Mail bin: arguing with the FAQ »« Sunday’s Caller and Public Response: Confirmation is not a Rebuttal

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      • Lord Narf says

        I think maybe he meant the last call of the show. Pushing pre-sup bullshit with 2 minutes to go. Heh. That’s when you just say, screw it, I’ll call back next week.

        In which case, my reaction would be to pull up your third post in the debate and run down those problems you brought up, at the end. See what the guy has to say about those.

        • says

          It’s not a bad point, really. We don’t have to go through presup 101 each time. The caller is free to write a rebuttal/response to Russell’s breakdown already, and then we can proceed from there.

          • Lord Narf says

            Yeah, Russel came up with a bunch of good objections to the core of pre-sup apologetics, and none of them were ever addressed.

          • sonorus says

            I think the answer that theists just can’t except is “I don’t know and I’m okay with not knowing”. What was there “before” the big bang. Forget the before part, which I realize is a trap, but we don’t know. We probably can’t know. I’m not freaked out by that. i think most theists are. God fills in the gaps of knowledge for them. if it doesn’t make sense of if we can’t figure it out (at least not yet) then “god did it” is their answer. (God of the gaps.) When you don’t have anything to plug the holes in what we already know or can prove, they can’t understand why you don’t have anything to stick in there. I don’t need a placeholder. There are things we just don’t know. Maybe on day we will. Maybe one day we’ll find out that a lot of what we currently think is wrong. (That’s happened a lot.) The difference is that those of us in the reality-based community will not freak out if there’s an exception to some law of physics or something bigger or smaller than we thought. It’s okay. We learn. We move forward.

          • Lord Narf says

            I think the answer that theists just can’t except is “I don’t know and I’m okay with not knowing”.

            Or, another version of it:
            “I don’t know, and neither do you. Latching onto Bronze Age myths does not count as knowing anything.”

          • david sweet says

            Sorry to be so lengthy. I’m just trying to get a good argument going and so threw out several thoughts.

            I enjoy being with atheists. Their self-assuredness is entertaining. What I have found in my personal experience with atheists is that the roles we normally assign the two sides are reversed. They will testify with evangelical fervor to the freedom they have experienced since becoming atheists—a highly subjective approach. I in turn will express a certain longing for that freedom (or there’s a part of me that long to cast off religion and God) but that I can’t bring myself to rationally become an atheist. Atheism is unreasonable to me, or I’d embrace it.

            I don’t believe there are any true atheists. But to use the term agnostic doesn’t give you the attention and the shock value you desire. Atheism and theism are two ‘guesses’ about reality. Now agnosticism is infinitely more reasonable than atheism. Theism is too. The theist looks at the cosmos and guesses that something or someone supernatural, who by definition had no beginning since it or he or she lives outside of time and space, created the cosmos. That’s a possibility.

            The atheist looks at the same thing and says “I don’t know how it got here but I know it wasn’t a god.” Well, actually that’s not what atheists say. If push comes to shove they want to critique your god and your religion.

            That’s fair game—but it’s premature. The atheist first needs to deal with origins and what are reasonable guesses and what are unreasonable guesses about origins. And when push comes to shove the atheist—magically is revealed to not be an atheist but rather an agnostic. But again, agnosticism doesn’t get the attention. It’s limp. But the atheist will not say “I know with scientific surety that there is no god.” He will only say that it is highly improbable.

            Why is it improbable? Here’s where science is misrepresented. Just because science has explained more and more about the cosmos and how it functions—that doesn’t reduce the need for something or someone outside of time and space to originate it! I may learn more and more about Shakespeare, but that doesn’t reduce the requirement to accept that Shakespeare or someone using that name, wrote many works.

            Atheists presume that—like medieval Christians—Christians must assume that God is having to constant oversee every function of the universe, as though that would be a chore for an infinite being. They presume that it must be really complicated, if God exists.

            But atheism says “no god likely—even though we have no idea how it originated.” Can we come up with even a theory of how it originated? Even a science-fiction version? No, we can’t. In my opinion it looks to be impossible for the cosmos to have originated without supernatural cause.

            Some atheist at that point want to theorize that the cosmos had no beginning. But having no beginning means eternally existing. Nothing can eternally exist, except a hypothetical divine being. Thus, atheists at that point are essentially pantheist—which is infinitely more reasonable than atheism. I welcome you to the family of theism—where theism is defined as the belief in the supernatural—dualism, essentially. Theism need not be defined as belief in a personal God. It’s way too premature to address what kind of God we are talking about.

            The atheist charges that we are naming the unknown “god” and thus copping out. What? Is the atheist not coping out by say “no god” even though there isn’t any way to conceive of it happening? Their cop out is that ‘science’ hasn’t discovered it, thus it can’t be discussed. Science is their cop-out. Yet science won’t have an answer for origins—right? Because we are talking about pre-science, we are talking about pre-existence of anything. How can science have a theory about nothing becoming something? The theory of divine origins is a reasonable thesis. There isn’t anything unreasonable about it. It may not be true, but it’s not an unreasonable guess.

            Also atheists—along with Hitchens— want to claim that theism is an unnecessary complication—that God must be complex. Why must God be complex? In fact, if there is supernatural, it will not operate according to the laws of the natural—and thus has no parts. God should probably be supremely simple.

            Why does it matter? Why can’t theists live with the unknown? Because the cosmos seems to us to be saying something. It’s not silent—it has an immensity which seems to speak to modern people, not just ancients. And our brains and minds (if you believe there are minds) or what atheists mean when they say minds—they are purposeful. We are purposeful creatures and it’s hard to imagine that we exist having only the appearance of meaning and purpose.

            Anyway, I’d like to have some debate on some of my comments. Will atheists keep their eyes on the ball and not go immediately to critiquing religion. That’s not hard to do.
            Will atheists own up to being agnostics? Like Dawkins did recently?

          • Lord Narf says

            I don’t believe there are any true atheists. But to use the term agnostic doesn’t give you the attention and the shock value you desire. Atheism and theism are two ‘guesses’ about reality. Now agnosticism is infinitely more reasonable than atheism. Theism is too. The theist looks at the cosmos and guesses that something or someone supernatural, who by definition had no beginning since it or he or she lives outside of time and space, created the cosmos. That’s a possibility.

            The first thing you need to do is throw out the concept of absolute certainty. That’s not possible. Saying that you know there’s no god just means that you know it to an acceptable level of certainty. I fall under that category.

            After finding that all god concepts you’ve encountered are ridiculous and irrational (including the Abrahamic god and Hinduism), it’s stupid to keep searching without a reason to continue doing so. A surface study into many different fields brings up many things that demonstrate how ridiculous religion is.

            Here’s one thing that religious sorts often just can’t grasp. They rely on one blinding moment of mushy holy-feeling to prove to someone that God exists. That’s stupid. Things are demonstrated by a preponderance of evidence. When the evidence of psychology, biology, archaeology, history, and many other studies all demonstrate that this is just the sort of shit that people have made up for as long as we’ve been people, that’s the sort of conclusion you should accept.

            Do we know that there wasn’t some extra-universal tinkerer who started off the Big Bang? Of course not. But it’s stupid to seriously speculate about what the extra-universal tinkerer wants us to do with our penises (funny how they always obsess about them), until there’s a way to examine and demonstrate the tinkerer.

            The atheist looks at the same thing and says “I don’t know how it got here but I know it wasn’t a god.” Well, actually that’s not what atheists say. If push comes to shove they want to critique your god and your religion.

            No, what we say is something more along the lines of, “I don’t know how it got here, but it’s stupid to assume that it’s something that hasn’t been demonstrated to even be possible.”

            That’s fair game—but it’s premature. The atheist first needs to deal with origins and what are reasonable guesses and what are unreasonable guesses about origins. And when push comes to shove the atheist—magically is revealed to not be an atheist but rather an agnostic. But again, agnosticism doesn’t get the attention. It’s limp. But the atheist will not say “I know with scientific surety that there is no god.” He will only say that it is highly improbable.

            You don’t seem to understand what agnosticism and atheism are. They’re not mutually exclusive. Atheism doesn’t mean that you’re absolutely certain that a god doesn’t exist. It means that you don’t have a belief that a god exists. There’s an important difference in there.

            Check out this site: http://freethinker.co.uk/2009/09/25/8419/. It’s one of the better explanations for the situation that I’ve seen.

            Hard atheism is generally only ever asserted against certain god claims. For example, I’ve read the Bible straight through. It’s a fucking riot. I’m certain that the god of the Bible doesn’t exist. It’s ridiculous.

            Why do I call myself an atheist? Because I’m not a theist. The theism/atheism axis is the more important of the two. Going around saying that I don’t know for certain what I know (agnosticism) is silly. What I know is more important than the quality of that knowledge.

            Why is it improbable? Here’s where science is misrepresented. Just because science has explained more and more about the cosmos and how it functions—that doesn’t reduce the need for something or someone outside of time and space to originate it! I may learn more and more about Shakespeare, but that doesn’t reduce the requirement to accept that Shakespeare or someone using that name, wrote many works.

            Actually, recent cosmology has several possible models for the universe starting itself off without an outside cause. Also, your concept of the universe starting from nothing is inaccurate, judging from what I’ve heard from several cosmologists.

            More importantly, none of that matters. You’re engaging in a gross attempt to shift the burden of proof.
            The universe exists. The time to believe something outside of the universe is after it’s been demonstrated to exist. You don’t believe in something because you can’t prove it doesn’t exist. That’s irrational.

            Atheists presume that—like medieval Christians—Christians must assume that God is having to constant oversee every function of the universe, as though that would be a chore for an infinite being. They presume that it must be really complicated, if God exists.

            No, we presume that the existence of a god has not been demonstrated to be true, because it hasn’t.

            But atheism says “no god likely—even though we have no idea how it originated.” Can we come up with even a theory of how it originated? Even a science-fiction version? No, we can’t. In my opinion it looks to be impossible for the cosmos to have originated without supernatural cause.

            Your gross ignorance of modern cosmology does not increase the likeliness of the existence of your god. The proposition of your god is evaluated separately from any other causes for the origin of the universe. Not having another explanation doesn’t make your mythology any more probable.

            Some atheist at that point want to theorize that the cosmos had no beginning. But having no beginning means eternally existing. Nothing can eternally exist, except a hypothetical divine being. Thus, atheists at that point are essentially pantheist—which is infinitely more reasonable than atheism. I welcome you to the family of theism—where theism is defined as the belief in the supernatural—dualism, essentially. Theism need not be defined as belief in a personal God. It’s way too premature to address what kind of God we are talking about.

            Wrong. Eternal existence does not equal divinity, much less the personification that is a key component of a god.
            More to the point, the universe may be eternal, or it may have had a beginning. Neither possibility offers any evidence for your god, so it’s a moot point.

            The atheist charges that we are naming the unknown “god” and thus copping out. What? Is the atheist not coping out by say “no god” even though there isn’t any way to conceive of it happening? Their cop out is that ‘science’ hasn’t discovered it, thus it can’t be discussed. Science is their cop-out. Yet science won’t have an answer for origins—right? Because we are talking about pre-science, we are talking about pre-existence of anything. How can science have a theory about nothing becoming something? The theory of divine origins is a reasonable thesis. There isn’t anything unreasonable about it. It may not be true, but it’s not an unreasonable guess.

            No, the vague hypothesis (it’s not a theory) of divine origins is not a reasonable guess. When nothing else divine has been demonstrated to exist, it’s pretty much the worst guess you could make.

            Also, I don’t accept your assertion that science can never find out anything about the origin of the universe. What the hell does pre-science mean? Are you implying that we can’t study anything with science that happened before we developed the scientific method? That’s stupid.

            Why does it matter? Why can’t theists live with the unknown? Because the cosmos seems to us to be saying something. It’s not silent—it has an immensity which seems to speak to modern people, not just ancients. And our brains and minds (if you believe there are minds) or what atheists mean when they say minds—they are purposeful. We are purposeful creatures and it’s hard to imagine that we exist having only the appearance of meaning and purpose.

            I find it quite easy to imagine that we’re the result of a long chain of natural causes. If you learn more about Evolution, it might make more sense to you, too. I recommend The Greatest Show on Earth, by Richard Dawkins. It’s a good remedial primer on evolutionary theory.

            Anyway, I’d like to have some debate on some of my comments. Will atheists keep their eyes on the ball and not go immediately to critiquing religion. That’s not hard to do.
            Will atheists own up to being agnostics? Like Dawkins did recently?

            Dawkins is still an atheist. Your misunderstanding of the difference between the terms is what makes you say silly things like this.

            You’re aware that the comment section of a blog is about the worst possible place to have a debate like this, right?

          • steve oberski says

            @david sweet

            “I don’t know how it got here but I know it wasn’t a god.”

            Without theists making truth claims about the origin of the universe without supporting evidence, atheists could restrict themselves to the I don’t know how it got here part.

            And we are getting an increasing better understanding of the origin of the universe and there’s still no god.

            Based on your comment, while you may enjoy being with atheists, it may be that the feeling is not reciprocated.

          • Lord Narf says

            And we are getting an increasing better understanding of the origin of the universe and there’s still no god.

            This is where many theists would insert something like, “But we’ve discovered the God Particle! That’s proof of God.” I’ve actually heard that from a few.

            One of the major activities of apologists is distorting or flat-out lying about science. They grasp at anything that sounds good and spin it as proof. One of my favorite sites on the subject is http://www.godandscience.org. One of the very few Christian guys in my department at work showed it to us, then sat in embarrassment, as we ripped apart everything he pulled from the site.

            There’s just so much wrongheaded stuff on any site I’ve seen that tries to link religion and science. The guy’s ID page is a joke. Halfway down that page, there’s a table “Predictions of Naturalism vs. Christian ID.” Half of the stuff on the ID side has already been demonstrated to be false.

            If you click the first link in the top left corner, “Answers for Atheists,” you’re led to a beautiful assembly of made up shit. http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/is_god_real.html has one section, “Large, just right-sized universe”:

            Even so, the universe is enormous compared to the size of our Solar System. Isn’t the immense size of the universe evidence that humans are really insignificant, contradicting the idea that a God concerned with humanity created the universe? It turns out that the universe could not have been much smaller than it is in order for nuclear fusion to have occurred during the first 3 minutes after the Big Bang. Without this brief period of nucleosynthesis, the early universe would have consisted entirely of hydrogen. Likewise, the universe could not have been much larger than it is, or life would not have been possible. If the universe were just one part in 10^59 larger, the universe would have collapsed before life was possible. Since there are only 1080 baryons in the universe, this means that an addition of just 10^21 baryons (about the mass of a grain of sand) would have made life impossible. The universe is exactly the size it must be for life to exist at all.

            We don’t know the precise mass of the universe. We sure as hell can’t say that the difference of a grain of sand would have prevented the whole system from working the way it does. This whole section is dishonest. It’s the same with the fine-tuning of the universal constants. We’ve had several people build computer models and show that the universal constants have a lot more leeway than any apologist would ever admit. There are many ranges of settings which would be far better for the development of life. If he went to any cosmologist, even most religious ones, he’d get ripped a new one.

            And the most hilarious part is when he tries to tear down every other religion, on http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/is_christianity_true.html:

            For example, the Quran says that the heavens and the earth were once joined together as one unit before it was split into two parts. Obviously, this creation model could never be applied to any kind of Big Bang theory. However, the Bible clearly presents the creation of the universe as an expanding universe model in which God spreads out the stars.

            Half of the stuff he lists for other religions is stuff said in his own freaking Bible.

          • says

            I reply here because it is where the subject of agnostism subject somes (again). The modern atheist mouvement has decided that agnostic is not mutualy exclusive with atheist, they redifined what agnosticism really is…they argue that agnostic is about a lack of knowledge and atheist about a lack of belief.
            but the classical agnostism (and many agnostics) don’t see it like that.

            What we think as agnostic, “Do you hold that it is true the affirmation that a god exist?”
            Theists: we believe that it is true.
            Atheists: we believe it is not true (or some say, we believe it is false)
            Agnostic: we believe that it is unknowable.

          • Lord Narf says

            That’s stupid. The agnostic didn’t even answer the question. They didn’t ask if you know whether or not a god exists.
            Yes or no, do you have an active belief in a deity?

            Also, you’re misrepresenting the atheist position. The atheist position is that they don’t have a belief in a god. They do not necessarily have the opposite belief, that there is no god. Rejecting a claim as unsupported by evidence doesn’t mean that you believe the claim is false.

            You’re straw-manning horribly. If you don’t understand the difference between rejecting a claim and asserting that the claim is false, you need to go take a remedial logic course or something.

          • Lord Narf says

            Or, to put it another way, you’re making a second claim (one not directly related to the original claim), with the agnostic position. You’re asserting that the existence or nonexistence of a god is unknowable. You’ve saddled yourself with a burden of proof, to demonstrate that the existence or nonexistence of a god is unknowable. Agnosticism is a much more difficult position to support than atheism is.

          • Lord Narf says

            “Do you hold that it is true the affirmation that a god exist?”

            I missed the garbled language, since the @#$%^*& coffee hasn’t kicked in yet. You’d do better by simplifying the language.

            “Do you accept the claim that a god exists?”

            Theist: “Yes.”
            Atheist: “No.” (asserting the opposite claim is a separate matter)
            Agnostic: “I refuse to answer the question, and I’m going to be snotty about it.”

          • says

            ““Do you accept the claim that a god exists?”
            “Theist: “Yes.”
            Atheist: “No.” (asserting the opposite claim is a separate matter)
            Agnostic: “I refuse to answer the question, and I’m going to be snotty about it.””

            Maybe some agnostics are hidden christians or hidden atheits, but it doesn’t change the fact that agnostiscm
            in a the pure sense is “with the informations and the limitations we have, because we don’t know if a god exists or not, we suspend our judgment about that question and until now it seems that it is unknowable and propably will still be unknowable. so because we don’t know the answer we don’t belief or unbelief. So to resume with your reformulated question it would be:

            Theist: Yes
            Atheist: No
            Agnostic: ?

          • says

            Russell once made a perfect illustration of what is the agnostic position.

            Do you believe I have 10 dollars on my hand?

            Believers about it would say: Yes
            Unbelievers about it would say: No
            Agnostic would say: ? I have no clue whether you have 10 or another amount or nothing, so I would say I don’t believe or unbelieve. We don’t answer no nor yes because we have no ground to say yes or no.

          • says

            Believers about it would say: Yes
            Unbelievers about it would say: No
            Agnostic would say: ? I have no clue whether you have 10 or another amount or nothing, so I would say I don’t believe or unbelieve. We don’t answer no nor yes because we have no ground to say yes or no.

            Let me fix that for you.

            Believers about it would say: Yes
            Unbelievers about it would say: You haven’t’ convinced me that you have, yet.
            Agnostics would say: It’s inherently unknowable whether there’s 10 dollars in your hand.

            I’m an agnostic atheist – I don’t know, and I don’t believe.

            To say “no there is not 10 dollars in your hand” is to state that you DO believe there is NOT 10 dollars in the hand. Atheism is the lack of a belief. In order for your setup to be true, “belief” == “no belief”, which is clearly false.

          • Lord Narf says

            ericvon germania

            Agnostic would say: ? I have no clue whether you have 10 or another amount or nothing, so I would say I don’t believe or unbelieve. We don’t answer no nor yes because we have no ground to say yes or no.

            That’s just as much of a weasel statement as if you were applying it to a god claim. The question was NOT “Do you accept the claims of the existence of a god, or do you accept the claims that a god does not exist?” The question was, “Do you accept the claims of the existence of a god?”

            The assertion of the pure agnostic position is spineless and is the avoidance of answering the question. Do you accept the positive assertion that a god (or $10 bill) exists? Yes or no?
            If you don’t accept the claim, then your answer is no. It’s a true dichotomy.

            Jasper of Maine

            Believers about it would say: Yes
            Unbelievers about it would say: You haven’t’ convinced me that you have, yet.
            Agnostics would say: It’s inherently unknowable whether there’s 10 dollars in your hand.

            Good reformulation, Jasper.

            To say that it’s inherently unknowable whether or not there’s $10 in your hand is … to use my favorite word of the past 24 hours or so … stupid. We can investigate your hands. We can evaluate the existence of $10, with the characteristics for a $10 bill that you’ve stated. We can come to a conclusion about the likelihood of you having $10.

            The weaker agnostic position, applied as a modifier to your atheism, is one thing. Making a global statement, about our complete inability to come to a conclusion, is an assertion that you can’t back up, and is almost as bad as theism.

            Moreover, answering a yes-or-no question about whether you accept a claim with “I don’t know,” is foolish. You don’t know the state of your own mind, to know whether you accept it as true?

          • says

            Jasper, I don’t need that you fix things for me.

            According to your exemple
            The Believer that they are 10 dollars, believes that they are 10 dollars
            The Unbeliever that they re 10 dollars, unbelieves (thinks it is not true!) that they are 10 dollars. the answer you give to the Unbeliever is an agnostic answer. believing is considering something true. The real unbeliever thinks that what you are saying (they are 10 dollars) is false.

            Too bad for you if you are separating believing and knowing…I am not sure if you are grasping that, but you can’t be atheist and agnostic according to the agnostiscm position.

          • Lord Narf says

            Eric, you don’t seem to get the difference between rejecting a belief and declaring that a belief is false. You clearly need some remedial logic instruction, before you can discuss this subject.

          • says

            L Narf

            “Do you accept the claims of the existence of a god?”

            The true question is “Do you believe in the existence of a god?”
            Yes? you are a theist.
            No? you are atheist.
            Possible.

            What is your definition on “Believe” to be sure we are on the same page? Is it holding as something true or something else?

            “We can investigate your hands. We can evaluate the existence of $10″

            It was an analogy about the different state of mind (believer, unbeliever, agnostic), not about the verifiablity….

          • Lord Narf says

            “Do you accept the claims of the existence of a god?”

            The true question is “Do you believe in the existence of a god?”

            Wrong. Given the definition of atheism, the lack of a belief in a god it’s a question of belief claims.

            What is your definition on “Believe” to be sure we are on the same page? Is it holding as something true or something else?

            Believing something means accepting it as true, for the operative definition here.

            It was an analogy about the different state of mind (believer, unbeliever, agnostic), not about the verifiablity….

            It is about verifiability, because the agnostic position is an assertion that we can’t verify the truth of a claim. That’s why it’s stupid.

          • says

            L Narf

            “You clearly need some remedial logic instruction, before you can discuss this subject.”

            It depends which school of logic you are following? do you mean the classical aristotelian one? The Frege’s? The Wittgenstein’s? The tabeaux calculous? Kripke? Comtemporary logic?

            Maybe you you should study all the different schools of logic. In logic they don’t only discuss about 2+2=4, you know! When you talk about logic in which school you “believe”?

          • Lord Narf says

            You’re not even getting that far. You don’t seem to grasp the basics of argumentation, that rejecting the positive does not mean accepting the negative. You can reject both the positive and the negative, as unsupported by evidence. That’s default atheism.

            A-theism. Not anti-theism. Not untheism or intheism.

          • says

            “Wrong. Given the definition of atheism, the lack of a belief in a god it’s a question of belief claims.”
            Do you believe or not believe a claim? And the claim is “do you believe in the existence of a god?”, that is the more important issue. “do you believe in the claim…?” Is another question, anyway. you might not believe a claim because of the person who formulate it is not trust worthy, but the claim in itself, “do you believe in the existence of god?”, if you say “I can speculate about it because I have not enough informaion”, you are agnostic.
            and atheist should say I don’t believe in a god (I don’t think it is true a god exists, considering that belief is to consider something true)

            I will try in the natural language to show you the 3 positions-ok, let’s go not ony with the claim but what is inside of it.
            if someone says to me:
            He I know you, you are Eric from whatever: I believe him.
            He I know you we’ve had sex together at the party X: I am agnostic ( it could be maybe verifiable (hidden camera)
            He I know you we’ve met in 1200 AC in Sweden, you were drinking a beer near my house: I am agnostic. (almost not able to be verified)
            He I know you, you fixed my car last week, I am unbeliever about it. (I know for sure that I haven’t fix his car because I don’t know how to fix a car and I didn’t know last week.)

          • says

            “A-theism. Not anti-theism. Not untheism or intheism.”
            I understand the differences but atheism is not a static position. Atheism goes relativly fast to anti-theism. You reject the claim “god exists” and then you move on to another step, well if someone is coherent.

          • says

            You reject the claim “god exists” and then you move on to another step, well if someone is coherent.

            And yet, you’re describing almost no one who calls themselves “atheist”. I’m sorry, but you don’t get to tell us what we think deep down inside. That’s the theists’ job.

          • Lord Narf says

            “A-theism. Not anti-theism. Not untheism or intheism.”
            I understand the differences but atheism is not a static position. Atheism goes relativly fast to anti-theism. You reject the claim “god exists” and then you move on to another step, well if someone is coherent.

            First off … you’re wrong. Atheism does not go quickly to anti-theism. I know plenty of people who have remained at the soft, default-atheist position.

            Second … who cares? You can’t argue against a position by saying that people who hold the position are going to shift to another position … so therefor, if you’re going to argue for the first position, you have to also argue for the second. That’s bullshit. I mean, you can argue like that, but we’re going to say you’re dishonest and give up on you.

            I was going to address your comment above this one, but it’s too much of a mess. I realize that English isn’t your first language, being from Germany, but this sort of discussion requires too much precise use of language, which you just don’t have. Sorry, man.

          • says

            @Jasper

            “And yet, you’re describing almost no one who calls themselves “atheist”.”
            –I am surprise to realize you are that naive.

            I’m sorry, but you don’t get to tell us what we think deep down inside. That’s the theists’ job.
            —well or you are agnostic or antiheist. atheism is kind of pointless….if you stop misrepresent what is agnostism, I would maybe let you sitting on your atheist fence “I believe that there is no god”, anyway I am pretty sure you “believe that there is no god”. Holding that something is not true is ok, but I don’t see the point of passing the time in not believing something to be true. then you move on, no?

          • Lord Narf says

            –I am surprise to realize you are that naive.

            And I’m not surprised to discover that you’re that ignorant. Should we just start throwing pejoratives back and forth, now?

            if you stop misrepresent what is agnostism

            We used your definition of pure agnosticism, for the snotty, elitist agnostics who assert that we can’t possibly know anything about the existence of a god. That’s a stupid, useless position that you can’t justify, since you’ve adopted a burden of proof, having made a claim.

            Holding that something is not true is ok, but I don’t see the point of passing the time in not believing something to be true. then you move on, no?

            We wouldn’t pass the time thinking about the existence or nonexistence of god, if it wasn’t for all of the theists running around trying to inflict their delusions upon the rest of humanity.

            Do you really not understand what this is all about? We have religious nut-jobs, all over the world, trying to turn various countries into theocracies, trying to fuck up science in public schools, and trying to pass laws to subjugate women and homosexuals. You think we should just sit back and let them do it?

          • says

            @L Narf

            Ya sometimes I forget and can’t realize the problems you have in the US. But that problem of fundamentalist christians are they only in the south? i have been often in the North of the US and people there are pretty cool. The only christians I met there were only cultural christians and the rest were atheists/antitheists.

          • says

            @L Narf

            First. Don’t you suspect your soft atheists, to be in fact real agnostic wanting to be friends with atheists?
            seriously, on the show how many people are not anti-theists? Are you yourself “only atheists”?

            Second I mean when you “realize” that you don’t believe something to exist, what is your next step?
            If I believe that something doesn’t exist, I don’t count that thing to exist and I will act if I knew that thing doesn’t exist, no? after not believe something to exist you don’t switch to believe it doesn’t exist with n atheist mind-set?

            Third, ya it is a bit a mess, not because english is not my native language, but it seems that topic is a broken record. I understand the atheist-antitheist position but they don’t seems to grab what agnostism is or refuse to be part of it for it is less rebel or cool.

            “being from Germany,” do you believe that? my name is an evidence for you that lead you to conclude that!? is there what your logic leads you? are you the lord of the narf?

          • Lord Narf says

            First. Don’t you suspect your soft atheists, to be in fact real agnostic wanting to be friends with atheists?
            seriously, on the show how many people are not anti-theists? Are you yourself “only atheists”?

            If you mean the hard agnostic position, then no, they’re not “real” agnostics. They wouldn’t be so silly as to assert that we can’t explore the proposition of a god, as the snotty agnostics do.

            Second I mean when you “realize” that you don’t believe something to exist, what is your next step?
            If I believe that something doesn’t exist, I don’t count that thing to exist and I will act if I knew that thing doesn’t exist, no? after not believe something to exist you don’t switch to believe it doesn’t exist with n atheist mind-set.

            When it comes to gods in general, I have a slightly more agnostic-atheistic position. I only hold a hard atheistic position in respect to particular gods.

            I’ve read the Bible straight through. I’m as sure as it’s possible to be that the Abrahamic god doesn’t exist. Since Allah is a later derivation of Yahweh, and the Jewish version of Yahweh is essentially the same as the Christian version, those are both right out, too.

            What little I’ve seen about the Hindu gods has made me come to the conclusion that I don’t need to look any further into their mythology.

            Third, ya it is a bit a mess, not because english is not my native language, but it seems that topic is a broken record. I understand the atheist-antitheist position but they don’t seems to grab what agnostism is or refuse to be part of it for it is less rebel or cool.

            It’s turning into a broken record, because I’m trying to make many subtle, semantic points, and they’re clearly not making it through the language barrier. I don’t think we can have a coherent argument in English, and my Spanish, Latin, and Japanese aren’t good enough to hold an argument in those languages.

            And no, I don’t reject the agnostic position because of anything of the sort. It’s the additional claim that the hard agnostics make, which I’ve said many times. They’re essentially asserting another claim, that the existence of gods can not be determined.

            I reject that claim as well, along with the claim of the existence of gods. I don’t buy the idea that we can’t examine the existence of gods. If a religion makes a claim, then we can freaking examine and test those claims.

            “being from Germany,” do you believe that? my name is an evidence for you that lead you to conclude that!? is there what your logic leads you? are you the lord of the narf?

            Of course I don’t believe that. That was a joke. People from Germany would mostly likely call it Deutschland. The joke was that your name sounded like a vaguely Latinized pronunciation of the English version, Germany. I realize that doesn’t translate well. Most jokes don’t.

            Actually, I am the Lord of Narf.

          • Lord Narf says

            Ya sometimes I forget and can’t realize the problems you have in the US. But that problem of fundamentalist christians are they only in the south? i have been often in the North of the US and people there are pretty cool. The only christians I met there were only cultural christians and the rest were atheists/antitheists.

            Nooooooooo, no no no no no. It’s not just the south, although some regions are worse than others. Have you heard of Rick Santorum? He’s from Pennsylvania. That’s the north. He’s a Catholic nut-job.

            Rather than a regional thing, it’s more of an urban/rural thing. The large cities are mostly only culturally-religious, and largely atheistic. They tend to be rather liberal, too.

            Out on the west coast, Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon are something like half atheist. However, those states are having some major problems with religious nuts, in the smaller towns and more rural areas. They’ve got a lot of the faith-healing cults, in Oregon, killing their kids by refusing to get them proper medical treatment for simple medical conditions. Eastern Washington State (the mountainous side) has a lot of really scary Pentecostal cults, in some of the smaller towns.

            Plus, there are only two political parties that have any chance of getting candidates elected to national positions. The conservative party, the Republican party, is under the control of the extreme, Creationist, theocratic religious nuts. With one of the two political parties trying to violate the Constitution and push religion into our laws even more than it already is, it’s a problem for the entire country.

            Which states have you been to?

          • says

            1.Ok, But me I am a hard core agnostic. I have to admit though I haven’t checked what “snooty” means.

            2. Ok, but me as well I am not really interested in the gods in mythologies, they are insignifiant. I am more interested in “gods” of the philosophers.

            3. “They’re essentially asserting another claim, that the existence of gods can not be determined.” that is what I think too and part with you on that. But since I don’t catch all your subtility that you do and my english is has to be improved in order to explain more in detail my agnostic position, we will let it like that. Why having a philosophical querrel when we are not you and me part of the problem of fundamentalist christians, muslims (and heard some buddhist sects) are threathening human kind.

            4. Well people from Germany can write Germania. You have to admit that you should be a hard core agnostic about me and where I come from, etc but I am not an hard core agnostic about you being the lord of the narf. hehe

          • says

            @L Narf

            1. Really sad to see USA with such extremist christians. Is it a phenomena post-911? with such extreme in the USA (gay marriage and weeds allowed in some states, and other states belief the earth has 6000 years and jesus is coming back) are you affraid of an eventuel civil war?

            2.I have been only in the North-Eastern States: New-York, Maine, Vermont, Massachussets and New-Hampshire. Would like to see L.A: one day though.

          • says

            “And yet, you’re describing almost no one who calls themselves “atheist”.”
            –I am surprise to realize you are that naive.

            Sorry, I didn’t realize I was talking to a telepath.

            —well or you are agnostic or antiheist. atheism is kind of pointless….if you stop misrepresent what is agnostism,

            I don’t care whether you think atheism is “pointless”. As a term, it’s as useful as “bald”, which only describes something that lacks hair. For some bizarre reason, we still use that term too.

            I would maybe let you sitting on your atheist fence “I believe that there is no god”

            You call it “on the fence”, I call it intellectually honesty (which I’d suspect you’d say the same for “agnosticism” too).

            My position isn’t “I believe there is no god”. It’s “I don’t believe in a god”. Again, “belief” != “no belief”

            , anyway I am pretty sure you “believe that there is no god”.

            … and you’d be wrong, just like you’re wrong about the vast majority of atheists. I dare you to start asking around – ask self described atheists whether they positively believe there is no god. You’ll find it rare.

            Holding that something is not true is ok, but I don’t see the point of passing the time in not believing something to be true. then you move on, no?

            No, because the time/energy I spend on atheism isn’t because of my atheism. It’s because of theism, and the crap they’re constantly pulling/doing. Plus, I enjoy the intellectual challenges (if they can be called that) of counter apologetics.

          • says

            @Jasper

            Ok, now I know your position. It is hard to grasp what atheist means for it is really vague, like theist. we never know what it is hidding behind that term and what the person beilief or not belief. In my book you are an agnostic. But of course you can call yourself atheist as you want . an atheist that is not anti-theist is always weird to hear that…

          • Lord Narf says

            In my book you are an agnostic. But of course you can call yourself atheist as you want . an atheist that is not anti-theist is always weird to hear that…

            Yeah, and in our book, you’re an atheist, if you don’t actively believe in a god. That’s why he used the term agnostic atheist. I fall under the label, myself, in some ways, depending upon how you define the term. I only take an anti-theistic position in respect to certain god claims … well, okay, most god claims.

            The thing is, atheism is a more useful label, when you’re in a culture full of people running around screaming about how 20 school children were slaughtered because we took mandatory prayer out of public schools. You need a stronger counter punch against this sort of insanity.

          • says

            @L Narf

            Ya me and you are having different books. I take my stuff from the encyclopedia of philosophy and from philosophers, you take your stuff from pop-philo of the 1990′s.

            “The thing is, atheism is a more useful label, when you’re in a culture full of people running around screaming about how 20 school children were slaughtered because we took mandatory prayer out of public schools. You need a stronger counter punch against this sort of insanity.”
            –Well the label anti-theist and claiming that god doesn’t exist would be a stronger counter punch then skating with those neo-definitiions of agnosticism and atheism and neo-dichotomies that follows with agnostic atheist, gnostic atheist, gnostic theist, agnostic theist….a bit crazy…you separate knowledge and believe like christians do. someone should believe only what he knows, no?

          • Lord Narf says

            Ya me and you are having different books. I take my stuff from the encyclopedia of philosophy and from philosophers, you take your stuff from pop-philo of the 1990′s.

            Both, actually. You use what is useful and will demonstrate what you’re trying to get across. Everything evolves. That evolution tends to weed out the less useful bits.

            –Well the label anti-theist and claiming that god doesn’t exist would be a stronger counter punch then skating with those neo-definitiions of agnosticism and atheism and neo-dichotomies that follows with agnostic atheist, gnostic atheist, gnostic theist, agnostic theist….a bit crazy…you separate knowledge and believe like christians do. someone should believe only what he knows, no?

            And “anti-theist” is too aggressive. Atheist is a nice, middle ground which separates you from the theists and declares your opposition to them, without being too nasty.
            This could be another language issue. You don’t feel the same impact of word choices, if you don’t have an unthinking, deep grasp of the language. If you have to translate it into another language, in your head, you’re losing some of it. Even if you’re able to think in another language, you probably don’t feel it the same way that a native speaker does. I know I don’t feel the language properly, in my secondary and tertiary languages … and I can’t really think in Latin, at all.

            “Agnostic” is a big problem, in the public arena. As I mentioned in one of my responses to Jonathan Parsons, there’s such a thing as an agnostic theist. And most theists think that you’re partially on their side, when you label yourself as an agnostic.

            I’ve talked to several theists about this and many other subjects. When you talk about agnostics, the theists think that agnostics are okay, because at least they believe in a god, even if they don’t accept the authority of the Bible. This is a big problem, if you want to get across the idea that you don’t share their worldview with them, in the slightest.

          • says

            “If you have to translate it into another language, in your head, you’re losing some of it. ”
            ya, but in all european languages we know the connotations of words such as atheist, agnostic and theist.

            ““Agnostic” is a big problem, in the public arena. As I mentioned in one of my responses to Jonathan Parsons, there’s such a thing as an agnostic theist. And most theists think that you’re partially on their side, when you label yourself as an agnostic.

            I’ve talked to several theists about this and many other subjects. When you talk about agnostics, the theists think that agnostics are okay, because at least they believe in a god, even if they don’t accept the authority of the Bible. This is a big problem, if you want to get across the idea that you don’t share their worldview with them, in the slightest.”
            —-I don’t follow your other conversation with Jonathan, except once for I thought it was for me. Ok, so you use agnostic and atheist as a way to reach the theists in a utilitarian way. Ok, I can buy it then. But it brings confusion though in a “higher” level.

          • Lord Narf says

            ya, but in all european languages we know the connotations of words such as atheist, agnostic and theist.

            Yeah, there’s that. The various prefixes and suffixes can make the feeling of words vary, though. That can vary with language and culture.

            For example, in American culture, there’s this thing about being anti-anything. The anti-abortion coalition, despite opposing something that they feel is the greatest evil ever sanctioned by a state, won’t label themselves as being anti-that-thing. No, they’re pro-life. “Anti-theism” would be problematic, under that cultural norm.

            —-I don’t follow your other conversation with Jonathan, except once for I thought it was for me. Ok, so you use agnostic and atheist as a way to reach the theists in a utilitarian way. Ok, I can buy it then. But it brings confusion though in a “higher” level.

            Yeah, that’s why I always pull up a new post and immediately subscribe to the whole comment section. You often get conversations that wander back and forth between different threads.

            That’s the litmus test for most of my positions. What will be the effect of doing things this way?

          • says

            “That’s the litmus test for most of my positions. What will be the effect of doing things this way?”
            –I have no clue.

            “For example, in American culture, there’s this thing about being anti-anything. The anti-abortion coalition, despite opposing something that they feel is the greatest evil ever sanctioned by a state, won’t label themselves as being anti-that-thing. No, they’re pro-life. “Anti-theism” would be problematic, under that cultural norm.”
            –ok, I guess if I were in the US I would be an ass and present me as an anti-christian :D

          • says

            @Jasper

            “It’s apparently Atheist versus Agnostic Day here on the blog.”

            –I wouldn’t like to be in the shorts of a fundi christian tonight who would come to this blog. He would be eaten alive!! haha

          • Lord Narf says

            “That’s the litmus test for most of my positions. What will be the effect of doing things this way?”
            –I have no clue.

            No, no, you’re missing what I’m saying. The litmus test is that question. You ask yourself that question, about each potential action, and that informs your decision.

        • says

          Jasper, I don’t need that you fix things for me.

          It seemed like you did.

          The Unbeliever that they re 10 dollars, unbelieves (thinks it is not true!) that they are 10 dollars.

          That’s not correct. Not believing a claim is not the same thing as saying that you believe the opposite is true. It’s the difference between “guilty”, “not guilty” and “innocent”.

          While “guilty” is both not “not guilty” and no “innocent”, having a position of “not guilty” is not equivalent to “innocent”. The point is that the assertion of guilt hasn’t been established. If I hold the position of “not guilty”, I am NOT necessarily having the position of “innocent”.

          Theism is believing a god exists. Atheism is not that – whether your position is that you aren’t convinced the case has been made, or you positively believe the opposite claim.

          “Disbelief” means “lack of belief” means “no belief”. You are literally equating “belief” to “no belief”, which is in stark violation of logic. (A != !A)

          the answer you give to the Unbeliever is an agnostic answer.

          It depends. One definition matches that exactly for agnostics. Do you realize there’s a whole other metric of agnostic versus gnostic? It’s a position on whether something if knowable… not on whether or not you believe it.

          I happen to think that most people who call themselves “agnostic” are actually atheists who are too uncomfortable to use the word.

          believing is considering something true.

          I agree.

          The real unbeliever thinks that what you are saying (they are 10 dollars) is false.

          The “real unbeliever”? Again, you’re equating lacking a belief with believing the opposite claim. That’s where your error lies. “I don’t believe you” is tentative. “I do believe is coming to an alternative conclusion”

          Too bad for you if you are separating believing and knowing…

          I’m not. Knowledge is confirmably true belief. There are things you can believe, and not have the ability to know. Most people hold that position about God. Most atheists disbelieve the claim that a god exists, and think we’re ultimately unable to know. Hence, they’re agnostic atheists, as opposed to agnostic theists.

          I am not sure if you are grasping that, but you can’t be atheist and agnostic according to the agnostiscm position.

          Believe it or not, there is more than one definition.

          • Jonathan Parsons says

            I must confess I’ve always been confused about where this notion of atheism being nothing more than “lack of belief in God or gods” came from. If that is the case, then atheism is quite trivial. Here is why:

            You are correct when you say that there is a logical difference between “I do not believe P” and “I believe ~P.” However, it is also the case that in common language people use “I do not believe P” to mean “I believe ~P.” In fact, I think that is how most people use it–whether people SHOULD, however, is another matter entirely. When I say “I do not believe in ghosts” I mean to say “I do not believe that ghosts exist” or “I believe ghosts do not exist.” To “lack a belief” is nothing more than to lack a certain psychological state; to lack the psychological state or doxastic attitude that gives assent to some proposition. But clearly if something lacks all psychological states then there is at least one psychological state that the thing lacks. Rocks, trees and glasses of scotch lack all psychological states. Atheism is the lack of the psychological state of belief in God. Therefore, rocks, trees and glasses of scotch are atheists. On this understanding, “atheism” is not a metaphysical viewpoint at all! Theism is the metaphysical viewpoint that God exists. Atheists believe that theism is not justified due to lack of evidence; the presence of counterevidence; theists have not met a certain burden of proof etc. But certainly if I believe that theism is unjustified, that there is no evidence in favor of it and that there is counterevidence to it, then I am certainly justified in believing that theism is false. But if I believe that theism is false, what should I call myself? An anti-theist? Now we are just using semantics. Atheism is the metaphysical position that God does not exist. An atheist is a person who believes that such a metaphysical description is true. Otherwise, atheism isn’t informative or interesting in any way.

          • Lord Narf says

            But clearly if something lacks all psychological states then there is at least one psychological state that the thing lacks. Rocks, trees and glasses of scotch lack all psychological states. Atheism is the lack of the psychological state of belief in God. Therefore, rocks, trees and glasses of scotch are atheists. On this understanding, “atheism” is not a metaphysical viewpoint at all!

            Technically, yes. Rocks and trees are default atheists, if you want to go with the loosest application. It only becomes an important distinction when you apply the term to sentient beings, though.

            Or, you could tighten up the definition to say that atheists are things that reject the assertion of the existence of gods. That’s not a pure definition, but that would narrow down the scope to beings for which atheism matters.

            Doesn’t really matter, though. You could go so far as to say that atheism isn’t really a full viewpoint or philosophy. It’s only a response to a claim. If you want to construct a viewpoint or philosophy, you’d have to go with something like skepticism, which leads to atheism, when properly applied.

            Atheists believe that theism is not justified due to lack of evidence; the presence of counterevidence; theists have not met a certain burden of proof etc. But certainly if I believe that theism is unjustified, that there is no evidence in favor of it and that there is counterevidence to it, then I am certainly justified in believing that theism is false. But if I believe that theism is false, what should I call myself? An anti-theist? Now we are just using semantics.

            Hey, don’t knock semantics. The meaning of words is the most important, foundational level of argumentation, as Jasper and I demonstrated in another thread about morality, when stranded on a desert island. Once we hammered out the semantic differences, the disagreement went away.

            There are several sets of labels. Anti-theism, in contrast to atheism is one of them. There’s also strong and weak atheism. Explicit and default atheism. Hard and soft atheism. If you feel the need to differentiate yourself from the base category, you can choose whatever you like, but you may have to explain what you mean to some people.

            Atheism is the metaphysical position that God does not exist. An atheist is a person who believes that such a metaphysical description is true. Otherwise, atheism isn’t informative or interesting in any way.

            No.
            No, it’s not.
            Atheism includes the scope of people who also believe that gods do not exist, but atheism itself has no such quality.

            And you’re right; atheism isn’t interesting in any way. Or at least it wouldn’t be, if we didn’t have 70% or 80% of the population running around trying to get us to worship their invisible friend. If the rest of the population gave up their delusions, atheism would be a silly, meaningless label to apply to yourself.

          • says

            I must confess I’ve always been confused about where this notion of atheism being nothing more than “lack of belief in God or gods” came from. If that is the case, then atheism is quite trivial. Here is why:

            We’d be more than happy to just live our lives without believing in God, but unfortunately, the religious won’t let us. It would be nice if not believing in God was as trivial in not believing in Gadflakstintonoids, but we live in a society where that’s the difference between being fired or not, or losing friends/family/spouses or not, or tires slashed, or science education being obliterated.

            I’d love it if it was as trivial as you say.

            However, it is also the case that in common language people use “I do not believe P” to mean “I believe ~P.”

            Irrelevant. It’s common language that people think scientific theories are “unproven ideas.” They’re wrong. The difference between “no belief” and “belief in no” isn’t merely a question of phrasing. It’s underscoring a key logical construct.

            When I say “I do not believe in ghosts” I mean to say “I do not believe that ghosts exist” or “I believe ghosts do not exist.”

            Yes, feel free to use the incorrect logical construction. Don’t expect me to.

            To “lack a belief” is nothing more than to lack a certain psychological state; to lack the psychological state or doxastic attitude that gives assent to some proposition. But clearly if something lacks all psychological states then there is at least one psychological state that the thing lacks. Rocks, trees and glasses of scotch lack all psychological states. Atheism is the lack of the psychological state of belief in God. Therefore, rocks, trees and glasses of scotch are atheists.

            If a car salesman says “This car is operational”, my position might be “I don’t believe you”. The rock also has the position of “I don’t believe you”, but for some reason my position of not believing the statement of the car salesman isn’t a philosophical crisis, and yet we do recognize that psychological state as distinctive and important.

            My not believing the car is operational is not the same as believing it’s broken. There’s two claims – the car is operational, and the car is not operational – I can disbelieve both claims.

            It’s a state called “pending”

            On this understanding, “atheism” is not a metaphysical viewpoint at all! Theism is the metaphysical viewpoint that God exists. Atheists believe that theism is not justified due to lack of evidence;

            The statement “Atheists believe that theism is not justified due to lack of evidence” is a metaphysical viewpoint, and it’s the viewpoint that’s expressed.

            the presence of counterevidence; theists have not met a certain burden of proof etc. But certainly if I believe that theism is unjustified, that there is no evidence in favor of it and that there is counterevidence to it, then I am certainly justified in believing that theism is false. But if I believe that theism is false, what should I call myself? An anti-theist?

            You could believe that theism is false, but that’d be irrational. You could believe that theism hasn’t made it’s case, and then call yourself an atheist. If, however, you want to believe that it’s false, you could also call yourself and atheist.

            Both the person who lacks a belief in God, and the person who believes in God, both don’t believe in God, and are thus both atheists.

            Now we are just using semantics. Atheism is the metaphysical position that God does not exist.

            Some atheists hold that position, yes. I agree, it is largly semantics. But if you’re going to go based on what most of them define themselves as, it’d be “lack of belief.”

            An atheist is a person who believes that such a metaphysical description is true. Otherwise, atheism isn’t informative or interesting in any way.

            I don’t think “bald” is terribly informative or interesting either. On one key attribute, however, it does have a use – distinguishing whether something has hair or not. It doesn’t need to be more “interesting” than that.

          • Jonathan Parsons says

            Irrelevant. It’s common language that people think scientific theories are “unproven ideas.” They’re wrong. The difference between “no belief” and “belief in no” isn’t merely a question of phrasing. It’s underscoring a key logical construct.

            That’s because people have false beliefs about the criteria of a scientific theory. And again, I am well aware of the fact that there is a logical difference between “I do not believe P” and “I believe ~P.” I am not contesting that point at all! My only point was is that it is common–and perfectly acceptable–for people to substitute one for the other in the course of conversation. When I say “I do not believe in ghosts” I have never had a person understand that as “I lack a belief in ghosts.” It’s the same as if I were to say, “it is a lot cooler now that the sun moved behind the cloud.” Clearly I am saying something literally false and it would take a very complex logically formulation to express the proposition that I REALLY am stating. All my point was is that typically people understand what a speaker means.

            Keep in mind, I am contesting the fact that atheism is best defined as lack of a belief in God or gods. I think that definition is vacuous for reasons that I have already mentioned. Philosophically–from a historical perspective–that is not how the term has been used or defined. Making the definition more precise as I have is not excluding any members in an unwarrented fashion.

            If a car salesman says “This car is operational”, my position might be “I don’t believe you”. The rock also has the position of “I don’t believe you”, but for some reason my position of not believing the statement of the car salesman isn’t a philosophical crisis, and yet we do recognize that psychological state as distinctive and important.

            My not believing the car is operational is not the same as believing it’s broken. There’s two claims – the car is operational, and the car is not operational – I can disbelieve both claims.

            It’s a state called “pending”

            But that’s confusing. It would be more appropriate to say “I don’t know if I believe you.” Again, given the way people commonly speak, I think most people would understand “I do not believe you” as “you are lying/you are saying something false.” Also, the rock does not have the doxastic attitude “I do not believe you” because rocks have no doxastic attitudes.
            I would say the “pending” state is agnosticism. Not atheism.

            The statement “Atheists believe that theism is not justified due to lack of evidence” is a metaphysical viewpoint, and it’s the viewpoint that’s expressed.

            False. That is an epistemological assertion and not a metaphysical one.

          • Lord Narf says

            Keep in mind, I am contesting the fact that atheism is best defined as lack of a belief in God or gods. I think that definition is vacuous for reasons that I have already mentioned. Philosophically–from a historical perspective–that is not how the term has been used or defined. Making the definition more precise as I have is not excluding any members in an unwarrented fashion.

            Fortunately, you don’t get to single-handedly decide what the word means. A large group of people have embraced the term, and they get to decide what it means, in current usage. We’ve gone with the accurate, etymological meaning.

            Your claim about making it more precise is silly. The word already has a precise meaning. You just don’t like that definition. We don’t care that you don’t like that meaning.

          • says

            definitions were already made from those words, it is the new pop-philo who transformed the meanings in thinking they invented the real meaning of words who had already meaning and concept. why don’t you invent new words if you want to make nuances in your concepts??

          • says

            That’s because people have false beliefs about the criteria of a scientific theory.

            Yes, just like people have false beliefs about how to structure sentences/concepts correctly.

            And again, I am well aware of the fact that there is a logical difference between “I do not believe P” and “I believe ~P.” I am not contesting that point at all! My only point was is that it is common–and perfectly acceptable–for people to substitute one for the other in the course of conversation.

            … and I dont’ see how that’s relevant at all. It’s also considered acceptable to think that a scientific theory is an “unproven idea”. They’re wrong. It doesn’t make the scientific definition disappear because the incorrect common parlance exists.

            When I say “I do not believe in ghosts” I have never had a person understand that as “I lack a belief in ghosts.”

            … and that’s how I always hear it. Again, because people structure it wrong doesn’t make it right.

            It’s the same as if I were to say, “it is a lot cooler now that the sun moved behind the cloud.” Clearly I am saying something literally false and it would take a very complex logically formulation to express the proposition that I REALLY am stating. All my point was is that typically people understand what a speaker means.

            Well, I don’t get the comparison to that phrase.

            Keep in mind, I am contesting the fact that atheism is best defined as lack of a belief in God or gods. I think that definition is vacuous for reasons that I have already mentioned.

            You can contest it all you want. It’s a common definition. The fact that you find it boring/useless/pointless doesn’t erase the definition, or negate the fact that many people DO find it useful. I find your objection that people formulate illogical sentence constructions to be vacuous and irrelevant. That doesn’t appear to be deterring you.

            Philosophically–from a historical perspective–that is not how the term has been used or defined. Making the definition more precise as I have is not excluding any members in an unwarranted fashion.

            Imagine that! Language evolves. I find the “a-theist” meaning “not a theist” to be entirely logical and succinct – an excellent dividing point, especially given a society that places so much importance on someone positively believing in a god.

            I’m sorry you don’t like it, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s a definition that’s overwhelmingly adopted as proper and logical. I’m sorry that you dont’ get to dictate what words we use, and that there’s no right or wrong definitions in language. You might be able to make a case for a particular definition for a particular context, but if “atheist” starts having a common definition of “chocolate sundae”, then that’s a common definition, and it’s legitimate to use.

            Imprecise and illogical sentence constructions, on the other hand, are not legitimate.

            But that’s confusing. It would be more appropriate to say “I don’t know if I believe you.”

            That’s confusing. That makes no sense. Do you not have access to your own mind? You either believe someone, or you don’t. It’s a true dichotomy. It’d be impossible to not know whether you believe someone or not… unless you’re unconscious.

            Saying that you don’t know if you believe someone is gibberish.

            Again, given the way people commonly speak, I think most people would understand “I do not believe you” as “you are lying/you are saying something false.”

            I don’t care that people inject and project their own annotations to the position. It is irrelevant. Technically speaking, “I don’t believe you” simply means “I do not accept that the claim is correct”. It could be that the status of the car is simply unestablished. Maybe you haven’t taken it for a test drive, or popped the hood or something. There’s nothing about it that insinuates dishonesty.

            Likewise, “I don’t believe you” as a response to a theist simply means that I do not accept the claim that a god exist. Nothing more, nothing less.

            Weren’t you the one who was just talking about imprecise definitions? This is pretty damn precise.

            Also, the rock does not have the doxastic attitude “I do not believe you” because rocks have no doxastic attitudes.

            Agreed, therefore the objections that rocks could be atheists falls under the same situation, and that’s why it wouldn’t make sense that they’d be atheists. They don’t have doxastic attitudes.

            I would say the “pending” state is agnosticism. Not atheism.

            And I would say that “pending” is atheism, and agnosticism is the position that the condition of the car cannot be determined.

            Unfortunately, both definitional approaches are recognized.

          • Lord Narf says

            definitions were already made from those words, it is the new pop-philo who transformed the meanings in thinking they invented the real meaning of words who had already meaning and concept. why don’t you invent new words if you want to make nuances in your concepts??

            Dude, the lack of belief definition is already in pretty much every dictionary out there. What the New Atheism movement is using for a definition isn’t new. We’re just hardening the definition and making it more standardized.

            The fact that it’s also etymologically sound is just additional support for the current usage.

          • says

            well I think you know a bit of latin. in latin to be an atheist didn’t mean “no believe in god” but no believe in the right god. christians for exemple were called atheists.

            in the greek world, if you didn’t believe in the gods of athens, you were considered an atheist. even if you were saying that you believe in one god.

            atheist in greek and latin refered to herectics that weren’t worshipping the right god. the “a” of atheist, meant outside their true gods.

            since the enlightment, atheist meant believe (taking as true) they are no god.

            today? in 2013, it seems in the US it means, lack of belive in god, for utilitarian reasons. But still USA doesn’t live in a vacuum. Internationaly atheism refer to “believing they are no god”

        • Jonathan Parsons says

          Agreed, therefore the objections that rocks could be atheists falls under the same situation, and that’s why it wouldn’t make sense that they’d be atheists. They don’t have doxastic attitudes.

          The definition of atheism that YOU provided logically implies that rocks are atheists. It is impossible for rocks to be atheists, which is EXACTLY WHY I said your definition of atheism ought to be rejected.

          I don’t care that people inject and project their own annotations to the position. It is irrelevant.

          And I say that is exactly what the definition of atheism as “the lack of belief in God or gods” is doing. It is imprecise, has absurd consequences and does not fit with the historical usage of the term in philosophy. Etymologically it has meant both “the rejection of belief in gods” and “the belief that gods do not exist.” The fact that you are saying it is ONLY “the rejection of belief in gods” is what I have a problem with.

          I find your objection that people formulate illogical sentence constructions to be vacuous and irrelevant.

          It is called “paraphrasing.” “Paraphrasing” is perfectly acceptable for expressing complex ideas, which is what my example about the sun was referring to. In formal argumentation it is not appropriate to fudge on logical technicalities. In every day life, however, it is perfectly acceptable to do so for the sake of simplicity. Take my “it is cooler now that the sun moved behind the cloud.” In order to give a strict metaphysical assertion of what is actually taking place, I would have to say something like “there are x’s arranged sun-wise and there are y’s arranged cloud-wise and there are z’s emmitted by the x’s such that at some time T the z’s are deflected off of the y’s in such a way that some person p may have the sudden phenomenological awareness of being cooled.” Also, logical syntax and semantic definition are two completely different things.

          I’m sorry you don’t like it, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s a definition that’s overwhelmingly adopted as proper and logical.

          I don’t care if it is “overwhelmingly adopted as proper.” It is also not abundantly clear that it is overwhelming adopted as proper–I know several atheists who agree with me that such a definition ought to be rejected for being imprecise. And as I have said it is certainly not proper given the actual historical usage of the term in philosophy. It’s the same thing as scientific theory meaning “unproven idea.” It may be overwhelming acceptable to people who don’t know any better, but given the way the term has actually been used in science and philosophy that usage is wrong. I say the same thing about atheism meaning nothing more than “lack of belief in God or gods.” I don’t care if it is in common usage and I don’t care if people find it proper. It is fraught with problems. I have given actual REASONS for why it has problems.

  1. Kazim says

    Ben was in the audience yesterday and caught some things on the show that I didn’t. First, I mistakenly stated the date was in 2012. Oops.

    Second, the when “Stotch” said he had called before, I was immediately suspicious had annoyed me on a previous call. Turns out I was right. Ben remembered that he was the one who had told us that he met with trolls, including a troll named Troll. At dinner we had a fairly uproarious conversation about this, proposing that probably Stotch had probably told this guy he was looking for trolls, and the guy — realizing how gullible Stotch obviously is — said “Ah yes, I’M a troll.” “Wow, what’s your name?” asked Stotch. “Um… Troll.”

    If that’s what happened then this guy was obviously trolling Stotch, which means he was being trolled by Troll the trolling troll.

    • Scott Benton says

      Stotch was the guy who went abroad and met two trolls – one looked like a troll but wouldn’t let him take his picture, the other was OK with the picture but didn’t look much like a troll…

      I think he had started out talking about seeing angels or something. How do you argue with someone who thinks they see things like this?!!

  2. gil says

    if a self replicate watch that made from dna and need a designer, so do the cat because is more eomplex. if a watch need a designer, so do the world itlsef that contain watch=more complex then a wtach

    • jdog says

      This argument is dumb and you should feel bad for making it. Watches aren’t self-replicating, living entities. Your argument fails because the premise is invalid.

      • Lord Narf says

        Heh, I wasn’t even going to touch this one. If someone doesn’t have a sufficient grasp of grammar to assemble coherent sentences, I don’t think their argument is going to be worth the effort of untangling the grammatical train wreck.

        • jdog says

          Curiously enough, I didn’t have any trouble following his arguments. The first one fails because the premises are invalid and the second is logical fallacy of composition.

          In a literary sense, they’re both fallacies of composition. ;)

          • Lord Narf says

            Well, yeah, you can hash out what he’s trying to say … which wasn’t really worth the effort, considering what a stupid argument it is.

            But what happens if he responds, in greater detail? ^.^ I don’t feel like wading through 10 lines of that crap.

      • kosk11348 says

        I believe Gil’s post was internet sarcasm, perhaps slightly muddled because of a language barrier. As far as I know, no one who uses the Design Argument in any seriousness would describe pocket watches as self-replicating and made from DNA. Mentioning these crucial distinctions leads me to believe Gil is actually pointing out, in a tongue-in-cheek manner, why the Design Argument fails.

        But who knows? Poe’s Law strikes again.

        • Lord Narf says

          I dunno. You’d think anyone who isn’t fluent in English would use Google’s translation program, at the very least. That was hand-typed, judging from the typos. I think sub-literate moron is the more likely situation.

          I’ve heard the argument from design out of many Christians, and I’ve specifically heard Paley’s Watchmaker Argument a few times.

      • Lord Narf says

        Cool, now go read it. The whole thing. Russel was brilliant, and Feinstein was an embarrassment. There was a lot of good stuff in Russel’s posts, useful in case you ever get into arguments with theists, yourself.

        • Lord Narf says

          And when I talk about Russel destroying him, I mean something similar to the PZ Myers vs. Geoffrey Simmons debate, in which even the fundies recognized how horrible their side got annihilated.

          Likewise, with Russel and Stephen, even the Christians realized what a bloodbath it was. I didn’t see the slightest bit of support from the Christians, the last time I checked.

        • Lord Narf says

          Ah, yeah, damn. I forgot to stick that one on the end. My post was a mess of link tags, by the time I finished.

          btw, was there a neutral person (like and agnostic philosopher as suggested by Russel) who made a verdict somewhere?
          Not that I’m aware of. The neutral third-party introduced the two of them, then buggered the hell off, before the fireworks started, from my understanding. Can’t blame him, really.

          I don’t think there was any structure for evaluation and awarding a winner, just allowing things to progress until the closing arguments (which Stephen violated), then opening the forum to the observers. Stephen maintained full moderation on his side, too, like a complete coward.

          • says

            “The neutral third-party introduced the two of them, then buggered the hell off, before the fireworks started, from my understanding. Can’t blame him, really.”
            lol!!

            ” Stephen maintained full moderation on his side, too, like a complete coward.”
            Ya, and blocked fast all new comments “waiting that they will be more christians”..but, hello if you disallow any comments how can you expect to have any christians?

          • Lord Narf says

            Well, he allowed comments for a while, just maintained full moderation and never approved anything for which he didn’t have an easy (although, still often flawed) response. I assume he’d have seen any Christian commenters and passed them straight through moderation. After a long enough period, with no one coming to his defense, he closed comments completely.

          • says

            Seems he opened it late the 15th october but people realized and were informed the 16th about his blog.
            first comment 8:29 Am and he stopped allowing comments at 1:42pm the same day. So around 5 hours of heavy moderation and then -New comments are not allowed.- he closed it explaining why he close it and said “Maybe when Christians start posting as well, it will generate discussions between the two groups.” So my remark about the “hello…” was how christians can start posting as well if the new comments are not allowed?
            (it was a rhetorical question from me, of course. to show how he is mixed up or dishonest.

          • Lord Narf says

            Ah, here’s the explanation, out of Russel’s final post:

            It seems to me, though, that the point of an argument is actually to convince other people of something they didn’t already think, based on the strength of your arguments. In my previous post I actually suggested some more straightforward ways to evaluate the debate: We could submit it to a popular vote. We could bring in a single highly educated person who is agnostic, but has a strong background in philosophy or logic. We could let the guy who introduced us to each other give his thoughts on the arguments.

            Of course, Stephen rejected all of these proposals, complaining that all of them favored me. And maybe he’s got a point. The Atheist Experience does have a much bigger audience than Soli Deo Gloria, a brand new blog, for now… though of course, the real question would have been whether Stephen’s arguments convinced anyone to switch teams. Philosophy professors don’t tend to be incredibly impressed by anti-scientific apologetic arguments. And our mutual friend, who was an atheist to begin with, seems to have been singularly irritated with Stephen’s responses for as long as I’ve been in touch with him.

            So maybe the results of the debate are strongly weighted in my favor, but that’s hardly my fault. What’s interesting to me is the emotional force with which Stephen, who is so certain in his own mind that he is “winning” somehow, rejected any attempts at measuring his victory.

          • says

            aha! so Stephen refused any neutral person to judge who won. he probably “pressuposed” that he would have been declared disqualified by a neutral philosopher or logician.

          • Lord Narf says

            Worse than that, actually. We had a debate judge posting in the comment section. Apparently, in a formal debate, Stephen would have automatically lost after his first post, since he failed to present his argument. The guy is a complete buffoon. Only five posts each, and he doesn’t even give Russel an argument to address, for Russel’s first post.

          • Kazim says

            The guy who set it up didn’t bugger off completely, I have stayed in touch with him and he appreciated the argument. Although he agreed that he was strongly on my side in the end, he has a higher respect for Stephen’s intelligence than I do, and was bothered by the unanswered — and perhaps unanswerable — questions that he brought up, like “Where does logic come from?” To me that is a mostly meaningless and irrelevant question, but I’m not sure if he agreed with that. He did agree that God isn’t an explanation though.

          • Lord Narf says

            Why does your agnostic friend show a higher respect for something so clearly not evidenced? I don’t know how well Stephen performs in other areas, but his grasp of logic is pitiful.

    • Lord Narf says

      Ugh. I responded to your question, for everyone else. The large number of links seems to have tripped the moderation. It should come through in a few hours, once one of the moderators gets to it.

  3. Kes says

    I’ve given a lot of thought to the basis of morality and its relationship to society and the nature of humans as social animals. My conclusion is always that morality is conditional, not relative. It is immoral to kill a person… unless they are suffering from a painful, terminal illness for which there is no cure and it would be a mercy to end their suffering. It is immoral to cut off someone’s limb… unless the limb has become gangrenous and must be removed to save their life.

    My go-to example of this is a glass of water. Drinking a glass of water is value-neutral, neither moral nor immoral… unless you are on an ocean voyage with limited water supply, and you are drinking water above and beyond your ration. Which is why offenses like that used to be treated with far more gravity at sea than on land, punishable by flogging or even death, because selfishness in a survival situation jeopardizes everyone else’s survival as well as your own.

    Which, again, is why there by definition cannot be moral or immoral actions by a lone survivor on a desert island. And even in that case, the only immoral act I can think of would be abusing an animal for sadistic pleasure: immoral because you are placing your own satisfaction above the pain of another being.

    • Mr. Lynne says

      Note that this means that while moral acts are impossible without moral agents, moral rules exist without moral agents. That is, while there is no moral act with regard to murder if there are no moral actors, the ‘rule’ of murder being immoral still holds since such a rule assumes conditions that would include moral actors.

      Similarly, 2+2 = 4 still holds up without minds because it is merely descriptive of a particular phenomenon of reality. It, itself, is not an act.

      • says

        Similarly, 2+2 = 4 still holds up without minds because it is merely descriptive of a particular phenomenon of reality. It, itself, is not an act.

        To put this point in further focus, what if we weren’t base-10? What if we were base-3? 4 wouldn’t exist.

        It’d be: 2+2 = 11

        We basically grabbed a bunch of individual objects and labeled a quantity 4, while noticing that when adding one group of “2″ to another group of “2″ it happened to match the group we labelled “4″ (or “11″ in base 3)

        • 42oolon says

          If you need to appeal to Platonic idealism or the objective truth of mathematics to justify your morality or god, I think it is fair to say you have lost the argument. Unless you are a PhD philosophy candidate, in which case these concerns have arguable merit.

          Same goes for presuppositional apologetics. It is really called the problem of global skepticism and neither secular philosophy nor religion has a way out of it. We just gotta deal with it. We do so with axioms. The Presups just add the necessary axiom of a god.

        • curiousgeorge says

          Hello Jasper of Maine:

          I’ve read all comments on this last one standing on desert island question. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on the question I posed on comment #8 if you happen to have the time. I’m trying to answer some questions to get some perspective.

    • curiousgeorge says

      Hello:

      I left a reply to comment #8 below. I would also really appreciate it if you had the time to hear your thoughts.

  4. Das Boese says

    “It is immoral to kill a person… unless they are suffering from a painful, terminal illness for which there is no cure and it would be a mercy to end their suffering. It is immoral to cut off someone’s limb… unless the limb has become gangrenous and must be removed to save their life.”

    I hope your omission of “unless it goes against the affected person’s will” was unintentional.

  5. BassiestAtheist says

    I think I have an answer to the “Guy Murders Everyone Else on a Desert Island” Dilemma.

    The idea that murder is morally wrong is externally implicit in the idea of a society. When people agree to form a society, the idea that murder is wrong is embedded within it; if this idea wasn’t accepted, the society would cease to function.

    If a guy is by himself on a desert island, he isn’t bound by a moral system. Since he isn’t part of a society, there’s no one to murder or steal from or victimize in any way.

    If a guy murders everyone else on a desert island, the murders still continue to be immoral; they don’t automatically become “okay” after he finishes off the last person. This is because they were done within the confines of a society. But, he would be unable to do any further immoral acts.

    • curiousgeorge says

      I agree with you, but would like to bring up what might be one exception. I try to live by the axiom of “do no harm”, of course there are some grey areas that everyone will debate whether harm is being done. But anyway, when I think of do no harm I extend that to treatment of others as well as myself. Therefore, things like binge drinking, eating too much fast food – I think of them as immoral. They are relaitively minor infractions compared to murdering another person, but immoral nonetheless. So, my question is what if this lone surviror were to kill himself and it was not a mercy killing where he/she was so sick they were in bad pain and going to die anyway. Could that be construed as immoral using my logic or is my logica flawed.

      • Lord Narf says

        I don’t care if someone is alone on a desert island or in a society with millions of other people. Suicide is not immoral, particularly if you’re in pain. In fact, preventing someone from ending his life, under those circumstances, is immoral. Preventing someone from helping someone else end his life, if he’s incapable of ending it himself, is also immoral.

        Of course, if someone is suicidal because of some fucked up brain chemistry or something else that can be corrected, we should try to help the person and prevent the suicide.

        • curiousgeorge says

          If the axion of “do no harm” to others and oneself is valid (and I am not saying it is btw) and you have a society of millions of people. Presumably, there are people in that society who care about the individual who has committed suicide (parents, siblings, friends). If one kills themselves they are causing psychological harm to the people who care about them. Would it be immoral then? I am a person who firmly believes in Hospice and legal euthenasia, by the way.

          • Lord Narf says

            Bodily rights and autonomy take precedence over the emotional state of others. The only moral argument to be made would be in the case of physical or economic dependency by others. Sure, other people may feel bad, but if the person committing suicide had anything approaching a good reason, his/her loved ones should respect that. Brain chemistry problems would be one argument against it, but that still doesn’t make it an immoral decision.

            You need to change your axiom, too. I don’t buy that doing harm to yourself is immoral, as I stated elsewhere.

        • curiousgeorge says

          Let’s change the example. A father, mother, husband who is an alcoholic. I assume from your words that you believe if there is physcial or economic dependency with the kids that this would matter. What if one is making their wife who is not an alcholoic miserable? Does ones autonomy take precedence over her emotional state?

          • Kes says

            So the scenario is: a wife and children are economically dependent on an alcoholic husband who is making the wife miserable. You don’t say how the father’s alcoholism is making the mother miserable, but having a lifetime of experience with alcoholics, I can imagine it is some combination of being unreliable, spending the family money on drinking, becoming angry and belligerent when his drinking is mentioned or criticized, up to and including lying about the drinking, hiding liquor, and stealing money to buy liquor. At any rate, some kind of abusive behavior is going on. In my opinion and lived experience, the emotional state of the mother is the least of the problems of this hypothetical family. While the husband is the source of economic stability in the family, with unchecked alcoholism, he won’t be for long. And even if he is a “functioning” alcoholic, that doesn’t mean the family situation is stable or emotionally nurturing for the children involved.

            The moral act for the wife is to get some source of income, and then leave. In my opinion, it would be immoral to stay and subject their children to an abusive environment.

      • Lord Narf says

        I meant to spell it out at the end, but I hit reply reflexively. Being stranded on a deserted island and having no way to get back to civilization and no chance of rescue could be a sufficient reason for suicide, for some people, I guess. I can’t imagine the vast majority of people choosing that, but if someone wants to, then whatever.

      • says

        But anyway, when I think of do no harm I extend that to treatment of others as well as myself. Therefore, things like binge drinking, eating too much fast food – I think of them as immoral.

        I tend to make an exception for consent. Anything one does to one’s self (while sober at least) is automatic consent. In my mind, it waives moral concerns.

        If it came to suicide, the morality issues would come to how it’d affect others – dependents or debts owed to others. Since we’re interwoven into society, our own deaths cause ripples.

        I agree that morality is an assessment of harm versus benefit, but that’s coupled with how it affects others, since morality is about how we get along with each other.

        • curiousgeorge says

          I see your point about consent.

          Binge drinking at parties impairs judgment to the point where someone can acutally lose their ability to make a judgment as to whether to drink or drive or make the same decision he would make if sober to a female if she says no.

          There are some things I see going on that create such a state of mind to where judgment is so impaired that bad things aren’t just likely to happen – gets to the point they are going to happen.

          Neigbors son – overdosed on heroin. Absolutely destroyed his parents. I decided then and there that strong drug use is an immoral act.

    • curiousgeorge says

      I need to clairfy one thing about do no harm above. I mean do no harm to others, as well as do no harm to myself being the axiom.

        • curiousgeorge says

          I don’t want to assume what you mean here, but I’d have to disagree with you that self-abuse is not immoral. We don’t live in a vacuum, and if a person is self-abusing alcohol, drugs, cutting themselves, etc. that effects others in their lives.

          • Lord Narf says

            What’s wrong with cutting yourself, if it makes you feel better? Some people quite enjoy it.

            Abusing alcohol and drugs only becomes immoral when you let it spill over onto others’ lives around you. If you can keep it self-contained and not make others miserable with it, it’s not immoral.

    • says

      I write here because it is here that it is discussed the question of what is moral and what is immoral.
      what is moral? what is making someone having the most pleasure and the less pain. but a moral good thing for one person, can be immoral for someone else sharing the same beliefs. also often what is good for one person can hurt many people. which pleasure must be infringed, the one for one person, many persons, a collectivity?

      Exemple, if I flirt with a girl that other guys have eyes on her, I hurt the other guys. I the girl is intrested, then we are a couple, but it hurts the ex-boyfrriend, the other who had eyes on her also are hurt, maybe also the friends and parents of the girl are hurt (because, let’s suppose they hate me), or the society is hurt for (just an exemple)
      I am really old and the girl really young, etc who has the right to be happy in the expense of the others? the guy or the majority?

      Can’t wait to hear people opinion on that.

      Oh, and another exemple-question. if I have sex with many girls (and I haven’t even promise anything in the future) most are ok with it from these girls but some are hurted because they thought it will lead to other stuff, etc was I immoral? are the girls that think I was immoral and make me problems about that are immorals to make me suffer? (just speculating here hehe)

      • Kes says

        “Do no harm” is a good maxim to start with, but there’s harm and harm as it were. If you willingly cause someone physical harm against their will to no good purpose, then yes, that is immoral. Emotional harm is a more nebulous affair. People can be hurt all the time by the actions of others, but those others were not acting specifically to hurt someone; it was a side effect, and while the result was regrettable, it was not immoral.

        In your example, two consenting people (let’s say Ann and Pam) engage in mutual flirting and later a sexual relationship, which hurts someone else who had a sexual interest in one of those people (Fred). The couple did not set out saying to themselves, “Let’s hook up because it will really upset Fred!” They hooked up because they wanted to. Fred has a right to be hurt, but not a right to prevent their interaction because he will be upset. No promises were made to Fred, and he wasn’t even lied to. He knew Ann and Pam decided to have a relationship, and he has a right to be disappointed, but no right to demand Ann and Pam break it off so he can have his chance. In that case, Fred would be placing his own emotional satisfaction over that of Ann and Pam in the face of their stated interests. Similarly, Ann and Pam’s parents can be disappointed by their choices, but unless Ann or Pam is an abusive partner, the parents don’t have a say in who their children choose to have relationships with. Emotional harm can often result from completely moral actions; that’s part of living in human society.

        If you are promiscuous, you are not acting immorally as long as you are honest about your promiscuity and engage in scrupulous safe-sex practices. If you get those many hypothetical women into bed by promising things you knew you couldn’t or wouldn’t follow through on, then you are getting sex by false pretenses and are acting immorally. If you are honest and some hypothetical women are either naive or deluded into thinking they can “change” you, then they are not acting in good faith and it’s not surprising they got hurt.

  6. 42oolon says

    When the caller said something like “we could say that morality is like its against the law or it harms others, what is the basis for that?”

    I just wanted to say, “why do you need more than that? [the harm thing] why do you need to involve a god?”

  7. curiousgeorge says

    “Why do you need more than that?, Why do you need to involve a god?

    Befrore I comment on this, I want to say I am an atheist and don’t necessarily believe we need a god concept? That said, I’ve always wondered about how the concepts of there being “hell to pay” and “God will get him/her for that” with the “eye in the sky watching” developed and were used to influence behavior.

    • 42oolon says

      Psychology of religion. Evolutionary psychology. I suggest the “reasonable doubts” podcast. They have a resident psychologist. Answers are few as these are difficult questions.

      I speculate that as societies developed forms of organized repercussions for taboo behaviour such as: we kill all thieves, and in their demon-haunted worlds believed there were unseen forces acting similar to them, they concluded that there were unseen repercussions from these unseen forces. That and trying to guess why their village was flooded, a crop failed… ignorant of weather patterns, climate and physics, they assumed divine punishment. Such memes once enshrined may lead persons in power to reinforce and manipulate them as ways to secure power and authority.

    • 42oolon says

      But for me, reducing harm to well-being and maximizing equality of opportunity for all = the society I want to live in and these principles are enough to underlie what I call moral decisions. I speculate it is the same for most theists as well, they just add God.

      • curiousgeorge says

        Thank you for the recommendation on the podcast. I’ve had a chance to listen to two already, they are very good.

  8. Jonathan Parsons says

    I would like to point out something that was stated by Jeff–and I think Russell was trying to head in this direction but then the call ended.

    Regarding the island example, Jeff would want to say that if a person were on a desert island by herself, then there would be no moral facts; since there would not be more than one person to “agree” on what the moral facts would be. However, a few things need to be considered:

    1. Let’s say Sally is on a desert island all by herself and thinks “If there were at least one person on this island distinct from me, I would have a moral obligation to not murder that person.” This conditional is clearly a moral conditional; it is making a judgment regarding Sally’s moral action. But why believe that the conditional itself is not true until there is at least one other person on the island? There being at least one other person on the island is a sufficient condition for Sally having a moral obligation towards that person and you cannot derive “Sally has a moral obligation towards x” merely from “there is at least one x distinct from Sally, such that x is a person and x is on the same island as Sally.” In order to derive the first from the second, you need the conditional. But that means the conditional has to be true prior to there being another person on the island. But if the conditional has to be true prior to there being any other person on the island, whatever makes the proposition true has nothing to do with how many people are on the island.

    2. What about the possibility of people having moral obligations towards themselves? Perhaps Sally has a secondary obligation to perform actions that are best for her. If that is the case, she would have that obligation even if she were the only person in the entire world!

    3. With respect to the idea that moral truths are based upon what people agree is best for everyone, we can raise the same problem raised in number 1. In order to derive “P is moral” you need the conditional “If people agree that P is best for everyone, then P is moral.” But once again, this conditional must be true before people actually agree on what is best. If you were to say “everyone should agree that the conditional is best” you end up with a regression of agreement. The conditional has to be true regardless of whether or not there are any other people, but that means that moral truths do not depend upon human attitudes beliefs and desires–the conditional would still be true even if there were no attitudes beliefs and desires about such things.

    Now, I think this line of reasoning works just as well in the Euthyphro Dilemma. “If God commands that P, then doing P is moral” requires that conditional be true before God issues any commandments. If the divine command theorist wants to stick to his guns, he would have to say that God himself makes the conditional true, but then we have the same problem.

  9. says

    There’s just one thing: the “on a desert island, all by yourself, there’s no morality” thing.

    This ignores both humanity and social context.

    Anyone on a desert island presumably had parents, or at least knew people who had some kind of influence in one getting there. No one escapes social context morally, even if one is on a desert island. There was human contact to at least shape intuitive morality. One still must make decisions which affect one’s well-being, including getting up and building a fire. If one decides to talk to a volleyball, or animal, one has humanized the thing or personalized the animal. One is still subject to social context. This is not to say morality is strictly social. I believe it to be intuitive as well; a product of evolution. Besides: if one can say some animals can cooperate and have altruistic motives, one cannot throw morality out the window, especially if a human is there to witness it.

    • mike says

      Still, this doesn’t change or address the fact that if you are alone on a deserted island with no other humans and no other animals. just you and your volleyball friend, then there is no morality. There are no moral laws that can be broken.

        • Kes says

          I think it does. As I said above, I think taking an animal (tamed pet or otherwise) and subjecting it to pain and suffering just for the sake of making it suffer (not for a food supply or a garment or something to maximize your own survival), then in my opinion you are acting immorally.

          And if you project humanity on an inanimate object, while clearly not rational, I think you owe that object the same respect you would another person. Obviously, once rescued or removed from the island and placed among real people, your anthropomorphic friends would be seen as evidence of mental illness induced by enforced solitude. But if, in that solitude, you abandon your own moral precepts regarding the treatment of even fictional others, you are acting immorally in your own mind. So I guess I’m saying if it were me, all alone, I would be comfortable acting in an insane (thinking things or animals were people) but moral way (treating those things morally) than in a sane (no things or animals are people) but immoral way (treating those animals poorly or sadistically.)

          • says

            At that point, it basically becomes a simulation of another world in your own mind. I’m a bit more concerned about the real world. If this scenario becomes a question of morality, then many of us have committed murder many times over when playing video games.

            It just gets silly after awhile.

          • Lord Narf says

            Yeah, but how you treat your friends in your peyote dream is still an application of morality. Even if it’s all in your head, how you treat perceived people is … not important … but it’s real, even if the people aren’t.

          • Lord Narf says

            The video games metaphor isn’t quite correct, in my opinion, by the way. We know that the characters in video games aren’t real.

          • says

            Morality, loosely put, is a set of rules/behaviors that arise when two or more people try to get along.

            While a hallucinating person may technically be trying to apply moral rules to someone he/she thinks exist, in order for the situation to actually be an application of morality, it needs to involve actual people, otherwise, the morality is as delusional as the non-existent person.

            Likewise, in order to be “in battle” with someone, you must be fighting another other person. A hallucinating person may believe he/she is “in battle” with another person, but if that other person doesn’t exist, he/she is not actually “in battle” with anyone.

            The fact the person is attempting to karate-chop an imaginary person doesn’t mean he/she’s actually fighting someone.

          • Lord Narf says

            While a hallucinating person may technically be trying to apply moral rules to someone he/she thinks exist, in order for the situation to actually be an application of morality, it needs to involve actual people, otherwise, the morality is as delusional as the non-existent person.

            No it doesn’t. The application of those moral rules … is an application of moral rules. You just labeled it morality, in your own denial. The fact that that person is trying to apply it to his invisible friends makes it something that he’s trying to apply.

            Morality is a set of rules, and a state of mind. It informs our treatment and consideration of those other people, but is not dependent upon the physical existence of those other people.

            The fact the person is attempting to karate-chop an imaginary person doesn’t mean he/she’s actually fighting someone.

            Watch the last 10 minutes or so of Fight Club, if you haven’t already. That was a fight, between Jack (the narrator) and Tyler.

          • Lord Narf says

            Cool. Yeah, I think we were mostly just bickering about definitions and semantics.

            Did the Fight Club reference help any? ^.^

          • Lord Narf says

            Heh heh heh.

            You should watch it straight through, if you haven’t already had the plot twist revealed. It’s one of those movies that is nearly meaningless, taken in fragments. Too much concept building, as the story progresses.

  10. curiousgeorge says

    To @ David Sweet under Comment #1 above.

    I read your post and think I understand the point. I cannot speak for anyone but myself. I am not someone who wears the label “atheist” with some kind of pride. It is just a definition – which I understand to mean lack of believ in god(s). I guess if agnostic means one can’t know there are god(s) – then I’ll admit to being an agnostic. I don’t know for sure.

    That said, any of the god characters that are described in the major religions of today – I don’t believe in any of those.

    I live in America and the last I checked about 80% of the country claims Christianity. There are reasons for that and we can see why by having a knowledge of history.

    My only problem with Christianity specifically is the impact of taking the bible literally and applying the customs, rules, and traditions of a primitive, very different culture to our laws, rules and social norms. The effect is that we still have tooo much misogny, lack of equal opportunity, it has created a mess with racism, and the prejudice towards gays.

    Christianity is getting more watered down and in my opinion things are generally speaking improving, BUT we have a long way to go. I will also say, that even though our society is improving, if you look at things on an individual level there are people trapped in some very shitty situations with vulnerable people held hostage to zealots who hold these primitive, rigid belief system.

    If someone wants to think that Casper the Altrustic and Fair-Minded Friendly Ghost created the world and belief and praise in him will get one everlasting life I have no problem with that at all. It isn’t my cup of tea, but that is fine. I think we’d be better off if our population was more educated and we had greater knowledge of science and other areas of learning as well.

    Again, my only concern is how these rigid belief systems affect our culture and individuals. I do not think I am better as a person than a Christian. My concerns are really more centered around the use of the “Holy” Bible and the application of how society should think and be set up and how that effects our culture.

    • curiousgeorge says

      I want to add to my comments above before you respond in terms of my being an atheist/ agnostic or whatever. I don’t really care which one it is honestly.

      I have only participated in this blog for a very short time. I get the sense that the people sharing information are very well meaning, respectful people who care about the world around them.

      I am NOT saying that I think agnostics or atheists as a general rule are more “moral”. By this I mean, I have no way of knowing whether there would be just as many people stuck in “shitty” situations if American was overwhelmingly atheist. There is a lot more that goes into morality than faith or philosophy.

      I do want something “better” than primitive Middle East cultures and traditons for America. And I also want something “better” for people than the rantings of Paul in the New Testament. In no way, am I claiming I am “better”, nor am I claiming that just because one is atheist or that atheists as a group are morally superior. Now, that is just me, others may feel differently and they are welcome to chime in if they wish.

      Atheism as a movement has caught on, agnositicism has not as far as I know.

  11. jacobfromlost says

    David Sweet: I don’t believe there are any true atheists. But to use the term agnostic doesn’t give you the attention and the shock value you desire. Atheism and theism are two ‘guesses’ about reality. Now agnosticism is infinitely more reasonable than atheism. Theism is too. The theist looks at the cosmos and guesses that something or someone supernatural, who by definition had no beginning since it or he or she lives outside of time and space, created the cosmos. That’s a possibility.

    Me: I would only say that you don’t get to redefine the personal positions of other people by redefining the labels they use. I find the standard definitions of atheism/theism having to do with belief, and agnostic/gnostic having to do with knowledge to be useful because you can categorize the actual claimed personal positions of real people based on those categories. Moreover, not believing something to be true does not mean you belief it is false.

    David Sweet: The atheist looks at the same thing and says “I don’t know how it got here but I know it wasn’t a god.” Well, actually that’s not what atheists say. If push comes to shove they want to critique your god and your religion.

    Me: I actually enjoy critical thinking in all aspects of life. I suspect you do as well (if not, I have a bridge to sell for a very reasonable price–call me).

    David Sweet: That’s fair game—but it’s premature. The atheist first needs to deal with origins and what are reasonable guesses and what are unreasonable guesses about origins.

    Me: Why? What if we study this question in detail? What if we read Aristotle’s ideas on time, follow them through Galileo, Newton, Einstein, and modern physics? What if we discover that time is not absolute, and not being absolute, doesn’t require some kind of unmoved mover? You see, you must first understand the facts of the discussion before declaring an atheist “needs” to do anything. Not believing in X doesn’t require anything at all. If you want an explanation of how our universe can exist in such a way that time exists around us, you first have to KNOW WHAT TIME IS, so that you won’t make mistakes such as “what caused time”, or “when did time begin”? Those kind of egregious category errors makes it clear who needs to do what first, and clearly it is the theist who needs to research what time actually is (verifiably, reproducibly, predictably, and falsifiably).

    David Sweet: And when push comes to shove the atheist—magically is revealed to not be an atheist but rather an agnostic.

    Me: The two terms are not mutually exclusive. This statement is equivalent of saying that the man has magically revealed to not be a man, but a human. Humans (men, women, boys, girls) can be men too. Agnostics (don’t know or can’t know if god exists) can be atheists (dont’ know or can’t know if god exists and don’t believe in any they’ve ever heard of).

    David Sweet: But again, agnosticism doesn’t get the attention. It’s limp. But the atheist will not say “I know with scientific surety that there is no god.” He will only say that it is highly improbable.

    Me: I don’t think you have talked to many atheists. Your characterization is completely off base. We can’t know anything with “scientific surety”, as you seem to imply there are some kind of absolute conclusions in science. There are not. Moreover, scientific conclusions have little to do with not believing in a god. You can not believe in a god for all kinds of reasons that have nothing to do with evidence, reason, or skepticism.

    David Sweet: Why is it improbable? Here’s where science is misrepresented. Just because science has explained more and more about the cosmos and how it functions—that doesn’t reduce the need for something or someone outside of time and space to originate it!

    Me: You’re misusing the terms “time”, “space”, and “originate.” You are using time and space as if Absolute Time and Absolute Space (as Newton described them) are real and confirmed. They are neither. In fact, they are both DISCONFIRMED by mountains of evidence, starting with the famous eclipse experiment and ending with satellite tv, cell phones, and pretty much everything in our modern world that depends upon relativity in one way or another.

    David Sweet: I may learn more and more about Shakespeare, but that doesn’t reduce the requirement to accept that Shakespeare or someone using that name, wrote many works.

    Me: The analogy is not apt. What if existence, in whatever form, simply exists? You want to say it was created. You want to say existence was created. Consider this: did the creator exist when he created existence? If yes, he didn’t create existence. If no, then he created existence while not existing. You want to say that time requires a first cause as we can follow causes back. But this argument is very, very old, and uses Absolute Time because that’s all Aristotle could imagine to be true. We know absolute time is not true–it has been falsified in reality with evidence (turn on your GPS and it’s all over for your argument–GPS’s require relativity to work at all). Moreover, we have lots and lots of evidence that indicates uncaused causes happen all the time.

    David Sweet: Atheists presume that—like medieval Christians—Christians must assume that God is having to constant oversee every function of the universe, as though that would be a chore for an infinite being. They presume that it must be really complicated, if God exists.

    Me: I don’t presume that at all. It just looks to me as if no god is doing anything–that the universe looks exactly as it should if there is no creator in the vein of a Christian deity (or any other).

    David Sweet: But atheism says “no god likely—even though we have no idea how it originated.”

    Me: No, atheism says I don’t believe in any gods. If you are an atheist based on skepticism, you say I don’t believe in a god creator, a spaghetti creator, a Spiritual Toaster Creator, or any other creator until I see evidence of such a thing (and “evidence” is a defined term–it is verifiable, reproducible, predictive, and falsifiable, and indicates ONE thing, not anything).

    David Sweet: Can we come up with even a theory of how it originated?

    Me: You could actually research this. There are a lot of very good ideas out there that are slowly going to be confirmed or disconfirmed, so that the list gets shorter and shorter as we get closer to the truth. (And a lot has already been discovered that you seem totally oblivious of.)

    David Sweet: Even a science-fiction version? No, we can’t.

    Me: Uh, read a little. There is a lot of information out there for you to explore.

    David Sweet: In my opinion it looks to be impossible for the cosmos to have originated without supernatural cause.

    Me: Why? Why do you think it is impossible that some form of existence simply exists? (Remember, time is not abolute and doesn’t apply to all things in existence. This has already been demonstrated.) Also, you do realize that claiming the cause of everything is supernatural is the same as saying everything is supernatural? It’s a contradiction, as the natural word exists naturally. What would be the point in a supernatural cause making everything operate according to natural principles always?

    David Sweet: Some atheist at that point want to theorize that the cosmos had no beginning. But having no beginning means eternally existing.

    Me: No, it doesn’t. You are applying absolute time to all existence (and conflating “universe” with “cosmos”). Time is relative, not absolute, and doesn’t apply to all of existence (you can claim “eternity” all you want, but it would be equivalent of saying there is an infinite north that is north of the north pole, and infinity is where all the coordinates on the earth come from). This might help. Consider the following:

    Everything that begins to exist begins to exist in time.
    Time began to exist.
    Therefore time began to exist in time.

    See the problem? Or

    Every point on the earth has a point north of it.
    The north pole is a point on the earth.
    The north pole has a point north of it.

    Did I just discover SuperNorth with my argument? No, I jumped scopes and hoped no one noticed.

    David Sweet: Nothing can eternally exist, except a hypothetical divine being.

    Me: Why? Why can’t something “eternally” exist given that time is not Absolute Time, and that uncaused causes occur all the time even in our space-time bubble? Consider these problems:

    If god exists eternally outside of space and time, how long has god existed outside of time in the last hour?
    How far outside of space does god exist? (inches? miles? how many?)

    David Sweet: Thus, atheists at that point are essentially pantheist—which is infinitely more reasonable than atheism. I welcome you to the family of theism—where theism is defined as the belief in the supernatural—dualism, essentially. Theism need not be defined as belief in a personal God. It’s way too premature to address what kind of God we are talking about.

    Me: Theists always start these lengthy discussions telling atheists what they think (and getting it all wrong) while misunderstanding all the operant terms in the debate. That is annoying on several levels.

    David Sweet: The atheist charges that we are naming the unknown “god” and thus copping out. What? Is the atheist not coping out by say “no god” even though there isn’t any way to conceive of it happening?

    Me: The atheist isn’t saying “no god”. The atheist is saying I don’t believe there is a god, and some of us (skeptics) are saying, “I don’t believe there is a god because there is no evidence of such a thing”.

    David Sweet: Their cop out is that ‘science’ hasn’t discovered it, thus it can’t be discussed. Science is their cop-out. Yet science won’t have an answer for origins—right? Because we are talking about pre-science, we are talking about pre-existence of anything.

    Me: Nope, nope, nope, nope, and nope. All of those statements are wrong. We can “discuss” anything, but that isn’t believing it is true. There is no way for us to know if science can have an answer for origins beyond the many answers we have now, but just considering the ones we have now indicate your god idea is wrong. Moreover, “pre-science” doesn’t mean “before physical existence”, it means before science was used as a method of inquiry. Moreover, we are NOT talking about the “pre-existence of anything” unless you are redefining “existence”. You don’t get to do that.

    David Sweet: How can science have a theory about nothing becoming something?

    Me: It doesn’t. The question you should be asking yourself is how god creates existence while not existing–the only thing outside of existence is nonexistence, thus the only way for a god to create his own existence would be to do so while not existing. If you simply claim god “always” existed, then you already accept that creation isn’t necessary at all, as the VERY BEST THING IN EXISTENCE (god) didn’t require creation. If THAT doesn’t require creation, why would anything in existence less than that thing require creation? Are you really going to argue that the grandest thing in existence doesn’t require a creator, but a rock does? Space-time does? Why? It makes no sense.

    David Sweet: The theory of divine origins is a reasonable thesis. There isn’t anything unreasonable about it. It may not be true, but it’s not an unreasonable guess.

    Me: It is unreasonable, as outlined above, and as your “guess” is based on faulty information.

    David Sweet: Also atheists—along with Hitchens— want to claim that theism is an unnecessary complication—that God must be complex. Why must God be complex? In fact, if there is supernatural, it will not operate according to the laws of the natural—and thus has no parts. God should probably be supremely simple.

    Me: Then you can’t argue that complicated things must come from things even more complicated than themselves. Moreover, I can think of something even simpler than your god–a form of existence that is not space-time, not your god, not intelligent, not supernatural, and not a mind.

    David Sweet: Why does it matter? Why can’t theists live with the unknown?

    Me: You don’t have the power NOT to live with the unknown. Making up an answer does not mean you know it to be true, it means you claim to know it to be true. Anyone can claim to know anything to be true.

    David Sweet: Because the cosmos seems to us to be saying something. It’s not silent—it has an immensity which seems to speak to modern people, not just ancients. And our brains and minds (if you believe there are minds) or what atheists mean when they say minds—they are purposeful. We are purposeful creatures and it’s hard to imagine that we exist having only the appearance of meaning and purpose.

    Me: It’s not really that hard at all, given the mountains of evidence.

    David Sweet: Anyway, I’d like to have some debate on some of my comments. Will atheists keep their eyes on the ball and not go immediately to critiquing religion. That’s not hard to do.
    Will atheists own up to being agnostics? Like Dawkins did recently?

    Me: Most atheists are agnostics. Have you never asked any, or watched the show this blog is dedicated to?

    • Lord Narf says

      David Sweet: Also atheists—along with Hitchens— want to claim that theism is an unnecessary complication—that God must be complex. Why must God be complex? In fact, if there is supernatural, it will not operate according to the laws of the natural—and thus has no parts. God should probably be supremely simple.

      Me: Then you can’t argue that complicated things must come from things even more complicated than themselves. Moreover, I can think of something even simpler than your god–a form of existence that is not space-time, not your god, not intelligent, not supernatural, and not a mind.

      Yeah, I left out that part. Meh. You only really hear this argument when Creationists pull out their nonsense about complexity not rising out of simplicity. It’s used as one of the many demonstrations that their thinking is inconsistent.

      • Jonathan Parsons says

        Technically, yes. Rocks and trees are default atheists, if you want to go with the loosest application. It only becomes an important distinction when you apply the term to sentient beings, though.

        Or, you could tighten up the definition to say that atheists are things that reject the assertion of the existence of gods. That’s not a pure definition, but that would narrow down the scope to beings for which atheism matters.

        I already tightened up the definition by saying an atheist is someone who believe God does not exist. The fact you admit that under the “loose” definition rocks, trees and glasses of scotch would count as atheists only further demonstrates that “the lack of belief in God or gods” is too loose of a definition.

        Doesn’t really matter, though. You could go so far as to say that atheism isn’t really a full viewpoint or philosophy. It’s only a response to a claim. If you want to construct a viewpoint or philosophy, you’d have to go with something like skepticism, which leads to atheism, when properly applied.

        Theist: I believe that God exists
        Atheist: I lack a belief in God

        How is “I lack a belief in God” a response to ANYTHING?

        There are several sets of labels. Anti-theism, in contrast to atheism is one of them. There’s also strong and weak atheism. Explicit and default atheism. Hard and soft atheism. If you feel the need to differentiate yourself from the base category, you can choose whatever you like, but you may have to explain what you mean to some people.

        What does it mean to strongly lack a belief or weakly lack a belief? What does it mean to lack a belief explicitly or lack a belief by default? What does it mean to lack a belief in a hard way versus lack a belief in a soft way? This definition of atheism is so incredibly vague that is says absolutely nothing informative. But if definitions don’t say anything informative that means they are BAD definitions!

        And I have already explained what I mean:
        Atheism is the metaphysical viewpoint that God does not exist.
        There is nothing vague or uninformative about this definition of atheism, so that gives us good reason to believe that it is a better definition than the one being offered.

        No.
        No, it’s not.

        That’s not an objection to anything I have said. I say atheism defined as “the lack of belief in God or gods” ought to be rejected because it is vague and uninformative. You either need to A) show that it is not vague or uninformative or B) show that there is nothing wrong with having vague or uninformative definitions. You have already admitted that under that definition “atheism” is uninformative. And I take it you would object to a theist defining “God” in a vague or uninformative way.

        If the rest of the population gave up their delusions, atheism would be a silly, meaningless label to apply to yourself.

        But isn’t the reason why you think all theists are delusional is because their belief in God is false? Isn’t the reason why you “lack a belief in God” because you believe there is no such being? And can the same be said for every atheist who thinks that believing in God is delusional?

        • Lord Narf says

          I already tightened up the definition by saying an atheist is someone who believe God does not exist. The fact you admit that under the “loose” definition rocks, trees and glasses of scotch would count as atheists only further demonstrates that “the lack of belief in God or gods” is too loose of a definition.

          But if you’re going to narrow down the definition like that, you’re blocking out some things that qualify. The tightening up of that definition is artificial and is only useful within a conversation in which it’s an understood artifice, by those having the conversation.

          It’s very broad, but that’s still the definition. You just have to narrow down within the discussion itself. There’s nothing wrong with saying that rocks and trees are atheists. Babies are atheists, until they’re indoctrinated into their parents’ religion. A tribe of hunter-gatherers in the Amazon are atheists, if they haven’t come up with the idea of gods themselves and haven’t had a preacher come and try to save them. Those are all demonstrations of the purest form of default atheism.

          Most of us are more actively atheistic. We’ve been presented with the idea and have rejected it.

          Theist: I believe that God exists
          Atheist: I lack a belief in God

          How is “I lack a belief in God” a response to ANYTHING?

          “Jesus is the Son of God and will judge us all!!! And if you don’t accept him as your personal savior, you will be cast into a lake of fiaaaaarrr!!!!!11oneoneone”

          “You’re a lunatic. I don’t believe your story. What evidence have you got for your claims? Oh, a book of Bronze Age mythology. Nice try. Pull the other one. Come back when you’ve got a better argument, and I’ll take your god more seriously.”

          At no point are you saying that you’re sure their god doesn’t exist, although you could go that far. The baseline response is that there’s no reason to take claims like that seriously, until there’s some real evidence.

          Perhaps a better example would be a deistic god. He created the universe and started off the big bang. Since then, he’s done nothing else. Do I have evidence that there isn’t some god like that? Of course not. Am I sure there isn’t something like that? Of course not. But it’s silly to believe in something like that until it’s demonstrated to exist.

          That’s a response to the claims of a deistic god.

          What does it mean to strongly lack a belief or weakly lack a belief? What does it mean to lack a belief explicitly or lack a belief by default? What does it mean to lack a belief in a hard way versus lack a belief in a soft way? This definition of atheism is so incredibly vague that is says absolutely nothing informative. But if definitions don’t say anything informative that means they are BAD definitions!

          It doesn’t mean to strongly or weakly lack a belief. It’s a modifier on the position.

          Weak atheism is the lack of belief in a god. It’s the default position. Strong atheism is the subset of atheism that asserts a belief in the nonexistence of gods or a god.

          The default, non-belief definition of atheism says plenty. It says that you don’t believe in gods … which isn’t the same as believing that there are no gods. I’m sorry if you don’t find the definition useful. Tough. Plenty of people do.

          And I have already explained what I mean:
          Atheism is the metaphysical viewpoint that God does not exist.
          There is nothing vague or uninformative about this definition of atheism, so that gives us good reason to believe that it is a better definition than the one being offered.

          And that’s where you’re wrong. It doesn’t matter if you find a different definition more useful, if that’s not the definition of the word.

          It’s a matter of etymology and usage. Both are against you. The etymology of the word is a neutral, non-position. Like I said elsewhere, to ericvon germania, it’s a-theism. It’s not anti-theism, untheism, or something similar.
          Think of moral, amoral, and immoral. Amoral is not negative. It’s the neutral position in the spectrum.

          Then, there’s usage. Those who have adopted the label use the correct, etymological definition. We’ve got it, and we’re not giving it back. We define the word, through our use of it.

          That’s not an objection to anything I have said. I say atheism defined as “the lack of belief in God or gods” ought to be rejected because it is vague and uninformative. You either need to A) show that it is not vague or uninformative or B) show that there is nothing wrong with having vague or uninformative definitions. You have already admitted that under that definition “atheism” is uninformative. And I take it you would object to a theist defining “God” in a vague or uninformative way.

          Sorry, I assumed you had read the rest of the comment section.

          The lack of belief definition is perfectly useful. It’s the rejection of a proposition, that a god or gods exist. It is not the negation of that proposition, an assertion that a god or gods do not exist. That’s a very important distinction, in a logical syllogism or in an argument. It has everything to do with burden of proof and the application of skepticism.

          But isn’t the reason why you think all theists are delusional is because their belief in God is false?

          No, I think they’re delusional because they persist in believing in things with no good reason.

          Isn’t the reason why you “lack a belief in God” because you believe there is no such being?

          No. I lack a belief in gods because I haven’t seen evidence for them existing.

          I disbelieve in the Christian god because it’s incoherent, contradictory, and has a great deal of disproving archaeological evidence, such as the discovery of its history, in the Ugaritic pantheon. We have a great deal of scholarly evidence of the evolution of this eternal, unchanging being. The god presented by modern Christianity does not exist, except in the heads of the believers.

          That’s an important distinction, lacking a belief and disbelieving. Do you grasp the difference?

          And can the same be said for every atheist who thinks that believing in God is delusional?

          I dunno. Some of them are probably weak/default atheists, and some of them are probably strong/positive atheists. I can’t speak for them, necessarily.

          • Jonathan Parsons says

            But if you’re going to narrow down the definition like that, you’re blocking out some things that qualify. The tightening up of that definition is artificial and is only useful within a conversation in which it’s an understood artifice, by those having the conversation.

            My precise point is that my definition blocks out things which should NOT qualify. Every agnostic lacks a belief in God. Well, in order to distinguish between an agnostic and an atheist you need to come up with a more complex taxonomy than my definition does. If the simplicity of a theory of language has anything to do with it being more advantageous than others, by narrowing down the classes and sub-classes to which a term refers and thereby narrowing down on the criteria necessary to divide between those classes, I have a simpler and more advantageous understanding. My definition is much more precise, and it doesn’t controversially exclude any members. The idea that people who do not believe in God, rocks, trees and babies are all atheists is absurd.

            And that’s where you’re wrong. It doesn’t matter if you find a different definition more useful, if that’s not the definition of the word.

            It’s a matter of etymology and usage. Both are against you. The etymology of the word is a neutral, non-position. Like I said elsewhere, to ericvon germania, it’s a-theism. It’s not anti-theism, untheism, or something similar.

            False. I would say in the history of philosophy the lexical understanding of atheism is the metaphysical assertion that God does not exist.

            Lastly, I will just say again that not having any good reason to believe that P is true does constitute good reason to believe that P is false.

          • Lord Narf says

            My precise point is that my definition blocks out things which should NOT qualify.

            Should not, according to whom? We have a definition, and we have things that should be included within the scope of that definition. Case closed.

            Every agnostic lacks a belief in God.

            Whoooooaaaaaa. That’s not at all true. I know agnostic theists. Agnosticism and gnosticism are just qualities of theism or atheism. The first agnostics were theists who didn’t believe in the god of the Bible or other holy books. They felt that God was unknowable and that the writers of the bible had an incorrect understanding of God.

            Nowadays, we’d call them fuzzy, new-agey theists. They’re the idiots who call up the Atheist Experience and tell them that Christians don’t understand God … that God is Love.

            Well, in order to distinguish between an agnostic and an atheist you need to come up with a more complex taxonomy than my definition does. If the simplicity of a theory of language has anything to do with it being more advantageous than others, by narrowing down the classes and sub-classes to which a term refers and thereby narrowing down on the criteria necessary to divide between those classes, I have a simpler and more advantageous understanding. My definition is much more precise, and it doesn’t controversially exclude any members.

            Well, no one is going to pay any attention to your linguistic contortions. We already have clear, etymological definitions for both terms, and there’s a great deal of overlap between the two groups. Someone has already done the work for you. Go read Atheist, Gnostic, Theist, Agnostic.

            The idea that people who do not believe in God, rocks, trees and babies are all atheists is absurd.

            No, it’s not. It fits the core definition clearly.

            False. I would say in the history of philosophy the lexical understanding of atheism is the metaphysical assertion that God does not exist.

            [citation needed]

            Various sources have used the term in all sorts of ways, over the past couple millennia. I care how it’s been used in recent history, say for the past couple hundred years, and I care about the etymology and its current usage.

            Lastly, I will just say again that not having any good reason to believe that P is true does constitute good reason to believe that P is false.

            You’re changing scope here. Absence of evidence can be evidence of absence, if you’d expect evidence, because of the parameters of the claim.

            That has nothing to do with what I said. Rejecting a claim does not constitute a counterclaim that the claim is false. The discussion has been about claims, not the evidence used to evaluate those claims.

          • says

            @L Narf

            I just by mistake fall on your conversation with Jonathan. I have to read it later. But the Jonathan is right, all the real agnostics lack a believe in god, otherwise they would be theist. I think you just don’t want to know what is the real agnosticism.

            “The first agnostics were theists who didn’t believe in the god of the Bible or other holy books.”
            –sorry L Narf, but now you show us you don’t know what you are talking about. You are totally ignorant on the subject!! the one you describe were the GNOSTICS!!!

          • Lord Narf says

            I just by mistake fall on your conversation with Jonathan. I have to read it later.

            No worries. This thing is a free-for-all.

            But the Jonathan is right, all the real agnostics lack a believe in god, otherwise they would be theist. I think you just don’t want to know what is the real agnosticism.

            No, I know what agnosticism is, as you mean it. I just don’t agree with it. In the process of trying to partition off theistic assertions, hard agnosticism itself makes unsupported assertions about our inability to know things.

            “The first agnostics were theists who didn’t believe in the god of the Bible or other holy books.”
            –sorry L Narf, but now you show us you don’t know what you are talking about. You are totally ignorant on the subject!! the one you describe were the GNOSTICS!!!

            Noooooo, that’s a different group. I can see how you’d think I’m confusing the two, but I’m not. I’m talking about much more recent history, within the past millenium. I know Thomas Huxley solidified the more modern, hard agnosticism, but the term was in use by others, before him.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnostic#Demographics demonstrates the problem I have with using the term when talking to theists:

            In the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, conducted by the Pew Research Center, 55% of agnostic respondents expressed “a belief in God or a universal spirit.”

            That’s bad.

          • says

            “Noooooo, that’s a different group. I can see how you’d think I’m confusing the two, but I’m not. I’m talking about much more recent history, within the past millenium. I know Thomas Huxley solidified the more modern, hard agnosticism, but the term was in use by others, before him.”
            —ok. ya too many messages and mixed conversation tonight…and my internet is slow….

            “In the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, conducted by the Pew Research Center, 55% of agnostic respondents expressed “a belief in God or a universal spirit.”

            That’s bad.”
            —-yep. really bad.

  12. Lord Narf says

    ericvon germania

    1.Ok, But me I am a hard core agnostic. I have to admit though I haven’t checked what “snooty” means.

    Well, I’d love to know how you’re going to demonstrate that we can’t possibly explore the proposition of a god. That’s a pretty hefty assertion to support, and the fact that it’s kind of a negative proposition makes it nearly impossible.

    2. Ok, but me as well I am not really interested in the gods in mythologies, they are insignifiant. I am more interested in “gods” of the philosophers.

    So, you don’t have a belief in a theistic god. In other words, you’re an atheist, how atheists define the word.

    4. Well people from Germany can write Germania.

    Not generally. I know a few people from Germany, in some of my other interest groups. They tend to go with either Deutschland or go full-on English and call it Germany.

    You have to admit that you should be a hard core agnostic about me and where I come from, etc

    Actually, no. If I wanted to and had the tools, I could hack through this website and find your IP address. From that, I could pin down your location. I’m not a hacker, myself, but I know a few people who could probably do it.

    Of course, I don’t really care, and I leave the sketchy hacking programs to my girlfriend. My point is that it’s not unknowable, in the strictest sense.

    but I am not an hard core agnostic about you being the lord of the narf. hehe

    Heathen! Burn in the sticky hot hell of boiling oatmeal, stuck to the roof of your mouth!

    *offers you a spoonful*

    1. Really sad to see USA with such extremist christians. Is it a phenomena post-911?

    It’s been gradually building up since the late 1970′s. That’s when the Moral Majority started throwing it’s weight around.

    9/11 kicked things into high gear, for a while, perhaps. The beginning of Fox News also probably helped. The younger population is coming out more secular and more liberal, though. I think we’re on the downswing.

    The economy was total shit, this past year. Normally, that means that the political party currently in power gets thrown out. Despite that, Obama won handily, and the Democratic party made huge gains in congress. The population has had it with the Republicans, with their anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-minority stances. It’s going to take another 8 or 10 years, but the Republican party will gradually become more sane.

    Plus, the population is becoming more and more atheistic, every couple of years, when they take a new poll. Give it another 40 or 50 years, and we might be up to 50% nonbelievers. The vocal New Atheist movement is showing great results.

    with such extreme in the USA (gay marriage and weeds allowed in some states, and other states belief the earth has 6000 years and jesus is coming back) are you affraid of an eventuel civil war?

    Nah. There are only a handful of states that are a high enough percentage of crazy conservatives to try something like that. It isn’t something that could actually happen, nowadays. Mobility between the states has integrated the country too much. It’s not like it was 150 years ago, when people stayed within 30 miles of where they were born.

    2.I have been only in the North-Eastern States: New-York, Maine, Vermont, Massachussets and New-Hampshire. Would like to see L.A: one day though.

    There are crazy religious types up there, too. They just tend to keep quieter, for the most part. Are you familiar with the lawsuit brought by Jessica Ahlquist? That situation happened in Rhode Island, which is mostly a very liberal state. You don’t expect that sort of nonsense, up there, but there are some crazy Catholics, too.

    • says

      finally! my internet is so slow today!

      “Well, I’d love to know how you’re going to demonstrate that we can’t possibly explore the proposition of a god. That’s a pretty hefty assertion to support, and the fact that it’s kind of a negative proposition makes it nearly impossible.”
      —-well I don’t postulate a god, I just don’t know if the claim that there was a prime mover is false or true. usualy the god hypothesis in agnosticism is about a deistic god or a first cause, not t a theistic god. in agnosticism is a skeptical position about the existence of god, if it exists or not (we can include a theistic god as well, I guess in that doubt. but a doubt also about is unexistance). we are interested also in ignostiscism (define what do you mean by god?)

      “So, you don’t have a belief in a theistic god. In other words, you’re an atheist, how atheists define the word.”
      —-if I hold as true that a god exists? I doubt it but I doubt as well they aren’t any god. a real skeptic.

      “Not generally. I know a few people from Germany, in some of my other interest groups. They tend to go with either Deutschland or go full-on English and call it Germany.”
      –too bad for them.

      “Actually, no. If I wanted to and had the tools, I could hack through this website and find your IP address. From that, I could pin down your location. I’m not a hacker, myself, but I know a few people who could probably do it.

      Of course, I don’t really care, and I leave the sketchy hacking programs to my girlfriend. My point is that it’s not unknowable, in the strictest sense.”
      —Well I could be in fact in Germany without being German.

      –thanks for your description of what happen in the US, really interesting.

      “You don’t expect that sort of nonsense, up there, but there are some crazy Catholics, too.”
      —ya but I guess it is one crazy person that is catholic. many schizoprenics are catholic (or christian), never met an schizo atheist or agnostic lol one catholic heard that me and a guy were talking about Rammstein and even if he didn’t hear what we were saying he said “rammstein equal nazi equal satanist and wanted to kill us. haha

      • Lord Narf says

        “Well, I’d love to know how you’re going to demonstrate that we can’t possibly explore the proposition of a god. That’s a pretty hefty assertion to support, and the fact that it’s kind of a negative proposition makes it nearly impossible.”
        —-well I don’t postulate a god, I just don’t know if the claim that there was a prime mover is false or true. usualy the god hypothesis in agnosticism is about a deistic god or a first cause, not t a theistic god. in agnosticism is a skeptical position about the existence of god, if it exists or not (we can include a theistic god as well, I guess in that doubt. but a doubt also about is unexistance). we are interested also in ignostiscism (define what do you mean by god?)

        You’re leaving out a key portion of Huxleyan agnosticism … the key portion that I have a problem with. Hard agnosticism asserts that it’s unknowable whether or not a god exists.

        That’s a ridiculous position, when addressing a specific, theistic god concept. God concepts come along with a whole assortment of claims. Those claims can be scientifically tested and evaluated.

        “So, you don’t have a belief in a theistic god. In other words, you’re an atheist, how atheists define the word.”
        —-if I hold as true that a god exists? I doubt it but I doubt as well they aren’t any god. a real skeptic.

        … which is the atheist position. Atheism is the neutral position, not having a belief in god.
        It just also includes the negative position, believing that there in fact are no gods, as a subset, because of the etymological focus of being primarily interested with the question of the positive assertion of the existence of gods.

        If you don’t take that harder position, then you remain an agnostic atheist … but still an atheist.

        –thanks for your description of what happen in the US, really interesting.

        It’s more sad than anything else. The good news is that the population finally seems to be turning around. Maybe we can get a truly progressive president, in 2016. Obama is a moderate conservative, not a liberal, as Fox News constantly lies.

        “You don’t expect that sort of nonsense, up there, but there are some crazy Catholics, too.”
        —ya but I guess it is one crazy person that is catholic. many schizoprenics are catholic (or christian), never met an schizo atheist or agnostic lol one catholic heard that me and a guy were talking about Rammstein and even if he didn’t hear what we were saying he said “rammstein equal nazi equal satanist and wanted to kill us. haha

        In Jessica Ahlquist’s case, it seemed like it was damned near the whole town that rose up against her. It was definitely almost all of her school.

        Actually, there are a few schizophrenic atheists out there. I’ve heard of a few, through the various podcasts that I listen to. I can see how getting treated for their schizophrenia could make someone reevaluate their religious beliefs. If they had been living with the voice of God in their ear, telling them to do horrible things, and the medication made the voice of God go away … what does that say about the various prophets of God, who spoke to Him, in the Bible?

        My early study of psychology, starting in my early teens, is one of the things that helped harden my atheism, in respect to any god claims similar to that of the Christian god.

        • Lord Narf says

          Wow, what the hell went wrong with my block quotes? Jeeze. I don’t suppose I could get an admin to nuke that first one, huh?
          Let me try that again:

          “Well, I’d love to know how you’re going to demonstrate that we can’t possibly explore the proposition of a god. That’s a pretty hefty assertion to support, and the fact that it’s kind of a negative proposition makes it nearly impossible.”
          —-well I don’t postulate a god, I just don’t know if the claim that there was a prime mover is false or true. usualy the god hypothesis in agnosticism is about a deistic god or a first cause, not t a theistic god. in agnosticism is a skeptical position about the existence of god, if it exists or not (we can include a theistic god as well, I guess in that doubt. but a doubt also about is unexistance). we are interested also in ignostiscism (define what do you mean by god?)

          You’re leaving out a key portion of Huxleyan agnosticism … the key portion that I have a problem with. Hard agnosticism asserts that it’s unknowable whether or not a god exists.

          That’s a ridiculous position, when addressing a specific, theistic god concept. God concepts come along with a whole assortment of claims. Those claims can be scientifically tested and evaluated.

          “So, you don’t have a belief in a theistic god. In other words, you’re an atheist, how atheists define the word.”
          —-if I hold as true that a god exists? I doubt it but I doubt as well they aren’t any god. a real skeptic.

          … which is the atheist position. Atheism is the neutral position, not having a belief in god.

          It just also includes the negative position, believing that there in fact are no gods, as a subset, because of the etymological focus of being primarily interested with the question of the positive assertion of the existence of gods.

          If you don’t take that harder position, then you remain an agnostic atheist … but still an atheist.

          –thanks for your description of what happen in the US, really interesting.

          It’s more sad than anything else. The good news is that the population finally seems to be turning around. Maybe we can get a truly progressive president, in 2016. Obama is a moderate conservative, not a liberal, as Fox News constantly lies.

          “You don’t expect that sort of nonsense, up there, but there are some crazy Catholics, too.”
          —ya but I guess it is one crazy person that is catholic. many schizoprenics are catholic (or christian), never met an schizo atheist or agnostic lol one catholic heard that me and a guy were talking about Rammstein and even if he didn’t hear what we were saying he said “rammstein equal nazi equal satanist and wanted to kill us. haha

          In Jessica Ahlquist’s case, it seemed like it was damned near the whole town that rose up against her. It was definitely almost all of her school.

          Actually, there are a few schizophrenic atheists out there. I’ve heard of a few, through the various podcasts that I listen to. I can see how getting treated for their schizophrenia could make someone reevaluate their religious beliefs. If they had been living with the voice of God in their ear, telling them to do horrible things, and the medication made the voice of God go away … what does that say about the various prophets of God, who spoke to Him, in the Bible?

          My early study of psychology, starting in my early teens, is one of the things that helped harden my atheism, in respect to any god claims similar to that of the Christian god.

          • says

            “You’re leaving out a key portion of Huxleyan agnosticism … the key portion that I have a problem with. Hard agnosticism asserts that it’s unknowable whether or not a god exists.
            –I have to check what Nietzsche und Hegel thought about if it is unknowable or not for them. Do Huxley speculate it will be always be unknowable or unknowable for the moment?

            That’s a ridiculous position, when addressing a specific, theistic god concept. God concepts come along with a whole assortment of claims. Those claims can be scientifically tested and evaluated.”
            —Ya, I understand what you mean, but those claims are human claims about a god. I guess you are refering to the bible views on a god or the subsequent made up claims by Anselm, Augustin, Aquinus.

            “… which is the atheist position. Atheism is the neutral position, not having a belief in god.

            It just also includes the negative position, believing that there in fact are no gods, as a subset, because of the etymological focus of being primarily interested with the question of the positive assertion of the existence of gods.

            If you don’t take that harder position, then you remain an agnostic atheist … but still an atheist.”

            –hmm well you can call me a christain atheist if you wish, I prefer agnostic or free thinker. About the exemples I gave you about the 4 “hey Eric…..” believer, unbeliver, agnostic with possible evidence and agnostic with improbable evidence, it didn’t convert you to agnosticism?

  13. Barefoot Bree says

    I’m glad you guys are just not even answering Matt from Oslo calls. That just got annoying.

    But I must also add this…. the other day, I was allowing myself a little daydream about Obama’s upcoming reinauguration, imagining him taking the oath, and starting his speech… then making a sudden left turn into *Now I’m Unleashed, Get Ready for Some Progressive Rock’n’Roll* territory.

    But the image that came unbidden into my head was his suddenly swerving into a Matt from Oslo scream. Amusing, if also a little unnerving. Wouldn’t you just love to watch certain right-wingers’ heads go asplodey?

  14. curiousgeorge says

    I went to dictionary.com and looked under atheist and agnostic to see if I could figure out which one fits. Here is a clip from the synonym section under atheist.

    Synonyms
    Atheist, agnostic, infidel, skeptic refer to persons not inclined toward religious belief or a particular form of religious belief. An atheist is one who denies the existence of a deity or of divine beings. An agnostic is one who believes it impossible to know anything about God or about the creation of the universe and refrains from commitment to any religious doctrine. Infidel means an unbeliever, especially a nonbeliever in Islam or Christianity. A skeptic doubts and is critical of all accepted doctrines and creeds.

    For myself, I’ve decided to go with INFIDEL moving forward.

    • says

      “Synonyms
      Atheist, agnostic, infidel, skeptic refer to persons not inclined toward religious belief or a particular form of religious belief. An atheist is one who denies the existence of a deity or of divine beings. An agnostic is one who believes it impossible to know anything about God or about the creation of the universe and refrains from commitment to any religious doctrine. Infidel means an unbeliever, especially a nonbeliever in Islam or Christianity. A skeptic doubts and is critical of all accepted doctrines and creeds. ”

      –BINGO! Now you are talking curiousgeorge about the REAL freaking definitions of those words! 100% agree with all those definitions. In fact only the new american atheist mouvement have another lexicon….

      —I am an agnostic and skeptic for my part.

      • Lord Narf says

        It doesn’t mention the fact that all 4 of those words have a huge area of overlap, though. That’s one of the many drawbacks of dictionaries. They tend towards the simplistic. The Wikipedia page for agnosticism is far more useful, since it points out all of the many flavors of agnosticism, including the theistic variety. That properly relegates agnosticism to a modifier of other stances, except for Huxley-an hard agnosticism, as that freethinker.co.uk page demonstrates.

        Hell, you should be able to get that from the fact that those words are all listed as synonyms.

        • curiousgeorge says

          I think you probably realize, this was meant to be a joke. Reason I thought it was funny, I have never heard of infidel as one being defiant to Christianity, only Muslim.

          This defintion does seem to indicate the overlap by saying all four terms refer to persons not inclined towards religous belief or a particular form of religous belief. This is only the synonym section of the word atheism. Each word itself goes into detail and the definitions of the individual words themselves are in line with what you are posting.

          BTW, I had a history professor in college who was agnostic. He was very into Thomas Aquinis. So, not that I claim to know a damn thing about this topic, but from him at least I assoicate agnosticism with a person who is very interested in philosophical thinking and tends to draw heavily from early monks and/or other religous thinkers, but that they are not into the supernatural part.

        • says

          Well in French and German philosophy, agnosticism is not a modifier, just the hard core version. It is clear cut in metaphysic and contra metaphysic. Read Nietzsche Genealogy of Moral, he critized the agnostics venerating a question mark.

          “Hell, you should be able to get that from the fact that those words are all listed as synonyms.”
          Well it bugs me that it was under synonyms, but anyway a perfect synonym doesn’t exist, that is why we have different words. But we could see that as synonym of “people not under a religion”

  15. chuckster2.0 says

    I’ve just read through the comments and while I’m glad that people have talked about some of Jeff’s comments with regard to the first caller and secular morality, I’m concerned that no one has addressed Jeff’s comments that there isn’t an objective moral standard and that moral questions are things that people in your society care about. This seems to be cultural relativism. I am concerned about this because cultural relativism does not offer an acceptable alternative to divine command theory.

    In divine command theory, genocide becomes okay because god says it’s okay. In cultural relativism, genocide becomes okay when the culture says it is. In divine command theory, if you fail to stone someone who works on the Sabbath, you have committed an immoral act. In cultural relativism, if your culture says that it’s not okay for a black person to eat with a white person, then sit-ins during the civil rights era would have been immoral. Also, since religion is essentially made up by cultures, divine command theory is essentially cultural relativism.

    Kantian deontology, Bentham utilitarianism, and Rawls veil of ignorance all offer better alternatives. According to Immanuel Kant, slavery is wrong because it is immoral to use people as means to an end because people are ends in themselves. According to Bentham, abusing an animal is wrong because there is no good reason for animals to suffer. Racism is wrong according to Rawls because if you didn’t know whether or not you would be born black, you would want to make sure racism didn’t exist. Each of these men came up with logical methods of determining morality that only required the ability to reason. The rules that each of their philosophies proposed were self evident and it doesn’t matter what your opinion is. Knowing this means that morality does not require god just as the Earth does not require god to orbit the Sun because we know about gravity.

    • Lord Narf says

      It’s not cultural relativism. You don’t need objective morality to avoid cultural relativism. I completely reject the concept of objective morality, myself.

      Rather, the alternative to divine command theory is objective-based or goal-based morality. You start with a series of agreed upon precepts. You then formulate a morality based upon those precepts.

      This was discussed somewhere else. I can’t remember if it was on the show or somewhere else on this blog. So many morality discussions around here, lately, thanks to Shane.

    • Lord Narf says

      A set of morality is only as good as its precepts, though. For example, I reject the absolute statement of Bentham’s, in regards to animal suffering. I can think of several justifiable reasons for animal suffering.

      • chuckster2.0 says

        Bentham was a Utilitarian concerned with sentience. In this case, the ability to feel pain. Peter SInger, also a Utilitarian, argued that it can be justified that certain animals can be exposed to suffering, then anything with a similar level of sentience would also be candidates for that suffering. For instance, if it’s justifiable to experiment on a dog for human medical research then it would be arguable that it would be better for a fully developed brain dead baby to be experimented rather than the dog because the baby is a better biological analogue to a human than a dog. It could also be argued that because the baby is brain dead, it can experience less pain than the dog can. In essence, if you can justify human research for a dog, than you can more than justify research on brain dead babies. If you believe that under no circumstances should brain dead baby be experimented on for human research, then under no circumstances should dogs be experimented on for human research.

        I think that this argument is valid and it presents us with a moral dilemma about what research we should do and how we should do it. This hasn’t always been the case. We haven’t always included animals in our moral concerns. The moral precepts of the past are in conflict with the moral precepts of the present. Which is the correct set of moral precepts? Both?

        Cultural relativism isn’t simply not acknowledging any culture as having the best set of moral principles, it also says that you should act based on how your culture acts. What is cultural morality? A bunch of people agreeing upon moral precepts that they use to determine morality. I don’t see how what you describe isn’t cultural relativism. Morality cannot be based on what people agree because people don’t agree to the same things unless those things exist for all people, in all places, like the ability to suffer. You may reject Bentham’s absolute statement in regards to animal suffering but I don’t believe that you reject the idea that suffering should be minimized. I also doubt that you reject the idea that if there is to be suffering, it should be justified. These justifications extend to all beings with the ability to suffer including members of our own species. Notice that this is a stronger argument than, “because god said so,” or, “because your culture said so.”

        • Lord Narf says

          If the parents donate the brain-dead baby’s body to science, I see no problem with it. When the brain is dead, the person is gone.

        • Lord Narf says

          Cultural morality has more to do with tradition. It’s more of an authoritarian situation, when you talk about cultural relativism. It’s not differentiating between two sets of rationally-established morals.

          I’m fine with an animal suffering, in the pursuit of a reduction in human suffering. That’s the big part that you’re leaving out. You’re treating it as if we’re tormenting the animals just for kicks. We’re not. We’re weighing the suffering of the lab animals against the suffering of humans.

          Tens of thousands of lab rats die, and one human is cured by the discovery? Sucks to be the lab rats. The human wins.

          • chuckster2.0 says

            I actually did not leave the part about rats out. While I did not specifically talk about rats, my argument is based on the ability to feel pain. Rats feel pain, so they are worth considering. I happen to agree with you that animal suffering can justified if it means that there will be less suffering in general for both humans and rats alike. I also agree that research on brain dead babies can be justified. I would also submit that in certain cases, experimenting on rats is more desirable because they have a shorter life cycle. But I don’t think that our culture would agree. We currently conduct tests on animals with very little justification because we simply don’t care about whether or not animals suffer. So should I stop caring simply because my culture doesn’t?

          • Lord Narf says

            I would also submit that in certain cases, experimenting on rats is more desirable because they have a shorter life cycle. But I don’t think that our culture would agree. We currently conduct tests on animals with very little justification because we simply don’t care about whether or not animals suffer. So should I stop caring simply because my culture doesn’t?

            Uhhhhhhh, you were a little incoherent there. Are you saying that you don’t think that our culture would agree that experimenting on rats is desirable, for medical studies? That’s what you seem to be saying, with your first two sentences that I quoted above.

            I disagree with that statement completely. Our culture seems to be fine with it, which is why we do it. It’s just a handful of lone nuts, like PETA, who try to set free the animals that are potentially infected with horrible diseases.

            Then, your last sentence says that our culture doesn’t care about lab rats. Could you clear that up? Which statement do you mean?

            As for whether we should care about the pain of rats. Sure, when it’s possible, we should minimize the pain of the lab rats. That’s often not feasible, though. The introduction of anesthetics would add another variable into the experimental results, in many tests … and the loss of test methods, if we factor in the suffering of the lab rats, would put an unacceptable hobble on medical research.

            And yes, I care about the suffering of lab rats, to the point that we shouldn’t be torturing them just for kicks. But if there’s any possible gain to be had, which will reduce human suffering … fuck the rats. The worst suffering by a lab rat measures up so inconsequentially against any human suffering that I just don’t care.

          • Lord Narf says

            I actually did not leave the part about rats out.

            Yes, you did. The word rat does not appear in your previous post. You dodged and completely changed the subject to dogs.

    • jacobfromlost says

      I think the problem is just in terms of usage of terms.

      I think morals are relative to groups, values, and objective circumstances. We tend to think of morals as prescriptive, but there is nothing stopping us from stepping back and describing the various prescriptions (“oughts”) and how they interact with each other to lead to specific outcomes…and ultimately A) whether we value those outcomes, and B) whether those outcomes are objectively valuable in terms of our continued health/functioning/survival in juxtaposition to other moralities. So in ultimately morals are always descriptive (even if everyone in a group decided drinking poison was the best moral decision ever, and everyone died as such, it could still be pointed out that “Everyone thought X was moral, and everyone died as a result; make of it what you will”, and then watch to see the outcomes of people making various decisions on whether they want to also drink poison or whether they do not).

      I would also disagree with Matt D. (if I am remember what he has said previously) that there is always a best moral choice. I think the existence of moral dilemmas, or a Hobson’s choice, or a psychological “double bind”, among other moral circumstances, tells us that there are times when there simply is no “best” moral choice. All the choices with any moral element (including doing nothing) are equally bad, and have equally bad moral outcomes.

      I think what this tells us is that morals can only be subjective to (and “relative” to) us, however we define “us”, and that that is as objective as it gets for us. In only seems objective because we ARE “us”, and thus we tend to think of ourselves as the center of existence. We’re not. The universe doesn’t care if we kill each other off or not, and if WE don’t care, then we don’t exist very long. (But that isn’t to say an “objective” element of reality isn’t at play in that “if you value existing, THEN you should not drink poison because it will objectively kill you”, but that doesn’t make the values/morals objective–it makes them subjective to valuing yourself and your group’s existence. If you stop valuing your group’s existence and instead value something else–for instance, having your souls hitch a ride on a UFO after you kill yourselves–then that subjective valuing changes. The fact that you were objectively mistaken about souls, ufos, and rides on ufos doesn’t change the subjective value you had that trumped your subjective value to live.)

      That’s probably clear as mud, but whatever. I’m tired.

      • curiousgeorge says

        “That’s probably clear as mud”

        Well, I had to read it four times for it to finally sink in, but you explained it as simply as you could and this is worh understanding.

        Is Hobson’s choice what would commonly be referred to as being “painted in a corner”?

        • jacobfromlost says

          A Hobson’s choice is a choice where there is only one option, probably a bad one.

          A psychological “double bind” is also very fascinating. It’s a situation in which you can only make two choices, but choosing one may actually negate the other (meaning you COULD BE making the opposite choice that you intended to make). It’s somewhat difficult to explain, but once you are in that situation, you are trapped (hence, in a “bind”).

          To take an outrageous (and crude) example, say you are a police officer arriving on the scene of a bank robbery. You know from previous events that the robber has a hostage he takes with him to use for leverage. You get to the scene, all the witnesses are dead, and after a confusing shoot-out between you and whoever is in there shooting at you, two dudes have guns on each other and come out into the open, each claiming to be the hostage and to shoot the other guy because he is the robber/hostage taker. You discover you have one bullet left.

          You have no idea which is which, but you know if you shoot the wrong one, you will not only have killed the innocent guy but also be unable to shoot back at the real robber. (The decision is certainly a moral one, but the unknown elements makes any decision simultaneously moral and immoral one because the moral agent is in a moral trap.)

  16. says

    Everyone at AXP… Love what you do, and your show. As I only manage to watch your show from the archive, I would like to ask if there is an issue with the archived videos. The audio does not sync to the video… Is it just me or is this an actual artifact of the video production?

    Keep up the great work.

  17. Abby Harrison says

    Oh my goodness! I absolutely love the show! I’m 16 and for about 3 or 4 years now I have been made fun of at my school because I’m an Agnostic (I’m on the fence about being a Deist or Atheist right now.) I have been told by my classmates that I am going to hell and that my children are going to hell. All I simply tell them is that I DON’T KNOW and that THEY don’t know either. I try to explain to them that I am NOT a Gnostic Atheist because as I said before I DON’T KNOW. I don’t know the truth. I’m also anti-religious. I feel that religion causes many problems. It causes a division between people and in some cases violence. Anyways, thank you for creating this show. It helps a lot. =] <3

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