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.
I've been on both sides of this (de-converted a few months ago), what I tend to forget these days is that religious minds are CLOSED. When I was christian (wish I couldn't say that; or this:) I would end any argument about god's existence with "you don't understand, it's about faith/believing", this made sense to me because thier arguments just proved how they don't get it.
Remember religion is the one thing they don't let reason near, no matter how skeptical or logical they are about everthing else, I was studing science then too, the contradiction only served to give me pride in the strength of my faith.
I would STOP THINKING when I happened upon a thought that didn't agree with religion, because it was blasphemy (now I know that my faith would have shattered, as it did) and then go pray to ask forgivness and for god to take away my doubt.
IN SHORT reason does not work, not sure how useful this is, but worth keeping in mind.
What does work to some extent (this was where my faith started cracking) is the idea that I could just as easily have been raised in another religion and thier faith was just as strong as mine, thier religion just as "true" to them and thier book just as holy.
it's not doable in any language.. you gotta just shove em' and say "where's your god(s) now!?"
proof is in how Dawkins put it.. "you are hallucinating"
bunch of bs ~ why bother w/all the time wasted one could have fed some homeless folks, ate some cannabis egg fry, got laid.. nature walked in the morning.. and repeat the process san'faith in whatever.. megh MEGH! i tell u! > : )
~ tick tock
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.
They are equal. Unless you can put a probability percentage on either option, you have no reason to believe one position is more likely than the other. And nobody can put a figure on it. Dawkins calls himself a 6 out 7 in disbelief but he plucked that figure out of the air.
This statement is in gross contradiction with the burden of proof.
That's an emotional statement. Absence of evidence does not put any more weight on the atheist position. None at all. You have simply emotionally demanded that belief in god must require some evidence. But that emotional demand does nothing at all to the weight of argument. It simply tells you that (a) you are unhappy about the lack of evidence (b) our brains are geared to believe based on evidence and (c) if god really exists then he is sadistic.
But being unhappy about a sadistic god does not make such a god any less likely to exist. We simply cannot know.
Ergo, all atheists arrive at their position not due to rationality, but due to emotional preference. Without either position having more rational weight, we are forced to shrug our shoulders and make an emotional preference. The sooner you recognise that, the sooner you can get past your "sick and tired" emotional state.
And yes, I am an atheist.
*They are equal. Unless you can put a probability percentage on either option, you have no reason to believe one position is more likely than the other.
I have to disagree. Juries come to generally accurate decisions about guilt and innocence all the time without ever being able to assign an accurate probability percentage to either outcome. The reason people believe things should (in my view) be based on the evidence available combined with reason.
* Absence of evidence does not put any more weight on the atheist position
A lot of the time, it does. Theists make various claims about their particular god(s), and when we find no evidence to support these claims, it lends more credence to the view that their god(s) do not exist.
In order to start seriously considering an idea at all (e.g. a god exists), there needs to be
some reason or evidence to support this idea otherwise you are just believing in something simply because you feel like it or because other people feel like believing it and tell you it's true.
If I claim that leprechauns are responsible for all the gambling wins in Las Vegas, the absence of evidence for this lends weight to the view that the claim is false. There is a reasonable (i.e. using reason as opposed to emotion) demand for evidence by those who disagree with me, and both points of view are not equally valid until either one is proven or a probability is assigned to each.
I find it more logical to believe that natural processes are responsible for everything (as many are demonstrable and have led to useful discoveries) than any sort of gods (which have never been shown to cause anything, or even exist).
* But being unhappy about a sadistic god does not make such a god any less likely to exist
* We simply cannot know
I partially agree. Despite the fact that we cannot know in an absolute sense, I still think we can be certain based on the evidence.
The odds of winning the California state lottery are about 1 in 176 million. If I buy one ticket, I can basically guarantee that it will not be the winning ticket. I could be wrong, but there is a 99.99999943% chance that I am right. It would be gross stupidity for me to quit my job, buy an expensive car, boast to my friends or alter my behaviour in any way based on a serious belief that I held the winning ticket.
Therefore I would definitely say that my position as an atheist is due to rationality rather than emotional preference. The same can be said for most of the atheists I have had discussions with.
Then proof should be no problem cough it up.
Mike, I very much like your answer, especially, "All I had to do was to conduct my life in as ethical a manner as I could (thereby giving lie to the contention that Atheists are incapable of ethical behavior) and leave them to their ignorance."
That makes good sense to me and an option that leaves the dispute dangling with no one trying to convert another.
If I am asked a questions, I answer as honestly as I can. If a creationist attempts to bring Intelligent Design into the science classroom, I take a strong ground and refer them to history or sociology or comparative religion.
All we need to do is be clear about what we believe and go from there.
Mike, I envy your post's clarity. I followed your reasoning as pleasurably as I follow music I like.
I was one of five kids my dad sent to Catholic schools. While in them I knew I had only one cheek tp turn but the thought of there being no god didn't enter my awareness. Before my dad died (35 yrs ago) he knew we had all left the faith, which I came to see as a nice revenge.
I do have one question: how iconoclastic is an iconoclast as inveterate as any I'll ever meet?
Excellent post! I utterly agree. Was it Dawkins who said that miraculous claims demand miraculous proof. If the burden of proof as you rightly indicate is on the one making the claim (e.g. "There is a God" or "God exists," then you can demand some proof. As there will be none unless resort is made to fallacious argument (e.g. "The Bible says there is a God") you can explain circular reasoning and so forth but remember, you always do so with tongue in cheek: you cannot argue with dogma and you will never win. These people have to be -- you should pardon the term -- enlightened. They must be made to say, "I am born again! I accept Charles Darwin as my Lord and Savior and I forever denounce evil and sin as represented by Iadldabaoth, otherwise known as Yahweh, Jehovah, Jesus, &c." In other words you have to become a Gnostic. You do not believe, you know, and gnosis is natural selection and DNA.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
-- Carl Sagan