Absolute Truth(s)


It’s fun* sometimes, to look at what other people think atheists must think. I saw an example of this recently:

Atheists love to tell Christians we’re just about as atheistic as they are. We’re atheistic about millions of gods; they’re atheistic about millions plus one more.

Okay, it’s silly, but I’ll address it one more time.

If God exists, then God is an atheist toward all gods but himself. Therefore God, if he exists, is very nearly (within mere thousandths of a percent!) as atheistic as atheists are.

That’s where their logic goes. The mind reels.

The mind does reel. I popped in to remind them that “Very nearly an atheist” works about as well as “very nearly pregnant”; it’s that tiny difference that makes all the difference in the world. Alas, I could not hold my pen. I also said…

For me, of course, the inverse of your question is a bit more interesting. Atheists are told that without a god to serve, we have no purpose; that serving god is what gives our lives meaning. God, of course, does not have to serve god–by the same logic, does that make his existence meaningless?

Fortunately, as an atheist, I think our lives have purpose without serving another. Good thing, too–livestock have the purpose of serving as our food; having a purpose in serving another is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Which started a discussion on purpose, truth, reality, and … you’ll have to see for yourself, if you like. (Parenthetically, I think I will laugh uncontrollably if PZ is ever labeled “smug” again; there’s not enough smug left to do that, once the Thinking Christian folks are done with it.)

Anyway, for the people over there who are convinced they are privileged to know The Truth…I am reminded of one of my old verses:

I’ve got absolute truths by the dozens
They depend on the god that you cite
And, my brothers and sisters and cousins,
I have to decide which is right.

Each claims their morality’s better
They’re divinely inspired, you see;
So I’d follow their laws to the letter,
Except that they all disagree.

Whenever I look to the bible
To see how a person behaves
I can trust that the info’s reliable,
Like how I should punish my slaves.

I don’t wish to be petty or selfish
I just want to know I am right
Is it worse to be gay, or eat shellfish?
Both are wrong, in Leviticus’ sight.

Is it sinful to kill and eat cattle?
Well, the Hindus, of course, would agree
But then, kosher’s a whole different battle,
Although bacon tastes yummy to me!

I’ve got absolute truths if you want ‘em
Each according to different gods
Some keep them, and others will flaunt ‘em
But you’re breaking some rules, say the odds.

When religions make war over quarrels,
And they claim that their god is the source
Can a person have humanist morals?
Of Course!

*”Fun”, clearly, must be defined by intersubjective agreement, in context.

Comments

  1. Cuttlefish says

    Oh, and if you do visit there, let me know if I come across as polite or obnoxious. I’m doing my best to be polite, but I’m getting reactions like I am the worst sort of troll.

  2. Kyle says

    You come off as polite to me! I think the way you handled the ‘Bottom-Dwellar’ comment was brilliant.

    I hope you keep pressing them to justify why their beliefs are to be held as objectively true and yet simultaneously in conflict with ‘objectively true’ beliefs of so many other religions…

  3. Brad says

    You seem polite. I’ve tried to contribute a response, but appear to be stuck in moderation.

  4. baal says

    I read the other thread. I almost stopped at the masthead – “thinking christian.” I also almost stopped again after reading the OP. It reminded me a lot of the hyper-self satisfied youtube “you atheists can’t answer this one question” not quite gotcha vids – and then the idiot posts some version of the ontological argument or pascals wager.

    I really liked your flip on the argument by the thinking christian’s logic, god is an atheist. (<–I'm still laughing).

    As to your question, were you a troll on his board – I think the answer is yes (or close to yes). You inflamed them and your comments were unwelcome in content and in tone. By tone, I mean you failed to use the forms of address they are accustomed to and you dared to not agree with the dominant culture / mindset. A disinterested party who didn't care about the meaning of the posts could fairly call you a troll (based on how they responded if nothing else).

    That said, I don't think you come off as having been there for purely self serving or disinterested in the truth of your position. Further, you are substantively on the side of reason, rationality and comporting with reality. Your tone was polite in the normal usage of those words and nothing you said was inherently objectionable to a disinterested party.

    I'm glad you went – regardless how the posters responded – if we all we as capable of being patient and engaging the xtians, we'd get more folks willing to self identify as atheists. The other audience we didn't see (non-posters) must exist there and I suspect some number of them would have found you compelling but were otherwise afraid to jump in given the hostility from the regulars.

  5. Dave X says

    I like the livestock point. If there is a god, perhaps it “loves” and “cares” for us in the same way we “love” and “care” for the animals in CAFOs.

    The evils, inscrutability, and mysterious purposes work equally well for the imperfect understanding of the world by the limited denizens of CAFOs as well as any of us with imperfect and finite understanding of the world.

  6. Dave X says

    Do they actually have an atheist who holds “If God exists, then God is an atheist toward all gods but himself.”

    I think this is a misrepresentation of:

    “When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” – Stephen F Roberts.

    Whatever tools they use to reject Thor, et al., is just as applicable to the one true god.

  7. Randomfactor says

    God’s 100-percent atheist.

    Surely he has no need of faith in his own existence. He has no need to worship any god. He certainly doesn’t have to obey himself.

    So either he’s got a Ubergod above him that insists on all three of those things, or he’s One of Us.

  8. Cuttlefish says

    C’mon, Randomfactor–you don’t have to “have faith”; you have to “believe”. If God doesn’t believe He exists, He has some serious Self-esteem issues.

  9. ottod says

    I went and looked and came away dizzy from all the circular reasoning. It seems that any non-biblical reality is an unacceptable starting point for discussion. It also seems you can’t reference Wittgenstein (and, no doubt, others) without a prior agreement on what he says when he says it. How you formulate your argument is far more important that its content or conclusions (We have rules here, Bub!”).

    It also appears that a surprising number of the commenters seem well read, have excellent vocabularies and yet have fairly poor reading and comprehension skills.

    “Smug” is an understatement. Your comments are both patient and polite, and it’s driving them crazy. I’d have given up long ago, but I’m glad you’re having fun.

  10. Cuttlefish says

    I may have given up, ottod. There were a few that seemed willing to actually listen and interact, so I was actually thinking I might keep it up for a while, but there’s only so long that having someone slap you in the face can be fun.

  11. Randomfactor says

    I was told I had to have Faith. I think it’s the patented form of the nostrum. Accept no generics.

  12. hotshoe says

    Oh, and if you do visit there, let me know if I come across as polite or obnoxious. I’m doing my best to be polite, but I’m getting reactions like I am the worst sort of troll.

    You are totally polite, and they are a horrible species of rude, condescending and – as you mentioned in your post – smug, undeservedly so. Of course, it’s undeservedly, as they themselves should know, since they’re faithful Christians who claim to believe they are all flawed sinners; they should remember that a little more often when they’re arguing with the “unsaved”.

    But since they’re not only stuck-up Christians (Thinking Christian, bah, it’s an oxymoron) but also presuppositionalists, I think they have no other option but to freeze you out as if you were a troll. Presuppositionalism absolutely requires faith in the “objective reality” they keep blathering about, and the fact that you refuse to back down from your point, that assuming arguendo there is such a reality, we still have no non-subjective way to guess which (if any) of us have gotten a good grasp on that “objective reality” … well, that’s not to be tolerated! If they let you speak without demonizing you, you might get one of them to actually think about how they know what they think they know – how do they know if they hear god speak to them. It looks just the same (from anyone else’s perspective) as the overactive process of human brains which results in fools seeing Jesus in a cheese sandwich. How can they trust their own inner experience ? If you get them doubting that, they might lose all faith … and god forbid that happens! Hence, their attacks on you as if you’re the rude troll, not them .

    But I did catch your phrase about capitalizing “God” (their house, their rules) and while I love you for showing up one of their arbitrary rules right there, it was a little snarky. Maybe a little. Anyways, it was one of the things that triggered Tom for his next outburst.

  13. Cuttlefish says

    Tom Gilson! Welcome! I encourage you to look around the place, and comment freely.

  14. Cuttlefish says

    Hotshoe–I’m afraid I did submit one more comment with an uncapitalized generic god, as well as the specific Christian God, since your visit.

    I do, though, want to disagree with you on one thing; “Thinking Christian” is, in my opinion, absolutely not an oxymoron. Thinking, and more specifically “skeptical analysis”, depends on the data available. I have written elsewhere that my pastor (back when I was a born-again Christian) was one who encouraged doubt, and skepticism, and critical analysis. He fully believed it would lead me to believe as he did–and in that particular environment, he may have been right. There were a *lot* of fundamentalist teachers in that area, any of whom would have been more than willing to answer my questions. (I remember the very first person who introduced me to evolution, at grade school, in a modified Airstream trailer filled with collections of insects, skeletons, and fossils, telling our class that “in my belief, God touched the early planet, and life began”).

    It is absolutely possible to think critically, and still be wrong, at least (especially!) in the short run. We all need to know that.

  15. had3 says

    I thought the OT god allowed for the existence of other gods: implicitly in his being a jealous god (gotta have other gods to be jealous of), and explicitly regarding the worshippers of Baal. He could also allow for the existence of other gods recaptioned as saints over whom he is the highest. I don’t think this argument from you is necessarily logical.

  16. hotshoe says

    Hotshoe–I’m afraid I did submit one more comment with an uncapitalized generic god, as well as the specific Christian God, since your visit.

    I do, though, want to disagree with you on one thing; “Thinking Christian” is, in my opinion, absolutely not an oxymoron. Thinking, and more specifically “skeptical analysis”, depends on the data available. I have written elsewhere that my pastor (back when I was a born-again Christian) was one who encouraged doubt, and skepticism, and critical analysis. He fully believed it would lead me to believe as he did–and in that particular environment, he may have been right. There were a *lot* of fundamentalist teachers in that area, any of whom would have been more than willing to answer my questions. (I remember the very first person who introduced me to evolution, at grade school, in a modified Airstream trailer filled with collections of insects, skeletons, and fossils, telling our class that “in my belief, God touched the early planet, and life began”).

    It is absolutely possible to think critically, and still be wrong, at least (especially!) in the short run. We all need to know that.

    Okay, thanks for that.

    Yeah, I’d edit that out of my post, if I could … you’re right. Sorry.

  17. Die Anyway says

    Whew! That was a lot of reading… over at Mr. Gilson’s site. There was a lot of word salad tossed around but it seemed as if the defenders-of-the-faith wanted to nit-pick about terminology rather than address the questions you posed. Especially, how does one know which of the religions is “true”, or as it seems Mr. Gilson would prefer to limit it, which *Christian* denomination is true? Not only did everyone there avoid the question, but every Christian I’ve come across on internet forums has avoided it or equivocated. It has been my question nigh onto 50 years now and no one has answered it with a reasonable answer. What I usually get is: “because I know mine is the right one.” Although on occasion I get: “it doesn’t matter. God/Jesus will love you no matter which one you pick as long as you believe.” I have avoided Christian apologist sites for years now because of their obtuseness on this topic.

  18. Die Anyway says

    P.S. It was difficult to follow all of the post reference numbers at that site as my browser rendered all comments as 1.

  19. Regan Thomas says

    I’ve enjoyed your dialog on that site very much. However, nailing them down on any one point is harder than picking up worms. As a reader of many of the FTB sites, it would be very enjoyable if multiple FTB bloggers would join in for a great game of whack-a-mole.

  20. Cuttlefish says

    Nah, that *would* be bullying. That’s their house, and they would be well within their rights to start banning folks.

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