the blasphemy challenge, comments from a theist

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the blasphemy challenge, comments from a theist

 hi all, I'm a Christian; I'm not here to rant or anything, but I just have 2 quick comments regarding the blasphemy challenge:

 1. I really don't see why anyone would bother asking someone to give up something which they don't believe has any value and/or even exists. If there is no God, no soul, no salvation or damnation, then there's no point. Selling one's soul by blaspheming the holy spirit is, in that case, an excersize in futility. Better, I would think, simply to give the DVD's away-- especially since those who have some reluctance to take up the challenge are the very ones who, in your view, most need to have it!   2. The whole premise is based on a faulty understanding of what constitutes "blasphemy of the Holy Spirit". In the context of the passage, blaspheming the Holy Spirit does not mean denying the Holy Spirit; it means giving credit to the power of evil for something that was done by the power of Good (Jesus spoke of this unforgivable sin in response to the accusation of the pharisees that he was performing miracles and casting out demons "by Beelzebub", that is, by the devil. This was a serious slur against the holy spirit through whom these works had actually been done; but not one that an Atheist can commit, not believing in either a Holy Spirit or a being known as Satan).

 


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StoryMing wrote:What I am

StoryMing wrote:
What I am saying is that I do not see anything in Atheism which adequately accounts for the existence of such a thing as morality,

I'm not sure what "adequately accounts for" means, but morality is just a glorified abstraction of what we consider to be right and wrong, which is based on our natural instincts and culture. 

StoryMing wrote:
or can prove WHY evil is wrong and what makes it so-- nothing that explains the immense difference there is between terminating the most complex computer or robot possible, and killing a human.

Assuming moral subjectivism, evil is not absolutely wrong, and there is no difference between terminating a robot and killing a human. The only difference is in our instincts. We feel that killing a human is wrong. We don't feel that shutting off a robot is wrong, unless it is intelligent; then, we might feel that it's wrong.

Btw, atheists aren't necessarily moral relativists; not everyone believes the same thing. So, we're not going to explain everything the same way.

StoryMing wrote:
If the origin of life-- and of the universe itself-- in the view of Atheism is not a random, chance accident, an astronomical coincidence, then what is it? It certainly wasn't planned.

We don't know the origin of this universe, but chance v. design is a false dichotomy. In fact, processes and events are generally observed to be determined or at least stochastic. Take the phenomenon of rain, for example. In this case, your choices are not limited to 1) God opens the floodgates of heaven or 2) rain is just "chance." It is neither. It can be caused by something other than an intelligence.  

 

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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StoryMing wrote:<morals ....

StoryMing wrote:

<morals .... planned universe?>

 

I think Bob and chndlr and butter have covered these topics nicely.  But I'll concur--

Morals, what is right and what is wrong, is determined by our need for human society.  Humans can not survive on their own.  They must have families, groups, communities, villages, cities, nations in order to survive.  Morals come from this need.

The universe is not planned.  We are accidents.  We are not fulfilling some plan.  We make our own plans.  I believe even you are making your own plans.  It's random, senseless, and we all live with it.  Even if you believe there is a god/s/dess directing your actions, you don't know what the plan is, so from your perspective it is just as random as from my perspective. 

 

StoryMing wrote:

As to arrogance; I apologize for anything I have said that has been disrespectful or insulting to anyone else, their views, or their right to hold those views. And if I and my views are becoming tiresome, I can leave- -although this site does say "theists welcome" and I presume that does not mean they have to check their beliefs at the door to participate.  But most people do believe they are right, I think, or they would change their minds; and I do not see that being right necessarily means someone is better or worse; I certainly do not think I'm anyone special because I happen to know, or think I know, the answer to a math problem or geography question. And I do not see how the idea that everyone needs to be rescued from bondage to sin by Jesus is any more or less arrogant than the idea that everyone needs to be rescued from bondage to religion by rationalism.

 

Okay, you don't believe we are the sons and daughters of satan.  Even though some of us try very hard to project that image.  It is rather silly - I don't believe god/s/dess will answer any prayers I may say, why should I believe satan will?  For that matter, where are the dancing boys, Lamborghini, castle on a beach, millions of dollars?  Nope, I don't have any of those things, so no satan, either.

Are you saying that if you told a friend, "hey, I got a 90% on that test."  And they answered, "Oh, I only got a 75%".  You wouldn't feel just a tad - just a little bit -  superior?  No?  Liar.

This entire paragraph is arrogant.  I'm am not in bondage to sin, thank you kindly.  If you believe atheists have morals, how can they be bound in sin?  Because they won't kowtow to Jesus?  So you want to rescue us?  From what, lives that we have chosen to live very comfortably and happily?  From what, the death that you will experience as well as everyone else on this planet?  No one gets out of here alive.

I think the people on this forum who want to rescue all the people bound to religion are also arrogant.  You want to suck up to an imaginary friend, fine, it's your life.  If you ask my opinion, I'll give you my honest opinion.  But I'm not going to say my way is the best or only way for you or anyone else.

I will agree with some people on this forum who say religion is in many ways bad for society.  Deliberate ignorance, "goddidit", does not lead to a better understanding of the world we live in.  If we want to continue to survive as a species, we need to stop wasting our collective intellect by trusting in a document written 3000 years ago by a bunch of nomadic goat herders.  This rant does not include people who believe in god/s/dess and who also believe in science.

-- I feel so much better since I stopped trying to believe.

"We are entitled to our own opinions. We're not entitled to our own facts"- Al Franken

"If death isn't sweet oblivion, I will be severely disappointed" - Ruth M.


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StoryMing wrote: 2. The

StoryMing wrote:

 

2. The whole premise is based on a faulty understanding of what constitutes "blasphemy of the Holy Spirit". In the context of the passage, blaspheming the Holy Spirit does not mean denying the Holy Spirit; it means giving credit to the power of evil for something that was done by the power of Good (Jesus spoke of this unforgivable sin in response to the accusation of the pharisees that he was performing miracles and casting out demons "by Beelzebub", that is, by the devil. This was a serious slur against the holy spirit through whom these works had actually been done; but not one that an Atheist can commit, not believing in either a Holy Spirit or a being known as Satan).

 

 

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Atheists can't sin, dang

Atheists can't sin, dang that's awesome. Sounds like we are doing it right in that case.


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Levels of analysis

While I don't disagree with the usual responses my fellow atheists give for where our morality comes from, I do agree that the explanations sometimes don't go far enough. For example, while I agree completely that morality is at least partly explained by our social nature, which is itself easily explained by evolution, I also don't think it's sufficient to leave any explanation for morality at "how X ultimately effects society".

Although I know this is not what my fellow atheists are thinking when they give this explanation, I think it would be easy for a reader to get the impression that we are saying that when we decide not to kill people, it's because we are consciously thinking, "No, I can't do that. That wouldn't be good for society."

I always like it better when empathy is brought into the explanation, because it can also be explained by evolution in terms of the benefits it holds as far as forming societies as a survival mechanism. But it is also more satisfying at the level of "feeling right" (which is the level most theists are operating on anyway).

But even then, I can understand how it would still seem completely ridiculous to someone that empathy, even if it makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, could result from a complex system of matter and energy. It invokes a mental image of a "formula for morality" which does not "feel right", because morality is tied not only to our avoidance of destructive behavior but also to our most intimate and personal behaviors. It doesn't "feel right" to imagine that there is a formula, a program, a system of logical underpinning that determines that "I love my mother" and that it is not an act of free will that I choose because I have a soul and not because the programming built in the machine that is me requires me to love her.

While I do believe completely that morality arises in nature and does not require an explanation involving the words "transcendent" or "ultimate", I am also as human as the next person, so I understand the feeling that there is a disparity between what I feel like I am and the robot or machine I am proposed to be.

Ultimately, it results from a fear of determinism, a fear that all my actions are predetermined by my programming, that I carry with me a certain code of instructions that, if known, makes my every action predictable. If I cease to have free will, I cease to be a person and become a no different than the computer I'm typing on.

The polar extreme of determinism is discussed extremely often, but it's telling that the polar extreme of free will is hardly ever explored. (Telling in that it indicates which one people think they want more.) If it's all determinism, it is said, then we're all just robots anyway, free to be sociopathic, because it is hard to lament a moral wrong committed or celebrate a loving action performed to a mere set of instructions. (There is some circularity in that thinking, of course.)

But seldom is it said that if it's all free will, we're also free to be sociopaths, because the notion of rules and instructions is meaningless. I know through mere empathy that I shouldn't walk out of the house and plunge a knife into the stomach of the first person I see, but if I'm exercising free will 100% of the time (as opposed to following a set of instructions 100% of the time), then I could stab the person as an expression of free will, which is apparently the highest expression of what it means to be a human being.

But I don't live in either of these worlds. I feel like I'm exercising my free will most of the time, and yet I also recognize that I follow certain rules, extending from my genetic code all the way to the laws of my society.

It's possible to believe in both of them if you think of them as different levels of analysis. By way of analogy, when a particle physicist is at work, he knows that solid matter is primarily composed of empty space. But at the level of analysis that matters to him most of the time, moment-to-moment, as a person, he knows that a solid is a solid and there is no danger of him suddenly falling through the floor.

In the same way, it makes perfect sense to suppose that we are nothing more than a complex computers following a complex set of instructions, but also learning new logical pathways all the time. Just as one part of the lines and lines of code making up our person tells us that our feeling of "self" is located directly behind the eyes, so is there another section in our countless lines of code telling us that we have something like "free will", when really this "free will" could be nothing more than a friendly face disguising a much more horrifyingly complex system of logical underpinnings (not unlike the easy-to-use desktop on your computer).

When you really get into the deepest, most intensive levels of analysis possible, you get binary code in computers and determinism in morality. At the level of analysis that we all operate under most of the time in our regular, day-to-day lives, you get a desktop on computers and free will in morality.

Hm. I was hoping for this post to offer a note of understanding to our theistic friends and possibly a pathway to reconciliation, but now I'm hoping I don't sound like I'm speaking to everyone in a condescending teacher voice. The intention was the former, not the latter.

A place common to all will be maintained by none. A religion common to all is perhaps not much different.


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Archeopteryx wrote:While I

Archeopteryx wrote:
While I don't disagree with the usual responses my fellow atheists give for where our morality comes from, I do agree that the explanations sometimes don't go far enough. For example, while I agree completely that morality is at least partly explained by our social nature, which is itself easily explained by evolution, I also don't think it's sufficient to leave any explanation for morality at "how X ultimately effects society". Although I know this is not what my fellow atheists are thinking when they give this explanation, I think it would be easy for a reader to get the impression that we are saying that when we decide not to kill people, it's because we are consciously thinking, "No, I can't do that. That wouldn't be good for society."

 

This fellow atheist was thinking not so much of morality, but of the legal code.  We have the laws we have in order to do business.  Yes, I believe many of our laws are driven by economics, not by morality or religion or empathy.  Places - boroughs, subdivisions, cities, towns, nations - where violence rules are generally poorer than dirt.  To do business you need a stable environment.  Morality has little to do with it.

There is also the evolutionary requirement of raising families.  Natural selection is not about personal survival, not about having children, but it is all about having grandchildren.  This means having a support structure that allows families to survive.  And since our families must stick together through grandparenting, we must have a stable economic environment - and we are back to law and order again.

 

Archeopteryx wrote:

I always like it better when empathy is brought into the explanation, because it can also be explained by evolution in terms of the benefits it holds as far as forming societies as a survival mechanism. But it is also more satisfying at the level of "feeling right" (which is the level most theists are operating on anyway).

 

Empathy comes from raising families.  Since human babies require years of parenting, we must feel something for that child or they would never make it to adulthood.  I don't approve of child abuse.  But I understand it.  I never abused my own children.  My second child was colicky - sleeping no more than 2 hours at a time for 6 months and then continuing to wake in the night 2 or 3 times until he was about 18 months old.  Sleep deprivation does funny things to your head.  If I hadn't felt empathy for him, you would have read about me in the papers.  You continue to need empathy through the terrible twos, the blazing fives, the busy pre-teen years, and the by now infamous teens.

Empathy secondarily fine tunes our moral systems.  I don't go out and shoot up the neighborhood because I generally like my neighbors and I get faint at the sight of blood. 

 

Archeopteryx wrote:

But even then, I can understand how it would still seem completely ridiculous to someone that empathy, even if it makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, could result from a complex system of matter and energy. It invokes a mental image of a "formula for morality" which does not "feel right", because morality is tied not only to our avoidance of destructive behavior but also to our most intimate and personal behaviors. It doesn't "feel right" to imagine that there is a formula, a program, a system of logical underpinning that determines that "I love my mother" and that it is not an act of free will that I choose because I have a soul and not because the programming built in the machine that is me requires me to love her. While I do believe completely that morality arises in nature and does not require an explanation involving the words "transcendent" or "ultimate", I am also as human as the next person, so I understand the feeling that there is a disparity between what I feel like I am and the robot or machine I am proposed to be.

 

I got confused in the middle of this -- a little convoluted maybe?  So here are some thoughts, maybe related, maybe not.

No one is required to love their mother.  I have friends who do and friends who have nothing to say about their mom.  There is a lot of guff about maternal feelings for babies, too.  I can't answer for that because my mom always made me feel uncomfortable - I didn't hate her, but I wasn't sure I liked her, either.  And love?  Jury is still out and she died 4 years ago.  And I have just about no maternal instincts.  I don't coo over babies, not even my own.  But I love my sons.  And they seem to be fond of me.  So we managed to have a relationship even if my maternal instincts are a little whacked.

Your emotions trigger hormones which trigger your emotions which trigger your hormones.....  This is not robotic, it is about as far from robotics as you can get.  There are no infinite feedback loops in robots, they wouldn't be able to do their job.  Humans are not robots and robots will never be human.  Our brains are far more complex than the largest parallel processing computer.  Our physical capabilities are so complex that while a robot may be more precise or stronger for one task, that is all they can do is the one task.  There is not a robot that can do all the many different physical and intellectual tasks the average human can do.  Shoot, we can even imagine transcendent metaphysical experiences.  Top that, Mr. Roboto.

All I can figure is, people who are concerned about being robotic know doodly about robots.

 

Archeopteryx wrote:

Ultimately, it results from a fear of determinism, a fear that all my actions are predetermined by my programming, that I carry with me a certain code of instructions that, if known, makes my every action predictable. If I cease to have free will, I cease to be a person and become a no different than the computer I'm typing on. The polar extreme of determinism is discussed extremely often, but it's telling that the polar extreme of free will is hardly ever explored. (Telling in that it indicates which one people think they want more.) If it's all determinism, it is said, then we're all just robots anyway, free to be sociopathic, because it is hard to lament a moral wrong committed or celebrate a loving action performed to a mere set of instructions. (There is some circularity in that thinking, of course.) But seldom is it said that if it's all free will, we're also free to be sociopaths, because the notion of rules and instructions is meaningless. I know through mere empathy that I shouldn't walk out of the house and plunge a knife into the stomach of the first person I see, but if I'm exercising free will 100% of the time (as opposed to following a set of instructions 100% of the time), then I could stab the person as an expression of free will, which is apparently the highest expression of what it means to be a human being. But I don't live in either of these worlds. I feel like I'm exercising my free will most of the time, and yet I also recognize that I follow certain rules, extending from my genetic code all the way to the laws of my society. It's possible to believe in both of them if you think of them as different levels of analysis. By way of analogy, when a particle physicist is at work, he knows that solid matter is primarily composed of empty space. But at the level of analysis that matters to him most of the time, moment-to-moment, as a person, he knows that a solid is a solid and there is no danger of him suddenly falling through the floor. In the same way, it makes perfect sense to suppose that we are nothing more than a complex computers following a complex set of instructions, but also learning new logical pathways all the time. Just as one part of the lines and lines of code making up our person tells us that our feeling of "self" is located directly behind the eyes, so is there another section in our countless lines of code telling us that we have something like "free will", when really this "free will" could be nothing more than a friendly face disguising a much more horrifyingly complex system of logical underpinnings (not unlike the easy-to-use desktop on your computer). When you really get into the deepest, most intensive levels of analysis possible, you get binary code in computers and determinism in morality. At the level of analysis that we all operate under most of the time in our regular, day-to-day lives, you get a desktop on computers and free will in morality. Hm. I was hoping for this post to offer a note of understanding to our theistic friends and possibly a pathway to reconciliation, but now I'm hoping I don't sound like I'm speaking to everyone in a condescending teacher voice. The intention was the former, not the latter.

 

I don't get it.  I am a rabid free-will advocate.  I have never understood why free will means you can stab people, shoot them, rape, pillage, blah, blah, eat babies, blah, blah, ...... I also have the choice and freedom to not do any of those things.  I choose to remain married - I could get a divorce if I wanted to but I don't want.  I choose to drive the speed limit - I could speed or crawl along but I don't want to.

I don't think humans are "complex computers following a complex set of instructions".  But then, I have been IT support for over 20 years and I can tell you from close up personal experience that computers are dumber than dirt.  They are so dumb that they can do the exact same task over and over without variance for years, 24/7.  No normal human is capable of that kind of mindlessness.

And no, our every action is not predictable.  Maybe broad generalizations - it is extremely unlikely CJ will ever - ever - stab a neighbor.  But what will CJ type in the next few minutes?  Hard to say, I'm getting tired.

Back to morality.  For those who base their morals on an outside authority - parents, law, religion - it is frightening to let go.  To realize that you can be moral and you can derive your morals from your own internal motivations.  I find religious morals to be too restrictive and too liberal.  They are too free because if you are a valid charitable organization offering religious comfort, it is legal to take granny's life savings if she is foolish enough to send them to you.  They are too restrictive as they get in the middle of your sex life which is no one's business but yours and the other consenting adults you share with.  I don't think it has anything to do with determinism or free will.  My personal opinion. 

And I got to get some sleep.

-- I feel so much better since I stopped trying to believe.

"We are entitled to our own opinions. We're not entitled to our own facts"- Al Franken

"If death isn't sweet oblivion, I will be severely disappointed" - Ruth M.


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Surely this comment can't have been serious, FS?

Fortunate_S wrote:

Language is ambiguous as we want to make it.  If we decide that "apple" should refer to something other than the fruit, then the word automatically becomes ambiguous.  Spoken languages are man made.

No, it is not a matter of interpretation.  It is a matter of reading the bible and understanding it over the course of the entire biblical canon and not just a few cherry picked passages.

 

The final sentence in this cherry-picked paragraph is too ambiguous.

 

 

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cj wrote:This fellow atheist

cj wrote:

This fellow atheist was thinking not so much of morality, but of the legal code.  We have the laws we have in order to do business.  Yes, I believe many of our laws are driven by economics, not by morality or religion or empathy.  Places - boroughs, subdivisions, cities, towns, nations - where violence rules are generally poorer than dirt.  To do business you need a stable environment.  Morality has little to do with it.

There is also the evolutionary requirement of raising families.  Natural selection is not about personal survival, not about having children, but it is all about having grandchildren.  This means having a support structure that allows families to survive.  And since our families must stick together through grandparenting, we must have a stable economic environment - and we are back to law and order again.

If I seemed to be expressing an opinion on where we get our legal code, then it was unintentional. I also see a difference between individual feelings of morality or individual opinion on what ought or ought not to be and the legal code a functioning society needs to have in place, regardless of its size. I also don't disagree that there are long-term benefits to having a legal code for society in place, but it was not my intention to comment on legal codes. I don't think I have an argument with you in this regard. I was mostly interested in attempting to answer StoryMing's question as to where atheists derive their morals, but doing so in a way that touched on my own aversions to atheism and their explanations for things before my  successful deconversion.

 

cj wrote:

Empathy comes from raising families.  Since human babies require years of parenting, we must feel something for that child or they would never make it to adulthood.  I don't approve of child abuse.  But I understand it.  I never abused my own children.  My second child was colicky - sleeping no more than 2 hours at a time for 6 months and then continuing to wake in the night 2 or 3 times until he was about 18 months old.  Sleep deprivation does funny things to your head.  If I hadn't felt empathy for him, you would have read about me in the papers.  You continue to need empathy through the terrible twos, the blazing fives, the busy pre-teen years, and the by now infamous teens.

Empathy secondarily fine tunes our moral systems.  I don't go out and shoot up the neighborhood because I generally like my neighbors and I get faint at the sight of blood.

Are you suggesting that I am giving empathy too much credit in explaining where morality comes from?

I don't disagree that empathy has evolutionary benefits for families, but I don't think that is the sole reason for its existence. There are many reasons why it would be useful for one organism to be able to put himself in the shoes of another organism. When you can imagine yourself in the position of the other, you can make an educate guess about not only their feelings, but their intentions. That is why a certain level of moral behavior has been found in other animals, not just humans. For example, a bird that gives out a false "predator approaching" cry to scare away the other birds and horde the food can only arrive at that scheme through empathy (albeit a devious use of it). When those birds then return together and punish the lying bird, they are also exercising empathy. Humans do very similar things. We have con artists that exploit the empathy system, much like the lying bird, and we also have a tendency to want to band together in the face of a threat, but none of this is necessarily rooted in the family.

Or why do I feel empathy toward my dog for that matter, and apparently vice versa?

I don't wish to say that family is unimportant to empathy or that it is even less important than other factors. I just think empathy has had more evolutionary support than just family ties.

I'm not entirely sure where we are agreement-wise on the role of empathy in personal morals, but it seems like you're downplaying empathy whereas I am playing it up. Is this our disagreement, if we have one?

 

cj wrote:
 

I got confused in the middle of this -- a little convoluted maybe?

Yes, perhaps. I worried it was a little, and this confirms my suspicion.

 

cj wrote:

So here are some thoughts, maybe related, maybe not.

No one is required to love their mother.  I have friends who do and friends who have nothing to say about their mom.  There is a lot of guff about maternal feelings for babies, too.  I can't answer for that because my mom always made me feel uncomfortable - I didn't hate her, but I wasn't sure I liked her, either.  And love?  Jury is still out and she died 4 years ago.  And I have just about no maternal instincts.  I don't coo over babies, not even my own.  But I love my sons.  And they seem to be fond of me.  So we managed to have a relationship even if my maternal instincts are a little whacked.

Oh, certainly. I'm not the hugest fan of my own mother, to be quite honest. I don't dislike her. I'm rather indifferent, actually. I'm also like you in that I have no maternal instincts. I catch a lot of flack from friends and family for the way I act around kids, but I just don't have the feelings other people seem to. I don't coo over babies, I don't see my sister's kids and suddenly feel like I want to play with them or make them smile. I don't even know how to talk to a kid. If you put me in a room with a kid as an experiment, the result would be something like the first half of a "surprise you're a dad" genre of comedy film. "So. You're six. That's cool. Here's a cookie and some cartoons. Leave me alone."

 

Love is conditional. I tend to feel it only for people with whom I have a reciprocal need-based relationship. We might provide any kinds of needs to each other... food, shelter, money, emotional support, education, simple conversation... but there is a certain give and take involved. My own relationship with my mother is a little sour because she perceives herself as a constant giver, whereas I perceive her as mostly a taker, and so the relationship isn't felt to be reciprocal, so there aren't a lot of fireworks there. Conversely, my dad is one of my favorite people in the world, because he gives to me more than he takes.

But still, in the previous post I only meant to say that I really believe there is some kind of logic going on in love. There is calculation involved. Love (like morality) is not "transcendent" or "ultimate" or any of that other magical stuff. But I remember back when I was still religious, when atheists tried to take the transcendent/ultimate explanations away from me and hand me natural explanations in exchange, I felt like they were suggesting I was some sort of robot. And yes, use of the word robot is absolute hyperbole, and I intended it to be that way, but that is really how I felt about thinking of love as a chemical phenomenon prior to my deconversion. It seemed wrong to even entertain the possibility that love might be calculated, that is might have variables, that everything about my identity might be a variable. Love was something I chose to do "with my soul" and not something I calculated was in my best interest or not.

I certainly don't believe that humans are like robots or that current technology has the ability to make robots that match humans in complexity, but when you take all the "transcendents" and "ultimates" out of a theist's conception of love and free will, it's entirely possible that this is the sort of caricature image you're leaving him with. At least I know that's how it was for me. I was a pretty ridiculous christian. I was too cute. 

 

Quote:

Your emotions trigger hormones which trigger your emotions which trigger your hormones.....  This is not robotic, it is about as far from robotics as you can get.  There are no infinite feedback loops in robots, they wouldn't be able to do their job.  Humans are not robots and robots will never be human.  Our brains are far more complex than the largest parallel processing computer.  Our physical capabilities are so complex that while a robot may be more precise or stronger for one task, that is all they can do is the one task.  There is not a robot that can do all the many different physical and intellectual tasks the average human can do.  Shoot, we can even imagine transcendent metaphysical experiences.  Top that, Mr. Roboto.

All I can figure is, people who are concerned about being robotic know doodly about robots.

 

Well I certainly don't like the word "robots" either, and as I said just above, current technology is definitely not anywhere near giving us artificial intelligence that comes close to matching the ability and dexterity of the human brain. But as you sort of implied in your quote here, complexity is the biggest distinction.

I agree that human complexity is so vast it verges on infinite, so much so that I have a hard time believing we could ever build something quite like a human brain (but I wouldn't be so foolish as to rule it out off hand). But I also believe that when you really put that complexity under a microscope, there is nothing special about it other than how complex it is. It's not made of anything magic. Humans have no "essence". It's just one stimulus-response mechanism on top of another an inconceivable number of times, arranged in an inconceivable number of emergent systems, which collectively form a maddeningly complex super-machine that is a single person. We still can't build anything like it, but evolution had billions of years, and here we are: bafflingly complex machines, but still a sort of machine at the right level of analysis. That's all I mean--not so much that we are as simple as modern robots.

 

cj wrote:

I don't get it.  I am a rabid free-will advocate.  I have never understood why free will means you can stab people, shoot them, rape, pillage, blah, blah, eat babies, blah, blah, ...... I also have the choice and freedom to not do any of those things.  I choose to remain married - I could get a divorce if I wanted to but I don't want.  I choose to drive the speed limit - I could speed or crawl along but I don't want to.

Well  of course. Free will not only means the will to do something, it just as much means the will not to do something. I offer the stabbing example as something that could possibly follow from free will taken to its most polar extreme, but not as something that would necessarily follow.

I don't mean to open up a discussion of determinism versus free will, as I'm sure it's happened on this forum already before, and free will versus determinism debates are probably reviled as much as abortion debates. But the heart of what I'm getting at is the free will versus determinism question implies a dichotomy: rule-based choices versus will-based choices. In other words, choices that you were always going to make  because that was the culmination of a vast number of events in your life and the universe VERSUS choices you made simply because you willed it and you could have willed it otherwise just as easily.

I believe in the former. When I go to the freezer to make a bowl of ice cream and I have to choose between chocolate and vanilla, and I choose vanilla, I don't believe that there was something about my choice that rises above the countless strings of cause-effect, response-stimuli making up my universe. Everything that happened in my life up to that point that made me who I am---my genes, my experiences, my memories, my associations--culminated in that moment to shift me toward vanilla and not chocolate. It felt like a free choice, but really there was an elaborate system of rules guiding the system, and so it was ultimately a determined choice, despite "feeling" like a free one.

So the idea of free will taken to its most extreme is one where "will" exists outside of all rules and other forms of influence. If you choose vanilla because you haven't had it in a long time, you are sort of following a logical rule, i.e. "choose the ice cream I  haven't had in the longest" which is following a sort of rule, albeit one constructed on the spot to assist in decision-making. Maybe you choose it because you simply like the taste better, in which case you might unknowingly be following a genetic rule. Absolute will would be completely uninfluenced by anything, free to do anything. Which means that absolute will could easily abstain from stabbing the nearest stranger in the gut, but it could also easily do so. The only reason people don't is because they don't have absolute free will.

You may not agree with me. It is definitely a can of worms.

 

cj wrote:

I don't think humans are "complex computers following a complex set of instructions".  But then, I have been IT support for over 20 years and I can tell you from close up personal experience that computers are dumber than dirt.  They are so dumb that they can do the exact same task over and over without variance for years, 24/7.  No normal human is capable of that kind of mindlessness.

Well, as I've probably indicated with my above comments, I believe they are in fact complex machines following complex rules. The comparison to modern computers is meant only as metaphor or analogy--an aid to understanding as far as it works at all--and not as a one-to-one comparison. A one-to-one comparison is certainly ridiculous.

cj wrote:

And no, our every action is not predictable.  Maybe broad generalizations - it is extremely unlikely CJ will ever - ever - stab a neighbor.  But what will CJ type in the next few minutes?  Hard to say, I'm getting tired.

Certainly not predictable. My suggestion that our actions could be was purely hypothetical. =]

 

cj wrote:

Back to morality.  For those who base their morals on an outside authority - parents, law, religion - it is frightening to let go.  To realize that you can be moral and you can derive your morals from your own internal motivations.  I find religious morals to be too restrictive and too liberal.  They are too free because if you are a valid charitable organization offering religious comfort, it is legal to take granny's life savings if she is foolish enough to send them to you.  They are too restrictive as they get in the middle of your sex life which is no one's business but yours and the other consenting adults you share with.  I don't think it has anything to do with determinism or free will.  My personal opinion. 

And I got to get some sleep.

 

Maybe in your own life experience and your own struggles with religion morality never became a question of free will versus determinism, but for me it was a very big question. If there was no God to be the source of all good, the source of moral judgment and of morality itself, and if good was not some essential thing that existed out there in the ether, then I needed an explanation for what it was. How do I know things are good or bad? How do I decide? What tells me that feeding my dog every day is good? What tells me that neglecting him is bad? What tells me anything about so-called good and bad? This line of questioning, for me at least, led ultimately to free will versus determinism, which is why I bring it up now. (i.e. for the sake of any theists like my former self that might be reading).

 

A place common to all will be maintained by none. A religion common to all is perhaps not much different.


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jcgadfly wrote:a good

jcgadfly wrote:

a good marketing device

C'mon, let's face it, the "blasphemy challenge" was nothing more than a marketing device--a clever way to get on tv, piss off parents, and sway young, impressionable minds to your side.

Quote:
It tied in to the last line of the movie.

The last part of the movie was fucking brilliant--the whole movie was, for that matter (not that I wholeheartedly agree with the points, I'm just acknowledging that the points were made quite creatively)--but it sort of lost a bit of its potency with the whole challenge thing.


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jmm (theist)

 

 

 

            As for  "the ..... challenge was nothing more then a marketing device--a clever way to get on tv, piss off parents, and sway young, imprssionable minds to your side. "

            Yes!  and it worked. Thank you for noticing,  it only took you three years.   

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Jeffrick

Jeffrick wrote:

 

 

 

            As for  "the ..... challenge was nothing more then a marketing device--a clever way to get on tv, piss off parents, and sway young, imprssionable minds to your side. "

            Yes!  and it worked. Thank you for noticing,  it only took you three years.   

What?  I saw the tv special 3 years ago.  Mentioning it today doesn't mean that I just learned about it today.

So if you mention evolution today, does that automatically mean that you didn't know about it until today?


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jmm

 

 

 

              The main thing is you got the message; weather it was today or three years ago,  the message was no secret then or now.  Care to join us as a full  blown atheist?

"Very funny Scotty; now beam down our clothes."

VEGETARIAN: Ancient Hindu word for "lousy hunter"

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I'll take the 2:1 one sheer

I'll take the 2:1 one sheer prideful denial for 1$ The longshot of a rational click at 20:1 just doesn't work for me today.

Faith is the word but next to that snugged up closely "lie's" the want.
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jmm wrote:jcgadfly wrote:a

jmm wrote:

jcgadfly wrote:

a good marketing device

C'mon, let's face it, the "blasphemy challenge" was nothing more than a marketing device--a clever way to get on tv, piss off parents, and sway young, impressionable minds to your side.

Quote:
It tied in to the last line of the movie.

The last part of the movie was fucking brilliant--the whole movie was, for that matter (not that I wholeheartedly agree with the points, I'm just acknowledging that the points were made quite creatively)--but it sort of lost a bit of its potency with the whole challenge thing.

And it managed to scare the hell out of you - must have worked better than you expected.

"I do this real moron thing, and it's called thinking. And apparently I'm not a very good American because I like to form my own opinions."
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Jeffrick wrote:Care to join

Jeffrick wrote:
Care to join us as a full  blown atheist?

Nah, I'm comfortable in not knowing.


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jmm wrote:Jeffrick

jmm wrote:

Jeffrick wrote:
Care to join us as a full  blown atheist?

Nah, I'm comfortable in not knowing.

But you want to believe? I still don't get the whole I don't know but I believe thing.

Sounds like a cop-out.

Faith is the word but next to that snugged up closely "lie's" the want.
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jmm wrote:Jeffrick

jmm wrote:

Jeffrick wrote:
Care to join us as a full  blown atheist?

Nah, I'm comfortable in not knowing.

If you know you don't know then you don't believe.


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chndlrjhnsn wrote:jmm

chndlrjhnsn wrote:

jmm wrote:

Jeffrick wrote:
Care to join us as a full  blown atheist?

Nah, I'm comfortable in not knowing.

If you know you don't know then you don't believe.

Yes; but not believing and certainty that there is no God are two different things.


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robj101 wrote:Atheists can't

robj101 wrote:

Atheists can't sin, dang that's awesome. Sounds like we are doing it right in that case.

Of course Atheists can sin, as can Christians and everybody else. It's just that it may be difficult or impossible for Atheists to sin in that particular way.

Can you blaspheme a Holy Spirit that you don't believe exists?


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NoMoreCrazyPeople

NoMoreCrazyPeople wrote:

StoryMing wrote:

 Several billion people may indeed be wrong, but I doubt that the God they are worshiping, whether real or imaginary, is the God that nomorecrazy, for example, has in mind.

I have to pick this out.  I NEVER said the people who worship yahweh see him the way he is portrayed in half the bible, they do not.  That is the hole point!  My hole point!  People seem good in general, so they disregard the verses portraying the god of abraham in a different light, or twist them to suite there own internal moratily.  I don't for a second think that all christians stand behind what THEY believe is a violent and bat shit crazy diety ofcourse this is silly.  The point is they have not taken the book as a hole, they have changed it or simply disregarded verses without offering a logical method for others to use to decipher the "true" and  "untrue" depictions of yahweh's personality.  And that is unexceptable, it is inconsistant.  We have to look at all the verses in order to paint a portrait of the god of abrahams character not just the ones that suite your pleasant image of him. 

Can you please give me a logical method everyone can use to decipher the "true" from the "untrue" in your particular holy book?

I suppose not. As I'm sure you've noticed, faith does not work by linear logic. Does that make it irrational, illogical? Maybe; but then again...

Many other things do not work by 'logic'. Love certainly does not. Most inspirations and momentous discoveries- the"Aha!" or "Eureka!" insights- involve leaps of logic that totally defy 'rational' linear thinking. Does that make them any less valid?

You know those 3-D stereogram pictures? You could spend hours, or years, studying the details of the design pattern and never see the 3-D image; for the picture to "work", you have to learn another way of seeing.

 


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chndlrjhnsn wrote:[edit:

chndlrjhnsn wrote:

[edit: that's not you with the flute is it? (avatar)

Nope, not me; the avatar (as someone else noted) is a character from Michael Flatley's Lord of the Dance.


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StoryMing wrote:As I'm sure

StoryMing wrote:
As I'm sure you've noticed, faith does not work by linear logic.

What other kinds of logic does it work by?

StoryMing wrote:
Many other things do not work by 'logic'. Love certainly does not.

Love is based on experience and instincts. Experience is evidence. Religious faith is based on neither. 

StoryMing wrote:
Most inspirations and momentous discoveries- the"Aha!" or "Eureka!" insights- involve leaps of logic that totally defy 'rational' linear thinking.

I disagree. You're wrong. They are usually precisely when someone connects the dots together and makes a sound conclusion.

Do you have an example?

StoryMing wrote:
Does that make them any less valid?

A valid argument is an argument where the conclusion follows from the premises; if the premises are true, then the conclusion is true. Are argument for which the conclusion is not necessarily true when the premises are true is invalid.

StoryMing wrote:
You know those 3-D stereogram pictures? You could spend hours, or years, studying the details of the design pattern and never see the 3-D image; for the picture to "work", you have to learn another way of seeing.

How is this a good analogy?

And what the hell does "another way of seeing" mean? What you are doing is overlapping different parts of the image by crossing your eyes to produce the illusion of a 3-D image.

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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No-one would seriously

No-one would seriously suggest that 'Love' "works'" by logic, it works by association, by perceptions triggering reactions, and what happens when people feel the emotion, or react to sight and thought of a loved one.

But it can certainly be described in logical, ie coherent (non-contradictory) language. Any form of description which is contrary to logic is not valid - not observing logic means you are asserting two explicitly contradictory/incompatible things at once.

That may be ok in poetic language, but even the use of contradictory references in metaphorical or poetic language can itself be described logically, in terms of the way I minds react to such things.

"Leaps of Logic" - of course, that reflects the fact that while logic is necessary for such modes of creative thought, it is definitely not sufficient.

Logic is still being employed, the 'leap' is in applying it to some novel idea or previously unnoticed connection between some data or ideas that had not been put together before. What is being bypassed is not so much logic, but linear reasoning, which is inherently limited to step-by-step extension of already established ideas. One needs to try and find a connection between concepts which have not previously been associated. Which involves an element of random, as in the idea of 'brain-storming', followed by the application of logic to see if the new idea actually 'works'. If the 'leap' is to an idea which is then shown to be flawed logically, it is time for another leap.

This process of random searching, which is the only way we can hit upon totally new ideas, followed then by logical analysis and testing, is closely related to the Darwinian evolutionary process.

 

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

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chndlrjhnsn wrote:jmm

chndlrjhnsn wrote:

jmm wrote:

Jeffrick wrote:
Care to join us as a full  blown atheist?

Nah, I'm comfortable in not knowing.

If you know you don't know then you don't believe.

Nope.  Take an intro philosophy class--or better yet, simply consult a dictionary.

Belief and knowledge do not completely overlap.


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StoryMing wrote:robj101

StoryMing wrote:

robj101 wrote:

Atheists can't sin, dang that's awesome. Sounds like we are doing it right in that case.

Of course Atheists can sin, as can Christians and everybody else. It's just that it may be difficult or impossible for Atheists to sin in that particular way.

Can you blaspheme a Holy Spirit that you don't believe exists?

The simple act, or non act lol, of not believing is not a sin? Oh loophole where art thou.

Faith is the word but next to that snugged up closely "lie's" the want.
"By simple common sense I don't believe in god, in none."-Charlie Chaplin


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The experience of believing

The experience of believing something and the experience of knowing something are the same experience.

 

Yes clearly believing and knowing are two different things. Plato wrote that Socrates defined knowledge as "justified, true belief". This has become the general consensus among modern epistemologists, however there is a great deal of disagreement about what constitutes justification in this sense.

 

But the fact remains that in cases in which one knows, one experiences believing, just as in cases where one believes but does not know due to either a) the falsehood of the belief, b) the unjustifiability of the belief, or c) both.

 

In any case, believing is always a case of believing that one knows. If you believe that you do not know then you do not believe. Instead of consulting a dictionary or the university, try consulting your common sense.


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StoryMing wrote:chndlrjhnsn

StoryMing wrote:

chndlrjhnsn wrote:

jmm wrote:

Jeffrick wrote:
Care to join us as a full  blown atheist?

Nah, I'm comfortable in not knowing.

If you know you don't know then you don't believe.

Yes; but not believing and certainty that there is no God are two different things.

Technically yes. The belief that there is no God or gods is one case; the lack of belief that there is a God or gods is another. However, the result of both cases is that the individual has a world view in which there is no God or gods.


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StoryMing wrote:chndlrjhnsn

StoryMing wrote:

chndlrjhnsn wrote:

jmm wrote:

Jeffrick wrote:
Care to join us as a full  blown atheist?

Nah, I'm comfortable in not knowing.

If you know you don't know then you don't believe.

Yes; but not believing and certainty that there is no God are two different things.

Technically yes. The belief that there is no God or gods is one case; the lack of belief that there is a God or gods is another. However, the result of both cases is that the individual has a world view in which there is no God or gods.


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StoryMing wrote:chndlrjhnsn

dp


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StoryMing wrote:chndlrjhnsn

StoryMing wrote:

chndlrjhnsn wrote:

jmm wrote:

Jeffrick wrote:
Care to join us as a full  blown atheist?

Nah, I'm comfortable in not knowing.

If you know you don't know then you don't believe.

Yes; but not believing and certainty that there is no God are two different things.

 

I'm pretty sure most theists deity would burn them both for eternity Sticking out tongue

Everything makes more sense now that I've stopped believing.


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The definition of

The definition of 'knowledge' as 'justified, true belief" is stupid, meaningless, circular nonsense.

Massive begging the question of how you 'know' something is 'true'.

The distinction between what we label as 'knowledge' and ' belief' is ultimately just a matter of degree, with a significant subjective component.

We have beliefs, which vary in the degree to which we can justify them, how much certainty we personally attribute to them, and how much they are commonly held.

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

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jmm wrote:chndlrjhnsn

jmm wrote:

chndlrjhnsn wrote:

jmm wrote:

Jeffrick wrote:
Care to join us as a full  blown atheist?

Nah, I'm comfortable in not knowing.

If you know you don't know then you don't believe.

Nope.  Take an intro philosophy class--or better yet, simply consult a dictionary.

Belief and knowledge do not completely overlap.

But in the instance we're discussing belief and knowledge cancel each other out.

If one knows God exists one does not need that belief . it is superfluous.

Likewise, belief in God's existence does not automatically carry knowledge with it. It is nothing more than a fervent hope you've made the correct guess.

"I do this real moron thing, and it's called thinking. And apparently I'm not a very good American because I like to form my own opinions."
— George Carlin


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Weighing these two


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StoryMing wrote: hi all,

StoryMing wrote:

 hi all, I'm a Christian; I'm not here to rant or anything, but I just have 2 quick comments regarding the blasphemy challenge:

 1. I really don't see why anyone would bother asking someone to give up something which they don't believe has any value and/or even exists. If there is no God, no soul, no salvation or damnation, then there's no point. Selling one's soul by blaspheming the holy spirit is, in that case, an excersize in futility. Better, I would think, simply to give the DVD's away-- especially since those who have some reluctance to take up the challenge are the very ones who, in your view, most need to have it!   2. The whole premise is based on a faulty understanding of what constitutes "blasphemy of the Holy Spirit". In the context of the passage, blaspheming the Holy Spirit does not mean denying the Holy Spirit; it means giving credit to the power of evil for something that was done by the power of Good (Jesus spoke of this unforgivable sin in response to the accusation of the pharisees that he was performing miracles and casting out demons "by Beelzebub", that is, by the devil. This was a serious slur against the holy spirit through whom these works had actually been done; but not one that an Atheist can commit, not believing in either a Holy Spirit or a being known as Satan).

 

In response to you first post, I'll tell you that I suspect that point of the blasphemy challenge is to create a situation where atheists feel comfortable being open about their beliefs by showing that non-believers are not alone.

Bridge breeding proves evolution false.