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Thread: Atheist Bendy-Bus.

  1. #31
    Mr. Universe Pete!'s Avatar
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    "Regardless of whether their religion is correct"? Har.

    Stephen Prothero is professor of religion at Boston University, which is remarable considering he apparently knows fuck all.

    Why are you so hard on atheists?

    I think they're intellectually dishonest, and I think it's the hardest religious position to take up. With Christianity, you just have to affirm that Jesus is God and sent to the world to save the world. With atheism, you have to reject every single god. There's a lot of gods out there. How can you reject a god that you've never even heard of?
    What? Seriously, what? Is a god I've never heard of any more likely to exist? I probably would've heard about it by now. Do I need to research every variety of fairy, pixie, leprechaun, goblin, ghost, elf, troll, demon, dragon, vampire, Cyberman and unicorn before I can say they're imaginary? Surely the burden of proof is on the believer here.

    Perhaps they just feel committed to scientific evidence rather than mystery?

    Then I hope they never read a novel, since mystery lies at the heart of so many novels!
    I just can't even.

    But, even rejecting the supernatural, not all religions have gods, not all religions necessarily have the supernatural. Confucianism and Buddhism might be the religion for them.
    Because there is nothing supernatural about Karma or Nirvana. Did I mention this guy is a professor of religion?

  2. #32
    Senior Member Cairn's Avatar
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    Perhaps they just feel committed to scientific evidence rather than mystery?

    Then I hope they never read a novel, since mystery lies at the heart of so many novels!
    I am utter baffled. I've only read what you've quoted here so far, but, how is it lost on him that he just compared religious doctrines to works of fiction???? WHUT.

    Off to read the rest of it now.

  3. #33
    Mr. Universe Pete!'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cairn View Post
    is it lost on him that he just compared religious doctrines to works of fiction?
    Aahahzah, that thought hadn't even occurred to me. I was just all like, "Oh, I don't believe in God so I can't read a novel, LOGIC OBVIOUSLY"

  4. #34
    Senior Member Cairn's Avatar
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    One can see how this book appeals to believers who feel strongly that their religion is distinct. How does your Christianity affect your views on other faiths?

    I'm religiously confused now. I don't have any real answers to any of these important questions. I think the reason that I keep studying them is because I don't have answers; I think if I had answers, I'd become an economist!
    That pretty much says it all and reiterates the idea there is nothing to be learned from the man on this subject.

  5. #35
    Senior Member Cairn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pete! View Post
    Aahahzah, that thought hadn't even occurred to me. I was just all like, "Oh, I don't believe in God so I can't read a novel, LOGIC OBVIOUSLY"
    I'm in awe of how truly deluded this man seems to be about how full of fail his arguments are.

    Just for the fuck of it, I'll mention here that the basis of Sikhism is the exact opposite of his message. Sikhism says truth is found everywhere, in art, in scripture, in science and that no truth should ever be denied based on where it was learned. In fact when studying comparative religion, it is the seeds of similarity that allow us to separate truth from illusion. Just sayin' /theological wank

  6. #36
    Senior Member ontheindianside's Avatar
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    I found this article really interesting.

    http://www.slate.com/id/2258484/ (Slate: "The Rise of the New Agnostics" by Ron Rosenbaum)

    It's less about atheism (though it is) than agnosticism, and reading it actually made me consider starting to identifying as "agnostic" rather than "atheist," as I currently do (actually, I guess since my Facebook "Religious beliefs" answer is "none," I could say I've chosen not to use religion as an identity category).

    Reading it, I realized that I'm uncomfortable with the extent to which a lot of atheist discourse depends on science, as if science is going to find the answers to "spiritual"/where-did-we-come-from-type questions. I'm more in the camp that simply doesn't give a shit about those questions or their answers. It's not that I'm not certain about whether or not I believe in god(s); I am 100% sure that I don't believe in a higher being or in any religious doctrine. But why does science have to replace God; why does God need a replacement at all? I like the concept of, as the author says, "radical skepticism" more than I like the concept of dogmatic nonbelief. Yes, I am dogmatic about the fact that I don't believe in anything, but I don't want to turn to science (which is also a human creation) instead of "faith."

    I'm not saying that I think that all atheists turn science into their new "religion" or trying to start an "atheists as fundamentalists" debate at all. I just found this an intriguing read and think I may be more comfortable just saying "I know what I believe, but I don't and can't know whether I'm right or wrong, and I don't care" than "[Insert religion of choice] is wrong, and eventually science will tell us what's right."

    I'd love to hear other people's thoughts on the relationship between atheism and science.

  7. #37
    she said destroy Lágnætti's Avatar
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    There's a Cyber-religion, Pete? COOL.

  8. #38
    'twas mbc 'twas kollins Michael Michael's Avatar
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    As someone who considers himself agnostic rather than atheist, I had a lot of hope regarding the article posted above, but it was a pretty big disappointment. It took a long time to get down to making its points, and pissed me off on the way. When it finally got to its points, they were disappointing and poorly made.

    I think something like what the article is trying to do needs to be done, but that wasn't it. It's way too hostile toward "the New Atheists," for one. It makes the old "atheism is a religion too!" rhetorical move which is both antagonistic and overly simplistic and kind of wrong -- it won't convince atheists and it will get their backs up.

    I do think agnosticism is most in line with the scientific principle of falsifiable claims, but, since there is no evidence for God, not believing in God is definitely a hell of a lot more reasonable than believing in God, so atheism is clearly on much firmer ground than any theism. Why/how the Universe exists is still a big question mark, but "a wizard did it!" is probably not a good explanation.

  9. #39
    ANUSTART Lathan's Avatar
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    ^ Maybe it is?

    It must be true...

  10. #40
    Mr. Universe Pete!'s Avatar
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    Ugh. That agnostic article was infuriating, making the same tired, fundamentally incorrect argument that atheism is a religion or faith.

    Atheists have no evidence—and certainly no proof!—that science will ever solve the question of why there is something rather than nothing. Just because other difficult-seeming problems have been solved does not mean all difficult problems will always be solved.
    So what, exactly? We should give up trying? We should entertain the tiniest doubt in our minds that maybe a wizard did do it? For what reason? There is a scientific and rational explanation for damn near everything, and on that basis it is reasonable to assume that using science (which is a tool, not a doctrine), humankind will one day be able to learn why there is something rather than nothing. That's why we have science; not to indoctrinate, but to learn.

    And because it's always good to post flowcharts


    I see little point in agnosticism beyond bet-hedging. As an atheist, I don't believe in God. I see no reason to believe in God, and there is no evidence to support the existence of God. And you might say, "Ooh, but there's no evidence to support the non-existence of God, so you're acting on FAITH" and to you I say fuck off, bumhat. There's no evidence to support the existence of unicorns, but just because no-one's ever seen a unicorn skeleton doesn't mean they might exist. You want me to entertain the concept of the cock-swinging Cosmic Daddy, you'll have to do a lot better than "you can't prove it doesn't exist". That's not an argument, it's a wet tissue held by an infant.

  11. #41
    'twas mbc 'twas kollins Michael Michael's Avatar
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    It is a pretty awful article and yes it is offensive in how it protrays atheism.

    I would say portraying agnosticism as mere "bet hedging" is, though, a little problematic. It isn't necessarily Pascal's Wager, which has always been a silly idea. The choice isn't "big beardy fellow on a cloud who doesn't like it when boys kiss other boys and other things" VS "unguided processes of accident and entropy over the course of billions of years," and agnostics aren't dullards in the middle going "oh I don't know there's a 0.000001% chance the beardy fellow might actually exist." I mean, some agnostics might be, but I'd argue that's not true agnosticism because they've rejected a set of clear untruths but are afraid to treat them like untruths. Agnosticism isn't about rejecting the nature of knowledge itself (I doubt you'll find an agnostic who'll say 'evolution might be true!').

    Also, sometimes I tire a little bit of this continual engagement with straw-men. yes yes sky pixies yes, sure. All reasonable people know religious fundamentalists are insane idiots or willfully self-deceived cowards, and all reasonable people know organized religions based on doctrine or dogma don't have a rational leg to stand on. But there are philosophers working in a much more intellectually honest fashion on the question -- have been since the Enlightenment --- and the usual absence of engagement with that ongoing intellectual dialogue is a source of frustration for me.

    I mean, why not take on Spinoza? I would be much more interested in that. Esp. since, in his life, he was considered a notorious atheist but his theories of immanence have also been appropriated by fuzzy pantheists (nb: I don't think he was an atheist or a pantheist but he definitely was a materialist secularist who rejected religious doctrines and dogmas as the irrational superstitions they are while still making theories and inquiries into the metaphysical nature of reality).

    Of course if the game is socio-political then it's more important to take on the fundamentalists because secular democracy is just nicer to live in and scientific progress makes life better and they threaten that. Also, maybe it is best to stay on message ("science: it makes sense" and "civil liberty: pretty nice" last I checked?). Agnostics and Atheists and Enlightenment philosophers all look pretty much the same to bible thumpers and islamic fundamentalists.

  12. #42
    Soft eyes, hard hands. Brian's Avatar
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    I dunno. If you don't watch out, I will still blather on about how atheism and agnosticism aren't exclusive. Most people peg agnostics as just holding open to some point or bit of "proof" that'll tip 'em over into faith of some sort, but that's pretty far off.

    Really, I think agnosticism is about acknowledging that every time we come up with some sort of answer or origin, whether it be the big bang or god, there is always going to be an entirely new set of questions beyond it. What came before the big bang and caused it? Where did god come from?

    Does anyone believe science will ever reach a point of well-there's-the-last-answer and just stop? There are no ultimate answers. A comprehensive, fundamental model of the nature and origins of existence is probably unattainable. I can believe this and still be an atheist. Quite easily. And quite securely as well. Atheists who portray agnostics as lacking strength in their convictions are almost as annoying as theists who call atheism a faith.

  13. #43
    see a sea anemone devnull's Avatar
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    Well, I think it's semantics really. A lot of people call themselves agnostics who are actually more atheists (I was one for years), and a lot of wishy washy idiots who are too lazy to really confront their own opinions call themselves agnostics, too. Atheists who make generalizations about agnostics vary widely and the context and delivery of their portrayal does, too. So -- haha -- I don't think it's fair to generalize about atheists generalizing, either.

    Even Richard Dawkins admits that most atheists are to a certain degree agnostic (including himself). No rational and rigorous minded person believes something is impossible just because they don't have evidence for it, they simply conclude it is incredibly unlikely and have a lack of belief in said thing because the evidence doesn't support it. That's atheism and not agnosticism, even though it implies a possibility (even tiny).

  14. #44
    Mr. Universe Pete!'s Avatar
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    It just makes no sense to me, sorry guys. "A person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God"? If it were anything else but God then it would be a non-starter, but since humans have insisted since time immemorial there is a Space Daddy, then the no-evidence-either-way crowd is afforded its own status.

    And I do agree that there will be questions as infinite as the cosmos, and that for as long as our species is able to ask questions we will seek rational, scientific answers.

  15. #45
    Senior Member JAE's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by devnull View Post
    Even Richard Dawkins admits that most atheists are to a certain degree agnostic (including himself). No rational and rigorous minded person believes something is impossible just because they don't have evidence for it, they simply conclude it is incredibly unlikely and have a lack of belief in said thing because the evidence doesn't support it. That's atheism and not agnosticism, even though it implies a possibility (even tiny).
    Yes, exactly, and that's one of the reasons why I thought that article was shit. Who exactly are these atheists that are saying 'I have this special knowledge that means I can be 100% sure that there is no God'? If we are talking about atheism based on the scientific method then clearly any conclusion is going to be based on available evidence, and this is just another micharacterisation of where the 'New Atheists' (hate that term) actually stand. Most of the points the author makes in order to differentiate himself as an agnostic seem to be ones that people like Dawkins would happily admit and even include in published works and the 'New Atheist viewpoint' he is using as an example seems to be a straw man.

    I don't believe in any god based on the available evidence and my experience of life, and I refer to myself as an atheist without seeing or feeling the need to temper that with some kind of footnote. That doesn't mean that I feel I have some kind of conclusive knowledge that there definitely isn't a god - my position on anything is based on available evidence. I don't have a problem with how someone else chooses to define themselves but I do get concerned with viewpoints such as this article being propagated because I feel it adds to the problem of creating a false dichotomy between theism and atheism, with these so-called agnostics looking down from outside this black and white scale where both sides are as fundamentalist as each other. The belief that God doesn't exist is not the polar opposite of the belief that God does exist, because the burden of proof is not on the person who disbelieves. The belief that God doesn't exist is the rational position based on all currently available evidence. They are not equal, because one side makes a claim based on no evidence, and the other makes a claim based on the fact that there is no available evidence.

    Rational atheism itself takes a position outside a spectrum rather than at one end of it, looking at it with a critical eye and coming to a conclusion based on the evidence, and it's actually strong agnosticism that seems to be more at home on the fundamentalist scale. Saying that you can't know a particular thing just seems like a bit of a definitive statement to make - I'm completely open to the idea that maybe we actually can't ever know these things but I'm also of the opinion that we won't know until we've tried, and I am not able to see into the future to see how humans evolve and technology progresses. Atheism doesn't necessarily say that we definitely will reach a scientific understanding of everything but the point is we just keep questioning and trying rather than picking a position and sticking to it. The agnostic position of us simply not being capable of understanding certain things seems to be based more on a gut feeling or something equally intangible and the article also misses the fact that at its core, science is not about certainty. It's about degrees of how certain it's reasonable to feel; and that is constantly changing as we build upon our collective knowledge and understanding. On the contrary; it's certain aspects of agnosticism that offers an 'unwarranted certainty' while science in general (or the rational atheist perspective) is all about maintaining scepticism, asking questions, and refining theories and hypotheses when new evidence is discovered that contradicts them.

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