Atheism, theism and jelly beans

Discussion in 'Religion' started by James R, Aug 3, 2019.

  1. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    For a similar reason that we cull elk herds perhaps. If the population is coddled, it grows out of control, resources are consumed, and the entire population gets ill-nourished and sick - which affects the rest of the eco-system, such as the wolves that depend on the herd.

    Death - even premature death - is part of life. We are not here to "preserve" elk, like in some living zoo; we are here to preserve their livelihood and health - their ecosystem. And that includes suffering and death.

    I don't know why you ignore that.

    Well I have a suspicion. I suspect you're unhappy with a God who is letting you wallow in your own self-pity, and not picking you up and dusting you off, and patting you on the butt. IOW, a God that respects your free will and ability to determine your own destiny. You can do it.
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  3. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    Is he not operating within schema of discourse and belief presupposing human exceptionalism compared to elk?

    More to your point, though, you make a particular observation that attends the general: Whatever the actual reason is, God's will is God's will, and in people's unhappiness and dissatisfaction, which in turn, ultimately, is fear, believers will presume to know and understand what God knows and understands.

    Much like trying to achieve Zen, the mere prospect of God's will can seem nearly self-nullifying. We can pretend God has Will and Purpose, but it seems futile to presume we can know and understand what God knows and understands. In a monotheistic context, Will and Purpose are complicated affairs with much potential for establishing finite boundaries about what God is and does. Human frailty prefers the neurotic tangles that come with feeling we hold some bit of knowledge and understanding that wards off the fear of our own ignorance.

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  5. Vociferous Valued Senior Member

    There's a long history of answers to the problem of natural evil. Intellectual honesty may prompt you to look into that.

    How is that a problem? Or is that just a thought-terminating cliche among atheists?
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  7. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    It isn't. I'm defending it.

    Just because I don't believe God exists doesn't mean I don't recognize the internal logic and the good that can come from it.
  8. Vociferous Valued Senior Member

    So you didn't mean this was a problem?
  9. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    That's where I, as an atheist, feel it goes from personal compass to preaching.
  10. Vociferous Valued Senior Member

    So, even though you might recognize the internal logic or good that can come of it, it's a problem if such values are shared and spread? Trying to understand.
  11. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    No problem there.

    I was pretty explicit about where the problem lies:

    "by objectifying this faith into an extant God".

    Santa tells us that the importance of Christmas is about giving and good will toward men and women. That's a good message.
    Does such a positive sentiment, have - as a prerequisite - Santa's objective existence?

    If you were to tell us of the message of Santa, would you then be obliged to convince everyone that Santa is a real, objective and extant entity?
  12. Vociferous Valued Senior Member

    No, but then the message of Santa doesn't really hold much weight outside of Christmas season and childhood. It seems to be a seasonal good for many adults, mostly as a social expectation/positive association, and for children, only so long as they're reminded of it by adults. So even for children who still believe Santa is real, it seems to have limited efficacy, perhaps due to the placebo effect of those who know better. On the other hand, genuine belief in an existing God transcends season and circumstance in a way that may have more constant and lasting positive impact. So I'm not convinced that belief in a real, existing God is a separate issue from how it is spread. Certainly, at the very least, Santa is often first presented to most people as a real person. So that may ultimately be a bad example of that message needing no such thing.

    But aside from all that, you haven't seem to have explained why belief in an existing God is a problem. So far, you only seem to think it is unnecessary.
  13. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Not the point.

    The point is that, generally, a positive message in a fictional package doesn't compel the fiction into reality.

    I think you might want to avoid lies to children as a tactic when discussing God.

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    But OK - if God is presented as real as Santa to children, then - sure - when we grow up we cast off such simplistic views for a more realistic worldview.

    I did not say it was. (At least, not here.)

    I'll say it again: the problem lies when a personal belief seems to compel the faithful to strong-arm others with their faith - faith being the operative word - as if it's objectively true and extant - not just for the faithful - but for everyone.
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2019
  14. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 70 years old Valued Senior Member

    I am going to MAKE you believe in my god so I save you from eternal damnation

    You can thank me in heaven

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  15. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    This is turning into a bit of a strange discussion with you, from my point of view.

    I am sorry for wrongly assuming that you are a Christian. You seem a bit cagey about telling me what it is, exactly, that you believe about God, which leaves me in a position where I either have to guess or else operate in an information vacuum. Maybe we could have a more useful debate about your theism if you were to tell me what you actually believe about your God or gods.

    Are you saying you're a theist but you don't follow any particular religious tradition, then? "Spiritual but not religious", or something like that? You don't have to tell me, but it sounds like you're worried that my atheism isn't addressing your specific brand of theism. Maybe we can work out what the issue is in reference to your own position. Right now, it's not at all clear to me.

    Atheism is the idea that gods do not exist. You are free, of course, to believe whatever you like about the existence of gods. I'm only saying that I don't believe that you're believing in anything real if you tell me you believe in a god. Since religions mostly involve believing in gods, it follows that I don't believe in the central tenets of any theistic religion. But I thought that would be clear enough from the label "atheist".

    The analogy there would be for me to argue against the idea that God is all powerful, say, and assert that if I can show that God is not all-powerful, then God doesn't exist. But that wouldn't do the trick, would it? Even if I could somehow prove that God is not all-powerful, that still leaves the door open for a different kind of God that is not all powerful.

    If you think that my discussing, hypothetically, whether a god could be all powerful, for instance, somehow means I am legitimising the idea of an all-powerful God, I'd say that I'm only doing that to the extent that the notion is an interesting hypothetical, worth shooting the fat over for a while. But the same could be said for the discussion of anything that is not proven to exist in the real world. Philosophers contemplate such things all the time; it's in their job description.

    It sounds like you think that I think if I can show that Christianity is in error, say, then I will think that I've disproved the existence of God. I'm not sure what gave you the idea that I think anything along those lines.

    The question, in my opinion, comes down to the preponderance of evidence, or its lack. The only comment I would make is that Christian claims regarding the historicity of Christ and the gospel stories tend to be overly optimistic, given the paucity of evidence for either.

    Do you pray? If so, why?

    Lots of religious people pray to their God or gods in the expectation that the God/s will hear their prayers and care enough to respond in a positive way to achieve the outcome that is prayed for, or at least to avoid an undesired outcome that would be more likely to occur were it not for the beneficient intervention of the deity.

    You don't think God is supernatural?

    That would be inconsistent, but it is not something I have ever done, to my knowledge.

    If I argue that Christian claims about the Christian God are false, then I'd say that's arguing against the existence of the Christian God, at least as conceived with reference to the disputed claims.

    I've never claimed that refutation of a specific Christian claim proves that gods in general can't or don't exist. If I were to refute the claim that the Christian God has a big nose, then I would consider that a Christian God with a big nose does not exist. That would not rule out the possible existence of a Christian God with a small nose.

    It is true that I don't accept any of the Christian descriptions of their God as describing a being that actually exists, but I make no claim to having a firm disproof of that God's existence. I can't prove that Zeus doesn't exist either; I just don't believe that he does exist. That's what atheism is: the lack of belief in any gods.

    I have always been willing to revise my belief if I become aware of any convincing evidence for a god.

    Proving that one God is unlikely or impossible of course does not prove that all conceivable gods are equally as unlikely or impossible. But you know, every follower of a religion believes that all religions are wrong except for theirs. The Muslims think the Christians are wrong (at least about some things). The Christians think the Muslims are wrong. The Hindus think all the Abrahamic religions are wrong, at least in so far as they assert monotheism.

    Perhaps you are of the "spiritual but not religious" persuasion, such that you dismiss the mainstream religious texts as myths but you still feel there is a "higher power" at work in the world and you assert that higher power is person-like, which makes you a theist. If so, then from my point of view, the odds aren't looking good that your idea of God is the One True God, when so many millions of people have got it wrong in the past. But I could be wrong.
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2019
  16. Vociferous Valued Senior Member

    Did anyone claim a positive message compels fiction into reality? If so, I missed it...or it's just a straw man.
    Quite the opposite, it was implied that the belief in the reality of the message source may have a correlation to the message impact.

    You seem to be avoiding the rather obvious difference between the temporary impact of a later realized fictional source and the lasting impact of a believed real source. An analogy for you might be the difference between the messages of a fairy tale and science. I would hazard that one is much more meaningful and impactful to your life or worldview than the other.

    If that was what you meant, it was not clear. But aside from Islamists, I'd suspect that you're characterizing mere social pressure as "strong-arm".
    Since "the good that can come from it" seems dependent upon belief in its reality, I'm not sure how else you'd expect that good to be spread. Or is it that you wouldn't mind empty platitudes being spread but you draw the line at sincere beliefs?

    How do they "MAKE" you? Obviously not in any way forceful enough to compel you.

    James R:
    Nothing cagey about merely being a theist, without any especially religious trappings. And I've been arguing a clear distinction between religion and theism for a while now. I believe that God exists, and I don't even restrict that to any one particular theistic view, as I think God simultaneously exists as mono-, poly-, pan-, deistic, etc. from different perspectives.

    But since your OP states that atheism is not a denial of theism (anti-theism), you seem to be using/seeking religious claims upon which to base such a denial. Now you can be anti-religious and atheist, but thinking the former can twist the latter into anti-theism sounds disingenuous.

    Aside from your own presumptions, and dismissing the many times I've tried to differentiate theism from religion, I really can't see why you'd be confused. I'm not even sure I'd call my belief "spiritual". Your atheism, as you defined it in your OP, does ostensibly address my theism. It least if you're satisfied with the fact that it doesn't refute theism. Atheism, anti-theism, and anti-religion being different things.

    That seems to contradict your own OP. If "Atheism is the idea that gods do not exist", how does that differ from atheists believing "that God doesn't exist"↑? Your OP claimed that atheists "say that they don't believe that God exists", as opposed to believing "that God doesn't exist". So while your OP seems to make a clear distinction between atheism and anti-theism, you no longer seem to be. If you're making a positive judgement on the reality of God, you are making the precise determination your OP claims religious people erroneously assume atheists make.

    It just seems like your "I merely don't believe gods exist" is just a hedge on "I believe gods do not exist". Seems you just don't like religious people asking you to support the latter belief. I don't know why either, as you're just as free to admit that your reasons are not compelling as any religious person. Such admissions seem intellectually honest on both sides.

    I do not pray, at least in any sense religious people mean. That's religious, not theistic.

    Not necessarily. But that comes back to our discussion elsewhere, about the description of God perhaps not being extraordinary enough for atheists to entertain. It's also why I do not pray. Of all the possible perspectives of God, the most personal seems to be a higher-self, perhaps an analogue to the combined Christian role model of Jesus and conscience of the Holy Spirit.

    Sure, but that doesn't address theism in general, which is the ostensible point of atheism. Refuting the Christian God is either anti-theism or anti-religion.

    Perhaps you can see how some of your statements, in this one post, could seem inconsistent?
    Does your atheism entail your disbelief in the existence of any God or your belief "that gods do not exist"? The former is an accurate description of atheism, while the latter is what your OP chastised religious people for thinking atheism means.

    Bad example, as Muslims and Christians share the same God, and even some of the same scripture. Where they differ is in their beliefs of Jesus and Mohamed. The incarnations of God and their messages, rather than God himself. Since Hinduism is polytheistic, it seems disagreement on monotheistic claims likewise doesn't touch on the existence of the God itself.

    Theism does not necessarily entail any belief in a person-like God. Deism is theistic without any such belief.
    Neither do I, or any non-religious theists that I'm aware of, make any claim as to the "One True God".
  17. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    It sounds to me like your God is not very well defined. It sounds like it can be all things to all people. But that's not a topic we need to discuss in this thread.

    Atheism is the idea that gods don't exist. How could that not be a denial of theism, being the idea that gods do exist? On the other hand, I tend to be a bit suspicious when theists use the word "denial" because in my experience it usually turns out that what they mean when they use that words is that they think that atheists secretly believe in their god(s) after all but reject the god(s) because they hate them, or something. "Denial" has connotations of calculated refusal to believe what ought to be an obvious truth. The existence of gods is not an obvious truth; it is a contested claim.

    But, coming back to your point, when I refer to religious claims in a context like this one, it is usually to point out that I don't find those claims convincing enough for me to accept that the god(s) being described are real. If you want to argue that I am therefore using theist claims to support my "denial" of theism, then I have no real argument about that, I suppose. My "denial" of theism is supported every time theists fail to make a good case for god.

    The term "anti-theism" suggests to me something other than merely finding theistic claims unconvincing. To me, it suggests arguing that theism is harmful for one reason or another. I see that as a separate argument to the one about whether the gods exist. Even if the gods don't exist, the theists' beliefs that surround their god belief could potentially be useful or harmful, or somewhere in between.

    I didn't set out to refute theism in my opening post. I set out to explain something about what atheism is. It's no wonder my opening post doesn't refute theism; that was not my aim there.

    The refutation of theism is simple for me: there's no convincing evidence to support the existence of the alleged god(s), and the non-evidential arguments for the existence of a deity are similarly unconvincing. Bear in mind that here I'm simply telling you what I believe.

    I thought I explained that in the opening post (?)

    I thought by now it would be clear to you. I don't believe that God exists. That makes me an atheist. But my belief doesn't prove that God doesn't exist, any more that your belief proves that it does. I'm also open to the idea that your God exists, after all, and will be happy to join you in your theism/deism if and when convincing arguments for your God are put to me. Presenting some convincing evidence would be a good start if you want to try to change my mind on this.

    But I'm not making a positive judgment on the reality of God. God might exist. It's just that I haven't seen anything that convinces me that God exists, yet. I have an open mind on this. I don't currently believe that God exists, and that makes me an atheist, by definition.

    We could delve deeper and talk about my estimate of the probability that God exists (low, based on the attempts made to argue for God so far), but that's another topic.

    It may seem like a subtle distinction to you, but for me it's not just a hedge. It's very difficult, if not impossible, to prove beyond doubt that something doesn't exist, at least in cases where that something is as vaguely defined as god(s). It seems to me that the onus of proof ought generally to be on those who make the positive claim, not the negative one. The negative claim is the default, as far as I can see.

    If you claim you've discovered cold fusion, I don't see why I should believe that cold fusion exists just on that basis. It ought to be up to you to show to my satisfaction that cold fusion is real. I don't see that I have any obligation to prove to you that cold fusion is impossible. You make the claim; you present the argument and evidence in support.

    It seems to me that your deistic God, if that's what it is, is unfalsifiable. How would the world look different if your God did not exist? What experiment or observation allows us to tell the difference between a universe with your God in it and one without?

    (If you feel like claiming that existence itself is contingent on God, that would be a prime example of non-falsifiability, wouldn't it?)

    Sounds like you think to refute Christianity would be morally bad, or to be anti-religion would be a moral failure. Is that correct?

    I can see how they may seem so to you. It was part of my motivation for posting this thread in the first place. I'm glad we're having this opportunity to talk it out.

    I wrote the OP, so there's your hint.

    The question about which of God's messengers are significant seems like an important part of any religion to me. When it comes to Islam and Christianity, wouldn't you say that the argument over the divinity or otherwise of Jesus is rather a crucial matter? The answer has important implications for the nature of Yahweh and Allah. In fact, it's such an important question that I'd say those two deities are not really the same deity at all, despite protests to the contrary from followers of each religion.

    Again, I'd say that monotheism vs polytheism is rather a crucial matter to decide if you're investigating which religion (if any) is correct.

    Again, you're merely pointing out schisms in religious thinking. Either God is personal or he isn't. Either he is a Trinity, or he isn't. Either he is one or he is many.

    Doesn't the plethora of divergent views suggest to you that, just possibly, none of the theists are right?

    Of course, maybe you're one who tries to smoosh them all together, to argue that - somehow - all of them are right, even thought they all make radically different claims.
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2020
  18. Truck Captain Stumpy The Right Honourable Reverend Truck Captain Valued Senior Member

    erm... that doesn't make sense to me. other religions refute the x-tian god and are theist as well as religious, therefore refuting the x-tian god is more a refusal to accept it's legitimacy based on the proffered evidence (for whatever reason).
    so an atheist refusing to accept the evidence that x-tians use to support their claim isn't anti-theism or anti-religious so much as it's the refusal to accept their subjective evidence.
    just curious: why not? it's directly relevant to the discourse as it adds clarity to the arguments for or against, doesn't it?
    or do you think it will simply take everything down the rabbit hole?
  19. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    The topic was intended to be about what atheists believe. If we start delving into what Vociferous believes about his god, that will essentially be a new topic for discussion. As you say, it would take us away from the main topic down what might be a very deep rabbit hole.
  20. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    Then don't dig one.
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  21. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

    I think people reading ''theism'' in your title choice is what is leading to some discussion points about theism.
  22. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    Checking in with the thread:

    Your response to Vociferous would seem to conflict with your statements in the borrowed jellybean leacture.

    That is: The, "lack of belief in any gods", indcludes, "When an atheist says she doesn't believe in your God". Compared to the lack of belief in any gods, your distinction that, "that the atheist doesn't share your God belief - no more and no less", is a word game with a fallacious setup.

    It's easy to see you running in certain circles, but they're not around your opponent.

    You're both playing word games.
  23. Vociferous Valued Senior Member

    Yes, out of the context of the discussion, not believing in a particular God, itself, is neither anti-theistic nor anti-religious.
    But from an atheist, saying no Gods exist is anti-theistic and saying religion is false is anti-religious. Atheism, itself, does not claim that no Gods exist, only that there's no reason to believe they do (as per the OP).

    You might want to make up your mind. You literally asked me about what you're now suddenly claiming is somehow a thread title mentioning theism. And it seems a bit naive to think you can discuss something that is defined solely as the opposite of something else without also discussing that something else.

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