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Thread: Ask the atheist 3: Electric Boogaloo!

  1. #1

    Default Ask the atheist 3: Electric Boogaloo!

    It's that time again, kiddies. Time to ask the atheist! What is "Ask the Atheist" some of you might be asking? Okay, none of you are asking, but I'm telling you anyway since I'm a pedantic ass. It's basically a thread wherein you can ask questions of me, The Atheist. I have granted myself that title because, well, nobody else would do it for me. The thread is so-named because it is named in honor of a segment on a radio show I used to listen to regularly.

    But first, some ground rules:

    1) Other atheists are welcome and invited to participate.
    2) Don't try to turn this in to a game of "stump the heathen" or spend 2-3 pages copying and pasting misspelled drivel you found on some creationist site, it's just annoying and it has led to people being put on the moderated status
    3) Know your terms. Mako has, in the past, posted a diagram explaining what the difference is between an atheist and an agnostic. I've explained this several times as well. Please don't make us get out the chart. I'll explain the definitions in a bit, and please be careful to keep them in mind when you post. If your post indicates that you have your own definition of "agnostic" that does not conform with the ACTUAL definition, then I'm not going to reply to your post beyond referring you to "the rules". Doesn't matter what else you have to say, if you don't conform to the actual definitions, your post will be mentally filed in the recycle bin. Language and consistent word use is important.
    4) Don't use the word "evolutionist". It's not a real word, and it doesn't describe any actual person on Earth. Ditto with "Darwinist". It's made up to try to artificially put science and religion on the same playing field. Any mention of the words "evolutionist" or "Darwinist" will be summarily ignored, and I request that my fellow atheists do the same.

    Okay, now that the rules are out of the way, here's some definitions:

    Theism - the belief in a deity
    Atheism - lack of, or without belief in a deity
    Gnostic - a claim of specific knowledge in regards to the existence of a deity
    Agnostic - lack of, or without a specific claim of knowledge in regards to the existence of a deity

    Knowledge is based on empirical observation.
    Belief is specifically NOT based on empirical observation.

    Ergo, if you aren't sure if there's a god, that would fall under the spectrum of gnostic vs agnostic. If you aren't sure if you BELIEVE in a god, that falls under the spectrum of theist vs atheist. If you aren't sure you like being fixed with the label of "atheist", that just means you've bought in to the emotional baggage so many people have tried to strap on to the word.

    Basically, EVERYONE is an agnostic, because it's been several thousand years since god supposedly revealed himself to anyone, and that would be the only way to have a specific claim of knowledge. Knowing isn't the same as believing really, really hard. The guy in the mental hospital who thinks he's Eleanor Roosevelt believes really, really hard. But at no point has he ever, EVER any direct observational evidence that he is, in fact, the First Lady circa World War 2. So what it comes down to is this: do you BELIEVE there is a god? Yes? Then you're a theist. Are you not sure? Have you never really thought too much about it? Do you not give a rat's ass? Then congrats, you're an atheist.

    Edit: THE CHART! Click the link. Read the chart. Know the chart. Love the chart. Without the chart, you are nothing. Without you, the chart is nothing.

    So now, on to the questions.

    PS: I should mention, given that the definition for "atheist" is so broad, that means there's a LOT of people who fall under that category. Seriously, a metric assload, maybe more. So don't think that it's possible to categorize and identify what "all atheists think" or "what all atheists believe" or anything. It's really not possible. Nihilists and secular humanists (as an example) would both fall under the category of "atheist", but both are radically different in their beliefs.
    Last edited by bgi39jsjw0ggg; 08-May-2010 at 23:37.

  2. #2

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Akira View Post
    Question 1: Why are you an Atheist?
    It's what's called the "null hypothesis". Being an atheist is essentially a response to a theistic claim of the existence of a god, but since it's almost impossible to disprove the existence of something, especially something so ill-defined as "god", the burden of evidence rests with the person making the affirmative claim. That means, if someone claims that they believe in a god, the burden of proof is on them to demonstrate that they are right. Unless and until that happens, I'm going to stick with what is known as the "null hypothesis", which is the assertion that while such a being may in fact exist, I'm not about to go changing my life just because someone else says so. People make all sorts of claims about things that supposedly exist, from a myriad of deities (from god of Abraham and his various manifestations, to the Hindu gods, to the Shintoist spirits and gods that live in everything, to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, to Cthulhu who sleeps in R'lyeh and will one day devour us all), to unicorns, fairies, leprechauns, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and angels. While I don't rule out-of-hand that these things don't exist, I've been given no good reason to accept these things as real.

    As for god being ill-defined, I've heard so many contradictory statements as to the nature of this supposedly divine entity that I have no idea who or what the proponents actually worship. Is he an old, white-haired man who lives in the clouds? Is he some non-material supernatural being that interacts with our universe, which is by its very nature contradictory and cannot exist? The first step in demonstrating that god actually exists is to devise some actual properties to this supposed being possesses, but as of yet, nobody has done such a thing.

    I can't find it right now, but there was a huge list of previously believed-in deities that no longer have any followers. There were the classics like Zeus, Mithra, and Dionysus, but there were also others that we only know about through archeological study because the cultures that worshiped these gods no longer exist. Basically, I'm an atheist because there are theists. Someone believes in a god, and by definition, because I do not, that makes me an atheist. I don't believe that there are any gods or goddesses, be they the god of Abraham (Yahweh, Allah, etc), Zeus/Jupiter, the Egyptian gods Horus or Ra, or Quetzalcoatl, the destroyer deity of the Aztecs.

    I am an atheist because it is the default position, and I haven't been given enough reason to shift away from that. In reality, most of us ARE atheists to a certain extent. There's hundreds, even thousands of gods you've never heard of and therefore cannot possibly believe in. I simply apply the same position to ALL gods, not just the ones from "other religions".

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    Do you think Atheists an Theists should adopt a live and let live policy towards each other, especially in the government/public policy realms?

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChildishDaze View Post
    Do you think Atheists an Theists should adopt a live and let live policy towards each other, especially in the government/public policy realms?
    That would be called "secularism", and I would love it. It's expected in the US as per the Constitution, and while that's not the case in Canada, we expect it here and have roasted politicians for not playing along. You believe whatever you want, and even teach it to your kids if you feel it's necessary. Just keep it out of the classrooms, and don't try to use it as justification for any laws and I think most people would be thrilled with that. The ones that demand things like their particular religion be recognized or use their beliefs to restrict the lives of others is where you start to get real messy problems.

  6. #6
    Mako

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    Awesome, I was getting a bit bored here. My boyfriend was visiting so I missed the end of the last one.



    Quote Originally Posted by ChildishDaze View Post
    Do you think Atheists an Theists should adopt a live and let live policy towards each other, especially in the government/public policy realms?
    No. Theism is ruled by superstition and misplaced skepticism. You can't debate someone properly when their justification is an invisible friend in the clouds. Do I believe there should be state enforced atheism? No, I believe in education, not indoctrination.
    Theocracies have consistently shown to be oppressive and irrational. A government should be secular, and I whole heartedly agree with the concept of a separation between church and state.
    But the heart is that having a live and let live policy only benefits theists. If an idea needs to be held above scrutiny it's probably wrong. You should be able to question everything and expect an answer justifying it. The reason I'm an atheist is I see it as the logical conclusion with the information currently present, so excusing theists from criticism allows them to run wild with their irrationalities.

    <edit> My attempt at covering the four categories of knowledge and belief.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mako View Post
    Awesome, I was getting a bit bored here. My boyfriend was visiting so I missed the end of the last one.


    No. Theism is ruled by superstition and misplaced skepticism. You can't debate someone properly when their justification is an invisible friend in the clouds. Do I believe there should be state enforced atheism? No, I believe in education, not indoctrination.
    Theocracies have consistently shown to be oppressive and irrational. A government should be secular, and I whole heartedly agree with the concept of a separation between church and state.
    But the heart is that having a live and let live policy only benefits theists. If an idea needs to be held above scrutiny it's probably wrong. You should be able to question everything and expect an answer justifying it. The reason I'm an atheist is I see it as the logical conclusion with the information currently present, so excusing theists from criticism allows them to run wild with their irrationalities.
    That's an excellent point. There have been atheistic states that were total shitholes, like the Soviet Union and North Korea. The problem with those places isn't atheism, it's a complete lack of rationality. They simply replaced theistic worship with personality and political worship. The problem with North Korea isn't that they're TOO rational. I think we can all agree, there isn't enough rationality in either the Canadian or American governments. So when it comes to governance, yes - live and let live, but let rationality reign supreme.

    But in every day life, Mako is right. While I'm completely okay with someone going to church on Sundays and eating unleavened bread, religion itself is a mindset that opens people up to all sorts of other things. Rationality, skepticism and reason should be what we all strive for. People rarely put their religious beliefs in a box only to be taken out for Sunday liturgy, Easter and Christmas. When you believe something as fundamentally unproven as a religion like Christianity that makes specific, unproven claims about the nature of the universe, those beliefs still influence your daily decision making. And that can lead to serious problems, whether people want to admit it or not. Christians by definition have to make room in their brains for a fundamentally unsound view of how the universe operates, and those beliefs will affect other decisions. There's no way they CAN'T.

    With the exception of deistic religions (where the nature and desires of the grand architect are inherently unknowable), theistic religions all make claims as to the desires of some supernatural entity. At some point, people will be forced to make a choice on something important, and the supposed desires and intentions of this deity have to come in to play. When dealing with issues like the global economy, the environment or international politics and war, you can't just accept live and let live, you have to squash the unprovable and sometimes demonstrably false beliefs before you get another situation like the Middle East, where you have warring factions killing each other over a barely-hospitable tract of sand because 60 years ago, someone thought that God promised that land to the survivors of the Holocaust.

  8. #8

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    People religious faith does come into play in their decision making, it would have too. However, if the populace wants a government devoid of religious faith, they do not have to vote for that person. Course it is hard to find a politician in the USA who doesn't play to the religious groups in some extent. I can't recall anyone in our current government claiming to be Atheist, but I haven't looked hard either.

    Outside of government in everyday life people should be allowed to make decisions based on whatever they believe to be true. If science and logic guide them great, if faith in God, Gods or magical spirits guide them, great.

    I also don't see all my decision making being done on the singular basis of my faith. I pray for guidance, I read and analyze and ask questions, I apply what I believe are fundamental concepts of science, math,history and the rules of my chosen faith into my everyday life.

    Why then should someone feel compelled to insert their belief system into mine?
    Unless I misinterpreted your response, it would seem that letting me make decisions as i see fit would not be a good thing because I accept something as truth that science has not proven or dis-proven.

    Again though, I may have misunderstood the meaning.

    Two other questions, because I am headed out to go fishing and probably won't get back to read this till tonight. (sorry)

    Are ancient religious teachings the foundation of our modern Moral code?
    Ie, no killing, no stealing, no fucking around with another mans spouse, don't lie etc etc. I realize that one could argue that our ancient ancestry developed morals on their own without divine intervention. If I follow the Atheist path to it logical conclusion, than faith becomes a philosophy of living and the philosophy gave us the foundation of morals.

    To that end, If I did away with the teachings of my faith from my life and ran everything on pure logic, Would I than do everything to benefit myself with no regard for right and wrong?
    Not even regard, no concept of right and wrong, just logic decided usefulness or lack of usefulness and then determining the most logical way to handle the situation.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChildishDaze View Post
    People religious faith does come into play in their decision making, it would have too. However, if the populace wants a government devoid of religious faith, they do not have to vote for that person. Course it is hard to find a politician in the USA who doesn't play to the religious groups in some extent. I can't recall anyone in our current government claiming to be Atheist, but I haven't looked hard either.

    Outside of government in everyday life people should be allowed to make decisions based on whatever they believe to be true. If science and logic guide them great, if faith in God, Gods or magical spirits guide them, great.

    I also don't see all my decision making being done on the singular basis of my faith. I pray for guidance, I read and analyze and ask questions, I apply what I believe are fundamental concepts of science, math,history and the rules of my chosen faith into my everyday life.

    Why then should someone feel compelled to insert their belief system into mine?
    Unless I misinterpreted your response, it would seem that letting me make decisions as i see fit would not be a good thing because I accept something as truth that science has not proven or dis-proven.

    Again though, I may have misunderstood the meaning.

    Two other questions, because I am headed out to go fishing and probably won't get back to read this till tonight. (sorry)

    Are ancient religious teachings the foundation of our modern Moral code?
    Ie, no killing, no stealing, no fucking around with another mans spouse, don't lie etc etc. I realize that one could argue that our ancient ancestry developed morals on their own without divine intervention. If I follow the Atheist path to it logical conclusion, than faith becomes a philosophy of living and the philosophy gave us the foundation of morals.
    The existence of morality is irrelevant to the existance of any deity. Whether a belief system has good moral commandments or not has no effect on its validity.

    Morality is ingrained in the human mind either instinctively and/or through conditioning by society. Humans possess morality because it is neccessary for the benefit of each individual in a social group that they avoid causing each other harm. Societies where there are no ethics and justice system never last very long.



    Quote Originally Posted by ChildishDaze View Post
    To that end, If I did away with the teachings of my faith from my life and ran everything on pure logic, Would I than do everything to benefit myself with no regard for right and wrong?
    While our society has laws in place to ensure individual responsibility, we have mechanisms to circumvent this commonly referred to as "corporations". Plenty of tobacco company executives are Christians and knowingly work to promote products that kill thousands of people every year. Ditto any other corporation with a poor regard for morality. My point is that plenty of theists as well as atheists do things that harm others for their own profit. It applies to anyone.



    Quote Originally Posted by ChildishDaze View Post
    Not even regard, no concept of right and wrong, just logic decided usefulness or lack of usefulness and then determining the most logical way to handle the situation.
    So you're basically saying that if you abandoned your theistic beliefs you would use logic, reason and evidence to make your decisions rather than blindly following the particular moral guidelines of your religion? Isn't that a good thing?

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by bgi39jsjw0ggg View Post
    But in every day life, Mako is right. While I'm completely okay with someone going to church on Sundays and eating unleavened bread, religion itself is a mindset that opens people up to all sorts of other things. Rationality, skepticism and reason should be what we all strive for. People rarely put their religious beliefs in a box only to be taken out for Sunday liturgy, Easter and Christmas. When you believe something as fundamentally unproven as a religion like Christianity that makes specific, unproven claims about the nature of the universe, those beliefs still influence your daily decision making. And that can lead to serious problems, whether people want to admit it or not. Christians by definition have to make room in their brains for a fundamentally unsound view of how the universe operates, and those beliefs will affect other decisions. There's no way they CAN'T.
    Based on this paragraph, why do you preface it with saying "While I'm completely okay with someone going to church on Sundays and eating unleavened bread"? I ask because nothing else you say in the paragraph seems to support that statement.

    I think my interpretation of the phrase "live and let live" is different than how you and Mako might be interpreting it. I know from our past conversations that you have friends who are theists, and you don't keep that from letting yourself be friends with them. I also view Mako as a friend, and I am a theist and he is not. To me, that's what live and let live means...two people may not agree on how to live their lives, but that doesn't keep them from enjoying each other's company and forming relationships.

    I think the way you and Mako are interpreting it is saying that you have to accept someone else's beliefs as being right, something which I know neither of you do, understandably.

    So when you say you're "completely okay" with someone doing that, do you really just say that because it justifies you having relationships with people of different beliefs?

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