Why I Am An Atheist

Discussion of articles that appear in the magazine.

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henry quirk
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Post by henry quirk » Tue Jun 07, 2016 2:39 pm

"intellectually the case does not rest on the lack of evidence for God, or the bad behaviour of believers and religious institutions, but on the idea of God itself, which insofar as it is not entirely empty, is self-contradictory, and makes less sense than that which it purports to explain."

See, I think the above is a bad reason to be an atheist.

It's like sayin' 'I don't know what causes the bubblin' on the water's surface but I know it ain't fire cuz fire under the water can't happen'. Tell that to deep sea volcanic vents.

No, Tallis is wrong...we are evidence-seekers...only sensible, in the absence of evidence, to suspend judgment (agnosticism) or, with reservation, say there is no god (atheism).

Say it with me: ev-i-dence...gimme that good stuff.

What comprises evidence?

One clue: it ain't anecdotal (and it absolutely must be in keeping with the claim).

You tell me you have a ham sandwich in a box...nuthin' remarkable about the claim...I can accept the claim without actually seein' the sandwich...now, if you tell me you got a dancin', singin', ham sandwich in a box and you bet your ass I wanna see that...not gonna accept that claim till I see and hear the sandwich for myself, till I can examine that sandwich.

Seems only reasonable that I'd want the same when told there is a supranatural being responsible for designing, building, and sustaining the universe.

You say there's fire, but I smell no smoke, feel no heat, see no flame.

Evidence...eeeevvvviiiidddeeennnncccceeee.

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henry quirk
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Post by henry quirk » Tue Jun 07, 2016 2:46 pm

"The possibility is not ruled out; the evidence may yet be forthcoming."

Yes, there may be a fire, but before I'm gonna call the fire dept., I need some proof that the call is neccessary.

God may 'be'. I just want a little proof before I go and get myself baptized.

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henry quirk
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Post by henry quirk » Tue Jun 07, 2016 2:56 pm

"Tallis sums up this part by saying that the bad reasons are based on confusion between the metaphysical and institutional aspects. The claims and the prescriptions. Who is authorised, and what we should be guided to do."

At least when it comes to me: he's wrong.

My disbelief, based on a lack of evidence, is not about institutions, or perscriptions, or authority.

Again, and simply: believers say there's a fire...I say 'where?'.

I don't deny the possibility of fire...just not seein', smellin', feelin' it...so: I get on with with what must be done in the day-to-day and don't give the fire much thought...if it's there, I'll get burned eventually...if not: then I haven't wasted my finite time worryin' about it.

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Immanuel Can
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Re:

Post by Immanuel Can » Tue Jun 07, 2016 4:08 pm

henry quirk wrote:"intellectually the case does not rest on the lack of evidence for God, or the bad behaviour of believers and religious institutions, but on the idea of God itself, which insofar as it is not entirely empty, is self-contradictory, and makes less sense than that which it purports to explain."

See, I think the above is a bad reason to be an atheist.

Evidence...eeeevvvviiiidddeeennnncccceeee.
Ah, Henry...what a pleasure you are to have around, you crusty old bat. :D

Quite right.

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Lacewing
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Re: Why I Am An Atheist

Post by Lacewing » Tue Jun 07, 2016 4:29 pm

Thank you for your responses, Nick. It's very refreshing when someone is actually responsive to questions about their claims - even if it creates more questions.
Lacewing wrote: Then how is it that you think you can comprehend it at all... and think you know that it exists?
Nick_A wrote:How are some people open to the relationship between knowledge initiating with the world of forms and the devolution of knowledge into opinions...
Openness is good... but of course it's not "knowing". I'm inclined to think we know nothing.
Lacewing wrote:Also, can you please offer your perspective as to whether a "source of creation" has to be something that has thoughts and agendas? Why couldn't a "source of creation" simply be chemical? How is that less likely than a full-blown being?
Nick_A wrote:Consciousness creates universal laws.
Might it simply be "order"... rather than consciousness as we humans might define consciousness? Wouldn't our definition of consciousness encompass the ideas of determining "right" and "wrong" and "good" and "bad"? Why would a creative force assign such judgments? And if the "awareness" of such a force doesn't prescribe to all of that human stuff, what point is there in us trying to reduce it down to our limited understanding, and claiming to have some sort of special association with it, or awareness of it? It simply wouldn't matter. It would be a completely different frequency we can't even fathom in this physical world, nor do we ever need to.
Nick_A wrote:Both blind denial and blind belief are spirit killers. What of the young minority who sense the madness in both blind belief and blind denial and seek to become able to “see” for the sake of their need to experience meaning?
I think this is part of being human... and it appears that children and adults either ascend beyond it, or don't, based on the strength of some inner spirit or awareness within them. The circumstances just seem to be a stage that is set -- and in a sense, it is an illusion -- as a human spirit will not necessarily be held back by it. I wonder if we put too much focus on fighting circumstances and "stage sets"... as if that is the problem, rather than recognizing and empowering the true human spirit that is being manifested regardless of such physical mirages.

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Re: Why I Am An Atheist

Post by sthitapragya » Tue Jun 07, 2016 4:45 pm

Nick_A wrote:

However, the ineffable transcendent god beyond beyond time and space, incomprehensible for Man, and the source of creation, cannot be contradictory.
And this is how you delude yourself. If God is incomprehensible for Man, and beyond time and space, how do you even find out that He exists? His existence might not be contradictory, but your knowledge of Him is. You could never EVER know of such a god, unless you convince yourself, sorry, delude yourself into believing that you are special, have a special insight which allows you to see Him. Basically, you are pandering to you own pathetic need to be special.

I am telling you, your belief is purely psychological. You need God to make you feel special. Without that, you are nothing in your own eyes. That is the core issue. Focus on finding yourself. You won't need God if you do.

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Immanuel Can
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Re:

Post by Immanuel Can » Tue Jun 07, 2016 5:27 pm

henry quirk wrote:Evidence...eeeevvvviiiidddeeennnncccceeee.
Here are Mr. Tallis's reasons, as you've no doubt observed:

According to the religions in which I was brought up (though not, of course to all religions), God unites in His Person a risibly odd combination of properties...and he continues.

In this paragraph, as you can see if you check, he essentially he argues that if God is involved in really big things, he can't figure out how He could be also involved in small ones. Not only that, but he doesn't like "finger wagging priests" (although Mr. Tallis himself has already dismissed the idea of religious hypocrites as a good reason for atheism: see earlier). Then he makes a rather indirect allusion to Judaism -- the idea of a God who slays many on behalf of others, or something...it's hard to interpret him there. And he ends with the claim " [this conception], is an ontological monstrosity – like a chimera uniting the front end of a whale with the back end of a microbe."

But the "monstrosity" is clearly one of Tallis's own making. For one thing, there is no obvious sense in which a God could not be interested in things both big and small. None to be upset with priests, if the Name in which they speak is not legitimately being invoked. No reason to object to "slaying" if the Being in question is the Creator, and most importantly, no moral grounds on which Dr. Tallis can even object, since by his Atheism, no objective moral standard exists either.

He continues,

"A quick glance at the metaphysical claims associated with the 100 or so religions on offer at the present time shows that they are in profound and often bitter conflict. But unless you have been indoctrinated from birth into a particular religion you are forced to make a seemingly random choice in the Shopping Mall of Theological Ideas. If in the spirit of humility you seek what they have in common, very little of substance remains..."

But surely there's a very obvious rejoinder to this. Firstly, the presence of many opinions is completely uninformative as to matters of truth. There have been many opinions about the size of the universe: that doesn't mean that there's no universe, or that the universe has no size.

But secondly, what's to stop one of the answers being right, and all the others being wrong? That's exactly what happens in maths: there are an infinite number of wrong answers to 2 + 2. That doesn't mean that 4 is among the wrong answers. In any matter of fact, the same applies: no number of bad or wrong answers entails the non-existence of a right one.

He persists:

... the highest common factor between Christianity, Paganism, Hinduism, Jainism and all the other theisms is pretty small, and what little remains is incoherent.

But what basis does he offer us for thinking there should be reconcilable answers? Why would we think the truth must surely be found in the zone of overlap between errors? For example, is it the fault of science that it does not contain sufficient alchemy, or that it fails to respect the findings of phrenology? Surely not: those are errant and pseudo-scientific, so should not be taken into our assessment of real science. Rather, they should be eliminated. So why should all the errant religions be subsumed into our assessment of whatever is true about religion?

And some are surely errant, since they make mutually-contradictory and mutually exclusive claims. The Law of Non-Contradiction gives us that...we need no bigotry or prejudgment to know it's got to be true. We don't even need to decide WHICH religion could be true in order to know it: we just have to know logic.

But Mr. Tallis concludes,

To be a sincere agnostic you would have to be able to entertain the notion of a God who is infinite but has specific characteristics; unbounded, but distinct in some sense from His creation; who is a Being that has not been brought into being...

Well, no, , actually. To be an agnostic, all one would have to do is admit "I don't know how this works out." That's easy enough. But why would we regard the above descriptors as anything more than superficially paradoxical? For example, why cannot an "infinite" being also have "specific" characteristics? For example, if Materialists hold that everything is made up of "matter" and energy, is that not also infinite in amount but specific in nature? Where's the problem?

...who is omniscient, omnipotent and good and yet so constrained as to be unable or unwilling to create a world without evil;...

This is the old "Problem of Evil," of course. And it's as old as the Book of Job. Admitting that it is a challenge for any of us to process, it has been ably addressed many times...but Mr. Tallis must not read those books, I guess. I would refer him to Plantinga or Lewis, if for no other reason than to see that Theists are both aware of the problem and yet don't think it's the show-stopper he imagines.

...who is intelligent and yet has little in common with intelligent beings as we understand them...

This doesn't even rise to the level of surprising. After all, if we posit an intelligent Creator, why would it be surprising if some of His creation were also endowed with a (lesser) intelligence? That would actually seem quite reasonable.

... this unthinkability of the deity. But agnosticism requires one to keep in play the notion of a square circle. Not, I would think, worth the effort

Here he just makes a category error: he compares an intrinsic contradiction "square circle" with a concept he simply finds personally difficult to understand. It's like he's faulting the Deity for being insufficiently small for a mere human mind...like blaming the Pacific Ocean for being too large to drink, then going on to claim it cannot possibly exist therefore.

The universe is inexpressible and immeasurable. Is that a reason for thinking it doesn't exist?

Well, that's it. That's what he's got in the article. The rest, the earlier portion, is just outlining some of the arguments he finds poor...and I would argue he's quite right about those he rejects. But I'm disappointed with his arguments against God and even against Agnosticism. They're not very strong, not very compelling, and pretty easily dispatched. It would be a shame if such superficial objections kept him thinking that thinking more deeply about the issue were, as he says, "not...worth the effort."

The upshot: you're right. He's not using evidence. And he's not even using particularly compelling reason. And I'm sorry to see that, because I quite like a lot of what he writes. Even this article is quite clear-thinking and fair on the rejection of bad Atheist arguments. I have to commend him for that. But he's not strong at the end; and as you say, brings no evidence to bear.

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Re: Why I Am An Atheist

Post by Skip » Tue Jun 07, 2016 8:35 pm

So, are there any other good reasons for identifying as an atheist?
Note, I didn't say being one, because there may well be people who are atheists and don't know it yet, or haven't admitted it. There may be people who have never believed and don't think about the reasons. But when somebody dons the label voluntarily, in public, it's usually because they have arrived at a reasoned conclusion.

If we put aside the idolatry and disregard the claims of any particular religions regarding all named and particular gods, then we must each have personal reasons for rejecting - usually - the god we were taught to pray to in early childhood, and then all the other gods we heard about in adolescence.
That has to be a very subjective process, with a hefty emotional component. I very much doubt any 7-year-old suddenly stands up in Sunday school and says: "Prove He's real or I'm not doing the confirmation." The rejecting happens in stages and glimmers; everyone who became disillusioned with faith and its culture-specific object must have experienced certain landmark events. Most of these take place during the articulate and memory-retentive period between ages 6 and 15. The reflection comes later. The summary is often deferred for decades.

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Re: Why I Am An Atheist

Post by FlashDangerpants » Tue Jun 07, 2016 9:04 pm

Skip wrote:So, are there any other good reasons for identifying as an atheist?
Perhaps good enough will have to suffice.

When ultra committed atheists go on the offensive against faith they are usually no better than Nick or Walker. Strong arguments against religions target something that doesn't apply universally such as bodily reincarnation (a problem for some Christians but not all) or the frankly weird idea of a soul that is the real 'you'. Even the problem of evil doesn't apply to religions such as Zoroastrianism which includes a god of evil and thus has no problem to solve.

But the grand unified argument against all religion is surely impossible. The target is too nebulous.

The most we can logically conclude is that atheism overall is reasonable in the sense of not stupid. But atheism as infallible logical deduction is a lost cause. That said, the alternative is a choice between all religious beliefs being wrong, or merely a staggeringly overwhelming majority of them.

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Immanuel Can
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Re: Why I Am An Atheist

Post by Immanuel Can » Tue Jun 07, 2016 9:48 pm

FlashDangerpants wrote:The most we can logically conclude is that atheism overall is reasonable in the sense of not stupid.
Sort of like, "not irrational not to believe in what they don't know exists"? Okay, agreed: that seems not to be too much to grant.

But if that's all it is -- as opposed, say, to a vigorous, evidentiary belief against God -- then it would seem to be no more than the statement, "I personally don't know God exists," wouldn't it? And that's a statement that every Theist would happily grant the Atheist. That's one toothless tiger there. Because in that case it doesn't mean anything even remotely threatening to Theism. It just means the Atheist is confessing his or her own lack of knowledge. It doesn't imply anything for anyone else.

On the other hand, if the right paraphrase of the fundamental Atheist claim is something like, "I don't know God, so you can't either" that would surely be as absurd as the statement, "I don't know the Prime Minister, so you can't either." Or if it means, "I don't know God, so it's irrational to believe in God", then not only would that not follow logically, but it would obviously open up the Atheist to having to offer evidence or proofs of some kind...which they admit they cannot do. And surely it cannot mean, "I don't believe in God because I've proved He doesn't exist." Nobody's going to believe that, obviously.

So it seems clear that to remain actually rational, the version of Atheism in question can only be the statement, "I personally don't know God." Period.

Okay, then: granted. Who's going to bother questioning that? :shock: It's almost certainly true of anyone who says it.

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Re: Why I Am An Atheist

Post by Skip » Tue Jun 07, 2016 10:01 pm

FlashDangerpants wrote:
But the grand unified argument against all religion is surely impossible. The target is too nebulous.
Maybe. Still, those of us who do unequivocally identify as atheist have one. Perhaps each one has flaws that another could point out, but we've done our best to plug all the holes in our thinking.
For me, the process begins with the received information, which is internally inconsistent in each doctrine, as well as contradictory to all other doctrines, while the advocates of each claim universality. Second, we consider the sources of information. If you toss out all the self-serving, ridiculous and otherwise unreliable sources and the contradictory claims, you're left with no information. That means no subject to contemplate.

You don't have to go on to counter or debate or argue or oppose the advocates; you can just ignore them. Okay, to be fair, you can listen for the red-flag phrases - the familiar themes you're already discarded - and then ignore them.

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Re: Why I Am An Atheist

Post by FlashDangerpants » Tue Jun 07, 2016 10:15 pm

Immanuel Can wrote: So it seems clear that to remain actually rational, the version of Atheism in question can only be the statement, "I personally don't know God." Period.

Okay, then: granted. Who's going to bother questioning that? :shock: It's almost certainly true of anyone who says it.
Well yes. I agree. When I state that I am an atheist, I'm not fooling myself that I know there isn't a God, I just don't believe there is one, or many.

Arguments that it is ok to believe there is a God or that there is not occupy a similar logical space in that they have some hope of sustainability. Arguments that it is not ok to believe either of the above occupy the other potential space.

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Re: Why I Am An Atheist

Post by Nick_A » Tue Jun 07, 2016 10:46 pm

Lacewing wrote: Openness is good... but of course it's not "knowing". I'm inclined to think we know nothing.
I agree. Socrates knew it and look at all the problems it cost him. Be careful who you say that to. You may end up being intstitutionalized.

One thing I’ve noticed about atheists here who claim to respect logic; they openly commit the logical fallacy of false dilemma. There are only two choices for them: belief or denial.

"The mysteries of faith are degraded if they are made into an object of affirmation and negation, when in reality they should be an object of contemplation." Simone Weil

It seems neither a blind believer or blind denier appreciates what contemplation and pondering means other than from a superficial perspective. It is the natural alternative to arguing from a “false dilemma.” Yet, I guess if they could see it, they would no longer be blind believers and blind deniers.

Might it simply be "order"... rather than consciousness as we humans might define consciousness? Wouldn't our definition of consciousness encompass the ideas of determining "right" and "wrong" and "good" and "bad"? Why would a creative force assign such judgments?
Now this opens another can of worms. As I understand it, you re describing contents of consciousness. I believe we live in a conscious universe that has within it levels of consciousness or levels of inclusion. Take the opposing ideas of blind belief and blind denial for example and imagine them on opposite ends of a horizontal line. They can be reconciled by a quality of consciousness that is at the apex of a triangle formed by the ends of horizontal line rising up to meet. That would be higher consciousness or a level of conscious inclusion where both sides become “one.” So to make a long story short, contents of consciousness for me are expressions of levels of consciousness without content. It is within consciousness without content that universal laws are known and unite to create contents of consciousness.
In the Church, considered as a social organism, the mysteries inevitably degenerate into beliefs. - Simone Weil
That is what happens when a church becomes secularized. The mysteries degenerate into beliefs and all sort of idolatry. Then we end up with blind belief which is eventually opposed by blind denial and what you see is what you get. The real value of the non secularized essence of religion becomes known only by the few willing to accept the personal foundation and say: “I know nothing.”

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Re: Why I Am An Atheist

Post by Arising_uk » Tue Jun 07, 2016 11:51 pm

Ha! Ha! Ha!

Amazing that me an HQ are so much alike but so far apart. :)

I'm with him, people tell me their 'God' exists and I don't doubt they believe it, all I ask is 'show me it'. Not hard, like 'my cat exists'.

Otherwise I think they are using the word 'exists' in a very dubious manner.

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Re: Why I Am An Atheist

Post by Dalek Prime » Tue Jun 07, 2016 11:54 pm

Nick_A wrote:
Lacewing wrote: Openness is good... but of course it's not "knowing". I'm inclined to think we know nothing.
I agree. Socrates knew it and look at all the problems it cost him. Be careful who you say that to. You may end up being intstitutionalized.

One thing I’ve noticed about atheists here who claim to respect logic; they openly commit the logical fallacy of false dilemma. There are only two choices for them: belief or denial.

"The mysteries of faith are degraded if they are made into an object of affirmation and negation, when in reality they should be an object of contemplation." Simone Weil

It seems neither a blind believer or blind denier appreciates what contemplation and pondering means other than from a superficial perspective. It is the natural alternative to arguing from a “false dilemma.” Yet, I guess if they could see it, they would no longer be blind believers and blind deniers.

Might it simply be "order"... rather than consciousness as we humans might define consciousness? Wouldn't our definition of consciousness encompass the ideas of determining "right" and "wrong" and "good" and "bad"? Why would a creative force assign such judgments?
Now this opens another can of worms. As I understand it, you re describing contents of consciousness. I believe we live in a conscious universe that has within it levels of consciousness or levels of inclusion. Take the opposing ideas of blind belief and blind denial for example and imagine them on opposite ends of a horizontal line. They can be reconciled by a quality of consciousness that is at the apex of a triangle formed by the ends of horizontal line rising up to meet. That would be higher consciousness or a level of conscious inclusion where both sides become “one.” So to make a long story short, contents of consciousness for me are expressions of levels of consciousness without content. It is within consciousness without content that universal laws are known and unite to create contents of consciousness.
In the Church, considered as a social organism, the mysteries inevitably degenerate into beliefs. - Simone Weil
That is what happens when a church becomes secularized. The mysteries degenerate into beliefs and all sort of idolatry. Then we end up with blind belief which is eventually opposed by blind denial and what you see is what you get. The real value of the non secularized essence of religion becomes known only by the few willing to accept the personal foundation and say: “I know nothing.”
Nick, I've already explained twice elsewhere why the universe can't possibly be conscious. Either refute my explanation, or shut up about it.

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