to 1.1 billion I'd hardly call it an "effective" deterrent. You're overstating the PoE to such an extent that I'm finding it hard to take it seriously.
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Look, I can understand that you don't like the POE argument.  After all, it challenges the intellectual plausibility of something that you happen to believe deeply in.  But a more sensible response would be to simply acknowledge the strength of the POE argument (as most Catholic philosophers do), but hold that you have faith that somehow all the manifest suffering that we see in the universe will ultimately be vindicated in the end.
Clearly the Problem of Evil (as opposed to the problem of suffering) is an unsolved problem, but it's only "unsolved" in that we don't know how to get from the well known question to the well known answer. It's like trying to understand a magic trick. Everyone agrees on the beginning and end of the trick, it's understanding how the trick happened that's infuriating. But what you've done is turned it on it's side, you don't know how the trick works, so you think the magic trick won't happen! As though God's plan requires you being able to keep track of his fingers. Go ahead and worry that the woman in the box is being sawed in two, Me? I'm sitting back to enjoy the show. She'll be fine.
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That's precisely the 'leap of faith' that Christianity requires.  It's why it involves faith, and atheism doesn't.
We both have faith. I have faith the magician will save girl in the box. You have faith she'll be sawed into a bloody mess. We both have to rely on faith since neither of us has been in the box. The reasonable thing is to assume that the saw is a saw and the woman is doomed, but I've based my faith on the reputation of the Magician instead. But even if your faith is more reasonable, it's still faith until you see the inside of that box.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on January 23, 2007, 03:17:49 pm
Quote from: malleus arianorum
Logic, reason...


My idea of what is logical, and especially reasonable, is going to be different than a serial killer's, or a suicide bomber's, or a delusional paranoiac's is. I'm satisfied that what I consider logical and reasonable is also considered the same by a great many other people, if I can believe what the say (which I do). Likewise, my values as to what constitutes "benevolent" and "good" are shared by most, so I'm confident that when I use those words, most people will know to what I'm referring and agree with me. If semantics is all you can use to try and refute PoE, you're probably going to have no more success than anyone else who's tried.

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If your values are only based on your culture you're enslaved by those words. Read George Orwell's 1984. Read anything that's from somewhere else, from a different point of view. Otherwise you'll spend your life doing the "two miniutes hate" and feeling double plus good about Oceana with the other word slaves.
 We believe that God himself has given us the data to understand him through revelation of the holy scriptures and most importantly through his son Jesus Christ. (Catholics realy use the word "data" to describe it btw) Our opinion is that there is enough data to make a reasoned examination of who God is.


Everyone's values are based on their culture. Fortunately for our purposes, most cultures in the world today would have very similar ideas of what terms like "suffering" and "benevolence" mean. The main reason I bring up culture, and the values mine holds, is because my culture was founded by, and continues to be influenced by christianity. Being that the christian god is the main subject of the PoE arguement, I contend that my society's values are especially applicable to the PoE arguement.

BTW, assuming I haven't read 1984 or other literature would be a mistake. I also have travelled overseas, especially to Central America.

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At least we agree that the PoE is only a personality test. I was under the impression that it was marketed as a compelling logical arguement, but in the end it's just:

What is your name?
> Sigmund
What do you think about god?
> He does not exist
Congradulations Sigmund, You have proved God He does not exist.

-Your spirtiual journey is complete. Game Over.-

No, it's not just a personality test. Saying it repeatedly isn't going to make it true. I'm not even sure where you're getting that. Also, you seem to be getting irritated at this discussion, perhaps some time to put it into perspective would be helpful. Believe me when I say that I know what that's like... I can be quite... passionate... about things that I believe in strongly.

Quote
Redeemer.

Using this word s fine if that's what you want. Just realize that most people are not going to know to what you are referring in this context unless you define it for them beforehand.

 
Quote
Well if an Atheist believes in a greater power that hands out the gift of reason that's fine by me. You're welcome to believe in my Lord and savior too if you want. :p

I don't recall saying I was an atheist. I do believe that PoE is adequate proof that a triple O god does not exist, but as even you have expressed already in this thread, the triple O god is hardly the only game in town.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on January 23, 2007, 03:25:09 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
I think you're being grossly unfair to Sigmund here.

Now I could be wrong (and I invite Sigmund to correct me if I am!), but I understood Sigmund's overall point to be simply this.  We form our beliefs and values to the best of our ability, given the limitations that we face as fallible individual human beings.  The fact that we are limited and fallible doesn't mean that we shouldn't adopt those beliefs that are the most rational (i.e. supported by evidence and/or argument).  I'm a fallible human being with limited cognitive abilities, but I don't believe in round quadrangles, because that makes no sense.  I don't believe that the earth is flat because the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that it is not.  Likewise, I don't believe in an all-good, all-powerful, and all-knowing God, given certain facts about the world and their prima facie incompatibility with that hypothesized entity.

Simply acknowledging our cognitive limitations does not mean that all of our beliefs are mere 'opinions' or can't be well-justified.


Bingo, thanks for expressing it better than I. And where do we get the info we base our fallible ideas on? Our surroundings... through talking with others, or reading what others wrote, or direct observation.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on January 23, 2007, 03:29:26 pm
Quote from: James McMurray
Well, at least up until the point it stopped. :)


:lol:

I'm sorry, but that's funny. I also have to strongly agree.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on January 23, 2007, 03:32:55 pm
Quote from: malleus arianorum
We both have faith. I have faith the magician will save girl in the box. You have faith she'll be sawed into a bloody mess. We both have to rely on faith since neither of us has been in the box. The reasonable thing is to assume that the saw is a saw and the woman is doomed, but I've based my faith on the reputation of the Magician instead. But even if your faith is more reasonable, it's still faith until you see the inside of that box.


Have you actually read the whole thread? It certainly doesn't seem so by this statement. So... which definition of faith are you using?
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Hastur T. Fannon on January 24, 2007, 04:29:16 am
Quote from: Akrasia
Yes, I realise that.  That wasn't my point.  My point was that God knew ahead of time that, after three days, Jesus would rise again.


I must be missing something.  It's also Christian belief that all of humanity will be resurrected on the Last Day.  Why does the period of time matter?

This may seem pedantic, but the idea that God experienced suffering, pain and evil - as a human being - is an important response to the problem of evil
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 24, 2007, 09:59:29 am
Quote from: malleus arianorum
So seriously that they become Atheists? Riiiight.


Well, many people have been convinced by the POE argument over the years.  Obviously not everyone -- some people are so attached to their beliefs that they are willing to remain committed to them, despite recognizing that they lack rational justification.  That’s called faith -- something I personally reject.

 
Quote from: malleus arianorum

 I owe that to you. You taught me how to side step it by arguing for omnibenevolence/suffering bellybutton/Yoda instead of godliness/evil.

 
I’m sorry if I ‘taught’ you whatever it is you think I taught you.  I certainly don’t understand why you keep trying to make this point (I’m not even sure what your point is!), so I regret if I mistakenly ‘taught’ it to you.

I’m genuinely having a hard time figuring out exactly what this whole ‘Yoda’ point is supposed to be.  As far as I can tell, you are claiming that the claim that God is ‘all good’ is arbitrary, or my definition of ‘goodness’ is arbitrary.  To which (as I’ve stated many times already) I reply: no.  It’s precisely the same definition of God that is presupposed by the Church that you claim to belong to.

Given your inability to accept this basic point, and your desire to engage in somewhat incoherent sarcastic remarks instead, I’m not sure if any mutual understanding on this matter is possible.

Quote from: malleus arianorum

If the criteria of your PoE is so random, why shouldn't there be a similar flaw in the real PoE?


The “criteria” for the POE is not ‘random’.  Just because you keep asserting this does not make it true.  I still have no clear idea why you think this.

Quote from: malleus arianorum

Secondly, if you know Jesus didn't really die, don't you also know that the saint's are in for resurrection too? It's a big chorus of "Oh death where is thy sting" for all creation, not just for Jesus. Anyway, pick a side and stick with it. Either death and suffering is a big deal in which case I'll act worried about God's weakness, or salvation is a snap and I'll act frightened by God's callousness. But if He walks perfectly down the middle (as your flip flopping indicates) He's perfect!


I can’t understand what your point here is at all.  Are you trying to make a coherent argument?  Are you trying to convince me of something?  

Quote from: malleus arianorum

 If the PoE has been "effective" for thousands of years, what's with all the believers?


First of all, most people aren’t even aware of the POE argument, so it should hardly be surprising that they haven’t been convinced by it.

Second, the mere fact that a perfectly rational argument has existed for centuries, but people continued to believe something that that argument disproved, is not that unusual in human history.  The ancient Greeks knew that the earth was round, but hoi poloi continued to believe it was flat until Columbus came along.  

In any case, truth is not a popularity test.
 
Quote from: malleus arianorum

 It's like trying to understand a magic trick. Everyone agrees on the beginning and end of the trick, it's understanding how the trick happened that's infuriating. But what you've done is turned it on it's side, you don't know how the trick works, so you think the magic trick won't happen! As though God's plan requires you being able to keep track of his fingers.


This is a rather bad analogy.  It is only plausible if we assume that God exists and has a ‘trick’ we can’t understand.  You’re simply ‘begging the question’ by presupposing God’s existence in order to meet the challenge posed by the POE argument.

Quote from: malleus arianorum

 We both have faith.  


Nope.  You believe in an entity for which there is no evidence (and some evidence against, at least according to the evidentialist version of the POE).  I don’t.

Quote from: malleus arianorum

… But even if your faith is more reasonable …


I have beliefs based on the available evidence and best arguments I can ascertain.  That’s not faith.  But it is reasonable.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 24, 2007, 10:03:36 am
Quote from: Hastur T. Fannon
I must be missing something.  It's also Christian belief that all of humanity will be resurrected on the Last Day.  Why does the period of time matter?


Well (correct me if I am wrong) human beings condemned to Hell are there for all eternity.  In contrast, God knew that he/Jesus had a limited stay.

Furthermore, God doesn't suffer from the uncertainty that humans do regarding their ultimate fate.  He's omniscient.

Quote from: Hastur T. Fannon

This may seem pedantic, but the idea that God experienced suffering, pain and evil - as a human being - is an important response to the problem of evil


How so?  As far as I can tell, it just means that God has tasted some of the unnecessary suffering that He has allowed to happen (and continues to allow to happen).
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Balbinus on January 24, 2007, 11:22:46 am
Quote from: malleus arianorum
So seriously that they become Atheists? Riiiight.


He didn't say that, he said that the Catholic Church recognises the POE as a serious challenge, he did not say that as a result they embrace atheism.

It helps I realise in a debate to put words in your opponent's mouth, but it's not actually responding.

The Church recognises the POE as a serious challenge, a challenge that is met by faith, not by a logical refutation.  That is not a criticism of the Church, as the Church teaches that faith is necessary and requiring it is therefore not an issue.

Otherwise, a certainty that god does not exist is of necessity a matter of faith, as we have no final proof on the matter.  A lack of belief in god is not faith however where it is based on an evaluation of the available evidence.  Then it is simply a reasonable conclusion.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Balbinus on January 24, 2007, 11:31:41 am
Quote from: Akrasia
How so?  As far as I can tell, it just means that God has tasted some of the unnecessary suffering that He has allowed to happen (and continues to allow to happen).


Many Catholics believe that hell is not, as some evangelicals believe, an eternity of active suffering but rather mere oblivion.  That is to say, hell is an absence of god receiving you.

Not sure how that squares with Christ descending into hell, but I don't need to square the many inconsistencies of the faith.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 24, 2007, 11:35:38 am
Quote from: Balbinus
Otherwise, a certainty that god does not exist is of necessity a matter of faith, as we have no final proof on the matter.  A lack of belief in god is not faith however where it is based on an evaluation of the available evidence.  Then it is simply a reasonable conclusion.


QFT
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Hastur T. Fannon on January 24, 2007, 11:41:36 am
Quote from: Akrasia
Well (correct me if I am wrong) human beings condemned to Hell are there for all eternity.


If you'd followed the link I provided, you'd see that the second largest grouping within the Church doesn't believe this and I can tell you there's considerable disagreement about the nature of Hell among the third largest

Quote from: Akrasia
In contrast, God knew that he/Jesus had a limited stay.

Furthermore, God doesn't suffer from the uncertainty that humans do regarding their ultimate fate.  He's omniscient.


The question about how much knowledge of the future Jesus had is an interesting one.  There are suggestions in the Bible that God the Father knew things that God the Son did not.  In incarnating, in becoming human, He chose to limit Himself and this might have been one of the ways

There's even a school of theology called "Open Theism" which suggests that God's omniscience does not extend to perfect knowledge of the future either because that sort of perfection is a logical impossibility (in a similar the same way that the idea God making a rock so big He can't lift it is self-contradictory) or because if He chose to know this it would remove our free will

Quote from: Akrasia
How so?  As far as I can tell, it just means that God has tasted some of the unnecessary suffering that He has allowed to happen (and continues to allow to happen).


It seems to me to be an attack on the idea that the suffering is unnecessary.  A God that undergoes unnecessary suffering is a masochist and therefore imperfect
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 24, 2007, 11:55:36 am
Quote from: Balbinus
He didn't say that, he said that the Catholic Church recognises the POE as a serious challenge, he did not say that as a result they embrace atheism.

It helps I realise in a debate to put words in your opponent's mouth, but it's not actually responding.

The Church recognises the POE as a serious challenge, a challenge that is met by faith, not by a logical refutation.  That is not a criticism of the Church, as the Church teaches that faith is necessary and requiring it is therefore not an issue.

Otherwise, a certainty that god does not exist is of necessity a matter of faith, as we have no final proof on the matter.  A lack of belief in god is not faith however where it is based on an evaluation of the available evidence.  Then it is simply a reasonable conclusion.

Thank you.  These are points that I've been trying to communicate in this thread.  Even though we might disagree, at least we can understand with respect to what we disagree.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 24, 2007, 12:01:45 pm
Quote from: James McMurray
QFT


Since we both agree with Balbinus's point -- viz., that it is 'reasonable', and not a matter of 'faith', to deny the existence of a triple-O God on the basis of available evidence, etc. -- I'm confused why you were so vehemently opposed to my earlier claims in this thread (in which I tried to say pretty much exactly the same thing).

'Absolute certainty' is never possible with respect to our beliefs concerning the external world (including the existence/nonexistence of God), since they're all based on induction.  Believing things on the basis of the best available evidence, i.e. engaging in inductive reasoning, while not giving us 'certainty', does not involve 'faith'.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 24, 2007, 12:04:47 pm
Quote from: Balbinus
Many Catholics believe that hell is not, as some evangelicals believe, an eternity of active suffering but rather mere oblivion.  That is to say, hell is an absence of god receiving you.

Right.  That's actually what I meant when I stated a few weeks ago that Catholics no longer believe in 'hell', which prompted Hastur to reply (rightly so, since obviously my claim, stated while inebriated, was a sloppy, incorrect generalization).  I thought that the view (or one view popular amongst more philosophically inclined theologians) was that Hell was simply eternal separation from God (i.e. staying dead!).
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 24, 2007, 12:05:49 pm
I am agreeing that lack of belief in God is logical (i.e. agnosticism), not that belief of a lack in Him (i.e. atheism) is.

And we've been around and around that faith bush already. Do you mind if I just refer you to my prior posts? :)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 24, 2007, 12:10:04 pm
Quote from: James McMurray
I am agreeing that lack of belief in God is logical (i.e. agnosticism), not that belief of a lack in Him (i.e. atheism) is. ...

Agnostics refuse to take a position as to whether God exists.  Atheists hold that it looks most likely that He doesn't.

Atheism is a perfectly logical position to have.  Just as 'faith' is not required to have the view that invisible pixies do not exist, same for God.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 24, 2007, 12:16:23 pm
Quote from: Hastur T. Fannon
If you'd followed the link I provided, you'd see that the second largest grouping within the Church doesn't believe this and I can tell you there's considerable disagreement about the nature of Hell among the third largest ...


Okay, you got me. :imsorry:   I didn't read that link, as nothing in the present debate seemed to ride on the nature of Hell in the POE argument.

Quote from: Hastur T. Fannon
... It seems to me to be an attack on the idea that the suffering is unnecessary.  A God that undergoes unnecessary suffering is a masochist and therefore imperfect


It's not clear to me why God choosing to suffer demonstrates its necessity.  It might perhaps demonstrate that he's not omnipotent.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Hastur T. Fannon on January 24, 2007, 12:24:53 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
It's not clear to me why God choosing to suffer demonstrates its necessity.  It might perhaps demonstrate that he's not omnipotent.


There's quite a lot in that link on that subject as well
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 24, 2007, 12:27:17 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
Agnostics refuse to take a position as to whether God exists.  Atheists hold that it looks most likely that He doesn't.


I guess that's another definition (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/atheism) we'll have to disagree on. I hope you don't mind if I side with the dictionary (http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/atheism) on this one.

Quote
Atheism is a perfectly logical position to have.  Just as 'faith' is not required to have the view that invisible pixies do not exist, same for God.


Again, I refer you to my earlier posts on faith.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 24, 2007, 12:46:32 pm
Quote from: James McMurray
I guess that's another definition (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/atheism) we'll have to disagree on.


Look, I've just read that link, and the definitions agree with me:

"disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings."
"Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods."
"a lack of belief in the existence of God or gods"
"Denial that there is a God."

So what gives?

I claimed that the atheist, on the basis of available evidence, does not believe in God, i.e., holds that God does not exist (much like invisible pixies).  Like any belief about the external world, though, this belief could conceivably be wrong.

In contrast, the agnostic withholds judgement.

Quote from: James McMurray

 I hope you don't mind if I side with the dictionary (http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/atheism) on this one.


Likwise, this one agrees with me:

" a : a disbelief in the existence of deity "

Quote from: James McMurray

Again, I refer you to my earlier posts on faith.


Yeah, I've read your earlier posts.  You seem to think that believing anything about the external world requires 'faith'.  That's nice for your but it is a very strange definition.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 24, 2007, 12:51:45 pm
Disbelief, to me, is active, requiring a choice.

Look, our difference here is basically a question about a cow behind a barn. A theist would say "of course there's a cow." An atheist would say "there is no cow." And agnostic would say "how the hell should I know if there's a cow."

Again (and the final time) I don't feel like rediscussing faith with you. I didn't really feel like rediscussing anything in this thread, but thought Balbinus's post deserved some recognition. Please consider me back on lurker status for this one.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 24, 2007, 01:00:52 pm
Quote from: James McMurray
Disbelief, to me, is active, requiring a choice.

Look, our difference here is basically a question about a cow behind a barn. A theist would say "of course there's a cow." An atheist would say "there is no cow." And agnostic would say "how the hell should I know if there's a cow."


If the available evidence suggests that there is no cow behind the barn (e.g. it's a pig farm), then I fail to see why it involves 'faith' to claim that there is no cow behind the barn (with full recognition that the belief claim is fallible).  Indeed, it's the most rational belief to have (and the agnostic and theist are being irrational in not comforming their beliefs to the available evidence).

I'm not sure what you mean by 'choice', but if believing things on the basis of available evidence involves 'choosing', then 'choice' is behind all rational beliefs.

Quote from: James McMurray

Again (and the final time) I don't feel like rediscussing faith with you..


Fair enough.  Your position was pretty implausible the first time around.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 24, 2007, 01:09:39 pm
Thanks for the parting shot! :D
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 24, 2007, 02:00:46 pm
Quote from: James McMurray
Thanks for the parting shot! :D


I suffer from insomnia if I don't get the last word in.  :tired:
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 24, 2007, 02:05:07 pm
That must suck. ;)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: GRIM on January 25, 2007, 04:17:51 am
Quote from: James McMurray
Disbelief, to me, is active, requiring a choice.

Look, our difference here is basically a question about a cow behind a barn. A theist would say "of course there's a cow." An atheist would say "there is no cow." And agnostic would say "how the hell should I know if there's a cow."

Again (and the final time) I don't feel like rediscussing faith with you. I didn't really feel like rediscussing anything in this thread, but thought Balbinus's post deserved some recognition. Please consider me back on lurker status for this one.


That's not quite right.

Everyone sees a barn.

There may or may not be an animal behind it.
We can't hear, see or smell any animals behind the barn. We can't detect them by earth tremors or any other method, though the lack of such evidence suggests that there probably isn't an animal behind the barn.

The theist declares "There's a cow behind the barn!" out of the blue and then goes home.

The agnostic frets for a while pacing back and forth and says "I dunno." Then sits down.

The atheist says "Well, it doesn't seem like there's anything behind the barn, so I'm going to go with there isn't anything." Then he starts to edge around the barn for a look, and there's no cow.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on January 25, 2007, 06:03:02 am
Quote from: GRIM
That's not quite right.

Everyone sees a barn.

There may or may not be an animal behind it.
We can't hear, see or smell any animals behind the barn. We can't detect them by earth tremors or any other method, though the lack of such evidence suggests that there probably isn't an animal behind the barn.

The theist declares "There's a cow behind the barn!" out of the blue and then goes home.

The agnostic frets for a while pacing back and forth and says "I dunno." Then sits down.

The atheist says "Well, it doesn't seem like there's anything behind the barn, so I'm going to go with there isn't anything." Then he starts to edge around the barn for a look, and there's no cow.


As well as being a pretty damn accurate representation, this made me chuckle. Thanks.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Balbinus on January 25, 2007, 06:58:16 am
Quote from: James McMurray
Disbelief, to me, is active, requiring a choice.

Look, our difference here is basically a question about a cow behind a barn. A theist would say "of course there's a cow." An atheist would say "there is no cow." And agnostic would say "how the hell should I know if there's a cow."

Again (and the final time) I don't feel like rediscussing faith with you. I didn't really feel like rediscussing anything in this thread, but thought Balbinus's post deserved some recognition. Please consider me back on lurker status for this one.


I don't think that's quite right, the agnostic doesn't know, the atheist says that they don't believe there is any evidence to indicate the presence of a cow so they don't believe one is there.

Only a militant atheist positively asserts the impossibility of a cow being present, most atheists simply dismiss it as a hypothesis which is not supported by the available evidence.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 25, 2007, 11:47:37 am
We're getting into territories involving soft and hard atheism. Typically, at least in my experience, most atheists are hard atheists (or militant if you prefer to go derogatory), meaning they state "there is no cow." Not "Well, I'm gonna go ahead and assume there's no cow until someone brings me a steak." This thread however, seems to have an only recently discovered leaning towards soft atheism on that side of the fence.

Personally, I think unless you're actively disbelieving in a diety you may as well be agnostic, but that's just me.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: GRIM on January 25, 2007, 12:57:52 pm
Quote from: James McMurray
We're getting into territories involving soft and hard atheism. Typically, at least in my experience, most atheists are hard atheists (or militant if you prefer to go derogatory), meaning they state "there is no cow." Not "Well, I'm gonna go ahead and assume there's no cow until someone brings me a steak." This thread however, seems to have an only recently discovered leaning towards soft atheism on that side of the fence.

Personally, I think unless you're actively disbelieving in a diety you may as well be agnostic, but that's just me.


Just about any atheist, hard or soft, will admit there is a slender possibility that they could, perhaps be wrong. There is, however, no reason to think that they might be, no evidence of a god, nothing pointing towards a god, not a hint, not a whiff, not a scintilla of evidence.

Beyond all reasonable doubt, 'There is no cow' and it'll take the production of the cow and possibly the full steak dinner with trimmings from the cow, to provide any sort of counter to that analysis.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 25, 2007, 01:00:21 pm
Cool. I'm not looking for converts, just stating an observation. Folks are welcome to whatever faith and/or faithlessness makes their lives more enjoyable. :)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James J Skach on January 25, 2007, 03:36:19 pm
Quote from: GRIM
That's not quite right.

Everyone sees a barn.

There may or may not be an animal behind it.
We can't hear, see or smell any animals behind the barn. We can't detect them by earth tremors or any other method, though the lack of such evidence suggests that there probably isn't an animal behind the barn.

The theist declares "There's a cow behind the barn!" out of the blue and then goes home.

The agnostic frets for a while pacing back and forth and says "I dunno." Then sits down.

The atheist says "Well, it doesn't seem like there's anything behind the barn, so I'm going to go with there isn't anything." Then he starts to edge around the barn for a look, and there's no cow.

Nice, except for one problem.

The last line is, well, pretty well impossible. We can't "edge around the barn for a look" and find "there's no cow."

Sure we can say there's absolutley no physical evidence of the cow.  Sure we can say we have philosophical reasons for asserting there is now cow. But, at present, we can't pull back the curtain and say "see, no cow!"
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: GRIM on January 25, 2007, 04:09:00 pm
Quote from: James J Skach
Nice, except for one problem.

The last line is, well, pretty well impossible. We can't "edge around the barn for a look" and find "there's no cow."

Sure we can say there's absolutley no physical evidence of the cow.  Sure we can say we have philosophical reasons for asserting there is now cow. But, at present, we can't pull back the curtain and say "see, no cow!"


Science sees more and more through the knotholes and continues to edge around and see more and more around the barn. It may or may not see the entirity of the back of the barn now, or ever, but the more we see the more it suggests the absence of cow.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 25, 2007, 08:13:07 pm
Quote from: James McMurray
We're getting into territories involving soft and hard atheism. Typically, at least in my experience, most atheists are hard atheists (or militant if you prefer to go derogatory), meaning they state "there is no cow." Not "Well, I'm gonna go ahead and assume there's no cow until someone brings me a steak." This thread however, seems to have an only recently discovered leaning towards soft atheism on that side of the fence.

Personally, I think unless you're actively disbelieving in a diety you may as well be agnostic, but that's just me.


Most of the atheists I know (which include about 98 percent of my colleagues) hold the view that the existing evidence, and best available arguments, all strongly suggest that there is no God (at least not in the traditional sense).   But, as I've been at pains to note in this thread, they don't assert this with absolute, 100 percent certainty.  I'm not sure if that qualifies as 'actively disbelieving', but it certainly seems like a perfectly reasonable (non-dogmatic, non-faith-based) position to hold.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 25, 2007, 08:15:40 pm
Quote from: James McMurray
... Folks are welcome to whatever faith and/or faithlessness makes their lives more enjoyable. :)


Well, as someone who was once a devout Christian (until the age of 18 or so), I can say that my move to atheism was quite painful.  But I don't think we should form our beliefs on the basis of what is 'enjoyable'.  Rather, our beliefs should aim at the truth, even if that is quite unpleasant.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 25, 2007, 08:46:28 pm
Ok. Whatever you want to do in your head is cool with me. :)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 25, 2007, 08:47:29 pm
Regarding hard vs. soft: maybe it's just a difference in exposure. Here in the south (or at least in Fort Worth) the religious types tend to be very strong and in your face. The anti-religious types tend to be the same, possibly in reaction.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James J Skach on January 25, 2007, 11:30:20 pm
Quote from: GRIM
Science sees more and more through the knotholes and continues to edge around and see more and more around the barn. It may or may not see the entirity of the back of the barn now, or ever, but the more we see the more it suggests the absence of cow.

Keep trying Grim...you keep trying..

So far we've made it from "there is no cow" to "everything we know suggests the absence of a cow." Which is a least a step up in the humility of science.

Just remember one man's "science suggest there is no cow," is another man's "faith suggests there is a cow."

I'm a proponent of A=A.  I'm also a proponent of knowing the limitations of that knowledge.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: GRIM on January 26, 2007, 01:33:20 am
Quote from: James J Skach
Keep trying Grim...you keep trying..

So far we've made it from "there is no cow" to "everything we know suggests the absence of a cow." Which is a least a step up in the humility of science.

Just remember one man's "science suggest there is no cow," is another man's "faith suggests there is a cow."

I'm a proponent of A=A.  I'm also a proponent of knowing the limitations of that knowledge.


But faith is simply belief without evidence. It actually makes zero argument and doesn't alter the cow-odds one iota.

'There is no cow' is just verbal shorthand for 'The odds of there being a cow are extremely tiny and all evidence that exists suggests there isn't a cow. There's no more chance of there being a cow than a sheep,a pig, a dog... but everything suggests nothing at all is back there, so I reckon there isn't.'
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Balbinus on January 26, 2007, 03:47:04 am
Quote from: Akrasia
Well, as someone who was once a devout Christian (until the age of 18 or so), I can say that my move to atheism was quite painful.  But I don't think we should form our beliefs on the basis of what is 'enjoyable'.  Rather, our beliefs should aim at the truth, even if that is quite unpleasant.


This is quite important, I would far rather there were a god, I simply don't believe that there is.

I don't choose my beliefs on the basis of what I enjoyable, but on the basis of what the evidence suggests to me is correct.

Similarly, I think many religious folk are genuinely persuaded that they are correct, it's not just that they enjoy that religion.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Balbinus on January 26, 2007, 03:48:37 am
When we did philosophy at school, a classic exam question was "what is the difference between faith and gullibility?"

I always rather struggled with that one, in essence I think gullibility is believing something unlikely without realising, while faith is believing something unlikely because you choose to.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 26, 2007, 12:09:29 pm
Colby Cosh has a few things to day in defence of atheism in yesterday's National Post (http://communities.canada.com/nationalpost/blogs/fullcomment/archive/2007/01/25/in-defense-of-atheism.aspx).

I especially liked this point:

"[A]n agnostic, as the philosopher Will Wilkinson recently reiterated, is just an atheist who is “confused about ontological commitment.”  Either one grants a role to a God in one’s framework of causal explanation, or one doesn’t; there is really no third option. What the “agnostic” is really signifying by his label is deference to the social dominance of religion."
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 26, 2007, 02:08:37 pm
Interesting stance. As an agnostic I find it to be uninformed and intentionally insulting, but that's cool if he doesn't want to distinguish between reality and his beliefs.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Dominus Nox on January 26, 2007, 04:39:00 pm
As Mad Jack said in Paint your Wagon "I don't care how a man prays, there's enough room in hell for everyone!"
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 26, 2007, 06:53:08 pm
Quote from: James McMurray
... As an agnostic I find it to be uninformed and intentionally insulting ...


I agree that it's unnecessarily insulting, but I don't think that it's 'uninformed'.  

Most of the people I've met who describe themselves as 'agnostics' turn out to be -- after some questioning -- really atheists.  They generally confess that they don't think/believe/etc. that God exists.  They just don't want to seem too 'strident' about it.

An agnostic would have to genuinely believe that it is equally likely that God exists or does not exist (or that it is impossible for us to even judge the relative probabilities).  That's certainly possible, but only a very few self-described 'agnostics' that I've met actually believe that.  (However, my impression is that this is your view.)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on January 26, 2007, 07:24:58 pm
Ok, we're still missing on definitions here. If the gulf is that wide I'm not sure how we can get much more done than we already have here. Suffice it to say that I'm an agnostic, not an atheist. If varying definitions put me into the atheist camp, so be it, but they're not the definitions I learned in philosophy class. Maybe things have changed since then. :)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 26, 2007, 07:35:25 pm
Quote from: James McMurray
... If varying definitions put me into the atheist camp, so be it, but they're not the definitions I learned in philosophy class. Maybe things have changed since then. :)

Well, I don't know what definitions you learned in philosophy class, but IME the definition of 'atheist' has been pretty constant for many centuries now, viz., an atheist doesn't believe that God exists.  (How confident they are in this belief might vary, of course.)  

This definition of 'atheist' is also the one that is included in those dictionary defitions that you linked to earlier in this thread!
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James J Skach on January 26, 2007, 08:22:23 pm
Quote from: GRIM
But faith is simply belief without evidence. It actually makes zero argument and doesn't alter the cow-odds one iota.

'There is no cow' is just verbal shorthand for 'The odds of there being a cow are extremely tiny and all evidence that exists suggests there isn't a cow. There's no more chance of there being a cow than a sheep,a pig, a dog... but everything suggests nothing at all is back there, so I reckon there isn't.'

Can you explain to me how your unprove-able assertion that there is not cow alters the cow odds one iota?

"There is no cow," is not even close to what you claim it represents as shorthand.  BTW, what "evidence" suggests there isn't a cow? If there's no more chance of there being a cow than a sheep or pig, why not a cow?

Really, Grim, I'm not saying god does or does not exist.  But to assert that it's an observable Truth that god does not exist is a bit beyond the pale, no? And to use "There is no cow" for "there's no evidence of a cow" are completely unrelated.  Perhaps it's just best to use the much much longer "there's no evidence of a cow."
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 26, 2007, 08:58:58 pm
Quote from: James J Skach
... beyond the pale, no?


Hey, some of my best friends live 'beyond the Pale'!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pale
(Sure, if they were sensible, they'd move to Dublin, but nobody's perfect.)

Quote from: James J Skach
...
 And to use "There is no cow" for "there's no evidence of a cow" are completely unrelated.  Perhaps it's just best to use the much much longer "there's no evidence of a cow."


Well, I'm not going to defend everything Grim said (since I can't be arsed to re-read his earlier posts), but it is perfectly rational to infer from "there is no evidence of x" that "there is no x".

There's no evidence that invisible pixies are flying around me right now.  It's a perfectly rational for me to conclude that there are indeed no invisible pixies flying around me right now!  Sure, I might be wrong, but the inference is rational.

If an entity is posited (e.g. ether, invisible pixies, God, phologiston) to help explain a certain phenomenon, and that entity is (a.) unnecessary (i.e. we could explain the relevant phenomenon without positing the entity's existence), and (b.) there is no evidence in support of the existence of the entity, then it is prefectly rational to believe that the entity in question does not exist.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James J Skach on January 26, 2007, 10:14:29 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
If an entity is posited (e.g. ether, invisible pixies, God, phologiston) to help explain a certain phenomenon, and that entity is (a.) unnecessary (i.e. we could explain the relevant phenomenon without positing the entity's existence), and (b.) there is no evidence in support of the existence of the entity, then it is prefectly rational to believe that the entity in question does not exist.

Let me be clear.  I'm not saying it's not rational to believe it.  I'm saying it's irrational to assert that it's the One Truth beyond question.  IOW - There is no cow is a perfectly rational thing to believe.

Other people, perhaps even irrationally, believe otherwise without evidence - hence faith.

I'm just saying you can't make the analogy Grim did and end by saying scientists have looked and there's no cow. I'm saying the scientists can say they've looked and there's no god - where did they look, exactly?

It's perfectly rational for the scientists to say we've looked everywhere we can think of and due to lack of evidence we beleive there is no cow. and that's about the best they can do - which is pretty good.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 26, 2007, 10:48:18 pm
Fair enough, Skach.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Malleus Arianorum on January 27, 2007, 05:27:46 am
Quote from: Hastur T. Fannon
Point of order, but mainstream Christians believe that Jesus experienced death and Hell in exactly the same way as any other human being


I wish I had gotten to this earlier. We believe that Christ died an actual death, but he also bore the sins of the world on his shoulders -- a tremendous burden that was much greater than normal death.

The Bible speaks of three parts of hell: the lake of fire, the second lake of fire and Abraham's bosom. The lakes are where the damned go before and after the final judgement respectively. Abraham's bosom is where the justified dead waited for Christ to complete his sanctifying work but now, after Christ, it is empty and unused.

Jesus didn't go to Hell to suffer. His trip to hell was only a victory lap. He was there for about 40 hours (Friday afternoon to early Sunday morning.) He didn't go to the lake of fire where the damned are. He went exclusively to Abraham's bosom to preach to the justified dead, both Jews (Moses, Ruth....) and Gentiles (Plato, Melchizedek....) alike. This is known as the "harrowing of hell" or the "emptying of hell."  

The suffering and atonement part of his mission ended on the cross when he said "it is finished" and gave up his spirit. Ever since then Saints go directly to heaven without stopping in Abraham's Bosom.

(I don't mean to jump down anyone's throat, just wanted to clarify what Christians believe by 'faith' :D since it seems to be a hot topic.)

edit: Why three days? To fufill prophesy. Besides that there was nothing preventing him from getting it done it in more or less time.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Malleus Arianorum on January 27, 2007, 06:38:43 am
Quote from: Sigmund
Everyone's values are based on their culture. Fortunately for our purposes, most cultures in the world today would have very similar ideas of what terms like "suffering" and "benevolence" mean. The main reason I bring up culture, and the values mine holds, is because my culture was founded by, and continues to be influenced by christianity. Being that the christian god is the main subject of the PoE arguement, I contend that my society's values are especially applicable to the PoE arguement.

BTW, assuming I haven't read 1984 or other literature would be a mistake. I also have travelled overseas, especially to Central America.


Then I presumed correctly. :D  My point was that in 1984 the way to escape from Big Brother is by reading books and traveling. Ergo, since you're well read and have spent time abroad you can claim rightly that your values are better than cultural, they are multicultural. Claiming that all your values are simply cultural is selling yourself short IMO.

Secondly not all of your values are cultural. As Akraira pointed out there are mathematical and logical truths that transcend culture. And it shouldn't take too much rational justification to believe in natural laws that transcend culture. Laws like "wash your hands before you eat" and "avoid conflict by fitting in." :)

So since there are so many ways to justify our values, how should we define what to expect from a "good God?" I think it's an important issue since it defines what kind of God we're interested in looking for. Defining a good as one who is for "no suffering" is an odd choice in my opinion, since it supposes that Winston Churchill was not good for charging headlong into more suffering to procure freedom or whatever. :D  The point is that defining suffering as the opposite of good artificially restricts our search.

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No, it's not just a personality test. Saying it repeatedly isn't going to make it true. I'm not even sure where you're getting that. Also, you seem to be getting irritated at this discussion, perhaps some time to put it into perspective would be helpful. Believe me when I say that I know what that's like... I can be quite... passionate... about things that I believe in strongly.
Thanks for the tip. I've found this thread very rewarding thus far. I think it's a personality test because when you ask someone what they imagine a perfect God to be like, they imagine their own ideal. Then you put it into the PoE and it tells them if they like the world or not by weather it's good enough to be made by their ideal God. I call it a "personality test" because it's feedback from what the person already thinks about God, it's not based on any facts (as far as I can tell anyway, if you know otherwise let me know k? :confused: )

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Using this word s fine if that's what you want. Just realize that most people are not going to know to what you are referring in this context unless you define it for them beforehand.
That sounds fair. But the one thing I can't do is say with a straight face that "redeemer" is based on fact. I'm very aware when I say it that it's something I choose to look for, so for me even by daring to look for a God who is redemptive is a declaration of faith.
 
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I don't recall saying I was an atheist. I do believe that PoE is adequate proof that a triple O god does not exist, but as even you have expressed already in this thread, the triple O god is hardly the only game in town.
I didn't mean to fence you in, although as you can see from this thread even being an atheist gives you plenty of room to roam.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: GRIM on January 27, 2007, 06:49:39 am
Quote from: James J Skach
Really, Grim, I'm not saying god does or does not exist.  But to assert that it's an observable Truth that god does not exist is a bit beyond the pale, no? And to use "There is no cow" for "there's no evidence of a cow" are completely unrelated.  Perhaps it's just best to use the much much longer "there's no evidence of a cow."


The lack of evidence for a cow and the increasing evidence for nothing at all makes it a logical and rational assertion that there is, after all, no cow.

Moving back to god instead of the cow analogy, though it has served us well, there are two problems with it that are relevent.

1. God is not worked toward from evidence. Unlike most thought processes with evidence leading to a conclusion, the god concept is a conclusion and then 'evidence' is selectively chosen and manipulated, or ignored, on the basis of faith.

2. God, depending on the particular god concept, does have specific, disprovable traits. A god resting upon creation, resting upon the flood or resting upon logically impossible omni traits is, effectively, disproven.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Malleus Arianorum on January 27, 2007, 07:47:17 am
Quote from: Akrasia
Well, many people have been convinced by the POE argument over the years.  Obviously not everyone -- some people are so attached to their beliefs that they are willing to remain committed to them, despite recognizing that they lack rational justification.  That’s called faith -- something I personally reject.


Ok I get the point, you think I am overly attached to my beliefs. ;) Anyway, let's steer clear of the head count, I'm more interested in your rational justification.
 
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I’m sorry if I ‘taught’ you whatever it is you think I taught you.  I certainly don’t understand why you keep trying to make this point (I’m not even sure what your point is!), so I regret if I mistakenly ‘taught’ it to you.

I’m genuinely having a hard time figuring out exactly what this whole ‘Yoda’ point is supposed to be.  As far as I can tell, you are claiming that the claim that God is ‘all good’ is arbitrary, or my definition of ‘goodness’ is arbitrary.


I apologize, I thought you were dodging the question. Yes, I do think your definition for the opposite of good is arbitrary. I would accept either "not good" or "evil" as logical substitutions for not "good." Anything else seems nonequivalent.

Secondly I understood your original point to be that Jehovah, Christ and Allah are encompassed by that definition of goodness but I do not see how you can justify that. Anyway, if you could focus on the Catholic god that would help me, I've got Father, Son and Holy Ghost but technically that's only one God away from Atheism. ;)

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To which (as I’ve stated many times already) I reply: no.  It’s precisely the same definition of God that is presupposed by the Church that you claim to belong to.


As a Catholic I vehemently deny that "no suffering" is either a goal that encompasses our Lord's plan.

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Given your inability to accept this basic point, and your desire to engage in somewhat incoherent sarcastic remarks instead, I’m not sure if any mutual understanding on this matter is possible.


I apologize for the sarcasm. Respectfully, I am absolutely not interested in accepting your basic point unless it is justified by reasoning. Saying that the opposite of "good" is "suffering" does not follow.

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The “criteria” for the POE is not ‘random’. Just because you keep asserting this does not make it true.  I still have no clear idea why you think this.
I await your justified reasoning to demonstrate the soundness of your argument. Since it works with Yoda and pixies the PoE seems to be the sort of machine Parliament wanted Babbage to build, one that can generate right answers from wrong questions. :) [/quote]

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I can’t understand what your point here is at all.  Are you trying to make a coherent argument?  Are you trying to convince me of something?
I was retorting point by point what you wrote. I don't particularly care for the quantity of ideas you express but for the quality.
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In any case, truth is not a popularity test.
Agreed! :D

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This is a rather bad analogy.  It is only plausible if we assume that God exists and has a ‘trick’ we can’t understand.  You’re simply ‘begging the question’ by presupposing God’s existence in order to meet the challenge posed by the POE argument.
I presume you missed the first part of the paragraph? You didn't include it in the quote:

   Clearly the Problem of Evil (as opposed to the problem of suffering) is an unsolved problem, but it's only "unsolved" in that we don't know how to get from the well known question to the well known answer. It's like trying to understand a magic trick.

The "we" in question is "people who don't know how to get from the well known question to the well known answer" i.e. people who assume that God exists. :P Anyway, yes I am aware that the Catholic worldview assumes God exists.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Malleus Arianorum on January 27, 2007, 08:40:33 am
Quote from: Balbinus
The Church recognises the POE as a serious challenge, a challenge that is met by faith, not by a logical refutation.  That is not a criticism of the Church, as the Church teaches that faith is necessary and requiring it is therefore not an issue.
No, not quite. Being Catholic doesn't mean we take EVERYTHING by faith. The PoE is understood by logic in the revealed light of the the data we accept by faith. We trust in god by hope. We daily battle the problem of evil through charity. We don't just "faith" everything that moves. :p

Secondly the PoE presented on this thread is not threat to God's existance because God's nature is not opposed to suffering, it is opposed to evil. It's called the problem of evil because the crowning attribute of God is that He is holy. If suffering was opposed to God, the JC tradition would have fallen apart at Adam and Eve recieving toil and labor pains.
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Otherwise, a certainty that god does not exist is of necessity a matter of faith, as we have no final proof on the matter.  A lack of belief in god is not faith however where it is based on an evaluation of the available evidence.  Then it is simply a reasonable conclusion.
Ahh, but a conclusive conclusion based on inconclusive fact is not always a correct conclusion. (or so I conclude):p

Seriously though, it is often worse to have trust in a supposedly reasonable conclusion than to just be honest and say "I don't know."

Edit: (Which is why I was an agnostic for 28 years in the midst of a very Christian family before finaly crossing the Tiber.)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: GRIM on January 27, 2007, 09:14:50 am
(snip)
Botched observation of interplay of conversation.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 28, 2007, 09:17:54 am
Quote from: malleus arianorum
... As a Catholic I vehemently deny that "no suffering" is either a goal that encompasses our Lord's plan ...

It's not "no suffering", but rather "no unnecessary suffering."  The POE  can accommodate the possibility that some suffering might be justified/necessary.  (In contrast, it requires faith to think that all suffering is justified/necessary.)

Surely alleviating unnecessary suffering is an important ethical imperative for Catholics (and Christians more generally)?  Isn't this what helping the sick, poor, oppressed, etc., is all about?

Are you seriously trying to tell me that it is part of the Church's ethical teaching that Christians should not be concerned with alleviating unnecessary suffering?  That they should be indifferent when natural disasters occur (e.g. famines, tsunamis, hurricanes, etc.)?

:confused:

Quote from: malleus arianorum
...
I await your justified reasoning to demonstrate the soundness of your argument. Since it works with Yoda and pixies the PoE seems to be the sort of machine Parliament wanted Babbage to build, one that can generate right answers from wrong questions. :)

But it doe not work for 'Yoda and pixies'.  Again, I have no idea why you think this!  All I can do is assure you that nobody in the history of the debates concerning the POE argument (in all its versions) -- whether theist or non-theist -- has ever advanced this bizarre criticism.

Quote from: malleus arianorum
...
   Clearly the Problem of Evil (as opposed to the problem of suffering) is an unsolved problem, but it's only "unsolved" in that we don't know how to get from the well known question to the well known answer. It's like trying to understand a magic trick.
...

You're 'begging the question' by assuming that there is a 'magic trick' to be explained (i.e. that there is a justification for suffering, and that God will provide that justification)!  

Surely the more rational thing to do is simply infer that there is no 'trick' and no 'magician'.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Malleus Arianorum on January 29, 2007, 05:18:50 am
Quote from: Akrasia
It's not "no suffering", but rather "no unnecessary suffering."  The POE  can accommodate the possibility that some suffering might be justified/necessary.  (In contrast, it requires faith to think that all suffering is justified/necessary.)
The opposite of 'right' is 'wrong.' Saying that you're 'right' and I'm 'faith' is inacurate. I appreciate you trying to spare my feelings, but let's be honest: EITHER we've got the facts to prove this sucker OR we hold our opinions by faith.

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Surely alleviating unnecessary suffering is an important ethical imperative for Catholics (and Christians more generally)?  Isn't this what helping the sick, poor, oppressed, etc., is all about?
No. It's all about Christ's command that the sick, poor and imprisoned have just as much worth and right to love as Christ does. The closest thing we have to an "unnecessary suffering" command is to "stop kicking the goad" i.e. 'change your mind before you kill yourself.'

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Are you seriously trying to tell me that it is part of the Church's ethical teaching that Christians should not be concerned with alleviating unnecessary suffering?
Eliminating suffering is not a primary goal. We oppose suicide and euthanasia for example. (Are those examples of 'unnecessary' suffering? :confused:)

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That they should be indifferent when natural disasters occur (e.g. famines, tsunamis, hurricanes, etc.)?
Not indifferent. We help but we do NOT say "this one is permanently blinded and crippled, kill it painlessly" We do NOT say "this one was born crippled, kill it painlessly." If eliminating unnecessary suffering was our cause we'd have to flip-flop.

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But it doe not work for 'Yoda and pixies'.  Again, I have no idea why you think this!  All I can do is assure you that nobody in the history of the debates concerning the POE argument (in all its versions) -- whether theist or non-theist -- has ever advanced this bizarre criticism.
:nono: You're not interested in popular vote, your case is justified rationally -- right? :) Anyway, even if you don't recognise the specifics, the issue is the same as it's always been. How can we define what is 'omnibenevolent' for God? Is there a rational justification for such a big question?

You picked 'unnecessary' suffering but haven't explained why. All I can do is guess at your motives. A Jedi Knight should follow Master Yoda in trying to eliminate 'unnecessary' suffering caused by fear. A good pixie should try to eliminate 'unnecessary' suffering caused by naughty schoolboys. So Jedi Pixies agree with your ideas of suffering, but only because their belief in an 'ism' an ideology that defines what unnecessary suffering means. Are you a Pixie Jedi and is the sparkle pony side of the Force your ally? (...and a powerful ally it is!) :keke: If not, upon what basis do you pick the criteria for unnecessary suffering? :raise:

I think that without realizing it, your ideology is Atheism. Like all "isms" it has a commonly accepted but unquestioned Dogma that is difficult to detect unless you're on the outside. You don't think you have faith because your faith in Atheism is so absolute. That's why you make statements like "that's what benevolence IS." You believe it too absolutely to even question it.
 
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You're 'begging the question' by assuming that there is a 'magic trick' to be explained (i.e. that there is a justification for suffering, and that God will provide that justification)!
That's why I wrote:
We both have faith. I have faith the magician will save girl in the box. You have faith she'll be sawed into a bloody mess. We both have to rely on faith since neither of us has been in the box....

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Surely the more rational thing to do is simply infer that there is no 'trick' and no 'magician'.
(I continued to write)
....even if your faith is more reasonable, it's still faith until you see the inside of that box.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Balbinus on January 29, 2007, 05:44:28 am
Quote from: malleus arianorum
No, not quite. Being Catholic doesn't mean we take EVERYTHING by faith. The PoE is understood by logic in the revealed light of the the data we accept by faith. We trust in god by hope. We daily battle the problem of evil through charity. We don't just "faith" everything that moves. :p


I didn't say that though, I said that the PoE is resolved by faith in Catholic teaching.  I didn't say that everything just gets faithed.  Redemption through good works is part of Catholic teaching, but I didn't say anything about that in my post as it wasn't especially relevant to the point I was making.

Quote from: malleus arianorum
Secondly the PoE presented on this thread is not threat to God's existance because God's nature is not opposed to suffering, it is opposed to evil. It's called the problem of evil because the crowning attribute of God is that He is holy. If suffering was opposed to God, the JC tradition would have fallen apart at Adam and Eve recieving toil and labor pains.


Again you mischaracterise the argument, the argument is about avoidable suffering lacking an explicable counterbalancing benefit, not about any suffering per se.  That said, I have no desire to repeat the whole argument again, it's all upthread, it's sufficient here to note that you mischaracterise it.

Quote from: malleus arianorum
Ahh, but a conclusive conclusion based on inconclusive fact is not always a correct conclusion. (or so I conclude):p

Seriously though, it is often worse to have trust in a supposedly reasonable conclusion than to just be honest and say "I don't know."


I didn't make a conclusive conclusion, that's another mischaracterisation.  If new evidence arises I'll take it into account, I merely think that unlikely.  I expressly recognised the possibility of being wrong.

As for the last comment quoted, sometimes sure, but I do not think this is one of those times.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Balbinus on January 29, 2007, 05:46:01 am
Quote from: malleus arianorum
....even if your faith is more reasonable, it's still faith until you see the inside of that box.


To equate a conclusion based on evidence with faith is to do violence to the English language, it's a rhetorical trick, nothing more.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Hastur T. Fannon on January 29, 2007, 06:06:46 am
Quote from: malleus arianorum
I wish I had gotten to this earlier. We believe that Christ died an actual death, but he also bore the sins of the world on his shoulders -- a tremendous burden that was much greater than normal death.


A couple of - I dunno, hints maybe? Not all Christians view Hell in the same way as the Holy Roman Catholic Church, so it could be seen as a little dishonest to be presenting Catholic doctrine as if it was the view of the whole Church.  The Orthodox believe something quite different and if you ask five Anglican priests you'll get at least seven different answers (and that's just the top three groupings numerically speaking)

That's why I was trying to restrict myself to saying only what is agreed on by all mainstream Christians and clearly labelling when I presenting a particular point of view
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Malleus Arianorum on January 29, 2007, 06:22:09 am
Quote from: Balbinus
I didn't say that though, I said that the PoE is resolved by faith in Catholic teaching.  I didn't say that everything just gets faithed.  Redemption through good works is part of Catholic teaching, but I didn't say anything about that in my post as it wasn't especially relevant to the point I was making.
I said "not quite" because I thought you were prety close. :) I just wanted to clarify that Christianity progresses logicaly from a basis that's held by faith, technicaly you're right that everything is based on faith. Just two sides of the same coin. I included 'hope' and 'charity' because they are the other two 'heavenly virtues' that are the basis of how we "meet the problem of the PoE." I thought that if we were heading into Catholic land we should get the terms streight.

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Again you mischaracterise the argument, the argument is about avoidable suffering lacking an explicable counterbalancing benefit, not about any suffering per se.  That said, I have no desire to repeat the whole argument again, it's all upthread, it's sufficient here to note that you mischaracterise it.
I meant to contrast the explicitly Christian PoE to "the PoE presented on this thread." The Christian version is obviously not what's been debated thus far and I'm sorry for not saying so more explicitly. :deflated:

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I didn't make a conclusive conclusion, that's another mischaracterisation.  If new evidence arises I'll take it into account, I merely think that unlikely.  I expressly recognised the possibility of being wrong.

As for the last comment quoted, sometimes sure, but I do not think this is one of those times.
I don't mean to mischaracterize you, but I would personaly call your decision "conclusive" since you're not going to examine it again until something else comes up. :)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Balbinus on January 29, 2007, 07:21:47 am
Quote from: malleus arianorum
I said "not quite" because I thought you were prety close. :) I just wanted to clarify that Christianity progresses logicaly from a basis that's held by faith, technicaly you're right that everything is based on faith. Just two sides of the same coin. I included 'hope' and 'charity' because they are the other two 'heavenly virtues' that are the basis of how we "meet the problem of the PoE." I thought that if we were heading into Catholic land we should get the terms streight.

 I meant to contrast the explicitly Christian PoE to "the PoE presented on this thread." The Christian version is obviously not what's been debated thus far and I'm sorry for not saying so more explicitly. :deflated:

 I don't mean to mischaracterize you, but I would personaly call your decision "conclusive" since you're not going to examine it again until something else comes up. :)


All fair points, particularly the one on conclusive at the end there.  Thanks for the clarifications.

As an aside, I think the Catholic emphasis on good works one of its better elements, I think the Protestants threw the baby out with the indulgences selling bathwater in dropping that concept.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Malleus Arianorum on January 29, 2007, 08:15:22 am
Quote from: Hastur T. Fannon
A couple of - I dunno, hints maybe? Not all Christians view Hell in the same way as the Holy Roman Catholic Church, so it could be seen as a little dishonest to be presenting Catholic doctrine as if it was the view of the whole Church.  The Orthodox believe something quite different and if you ask five Anglican priests you'll get at least seven different answers (and that's just the top three groupings numerically speaking)
Orthodox believe something more specific their theology of the end times is a very precise subset encompassed by a larger, less precise Catholic faith. Catholics teach that separation from God is the worst punishment of hell. Orthodox say it is the only punishment. E.g. Catholics believe in rectangles, Orthodox believe in squares. If they're right then we're only technically right. If they're wrong... well it could still be a rectangle. Or at least that's what we talked about at the prayer for Christian unity last Wednesday.

Anyway since those three places in hell are mentioned in the Bible they form a common language. For example, the meaning of the "second lake of fire" has an agreed upon meaning -- no one escapes. Various Christians have varying beliefs about who stays in hell for ever, but they phrase it in terms of the common language. If they believe no person is dammed eternally no person goes into the second lake of fire except Satan and friends. If they believe that only people who blaspheme against the Holy Spirit are unforgiven in this world and the next, then only the Holy Spirit Blasphemers go into the second lake. The Catholics say everyone who goes into the first lake of fire also goes into the second lake of fire. Jack Chick believes that Catholics go into the second lake of fire etc.... Shared terms / unique theology.

Although... I should have mentioned that Christians who have super biblical revelations (Book of Mormon, Reverend Moon, etc...) are a different kettle of fish. (Ha! Christian pun! :p ) Anyway, I should have said that more explicitly, very sloppy of me. :(

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That's why I was trying to restrict myself to saying only what is agreed on by all mainstream Christians and clearly labelling when I presenting a particular point of view

An excellent practice which I shall strive to emulate. :)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Malleus Arianorum on January 29, 2007, 08:41:25 am
Quote from: Balbinus
As an aside, I think the Catholic emphasis on good works one of its better elements, I think the Protestants threw the baby out with the indulgences selling bathwater in dropping that concept.
It could just be the ecumenicism talking, but almost without exeption, Protestants believe in salvation by good works -- they just phrase it backwards from a Catholic perspective.
Catholics believe only the branches that bear fruit are saved.
Protestants believe all the branches are saved except those that do not bear fruit.

:teacher:
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 29, 2007, 09:05:20 am
Quote from: malleus arianorum
The opposite of 'right' is 'wrong.' Saying that you're 'right' and I'm 'faith' is inacurate.


 My position is that my belief is more rationally justified.  It is still conceivable that I might be wrong.  I can only form beliefs to the best of my ability, with the available evidence and arguments.  

‘Faith’ in contrast, merely asserts something as true, irregardless of the available evidence.

Quote from: malleus arianorum

I appreciate you trying to spare my feelings, but let's be honest: EITHER we've got the facts to prove this sucker OR we hold our opinions by faith.

:headache:

This is false, at least insofar as you think that it is possible for empirical facts to ever ‘prove’ anything beyond any doubt.  Since all of our beliefs about the external world are inductive, they can never be proven with ‘absolute certainty’ (even my belief, say, that water is composed of H2O, or that the earth is round).  Of course, some of our beliefs about the external world are better supported than others.

I’ve explained what induction involves (forming beliefs on the basis of the available evidence) a number of times already in this thread, as well as provided links to explanations of ‘inductive arguments’.

Here is one of those links again. http://www.iep.utm.edu/d/ded-ind.htm

Please read that link, as I’m getting tired of having to explain this very basic point.  

To rationally believe something on the basis of induction does not involve faith, okay?  It merely involves believing the proposition best supported by the available evidence.  

When someone believes something on the basis of faith -- irrespective of the available evidence -- they are not being rational!

That is the difference between ‘faith’ and rational belief with respect to the external world (as opposed to, say, logical truths).  Comprendez-Vous?

Quote from: malleus arianorum

You're not interested in popular vote, your case is justified rationally -- right? …


My point was merely that I can understand the arguments of theist philosophers who address the POE argument.

One of my best friends is a Catholic philosopher (finishing up his PhD at the University of Michigan).  We disagree over the POE -- he recognises it as a legitimate problem for theists -- but I can at least make sense of his position, and the replies to the POE that he offers.  In contrast, I really can make neither heads nor tales of your ‘Yoda’ comments (I’ve tried to comment on them in the past, but apparently with no success).

Quote from: malleus arianorum

We both have faith. I have faith the magician will save girl in the box. You have faith she'll be sawed into a bloody mess. We both have to rely on faith since neither of us has been in the box....

 
Please see my earlier remarks about the nature of induction.

You have faith.  (Aren’t Christians supposed to be proud about ‘having faith’?)  

I do not.  I merely draw inferences on the basis of the available evidence, and available arguments.  Sorry to disappoint you, but that is not faith.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on January 29, 2007, 09:10:11 am
Quote from: Balbinus
To equate a conclusion based on evidence with faith is to do violence to the English language, it's a rhetorical trick, nothing more.


It is amazing -- and rather depressing -- that so many participants in this thread have made this 'rhetorical trick' (intentionally or not).
:raise:
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on January 29, 2007, 05:02:11 pm
Quote from: malleus arianorum
Then I presumed correctly. :D  My point was that in 1984 the way to escape from Big Brother is by reading books and traveling. Ergo, since you're well read and have spent time abroad you can claim rightly that your values are better than cultural, they are multicultural. Claiming that all your values are simply cultural is selling yourself short IMO.


I disagree. I developed my ideas of right and wrong, good and bad from my family and friends growing up. These ideas are refined by my experiences throughout my life, but my value system is still based on the way I was raised.

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Secondly not all of your values are cultural. As Akraira pointed out there are mathematical and logical truths that transcend culture. And it shouldn't take too much rational justification to believe in natural laws that transcend culture. Laws like "wash your hands before you eat" and "avoid conflict by fitting in." :)


I think it's apparent that these are not best described as "laws", since I can fail to wash my hands before eating and suffer no ill effects. It might be a good idea, but hardly a law. Also, some of our most prominent citizens and heroes have failed to "avoid conflict by fitting in." Once again, hardly a law. On top of these things, I fail to see, other than as a means of distraction/misdirection how this has any bearing on the PoE arguement.

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So since there are so many ways to justify our values, how should we define what to expect from a "good God?" I think it's an important issue since it defines what kind of God we're interested in looking for. Defining a good as one who is for "no suffering" is an odd choice in my opinion, since it supposes that Winston Churchill was not good for charging headlong into more suffering to procure freedom or whatever. :D  The point is that defining suffering as the opposite of good artificially restricts our search.


We define it by the values held by those who have postulated this "good god". The reason you have a problem with "no suffering" is because it doesn't jive with your conception of god. To the christian mind, suffering, pain, and death must serve a greater purpose or it would mean that god isn't as benevolent as they want it to be.

Once again, comparing any human being to what is supposedly an all-powerful god is meaningless. Churchill did the best he could with the cards he was dealt. Lacking omniscience and omnipotence tends to handicap one afterall.

 
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Thanks for the tip. I've found this thread very rewarding thus far. I think it's a personality test because when you ask someone what they imagine a perfect God to be like, they imagine their own ideal. Then you put it into the PoE and it tells them if they like the world or not by weather it's good enough to be made by their ideal God. I call it a "personality test" because it's feedback from what the person already thinks about God, it's not based on any facts (as far as I can tell anyway, if you know otherwise let me know k? :confused: )


You seem to put more weight on "facts" than they deserve. As Akrasia has repeatedly pointed out, there is no way to prove anything to 100% certainty. One can perform an experiment a thousand times with the same result, and that 1001 can come out completely opposite, thereby invalidating the "proof" you thought you had. However, until the experiment does end in a different result, it's perfectly reasonable to believe that it will end the same as the last 1000 times you performed it.

Just to be clear once more, PoE uses logical thought and arguement to show that a very, very specific conception of god is highly unlikely to exist. It does not say no god exists. Earlier in the thread, you seemed to understand and agree with this:

Quote from: malleus arianorum
So I agree with you that the existence of suffering invalidates the triple-O god but I disagree that that inhuman god has anything to do with my Lord.


You also seemed to understand what we mean when we say "suffering", as evidenced here...

Quote from: malleus arianorum
I say "Achille's heel" because the triple-O god is fragile, easily dispatched by showing that suffering exists.


Yet now you seem to be equating "suffering" with "discomfort". This is not entirely invalid, as the Buddha talks about this (kinda, "dukhha" is translated as "suffering", but that isn't a completely accurate translation). Just to be clear, let me enlighten you to what I mean when I type "suffering" in this thread.

These are "suffering":

http://www.cancer.org/docroot/NWS/content/NWS_2_1x_Discussing_Death_with_a_Dying_Child.asp

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darfur_conflict

http://www.crimelibrary.com/serial_killers/index.html

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/tsunami/

These are just some of the many ways people suffer and die horribly. Notice, this has nothing to do with having to go to work every day, or anything else that might be more properly called "uncomfortable", or "tedious" or whatever.

 
 
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I didn't mean to fence you in, although as you can see from this thread even being an atheist gives you plenty of room to roam.


My only point is that you seem to be making a great many assumptions not based on anything in this thread.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Malleus Arianorum on February 05, 2007, 04:09:12 am
Quote from: Akrasia
My position is that my belief is more rationally justified.  It is still conceivable that I might be wrong.  I can only form beliefs to the best of my ability, with the available evidence and arguments.

My position is that your rationalizations are only as good as the evidence you base them on. As I've said before, omnibenevolence is not a Christian ideal. If you want to use it, you should be able to rationally justify it yourself. And although I agree with you that human wisdom is fallible, it hardly supports your case that you can determine the characteristics of God.

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‘Faith’ in contrast, merely asserts something as true, irregardless of the available evidence.
This definition, taken with your assertion that it is not "possible for empirical facts to ever ‘prove’ anything beyond any doubt" has some interesting implications. ;)

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You have faith.  (Aren’t Christians supposed to be proud about ‘having faith’?)
Pride is a sin but Christians can be 'thankful.'

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I do not. I merely draw inferences on the basis of the available evidence, and available arguments. Sorry to disappoint you, but that is not faith.
Well, who am I to argue with italics? :) Thanks for your time, my curiosity is satisfied.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Malleus Arianorum on February 05, 2007, 05:16:48 am
Quote from: Sigmund
I think it's apparent that these are not best described as "laws", since I can fail to wash my hands before eating and suffer no ill effects. It might be a good idea, but hardly a law. Also, some of our most prominent citizens and heroes have failed to "avoid conflict by fitting in." Once again, hardly a law. On top of these things, I fail to see, other than as a means of distraction/misdirection how this has any bearing on the PoE arguement.

My issue with the PoE is that it's based on an arbitrary definition of omnibenevolence. (Thread flashback: The PoE is just a personality test) When I argued my case, you seemed to have a bit of an existential crisis which is why we're on the topic of natural law. You don't believe in it, which satisfies my curiosity about your worldview.

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We define it by the values held by those who have postulated this "good god". The reason you have a problem with "no suffering" is because it doesn't jive with your conception of god. To the christian mind, suffering, pain, and death must serve a greater purpose or it would mean that god isn't as benevolent as they want it to be.
I think the middle sentence is true and the others are false.

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Once again, comparing any human being to what is supposedly an all-powerful god is meaningless. Churchill did the best he could with the cards he was dealt. Lacking omniscience and omnipotence tends to handicap one afterall.
If comparing God to humans is meaningless, why should anyone bother with the PoE?

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You seem to put more weight on "facts" than they deserve. As Akrasia has repeatedly pointed out, there is no way to prove anything to 100% certainty. One can perform an experiment a thousand times with the same result, and that 1001 can come out completely opposite, thereby invalidating the "proof" you thought you had. However, until the experiment does end in a different result, it's perfectly reasonable to believe that it will end the same as the last 1000 times you performed it.

"There is no way to prove anything to 100% certainty." I'll remember that for later in the thread.

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Just to be clear once more, PoE uses logical thought and arguement to show that a very, very specific conception of god is highly unlikely to exist. It does not say no god exists. Earlier in the thread, you seemed to understand and agree with this:

Just so long as we agree that 'no suffering' does not describe the Christian God I'm happy. :)

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Yet now you seem to be equating "suffering" with "discomfort". This is not entirely invalid, as the Buddha talks about this (kinda, "dukhha" is translated as "suffering", but that isn't a completely accurate translation). Just to be clear, let me enlighten you to what I mean when I type "suffering" in this thread.

These are "suffering":

Perhaps you should have written    "These might be suffering, there is no way to prove anything to 100% certainty." You know, for consistency's sake. :raise:

Anyway, thanks for the thread, I see now where you're getting 'no suffering' from.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on February 05, 2007, 06:43:54 am
Quote from: malleus arianorum
My issue with the PoE is that it's based on an arbitrary definition of omnibenevolence. (Thread flashback: The PoE is just a personality test) When I argued my case, you seemed to have a bit of an existential crisis which is why we're on the topic of natural law. You don't believe in it, which satisfies my curiosity about your worldview.

It's not arbitrary. Just because you personally don't agree with it doesn't make it arbitrary.

 
Quote
I think the middle sentence is true and the others are false.

I think you're wrong.

 
Quote
If comparing God to humans is meaningless, why should anyone bother with the PoE?

What does the one have to do with the other?

Quote
"There is no way to prove anything to 100% certainty." I'll remember that for later in the thread.

Please do, but also please try to understand what it means.

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Just so long as we agree that 'no suffering' does not describe the Christian God I'm happy. :)

Once again, it might not describe your personal view of the christian god, but I doubt if you speak for all christians here. You certainly don't speak for the majority of the christians I know personally.

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Perhaps you should have written    "These might be suffering, there is no way to prove anything to 100% certainty." You know, for consistency's sake. :raise:

Ah... I see you have remembered, but failed to understand. Unless, that is, you're just being sarcastic, which isn't very constructive.

Quote
Anyway, thanks for the thread, I see now where you're getting 'no suffering' from.

Perhaps, but be careful you don't fall from your high horse as you pat yourself on the back.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on February 05, 2007, 12:45:13 pm
Quote from: malleus arianorum
My position is that your rationalizations are only as good as the evidence you base them on. As I've said before, omnibenevolence is not a Christian ideal. If you want to use it, you should be able to rationally justify it yourself. And although I agree with you that human wisdom is fallible, it hardly supports your case that you can determine the characteristics of God.


You keep saying that 'omnibenevolence' is not a 'Christian ideal'.  Well whatever. :rolleyes:  The simple fact is that most Christians (including the 'official philosopher', Thomas Aquinas, of the very Church that you purport to belong to) thought -- and continue to think -- that it is a property of the God that they believe in.  It's part of God's perfection.  Hence -- unsurprisingly -- many serious Christian thinkers have taken the POE argument very seriously.  Just look at the history of Christian philosophy and theology if you don't believe me.  The POE is effective because it takes the very conception of God that they are committed to as part of its argument.  

Now, the fact that you happen to have a view of God and the role of benevolence in Christian morality that differs from pretty much every Christian philosopher I've ever known or read is -- while interesting -- not really something that I can help.  Anyhow, good luck to you in altering Christianity across the globe!  
:cool:
Quote from: malleus arianorum

 This definition, taken with your assertion that it is not "possible for empirical facts to ever ‘prove’ anything beyond any doubt" has some interesting implications. ;)


Like what?  :confused:   Please try to make clear points and not obscure, quasi-sarcastic remarks that cannot be deciphered by others.

While empirical facts can never 'prove' anything with 100 percent certainty (after all, we might be deceived by an evil demon!), if the empirical evidence for a certain proposition is overwhelming (e.g. the earth is round seems 99.9999999... percent likely to be true, given everything that we know about the universe via induction), we should believe that proposition.

In other words, our beliefs should be held in proportion to the available evidence.  However, faith doesn't do that.  Why is that so hard for you to understand?

Quote from: malleus arianorum

Well, who am I to argue with italics? :) Thanks for your time, my curiosity is satisfied.

Glad to help!
:)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: John Morrow on February 05, 2007, 08:42:18 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
The POE is effective because it takes the very conception of God that they are committed to as part of its argument.


You keep saying that the Problem of Evil is "effective".  What, exactly, is it effective at doing?

Quote from: Akrasia
In other words, our beliefs should be held in proportion to the available evidence.  However, faith doesn't do that.  Why is that so hard for you to understand?


Why do non-believers always assume that believers have no evidence?

And before you ask the obvious question, consider that when  "our beliefs should be held in proportion to the available evidence", how one interprets the available evidence can lead to very different conclusions.  And, no, I'm not talking about the people who stretch the evidence to fit their conclusions but the people who base their beliefs on their interpretation of the available evidence.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Kyle Aaron on February 05, 2007, 08:53:40 pm
This is like a merry-go-round, except without as nice music. Usually if you stay on those long enough, you become nauseous.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: John Morrow on February 05, 2007, 10:05:15 pm
Quote from: JimBobOz
This is like a merry-go-round, except without as nice music. Usually if you stay on those long enough, you become nauseous.


Hey, you can go ride the bumper cars on the RPGnet thread if this ride is boring you. ;)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on February 05, 2007, 10:41:47 pm
Quote from: John Morrow
You keep saying that the Problem of Evil is "effective".  What, exactly, is it effective at doing?

:rolleyes:

Feel free to read the rest of the thread at your leisure.  I can't be arsed to explain this for a 12th time.

Or, if you want a more authoritative answer, here is a link (already provided at least three times in this thread by yours truly) to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's entry on 'The Problem of Evil':
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/evil/
Enjoy!

Quote from: John Morrow

Why do non-believers always assume that believers have no evidence?


Well, for one thing, many believers (and certainly almost all Christian and Muslim ones; as JimBobOz has pointed out, Judaism is a somewhat different case) emphasise the importance of faith, which is belief without evidence.

But there are indeed some people who think that things like miracles or personal revelation constitute 'evidence' for their religious beliefs.  Such arguments, in my judgement, were effectively (and humourously) debunked by David Hume in his classic essay 'On Miracles'.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on February 05, 2007, 10:43:42 pm
Quote from: JimBobOz
This is like a merry-go-round, except without as nice music...

No kidding.  It would be nice if new contributors at least bothered to read over what has already been posted.
:sleeping:
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Kyle Aaron on February 05, 2007, 10:57:57 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
No kidding.  It would be nice if new contributors at least bothered to read over what has already been posted.

It'd probably be more effective to split out your different points into different threads. Sure, these things are all connected, in one way or another - like rolling dice is connected to alignment systems. But after a thread tops 100 posts, it's rare that anyone reads the whole thing, or if they do, it's natural that they'll miss bits here and there, while they may prepare a response to post #121, they'll forget that when they come to the more interesting (to them) post #178.

So just split out the important and distinguishable points into new threads.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: John Morrow on February 06, 2007, 12:52:51 am
Quote from: Akrasia
:rolleyes:

Feel free to read the rest of the thread at your leisure.  I can't be arsed to explain this for a 12th time.


I did read the rest of the thread.  OK, so I skimmed some of it when it seemed to be repetitive.  Let me ask a different question that might answer the question I'm trying to ask.  What does it mean for an argument to be "effective"?

Quote from: Akrasia
Well, for one thing, many believers (and certainly almost all Christian and Muslim ones; as JimBobOz has pointed out, Judaism is a somewhat different case) emphasise the importance of faith, which is belief without evidence.


If that were really certain of "almost all Chistians and Muslim", then why do so many Christians offer miracles (a requirement for canonization in the Catholic church) and personal religious experiences as evidence for their faith?  Why do Muslims speak of the Quran as a miracle?  And why do the fundamentalists of both faiths often hold the accounts in their holy books out as evidence?  Are you really talking about "almost all Christians" or "almost all famous Christian philosophers"?

Quote from: Akrasia
But there are indeed some people who think that things like miracles or personal revelation constitute 'evidence' for their religious beliefs.  Such arguments, in my judgement, were effectively (and humourously) debunked by David Hume in his classic essay 'On Miracles'.


There's that word "effective" again.  Your statement seems rather curious given that the Stanford page on Hume's 'On Miracles' says:

"Remarkably, the discussion of Hume on miracles has not been confined to, or even principally concerned with, whether or not Hume was correct in his argument against justified belief in miracles — and/or the possibility of justified belief in miracles. Instead, philosophical discussion has focused on exegetical issues concerning exactly what Hume was arguing."

In other words, it sounds like Hume's essay is so effectively debunks those arguments that many philosophers can't even figure out what he was arguing about.  Wow.  An argument so effective that nobody can understand what he means.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Malleus Arianorum on February 06, 2007, 04:33:09 am
Quote from: Akrasia
You keep saying that 'omnibenevolence' is not a 'Christian ideal'.  Well whatever. :rolleyes:  The simple fact is that most Christians (including the 'official philosopher', Thomas Aquinas, of the very Church that you purport to belong to) thought -- and continue to think -- that it is a property of the God that they believe in.  It's part of God's perfection.
Aquinas is not the 'official philosopher' of Christians, he is a Doctor of the [Catholic] Church (edit: one of thirty-three). As such he has to work from the facts available about God as revealed through Holy Scripture, Tradition and the light of reason not just go along with what you presume most Christians believe. Nor does his inclusion of the word "perfect" automaticaly imply your vision of a triple-o god is widely held.

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Hence -- unsurprisingly -- many serious Christian thinkers have taken the POE argument very seriously.  Just look at the history of Christian philosophy and theology if you don't believe me.  The POE is effective because it takes the very conception of God that they are committed to as part of its argument.
For Christians, the strength of the argument is in the tension between evil and God's Absolute Holiness. A tention that is lost when other terms are arbitraraly substitued.

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Now, the fact that you happen to have a view of God and the role of benevolence in Christian morality that differs from pretty much every Christian philosopher I've ever known or read is -- while interesting -- not really something that I can help.  Anyhow, good luck to you in altering Christianity across the globe!  
:cool:
Again, I think you're reading your own modern meanings into words like 'perfect' and 'omnipotent.' Remember that Aquinas' God throws people into Hell for all eternity, something that your omnibenevolent god can not do.

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While empirical facts can never 'prove' anything with 100 percent certainty (after all, we might be deceived by an evil demon!), if the empirical evidence for a certain proposition is overwhelming (e.g. the earth is round seems 99.9999999... percent likely to be true, given everything that we know about the universe via induction), we should believe that proposition.
No, if we do that we're just the modern day equivalent of believing in a coal powered sun and propigation of light through ether. I would much rather find something beautiful, have faith in that beauty and follow it to find something even more beautiful and true.

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In other words, our beliefs should be held in proportion to the available evidence.  However, faith doesn't do that.  Why is that so hard for you to understand?
'Belief' is a synonym for 'faith' so all I see is the kettle calling the pot black.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: GRIM on February 06, 2007, 08:41:50 am
Quote from: malleus arianorum
'Belief' is a synonym for 'faith' so all I see is the kettle calling the pot black.


They're not entirely equivalent though.
Keeping to set definitions is important in these debates.

Beliefs are formed for all manner of reasons, but a faith is a belief without evidence, believed 'just because'.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Malleus Arianorum on February 06, 2007, 09:25:30 am
Quote from: GRIM
They're not entirely equivalent though.
Keeping to set definitions is important in these debates.

Beliefs are formed for all manner of reasons, but a faith is a belief without evidence, believed 'just because'.
But within the context of this discussion, the belief that there is (or is not) the delusion demon Akrasia mentioned is believed 'just because' i.e. by faith.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on February 06, 2007, 10:06:26 am
Quote from: malleus arianorum
... As such he [Aquinas] has to work from the facts available about God as revealed through Holy Scripture, Tradition and the light of reason not just go along with what you presume most Christians believe. Nor does his inclusion of the word "perfect" automaticaly imply your vision of a triple-o god is widely held ... Again, I think you're reading your own modern meanings into words like 'perfect' and 'omnipotent.'


Well, I taught a bit of Aquinas while I was labouring away at the 'Introduction to the Humanities' program at Stanford (2002-2005), and I thought that I understood what he was saying well enough.  While I'm not an expert on Aquinas (far from it!), as far as I could tell, his conception of God was pretty much the same one that the POE addresses.

In my subsequent discussions with theistic philosophers who do know a lot more than myself about Aquinas -- including a colleague here at TCD who has published a number of important articles on Aquinas -- nothing in the view of God presented in most versions of the POE conflicts with Aquinas's account of God.

If I'm making a fundamental mistake in thinking that the POE is a problem for the conception of God defended by Aquinas, then so are some of the leading experts on Thomist philosophy.  (Of course they  have replies … but those are replies to the POE argument as I understand it.)

The fact of the matter is that the POE argument has been taken quite seriously by many leading Christian philosophers and theologians throughout the ages.  Their understanding of the POE argument seems to be pretty much the same as mine, as far as I can tell.  According to you, though, all these people are deeply mistaken.
:shrug:

Quote from: malleus arianorum
... For Christians, the strength of the argument is in the tension between evil and God's Absolute Holiness.


Feel free to elaborate on that, if you like.

Quote from: malleus arianorum
... I would much rather find something beautiful, have faith in that beauty and follow it to find something even more beautiful and true...


Well good luck with that!  I’m sure that that approach will discover a cure for cancer in no time.

Quote from: malleus arianorum
...
 'Belief' is a synonym for 'faith' so all I see is the kettle calling the pot black.

:rolleyes:
You never did read that link I gave you to 'inductive arguments' did you?

Anyhow, there is a difference between justified belief and faith.  We critically evaluate beliefs with respect to justification.  Empirical data and reasoning about that data (via inductive and abductive reasoning) gives us the means to determine whether a belief is well justified or not (and how well justified it is).  

We should have beliefs that are well justified.  Faith, in contrast, asserts that we should believe certain propositions as true without justification (or without adequate justification).
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: NYTFLYR on February 06, 2007, 10:12:40 am
Quote from: malleus arianorum

Protestants believe all the branches are saved except those that do not bear fruit.


actually, its if you are saved your branches will produce fruit, but good works alone do not get you the golden ticket
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Hastur T. Fannon on February 06, 2007, 10:23:41 am
Quote from: Akrasia
We should have beliefs that are well justified.  Faith, in contrast, asserts that we should believe certain propositions as true without justification (or without adequate justification).


Would you consider "because it makes my life better" as being adequate justification?
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: GRIM on February 06, 2007, 12:48:02 pm
Quote from: Hastur T. Fannon
Would you consider "because it makes my life better" as being adequate justification?


Slartibartfast: Perhaps I'm old and tired, but I think that the chances of finding out what's actually going on are so absurdly remote that the only thing to do is to say, "Hang the sense of it," and keep yourself busy. I'd much rather be happy than right any day.

Arthur Dent: And are you?

Slartibartfast: Ah, no. Well, that's where it all falls down, of course.

Alternatively...

"The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact than a drunken man is happier than a sober one."
~ George Bernard Shaw
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Hastur T. Fannon on February 07, 2007, 05:05:24 am
Quote from: GRIM
"The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact than a drunken man is happier than a sober one."
~ George Bernard Shaw


I suppose that really depends on what you think that the point of religion is...
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Thanatos02 on February 08, 2007, 12:43:06 pm
In my case, I simply prefer the idea that there isn't a God and since I've never seen any indication that I'm incorrect (nothing presents evidence there's a diety, in particular), then all the better.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: GRIM on February 08, 2007, 03:09:26 pm
Quote from: Hastur T. Fannon
I suppose that really depends on what you think that the point of religion is...


I've been thinking on this since you posted it and quite honestly, I can't think of one, at least not in and of itself.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Hastur T. Fannon on February 09, 2007, 06:34:31 am
Quote from: GRIM
I've been thinking on this since you posted it and quite honestly, I can't think of one, at least not in and of itself.


Well one answer is to provide a focus for the shared myths, stories and values for a community or segment of society

Heck, these days churches are providing the only real communities in many areas
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: GRIM on February 09, 2007, 07:02:59 am
Quote from: Hastur T. Fannon
Well one answer is to provide a focus for the shared myths, stories and values for a community or segment of society

Heck, these days churches are providing the only real communities in many areas


But that isn't the 'point' of it, and it isn't as though there are alternatives.

What is a church anyway? Is it...

"It's where humans contact their manufacturer for technical assistance."
- Marshal Volkhan


?

I'm beginning to think if the pub was as important in US culture they'd be as apathetic towards religion as we are.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Hastur T. Fannon on February 09, 2007, 10:17:07 am
Quote from: GRIM
But that isn't the 'point' of it


Isn't it?

Quote from: GRIM
and it isn't as though there are alternatives.


One thing that has to be said for religion is that there is a lot of it about.  1.2 million people attend CofE churches each week and that's just one denomination in one country.  It must be doing something in their lives that isn't being fulfilled elsewhere otherwise they wouldn't get out of bed on a Sunday morning
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: GRIM on February 09, 2007, 10:24:04 am
Quote from: Hastur T. Fannon
It must be doing something in their lives that isn't being fulfilled elsewhere otherwise they wouldn't get out of bed on a Sunday morning


Boring them to tears?

Its an interesting assumption but I think it has much more to do with tradition and expectation, particularly with the remnants of the CoE.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Hastur T. Fannon on February 09, 2007, 10:54:55 am
Quote from: GRIM
Its an interesting assumption but I think it has much more to do with tradition and expectation, particularly with the remnants of the CoE.


How do you explain converts then?  There are people at my church who come from families where there is no "tradition and expectation" of church attendence.  This is not uncommon, particularly these days.  If asked, they'd probably say something like they find it easier to meet with and worship God there.  The question is: what do they mean by that?

Incidentally Sunday morning church attendance is rising in the CofE - slowly and it might just be a "dead cat bouncing".  And that doesn't include people who are attending in the evenings (I don't show up on these statistics)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: HinterWelt on February 09, 2007, 11:01:20 am
Grim,
One problem is that church and religion are two different things. Another is that they do not serve the same purpose for everyone. I would say that in some cases church is a social gathering, a community. In others it is a means of cleansing their conscience in a weekly ritual. Other still see it as a means of contacting and doing good in the world. Outsiders could see it as pointless, evil, the crutch of the masses, and a waste of fuel on Sundays.

Religion, on the other hand, can be a quest for understanding, a means of setting a moral compass, a means of hiding behind something much bigger than you, a means of self exploration and many other definitions. It is personal to each individual and is a means of existence. To me, atheism is just another belief structure. I dare say, atheists have some form of moral set and system of rationalizing actions and the world that would closely resemble the implementation of a religious person.

All that said, I believe you are purposely being obtuse. Not in a bad way, just in a way to validate your beliefs. I should point out, I do not attend any church, belong to an established religion but I consider myself a deeply spiritual person. I often rationalize my own beliefs. I believe everyone does. It is in the nature of humans to want their way to be correct.

Bill
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on February 09, 2007, 11:11:46 am
Hinterwelt pretty much summed up my thoughts on Church vs. Religion too, and much better than I could.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on February 09, 2007, 09:31:27 pm
Quote from: GRIM
... I'm beginning to think if the pub was as important in US culture they'd be as apathetic towards religion as we are.


Note entirely untrue ... :cool:
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on February 09, 2007, 09:40:57 pm
Quote from: HinterWelt
... To me, atheism is just another belief structure....  


I have no clear idea what you mean by 'belief structure', but if you mean something like a set of beliefs then obviously atheists have such a thing.

The difference is that atheists care about whether that 'belief structure' is 'well justified' (i.e. better justified than the alternative 'belief structures').  And they do care (at least the atheists I know) , and they find that their position is indeed -- after looking at the relevant evidence and arguments  -- the most plausible one available.

Quote from: HinterWelt
...
I dare say, atheists have some form of moral set and system of rationalizing actions and the world that would closely resemble the implementation of a religious person.


But that's just not true.  A religious person 'rationalizes' things (to fit with his/her faith).  An atheist (or philosopher, more genrally speaking) tries to ascertain what is rational.

There is a fundamental difference.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Malleus Arianorum on February 10, 2007, 07:47:46 am
Quote from: Akrasia
Well, I taught a bit of Aquinas while I was labouring away at the 'Introduction to the Humanities' program at Stanford (2002-2005), and I thought that I understood what he was saying well enough.  While I'm not an expert on Aquinas (far from it!), as far as I could tell, his conception of God was pretty much the same one that the POE addresses.
Aha! We agree on something -- Aquinas is a tough read. :)

My complaint is that you are using Christian words imprecisely. We've already agreed that 'suffering' is too sloppy of a term. I have similar caveats with 'unnecessary suffering,' 'good Samaritanism' and 'omnijustice.' Those terms are slop. Still, the PoE can be written forcefully.

Did you know that just about every introductory text to Catholicism starts with the PoE? That's because the discord between a Good God and a fallen world is a 'selling point' for the Church. The bigger that inequality is perceived to be, the greater Christ's sacrificial atonement looms in the mind. It's the same genre as fantasizing about how painful crucifixion must be, or agonizing about how mankind is naught but "sacks of filth.' It doesn't mean that the Church is going belly up, it means that people are thinking through how thankful they are. So when Aquinas takes the PoE seriously it doesn't mean he's about to become an Atheist -- he's trying to calculate the incalculable love of our Redeemer.

Quote
Feel free to elaborate on that, if you like.

"Holy" and "evil" are the original criteria for the PoE. They're well chosen because something that is holy abhors evil by it's very nature. According to scripture, evil is an 'unbearable stench' to the thrice holy God. So by picking the criteria "evil" and "holy" you can press the issue and be backed by scripture.

When educated Christians like Aquinas speak, they use their native language to express ideas that originated in Hebrew words. The 'trap' is that unless you're familiar with that background, you end up thinking that the word 'omnipotence' means 'all powerful' and the phrase 'perfectly benign' means 'not harmful.' Assumptions that are reasonable and false.

Anyway, Aquinas puts a very fine point on the PoE. God is Simple (a unity with no parts or duplicates) and Perfect (better than anything else). By that definition, the question is not why did God create 'evil' or 'suffering' but:

Why would God create anything at all knowing that his creation must necessarily be separate from and less perfect than himself by it's very nature?

It's cool because instead of quibbling over how much suffering is necessary or defining what evil is you only have to show that something exists besides God.

Quote
Well good luck with that!  I’m sure that that approach will discover a cure for cancer in no time.
Statements like this make me wonder if you ever read Aquinas. Truth is beautiful.

Mathematicians and Physicists often claim that they were drawn to their discoveries by their ability to sense beauty. (But that could just be because we love to ape Paul Erdős (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erdos) :teacher: )

Quote
:rolleyes:
You never did read that link I gave you to 'inductive arguments' did you?
I did and I was puzzled. Isn't it guaranteed / deductive? You seem adamant that only Atheism is well justified.
   Either God is triple-o or unnecessary suffering exists.
Unnecessary suffering exists.
Therefore God is not triple-o.
Again, my hangup is there are so many unjustified assumptions that they trump any consideration of validity, inductive or otherwise. Is that excused by being inductive?
Quote
We should have beliefs that are well justified.  Faith, in contrast, asserts that we should believe certain propositions as true without justification (or without adequate justification).

I can understand not getting the finer points of Aquinas, but it seems to me that you are intentionally using equivocation to obscure what people of Faith mean by 'faith.'
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on February 10, 2007, 07:56:20 pm
I just have a few questions on some things you and other christian folk talk about.


Quote from: malleus arianorum

... something that is holy abhors evil by it's very nature.


How do you know? What tangible thing can you point to, other than some book, that can be defined as "holy" that I can investigate to determine for myself if it truely "abhors evil"?

 
Quote
According to scripture, evil is an 'unbearable stench' to the thrice holy God.


What evidence do you have, outside of this "scripture", that would confirm this assertion?

Quote
So by picking the criteria "evil" and "holy" you can press the issue and be backed by scripture.


Why should being "backed by scripture" carry any weight at all? What is there, outside of this "scripture" that would confirm it's validity? Why should this "scripture" carry more weight to me than my own capacity for thought and reason?
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on February 10, 2007, 08:21:16 pm
Quote from: malleus arianorum

Why would God create anything at all knowing that his creation must necessarily be separate from and less perfect than himself by it's very nature?



Because it's cruel... sadistic even. Perhaps bored and self-centered. What difference does this make? All I need to understand is that for some god to be "all-powerful", as I define it, and for this world to still be so fucked up, this god couldn't love me or anyone the way I define love. Or perhaps this god does love me, but isn't able to do anything about how fucked up it's creation is, revealing itself as irresponsible. Either way, why should I revere... worship even... this hypothetical entity? The world as it exists demonstrates to me that if this creator were to exist, it is in one way or another as flawed as I am, and not deserving of any more reverence or consideration as any of the rest of us.

Oh yeah... "the plan". This god has some "plan" for me, that is somehow supposed to make all the pain of life and death worthwhile. Yet even allowing for the existence of this "plan", keeping us "lesser beings" in the dark about it strikes me as cruel in and of itself. We wonder, question, and stumble in the dark. Either this god doesn't care about our confusion and despair, or can't do anything about it, in which case I'm back to where I've started.

I had a good friend who had spent all his adult life in the hell of abusing drugs and alcohol. He ended up in a rehab, and struggled with every fiber of his being to break free of this addiction. He finally succeeded, and was clean for a little bit of time when he was diagnosed with cancer, and within 6 months was dead. The sad part is, this is one of the least tragic of the many tragic stories I have personally witnessed relating to the suffering of addiction. If these tragedies are all part of "the plan", then I want no part of it.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: John Morrow on February 11, 2007, 12:37:03 am
Quote from: Sigmund
Because it's cruel... sadistic even. Perhaps bored and self-centered. What difference does this make? All I need to understand is that for some god to be "all-powerful", as I define it, and for this world to still be so fucked up, this god couldn't love me or anyone the way I define love.


Do you think it's similarly irresponsible or even cruel or sadistic for a parent to bring a child into the world?
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on February 11, 2007, 01:48:00 am
My son was born two weeks after 9/11 and my wife and I had some serious discussions about what kind of world we were bringing him into. Obviously we decided it was an ok thing to do, since we had another two years later. :)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Malleus Arianorum on February 11, 2007, 07:46:42 am
Quote from: Sigmund
I just have a few questions on some things you and other christian folk talk about.

Why should being "backed by scripture" carry any weight at all?

It matters in this thread since we're trying to show that 'typical Monotheists' are irrational on the basis of hoisting their God by his own pitard. Relying on scripture in this context doesn't mean that you acknowledge divine inspiration, just that you acknowledge it's a  pitard that could hoist three religions in one go.

Quote
What is there, outside of this "scripture" that would confirm it's validity?

There's the inspirational effect it has on it's readers.
There are the miracles of Christ which continue to the present day.
The fufillment of the prophetic statements of scripture.
There's the totaly awesome track record of the Catholic Church. It's 2000 years old, faithful to it's ideals, it keeps cranking out saints who are full of joy and love. And most spectacularly, it's survived 2000 years of Catholics! :rolleyes:

Quote
Why should this "scripture" carry more weight to me than my own capacity for thought and reason?
It shouldn't. However, you could treat scripture like any other book. Read it. Think about it. Understand it on it's own terms. If, someday, you think that scripture (or preferably the Magisterium of Catholic Church) is trustworthy you can freely choose to trust it and live by it. That free choice is called 'faith.' A person is 'faithful' when they freely choose to live in accordance with 'The Faith' instead of by their day to day whims and disincentives. It's like an oath.

Quote
How do you know? What tangible thing can you point to, other than some book, that can be defined as "holy" that I can investigate to determine for myself if it truely "abhors evil"?
I could point to somone like Bessed Mother Therisa. She was a holy woman who abhored evil because of her holiness.

Quote
What evidence do you have, outside of this "scripture", that would confirm this assertion? [According to scripture, evil is an 'unbearable stench' to the thrice holy God. ]
There isn't any. Just like outside of Shakespere's writings, we can't confirm what's in Shakespere's writings. I suppose that if we lost God's writings or Shakespere's writings we might be able to piece them back together from people who have memorized them, or books and movies based on them, but if they were absolutely expunged there would be no way to find out what God or Shakespeare wrote.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on February 11, 2007, 09:46:03 am
Quote from: malleus arianorum

The 'trap' is that unless you're familiar with that background, you end up thinking that the word 'omnipotence' means 'all powerful' and the phrase 'perfectly benign' means 'not harmful.' Assumptions that are reasonable and false.


Well, I’m not sure what ‘omnipotence’ could mean other than ‘all powerful’.  It’s clear that Aquinas (and pretty much any Christian thinker that I’m aware of) is committed to the view that God is indeed ‘all powerful’.  There are problems with the concept, obviously, and exactly what it involves can be debated (e.g. most Christians don’t think that God could have selected different ‘logical truths’, whereas Descartes and most Muslims do think this).  As for ‘benevolence’, that is supposed to follow straightforwardly from God’s goodness (and the fact that ‘God is Love’, etc.).

Quote from: malleus arianorum

Anyway, Aquinas puts a very fine point on the PoE. God is Simple (a unity with no parts or duplicates) and Perfect (better than anything else). By that definition, the question is not why did God create 'evil' or 'suffering' but:

Why would God create anything at all knowing that his creation must necessarily be separate from and less perfect than himself by it's very nature?


I’m familiar with the doctrine of ‘divine simplicity’.  I don’t see how it any way renders the POE argument ineffective, or why the question you pose above is the only natural one that follows.  Or, more precisely, why the above question wouldn’t be supplemented by a critical thinker with: ‘Given that God created something other than Himself, why did He choose to create something so horribly imperfect and filled with suffering?

For a humourous exploration of that question, I’d recommend the novel Job by Robert Heinlein.

Quote from: malleus arianorum

It's cool because instead of quibbling over how much suffering is necessary or defining what evil is you only have to show that something exists besides God.


I have no idea why that would follow from what you’ve stated earlier.

Quote from: malleus arianorum

Mathematicians and Physicists often claim that they were drawn to their discoveries by their ability to sense beauty


Well, beauty aside, only 7 percent of leading scientists believe in a ‘personal god’:
http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/sci_relig.htm

Quote from: malleus arianorum

 I did and I was puzzled. Isn't it guaranteed / deductive? You seem adamant that only Atheism is well justified.


I do think that atheism is ‘well justified’ -- or certainly far better justified than any alternative view.   (However, even if I only thought that it was slightly more likely that atheism was true than theism, a belief in atheism would still be comparatively justified.)

Inductive arguments are fundamentally different than deductive arguments.  Inductive arguments can be strong or weak, depending on the available evidence.  But even an extremely strong inductive argument – e.g. all the available evidence that we have in support of the proposition ‘the earth is round’ – can still be potentially false (as extraordinarily unlikely as that is).  A valid deductive argument, in contrast, is one in which the conclusion must be true if its premises are true, and a sound deductive argument is a valid deductive argument in which the premises are in fact true.  (The relation between the two kinds of arguments is tricky, since pretty much all of our beliefs about the external world are ultimately inductive in nature, but for the purposes of most deductive arguments we can simply assume that a premise about the external world that is very likely to be true simply is true.)

The POE argument can be formulated as either a deductive argument or an inductive one, as explained here:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/evil/

For a discussion of one inductive version of the POE argument, check out:
http://www.iep.utm.edu/e/evil-evi.htm

Quote from: malleus arianorum

I can understand not getting the finer points of Aquinas, but it seems to me that you are intentionally using equivocation to obscure what people of Faith mean by 'faith.'


For Aquinas, we can know things (including things about God) through both reason and revelation.  Things we can know through reason alone include the fact that there is a God (a perfect being).  However, we can only know that God is the Christian God by means of revelation.  By definition, things we can ‘know’ by revelation are things that we should believe in it, but for which we cannot provide a rational justification (although they must be compatible with reason).  

So faith concerns things beyond the scope of rational justification.  This doesn’t seem like a controversial view about faith.  Moreover, it doesn’t rule out the possibility that one might instead decide to conform one’s beliefs to what reason can justify (and hold those beliefs as strongly as the available justifications), and refrain from believing anything on the basis of ‘faith’ (as the atheist endeavours to do).
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on February 11, 2007, 03:20:52 pm
Quote from: John Morrow
Do you think it's similarly irresponsible or even cruel or sadistic for a parent to bring a child into the world?


On one level, yes I do. The caveat is that procreation is a nigh irresistable compulsion that is hardwired into our systems. Since neither I nor anyone I've ever met were consulted in the design process, I'm able to forgive us this myself. Others may not be so magnanimous, that's not my business.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on February 11, 2007, 03:55:44 pm
Quote from: malleus arianorum
It matters in this thread since we're trying to show that 'typical Monotheists' are irrational on the basis of hoisting their God by his own pitard. Relying on scripture in this context doesn't mean that you acknowledge divine inspiration, just that you acknowledge it's a  pitard that could hoist three religions in one go.


Acknowledging that it's a "pitard" doesn't seem to me to have anything to do with whether or not to give it weight. You seem to be holding the bible up as proof of the divine, as many christians do, when in fact it is nothing of the kind.

Quote
There's the inspirational effect it has on it's readers.
There are the miracles of Christ which continue to the present day.
The fufillment of the prophetic statements of scripture.
There's the totaly awesome track record of the Catholic Church. It's 2000 years old, faithful to it's ideals, it keeps cranking out saints who are full of joy and love. And most spectacularly, it's survived 2000 years of Catholics! :rolleyes:


Chicken Soup for the Soul, Message in a Bottle, Lord of the Rings, Forrest Gump, Cars... all these and more have inspirational effects on people. This in and of itself does not make the media in any way "true". Just inspirational.

Where can I find documented proof of a "miracle of christ"? What evidence can I view that reasonably confirms that any "miracle" indeed originates from christ? What makes these "prophetic statements of scripture" any less vague, more valid, or more authentic than the prophecies of any other religions/prophets?

Why does the 2000 years of the christian church carry more weight than the even longer histories of other religions? Why does longevity have any bearing at all? War, crime, prostitution, tyranny... these all have been around far longer than 2000 years. Why would the institutions that create and support these not be even more important and deserving of veneration if longevity is to be a measuring stick of value?

 
Quote
It shouldn't. However, you could treat scripture like any other book. Read it. Think about it. Understand it on it's own terms. If, someday, you think that scripture (or preferably the Magisterium of Catholic Church) is trustworthy you can freely choose to trust it and live by it. That free choice is called 'faith.' A person is 'faithful' when they freely choose to live in accordance with 'The Faith' instead of by their day to day whims and disincentives. It's like an oath.


I have read the christian bible. Not cover to cover mind you, but I have 3 different versions along with my other religious books and I have read through them all. So far, I have never seen more value to any of the copies I have than as story books that also teach people how to be nice. Kinda like fairy tales do.

 
Quote
I could point to somone like Bessed Mother Therisa. She was a holy woman who abhored evil because of her holiness.


How can I know she was "holy"? I do not dispute that she was very kind, compassionate, and helpful. Is this all it takes to be "holy"? Does that mean Ty Pennington and the Extreme Home Makeover crew are "holy" too?

 
Quote
There isn't any. Just like outside of Shakespere's writings, we can't confirm what's in Shakespere's writings. I suppose that if we lost God's writings or Shakespere's writings we might be able to piece them back together from people who have memorized them, or books and movies based on them, but if they were absolutely expunged there would be no way to find out what God or Shakespeare wrote.


Since Shakespeare wrote fiction, why is his work in any way relevant to this discussion? The Bard is no more relevant than Stephen King, Tolkien, or Danielle Steel. With the Bard's works, whether Shakespeare himself actually wrote them doesn't really matter. The bible, however, is presented as being written (through "divine inspiration") by god itself. Since this would make a big difference on how valid it is, I am going to require a little more than just the work itself as confirmation of this idea's validity before I just swalllow it hook, line and sinker. Otherwise, I could write a "bible" too and contend that it was divinely inspired and who could prove me wrong? There's nothing to convince me to believe that the authors of the bible were writing anything but common stories. In fact, based on other sources I have checked out that are apparently from the same time period there is plenty of evidence to support the belief that the bible as currently presented is at best incomplete and at worst in large part a deliberate deception.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: fonkaygarry on February 11, 2007, 06:08:46 pm
Holy fuck, people.  Do any of you actually play RPGs or have you just decided to jack off here instead of in the bathroom?
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: John Morrow on February 11, 2007, 06:12:18 pm
Quote from: Sigmund
On one level, yes I do. The caveat is that procreation is a nigh irresistable compulsion that is hardwired into our systems. Since neither I nor anyone I've ever met were consulted in the design process, I'm able to forgive us this myself. Others may not be so magnanimous, that's not my business.


We live in an age where reproduction is fairly well understood and can be stopped through fairly basic sterilization procedures.  Do you think that any adult that understands this yet fails to act on it is irresponsible, cruel, and even sadistic?  And if every adult did act on it, do you think that would be a good thing?  Forget blaming people for it.  Do you think the world would be better off if no human beings reproduced?
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on February 11, 2007, 06:20:21 pm
I think it would be a vastly better place if fewer people reproduced.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: John Morrow on February 12, 2007, 02:31:25 am
Quote from: James McMurray
I think it would be a vastly better place if fewer people reproduced.


And who are the people who shouldn't be reproducing?
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Dominus Nox on February 12, 2007, 02:44:03 am
Quote from: John Morrow
And who are the people who shouldn't be reproducing?


Hmmm, how about people who've abused or neglected children? Or how about people who've used drugs or alcohol during pregnancy and messed up their babies? How about people with habitual violent criminal records?

Those'd be good choices, AFAIC.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: John Morrow on February 12, 2007, 03:00:12 am
Quote from: Dominus Nox
Hmmm, how about people who've abused or neglected children? Or how about people who've used drugs or alcohol during pregnancy and messed up their babies? How about people with habitual violent criminal records?


Are you going to prohibit them from having children?  Is it irresponsible, cruel, and even sadistic to let them have children since we can stop them?

But that's a side question.  I'm talking about everyone.  

If God is irresponsible, cruel, and even sadistic to put people on a planet like this, aren't parents equally irresponsible, cruel, and even sadistic for bringing children into the world?
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Malleus Arianorum on February 12, 2007, 04:08:57 am
Quote from: Sigmund
I had a good friend who had spent all his adult life in the hell of abusing drugs and alcohol. He ended up in a rehab, and struggled with every fiber of his being to break free of this addiction. He finally succeeded, and was clean for a little bit of time when he was diagnosed with cancer, and within 6 months was dead. The sad part is, this is one of the least tragic of the many tragic stories I have personally witnessed relating to the suffering of addiction. If these tragedies are all part of "the plan", then I want no part of it.
God's plan is to give zoe (spiritual life) and give it abunantly. That 'gift' is purchased by the blood of Christ and freely offered to all people. There is not, never was and never shall be any person for whom Christ did not give his life. It is Dogma that 'no one is saved outside of the Catholic Church' but    CCC 847 (http://www.kofc.org/un/publications/cis/catechism/getsection.cfm?partnum=1&SecNum=2&ChapNum=3&articlenum=9&ParSecNum=3&subSecNum=3&headernum=5&ParNum=847&ParType=a)
This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:
   Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation. It's tragic that your friend only enjoyed his freedom for a short while, but he was right to struggle for it none the less.   No one in the world can change Truth. What we can do and should do is to seek truth and to serve it when we have found it. The real conflict is the inner conflict. Beyond armies of occupation and the hecatombs of extermination camps, there are two irreconcilable enemies in the depth of every soul: good and evil, sin and love. And what use are the victories on the battlefield if we ourselves are defeated in our innermost personal selves?

- Saint Maximilian Kolbe (patron saint of addicts)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on February 12, 2007, 09:07:52 am
I think that the people who want to debate the ethics of childbearing should start a new thread.

It's somewhat tangential to the main topic of this one (as parents are limited mortals, not God), and this thread is already too damn long.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Malleus Arianorum on February 12, 2007, 09:12:49 am
Quote from: Akrasia
Well, I’m not sure what ‘omnipotence’ could mean other than ‘all powerful’.  It’s clear that Aquinas (and pretty much any Christian thinker that I’m aware of) is committed to the view that God is indeed ‘all powerful’.  There are problems with the concept, obviously, and exactly what it involves can be debated (e.g. most Christians don’t think that God could have selected different ‘logical truths’, whereas Descartes and most Muslims do think this).  As for ‘benevolence’, that is supposed to follow straightforwardly from God’s goodness (and the fact that ‘God is Love’, etc.).
Ok, just so we're clear that 'omnipotence' is more nuanced than 'all + power' and 'love' more nuanced than 'no suffering.'

Quote
I’m familiar with the doctrine of ‘divine simplicity’.  I don’t see how it any way renders the POE argument ineffective...
(It's not an attack on the PoE. I mentioned 'divine simplicity' to exclude the case where God creates a conjoined-twin clone of himself. I suppose I should also mention his perfect unity to exclude the case where he creates an army of clones.)
Quote
...or why the question you pose above is the only natural one that follows.  Or, more precisely, why the above question wouldn’t be supplemented by a critical thinker with: ‘Given that God created something other than Himself, why did He choose to create something so horribly imperfect and filled with suffering?
That's the point: they could. Every other formulation of the PoE is a member of the superset "why would God create anything at all, knowing that his creations must be separate from and less perfect than himself?"
Quote
Well, beauty aside, only 7 percent of leading scientists believe in a ‘personal god’:http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/sci_relig.htm
But beauty was my point and if you had read about Erdos you would have seen he wasn't exactly orthodox. (His pet name for God was S.F. - supreme fascist!) Still despite his antagonism towards God, he found it useful to speak of beauty and truth almost interchangeably.

Quote
I do think that atheism is ‘well justified’ -- or certainly far better justified than any alternative view.   (However, even if I only thought that it was slightly more likely that atheism was true than theism, a belief in atheism would still be comparatively justified.)

The POE argument can be formulated as either a deductive argument or an inductive one, as explained here:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/evil/

For a discussion of one inductive version of the POE argument, check out:
http://www.iep.utm.edu/e/evil-evi.htm
Yes, I saw those earlier, but the inductive arguments all contain a step that goes from "nothing that we know of" to "so it's probably not true."
Quote
For Aquinas, we can know things (including things about God) through both reason and revelation.  Things we can know through reason alone include the fact that there is a God (a perfect being).  However, we can only know that God is the Christian God by means of revelation.  By definition, things we can ‘know’ by revelation are things that we should believe in it, but for which we cannot provide a rational justification (although they must be compatible with reason).
Well said.
Quote
So faith concerns things beyond the scope of rational justification. This doesn’t seem like a controversial view about faith.  Moreover, it doesn’t rule out the possibility that one might instead decide to conform one’s beliefs to what reason can justify (and hold those beliefs as strongly as the available justifications), and refrain from believing anything on the basis of ‘faith’ (as the atheist endeavours to do).
That's unsurprising to me because from a Christian standpoint people DECIDE to believe (or not) as a free choice. Either they follow their conscience (revelation) or make a shipwreck of their faith. (Again, that's the Christian viewpoint. YMMV) What I personaly found surprising is your claim that you have found such a strong rational justification for atheism that intellectual honesty requires you to be an Atheist. But, if you actualy decided of your own free will to be an Atheist (by choosing to ignore your concience/revelation) then that fits into my worldview. (I.e. it's not outside my philosophy)
:shakespeare:
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on February 12, 2007, 10:15:07 am
Quote from: John Morrow
And who are the people who shouldn't be reproducing?


The people who 1) aren't ready for children and/or 2) can't support children.

Quote from: Akrasia
I think that the people who want to debate the ethics of childbearing should start a new thread.

It's somewhat tangential to the main topic of this one (as parents are limited mortals, not God), and this thread is already too damn long.


Why? Afraid it'll interfere with iteration 32 of:

Dead Guy B said statement A, proving that benevolence means no suffereing
Nuh-uh!
Dead Guy A said statement Q, proving that God doesn't exist
Bull!
Dead Guy C said statement D, proving that I ramble too much about dead people
I agree!

Nobody is saying anything new here. Perhaps if they were having a seperate topic mght be worthwhile, but as it is a slight change of pace would only save this thread from circling around itself in a perpetual orbit of bigwordisms.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on February 12, 2007, 11:58:04 am
Quote from: James McMurray
... Why?  ... Nobody is saying anything new here...


I agree that not much new has been introduced into this thread lately (I keep contributing because, well, I started it, and because I just can't let some things go).

But that seems all the more reason to start a new thread.  Just let this one fade away.  It's already a monstrosity.

Also, there might be some people who would be interested in the 'ethics of childbearing' topic but who won't even know that it's being discussed here because it is buried on page 44 of this thing.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on February 12, 2007, 12:02:21 pm
Point taken.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on February 12, 2007, 12:34:26 pm
Quote from: malleus arianorum
… Every other formulation of the PoE is a member of the superset "why would God create anything at all, knowing that his creations must be separate from and less perfect than himself?"

Well I don’t see how this escapes the basic challenge posed by the POE argument at all.

Quote from: malleus arianorum

 … he found it useful to speak of beauty and truth almost interchangeably.

Well, okay, whatever.   :)  Nothing really rides on this, as far as I can tell, and I’ll happily concede that many mathematicians find mathematical truths ‘beautiful’.

Quote from: malleus arianorum

 Yes, I saw those earlier, but the inductive arguments all contain a step that goes from "nothing that we know of" to "so it's probably not true."

I’m not sure what you mean by this.  The ‘step’ (i.e. conclusion) of inductive versions of the POE is the result of assessing the likelihood that a deity that corresponds to the traditional monotheistic one could exist.  Inductive versions of the POE argument hold that, based on the available evidence, we have very good reasons to think that such an entity does not exist (just as, analogously, we have very good reasons to think that phlogiston doesn’t exist, or that the sun doesn’t go around the earth, etc.).  It’s not simply denying a proposition (‘the Christian God exists’) because there’s no evidence to support its truth (although, ceteris paribus, that is a good reason not to believe a proposition), but rather we have positive evidence (and arguments) for thinking that that proposition is false.   (So obviously I disagree with Aquinas that the ‘truths of revelation’ are compatible with what reason can show.)

Quote from: malleus arianorum

What I personaly found surprising is your claim that you have found such a strong rational justification for atheism that intellectual honesty requires you to be an Atheist. But, if you actualy decided of your own free will to be an Atheist (by choosing to ignore your concience/revelation) then that fits into my worldview…

What is it to ‘choose’ to believe something?  Could I ‘choose’ to believe that astrology is a good guide to my future, or that invisible pixies constantly fly about me, or that Thor and Loki really exist, and that thunder is caused by their battles in the skies?  Could I ‘choose’ to believe these things even though all of these things would be absurd things to believe?  Could I choose to believe that the earth is flat, or torturing innocent children is morally praiseworthy?

I think one ought to believe what can be justified (and to the extent that it can be justified).  If I guide myself on the basis of that fundamental norm, I am not ‘free’ to believe in astrology, pixies, Thor and Loki … or the Christian God.  I am not free to believe these things because it would be irrational to do so.  Really, I find the Christian God to be (at best) marginally more plausible than Odin or Zeus.  (In this respect, I agree with Thomas Jefferson, who once remarked that someday the myth of the virgin birth would be viewed to be as plausible as the myth of Athena leaping fully armed from the head of Zeus. Or something to that effect – I can find the correct quote if you’re interested.)

What is frustrating about (at least many) religious people is that they try to limit their beliefs to what can be rationally justified in many aspects of their lives (e.g. they take medicine when sick, they believe that the earth is round, etc.), but when it comes to religious claims, their epistemic standards for believing something drop away.  

Finally, I didn’t ‘ignore my conscience/revelation’ in coming to the conclusion that atheism was the most rationally justified metaphysical worldview available.  My conscience is fine – indeed, I would have ignored my conscience had I chosen to believe something that reason tells me is extremely unlikely to be true.  As for ‘revelation’ I’ve never experienced it, let alone ignored it, if by ‘revelation’ you mean some kind of supernatural experience.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on February 12, 2007, 05:18:40 pm
Quote from: fonkaygarry
Holy fuck, people.  Do any of you actually play RPGs or have you just decided to jack off here instead of in the bathroom?

Go read another thread if you don't like it bitch.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: John Morrow on February 13, 2007, 01:55:02 am
Quote from: Akrasia
I think that the people who want to debate the ethics of childbearing should start a new thread.


I wasn't debating the ethics of childbearing, per se.  I was using the ethics of childbearing to illustrate the ethics of creating people and bringing them into an imperfect and often cruel world, and whether such an act was inherently irresponsible, cruel, and even sadistic, which is the charge being leveled at God for doing pretty much the exact same thing.  If it is really irresponsible, cruel, and even sadistic for God to put people into a world like this, then it should be equally irresponsible, cruel, and even sadistic for parents to do the same, and I'm trying to see if anyone will take ownership of that claim.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Hastur T. Fannon on February 13, 2007, 05:30:36 am
Quote from: Akrasia
Could I ‘choose’ to believe that astrology is a good guide to my future, or that invisible pixies constantly fly about me, or that Thor and Loki really exist, and that thunder is caused by their battles in the skies?  Could I ‘choose’ to believe these things even though all of these things would be absurd things to believe?  Could I choose to believe that the earth is flat, or torturing innocent children is morally praiseworthy?


Would any of these things make your life or the lives of the people around you any better?
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on February 13, 2007, 09:31:15 am
Quote from: John Morrow
I wasn't debating the ethics of childbearing, per se.  I was using the ethics of childbearing to illustrate the ethics of creating people and bringing them into an imperfect and often cruel world, and whether such an act was inherently irresponsible, cruel, and even sadistic, which is the charge being leveled at God for doing pretty much the exact same thing.  If it is really irresponsible, cruel, and even sadistic for God to put people into a world like this, then it should be equally irresponsible, cruel, and even sadistic for parents to do the same, and I'm trying to see if anyone will take ownership of that claim.


I think that you misunderstand the POE argument (any version).  It holds, very roughly, that there is far too much suffering in the world for God to be omnipotent and omniscient and omnibenevolent (however, he might be two of these things).

This does not mean that everyone in the world lives bad lives or suffers to the extent that they would be better off not existing at all.  It doesn't even require that most people do!  Rather, all the POE argument requires is that the amount of suffering that clearly does exist is incompatible with a loving, all-powerful deity.

Independent of the biological drive to reproduce, presumably parents hope that their children will live 'good' lives, and the fact that some people indeed do suggests that this hope isn't always unwarranted.  

In short, your analogy doesn't withstand scrutiny.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on February 13, 2007, 09:34:33 am
Quote from: Hastur T. Fannon
Would any of these things make your life or the lives of the people around you any better?


I think people live better lives when they hold true beliefs (or strive to hold true beliefs) even if that doesn't make them as 'happy' as they otherwise would be.  Sure I might be happier if I believed that every attractive woman I met really liked me, but that would be a false belief (certainly based on the available evidence).  And I certainly couldn't 'choose' to believe it in order to be happy, anymore than I could 'choose' to believe that astrology is a reliable guide to my future (even though lots of people seem to 'like' astrology and 'take comfort' from it).
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: James McMurray on February 13, 2007, 10:03:38 am
Quote from: Akrasia
I think people live better lives when they hold true beliefs (or strive to hold true beliefs) even if that doesn't make them as 'happy' as they otherwise would be.


And that I think highlights the differences here. Personally, I'd rather be happy and convinced I'm right with a harmless delusion (like a false religion) then right and miserable. YMMV.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Hastur T. Fannon on February 13, 2007, 10:24:14 am
Quote from: Akrasia
I think people live better lives when they hold true beliefs (or strive to hold true beliefs) even if that doesn't make them as 'happy' as they otherwise would be.


The evidence seems to be against you:

KERLEY, KENT R., MATTHEWS, TODD L. & BLANCHARD, TROY C. (2005) Religiosity, Religious Participation, and Negative Prison Behaviors. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 44 (4), 443-457. DOI:10.1111/j.1468-5906.2005.00296.x (http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-5906.2005.00296.x)

SAROGLOU, VASSILIS, PICHON, ISABELLE, TROMPETTE, LAURENCE, VERSCHUEREN, MARIJKE & DERNELLE, REBECCA (2005) Prosocial Behavior and Religion: New Evidence Based on Projective Measures and Peer Ratings. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 44 (3), 323-348. DOI:10.1111/j.1468-5906.2005.00289.x (http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-5906.2005.00289.x)

Regnerus, Mark D. & Burdette, Amy (2006) RELIGIOUS CHANGE AND ADOLESCENT FAMILY DYNAMICS. The Sociological Quarterly 47 (1), 175-194. DOI:10.1111/j.1533-8525.2006.00042.x (http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1533-8525.2006.00042.x)

(hope those links work, if not, try from here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_atheism#_note-8))

If we hypothesise that religion evolved as a tool for the socialisation of the individual then we would expect to find that religious individuals are more socialised (something that these studies, among others, appear to support) and religious behaviour that is anti-social would be condemned by the religious mainstream (c.f. the widespread condemation of suicide bombers by moderate Imans and the average Christian's reaction to Fred Phelps or Pat Robinson)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: John Morrow on February 14, 2007, 11:22:39 am
Quote from: Akrasia
I think that you misunderstand the POE argument (any version).  It holds, very roughly, that there is far too much suffering in the world for God to be omnipotent and omniscient and omnibenevolent (however, he might be two of these things).


I was specifically addressing Sigmund's comment about malleus arianorum's argument.

Quote from: Akrasia
Independent of the biological drive to reproduce, presumably parents hope that their children will live 'good' lives, and the fact that some people indeed do suggests that this hope isn't always unwarranted.


There are, however, no guarantees.  To choose to be a parent is to accept the risk that the children you create may suffer and die cruel and meaningless deaths.  But more than that, few parents are willing to smother their children with the protection that would be necessary to shelter them from most harm, and we'd probably consider them bad parents if they did "over-protect" their children like that.

We accept that parents who love their children and wish nothing but the best for them still let them go out and do dangerous things, let them live in dangerous places (making them susceptible to natural evils), and eventually let them go out into the world to live their own lives, without the parent constantly watching over them and protecting them from every danger.  Even in cases where parents can fully control the risk that their children are exposed to, we accept that parents expose their children to risks and even death and that doesn't make them unloving or cruel parents.  Why is God being held to a different standard?
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on February 15, 2007, 06:34:59 am
Quote from: John Morrow
I was specifically addressing Sigmund's comment about malleus arianorum's argument.


And your question was answered in post #445. Why do you expect me to answer it again? If you don't like the answer that's your problem.

Quote
There are, however, no guarantees.  To choose to be a parent is to accept the risk that the children you create may suffer and die cruel and meaningless deaths.  But more than that, few parents are willing to smother their children with the protection that would be necessary to shelter them from most harm, and we'd probably consider them bad parents if they did "over-protect" their children like that.

We accept that parents who love their children and wish nothing but the best for them still let them go out and do dangerous things, let them live in dangerous places (making them susceptible to natural evils), and eventually let them go out into the world to live their own lives, without the parent constantly watching over them and protecting them from every danger.  Even in cases where parents can fully control the risk that their children are exposed to, we accept that parents expose their children to risks and even death and that doesn't make them unloving or cruel parents.  Why is God being held to a different standard?


Once again, because human beings are not supposedly all-powerful and all-knowing. Why is that so hard to understand? Why do you expect to be able to compare fallible humans with some theoretical flawless entity? Why shouldn't this alleged entity, who supposedly has some "plan" for all of us that we are just supposed to take as in our best interests on the word of other fallible (and often dishonest) human beings who somehow "know" it to be true. be held to a higher standard?
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: John Morrow on February 15, 2007, 10:15:06 am
Quote from: Sigmund
And your question was answered in post #445. Why do you expect me to answer it again? If you don't like the answer that's your problem.

And I asked a follow-up question.  The discussion has moved on a bit from then.  I was explaining why this tangent was taken.

Quote from: Sigmund
Once again, because human beings are not supposedly all-powerful and all-knowing. Why is that so hard to understand?

It's easy to understand.  It's also entirely irrelevant.  Because even when parents do know and understand the dangers and can protect their kids, prevailing social views do not consider them irresponsible or cruel nor do they expect them to protect their kids by any means necessary.

Quote from: Sigmund
Why do you expect to be able to compare fallible humans with some theoretical flawless entity?

Because with respect to the subject of whether or not it is ethical to put a person into an imperfect world where horrible things can happen to them, it's irrelevant.  Both God and parents are putting people into the same universe.  And unless you want to argue that human beings have absolutely no choice but to have children, the morality surrounding creating people to live their lives in an imperfect universe is the same.  And if you answer why a parent or God would put a person they love into a universe like this, you are closer to answering why God would create an imperfect universe the first place.

Quote from: Sigmund
Why shouldn't this alleged entity, who supposedly has some "plan" for all of us that we are just supposed to take as in our best interests on the word of other fallible (and often dishonest) human beings who somehow "know" it to be true. be held to a higher standard?

Because you said, "All I need to understand is that for some god to be 'all-powerful', as I define it, and for this world to still be so fucked up, this god couldn't love me or anyone the way I define love.  Or perhaps this god does love me, but isn't able to do anything about how fucked up it's creation is, revealing itself as irresponsible."  

The first sentence can also apply to a parent's choice to bring a child into the world (i.e., Why would you put something you love into a world that's so messed up?) but the second sentence (that a God who loves you but can't make the world a better place for you is irresponsible) most certainly does.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on February 16, 2007, 05:37:36 am
Quote from: Hastur T. Fannon
The evidence seems to be against you:
 
...

If we hypothesise that religion evolved as a tool for the socialisation of the individual then we would expect to find that religious individuals are more socialised (something that these studies, among others, appear to support) and religious behaviour that is anti-social would be condemned by the religious mainstream (c.f. the widespread condemation of suicide bombers by moderate Imans and the average Christian's reaction to Fred Phelps or Pat Robinson)

I think that you misunderstood my point.  

Even if religious people are 'happier', more 'socially integrated', and so forth, the fact that they believe false things makes their lives worse off.  My point is that having false beliefs is an intrinsically bad thing, irrespective of considerations of happiness.  The truth/falseness of beliefs is not to be determined on the basis of happiness.

It may be that religious people are happier and more socially integrated atheists -- although I don't think that a few studies like the ones that you link to show that decively (but thanks for the links), or that most people who are 'non-religious' are in fact atheists (most are simply morally and intellectually lazy, and don't really think about such matters).  But this 'fact' that you posit does not constitute a reason for me to believe that any religious view is true, only that it is instrumentally useful for many (perhaps most) people, a kind of 'opiate for the masses'.

Children who believe in Santa Claus might be happier and more obedient to their parents than children who don't believe in Santa Claus (after all, he's watching them, making notes on who's 'naughty and nice').  But at some point one needs to grow up and realise that there is no Santa Claus.  It might be depressing, but it is better to rely on one's rational factulties as an adult, and try to see reality for what it is, than to persist in a self-imposed childhood.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Hastur T. Fannon on February 16, 2007, 06:35:59 am
Quote from: Akrasia
Even if religious people are 'happier', more 'socially integrated', and so forth, the fact that they believe false things makes their lives worse off.  My point is that having false beliefs is an intrinsically bad thing, irrespective of considerations of happiness.  The truth/falseness of beliefs is not to be determined on the basis of happiness.


Are concepts such as "justice", "mercy", "compassion" or "love" true or false? Do they exist? As has been noted (earlier on this thread I believe) the whole concept of human rights is a myth, a useful fiction that we choose to believe because it results in a society that functions better

It's amusing to note that you're getting closer to Ron Edwards territory: "Incoherent gamers only think they're having fun because they're Brain Damaged."  :D

(I can spell out the parallel if you wish, but I think you'll get it)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: GRIM on February 16, 2007, 08:01:59 am
Quote from: Hastur T. Fannon
Are concepts such as "justice", "mercy", "compassion" or "love" true or false? Do they exist?


Justice is a result of evolutionary psychology and the enforcement of what is best for the survival of the group, as are mercy and compassion. Love is simply how we experience sexual and emotional attachment as a participant rather than as a studier of it.

No big mysteries there really.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on February 16, 2007, 08:14:00 am
Quote from: Hastur T. Fannon
Are concepts such as "justice", "mercy", "compassion" or "love" true or false? Do they exist? As has been noted (earlier on this thread I believe) the whole concept of human rights is a myth, a useful fiction that we choose to believe because it results in a society that functions better


I don't think that 'justice' or 'human rights' are 'myths' or 'fictions' -- or at least not 'fictions' as commonly understood.  Human rights protect objective, fundamental and universal human interests (interests in security from harm, etc.).  Conceptions of justice have to do with fairly resolving conflicts among humans (regarding distribution of resources in the case of social justice, regarding redressing and deterring harms in the case of criminal justice, etc.).

These are disputed concepts, to be sure, but they do exist in that they  don't posit (or don't need to poist; certainly one could be a Platonist) mysterious supernatural entities.  Simply because human beings give content to concepts like human rights and justice through their exercise of reason and their actions does not mean that they are 'fictions'.

(Also, I agree with GRIM's point about love.)

Quote from: Hastur T. Fannon

It's amusing to note that you're getting closer to Ron Edwards territory: "Incoherent gamers only think they're having fun because they're Brain Damaged."  :D

(I can spell out the parallel if you wish, but I think you'll get it)


I don't think that religious people are 'brain damaged', unhappy or delusional.   I just think that their happiness is based on false beliefs.

'Better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied.' (J.S. Mill)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: John Morrow on February 16, 2007, 10:06:50 am
Quote from: GRIM
Justice is a result of evolutionary psychology and the enforcement of what is best for the survival of the group, as are mercy and compassion. Love is simply how we experience sexual and emotional attachment as a participant rather than as a studier of it.


Correct.  But the enforcement is done emotionally, not rationally, and as game theorists and researchers into how the human brain works will tell you, there are often plenty of false beliefs about risk and so forth in the mix.  Bet stepping back another step, just because evolution makes us think that things are really important, it doesn't mean that they are or that it's objectively true that we should care about those things.  Physics doesn't particularly value life.  Why should we, for example?
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: John Morrow on February 16, 2007, 10:18:42 am
Quote from: Akrasia
Human rights protect objective, fundamental and universal human interests (interests in security from harm, etc.).  Conceptions of justice have to do with fairly resolving conflicts among humans (regarding distribution of resources in the case of social justice, regarding redressing and deterring harms in the case of criminal justice, etc.).

The problem is that this is a turtles all the way down argument.  That's what psychopaths illustrate.  If you remove the emotional component that forces people to care about things like resolving conflicts or a concern for security, those things suddenly don't matter.  In other words, you can build an extravagant utilitarian argument around these things that explain why they are important, but it will be build upon assumptions that are just as irrational.  What objective and purely rational reason do we have to care if we live or die, kill or save, reproduce or go extinct?  The universe certainly doesn't care and almost every rational theory of how the universe will end suggests that nothing we do will ever have any lasting meaning or consequences.  So, purely rationally, what's the point and why should we care?  Or are the psychopaths the only ones who are free from irrational constraints on their behavior?

Quote from: Akrasia
Simply because human beings give content to concepts like human rights and justice through their exercise of reason and their actions does not mean that they are 'fictions'.

Keep digging deeper.  What's the entirely rational core behind human rights and justice?  Why are any of those things important?  And when you come up with an answer, ask if it's entirely rational or build on feelings and irrational beliefs.  Then dig deeper and so on.  You'll find that it's turtles all the way down.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: GRIM on February 16, 2007, 02:11:48 pm
Quote from: John Morrow
Correct.  But the enforcement is done emotionally, not rationally, and as game theorists and researchers into how the human brain works will tell you, there are often plenty of false beliefs about risk and so forth in the mix.  Bet stepping back another step, just because evolution makes us think that things are really important, it doesn't mean that they are or that it's objectively true that we should care about those things.  Physics doesn't particularly value life.  Why should we, for example?


Because we do, and, unlike many things, there's good reason.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: John Morrow on February 16, 2007, 02:27:31 pm
Quote from: GRIM
Because we do, and, unlike many things, there's good reason.


And that good reason is?
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on February 17, 2007, 01:23:04 am
Quote from: John Morrow

It's easy to understand.  It's also entirely irrelevant.  Because even when parents do know and understand the dangers and can protect their kids, prevailing social views do not consider them irresponsible or cruel nor do they expect them to protect their kids by any means necessary.


In no way is it irrelevant. I know that bad things might happen to, or because of, my child. I also know that it's possible he/she could live a relatively happy and productive life, or even become a hero and live to a ripe old age basking in accolades and adoration. An all-knowing god would know for certainty which it would be. Even without omniscience, a god would know that if bad things were to happen at all, then at least some of it's "children" would suffer because of them because we would all be it's "children". Also, just because "prevailing social views" do not consider parents cruel, doesn't mean they aren't.

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Because with respect to the subject of whether or not it is ethical to put a person into an imperfect world where horrible things can happen to them, it's irrelevant.  Both God and parents are putting people into the same universe.  And unless you want to argue that human beings have absolutely no choice but to have children, the morality surrounding creating people to live their lives in an imperfect universe is the same.  And if you answer why a parent or God would put a person they love into a universe like this, you are closer to answering why God would create an imperfect universe the first place.


I do not agree with you. It is certainly not irrelevant. It might be the same universe, but humans and god would not be basing the choice on the same amount or quality of information. Plus, I do argue that for many people having a child is no choice at all. For many people it's either an accident, or simply a biological drive to preserve the species. If you have ever known a woman who absolutely HAD to have a child, and considered no amount of money or effort too great, then you would know what I'm talking about. Finally, I also already said that I do, for the most part, consider it a pretty cruel and selfish thing to do... bringing a child into this world.

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Because you said, "All I need to understand is that for some god to be 'all-powerful', as I define it, and for this world to still be so fucked up, this god couldn't love me or anyone the way I define love.  Or perhaps this god does love me, but isn't able to do anything about how fucked up it's creation is, revealing itself as irresponsible."  

The first sentence can also apply to a parent's choice to bring a child into the world (i.e., Why would you put something you love into a world that's so messed up?) but the second sentence (that a God who loves you but can't make the world a better place for you is irresponsible) most certainly does.


The first sentence could never apply to any human being I've ever known or heard of. It does not relate at all to a parent's choice, it talks about the "creator", an entity that can be described as "all-powerful", which rules out the entire human race. As for the second sentence, I don't recall using the word "irresponsible" in relation to the rest of the sentence. I do recall saying that a god incapable of making the world better than it is couldn't be omnipotent, which is a bit different than "irresponsible".
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on February 17, 2007, 01:26:49 am
Quote from: John Morrow
And that good reason is?


Because it's all we have. Because it's hard-wired into our systems, just like it is most every other living thing.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Kyle Aaron on February 17, 2007, 02:12:56 am
Quote from: Akrasia
I don't think that religious people are 'brain damaged', unhappy or delusional.   I just think that their happiness is based on false beliefs.

'Better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied.' (J.S. Mill)

That's a funny thing for a utilitarian to say ;) Mill was a utilitarian, meaning that he was concerned with achieving the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people; there is, in pure utilitarianism, no distinguishing between means to the end of happiness, except insofar as the means achieve the ends.

So if everyone's happy with false beliefs, then those false beliefs are good, in utilitarianism.

I would ask you what your definition of "false beliefs" are, and how it differs from "delusional." A person with delusions is one who believes in something which is false, yes?

I'd also point once again to beliefs as ends in themselves, and beliefs as a mean to other ends. A false belief that the Earth is flat is generally harmless; the belief is an end in itself. But if that person is a pilot, then their false belief will affect how they fly; the flat-earth belief now becomes a means to another end, of flying well. It doesn't achieve the end.

The difference is important. If someone's belief that the Messiah is coming is a false one, that's not important for their and others' happiness - what's important is what they do with that belief.

   "The Messiah is coming, therefore I must blow up this church with parishoners in it." - False belief leading to bad ends.

"The Messiah is coming, therefore I must give to charity, be kind to my family, and treat myself with respect." - False belief leading to good ends.
Some people use their beliefs to justify doing good things, and creating happiness; others use them to justify doing bad things, and creating misery. Whether the belief is false or not is often not important. The imminence of the Messiah generally doesn't matter, just as whether the Earth is flat or not doesn't matter. It could be false, or true, but doesn't matter one bit today. But if the Flat-Earther's a pilot, the guy is probably going to crash the plane. If the Messianic one's aggressive, he's going to brass up some civilians.

If you want to talk about beliefs being false or not, well that's open to argument. But if you want to talk about whether they create happiness or misery, you can't argue from principle, only from practice. Which is why you got quoted those scientific studies of how happy and well-integrated religious people were.

JS Mill was full of shit.
Title: QUote
Post by: John Morrow on February 17, 2007, 02:14:33 am
Quote from: Sigmund
In no way is it irrelevant. I know that bad things might happen to, or because of, my child. I also know that it's possible he/she could live a relatively happy and productive life, or even become a hero and live to a ripe old age basking in accolades and adoration. An all-knowing god would know for certainty which it would be.


Correct.  Imagine your friend who had the hard life.  If you could travel back in time and prevent them from ever being born, would you do it?

Quote from: Sigmund
Even without omniscience, a god would know that if bad things were to happen at all, then at least some of it's "children" would suffer because of them because we would all be it's "children". Also, just because "prevailing social views" do not consider parents cruel, doesn't mean they aren't.


That's what I'm asking.  And I'm curious if anyone else shares your perspective.

Quote from: Sigmund
I do not agree with you. It is certainly not irrelevant. It might be the same universe, but humans and god would not be basing the choice on the same amount or quality of information.


I think that all of the relevant information is on the table that needs to be.  You acknowledge as much when you agree that you have a similar assessment concerning bringing children into the world below.

Quote from: Sigmund
Plus, I do argue that for many people having a child is no choice at all. For many people it's either an accident, or simply a biological drive to preserve the species. If you have ever known a woman who absolutely HAD to have a child, and considered no amount of money or effort too great, then you would know what I'm talking about.


Are you making an argument that humans are not free moral agents and can't control themselves?

Quote from: Sigmund
Finally, I also already said that I do, for the most part, consider it a pretty cruel and selfish thing to do... bringing a child into this world.


Fair enough.  I'm curious if other people agree with you.

Quote from: Sigmund
The first sentence could never apply to any human being I've ever known or heard of. It does not relate at all to a parent's choice, it talks about the "creator", an entity that can be described as "all-powerful", which rules out the entire human race.


Your statement implied that if things are messed up for a person and a being can do something about it but doesn't, then that being doesn't love the person.  There are cases where humans do not intervene in the lives of those they love because the cost of intervention is worse than the benefit.

Quote from: Sigmund
As for the second sentence, I don't recall using the word "irresponsible" in relation to the rest of the sentence. I do recall saying that a god incapable of making the world better than it is couldn't be omnipotent, which is a bit different than "irresponsible".


Your quote was, "Or perhaps this god does love me, but isn't able to do anything about how fucked up it's creation is, revealing itself as irresponsible."  That sentence is copied from your post dated "02-10-2007 08:21 PM".
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: John Morrow on February 17, 2007, 02:20:16 am
Quote from: Sigmund
Because it's all we have. Because it's hard-wired into our systems, just like it is most every other living thing.


No, really, it's not.  Psychopaths have no compulsion to behave morally even though they can understand prevailing morals.  They might make up about 4% of the population.  Other animals also have no compulsion to behave in ways that humans are hardwired to behave or consider moral.  There is an excellent scene in David Cronenberg's remake of The Fly that deals with that point.  Something that not even every human has is not a very solid foundation for objective morality.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Malleus Arianorum on February 17, 2007, 08:09:33 am
Quote from: Sigmund
You seem to be holding the bible up as proof of the divine, as many christians do, when in fact it is nothing of the kind.
Remember, if the Bible is true then Jesus' claim about people listening to but not hearing the word also has to be true. (i.e. Scripturaly it can't be the case that scripture converts everyone indiscriminately.)

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Chicken Soup for the Soul, Message in a Bottle, Lord of the Rings, Forrest Gump, Cars... all these and more have inspirational effects on people. This in and of itself does not make the media in any way "true". Just inspirational.
Still, no one lives for ever or reads every book so it's a good idea to rely on the recommendations of people you trust. In your list for example, I've read everything that was recommended to me.

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Where can I find documented proof of a "miracle of christ"?
Here's a good primer on Michele Di Ruberto, Undersecretary of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. (http://www.30giorni.it/us/articolo.asp?id=3664)

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Why does the 2000 years of the christian church carry more weight than the even longer histories of other religions?
'Cause seven other religion years is one Catholic year? j/k Seriously though, good question. The idea is not just that the Church is old but that she has integrity. Religions that flip flop or schism too much create a history that's a liability.

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How can I know she was "holy"? I do not dispute that she was very kind, compassionate, and helpful. Is this all it takes to be "holy"? Does that mean Ty Pennington and the Extreme Home Makeover crew are "holy" too?
Holy as in: dedicated to and set apart for a religious purpose? The Extreme Home Makeover shows I watched were dedicated to Sears. ;)

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Since Shakespeare wrote fiction, why is his work in any way relevant to this discussion? The Bard is no more relevant than Stephen King, Tolkien, or Danielle Steel.
Many of the stories in the Bible are fiction, but the point is that in literature the text exists to communicate the subtext. Without those texts their subtexts are lost.

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The bible, however, is presented as being written (through "divine inspiration") by god itself.
With either author you can read their works to get a sense of who they are. You don't have to have faith in Denmark and Jerusalem or Hamlet and Jesus to do that.

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Otherwise, I could write a "bible" too and contend that it was divinely inspired and who could prove me wrong?
There's the rub: you'll find it hard going without the history and credible group of followers to back your claims.

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There's nothing to convince me to believe that the authors of the bible were writing anything but common stories. In fact, based on other sources I have checked out that are apparently from the same time period there is plenty of evidence to support the belief that the bible as currently presented is at best incomplete and at worst in large part a deliberate deception.
When I was growing up the bible was false because Camels didn't migrate to Egypt until after Moses, then they found camels and the Bible is true again. Then they proved that the gospels were plagerized and the bible was false, but now that's false and the bible is true. Certainly the bible's history is not as tidy as some would like, but it's no pushover either.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on February 17, 2007, 11:58:35 am
Quote from: John Morrow
The problem is that this is a turtles all the way down argument.  That's what psychopaths illustrate.  If you remove the emotional component that forces people to care about things like resolving conflicts or a concern for security, those things suddenly don't matter.  In other words, you can build an extravagant utilitarian argument around these things that explain why they are important, but it will be build upon assumptions that are just as irrational.  What objective and purely rational reason do we have to care if we live or die, kill or save, reproduce or go extinct?  The universe certainly doesn't care and almost every rational theory of how the universe will end suggests that nothing we do will ever have any lasting meaning or consequences.  So, purely rationally, what's the point and why should we care?  Or are the psychopaths the only ones who are free from irrational constraints on their behavior?
...
Keep digging deeper.  What's the entirely rational core behind human rights and justice?  Why are any of those things important?  And when you come up with an answer, ask if it's entirely rational or build on feelings and irrational beliefs.  Then dig deeper and so on.  You'll find that it's turtles all the way down.

 
The universe's indifference to human suffering has no relevance for the question of whether concepts like 'justice' or 'human rights' are 'rational', 'meaningful', or 'objective'.  Why would you think this?  

Also, simply because emotions are important in order to motivate people to behave morally does not mean that morality is not in some meaningful sense 'rational' or 'objective'.  Indeed, even if morality is in some sense based on the emotions, it doesn't follow that morality cannot be evaluated and regulated by means of critical reason, or have something like 'objective' standing, at least for all human beings.  Turning to meta-ethics, whether one's some kind of (neo-)Kantian, naturalist realist, or expressivist/ quasi-realist about moral discouse, it seems that one can discuss and use concepts like 'human rights' and 'justice' without regarding them as 'fictions' or 'irrational'.

Furthermore, simply because something is 'based on emotions' doesn't mean that any 'irrational belief' is involved.  I like Guinness, I know that I like Guinness -- how is my positive attitude towards Guinness, and my belief about that attitude, entangled with any false beliefs?  Likewise, even if I thought that morality involved apropriate emotional responses to situations (say, something like what Hume and Smith thought), I could still use reason to know determine what morality consists in, critically evaluate it, and even reform it.

Anyhow, this question seems somewhat tangential to the subject of the thread.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on February 17, 2007, 12:02:48 pm
Quote from: John Morrow
No, really, it's not.  Psychopaths have no compulsion to behave morally even though they can understand prevailing morals.  They might make up about 4% of the population.   ...
Something that not even every human has is not a very solid foundation for objective morality.


Well, I don't know what you mean by 'foundation', but the fact that 4 percent of people lack moral emotions doesn't seem to me to have any bearing on whether morality can be considered 'rational' or 'objective' in any way.  It just means that, with respect to morality, some people are deficient in terms of appropriate pyschological motivation (just as some people are colour-blind, are prone to depression, etc.).
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on February 17, 2007, 12:08:38 pm
Quote from: JimBobOz
... Mill was a utilitarian, meaning that he was concerned with achieving the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people; there is, in pure utilitarianism, no distinguishing between means to the end of happiness, except insofar as the means achieve the ends...


Well interpreting Mill can be a tricky matter.  While he certainly thought that he was a utilitarian, there does appear to be some tension between his utilitarianism and the views he advanced in On Liberty, so much so that interpreters sometimes distinguish between 'Mill-the-utilitarian' and 'Mill-the-liberal'.  I've always found his utilitarianism rather unconvincing, but On Liberty inspiring.

Quote from: JimBobOz
...
 JS Mill was full of shit.


Relax, man.  I just included the quote because I liked it and think it's spot on.  I didn't mean to endorse utilitarianism or Mill's views more generally.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: John Morrow on February 17, 2007, 01:36:26 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
Well, I don't know what you mean by 'foundation', but the fact that 4 percent of people lack moral emotions doesn't seem to me to have any bearing on whether morality can be considered 'rational' or 'objective' in any way.

Yeah, actually it does.  Why?  Because it shows that if you eliminate the irrational emotional response that makes normal people care about morals, rational thought, alone, will not and can not take the place of that response and produce moral behavior.  

At the core of every philosophical moral model is the assumption that people care about the foundation assumption (e.g., Utilitarians assume that people care that others are happy, Libertarians assume that people care about liberty, etc.).  If a person doesn't care about the foundational assumption, the whole thing falls down and that's exactly what happens with psychopaths.  Moral arguments that are quite effective with people who do care and ineffective on psychopaths, even when they are very intelligent and rational individuals.

Or would you like to argue that unreasoned emotional responses are somehow rational?

Quote from: Akrasia
It just means that, with respect to morality, some people are deficient in terms of appropriate pyschological motivation (just as some people are colour-blind, are prone to depression, etc.).

Whatever label you want to put on it, the "pyschological motivation" is not rational but irrational.  It's an emotional response.  And any morality that is built upon that irrational core is not, itself, rational.  

Yes, it's a deficiency, but what they lack is irrational capacity, which should have no bearing at all on their morality if morality is rational, any more than being color-blind would affect my ability to enjoy listening to music if I claim that enjoyment of music is based entirely on listening to it and not vision.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: John Morrow on February 17, 2007, 02:12:29 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
The universe's indifference to human suffering has no relevance for the question of whether concepts like 'justice' or 'human rights' are 'rational', 'meaningful', or 'objective'.  Why would you think this?

Upon what rational, meaningful, or objective foundation can you build concepts like "justice" or "human rights"?  Does either concept make any sense if you don't presuppose that individuals do or should care?

Quote from: Akrasia
Also, simply because emotions are important in order to motivate people to behave morally does not mean that morality is not in some meaningful sense 'rational' or 'objective'.

Yeah, actually it does.  It means that without the emotional context, moral arguments carry no weight.  It's what that essay refers to as moral violations and conventional violations.  Without the emotional component, everything is a conventional violation and all morality is indistinguishable from mere social rules such as not talking with your mouth full.

Quote from: Akrasia
Indeed, even if morality is in some sense based on the emotions, it doesn't follow that morality cannot be evaluated and regulated by means of critical reason, or have something like 'objective' standing, at least for all human beings.

Ah, but "something like 'objective'" is not really objective.  It requires the emotional response to have any meaning, thus without the irrational emotional basis, it all falls down.  At it's core, it's all irrational.

Quote from: Akrasia
Turning to meta-ethics, whether one's some kind of (neo-)Kantian, naturalist realist, or expressivist/ quasi-realist about moral discouse, it seems that one can discuss and use concepts like 'human rights' and 'justice' without regarding them as 'fictions' or 'irrational'.

No, you can't.  Not unless the person you are discussing those concepts with shares the same irrational emotional response that you do, at which point you are mutually pretending that something that's simply a shared irrational emotional response is really some sort of objective truth.  Isn't that what you said was a bad thing?  If, on the other hand, you try to have your argument about "human rights" or "justice" with a psychopath, they'll laugh at you because it will all be meaningless to them.

There is an article that talks about police officers trying to convince a suspected mass murderer to tell them where his other victims were buried.  They used conventional moral arguments that appealed to his humanity and sense of justice (e.g., it would bring closure to the families of his victims).  Didn't work because he didn't care.  Then they learned how the psyhopathic mind works and tried a different tact.  Knowing that many psychopaths are narcissists, they told him that compared to other mass murderers like John Wayne Gacey, he was a nothing -- a small-fry amateur.  Then he started bragging about the other people he killed.

So if the person doesn't care about the foundational elements of the moral argument, the moral argument is meaningless to them.  That means that the argument carries no intrinsic objective weight without a shared irrational understanding.  That's a pretty flimsy foundation to build on, don't you think?

Quote from: Akrasia
Furthermore, simply because something is 'based on emotions' doesn't mean that any 'irrational belief' is involved.

It means that, at its core, it's irrational.  If you believe it's rational, that's where the "irrational belief" comes in.

Quote from: Akrasia
I like Guinness, I know that I like Guinness -- how is my positive attitude towards Guinness, and my belief about that attitude, entangled with any false beliefs?

It is if you start telling me that Guinness is objectively good or that your enjoyment of Guinness is rational.  Similarly, if you tell me that your morality, based upon irrational feelings, is objective or entirely rational, you are fooling yourself.  Put another way, do you really think moral philosophy is really not all that different from two role-players arguing whether Hero or GURPS is the objectively better system?

Quote from: Akrasia
Likewise, even if I thought that morality involved apropriate emotional responses to situations (say, something like what Hume and Smith thought), I could still use reason to know determine what morality consists in, critically evaluate it, and even reform it.

Yes, but ultimately you'd be defining the irrational, not explaining it.  And any attempt to rationally reform something that's at it's core irrational seems pretty irrational, does it not?

Quote from: Akrasia
Anyhow, this question seems somewhat tangential to the subject of the thread.

No.  Not really,  Part of the point of this thread is whether atheists and philosophers are more rational in their beliefs than religious people.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Kyle Aaron on February 17, 2007, 09:29:25 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
Relax, man.  I just included the quote because I liked it and think it's spot on.  I didn't mean to endorse utilitarianism or Mill's views more generally.

And by focusing on whether Mill was a true utilitarian or not, you neatly avoid contending with my questions:

I realise that in all discussions, when you want to look smart it's best to avoid the questions you have no answers for, and move the discussion into areas you have answers for - Aquinan philosophy, or whatever - but discussions will be more productive of truth and understanding - which you've said, quoting Mill, are your aims - if you contend with the questions actually raised. Otherwise, just go write an essay.

So, again:

If by "false belief" you don't mean "delusional", then what do you mean? What is the test of the "truth" of beliefs, if not the results those beliefs generate (happiness, misery, social integration or disintegration, etc)? If the test is the results, then in what sense is a belief which creates happiness "false"?
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on February 17, 2007, 11:44:43 pm
Quote from: John Morrow
Correct.  Imagine your friend who had the hard life.  If you could travel back in time and prevent them from ever being born, would you do it?


I'll go ahead and say yeah, despite knowing that the question is ultimately pointless because it presents an impossible situation, one that I know is impossible rendering my answer ultimately empty because unless it were to actually happen, I don't truely know how I would choose.

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I think that all of the relevant information is on the table that needs to be.  You acknowledge as much when you agree that you have a similar assessment concerning bringing children into the world below.


I do not agree.

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Are you making an argument that humans are not free moral agents and can't control themselves?


In respect to procreation, yes. Although there are and have been individuals who have been able to go their entire lives without experiencing sexual activity, they are a vast minority.

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Your statement implied that if things are messed up for a person and a being can do something about it but doesn't, then that being doesn't love the person.  There are cases where humans do not intervene in the lives of those they love because the cost of intervention is worse than the benefit.


Yet again you try to compare a limited human perspective with the perspective of this hypothetical omniscient and omnipotent god. What I'm saying is that a triple O god would have all the tools needed to create a world where things would never be messed up for anyone... ever. A human can screw up by intervening because they don't, and perhaps can't, have all the information they need to make the truely best choice. They have limited perspectives, personal experiences which color their perceptions, emotional baggage of their own. A perfect god would suffer none of these limitations.

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Your quote was, "Or perhaps this god does love me, but isn't able to do anything about how fucked up it's creation is, revealing itself as irresponsible."  That sentence is copied from your post dated "02-10-2007 08:21 PM".


Ok, so what you're saying is that by bringing a child into the world, despite knowing that the world can royally suck and not being able to do anything about it, is irresponsible, and that this can apply to human beings... yeah, I'll agree with that. We do it anyway because we are irresponsible quite often. Plus, we have children because to not have children rubs our base instincts of preservation of the species the wrong way.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on February 17, 2007, 11:57:16 pm
Quote from: John Morrow
No, really, it's not.  Psychopaths have no compulsion to behave morally even though they can understand prevailing morals.  They might make up about 4% of the population.  Other animals also have no compulsion to behave in ways that humans are hardwired to behave or consider moral.  There is an excellent scene in David Cronenberg's remake of The Fly that deals with that point.  Something that not even every human has is not a very solid foundation for objective morality.


Yes, it really is. Psychopaths are deviants who are damaged and in need of help. The vast majority of animals on the planet at least have an instinctual sense of value for their own lives, and a great many value the welfare of other members of their social community. I doubt animals do anything based on "morality" ever, they do things because they know on an instinctual level that it's the best chance they have to survive and perpetuate the species. I believe many people do things for much the same reason. Also, I would submit there are very few things that every human has. If that's to be the criteria for what is "moral", then that list is going to be very short.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on February 18, 2007, 12:25:55 am
Quote from: malleus arianorum
Remember, if the Bible is true then Jesus' claim about people listening to but not hearing the word also has to be true. (i.e. Scripturaly it can't be the case that scripture converts everyone indiscriminately.)


I don't get the point here apparently.

 
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Still, no one lives for ever or reads every book so it's a good idea to rely on the recommendations of people you trust. In your list for example, I've read everything that was recommended to me.


Ok, still don't see how being inspirational somehow makes something true.

 
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Here's a good primer on Michele Di Ruberto, Undersecretary of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. (http://www.30giorni.it/us/articolo.asp?id=3664)


Saw nothing there that would persuade me, even if I were to grant you the existence of "miracles", that these miracles were "of christ". Perhaps they were "of Odin", or "of Yosemite Sam".

 
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'Cause seven other religion years is one Catholic year? j/k Seriously though, good question. The idea is not just that the Church is old but that she has integrity. Religions that flip flop or schism too much create a history that's a liability.


While that may be true, I know of at least a couple religions much older than christianity who haven't flip flopped or schismed too much and still persist today with a number of adherents approaching or perhaps even surpassing those of christianity. Why are these not more valid because of their greater longevity?

 
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Holy as in: dedicated to and set apart for a religious purpose? The Extreme Home Makeover shows I watched were dedicated to Sears. ;)


Granted, MT would defintely considered herself to be dedicated to a "holy" cause, while the EHM crew certainly doesn't. Still, what is there to convince me that she wasn't just deluded, despite her benevolence and great works?

 
Quote
Many of the stories in the Bible are fiction, but the point is that in literature the text exists to communicate the subtext. Without those texts their subtexts are lost.


Actually, a great many protestant christians I know believe the bible to be the literal truth. Otherwise, I agree with you here. I still don't see anything that convinces me that god exists, but I do see that the bible has some value in communicating wisdom through storytelling.

 
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With either author you can read their works to get a sense of who they are. You don't have to have faith in Denmark and Jerusalem or Hamlet and Jesus to do that.


While this may be true, it still doesn't alter the fact that Shakespeare wrote what he and everyone else knows to be fiction, while the bible tries to convince me that it's descriptions of god and all are true.

 
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There's the rub: you'll find it hard going without the history and credible group of followers to back your claims.


While this may also be true, it still can be done. One can either be possessed of vast personal charisma, or one can ride the coat-tails of an already established religion.

 
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When I was growing up the bible was false because Camels didn't migrate to Egypt until after Moses, then they found camels and the Bible is true again. Then they proved that the gospels were plagerized and the bible was false, but now that's false and the bible is true. Certainly the bible's history is not as tidy as some would like, but it's no pushover either.


Yet the very reason the bible was compiled was due to disagreement about whether Jesus was divine, with the church split even then. So why isn't the eastern orthodox interpretation valid? Plus, were books omitted by the council of Nicea? Who can truely say anymore?
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: John Morrow on February 18, 2007, 12:42:07 am
I'm not responding to several points because either (A) we simply aren't going to see eye-to-eye on them and/or (B) I think you are being morally consistent, even if I don't agree with you.

Quote from: Sigmund
In respect to procreation, yes. Although there are and have been individuals who have been able to go their entire lives without experiencing sexual activity, they are a vast minority.


Both birth control and sterilization make it possible to have sexual activity without reproducing in most cases.  It's what's allowed the birth rate in the Western world (including Japan) to drop so low.  It's not as if everyone has suddenly taken a vow of celibacy.

Quote from: Sigmund
What I'm saying is that a triple O god would have all the tools needed to create a world where things would never be messed up for anyone... ever.


What would such a world look like or be like to live in?

Quote from: Sigmund
Ok, so what you're saying is that by bringing a child into the world, despite knowing that the world can royally suck and not being able to do anything about it, is irresponsible, and that this can apply to human beings... yeah, I'll agree with that.


I don't personally feel that way but it seems to be the logical extension of the positions that you've expressed.  That you accept them tells me that you are being consistent.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: John Morrow on February 18, 2007, 12:56:00 am
Quote from: Sigmund
Yes, it really is. Psychopaths are deviants who are damaged and in need of help.


That's a moral judgment that, in fact, many psychopaths would disagree with.  Their "damage" is that they lack any emotional compulsion to behave morally.  In other words, they are what people become without that irrational little part of their brain that compels them to want to be good.  And they look at everyone else and think they are irrational fools.

Quote from: Sigmund
The vast majority of animals on the planet at least have an instinctual sense of value for their own lives, and a great many value the welfare of other members of their social community.


Really, they don't, if for no other reason than the vast majority of animals on the planet are insects and fish, many of whom have no "social community" worth speaking about and they are quite willing to eat even their siblings.  Even many of the more intelligent mammals exhibit behavior that is amoral or immoral by human standards.  And then there are animals like bees that value the lives of their community above their own (they die when they sting) because the vast majority of bees also don't reproduce.

Quote from: Sigmund
I doubt animals do anything based on "morality" ever, they do things because they know on an instinctual level that it's the best chance they have to survive and perpetuate the species.  I believe many people do things for much the same reason.


If the animal is not a social animal, it's instincts and "morality" are often very different than human instincts.  And, ultimately, it doesn't make morality rational.  In fact, it pretty much acknowledges that it's instinctual.

Quote from: Sigmund
Also, I would submit there are very few things that every human has. If that's to be the criteria for what is "moral", then that list is going to be very short.


Correct.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on February 18, 2007, 07:45:10 am
Quote from: John Morrow
Yeah, actually it does.  Why?  Because it shows that if you eliminate the irrational emotional response that makes normal people care about morals, rational thought, alone, will not and can not take the place of that response and produce moral behavior.  

Whatever label you want to put on it, the "pyschological motivation" is not rational but irrational.  It's an emotional response.  And any morality that is built upon that irrational core is not, itself, rational…

 
Why are you assuming that ‘emotional responses’ are necessarily irrational?  This is a flawed assumption.  Many of our emotions might be either arational or even necessary for proper reasoning.

If certain emotional responses are necessary for good reasoning and decision-making (e.g. see Antonio Damasio’s Descartes’ Error), then your alleged challenge to moral theory as ‘irrational’ because it involves ‘emotional responses’ is a complete non-starter. Furthermore, there is no reason why moral philosophers cannot incorporate this fact into moral theory.  Indeed, many leading contemporary moral philosophers are doing precisely this.  In meta-ethics, expressivism/quasi-realism is based on precisely this kind of analysis of moral discourse, and yet does not yield the kind of moral scepticism that you seem to endorse.

Quote from: John Morrow

… it's a deficiency, but what they lack is irrational capacity, which should have no bearing at all on their morality if morality is rational…


Regarding the psychopaths that you seem to find so fascinating, it seems rather easy to say simply that such individuals, because of the absence of the relevant ‘moral emotions’ in them, are simply impaired when it comes to moral reasoning.

In short, you’re assuming that emotions are fundamentally irrational, and that emotions and reason are fundamentally distinct.  Both assumptions are wrong, and so your alleged challenge to moral theory (including concepts like ‘human rights’ and ‘justice’) is consequently wrong.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on February 18, 2007, 08:08:12 am
Quote from: JimBobOz

If a belief about something which is not true, a "false belief" is not "delusional", then what is? How do you distinguish "false beliefs" from "delusions"? And if you can't, you are saying that religious people - having what you call "false beliefs" - are delusional?


One can have a false belief simply because one makes a mistake or interprets the available evidence incorrectly.  A ‘delusional belief’ is a belief that one holds in the face of overwhelming evidence against it.  

Quote from: JimBobOz

What is the test of the truth of a belief? In science, the test is whether that belief - "hypothesis" - explains the data, whether it gives you good results. So if a religious belief gives the people good results - make them happy and well-socialised - isn't that belief in fact "true"? Isn't the test of the worth of something the results it gives?


The test of the truth of a belief is how well the evidence supports that belief, and/or what kinds of arguments (rational justifications) can be given in support of that belief.  In the case of the POE argument that has been the main subject of this thread, facts about the world (the existence of widespread suffering) provide one premise in an argument that concludes that a certain conception of God does not exist.  

I’ve never encountered a definition of ‘truth’ that held that it consisted in ‘happiness’.  It’s a complete nonstarter, if for no other reason than the fact that a single proposition cannot be both true and false.  That is, if my belief in astrology makes me feel happy, and thus astrology is ‘true’, but your belief that astrology is rubbish makes you feel happy, and thus astrology is ‘false’, we end up with the case that astrology is both ‘true’ and ‘false’ – but that’s patently impossible.   (In contrast the propositions ‘belief in astrology makes me happy’ and ‘belief that astrology is false makes you happy’ can both be true.)

Look, I’ll happily concede that false beliefs might be instrumentally useful in getting people to feel happy.  When children believe in Santa Claus, I’m sure they derive some happiness from that belief.  But that’s an entirely separate question from whether the belief itself is true or false.

Quote from: JimBobOz

So if a "false belief" makes people happy, is it not in some sense a "true belief"?  


No, it’s a false belief that makes people happy.  That’s all it is. If someone believes in astrology or that the earth is flat those beliefs might make him feel very happy, but his happiness does not render them ‘true’.

Quote from: JimBobOz

If the test of the truth of belief is not the results it gives (happiness, social integration, etc), then what is?


Whether that belief is supported by the available evidence and argument.  Beliefs, whether true or false, might have positive consequences.  But those positive consequences do not determine whether those beliefs are true or false.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on February 18, 2007, 09:53:17 am
Quote from: John Morrow
... At the core of every philosophical moral model is the assumption that people care about the foundation assumption (e.g., Utilitarians assume that people care that others are happy, Libertarians assume that people care about liberty, etc.).  If a person doesn't care about the foundational assumption, the whole thing falls down and that's exactly what happens with psychopaths.  Moral arguments that are quite effective with people who do care and ineffective on psychopaths, even when they are very intelligent and rational individuals...


This is actually false.  You're confusing questions of moral justification with questions of moral motivation in the above passage (indeed, your entire analysis seems to rest on this confusion).  

While the two kinds of questions are clearly related, they are nonetheless distinct.  In particular, consequentialists (including of course utilitarians) explicitly distinguish between the justification of a moral theory (in the case of utilitarianism, the notion that happiness/pleasure is the one 'intrinsically good thing') and the question of how to get people motivated to act in accordance with what morality requires (maximising overall happiness).  

In the case of utilitarianism, the question of motivation is wholly separate from the question of utilitarianism's philosophical justification -- so much so that many utilitarians argue that getting people to do the 'right thing' for incorrect reasons can be morally required (under the right circumstances).  In addition, the utilitarian philosopher Henry Sidgwick famously pointed out that, based on individual reason alone, there is no compelling reason to be either a rational egoist (as per the psychopaths that you make such a big deal about) or a universal hedonist (i.e. a utilitarian).  Nonetheless, Sidgwick felt that this fact in no way undermined the 'objectivity' and 'universal applicability' of utilitarian moral theory -- and he was perfectly right to do so.

Now some moral theories (e.g. Kant's) do hold that motivation is a necessary part of moral justification (i.e. if something is required morally it ought to motivate us on the basis of reason alone, at least in some sense).  But again, a more sophisticated understanding of the relation between the emotions and rational deliberation -- including the cognitive role of emotions in decision making -- could yield a modified version of Kantian ethics (or 'contractualism' more broadly speaking) capable of withstanding the concerns that you raise.  This would require pointing out that Kant's own model of rational deliberation was incorrect insofar as it failed to incorporate the necessary cognitive and affective funtions of the emotions into it, and revise it accordingly.

In short, your point about moral motivation has absolutely no force against most consequentialist theories, and while it should worry philosophers attached to a broadly Kantian approach in ethics, it looks like a worry that can be resolved.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on February 18, 2007, 11:34:28 am
Quote from: John Morrow
I'm not responding to several points because either (A) we simply aren't going to see eye-to-eye on them and/or (B) I think you are being morally consistent, even if I don't agree with you.


Fair enough.

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Both birth control and sterilization make it possible to have sexual activity without reproducing in most cases.  It's what's allowed the birth rate in the Western world (including Japan) to drop so low.  It's not as if everyone has suddenly taken a vow of celibacy.


This actually supports my point. That we have used our greatest natural weapon to circumvent the biology of reproduction simply shows how strong our instinct is to engage in reproductive activity, even if reproduction is not our conscious goal at the time.

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What would such a world look like or be like to live in?


As I'm not an all-knowing god, I have no idea.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on February 18, 2007, 11:48:32 am
Quote from: John Morrow
That's a moral judgment that, in fact, many psychopaths would disagree with.  Their "damage" is that they lack any emotional compulsion to behave morally.  In other words, they are what people become without that irrational little part of their brain that compels them to want to be good.  And they look at everyone else and think they are irrational fools.


Forgive me if I don't put much stock in the moral judgement of psychopaths. Also, lacking moral compulsion is often not the only damage they suffer. Plus, I wouldn't actually call our instinctual drives irrational, as they are tools that have evolved with us in order for us to survive both as individuals and as a species.

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Really, they don't, if for no other reason than the vast majority of animals on the planet are insects and fish, many of whom have no "social community" worth speaking about and they are quite willing to eat even their siblings.  Even many of the more intelligent mammals exhibit behavior that is amoral or immoral by human standards.  And then there are animals like bees that value the lives of their community above their own (they die when they sting) because the vast majority of bees also don't reproduce.


Yet even many insects and fish do have social communities, and even those that don't rarely engage in activity which would threaten to destroy either their own, or any other species. On the contrary, they normally take only what they need to survive themselves. They don't appear to act out of malice or emotion. This is in their own best interests, as destroying their food sources would lead to their own destruction.

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If the animal is not a social animal, it's instincts and "morality" are often very different than human instincts.  And, ultimately, it doesn't make morality rational.  In fact, it pretty much acknowledges that it's instinctual.


 Who said morality is rational? I wouldn't really call it irrational either, as it seems to me to be outside of rational thought. It's a tool used to help us survive. Like any tool, it can used for both rational and irrational purposes. Otherwise, I agree that it is instinctual.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Hastur T. Fannon on February 18, 2007, 12:04:34 pm
Quote from: GRIM
Justice is a result of evolutionary psychology and the enforcement of what is best for the survival of the group, as are mercy and compassion. Love is simply how we experience sexual and emotional attachment as a participant rather than as a studier of it.


I'm not trying for the sociological proof of God's existence, even Lewis couldn't pull that one off

What I'm saying is that human beings tell each other stories to let each other know what it means to be human and how the universe works.  Some of the stories we call art, some we call science and some we call religion.  The "science" collection of stories are just inherently more reliable
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: John Morrow on February 19, 2007, 12:37:53 am
Quote from: Akrasia
Why are you assuming that ‘emotional responses’ are necessarily irrational?  This is a flawed assumption.  Many of our emotions might be either arational or even necessary for proper reasoning.

Not a flawed assumption at all.  

For the sake of argument, let's assume that emotions are not irrational but arational.  What does that change?  If a moral argument can stand on reason alone, then whey does it need to be built upon an emotional foundation?  And if it must be built upon an emotional foundation that cannot be replaced or explained by reason alone, then why is the label "irrational" inappropriate?

Quote from: Akrasia
If certain emotional responses are necessary for good reasoning and decision-making (e.g. see Antonio Damasio’s Descartes’ Error), then your alleged challenge to moral theory as ‘irrational’ because it involves ‘emotional responses’ is a complete non-starter.

I've looked at some reviews and comments on Damasio’s Descartes’ Error.  One review quotes his introduction as saying, "I had grown up accustomed to thinking that the mechanisms of reason existed in a separate province of the mind, where emotion should not be allowed to intrude, and when I thought of the brain behind that mind, I envisioned separate neural systems for reason and emotion ... But now I had before my eyes the coolest, least emotional, intelligent human being one might imagine, and yet his practical reason was so impaired that it produced, in the wanderings of daily life, a succession of mistakes, a perpetual violcation of what would be considered socially appropriate and personally advantageous."  If that's the basis for Damasio’s book, then I'd call it Damasio’s error.  

First, it's a big assumption to assume that his characterization of the person in question is correct.  Perhaps they are not as rational or emotionless as Damasio assumes.  

Second, assuming that he's correct about his characterization of the person, for the sake of argument, the reason why a perfectly emotionless and rational person could make any number of mistakes is that they are making apparently rational decisions based on missing, imperfect, or inaccurate knowledge.  

Third, Damasio is making the assumption that the person should care that they are violating socially appropriate and personally advantageous behavior and that it is somehow more rational to care that be indifferent to such violations.  I would argue that's simply Damasio's built in morality and values speaking.  Essentially, he's starting from a preconceived notion of what's right and wrong, good and bad.  

That's not an argument that emotional responses are "necessary for good reasoning and decision-making" or "necessary for proper reasoning".  It's an argument that emotional responses are necessary for being perceived as normal by people with those emotional responses and, possibly, an argument that emotional responses are required to be successful among people who have them (though there are plenty of successful psychopaths).  It all begs the question of why a person should care about being normal, socially acceptable, or even successful.  Independent of the values that both you and Damasio seem to be imposing on such people, there is nothing wrong with their reasoning.

Now, if you (and Damasio) want to acknowledge that reason, alone, does not produce good social and material outcomes for people, I'll agree with you.  But that doesn't mean that emotions are rational.  It means that rational though, alone, is inadequate for certain things that a human might want to do.  And I find it a curious sort of gymnastics that you both seem to be doing to claim that turning over decisions to emotions is rational.  And if a person's emotions tell them that God is real and it helps them to be successful and happy, is that rational, too?

Now, if you want to stick to Damasio and think I'm not doing him justice, why don't you try paraphrasing the ideas that you think support your point rather than dropping names in what amounts to an appeal to authority?

Quote from: Akrasia
Furthermore, there is no reason why moral philosophers cannot incorporate this fact into moral theory.

So it's a "fact" now?  Are you seriously making that claim?

Quote from: Akrasia
Indeed, many leading contemporary moral philosophers are doing precisely this.  In meta-ethics, expressivism/quasi-realism is based on precisely this kind of analysis of moral discourse, and yet does not yield the kind of moral scepticism that you seem to endorse.

What's wrong with moral skepticism and why are people so vigorously trying to run away from it?  Is it because it's irrational?  Because it's wrong?  Or because it just feels wrong or frightens people?

Quote from: Akrasia
Regarding the psychopaths that you seem to find so fascinating, it seems rather easy to say simply that such individuals, because of the absence of the relevant ‘moral emotions’ in them, are simply impaired when it comes to moral reasoning.

In what way are they impaired?  Did you read (or reread) the paper I posted a link to earlier?  You might also find this web page (http://cassiopaea.com/cassiopaea/psychopath.htm) interesting.  Essentially, the psychopath considers themselves to be at an advantage because they are not constrained by the burden of moral emotions and, frankly, a lot of examples suggest that they aren't always wrong.  So in what way is the psychopath impaired?

Quote from: Akrasia
In short, you’re assuming that emotions are fundamentally irrational, and that emotions and reason are fundamentally distinct.  Both assumptions are wrong, and so your alleged challenge to moral theory (including concepts like ‘human rights’ and ‘justice’) is consequently wrong.

Considering "emotional" and "rational" as opposites when it comes to moral reasoning should hardly be a socking idea to you.  Demasio admits to once thinking that way in the quote I presented earlier.  And I hardly think your reply has proved anything other than a philosopher can beg the question with the best of them.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: John Morrow on February 19, 2007, 01:13:49 am
Quote from: Akrasia
This is actually false.  You're confusing questions of moral justification with questions of moral motivation in the above passage (indeed, your entire analysis seems to rest on this confusion).

Not at all.  My point is that moral justifications seem to presuppose moral motivations and certain emotional responses and, as such, require those things because it asserts them as the foundation of the argument.  Without them, the justification fails.

Quote from: Akrasia
While the two kinds of questions are clearly related, they are nonetheless distinct.  In particular, consequentialists (including of course utilitarians) explicitly distinguish between the justification of a moral theory (in the case of utilitarianism, the notion that happiness/pleasure is the one 'intrinsically good thing') and the question of how to get people motivated to act in accordance with what morality requires (maximising overall happiness).

Ah, then you are totally missing my point.  I'm not talking about how how to get people "motivated to act in accordance with what morality requires".  What I am saying is that if you remove the assertion that "happiness/pleasure is the one 'intrinsically good thing'", for example, the whole utilitarian argument falls down (actually, I'd argue that utilitarianism further assumes that one should care about being good to others).  And that assertion is not rational.

Quote from: Akrasia
In addition, the utilitarian philosopher Henry Sidgwick famously pointed out that, based on individual reason alone, there is no compelling reason to be either a rational egoist (as per the psychopaths that you make such a big deal about) or a universal hedonist (i.e. a utilitarian).  Nonetheless, Sidgwick felt that this fact in no way undermined the 'objectivity' and 'universal applicability' of utilitarian moral theory -- and he was perfectly right to do so.

So Sidgewick is basically acknowledging that being a rational egoist is just as rational as being a utilitarian.  OK.  So what does that tell us?

Quote from: Akrasia
But again, a more sophisticated understanding of the relation between the emotions and rational deliberation -- including the cognitive role of emotions in decision making -- could yield a modified version of Kantian ethics (or 'contractualism' more broadly speaking) capable of withstanding the concerns that you raise.

What is the cognitive role of emotions?  How do they further rational thinking and true beliefs?

Quote from: Akrasia
In short, your point about moral motivation has absolutely no force against most consequentialist theories, and while it should worry philosophers attached to a broadly Kantian approach in ethics, it looks like a worry that can be resolved.

So if you define "rational thought" to include arational or even irrational emotions, then you don't have a problem.  Interesting.  

Maybe you should read Joshua Greene's philosophy dissertation (http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~jgreene/GreeneWJH/Greene-Dissertation.pdf) based on his findings during his research into the biological mechanism behind moral decisions because he talks at some length about how people build intricate arguments around things that boil down to, “Why do I say it’s wrong?  Because it’s clearly just wrong.  Isn’t that plain to see? It’s as if you’re putting a lemon in front of me and asking me why I say it’s yellow. What more is there to say?”
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: John Morrow on February 19, 2007, 01:33:15 am
Quote from: Sigmund
Forgive me if I don't put much stock in the moral judgement of psychopaths.


You don't have to trust their self-assessment.  You need only look at their success.

Quote from: Sigmund
Also, lacking moral compulsion is often not the only damage they suffer.


What other damage do they suffer?  Name a few specific things.

Quote from: Sigmund
Plus, I wouldn't actually call our instinctual drives irrational, as they are tools that have evolved with us in order for us to survive both as individuals and as a species.


And why should we want to survive both as individuals and as a species, especially if the world is as awful as you are claiming it is?  I find it humorous that you damn God for making the world so horrible yet you defend as rational instincts that mindlessly make us want to survive as individuals and as a species.  Huh?
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Malleus Arianorum on February 19, 2007, 04:50:46 am
Quote from: Akrasia
Well I don’t see how this escapes the basic challenge posed by the POE argument at all.
The PoE is only effective if it can masqurade it's own values as Catholic. The general form excludes those psudo-Catholic values.

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I’m not sure what you mean by this.  The ‘step’ (i.e. conclusion) of inductive versions of the POE is the result of assessing the likelihood that a deity that corresponds to the traditional monotheistic one could exist.
It is exactly that claim of correspondence that is unjustified. It's only basis is equivocation of the secular and theological meanings of benevolent. When the actual qualities of triple-o and God are compared the correspondence fails. (For example: does not allow deer to burn in forest fires VS. allows eternal torment in hell.)

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Inductive versions of the POE argument hold that, based on the available evidence, we have very good reasons to think that such an entity does not exist (just as, analogously, we have very good reasons to think that phlogiston doesn’t exist, or that the sun doesn’t go around the earth, etc.)...
Obviously a strawman like triple-o could never exist. It is the analogy between triple-o and God that remains unjustified.

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What is it to ‘choose’ to believe something?  Could I ‘choose’ to believe astrology... pixies... Thor and Loki...

I think one ought to believe what can be justified (and to the extent that it can be justified).  If I guide myself on the basis of that fundamental norm, I am not ‘free’ to believe in astrology, pixies, Thor and Loki … or the Christian God.  I am not free to believe these things because it would be irrational to do so.
 That is your choice. You had the option to use both senses (reason and revelation.) You chose follow only one of those senses and not the other. What I fail to see is why your personal choice is binding on me either as a mathematician or as a Catholic.

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What is frustrating about (at least many) religious people is that they try to limit their beliefs to what can be rationally justified in many aspects of their lives (e.g. they take medicine when sick, they believe that the earth is round, etc.), but when it comes to religious claims, their epistemic standards for believing something drop away.
Love makes us do crazy things. I love Jesus, I love my wife, I love my children and I love math. I can't rationally justify any of those relationships, but what am I supposed to do? Pretend they don't exist?

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Finally, I didn’t ‘ignore my conscience/revelation’ in coming to the conclusion that atheism was the most rationally justified metaphysical worldview available.  My conscience is fine – indeed, I would have ignored my conscience had I chosen to believe something that reason tells me is extremely unlikely to be true.  As for ‘revelation’ I’ve never experienced it, let alone ignored it, if by ‘revelation’ you mean some kind of supernatural experience.
Well call it whatever you want but it sounds like your conscience has no emotional or spiritual inclination? In that case we're both nothing more than the product of our consciences. You followed yours out of the church, I followed mine in.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Malleus Arianorum on February 19, 2007, 05:18:20 am
Quote from: Sigmund
I don't get the point here apparently.
I don't want to derail the thread but take a look at Matthew 13 where Jesus explains that some people recieve the word but nothing comes of it. Also notice that he speaks in parables to prevent some people from understanding and turning to him. I.e. despite what your Protestant friends may have said, it is a 'bibilical truth' that the Bible does not auto-convert everyone who reads it.

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Yet the very reason the bible was compiled was due to disagreement about whether Jesus was divine, with the church split even then. So why isn't the eastern orthodox interpretation valid? Plus, were books omitted by the council of Nicea? Who can truely say anymore?
The 'reason' the Bible was compiled was that the churches came out of hiding & persecution and got to compare notes. Secondly, although Arianism originated in the East it is not the teaching of the Orthodox Church. They retained Trinitarianism --the distinctive creed of Christianity. Lastly, you can be absolutely certain that books were excluded from the Canon (that was the whole point! ;) ) The challenge to Faith is: did they exclude rightly?
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on February 19, 2007, 09:06:31 am
Quote from: John Morrow
… If that's the basis for Damasio’s book, then I'd call it Damasio’s error…  


Well, whatever.  The fact of the matter is that there is a large literature and debate concerning the cognitive function of emotions.  I merely mentioned Damasio as one especially well-known representative.  Since this is a region in which there is more investigation to be done, it would be premature to assert any definitive conclusions one way or the other.  

However, you seem to be assuming that if the emotions play any necessary role in practical reasoning that somehow moral theory is dead.  Sorry to disappoint you, but this simply is not the case.  Many leading contemporary moral theorists accord to the emotions a necessary (though not sufficient) role without holding that the emotions are irrational, or that doing so undermines moral discourse.  

Quote from: John Morrow

Third, Damasio is making the assumption that the person should care that they are violating socially appropriate and personally advantageous behavior and that it is somehow more rational to care that be indifferent to such violations.  I would argue that's simply Damasio's built in morality and values speaking.  Essentially, he's starting from a preconceived notion of what's right and wrong, good and bad….

 
No, sorry.  The point is that in order to engage in effective practical reasoning certain emotions need to function in people.  There are a number of experiments that document that people with impaired emotional responses to certain environmental cues actually reason about risk far more poorly than people with those emotional responses (despite the fact that both sets of people seem equally able to ratiocinate).  Why should we think that it would be different in the case of psychopaths?  Both kinds of emotional deficiencies produce deficiencies in the ability of persons to engage in practical reason (in the one case, deliberations about risk, in the other case, deliberations about their relations with others).

Quote from: John Morrow

And I find it a curious sort of gymnastics that you both seem to be doing to claim that turning over decisions to emotions is rational.  And if a person's emotions tell them that God is real and it helps them to be successful and happy, is that rational, too? ….


It’s not ‘gymnastics’ at all.  Rather, you’re confusing what is generally known as ‘theoretical reason’ (roughly, observing phenomena from a third-person perspective -- judgements that concern what to believe) with ‘practical reason’ (roughly, deliberating from a ‘first-person’ perspective about ‘what to do’).

Now, I might from a third-person perspective form the belief (say, based on the work of Damasio and other neurologists) that certain ‘automatic’ emotional responses might be necessary for people to make good decisions in particular situations.  That’s a belief I have about the way people are.  But it doesn’t really tell me what to do (at least not by itself).  Moreover, that belief is not formed on the basis of the emotional responses of which it provides an account.  But it might lead me to hope that when I engage in practical reasoning that those emotional responses do kick in at the right time.  (By analogy, I might have a belief about the way in which the heart works.  My possession of that belief does not actually affect the way in which my heart works, but it surely can make me hope that my heart is working the way that it should!)

Quote from: John Morrow

Now, if you want to stick to Damasio and think I'm not doing him justice, why don't you try paraphrasing the ideas that you think support your point rather than dropping names in what amounts to an appeal to authority?
….


Believe it or not, I actually have a job.  So I apologise if sometimes I try to make a point quickly rather than explain it to your satisfaction.  

Quote from: John Morrow

So it's a "fact" now?  Are you seriously making that claim?
….

 
I think that there’s a fair amount of support for the view, but labelling it as a ‘fact’ may be premature.  

Quote from: John Morrow

What's wrong with moral skepticism and why are people so vigorously trying to run away from it?  Is it because it's irrational?  Because it's wrong?  Or because it just feels wrong or frightens people?...


I assume that you are advancing something like John Mackie’s ‘error theory’ of morality (roughly, that claims about moral properties refer to things that do not actually exist, and so are all in some sense ‘fictions’)?  

Fair enough, but you should know that that position in meta-ethics is a minority one, and is one that has been widely criticised in the decades since it was first advanced.  (Although I notice that your hero Joshua Greene seems to support some version of it).  I personally don’t find it convincing; or rather, I find at least two alternative meta-ethical views far more plausible, but it probably would not be helpful to get into those here.  

If you’d like a good survey of contemporary views in meta-ethics, I recommend the introduction to: S. Darwall, A. Gibbard, and P. Railton (eds.), Moral Discourse and Practice: Some Philosophical Approaches (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).   (Also, a short reply to Mackie’s error theory on behalf of moral realism can be found at: http://stopthatcrow.blogspot.com/2006/03/errors-of-error-theory-mackie.html .)

Frankly, though, even if some version of moral scepticism or error theory proved to be the correct account of moral discourse (i.e. the correct meta-ethical theory), it would not change my views about the non-existence of God at all (after all, Mackie also famously formulated the POE argument as a valid deductive argument in the mid 20th Century).

This is why I find this whole meta-ethical discussion orthogonal to the subject of this thread.  

Quote from: John Morrow

In what way are they impaired?  
….


They are not impaired in terms of pure ratiocination.  But they are impaired in terms of practical reasoning – just as people who (because of brain lesions) are impaired with respect to threat and risk assessment.

Quote from: John Morrow

Considering "emotional" and "rational" as opposites when it comes to moral reasoning should hardly be a socking idea to you...


It is neither socking nor shocking to me.  My overall point is merely that you seem to think that this one claim about psychopaths and the role of emotional responses in moral motivation is a devastating one for moral theory and necessarily yields moral scepticism.

Sorry, but that just isn’t the case.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on February 19, 2007, 09:39:17 am
Quote from: John Morrow
Not at all.  My point is that moral justifications seem to presuppose moral motivations ...


No, not for all meta-ethical theories.

There is a fundamental distinction between what is known as ‘internalism’ with respect to moral propositions and what is known as ‘externalism’.  

Internalists hold that in order for a moral proposition to be ‘correct’ it must be one that will motivate a properly situated individual.   Thus ‘Kantian’ internalists, for example, think that reason alone should provide this motivation (at least when one is reasoning well).  Now the orthodox Kantian view is one for which your point is an objection.  But even there, it may not be decisive, at least for moral philosophers willing to revise and rework a broadly Kantian moral theory to accommodate a cognitive function for emotions in practical reason (which may be fair enough if we come to conclude that Kant’s own account of practical reason is empirically unsupportable).  I don’t mean to defend this approach, but it strikes me as one not wholly without promise.

On the other hand, we have ‘externalism’ with respect to moral propositions.  And externalists hold that it is not a necessary condition for a moral proposition to be true that it motivates people (let alone all people).  So externalists simply deny your basic assumption.  And most consequentialists (including most utilitarians) are externalists about moral reasons.

Quote from: John Morrow

 …  What I am saying is that if you remove the assertion that "happiness/pleasure is the one 'intrinsically good thing'", for example, the whole utilitarian argument falls down (actually, I'd argue that utilitarianism further assumes that one should care about being good to others).  And that assertion is not rational.


I’m not sure what you’re trying to claim here.  The utilitarian merely holds that happiness/pleasure is the one thing that all sentient creatures seek for its own sake (even psychopaths).  When we combine this claim about objective value with a commitment to impartiality (the normative component of utilitarianism) we end up with utilitarianism.

How we motivate people to act in ways that will maximise overall utility over time is a wholly separate question.

Anyhow, I’m not trying to defend utilitarianism here, but I don’t think that it is in any way vulnerable to the objection that you’re trying to level against it.

Quote from: John Morrow

So Sidgewick is basically acknowledging that being a rational egoist is just as rational as being a utilitarian.  OK.  So what does that tell us?


Well, very crudely, Sidgwick thought that rational egoists were emotionally impaired, since they lacked a sense of ‘humanity’ and ‘sympathy’ despite being fully rational.  Consequently, utilitarians should design institutions and practices that cultivate a sense of sympathy as much as possible in people, and also design institutions that deter and punish those people (psychopaths) in whom this capacity is absent, in order to better maximise overall happiness in society.

Quote from: John Morrow

What is the cognitive role of emotions?  How do they further rational thinking and true beliefs?


Read my previous post.  Look at the work of Damasio and other neurologists and cognitive scientists working in this area.  It’s a complicated topic.

But the short answer is that they don’t help us form ‘true beliefs’ in terms of explaining the way the world works.  Rather, they help in practical deliberation (i.e. deciding ‘what to do’ in particular circumstances) because they make certain features of our environment (internal and external) especially salient (often in ways that aren’t explicit to us).  In various ‘gambling experiments’, for example, people with impaired emotional responses to subtle environment cues performed far more poorly when deliberating about what to do than people with healthy or ‘normal’ emotional responses.  The ratiocinating of both sets of people, in contrast, was comparable.

Quote from: John Morrow

So if you define "rational thought" to include arational or even irrational emotions, then you don't have a problem.  Interesting.  


I’m sorry you misunderstood me earlier.  Hopefully things are clearer now.

Quote from: John Morrow

Maybe you should read Joshua Greene's philosophy dissertation (http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~jgreene/GreeneWJH/Greene-Dissertation.pdf) based on his findings during his research into the biological mechanism behind moral decisions because he talks at some length about how people build intricate arguments around things that boil down to, “Why do I say it’s wrong?  Because it’s clearly just wrong.  Isn’t that plain to see? It’s as if you’re putting a lemon in front of me and asking me why I say it’s yellow. What more is there to say?”


Maybe I should read Greene’s dissertation, but I find the quote irrelevant to the discussion.  I’ve read contemporary debates in meta-ethics, as I’m sure Greene has.  I can’t imagine that he managed to defend a dissertation at Princeton if he actually attributed such a simplistic view to people working in contemporary meta-ethics.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on February 19, 2007, 09:55:27 am
Quote from: malleus arianorum
...  It is exactly that claim of correspondence that is unjustified. It's only basis is equivocation of the secular and theological meanings of benevolent. When the actual qualities of triple-o and God are compared the correspondence fails. ...
...Obviously a strawman like triple-o could never exist. It is the analogy between triple-o and God that remains unjustified.

*sigh*  
The simple fact is that many Christian philosophers and theologians have taken the POE argument very seriously throughout the ages and even today.  I seem to understand what they're saying, their attempts to respond to the argument, etc.  Their understanding of 'God' appears to be challenged by the argument.  I've had 'real life' discussions with Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish philosophers on this topic.  Based on this accumulated experience, I simply do not buy your attempt to 'wave away' the argument because you think that the POE argument doesn't address your conception of God.  

In any case, I doubt that there is anything more that can be said about this matter.

Quote from: malleus arianorum
...
  That is your choice. You had the option to use both senses (reason and revelation.) You chose follow only one of those senses and not the other.

:confused:
How could it be a 'choice' if I don't have any sense of 'revelation'? Where is it located?  How do I 'exercise' it?  How do I distinguish it from 'wishful thinking'?  

Quote from: malleus arianorum
...
What I fail to see is why your personal choice is binding on me either as a mathematician or as a Catholic.


Hey man, go ahead and believe in pixies, Santa Claus, unicorns, astrology, or God.  Whatever.  I'm not trying take away your right to believe false things.

Quote from: malleus arianorum
...
 Well call it whatever you want but it sounds like your conscience has no emotional or spiritual inclination?


It has an 'emotional' component, of course.  But if by 'spiritual' you mean something supernatural in nature, well then I know that I've never experienced that.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on February 19, 2007, 10:01:04 am
John Morrow,

At the risk of repeating a point made earlier, but just to be clear: even if some version of moral scepticism or error theory proved to be the correct correct meta-ethical theory, it would not in any way change my view about the non-existence of God (how could it?), or my view that it would be better for me to know the truth about morality (viz. that it is only a 'fiction') than to persist in a false belief about it.

(Of course, as I've noted earlier, I don't find the reasons that you advance in favour of moral scepticism convincing, but that's a wholly separate matter.)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Hastur T. Fannon on February 19, 2007, 11:44:37 am
Quote from: Akrasia
*sigh*  
The simple fact is that many Christian philosophers and theologians have taken the POE argument very seriously throughout the ages and even today.  I seem to understand what they're saying, their attempts to respond to the argument, etc.  Their understanding of 'God' appears to be challenged by the argument.  I've had 'real life' discussions with Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish philosophers on this topic.  Based on this accumulated experience, I simply do not buy your attempt to 'wave away' the argument because you think that the POE argument doesn't address your conception of God.


What I think malleus is saying is that the PoE does not and has never presented a huge crisis for the Christian religion.  It's a first year theology or seminary problem - the Christian equivalent of the Zen primer koan "What is the sound of one hand clapping?"

One of it's uses is to illustrate how theological language has a more precise meaning than everyday language.  When used in a theological context "omnipotent" doesn't simply mean "all-powerful" and "benevolent" doesn't simply mean "nice"

I haven't waded back through this thread to see who first raised it and the context in which it is raised, but if anyone used it in an attempt to disprove the Christian concept of God (as if God is a theorem that can be proved or disproved!) then they've missed the point

Theology is an attempt to understand humanity's collective experience of God.  Christians understand God to be nice and all-powerful, but (as the PoE shows) this isn't consistant with our experience of the suffering we see in the world.  So something else is going on here and the formal description of the PoE is a great starting point to discuss all sorts of concepts surrounding, God, freedom, evil, good, etc., etc.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: John Morrow on February 19, 2007, 12:11:32 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
Well, whatever.  The fact of the matter is that there is a large literature and debate concerning the cognitive function of emotions.


I think, at this point, we are likely talking past each other.  I'll accept blame for that, since I've been talking in vague terms.  Let me try to correct that.

My argument is not that emotions are not useful nor is it that emotions are not a part of "normal" cognitive functions and moral reasoning.  I am specifically addressing your own comments concerning rational thinking and false beliefs and pointing out that, using such standards, I don't think any moral system fits the criteria that you have setting for reasoning that you personally find acceptable.  For example, much earlier in the thread, you wrote:

Quote from: Akrasia
What is it for a belief to be 'caused by excessively rational thinking'?  What the fuck is 'excessively rational thinking'?

I think that people should form beliefs on the basis of reason (evidence, logic, abduction, etc.).  Failing that, what beliefs they do have, if not based on reason, should at least be compatible with reason.  All other beliefs should be rejected.

If that makes me 'excessively rational' then that's a label I will gladly accept.


Now read the quote I posted from Damasio, "had grown up accustomed to thinking that the mechanisms of reason existed in a separate province of the mind, where emotion should not be allowed to intrude, and when I thought of the brain behind that mind, I envisioned separate neural systems for reason and emotion[.]"  First, I think that's what was meant by "excessively rational".  Second, I think the brain research by Joshua Greene and others suggest that reason and emotion really do exist in "separate neural systems".  So the question is where emotion fits in to your recipe for reason "(evidence, logic, abduction, etc.)".

Further, you claimed:

Quote from: Akrasia
But I should form my beliefs on the basis of the best arguments and evidence available. This is certainly compatible with recognising that I have limited evidence and cognitive abilities.


Quote from: Akrasia
So anyhow, here is a pretty general argument.

We have two possible explanations for everything in universe:

1.  An explanation that relies on a purely naturalist ontology (i.e. an explanation that posits solely a ‘naturalistic’ or ‘physicalist’ metaphysics; nothing exists that cannot, ultimately, be explained by the ‘laws of nature’).

2. An explanation that combines a naturalist and supernaturalist ontology (i.e. an explanation that posits supernatural entities, such as God or gods, angels, souls, pixies, or whatever, in addition to everything else).

Do we have any reason for preferring 2 over 1?

Well, to make a long but pretty straightforward story short, no. Engaging in some basic, very general abductive reasoning, we can see that 1 is all we need.  So we have no reason to go around positing the existence of unicorns, pixies, or gods.  (Actually, a stronger argument exists that naturalist and supernaturalist explanations are fundamentally incompatible, but I won’t get into that here.)


Finally, you wrote, "[... I]t does not require ‘faith’ to disbelieve (or simply not form a belief in the existence of) something for which there is no evidence (or that contradicts the available evidence)." and "All I’m asserting is the rather simple (indeed, trivial) point that a belief formed inductively (i.e. on the basis of available evidence and argument) is not a case of ‘faith’. So my belief, based on an evidential argument, that a certain conception of God is false is not a belief based on faith. That’s it."

Once you accept emotions and feelings as well as utility into the realm of what you accept as reason and evidence, you have essentially opened the door to claims that religion is a matter of reason and evidence and not simply faith.  On what basis do you argue that moral prohibitions against torturing puppies because it feels wrong or contributes to personal survival are wrong are matters of reason while a belief in God because it feels right and seems to contribute to personal survival is simply a matter of faith?

Quote from: Akrasia
However, you seem to be assuming that if the emotions play any necessary role in practical reasoning that somehow moral theory is dead.  Sorry to disappoint you, but this simply is not the case.  Many leading contemporary moral theorists accord to the emotions a necessary (though not sufficient) role without holding that the emotions are irrational, or that doing so undermines moral discourse.


On what basis do they claim that emotions are rational without getting into a turtles all the way down argument or begging the question?

Quote from: Akrasia
No, sorry.  The point is that in order to engage in effective practical reasoning certain emotions need to function in people.  There are a number of experiments that document that people with impaired emotional responses to certain environmental cues actually reason about risk far more poorly than people with those emotional responses (despite the fact that both sets of people seem equally able to ratiocinate).  Why should we think that it would be different in the case of psychopaths?


Because the evidence suggests that psychopaths often are quite successful and do quite well for themselves.  In other words, the defects that you are describing do not seem to be there.  Not all psychopaths are killers (or we would be in very big trouble with that 4% figure).  Many simply use others to get what they want and plenty are quite successful at it.  

Quote from: Akrasia
Both kinds of emotional deficiencies produce deficiencies in the ability of persons to engage in practical reason (in the one case, deliberations about risk, in the other case, deliberations about their relations with others).


And I think your assumption that the psychopath suffers "deficiencies" is not necessarily supported by the evidence.  As the one article I provided a link to says, "'Likeable,' 'Charming,' 'Intelligent,' 'Alert,' 'Impressive,' 'Confidence-inspiring,' and 'A great success with the ladies': These are the sorts of descriptions repeatedly used by Cleckley in his famous case-studies of psychopaths."  Dos that sound like someone suffering from deficiencies to you?  Later, the same article says, "Psychopaths seem to have in abundance the very traits most desired by normal persons. The untroubled self-confidence of the psychopath seems almost like an impossible dream and is generally what 'normal' people seek to acquire when they attend assertiveness training classes. In many instances, the magnetic attraction of the psychopath for members of the opposite sex seems almost supernatural."  Again, does this sound like a deficiency to you?

Now, after the first quote, the article goes on to add, "They are also, of course, 'irresponsible,' 'self-destructive,' and the like." but for those things to be bad, we need to assume that responsibility is good and that self-destruction is inherently bad and for the psychopath to be deficient, we need to show that they are worse, in this regard, than normal people.

As a final bit of evidence here, I'll point out that you can find victims groups and online communities of the victims of psychopaths yet the psychopaths who victimized them are often still victimizing others and need not such support groups.  Consider what that says about each group's deficiencies.

Quote from: Akrasia
It’s not ‘gymnastics’ at all.  Rather, you’re confusing what is generally known as ‘theoretical reason’ (roughly, observing phenomena from a third-person perspective -- judgements that concern what to believe) with ‘practical reason’ (roughly, deliberating from a ‘first-person’ perspective about ‘what to do’).


And what does it mean when the practical reason differs from the theoretical reason?

Quote from: Akrasia
But it might lead me to hope that when I engage in practical reasoning that those emotional responses do kick in at the right time.


So now we are on to "hope"?  

Quote from: Akrasia
Believe it or not, I actually have a job.  So I apologise if sometimes I try to make a point quickly rather than explain it to your satisfaction.


Oh, I understand that and I've tried to cut you a lot of slack because of that.  But you should at least do what you did below with John Mackie’s theory and provide a one sentence summary of what you think the connection is between the theory and the argument and/or what the theory says.

Quote from: Akrasia
I think that there’s a fair amount of support for the view, but labelling it as a ‘fact’ may be premature.


Then why did you do it?

Quote from: Akrasia
I assume that you are advancing something like John Mackie’s ‘error theory’ of morality (roughly, that claims about moral properties refer to things that do not actually exist, and so are all in some sense ‘fictions’)?


My claim is not that they don't exist.  My claim is that they don't exist within the realm of evidence and reason that you've advocated much earlier in this thread.

Quote from: Akrasia
Fair enough, but you should know that that position in meta-ethics is a minority one, and is one that has been widely criticised in the decades since it was first advanced.  (Although I notice that your hero Joshua Greene seems to support some version of it).  I personally don’t find it convincing; or rather, I find at least two alternative meta-ethical views far more plausible, but it probably would not be helpful to get into those here.


Oh, I think that Joshua Greene is quite wrong, however I think he's doing an excellent job of following your criteria for what constitutes evidence and beliefs based upon evidence rather than faith.  Please bear in mind that Joshua Greene's primary field is neurobiology and he's trying to find some purely rational basis for morality.  What is he missing that you think he should be doing?

Quote from: Akrasia
If you’d like a good survey of contemporary views in meta-ethics, I recommend the introduction to: S. Darwall, A. Gibbard, and P. Railton (eds.), Moral Discourse and Practice: Some Philosophical Approaches (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).


Thanks for the recommendation.

Quote from: Akrasia
(Also, a short reply to Mackie’s error theory on behalf of moral realism can be found at: http://stopthatcrow.blogspot.com/2006/03/errors-of-error-theory-mackie.html .)


All I'll say here is that I'd suggest rereading that paper on psychopaths ("Is It Irrational to Be Amoral?") and doing some additional research into Psychopaths as described and defined by Robert Hare and then reread the arguments made on that web page.

Quote from: Akrasia
Frankly, though, even if some version of moral scepticism or error theory proved to be the correct account of moral discourse (i.e. the correct meta-ethical theory), it would not change my views about the non-existence of God at all (after all, Mackie also famously formulated the POE argument as a valid deductive argument in the mid 20th Century).


Not directly, no.

Quote from: Akrasia
This is why I find this whole meta-ethical discussion orthogonal to the subject of this thread.


There have been several major subjects discussed in this thread.

Quote from: Akrasia
It is neither socking nor shocking to me.  My overall point is merely that you seem to think that this one claim about psychopaths and the role of emotional responses in moral motivation is a devastating one for moral theory and necessarily yields moral scepticism.


I think it should yield moral skepticism if you apply the various constraints and other ideas that you've also expressed on this thread.  I'm sure that many philosophers and theologians can escape this problem.  I'm curious how you do.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: John Morrow on February 19, 2007, 12:19:16 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
At the risk of repeating a point made earlier, but just to be clear: even if some version of moral scepticism or error theory proved to be the correct correct meta-ethical theory, it would not in any way change my view about the non-existence of God (how could it?), or my view that it would be better for me to know the truth about morality (viz. that it is only a 'fiction') than to persist in a false belief about it.


Ah, that I don't agree with.  To address the "how could it?", it could by my making you take another look at the validity of various assumptions that you hold.  To address the truth issue, I think you simply need to consider what it would mean to your world view if you were to suddenly belief that moral skepticism were correct.  Are you suggesting that nothing would change?

Quote from: Akrasia
(Of course, as I've noted earlier, I don't find the reasons that you advance in favour of moral scepticism convincing, but that's a wholly separate matter.)


Why don't you find them convincing?  For purely rational reasons or are there other components involved?  That's why, for example, I called you on talking about something as a "fact" when even you later admitted it was premature to do so.  Why are you overstating evidence to support your point?
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Koltar on February 19, 2007, 12:21:06 pm
I used to be an atheist .

 That changed recently. Less than  5 years ago.

Being an atheist is still a valid choice , most of the time.

- E.W.C.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: John Morrow on February 19, 2007, 01:07:36 pm
Quote from: Akrasia
There is a fundamental distinction between what is known as ‘internalism’ with respect to moral propositions and what is known as ‘externalism’.

What I'm saying is that psychopaths seem to offer a third category.  I't not simply that the psychopath is not motivated by a moral theory but that they don't understand the point of the moral theory because of their lack of any motivation or feeling.  In other words, it's not simply that the moral theory is inadequate to motivate the psychopath.  It is unable to motivate the psychopath because they lack the emotional context necessary to understand it in any meaningful sense.  

Yes, a psychopath can understand that hitting your friend is wrong.  But for them, you might was well be arguing that speeding is wrong or chewing with your mouth open is wrong.  It's simply an arbitrary social convention to them.  The special quality that makes moral decisions so difficult and compelling for normal people is absent.  How can a moral proposition be "correct" when it's a meaningless and arbitrary position to a person who lacks any emotional compulsion to care about it?

To the psychopath, there seems to be little distinction between a moral question and an aesthetic question.  Thus, is the distinction between a moral question and an aesthetic question simply the emotional context of the moral question?  In fact, people treat aesthetic questions that produce an emotional response as if they were moral questions.

Quote from: Akrasia
I’m not sure what you’re trying to claim here.  The utilitarian merely holds that happiness/pleasure is the one thing that all sentient creatures seek for its own sake (even psychopaths).  When we combine this claim about objective value with a commitment to impartiality (the normative component of utilitarianism) we end up with utilitarianism.

Is the "normative component of utilitarianism" that falls down for the psychopath.  Not only do they not care about impartiality but they don't expect it from others.  You might as well tell them that it's good to make other people happy because it makes angels smile.

You should look at Greene's dissertation if, for no other reason, his blunt description of utilitarianism's liabilities is hilarious (just before he advocates a form of utilitarianism).

Quote from: Akrasia
Well, very crudely, Sidgwick thought that rational egoists were emotionally impaired, since they lacked a sense of ‘humanity’ and ‘sympathy’ despite being fully rational.  Consequently, utilitarians should design institutions and practices that cultivate a sense of sympathy as much as possible in people, and also design institutions that deter and punish those people (psychopaths) in whom this capacity is absent, in order to better maximise overall happiness in society.

But that presupposes that both humanity and sympathy are superior and their absence is an impairment.  While they do create some liabilities for the psychopath, they also create advantages, particularly against people with humanity and sympathy.  

Quote from: Akrasia
Read my previous post.  Look at the work of Damasio and other neurologists and cognitive scientists working in this area.  It’s a complicated topic.

Correct.  But most of the research that involves scanning human minds while they make moral decisions suggests that it's not an entirely rational process and at least some research suggests that we decide and then justify rather than considering and then deciding.

Quote from: Akrasia
But the short answer is that they don’t help us form ‘true beliefs’ in terms of explaining the way the world works.  Rather, they help in practical deliberation (i.e. deciding ‘what to do’ in particular circumstances) because they make certain features of our environment (internal and external) especially salient (often in ways that aren’t explicit to us).

Correct.  But as Greene and others (including game theorists) point out, they can be as much of a liability as help, guiding us to the wrong decisions.  And emotional responses can create false beliefs (such as a mother blaming her son's suicide on Dungeons and Dragons).  You may also want to look at human behavior related to responses during disasters.  

Quote from: Akrasia
In various ‘gambling experiments’, for example, people with impaired emotional responses to subtle environment cues performed far more poorly when deliberating about what to do than people with healthy or ‘normal’ emotional responses.  The ratiocinating of both sets of people, in contrast, was comparable.

Correct.  But all emotional impairment is not equivalent, nor equally disadvantageous.

Quote from: Akrasia
Maybe I should read Greene’s dissertation, but I find the quote irrelevant to the discussion.  I’ve read contemporary debates in meta-ethics, as I’m sure Greene has.  I can’t imagine that he managed to defend a dissertation at Princeton if he actually attributed such a simplistic view to people working in contemporary meta-ethics.

No, his argument is not that simplistic.  I understand if you don't read his dissertation (it's quite long) but I suspect it would be more valuable to you than any summary I could provide if you are really interested in what a researcher into the neurological roots of moral decisions thinks about moral philosophy.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on February 19, 2007, 01:20:16 pm
Quote from: John Morrow
You don't have to trust their self-assessment.  You need only look at their success.


Success at what?

Quote
What other damage do they suffer?  Name a few specific things.


Like the rest of us, they can run the gamut from emotional abuse, to physical abuse, to neglect, etc. They just do something different with it than the rest of us. Their problem is they lack the emotional responses healthy people do. Why? Are you trying to say psychopaths are actually the healthy people and the rest of us who do feel guilt and remorse are the damaged ones?

Quote
And why should we want to survive both as individuals and as a species, especially if the world is as awful as you are claiming it is?  I find it humorous that you damn God for making the world so horrible yet you defend as rational instincts that mindlessly make us want to survive as individuals and as a species.  Huh?


You apparently aren't reading what I wrote. I never said instincts were rational. What makes an instinctual urge rational or not is what we do with it. That we want to survive is instinctual. What happens after that is open to judgement. Also, I don't damn god, as I don't believe in god. I don't believe god made the world, so damning it would be silly and pointless. The world is the way it is... I simply hold up it's design as sufficient evidence of the non-existence of a specific idea of god. I don't need a god to find value in my own life, or to hold as valuable the lives of others.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on February 19, 2007, 01:31:22 pm
Quote from: malleus arianorum
I don't want to derail the thread but take a look at Matthew 13 where Jesus explains that some people recieve the word but nothing comes of it. Also notice that he speaks in parables to prevent some people from understanding and turning to him. I.e. despite what your Protestant friends may have said, it is a 'bibilical truth' that the Bible does not auto-convert everyone who reads it.


Well, obviously the bible doesn't "auto-convert", I've read it and I certainly wasn't converted. I just don't understand what that has to do with the bible's validity.

 
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The 'reason' the Bible was compiled was that the churches came out of hiding & persecution and got to compare notes. Secondly, although Arianism originated in the East it is not the teaching of the Orthodox Church. They retained Trinitarianism --the distinctive creed of Christianity.


The reason the bible was compiled was because Emperor Constantine wanted a unified state religion and felt an "official" religious text would be instrumental in that.

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Lastly, you can be absolutely certain that books were excluded from the Canon (that was the whole point! ;) ) The challenge to Faith is: did they exclude rightly?


That's part of my point. How do we know with reasonable certainty whether they excluded rightly? What made what was excluded less valid and why should I trust that they were qualified to judge that when a few centuries had past since Jesus lived?
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: John Morrow on February 19, 2007, 01:32:16 pm
Quote from: Sigmund
Success at what?


Playing other people who are not psychopaths as irrational fools.

Quote from: Sigmund
Like the rest of us, they can run the gamut from emotional abuse, to physical abuse, to neglect, etc. They just do something different with it than the rest of us. Their problem is they lack the emotional responses healthy people do. Why? Are you trying to say psychopaths are actually the healthy people and the rest of us who do feel guilt and remorse are the damaged ones?


I'm trying to say that there are benefits and liabilities to being either normal or a psychopath and it is by no means a given that the psychopath suffers a net deficiency.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on February 19, 2007, 02:41:15 pm
Quote from: John Morrow
Playing other people who are not psychopaths as irrational fools.


And this success is supposed to indicate what exactly?

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I'm trying to say that there are benefits and liabilities to being either normal or a psychopath and it is by no means a given that the psychopath suffers a net deficiency.


It is to me, mainly because what they gain doesn't equal what they lack. For someone who defends god and morality so vigorously, you seem to have quite a bit of admiration for a segment of the population that is entirely lacking in the one thing that makes life so worth living... that being meaningful relationships with other people. While psychopaths can win friends and influence people through charm and wit and likeability, they use these as tools of manipulation to further their entirely self-centered goals, unlike people who are truely charming, witty, and likeable naturally. The value of what I'm talking about will completely escape a psychopath, but then that's the point isn't it.

Remind me, why are we talking about psychopaths again? Was it because for some reason you don't believe life is valuable, or that it's somehow irrational to have a survival instinct?
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on February 19, 2007, 04:08:27 pm
Quote from: John Morrow

My argument is not that emotions are not useful nor is it that emotions are not a part of "normal" cognitive functions and moral reasoning.  I am specifically addressing your own comments concerning rational thinking and false beliefs and pointing out that, using such standards, I don't think any moral system fits the criteria that you have setting for reasoning that you personally find acceptable.  

So the question is where emotion fits in to your recipe for reason "(evidence, logic, abduction, etc.)"



I think that the distinction between ‘practical reason’ and ‘theoretical reason’ is key here (and apologise for not making this explicit earlier – the question whether God exists is a decidedly ‘theoretical one’, and so I had previously been focused on that approach to thinking about questions, whereas a number of moral theories ascribe a role to the emotions in terms of ‘practical reason’).  

Questions about what to believe are questions for theoretical reason.  Now, one can recognise that the moral psychology of individuals involves (perhaps necessarily) the emotions, while nonetheless forming theoretical beliefs about the nature of moral psychology (and moral discourse more generally) without engaging the emotions (or rather, positing claims in a manner that will be accessible to the theoretical reason of others, irrespective of their particular emotional responses).  These beliefs do not need to engage one's motivations (about 'what to do') in any way.

In short, the two perspectives are distinct.  My comments about how to form one’s beliefs all have to do with theoretical reason (which is compatible with recognising a key role for the emotions when one is deliberating about ‘what to do’).

Quote from: John Morrow

On what basis do they claim that emotions are rational without getting into a turtles all the way down argument or begging the question?...


I can’t explain every possible meta-ethical theory that can answer this question here (though I have some quick comments about this later on), but here is very crude and short answer for one view (viz. Adam Smith’s ‘impartial observer’ theory of morality): whether a moral proposition (e.g. ‘murdering an innocent person is wrong’) is true or false depends on how an ideally situated observer (with a fully ‘ideal’ human psychology, including emotional responses, etc.) would respond to cases in which an innocent person is murdered.  That’s just what morality is according to the ‘ideal observer’ theory of moral sentiments – it gives you the necessary conditions for testing moral propositions.  And it certainly doesn’t deny that some people might fail to be an ‘ideal observer’ in many ways (including the way in which psychopaths fail).

Now, keep in mind that I have (a.) grossly oversimplified the view for the sake of brevity, and (b.) think that this is one of the least plausible meta-ethical theories going (I chose it for its relative simplicity).  But it provides a complete naturalistic account of the nature of moral discourse, and in a way that grants a fundamental role to the emotions.

Quote from: John Morrow

Because the evidence suggests that psychopaths often are quite successful and do quite well for themselves.  In other words, the defects that you are describing do not seem to be there.  Not all psychopaths are killers (or we would be in very big trouble with that 4% figure).  Many simply use others to get what they want and plenty are quite successful at it…


Sure, I don’t deny that some (perhaps even most) psychopaths can be happy and ‘successful’.  But I’m not sure why the relative ‘success’ of psychopaths in living happy lives is relevant to the question of whether or not morality exists.

The concern that you describe is hardly a new one.  Worries about ‘cunning knaves’ and rational agents ‘getting away with immoral actions’ are hardly new (see Plato’s discussion of the ‘Ring of Gyges’ in The Republic).  Yet moral theory hardly collapsed 2500 years ago.

Quote from: John Morrow

Again, does this sound like a deficiency to you?

As a final bit of evidence here, I'll point out that you can find victims groups and online communities of the victims of psychopaths yet the psychopaths who victimized them are often still victimizing others and need not such support groups.  Consider what that says about each group's deficiencies. …


The fact that psychopaths lack a basic capacity for empathy is what their deficiency consists in – they lack a psychological feature that 96 percent of the population possesses, and that most people value (even if psychopaths don’t).  Moreover, it’s a feature that, were it not overwhelmingly dominant in the species, would very likely have led to our extinction some time ago (see, e.g., Brian Skyrm’s Evolution of the Social Contract).

Quote from: John Morrow

And what does it mean when the practical reason differs from the theoretical reason?


I’m not sure what you mean by this.  Do you have an example in mind?

Quote from: John Morrow

So now we are on to "hope"?  

Then why did you do it?


Now you’re being either pointlessly uncharitable or irritatingly nit-picky.  (The ‘hope’ in any case refers to my ‘hope’ that my emotional structure works properly; I don’t know whether it does right now, as I’ve never been subjected to the relevant tests.)

Quote from: John Morrow

All I'll say here is that I'd suggest rereading that paper on psychopaths ("Is It Irrational to Be Amoral?") and doing some additional research into Psychopaths as described and defined by Robert Hare and then reread the arguments made on that web page. .


Why is that ‘all you’ll say’?  You chastise me for not explaining things adequately, and then go on to make vague comments like this?  Why not just explain why you think that the paper refutes the arguments made on the web page?

Anyhow, I read that psychopaths paper a while ago (and, admittedly, very quickly).  While I found it very interesting (it is a good paper), I don’t recall anything in it that even addressed ‘moral realism’, let alone refuted it.  Perhaps I’m mistaken.  I’ll look at it again when I have some time.

Quote from: John Morrow

I think it should yield moral skepticism if you apply the various constraints and other ideas that you've also expressed on this thread.  I'm sure that many philosophers and theologians can escape this problem.  I'm curious how you do.


There are a number of possible meta-ethical theories out there:

1. Non-naturalist moral realism.
2. Naturalist non-reductionist moral realism.
3. Naturalist, reductionist moral realism.
4. Naturalist ‘expressivism’ (a.k.a. ‘quasi-realism’ or ‘projectivism’).
5. A ‘practical reason’ Kantian approach (some kind of ‘contractualism’).
6. A ‘practical reason’ Hobbesian approach (some kind of ‘contractarianism’).
7. Moral scepticism/error theory.
Etc.

Now, as far as I can tell, your whole point about psychopaths poses a serious problem for only theory 5 (and only a very ‘orthodox’ understanding of Kant’s moral theory).  I find 1 wholly implausible (for reasons I won’t get into here), and the difference between 6 & 7 often difficult to discern (although advocates of both views claim that there is a difference).  

Overall, I think that 2 and 4 are most plausible.  Neither one is a form of ‘moral scepticism’, and neither one is in any way adversely affected by your point concerning psychopaths.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: John Morrow on February 19, 2007, 04:11:52 pm
Quote from: Sigmund
And this success is supposed to indicate what exactly?


Follow the thread back to where that line of discussion started.  You wrote, "Yes, it really is. Psychopaths are deviants who are damaged and in need of help."  Why do you think they need help?

Quote from: Sigmund
It is to me, mainly because what they gain doesn't equal what they lack.


By what measure are you making that assessment?

Quote from: Sigmund
For someone who defends god and morality so vigorously, you seem to have quite a bit of admiration for a segment of the population that is entirely lacking in the one thing that makes life so worth living... that being meaningful relationships with other people.


I don't admire them at all.  I think they are an excellent model for evil sentient creatures in role-playing games, which is how I came upon various research into  them.  But I also don't think that assessment can be supported based simply on entirely rational and grounds which often seem to wind up boiling down to some variant of utilitarianism.  I'm curious if there is some angle to this that I'm missing.

Quote from: Sigmund
While psychopaths can win friends and influence people through charm and wit and likeability, they use these as tools of manipulation to further their entirely self-centered goals, unlike people who are truely charming, witty, and likeable naturally. The value of what I'm talking about will completely escape a psychopath, but then that's the point isn't it.


Correct, though there is some evidence that normal people find some psychopathic characteristics appealing and attractive (consider why we use the word "cool" as a positive and what that means).

Quote from: Sigmund
Remind me, why are we talking about psychopaths again? Was it because for some reason you don't believe life is valuable, or that it's somehow irrational to have a survival instinct?


There is a scene in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy where Zaphod talks about removing Arthur Dent's brain (to give it to the mice) and replacing it with a robot brain that will say, "I'm confused" and "Where's the tea?" and Zaphod adds that nobody will notice the difference.  Arthur says, "I'll notice!" to which Zaphod replies, "No you won't.  You'll be programmed not to."

I believe that life is valuable and it's good to have a survival instinct.  And while you can explain that via evolutionary theory, all that really tells us is that we are programmed to feel that way, not that it is either rational or justified to think that way.  

What the psychopath shows us is someone who isn't programmed to feel moral thoughts won't develop them rationally, as this paper (http://www.hum.utah.edu/philosophy/faculty/nichols/Papers/PsychopathsFinal.htm) (the link I posted earlier is now broken but this one seems to work) describes.  As the paper discusses, the psychopath challenges "the idea that morality is based on reason or rationality rather than the emotions or cultural idiosyncrasies" or, I would add, the supernatural.
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on February 19, 2007, 04:16:00 pm
Quote from: John Morrow
Ah, that I don't agree with.  To address the "how could it?", it could by my making you take another look at the validity of various assumptions that you hold.  To address the truth issue, I think you simply need to consider what it would mean to your world view if you were to suddenly belief that moral skepticism were correct.  Are you suggesting that nothing would change?
...


Actually, not that much would change. :)

Interestingly, after presenting his argument in favour of 'error theory' in his book Ethics, Mackie devotes the rest of the book to arguing about what rules society should adopt to regulate relations among persons.  For all practical purposes, these 'rules' operate exactly like moral rules (and can be evaluated critically, revised, etc.).  So, while Mackie is keen to deny a certain metaphysical view about the nature of ethical propositions, in practice he ends up admitting that we need ethical-like rules in order to live in society (indeed, in order for society to even be possible).

Don't get me wrong: I would be disappointed if I learned that error theory (or some other version of moral scepticism) were the correct meta-ethical theory.  But I would still find it hard not to refer to concepts like 'justice' and 'human rights' in my interactions with the rest of humanity.

(In contrast, I find it rather easy to get by without supernatural concepts like 'God', 'angel', 'soul', etc.)
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Akrasia on February 19, 2007, 04:35:21 pm
Quote from: John Morrow
...  How can a moral proposition be "correct" when it's a meaningless and arbitrary position to a person who lacks any emotional compulsion to care about it?


It can be correct in precisely the same way that any other proposition can be correct even if plenty of people don’t understand it, or don’t act in ways that would demonstrate understanding.

E.g. There have been studies that show that a person whose brain has been damaged in a certain place can (a.) realise that they are thirsty, and (b.) know that the glass of water in front of them will get rid of their thirst, but (c.) nonetheless fail to drink it (because some aspect of their reasoning ability has been impaired).  Does this suddenly render the proposition ‘drinking water will end one’s thirst’ incorrect?  Please.

Quote from: John Morrow
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Is the "normative component of utilitarianism" that falls down for the psychopath.  Not only do they not care about impartiality but they don't expect it from others…


By ‘normative component’ I didn’t mean what ought to motivate people to act in certain ways (sorry for the confusion).  Rather, I was referring to the proper perspective (according to utilitarianism) from which judgements about whether a particular action or policy should be judged to be morally correct or incorrect should be made.

Quote from: John Morrow
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But that presupposes that both humanity and sympathy are superior and their absence is an impairment.  While they do create some liabilities for the psychopath, they also create advantages, particularly against people with humanity and sympathy.


Sure, and Sidgwick would not deny that.  His concern is with devising a system of moral rules that will apply to society as a whole.  This requires him to address the fact that some people simply will not be motivated to act morally (due to some emotional impairment, or whatever, despite being perfectly rational).  Thus the rules of morality have to address such aberrations, especially if their actions can be harmful to others.

Quote from: John Morrow
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Correct.  But as Greene and others (including game theorists) point out, they can be as much of a liability as help, guiding us to the wrong decisions.


Right, but they help more often they hinder (or at least they did under the circumstances in which they were beneficial in terms of species survival – it’s not clear whether they continue to be beneficial in contemporary society, although it seems likely that, on balance, they are).
Title: 10 Myths about atheism
Post by: Sigmund on February 19, 2007, 04:45:24 pm
Quote from: John Morrow
Follow the thread back to where that line of discussion started.  You wrote, "Yes, it really is. Psychopaths are deviants who are damaged and in need of help."  Why do you think they need help?


Because apparently it's in my nature to want to help those I perceive to be missing something. Because I know what they are missing when they don't.

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By what measure are you making that assessment?


By my own life experience. What do you use to measure the quality of experiences? Perhaps you can tell me specifically what you think they gain by their lack of gui