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Initial post: Mar 20, 2008 8:10:58 PM PDT
I have three questions for all atheists or those who would discredit religion. Before I ask the questions, I'd just like to say I'm not trying to challenge anyone's beliefs and I'd rather not say what I my beliefs are. I'd honestly like to treat this as an informal survey. I just want to understand the diversity of secular thinking and what causes people to reject God or religion.

So here they are
Question one: Why did you become an atheist, how do you justify it?

Question two: What would it take to make you believe in God?

Question three: Atheism (as I understand it) is a negative, so what is your positive. What is it that you do believe in, or rather, if someone comes up to you and says, "What is truth?",
your response would be, "I can tell you what it's not, it's not God."
So what is it you do believe in.

You can answer one or all. I'm grately appreciative for any responses. I only check this in the evenings so I'm sorry if it takes some time to get back to you all

Thanks again

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 24, 2008 10:06:13 AM PDT
J. D. Howard says:
That is an interesting post, Joseph. It appears that nobody has answered your post in the month since you posted this question or challenge.

The only way I can answer your question is to put it another way. Let's say that you yourself are a Christian. Let's say that you are not only a Christian but a member of a specific Christian sect, let's say Methodist (that happens to be the first sect that comes to my mind). Let's say that you are not only a Christian Methodist, but you hold your own personal specific beliefs about God and Biblical interpretation in those areas that are arbitrary within the Methodist tradition. Perhaps your specific blend of faith is unique to you in the entire universe (not just among humans but among anyone anywhere in the universe capable of holding religious faith).

Now let's consider reality. Whatever exists in the universe does not depend on what you believe or what I believe. The reality of the universe exists whether you believe in it or not or I believe in it or not. If God exists with some specific characterization and some specific values, God's existence does not depend on whether you believe in that specific characterization or not, or whether I do or not. Likewise, the lack of a God does not depend on whether either of us believes in God or not.

Now let's assume an extreme situation... Let's assume that your specific blend of faith, perhaps unique among all Methodists and among all Christians, matches exactly to reality. God operates and exists precisely the way you yourself imagine Him to operate. and the way you live your life happens to be exactly in accordance with God's will, and your faith is 100% perfect and correct.

My answer to this situation would be that you are STILL WRONG! What is incorrect in my view is not necessarily holding the correct answer, but how you gain your knowledge. Until a question can be answered and proven objectively and can be repeated and fully explained, it is intellectually lazy to assume we have answers.

So, for me the possession of *faith itself* is a fundamental error. It makes no difference to me what that specific faith is. The very fact that someone is accepting a specific reality and an explanation of reality *based on faith* and on anything other than their observation of objective reality and on anything other than using their brain to develop an understanding of logical principles, is unacceptable to me as being intellectually lazy.

The word "atheism" is rather strange. It is a word describing a lack of belief in a deity. The English language does not have a word for the lack of belief in leprechauns or demons. Almost any other belief has a term describing it but not a term describing the lack of it. The term "atheism" holds more meaning to those who are not atheists because it describes people who are not like them. But do you ever think of yourself as someone who does not believe in leprechauns? It doesn't occur to you. Likewise for me, so "atheist" is almost an irrelevant description.

I would say that all humans are atheists of nearly all the thousands of deities dreamed up by humanity over the course of millenia. Perhaps the difference between you and me is that I am an atheist of one more deity than you are.

This is how I personally justify my atheism, if you call it that.

Nothing could get me to *believe* or *have faith* in anything (God included) because I am opposed to the very concept of faith itself for the reasons I gave above. I will certainly accept anything (including a specific discovered version of God) that would be a conclusion built on human knowledge and observable reality (experimentation and so forth).

Atheism is a negative term in the sense that I am opposed to nonsense, in the pure definition of nonsense. Nonsense is faith based on some mystical form of intuitive knowledge. My "positive" to counter this "negative" is my own use of my brain to observe reality, history, and human progress and to decide for myself which ideas and assumptions about the universe are sound and reasonable based on the legacy of human knowledge and observation.

I hope I answered your question fairly, and I look forward to your reply.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 26, 2008 2:07:02 PM PDT
Finally, someone posted........ I assumed I would have gotten a few more responses so thanks for taking the time........ I guess I only have Ben Stein to blame for taking up the good discussions groups.......
Speaking of which,
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eaGgpGLxLQw
you'll hate yourself for laughing at this (if you haven't seen it yet)
so here's pennance
http://richarddawkins.net/article,2478,Sexpelled-No-Intercourse-Allowed,RichardDawkinsnet

Anyway, nice posting, I've surfed a few atheist chat rooms and never got responses like that one. So bravo sir.......
I'd like to challenge some points and raise some questions for you to answer.
For starters, let me summarize your viewpoints and see if I get them right.

Faith is the lazy mans way of obtaining truth
You trust reason, logic and objective studies
Until a question can be answered and proven objectively and can be repeated and fully explained, it is intellectually lazy to assume we have answers.

So first off, let's recognize limitations on what science is. Science's pursuit of knowledge is limited to natural, materialistic occurring events. Any explanation to these require concepts based on naturalism and falsification and testability. As a method, this has served us well but it is not capable of answer any question that falls outside of this narrow method. For instance, Democritus theorized of the atom and it took over 2300 years before it was capable of being proven objectively. Other particles (gravitrons, leptons) exist only in a rational abstract sense as we cannot yet verify them (although I'm fairly certain we'll be able to). You mention it is intellectually lazy to assume we have answers until they can be fully explained. I don't know of any philosophy that has been developed for proving "fully explained". Part of what a theory is rests on the notion that it will always be incomplete. Even if we had absolute truth, we'd have no way of knowing it. This is a big challenge and a limitation on objectivity.
Here's another one I found.
It comes from William Lane Criag, a notorious christian apologist
He states of a few rational beliefs that science cannot prove. (I edited some out because they were pretty bad)
Mathematics and logic (it presupposes them, not proves them)
Metaphysical (such as, there are minds that exist other than my own, nature of thoughts)
Ethical Judgements (cannot be verified empirically but are values placed on events)
Science itself (if science is used as the only method for truth rather than one means of finding truth)
Should you choose to waste you time on this, attack Criag, not me for this one.

So, science has it's limitations, truths can be known before they can be empirically verified, and has no method to prove we can ever fully explain anything. I'm not arguing for divine revelations to replace but simply defining boundaries. And showing a belief in God (if properly justified) wouldn't be intellectually lazy.


So hopefully, if I've set this up correctly, it's incorrect to "have faith" that the only method for establishing truth is to rely on purely the repeatable objective studies. I can assume from your posting that you already know this, and I could assume we would agreed that logic is another, but what type? You used logic with the prism of a materialistic natural viewpoint. So let me set up another argument.
Understanding spiritualism or God comes from two methods. Divine revelations and natural theology. The same type of naturalism used in science can also be applied to religion. Earlier you mentioned even if faith proved true, it wouldn't be right. I'd be inclined to agree with that. What about natural theology then? Rather than looking at life through the prism of materialism and causation, (which excludes God from the get go) a person can use the prism of spiritualism with logic as their guide. Most notably Descarte used this argument when he said, (have to paraphrase here) "God can be known by two means, his effects and his essence. The later being a priori."
What this would mean (provided we exclude subjective experience and divine revelation) is that only natural theology is the only objective way of understanding God. Your very methods don't allow for his/her discoveries. How then can you be certain, if God is truth, that your method will find his essence? So, at the very least, because we can never know for certain, and because your methods eliminate God from the equations, it would be premature to consider yourself an atheist. Perhaps someone who is agnostic and deeply skeptical of most peoples idea of God, (especially faith based God) but not an atheist. Secondly, if definitions of God did not contradict the limitations of science, would it be fair to call you a mild deist?

Posted on Feb 5, 2010 12:48:48 PM PST
Mr. Hedderich, I will reply with more pithy answers than you find in the very erudite response from Mr? Dr? Professor? Howard. I have gradually become an Atheist through the evolution from Methodist to questioning Methodist to Agnostic to where I am today. This trip has been aided by the bitter debates between Creationists and Evolutionists with a boost from Churches' stances on same-sex marriage, intrusion into the government to attempt to change the country into a Theocracy, stem-cell research and other areas. It has led me to analyze why people believe in a supreme being. My conclusion is that our beliefs come from indoctrination by our parents, teachers, church clergy and others and that there is nothing that one observes in everyday life that strikes the observer with "golly this must have been created by a super being". In fact a lot of what is written, preached and otherwise communicated is contrary to what we scientists understand to be the facts. So, I asked myself: Why would a rational god, who supposedly formed the Universie and the Earth, have provided a set of physical laws which are not immutable but may be broken to suit the imaginations of some religious person?

But I ramble. Your second question relates to what it would take to make me return to Christianity again. The answer is: Very likely nothing would change my path at this point because it has been thought out over a long period of time. I supose some well-documented variation from what is known about evolution, some well-documented disobeyance of a physical law would shake my position until people in the field in which it occurred had time to study the aberrant phenomenon to explain in in terms of the physical and biological laws of the Universe.

Your third point revolved around the question of Atheism being negative (I suppose in contradiction to Christianity being positive?). I reject that position all together. I suspect your calling Atheism negative is either because it disagrees with Christianity or because you do not fully understand it. When I go into the laboratory to study a biochemical phenomenon, I see order in the system I study and consider it truly beautiful. However in making this judgement, I do not for a moment let my explanation rest on "God must have created this in this way. There are so many processes occurring in the cells of your body that must be regulated to the proper extent for you to be able to eat, breathe, have mobility and, yes, write questions about Atheism. This displays, to me, a very positive outcome a well regulated systems that evolved as animals, and their cells, became more and more complex and hence needed more complex molecular structures and functions to keep up with demand. If you feel the this was all in the hands of God, what makes you feel that your view is not the negative one? Anyway my short dscussion has gotten too long so I apologize to you and the readers who may one day read it.

Posted on Jul 23, 2011 7:15:00 PM PDT
Answer 1: I was born an atheist, i never found a reason to justify any gods

Answer 2: What God?

Answer 3: Not sure what you're asking here.. There are so many philosophical ways to answer it, but none of those answers actually explain anything but a philosophical position and i don't have a default philosophical position. As for "belief", i believe in my wife, kids, a job well done and an honest pay for an honest days work :) I also believe that there are 7 days a week, 24 hours a day and i'm still convinced that the earth orbits around the sun.
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Initial post:  Mar 20, 2008
Latest post:  Jul 23, 2011

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Archimedes to Hawking: Laws of Science and the Great Minds Behind Them by Clifford A. Pickover (Hardcover - April 16, 2008)
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