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.
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
Hm-mm, wasn't it Nixon who signed the Environmental Protection Act? He was a different kind of conservative.
I'm competing in the inveterate iconoclast contest too. My credentials:
1. An ex-Catholic who questions all authorities and trashes most,
2. A life-long independent (dad a Dem and mom a Repub) whose work required him to move often and who for decades registered with whichever party regularly won general elections so I could help that party choose a candidate,
3. In 1974 the only moderate in the Repub primary for the AZ legislature (I liked Dem voters more than I did the grumpy Repub voters),
4. Who became a Dem activist when Reagan brought evangels into the Party,
5. Who says Al Gore and the Dems lost Florida in 2000, Gore for not stealing any of Nader's issues and the Dems for not knowing the race would be close (thanks in part to the Repub SecState who took the vote away from thousands of blacks),
6. Who says Dems refuse to see that taxes laid on businesses are added to customer prices,
7. Who says Dems lied us into war in VN and Repubs lied us into war in Iraq, and
8. Will register Green when that party gets serious and runs local and state candidates.
Mike, go deeper than the top of your head and you might win the inveterate iconoclast contest.
Who the hell told you that Richard Nixon was a Conservative of any kind, Tom?
-- Never mind, rhetorical question, I already know it's an all-too-common mis-perception...
Want me to run through the litany?
OSHA, expansion of Medicaid, wage and price controls, cut a horrendously bad deal with North Vietnam for completely personal political reasons, scuttled the Apollo Program and nearly destroyed NASA in the process (and yes, infrastructure is a legitimate function of government), the removal of gold backing from the Dollar, thereby creating a nearly hyper-inflationary spiral for a decade (and if you'd care to see what real hyper-inflation is about, you'll only have about a year to wait), rationing, rather than facilitating production in the face of the OPEC oil embargo...
Of course as you have already noted, there is what was probably his crowning atrocity, the Environmental Protection Agency.
Watergate was the least of it.
I could continue, but not without becoming violently nauseous.
The bastard was a consummate Fabian Socialist, a complete frickin' disaster, and I know of no one happier than I was when he resigned in 1974.
Hell, I still don't understand why the Left didn't worship him, or why Conservatives continue to try to defend him.
But we've kind of hijacked his thread here, and we're off subject.
If you'd care to take this over to the Politics venue and continue this, well then, I'm game.
I didn't realize I had entered into a competition, but I was the nine-year-old who asked old Father O'Brian (I shit you not, that was his name) in front of Sister Kasmir and about thirty classmates how we could really know there was a God.
Left every jaw in the room on the floor.
Laughed my ass off too -- at least 'til I got home...
I see no burden of proof, but Christians claim there is one. It's absurd. Their "reliable evidence" is the Bible, those 66 books all stitched together into one volume of "infallibility." This is the message to mankind. Now just take that first book Genesis and you see plainly that the "message" is so flawed that it's total bullshit. Original sin because of a tree of knowledge. It makes no sense to most modern day clergymen but they cannot throw it out because doing so makes them and religion no longer needed. If you have no "sin" then you have no reason to have a "redeemer." I do not have to prove that "there is no God" but I do say that if the "message" is so flawed then it follows logic thinking to say there is no "messenger." In other words, God does not want to talk to you and did not write instructions in a book! Christian apologists throughout the ages turn original sin into SEX. If you take the forbidden fruit literally then it must have been oral sex. Just on and on with more absurdity. No message - no messenger!
Seems to me, you don't have to prove there is no god. The believers are the ones making spectacular claims. They should be the ones to come forth with spectacular proof.