The level of ignorance in my generation when it comes to belief in god is incredible. I am consistently disappointed in my generation when it comes to participation and debate in the political and social realm. Here are my common arguments that consistently cannot be answered (and that get labeled "hateful" for a reason unbeknownst to me):
1. The burden of proof is essential, yet no one seems to understand the importance of this aspect. The burden lies with he or she who makes the first positive claim. The believer must be required to show proof of god's existence before anyone else can deny his existence or even inquire into what the characteristics of the divine may entail. For those that don't accept this proposition, I simply assert to them that there is an invisible teapot on the other side of the moon with a dwarf in it that shoots glitter out of its boobs -- and I ask them if they believe in this teapot. When they say no, I say "Why not?" and they seem to be puzzled (and this is where they claim I am "pushing my beliefs on others"). This brings me to the idea that since neither believers nor non-believers can prove their position, that they are somehow of equal weight and significance. This statement is in gross contradiction with the burden of proof. If neither stance can be empirically proven, then the rational stance is that which adheres to the principle of the burden of proof.
2. The emergence of process theology has posed a particular problem for secular philosophy. The best way of going about this conflict is the issue of predictability. Process theologians claim that god is simply polar in his or her characteristics. They claim that god is not compassionate, but our experience of him or her is compassionate. To me, this is simple word play and almost places theists into a Taoist/Confucian realm. The idea of predictability comes to be of great importance in the conversation between process theologians and secularists. These theologians will claim that god is omniscient, but that he or she only knows what is possible. The best way to confront this statement is pointing out that while the world is in fact unknowable, it is in no way, shape, or form unpredictable. Predictability relies not on knowing but predicting, which is something that our species has undoubtedly come very far in. We can predict, for example, how this world will end (either by the explosion of our sun or the collision of our galaxy with the Andromeda galaxy). This also raises quite a bit of questions when it comes to prophecies. If god cannot know the future because of our inherent capability of free will, where do the prophecies fit in that claim to know what future individuals will do? This is of great importance considering the discovery of the Gospel of Judas. If process theologians claim that god does not know what we will decide, then it makes perfect sense when the GOJ says that Jesus (if he even existed) told Judas to betray him. Process theology has essentially made the point that Jesus was a complete and utter fraud.
This is a great point Tony, for a few reasons. It does seem somewhat confounding to ask a christian to express how they can know something, because like you've cited above, it generally turns into a series of meaningless tautologies and circular logic. The way I read the above quote is basically like this: "I know because I know. I know who my God is, because I do", etc. At the end of the day, and despite the fact that it may well be a maddening thing for some atheists to let go of, we have to if we don't want to engage in an endless loop, resulting in a fantastic waste of our (and their) time. I like what Loren has said as well, but my experience has been that many theists (and by many, I mean almost all) don't feel any need whatsoever to justify leaps, or even tiny little hops, of faith. Why? Because their faith dictates their nobility. The more they have, the better they are. There are many, many good points on here and of the most contentious differences I see is simply between atheists who've (in my opinion) essentially come to give up, or at least know which fights are worth picking with theists. It's exhausting sometimes, and I'm a young person - I'm supposed to have a good deal of energy. :S Haha
Matthew, you're young?
Good, continue growing your brain. When my generation's mess comes down, you'll need all the brain power you have.
Yessir - still lots of time to learn about all the things I'd like to - if I'm lucky, I'll actually read about half of them haha
Tom said it exactly correctly, you are going to need all the wisdom you can muster. Our generation (I'm 76) leave you a terrible mess. I am so sorry. And at the same time, I understand personal problems that stem from systemic problems create great obstacles. It isn't easy to be an agent for change.
I think it's a human tendency to adopt guilt on behalf of one's cohorts/comrades/fellows/contemporaries/etc, but I assure you and Tom both, I carry no grudge for yours or any other generation! Each person works the best with what they're provided with, and to be honest, I'm sure I'll feel just as guilty and be apologizing to young people when I've lived my life as well :S
You make an excellent point, Matthew, and I am not trying to collect guilt and shame points here. I hope I can put into words what I mean. Here goes.
I have always tried to do the right thing and to be part of a solution when problems or conflicts rise. There was a time when I tried to dance on that knife edge of religious dogma and the more I tried the worse things got. It was only after I shucked religion, god, jesus, make-believe, delusions and denial that I became an effective and efficient problem and conflict solver.
The trick is to think, rationally, tune into heart (compassion) and gut (courage) and use these tools to explore options.
Many of my family and friends disagree with me, but remember that you are one of 7,078,861,700+ human beings on this planet and you do not exist to please anyone but yourself. Live according to your own lights, understanding you could be wrong. If you are wrong, change what you think, say, and do. If you think a problem through, with all the information you can gather, then stand on your principles.
Some will tell you that you cannot have morals without god and that is just plain silly. You have everything within you to make good, fair, kind, caring, compassionate thoughtful, intelligent, and reasoned decisions. Watch for effect of your decisions. Do you flourish? Does the other person have freedom to make his/her own decisions? Are you responsible for another person's decisions? Are you responsible for another's flourishing?
When you get that figured out, you can stand tall, firm, confident, competent and know you do the very best you can.
Now, as to feeling shame and guilt about passing on to your generation, my children's', grandchildren's and great-grandchildren's' generations, of course I am not the "one" who made this mess in our country. You must be aware by now that USA is in far deeper problem than the news will allow you to know.
Therefore, it is up to you and the other generations to become self-reliant, self-sufficient, independent/interdependent. You are not alone; as a homo sapiens your DNA includes the need for community. That means learning how to communicate, problem solve, resolve conflict, negotiate, compromise, and a lot of interpersonal skills that will bring you greater happiness and joy and safety and liberty than trying to live according to some religious dogma born out of the Bronze Age and morphed into power hungry, controlling leaders. Trust yourself. You have all that you need.
Absolutely - I wouldn't ever assume you to be a proprietor of false humility, Joan haha. The task of goodness or morality IS up to each individual, you are absolutely right.
I agree completely - I think one sees the mistakes and contrary nature of our own generational ignorance and just shakes their head. I can't even imagine how much different the world will look when my life is over. The changes I anticipate (if one can even anticipate something they can't possibly understand or predict) stagger me sometimes.
"I can't even imagine how much different the world will look when my life is over."
So true, Matthew. While in those Catholic school religion classes hearing nuns describing the wonders of heaven, all I could see was myself in a rocking chair looking down at earth watching what people are doing.
Those nuns might as well have been talking a foreign language.
In my family, most members cannot imagine no god exists. Some often question me about my inability to have morals, or that I will burn in hell for eternity, that murderers and rapists will go to heaven if they acknowledge Jesus as their lord and savior.
Obviously, this makes no sense to me and I say so. Thus, I am "an enemy of the family". We come from puritan stock from England in the 1630's and unbeknown to them, our ancestors cut off noses of Quaker heretics, accused and tried witches at Salem even as they benefited from their deaths, one was a slave trader of great wealth and he gets paraded around for others to admire, not knowing how he made his fortune. When I told them, they denied it vehemently because he was a christian.
Being a black sheep in my family, and "radical" some of them have a morbid curiosity about my no-god, no-morals, no-purpose, no-meaning; they ask me questions implying that I am what they say I am. The fun begins because I have read enough and learned enough to know the difference between delusion and reality, denial and awareness.
The rule, "no discussion of religion and politics in polite society" is as foolish as their perception of me. I relish a good rousing debate; it keeps me on my toes, and for some reason, they come back to hear more.
My intent is not to take away their crutch, or to make them feel worthless or insignificant or alone and helpless. Rather, it is to each one that he or she has a mind that functions, mostly, and a body capable of action, even if not as well as years gone by.
Their training in the family, at school and in church was to obey, submit, surrender, memorize answers, and look to others for solutions. They have everything they need to make decisions and take action and make changes if what they do does not work. Failure is OK and so is risk taking.
“Take the risk of thinking for yourself, much more happiness, truth, beauty, and wisdom will come to you that way.
(~ Christopher Hitchens' Closing statement of the debate with William Dembski at Prestonwood Baptist Church, Plano, Texas, November 18, 2010)”
Video of Hitchens' closing statement: http://youtu.be/-k1Jr0fp0dE?
I completely agree with the comment that even in dying, he was better than ever. A magnificent example of a robust humanist response to religion and death.
There are many possibilities for a secular funeral/memorial, and I have attended at least a couple. But most people are devastated by the death of someone close, and clerics are all too ready to provide the go-to option.
I agree with your "Their training in the family, at school and in church was to obey, submit, surrender, memorize answers, and look to others for solutions."
However, they don't have everything they need. Their training denied them the self confidence they needed "...to make decisions and take action and make changes...."
In twelve years in Catholic schools, I developed no confidence in my ability to make decisions, et cetera. My need to rebel kept me from becoming a submissive. In college (paid for by taxpayers via the GI Bill) I found reason to disbelieve.
Going to war made a happy life possible.