Using your argument. How can anyone KNOW that there are no fairies, leprechauns, boogey man, 'the devil' etc?
Why should anyone have to prove a negative when no-one has yet proven a positive?
Some folk claim to have 'met' god and christians all cry halleloujah, he exists!! An Atheist claims that they've not met god. Do all 'probable atheists' (seeing as, according to you they can't exist) claim the non-existence of god? Or do they just get on with their lives?
Atheism is a philosophy, it's not a belief. Christianity is an insecure state of mind, and ne'er the twain shall meet!
Agnosticism is purely, sitting on the fence until the 'bandwagon' rolls along and on they will jump!
An atheist is someone who has weighed up the possibilities and come down on the side of 'most likely senario'. It isn't just empirical evidence we find lacking lack, it is also thousands of years worth of hard evidence that the religious are no better than the non-religous and quite often a lot more harmful to their fellow man than helpful. Surely if God actually existed he'd be a bit more emotionally intellegent than his followers have you believe...
Unfortunately your dictionary is wrong (or you have misinterpreted it). It is (or you are) confusing belief with knowledge. Atheism is the DISBELIEF in Gods or deities. An Atheist doesn't believe in God or Gods. There is no claim of "knowing" anything. Just, as P. Dillon points out, a disbelief of fairies does not mean that you know they don't exist. As far as I can see this thread has been debating beliefs all along.
Of course you are right when you say "none of us KNOWS which version is "true"", but unfortunately, while we atheists agree with you, a significant proportion of the religious people in this world absolutely reject this assertion.
What does that say about the two philosophical camps?
Belief or Disbelief does not exist in a vacuum. There is a qualitative difference between a belief based on a rational foundation, backed up with evidence and/or lack of evidence (both in this case - lots of evidence to support the theory of evolution vs no evidence whatsoever to support the existence of God), or a completely irrational one (such as that all religious belief is based on - no disrespect intended - but faith is not the rational position. That is what is supposed to make having faith special, and what makes believers `spiritual') based on nothing more than a handed down received 'wisdom'.
Atheism does not involve KNOWING there is no God. That is as impossible as KNOWING there is a God. Atheism describes the lack of belief in a god or gods. It is that simple. Atheists certainly do exist in the same way Christians, who cannot KNOW there is a God, exist. Yes, it is all about beliefs but some beliefs are better than others - not all beliefs are on an equal footing and that is where the heart of any debate on the supernatural will lie.
Agnosticism is another matter altogether. An atheist can be (and in a practical sense, must be) an agnostic. But so can a Christian because an agnostic is someone who believes that some proposition cannot, in principle, be known. So, one can be agnostic about the existence of God even while believing and having faith in God. That is the nature of faith: believing without proof or evidence, that is, without knowing. One can be agnostic about anything in fact, for example one can be agnostic (in an immediate and simplistic sense) on the existence of extra-terrestrial life. Agnosticism and atheism are not at opposite ends of the scale: they are two completely separate scales.
So, atheism describes a particular lack of belief and agnosticism describes the intellectual position that questions like the existence of God can never be unequivocally answered or known. When it comes to atheism, theism, and agnosticism, the only two that are at opposite ends of a scale are theism and atheism (a scale of belief), both of which are quite comfortable being mixed in with agnosticism (a scale of knowing).
I will go further and suggest that many agnostics, lacking an active belief in God, are actually atheists, too, for that is what "atheism" means - anyone, agnostics included, who does not actively believe in God is by definition an atheist. But many so-called agnostics prefer not to use "atheist" to describe themselves because they mistakenly believe atheism means claiming positive knowledge there is no God, which is of course not something any intelligent person would do. The term "atheist" has also fallen victim to a millennia-long religion-inspired smear campaign to the point that today people intuitively feel it is a "bad" word that is used to describe the morally bankrupt, the eternally condemned, and the intellectually perverse. People instead flock to "agnosticism" as their label of choice and in so doing lose the proper meaning of the term "atheist" and add to the meaning of the term "agnostic" in order to fit it to their needs.
Philosophers sometimes divide atheists into two broad camps. The first camp is filled with positive atheists: they believe there is no God. Negative atheists, however, populate the other camp: they merely lack belief in a God, which is quite another thing from believing there is no God. Neither camp involves KNOWING anything for sure. I myself am of the latter camp, a negative atheist. This is the state all of us are intellectually born into. A negative atheist makes no outrageous claims on the non-existence of any deity and has nothing to defend intellectually. Similarly, I have no need to defend my disbelief in a Cosmic Teapot that orbits our sun. Moving into the theistic or supernatural camp and even the agnostic camp can only come after being educated (some will ungenerously say brain-washed) into those positions. An agnostic must be taught the notion of God before reaching a state of agnosticism.
Of course, many people are "self-educated" by means of a personal or revelatory experience they choose to interpret as proof positive of the supernatural (in the face of other naturalistic or psychological explanations), but that scenario I see as stemming from a lack knowledge of alternative explanations or ignorance of the nature of the human brain and its capabilities and qualities in shaping our subjective experience and our subjective needs, hopes, and desires. This is very often because these people are in fact children at the time and they have not yet had the benefit of a proper education about the workings of the natural world. People build some strange notions about the world during their childhood which also render them vulnerable to supernatural or magical thinking - evidenced, I believe, by the popularity of New Age beliefs, alternative medicine, spiritual aliens, John Edwards and his "Crossing Over" show, feng shui, fire walking, dowsing, psychics, etc. Some children are convinced they have invisible friends (a "binker" according to A. A. Milne in his delightful poem of the same name) and I cannot help but suspect some people never grow out of that comforting notion. They just upgrade their invisible friend. Certainly more study is required on religiosity in people who had invisible friends as children. But I digress. Certainly, people may know all about the alternative explanations of certain phenomena or spiritual experiences in theory but they choose not to rigorously put the various options to the test, as it were. American abductees (of the alien sort) are amongst those who know all about hypnopompic and hypnogogic states, sleep paralysis, etc. but still choose to believe the alien abductions are real even when they happen under laboratory conditions in full sight of sleep disorder experts who see nothing beyond ordinary, if occasionally disturbed, sleeping and waking in their patients. These "abductees" are convinced of the reality of the abduction and often overwhelmed by the "significance" of it - they describe something very much like a religious experience, in fact. Some feel chosen to hear a special message for humankind, others are terrified by malignant ETs with unfathomable and evil designs on humanity, and most feel a profound sense of some or other cosmic Purpose.
Anyway, describing oneself as agnostic on the existence of God seems pointless as far as labeling oneself goes. Describing oneself as a humanist or naturalist (as opposed to supernaturalist) is far more meaningful a label. Atheism, too, is largely useless as a label because it does not tell one much about those whom it describes. Knowing someone is an atheist does nothing to inform one of their politics, their ethical values, or even their views on science or evolution, for example. So, sure, I am an atheist but I prefer the term naturalist or secular humanist.
Agnosticism in practice (when someone calls themselves that in order to describe their position on religion) has always smacked somewhat of intellectual cowardice to me, or at least of undue compromise to unwarranted belief in the supernatural. It is the ultimate form of fence-sitting that in practice entails the self-styled agnostic not ever seriously bothering with the question of whether we can trust science because we live in a naturalistic world, or not. This is an important question and to ignore it or pooh-pooh it as a futile endeavour because both sides are mere beliefs is to do humanity a disservice. Belief is a powerful social force that shapes societies into just or unjust systems. One chooses ones beliefs carefully as a civilized human being. Some beliefs are hard won over centuries of thought and some beliefs are judged so pernicious that the execution or imprisonment of the believers is thought just.
The atheistic position does not have to be conclusively proved in order to be judged superior to the theist position, or vice versa. Just because absolute knowledge is not to be had on the question does not mean that one cannot weigh evidence and philosophical arguments in order to come to a decision on which side to favour on its merits or probable truth. That said, I regard myself as agnostic on the existence of God but I know agnosticism does not not preclude atheism, and atheism (or naturalism) is where I hang my ontological hat. There is nothing in this world that suggests to me the necessity of supernatural agents at work in the universe. If one may suggest that God is a brute fact of the universe that requires no proof then I can see no reason not to regard the Godless universe's existence as a brute fact, too. God may exist despite all reasonable evidence to the contrary but so can the universe exist without God. The universe may just be like that - Godless - despite all our yearning for it to be otherwise.
Like Laplace on the existence of God, without being "fundamentalist" in my atheistic beliefs, I merely have no need of that hypothesis, and in some cases the God hypothesis is contrary to all reason or morality. Very religious countries or communities are plagued by intolerance, conservatism in politics, and human rights abuses, the death penalty, discrimination against women and gays, internet and media censorship, irrational policies on abortion and contraceptive use (especially in AIDs ridden Africa) and vaccine use (e.g. Gardasil to prevent cervical cancer in young women) and many more examples than I could ever imagine, no doubt. The naturalist view of the universe (which of necessity includes atheism) should be the intellectual starting point of everyone because at least we can all agree there is an actual world we live in and it broadly seems to work in a certain way - I have just found no compelling reason to shift from that view and I suspect people do so only because of psychological motivations like comfort, notions of beauty, or fear in the face of a bleak, stark existence, and so on. Faith based religion would not exist without death. That we all die seems to underlie every motivation towards faith based religion. There are also many very good biological or evolutionary reasons that can be given to explain why humans create religions. All of these would have to be refuted before considering supernatural explanations.
In short, yes, both the theistic and the naturalist camp are species of belief. But this does not mean that they are of equal weight or equally true. I also believe one can go a long way to discover which belief is backed more by evidence and experience and which belief leads to the greatest good overall. The more people are educated, the more widely they are read, the more they have immersed themselves in the visible and wondrous workings of the universe, the less religious they become. One sure fire way to decrease religiosity in people is to send them to university and as a general rule the more educated societies are the least religious. As Jesus is reported to have said, "You will always have the poor with you." And so, we will always have the religious with us.
Without expressing my own religous/non religous tendancies , I really must point out to Mr Tozer that his abusive responses to a 'debate' really are typical of what puts many people off religion and seeking any sound basis in it. The very nature of a debate requires opposing opinions to be put and becoming offensive both undermines the abusers' opinions ( since he seems only to be able to retort to abuse than argument), and is wholly unnecessary in the pursuit of healthy discussion.I dont believe that the recipient of your abusive belittleing comments (p Dillon) actually used any such inferences in his initial post and was therefore undeserving of such. He was merely expressing his own opinion as is his right.You allowed yourself to promote deteriation of the discussion and at the same time undermined the strength of your case in the readers eyes by revealing such an immature attitude to healthy debate.I would imagine that anyone reading this discussion in pursuit of guidance one way or another, would be more swayed by people capable of sticking to rational thoughts/feelings etc as they see it, rather than those people that resorted to abusive tactics which surely infers subconcious realisation of loss of the argument on the abusers part.
As you state, my original post was 'my opinion' and I was not asking for his views on that. When Tozer started to 'get angry' I deliberately teased him to see what a good christian he really was. What you see is how most so-called good christians respond to anyone with opposing views.
Tozer then told us 'he was only 17 and immature'. Typical response when shown up for what these kind of people really are.
Ironically, although Tozer wouldn't have got it, it just shows that with that attitude how wrong they (christians) are when they actually believe that religion is not responsible for most wars. They live a life of self denial.
"I am not referring to atheists in general as callous. I am referring to atheists who seek to crush the concept of religion in a ruthless and brainless manner callous.
My point was not that Einstein was deeply religious or indeed religious at all. My point was that Einstein, Hawking and many more eminent scientists and vastly intelligent individuals do not quash the concept of the existence of God or "a" god."
This is a fundamental conflation, one of the many examples of poor logic displayed by theists. The existence or non-existence of god is a separate question from that of religion. You can have a god without there being religion. Religion is the organised worship of god by humans - organised, institutionalised, narrow-minded, brutal and crushing to human freedom.
I have enjoyed reading this discussion from beginning to end. Most of the posts are written in a spirit of genuine debate, which is good to see. (I say most - Mr Tozer and Mr Dillon, you might look back upon some of your infantile exchanges of insults and be well and truly embarrased; that's a shame, because you both made some excellent points otherwise.)
For me, the Bible is seriously undermined by its tales of 'miracles' - walking on water, feeding the 5,000 with two loaves and ten fish, turning water into wine, and of course resurrecting from the dead. I would be interested to hear a Christian's views on these alleged events.
I have observed that one argument crops up repeatedly: that religion is neccesary to provide moral guidance. This argument is fallacious.
It would seem that Christians believe that killing is wrong because God says so. God makes killing wrong. So if God said that killing was right, would killing be right?
The fact of the matter is that we just KNOW that it is wrong to kill, whatever any religious text says. Even if the Bible or Koran said it was right, it would still be wrong.
Therefore, morality and religion are absolutely separate. A person's 'goodness' is independent of his religious belief. So what is the point of his religion? And, as it can be shown that religion and morality are not fundamentally related, is it not possible for some parts of some religions to be immoral?
"The existence or non-existence of god is a separate question from that of religion. You can have a god without there being religion."
I'm afraid that is just another chicken/egg scenario. Gods are worshipped by many people. Those people stick together and form cults. Which are classed as religions. It's kind of...'Are you the Peoples Front of Judea?' 'F*** Off, we're the Judean Peoples Front!!' If you get my drift.
Atheists who seek to crush the concept of religion? Well just take the situation with Salman Rushdie v Muslims. Muslims believe they have the right to annihalate a human being on the grounds of blasphemous references. So that's not classed as a ruthless and brainless manner then?
Atheists/ antitheists don't attempt to crush anything. When provoked they give their opinions. But quite frankly, just on the basis of Rushdie's fatwa, atheists have every right to crush EVERY religion.
As for W.Thomas
Why should I feel embarrassed? I undermined a so-called christian so that they would respond as he actually did, in an unchristian manner. That was my intention and if you read my posts you would have realised that. I am not here to pass opinions of yourself so, please refrain from judging me.
Why do you assume that I'm a Mr? I assume that you are W.Thomas and maybe a Mr, Mrs, Miss or Ms. Until proven otherwise that is how you will be addressed.
I apologize for making an assumption about your gender.
Please be assured that I have read all of the posts on here in great detail. I agree with almost every point you've made, and must admire your systematic, critical deconstruction of all of the arguments put to you. I cannot find any flaw in your logic. That is why I think that phrases like "Tosser sorry Tozer", "arrogant tozers like Tozer", "you pillock", "you silly little person" (taken from your posts on 20 and 21 June) are unbecoming of a person of your obvious intellect. That is why I suggested that you might be embarrassed: that the integrity of your otherwise excellent discourse should be compromised by the occasional childish name-call. One might expect it from a 17-year-old.
In your 25 June post you indicated the resentment that you feel at having had religion forced upon you in your youth. I feel the same, I really do. But while "deliberately winding the guy up and extracting the urine" might be a justifiable reaction in the case of somebody who lacks the intelligence to debate, you have proved that you do not fit this description. You could have won your argument with Mr. Tozer on every single front without having to resort to playground tactics.
I agree that I could have won my argument without resorting to 'playground tactics' as you put it, but like I did mention, I was having a bit of fun. I don't and can't take religion,god and theism seriously, regardless of how people may react to my opinions. I certainly don't feel embarrassed and I most definately would not apologise for my opinions if they offended anyone.
Tozer stated that he's only 17, etc. Good tactic when you're on the defensive, look for a bit of empathty!!
I would like to ask a couple of questions having read "The God Delusion". There are a number of seductive arguments in there, but I would like to ask what people think of the following, which summarise some of Dawkins most seductive arguments and my thoughts on them.
1) Dawkins asserts that if the probability of human existence is next to nothing, the probability of an even more complex being (God) must be lower. It's probably his most seductive argument in the whole book, but...Let's not equivocate about what God is - God supposedly exists inside and outside of space and time, is not an organism and is not (solely) physical. Can someone tell me how and if one could apply probability to such an entity, because I don't see how one could? Probability is physical and applies to space. You're left saying "we can't measure God, we don't have the technology and God's not physical" which is exactly the position at the beginning of the argument
2) Russell's teapot/ pink invisible unicorns etc. etc. - to me this is a lexically clever way of saying God is so ridiculous we shouldn't even bother trying to measure it. We actually understand what a teapot is - we manufacture them, as far as we know we're the only ones in the universe that do. We can therefore be as certain as possible there isn't one in orbit around Mars, because nobody from earth has put one there. Do the same rules apply to God?
3) the idea that we have simply "evolved" to do all the good things religion is often credited with inspiring (music, art, buildings, charity, legal systems etc.) but there are a number of bad things we only do because of peoples' obsession with religion (wars, intolerance, suicide bombings etc.) seems to me to be inherently contradictory too. I cannot think of or imagine a society unbounded by some form of ideology and unwilling to defend or potentially expand that view with force, theist or atheist. Religious wars, I believe, have sound Darwinistic causation.
I am educated and intelligent, and free thinking, and I think there might be a God - I can't discount it. The real "cop out" to me comes not from those who say that because our origin is unexplained, God must have done it, but from those who say that because we cannot really make sense of the universe at this juncture in our history, the universe therefore cannot make sense, instead of being humble and admitting that human civilization is still at a fairly early stage of scientific discovery. We can't even agree on what causes Global Warming after all. Whilst empiricist thinking (Occam's razor etc.) is a good principle in many instances, I think it has failings in dealing with things which are complex, where the evidence is incomplete or where the evidence is contradictory. Global Warming and God are two good examples.
I have an instinctive feeling about the way this debate might develop. Whilst some scientists are currently trying to say that Science and God are not compatible, new technology may make it possible, in some ways at least, to measure God. Science may, in the end, bring us closer to God than religion ever has.
M.j MUIR's has, I beleive, brought up some valuable points on the compatability of Religion and science. I am strongly atheist but just because I am a firm believer in science does'nt mean that I think science is right.Time and time again past beliefs in science have been completly changed by new theories. Who knows? Perhaps in the future, science will find there is a god.
can i just say.. u want proof soo much u forgot what faith is all about. thats exactly what it is, not being guided by the things u see but by faith, a belief, a hope. i feel like u will keep trying to find it all ur life, but in the end, there will always be something/one that will go against it and u'll be left confused again. this is one of those questions only ur searching soul can answer.
what a happy life u must lead! "oh well... i guess ill have some more children, make some silly "love" to my wife a few more times and die... yay what a life iv lived" where on earth do u think u got ur emotions from? ur deep abilities to decide and analyse. basically, from what im hearing, u seem like u have nothing at all to look forward to in ur lifetime, apart from some earthly pleasures that will pass and die with you.
lol ur joking right. u think that god wud think that? "oh i wont do it cos then they'll know im real". its more like he doesnt because he knows fully ahead how the christians condition may affect others in the future, positively or negatively, summing up to much better consiquences in the long term.
Thanks Mrs Thomas. I believe in science too, but science has some holes in it which many scientists seem unwilling to admit to. Darwinism, for example, cannot mechanistically explain how the first single cell organism was created, how mutlicellular organisms evolved from it or even how mutation adds to a genome. This isn't to say we won't have an explanation, but Darwinism is one of the better understood branches of science, far better understood than, say, cosmogenesis, but it still has big holes in it which some scientists seem unwilling to admit to.
Even the generation of the thoughts I am expressing here and the nature of consciousness is not really well understood by science.
Refering back to Dawkin's 747 gambit - The whole question of probability and how it applies to God (who supposedly created the physical, ergo probability itself), or how it could even apply to nothingness (from which atheists believe we arose by a random event, theists believe we arose by design) is another big hole. Theist or atheist, you are left with the idea that "nothingness" was governed by a law.....
What disturbs me though, is that people seem to be polarising into two camps - Dawkinsian anti-theists on one hand and fundamentalists on the other.
I don't think it's possible to go through life and not wonder, at some stage, whether it has meaning. Shouldn't we all just be a little humble in our search for the truth?
You can't 'believe' in science. It is not a set of beliefs that can be accepted or rejected. Science is the method by which things are found out. You may as well say you believe in the laws of physics. Of course not believing in them still means you are bound by them.