I signed on to AN briefly at work and this 20yo girl, who never really thought about it, was looking at the title of this thread and said, "That's so sad". I said, "Why?". She said that she didn't know, really, but that she didn't go to church or anything, but that it is sad that there are people who don't believe in a higher power. I explained that it is not stemming from a negative place emotionally, but a commitment to reality, which turns out to actually be more moral and more amazing. She followed with the idea of how can people do the right thing if not guided by religion and I explained while it might have been somewhat useful in the past before we had relatively ubiquitous education and relatively objective laws that every individual must abide by. When she insisted that but this and but that, the conversation came to faith, which she thinks she arrives at by being logical and reasonable. This has happened many times with theists, in my experience. They do not see how faith is, by definition, the denial of reality and belief in the absence of evidence or logical coherence. Since she thinks that the bible, what her parent's taught her and the number of people that believe and that people have believed this stuff for centuries as evidence and not illogical. So, basically I am suggesting that when you discuss faith with theists, many are unwilling to accept that faith is not sufficient as a valid source of knowledge and any conversation about faith will likely result in a discussion of the irrationality of a contradictory idea and the impossibility of the existence of an omnipotent/omniscient being who created everything as well as the impossibility of the existence of an invisible pink unicorn. What kind of discussion with theists about their faith do you think is proper? And how is it that it will not degenerate into them just demonstrating that they are dummies? Is a discussion of someone else's faith not also a discussion on irrationality and a demonstration of the nonexistence of the object of people's faith?
The way I see it, the manner of programming of perceptions into concepts early in life creates a physical neurologically stored complex knowledge base that must be used for every thought and when someone who was programmed as a theist or mystic of another kind is likely too far gone and to change their mind is to unravel their identity which is based on all previously programmed patterns of electro-neurochemical transmission. Therefore, imo, even though I do do it regularly, it is only for the undecided's and younger people's sakes to witness the debate, but if one believes in god, they are likely programmed that way and beyond reason.
Asa, you say, "We can go a lot further with such a discussion, because now we are talking about something that is real, the results of which are clearly observable." I'm sorry, but I have tried this and it simply doesn't work any better than outright denying the existence of their deity, which is more honest and direct. As Michael points out, the faithful are proud of their faith. They think it makes them special and important, noble and heroic. They think that faith is not only valid, but more important than evidence and reason. If you attack the object of their faith, you are attacking something they care about. If you attack their faith, you are attacking them.
Michael, I'm not sure I totally understand the deconversion process, but I think it's usually a death of a thousand cuts, and it often happens in a person's middle age. I suspect there are few deconversions after 60 or so, but I do think that it's worth chipping away at the faithful up until then. You never know whether yours is the straw that breaks the camel's back, perhaps years later.
Michael and Jason;
“Is a discussion of someone else's faith not also a discussion on irrationality and a demonstration of the nonexistence of the object of people's faith?”
Well, yea, maybe, but is it not better than you assuming the responsibility of demonstrating “the nonexistence of the object of people's faith”?
"Asa, you say, "We can go a lot further with such a discussion, because now we are talking about something that is real, the results of which are clearly observable." I'm sorry, but I have tried this and it simply doesn't work any better than outright denying the existence of their deity, which is more honest and direct."
As I wrote to TNT666:
"Let theists mistake faith for certainty."
Atheists shouldn’t be making that mistake.
When a theist encounters an atheist, he should not meet a mirror reflecting an opposite faith, but, rather, a theological blank slate which does not require the same justification that the theist’s assertions do.
"I see absolutely no justification to make my mind a blank slate of theism."
So, what aspects of theistic faith do you embrace, and do you feel compelled to advocate them to other theists?
You’d better not come knocking at my door handing out pamphlets.
If you are a member here at A/N it is assumed you have abandoned theism, theology and, perhaps, even faith, but reading the postings on the 79 pages of this thread, yours included, I am coming to the conclusion that many here are obsessed with theology, theism, and, yes, even the existence of gods.
Reading some of these philosophical/theological essays you’d think not having faith in the existence of gods was akin to rocket science in complexity.
Is not having faith such a difficult thing to achieve or admit?
Just what more need be said about it all other than “I do not posses faith in the existence of gods”?
Do you feel that you have to justify your lack of theology theologically?
Or that you must intellectually achieve some level of “certainty” about the non existence of a theological construct?
Theologians have spent countless hours, and written endless tracts justifying faith in the existence of gods.
A simple atheist does not need to write on any theological blank slate. Leave it blank. Better yet, toss it altogether.
Asa, you confuse certainty with faith. They are not the same. Further, I'm not convinced that it is impossible to prove a negative. Even if it is, the "existence" of an imaginary being doesn't enter into that territory. It starts out being nonexistent, so there's no work to do to prove that it doesn't exist. We know for sure that it doesn't exist because it is clearly a figment of the imagination. That's not a kind of faith, despite your assertions.
In any case, I have to wonder why you're wasting so much time on this thread if you're just a simple atheist who doesn't want to waste time on such things.
When I wrote:
"Let theists mistake faith for certainty.
Atheists shouldn’t be making that mistake."
And you respond:
"Asa, you confuse certainty with faith. They are not the same."
WTF am I to think of that?
That contradiction is your idea of discourse?
That you don’t even read my posts, much less give them any thought?
The achievement of “certainty” is the very goal the theist is trying to reach, and the theist mistakes faith as the path to certainty.
BUT, in the case of an object of faith, he is right.
The only path to “certainty” about an object of faith is faith itself.
If an atheist does not posses faith, why even join theists on that trail? Why the obsession to achieve “certainty” about the (non)existence of gods?
And, no, I do not confuse certainty with faith.
Asa, look again at what I wrote and what you wrote. You are complaining that theists arrive at certainty via faith. I agree that is a mistake. But dismissing certainty because some people cheat to get there is where you confuse certainty with faith. I don't think that you achieve certainty thru faith; I think you mistakenly dismiss the possibility and value of certainty because you associate it with faith. You think they are hopelessly intertwined, thus my assertion that you confuse them.
We are not trying to "achieve" certainty about the non-existence of gods. We are positively asserting that that is the default position, and it's nuts to give the possibility the benefit of any doubt whatsoever, given the inherent logical contradictions, utter lack of positive evidence, and mountains of negative evidence. This is not "faith". It is not playing the theist's game. It is pointing out that the theist's game is a 100% non-starter, not a 99.99999% unlikelihood. You're the one playing the theist's game by indulging their fantasies with legitimizing talk about their faith as being something real and worth discussing.
"Asa, look again at what I wrote and what you wrote. You are complaining that theists arrive at certainty via faith.
I agree that is a mistake."
So far, so good.
"But dismissing certainty because some people cheat to get there is where you confuse certainty with faith."
Huh? Didn’t you just agree with me in the sentences above?
"I don't think that you achieve certainty thru faith; I think you mistakenly dismiss the possibility and value of certainty because you associate it with faith."
Yes, when discussing an object of faith, which is the subject of this entire forum.
"You think they are hopelessly intertwined, thus my assertion that you confuse them."
They are hopelessly intertwined when discussing an object of faith.
There is no other way to reach “certainty” one way or the other, about an object of faith without assuming faith.
There is no way to discuss the existence or non existence of gods without stepping into the realm of faith.
Once you make the statement: “There is no god” you have walked down the same path as the theist, and have embraced faith. There is no other way to reach certainty about an object of faith (one way or the other) but to embrace faith.
You claim to have used logic/reason, and science, but logic/reason and science have nothing to say about the existence or non existence of objects of faith.
You seem to understand that when a theist arrives at “certainty” about the existence of gods via faith it is a mistake. Why can’t you understand that arriving at the certainty of gods non existence is the same mistake?
This is the most baffling mystery to me about my fellow atheists.
The inability to step back and realize what you are saying when you say, with apparent "certainty", “There is no god”.
I’m not sure how to make this clearer.
The only legitimate or reasonable statement an atheist can make concerning the existence or non existence of gods is:
“I do not posses faith in the existence of gods.”
I'm sorry, Asa, but calling a claim about the natural universe an "object of faith" is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. There's nothing whatsoever magical about objects of faith; they are still claims about the objective universe and thus tractable to the methods of science, cognitive, physical, chemical, and so on. Science has plenty to say about such things, generally that they are not part of objective reality.
I am not making the same mistake as a theist, because I don't make use of faith in my certainty that gods are imaginary. I use my knowledge of how the universe works (evidence) and how logic works (reason). No faith is involved whatsoever, and it's insulting for you (and theists, who very often make the same claim you do, that atheism is just another kind of faith) to say that I do. You are welcome to argue militantly for agnosticism, but the claim that you can't prove a negative is self-negating, so you might want to revisit your foundational premises rather than keep barking at us that we are just like theists.