As with you I don't have a huge problem with what people believe as long as they allow me to believe what I wish. If you want to believe that your table talks to you, then by all means do so. The moment your table starts to tell you to do things that intefere with my beliefs, I might have to declare a Jihad against the table.
It wasn't my intention to imply that there is a 50% chance of my being right with my argument. In fact probabilities become more meaningless the more unknowns that are factored in (and there are lot of unknowns when it comes to God). My intention was to point out that there are two sides to the argument (not one) and if you don't particularly care what I believe then there is no harm done, but it you want me to believe as you do the responsibility goes back to you to prove my belief is wrong. Of course if I want you to believe in a God then I should also be able to prove that there is a God. Neither of us can prove things one way or the other. So it comes back to choice - to choose how and what we believe based on our experience and knowledge of the world. Since God figures in both my experience and knowledge of the world, I choose to believe in him.
I think that I made the point elsewhere that some German statisticians calculated the probability that there is a God at over 50%, which puts paid to your argument - except that to me it is meaningless (lies, damn lies and statistics).
By the way, does your table have a mouth, in which case the probability that it talked to you are considerably higher.
if atheism is a religion, then 'not collecting stamps' is a hobby
I've been thinking about this quote from Derek Huby - it is, of course, a step too far. You won't find any books in the library on non stamp collecting - the non stamp collector accepts that there are stamp collectors and you would be a very sad person to spend your time trying to convince stamp collectors that their hobby isn't worthwhile. Either Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens et al are very sad individuals (and I don't think they are) who spend their time in this kind of activity, or atheism needs to find a 'categorisation' in the sense of needing to find a place. It would be quite acceptable for the enthusiastic stamp collector to try and show their friends why this is such a good hobby, - what Christians and others call mission - but seen as pointless for the nonstamp collector to show why they are wrong - and yet the God Delusion is to offer enlightment (Dawkins word) for mistaken 'stamp collectors'.
"You won't find any books in the library on non stamp collecting"
Perhaps not, but you might find a non-stamp collector who wrote a blog article about why he thinks stamp collecting is wrong. This is essentially what books by atheists are, they're not books about atheism (that would be just silly, I can sum up atheism in one sentence) instead they're books about why theism is wrong and dangerous. While a person might show off their stamp collection, they don't do so in the expectation of converting that person to stamp collecting. They merely want to show someone something that brings them enjoyment. When it comes to religion we can quite clearly see that you're religious, you don't need to explain it to us in order for people to understand the commitment to it.
The stamp collector is also not making any ultimate claims, therefore why would we ask them to prove themselves? That would be like watching tv and someone saying, "but can you prove that?". Prove what, that I'm watching TV?. Religion however makes an ultimate claim, it says that a being of vast power created everything that we see. There are no two ways about it, you need evidence.
Thanks for your response and apologies for a belated reply, I've been on holiday. I did start this discussion after you made the point 'atheism is a religion' but you weren't the first to make this argument and certainly haven't rested your hole argument on this belief the way others have.
In the post I am responding to here you seem to be shifting the parallels you are drawing between atheism and religion, instead now making the case that atheists can be as badly behaved as some theists. The simple answer is well of course they are. Atheists don't claim to have a moral guardian supporting their actions so some will be bad, stupid, evil etc., theists on the other hand do think they have a benevolent creator influencing their actions and morals making evil committed by them much harder to justify without using the no true Scotsman fallacy. As you say 'religious people's actions can apply equally to non-religious people - perhaps proving we are not so different after all' which kind of points to the fact that God, if he does exist, is not intervening in our world or those that believe, doesn't it?
Also within your post you conclude 'It is not so much that I would conclude that atheism is a religion' which begs the question why say it is in the first place?
Let me be honest - I was thinking about the quote you said about non stamp collecting and thoughts were going through my mind which more or less I write as they were happening - as Guy below says we don't need books on atheism, but trying to show why theism may be wrong - the same isn't true of nonstamnp collecting - as for you, and I, agreeing - yes about atheism not being a religion - but non stamp collecting doesn't, for me, need categorisation - atheistic books do - even if it is simply in a library context. But, as I say, Derek, you set my mind going - so well done - this is what I hoped to acheive from these postings.
The question and discussion topic for now is Atheism is a religion not science. Do you have anything for us on this?
If you do want to talk about science as a religion maybe you could use some of Midgeley's arguments that you support as a starting point so we can discuss them together instead of just kind of saying 'there's a book that agrees with what I think'. It's not a very convincing tack when theists use it to support their claims so I don't see why you should be any different.
What makes you think I agree with Midgley? I suggested a book you might like to read because it raises important questions not because I necessarily agree with it. Is it that you only want to read books supporting your viewpoint rather than adopting my own neutral stance which is to read everyone's contribution whether I agree with them or not?
Sorry I got the impression that when you said that after reading Midgley's book I would "understand how science is propagated practised as a religion" it was somehow indicating that you thought her arguments for the premise are convincing. Was I mistaken? Do you not agree with her?
I'm more than happy to read any point of view, especially those that challenge my own viewpoint as it's the only way to find newer, better ideas and progress. Neutrality is only for me in the first instance though I'm afraid, I seem to have this problem you see, were my brain forces me to think about things it takes in, naturally applying thought and logic as I go along exploring things. This ends up with me weighing up what is said or claimed resulting in me forming opinions and influencing my bias.
"adopting my own neutral stance" We'd all like to write our own reviews!
I know that atheism is simply defined - but several questions flow from agreeing to the proposition 'there is not good reason for believing in god'.
Is there anything after this life? It usually seems to be assumed the atheist does not believe in anything next - but this is an assumption.
If religion does not inform morality and ethics then what does? Not simply talking here about personal morality but corporate ethics.
Is the physical all there is? When we use words like love, commitment, etc etc are we talking about something that is 'real'?
How are churches, temples, etc viewed? Some people who agree to the atheistic proposition support churches financially - others even attend regularly. Are they dangerous places, or places that play a valuable part in our society?
1) Is there anything after this life? Just like God there is no good reason to speculate on any afterlife. No assumption needs to be made or is made in taking the sceptical stance.
2) If religion does not inform morality and ethics then what does? Common sense, the zeitgeist, majority opinion. Religion's morality and ethics are subject to change with these things not the driving force behind them. We can see from history that mainstream religion assimilates the changing morality, ideas and science into it's philosophy (sometimes only after unsuccessfully attacking it) it then claims responsibility for it or that it never had a problem with it. Evolution is the latest case in point.
3a) Is the physical all there is? Well maybe, maybe not. The burden on providing a framework to test the metaphysical lies with those making a claim. Until then I refer you to first answer. 3b) When we use words like love, commitment, etc etc are we talking about something that is 'real'? Are we using your definition of 'real' or mine?
4a) How are churches, temples, etc viewed? This is not a answer on behalf of all atheists of course but personally they are of historic importance and aesthetic value. You don't need to be religious to appreciate religions art any more than I have to be French to enjoy the work of Michel Gondry. 4b) Are they dangerous places, or places that play a valuable part in our society? They are simply buildings. A building is only dangerous if it is in severe disrepair. As a place of value in our society they provide an important place for friends and communities to meet. In this aspect they are no different to community halls, sports stadiums, pubs, other religious places of religious worship etc. so special status for this purpose is not merited. The restrictions and demands placed on communities using churches or places of worship by their respective religion are divisive, which can be dangerous.
thank you so much for taking my questions seriously - and if there are others who would be willing to answer I'd value your views.
I'm not sure you can link God and 'afterlife' that easily. An atheist would say (I think) there is no good reason for the existence of God, full stop, but we exist. That we exist now and that we know we die are two facts. Surely to 'speculate' if that is it or is there something next is intrinsically human. NDEs (near deaths experiences) are an area of scientific study (see Life after Life, the studies of Prof Badham and related works) and should be examined before easy dismissal.
The majority of people believe (according to polls) that creationism should be taught at school - should it? Ethics are much more complex than you are suggesting - appealing to common sense sounds positively dangerous, as it is usually seems much less common than supposed! As for Zeitgeist - as we still have a majority of people saying they are Christian (whatever they mean by that!) then is Christianity the deciding force?
for 3b I'm happy for your to answer from within your worldview framework - the whole notion of the world being limited (or not) to the physical is complicated!
4a - I agree the atheist can enjoy religious art, but to understand it they may need some knowledge of the faith from where it had emerged - 4b the buildings were built to stand for something - I, for example, have no real interest in sport, so a world without sports stadiums would not concern me, and yet I still see the value of them for others, and so would support a campaign to keep local sports centre. Your last comment is true as well for the other places you mention - you are expected to behave in a certain way and obey certain rules (either written or unwritten) in most of those places - and usually they serve the community in a way not expected - weddings in churches have been shown to be usually cheaper, for example, than a wedding in a stately home or football ground - so can I presume that the latter venues are only want the rich and to make money, whereas the church wants to serve. This is simplistic, I know, but many people presume that it would be the church that is seeking to con people financially.
The only link I made between God and the afterlife is that we have no evidence for either. When faced with a lack of evidence I think scepticism is the most rational position instead of pontificating about what might be.
"That we exist now and that we know we die are two facts." Agreed. "Surely to 'speculate' if that is it or is there something next is intrinsically human." Also agreed but baseless human speculation however intrinsic is usually wrong. Cautious scepticism wins for me.
NDEs are an area of scientific study but one we know little about. Those who have experienced it are under severe trauma at the time so excepting their stories at face-value again seems a little rash.
"The majority of people believe (according to polls) that creationism should be taught at school - should it?" Which poll would this be? How should creationism be taught? Which creation story? What kind of questions would you think would make a creationism exam? Aside from these questions I once again have to remind you that unlike morality reality doesn't follow mob rule. Science goes with the evidence and creationism has none.
"Ethics are much more complex than you are suggesting" I'm sorry but I have to really object to this. I never said morals and ethics are simple, in fact I have been at pains to stress quite the opposite with another long gone poster here. You asked the question "If religion does not inform morality and ethics then what does?" which to me suggests morals and ethics are handed down from God which is about the simplest (non-)explanation possible.
"appealing to common sense sounds positively dangerous, as it is usually seems much less common than supposed!" I know it can be. I wasn't advocating any of the methods I suggested but just answering where morals can come from.
"As for Zeitgeist - as we still have a majority of people saying they are Christian (whatever they mean by that!) then is Christianity the deciding force?" As you say those labelling themselves Christian can mean many things and some up millions of beliefs. The many sects show it is less than an agreed upon premise or code of ethics so is hardly "the deciding force".
"the whole notion of the world being limited (or not) to the physical is complicated!" It's only the non-physical that is hard to explain. There is objective evidence to test that which exists in the physical. I'm more than sure your wife, children and friends can demonstrate their love and commitment to you enough to convince an objective observer.
"I agree the atheist can enjoy religious art, but to understand it they may need some knowledge of the faith from where it had emerged" Yes, they need and understanding but my point was they don't need to involved to have an understanding.
"the buildings were built to stand for something - I, for example, have no real interest in sport, so a world without sports stadiums would not concern me, and yet I still see the value of them for others, and so would support a campaign to keep local sports centre." I think you see sports stadiums the way I see churches. For the most part I see no value in what people do inside them, I have no interest in joining or stopping them. The only exception there might be between our outlook is that I don't think the pursuits of those in places of worship is worthwhile or of any meaningful benefit.
"Your last comment is true as well for the other places you mention - you are expected to behave in a certain way and obey certain rules (either written or unwritten) in most of those places." Yes but the rules in the other places are applicable to everybody. The rules of places of worship are sometimes exclusive by design.
"weddings in churches have been shown to be usually cheaper, for example, than a wedding in a stately home or football ground - so can I presume that the latter venues are only want the rich and to make money, whereas the church wants to serve." The later are independent and not supported by taxes so maybe that's one reason too.
I'm afraid all you questioning seems to be based on or leading to false logic such as false dichotomy, argument from incredulity, argumentum ad populum and special pleading.
P.S. These questions although interesting are a little off topic for the thread. I hope they don't divert attention away from recent questions and points raised in relation to the intial question before this.
I always think the questions and points raised about religous buildings etc are interesting especially in the case of Christianity. I mean do any churches or cathedrals or temples look like anything that Jesus had in mind? It all seems to have missed the point.
Jesus said, "Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst". The Church consists of people not of buildings. Unfortunately, over centuries when the Christian gospel became part of the Roman State non-Christian values over-rode Jesus' message. Many Christians brought up in the non-conformist tradition understand that.
Mary Midgeley has written several books on this subject. In my review of her book Science as Salvation I wrote, "Mary Midgley's excellent work shows clearly that what often passes for science these days is, in fact, myth presenting itself as fact against superstition. Midgley regards Dawkins et.al. as reductionists whose theories are ideologically driven rather than motivated by any objective scientific criteria, representing an attempt to substitute scientism for the humanities".
Quite specifically elsewhere she accuses Dawkins of claiming, " something which Darwin himself denied, namely that natural selection is the sole and exclusive cause of evolution, making the world therefore, in some important sense, entirely random. This is itself a strange faith which ought not to be taken for granted as part of science".
I think her interpretation of what passes for science in biology is accurate. You know, of course, that Mary Midgeley is not a religious person.
Midgeley's quote "that natural selection is the sole and exclusive cause of evolution, making the world therefore, in some important sense, entirely random." is wrong. Natural selection is not random but selective via natural causes. Clue's in the name.
I don't think her interpretation of what passes for science in biology is accurate. I also am well aware she is not religious or a scientist.
thanks for your thoughful repsonse to my remarks. I was reasonably astounded for the last remarks - they were honest questioning - nothing to do with special pleading.
The one area I do disagree with you is the area of NDEs. I don't know if you are familair with the study of them, I have done a small study, there has been a reasonable amount of work done on them, and not surprisingly you are right that people are in trauma, but this does not make it baseless, and you cannot dismiss them as nonevidence, as scientifically they are evidence. They may be difficult to deal with, but they need explaining either at face value, or in another sceintific way. I would advise people to be careful when looking on the internet, as with most subjects there is a lot of mindless speculation and unhelpful comment - but scientifically NDEs must be taken seriously.
A final thought - my questioning was, in effective, how would an atheist answer these questions, so in the question of ethics I would appreciate knowing what you advocate.
I know your questions were honest and I have a lot of time and respect for you and your questions, you are clearly listening to what is said but sometimes your questions do seem to me to be based on false logic. I'm left with the feeling your waiting for an incomplete answer so using a false dichotomy you can put God in the gap and validate your beliefs.
Take your 'Evolutionary questions' thread. Four questions and I answered all of them but you didn't really acknowledge the first three and only concerned yourself with the why question part which there isn't really an answer for. It's clearly a difficult question as there is an infinite regress but a god is not an explanation at all and the Christian God needs special pleading to raise him above others non-explanation gods.
I asked questions about creationism being taught in schools here but you haven't engaged with them. Why? I'm happy to leave aside which poll it came the statistics came from question in favour of answering the others.
Basically I think ethics are human in origin. They come from our own decisions, desires, needs and influences of the society we find ourselves in. Where do you think they come from?
Fair point, Drew. I was referring to a posting in the God and evolution thread which quotes from a Guardian article which has 44% of people think that creationism should be taught in schools - I did not say I was advocating it, but if we are going to go with the zeitgeister. I would ask for clarrification - you use the term morality and reality as if they are different. By this do you mean that as morality cannot ever be shown to be scientifically provable it is not as real as say something that can?? I noted you brought in a comment about science, my questioning didn't mention science, and it sounded like you were setting up religion Vs science.
Ethics are founded upon our background and often external teaching, whether it be our parents, church or religious group, (or rejection of the predominant religion will impact upon our ethics), educational background, and a whole host of other things. So in this sense you have found common ground for me. Yet a Christian will (or at least should) use the teaching of Christ as the basis for morality, a Buddhist the teaching of the Buddha, a Muslim the Koran. This should have the effect that morality doesn't change drastically according to situation. (I appreciate it doesn't always, here we are talking about pure ethics and acknowledge it does go wrong) - I see an attractive girl and my inner self says that she is desirable, yet my ethics says that she is not a sexual play thing.
So that is my answer (long, I know) the Buddhist will find their ethics in the Buddha's teaching and Buddhism's view of the world, the Christian in Christ etc etc. I am not claiming here that we have to have religion for morality, but that the religious have a firm foundation for ethics which is shared corporately in community, and the question related to how (or can) the atheist find a basis for ethics?
I disagree that a god is not an explanation at all - the logic applied by Keith Ward, John Lennox, et al, may not satisfy you, and I am not saying it should, but it seems to me that if there is a question, like the why question, which you don't think "there isn't really an answer for" (does that satisfy an enquiring mind?) and some academics seek to show that the god proposition is rational then it is an explanation, rather than a nonexplanation, and should be considered even if then rejected.
Separate (but related) is the worthwhile activity of study of the great influential figures of our world, so Jesus, Buddha, Muhammed, are worth spending time for to understand much of the world, alongside other imporant developments in our world.
I want to finish, Drew, by thanking you for taking the trouble to reply.