Hello and a few points
I'm new here and I thought it would be worthwhile introducing myself.
I'm 26 year old Christian from Australia. I've been studying matters of faith since I was about 10 years old and have been actively searching out answers ever since. Particular interest is in the age-old creation vs evolution debate (incidently, I don't really have a side - to me it doesn't really matter how it all came about). In discussion of faith issues, I've usually been able to gain the respect of both atheists and Christians as being fairly balanced and unbiased. I hope this is true here too. I look forward to discussing things with you guys as well.
A few points that have come to mind:
1. "The Rational Response Squad"
I find it interesting that this group would be named as such. A classic definition of "rational" is
1. agreeable to reason; reasonable; sensible: a rational plan for economic development.
2. having or exercising reason, sound judgment, or good sense: a calm and rational negotiator.
3. being in or characterized by full possession of one's reason; sane; lucid: The patient appeared perfectly rational.
4. endowed with the faculty of reason: rational beings.
5. of, pertaining to, or constituting reasoning powers: the rational faculty.
6. proceeding or derived from reason or based on reasoning: a rational explanation.
(Synonyms 2. intelligent, wise, judicious, sagacious, enlightened)
I am not disputing that the view points and beliefs of Atheists aren't achieved in a rational, methodic way - BUT - I am disputing the claim that theists cannot achieve their view points and beliefs in a similar way.
There is a common misconception that theists, in particular Christians, are somewhat mystical - relying on nothing but vague superstitions and faith without any sound factual reference points. As a Christian and a student of both the faith and science (read: student meaning I am always learning new things), I find that standpoint to be misleading and untrue.
In the same way that Atheists have a foundation for their belief system (and it is a belief system), Christians have a similar rational for their belief system. I suppose that not all Christians are able to express their viewpoint as solidly or as eloquently as some Atheists - but the reverse is true as well ("prove it!" repeated over and over).
I guess my point is this: It is wise to be careful with your words. As a living, breathing, human being you are not subject to the whole truth - that is, what lies beyond the final day of life - therefore, the air of presumptuousness is naive at best and, most likely, egotistical at worst.
2. Atheism is a religion and Atheists do believe in god.
The two biggest catch phrases of Atheism and the two biggest lies - "Atheism is not a religion" and "Atheists do not believe in god". "What the??!?!?!?" you say?
"Atheists do believe in god"
Let's play the definitions game shall we:
1. the one Supreme Being, the creator and ruler of the universe.
2. the Supreme Being considered with reference to a particular attribute: the God of Islam.
3. (lowercase) one of several deities, esp. a male deity, presiding over some portion of worldly affairs.
4. (often lowercase) a supreme being according to some particular conception: the god of mercy.
5. Christian Science. the Supreme Being, understood as Life, Truth, Love, Mind, Soul, Spirit, Principle.
6. (lowercase) an image of a deity; an idol.
7. (lowercase) any deified person or object.
In particular, lets focus on the first part of definition one - "the one Supreme Being".
There are many tiers in the idea of "the one Supreme Being":
1. The Christian understanding of God - One true God, complete control, undivided authority.
2. Empirical god - Japan is a good example. One man is god, all follow. The emporer was seen as god and all citizens were to be subjugated to him.
3. The New-age god - We are all part of god. One universal god spirit. (e.g. Humanism, Buddhism, Taoism)
4. The Atheist god - We are god. Individual and autonomous. No-one controls an atheist but the atheist. Provider of own destiny.
The irony of this progression is that number 4 is seen as the strongest possibility and the position of personal strength. Despite humans never really being in control of any aspect of their life (besides what they have to eat or what they wear on a particular day - but even that is doubtful) Atheists maintain that there is no guiding force or "something" that propels them through life beyond survival and the passing on of genes. Even a belief in superstitious luck or chance would make more sense than to disregard some sort of higher order or over-riding purpose or meaning.
The usual response is to claim survival as the ultimate human meaning but that doesn't explain why we paint pictures or climb mountains to "find ourselves".
A more truthful position would be to acknowledge that we aren't in control and that there is something, even if there is no strong assertion as to what, bigger than us guiding the whole thing we call life.
Atheists do believe in god. It just so happens that they believe that they are god.
"Atheism is a religion"
1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.
3. the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions.
4. the life or state of a monk, nun, etc.: to enter religion.
5. the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.
6. something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience: to make a religion of fighting prejudice.
1. the doctrine or belief that there is no God.
2. disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings.
The nonsensical position that Atheists are free from the constraints of religion is indeed an interesting standpoint. Seeing as a religion is a set of beliefs and Atheism is the doctrine or belief that there is no God would, to me, classify Atheism as a religion. It is a body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices. It seems to flag all the right things to be classified as a religion.
The really interesting thing is that Atheists generally get quite upset when I classify their beliefs as being religious in nature. There can be no other definition however, unless Atheists wish to be exempt from the rules they apply to others.
Why is all this important? For one very good reason. Atheism has always been viewed as the factual and truthful path and theism (in particular Christianity) has been viewed as the fanciful faith path. The truth of the matter is that both are faiths and both can be argued. Neither can be proved or disproved without personal account and thus fall into the category of faith. And, in being faiths, because they have more than one person sharing the beliefs - they are classed as religions.
The ultimate reason I bring this up:
3. Escaping the responsibility of burden of proof
Atheists have always attempted to escape the responsibility of burden of proof. But this isn't a vacuum. Simply by closing his eyes and blocking his ears and saying "Gravity doesn't exist" does not excuse a scientist from the responsibility (as a scientist) of at least coming up with a semi-detailed rational as to why he believes that gravity does not exist.
Add to that, finding flaws with Isaac Newtons theory of gravity is not that same as having a theory of Non-gravity.
The burden of proof rests on all those who have a side to an argument - not just the claimant. Richard Dawkin's analogy of the flying teapot (at least he used it on several occassions) springs to mind most readily. It is an easy way out to simply deny without evidence.
The biggest problem that Atheists have with Christianity is that a lot of it relies on personal account. I speak of experiences of healing or witnessing healing and I get the response of "why hasn't the whole world been told" and "if that's true, then everyone should know and then everyone will believe" - but sadly it doesn't work like that. Personal accounts are met with skepticism and mockery.
If Atheists believe they are in a position to simply deny something using blind faith (that is, they don't know for sure - their best guess is there is no god), why is it such a big deal when people accept something using blind faith?
Atheists share exactly the same responsibility in this arena. The burden of proof rests on all those in the discussion.
That's all for now. Comments?