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Never anywhere

The Ottawa Citizen asks its religious experts about the Newtown shootings. Kevin Smith says something I really like. [scroll down]

They say He’s been banished from schools — He being the creator of the  universe, the loving, omnipotent father possessed with a tendency toward  occasional vengeance if he’s not worshipped every day. That is the sole reason  for the murders, they repeat, as much to convince themselves as for others who  must rationalize the irrational.

How cruel to the grieving families that these self-serving defenders of their faith dare make excuses for a God who doesn’t care, or who is not there. He is  never anywhere.

Really. God is never anywhere. Why isn’t that a demerit? Why don’t god’s fans see it for what it is – if god is real, it’s a hateful abandonment, a refusal to help, a cold folding of the arms, a locking of the door from the other side.

 

Comments

  1. says

    He’s there when he’s there, he’s there when he’s not there. He’s all mysterious like that.

    A former co-worker was once telling everyone about a close-call on the freeway. A truck was speeding towards them head-on, but at the last moment they managed to avoid it.
    “That’s how I know there’s a God,” she said.

    I didn’t ask if that meant that there was no god for the tens of thousands of other people who DON’T managed to avoid being killed. I already knew the answer because I’d heard them express it before when someone died.

    “God was calling him home, he needed him.”

    So if you don’t die – evidence of God. If you DO die – evidence of God.

    He’s everywhere. It’s just that, as the kids say “he’s like, really random.”

  2. says

    Actually, that Guardian column has some merits, I think. If you start at the fourth paragraph from the end, you get this:

    This redirectioning of the spiritual path has fruitful offshoots. We no longer have to ask why God orders the world in such an unsatisfactory way, allowing cancer cells and war to proliferate. Nor do we have to bombard him with prayer in order to achieve our desired ends. Such dialogue is only sustainable if you posit a personal being.

    Is anything left or does this destroy the very fabric of spirituality? What remains is a Quakerlike silence during which we can respond to the numinous, develop our perceptions, hone our morality and enhance our wonder at the staggering complexity of the universe. Instead of ranting at the arbitrariness and high-handed conduct of the God we have invented, it is now possible to rest in a cloud of unknowing which gives us time and space in which to reflect on the fundamental questions of life. Why am I here? How can I best deport myself in this bewildering world?

    At first sight this is a distinctly uncomfortable stance. It leaves us rudderless in a sea of uncertainty. All the old props of a father God, prayer as colloquy with a personal deity and faith as a clear-cut assent to a set of credal formulations has been deconstructed and abandoned.

    Persist and the rewards are immense. There is an exhilarating sense of newfound freedom. It releases us from the burden of kowtowing to the dictates of a holy book and it relieves us of the intellectual difficulties of accepting the dogmatic assertions of an ecclesiastical hierarchy. We are liberated and can follow our own spiritual path. Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk, spent a lifetime doing just this and found it uncovered an oasis of calmness and peace. “Follow my ways and I will lead you to golden-haired suns, Logos and music, blameless joys, Innocent of questions and beyond answers: For I, Solitude, am thine own self: I, Nothingness, am thy All. I Silence, am thy Amen!” Give it a whirl. I might just free you from the shackles of orthodoxy and kickstart your spiritual life.

    Basically, the author has discovered the benefits of atheism. He just can’t admit it to himself, so he has to call it “spiritual” instead.

  3. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    Or- as someone nearly said

    As I was going up the stair
    I saw a god who wasn’t there
    He wasn’t there again today
    But just the same I’m going to pray.

  4. says

    Here’s a quick summary:

    Jews: Dunno.

    Anglicans: ‘Cos people are shite and God hates us.

    Sikhs: God knows, we don’t.

    Muslims: Need more time to think.

    Bah’ai: God? What God?

    Hindus: See Sikhs above.

    Atheists: Stupid question!

    Buddhism: Dunno why it happened, but Buddhism could have prevented it.

    Catholics: God gave us this great stuff, so dodge the question.

    Fundamentalist Christians: God da man, dude! Don’t give him no shit, yo!

    Now you don’t have to read it.

  5. NotAnAtheist says


    Really. God is never anywhere. Why isn’t that a demerit? Why don’t god’s fans see it for what it is – if god is real, it’s a hateful abandonment, a refusal to help, a cold folding of the arms, a locking of the door from the other side.

    How does one tell the difference between us closing the door to God, and God closing the door to us?

  6. NotAnAtheist says

    Also, how is atheism “less” cruel than this god who is “never anywhere”? Is atheism “less cruel”.. period? I don’t see how it is.

  7. says

    NotAnAtheist,

    How does one tell the difference between us closing the door to God, and God closing the door to us?

    You’ve got something approaching a good question here, but you’ve got a hidden assumption that’s still bollixing it up. Try this on for size instead:

    How does one tell the difference between a reality in which your deity exists and a reality in which your deity does not exist?

    If it is possible to tell the difference, then there should be some kind of test I can perform to give evidence one way or another about which kind of universe I’m in. If it is not possible to tell the difference, then why should I complicate my model of the universe with this extra element, your deity, despite the fact that there is no way to gain evidence one way or another about its existence?

    Also, how is atheism “less” cruel than this god who is “never anywhere”? Is atheism “less cruel”.. period? I don’t see how it is.

    Atheism, in and of itself, does not purport to be more or less cruel than any particular religion. It just purports to present a model of the universe which is more parsimonious than theist models, without any loss of explanatory power. This offers us the opportunity to develop ethical systems which are free from the specific cruelties that arise from the presence of deities in many theist models.

    Of course, some ethical systems based on models of the universe which lack explicit deities or other overtly “supernatural” elements can still generate cruelties which are as bad as or even worse than the cruelties of some ethical systems based on theist models. I believe the usual cage match that’s set up here is “the views of Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, etc.” vs. “happy friendly liberal hippy theism”, in which happy friendly liberal hippy theism wins by incapacitating its opponent with dense clouds of pot smoke, but the match is never actually called because everybody proceeds to forget what they were doing and just sits around talking about how they’ve never really looked at their hand before and isn’t it just like wow man.

    So anyway. The point is not that atheism magically makes everything better. Instead, atheism just reduces by one the number of potential stumbling blocks on the road to developing a fact-based (in other words, likely to actually function in the real world we live in, whatever properties it may have) and ethical (ethical here not being judged by some absolute external standard, but rather being treated as an ongoing negotiation amongst the multitude of entities in our complicated, interdependent global society, all of whom have slightly different, sometimes-conflicting and sometimes-synergizing desires) modus vivendi.

  8. says

    Grah, edited so carefully and I still came out with this ambiguous sentence:

    This offers us the opportunity to develop ethical systems which are free from the specific cruelties that arise from the presence of deities in many theist models.

    Should’ve been this instead:

    This offers us the opportunity to develop ethical systems which are free from the specific cruelties that arise in many theist models due to the presence of deities.

  9. says

    Also: no slur intended against pot users, hippies, or any other left-wing counterculture types as such. I’m somewhere in that general politics/lifestyle direction myself and tend to think of jokes about “hippies” as somewhat self-mocking, but on rereading I realize that could come off badly if you don’t know me…

  10. says

    Not an atheist –

    How does one tell the difference between us closing the door to God, and God closing the door to us?

    I think that’s a very strange question.

    Think of a child, whose parents went away the moment she was born. Imagine she is raised by robots, and that her physical needs are met but she remains abandoned.

    Would you ask her that question?

    In other words, you’re presupposing the usual idea that god is entitled to make itself difficult to find, perceive, contact, talk to, hear, see. You’re presupposing that we have to perform some kind of magic like opening a figurative “door” – when you don’t presuppose that for parents, for example.

    What business does god have playing tricks? What business does god have making us search for it? If god is what people say it is, it should just be there, the way good parents just are there for their children.

    There’s no reason whatsoever to assume that the burden is on us, except the need to explain a god who is obviously not fucking there.

  11. NotAnAtheist says


    In other words, you’re presupposing the usual idea that god is entitled to make itself difficult to find, perceive, contact, talk to, hear, see.

    Not at all.
    Would a Christian say that God is trying to make himself difficult to find? Or would they in fact say that God is rather easy to find, as long as you approach him on his terms?


    You’re presupposing that we have to perform some kind of magic like opening a figurative “door” – when you don’t presuppose that for parents, for example.

    True. Would a Christian say that God is a parent and absolutely nothing more than that? Or is God like a parent, but also like other things?

    If its the latter, the analogy between God and a parent is not perfect, so its not reasonable to assume that every analogy that begins with some human parent must of necessity hold with the Christian God.

    Perhaps you’re talking about another God though.


    What business does god have playing tricks? What business does god have making us search for it? If god is what people say it is, it should just be there, the way good parents just are there for their children.

    So basically, if the Christian God doesn’t bow to your terms, you’re not going to even try to “search for it”. He should just be “there”.

    Got it.

    Anne–


    Atheism, in and of itself, does not purport to be more or less cruel than any particular religion. It just purports to present a model of the universe which is more parsimonious than theist models, without any loss of explanatory power.

    Fair enough.


    This offers us the opportunity to develop ethical systems which are free from the specific cruelties that arise from the presence of deities in many theist models.

    This is relatively meaningless if atheistic models offer their own specific brand of cruelties. I’m not even talking about Stalin or Pol Pot or whatever. I’m talking about just atheism, and strict science. The atheism and strict science that says that there is no purpose to the universe, no purpose to your life, you have no soul, no “mind” (just a brain), and that with high probability your life won’t matter at all soon after you die. (If you add environmentalism to the mix you’re even worse off.. as now when someone dies there’s one less source of possible pollution in the world).

    I’m curious. Say you were asked to speak at the Sandy Hook interfaith service. What would you have said that’s fully consistent with atheism and science and skepticism?

    I have no doubt that atheists can be extremely comforting. I don’t see how atheism/skepticism/science(by itself) is at all comforting, or anything but a cruel “we’re here today and tomorrow we die” worldview.

    Doesn’t mean its wrong of course.


    Instead, atheism just reduces by one the number of potential stumbling blocks on the road to developing a fact-based (in other words, likely to actually function in the real world we live in, whatever properties it may have) and ethical (ethical here not being judged by some absolute external standard, but rather being treated as an ongoing negotiation amongst the multitude of entities in our complicated, interdependent global society, all of whom have slightly different, sometimes-conflicting and sometimes-synergizing desires) modus vivendi.

    So to you something is ethical.. how exactly? If the “negotiation” judges it ethical? Who’s at the negotiating table? Who get’s a say? Who doesn’t? Does the Christian right get a say at the table? They are an “entity in our complicated, interdependent global society” after all. Or should they not get a say because you judge them “intolerant” or “bigoted”.. or whatever word you prefer to use.

    Negotiations, to me, requires multiple parties.. some of whom are in disagreement, but where all parties at least get a say. What I see from atheists most of the time is marginalization of anyone who disagrees with them. Are you a Christian? Then you’re a hater. Pro-Life? Then you hate women. Against being considered a “potential rapist” just because you’re a man? Then you must hate women and want them to be raped.

    I don’t see (amongst atheists) a willingness to sit down at a table and “negotiate” at all.

  12. says

    NotAnAtheist -

    So basically, if the Christian God doesn’t bow to your terms, you’re not going to even try to “search for it”. He should just be “there”.

    It’s not my terms. It’s everybody’s terms. If something is not possible to find, then the onus is not on me to assume that it exists anyway.

    Would a Christian say that God is trying to make himself difficult to find? Or would they in fact say that God is rather easy to find, as long as you approach him on his terms?

    It depends on the Christian. But yes, of course, many would say god is easy to find as long as you already believe it’s there. But that stacks the deck, doesn’t it. That’s what you mean by “on his terms” – it means not expecting pesky things like response to communications, or any kind of evidence.

    You’re treating that kind of cheat as if it were just normal and fine, but it’s not normal and fine at all. If your god really is there, then if it refuses to make that simply obvious to all humans, it’s playing a nasty trick on us. Why on earth do you treat that as if it’s admirable? Why shouldn’t god use our terms and not god’s terms? We’re the ones who are smaller and weaker and cognitively inferior. It’s just bullying to refuse to take that into account. It’s like an adult holding a treat out of a child’s reach, just to be mean.

  13. NotAnAtheist says


    It’s not my terms. It’s everybody’s terms. If something is not possible to find, then the onus is not on me to assume that it exists anyway.

    Many people claim that God is not “not possible” to find. That in fact, its quite possible to find him/her/it.. or its possible for him/her/it to find us.

    When you say that God is “not possible” to find.. what do you mean?


    That’s what you mean by “on his terms” – it means not expecting pesky things like response to communications, or any kind of evidence.

    Actually that’s not what I meant. While I suppose its possible that some Christians do mean it that way, at least in my experience, most Christians I know simply want me to keep an open mind about “response to communications” or “any kind of evidence.”

    Also, what do you mean by “evidence”?


    Why shouldn’t god use our terms and not god’s terms? We’re the ones who are smaller and weaker and cognitively inferior.

    Indeed. What’s your point?

    Most Christians would say that all that’s been dealt with. You don’t have to be strong, or big, or a genius to “find” God at all (according to them). They may be wrong.. but let’s deal with what Christians actually say and not your interpretation thereof.


    It’s just bullying to refuse to take that into account. It’s like an adult holding a treat out of a child’s reach, just to be mean.

    Is there no other reason to “withold a treat”? Its just “meanness”?

    By the way, thanks for confirming what I thought. To you, if God doesn’t follow your terms he obviously doesn’t exist. He has to cater to your terms. All of your terms.. or else he’s just a bully.

    I try to be just a tad bit open minded about it at least. Doesn’t mean I just assume God exists (I don’t just assume he exists, and I’m not even sure he does at all).

  14. says

    How would we go about dealing with “what Christians actually say”? There are many Christians, and many different instantiations of “what they say.” Furthermore, my point is that a lot of that “what they say” is just verbiage, which is adapted to shield them from full awareness of the fact that there is no more reason to think “God” (which one?) is real than there is to think Donald Duck is real.

    Your point is that we must take the verbiage at face value and with utmost seriousness. My point is that it should be seen for what it is: confabulation to protect a cherished belief.

  15. NotAnAtheist says


    How would we go about dealing with “what Christians actually say”? There are many Christians, and many different instantiations of “what they say.”

    True. Do they have nothing in common whatsoever? There is no majority opinion at all?


    Furthermore, my point is that a lot of that “what they say” is just verbiage, which is adapted to shield them from full awareness of the fact that there is no more reason to think “God” (which one?) is real than there is to think Donald Duck is real.

    What evidence do you have of that?

    As far as I can see, you reject anything a Christian says as “just verbiage” because you know already there isn’t a God.. and you know there isn’t a God because you’ve rejected all possibilities of evidence a Christian might give you as just “verbiage”.

    Also, I don’t think we have to take everything every Christian says with “the utmost serious”, or blindly at face value. I simply think we should try to keep an open mind about what Christians say, and not blindly assume its “verbiage” just because it doesn’t meet some standards we happen to like.

    I would think that as a supposedly open minded, intellectual, intelligent atheist.. you’d be completely in favor of keeping an open mind about things.

    I guess not.

  16. says

    No, I don’t know there isn’t a god, and I don’t say I know there isn’t a god. What I do know is that no god has convinced me there is a god. I know that I am quite unable to understand why I should be the one who has to make all the effort. “God” is supposed to be vastly superior to us. “God” could therefore very easily simply let us know that it exists. I know it hasn’t done that in my case. That at least means that god is a “mystery” or a secret or hidden or whatever you want to call it.

    That’s the situation. It’s not “blindly assuming” anything. It’s not about “standards we happen to like.” It’s not closed-minded. It’s the situation. God is supposed to be the superior, by a very wide margin. As far as I’m concerned god is completely hidden. I fail to see why I shouldn’t take the “hidden” quality as what it looks like. Think of all the “hidden” entities that you don’t keep “an open mind” about.

  17. NotAnAtheist says


    “God” is supposed to be vastly superior to us. “God” could therefore very easily simply let us know that it exists.

    True. At least, when I talk to Christians, they suggest reasons why God has not made his existence blindingly obvious to everyone such that absolutely no doubt is possible (which is what I see you as desiring).

    Have you examined these reasons? Have you arguments or evidence against them? Or is it your viewpoint that’s paramount? Because you think that God should act in a certain way.. why must he act that way?


    That’s the situation. It’s not “blindly assuming” anything. It’s not about “standards we happen to like.” It’s not closed-minded.

    As far as I can see, because God hasn’t made himself blindingly obvious to you, you reject not only his existence, but any arguments that might suggest why God doesn’t act in the way you want. You have your “standard”. To you, God must make himself known to you in a way that you happen to like.


    As far as I’m concerned god is completely hidden.

    As far as other people are concerned, God’s existence is blindingly obvious. What makes your perspective any better than theirs?


    Think of all the “hidden” entities that you don’t keep “an open mind” about.

    Most hidden entities I don’t have an opinion on one way or the other. You have quite a strong opinion about God, from what I’ve seen.

  18. stewart says

    “You have quite a strong opinion about God, from what I’ve seen.”

    Would that also mean that those who think the Flying Spaghetti Monster is a terrible idea are actually directing their anger at the FSM itself, rather than at Bobby Henderson?

  19. NotAnAtheist says

    Would that also mean that those who think the Flying Spaghetti Monster is a terrible idea are actually directing their anger at the FSM itself, rather than at Bobby Henderson?

    Would that also mean that those who think that Inspector Javert is a horrible person are actually directing their anger at Javert, rather than at Victor Hugo?

    One can have strong feelings towards a character you also think is entirely fictional.

    I do understand though, that most of your hatred is towards the religious and not towards any conception of God.

  20. stewart says

    Claiming automatic hatred of anyone religious is jumping the gun. But it would be good to be clear: people who don’t believe in god’s existence are not and cannot be angry with her/him/it. Theists relate to people, both believers and non-believers, as well as believing they have a relationship with a deity. This is not paralleled on the other side. Atheists relate to other people, period, whether believers or not. They may criticise the character attributed to god by believers, but they don’t see it as something that therefore exists in its own right. Of course, we can all be moved to negative feelings towards a character we know is fictional, but in this case we have no illusions about who is the real opponent.

  21. NotAnAtheist says


    But it would be good to be clear: people who don’t believe in god’s existence are not and cannot be angry with her/him/it.


    Of course, we can all be moved to negative feelings towards a character we know is fictional,

    So you can be “moved to negative feelings” toward God.. but you cannot possibly hate him.

    Right… what are those “negative feelings” then?

  22. says

    I think I’m through with you, NotAnAtheist. You’re not arguing in good faith (so to speak). Look at what a lot you’re assuming about me, on the basis of nothing.

    such that absolutely no doubt is possible (which is what I see you as desiring).

    Do you indeed! On the basis of what? I’ve said nothing like that.

    You’re also rude.

    Have you examined these reasons? Have you arguments or evidence against them? Or is it your viewpoint that’s paramount? Because you think that God should act in a certain way.. why must he act that way?

    Rude. Also – what on earth makes you think god is “he”? Try pausing in your criticism of my assumptions to notice your own.

    As far as I can see, because God hasn’t made himself blindingly obvious to you, you reject not only his existence, but any arguments that might suggest why God doesn’t act in the way you want. You have your “standard”. To you, God must make himself known to you in a way that you happen to like.

    Then you can’t see very far. I didn’t say god hasn’t made itself blindingly obvious to me. I said exactly what I meant.

    And so on in the same vein. Do better or go away.

  23. stewart says

    J.M. Barrie presents Captain Hook as fictional and one can cheer at his demise in a pantomime. None of the people pushing god or telling stories in which he’s involved are presenting him as fictional. Some of them may believe he is real, many doubtless don’t. Why try to draw a false equivalence between the two cases? If I watch “Peter Pan” the negative feelings towards Captain Hook will be very superficial. But if Barrie had had enough power and influence to mount a campaign claiming Hook was real and he represented him and we therefore had to obey him… You do see the differences, I hope.

    One can feel superficial hatred for a character accepted by all as fictional, especially if that character is drawn with dramatic talent. It cannot be real hatred as long as it is clear the character does not really exist. Most of us are capable of suspending some disbelief while watching a well-made film or play – and then we snap out of it immediately afterwards. The ones at greatest risk of not doing so are usually small and impressionable children. The character of god in the Bible is often extremely nasty, but no matter how deep inside myself I dig, I am unable to feel hatred for him as I might for someone I believed was real. Despising some tactics by some religious figures exploiting the character of god does not amount to hatred for god.

  24. stewart says

    God being male is actually one of the sillier things in the Bible (because the implications are too ridiculously staggering if followed to all their conclusions); I left it that way most of the time to answer the points in the terms they were made.

  25. stewart says

    I had a gorgeous time with a couple of Mormon missionaries who waylaid me in the evening a few weeks ago just before I got home. One merely wanted to spout, while the other kept shutting him up because he wanted to hear what I had to say. I ended up giving them an impromptu ten-minute lecture including some irreverent jokes about god that did make them laugh quite immoderately. A morning or two later, there they were when I got to my train platform. Not wishing to forgo the reading I was looking forward to on my journey, I let them know my reading matter would dismay them (it was “Hitch-22,” finally). Silly me, I should have realised they weren’t there to catch a train, but to catch people, which they remained on the platform to do after I entered the carriage. All in all, very enjoyable, within limits.

  26. says

    Oh man, did this turn into a tealdeer. :/ Anyway, let’s get on with it.

    First, NotAnAtheist, I can’t help noticing that you ignored my question about how we can distinguish between a deity-free universe and one which includes your deity. It’s kind of fundamental, seeing as how if
    your deity doesn’t seem to exist there’s not much for it but to go with the deity-free universe we have and make the best of it. But since I’m in a sporting mood, I’ll answer the rest of what you said anyway.

    This is relatively meaningless if atheistic models offer their own specific brand of cruelties. I’m not even talking about Stalin or Pol Pot or whatever. I’m talking about just atheism, and strict science. The atheism and strict science that says that there is no purpose to the universe, no purpose to your life, you have no soul, no “mind” (just a brain), and that with high probability your life won’t matter at all soon after you die. (If you add environmentalism to the mix you’re even worse off.. as now when someone dies there’s one less source of possible pollution in the world).

    Except, see, atheism has fewer postulates than theism. There are fewer imaginary things to fight over. If there’s no purpose to the universe, there’s no need to kill anybody because you think they’re interfering with your deity’s supposed purpose. You might still kill them because you want something they have, or because you think killing people is fun, or because they’re polluting the planet by existing, but the imaginary deity and its wishes are no longer present as a motivator.

    Moreover, there’s nothing about any of these other motivations that’s specific to atheists. A theist can kill (perceived) environmental polluters because ze believes it’s a command from hir deity to do so. A theist can kill someone for fun or to take their stuff because ze believes hir deity has commanded hir to do whatever ze wants, or because ze believes those people are evil infidels and so are outside of hir circle of concern. And, of course, a theist can kill people for “blasphemy” — insults to a made-up entity — something an atheist cannot be motivated to do by hir atheism. I challenge you to come up with a corresponding real-world harm that can only be motivated by atheism. Atheism doesn’t add extra reasons to mess with other people, it just takes away some of the made-up reasons that theism adds.

    The bottom line is, there are probably always going to be sources of conflict as long as there are living beings, because each of those beings will have its own goals, and said goals will sometimes be at odds. So we’re probably always going to fight about something. The question is whether we’re going to restrict ourselves to fighting about real things only, or also waste our time and resources fighting about made-up things.

    I’m curious. Say you were asked to speak at the Sandy Hook interfaith service. What would you have said that’s fully consistent with atheism and science and skepticism?

    Well, I’m no humanist chaplain or nuthin’, but if I were close enough to the situation that my participation in anything was likely to be welcomed, which I’m not, giving speeches at the memorial service would be the least of my concerns. I’d see it as much more relevant to do active stuff like helping make funeral arrangements, preparing meals, going through sympathy cards, giving people rides to the hospital, or offering them a shoulder to cry on. The speech at the funeral is the easy part — you talk about happy memories of the person, sorrow that their life has ended, love and support for those left behind, and maybe good things that you want to do to carry on the person’s memory. You know, real things. Did you expect me to say something different?

    I have no doubt that atheists can be extremely comforting. I don’t see how atheism/skepticism/science(by itself) is at all comforting, or anything but a cruel “we’re here today and tomorrow we die” worldview.

    First, let’s keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be comforting. It just has to be true. There’s a certain awkward conflation here between factual statements about how the world works and mushier questions about how we learn to adapt ourselves to the fact that the world works in a particular way. So I just want to point out really quickly that the argument that’s generally being made with statements about the cruelty of a particular theology is not, “It’s cruel so I don’t find it a useful addition to my worldview,” but, “It’s cruel, which contradicts your claim that your deity/religion is good.” Atheism doesn’t have to be emotionally comforting or have palatable ethical implications to be true. It just has to be a better description than theism of how the world seems to operate.

    But, that said, if one does adopt an atheistic model of the universe, it is still possible to find things like comfort and satisfaction in one’s life, as evidenced by the many people who have successfully done so. Indeed, many people find a great deal of relief (as in the passage I quoted at #4) by abandoning the burdens theologies tend to impose. I’m not going to claim it’s entirely trivial to work out a satisfying worldview and life path as an atheist right now. As the vast majority of the modes of comfort our society offers are heavily larded with theism, most atheists to date have been forced to tread their own paths. But there have been a lot of new resources developed lately to ease the process of figuring this stuff out. If you’re actually interested in doing this, we can pursue it further.

    I also need to note that “atheism/skepticism/science (by itself)” doesn’t exist for the purpose of providing comfort. Science and skepticism exist for the purpose of figuring out how the world works, and atheism is a consequence of these endeavors. What one chooses to do about the way the world works is an additional layer of things, supplementary to but not part of the process of figuring out how it does work. Essentially, becoming an atheist is the result of solving a scientific problem — how does the world work — while finding comfort and satisfaction as an atheist is solving an engineering problem — given that the world works in this particular way, how can I make my life as pleasant and satisfying as possible? The answer will be different for every person, which is part of why being an atheist isn’t as simple as participating in many theisms — there’s no one stereotyped ideal life path laid out for people of your gender/race/social status/nationality/parentage that you can just follow in perfect obedience. Instead you have to work it out for yourself.

    Doesn’t mean its wrong of course.

    Yup.

    So to you something is ethical.. how exactly? If the “negotiation” judges it ethical? Who’s at the negotiating table? Who get’s a say? Who doesn’t? Does the Christian right get a say at the table? They are an “entity in our complicated, interdependent global society” after all. Or should they not get a say because you judge them “intolerant” or “bigoted”.. or whatever word you prefer to use.

    Ethics are not a fact about nature, any more than a car is a fact about nature. Ethics are tools we develop together to resolve conflicting interests and to enable us to collaborate on projects too big for any one of use to do alone. Everyone who is capable of getting others to listen to their opinion (by force or persuasion or simple persistence) has a “seat” at the table. Some people (different people at different times and in different places) have bigger seats than others because they have a bigger capacity to influence other people to do what they want. People who don’t have seats at the table can gain seats by cultivating empathy and common ground with those who do (thus convincing those already seated that it’s in their interests to expand the table), or by taking seats by force.

    This is simply how the process works, regardless of whether or not I like the current consensus on how to do things or the balance of power at the figurative decision-making table. I have my own particular notions about what kinds of outcomes from this negotiation process would result in a world that (a) I would want to live in and (b) I think would win sufficient votes to “pass”, provided enough people can be brought to a reasonably adequate understanding of how it would work. Some of my notions are currently pretty much standard practice worldwide, others are in practice only in some places, and others aren’t in practice anywhere.

    But, *shrug*, my car has its imperfections too. And if I want a car that suits me more and nobody’s making it, I don’t try to insist that it’s really important that we all agree that “perfect-carness” is some absolute thing that can be derived from the fundamental nature of the universe, I just get together with other people who have those same wants and we bug the manufacturers until they start producing cars that are more like what we want. If we can convince enough other people that it’s a thing that they want too, it might even be the case that all the manufacturers will add the things we’re asking for, and that’ll be what cars are from then on out, and our descendants will wonder how we could ever tolerate anything else.

    So when I say something is “good”, I mean I think that the engineering problem of making a world I want to live in and can get other people to support is well-addressed by a system which that thing is encouraged. I’ll grant you, this doesn’t have quite the emotional resonance of absolute moral pronouncements from on high, but of course those emotional resonances are the responses that our species evolved to help us get by as social animals without having to work all these computations out by hand. They’re not too bad, but they do have some rough edges, and it’s not a great idea to just blindly rely on them to always get us to where we want to go, any more than it’s wise to rely blindly on your GPS without looking out the window to see if it’s taking you off a pier.

    Negotiations, to me, requires multiple parties.. some of whom are in disagreement, but where all parties at least get a say. What I see from atheists most of the time is marginalization of anyone who disagrees with them. Are you a Christian? Then you’re a hater. Pro-Life? Then you hate women. Against being considered a “potential rapist” just because you’re a man? Then you must hate women and want them to be raped.

    You don’t want your views to be treated as contemptible and pushed to the margins? Then you need to find a way to convince other people that those views don’t have the negative effects we think they do. Or you can try to take power by some kind of skulduggery or force, I guess, but I think you’ll find you have a lot of opposition from people who don’t fancy living under your proposed ethics, so that might not work out very well for you. Also, skulduggery might sorta look kinda funny next to any claims that the rest of us would like your views if only we tried them, so you may have to make a choice there.

    But so far, everything I’ve heard about Christian, anti-choice, and MRA perspectives makes me think that I don’t want to live in a world where any of those is the dominant ethos. So I’m okay with those who hold those views having relatively little power to enact them. In fact, I rather wish they had less power, but that wish is somewhat constrained by the fact that disempowering anyone too far conflicts with useful consensus-enabling and minority-protecting features of our current government like freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and equal voting rights. I benefit from those features personally as a holder of a minority viewpoint, and I also benefit from the fact that protecting the rights even of people whose views I dislike means that “my side” doesn’t have to fight literal bloody wars with them all the time, allowing us to settle our disagreements in a mostly peacable manner.

    I don’t see (amongst atheists) a willingness to sit down at a table and “negotiate” at all.

    I’m not using “negotiate” in the sense of “I give something, you give something,” I’m using it in the sense of “negotiate a tight turn” — in other words, working our way through our differences until we get to the other side of them, by whatever means we happen to end up using. When I’m inching my way around the corner in a cramped parking garage, I don’t want to give the wall any pieces of my car, and I consider the “negotiation” a success if the wall goes away from the transaction completely empty-figurative-hand-ed. I’m happy to “negotiate” with theism, anti-choice-ism, and MRAism in exactly that sense, and no other. :D

    Of course, the means I prefer to use for these “negotiations” are still peaceable. Our intellectual forebears worked out political, legal, and discursive systems that allow us to “negotiate” (in my sense) pretty intense differences of opinion without killing each other. I prefer that, because I don’t want to be killed, or to have to spend all my resources arming myself to avoid being killed. But if I were to be trapped alone on a desert island all alone with somebody who can’t be talked out of trying to kill me, I’d sure as hell be willing to “negotiate” my way through that little conflict of interest by using physical force if necessary. This is why I mentioned “force” above as one of the ways people get (or increase the size of) their seat at the table. It’s not a “nice” tool for implementing ethics, but it’s still in our toolkit.

    All that said, people I disagree with on some issues, even very important issues, may have other issues where we can find common ground, or it may be that if we talk and figure out what each of us actually wants and why and how and what to do about it, I can steer them into worldviews which create less conflict between us. Maybe my murderous desert island buddy wants me dead because ze believes that I’m the last bit of available food on the island, but if I can convince hir to try fishing with me we might both be able to survive. Or maybe while we’re trying to kill each other an airplane will suddenly appear overhead and we’ll both briefly become allies again to try to signal it.

    The bottom line is, figuring out what to do in any given situation involving other people is complicated. Life is complicated. We don’t always come up with what we’d consider optimal solutions, because we have limited resources and time and knowledge and power. We just try to muddle through. And that’s all ethics is — the collective effects of all of us trying to muddle through somehow. I just think it might be worthwhile, in our muddling, if we reduce the number of made-up things we distract ourselves with, so that we can evaluate our options a little more clearly. And that’s the point of atheism.

  27. veronicaabbass says

    jonjermey

    Rabbi Bulka’s comment was more than “Dunno.”

    As I commented on Choice in Dying:http://choiceindying.com/2013/01/13/apophatic-papophatic-or-just-plain-fishy/:

    I write a post almost every weekend on the Ottawa Citizen Ask the Religion experts question of the week. This week I found reason to praise Rabbi Bulka for this portion of his answer:

    “In truth, trying to [make sense out of these shootings] is futile, and possibly even insulting. . . . We are unfair to everyone by offering lame-brain excuses. We cannot explain the inexplicable. And we are not obligated to have explanations for everything. Some things make no sense, and this is one of them. . . . The plaintiff cry of “why” is not an intellectual question to which we need respond with often convoluted philosophy.”

    http://tinyurl.com/af2xwxo

  28. NotAnAtheist says


    If there’s no purpose to the universe, there’s no need to kill anybody because you think they’re interfering with your deity’s supposed purpose. You might still kill them because you want something they have, or because you think killing people is fun, or because they’re polluting the planet by existing, but the imaginary deity and its wishes are no longer present as a motivator.

    True. I’m not sure how I see this as being “better” in any way shape or form.


    Moreover, there’s nothing about any of these other motivations that’s specific to atheists. A theist can kill (perceived) environmental polluters because ze believes it’s a command from hir deity to do so. A theist can kill someone for fun or to take their stuff because ze believes hir deity has commanded hir to do whatever ze wants, or because ze believes those people are evil infidels and so are outside of hir circle of concern. And, of course, a theist can kill people for “blasphemy” — insults to a made-up entity — something an atheist cannot be motivated to do by hir atheism.

    Is it really necessary to use the gender neutral pronouns?


    I challenge you to come up with a corresponding real-world harm that can only be motivated by atheism. Atheism doesn’t add extra reasons to mess with other people, it just takes away some of the made-up reasons that theism adds.

    That’s true. I’d say it also (if atheists were ever fully consistent with their beliefs) takes away any of the barriers that a theist might have against inflicting harm as well.

    Human beings having any intrinsic value or purpose? Not in a (fully consistent) atheistic world view.
    Morality? Not something that’s in any sense objectively true, just the result of some societal “negotiation”.
    Justice? Well.. only if you get caught. If you can commit a crime and get away with it in the eyes of the law.. well you’ve gotten away with it.

    This is not to say that atheists are not moral (they are), but I see nothing in atheism that makes or compels them to be so. Nor do I see anything in atheism that allows one to speak at all logically about a moral disagreement. How can you if morality is just some commonly agreed upon set of rules? One might as well say that one can have a rational conversation about fashion.


    The speech at the funeral is the easy part — you talk about happy memories of the person, sorrow that their life has ended, love and support for those left behind, and maybe good things that you want to do to carry on the person’s memory. You know, real things. Did you expect me to say something different?

    No, but I’m wondering how all of that is consistent with a strictly scientific, atheistic outlook on the world.
    You say that you are sad that their life has ended. That may be.. but does that sadness have any sort of rational justification? Or is your sadness just some evolutionarily derived neurological response? Why give that neurological response and special consideration over any other neurological response?

    You talk about doing good things to “carry on the person’s memory”. Is that even scientifically possible? Memories are fragile, easily modified things.

    You talk about supporting those who are left behind. Why bother doing that, when its the survival of the genes that is the most important to the species as a whole?

    First, let’s keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be comforting. It just has to be true.

    True. Atheism could be completely true, and utterly cruel and nihilistic. My initial post on this thread was in response to the idea that theism was somehow “cruel”. I’m certain most atheists find it that way, but I don’t see how atheism is any less cruel than even the idea of theism originally espoused at the beginning of this thread.


    But, that said, if one does adopt an atheistic model of the universe, it is still possible to find things like comfort and satisfaction in one’s life, as evidenced by the many people who have successfully done so.

    I have seen many atheists derive satisfaction and comfort in their lives in ways that either have nothing to do with atheism, or are (imo) done in direct contradiction to their atheism. How you can get from a meaningless, purposeless existence, one where nothing you do will ever matter (in the long term) to any sort of satisfaction and comfort, is not something I could ever figure out.


    I also need to note that “atheism/skepticism/science (by itself)” doesn’t exist for the purpose of providing comfort.

    True.


    Science and skepticism exist for the purpose of figuring out how the world works, and atheism is a consequence of these endeavors.

    I would disagree that atheism is a direct consequence of science, but that’s a conversation for another time.


    Ethics are not a fact about nature, any more than a car is a fact about nature. Ethics are tools we develop together to resolve conflicting interests and to enable us to collaborate on projects too big for any one of use to do alone. Everyone who is capable of getting others to listen to their opinion (by force or persuasion or simple persistence) has a “seat” at the table. Some people (different people at different times and in different places) have bigger seats than others because they have a bigger capacity to influence other people to do what they want. People who don’t have seats at the table can gain seats by cultivating empathy and common ground with those who do (thus convincing those already seated that it’s in their interests to expand the table), or by taking seats by force.

    Might makes right. I see.


    So when I say something is “good”, I mean I think that the engineering problem of making a world I want to live in and can get other people to support is well-addressed by a system which that thing is encouraged.

    So if something is good, its really just “good to you”. It solves the engineering problem of getting the world to be a place that you want to live in.

    What if someone doesn’t want to live in your world?

    You don’t want your views to be treated as contemptible and pushed to the margins? Then you need to find a way to convince other people that those views don’t have the negative effects we think they do.

    Who says the effects are “negative”? You? Why does your opinion have any more sway than any other?

    I’m not using “negotiate” in the sense of “I give something, you give something,” I’m using it in the sense of “negotiate a tight turn” — in other words, working our way through our differences until we get to the other side of them, by whatever means we happen to end up using. When I’m inching my way around the corner in a cramped parking garage, I don’t want to give the wall any pieces of my car, and I consider the “negotiation” a success if the wall goes away from the transaction completely empty-figurative-hand-ed. I’m happy to “negotiate” with theism, anti-choice-ism, and MRAism in exactly that sense, and no other.

    What if that doesn’t happen? What if (as an example) the pro-life lobby becomes sufficiently powerful (through persuasion, force, gaining empathy or whatever) that they are now “the car” and you are now “the wall”? Will you change your mind on abortion? Or will you continue to think that, even though the (hypothetical) majority says abortion is wrong, that its absolutely fine?


    And that’s all ethics is — the collective effects of all of us trying to muddle through somehow. I just think it might be worthwhile, in our muddling, if we reduce the number of made-up things we distract ourselves with, so that we can evaluate our options a little more clearly. And that’s the point of atheism.

    That’s fair.

    If I thought atheism really helped people “evaluate our options a little more clearly” then that’d be one thing.

    Judging by all the little wars I read about on FTB that are going on, I don’t see the atheists here any more capable of “evaluating our options” any more clearly than any group of theists I know. Sure, you don’t use the same words. Nobody is “blasphemous”, they are just “haters” and “intolerant” and “bigots”. You don’t get angry over supposed violations of an objective moral code, you get angry over violation of “rights” that.. someone? has decided they have.

    I don’t see how that’s “better”, or even “simpler”.

    Its just different.

  29. stewart says

    “… I don’t see the atheists here any more capable of “evaluating our options” any more clearly than any group of theists I know.”

    Surely, in a general sense, you’ll agree that there’s a somewhat better chance of at arriving at solutions when the problems do not include whether all of the protagonists even exist.

  30. NotAnAtheist says


    Surely, in a general sense, you’ll agree that there’s a somewhat better chance of at arriving at solutions when the problems do not include whether all of the protagonists even exist.

    In a general, theoretical sense? Sure.

    Empirically? From what I’ve seen, not as much (at least with regards to ethics).

  31. stewart says

    I hadn’t intended my question snarkily, but I think I detect snark in your answer.

    The existence or not of a deity, or our belief or non-belief in same, makes a difference to how just about all questions of real significance are approached, so trying to proceed without agreement on that point will always be a problem.

  32. NotAnAtheist says


    I hadn’t intended my question snarkily, but I think I detect snark in your answer.

    None was intended.


    The existence or not of a deity, or our belief or non-belief in same, makes a difference to how just about all questions of real significance are approached, so trying to proceed without agreement on that point will always be a problem.

    Now that is true. That also seems to me different than:


    If I thought atheism really helped people “evaluate our options a little more clearly” then that’d be one thing.

    I don’t see any real, hard evidence that atheists are somehow more “virtuous” or resolve their ethical disputes “easier”.. or in some way “better” than theists.

    Do you have some evidence to the contrary?

  33. stewart says

    Not just as people, I don’t. Nor would I necessarily expect there to be. This line of thought ends up at the Hitchens challenge, though. An otherwise “good” atheist would never do anything “bad” because she/he thought a god had commanded it.

  34. NotAnAtheist says


    This line of thought ends up at the Hitchens challenge, though. An otherwise “good” atheist would never do anything “bad” because she/he thought a god had commanded it.

    Sure. So what?

    An otherwise “good” atheist might do something bad for another reason.

    If all you’re saying is that an atheist won’t do something because he/she thinks a God commanded it.. well that’s true but.. rather trivial.

  35. stewart says

    That must be where we differ. Something in me finds it worse to do something “bad” because of a belief that is untrue. Possibly because it seems more of an avoidable evil. So, no, can’t agree at all that it’s trivial. Can’t agree that whether the things one believes are or are not true is trivial. And I worry about people who do think that, because the implications are very far-reaching indeed.

  36. NotAnAtheist says


    Can’t agree that whether the things one believes are or are not true is trivial.

    Who can’t you agree with? I’ve never said that whether or not the things you believe are true or not is a “trivial” matter. It is not trivial.

    I have said that the idea that an atheist won’t do something “bad” because a God told him so is trivial. Nor will an atheist do something “good” because he thinks a God told him so. He won’t do anything because he thinks a God told him so.

    So the idea than an atheist won’t do something bad because he thinks God told him so is on the one hand true and obvious, and on the other hand, not something I can draw some implication from.

    So, no need to “worry” about me, however much you might like to.

  37. says

    True. I’m not sure how I see this as being “better” in any way shape or form.

    From an engineering perspective, having fewer sources of error gives you an increased chance of getting stuff right. Seems to me that’s better.

    Is it really necessary to use the gender neutral pronouns?

    Is it really necessary to use gendered pronouns?

    That’s true. I’d say it also (if atheists were ever fully consistent with their beliefs) takes away any of the barriers that a theist might have against inflicting harm as well.

    The problem is that the justifications for those barriers to harm are just as imaginary as the justifications for increased harm. And that can actually result in more actual harm. For example, “Our deity hates gay sex,” is a barrier to “harm” in many religions — the “harm” of gay sex. But an evaluation based on an improved understanding of how the world actually works suggests that gay sex isn’t actually a huge deal after all. Thus, in an atheist construction of the world, we can save the resources we might have wasted on trying to stop people from having gay sex, and we also avoid the suffering (self-hatred, familial strife, “reparative therapy” jail time, gay-bashing, blue balls) we might have caused by trying to prevent gay people from doing something that there was no good reason to prevent from doing.

    This is why it’s far better to have all of our decisions about what’s harmful and what’s not based on reality as opposed to the imaginary desires of imaginary deities. And I note here that you still haven’t provided any answer to my question of how I can distinguish between a universe with a deity and a universe without one, so in the absence of actual information on the question, I’m gonna go with testable reality.

    Human beings having any intrinsic value or purpose? Not in a (fully consistent) atheistic world view.

    Yeah, that’s true. So what?

    Morality? Not something that’s in any sense objectively true, just the result of some societal “negotiation”.

    Yeah, that’s true. So what?

    Justice? Well.. only if you get caught. If you can commit a crime and get away with it in the eyes of the law.. well you’ve gotten away with it.

    Several problems with this construction.

    First, the law isn’t the only thing in play here. You’ve also got to deal with what your neighbors think of you. If you’re too much of a dick, you might well find that when you need help nobody wants to help you.

    Second, it’s hard to be really sure that nobody will ever find out what you did. Most of us aren’t really very good liars, particularly when the lie is one that has to be maintained over the long term in the presence of people whom we have an ongoing relationship with. If everybody knows that you don’t have much money and suddenly you come home in a shiny new Jaguar, they’re going to start asking you why and you’re going to have to start telling a pretty darn good story if your source for the money was illegal or unethical. If you can’t make it consistent or convincing, or if you for some reason have to tell different stories to different people and they end up comparing notes, you’ll get caught anyway. And if you can’t use the money for fear of getting caught, there’s not much point in taking it in the first place.

    Third, most of us have a certain amount of built-in empathy for others. If we deliberately do something that harms somebody else and we see they’re suffering as a consequence, we often wind up feeling pretty bad about it. So that provides another mechanism for disincentivizing harmful behaviors.

    Fourth, the deterrent effect of deities-as-Santa-Claus (i.e. they see and punish your bad acts even if nobody else does) is a supplement to these other things, and it’s a supplement that only becomes necessary if the person who’s about to do the undesirable thing (a) has already been undeterred by the law, social concerns, and their own empathy and (b) believes in the deity. If I, as a person trying to prevent other people from doing bad things to me, accept deity-belief, it does fuck-all to stop the people who want to do the bad things unless they also share that deity-belief, and it’s reasonable to presume that they’re perfectly capable of figuring out on their own that the deity doesn’t actually exist and thus escaping from this proposed deterrent regardless of what I end up believing myself. Since the relevant point of discussion here is whether any particular individual should themselves decide to believe that there’s a deity or not, this whole issue is therefore moot anyway.

    Fifth, so what if bad people get away with bad stuff without getting their so-called just deserts sometimes (and, btw, this isn’t really “justice”, this is “vengeance” — the important part of justice is that the victims get the best possible mitigation for the harms they’ve experienced and that future harms are prevented, not that the culprit suffers in some way)? I don’t like that fact, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. “It would really suck if bad people don’t get punished,” is not an argument for the truth of theism, or any particular flavor thereof. And, quite frankly, I’d rather sometimes have some bad people get off scot free than have a single person tortured for all of eternity, as some theisms claim happens. So it’d have to be a very meek and mild theism indeed for it to strike me as less cruel than the fact that there is no guarantee of vengeance.

    This is not to say that atheists are not moral (they are), but I see nothing in atheism that makes or compels them to be so.

    True statement. All atheism does is remove one of the many stumbling blocks on the pathway to having a reality-based view of the world. It doesn’t mean that one can’t still make all of the dozens of other errors that theists also make, and it doesn’t mean that one will necessarily end up being a nice person. It’s just one fewer obstacle. That’s it.

    Nor do I see anything in atheism that allows one to speak at all logically about a moral disagreement. How can you if morality is just some commonly agreed upon set of rules? One might as well say that one can have a rational conversation about fashion.

    Yeah, at least in the sense that you don’t have any sure basis for picking moral absolutes that will give you empirically-true conclusions about what “should” be done. So what? Morality isn’t a property of the universe any more than car is. If I don’t like something you’re doing, I can still engage your empathy by saying, “Look, you’re hurting so-and-so.” Or I can point out to you that the rest of us aren’t going to allow you to do that, because we don’t like living in a society where people are allowed to hurt others in the particular way you’re hurting so-and-so, because we don’t want ourselves and our loved ones to be allowed to be hurt in that way. And if you can’t be stirred to empathy and aren’t swayed by a reminder that society frowns on your behavior, I can gather other more sympathetic people together and stop you from doing it by force. We can still get stuff done. We just can’t pretend that the things we want to have done are philosophical absolutes. So what?

    No, but I’m wondering how all of that is consistent with a strictly scientific, atheistic outlook on the world.
    You say that you are sad that their life has ended. That may be.. but does that sadness have any sort of rational justification? Or is your sadness just some evolutionarily derived neurological response? Why give that neurological response and special consideration over any other neurological response?

    Of course there’s a rational justification: I, or people I cared about, or society as a whole, derived some benefit from that person’s existence, and now that benefit is no longer available and we have to learn to live without it. When I’m sad because an artist I admired dies, it’s because I’ll never be able to savor another new work from them. When I’m sad because a family member dies, it’s because I’ll never be able to do with them any of the things we used to enjoy together, never be able to call on them for comfort when I’m sad, and so on. All of those things were benefits, and all of them are gone after the person dies.

    Of course, my feelings about all of these things are indeed evolutionarily derived neurological responses, but so what? That doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. The Mona Lisa is just blobs of paint on canvas, but that doesn’t negate the fascination that particular arrangement of paint blobs holds for many viewers.

    You talk about doing good things to “carry on the person’s memory”. Is that even scientifically possible? Memories are fragile, easily modified things.

    The person’s existence had effects on the future course of the universe. Some of those effects include particular neurological responses in the minds of the people who encountered hir, which persist with some level of fidelity over time. That’s real. The person hirself isn’t around to appreciate anything done in hir memory any more, but hir friends and family who are around can appreciate those actions, especially when the actions involve somehow “carrying on the person’s legacy”, i.e. helping to mitigate the loss associated with future hopes friends and family might have had for the person’s life.

    You talk about supporting those who are left behind. Why bother doing that, when its the survival of the genes that is the most important to the species as a whole?

    Sez who? I’ve got my own priorities, and the genes aren’t necessarily the highest for me. In the long run, the universe will stumble along into heat death anyways, so there’s no reason to expect any genes of any kind to last forever, much less my own particular set of genes. So I might as well enjoy what I’ve got now, and help the people I care about enjoy what they’ve got.

    True. Atheism could be completely true, and utterly cruel and nihilistic. My initial post on this thread was in response to the idea that theism was somehow “cruel”. I’m certain most atheists find it that way, but I don’t see how atheism is any less cruel than even the idea of theism originally espoused at the beginning of this thread.

    As I said above, the point is that theism claims to be good and is actually cruel. Atheism just claims to be true; good or cruel is up to us to figure out for ourselves after that point.

    I have seen many atheists derive satisfaction and comfort in their lives in ways that either have nothing to do with atheism, …

    Does everything I do have to have something to do with atheism? Am I not allowed to pet my cats unless I do it atheistically? I’d agree that if I chose to worship my cats then it would be problematic to call myself an atheist, but how is it a problem for me as an atheist if I take actions that aren’t directly informed by my atheism?

    … or are (imo) done in direct contradiction to their atheism.

    Such as? And, even if you can give me a good example of this, why would it matter? I’m not claiming that every atheist is consistent, just that there are many atheists who are capable of finding satisfaction and comfort in their lives without being inconsistent about their atheism.

    How you can get from a meaningless, purposeless existence, one where nothing you do will ever matter (in the long term) to any sort of satisfaction and comfort, is not something I could ever figure out.

    Just because “nothing will matter” in the long term, it doesn’t mean that one can’t have satisfaction and comfort in the short term. When you go to an amusement park, do you refuse to enjoy the rides because in the long term you’ll have to go home, or do you go on as many rides as possible so that you’ll get as much out of the trip as you can? When your mother bakes you a birthday cake, do you throw it in her face because she didn’t bake you an infinite birthday cake? My life is short and it will eventually be over, so I’m not inclined to waste it.

    Moreover, there’s actually a certain comfort in the realization that nothing will matter in the long term. In the very worst possible outcome of any action I take, anything bad that happens will ultimately be washed away by the heat death of the universe, something which I can neither halt nor significantly hasten. So there’s a freedom to that. I do the best I can now to the best of my knowledge and accept that most of the long-term results are probably out of my hands anyway.

    I would disagree that atheism is a direct consequence of science, but that’s a conversation for another time.

    If you want your disagreement on this to be taken seriously, evidence, or even a proposal for how we can get some evidence, is the best way to go.

    Might makes right. I see.

    No, might (in a very broad sense, which includes persuasion and political systems) makes fact. If you don’t like the fact, then it’s on you to assemble enough of your own might to do something about it. You can’t count on some kind of mystical laws to do the heavy lifting for you.

    So if something is good, its really just “good to you”. It solves the engineering problem of getting the world to be a place that you want to live in.

    No, you’re still not getting it. There’s no “good” or “bad”. There’s “good to me” and “good to you” and “bad to me” and “bad to you” and that’s it. Which of those things prevails, and to what degree, and in what areas of life, is something we have to sort out amongst ourselves. There’s no place I can go to stand outside all of us and make absolute proclamations about what “should” happen.

    What if someone doesn’t want to live in your world?

    Then they need to convince me or coerce me or modify their own wants or stay away from me. I’m not proposing this as my ideal model for a world or nuthin’, I’m just telling you how things actually work. This is how people resolve their differences, seeing as how the things we each individually think are “good” do not actually constitute laws of nature. We have to figure out how to work around that, and this is what we do.

    Who says the effects are “negative”? You? Why does your opinion have any more sway than any other?

    I say the effects are negative, and plenty of other people do too. Right now, I and people who agree with me constitute the overwhelming majority in some areas, a slight majority in other areas, a slight minority in yet other areas, and a tiny minority in a few cases. In the cases where a majority of people agree with me, my opinion has more sway than others. In the cases where a majority disagree with me, it does not. In the latter cases, I endeavor to show people why they’d like it better if we lived under the system I’m proposing (or, in very rare and narrow circumstances, I apply force, e.g. if I had a difference of opinion with someone about whether it’s okay for hir to hit me). If enough of them change their minds and agree with me, then suddenly my opinion magically holds more sway than the opposite view. If you disagree with the current majority view on certain issues, then the way you fix that is to do the same thing — argue, convince people, and your opinion, too, can “have more sway than any other”.

    What if that doesn’t happen? What if (as an example) the pro-life lobby becomes sufficiently powerful (through persuasion, force, gaining empathy or whatever) that they are now “the car” and you are now “the wall”? Will you change your mind on abortion? Or will you continue to think that, even though the (hypothetical) majority says abortion is wrong, that its absolutely fine?

    Maybe you should have a look at what people do right now when views they disagree with are in power: they try to convince other people that those others would like a different system better, or sometimes they try to take control by violence, or sometimes they work to change their own views, or sometimes they go somewhere else, or sometimes they just decide it’s not worth doing anything about and go on with their lives. The nastiness of the view is that’s in power (from my perspective) is what determines what I do about it.

    That’s fair.

    If I thought atheism really helped people “evaluate our options a little more clearly” then that’d be one thing.

    Judging by all the little wars I read about on FTB that are going on, I don’t see the atheists here any more capable of “evaluating our options” any more clearly than any group of theists I know. Sure, you don’t use the same words. Nobody is “blasphemous”, they are just “haters” and “intolerant” and “bigots”. You don’t get angry over supposed violations of an objective moral code, you get angry over violation of “rights” that.. someone? has decided they have.

    I don’t see how that’s “better”, or even “simpler”.

    Its just different.

    Atheism doesn’t magically make people into perfectly rational beings, and it doesn’t magically prevent people from having conflicts of interest. Do you really think I’m claiming it does? All I’m claiming is that becoming an atheist means you’re wrong about one fewer thing than if you’re a theist, just as accepting the idea that the earth is round means you’re wrong about one fewer thing than if you think that the earth is flat. In general, reducing the number of things you’re wrong about is a pretty good way to improve decision-making. But there are far more things to be wrong about in the world then just whether or not there’s a deity, and atheists can still fall prey to all of those errors.

    That said, I don’t really understand why you think that someone referring to something as hatred or intolerance or bigotry means that the person using those terms is somehow not evaluating their options clearly. The words have somewhat standardized definitions, and if the person is using the words according to those definitions, explaining clearly, based on the facts of the matter, why they think something is hateful or intolerant or bigoted, and providing good reasons why others should agree with them that hatred, intolerance, or bigotry are things we should try to stop, then how is that contrary to clear evaluation of the options? There aren’t any extra imaginary beings floating around in the conversation like there would be if they were describing something as “blasphemy”. So why do you think these things are comparable?

    “Rights” are similar — there are consensus legal codes that establish certain protections in our society, these codes having been developed through a semi-deliberative process that most of us endorse to at least to some extent. We want these codes to be adhered to, or to be amended in ways we think will improve the engineering of our society. As evolved social animals with emotions, we feel negatively about cases where the codes are not adhered to or do not give the effects we want, and we express those feelings to others to try to affect their opinions or activity level in regard to the things that bother us.

    So what’s wrong with any of that? It’s true that much of that is the same as what theists do, but the improvement is that we don’t also have to argue about the imaginary wishes of an imaginary being that nobody seems to actually be able to reliably consult for its opinion. How could we improve our discourse by seeking the imprimatur of the Flying Spaghetti Monster for our decisions? I’m not gonna claim that the atheist community is perfect, but it seems to me that we’re still better off by deciding that there’s no point in letting that particular pointless bit of nonsense infect everything.

  38. NotAnAtheist says

    This is getting long. I’ll address what points I can.


    From an engineering perspective, having fewer sources of error gives you an increased chance of getting stuff right. Seems to me that’s better.

    That’s true.. from an engineering perspective. From a real life perspective I don’t see atheists “getting stuff right” to a far greater degree than theists (with science being the one exception to this.)


    First, the law isn’t the only thing in play here. You’ve also got to deal with what your neighbors think of you. If you’re too much of a dick, you might well find that when you need help nobody wants to help you.

    I might.. or I might not. You don’t think there are plenty of people in the world who are complete dicks whom, when they need help get it? Sure, I suppose its possible that they don’t receive help because of some altruistic impulse.. but there’s a lot of reasons someone might help someone else.


    Second, it’s hard to be really sure that nobody will ever find out what you did.

    How many crimes go unsolved? How many are not even reported?


    Third, most of us have a certain amount of built-in empathy for others. If we deliberately do something that harms somebody else and we see they’re suffering as a consequence, we often wind up feeling pretty bad about it.

    Possibly. But that’s just me being a slave to my emotions and feelings. If I’m hungry, I eat a sandwich. If I’m thirsty I find water. If I’m sick, I take some medicine. Why is it that when I feel bad due to this “empathy”.. that’s something I should heed? Why not just do something, or take something that’ll have me get over it?

    If as you say, there is no “good”, just “good to me”.. why can’t I decide what that is? Shouldn’t I decide using evidence, reason/rational thought what is “good to me” instead of using something emotional like empathy?


    Fourth, the deterrent effect of deities-as-Santa-Claus (i.e. they see and punish your bad acts even if nobody else does) is a supplement to these other things, and it’s a supplement that only becomes necessary if the person who’s about to do the undesirable thing (a) has already been undeterred by the law, social concerns, and their own empathy and (b) believes in the deity.

    Most Christians I know would disagree with (a). At least, going on what they’ve actually said its not “Gee.. I want to be a thief but I’m afraid of getting in trouble” but rather “Man, I love God soooo much that because he doesn’t like stealing I won’t steal”.

    That’s just going on what they’ve actually said. You could, I suppose, claim to know better than they do what they are actually thinking and feeling. If so… good luck with that.


    I don’t like that fact, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. “It would really suck if bad people don’t get punished,” is not an argument for the truth of theism, or any particular flavor thereof.

    True.


    True statement. All atheism does is remove one of the many stumbling blocks on the pathway to having a reality-based view of the world. It doesn’t mean that one can’t still make all of the dozens of other errors that theists also make, and it doesn’t mean that one will necessarily end up being a nice person. It’s just one fewer obstacle. That’s it.

    I don’t see this one “stumbling block” as being that big frankly. Also, I think atheists have, and do substitute other stumbling blocks for the one they’ve removed.


    Of course there’s a rational justification: I, or people I cared about, or society as a whole, derived some benefit from that person’s existence, and now that benefit is no longer available and we have to learn to live without it.

    What benefits did you derive from the existence of any of the people in Japan who perished from the earthquake. Not hypothetical benefits. Real, actual benefits you have evidence of.


    Of course, my feelings about all of these things are indeed evolutionarily derived neurological responses, but so what? That doesn’t mean that they don’t exist.

    True. The question (in my mind at least) is why should I pay them any more heed than I pay any other evolutionarily derived neurological response? I don’t always heed every emotional response I have. Do you?


    The person’s existence had effects on the future course of the universe. Some of those effects include particular neurological responses in the minds of the people who encountered hir, which persist with some level of fidelity over time. That’s real.

    That’s real… yes. But entirely trivial when one considers the population as a whole. A year after that person dies, those “neurological responses” will most likely be signficantly different. 50 years after, they will probably be gone entirely.

    One might as well think an individual squirrel makes a difference to the world because if he didn’t exist, a specific acorn wouldn’t have been harvested.

    To think that any of us makes any real difference to the “future course of the universe” (at least from a strictly scientific, empirical point of view) is (IMO) ridiculous. Every one individual is (with overwhelmingly high probability) swallowed up in the noise.

    Moreover, if you’re a population control fundamentalist.. one less person in the world may actually be a GOOD thing. The world is ever so slightly less over-populated.


    As I said above, the point is that theism claims to be good and is actually cruel.

    Is it “actually cruel”? Or is it just “cruel to you”?

    I don’t think Christianity (in its current majority held form) is correct.. but I don’t think its “cruel” if it turned out I was wrong.

  39. says

    (Ophelia, thanks for fixing my blockquote glitch in that last comment. :D)

    ———

    NotAnAtheist,

    That’s true.. from an engineering perspective. From a real life perspective I don’t see atheists “getting stuff right” to a far greater degree than theists (with science being the one exception to this.)

    Thing is, “science” is actually a pretty huge exception, and it’s really the only one that matters. Science is the study of how the world actually works. If we are not basing our decisions on the best reasonably attainable understanding of how the world actually works, we are dramatically increasing our chances of fucking up, which is the whole point here.

    Now, atheism is only one tiny little point about how the world actually works, so, you’re right, getting one more tiny little thing right out of all the things is not necessarily going to make a huge obvious immediate difference in the quality of one’s decisions. But that’s no excuse for deliberately getting the answer wrong. Would you be okay with teaching flat-earthism in our schools just because people who accept that the earth is round still make a lot of lousy decisions?

    Moreover, this general process of trying to get things right has made enormous strides in improving the world. It’s why we have vaccines and computers and sewer systems and building codes and all the other amazing and life-enhancing shit that we tend to take for granted. Given the benefits this process has had in every other area of human life, why on earth would you think it makes sense to carve out a special exemption to the need to get things right for the area of religious belief, just because challenges to religious beliefs haven’t immediately fixed everything everywhere all at once?

    I might.. or I might not. You don’t think there are plenty of people in the world who are complete dicks whom, when they need help get it? Sure, I suppose its possible that they don’t receive help because of some altruistic impulse.. but there’s a lot of reasons someone might help someone else.

    Er, yes, there are lots of reasons someone might help someone else. That’s the whole point. We somehow manage to construct reasonably-functioning societies despite the fact that no deity is sitting up in the sky making us do so, and despite the fact that not every terrible person always gets punished in exact proportion to their terribleness and not every good person always gets rewarded in exact proportion to their goodness. We’re always looking for ways to improve on our ability to prevent people from being assholes, but deity-belief doesn’t seem to have solved that problem either — just look at all those pedophile Catholic priests, and the whole hierarchy of people who decided, in the name of deity-belief, to cover up the priests’ crimes rather than stopping the abuses. All an atheist worldview does is acknowledge that our systems for preventing defection are generally going to be imperfect, which allows us to deal more forthrightly with the consequences of those imperfections.

    How many crimes go unsolved? How many are not even reported?

    Lots. But plenty of crimes are reported and solved too. The system doesn’t have to be perfect in order for the possibility of detection and punishment to have a meaningful deterrent effect. We can improve that deterrent effect by making real-world improvements to the justice system. On the other hand, if we just assume that some magic deity will sort it out anyway in a magic afterlife, it takes away the motivation to take real-world actions that might have an actual effect on the problem.

    Possibly. But that’s just me being a slave to my emotions and feelings. If I’m hungry, I eat a sandwich. If I’m thirsty I find water. If I’m sick, I take some medicine. Why is it that when I feel bad due to this “empathy”.. that’s something I should heed? Why not just do something, or take something that’ll have me get over it?

    Oh, do you have a magic pill that makes guilt go away, permanently? Well, go ahead and use it then, I guess, if that’s what you want, but do be aware that if you use that pill to enable you to do stuff that the rest of us find harmful, well, we might just do something about it. That’s the point of these other systems of social reinforcement — they take over when empathy fails. But if you don’t have a magic empathy-removing pill, well, guilt can be surprisingly persistent. Maybe you steal twenty bucks from someone and then you go off to the amusement park to try to soothe your bad feelings about that, but the next time you see them, your guilt is likely to come roaring back. Turns out that generally the best way to really fix guilt in the long term is to try to come up with some way of undoing the harm you did. Maybe you slip a twenty back into their wallet later when they’re not looking, or maybe you fess up and apologize and repay them double, but most people have trouble really completely ridding themselves of guilt without applying some sort of fix to the situation.

    Empathy isn’t a perfect system, but what reason do you have to expect that systems for preventing people from harming each other can be perfect? Even theistic systems aren’t perfect deterrents to anti-social behavior either, they just try to soothe the frustration the victims experience by claiming that someday the perpetrators will receive infinitely greater retributive harm. Seems like kind of a useless promise to me. I’d rather figure out how to stop the harms from happening in the first place.

    If as you say, there is no “good”, just “good to me”.. why can’t I decide what that is? Shouldn’t I decide using evidence, reason/rational thought what is “good to me” instead of using something emotional like empathy?

    You can decide what “good to you” is, but you have to take into account that if you do something your neighbors don’t like, the consequence may be that you may experience something that’s “bad to you”, such as shunning or jail time. And the emotional discomfort of guilt over harming someone else can also be part of the “bad to you” results of taking that harmful action. You’ve got to evaluate the full consequences of your actions in order to make rational decisions, not just the immediate satisfaction of having an extra twenty bucks in your pocket (or whatever). Are you really so short-sighted you can’t recognize that?

    Most Christians I know would disagree with (a). At least, going on what they’ve actually said its not “Gee.. I want to be a thief but I’m afraid of getting in trouble” but rather “Man, I love God soooo much that because he doesn’t like stealing I won’t steal”.

    That’s just going on what they’ve actually said. You could, I suppose, claim to know better than they do what they are actually thinking and feeling. If so… good luck with that.

    So what? Just because they happen to use their deity as a stand-in for more rational reasoning processes doesn’t mean it’s necessary to do so. And, again, plenty of religious folks are deterred from doing things that aren’t harmful by their deity beliefs (e.g. private masturbation, women becoming leaders, etc.), or are made to feel massively bad about these actions by those beliefs but do them anyway (i.e. theism not only fails as a deterrent, it also makes an action which would otherwise be harmless into a harmful one by adding unnecessary guilt — an important point of mine from my last comment that you failed to address).

    Moreover, I would bet you that most theists actually are deterred from harmful actions by perfectly secular reasoning all the time, without consulting their deity. When you’re driving down the road with your kids in the car and deciding how fast to drive, do you consult your deity first, or do you consult the road conditions and the speed limit sign? If you’re about to sit down in a chair and you see your cat sitting there, do you decide not to sit on the cat because you’re worried your deity will be mad, or because you’re worried about hurting the cat? This is what secular folks do all of the time, in every situation, and it pretty much works out okay. Deities aren’t necessary for any of this stuff, and in the few cases where they do seem necessary to promote or prevent a particular action, seems to me it might be a good idea to consider whether that action is something that it’s actually worthwhile to promote or prevent at all.

    I don’t see this one “stumbling block” as being that big frankly. Also, I think atheists have, and do substitute other stumbling blocks for the one they’ve removed.

    Such as? And how are these supposed stumbling blocks uniquely atheist, as opposed to being stumbling blocks that anyone can fall prey to, atheist or theist? You keep not answering this, but it’s a pretty important point here.

    What benefits did you derive from the existence of any of the people in Japan who perished from the earthquake. Not hypothetical benefits. Real, actual benefits you have evidence of.

    Possibly no direct benefits but then, I’m not terribly personally sad about the individual people who died anyway. Why should I be? I didn’t know them. I’m sad in an abstract sense, because the events demonstrate that even a country as paranoid about earthquakes as Japan still has a lot of problems with its systems for protecting people and critical infrastructure from earthquake damage. I’m sad in an abstract sense because it seems to suggest that there are a lot of challenges in the way of making nuclear power a safe and politically acceptable alternative energy source, and we really need more good alternative energy sources. I’m sad in an abstract sense because I watched some of the videos of the earthquake and tsunami happening and I could imagine that happening to myself or people I cared about and it was a scary thing to think about. I’m sad in an abstract sense because the people who died could have each gone on to make now-unknowable and perhaps important contributions to science, politics, the arts, etc., that now they will never make. I’m sad in an abstract sense because the disaster was a big blow to the Japanese economy and those kinds of economic problems tend to have ripple effects across the whole world. I’m sad in an abstract sense because I have a certain general fondness for Japan and Japanese culture and I don’t like to see bad things happen to the country or the people there. Aren’t those enough reasons to be sad? What more do you expect?

    True. The question (in my mind at least) is why should I pay them any more heed than I pay any other evolutionarily derived neurological response? I don’t always heed every emotional response I have. Do you?

    Of course you heed every emotional response you have. You’re not an invisible spirit hovering above your body watching objectively, you are your body, and every motivation you experience is a playing out of neurologically-based emotional responses of varying kinds. It’s just that sometimes you have multiple conflicting emotional responses to a situation, and one or the other ends up being stronger and thereby dictating your actual behavior. For example, I have an emotional response of angry desire to dismiss people who mule-headedly don’t get it because they don’t want to get it, and I also have an emotional response of magnanimous desire to spend thousands of words trying to carefully explain things to them without snarking at them, so that they will actually get it. The second one is winning for me right now, but you can see plenty of examples of the first winning out for some of my fellows upthread. I’m not standing outside this internal debate as some objective observer who calmly “fails to heed” the angry emotional response, it’s just being overwhelmed by the magnanimous response at the moment.

    Trying to act like there’s some “you” that stands apart from what goes on in your brain deciding whether to heed your emotions is not an accurate representation of how your mind works; you’re just setting yourself up as a Straw Vulcan. Antonio Damasio’s “Descartes’ Error” is a decent, if slightly dated, introduction to how these things actually work.

    That’s real… yes. But entirely trivial when one considers the population as a whole. A year after that person dies, those “neurological responses” will most likely be signficantly different. 50 years after, they will probably be gone entirely.

    As I noted before (in a paragraph which I can’t help noticing you did not respond to), a trip to the amusement park will be over in an afternoon, but it’s still fun. A beautiful sunset will be over in minutes, but that doesn’t mean I have to see it as trivial. Indeed, it can be a deeply moving experience. My future children’s childhoods will only be a few years long, but I still hope to get a great deal of joy and meaning from watching them grow. Insisting that things are trivial simply because they’re finite is a particular, arbitrarily-chosen values system which seems designed to add to human misery rather than decreasing it. I’d prefer to enjoy what I get rather than foolishly insisting that only infinite things can be worth taking joy in.

    One might as well think an individual squirrel makes a difference to the world because if he didn’t exist, a specific acorn wouldn’t have been harvested.

    It does “make a difference”. Whether you choose to value that difference or not is up to you. If that acorn grows to an oak that eventually hosts a treehouse for my children, who spend many joyful years playing there, then it’s a difference I might choose to value. If the acorn never germinates, or if it grows in a forest halfway around the world, then I may never know or be significantly affected by it, and so never value it.

    To think that any of us makes any real difference to the “future course of the universe” (at least from a strictly scientific, empirical point of view) is (IMO) ridiculous. Every one individual is (with overwhelmingly high probability) swallowed up in the noise.

    I’d say that every individual is swallowed up in the noise with something very much like complete certainty. That’s what the whole “heat death of the universe” thing is about. So what? Do only infinite things matter? What a narrow and depressing view of the world you seem to have!

    Moreover, if you’re a population control fundamentalist.. one less person in the world may actually be a GOOD thing. The world is ever so slightly less over-populated.

    True. The “goodness” of any particular death depends on the specific circumstances, though. When somebody chooses to abort an unwanted pregnancy or a pregnancy where the child would have had a short life full of nothing but suffering, or a pregnancy that would have killed the mother, I generally see that as a good thing. When my mother’s father died after his cancer had reached the point where he was deliriously raging at the people he loved, I think that was probably a good thing. When my father’s father finally died several weeks after he had become effectively brain-dead because the blood supply to his brain got cut off during a delicate surgery, I think it was probably a good thing. A better thing, of course, would be if nobody ever had unwanted/failed/dangerous pregnancies, and if my grandfathers hadn’t gotten cancer and an aortic dissection, respectively. But relative to such situations, death sometimes really is the kindest of available options.

    I don’t value life for life’s sake. Why should I? Instead, I value quality of life, and if everybody accepted this instead of fighting against it so hard, we might actually be able to handle overpopulation in a humane way, rather than just waiting for good ol’ Malthus to take us down the hard way.

    Is it “actually cruel”? Or is it just “cruel to you”?

    Cruel in my perspective, and in the perspectives of plenty of other people. Possibly even cruel in your perspective if you were willing to evaluate it honestly as opposed to spending all your time fighting to deny the fact that it’s based on falsehoods. Why isn’t this good enough for you?

    I don’t think Christianity (in its current majority held form) is correct.. but I don’t think its “cruel” if it turned out I was wrong.

    Okay, why don’t you think it’s cruel? You’ve spent plenty of time here going after atheism as cruel because you think it’s no better than theism, so hows about you start explaining what’s wrong with Ophelia’s initial point about the cruelties of theism?

    ———

    Also, since you complained about this getting long, I’ll do you a favor and summarize a few of the additional issues with your arguments that I raised in my last comment and that you don’t seem to have even tried to address. I’m not going to demand that you reply to them — I know everybody’s got other things to do than just arguing on the internet — but from my perspective, these are flaws in your arguments to date, some of them very serious. So the fact that you haven’t addressed these issues impairs (for me) the persuasiveness of your case.

    – How can I distinguish between a goddy universe and a godless one?
    – What’s wrong with the use of gender-neutral pronouns?
    – What about the harms caused by religions banning things that there’s no rational reason to ban?
    – Why does it matter that humans don’t have “intrinsic” value?
    – Why does it matter that morality isn’t “objective”?
    – Who sez that survival of genes has to be my priority?
    – What’s wrong with me deriving satisfaction and meaning from things that have nothing specifically to do with atheism?
    – What kinds of things do you see atheists deriving satisfaction and meaning from that directly contradict their atheism, and why does it matter?
    – In what way is the conclusion that there are no deities not a direct result of a scientific approach to the world?
    – Do you now agree that I’m not claiming that “might makes right”?
    – Why do you think calling things blasphemy is comparable to calling them bigotry, intolerance or hatred?
    – What’s wrong with atheists talking about violations of rights?
    – How do you imagine that adding deities into the mix actually improves the quality of problem-solving?

    In general, the main problem here seems to me to be that you just can’t accept the implications of atheism, and so you’re using this as an excuse to ignore or minimize the problems with theism, said problems with theism being Ophelia’s original point in her post. Thing is, nobody’s saying that atheism magically makes the world perfect all by itself. All we’re saying is that atheism is true which makes all the cruelties that arise from theism pointless. There may well be unhappy implications to atheist philosophies as well, and atheists may well still do bad stuff, but it seems to me that it’s still better to be aware of how things actually work so that one can learn how to operate in light of that reality, rather than deriving false hope from or making oneself miserable about imaginary things. Do you really disagree with this basic point?

  40. NotAnAtheist says


    – How can I distinguish between a goddy universe and a godless one?

    It would depend on the God in question.


    – What’s wrong with the use of gender-neutral pronouns?

    Nothing particularly, I just don’t see what’s wrong with gendered pronouns. We have a system that works, why change?


    – What about the harms caused by religions banning things that there’s no rational reason to ban?

    Rational to who? If you don’t accept the idea of an afterlife, or sin, or moral failings then there are many things that would irrational (to you) to ban. If you did accept those ideas, it may be rational to ban those things.


    – Why does it matter that humans don’t have “intrinsic” value?

    It seems to me as though we all act as though they do.


    – Why does it matter that morality isn’t “objective”?

    Because then its nothing more than a disagreement about fashion. Thing is, we don’t act as though morality is just a disagreement on fashion sense, or favorite foods or whatever.

    We act as though if something is morally wrong (to me) it should be morally wrong (to you) as well, and if it isn’t you are not being rational about it. In fact, the current series of posts about Shermer demonstrates this perfectly.


    – Who sez that survival of genes has to be my priority?

    Its certainly evolution’s priority. Why add any so called “priority” that you come up with?
    You seemingly believe your thoughts and emotions have some sort of meaning. That if you have a priority, I should have it too, otherwise there’s something wrong with me. Why?


    – What’s wrong with me deriving satisfaction and meaning from things that have nothing specifically to do with atheism?

    Nothing (I did address this, guess you missed it). I just wonder what you do that is actually derived from your atheism.


    – What kinds of things do you see atheists deriving satisfaction and meaning from that directly contradict their atheism, and why does it matter?

    Why it matters: I value consistency in a worldview.
    What I think directly contradicts atheism: I think you are deluding yourself if you think that deciding that something has “meaning” has.. well… any meaning. You might have certain emotional responses to various stimuli, and you might want to enforce the will of the majority of people who share the same emotional response on the minority that don’t (might makes right) but why assume that if certain things don’t give me the same emotional response that I am somehow “wrong”?


    – In what way is the conclusion that there are no deities not a direct result of a scientific approach to the world?

    You’ve actually just answered your own question.


    – Do you now agree that I’m not claiming that “might makes right”?

    You are not directly claiming it, but that’s certainly your moral system.
    Nothing is actually good, its just “good to you”, and if you have enough popular support, enough money, enough military force or enough… whatever to convince others that they should also think its “good to them” then that’s fine.

    Do you disagree with what I just said?


    – Why do you think calling things blasphemy is comparable to calling them bigotry, intolerance or hatred?

    I don’t actually. Blasphemy at least has orthodoxy to give it some objectivity (not much frankly, but some). I don’t see that for all the cries of hatred and intolerance.


    – What’s wrong with atheists talking about violations of rights?

    Nothing, nor have I ever said there was.


    – How do you imagine that adding deities into the mix actually improves the quality of problem-solving?

    Did I say that it did?


    All we’re saying is that atheism is true which makes all the cruelties that arise from theism pointless.

    True? Or just “true to you?”

    Also, how can a “lack of belief” be true? Only propositions can be true.

    If you are saying the proposition “Christianity is false” or “All religions are false” is actually true, then I would want to have some evidence and reasoning supporting that. Simply saying “well, there isn’t enough evidence for me to believe” is more of a statement about your standards regarding evidence than anything else. It may very well be true… but that sort of statement ,”There isn’t enough evidence for me” really is rather trivial. I suppose you could be arguing that there isn’t enough evidence for any “rational” person to believe in the existence of a God, but then I’d want some evidence and reasoning supporting that.


    All we’re saying is that atheism is true which makes all the cruelties that arise from theism pointless.

    What specific cruelties arise from theism? Especially those that arise from theism and that don’t arise from anything else?

    I have yet to see one.

    Do you really disagree with this basic point?

    Nope. Don’t disagree with it. We should definitely try to figure out how things actually work.

  41. says

    NotAnAtheist,

    It would depend on the God in question.

    Great. So, which one are you proposing? And if you’re not proposing any deities, then what’s your beef here?

    Nothing particularly, I just don’t see what’s wrong with gendered pronouns. We have a system that works, why change?

    If there’s nothing wrong with gender-neutral pronouns, then why did you object to my using them?

    Rational to who? If you don’t accept the idea of an afterlife, or sin, or moral failings then there are many things that would irrational (to you) to ban. If you did accept those ideas, it may be rational to ban those things.

    The reason I mentioned the things that religion bans needlessly is because you claimed to be concerned by the potential for harm to be caused by the removal of religious bans on those things that there are indeed good reasons to ban. My point is that there are two sides to this coin — even if religion may accidentally have some good results by reinforcing bans on things that we agree should be banned, it also accidentally has some bad results by creating bans on things that there’s no good reason to ban. If you aren’t grounding your ethical systems in evidence and reason, you don’t have any good way of telling whether your particular ethical strictures are doing more harm than good. And religions are not grounded in evidence and reason.

    It seems to me as though we all act as though they do.

    So what if we act as though humans have “intrinsic” value? Why is that an argument against a system which suggests that that that “intrinsic” value doesn’t actually exist? I act as though the earth is flat quite a lot of the time, when it happens to be a reasonable approximation for the purposes of some calculation. That’s not an argument for flat-earthism as a reasonable overarching model of the universe. When I was a kid I used to act as though Santa existed, but it turned out I was wrong. “Humans act as though X” has exactly nothing to do with whether X is true. Why on earth would you make this argument?

    Because then its nothing more than a disagreement about fashion. Thing is, we don’t act as though morality is just a disagreement on fashion sense, or favorite foods or whatever.

    Really? You’re making the “act as though” argument again?

    But let’s ignore that for a moment, because here’s the thing — “morality” is only a “disagreement about fashion” if you’re still stuck in this mindset that “should” has to be some sort of abstraction, completely disconnected from any real-world implications. And, yes, if you think that it’s just an abstraction and you take away any notion that we can make objective decisions about that abstraction, then all disagreements about “morality” are mere “disagreements about fashion”.

    But the reality is that meaningful “moral” decisions involve the actual real-world interests of actual real-world people. Resolving any “moral” dilemma means figuring out how to satisfy those interests in a way that the people involved in the situation (including outside observers who may later respond to the decision) will actually agree to. The question of what will and will not have the desired effects and what the parties to the affair will and will not consider acceptable is not simply a matter of whether orange is the new black. There are objective facts that can be ascertained about what the individuals in the situation value and how those values can be reconciled. Moreover, since most “moral” dilemmas we encounter involve humans, very often the individuals in any given situation will have many common values (e.g. wanting water, food, shelter, companionship, etc.), which can be used as heuristics to come up with generic solution templates that will apply reasonably well to many similar situations.

    So “morality” is definitely more than just (your sneering caricature of) “fashion”. Any time you make a real-world decision that has real-world effects, you can objectively analyze whether those effects are the ones you intended, and whether the parties to the situation are satisfied with those effects. You just can’t (reasonably) pretend that there’s some magic law written on the fabric of the universe that validates the “morality” of your decision independent of the feelings of the actual individuals involved.

    We act as though if something is morally wrong (to me) it should be morally wrong (to you) as well, and if it isn’t you are not being rational about it. In fact, the current series of posts about Shermer demonstrates this perfectly.

    Yes, we “act as though”. It’s a convenient heuristic, based on our human commonalities, on our nature as a social species, and on holding people to logical consistency about their claimed adherence to certain ethical principles. (e.g., Shermer claims to be a decent guy and a skeptic, yet he’s acting like an ass and engaging in a massive skepticism fail.) So what? Making use of a heuristic does not mean that one subscribes to that heuristic as a fundemental truth about the universe.

    Its certainly evolution’s priority. Why add any so called “priority” that you come up with?

    Why do evolution’s priorities have to be my priorities? Why am I not allowed to pick my own?

    You seemingly believe your thoughts and emotions have some sort of meaning. That if you have a priority, I should have it too, otherwise there’s something wrong with me. Why?

    My thoughts and my emotions have meaning to me. If they don’t have meaning to you, why are you wasting your time talking to me? I didn’t chain you down to this thread and work your hands with marionette strings to make you argue with me.

    As for why I would like you to share my priorities (well, not necessarily you in particular, but any generic human who’s not me), it’s because my priorities outline the kind of world I would like to live in. If more people share my priorities, the world will, I think, be more congenial to my tastes. Why on earth would I not want that?

    Nothing (I did address this, guess you missed it). I just wonder what you do that is actually derived from your atheism.

    Yeah, still not seeing where you addressed this, but ok. Here are some of the things I do that are directly derived from my atheism:

    1) I don’t waste my finite lifespan and finite resources on the worship of beings I don’t believe in.
    2) I don’t harm myself and others unnecessarily by worrying about adhering to religious prohibitions that are derived solely from theistic beliefs.
    3) I do work (in my own small way) to help others attain the same freedoms my atheism accords me.

    Plenty of the bloggers and commenters here whom you seem so critical of do the same. Have you really not noticed them doing this?

    Why it matters: I value consistency in a worldview.

    Consistency in a worldview does not necessarily require every single individual holding that worldview to be consistent. And it’s somewhat unreasonable to demand that all atheists be perfectly consistent about their atheism in a world where theism is still the unquestioned default to such a great extent that it’s often difficult to even recognize its effects.

    What I think directly contradicts atheism: I think you are deluding yourself if you think that deciding that something has “meaning” has.. well… any meaning. You might have certain emotional responses to various stimuli, and you might want to enforce the will of the majority of people who share the same emotional response on the minority that don’t (might makes right) but why assume that if certain things don’t give me the same emotional response that I am somehow “wrong”?

    Why do you insist that “meaning” has to be somehow independent of me to exist? I find certain things satisfying and meaningful for myself. Other people find certain things satisfying and meaningful to them. People have a capacity to ascribe significance to events in their lives and experiences they have. That’s real, just as any other emotional response is. It doesn’t have to have cosmic significance to be a real thing that happens when people have certain experiences, any more than a rainbow has to have cosmic significance to be a real thing that happens when you shine light on water droplets and view them from a certain angle. Why isn’t individual-level meaning good enough for you, and why do you think it directly contradicts atheism for atheists to admit to having feelings about things?

    And I’d like to note that I’ve already explained to you that this interpretation of what I’ve said as “might makes right” is, y’know, bullshit. You haven’t actually ever substantively addressed what I said about that, so I don’t know why you think it’s reasonable to keep repeating it.

    You’ve actually just answered your own question.

    Oookay. Why don’t you spell out for me exactly how?

    You are not directly claiming it, but that’s certainly your moral system.

    No. It’s actually not. Did you read what I wrote at all? I said that “might” makes fact, and that if I don’t like the facts I cannot rely on some kind of magic laws of the universe to fix them for me — I have to gather my own “might” (which, if you remember, I used to figuratively represent the tools of empathy-building, persuasion, and politicking in addition to those of naked force) and do it myself.

    I also said that “right” is not a thing that’s out there in the universe, it’s something we have to collectively construct throughout the course of our social development. And I said (albeit perhaps not in so many words) that it’s silly and unreflective of how actual human moral codes are developed to insist otherwise.

    Nothing is actually good, its just “good to you”, and if you have enough popular support, enough money, enough military force or enough… whatever to convince others that they should also think its “good to them” then that’s fine.

    I did not say it’s “fine”, I said that’s what happens, regardless of whether I, or anyone else, thinks it’s fine. It’s a fact of the universe in the same way that the speed of light is a fact of the universe. And I can sure as hell tell you that nobody asked me when they were setting the speed of light, ’cause I’d way rather have a universe where I might have a chance to visit other planets in my lifetime.

    Do you disagree with what I just said?

    Yes, obviously. Moreover, I kind of feel like you didn’t actually read anything that I said before writing all that.

    I don’t actually. Blasphemy at least has orthodoxy to give it some objectivity (not much frankly, but some). I don’t see that for all the cries of hatred and intolerance.

    So if calling something blasphemy is not actually the same as calling it bigotry or hatred or intolerance, then why did you compare them?

    But this statement of yours is still absurd. In order for “blasphemy” to be demonstrated to be a meaningful accusation of harmful behavior, you first have to show that the thing being “blasphemed” against is even real, and you haven’t even tried to do that here, despite my repeated requests. The targets of bigotry, hatred, and intolerance are, if nothing else, actual people who actually exist. It may still be somewhat of a judgment call as to whether any particular speech or action is genuinely harmful to the people it is supposedly bigoted/hateful/intolerant towards, but having real people as a referent is an important starting point.

    Beyond that, even if we pretend that the objects of blasphemy are real things, I don’t understand how you can claim that “orthodoxy” provides an objective basis for accusations of blasphemy that doesn’t exist for accusations of bigotry/hatred/intolerance. Whose orthodoxy do we decide is our “objective” basis? That of the Catholic Church? That of the Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915? Or maybe the Wahabbist definition, which has recently gotten Hamza Kashgari, among many others, into very serious trouble for actions most people wouldn’t have recognized as blasphemy at all, and which the actors themselves might not even have realized would be taken as blasphemous — so much for objectivity! I assume you’re trying to object to people getting accused of being bigoted/hateful/intolerant when you don’t think they are, but how can you be unaware of the enormous subjectivity and absurdity of “blasphemy” accusations if you’ve really been paying as much attention to the freethought movement, and to FtB in particular, as you like to pretend?

    Nothing, nor have I ever said there was.

    Orly? Then what was this all about:

    Judging by all the little wars I read about on FTB that are going on, I don’t see the atheists here any more capable of “evaluating our options” any more clearly than any group of theists I know. Sure, you don’t use the same words. Nobody is “blasphemous”, they are just “haters” and “intolerant” and “bigots”. You don’t get angry over supposed violations of an objective moral code, you get angry over violation of “rights” that.. someone? has decided they have.

    Did I say that it did?

    If you don’t think that adding deities into the mix improves the quality of problem-solving, then why are you arguing against atheism? Why are you claiming that it’s problematic to not have “absolute” moral codes? Why are you objecting that atheism supposedly negates the possibility of justice and the intrinsic value of human life, and making all these other objections? In short, what are you doing here?

    True? Or just “true to you?”

    True in terms of representing the best-evidenced currently available understanding of how the universe works. Just because morality isn’t a fact of the universe, that doesn’t mean we can’t do anything to discover facts about the universe at all, and it’s really bizarre to me that you seem to be trying to connect these two things. What in the world kind of points did you expect this to score?

    Also, how can a “lack of belief” be true? Only propositions can be true.

    Oh, so then you would say that the proposition, “There are most likely no fairies at the bottom of my garden,” could be true, right? Replace “fairies at the bottom of my garden” with “deities”, and you’ve got your answer. Again, I’m finding it difficult to guess what on earth your point could possibly be here.

    If you are saying the proposition “Christianity is false” or “All religions are false” is actually true, then I would want to have some evidence and reasoning supporting that. Simply saying “well, there isn’t enough evidence for me to believe” is more of a statement about your standards regarding evidence than anything else. It may very well be true… but that sort of statement ,”There isn’t enough evidence for me” really is rather trivial. I suppose you could be arguing that there isn’t enough evidence for any “rational” person to believe in the existence of a God, but then I’d want some evidence and reasoning supporting that.

    See above for my definition of true. “There are no deities,” represents the best-evidenced currently available understanding of the universe. Propose a better alternative and substantiate it successfully, and then your alternative can be the new truth. I notice you’ve been very reluctant to do this, and I have to wonder why that might be. My current suspicion is that you haven’t substantiated any alternatives because you can’t do so, but you are of course welcome to falsify that suspicion for me!

    What specific cruelties arise from theism? Especially those that arise from theism and that don’t arise from anything else?

    I have yet to see one.

    So what you’re saying is that you didn’t even read the very post we’re commenting on? Awesome. What are we doing here again?

    Nope. Don’t disagree with it. We should definitely try to figure out how things actually work.

    Oh, good, so you’d be happy to explain to me what deity you think exists, then, in order to motivate all your anti-atheism, and how you know that deity exists? Please, have at it. You wouldn’t want to leave me wandering around all ignorant about how the universe actually works, would you?

    ———

    I can’t help noticing that you ignored my most recent set of responses to your comments and addressed only the unanswered questions from previous comments that I summarized at the end. I want to point out that that list of questions was intended to supplement the first part of that comment, not substitute for it. If you don’t want to answer the rest of the comment, that’s up to you, but I don’t want there to be any confusion about whether I consider my points in that section answered, because I don’t.

    In fact, I’m kind of starting to get the impression that you’re not actually reading what I write very carefully, which is annoying, because I’m going to a lot of effort to try to explain this to you, but I don’t feel like you’re giving my explanations a level of attention that corresponds to the level of effort I’m putting in.

    That annoyance is compounded by the fact that you seem to be deliberately making your own objections and general stances as vague as possible, which makes it hard to know exactly what you’re getting at much of the time. Your username says that you’re “not an atheist”, and that’s fine, but what are you? What is it you actually want out of this discussion? Are you trying to debunk atheism in favor of some particular flavor of theism, and if so, which one? Are you genuinely undecided in some way? Are you playing devil’s advocate? Do you just like being a contrarian? What are you seeking here? If you want to make this discussion more productive, seems to me now would be a good time for you to lay a few more of your cards on the table.

  42. NotAnAtheist says


    Great. So, which one are you proposing? And if you’re not proposing any deities, then what’s your beef here?

    My beef is with atheism, and with the idea that, if you are going to be against something.. you should at least get that something you are against with right. I see stereotypes on both sides, and I see bias on both sides. I do see however, that conservatives at least acknowledge a bias. Most of the time atheists do not.


    If there’s nothing wrong with gender-neutral pronouns, then why did you object to my using them?

    I already answered this. We have a system that works. Why change it?


    If you aren’t grounding your ethical systems in evidence and reason, you don’t have any good way of telling whether your particular ethical strictures are doing more harm than good.

    Do you think that the ethical system of the athiest is somehow “more grounded” in reason than that of the theist?

    Interesting. How does one get from reason and and evidence to morality? Especially given (as you’ve said before) that things aren’t actually just “moral”, they are just “moral to you”, or “moral to me”. If something is logically true, its just true. Its true even if I don’t happen to believe its true. But if something is just “moral to me” then the fact that you believe something is moral, and I do not, doesn’t make either one of us “right” or “wrong”. We just have different opinions.


    So what if we act as though humans have “intrinsic” value? Why is that an argument against a system which suggests that that that “intrinsic” value doesn’t actually exist?

    For someone who seems very concerned with basing everythiing on evidence and reason, acting as though something as true, when its in fact false… seems highly counterproductive. Shouldn’t you be consistent?


    I act as though the earth is flat quite a lot of the time, when it happens to be a reasonable approximation for the purposes of some calculation.

    Doubtful. Yes, you may have maps that picture where you are as being flat, but those maps work just as well if the earth is flat, or slightly curved (as you’ve admitted). I highly doubt you have been in a situation where you would do one thing if the earth was flat, and another if the earth was round, and you choose to act as though the earth was flat.

    The difference between human beings having value objectively, and only having value based on some subjective standard is not just a difference in “approximations”. They are complete opposites.

    I’m not trying to argue that any one specific proposition is true or false. I am just pointing out inconsistency and bad arguments as I see them. Do I have to argue that something is true in order to point out flaws I see in other’s worldview’s or arguments? I didn’t realize that was a requirement. I mean… atheism doesn’t really say anything is true… its just a lack of belief… right?


    And, yes, if you think that it’s just an abstraction and you take away any notion that we can make objective decisions about that abstraction, then all disagreements about “morality” are mere “disagreements about fashion”.

    In the abscence of any objective value being place on moral ideas, I see no reason or evidence to convince me that morality is nothing more than a convenient abstraction.

    If you have some, I’d like to hear it.


    But the reality is that meaningful “moral” decisions involve the actual real-world interests of actual real-world people. Resolving any “moral” dilemma means figuring out how to satisfy those interests in a way that the people involved in the situation (including outside observers who may later respond to the decision) will actually agree to.

    Really? So if on one side of the moral dilemma you have pro-life individuals, and on the other pro-choice, then solving this “moral dilemma” requires working out how to satisfy the interests of both parties? Or, is it that you’d say the interests of the pro-life side are morally “wrong” and thus you won’t give them anything (if possible).

    You can’t have it both ways. Either morality is a negotiation where everyone’s interests need to be satisfied, or its a logical discussion where one side is actually wrong and is the “wall”.

    Which is it?


    There are objective facts that can be ascertained about what the individuals in the situation value and how those values can be reconciled.

    True. But you’ve said before that in some cases (again, abortion) that you don’t really care if some “values” are reconciled at all. You hope that the pro-choice folks get everything they want, and pro-life individuals get nothing whatsoever. So you’ve made a decision that some “values” are better or more “moral” than other values. Is that decision just “true to you”? Or is it true in some objective, logical sense?


    Why do evolution’s priorities have to be my priorities? Why am I not allowed to pick my own?

    You pick your priorities. You also have your favorite flavor of ice cream. Both things arouse certain neurochemical responses in your brain. Why assume that your “priorities” are any different than your favorite flavors?

    Is there anything scientific that suggests that they are?


    As for why I would like you to share my priorities (well, not necessarily you in particular, but any generic human who’s not me), it’s because my priorities outline the kind of world I would like to live in. If more people share my priorities, the world will, I think, be more congenial to my tastes. Why on earth would I not want that?

    Oh that makes complete sense. I’m just curious why you think I should, share your priorities or why you think your tastes are mine, or that they should be mine.


    1) I don’t waste my finite lifespan and finite resources on the worship of beings I don’t believe in.

    Fair enough, but I’d say even a theist does this. A Christian isn’t going to “waste his time” worshipping Allah as well as Jesus.


    2) I don’t harm myself and others unnecessarily by worrying about adhering to religious prohibitions that are derived solely from theistic beliefs.

    True. Of course there’s that interesting word, “unnecessarily”. I don’t think anyone ever think (barring some sort of psychopathy) that they are harming anyone else or themselves “unecessarily”. Everyone always has their reasons.


    3) I do work (in my own small way) to help others attain the same freedoms my atheism accords me.

    What freedoms does your atheism “accord” to you?


    Consistency in a worldview does not necessarily require every single individual holding that worldview to be consistent.

    True. I’d like to see one atheist that is actually consistent with his/her beliefs though. Theists at least say they try. You say:


    And it’s somewhat unreasonable to demand that all atheists be perfectly consistent about their atheism in a world where theism is still the unquestioned default to such a great extent that it’s often difficult to even recognize its effects.

    So you think atheism is true (though again.. how can a lack of belief be true?), but that’ its unreasonable for me to expect atheists to act like atheists. How convenient.


    Why do you insist that “meaning” has to be somehow independent of me to exist? I find certain things satisfying and meaningful for myself.

    “Human life has meaning, and should be respected”
    “Human life has meaning to me, and I should respect it.”

    Do you think these two statements are exactly the same? If not, what’s the difference? Do you think that all claims of “X has meaning” are really just claims that “X has meaning to me”?


    No. It’s actually not. Did you read what I wrote at all? I said that “might” makes fact, and that if I don’t like the facts I cannot rely on some kind of magic laws of the universe to fix them for me — I have to gather my own “might” (which, if you remember, I used to figuratively represent the tools of empathy-building, persuasion, and politicking in addition to those of naked force) and do it myself.

    Ah. I think we have a difference in opinion on what a “fact” is. To me, a fact is something that cannot be changed simply due to good rhetoric or good politiking or building “empathy”. To me a fact is something that actually is objectively true.

    To you, facts apparently can change if the majority decides that they should (due to sufficient empathy-building, persuasion, and politicking).

    That was my mistake before. Okay. I got it fixed now. So whenever you say that something is a “fact” or that something is “true” that simply means that someone has leverged enough “might” to cause it to be true. Ok.


    Yes, obviously. Moreover, I kind of feel like you didn’t actually read anything that I said before writing all that.

    Funny. I don’t think you read anything I said either.


    If you don’t think that adding deities into the mix improves the quality of problem-solving, then why are you arguing against atheism?

    Because I don’t think that not adding deities is somehow “better” than theism, and atheists do tend to believe in some things I disagree with. Such as might making fact.


    Why are you claiming that it’s problematic to not have “absolute” moral codes?

    I’ve stated this repeatedly.


    In short, what are you doing here?

    Asking questions. Critiquing things I find wrong, or faulty or inconsistent. In short, I am examining the worldviews of atheists given what evidence I have, the reason I have, and the logical capabilities that I possess. Just as I have done with Christianity.

    Is that wrong?


    Oh, so then you would say that the proposition, “There are most likely no fairies at the bottom of my garden,” could be true, right?

    It could be true, it could be false. One should use evidence and reasoning to support it if you think its true.


    Replace “fairies at the bottom of my garden” with “deities”, and you’ve got your answer.

    So atheism isn’t simply a lack of belief then. You are actually saying that the propisition “There are most likely no gods “(in the bottom of your garden or anywhere else). What evidence or reason do you have to support that?

    Note: “There isn’t enough evidence for me to believe that God’s exist” is just a statement about your opinions. Unless you think I should somehow share your opinions.. its rather trivial.


    See above for my definition of true. “There are no deities,” represents the best-evidenced currently available understanding of the universe.

    I have yet to see any actual evidence supporting this. Saying that there isn’t enough evidence to convince you that there is a god, does not make atheism true. You don’t get to win via default.


    Propose a better alternative and substantiate it successfully, and then your alternative can be the new truth.

    No. Whatever is actually true, its true regardless of my ability to substantiate it correctly. Neither you nor I get to make things true.


    My current suspicion is that you haven’t substantiated any alternatives because you can’t do so, but you are of course welcome to falsify that suspicion for me!

    You did read where I said I wasn’t a Christian right? Or did you miss that part?


    Oh, good, so you’d be happy to explain to me what deity you think exists, then, in order to motivate all your anti-atheism, and how you know that deity exists?

    You seem to presume that anti-atheism can only come from theism. That the only reason I could have any beef with atheism is because I believe that some specific God exists.

    Why?


    I can’t help noticing that you ignored my most recent set of responses to your comments and addressed only the unanswered questions from previous comments that I summarized at the end. I want to point out that that list of questions was intended to supplement the first part of that comment, not substitute for it. If you don’t want to answer the rest of the comment, that’s up to you, but I don’t want there to be any confusion about whether I consider my points in that section answered, because I don’t.

    That’s fine. Your opinion is noted.


    In fact, I’m kind of starting to get the impression that you’re not actually reading what I write very carefully, which is annoying, because I’m going to a lot of effort to try to explain this to you, but I don’t feel like you’re giving my explanations a level of attention that corresponds to the level of effort I’m putting in.

    I don’t think you’re reading what I say carefully either. It would be annoying, it it wasn’t something I’m used to when it comes to atheists (and some fundamentalists).

    Just because I don’t immediately agree with you, doesn’t mean I’m not reading what you’re writing.


    That annoyance is compounded by the fact that you seem to be deliberately making your own objections and general stances as vague as possible, which makes it hard to know exactly what you’re getting at much of the time.

    Which is odd, as I’ve stated it multiple times.


    What is it you actually want out of this discussion?

    Answers to the questions I’ve asked. You have provided some, which is good. I don’t agree with your answers, and I don’t think you’re being consistent in your answers, but you have provided answers.


    Are you trying to debunk atheism in favor of some particular flavor of theism, and if so, which one?

    Nope. I am not an atheist, but I would not call myself a theist. I suppose if you MUST label me, you could maybe call me a deist.. but that is a stretch.


    Are you genuinely undecided in some way?
    Are you playing devil’s advocate?

    These are probably the closest.

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