Basic questions from an open-minded theist

mtreat@tx.rr.com
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Basic questions from an open-minded theist

I have a couple of basic questions and am hopeful that I can get some short, to-the-point responses:

1. Does The Rational Response Squad assert absolute certainty that no "god" exists now or ever? If yes, how do you justify having absolute certainty about this? If no, how do you escape the charge that you also hold a position that you cannot prove empirically? I've seen your working definitions of atheism, theism, agnosticism and reviewed much of your site but saw nothing that addresses this question adequately.

2. Being a reformed Christian fundamentalist (but, admittedly still a believer in something vaguely Christian), I am a big critic of religion as it is typically practiced, particularly the fundamentalist brands. However, I see the characteristics of fundamentalism exhibited in non-religious endeavors as well. My personal definition of fundamentalism is as follows: having an unassailable position that you in word and/or deed essentially require that others hold as well (those that do not hold your position are deserving of your contempt, intolerance, and, perhaps, deserving of violence as well). With this definition in mind, I contend that fundamentalism is the problem, not religion. I also contend that the elements of fundamentalism inescapably infiltrate *every* system of human creation - at least to some degree -- and that includes atheism. Just as many have died and suffered at the hands of intolerant religious fundamentalists, many have died and suffered at the hands of those that purport to be atheists and wish to eradicate the influences of religion (see the history of communism as practiced in Russia, China, etc.). For a more recent example, I find no discernible difference between the vitriol and intolerance displayed by Richard Dawkins versus that found in some fundamentalist churches (you guys really need to find a better spokesman than Dawkins, by the way). The basic question is: What is The Rational Response Squad doing to guard against this human tendency towards fundamentalism?

I appreciate your sincere consideration of these questions. Blessings from the alleged transcendent being to which I profess faith.

 

 

 


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1. No, only that there is

1. No, only that there is insufficient evidence for gods. Some may assert that the Judeo-Christian God doesn't exist based on the inconsistencies in evidence brought up by Christians but not extend that to all gods.

2a. The communists you cited killed to consolidate power - no atheistic motives there, just human ones.

2b. Dawkins is a spokesman for Dawkins. Many in the RRS may agree with him but he doesn't speak for the organization. All kinds of atheists run around on this board and we disagree with each other on quite a bit.

2c. There is no way to guard against fundamentalism except by keeping the dialogue open on both sides.

Hope that helps.

 

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Hambydammit
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 Quote:1. Does The Rational

 

Quote:
1. Does The Rational Response Squad assert absolute certainty that no "god" exists now or ever?

No

Quote:
If yes, how do you justify having absolute certainty about this?

N/A

Quote:
If no, how do you escape the charge that you also hold a position that you cannot prove empirically?

By pointing out the Burden of Proof.  He who holds that something does exist is the one who must prove it empirically.

Quote:
I've seen your working definitions of atheism, theism, agnosticism and reviewed much of your site but saw nothing that addresses this question adequately.

You haven't looked very hard, then.  It's all over the place.  To illustrate the point, I'd like you to prove empirically to me that no unicorns have existed, now or ever, anywhere in the universe.

See?  You can't.  And you don't need to, either.  However, if I told you that there was a single unicorn alive today, you'd want me to prove it, right?  You'd be foolish to believe me, and I'd be foolish to demand that you prove that there isn't a single unicorn living today.

Quote:
My personal definition of fundamentalism is as follows: having an unassailable position that you in word and/or deed essentially require that others hold as well (those that do not hold your position are deserving of your contempt, intolerance, and, perhaps, deserving of violence as well).

It's not exactly the traditional definition, but we'll go with it for now.

Quote:
With this definition in mind, I contend that fundamentalism is the problem, not religion.

I've addressed this claim in THIS ESSAY.  Please read it completely.

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I also contend that the elements of fundamentalism inescapably infiltrate *every* system of human creation - at least to some degree -- and that includes atheism.

Prove it, please.

(See how this works?  You claim something exists, and now you have to prove it.  Burden of proof.)

If it is logically necessary that some degree of fundamentalism inescapably infiltrates every system, then you ought to be able to demonstrate the truth of this claim with relative ease.  Absolutes are pretty easy to demonstrate syllogistically.  Good old deduction.

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Just as many have died and suffered at the hands of intolerant religious fundamentalists, many have died and suffered at the hands of those that purport to be atheists and wish to eradicate the influences of religion (see the history of communism as practiced in Russia, China, etc.).

You're going to catch a lot of shit for this.  I'm just warning you.  The fact that many dictators were atheist does not support the position that they committed their deeds because of or in the name of atheism.  On the contrary, Russia, China, and other such despotic regimes pretty much universally clung to a fundamentalist style political ideology which was not derived from atheism, but rather, misguided or just plain wrong assumptions about the origin of society, or human nature in general.

Quote:
For a more recent example, I find no discernible difference between the vitriol and intolerance displayed by Richard Dawkins versus that found in some fundamentalist churches (you guys really need to find a better spokesman than Dawkins, by the way).

Please give us examples of the vitriol of which you speak, and give us similar examples of vitriol from a fundamentalist, and demonstrate the truth of your assertion.  I've heard Dawkins speak many times, read almost everything he's written, and spoke with him personally.  I've never seen a hint of fundamentalism from him.

Quote:
The basic question is: What is The Rational Response Squad doing to guard against this human tendency towards fundamentalism?

Adhering to the Burden of Proof.  Anyone who claims that something is true must prove it.  Nothing is to be believed without proof.  There can be no blind adherence to any principle.  Everything must have justification.

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I appreciate your sincere consideration of these questions. Blessings from the alleged transcendent being to which I profess faith.

Could you pray for me to get an anonymous donation of about half a million dollars?  If that happens in the next couple of days, I'll reconsider my position on the existence of your alleged transcendent invisible friend.  Seriously.  I will.

 

 

 

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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A sentient super-being as

A sentient super-being as creator of everything fails seriously on logical grounds. An 'infinite' version with 'omni' attributes raises even more serious difficulties.

Whatever puzzles there are about the origin of reality, 'God' in no way represents an answer, it only complicates things.

Now there could be a finite but vastly more 'powerful', advanced super-being who maybe even had something to do with life on Earth, but would still not have an explanation for where the 'everything' came from.

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

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Welcome to the

Welcome to the forum.

mtreat@tx.rr.com wrote:

1. Does The Rational Response Squad assert absolute certainty that no "god" exists now or ever?

No.

Quote:
If no, how do you escape the charge that you also hold a position that you cannot prove empirically?

- I don't have the burden of proof.

- It's a matter of probability.

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(those that do not hold your position are deserving of your contempt, intolerance, and, perhaps, deserving of violence as well).

Of course not.

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With this definition in mind, I contend that fundamentalism is the problem, not religion.

I agree, and I think many others here would also agree.

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I also contend that the elements of fundamentalism inescapably infiltrate *every* system of human creation - at least to some degree -- and that includes atheism.

I concede that point as well. Although, I should still emphasize that atheism is not a system of human creation, for it's simply not believing in a god or gods. It does not propose alternatives. 

Quote:
Just as many have died and suffered at the hands of intolerant religious fundamentalists, many have died and suffered at the hands of those that purport to be atheists and wish to eradicate the influences of religion (see the history of communism as practiced in Russia, China, etc.).

The problem with Communist Russia and China was not that the states was irreligious, but that they were too much like religions. People effectively worshiped the government instead of a god or gods. Of course, the real problem is, once again, dogmatism and fundamentalism. Religion is simply a steady source of these problems.

Quote:
For a more recent example, I find no discernible difference between the vitriol and intolerance displayed by Richard Dawkins versus that found in some fundamentalist churches (you guys really need to find a better spokesman than Dawkins, by the way).

I don't recall that I ever chose Richard Dawkins as some kind of atheist representative. I also challenge you to present the exact Dawkins' quotes that reveal his intolerance. 

Quote:
The basic question is: What is The Rational Response Squad doing to guard against this human tendency towards fundamentalism?

Hmmm, I'm sure someone else here could answer this question better than I can.

 

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, | As I foretold you, were all spirits, and | Are melted into air, into thin air; | And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, | The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, | The solemn temples, the great globe itself, - Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, | And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, | Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff | As dreams are made on, and our little life | Is rounded with a sleep. - Shakespeare


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mtreat@tx.rr.com wrote:I

mtreat@tx.rr.com wrote:
I have a couple of basic questions and am hopeful that I can get some short, to-the-point responses:

Welcome! I hope I, too, can be of help.

mtreat@tx.rr.com wrote:
Does The Rational Response Squad assert absolute certainty that no "god" exists now or ever?

No; that would be virtually impossible (if not impossible). I can only speak for myself when I say there probably aren't gods.

mtreat@tx.rr.com wrote:
With this definition in mind, I contend that fundamentalism is the problem, not religion. I also contend that the elements of fundamentalism inescapably infiltrate *every* system of human creation - at least to some degree -- and that includes atheism.

 

The only difficulty that I have with your statement is that the one thing that many of us here are "fundamentalist" about is the empirical method as being the most successful means towards knowledge. If agreeing that the laws of physics are fundamentally sound descriptions of our world is "fundamentalist", then the category has indeed broadened. Physics even tolerates String Theory, which thus far has produced nothing in the way of testable hypotheses. I doubt the same could be said for radical theologies in theistic fundamentalism.

Maybe you've been given a false report of an atheist's stance. There are many, because the only thing on which we agree completely, as a group, is that we believe there are no gods.

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Well, this looks

mtreat@tx.rr.com wrote:

1. Does The Rational Response Squad assert absolute certainty that no "god" exists now or ever?

I think most here simply don't believe, not sure how many strong atheists there are.

Quote:
If yes, how do you justify having absolute certainty about this?

The same way any deductive proof provides certainty: Internal contradictions are necessarily false.

Quote:
If no, how do you escape the charge that you also hold a position that you cannot prove empirically? 

Are 'god' claims empirical claims? How does one make a supernatural empirical claim?

You seem to be on the Victor Stenger side of this issue: that there are falsifiable 'god' claims...  my question to you is this: if you cannot "prove" your 'god' claims empirically (and I might just agree) then you're conceding that the issue isn't demonstratable at all.

If that's the case: then aren't you conceding that disbelief is rational?!

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As a strong atheist, I

As a strong atheist, I assert for 1) that there is no god. I do not, however, represent any other party but myself; especially not the RRS founders, and especially not the members of this forum.

I do this based on basic logic. I can cover this for you in depth, if you desire, but it essentially comes down to this: god is not needed to explain the universe. If one were to assert that the universe is so complex and so beautiful and so improbable that only god could create it, one is asserting that something more complex than the universe exists, which in turn would be so improbable it would require a creator. (Remember, it is the complexity and improbability of the universe that necessitates a god in the first place.)

This same sort of logic can be applied to any logical argument for god. Any aspect of the universe that is either so improbable or so awesome that it requires a god to exist, would require a god that is even more improbable or more awesome. Therefore, there is no logical reason for god. (Sorry I can't explain this better. I'm kinda drunk right now. Drunk on life? No! Drunk on imperial stout!)

In any case, I am quit sure that god does not exist. I'm even quit sure that god cannot exist. But that's even tougher.

NOTE: This excludes such deistic concepts as the universe as a quantum computer that is god. As the universe is the improbable god in those situations, my keen insight and decisive arguments are rendered void.

Anyway.

As for 2: sure, I'll buy into the gist of what you're saying. Fundamentalism is the assertion that you are right, and everyone else should be killed (or at least soundly chastised) for thinking otherwise. I'll give you that, for the sake of discussion.

However: what do you do when you have proof, and they do not?

And this is where all the arguments lie. I believe (as HisWillness so eloquently stated) that there is only one proven epistemology: science. I have many reasons for believing science is the only proven epsitemology, but the main one is, it's the only one that's given consistent and discernable results.

Others feel they have other epistemological tools at their disposal, such as faith or emotions or introspection or random number generators or a mouldy book of mythology. They may say to me, "Ah! I have proof! It says in the Bible that the Bible is true! And so I say unto you, bats are birds! Oh, and how much are you asking for your daughter? The Bible describes a fair price."

This to me is key. We must assume some sort of objective reality, or else we are reduced to nihilism. And I say this not to avoid nihilism; after all, I am a nihilist. I say this because reality appears to have an objective basis. This objective basis is apparent not because of a book, but because reality gives up its secrets to persistent research, and constant rational investigation.

When some of those secrets seem to be, "Religion is retarding your intellectual development as a society," then is it fundamentalism to declare religion bad? If the objective, empirical evidence supports the results of science, but consistently negates the tenets of various popular religions, is it fundamentalism to say, "Hey, you know what? Maybe religion isn't good for us after all?"

Is it fundamentalist to say the world is round? That gravity will cause you to fall to your death if you jump off a very tall building, even if you are wearing a red cape?

I don't think so, myself. So perhaps fundamentalism isn't so much how sure you are of your knowledge; more, it is how well your knowledge does or does not line up with reality.

But maybe that's just me.

"Yes, I seriously believe that consciousness is a product of a natural process. I find that the neuroscientists, psychologists, and philosophers who proceed from that premise are the ones who are actually making useful contributions to our understanding of the mind." - PZ Myers


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nigelTheBold wrote:As a

nigelTheBold wrote:
As a strong atheist, I assert for 1) that there is no god. I do not, however, represent any other party but myself; especially not the RRS founders, and especially not the members of this forum.

I'd say you and I are of one mind on the matter, though.

I'd also say (as deludedgod and todangst have written) that it's definitional. For sport, I'd say it's demonstrable by several means, including math: an infinite possible number of supernatural permutations reduces the probability that one exists to exactly zero. Of course, from the position that the supernatural is--by definition--totally ridiculous, that's purely mental acrobatics.

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todangst

todangst wrote:

mtreat@tx.rr.com wrote:

1. Does The Rational Response Squad assert absolute certainty that no "god" exists now or ever?

I think most here simply don't believe, not sure how many strong atheists there are.

Quote:
If yes, how do you justify having absolute certainty about this?

The same way any deductive proof provides certainty: Internal contradictions are necessarily false.

Quote:
If no, how do you escape the charge that you also hold a position that you cannot prove empirically? 

Are 'god' claims empirical claims? How does one make a supernatural empirical claim?

You seem to be on the Victor Stenger side of this issue: that there are falsifiable 'god' claims...  my question to you is this: if you cannot "prove" your 'god' claims empirically (and I might just agree) then you're conceding that the issue isn't demonstratable at all.

If that's the case: then aren't you conceding that disbelief is rational?!

Wouldn't deductive disproofs, such as contradictions, constitute falsifiablility?

So the falsifiablility of god claims would be contingent on the type of claim made, which means both the supporter and the opponent of Victor Stenger would be in a sense correct.

 

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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 If I understand you

 If I understand you correctly, the answer is that if a thing can be proven false by deduction, then it is falsifiable as a concept.  An example is the Christian God, which cannot exist because of internal contradiction.

Whether or not a god can be empirically demonstrated to exist is probably another matter, but I'm going to defer to Todangst on this one because it's hurting my brain a little bit.  I'm trying to imagine a situation in which we could empirically verify that which 'ought to' be deductively false.  If somehow we could literally put our finger on a being which displayed sentience, and could demonstrate that it defied an established axiom, or a necessarily true premise of existence.... we'd have a real problem.  But how could we possibly hope to do such a thing?  If something appeared to both exist and not exist at the same time, for instance, we'd have to assume that it only appeared to be so, and our instruments were faulty, or perhaps our perception of the event itself.

The problem is that if anything fundamentally true were to break down in this way, we'd be faced with the paradox of nothing being falsifiable, and knowledge of anything at all being impossible... except that we'd know that knowledge was impossible... so we'd know something... so something would be axiomatic...

If something simply deductively true were to break down, we'd be forced to conclude that it was not deduction, but our facts, that were flawed.  If our facts were flawed, then deduction would still be certain, but we'd have to reexamine our data.  If the facts were not flawed, refer back to the previous paragraph.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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Quote:1. Does The Rational

Quote:
1. Does The Rational Response Squad assert absolute certainty that no "god" exists now or ever?

To understand the answer is to scrap all the BS theists have sold you.

I can only speak for myself as a fan of RRS.

BUT, in order to understand this you must understand the history of the words "atheist" and "agnostic" WHICH ARE NOT MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE.

In the meaning of "time" there is a past, present and future.

In adition "a" means without. Keep that in mind when dealing with "agnostic", and "atheist" and "theist".

Tomas Huxley created a word that did not exist and ment it to mean "fence sitter" in the word "agnostic".

The word in litteral terms means "without knowledge" which does not adress position. It does not address what you dont have knowledge of.

One can "think" a god exists but does not claim knowledge of it's nature.

That would make them an "agnostic theist". This person believes a god exists but doesn't assign it a name or label.

Then there is the "theist" which is someone who claims knowledge that a specific god exists such as Allah, Yahwey, or Jesus.

BUT CONVERSELY, the same goes.

This is where past, present and future come into play.

One can be "agnostic" and an "atheist", because "agnostic" is a qualifying word that CANNOT stand by itself.

I can say, "I don't know if a god exists, BUT, I don't believe in a god at this current time because I don't see any evidence for one".

I am an strict or "strong atheist" as far as past and present claims of deities. BUT, since I don't know the future, I am an "agnostic atheist."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I'll start by saying

I'll start by saying welcome!

I see a few people have responded, but there's no harm in me doing so as well.

mtreat@tx.rr.com wrote:

I have a couple of basic questions and am hopeful that I can get some short, to-the-point responses:

1. Does The Rational Response Squad assert absolute certainty that no "god" exists now or ever?

No, it does not. A few members might, but as a whole the answer is no.

mtreat@tx.rr.com wrote:
If no, how do you escape the charge that you also hold a position that you cannot prove empirically?

But we aren't. We can prove the lack of existance of some gods, like the christian one for example. But a god must be defined before it can be disproven. A great many peoples beliefs are too vague to attack.

mtreat@tx.rr.com wrote:

2. Being a reformed Christian fundamentalist (but, admittedly still a believer in something vaguely Christian), I am a big critic of religion as it is typically practiced, particularly the fundamentalist brands. However, I see the characteristics of fundamentalism exhibited in non-religious endeavors as well. My personal definition of fundamentalism is as follows: having an unassailable position that you in word and/or deed essentially require that others hold as well (those that do not hold your position are deserving of your contempt, intolerance, and, perhaps, deserving of violence as well). With this definition in mind, I contend that fundamentalism is the problem, not religion. I also contend that the elements of fundamentalism inescapably infiltrate *every* system of human creation - at least to some degree -- and that includes atheism. Just as many have died and suffered at the hands of intolerant religious fundamentalists, many have died and suffered at the hands of those that purport to be atheists and wish to eradicate the influences of religion (see the history of communism as practiced in Russia, China, etc.). For a more recent example, I find no discernible difference between the vitriol and intolerance displayed by Richard Dawkins versus that found in some fundamentalist churches (you guys really need to find a better spokesman than Dawkins, by the way). The basic question is: What is The Rational Response Squad doing to guard against this human tendency towards fundamentalism?

Well as it happens, I don't think the RRS and Dawkins are on the same page anymore anyway. I wrote an answer to a question on that site and got jumped on by a couple of their resident brainless twits, so I don't necessarily disagree with you.

Regarding Russia and China....I'd argue that....but it doesn't really matter based on your focus. It would be foolish to suggest that no atheist in history has never committed a deplorable act.

As for fighting fundamentalism itself, how would you suggest we do that? I can't think of a single way short of education to accomplish it. And we're here educating, so we're doing what we can.

mtreat@tx.rr.com wrote:

I appreciate your sincere consideration of these questions. Blessings from the alleged transcendent being to which I profess faith.

And blessings returned from Sol, the giver and sustainer of life on Earth, the closest thing to a god that humanity has ever seen.

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.