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Jan 17 2013

Mail bin: arguing with the FAQ

Fishing for stuff out of email today, I’m getting a letter by John from Ireland, who is a bit irritated with us that we haven’t replied to his previous messages.  John has decided to show us how much he cares by reading through the ACA FAQ page and rebutting the answers to our questions.  I thought I’d throw John a bone and give him the full blog treatment.

Subject: referring to your FAQs

This message was sent via the contact form on the ACA website:

Dear Atheists,

I have wrote numerous times to yourselves to have my questions answered by someone, to no avail, and lately to ‘Scepticon’ asking them of their most irrational of premises - How to rationally approach Death [or something worded to that effect] with no forthcoming answer.

Dear John,

Don’t feel singled out because we didn’t answer you. Our email volume at The Atheist Experience ranges around 20-25 messages per day. Some are worth replying to, but since this is not a full time job for any of us, we have to do triage to decide which questions are significant or interesting enough to matter.

In the case of someone with your particular personality, from what I can gather based on this email and the two previous — maybe try to come across a little less cranky? I mean, I know you’re challenging our false beliefs, but if you want to carry on a conversation with somebody who doesn’t have to spend time on you, you might consider opening up in a more friendly fashion… rather than, say, “I’m writing to you because you’re close minded!” (first message) or “HEY WHY DIDN’T YOU ANSWER MY OTHER EMAIL?!?” (this message). Just a thought.

Since this advice is surely going to be of interest to future emailers, that’s one good reason why I thought it was worth bringing up here on the blog. Well, on to your message.

Anyway, I’d like to address some of the FAQs on your website:

Q: Don’t atheists have basically empty, meaningless lives, when they don’t believe that there is any higher power out there?

I read fallacies like comparing God to fairies in your answer, but I contend that the good reasons for believing in God are justified because we [Christians] read only God is good, apart from God all definitions of what good is, is relative {Matt.19:17 KJB}. Also meaning and purpose is summed up for us in the O.T. - Eccl 12:13,14.

You said that comparing God to fairies is a fallacy, but you didn’t say why or which one. It sounds pretty valid to me. Would you like to take another stab at that point?

In any case, after that you go on to say that you have good reasons to believe in God because (abridged) you believe in God. I mean, you haven’t given me much to work with here, have you? Obviously it doesn’t makes sense to state that “only God is good” unless we agree that God exists, and we don’t. Then you go on to quote the Bible to me, which is basically why I wrote the Star Trek rule.

In a nutshell, how do you expect me to be convinced by Bible quotes when you already know that I don’t believe the Bible is correct? It’s no more effective than quoting from Star Trek scripts — Captain Kirk may be right or he may be wrong, but I’m not going to agree with your statement just because a character like Captain Kirk is backing you up. So anyway… shrug.

Q: What kind of horrible experience did you have that caused you to become an atheist?

Testimonies are irrelevant as Christ died for all – great and small rich and poor and middle of the road regardless of situations or circumstance. If the self righteous are so worried about the heathen in Timbuktu, they should join their local church and get themselves out there [ I’ve heard answers similar to this Question].

Two points here. One is, I don’t think you really understand what a FAQ is. The other is, I don’t think you really understand what an atheist is.

Let me explain. The point of a FAQ is to answer Frequently Asked Questions from a particular point of view — that’s where the acronym comes from. If you are not interested in the answer, then don’t ask the question. And if you aren’t interested in what kinds of questions we get, then don’t read a FAQ. It’s pretty simple.

We do, in fact, occasionally get asked by various people whether we came to atheism through some bad experiences, and the answer, by and large, is “no.” Maybe the FAQ page elaborates on that answer a little more than you care to read, but that’s why we don’t force you to read the page. As I said in a post just a few days ago, “You have the right to say what you want, but you don’t have the right to make people listen.” That goes for me too — I’m honestly baffled about why you read the FAQ and then complained that it wasn’t worth reading.

And again with the bluntly telling me about your religious beliefs without offering any support for them. I already know that you think Christ died for my sins. The fact that I’m an atheist means, among other things, that I don’t think Christ died for my sins. If your objective here is to change my mind, then you really ought to consider giving me, like, a reason why this is an error… instead of just repeating the things I already know that you think.

Q: What do you think happens to you when you die?

If ‘wisdom’ is to be gained from Buddhists and not Christ thenthere is absolutely no hope. Denial is a defence used when itcomes to the hereafter and such things as the soul – It is not anexcuse, simply a lot of hearsay.

There is absolutely no hope for what? Hope that you’ll get to live forever? Well, that is true, but wishful thinking doesn’t change anything. I’m sorry it makes you sad that you will die someday — it makes me sad as well, but I prefer not to deal with uncomfortable facts by making things up. That is, unless you have some kind of sensible reason why I would expect your idea of heaven to be right.

Q: How can anyone possibly be moral without believing in God?‘Jesus didn’t invent the principle of treating others the way you would like to be treated; it was around for centuries before.’

Whether this is true or not, Jesus made it dogma for his followers. Does the atheist not concede that the conscience is probably the greatest deterrent when doing others harm kill/steal from /cheat with and on, and living God’s way is the means of not having to even bother your conscience and thereby loves his neighbour.

I don’t really care if Jesus made it dogma for his followers… this is an atheist FAQ, not a Christian FAQ.

Having a conscience has nothing to do with God, of course, and not bothering your conscience about whether “God’s way” (as you imagine it) is right or wrong outside the religious framework is what encourages fanatics to fly planes into buildings.

Q: Do you hate God?

From a believers perspective and observation ye do, rejection/ unbelief/non-belief what’s the difference?

If this were a FAQ from a believer’s perspective, your comment might be relevant, but it’s not, so it isn’t.

And seriously… what’s the difference between not believing in something and hating it? Do you not understand the difference? I don’t believe in fictional wizard detective Harry Dresden, but I like the character very much. As much as I enjoy reading about Harry, I am able to separate author Jim Butcher’s fantasy from my reality. How is this a hard concept?

Now, I personally don’t care for the character of God as portrayed in some of the Bible stories, and I think Harry Dresden is a much more believable and sympathetic character. But that isn’t the same as hating your God.

Q: Admit it, isn’t atheism just another religion?

Isn’t getting a reliable definition from a ‘dictionary’ and then placing your trust in it dishonest, when you are relying on someone/anyone to give a less than thorough definition of any word.

Some sports fans can be said to, and could admit to following their particular idol/s religiously. ‘Atheism’ /‘Agnosticism’/ ’Scepticism’ is only modern vernacular for doubt – Thomas got his answer. Are ye so special to get more ‘proof’ or ‘evidence’ than other believers like myself?

So then Christian sports fans follow two religions? Is that what you’re saying? Or is it that you being a sports fan negates your Christianity?

“Thomas got his answer” only in your book of stories, which, as you know, I don’t believe. So that’s not much of an answer. And no, I’m not so special as to get evidence you don’t have — I’m just not gullible enough to believe the things you believe without such evidence. That’s the difference between us.

It is quite often hard to watch your show, not only for what I’d say is unfair to callers, but also ye fail to respect each other – always talking over each other vainly for the sake of regard and intellect.

Well, again, if it’s hard to watch our show then please feel free to not watch.

But I would like to say that I respect Matt, Tracie, Jen, Martin, Jeff, and Don a great deal. That is not incompatible with having arguments and talking over each other. The fact that we sometimes metaphorically elbow each other for air time doesn’t undercut that at all, nor does the occasional friendly rivalry over some points. In some ways, I respect them all because they are all confident enough to not be intimidated by competing arguments, and strong enough not to be driven away by a little overtalking. I would not feel it was respectful to them to keep silent when I disagree, and I wouldn’t want them to do so for me either.  That’s one of the many things I appreciate about my friends.

Please stop trusting in your own perceived intellect and/ or others – Pro.16:25. It most be hard for an atheist to conceive that every possible answer is covered that there is no-one with an excuse – Rom. 1:20. Such as prophecy concerning apostates, heretics and those departing from the faith.

Sincerely, John [ from Ireland]

Thank you for reminding me that no one person or source should be assumed to be 100% reliable. Including myself. Including you. Including your book which you believe without evidence. It is something I try to remind myself and others of often, and it is something I hope you’ll give some thought to as well.

56 comments

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  1. 1
    Tabby Lavalamp

    Does the atheist not concede that the conscience is probably the greatest deterrent when doing others harm kill/steal from /cheat with and on, and living God’s way is the means of not having to even bother your conscience and thereby loves his neighbour.

    My conscience tells me that we shouldn’t be killing non-virgin unmarried women or gay men. If I were to live the biblical God’s way, I’d be unable to live with my conscience.

    1. 1.1
      And How

      I shout you a big AMEN to this sentiment ! Was that religous?

  2. 2
    thebookofdave

    It’s too bad John’s letter petered out without addressing the questions further down the page. I was looking forward to yet another of your brilliant takedowns of Pascal’s Wager. Not to worry, though, it’s bound to come up on next week’s show.

  3. 3
    michaeld

    That….. was so strange. o.O

  4. 4
    EnlightenmentLiberal

    This is worthy of a post.

    Harry Dresden, but I like the character very much

    <3

    Far better than that other wizard Harry. (I kid, I kid, though I do like Dresden more.)

  5. 5
    steve oberski

    Did John [from Ireland*] really use ‘ye’ rather than ‘you’ ?

    At least he didn’t promise to pray for ye.

    * that really narrows it down, there can’t be too many people named John in Ireland (that use ‘ye’ rather than ‘you’)

    1. 5.1
      Emptyell

      I have read that “ye” is still in use in Ireland as the second person plural. How commonly I don’t know. How many people are there in Georgia named John who say y’all?

      1. Lord Narf

        You’ll get more hits if you look for people named Jim-Bob or Joey-Ray.

  6. 6
    Jasper of Maine

    Please stop trusting in your own perceived intellect and/ or others

    Do we need to have some kind of epistemological arm-wrestling contest, or something?

    Truly, I say unto thee, I’ll pit my science against your faith-based thinking any day of the week.

  7. 7
    Philip Bone

    “Q: Admit it, isn’t atheism just another religion?”
    This is something that pops up regularly, once in a while, tossed (sometimes ironically, sometimes… aggressively), in the conversation, by theists of all creeds.
    A variation to this (unintentional) good joke, is : “All in all… isn’t just atheism the belief that there is no god ??”
    In even think that it probably is what most theists honestly assume, in the depth of their hearts ! !
    I guess that it is a way for them to solace their mind, saying to themselves : “Well… after all… we are all believers of some kind, aren’t we ?”

    The answer I give them every time, is : “To say that I don’t believe in any god, is the exact opposite to the assertion : ‘I believe that there isn’t any god’ !

    As a matter of fact, the MAIN POINT is…. that I just never use the very concept of “belief” !
    It just isn’t part of my vocabulary ! ‘Cause, by the time you start believing in something, you’re on a real sloppy path : insensibly, it leads from belief to croyance, and from croyance… to faith !!

    By the way… There is a (little) reproach I would give to Matt [ and, occasionally, to Tracy or to Russell ] : when asked by a caller : “Do you believe that [for example] the earth is round ?”, they answer :
    “Yes, or course !”..
    Wouldn’t it be more ‘accurate’ to answer : “Nope ! I don’t believe that the earth is round ! I examine the few statements that are proposed to my understanding about that topic, and I just make the ascertainment that, on one hand, weird theories have been emitted, which have all been proven faulty, and on the other hand, we have a scheme that happens to be confirmed by scientific calculations, and, ultimately, been proven by photos of the earth from outer space ! Where is there room for beliefs in that ??”

    Well…
    I admit that such an answer takes a little more time to deliver, but wouldn’t it be more COHERENT, in relation to those two trap-words : “belief” and “faith” ??

    1. 7.1
      Russell Glasser

      Believe, vt: To accept as true.

      People who object to using the word “believe” about true statements, and nitpick about eliminating the word from our vocabulary, absolutely don’t understand what the word means.

      1. gralgrathor

        I have no issues with using the word ‘belief’ to indicate acceptance of independently verifiable data. In the end, all religious belief as well as acceptance of scientific knowledge is a brain-state representing conviction of a perceived fact. I submit that the difference between such brain-states stemming from religious beliefs and those stemming from more rational sources of conviction are too subtle to matter, and that the use of the word ‘belief’ is justified in both cases. Of course this does nothing to devalue the merit of the scientific data itself, or the methodologies by which they were gained.

    2. 7.2
      Philip Bone

      To Kazim :
      “Believe, vt: To accept as true”… Several dictionaries, indeed, give that definition. The problem is… that they don’t specify : “with” or “without proof of evidence” ! Moreover, for most people, “faith” and “belief” are understood as a mere synonyms…
      When I said that “this word isn’t part of my vocabulary”, you apparently didn’t understand what I was saying… Of course, it still belongs to the list of words I use ! Who told you that I wanted it to be entirely “eliminated” from our vocabulary ?? What I meant, is that I don’t use it (anymore) to name that concept…
      There are so many other, more accurate words to be used !


      To Gralgrathor :
      How come, as an atheist, can you assert that… “the difference between brain-states stemming from religious beliefs and those stemming from more rational sources of conviction are too subtle to matter” ??
      When “on the air”, Matt hammers, again and again, that “faith is just accepting something as true WITHOUT proof of evidence”. This, I think, is the main thing that separates atheists from theists, epistemologically speaking !
      How can you say that it is “too subtle to matter” ?
      Doesn’t it bother you —at least a trifle— to use the same word to say : “I believe that E=MC2″… and : “I believe in Santa Claus, in Krishna, or in Allah” ???
      Why not simply say : “I sustain / uphold / warrant / corroborate that E=MC2″ ?
      (thus, implying : ‘my opinion has been forged after a minimum amount of cross-examination, and NOT by blind trust’)…

      1. gralgrathor

        How come, as an atheist, can you assert that… “the difference between brain-states stemming from religious beliefs and those stemming from more rational sources of conviction are too subtle to matter” ?

        Because I am not addressing the way by which we *gained* the belief, but the belief, the brain-state itself. Certainly the soundness and accuracy of a belief gained through scientific inquiry is greater than that of a belief gained through religious indoctrination. But in both cases, the person may be equally convinced it is true.

        How can you say that it is “too subtle to matter” ?

        Because I think they are not *entirely* the same in both cases. The neurological patterns may differ depending on whether a belief was gained through rational inquiry or religious indoctrination. The experienced conviction that the belief is true, however, remains the same. And that’s why I’m saying the difference is too subtle to matter.

        1. Philip Bone

          If I’m not mistaken by the terms that you use in your answer, it seems to show that, for you, there isn’t be any substantial difference in lexical meaning between the words “faith” and “belief” ! (If not, please pinpoint things on that topic).

          Then… 1) You, thus, confirm my proposal, that we need to use another formulation to reflect a mental / intellectual / rational position towards something (whatever it is), as opposed to an instinctive / emotional / irrational position…
          2) If both theists and atheists rely on the same word to define the way they think about a concept (god, the causality of things, “intelligent design”, gravitation or whatever…), although they have absolutely nothing in common —they are even complete opposite—, could you explain how you will reply to a theist who tells you : “after all, you’re a “believer”… just like me” ?? (which, I remind you, is the original argument at the beginning of this thread).

          You will then be obliged to embark into a laborious explanation, saying that “my way to believe has nothing to do with your way etc.” !

          My only point, here, is humbly to propose an “alternative” formulation : “I don’t believe…. I just “observe” that [gravity, evolution, and so on] ….is a fact. Period.”), which seems to me to be a better way to avoid all those circling ambiguities when debating with theists !
          Nothing more… (I will answer to Kazim’s “You’re-not-going-overrule-this-usage” argument in my next post below).

          1. Jasper of Maine

            If I’m not mistaken by the terms that you use in your answer, it seems to show that, for you, there isn’t be any substantial difference in lexical meaning between the words “faith” and “belief”

            “Belief” is accepting a claim as true.
            “Faith” is accepting a claim as true without sufficient evidence or in the face of contrary evidence.

            That’s pretty much all there is to it. It’s the “… without sufficient evidence or in the face of contrary evidence” that we’re opposed to.

          2. Philip Bone

            Oooh ok… I reply to Gralgrathor …and “Jasper of Maine” replies to me.
            But but the problem is that your answer, Jasper, don’t take into account that I reacted to Gralgrathor’s assertions like :
            1) “In both cases, the person may be equally convinced it is true” (which is correct ! …and which is just why I said that it was a source of misunderstandings !!!).
            2) “The experienced conviction that the belief is true, however, remains the same”.
            With such conclusions… what, then, is the difference between a “believer” in the religious sense of the term, and a “believer” in the atheistic sense ??? Can’t you see that there is a “bug” somewhere ??
            They say : “I believe in God…”.
            Ok.
            Could you imagine yourself saying : “I believe in Gravity” ???
            Seriously…
            Doesn’t it jump to your face, that it is —at least deceptive, and, at worst… absurd ???
            Honestly…

            Now, you state that : ““Faith” is accepting a claim as true without sufficient evidence or in the face of contrary evidence”
            Well… you know damn well that it’s just the atheistic definition of “faith” ! As would shriek Kazim : “I challenge you (!) to find a “mainstream” dictionary that shows such a definition !”.
            In other words, you just REARRANGED the common definition of “faith” so that is would be blinding clear that it CAN’T be the same as “belief”… just to stress your point !
            I hope that you didn’t do it with a tricky intention, didn’t you ??

            To end with all this : why you people give me real arguments to demolish my statement that the word “belief” seems inappropriate to me, instead of grabbing, again and again, to “routine” definitions of current-day dictionaries, and systematically tackle down my position —unless it is just for the sheer pleasure of being “against” when somebody is “for”, and being “for” when somebody is “against” …which I personally would pretty much enjoy, too, if you say it is the case !!

          3. gralgrathor

            what, then, is the difference between a “believer” in the religious sense of the term, and a “believer” in the atheistic sense

            The degree to which the conviction is an accurate reflection of an objective reality. I already explained that in my previous comment, I think.

            you know damn well that it’s just the atheistic definition of “faith” !

            I would contest that. It is my experience that, when one starts drilling a theist about the grounds for their beliefs, ultimately one is required to take some of the reasons they give on faith. A simplistic example of this is a theist giving the bible as evidence for their belief, but then asking that the bible’s historical accuracy be taken on faith. Usually it’s not that simple, but it ends on similar principles anyway. In theory, there may be something to the theistic distinction between “evidence based faith” and “evidence-less faith”, but in practice, I’ve never found a theist able to substantiate their beliefs without, at some point, asking people to take something on faith, without presenting any rational ground for it.

            Because of that, I would argue that this “atheistic” definition of “faith” is, for all intents and purposes, an accurate one.

          4. Jasper of Maine

            Oooh ok… I reply to Gralgrathor …and “Jasper of Maine” replies to me.

            Yeah, I tend to butt in on peoples’ conversations.

            But but the problem is that your answer, Jasper, don’t take into account that I reacted to Gralgrathor’s assertions like :
            1) “In both cases, the person may be equally convinced it is true” (which is correct ! …and which is just why I said that it was a source of misunderstandings !!!).
            2) “The experienced conviction that the belief is true, however, remains the same”.

            … how does that contradict what I/he said? He’s talking about the degree to which one can be convinced of something. That says nothing about how one arrives to that belief.

            With such conclusions… what, then, is the difference between a “believer” in the religious sense of the term, and a “believer” in the atheistic sense ???

            Well, first the atheist wouldn’t be a “believer”, which is kind of the point, at least when we’re talking about the God question.

            Do we really have to repeat myself?
            A theist believes in a god. An atheist doesn’t.

            “Belief” is accepting a claim as true.
            “Faith” is accepting a claim as true without sufficient evidence, or in the face of contrary evidence.

            Where’s the conflict? I don’t understand your objection.

            Can’t you see that there is a “bug” somewhere ??

            Yes, but it isn’t at my end.

            Could you imagine yourself saying : “I believe in Gravity” ???
            Seriously…

            Sort of. “.. believe in ..” is a slightly different beast. It tends to denote buying into a philosophy or as a follower.

            I’d happily say I believe that gravity exists.
            I don’t have faith that gravity exists, because it’s suppsoed by sufficient evidence.

            Doesn’t it jump to your face, that it is —at least deceptive, and, at worst… absurd ???
            Honestly…

            … what are you talking about?

            Now, you state that : ““Faith” is accepting a claim as true without sufficient evidence or in the face of contrary evidence”…
            Well… you know damn well that it’s just the atheistic definition of “faith” ! As would shriek Kazim : “I challenge you (!) to find a “mainstream” dictionary that shows such a definition !”.

            b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) [Merriam-Webster]

            2. belief that is not based on proof: [Dictionary.com]

            Of course, one could argue that we’re picking one of the others, and of course that’s true. That’s the definition we’re operating on, and that’s the concept we’re talking about. That’s the definition we’re contrasting with “belief”, and is as valid as any of the other definitions.

            In other words, you just REARRANGED the common definition of “faith” so that is would be blinding clear that it CAN’T be the same as “belief”… just to stress your point !

            Incorrect. We’re using a common definition.

            I hope that you didn’t do it with a tricky intention, didn’t you ??

            Are you feeling alright? No, this is our standard usage, and as we find, it’s common for theists to use too.

            How many times have we heard Christian callers on the show say, when confronted with the fact their beliefs are unsupported by evidence, say something to the effect of “Well, that’s why it’s called faith.”

            To end with all this : why you people give me real arguments to demolish my statement that the word “belief” seems inappropriate to me, instead of grabbing, again and again, to “routine” definitions of current-day dictionaries, and systematically tackle down my position —unless it is just for the sheer pleasure of being “against” when somebody is “for”, and being “for” when somebody is “against” …which I personally would pretty much enjoy, too, if you say it is the case !!

            We find your objections irrational. We’re using a commonly recognized and used definition of the word. I personally see no problem with using the word. Outside of your paranoid accusations, your argument amounts to that there’s another definition that could be used.

          5. Jasper of Maine

            I swear I’m arguing with Patrick Greene

          6. Lord Narf

            Heh heh heh heh heh.

            Wait … didn’t Patrick finally turn theist? I’ll have to check up on that. The last I heard, he had completely reversed his position on his lawsuits and is now backing those who want to violate the first amendment. I’m not sure if he’s completely gone over to the other side yet, but he had been hinting. He said something to the effect of not being ready to become a Christian … “yet.

            Well, just fall back on mockery, as I have. I’m not convinced this guy is worth any more than that.

          7. Jasper of Maine

            Last I heard, he was atheist again, after his Bible studies weren’t making sense to him. And then he went back to bizarre lawsuits.

          8. Philip Bone

            To Jasper :
            Allright let’s get rid right away with that pun you threw just 2 posts above this one : Phil Bone is my real name. Maybe I shouldn’t tell you that, as usually people take pseudonyms to “butt” on internet, as you said —which, of course, I do on several other sites—, but here, I felt that it would be more honest, as it is not an “over the counter” site with people letting it loose, intellectwise and / or insultwise (except Narf, apparently…), but a site built around a domain that is very central to me.
            Actually I live in Europe (in Amsterdam, London and Paris), and I can tell you that I heard about that cat Peter Greene for the first time when you mentioned it up here ! I had to look over on Yahoo to find out that he is a kind of taxi driver which have had cataract troubles…
            So, I return your compliment : don’t be paranoid ! Of course I understand that you weren’t serious when you made that “swear”… But I must tell you that I was equally ironic when I wrote “I hope that you didn’t do it with a tricky intention, didn’t you ??” No need to ask me if I was feeling awright, believe me…

            Speaking about “belief”, I carefully read you articulate and step-by-step reply. First, allow me to thank you for having taken so much of your time to answer point by point to my writings. By cross-checking the contents of all your posts, I slowly emerged to the conclusion that… the pseudonyms which are replying to me are —as simply as that— the ones of you people that I actually see on the screen over there in Austin ! (I even “suspect” Kazim to be… er well… let’s say he is the one that he told Feinstein, a few month ago, that he is an engineer in electronics —just to save his anonymity here…).

            Why do I tell you that ? Because I thus realize that I was actually proposing the use of this “innovative” lexical approach —I insist : I am NOT “desperately” fighting to win any battle over it— …to the very guys that USE this bloody word “belief” every week on air !

            As I told you, I have never intended to wage a crusade to “impose” my thoughts == > yes, as you might have noticed, I hate the word “to believe” : I honestly think that it is FAR too confusing and misleading, for “neutral” third parties, be they listeners to the TV show or readers of this blog, theists included !!!

            So… not being a troll, contrary to what “Narf” induced, I won’t stick around that thread for days and days anymore… Like you, I think that both our sides have made our points (at least, now that you substantially and calmly answered my posts —thanks again).

            Just, let me tell you that I have one regret : it is that all throughout our exchanges, you kept clinging, imperturbably, to that “official dictionary” wording —to which I agree that you were right about—, and did not, at any moment, say : well… that eventually could be an interesting idea… but for the moment, we will stick to our current use of that word… however, we’ll think about it… !!!

            Even though, I keep hope that I have sown a little seed, which, maybe, will slowly germinate. And believe me, that has nothing to do with any teleology whatsoever ^^ !

          9. Jasper of Maine

            As I told you, I have never intended to wage a crusade to “impose” my thoughts == > yes, as you might have noticed, I hate the word “to believe” : I honestly think that it is FAR too confusing and misleading, for “neutral” third parties, be they listeners to the TV show or readers of this blog, theists included !!!

            That happens. Lots of words have that problem. I don’t think it’s confusing at all. I think most people get what “to belive” means – at least enough to have a conversation. If there’s confusion as to the definition, it’s then corrected/clarified. Again, the need to clarify thoughts is hardly restricted to “belief”.

            Just, let me tell you that I have one regret : it is that all throughout our exchanges, you kept clinging, imperturbably, to that “official dictionary” wording —to which I agree that you were right about—, and did not, at any moment, say : well… that eventually could be an interesting idea… but for the moment, we will stick to our current use of that word… however, we’ll think about it… !!!

            Yes, it’s simultaneously strange and odd that I’d cling to common usages of words. Keep in mind that dictionaries aren’t dictators of definitions. They reflect common usage.

            Even though, I keep hope that I have sown a little seed, which, maybe, will slowly germinate. And believe me, that has nothing to do with any teleology whatsoever ^^ !

            I doubt it. I haven’t heard a salient point as to why I should deviate from common usage. We also have a similar problem with the word “theory”, but I’ll go out of my way to use that word (eg. the Theory of Evolution) just to spur discussion as to what that means – not avoid using it.

          10. Jasper of Maine

            Don’t get me wrong – if I’m asked a question and I detect that it’s probably going to be derailed like that, I might head it off at the pass.

            For instance, if I’m asked “So do you believe in the Big Bang?”, my response might be along the lines of “I accept that the Big Bang is our current best model that explains the beginnings of the universe as we know it” – but that’s a mouth-full.

            Otherwise, I’d continue to use the common understood version of the word.

          11. Philip Bone

            Well, I’m glad that (in the end, and “saved by the bell”) I will have garnered, at least, a comforting… “Don’t get me wrong – [....] if I’m asked “So do you believe in the Big Bang?”, my response might be along the lines of “I accept that the Big Bang is our current best model that explains the beginnings of the universe as we know it” !!!
            But –as I stated since my very first post–, I agree with you that it’s a mouth-full

            Ok.
            Now… As would say John-Paul-George & Ringo :
            Let It Be !

          12. gralgrathor

            there isn’t be any substantial difference in lexical meaning between the words “faith” and “belief”

            No, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that there is little substantial difference in the *experience*, the degree of conviction, of beliefs gained through rational or religious paths. Like I said: the *soundness* of a belief (the degree to which the belief reflects an objective reality, the accuracy of the belief) is usually greater when the belief is gained through rational inquiry rather than religious indoctrination – nevertheless the conviction that the belief is true can be the same: in the end, they are both states of mind, physical patterns in the brain. Thus, I argue that there is little difference at the subjective, perceptional level between evidence-based belief and faith-based belief. It is only when one cares enough about accuracy to check ones belief against reality that the difference becomes apparent.

            From my last sentence it should be clear that I think there is an important difference between evidence- and faith-based beliefs – although possibly not at the perceptional level. Regardless, they are both beliefs.

      2. Russell Glasser

        Yeah, the thing is, even when you use more words to describe your understanding of what “believe” means, you’re still wrong.

        Several dictionaries, indeed, give that definition. The problem is… that they don’t specify : “with” or “without proof of evidence” !

        That’s because there is not specificity that is either implied or required by the use of the word. If you hold something to be true for valid and rigorous reasons, you believe it. If you hold something to be true for dumb and arbitrary reasons, you also believe it.

        You’re not going to overrule this usage, dude… it’s not just “some” dictionaries that allow this usage, I challenge you to find a legitimate mainstream dictionary that doesn’t. I’ve been doing logic puzzles since I was a kid, and have a BS and MS in computer software… formal logic totally uses this meaning of the word all over the place. If you state that “X believes Y” whether you’re referring to a person or an AI, you are saying “The system holds Y to be true.” This has NO implications whatsoever about how you arrived at this conclusion and whether the conclusion is sound.

        TLDR: You’re not going convince me to stop using the word “believe” correctly. Give it up.

        1. Philip Bone

          Kazim… My dear Kazim… We are here in a discussion forum between keen, articulate and (I hope) responsible persons ok ?
          The aggressiveness with which you replied to my posts looks completely déplacé, in the general cool ambiance of this forum ! For example, I would humbly advise you
          1) to REFRAIN from using “arguments from authority” (such as : “even when [...], you’re still wrong”, or : “I have a BS and MS —and a XT and a KB and and”) ….between adult, grown up debaters !!! Above all when you have no idea about how many diplomas are piling up in my drawers ok ?

          2) to AVOID using ambiguous terms like : “You’re not going to overrule this usage, dude !”… As you may know, in english, the word “dude” can be meliorative (equivalent to “old chap”…) OR pejorative (bluntly meaning : “you’re an idiot !”). Unfortunately, when replaced in the context of the sentence it ends, it is obvious that the second option is the good one. In other word, you used a clumsy understatement to call me an idiot.
          Then, I can tell you, my friend, that it is NOT a very good way to strengthen any argument.

          Maybe I have a too high-pitched opinion on average atheists, but I expect such ‘rationale-based’ blokes to avoid emotional behaviors like insulting their co-debaters if they don’t agree with them, for example…
          Thank you.

          All you do in your post is to use, again and again, “arguments from authority”, hammering your definitive assertions on me, challenging me to find a “mainstream dictionary that etc…”
          RELAX !
          The point, here, is NOT to indulge into a contest about who will crush the other first ! !
          All I did is SUGGESTING that, MAYBE, we, as cold-blooded atheists, could just envisage to start using other words, when talking with theists about the concept that we’re discussing here…

          Be reassured : as a rationalist, I don’t even dream to “overrule the laymen’s usage of this word”, as you claimed ! !

          But allow me to say that your final reaction (“You’re not going convince me to stop using the word “believe” correctly”) denotes —at least, a conservative position… if not a reactionary one : “Things are like they are, and they don’t have to change, EVER, even if it creates ambiguities or misunderstandings”.
          Well done…

          Ow ow ow… Last thing : speaking about dictionaries, you should take an encyclopedia, and look up the entry “innovation processes in cognitive sciences”… Maybe that would open vast, new horizons in front of your very eyes !

          1. Lord Narf

            He did nothing approaching an argument from authority. He explained the specialization of his knowledge, and then he demonstrated its application to the subject at hand. It isn’t an argument from authority fallacy when the given specialization is directly applicable to subject at hand.

            Also, you sound like a pompous asshole, when you say things like “Kazim… My dear Kazim…” I think his usage of “dude” is perfectly appropriate, in the second meaning that you listed.

          2. Philip Bone

            Lord Narf…
            Do you often “fly to the rescue” of contributors, like you just did, instead of letting them reply, and express what they have to say by themselves ???
            Or, as I recall having seen you behaving as if you are the “owner” of this blog, so you think that you’re entitled to grossly insult people who come honestly and sincerely debate on that blog of yours ?

            Does that mean that you have the right to treat me “a pompous asshole” —which lowers you to the level of a leatherneck hooligan—, as, on the other hand, I’m not “authorized” (!?!) to say “Kazim My dear Kazim”, which is a rather polite but ironic way to address somebody who had the right to call me a dude… just because I wrote a post that didn’t seem to please him ???

            Needless to say : it’s been a long time since I quit answering, on the substance itself, to uncouth guys like you… I came on this blog because it seems to be the place to discuss about Matt’s TV atheist live show, which I really appreciate.

            NOT to be grossly insulted for a sentence that didn’t have the luck to please to “Lord” Naf !

            Then… What are you gonna do ?? Censor all my posts from now on —if it happens that you are the sysanim of that blog—, just because you personally don’t like the way I express myself ??
            Cut all access to my future replies ??

            Let me tell you something : I am much much older than you probably think I am. I’m not saying that to demand respect : I don’t care about “receiving respect” just because of my old age. All I want to say is that I have been a “hard-core” atheist since longer than you can imagine.
            However, you probably would even not treat a theist coming here with open mind… like you allowed yourself to treat me
            ok ??
            Thank you for reading me.
            Your favorite “pompous” asshole.

          3. Lord Narf

            Do you often “fly to the rescue” of contributors, like you just did, instead of letting them reply, and express what they have to say by themselves ???

            This is a blog comment section, dude. It’s a free-for-all. I just call ‘em like I see ‘em.

            I’m quite sure that Russel can handle himself. That doesn’t mean that I can’t add my opinion.

            Then… What are you gonna do ?? Censor all my posts from now on —if it happens that you are the sysanim of that blog—, just because you personally don’t like the way I express myself ??
            Cut all access to my future replies ??

            No, but Russel can do so, if he feels the need. We’ll see if you have anything useful to add. You generally have to go pretty far before they’ll pull out the ban-hammer, on this blog. It takes a long string of inanity with little contribution.

            Let me tell you something : I am much much older than you probably think I am. I’m not saying that to demand respect : I don’t care about “receiving respect” just because of my old age. All I want to say is that I have been a “hard-core” atheist since longer than you can imagine.

            And I should care how old you are why? People gain my respect when they earn it. There are teenagers who have it, and there are people in their 80′s who don’t.

            You haven’t done very well, so far, calling out argument from authority fallacies that aren’t.

          4. mike

            @Phillip Bone

            I thought it strange right away when you criticize Kazim for calling you “dude” then you go on to use much more condescending terms (my dear, RELAX,etc.) and it occurred to me that you probably were a pompous asshole. Wasn’t going to call you that but hey, its already been said, so I second it.

            “Kazim” the “contributor” lol doesn’t need anyone to come to his rescue I doubt that he will reply again to something as trivial as the nuances of the word belief. He probably responded as he did because your posts set off many red flags- excessively wordy, excessive use of quotes, boldface, exclamation marks, all caps,etc.- all these are the signs of a batshit crazy theist usually. Lengthy posts about a simple concept like this just clog up the thread like spam.

          5. Moderater

            Philip Bone:

            Well done sir. I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of the quality and manner of the pseudo intellects on this blog site. I apologize for their flagrant arrogance and the stench of their condescending tone, and cringe at their concomitant self delusions as they and their troglodytic minions recharacterize their embarrassing behavior in the most favorable light. In the end, you and you alone emerged as the intellectual superior, the more composed and more rational commentor. They and their ilk are what gives atheism’s opponents the fodder to hurl accusations of elitism in our direction. Atheism is no panacea for fragile egos I am afraid.

            I fear by now you may have lost all interest in debating civilly on important matters where cognitively sloven Americans wait while gnashing their teeth merely to antagonize those with differing opinions. I do not blame you though I encourage you to return. Commentors like you inspire others to a greater extent than the likes of Kazim or Lord Narf ever could.

            You are indeed correct that the word belief as defined and as used, is imprecise, conduces to misapprehensions, and requires more clarification than it provides. Its common usage is always followed by a debate as to its meaning when a more precise word, if and when used in its place from the outset, would likely set the discussion off on the right path. It has become adulterated by theists and casual observers. Seeking to strengthen the atheist cause by solidifying the words we use and the context in which we use them makes more sense than clinging to them because we know of nothing else better or are too lazy to endeavor. Sounds familiar, like many a theist.

            Best wishes,

            Moderator

          6. gralgrathor

            Okay, so believing in a claim does not mean accepting the claim to as true? Believing that god exists does not mean accepting the claim that god exists to be true?

          7. ericvon germania

            @gralgrathor

            I don’t know to who exactly you answer. To philbone?

            Anyway for my part I see a big difference between accepting or rejecting a claim and accepting or rejecting the content of the claim.

            For exemple if someone (like a total stranger) gives me a compliment (like you are intelligent or generous) but I know that person doesn’t know me, so for sure I won’t accept his claim for it appears false, like that person want to manipulate you or something. But the content of the claim can be true whatsover but the claim is “false”.

            As for God if let’s say a catholic nun ask me “do you believe in god?” and I know already what that nun believes what to be god, then I can reject the claim that she made without rejecting another conception of a god.

          8. gralgrathor

            @ericvon germania

            I’m sorry; that was directed at Moderater‘s comment (comment #85113). I couldn’t quite tell whether he was being sarcastic or not, so adapting Poe’s Law to the situation, I simply assumed he was not and responded.

      3. ericvon germania

        So Phil what is your main point? are you a theist who disagree with a special metaphysical or epistemological point of view or you just have a french mindset to disagree with everything than anyone say just for the fun of it?

  8. 8
    EnlightenmentLiberal

    Please stop trusting in your own perceived intellect and/ or others

    This is just a complete non-starter. You can’t trust your own ability to do deduction, induction, reasoning? Then how could you ever trust someone else if you can’t even trust your own thoughts? So, don’t reason at all, and just give it over to god? Yea, right (/sarcasm). How can anyone say something so obviously stupid? It’s just like someone saying that they can use circular justifications or other formal logic fallacies. You can’t abandon logic, and you definitely cannot argue with logic against the use of logic. And you definitely cannot argue without logic.

    Then again, it might be funny for a while to see them do a little dance or something, some sort of interpretive dance, to try and form an “argument”, given that they’re ceded all use of logic.

  9. 9
    Aaroninaustralia

    In theistic terms, “please stop trusting in your own perceived intellect” means an inaudible whisper of, “defer all decisions to me and agree with me at all times”. It’s the all-encompassing version of “God Works in Mysterious Ways”. Consider as scenarios how this would be used: one where you agree and one where you disagree with them on some ridiculous idea of theirs.
    Scenario One
    Theist: “I believe that there’s a magical tiara-wearing dragon in my garage that makes sure my car starts each morning”
    You: “Yeah that sounds reasonable”
    Theist: “Good, you agree with me (and are therefore correct)”
    Scenario Two
    Theist: “I believe there’s a magical pixie in my dishwasher that keeps the dishes clean but only if it gets food in the form of dishwashing powder”
    You: “Uh, I think it’s just the powder and water washing your dishes”
    Theist: “Please stop trusting in your own perceived intellect (and by inference the limits of your own mind… you’re not just deferring to my own personal opinions which are always correct)”

    Ultimately, the unspoken offer is that they will not berate you for agreeing with their ludicrous ideas, only for disagreeing with them.
    I’ve found the easiest way to interpret all theistic ideas is to consider belief in the supernatural to be a form of egocentrism-by-proxy. That is, similar to how children will cover their eyes and say “You can’t see me!” because they can’t see you and presume therefore that you can’t see them, the theist has a regressive form of this where they believe or presume the world revolves around the theist. Egocentrism starts in childhood and continues in adolescence where a teenager presumes the world is obsessed with their lives and thus “plays up” to the audience: consider a teen who says “Mom, you’re embarrassing me!” when the parent is doing something within view (but not directed anywhere near the child) as an example. If an adult is exposed to this religious self-centered thinking, it tends not to stick with them as it doesn’t fit with a non-egocentric view of the world. If children are exposed prior to losing their egocentrism, it prolongs it. It also explains why people tend to lose their religion at a time when their natural egocentrism is receding anyway.
    In this idea of a religious/adult egocentrism-by-proxy, any time their personal preferences don’t match reality it’s explained away by how “God/Mithras/Zeus/The Devil/Pixies” didn’t want him/her to have that… and thus made sure it didn’t happen. This makes everything that doesn’t work out for them, still focussed on the theist regardless. For example, if a theist wants good weather for an outdoor party and the weather’s good, then God “smiled on them”. If it rains, the reason is still self-focussed: God didn’t want them to have it outdoors or The Devil got involved. In all cases, they remained the focus.
    My favorite example of how this model helps to demonstrate theistic thought is the old argument, “Either the universe was made specifically for us (read: me), or it’s all just random chance!” In rational and dispassionate thought the problems are obvious. In egocentrism-by-proxy however, either the sufferer’s personal opinions are connected and thus there’s a pattern between their desires and the way things work, or there’s no connection and the likelihood of their desires reflecting the way things really are becomes random chance. The way to address this argument becomes about the emotional panic of their egocentrism, not solely about the logical problems with their argument. Consider the same issues around “Either there exist objective morals, or it’s all just personal opinion!” and you’ll see how this thought pattern can make the idea of a non-personally-defined world a frightening prospect.
    In terms of the writer to the ACA, this model makes it a little easier to see where he’s coming from. Perhaps the most telling is the comment that, “From a believer’s perspective and observation you do [hate God], rejection/un-belief/non-belief what’s the difference?” The question is not about factual or logical differences but rather about the outcome to their own personal egos, together with their perspective that their opinions are objective facts while objective facts are merely others’ personal opinions.

    1. 9.1
      Rich Woods

      If it rains, the reason is still self-focussed: God didn’t want them to have it outdoors or The Devil got involved. In all cases, they remained the focus.

      Or that they just didn’t believe enough. And then they go on to demonstrate that they really, really do believe through some act of self-flagellation or proselytisation or whatever, and they damn well make sure that everyone knows they’re doing it.

  10. 10
    Jafafa Hots

    Q: What kind of horrible experience did you have that caused you to become an atheist?

    Although I don’t remember it, I gather that childbirth can be fairly traumatic for the infant. Perhaps that trauma was the cause of me being an atheist as I’ve been an atheist since at least then if not before.

    1. 10.1
      sonorus

      Q: What kind of horrible experience did you have that caused you to become an atheist?

      The horrible experience of trying to rationalize the irrational. It was exhausting trying to make sense of nonsense. Atheism was the realization that the reason theism doesn’t make sense is because it’s not true.

      1. Trish

        @sonorus:
        Perfect answer!

  11. 11
    billhelm

    I think that the fact that believers don’t think there’s a difference between “rejecting God” and “not believing in God”, is a major barrier to them realizing how unjust the idea of a hell is.

    Even though the idea of hell is unpleasant enough to send them trying to convert everyone, they can always throw their hands up and assume that everyone really believes in “God” deep down, but they just don’t want “him” (as my ex-pastor once said), and go on singing.

    This false assumption is so common, and what helped me “de-convert” was thinking about non-belief, what it means, why it happens, and realizing rejecting belief is not rejecting God. And if they are only rejecting a belief, hell sounded even more unjust, as I pictured people I loved being tortured for an eternity — for non-belief. Buh-bye.

    1. 11.1
      ericvon germania

      hmm you don’t like the idea there is a god only because of hell? and what if I say that the threthen of hell is a man made concept to control peoples behaviour but a god can exists anyway. what is your taken on that?

      1. Lord Narf

        I didn’t get that from his statements. I think he’s saying that the concept of hell as laid out in the Bible and extra-Biblical Christian theology made him realize how nonsensical Christianity is.

        Most Christians say that someone who doesn’t believe in their god is going to hell, but someone who truly doesn’t believe would be judged on a different metric than someone who believes but rejects God, if the being had any kind of consistency and rationality. And yet, they claim he’s a perfect, ultimately-just being. There are dozens of things like that which jump out at you and show that their concept of God is fucked up. The sorting system for who goes to hell is just the particular bit that made him start examining his theology and then reject it.

        and what if I say that the threthen of hell is a man made concept to control peoples behaviour but a god can exists anyway. what is your taken on that?

        If you said that, I’d probably look back and say something about how if such a core tenet of the Bible could be perverted by man, then the whole Bible loses its authority. I dunno, something to that effect. It’s hard for me to put myself into the authoritarian mindset. I didn’t give the Bible or the Catholic hierarchy any weight of authority, even when I was being raised Catholic. I have vague memories of not believing any of the crap they were telling me out of the Bible, from back when I was 5 or 6.

        1. ericvon germania

          I was raised catholic too, but as long as I remember I never believed in hell nor threatened by any catholic priest or teacher to go there. when I was a child I never feared hell. Maybe it is just me but the mature christian religions such as catholic or lutherian don’t threath their baptized fellow of hell. I even think that in modern theology, hell is just the death in opposition of the baptized who go for an eventuel paradise waiting for their ressurection.

          Also about hell, funny that it doesn’t exist in the OT. Seems it comes from the greeks. Like when Jesus died he went to “hell” 3 days, but hell is not a place where people were punish, it was just a place where they were bored until they could have fun somewhere else.

          At the time Jesus was sopposely on earth and after, the christians used some books like the Book of Jubilee, The book of Enoch, the Revelation on James and those books were took it out from the canon of the bible because they were or saying hell doesn’t exist or women were equal to men. so it seems it was added later that interpretation of hell being a place of eternal torture.

          1. Lord Narf

            I was raised catholic too, but as long as I remember I never believed in hell nor threatened by any catholic priest or teacher to go there. when I was a child I never feared hell. Maybe it is just me but the mature christian religions such as catholic or lutherian don’t threath their baptized fellow of hell. I even think that in modern theology, hell is just the death in opposition of the baptized who go for an eventuel paradise waiting for their ressurection.

            Hell, look at the Anglicans. Those are some relaxed buggers.

            The impression I always got, from Catholic theology, is that most Catholics think you have to pretty much be evil incarnate, to end up in Hell. Those who don’t have their sins absolved by a Catholic priest or something similar will just have a lot of time to burn off in Purgatory, before they get to go to heaven. Not that big of a deal, having a few million years of purification or whatever, against the eternity of life in Heaven.

            Also about hell, funny that it doesn’t exist in the OT. Seems it comes from the greeks. Like when Jesus died he went to “hell” 3 days, but hell is not a place where people were punish, it was just a place where they were bored until they could have fun somewhere else.

            At the time Jesus was sopposely on earth and after, the christians used some books like the Book of Jubilee, The book of Enoch, the Revelation on James and those books were took it out from the canon of the bible because they were or saying hell doesn’t exist or women were equal to men. so it seems it was added later that interpretation of hell being a place of eternal torture.

            Yup, the Jews don’t have any concept like that. From what I’ve seen, most of them don’t even think we have a real afterlife.

            My understanding is that most of the serious stuff about Hell didn’t come into the common perception until Dante’s Inferno was written. He pulled almost exclusively from extra-Biblical sources, like the non-canonical gospels.

        2. ericvon germania

          Btw you seem to live in Europe or you are really and early bird.

          Also the new freetoughtblogs is really heavy for my computer, the one just before was much lighter and the presentation was much better.

          1. Lord Narf

            Nope, I just have a really fucked up sleep schedule, sometimes. I’m on the east coast of the US.

    2. 11.2
      sonorus

      Exactly. And it’s not just believing in the idea of a god, but in their god specifically. Everyone must accept or reject their specific concept of god. They don’t mean Odin or Krishna. Maybe we should start asking them why they reject Odin. Surely deep down they really believe in Odin but just choose to reject him for some illogical reason. I wonder why they are so angry at Odin that they don’t accept him!

  12. 12
    left0ver1under

    “John from Ireland” raised a minor issue (the only valid one in his drivel) about expecting replies.

    I’m asking rhetorically, when should someone expect a reply? There is a point where someone has a reasonable expectation of an answer from a friend, a business (either before or after buying from them), a blogger, et al (though that may not apply where the person written to is inundated with mail and can’t answer them all).

    And how long should someone wait to ask why there was no reply? Email isn’t always reliable. More than a few times, things I’ve sent were never received by others and vice versa – not just initial emails starting a conversation, but also expected replies that never arrived. It’s easier for a sender to be patient knowing that the mail got through (e.g. autoreplies). And it tells the sender to be patient, something that “John from Ireland” was not.

    1. 12.1
      sonorus

      We are talking about different things. I would expect a rather quick response from a friend, family member or business associate. I don’t expect complete strangers to respond to my emails and tweets. I follow Roger Ebert on twitter, for example. I have tweeted responses to him a couple of times. I’d be shocked if I got a response. I might, but I don’t have any right to expect to. (For that matter I don’t even know if he does the tweeting himself or has an assistant turn his observations into that format.) The idea that we have a right to expect strangers to treat us like clients or close friends is bizarre but common these days.

  13. 13
    Madouc

    A friend of mine was almost drowned twice as a child in a baptismal attempt to exorcise his demon of dyslexia.

    1. 13.1
      Leeor D

      @Madouc , as tragic as that may be (and one of the reasons I think baptisms are evil), what’s the relevance?

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