The central contradiction running through the arguments of many of those new atheists authors


#1

Some of those “new atheist” authors that write books such as God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist, where they claim science actually demonstrates there is no God, are actually engaged in a loose form of reductio ad absurdum, that is; an argument that leads to contradiction. This is because while operating under the assumed worldview atheism gives them of man and his intellect, they also expect science and the human intellect to give a real account and explanation of the ultimate Reality. And there are other new atheist writers such as Richard Dawkins who pin their hopes on science finding a “Theory of Everything”, which would supposedly explain not only exactly how the universe operates and exists, but even why the laws of nature demand it’s existence. It supposedly would explain everything, (even the old “why is there something and not nothing?” question), and in these atheist’s minds finally riding the world of God.

The problem is, under the worldview of atheism, man’s mind is merely an end product of natural selection, different merely in degree, not kind, from all the other little critters natural selection has produced. This little critter we call man builds a better dam than a beaver does, and he’s much more clever than a beaver, but that’s all, he has no more right to make pronouncements on the ultimate nature of reality than the beaver does. Because in the atheist view of man this little guy’s mind was constructed through the blind machinations of natural selection, a process which selected for attributes that would help him catch his next meal, avoid the next predator, and then live to mate and pass on his “selfish genes”. Thus, under this assumption there's no reason to believe these minds that unguided natural selection cobbled together piecemeal are capable of constructing reliable abstract inferences or a true understanding of the ultimate structure of reality, they weren’t “designed” for that. This critter known as man is good at recognizing patterns in his day to day world, through fallible inductive reasoning, which allows him to construct useful gadgets like campfires, dams, lasers, and MRI machines. But once he steps beyond this into the realm of unfalsifiable and untestable abstract inferences on the ultimate nature of Reality he’s overstepped what his brain was constructed for.

On top of that, man takes in all he knows of “the world” through a mere five senses, senses that were selected for solely to help him survive, they helped him hear the approach of a wild boar and see the tree to which it would be a good place to climb to safety. We can only perceive the part of the world that these senses give us access to. Just consider if we ever met a race of beings with brains similar to ours but with just three senses, missing the senses of sight and sound. Would anyone expect those beings to ever form a complete description of Reality, or even know some of the things we do through our sense of sight and hearing? It’s likely some being with seven senses would know even more about the world than us, I believe Kant made this point about our inability to grasp the "noumenon" world, or what he called the "thing-in-itself". Thus, both our senses and intellectual faculties evolved in a context concerned mainly with survival and reproduction. And the powers that such clever little critters may possess are wholly inadequate to picture Reality itself, which belongs to an order that utterly transcends our daily concerns.

The Nobel laureate Eugene Wigner published in 1960 what’s become a pretty famous and much quoted essay titled; “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences”. Wigner pointed out the near miraculous “fit” between mathematics and physical Laws in describing the workings of our universe. He observed that the mathematical structure of our laws of physics often point the way to further advances in theory, and he argued that this is can not be just a coincidence and therefore must reflect some deeper truth about both mathematics and physics. This all has to do with the mystery of the rational intelligibility of the universe, why are human minds able to figure out the workings of the universe and why does mathematics “work” as such an effective tool in describing the universe? Since Wigner first published his paper physicists and philosophers of a theistic bent have pointed out that it’s really not surprising that the universe is intelligible to us, since both the universe and human minds were created by the same God, that is, both the laws of physics and mathematics are traceable to the mind of the same God who created both the universe and the human mind. Therefore it’s not surprising when mathematical theories produced by human minds match the workings of the actually Laws of the universe.

But not so fast, say other physicists and philosophers of a more atheistic view of the world. They say that the reason the Laws of the Universe follow mathematical rules is simply because humans first invented mathematics and then started looking at the universe through their “mathematical colored glasses”. They’ve merely “projected” their man-made invention of mathematics onto the universe, the universe doesn’t really follow laws based on mathematics. In other words, Wigner’s "mystery" that mathematics actually describes the Laws that the Universe follows is about as significant as the “mystery” that English is the language that plays are written in. The philosopher Thomas Kuhn has even gone so far as to say that if we ever met a race of aliens from another planet, they would likely have completely different “Laws” for describing the workings of the universe that have nothing in common with our “Laws”. Remember that the next time a Dawkins tells you that once we “discover” the Theory of Everything we’ll have no room left for God.


#2

Well stated.

To me it is simple. Either you have faith or you are a total nihilist. If you are not a nihilist, then, as I believe Chesterton said, either (a) you have faith and admit it or (b) you have faith and don’t admit it. Thus, another way of stating the contradiction is to say that atheists have faith in one or more things but these elements of faith are hidden and not acknowledged in their books.

I flipped through one of Dawkins’ books and found sections where he espoused his morality on certain subjects. It was incoherent handwaving.

Seems to me that the problem with debating atheists/agnostics, and the problem with atheist/agnostic books, is that atheists do not engage in an honest debate. The Christian faith is open and known. Thus atheists have a target to attack and write about. However, their own beliefs as to morals and meaning are veiled and or unsupported. Of course, they will say they believe in science, but science does not provide a moral theory. An honest debate would be between the Christian and the atheist’s respective faith systems. But the atheist denies, or won’t reveal, his faith system.

Maybe I’m wrong. Have, for instance either Hitchens or Dawkins (strong anti-Catholics) written a book setting forth a moral system for human behavior?


#3

Interesting observations. I think the question of God’s existence is separate from the question of a theory of everything. I think Dawkins would admit that humans may never have a theory of everything, but that God still doesn’t exist.

As I read Dawkins and Hitchens, their argument against God is that God can’t be discovered by science and observation. Of course, for the most part, people don’t claim that God can be directly perceived by science. When the answer comes that human capacities are limited, they assert that this does not give people carte blanche to just invent stories. They then hunt for examples of religion being harmful or particularly misguided.

I find it hard to take them too seriously. People have always doubted or disbelieved in God because God can’t be observed. If that’s the end of the inquiry for them, that’s fine by me. Their attacks on religion are patently one sided. But I don’t think their argument is even sophisticated to contain an inconsistency: it is simply an irrelevancy. It comes down to saying there is no supernatural, just because they say there is only the natural.


#4

[quote="Quid_estVeritas, post:1, topic:195755"]
This little critter we call man builds a better dam than a beaver does, and he’s much more clever than a beaver, but that’s all, he has no more right to make pronouncements on the ultimate nature of reality than the beaver does.

[/quote]

Man's intellect -- greater than that of other animals -- allows him to make factual statements about the world that he can support with evidence and thus deem very likely to be true. Other animals cannot do that.

Thus, under this assumption there's no reason to believe these minds that unguided natural selection cobbled together piecemeal are capable of constructing reliable abstract inferences or a true understanding of the ultimate structure of reality, they weren’t “designed” for that.

I'm not sure what you mean by "ultimate structure of reality" -- our minds allow us to determine what is most likely to be true through evidence and reason. Outside of evidence and reason, there's only guesswork.

It sounds like you think there's something supernatural in the "ultimate structure of reality" that evidence and reason cannot detect. But if that's your conclusion, how in blazes did you come to that conclusion without using evidence and reason? I submit that you're just guessing, just making an assertion without any evidence at all.

You're not going to convince many people with wild assertion and guesswork.

Slowlearner:

To me it is simple. Either you have faith or you are a total nihilist.

I'll take "false dichotomy" for 100, Alex.

"Faith" -- if we're defining faith as belief in the absence of evidence...which it has to be, since no one would sensibly describe something that they have evidence for as "faith" -- is completely and totally unnecessary. I base all of my decisions on evidence, for example.

Thus atheists have a target to attack and write about. However, their own beliefs as to morals and meaning are veiled and or unsupported. Of course, they will say they believe in science, but science does not provide a moral theory. ...] But the atheist denies, or won't reveal, his faith system.

You don't seem to understand that atheism is merely the non-belief in gods. It's not itself a belief, and it's separate from moral systems. An atheist can adopt any moral system: the Kantian system, the utilitarian system, moral skepticism, or any of many other positions. It's not directly connected to atheism and is a side issue at best.

When talking about atheism, the only relevant point is whether or not gods exist. What an individual atheist actually believes -- and what each atheist believes will likely be different from what other atheists believe -- is not relevant to the point that all atheists don't believe in gods.


#5

I’m not sure I understand what the “central contradiction” here is supposed to be. The OP seems to involve three arguments: first, a simple form of Plantinga’s evolutionary argument against naturalism; second, an teleological argument based on the so-called intelligibility of the universe; and third, comments against hope for a “theory of everything.” Needless to say, that’s quite a combination!

Personally, I find serious flaws in all of these arguments. For example, Plantinga’s EAAN misunderstands evolution to predict the direction of future biological diversification, when it actually provides a framework for understanding past such diversification. Regarding teleological arguments, in my experience they invariably treat the concept of design as open-ended, when in fact it depends on some context—namely, a set of possible designers—and the OP seems to be no exception in that regard. As for the hypothetical theory of everything, although I would disagree with any atheist who suggested it somehow rules out the existence of God, I also must object that uniqueness is a requirement for its formulation; for I can find no reason to think that is the case.

Finally, I’d just like to clarify the OP’s paraphrase of Wigner’s thesis. According to the OP, Wigner argued that the effectiveness of math in physics “can not be just a coincidence and therefore must reflect some deeper truth about both mathematics and physics.” However, I find such language very misleading, as it is suggestive of a teleological argument. Yet Wigner was not attempting to show that there is design behind the universe, but rather that, on one hand, we have no available explanation for the effectiveness of math in physics, and on the other hand, the theories of physics may not be unique. Wigner calls these observations his “two main points,” and summarizes them in his introduction:

The first point is that mathematical concepts turn up in entirely unexpected connections. Moreover, they often permit an unexpectedly close and accurate description of the phenomena in these connections. Secondly, just because of this circumstance, and because we do not understand the reasons of their usefulness, we cannot know whether a theory formulated in terms of mathematical concepts is uniquely appropriate.

(source)


#6

Well, no. It comes down to the fact that there is absolutely zero evidence for the existence of anything at all supernatural.

Now that fact doesn’t mean there’s proof positive that there is no supernatural – but it does mean that there is no good reason to accept supernatural claims at all.


#7

False - atheism is an affirmative belief that there are no gods. This is significantly different from an absence of belief, and it is intellectually dishonest to claim otherwise.

Atheists embrace the notion that there is no God with no more evidence to support their belief than theists have. One must decide to take this position; it is not revealed, and it is not a default position from which theists have departed.

Thus, the idea that an individual atheist’s personal belief system is irrelevant is false – and a far-too-convenient escape hatch from admitting that such belief systems hold no water.

Peace,
Dante


#8

Right. And that is sort of definitionally irrelevant.

I realize that people will present “proofs” of God’s existence, and some people consider them compelling. But that isn’t how religion spreads. If people were accepting logical proofs of God, we’d have nothing but Deists, and Dawkins probably wouldn’t be so impassioned.

In fact, religion bases itself on extraordinary claims that defy common experience, and talk of belief and miracles. Sceince really hasn’t changed this, except to the extent that it has explained certain things in that might have been formerly ascribed supernational causes. Sometimes I hear atheists explain religion as basically a primative substitute for science. It has never had that exclusive function, or even primary function.

Now that fact doesn’t mean there’s proof positive that there is no supernatural – but it does mean that there is no good reason to accept supernatural claims at all.

This is assertion, not argument. There is no naturalistic, objective, verification of supernatural claims, or no reason in nature to accept them - but that is merely the definition of supernatural.


#9

such language very misleading?

I’m sorry for having “paraphrased” Wigner’s thesis, maybe I should just give some actual quotes from the paper;

“the enormous usefulness of mathematics in the natural sciences is something bordering on the mysterious and that there is no rational explanation for it.”

“The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve.”

“It is difficult to avoid the impression that a miracle confronts us here, quite comparable in its striking nature to the miracle that the human mind can string a thousand arguments together without getting itself into contradictions, or to the two miracles of laws of nature and of the human mind’s capacity to divine them.”


#10

[quote="Slowlearner, post:2, topic:195755"]
Well stated.

To me it is simple. Either you have faith or you are a total nihilist. If you are not a nihilist, then, as I believe Chesterton said, either (a) you have faith and admit it or (b) you have faith and don't admit it. Thus, another way of stating the contradiction is to say that atheists have faith in one or more things but these elements of faith are hidden and not acknowledged in their books.

[/quote]

Speaking of Chesterton, relating to the points of O.P. Chesterton once noted that the materialist must sooner or later ask, “Why should anything go right; even observation and deduction? Why should not good logic be as misleading as bad logic, if they are both movements in the brain of a bewildered ape.”


#11

“Faith” – if we’re defining faith as belief in the absence of evidence…which it has to be, since no one would sensibly describe something that they have evidence for as “faith” – is completely and totally unnecessary. I base all of my decisions on evidence, for example.

Faith is trust without reservation, not belief without question.

There is plenty of evidence for faith, including miracles documented by atheist scientists (the Church often asks atheist scientists to try to find a scientific explanation for a miracle in order to verify that a miracle has occurred - the atheist scientist doesn’t call it a “miracle,” but simply says there’s no explanation). St. Padre Pio evidenced many miracles documented by atheist scientists.

Atheists assume, without evidence or proof, that such miracles must be of natural origin (as opposed to supernatural origin). They do so on faith, which is trust without reservation. Given the lack of evidence, an atheist must take - on faith - that the “miracle” is actually a natural phenomenon that they cannot explain.

Therefore, I respectfully submit that you do not base all of your decisions on evidence - but rather on faith.

Also, I also respectfully submit that you make many decisions not based on evidence but based on risk analysis. Oftentimes we must make decisions without full access to evidence or based even on no evidence at all - just as a military commander must decide where to send his tanks even if he has no idea where the enemy is. Based on risk analysis, whether conscious or not, he might send his tanks up “Hill X” in the hopes of accomplishing his assigned mission. Risk analysis helps us make educated decisions when evidence is not fully available.

The fact is that atheists cannot prove there is NO God, contrary to the spurious assertions of Dawkins and Hitchens, because by definition God cannot be measured. If God cannot be measured, then it is impossible for science to prove there is no God - even if the “theory of everything” could demonstrate a self-perpetuating multiverse with no beginning.

If God cannot be “proven” or “disproven” scientifically, then both the atheist and the theist must take on faith the existence or non-existence of God.

Often, in the resulting argument, atheists and theists will charge each other with the burden of proof of supporting their position. However, either argument will lead nowhere because you cannot scientifically prove or disprove God’s existence.

A better approach, I think, is risk analysis. For this, Pascal’s Wager is quite helpful. It shows that the most rational choice is to believe and act that there IS a Christian God. Take it on faith based on risk analysis, and from there the world will open up and you will see God’s signature everywhere.

God Bless,
Ted


#12

As an aside, based on my last post, I think the "central contradiction running through the arguments of the "new" atheists" is actually quite simple.

The central contradiction is the assumption that science can disprove God.

Science, (positivism) by definition cannot prove or disprove anything that cannot be measured. Positivism has nothing to say about anything that cannot be measured. Thus, even if Hawkins could prove a self-perpetuating multiverse in a "theory of everything" in which - as a possibility - there is no God needed for the origin of the universe, he STILL has not proven there is no God. He has only proven that there might be no God because he will have made the argument of first cause more difficult to state.

Again, because God cannot be measured positivistically, proving His existence or non-existence is impossible. Both the atheist and the theist must take on faith (trust without reservation) that God either exists or does not exist.

Both sides invoke Occum's Razor and both sides assert that the burden of proof lies with the other side.

To someone who approaches the issue truly objectively, as opposed to their already pre-conceived notion of whether God exists or doesn't exist, the only way to make the best decision in the absence of positivistic proof is to rely on risk analysis. Pascal's Wager is that risk analysis, leading to the conclusion that your most rational choice is to believe in God - and not just any god, but in the Christian God Jesus Christ and His Church.

From that starting point, one can come to experience that God is actually real, and loving.

God Bless,

-T


#13

To what end? Are you insisting that Wigner was indeed arguing for design? If so, that’s just not true. Wigner clearly indicates his thesis, as I pointed out earlier. On top of that, I can find no other writings of his which mention God.

If not, then for what “deeper truth” do you think your quotations illustrate that Wigner was arguing?


#14

From the experiences i have had with atheists, the only thing it has done is hinder my learning of faith. Surely i could win an argument against an atheist but still really haven't won their heart (in a way). The best thing we can do is pray. God is more powerful than our words, if they really want to continue to argue let them, but don't get so hung up about it haha.

One day we will all know truth


#15

This is false. Don’t make me quote the professional philosophers who argue otherwise.

Atheism (literally “without gods”) is the absence of belief in gods. It includes those who simply don’t have a belief as well as those who actively believe there are no gods (sometimes called “weak atheists” and “strong atheists” respectively).

An analogy I’ve often used is this: imagine I’ve flipped a coin and concealed it in my palm. A Headsist is a person who believes the coin is heads up. An aheadsist is a person who lacks the belief that the coin is heads up – and this position includes those who simply don’t hold a belief on the subject and those who think the coin is tails up.

A similar analogy is in courts: we vote “not guilty,” and the non-guilty-ists include those who simply aren’t convinced of guilt and those who actively believe in the innocence of the defendent.

Atheists assume, without evidence or proof, that such miracles must be of natural origin (as opposed to supernatural origin). They do so on faith, which is trust without reservation.

You’re mixed up here. When something happens that people can’t explain, the rational position to take is that something has happened that people can’t explain. Why it’s happened is something you have to demonstrate.

You might think that weird event X has happened because a god made it happened, but where is the evidence for this? There are thousands of other potential supernatural explanations (perhaps a wandering, invisible spirit caused it to happen, as a joke; perhaps there was a glitch in the “matrix” computer program that our minds are trapped in; perhaps someone’s mind is manifesting involuntary psychic powers; etc., etc., etc.)

In order to claim that a weird event happened for X reason, you have to have evidence. Otherwise, the correct thing to say is, “something happened that people can’t explain.”

The fact is that atheists cannot prove there is NO God, contrary to the spurious assertions of Dawkins and Hitchens, because by definition God cannot be measured.

Well, in the first place, I know that Dawkins has not claimed that he can prove there is no god. In fact, he says in the God Delusion that one a scale from 1 to 7, 1 being absolute knowledge that there is a god and 7 being absolute knowledge that there is no god, he would be a 6.

But, anyway, I concede, as Dawkins and Hitchens and others do, that it is impossible to prove there is no god…just like it is impossible to prove that there is no Bigfoot, no leprechauns, no UFO abductions, and no intangible alligator living under my bed (NOTE: I am comparing the lack of proof in each case…I am not comparing the entities…I know that your god is different from these other beings…I am not trying to compare your god to these creatures…I’m comparing the amount of evidence against them in each case).

I don’t need to prove that there are no UFO abductions to not believe in them – despite the fact that there are hundreds of eyewitnesses who tell stories that corroborate each other. I don’t need to prove that there is no Bigfoot not to believe in him – despite the first-hand eyewitness accounts from people who claim to have seen him. And so on and so forth.

Evidence lets us determine the likelihood that something is true or not. And things for which there is no evidence at all are things that are not likely to exist. I’ll happily change my mind once I see evidence.


#16

But the question isn’t entirely one of evidence. It’s what we do in the face of the lack of evidence.

Given our lack of knowledge about the origin and fundamental nature of the universe, is it irrational to speculate that it may have a creator or a purpose beyond its physical limts?

Is it wrong or irrational to consider that the universe itself is a sort of creative, universal spirit?

I don’t think you could say that there is anything irrational about such speculation.

Could you acknowledge that believing such things - about universal order and purpose or a sentient aspect to the universe - can be psychologically heathy and satisfying?

And, if someone accepts that there is a purpose or intelligence beyond the universe’s physical boundaries, or within it, is it irrational to accept that physcial laws might be suspended or changed by that intelligence?

I don’t see belief as logically compelled, but I find it hard to peg it as grossly irrational. It isn’t a belief about an isolated thing that goes against our understanding of the universe. It is a belief about how the universe itself operates.


#17

I don't need to prove that there are no UFO abductions to not believe in them -- despite the fact that there are hundreds of eyewitnesses who tell stories that corroborate each other. I don't need to prove that there is no Bigfoot not to believe in him -- despite the first-hand eyewitness accounts from people who claim to have seen him. And so on and so forth.

Your argument is the attempt to shift the burden of proof to me to demonstrate that God exists (admittedly a believer in God). However, I have side-stepped the issue of the burden of proof.

The central point I made is that - in the absence of proof one way or another - risk analysis (Pascal's Wager) shows that the most rational choice to make is to believe in God's existence and in Christianity in particular.

Through what appears to be a reductio ad absurdum argument, you noted that you don't believe in UFOs, Bigfoot, etc., due to lack of evidence. However, I respectfully submit that what you are really doing is performing risk analysis regarding the possible existence of these beings and/or phenomena. In the absence of the proof of the non-existence of UFOs and aliens on Earth, you perform a risk analysis to determine whether it makes sense to believe in them. By it's nature, Bigfoot would be physical, thus it is rational to require proof of it's existence - at least circumstantially - in order for belief. In the absence of such proof, and given that the risk posed by Bigfoot is relatively small, it is rational to believe Bigfoot does not exist despite the lack of evidence to the contrary. A similar risk analysis holds for aliens and the alligator under your bed.

God is something entirely different. God, unlike Bigfoot, by His intrinsic nature, cannot be measured. Thus, as you state, you cannot prove God's non-existence. Also unlike Bigfoot, the risk/reward analysis regarding the belief/non-belief in God is infinite, as opposed to a nebulous physical threat posed by Bigfoot.

Tell me if I'm wrong, but your position is that, in the absence of evidence, you have an "absence of belief" in God. Again, tell me if I'm wrong, but you admit that you cannot prove that God does not exist.

If these two statements are true, then (if you are honest) you would have to believe in God if you had "evidence" to do so. The point I am making here is that, in your philosophy, you should be neutral as to God's existence - as opposed to antithetical. If so, then why would you choose not to believe in God given the risk/benefit analysis of Pascal's Wager? In other words, if you have no personal agenda in avoiding Christian doctrines, why would you ignore the logic of Pascal's Wager?

You're mixed up here. When something happens that people can't explain, the rational position to take is that something has happened that people can't explain. Why it's happened is something you have to demonstrate.

I apologize if I misrepresented your position. Most atheists I know take the tack that God does not exist and that "miracles" must have a natural explanation. You are correct that a true positivist must simply take the position that "I can't explain what I have seen."

However, there are two things that the positivist will still naturally do in the face of unexplained phenomena:

1) Out of curiosity, ask the question Why. I assert that the positivist's natural inclination is to assume that there is a natural explanation for what has been observed. Science has advanced many times in the face of this queston, such as the advent of quantum mechanics in the face of various apparent paradoxes such as the ultraviolet catastrophe.

2)If the positivist's natural inclination is to assume that there is a natural explanation for what has been observed, then I assert that the positivist has made an underlying assumption that there cannot be a Supernatural cause. Why? Because the positivist cannot prove the Supernatural. For this reason, the positivist excludes, based on faith, one possible explanation for what has been observed. Thus, in the end, the positivist is still a person of faith.

In the face of Pascal's Wager, and if you must make a leap of faith regardless of which way you choose, why choose to take the riskier position of non-belief?


#18

[quote="AntiTheist, post:15, topic:195755"]
This is false. Don't make me quote the professional philosophers who argue otherwise.

Atheism (literally "without gods") is the absence of belief in gods. It includes those who simply don't have a belief as well as those who actively believe there are no gods (sometimes called "weak atheists" and "strong atheists" respectively).

[/quote]

Atheism can mean an absence of belief in gods, yes. However, in the philosophical literature, I have found that it more frequently refers to the denial of theism. Antony Flew in the 1950s attempted to suggest an expanded definition for atheism, distinguishing between positive (denial of theism) and negative atheism (doubt of theism). This expansion has become wildly popular on the internet, for reasons which are fairly obvious: It is very easy to defend doubting theism, but difficult indeed to justify a denial. However, Flew's expansion has not been nearly as well-received among philosophers. Although some make use of it (e.g. Simon Blackburn), it is my experience that most others do not (e.g. Julian Baggini).

Now, it could be that my experience is atypical. However, I do not believe this is the case. Either way, though, the issue is a matter of preference, not fact. Definitions are not true or false; rather, they are useful or not useful, common or uncommon, convenient or inconvenient, etc. You are free to use whatever definition you wish. However, some definitions may make communication more difficult than others.


#19

[quote="DonM, post:16, topic:195755"]
Given our lack of knowledge about the origin and fundamental nature of the universe, is it irrational to speculate that it may have a creator or a purpose beyond its physical limts?

[/quote]

Speculation is fine. We're talking, however, about belief -- and not only belief, but choosing to run your life on the basis of a belief, pinning your hopes on the truth of a belief. That's more than mere speculation, and, for me, anyway, that requires more substantial evidence.

Could you acknowledge that believing such things - about universal order and purpose or a sentient aspect to the universe - can be psychologically heathy and satisfying?

The question is not whether beliefs are satisfying to the people who hold them, but whether the beliefs are true or not.

ContegoFides:

The central point I made is that - in the absence of proof one way or another - risk analysis (Pascal's Wager) shows that the most rational choice to make is to believe in God's existence and in Christianity in particular.

I don't agree. Pascal's Wager makes the assumption that belief can be chosen, that belief is subject to the will in the simple sense.

For me, "belief" is the state of being convinced that a proposition is true. Even if I were to determine that it's beneficial for me to believe in your particular god -- and that is far from a foregone conclusion -- I would be unable to make myself believe solely on that basis.

For me -- and I can't speak for others here -- belief isn't the result of deciding what's "safest" to believe. I don't believe in electrons because it's "safe" to believe in them -- I believe in them because we have tons and tons of good evidence that they exist (in addition to experiments that demonstrate that they manifest in some way, witness the things we're able to do with that discovery: like send messages across computers).

But at any rate, I don't agree with the risk/reward formula. There are hundreds of other religions, any of which could be the one true faith (and Christianity and its "inspired" scriptures may, in fact, have been the product of some evil spirit attempting to mislead people away from that true faith). I submit that the odds of choosing the "correct" faith, if there is one, are slim to none and that the most honest position is not to choose any.

The point I am making here is that, in your philosophy, you should be neutral as to God's existence - as opposed to antithetical.

Well, as it so happens, just because it is impossible to prove something wrong, that does not mean that I am absolutely neutral on the question.

It's impossible to prove that the Hindu gods aren't real, but I'm not neutral on the issue of whether they exist or not. It's impossible to prove that intangible sock gnomes don't steal my socks every week and that they will continue to do this unless I honor them, making it beneficial in a risk/reward scenario to believe in them -- but I'm not neutral on the issue, and the risk/reward calculation doesn't lead me to believe in them, either.

We don't evaluate claims in a vacuum. We have a very long history of observing the universe operating according to regular laws and absolutely no evidence that there is anything other than a material universe -- this doesn't prove that there's no such thing as the supernatural, but at the very least, it suggests that those who wish to convince others of supernatural claims have a significant amount of work cut out for them and would need to produce very clear and convincing evidence to sway anyone who is interested in evaluating reality accurately.


#20

[quote="hatsoff, post:18, topic:195755"]
Definitions are not true or false; rather, they are useful or not useful, common or uncommon, convenient or inconvenient, etc. You are free to use whatever definition you wish. However, some definitions may make communication more difficult than others.

[/quote]

I use the definition of atheist that myself and most other atheists that I know in real life actually use.

If, by your definition, I'm not an "atheist," then feel free to label me something else. It doesn't change the points that I make.

If it helps, Christopher Hitchens once put it this way (paraphrasing): atheists don't say that there is no god, just that there is no good reason to believe that there's one.


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