Theism vs. Atheism: Civil Discussion

First of all, I recently discovered this section of Forumosa, and I posted comments in a few threads sharing my opinions and beliefs, but felt that given the topic it wasn’t the right time or place for that. It’s been a while since I’ve been stimulated on this subject, so I’d like to invite fellow Forumosans on either side of the fence to participate in this discussion, though it cannot be called a debate because online forums never really have endings for threads like these.

I’d like to keep it civil and as straightforward, as possible. I apologize if I took a bitter tone in the other threads I posted in on this subject. That won’t happen in this one (unless someone else takes a tone first).

I will state my position to avoid confusion:
Atheist/Agnostic. I lean toward atheist, but you’d have to be a total idiot to close that door 100%.

Pascal’s Wager, eh? :smiley:

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Not quite, Mr. Presley. Pascal’s Wager claims that while evidence God exists is not enough to merit one’s belief, the lack of absolute proof to the contrary suggests that the best bet is to “believe” JUST IN CASE God exists. By doing so you can spare your soul the eternal flames of hell. The logic would be sound, if not for the fact that then one would have to decide WHICH God you’d pretend to believe in. If you pretended to believe in more than one, there’s a good chance that the correct God would call you out on that, and you’d burn anyway, having wasted your life.

My position is that, if there IS indeed a God, it is perfect, not petty, not jealous, and not demanding of praise and worship. This God would reward those who did they best they could with the lives they had. If I believe in any God, it is in this God. A God who understands that sometimes, due to our circumstances, it’s hard to believe. It’s hard to be good. In the case of a bad genetic break, sometimes it’s even hard to not be evil. This God is beyond all name, beyond any form, any written word, and is perfect to the point where its existence would seem impossible, considering the utter imperfection of the world said God has created. Although, all of this is assuming this God is in fact a creator. We know that the Christian God is NOT the creator of the world, according to recent retranslations, so anything is possible.

But, I do NOT believe in this God. If I did think there was a God worthy of our praise, that would be it; one that didn’t want it, in fact, one that rejected it.

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Given the definition of an atheist as “one who lacks belief in a god or gods”, then I am an atheist.

The reasons I lack belief in deities are the same reasons that I lack belief in, say, genies or fairies. Though it may be possible that genies or fairies do indeed exist, I have yet to encounter sound evidence or reasoning supporting their existence.

If someone is able to prove, objectively and soundly, that a god exists, then I will accept its existence. Of course, then this person would have to go on to demonstrate that the god they just proved exists is their god (be it Yahweh, Vishnu, Zeus, Quetzalcoatl, or whatever), as well as all the truth of all the trappings that accompany their religion.

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Right, it’s just like genies or fairies, or perhaps the Flying Spaghetti Monster - Wikipedia

Have you heard of Russell’s teapot? It demonstrates that the burden of proof should fall squarely on the shoulders of the person making the claim that something requiring evidence to be believable. If we say that there is an invisible teapot out in outer space, too small and too distant for telescopes to detect, of course we know immediately this is probably nonsense. Or at least not important. To believe this, we would need the person who claims this to show us some kind of evidence. Without the evidence, any further statement from the person on the topic is immediately subject to doubt.

Hey, it’s ALWAYS the write time.

I actually believe that your position is the most intellectually honest position to take. No one can prove that there ISN’T a God. And yes, no one can really prove that there IS one.

Usually, Atheism is a reaction to ‘theism’. It’s not logic. It’s emotion.

Heh. Where’s that “can 'o worms” smiley when you need it? :popcorn:

And right there, the civility of the discussion has ended. Nice job. :wink:

Yup, I’ve heard of Russell’s Teapot.

As for Pascal’s Wager, some of its weaknesses are:

  1. Which god to wager on? All of them?
  2. An omniscient god would know that you’re just wagering rather than truly believing.
  3. What if there is a god, but he rewards skeptics and punishes believers?
  4. You can indeed lose a lot by wasting time, effort and money in devotion to a god who doesn’t exist.

We’ve had a few of these threads before, I predict that this will not end well.

I don’t disagree. Others may, but I don’t. Without light, there can be no dark. If we have no point of reference in theism, then the term “atheism” has no meaning or value whatsoever. If the whole world progressed without ever developing religion, the concept of atheism too would not exist. In this way, it can be proved that atheism is a reaction to theism. However, I also agree that atheism is not logical. Agnosticism is the only true logical path; since we cannot know the truth for certain, we must reason with ourselves to get as close to the truth as possible. We find that we have more reasons, logically speaking, to not be bothered with believing, but we can in no way say that the evidence is conclusive, nor can we ever. Humanity is merely ants in an ant farm, trying to understand what’s on the outside.

I’ll expand on what I think your meaning is behind “atheism” being an emotional reaction: In many cases, such as when I first doubted God’s existence, it was indeed an emotional reaction. I mentioned in another thread that it coincided with a prayer for my grandparents’ health, which was rewarded by my grandfather being diagnosed with cancer the very next day. Of course my reaction was powerful and emotional, and I denounced God at the age of ten, but still believed a little (though my opinion of God changed considerably). As time went on, I called myself an atheist, and I was militant. Now, I’m an agnostic, and although I can be outspoken, and I’m very opinionated, I try to learn through dialogues like this one. So in my case, I went from Christian, to Atheist, to Agnostic, and I’m certain this is an extremely popular progression.

You’re right in this case.

There’s no such thing as a-leprechaunism because there is no leprechaunism.

But if ther were a movement of people insisting that we must believe in leprechauns, there would be a contingent of people who would oppose this viewpoint. They would be a-leprechaunists.

Please explain.

I’m curious how the atheists deal with Buddhism, which has no deity, or advanced Taoism, or even some christian sects which treat God as the name for what we cannot understand, and not a real figure in outer space? I’m curious how they deal with aesthetic experience that cannot be measured, or aesthetic worth which cannot be proved but is felt by many. How do they explain human love, and if they do so purely by evolution then do they feel that it has no value? If man is the measure of all things then what value in there in your life, your friendship, your judgments, your goals and ambitions.

I’ve known a few true atheists who were honest enough to confront these questions in the light of their atheism and they were predictably unhappy people. Most of us exist as if there is a higher meaning to our actions. Hard to see how we could do otherwise on a day to day basis. Professed atheists are far from being logical and rational; on the contrary by denying religion they have shut down exploring meaning though they act as if it is their in their life anyway.

Atheism in many ways is simply a method of avoiding being honest with yourself that you know there is something special about your existence. Because if you admit that then, wow, does everything change.

I could almost be considered one of those who believes in God as an abstract concept. I believe in my own feelings, my own emotion of love for my fiance, my appreciation of music, my attraction to the female form, the value of philosophy and, in some regards, the human soul… But I don’t think being aware of all this requires a belief in a deity, or God, or anything beyond science. Though it is worth mentioning that Buddhism in MOST sects only supposedly has no deity; in practice, many Buddhists worship the Buddha, believe in mythology relating to him, and some, depending on their cultural background, carry other concepts of heaven, hell, nirvana, etc., which can only be described as supernatural. See Chinese Buddhism, which goes hand-in-hand with folk religion. I’ve heard it’s quite similar in most of India.

I’m quite happy, profoundly so, and content with the possibility that if I die tomorrow, that’s curtains… It all was for nothing, but it was a good ride and, well, I won’t have the chance to miss it when death flings me into non-existence. The only thing I’d worry about is those I left behind, but that’s a problem for theists too.

It would depend on what their beliefs are in more detail.

We feel it too.

I never thought it needed explaining. Its value stands on its own and has no need to rely on anything.

Wow. Like love, life, friendships, etc all have incalculable value. What does that have to do with this life being the end all or not?

You should get out some more!

That’s absurd. Nothing could be more special than my existence (well it’s pretty special anyway) and the many things you mention above that go with it. There doesn’t have to be anything more special than that!

In my case, my atheism is only one part of my worldview; on a broader level I’m a skeptic. Though Buddhism in its strictest sense has no god, and, say, “liberal” sects of Christianity may have more abstract and nebulous concepts of god, they still base their beliefs largely in mysticism and purport the existence of a supernatural order.

I consider them as unproven as any other religion, but on another level I see them as mostly harmless, unlike religious fundamentalism, which I see as a threat to freedom and human advancement.

These things are subjective experiences; by their very nature they can’t be rigorously “proven” (which demands objectivity). But they have value because we assign value to them.

I’ve known a couple, but they were serious existentialists as well. That seems to lead people to some self-destructive thinking…

I’m a pretty happy dude, though!

Atheism is simply a lack of belief in deities. You can still accept your own existence as special. That doesn’t require a god.

What is special about your existence? You’re just a temporary arrangement of atoms. That’s it according to your beliefs (if you genuinely believe in science).

Your feeling of specialness is purely subjective. I don’t feel it (yours I mean). I can’t see or or do experiments to prove it exists. Odd isn’t it how you are so certain of something that can’t be proved and how it is the basis of so much happiness in your life.

With or without a god, one is a temporary arrangement of atoms. But an arrangement capable of extraordinary actions and experiences.

Which means they are ultimately of no intrinsic worth. So why give them special emphasis or follow them?

It’s more than that and with most people now it’s coupled with a belief that science explains the universe. I don’t see how anyone being honest and holding a rational-scientific-atheistical view of the world can consider themselves special. That is completely irrational.

If all we are is a random arrangement of atoms, and we all agree on that, does it matter if we’re “special” or not, whatever the hell that means? When you get past the quest for meaning, maybe you’ll understand the way we think. Meaning isn’t the be-all-end-all for me. I just want to enjoy life, and I’m doing a solid job. Look, I’ve got nothing to prove to you about if I’m special or not. I think you’re presenting your values to me, and assuming they must be equally as important to me as they are to you. Your values are likely part of the reason you chose your path, and mine helped me to find my path. We simply cannot agree on this issue… You’re looking for meaning where there isn’t one, so you create the supernatural. I look for my own purpose, and I am free to create my own destiny.

That’s my opinion.