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 Post subject: An Atheism Thread
PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2010 11:13 am 
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
My uncle is a evangelical southern baptist. But also really nice. He's the epitome of Ned Flanders. But because of his religious views, he is also clearly a moron. My brother is an avid atheist. My uncle and my brother have been going at this war of words on Facebook for the past year. This is Tom's first shot in the fifth round This is going to be a book but I figure you guys can read and comment away. My response will be posted after, but I like all you cool and smart people to comment on this as well.

Why would anyone not believe in God? There must be some good reason. Probably like many other Christians, I simply ignored this question for years, but after participating this year in Facebook discussions with real people who do not believe in God, I believe I have finally discovered a killer argument for atheism and against biblical creationism, one that evidently cannot be refuted.



The discovery was not immediate. There were other prominent candidates that had to be crossed off, and at first, I even imagined that there could not be any killer argument at all. For instance, in my first Facebook note (“To Honest Atheists and Agnostics”), I wrote, “I think in the final analysis, an honest-to-God atheist is simply making a groundless assertion that does not withstand scrutiny.” I had already explained the reason for this in the third paragraph of the note.



In a debate on the question, “Atheism vs. Christianity: Where does the evidence point?” William Lane Craig repeatedly challenged the atheist Frank Zindler to provide positive evidence for atheism. Zindler finally had to admit that one cannot prove a universal negative (1:12:54 in http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid ... 649749192#), so he wanted the term “atheist” to be defined more broadly, as one who lacks a belief in God, not one who claims that there is no God. In the latter or strict sense, “atheism” does indeed entail an assertion without any rational support.



But Zindler was right. One can decide not to believe in God without conclusive proof of a universal negative, specifically, the negative claim that God does not exist at any place or any time, past or future. Think of belief in tooth fairies, for instance. One can decide not to believe in them without absolute proof that they do not exist. It is just that one has grown up enough to realize that it was always a parent who replaced those lost teeth with coins. A positive, alternative explanation comes along and makes more sense. One might also decide not to believe in a place of eternal punishment without any proof of its non-existence, just because disbelief seems more reasonable. Recognizing such options, I began to use “freethinkers” as a more acceptable label to refer to both atheists and agnostics, even though we are all free to think. Nevertheless, there must be some reason for deciding not to believe in the God of the Bible, perhaps some positive, alternative explanation for the universe and life on earth.



It soon became apparent that freethinkers pride themselves on their rationality. They see their position as a triumph of science over superstition and categorize biblical creationists as people who ignore the truth about origins—just as bad as Holocaust deniers or even people who believe in a flat earth or a solar system centered on the earth. But is atheism in the broader sense a truly rational position? Is it actually based on supporting physical evidence? The first candidate for a killer argument can be summarized as follows: (1) Science has figured out how to account for our origins without postulating a role for God. (2) If everything could have come into existence without God, then this is how everything did come into existence—without God. (3) Therefore, there is no God.



This was also the first candidate to be crossed off, because the argument falls apart under scrutiny. Scientists have not explained how our universe, let alone the multiple universes postulated in some theories, could have sprung into existence out of nothing at all. They may believe that the Big Bang theory explains how the universe could have developed over billions of years, but the trigger that caused the process to begin evidently remains as mysterious as ever. The origin of the universe certainly has not been and cannot be demonstrated in a repeatable scientific experiment. The same goes for the origin of life from nonliving chemicals. Evolutionists may feel encouraged by certain experiments related to the origin of life, but the results are still a far cry from a demonstration that life can arise from nonlife. Point (1) clearly fails even at these most fundamental levels, without delving into technical details, like the postulated but not yet demonstrated evolution of multicellular organisms from protozoa.



Point (2) also fails, because it confuses the theoretical possibility of a past event with knowledge that such an event took place in real history. Traditionally, scientists have devoted themselves to describing and organizing repeatable observations of present phenomena and developing and testing theories about the current operation of natural laws. Freethinkers evidently have trouble distinguishing this work from the work of an historian, who chronicles past events in real history as discerned through careful evaluation and organization of available testimony, so they look to scientists even for an accurate account of origins, as though they should be prepared to do this well. If a trusted expert or textbook teaches that primordial pond scum came to life through some unspecified natural process, this is all it takes for them to accept it as a real event in our history. No further proof or even just scientific evidence is required.



Nevertheless, freethinkers evidently still believe that “science” supports their claim that nothing in all creation demands the creator God of the Bible. They even believe that creationists face a mountain of opposing evidence. On closer inspection, it appears that this “mountain” consists almost entirely of fossils that are widely supposed to document the history of the “tree of life” postulated in Darwin’s theory of evolution. As I explained in my Facebook note on fossils, they actually fail to suggest any such gradual evolution. Readers who disagree are still invited to register their objections over on that thread.



A number of alternative lines of evidence for evolution could be considered, but the fossils evidently rule. Consider a thought experiment where another kind of evidence, say homology, suggests one evolutionary relationship among specimens while nice transitional series of fossils indicate completely different connections. Which line of argument has to be correct? The one based on fossils, right? If so, the failure of fossils to corroborate theory is a serious problem for anyone who believes Darwin was right about gradual evolution.



Even if one must assume that a rational case for Darwinian evolution can be made only by experts familiar with arguments too technical for laymen to grasp, one might suppose that chronology is surely one area where biblical creationists can be written off as ignoramuses for believing that the earth is only a few thousand years old, even though all the real experts are supposed to know that it is over four billion years old. I challenge this conclusion in a separate series of Facebook notes on virtual history that have so far attracted little or no interest. It remains to be seen whether freethinkers rely totally on expert opinion in the field of chronology as well, not skeptical enough to consider alternatives independently or not free enough to think critically about the standard timescale. They may simply be happy to dismiss any chronology that includes miraculous events on the view that believing in such things is necessarily irrational.



One freethinker challenged me to provide at least some evidence for biblical creationism as opposed to purely negative attacks on evolution. I pointed him to comet evidence and a website with other detailed articles of this sort, but he dismissed them all as laughable. This certainly simplified his critique, but frankly, laughter is hardly equivalent to a cogent argument, let alone a killer argument, and if laugher passes as reasonable when used on one side in a debate, then why does it matter which side is laughing?



When challenged to present the most convincing positive evidence for evolution, the same freethinker pointed me to expert opinions, demonstrating, I suppose, that a freethinker is as free to appeal to authority as any Christian is. I attempted to refute each point carefully, but this ended the discussion of them. Perhaps the unspoken conclusion was that his experts can legitimately demand more credibility than I can, so my points have no weight. The weight issue remains to be settled. I think a real expert ought to be able to make his case in a rational if not persuasive manner, and if it is over our head, this should be obvious. The suggestion that evidence against biblical creationism is too massive to cover in a Facebook comment would be more convincing to me if even one truly compelling argument could be defended. Otherwise, the alleged “mountain” of evidence may be little more than a mountain of malarkey.



Freethinker claims to have the backing of “science” may have great tactical value in a discussion of origins, but under scrutiny they prove to have little substance and cannot be successfully defended. Again, readers who disagree are challenged to present and defend a cogent case for macroevolution (dramatic evolutionary changes in biological designs) based on physical evidence. Otherwise, charges that I blindly ignore such evidence can hardly be taken seriously.



More to the point, if “science” cannot successfully explain origins, then the tooth fairy analogy requires some adjustment to remain valid. An atheist may be more like a child who has stopped believing in tooth fairies without any better way to explain the coins under his pillow. More importantly, if Genesis has the correct explanation of origins, then the atheist, not the biblical creationist, is analogous to the child who continues to believe in tooth fairies (the wrong explanation) even when he ought to know better. By the same token, if there actually is a place of eternal punishment, this fact stands regardless of what people may find reasonable, and disbelief may ultimately prove to be the more childish or irrational option.



At this point, the tooth fairy analogy can be extended. Some parents may actually want their children to believe in tooth fairies, perhaps thinking it is cute. They can be offended if a well-meaning visitor lets the cat out of the bag. Similarly, freethinkers may judge a challenge to their beliefs to be just as offensive as a gratuitous attack on one’s religion. On the other hand, anyone—whether atheist or Christian—who advertises the rationality of his beliefs or the reasonableness of his faith surely invites friendly and reasonable challenges and ought to be prepared to face them without indignation. Such a person must not be like a parent intent on encouraging a childhood fantasy.



If the physical evidence argument for atheism must be crossed off as not really a killer argument, what about other arguments that are more logical or philosophical in nature? Consider, for instance, this one proposed by Richard Dawkins and reviewed in an essay by George Stanciu.



http://thethreebigquestions.wordpress.c ... -argument/



This is part of an ongoing series of notes by Stanciu. Follow the “Why Atheism?” link above the title to go back to his introduction. Follow the forward link to see his case for concluding that this candidate for a killer argument also fails. While Stanciu and I may not agree on all points, I think his conclusion holds in this case, even without arguing that no origin myth is needed for anything that is supposed to be eternal and transcendental.



In response to apparent demand for a positive rationale for biblical creationism, I posted a Facebook note on this very topic. One freethinker evidently rejected the whole idea of worldview analysis, preferring to debate physical evidence instead. Another discussed worldviews at great length, but at the end of the day, he was unwilling to subject his own worldview to critical scrutiny, carefully dodging any need to defend it as a preferable and more rational alternative to biblical creationism. If there is any killer argument for an atheistic worldview, these freethinkers were evidently fresh out of ideas.



With full confidence in the rationality of atheism, can any freethinker find any serious candidate argument for it? If so, I suppose I ought to face it, so readers are challenged to present and defend one that holds water. In an earlier discussion with a freethinker, I was challenged to consider one that seemed really promising, one that perhaps many Christians are totally unprepared to answer, one so common that there is even a word for it (theodicy): (1) God is supposed to be good. (2) God is supposed to be omnipotent. (3) Evil exists. (4) Therefore a God who is both good and omnipotent must not exist. This is certainly not a straw man argument. Zindler, for example, used it with relish in the debate referenced above (at 1:33:28 through 1:35:00), evidently hoping that it could not be refuted. Nevertheless, this one must be crossed off, too, in view of a reasonable answer to it proposed by Greg Bahnsen long before the Craig-Zindler debate.



http://www.cmfnow.com/articles/pa105.htm



His article may be a bit lengthy, but to anyone who sees the problem of evil as an effective argument for atheism, I recommend reading the whole thing, including all of the background in Part 1. Craig might have done better in the debate if he had presented the Bahnsen solution. Craig’s alternative response allowed Zindler a reasonable rebuttal (at 1:40:47 through 1:42:00). Readers are challenged to propose a rational refutation of the Bahnsen essay in comments here, if possible. I believe his conclusion holds, as well as his explanation about why some people, Zindler for instance, will not be persuaded to accept it, whether they can refute it or not.



Bahnsen’s paragraph at the close of Part 2 is what led me to the discovery of a real killer argument for atheism. It is simple. When urged to believe what the Bible says about God and man and to accept its gracious offer of salvation, the atheist can always fall back on this: (1) I don’t have to. (2) You can’t make me. (3) I don’t want to. What Christian, whether layman, scientist, evangelist, or philosopher, can refute this argument? I wonder whether even God can, and this thought fires my imagination. I make no claim that the following fictional conversion between a freethinker (F) and the Judge (J) of all the earth is an accurate portrayal of what might be said at the final judgment described near the end of the Bible, but if it takes place at all, could it go something like this?



F: I would have believed in you, but science was screaming at me that there is no God.



J: So what killer argument did you find so convincing?



F: Legitimate scientists all agree that evolution explains it all.



J: What about evidence for design in nature? Does this not demand that an intelligent Designer must have been at work?



F: Only kooky, right-wing, fundamentalist Christians could believe such a thing. No! All life is supposed to have evolved over billions of years through random mutations and natural selection. There is no need for any divine intervention. Since it came down to a contest between science and a book of myths and legends written by ignorant, primitive shepherds, an ancient book obviously full of mistakes and contradictions, you know I had to go with science.



J: You had access to a computer and Google. In the testimony that I gave you through my prophets, apostles, and witnesses, was there even one alleged mistake or contradiction for which you could not find a satisfactory resolution proposed by online apologists?



F: Frankly, I didn’t bother to check. It didn’t look hopeful at all. The list was so long, and if I had claimed that there was a good answer for every one of the points listed, you know my freethinker friends would have just laughed at me.



How would the Judge respond to this? With tears? Laughter? Perhaps even calmness without any visible emotion at all? Who knows? It may be a clue that Jesus is reported to have lamented over a city with the words, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” At some point, I think the conversation at the “great white throne” would get past all the excuses, past any bluffing or dodging, and finally come around to the real killer argument mentioned above.



J: So what has changed? Does this final argument still hold true?



F: Well, yes, it does in a way. As always, I want my will, not yours, to be done. It is just that I was hoping that I could keep my same attitude, my pride and rebellion against your lordship, yet you would mercifully arrange to keep this from ever having any undesirable consequences.



J: Can you even imagine a world where the law of sowing and reaping has been repealed?



F: Well, I suppose the idea does have its problems.



J: You were once free to decide either way but never free to escape the responsibility that comes with this freedom or your obligation to live out the consequences of your choices.



F: So are you condemning me?



J: No, I want all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth, but you have condemned yourself to spend an eternity out in the darkness with others of like mind. In your case, I cannot refute your final killer argument, and now you must face it. Not my will, but yours be done. Depart from me.



Again, this is an imaginary dramatization, and it could be inaccurate. Everyone has to decide for himself what to make of this with whatever rationality can be mustered. My advice is not to fall for the killer argument. It was the essence of what led Adam and Eve to stray from a lovely paradise on earth and into a life of thorns and sorrows outside the garden that God had planted for them. It is the oldest trick in the Book.

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 Post subject: Re: An Atheism Thread
PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2010 11:20 am 
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My response is simple. Just because he is not convinced of the evidence of the Big Bang and evolution (which I fail to see how that's possible), his solution is therefore to subscribe to theories that have less evidence.

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 Post subject: Re: An Atheism Thread
PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2010 11:21 am 
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TLDR


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 Post subject: Re: An Atheism Thread
PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2010 11:34 am 
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I did not read that but I lost my faith when SR.com died.


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 Post subject: Re: An Atheism Thread
PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2010 11:45 am 
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Athiest/Agnostic..whatever the fuck you want to call it

The answers are still out there to be found and glad some people have a curious mind to search for them and not rely on ancient pseudo-science writings.

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 Post subject: Re: An Atheism Thread
PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2010 11:56 am 
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WhoresOfTijuana wrote:
Athiest/Agnostic..whatever the fuck you want to call it

The answers are still out there to be found and glad some people have a curious mind to search for them and not rely on ancient pseudo-science writings.



That's what is really key for me. In the Thiest/Athiest debate one side seems to say: "We may never know for sure, but here's this book. Read it until your dad comes back." While the other side says: "We may never know for sure, but we'll get back to you on that."

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 Post subject: Re: An Atheism Thread
PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2010 12:08 pm 
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"Why would anyone not believe in God? There must be some good reason."

On the contrary, my question is, "Why would anyone believe in god?"

The Judeo/Christian/Islamic god of Abraham is a petty, vengeful, spiteful vicious, jealous creature, who demands worship out of fear. Such a creature is unworthy of my worship, or even acknowledgement.

I guess my argument is closer to theodicy than anything else. Either god is not omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and all the other omnis, or he is not benevolent. At best, I could see such a being more as the blind idiot god, setting it all in motion, and then gibbering away in the void as it all spins down.

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 Post subject: Re: An Atheism Thread
PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2010 12:50 pm 
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However you choose to go through life is only of concern to me if it affects me adversely. I find most faith-based systems that DEMAND abject deference to frighten me a bit.

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 Post subject: Re: An Atheism Thread
PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2010 1:42 pm 
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I'm officially an Agnostic when I speak to Atheists. I don't know. I don't really care. This tends to annoy them as much as if I were a Christian. It's probably more true than...

When I speak to Christians, I'm a Deist. Because it makes their heads hurt. "God exists but he doesn't intervene? What about Jesus?" Jesus was a great guy, but no intervention means none, ever. No miracles. No judgments, no Jesus as Son Of God. It's what Jefferson believed. He wrote his own version of the Bible removing all supernatural The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. Just Jesus's story as the story of a philosopher. Put that in your patriotic pipe and smoke it.

I've decided both 'sides' annoy me almost equally. There's more Christians, so they tend to do it more. But an Evangelical Atheist is as annoying as an Evangelical Christian.

I don't know, but if I did, I wouldn't believe in the God of the Bible.

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 Post subject: Re: An Atheism Thread
PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2010 1:51 pm 

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I used to consider myself agnostic, but find myself becoming increasingly more athiest as I get older. In fact, I will just go for it and declare myself a proper athiest now!


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 Post subject: Re: An Atheism Thread
PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2010 7:07 pm 
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ughh, just did this dance today on FB (Black Aspirin).

Aetheism just means a non-belief in God, but there are some religions that don't have a deity (Sherpa and some Taoist sects).

You don't have to define yourself (as an aetheist) by a 'not-belief' in what other people believe and, in fact, aetheism can be taken to an illogical conclusion to where it is made to be a belief system (have you seen the militant aetheism billboards attacking X-mas by the Holland tunnel in NYC?).
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Creationist based faiths serve only as a wedge between Man and the natural world; it is probable that druidic paganism is more near the mark of how man can live in harmony with the known world.

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 Post subject: Re: An Atheism Thread
PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2010 11:30 pm 

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Jeez, I don't even want to bother parsing the OP.

I call myself an atheist because the broad definition of atheism perfectly describes my views. Technically, I'm an agnostic atheist, but that's because I adhere to the original definitions of the terms...I do not use agnosticism in the now-popular manner of 'somewhere in between theism and atheism'.

Agnosticism has to do with knowledge, Theism/Atheism with belief. I'm an agnostic atheist, and I don't mind the stigma of the word, as long as I get a chance to explain what I mean by it. Without belief in God. Not total certainty that God can't exist, but the inability to believe it based on what I've experienced and thought about.


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 Post subject: Re: An Atheism Thread
PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2010 11:40 pm 

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I didn't think you and I were in disagreement today, Damocles...I don't have a problem with your definition of atheism, although I would define the word religion differently. Without a belief in the afterlife, or a deity...I would have a hard time calling it more than a philosophy, or an ethical system.

I might be wrong in that, but my perception was that Buddhism and other non-deity based systems weren't necessarily considered religions across the board. You might have a better definition that makes sense; but without a deity, I would think it hard to divide where a religion ends and a philosophy or ethical system begins.


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 Post subject: Re: An Atheism Thread
PostPosted: Tue Dec 07, 2010 12:08 am 
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^ You're an empirical rationalist (an Occamist), so am I. But even that doesn't properly define people like us because empiricism doesn't allow for any kind of.......wait for it.......spirituality!
I think people confuse the hackled gooseflesh of a spiritual experience with religious epiphany.

This is all rather moot anyway in that I am pushing at an already open door with you folk ;)

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