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Problems with Atheism

 
 
Thomas
 
  4  
Reply Tue 6 Apr, 2010 09:13 pm
@ebrown p,
ebrown p wrote:
It is just as unsound to claim to use science to answer non-scientific claims. Science has nothing to say about finding meaning in life. Science can't provide any core moral assertions.

That may or may not be so. But that's not the claim defining atheism. The claim defining atheism is that we reject the god hypothesis: the hypothesis that there exists a conscious, intelligent agent who has created the universe and what's in it. This hypothesis is a scientific claim. It either is or isn't the case that this intelligence exists and has created us. And we can, at least in principle, use scientific methods to find out which scenario is true. Alternatively, in confronting denominations whose definition of god is so vague as to make this project impossible, we can cut out the god hypothesis with Occam's razor.

Hence, the hypothesis whose rejection defines one as an atheist is a scientific one. Your talk about "meaning in life" is just a distraction from that. It says nothing specific about atheism.
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Tue 6 Apr, 2010 09:15 pm
@DrewDad,
DrewDad wrote:

Does anyone else appreciate the irony of ebrownp complaining about people who insist that their position on an issue is the only rational one, and that everyone else is wrong?

I do. Good catch, DrewDad!
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Tue 6 Apr, 2010 09:21 pm
@Eorl,
Quote:

It's not about "crimes". These are serious issues about how human rights are determined. If all worldviews are equally valid then imposing circumcision on girls should continue.


I get your point, Eorl. And, you are absolutely right.

By my sense of morality, female circumcision is a crime.

So yes, I accept the (somewhat uncomfortable) implications of my argument. Even with practices like this that I find "evil", I must accept that this is my subjective judgement-- there is no scientific reason that this is wrong, and no objective absolute truth on which I can base my moral judgement.

This issue has nothing to do with Religion versus Atheism. There are Religious people and Atheists both on the side of right (as you or I would define right) and on the side of wrong.

Certainly you agree with the morality championed by Reverend Martin Luther King, and the brave Quakers and Methodists who opposed slavery (often at the risk of their own lives). And... it is certainly not hard to find Atheists that you and I would agree are morally despicable.

ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Tue 6 Apr, 2010 09:23 pm
@Thomas,
That is silly. There is no irony here... I am arguing my opinion.

I am subjectively right. I have never appealed to absolute truth.
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Tue 6 Apr, 2010 09:24 pm
@ebrown p,
Eorl wrote:
Compulsory female circumcision. Theists who support it on religious grounds have a better, worse or equal take on the issue?

In his next post, Eorl wrote:
It's not about "crimes". These are serious issues about how human rights are determined.

ebrown p wrote:
This issue has nothing to do with Religion versus Atheism.

Oh really? Just for example, how many atheists you know approve of mutilating the genitals of teenage girls? And approved of it because god doesn't exist?
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Tue 6 Apr, 2010 09:36 pm
@Thomas,
Quote:
The claim defining atheism is that we reject the god hypothesis... It either is or isn't the case that this intelligence exists and has created us ... And we can, at least in principle, use scientific methods to find out which scenario is true.


This is a gross oversimplification of human experience and science. Well I will grant that this is intellectually honest if you are willing to accept that we simply a complex chemical reaction with no meaning or purpose. Of course, if this is the case, then worrying about what religious chemical reactions seems to be of little import.

I don't believe god... but I am religious in the sense that I choose to live with a set of unprovable assertions. I believe that human life has intrinsic value. I believe in human rights. I believe in beauty and I believe that my kids are proof that the there is wonder and decency in the universe.

This calls for intellectual honesty. I have no scientific proof of any of these beliefs. In fact I choose to believe them (although many of them are part of my culture and upbringing).

The fact that they are subjective doesn't mean I can't hold to them firmly and base my life on them.

My point is that if you hold to unprovable assertions-- you should have the intellectual courage to accept that this is what they are. They are no better or worse then anyone else's unprovable assertions (not even the religionists').



0 Replies
 
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Tue 6 Apr, 2010 09:40 pm
@Thomas,
Quote:

Oh really? Just for example, how many atheists you know approve of mutilating the genitals of teenage girls? And approved of it because god doesn't exist?


This is fallacious argument, Thomas. I am not even sure if this cherry picked example is a valid-- this practice is cultural (it is not in any religious text), there is no evidence either way about whether this practice would be done in an Atheist society (in fact you don't even know that it hasn't been done by Atheists).

But do you really that Atheists don't commit acts you consider barbaric?

It seems clear to me that there are plenty of example of both heroic and barbaric acts committed by Atheists and religious people.



joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 6 Apr, 2010 09:43 pm
@ebrown p,
ebrown p wrote:

Joe,

What I am saying that is that all subjective judgments are subjective.-

Really? That's what you're saying. Why bother?

ebrown p wrote:
You are always going to think that your judgement is right. Someone else is going to think that their judgement is right. That goes without saying. There is no way for either of you to know what is "objectively right" (if such a thing even exists). Objective truth is rather meaningless when two or more subjective judges disagree.

I am always surprised when somebody says "you can't make objective judgments" without any apparent hint of irony.

ebrown p wrote:
You have no more access to what is objectively right then anyone else... which means that when you disagree, you have to except the fact that they have as much chance of being "right" as they do (and then there is the real possibility that neither of you are right).

I categorically deny this. If you say "2+2=5," am I to reply, "well, that's your opinion"? Just because subjective opinions might be wrong doesn't mean they must be wrong. Furthermore, although you admit the possibility that two people with differing views might both be wrong, I don't understand why you can't see that one of them might be right.

ebrown p wrote:
(In case I need to clarify again-- there is a difference between scientific questions, where there is a clear process for deciding what is correct, and non-scientific questions, where answers are subject to the judges culture, upbringing and untestable assumptions.)

Why is the scientific method the only clear process for deciding who is correct? If I say "it is morally wrong to kill a person without justification," is my opinion worth the same as a serial killer's who says "it is morally acceptable to kill people if it gives me an erection"?
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Tue 6 Apr, 2010 09:44 pm
@ebrown p,
ebrown p wrote:
But are you really arguing that Atheists don't commit acts you consider barbaric?

I am not arguing that they don't commit them. But I do think that their disbelief in god isn't the cause of their committing barbaric acts. Usually, the cause is something else: power struggles unrelated to any religion or lack thereof, or quasi-religious faith in some secular ideology.
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Tue 6 Apr, 2010 09:52 pm
@ebrown p,
ebrown wrote:
I am subjectively right. I have never appealed to absolute truth.

Then why bother starting a thread to discuss the matter with us? If you're subjectively right, and if being subjectively right is all you care about, how can our input possibly benefit you?
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Tue 6 Apr, 2010 10:00 pm
@joefromchicago,
Joe, I like the examples you give. Let's look at the differences.

Quote:
2 + 2 = 5


This is clearly a mathematical statement. The numbers "2" and "5" have a precisely defined meaning that you and I both understand and agree on.

Likewise the operators "+" and "=" are well defined.

This assertion is testable with an objective process... no matter what culture you are from or how you were brought up, someone who takes two objects and adds two objects is going to get four objects.

Of course you can play little mental games with meaning (and I hope you aren't going there).

But anyone can understand the difference between this example and the next one.

Quote:
"it is morally wrong to kill a person without justification,


This assertion has a bunch of ill-defined terms. The word "Morally" is meaningless outside of a well defined moral system (and there are plenty of different functioning cultures that will come up with wildly different answers).

The word "justification" is a real problem.

Our society allows us to kill unborn children, adversaries at war, and people convicted of serious crimes. We don't allow people to kill the man who slept with their wife. We don't kill the aged. And we don't consider any political idea dangerous enough to justify killing.

All of these things are beliefs I agree with-- and assuming that you are in the same culture and had a similar upbringing as me, I would not surprise me if you agreed with me on all of these points.

But in each of these points, people of other cultures and times have had opposing views.

Here is the challenge...

Take any item in the list of what "justified killing" entails or doesn't entail and provide a mathematical or scientific argument for your position. I don't think there is an objective rational proof of any one of them that doesn't rely on an unprovable assertion that isn't accepted by other human beings.

ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Tue 6 Apr, 2010 10:08 pm
@Thomas,
Quote:
am not arguing that they don't commit them. But I do think that their disbelief in god isn't the cause of their committing barbaric acts. Usually, the cause is something else: power struggles unrelated to any religion or lack thereof, or quasi-religious faith in some secular ideology.


This is a rather baseless argument.

You have no evidence that female circumcision wouldn't happen in an atheistic society. You don't even have evidence that it hasn't happened in an atheistic society. Yet you are asserting that religion is causing this act.

You have no evidence that disbelief in god isn't the cause when people commit barbaric. Yet you are asserting that lack of religion isn't the cause of this act.

Of course, there are lots of examples, from opposition to slavery, to providing aid to the poor, to opposing unjust wars, where religion was a big part in opposing things you and I agree are evil-- but I suppose that is irrelevant as well.


0 Replies
 
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Tue 6 Apr, 2010 10:14 pm
@Thomas,
Quote:

Then why bother starting a thread to discuss the matter with us? If you're subjectively right, and if being subjectively right is all you care about, how can our input possibly benefit you?


First, what is subjective is a set of core assertions that I accept as unprovable. (I believe that you have a similar set of core unprovable assertions). These unprovable assertions are unlikely to change (although for me they did change dramatically in my mid 20s, but that is another story). But from these core assertions you apply logic to reach conclusions. Arguments that challenge whether our conclusions are consistent with our core assumptions are interesting and fruitful.

Second, Obviously both of us are deriving some amount of pleasure from this interaction (or we wouldn't be having it). I believe pleasure has intrinsic value.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 6 Apr, 2010 10:24 pm
@engineer,
This is more in line with how i speculate religion arose. I mentioned the aspect of many cosmogonies of something existing before the "creation" of man because i think it is evidence that all cosmogonies assume the cosmos to be already in existence at the time of creation, and the "gods" of creation are simply those amorphous powers which create man. This is radically different, however, than the concept of a deity which exists eternally, and which created the cosmos itself.

I suspect that early modern man came up with ideas such as a great earth mother, or Coyote the trickster, or Turtle making the land from mud beneath the water by sitting around the fire telling each other stories. Life expectancies were pretty damned short, and it wouldn't take very many generations of children who hear such stories, but whose parents don't even live to see them reach reproductive age before the stories become accepted "truth." But early modern man was not less perceptive or intelligent that are we. So it only takes a handful of men and women who are sufficiently perceptive, and more important, who live long enough past life expectancy for shamanism to arise. If you're getting a little long in the tooth, and are no longer so valuable in gathering food, or on the hunt, you can make a comfortable berth for yourself by creating a cosmogony into which you weave all the campfire stories with which your tribe has regaled itself down through the generations. From an interpreter of "god," it is but a short step to become a priest or priestess. And i believe that temple societies such as were known in the middle east arose from shamanism transmuted into priesthood.

None of which would lead me to conclude that the concept of god arises from observation. Powers such as Thor the Thunderer or Astarte perhaps, but no Jehovah.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Tue 6 Apr, 2010 10:27 pm
@ebrown p,
ebrown p wrote:
These unprovable assertions are unlikely to change (although for me they did change dramatically in my mid 20s, but that is another story).

Change in response to what? Was it some capricious whim, like cutting your long hair short or stop listening to disco music in 1980? Or was it some body of evidence, some reasonable argument, that caused your previous unprovable assertions to no longer make sense to you?
Eorl
 
  2  
Reply Tue 6 Apr, 2010 10:27 pm
@ebrown p,
ebrown p wrote:

But do you really that Atheists don't commit acts you consider barbaric?

Name one (even subjectively) barbaric act ever committed because it's part of the rules of Atheism.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 6 Apr, 2010 10:29 pm
@ebrown p,
ebrown p wrote:
On this very thread people are arguing that a world view without god has a better understanding of some truth about meaning and morality then people who believe in God. This argument is not something I made up.


Have you got an example of this you can quote? I don't recall anyone making such a claim other your having done so in erecting one of your straw men.

That people ridicule religious idiocy is not evidence of a claim that their world view is superior--it's just evidence that they prefer their own world view. Would you seriously suggest that someone would cherish a world view which they did not prefer?
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Tue 6 Apr, 2010 10:34 pm
@Thomas,
Quote:

Change in response to what? Was it some capricious whim, like cutting your long hair short or stop listening to disco music in 1980? Or was it some body of evidence, some reasonable argument, that caused your previous unprovable assertions to no longer make sense to you?


Neither.

I was in a place in life where there were two choices. I considered each alternative deeply and chose one. It was an existential choice, not one that I found objective reason very helpful in making.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 6 Apr, 2010 10:37 pm
@Thomas,
This goes right to the heart of one of the biggest anti-atheist propaganda efforts on the part of Christians, in which they assert (without justification) that Hitler was an atheist, and Stalin was an atheist, and just look at the millions they killed. Hitler may have been an atheist, but i don't know how you'd prove it, because his public statements made him out to be a defender of Christianity and Christian values.

But even the case of old Joe Stalin can't support the thesis, because there is absolutely no reasonable basis upon which to assert that the deaths for which he was responsible were perpetrated because he was an atheist (an ironic claim about someone who began his adult life as an Orthodox monk). The Kulaks who died (far fewer than a million, and not nearly the millions the Christians like to rant about) died because Stalin understood immediately that when peasants get land, they want the revolution to end, and Stalin saw (justifiably from the Bolshevik point of view) the Kulaks therefore as a counterrevolutionary threat. But there is just no basis for claiming that he deported the Kulaks because he was an atheist.
0 Replies
 
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Tue 6 Apr, 2010 10:39 pm
@Setanta,
Quote:
Have you got an example of this you can quote?


Of course...

Quote:
Your imaginary friend superstition relies on blind faith. Beliefs which are based on experience and observation have a much better foundation


I often display a "preference" without resorting to ridicule.

 

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