Religion

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daydalus
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Re: Religion

Postby daydalus » Wed Mar 19, 2008 2:37 pm UTC

I think the first question should be: Is morality subjective and arbitrary?

If yes - how does this jive with god(s)?

If no - how does this jive with lack of god(s)?

AvalonXQ
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Re: Religion

Postby AvalonXQ » Wed Mar 19, 2008 4:11 pm UTC

recurve boy wrote:
AvalonXQ wrote:Morality is defined arbitrarily by God only in the same sense that physics is defined arbitrarily by God -- we can conceive of Him doing it differently, whether or not we can actually make sense of any other way for Him to do it. But the fact that it is in some sense arbitrary does not make it, in terms of the universe in which we actually DO live, subjective. Just like you don't walk backward if you want to go forward, you don't harm others if you want to be moral. The rules are there, and objective -- even if we can conceive that they might have been different.

I'd rather define "good" as "not sin", and "sin" as "that which separates man from God". Do definitions of this type allow a continuation of the discussion?


I'm not understanding the argument here.

So morality is not subjective in a universe with a god.


I was responding to a post that implied that morality WAS subjective in a universe with a god.

daydalus wrote:I think the first question should be: Is morality subjective and arbitrary?


Actually, I think a better first question is: What is morality?
And then it would also be good to DEFINE "subjective" and "arbitrary".
Then we can discuss how the three fit together.
So let me try.

Morality: A system for evaluating certain actions as "wrong", where actions so evaluated "should not" be carried out. "Killing others is bad" could form one rule that is part of morality.

Subjective: Something that differs from one individual to another. The mass of an object is not subjective, but whether or not that object is heavy is subjective. The difference needs to be based on INDIVIDUALS, so under this definition the WEIGHT of an object is also not subjective, even though it's different depending on where the object is.

Arbitrary: A choice that is selected when there is no identifiable reason to select that choice over another available choice. Which pair of brown socks I put on this morning was arbitrary; putting on brown socks instead of black ones was NOT arbitrary, because I wanted to match the rest of my clothing.

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Awesomium
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Re: Religion

Postby Awesomium » Wed Mar 19, 2008 5:13 pm UTC

AvalonXQ wrote:
Actually, I think a better first question is: What is morality?
And then it would also be good to DEFINE "subjective" and "arbitrary".
Then we can discuss how the three fit together.
So let me try.


Agreed, if we don't agree on the definitions, the whole discussion is pointless since we're arguing about different things.

AvalonXQ wrote:Morality: A system for evaluating certain actions as "wrong", where actions so evaluated "should not" be carried out. "Killing others is bad" could form one rule that is part of morality.

I think your definition is vague. Yes, morality is a way of distinguishing between right and wrong, but this is useless unless you also state what right and wrong mean. Earlier, you said identified "wrong" with "sin" and defined sin as "that which separates man from God". Again, this is vague. There are lots of things that separate man from God, but not all of them would be considered sin. For example, Is it a sin to be not omnipotent? According to your definition it would be. If we use a more usual definition of sin, such as "disobeying God's command", then your argument is obviously correct. Firstly, the definition presupposes God's existence, so it is clearly impossible to have morality in a universe without God. Secondly, morality is objective because what God commands does not change depending on the observer. However this is not what I mean by morality.

My definition of good is, simply stated, "that which is desirable", however this does not mean "do whatever the hell you want". Rather, it means, "do what you think will make the world closer to how you would like the world to be", or to quote Ghandi, "be the change you want to see in the world". Morality is subjective because different people find different things desirable. Similarly, "Bad" can be defined as "that which is undesirable".

AvalonXQ wrote:Subjective: Something that differs from one individual to another. The mass of an object is not subjective, but whether or not that object is heavy is subjective. The difference needs to be based on INDIVIDUALS, so under this definition the WEIGHT of an object is also not subjective, even though it's different depending on where the object is.

Arbitrary: A choice that is selected when there is no identifiable reason to select that choice over another available choice. Which pair of brown socks I put on this morning was arbitrary; putting on brown socks instead of black ones was NOT arbitrary, because I wanted to match the rest of my clothing.


I more or less agree with these definitions. I would add that a statement is subjective if its truth varies depending on the observer.

I'm not sure we can really continue much further, regrettably. Our definitions of morality would be equivalent if it were self evident that "sinning", whatever is meant by this, is undesirable. I see no reason to make this assumption, especially since I don't believe in God. Understandably, I would prefer my morality not to be based on the command of a non-existent entity. It's unfortunate that all this time we've been talking about different things.
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Re: Religion

Postby AvalonXQ » Wed Mar 19, 2008 5:33 pm UTC

Awesomium wrote:I think your definition is vague. Yes, morality is a way of distinguishing between right and wrong, but this is useless unless you also state what right and wrong mean. Earlier, you said identified "wrong" with "sin" and defined sin as "that which separates man from God". Again, this is vague. There are lots of things that separate man from God, but not all of them would be considered sin. For example, Is it a sin to be not omnipotent? According to your definition it would be.


I didn't say "that which differs between the definition of man and the definition of God". I said, "that which separates man from God", and meant it quite literally -- metaphysical separation. The idea is that a human soul is, by default, connected to God. When a human commits sin, a separation occurs between the soul and God. The definition of sin, then, is phenomenological -- it is what changes the metaphysical state of a soul.

Awesomium wrote:I'm not sure we can really continue much further, regrettably. Our definitions of morality would be equivalent if it were self evident that "sinning", whatever is meant by this, is undesirable. I see no reason to make this assumption, especially since I don't believe in God. Understandably, I would prefer my morality not to be based on the command of a non-existent entity. It's unfortunate that all this time we've been talking about different things.


You're not willing to use my definition of morality, then, in this discussion? You call it "vague", sure, but it works pretty well. If you want to add anything to it, why don't you do that?

Morality: A system for evaluating certain actions as "wrong", where actions so evaluated "should not" be carried out. "Killing others is bad" could form one rule that is part of morality.

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Re: Religion

Postby CaliforniaDreamin » Wed Mar 19, 2008 5:53 pm UTC

zenten wrote:
Sure there is, climb mount Olympus and say high [SIC] to them. As to Christianity, most branches have beliefs that are quite falsifiable.

The problem is that these beliefs are often falsified, and the people who believe these things take issue with it, and try to say that the experiment wasn't done right.


As if science has always been right....

What I personally find not only troubling about atheists/agnostics/Christophobes and more than just troubling, downright offensive, is that first these folks pretend to be so very "tolerant" and "open-minded" about others' personal religious beliefs, and then they come out swinging very, very hard.
Take Richard Dawkins, please. His words have long been echoed with profound hatred and enmity: "Anyone who doesn't believe in evolution is either ignorant, stupid, wicked or insane...."

Elsewhere, one reads about the "spaghetti monster" and other offensive screeds directed primarily at Christians.

Such remarks are anti-scientific and anti-intellectual. Nonetheless, that never seems to prevent Christophobes from endlessly repeating them.

As demonstrated by Arthur C. Brooks in his studies, and cited in his book, "Who Really Gives," religious conservatives:
A. Give more to charity than secular liberals
B. Give more even to secular charities than do secular liberals
C. Give more of their own time to good causes than do secular liberals
D. Give more of their own blood than do secular liberals
E. Give more to their own friends and families than do secular liberals
F. Are more honest than secular liberals are
G. Are less likely to be racists than secular liberals are
H. Are happier than secular liberals are.

I was born in a Catholic hospital. I have been to Lutheran Hospitals, to Baptist Hospitals, and many others, but never ever to an atheist hospital.
Please name one for me, anyone.
Then name an atheist soup kitchen.
Atheists so often preach their own virtues. Why don't we see some of this atheist virtue in action?

Many if not most of America's Ivy League colleges were founded by Christians for the purpose of furthering the Christian faith and education.
Please name one atheist college in America for me. Just one.

It is profoundly ironic that perhaps the best known, and arguably most intellectual scientist of all time, Albert Einstein, was confronted by a Catholic priest, one Georges LeMaitre.
LeMaitre concluded from Einstein's Theory of Relativity that there was a Big Bang, though LeMaitre did not call it that. The name, Big Bang, would come years later.
Einstein scoffed at the Catholic priest and said, "Your mathematics are correct but your physics is abominable."
OOPS!
LeMaitre lived to see his theory vindicated, and thus only in the 20th Century did science have to abandon the long held "steady state universe" and accept the truth of the first verse of the first chapter of the first book of the Holy Bible, viz. "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."

You may pretend that this is mere coincidence if you wish. There will be a final exam.

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Belial
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Re: Religion

Postby Belial » Wed Mar 19, 2008 6:23 pm UTC

Hospitals, and many others, but never ever to an atheist hospital.
Please name one for me, anyone.
Then name an atheist soup kitchen.


Any hospital or soup kitchen that doesn't have the name of a religion attached to it may well be an atheist hospital or soup kitchen. Atheists don't generally feel the need to attach their lack of religion to everything they do. They would just call it a "Hospital" or a "Soup Kitchen" because its function has absolutely fuck-all to do with their religious affiliation or lack thereof.

So. Know of any hospitals or soup kitchens without stated religious affiliations?
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Re: Religion

Postby Quixotess » Wed Mar 19, 2008 6:30 pm UTC

eMaitre lived to see his theory vindicated, and thus only in the 20th Century did science have to abandon the long held "steady state universe" and accept the truth of the first verse of the first chapter of the first book of the Holy Bible, viz. "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."


The big bang does not prove that God created heaven and earth. It doesn't even prove the existence of God or of heaven. Please read and understand scientific theories before you comment on them.

G. Are less likely to be racists than secular liberals are


Oh?

There is some metric for measuring racism?

And they have found someone, anyone, who is *not* racist?

Not in my society.
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Re: Religion

Postby AvalonXQ » Wed Mar 19, 2008 6:58 pm UTC

Quixotess wrote:
eMaitre lived to see his theory vindicated, and thus only in the 20th Century did science have to abandon the long held "steady state universe" and accept the truth of the first verse of the first chapter of the first book of the Holy Bible, viz. "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."


The big bang does not prove that God created heaven and earth. It doesn't even prove the existence of God or of heaven. Please read and understand scientific theories before you comment on them.


Ah, but to many atheist scientists (including Einstein), the notion of a beginning to the universe was anathema specifically because of their atheism. Certainly atheists have come to terms with it since those days.

Belial wrote:Any hospital or soup kitchen that doesn't have the name of a religion attached to it may well be an atheist hospital or soup kitchen. Atheists don't generally feel the need to attach their lack of religion to everything they do. They would just call it a "Hospital" or a "Soup Kitchen" because its function has absolutely fuck-all to do with their religious affiliation or lack thereof.
So. Know of any hospitals or soup kitchens without stated religious affiliations?

Belial's making a very good point. Most atheists aren't highly vocal atheists with deeply held faith in the nonexistence of God -- they're just people who don't see any reason to believe in God, and don't even really make the whole discussion an important part of their life. So the right comparison is probably between religious soup kitchens and secular soup kitchens. Although then you get thrown off by the fact that the secular soup kitchens may still be run by religious folks; if my people started a soup kitchen, for instance, there's a decent chance it wouldn't be overtly religious.
The statistics, if they're good statistics, may be valuable. Challenging folks to "name an atheist soup kitchen" probably isn't.

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Re: Religion

Postby Belial » Wed Mar 19, 2008 7:04 pm UTC

AvalonXQ wrote:Although then you get thrown off by the fact that the secular soup kitchens may still be run by religious folks


And likewise, most charity-inclined atheists aren't so dedicated to their lack of faith that they'd refuse to work in a religion-sponsored soup kitchen, nor are most religion-sponsored soup kitchens inclined to turn away volunteers or even organizers on the basis of religion. So the volunteers and staff at your local religious soup kitchen may well be atheists.

Same goes for hospitals.
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Re: Religion

Postby AvalonXQ » Wed Mar 19, 2008 7:08 pm UTC

Belial wrote:
AvalonXQ wrote:Although then you get thrown off by the fact that the secular soup kitchens may still be run by religious folks


And likewise, most charity-inclined atheists aren't so dedicated to their lack of faith that they'd refuse to work in a religion-sponsored soup kitchen, nor are most religion-sponsored soup kitchens inclined to turn away volunteers or even organizers on the basis of religion. So the volunteers and staff at your local religious soup kitchen may well be atheists.

Same goes for hospitals.


I'll reiterate -- counting up the affiliations of organizations doesn't provide any solid evidence here.

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Re: Religion

Postby Belial » Wed Mar 19, 2008 7:09 pm UTC

Indeed. I was just building on the point.
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evlutte
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Re: Religion

Postby evlutte » Wed Mar 19, 2008 8:35 pm UTC

Hi, I'm jumping right in.

There seems to be (I couldn't bring myself to read it all) a lot of discussion about evidence and rationality in religious beliefs and I'd like to put in my thoughts.

Let me give you the basic summary of myself and my beliefs and see what you think.

I'm a freshman at college, majoring in math and computer science and bummed that I can't also study physics and philosophy (and biology, and engineering etc). I am a protestant Christian.

Why do I believe in God (my Christian God specifically)? The biggest reason is that I was raised in a Christian family. As I've grown older, however, I've tried to examine my beliefs as rationally as I can, and have change my opinions about many issues. When I think about religious beliefs, I don't believe that there is any way that science can provide evidence for or against the existence of God. This is because God, angels etc are supernatural or not inherently observable in natural phenomena. That is not to say they do not have physical effects, but rather that their effects obey no consistent laws, and therefore can not be repeated to provide good experimental evidence. This seems rational; I believe that God is a person, and science cannot effectively empirically determine what a person's actions will be.

I do feel that I have personal, non-empirical evidence for God, from my own experiences, and those of people I know well. Certainly, these can be explained by chance and psychology, but that seems somewhat of a stretch, and they can also equally well be explained by my beliefs.

These are my beliefs, my hope is not to convince you of them, but maybe that you will find them at least self-consistent.

Thoughts?

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Re: Religion

Postby Belial » Wed Mar 19, 2008 8:44 pm UTC

evlutte wrote:I do feel that I have personal, non-empirical evidence for God, from my own experiences, and those of people I know well.


Hmm. How do you explain that God seems to have shown you favoritism by allowing you to see this evidence and not doing the same for others? Also, are you saying that these events were specific enough to give you reason to believe in a specific god, or just in the supernatural in general?

Certainly, these can be explained by chance and psychology, but that seems somewhat of a stretch, and they can also equally well be explained by my beliefs.


Assuming extra, unknown agents (god) when the known agents (chance and psychology) can explain the situation tends to run face-first into Occam's razor....
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Re: Religion

Postby AvalonXQ » Wed Mar 19, 2008 9:01 pm UTC

Belial wrote:Assuming extra, unknown agents (god) when the known agents (chance and psychology) can explain the situation tends to run face-first into Occam's razor....


... and there it is again. Apparently any number of theories of any level of complexity or remoteness of chance is fine, but bring God into it and suddenly you're violating Occam's razor. I think another equally valid definition for Occam's razor, at least in the ways I've actually ever seen it used, would be:
"Occam's razor: A rule held by atheists that any explanation without God is better than any explanation with God, regardless of the attending circumstances."
Of course, Occam's razor would also imply that we should believe the pyramids are a product of wind erosion rather than using them as evidence that the Egyptians might have existed.
Can we bury this epistemological stonewall for a moment and deal with real theories rather than this "rule of thumb" which stifles even the possibility of the supernatural before the discussion gets going?

Summary: I call BS on Occam's razor. Give me real theories and real explanations. Even ARGUE the arguments behind Occam's razor if you want. Just stop using the term "Occam's razor" to cut off a line of inquiry. I don't buy it.

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Belial
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Re: Religion

Postby Belial » Wed Mar 19, 2008 9:12 pm UTC

If you rule out Occam's razor, we can just declare Last Thursdayism correct, and call it a day.
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Re: Religion

Postby theonlyjett » Wed Mar 19, 2008 9:13 pm UTC

Belial wrote:Hmm. How do you explain that God seems to have shown you favoritism by allowing you to see this evidence and not doing the same for others?
*shrug* I don't know that one, but if he has shown evlutte "favoritism," then perhaps he has shown me, too. Perhaps we are seeking him more, so we find him more. Perhaps we don't throw away all the possibilities just because they seem unlikely. One unlikely occurrence after another can begin to get fairly convincing. Or maybe I'm just crazy. But I don't believe so.
Belial wrote:Also, are you saying that these events were specific enough to give you reason to believe in a specific god, or just in the supernatural in general?
Um, sort of tricky for me. Both? I believe in the Christian God. Of course, he's the god of Abraham as well, making him the Jewish Jehovah and the Muslim Allah (despite the fact that I don't believe in most exclusively Muslim beliefs). I also happen to believe that Sikhs are also potentially worshiping this same god (even though they believe in things which I don't and don't believe in things that I do). All the important signs (to me) are there. One True God. Creator of everything. Salvation realized through personal relationship. Personal relationship manifesting through prayer, mediation, and the service and love of others around them.
Belial wrote:Assuming extra, unknown agents (god) when the known agents (chance and psychology) can explain the situation tends to run face-first into Occam's razor....
Except that apparently god has made himself known (or at least is attempting to). And even so, Occam's Razor is a logical guideline very useful in science, which (science), already cannot make a comment regarding the supernatural. It is, of course, in my opinion, a valid belief for you to have, apparently not having seen evidence yourself.

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Re: Religion

Postby cypherspace » Wed Mar 19, 2008 10:01 pm UTC

AvalonXQ wrote:Summary: I call BS on Occam's razor. Give me real theories and real explanations. Even ARGUE the arguments behind Occam's razor if you want. Just stop using the term "Occam's razor" to cut off a line of inquiry. I don't buy it.
Again. The theory that uses the least number of assumptions is the least likely to be wrong. The reasoning behind this is very simple - an assumption is not a tested statement, and can be wrong. The more assumptions in an explanation, the more likely that one of them is wrong, and hence the logic used to provide that explanation is wrong. On balance of probability, it is logical to believe in the simplest explanation. You can believe in another explanation if you like, but that is not logical, whether it turns out to be true or not. The fact that this happens to rule out God as an explanation for most things is not a reason to reject it.

Your example of wind erosion is utter rubbish - we have countless pieces of evidence of the ancient Egyptians, and none of wind erosion producing thousands of geometrically regular shapes as well as burial chambers and tunnels. Which is the explanation with the least number of assumptions?

No doubt you will complain that our pieces of evidence towards this are an example of the self-fulfilling philosophy of empiricism. I am astounded that you continually seem to claim that empiricism is an assumption that is equal to faith in an all-powerful deity. Either you accept empiricism as a valid tool for looking at the world around us, or you accept that nothing you ever see can necessarily be real, in which case there is no reason to believe in anything, let alone God, and you have no place in any logical argument whatsoever.
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Re: Religion

Postby Awesomium » Wed Mar 19, 2008 10:18 pm UTC

AvalonXQ wrote:
Awesomium wrote:I think your definition is vague. Yes, morality is a way of distinguishing between right and wrong, but this is useless unless you also state what right and wrong mean. Earlier, you said identified "wrong" with "sin" and defined sin as "that which separates man from God". Again, this is vague. There are lots of things that separate man from God, but not all of them would be considered sin. For example, Is it a sin to be not omnipotent? According to your definition it would be.


I didn't say "that which differs between the definition of man and the definition of God". I said, "that which separates man from God", and meant it quite literally -- metaphysical separation. The idea is that a human soul is, by default, connected to God. When a human commits sin, a separation occurs between the soul and God. The definition of sin, then, is phenomenological -- it is what changes the metaphysical state of a soul.


OK, I'm sorry I misunderstood. Your definition still doesn't provide me with a great deal of information, though. How can you tell what separates man from God? Do you get it from the Bible, or just "know" it, or what? I'm also unsure what exactly you mean by metaphysical separation. Do you mean "what makes man less similar to God", or "what makes man less able to communicate with God", or something else entirely. I'm sorry if I seem slow, but I'm not really used to working under the assumption of God's existence, so I've never really gotten far into theology.

AvalonXQ wrote:
Awesomium wrote:I'm not sure we can really continue much further, regrettably. Our definitions of morality would be equivalent if it were self evident that "sinning", whatever is meant by this, is undesirable. I see no reason to make this assumption, especially since I don't believe in God. Understandably, I would prefer my morality not to be based on the command of a non-existent entity. It's unfortunate that all this time we've been talking about different things.


You're not willing to use my definition of morality, then, in this discussion? You call it "vague", sure, but it works pretty well. If you want to add anything to it, why don't you do that?


I've already conceded that, using you definition (as far as I've understood it), your conclusions are correct. The problem with a vague definition is that it could represent many different concepts, and in a discussion, we wouldn't be sure that we were talking about the same one. For example, If I provided a definition for a pen as "an object used for writing", I could be talking about a pencil and you could be talking about a piece of chalk. The discussion would therefore be meaningless, as any conclusion reached about one would not necessarily hold for the other. Its important not to confuse a definition with a description. The word itself is just a symbol used in place of the definition, all the actual meaning is contained in the definition. If you change the definition, you're no longer talking about the same thing.

AvalonXQ wrote:Morality: A system for evaluating certain actions as "wrong", where actions so evaluated "should not" be carried out. "Killing others is bad" could form one rule that is part of morality.


Again, this in unhelpful to me. A definition of morality should include what is meant by "should not" and "bad". This is how I arrived at my definition. A wrong action is one which is undesirable, would you not agree? A definition of good and bad need not include a way of determining what actions are good or bad, but only what it means for them to be good or bad.

Just as an observation, every time you mention morality, you only talk about what actions are wrong. Would you not agree that morality also includes what actions are right?

It's possible that our world-views are simply too different for a meaningful discussion about such a specific topic as the objectivity of morals. We have taken as given the existence of God, souls and free-will, none of which I believe in. I'd be very happy to talk about something more general, If you agree that we've taken this topic as far as we can.
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Re: Religion

Postby CaliforniaDreamin » Wed Mar 19, 2008 10:42 pm UTC

Quixotess wrote:The big bang does not prove that God created heaven and earth. It doesn't even prove the existence of God or of heaven. Please read and understand scientific theories before you comment on them.


Your arrogant and self-aggrandizing posture of scientific intellectualism is unseemly and anti-intellectual.

In point of fact, the Steady State Universe was the pre-eminent "scientific theory" for centuries. During that entire period of gross error by scientists, astronomers, and the world's greatest minds, the first line in the Bible stood, as it stands today. Your condescending pretensions will not spin it away, however you try to do so. YOU spoke of proving "the existence of god or of heaven," I did not.

It is fascinating how your agenda demands that you dismiss what is as profound as this.

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Re: Religion

Postby Belial » Wed Mar 19, 2008 10:51 pm UTC

Your arrogant and self-aggrandizing posture of scientific intellectualism is unseemly and anti-intellectual.


Your tendency towards inflammatory posts and personal attacks is prone to get you banned from SB.

I don't know how many times I have to call people out on this in public before it sinks in.
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Re: Religion

Postby ++$_ » Wed Mar 19, 2008 11:13 pm UTC

CaliforniaDreamin wrote:As if science has always been right....
Um, what? You responded to a post stating that "religious people refuse to change their opinions when they are proved wrong" by saying "Scientists have been wrong." You totally ignored the difference -- the scientists DID change their opinions when their old ones were proved wrong. That's why no one still believes the earth is flat, except crackpots.

What I personally find not only troubling about atheists/agnostics/Christophobes and more than just troubling, downright offensive, is that first these folks pretend to be so very "tolerant" and "open-minded" about others' personal religious beliefs, and then they come out swinging very, very hard.
Take Richard Dawkins, please. His words have long been echoed with profound hatred and enmity: "Anyone who doesn't believe in evolution is either ignorant, stupid, wicked or insane...."
I agree with this. Except it's not so much the swinging hard that I mind, but that they tend to have razor blades in their hands. Dawkins' comment was in fact "It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I'd rather not consider that)." Without the last aside, it's provocative, and offensive, but not nasty. With it, however....

Elsewhere, one reads about the "spaghetti monster" and other offensive screeds directed primarily at Christians.
I think the cult of the FSM is a perfectly reasonable thing. If you find yourself offended by the Flying Spaghetti Monster, you need to consider why that is. Why, exactly, is it offensive for people to claim to believe in something ridiculous? Which part of that is offensive?

Such remarks are anti-scientific and anti-intellectual. Nonetheless, that never seems to prevent Christophobes from endlessly repeating them.
No, remarks like Dawkins' are not anti-scientific, nor are they anti-intellectual. They are either ignorant, stupid, or insane (or wicked, but I'd rather not consider that).

As demonstrated by Arthur C. Brooks in his studies, and cited in his book, "Who Really Gives," religious conservatives:
A. Give more to charity than secular liberals
B. Give more even to secular charities than do secular liberals
C. Give more of their own time to good causes than do secular liberals
D. Give more of their own blood than do secular liberals
E. Give more to their own friends and families than do secular liberals
F. Are more honest than secular liberals are
G. Are less likely to be racists than secular liberals are
H. Are happier than secular liberals are.
Brooks' book is called Who Really Cares, by the way, and I would like to ask a question for a moment: "Who Really Cares about Arthur C. Brooks?" I can write a book too, and I'm sure that my research could show the opposite if I wanted it to. As for (F) and (G), these are blatant lies. (H) is probably true, but keep in mind that ever since Bush vs. Gore, conservatives have been much happier than liberals across the board.
I was born in a Catholic hospital. I have been to Lutheran Hospitals, to Baptist Hospitals, and many others, but never ever to an atheist hospital.
Please name one for me, anyone.
Assuming you mean "secular," Stanford Hospital. This should give you a hint as to where you can find some others, too. Also, the Veterans' Hospital in Palo Alto. And if you really meant "atheist," remember that some religions are not evangelical, and don't feel the need to plaster themselves all over their organizations. Atheism is one of these.
Then name an atheist soup kitchen.
Again, secular. Project Open Hand.
Atheists so often preach their own virtues. Why don't we see some of this atheist virtue in action?
Because it's not called "atheist virtue." If you look around, you'll see that atheists have done good deeds too. But they don't slap the label "atheist" on it, unlike Lutherans, Catholics, Baptists, and so on, as you point out. Maybe they should do so, if only to cure people like you of their delusion that "atheists are selfish."
Many if not most of America's Ivy League colleges were founded by Christians for the purpose of furthering the Christian faith and education.
Please name one atheist college in America for me. Just one.
Once again, secular. Olin College of Engineering. Caltech. MIT. Not founded for any religion-related purpose.
It is profoundly ironic that perhaps the best known, and arguably most intellectual scientist of all time, Albert Einstein, was confronted by a Catholic priest, one Georges LeMaitre.
LeMaitre concluded from Einstein's Theory of Relativity that there was a Big Bang, though LeMaitre did not call it that. The name, Big Bang, would come years later.
Einstein scoffed at the Catholic priest and said, "Your mathematics are correct but your physics is abominable."
You seem to be surprised that Christians can do science. Give yourselves more credit.
OOPS!
LeMaitre lived to see his theory vindicated, and thus only in the 20th Century did science have to abandon the long held "steady state universe" and accept the truth of the first verse of the first chapter of the first book of the Holy Bible, viz. "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."
Actually, you might be interested to know that the steady-state theory was invented around 1950, well after the Big Bang theory had been proposed. It was discredited when the cosmic background radiation was discovered. All in all, it wasn't as influential a theory as you seem to think. And, as pointed out above, the Big Bang does not prove, or disprove, the existence of God. (If it proves the existence of the Christian God, it also proves the truth of the Chinese creation story, for example -- but these two are contradictory, so in fact it proves neither.) Furthermore, the same science that you claim "proves" the first verse of Genesis also disproves the next several verses, pretty much up till the end of the Garden of Eden. You can accept the scientific analysis of the Bible, but then you have to accept the scientific analysis of the WHOLE Bible. It's a logical fallacy to say that since science confirms some statements in the Bible and refutes others, the Bible must be true.
You may pretend that this is mere coincidence if you wish. There will be a final exam.
On which you will lose points for inaccuracy, I'm afraid. Hopefully, the grading is on a curve.

EDIT: Minor typographical

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Re: Religion

Postby oxoiron » Wed Mar 19, 2008 11:18 pm UTC

CaliforniaDreamin wrote:
Quixotess wrote:The big bang does not prove that God created heaven and earth. It doesn't even prove the existence of God or of heaven. Please read and understand scientific theories before you comment on them.
In point of fact, the Steady State Universe was the pre-eminent "scientific theory" for centuries. During that entire period of gross error by scientists, astronomers, and the world's greatest minds, the first line in the Bible stood, as it stands today. Your condescending pretensions will not spin it away, however you try to do so.
Is there an argument hidden in here?
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Re: Religion

Postby theonlyjett » Wed Mar 19, 2008 11:58 pm UTC

++$_ wrote:You can accept the scientific analysis of the Bible, but then you have to accept the scientific analysis of the WHOLE Bible. It's a logical fallacy to say that since science confirms some statements in the Bible and refutes others, the Bible must be true.
Not exactly, the bible is actually several different books by several different authors written in several different styles. I believe, as I study it, I will continue to find it true, but it should be noted that (I think) the first 5 books are about Jewish mythology and shouldn't necessarily be taken at face value for scientific evidence. That does not mean, however, that the stories contained there do not have relevance to theology. Just not to literal science.

At any rate, I believe the bible is true, but I wouldn't read it for scientific evidence. Nor would I try to use scientific evidence to try to support creation stories or floods or whatever. The point is entirely being missed.

I am not saying this to throw my support with the point CaliforniaDreamin was trying to make. I get it, but it's not particularly relevant to what we are talking about. His argument was not based on things we all can actually agree on to begin with. You can't have an intelligent argument without those premises. And he was rude.

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Re: Religion

Postby ++$_ » Thu Mar 20, 2008 12:08 am UTC

theonlyjett wrote:
++$_ wrote:You can accept the scientific analysis of the Bible, but then you have to accept the scientific analysis of the WHOLE Bible. It's a logical fallacy to say that since science confirms some statements in the Bible and refutes others, the Bible must be true.
Not exactly, the bible is actually several different books by several different authors written in several different styles. I believe, as I study it, I will continue to find it true, but it should be noted that (I think) the first 5 books are about Jewish mythology and shouldn't necessarily be taken at face value for scientific evidence. That does not mean, however, that the stories contained there do not have relevance to theology. Just not to literal science.

At any rate, I believe the bible is true, but I wouldn't read it for scientific evidence. Nor would I try to use scientific evidence to try to support creation stories or floods or whatever. The point is entirely being missed.

I am not saying this to throw my support with the point CaliforniaDreamin was trying to make. I get it, but it's not particularly relevant to what we are talking about. His argument was not based on things we all can actually agree on to begin with. You can't have an intelligent argument without those premises. And he was rude.
I'm sorry, you're absolutely right. I got a little carried away with the previous post towards the end (because I had been typing so long) and started saying things that weren't correct. I should have said "Genesis," not "the Bible."

EDIT: And it's my understanding that even Genesis comes from multiple sources.
Last edited by ++$_ on Thu Mar 20, 2008 12:13 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Religion

Postby AvalonXQ » Thu Mar 20, 2008 12:09 am UTC

Belial wrote:If you rule out Occam's razor, we can just declare Last Thursdayism correct, and call it a day.


I disagree. If you rule out Occam's razer, we will just have to admit that we don't have an easy way to completely dismiss the possibility of Last Thursdayism out of hand -- which doesn't bother me in the slightest. The fact that other theories I disagree with are also dismissed by Occam's razor doesn't suddenly make it a good rule.
As I said before, let's give these theories a shot. I don't think I'm stifling the discourse at all if I just ask people to avoid using "Occam's razor" like some sort of talisman. I'm not asking you to ignore the principal it represents, but if you think it applies, spell it out as part of a real analysis rather than just saying the words, and we'll consider it on its own merits like everything else.
In fact, how about this... "Avalon's Razor: a rule that says that the use of the words 'Occam's razor' in any argument renders that argument highly unlikely to be true, and the person using the words most likely wrong."
So, have a real discussion, and we'll have a real discussion. Try to use your talisman, and people can use my talisman right back, and we'll learn nothing.

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Re: Religion

Postby Belial » Thu Mar 20, 2008 12:16 am UTC

I disagree. If you rule out Occam's razer, we will just have to admit that we don't have an easy way to completely dismiss the possibility of Last Thursdayism out of hand


There's no way to dismiss the possibility of any theory. But you can distinguish useful theories from useless ones. The idea that the universe was created last thursday and it just *seems* to be as old as it currently appears could well be true. But we'd never know the difference. It's functionally identical to the current model, and doesn't predict anything that the current model ("the universe is what it appears to be and behaves as it seems to behave based on empirically gathered data") doesn't predict. Therefore, following the much simpler empirical theory will get one to the same place, allow one to operate in the same fashion, making Last Thursdayism extraneous and unnecessary. Amusing to think about, but there's no good reason to put any amount of faith in it over and beyond a more obvious theory.

Extrapolate as necessary.
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Re: Religion

Postby AvalonXQ » Thu Mar 20, 2008 12:19 am UTC

Belial wrote:
I disagree. If you rule out Occam's razer, we will just have to admit that we don't have an easy way to completely dismiss the possibility of Last Thursdayism out of hand


There's no way to dismiss the possibility of any theory. But you can distinguish useful theories from useless ones. The idea that the universe was created last thursday and it just *seems* to be as old as it currently appears could well be true. But we'd never know the difference. It's functionally identical to the current model, and doesn't predict anything that the current model ("the universe is what it appears to be and behaves as it seems to behave based on empirically gathered data") doesn't predict. Therefore, following the much simpler empirical theory will get one to the same place, allow one to operate in the same fashion, making Last Thursdayism extraneous and unnecessary. Amusing to think about, but that's about the extent of it.


Excellent. So the only reason not to consider Last Thursdayism, is because whether or not it's true has no meaningful effect on our lives, and makes no practical difference in the world around us.
Since whether or not Christianity is true DOES have a meaningful effect on our lives and DOES make a practical difference in the world around us, we can dismiss Last Thursdayism without dismissing Christianity.

Belial wrote:The only reason I would do this is if I believed you were incapable of understanding the principles it represents and therefore felt I had to explain the entire principle to you every time it became an issue. That's why we give things names: so we don't have to describe them every time we have to refer to them in a conversation.


But where a principle is hotly disputed, and its application is unclear, simply referring to it by name is a way to quell debate rather than stimulating it. That's why in important debates we take the time to step back and define our terms more precisely.
Sometimes philosophical shorthand becomes a way to conceal vagueness and details rather than actually providing a useful shorthand. I really feel this has occurred here.
Last edited by AvalonXQ on Thu Mar 20, 2008 12:23 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Religion

Postby Belial » Thu Mar 20, 2008 12:21 am UTC

Since whether or not Christianity is true DOES have a meaningful effect on our lives and DOES make a practical difference to the world around us, we can dismiss Last Thursdayism without dismissing Christianity.


Explain the practical difference. If it's there, we should be able to see it. If we can see it, it's proof. If you had proof, this conversation would be over.

And to return to an earlier post:

"Occam's razor" like some sort of talisman. I'm not asking you to ignore the principal it represents, but if you think it applies, spell it out as part of a real analysis rather than just saying the words, and we'll consider it on its own merits like everything else.


The only reason I would do this is if I believed you were incapable of understanding the principles it represents and therefore felt I had to explain the entire principle to you every time it became an issue. That's why we give things names: so we don't have to describe them every time we have to refer to them in a conversation.
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Re: Religion

Postby AvalonXQ » Thu Mar 20, 2008 12:24 am UTC

Belial wrote:
Since whether or not Christianity is true DOES have a meaningful effect on our lives and DOES make a practical difference to the world around us, we can dismiss Last Thursdayism without dismissing Christianity.


Explain the practical difference. If it's there, we should be able to see it. If we can see it, it's proof. If you had proof, this conversation would be over.


I pray. You don't. You should pray.
... how was that?

... please see my own edit above for the other part.

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Re: Religion

Postby ++$_ » Thu Mar 20, 2008 12:27 am UTC

Belial wrote:
Since whether or not Christianity is true DOES have a meaningful effect on our lives and DOES make a practical difference to the world around us, we can dismiss Last Thursdayism without dismissing Christianity.


Explain the practical difference. If it's there, we should be able to see it. If we can see it, it's proof. If you had proof, this conversation would be over.
If I believed the Christian story were true, I would be going to Church on Sundays. AvalonXQ didn't claim (in THIS post, at least) that the Christian truth has a practical effect; he merely claimed that we have reasons for wanting to know whether or not it is true -- and that if we knew the answer, it would influence our actions.

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Re: Religion

Postby Belial » Thu Mar 20, 2008 12:29 am UTC

I pray. You don't. You should pray.


I have. Recovering Catholic. But that doesn't explain a practical difference between the two explanations. In fact, the only thing "I pray" indicates is "I have some reason to think I should pray", and I could point to a thousand more likely explanations for that than "there really is a god and I know about him somehow and I talk to him by kneeling and addressing words to the air"

But where a principle is hotly disputed, and its application is unclear, simply referring to it by name is a way to quell debate rather than stimulating it. That's why in important debates we take the time to step back and define our terms more precisely.
Sometimes philosophical shorthand becomes a way to conceal vagueness and details rather than actually providing a useful shorthand. I really feel this has occurred here.
'

If you thought the concept didn't apply, you're fully capable of pointing out the flaws in its application without needing it written out every time, but that's beside the point.
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Re: Religion

Postby AvalonXQ » Thu Mar 20, 2008 12:31 am UTC

++$_ wrote:
Belial wrote:
Since whether or not Christianity is true DOES have a meaningful effect on our lives and DOES make a practical difference to the world around us, we can dismiss Last Thursdayism without dismissing Christianity.


Explain the practical difference. If it's there, we should be able to see it. If we can see it, it's proof. If you had proof, this conversation would be over.
If I believed the Christian story were true, I would be going to Church on Sundays. AvalonXQ didn't claim (in THIS post, at least) that the Christian truth has a practical effect; he merely claimed that we have reasons for wanting to know whether or not it is true -- and that if we knew the answer, it would influence our actions.


Good clarification on the "this post" thing. I think I've made some claim in the past about Christianity allowing people to act with love, kindness, and forgiveness in a way that non-Christians cannot. But I agree that that's not what we're dealing with here.
An easy analogy -- you're at the firing range, and you're about to fire at the target. I run up to you and tell you to stop. "Hey! Don't shoot! [insert person you care about] is standing right behind the target!"
Now, from where you're standing, you can't see behind the target. Also, when you shoot, the target itself will act the same way, whether or not there's someone standing behind it.
But AFTER you're done shooting, you'll have to deal with the fact that the person you cared about was shot.
So, even though there's no obvious effect NOW, I think it matters to you whether the person you care about really is standing behind the target.

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Re: Religion

Postby maafy6 » Thu Mar 20, 2008 12:33 am UTC

Awesomium wrote:
AvalonXQ wrote:
Actually, I think a better first question is: What is morality?
And then it would also be good to DEFINE "subjective" and "arbitrary".
Then we can discuss how the three fit together.
So let me try.


Agreed, if we don't agree on the definitions, the whole discussion is pointless since we're arguing about different things.

AvalonXQ wrote:I think your definition is vague. Yes, morality is a way of distinguishing between right and wrong, but this is useless unless you also state what right and wrong mean. Earlier, you said identified "wrong" with "sin" and defined sin as "that which separates man from God". Again, this is vague. There are lots of things that separate man from God, but not all of them would be considered sin. For example, Is it a sin to be not omnipotent? According to your definition it would be. If we use a more usual definition of sin, such as "disobeying God's command", then your argument is obviously correct. Firstly, the definition presupposes God's existence, so it is clearly impossible to have morality in a universe without God. Secondly, morality is objective because what God commands does not change depending on the observer. However this is not what I mean by morality.

My definition of good is, simply stated, "that which is desirable", however this does not mean "do whatever the hell you want". Rather, it means, "do what you think will make the world closer to how you would like the world to be", or to quote Ghandi, "be the change you want to see in the world". Morality is subjective because different people find different things desirable. Similarly, "Bad" can be defined as "that which is undesirable".


The separating effect of sin I believe should really be classified as a product of sin, as opposed to a cause. (We sin, therefore we are separated from God. What we mean by "separated" from God is another discussion, but it's really tangential to this discussion.) Sin is, most succinctly put, not living up to God's standard (breaking the code of morality). The Greek it comes from is an archery term, meaning to "miss the mark." When we do not act in a manner that is totally consistent with this, we have missed the bulls eye, and the scorer calls "sin - off the mark!"

Now, to go back and answer an earlier question of yours, of why God's arbitrary morality is better than some random person off the streets' - because God is our creator and maker, He has absolute rights over his creation. This has been evident since the beginning, when he created Adam and Eve and commanded them that "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die." [Genesis 2]

Now, from the moment they ate that fruit, they both knew - intrinsically - what was right and what was wrong. Being naked, they could even immediately apply the truth, if you will, and responded with shame and guilt. Before, because they knew nothing of what was right and wrong, they could not be held to such a standard - it would make a mockery of justice if they were. Where does that leave us, then?

The doctrine of original sin - that because of Adam all of man is born into sin, separated from God - is fairly common. I contend that part of what has been passed onto us, is the same knowledge of that which is good and that which is evil. That most people hold differing views of what falls where is not a refutation of this. This is one of the effects of the corrupting nature of sin, in that we decide to exchange the truth for a lie. We say "Oh that's not wrong" or "Oh, that's not that bad" because, simply put, our evil desires would rather do this or that.

I'm not sure we can really continue much further, regrettably. Our definitions of morality would be equivalent if it were self evident that "sinning", whatever is meant by this, is undesirable. I see no reason to make this assumption, especially since I don't believe in God. Understandably, I would prefer my morality not to be based on the command of a non-existent entity. It's unfortunate that all this time we've been talking about different things.
[/quote]

All this time replying and now I read the last bit. Fie! :)

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Re: Religion

Postby Belial » Thu Mar 20, 2008 12:35 am UTC

AvalonXQ wrote:So, even though there's no obvious effect NOW, I think it matters to you whether the person you care about really is standing behind the target.


So, just to clarify, you're basically going for Pascal's Wager, right?
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Re: Religion

Postby AvalonXQ » Thu Mar 20, 2008 12:37 am UTC

Belial wrote:
AvalonXQ wrote:So, even though there's no obvious effect NOW, I think it matters to you whether the person you care about really is standing behind the target.


So, just to clarify, you're basically going for Pascal's Wager, right?


Not even a little bit. But the fact that you know about Pascal's Wager should tell you that this discussion is NOT meaningless. We do NOT behave the same if we believe God exists as we do if we believe he doesn't. So unlike Last Thursdayism, it's a question we should try to answer.

maafy: Some interesting ideas. By the way, I DO NOT accept the concept of "original sin". Each human being falls from his own sin, or does not fall.
Last edited by AvalonXQ on Thu Mar 20, 2008 12:41 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Religion

Postby Belial » Thu Mar 20, 2008 12:41 am UTC

Yes, it's a question we should try to answer. But unless an omnipotent, omniscient god chose to reveal himself unequivocally, there is exactly zero chance of us finding him if he doesn't want to be found. He could make the universe look exactly like he wasn't there. Therefore, we have two functionally identical models that predict the same things.....
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Re: Religion

Postby AvalonXQ » Thu Mar 20, 2008 12:43 am UTC

Belial wrote:Yes, it's a question we should try to answer. But unless an omnipotent, omniscient god chose to reveal himself unequivocally, there is exactly zero chance of us finding him if he doesn't want to be found. He could make the universe look exactly like he wasn't there. Therefore, we have two functionally identical models that predict the same things.....


1) This is not how most Christians, including me, believe the universe to actually be.
2) Even if the universe WERE this way, it would not negate the importance of the question. It would simply mean that we're going to have trouble finding the answer. The inability to easily answer a question does not impugn that question's validity. The fact that you have no way to see behind the target at the shooting range doesn't change whether or not it matters to you what's behind the target.

EDIT: Because you may find this useful to know, I do not believe the Existor to be omnipotent in the way the term is usually used.

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Re: Religion

Postby zenten » Thu Mar 20, 2008 12:46 am UTC

The problem with Pascal's wager is that if you take the bet, you lose no matter what. Either there is no God, and you wasted your energy and resources instead of doing something better with your life, or there is a God, and you don't have faith in Him, instead you just followed along with Christianity (or whatever religion) out of fear. Hedging your bets does not seem to me like a good way to get into Heaven.

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Re: Religion

Postby AvalonXQ » Thu Mar 20, 2008 12:47 am UTC

zenten wrote:The problem with Pascal's wager is that if you take the bet, you lose no matter what. Either there is no God, and you wasted your energy and resources instead of doing something better with your life, or there is a God, and you don't have faith in Him, instead you just followed along with Christianity (or whatever religion) out of fear. Hedging your bets does not seem to me like a good way to get into Heaven.


Yes. It's a good thing there's no one here arguing for Pascal's wager.

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Re: Religion

Postby Belial » Thu Mar 20, 2008 12:52 am UTC

The target is a bad example. It's an essentially trivial activity that causes no harm to you if you stop doing it.

However, "God vs Not God" presents two big costs. If I assume God (and we're assuming a spiteful, "believe in me or go to hell" god here, because any other kind wouldn't matter) doesn't exist, and it turns out he does....well, I'm going to hell.

But if I assume he does exist, and he doesn't, then this short eighty or ninety year span I have on earth is all I get, and I've wasted a huge amount of time, money, and brainspace on an imaginary friend that didn't add one bit of fun, happiness, or productivity to my life.

So it's more like there are two boxes on two train tracks, a locomotive charging down the track toward the switch, and I have control. And then someone tells me one of my loved ones is in one of those boxes.

Now, given the occam's razor approach to explanations, given current evidence, the "god doesn't exist" explanation is more likely to be true than the "god does exist" explanation, until new evidence arises. If new evidence arises that indicates that god is more likely to exist than not exist, expect a lot of atheists to change sides*.

*not me though. Any god that would send me to hell for failing to believe in him or bow down properly is a god for whom I have no respect. I would gladly suffer the consequences.

edit: Ninja'd slightly by zenten
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